The part is a dialogue with my character that only fellow writers will understand.
I swallowed hard as I looked down the conference table. “Okay, guys. This is a big decision, and I thought since you have a stake in it, I should ask you about it.”
The familiar faces stared back at me. Each headed, nodded, almost in unison. Almost, but not quite. They’d look like bobbleheads that fell out of the case together.
“There’s a really great Christian Writer’s Conference in Oregon,” I said. “My problem is that it’s $600 for both Andrea and I to go and I really don’t feel going without her.”
Colonel A.L. Snyder laughed. “Ha! That’s a problem? I don’t even know if I’d say that’s an inconvenience. Now, being at war with a power-mad Hollywood action hero whose decided he can use slaves as extras so he can blow them up, and him having the firepower of an Army Division. That’s a problem.”
“Okay,” I said. “It’s not your type of problem. It’s my type of problem.”
“And you have something I don’t.”
“A strong faith and a consistent record of church attendance.”
”I actually meant an American Express card,” said Snyder.
“You want me to put this whole thing on my credit card,” I shuddered. “You want me to carry credit card debt. Don’t you know how risky that is?”
“Yeah, like that whole taking down the Imperial Battalion at Moscow was a piece of cake. I guess I should have given a medal to the guy who put the Army’s gas on his Visa account.”
Reverend Don Robinson, an old man in a hospital gown said, “Colonel, with all due respect, you haven’t taken a lot of risks. You’re a fictional character.”
“Oh yeah, and fictional characters don’t die? Two words: Obiwan Kenobi.”
“He’d never kill you off, Snyder, you’re too popular.”
Snyder sighed. “Yeah and sometimes writers get tired of popular characters.”
“He hasn’t worked on my manuscript in two years, you don’t see me complaining.”
I perked up. “Actually, you just did, Don.”
”Oh, I’m sorry. You just kind of get insecure. I mean you got Superheroes and Snyder here. It’s kind of easy to forget about the old Reverend and the young man.”
”I will get that published. After I get “Genesis of Judgment” out there.”
“You know,” said the Sword. “Statistically, it may be easier to get the contemporary fiction story published before the Christian dystopian vision of the future with a descent into Hell.”
Snyder stared at the Sword’s Black Tonksium uniform. “Hey, Black, what side are you on? He starts publishing this stuff and he’ll become a regular Gilbert Morris. He’ll tell stories about the Pilgrims and the Visigoths.”
I chortled. “Come on, Snyder, why would I write about the Visigoths?”
Snyder smiled. “You’re at least original enough. How many Christian Visigoth stories are there out there?”
Craig, the twenty-five year old hospice orderly piped up. “What’s a Visigoth? Is that like Jeff? Jeff was Visigoth, wasn’t he?”
“No, he was a goth,” said Don. “Big difference.”
I bit my lip. “I could look it up. I think it’s some ethnic group.”
Snyder said, “Graham, I wonder how your mind works. Instead of figuring about this conference, we’re going to go on Wikipedia.”
The Sword shuddered. “And you know what happens when he gets on Wikipedia.”
Snyder nodded. “Goodbye, plot line. He’ll go from Visigoths, all the way to IMDB to read the biography of Robert Culp. Then he’ll look at the clock.”
The Sword said in a mocking tone, “Wow, it’s late. I guess I can’t finish my story tonight.”
I said, “Now, come on, guys. It’s really not becoming to make fun of my writing habits. Besides, I don’t that…all the time….at least not every week…or at least not every day of the week. Okay, so, how about we talk about objections.”
”How about we talk about why you should go?” said the Sword.
“Well, why do that?”
“Sure, let’s talk about all the scary things that might happen,” said the Sword. “Oooh, credit card debt…What if no one likes your work or you have a miserable and it’s all for not. Bah on the negatives. Humbug on getting fearful. You know, I think you have to focus on the possible. Your problem Graham is that if you had a road before you paved with gold, you’d be focusing on the possibility that there might be a land mine in the middle of the road!”
“But the road’s not paved with gold,” I said. “It’s lined with the broken bodies of writer’s dreams. People with thousands of manuscripts written, but none published.”
