Sunday, October 04, 2009

Day Jobs and Writerly Things

by

Wilfred Bereswill

Lot’s of things going on in my life right now. As day jobs go, I actually reached a bit of a milestone last week. You see I was hired to start a new Environmental Department at a well established company. There is a logical reason why the company never had an environmental group before, but suddenly they’re in the game and there’s a lot of catching up to do. Honestly, it’s been so overwhelming that I haven’t been able to think about much else. It’s sapped all my creative energy and I’ve gotten nowhere on book two. But I see a dim, pinpoint of light at the end of a long tunnel.

After 25 plus years in Environmental Affairs it didn’t take me long to figure out I was in a train that was heading full speed into a train coming the other direction. It’s taken my 4 long months of thinking and presenting and meeting and revising, but I’ve finally gotten a program approved and jobs posted for two people to help. I’m a long, long, long way from feeling comfortable about things, but I’m taking baby steps.

I liken the situation to getting in a car in a foreign country not knowing anything about the speed limits or what the signs mean, or even which side of the road to drive on. So you get in and start driving. You drive at a speed that’s comfortable and you turn the way you always have, until you get a ticket or someone explains the rules, you’re not going to know what you’re doing wrong. I’m the new sheriff in town. Awareness!

So on to writerly issues. Let’s see, Bouchercon is rapidly approaching and I’ll be attending with a much different plan and attitude. I don’t have a newly published book this time and I didn’t score a panel, except for a spot in the continuous conversation. I will be trying to make connections with an agent, of course. But otherwise, I’m just planning on relaxing and talking to then many authors I met there last year.

On Wednesday I have the pleasure of meeting with a book club that invited me to come and chat with them about my book. I’ve done one before and enjoyed the hell out of it. The best part is, the ladies are taking me out to a restaurant to buy my dinner while we talk.

And finally, last Monday, Gina wrote about dreams. I mentioned that I dreamt the premises of a short story and even wrote the first paragraph in my sleep. The dream wasn’t visual at all; only words. I went on to write the story. Actually, I was fascinated by it. I think it tipped the scale at just under 5,000 words.

I have sent it around for publication. Three times. Here are the comments I’ve received with the rejections. “Your story started out intriguing and quirky, but soon turned into a bloody mess. Sorry, not right for us.” “One of the best first lines I’ve read lately. And then it went south.” “Like a bad accident, I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure what to make of it, but I won’t be publishing it.”

Now, with comments like that, you’d think I’d be upset. BUT, the way I look at it, it stirred the emotions of each editor that read it. Enough of an emotional reaction to garner a personal response. And this from my wife, “If you ever get this published, you need to do it under a pen name. I don’t want anyone to know you wrote it.”

Yes, my little 5,000 word story has gotten a lot of reactions. Yes, I REALLY pushed the envelope on this little tale. It does have a split personality. It does start quirky and it does turn very disturbing. I have tried to rewrite it several times. I’ve tried to soften it up, but it just doesn’t work that way. For the time being, I’m leaving it as is and I’ll continue to submit it to publications that it may be right for. To give you a taste, I’ll give you the quirky part.

RECYCLED LIFE

I was having a pretty good day until Neville killed me. He walked right up to me, shoved a gun in my chest and pulled the trigger. I guess I can’t blame him. I’ve been pushing him away for the last eight months. It just so happens that, during that time, I developed a taste for women. I say that rather tongue in cheek, because I mean in the Jeffery Dahmer, Hannible Lecter sense.

You see, somewhere along the line. something hit me. An overwhelming curiosity washed over me. A culinary curiosity. I developed a taste for aureoles. Yes, that’s right; nipples. It’s quite a shame really. Rather like the Asian’s fascination for shark fin soup; catch the shark, kill it, harvest the fins and throw the succulent flesh away. Or the Russians slaughtering Beluga whales merely for caviar. But you see, areola are like little drops of sunshine--human truffles.

Reflecting back on the events of the last eight months, I realize my little problem had been a long time in coming. You see, for several years now, those little urges that tug on the strings of curiosity have been pulling at my consciousness at an ever-increasing clip. I’m sure you know what I mean. Those ‘I wonder what’ thoughts that pop into your head at the strangest of moments. “I wonder what that woman would do if I walked up to her and kissed her on the lips?” “I wonder what my boss would do if I cold-cocked him while he gives me my pathetic raise?” “I wonder what it would feel like to step off the roof of a tall building?” “I wonder what nipples taste like?”

Of course, we are all brought up to know right from wrong and these simple moments of weakness are quickly and promptly dismissed and never, ever brought up lest someone judge us as being evil. However, over the course of the last several years, these indulgent thoughts that tickled my curiosity were not so easily evicted. Like a bad tenant, they lingered. A little longer each time. Until eight months ago. The eviction notice was given, only to be tossed aside. My silly little compulsive thought, built like a gathering wave until it crashed on my consciousness and overwhelmed me. “What do nipples taste like?”

I'll stop right there, because as one editor indicated, this is where the story goes south. I'd prefer to say it changes direction.

So have you ever written something that pushed the envelope? If so, what did you do with it?

8 comments:

Jennie Bentley said...

Creepy. I can definitely see why you're getting great feedback on the first few paragraphs. They're great. I can tell it's not a story I personally would enjoy reading, though, but that's OK - we don't all have to like the same things. Maybe check out where Joe Konrath has been published and try those places? He combines humor with some really dark, awful stuff. Just a thought...

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Thanks, Jennie. Yeah, I must have scared the rest of the morning readers away.

What creeps me out is that I tend to write the really dark side well. In fact, I think the following passage from the story is a reflection of that:

"Of course, we are all brought up to know right from wrong and these simple moments of weakness are quickly and promptly dismissed and never, ever brought up lest someone judge us as being evil."

Lee Lofland said...

Great stuff, Will. I can relate to your reaction to editor comments. My agent submitted a true crime/murder proposal for me and the common comment among ALL editors was (not the exact words, but very close), "Great writing, and what a compelling story! If it had elements of pedophilia or cannibalism we'd buy the book today. However, since it's merely about the murder and dismemberment of a young girl I'm afraid we'll have to pass."

Go figure...

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Hey Lee. Long time, no see. Hope you're doing well.

Jeez, and I'm having trouble with the cannibalism part. Imagine that. Those editors can be a fickle group.

Joyce said...

Will, I wholeheartedly agree with your wife.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce,

I guess I had too much to drink the night before I had the dream.

Pat said...

I'm wondering what might happen if the people at your day job read your story... would that add another twist to the tale?

Cheryl Elaine Williams said...

Good luck with your new position, Wilfred. You sound like you definitely have the energy and flair to do the job well.