PBW Stories

Paperback Writer's Fiction Blog

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong Now
by S.L. Viehl

As I was speaking to an editor six months ago about the very real possibility of having my novel in print, I thought, "This is fantastic! Nothing can possibly go wrong now!"

Which of course, as any fool knows, is the invocation of Murphy's Law.

The editor asked me to send her my manuscript overnight so that she could read it over the weekend. No problem, I said. I'll send it UPS next day air tomorrow. She didn't know I was stretching the truth a bit. It takes 8 - 10 hours for my ancient printer to spit out a 632 page manuscript on track-feed paper. I didn't have a copy ready. I started printing that night, and got 165 pages out before I had to drop from exhaustion.

The next morning, I dropped the kids off at school. My van's engine died in last school's parking lot. I put my forehead against the steering wheel and pleaded with "Bessy" to turn over, just one more time, so I could get home and start printing. After twenty tries, "Bessy" took pity on me and started.

I rushed home. Got the printer started. Looked for the Valium. Couldn't find it. Heard a terrible screeching noise. Went back to the printer. Saw that page 224 had fed back into the track feeders and was now also page 236 in crumpled-fan form. Said alot of words I don't allow the children to use. Fixed the printer and the paper. Sat next to it and prayed. Watched as the seemingly endless box of paper ran the last sheet through. Ran around looking for anything made out of wood pulp I could print the manuscript on. Found some dusty old paper. Dusted it off. Fed it in. Said more of those words.

At last, at 1:30 pm, I called the guy at packing & shipping company I used for UPS packages.

"Dennis!" I shrieked. "Tell me the UPS guy hasn't been there yet."

"The UPS guy hasn't been here yet," he said obligingly.

"Okay. Here's the deal," I said. "I've got about ten pounds of paper that has to be in New York tomorrow. My future as a science fiction writer and a sane person depends on it. My van is giving me trouble. I may have to resort to a taxi if I can't start it. I need you to stall UPS for me. Can you handle it, buddy?"

"No problem," Dennis replied. "I'll sit on the guy if he shows before you do."

I grabbed the manuscript, ran out to the van, got behind the wheel, looked up at God and said, "Please. Just get me as far as the packing & shipping place. I'll stop eating Hershey Bars for the rest of the year." I didn't say life because I don't like to lie to God. I stuck the key in the ignition. Turned it over. "Bessy" purred like a kitten. Once again I'd confirmed there is a God. Drove like a madwoman to the packing and shipping place. Dennis was smiling as I staggered in and dumped my manuscript on the counter.

"He hasn't been here yet," Dennis assured me. He boxed up the manuscript and weighed it. "Whoa. $72.00 just to overnight this? I'll buy a plane ticket and take it up there for you myself. Only costs twenty bucks more."

I was too exhausted to care. "Whatever. Just so the woman gets it." I propped my forehead on my hand. "Dennis, tell me again why I'm doing this to myself."

"You told me it was fun writing books," he reminded me.

"Writing them, yes. Trying to sell them..." I rolled my eyes. "Maybe someday I'll make enough money to hire a secretary."

"Make sure she's got good transportation," was Dennis' advice.

Dennis is a nice man. He gave me a 10% discount and threw in the box and packaging for nothing. I promised him an autographed copy of the novel, and my hand in marriage should my husband ever decide to kick me out. Which he might, if my guy ever finds out how much it costs to overnight a manuscript to New York.

That was six months ago. The editor read my manuscript, and its sequel, and offered me a contract for both. It worked out great - with my advance, I bought a new printer and got the transmission fixed on the van.

All I have to worry about now is earning back the advance, getting the right publicity, writing the third book in what has now become a series....and finding that bottle of Valium. Soon.

(Originally published in the August 1999 issue of Writer's Digest magazine.)

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