”So why would you want to go?” asked the Sword. “What not just work your regular job until you’re 52 and you retire?”
“Because I want to write.”
”Oh yes,” said the Sword. “You want to write. Without pain, without risk. Without having to spend money you don’t have to chase your dream. You want to like a dog on a run chasing a rabbit at one of those tracks. The difference between them and you is that the dogs at the track would gladly chase a real rabbit, but you harness yourself and chase the safe rabbit and wonder why you don’t catch him.”
”What are you saying?” I asked.
“He’s telling you to chase your Rabbit,” said Dave Johnson, mild-mannered Janitor, in his gray coveralls.
“Wait a second,” said Craig. “Can we agree that we already have enough characters in this story?”
The others who had spoken all nodded.
“But, I’m one of his favorite heroes,” said Dave. “He had a ton of fun writing me.”
“What do you add to the discussion?” asked the Sword. “I mean you’re a parody of us.”
“No, I’m not. I’m a parody of a lot of characters.”
“Still, I really can’t justify this,” said the Sword.
“Excuse me,” said my wife. “In case, you haven’t noticed. He’s the writer. He can have as many characters as he wants.”
“Look, I know a thing or two about publishing,” said the Sword. “We can’t have too many characters.”
Dave said, “Um, all you’re doing is expanding the length of the story.”
“No, I’m not,” said the Sword. “You are.”
“No, you are.”
“No, you are.”
I shot a look down the table. “You both are. Please. Dave, what’s your point.”
“I think it would be cool if you went.”
Silence went across the table.
The Sword said, “Is that all you’ve got?”
Dave shouted, “Well, it sure beats, ‘chase your rabbit,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean.”
“I didn’t say ‘chase your rabbit,” said the Sword.
“I think it was implied,” said Don. “Why would it be cool?”
“It’d be a convention,” said Dave. “Adam, I know what it’s like to be a nut.”
I stared at Dave.
“I mean what it’s like to have people think you’re a nut.”
Snyder laughed. “Yeah, you were a real misunderstood genius.”
“No,” said Dave. “But I was misunderstood. No one could get why I tried to special order Adult Sized Fantastic Four under-roos. Why I collected Superhero memorabilia no matter how lame outsiders might consider it.”
“I don’t know if I’d consider a Superhero collection lame,” said the Sword.
“I paid $500 for a Christopher Reeve autographed Video of Superman IV.”
“Okay, that is lame.”
“See,” said Dave. “Misunderstood.”
Andrea asked, “Why didn’t your wife kill you?”
“Well,” Dave Paused. “She hasn’t gotten the bill yet.”
Andrea said, “Okay, then for your next purchase: extra life insurance.”
“Exactly,” said Dave. “Here’s the point. In a room full of fellow writers, you’d be sane. You’d actually belong and fit in. Hundreds of people who all year are just the “geeky writer guy” come together and become ‘the geeky writer people.’ You might make a friendship that could last a lifetime.”
I sighed. “I’m not that optimistic.”
“You might make a friend that might last one e-mail.”
”You know,” said the Sword. “Dave actually has a point. You know what your problem is. You’re strongly right brained, but you spend your time using your left brain all the time. You desperately seek those moments to be creative, fun, just for a few minutes. Being around fiction writers could make you feel more at ease.”
”And I believe there’s a Jeff Gerke guy there,” said Snyder. “Sounds like an important contact.”
“Yeah, he’s got his own press: Marcher Lord Press, “ I said.
“That sounds like a Superhero,” said Dave.
“No, it’s a publisher,” I said.
“Well, there you go then, go for it,” said the Sword.
“No,” I said. “I can’t sell him “Genesis of Judgment”, it’s too short: 56,000 words and “Tales of the Dim Knight” is about the same.”
“ You could think of some new ideas,” said Dave. “What about one telling how I met Naomi. It was the cold war, she was a Russian Spy and I was a comic book writer.”
My jaw dropped. “You’re not suggesting I rip off Condorman, are you?”
Dave sat silent.
“You are. You’re suggesting I rip off a 1980s film and append it to the story even if it makes no sense.”
Dave said, “I’ve just thought they should remake it.”
“Unfortunately, they will have to be the Walt Disney Company,” I said. “Besides, we all know there’s only one Condorman.”
All the characters nodded, though Dave was somewhat grudging.
“He’s not the only fish in the sea,” said the Sword.
Snyder said, “Graham, what type of motivational tapes did you give him?”
I sighed. “The ones I found at the Dollar store.”
“Well, it shows,” said Snyder. “Not the only fish in the sea. How much of a cliché is that?”
The Sword said, “Well, it works.”
”No, it doesn’t,” said Snyder. “I’d say, it’s not the only fighter jet in the hangar.”
“Who catches fighter jets in hangars?”
“Me, genius,” said Snyder. “I don’t have a “super sword” that does everything. I have my wits.” Snyder pulled out his gun. “And my colt.”
“My blade doesn’t do everything.”
Snyder pulled a can of soup out from his jacket. “Blade, open can.”
The Sword’s blade fired at the can and the lid flew off.
“Blade, heat to warm, but not too hot.”
The blade fired a beam. Snyder pulled a spoon out of his coat and began to eat. “I bet it can even slice onions.”
“Wait, why did the Blade respond to your command,” said the Sword. “It doesn’t respond to any commands but mine.”
“I think it was because Graham thought it would be funny,” said Snyder.
“And do you always carry a can of soup with you?” asked the Sword.
“Nope,” said Snyder, putting a spoonful to his mouth. “Tomorrow’s uh-spinach.” Snyder took another bite. “The point here-“
”I was hoping there was a point,” I said.
“Yeah, you don’t have to get Gerke on board, you just have to find the right publisher.”
“And then what?”
“Slip a little something in his Coke, take him down in the basement and wait for him to break and give you a contract.”
“That sounds like the Plot to Misery.”
Snyder laughs. “You haven’t even seen that.”
“I could look it up on Wikipedia.”
“No!” they all shouted in unison.
“Perhaps, “ said the Sword. “rather than committing a Class 1 felony, you might try finding another publisher or agent.”
“I guess you could do that,” said Snyder. “I just prefer the direct approach.”
“There’s a reason you’re not published,” said Andrea. “And on the wanted list.”
Snyder tipped his cap. “Touché, Andrea.”
The Sword said, “You have nothing to lose. Everything to gain. Why spend all these hours slaving away if you won’t go for it?”
”But the debt thing is a serious concern,” I said. “You can’t always have everything you want. You have to be responsible and good stewards. You go into big time debt and it takes over your life. I mean I skipped out on going to Blogs for Life because of that. It’s a dangerous road to go down.”
“Okay,” said Snyder. “So, you need money. Take up a collection. Embed a Paypal donation link in the dialogue.”
“That’s lame, Snyder, but sure, maybe I’ll get a couple nickels. But I don’t even know if I’ll be able to go. Is the time on the PTO calendar even available.”
“E-mail them,” said Don. “They’ll tell you.”
“Okay, so I should probably pray about this some more and get the time off.”
“Prayer’s a good idea,” said Don. “but don’t use prayer as an excuse not to act. Really pray and really find God’s will. If it’s His Will, he’ll make a way.”
Snyder said, “So, you got to pray. So was there any point to this? I mean if the Big Guy tells you no, you’ve wasted all of our time.”
“Did you have anything better to do on a Thursday night?”
“Alright then,” I said. “Thanks for your advice. I’ll see you around.”
UPDATE: Since I wrote this, I did get time off for the conference and thanks to Andrea Genesis of Judgment is now above 65,000 words.
4 thoughts on “The Conference: An In-House Meeting”
Your characters are a lot more helpful–and funnier–than mine would be. Enjoy the conference and Godspeed!
Oh, if you need some more words, I can spare a few. 😉
lol. I think we have enough for GoJ at 67,000, but I can always use more beta readers. MS is at mentors.lostgenreguild.com in the critique circle.
Great. Go Condorman!
Dim Knight is brilliant; who knows, if you leave it long enough it might grow by 4k. That’s not much, you know… Just one scene. Tell Dave to do a ripoff of himself or something!!
Condorman is actually one of Adam’s all time favorites, yeah 🙂
That’s true, we just grew GoJ from 55 to 67,000 on my last rewrite of it 🙂
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