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  • Writer's pictureJoyce Davis

Conversations Under The Maple #7

"Harvey," says Shal, "Shane, that grandson of yours is a diplomat."

"Yep, he's a marvel, 14 going on 40. I'm proud of that kid. We talked, and I believe he will spend part of Christmas break with me. He said he'd take the train down from Seattle. They don't get down here very often, and it was hard for Sarah to lose her mother. I think she crawled in a hole for a while. And I was useless."

"She and I spoke," Ollie said, "she said she understood that you weren't available to comfort her after Liz passed, for you were grieving, and the family was walking on eggs."

"Yeah, I think our Sunday get-together helped-- thank you guys for being there."

"People lightened up after a while," Shal says. "I got a kick out of Shane when his uncle launched into Conspiracy Theories, and the one about Nazis on the moon had people returning to the food table. Shane got people back on track by telling the story Liz told him. Did you hear it?"

"What was it," asks Simad.

"Once in the lab, someone sent in a urine sample, only it was peach juice, and the lab tech went ballistic, thinking the doner would soon be in a diabetic coma. The joker quickly told what he had done, and all ended well."

"Yeah," said Harvey, "Once Liz and a couple of nurses teamed up with the lab techs, and rigged a catapult to see who could lob a breakfast sweet roll into a cup of coffee. The bagel won, only it needed the cream cheese for ballast."

"You guys must have had fun."

"Yeah, we did."

"Remember that, Harvey," Ollie said.

"I do. Liz nursed people for twenty years. I'm glad she had a break to do her own thing. I'm getting better, I've been playing music when I come home from work instead of having six beers."

"Good for you."

"Hey, Simad," says Shal, "How's the novel coming?"

"I finished it Sunday after I came home from Harvey's. Life's too short to fool around."

"Here, here," Everyone stood up and applauded."

"Okay," says Ollie," leaving the group to go into the house. "I have chilled champagne ready for the occasion."

She returned with a bottle and glasses." "One should always celebrate their successes. It gives the brain happy juice." She turned to Shal and handed him the bottle, "Would you pop the cork?"

He gently removed the cork without squirting champagne. "See, I didn't bruise it."

He fills the glasses Ollie holds, and everyone toasts Simad and settles back into their chairs. Most take a slice of cheese and a cracker that Ollie had supplied that day.

"I'm proud of you guys," Ollie said. "You are so supportive. We did say, however, that we aren't off-limits for any subject. I want you to know that all feelings are to be honored, even the not-so-nice ones."

"Are you encouraging us to be ornery?"

"No, just honest. Everyone should have a soft place to fall. I just don't want our concerns, hurts, and injuries suppressed under the guise of staying upbeat."

"I wouldn't call grief upbeat."

"No, but I'm sure you get the point. We know that most of us want our dreams supported, our failures justified, our fears allayed, and our suspicions confirmed; on top of that, we want someone to help us throw rocks at our enemies.*"

"Yeah," says Simad, "I'd like someone to help me throw rocks."

"To whom shall we throw rocks, Simad?"

"The Publishing Companies."

"But you're getting published. What's the big deal?”

"Well, I listened to my agent give a Ted talk where she said authors were getting a bad rap. They get paid little—unless you're one of the heavy hitters like J.K Rowling's Harry Potter series, or Liz Gilbert's Eat, Pray Love, which, I know, the publishing companies are eager to find, and I don't blame them. They're struggling, too."

"Whoops, Simad," you just dropped your rock."

"Well, the trouble is the Publishing Companies charge too much for their books. They have to, but many people can't afford them, or don't want to when they can go online and find ones selling for $2.50 or free on Kindle Unlimited. Of course, people pay for those too. With traditional publishing, the agent takes 10%, the publishing Company 60%, and then they expect you to market your own book. You are lucky to get twenty-five cents a copy."

"That's why, Simad," says Shal, "people are self-publishing. Used to be it was called vanity publishing, for the public thought if a publishing company didn't want it, it was rubbish. Yet there is an entire bevy of authors who started out that way. Beatrix Potter, Mark Twain, Steven King. It ought to be called Preservation Publishing.

"Yeah," said Simad, "I read that the largest self-published moneymaker was 50 Shades of Grey."

'That tells you what people want." Says Twinkie."

"I'm a Sci-Fi writer," says Simad."

"Throw in some sex, Simad," says Harvey.

"Come to think of it," says Shal, "The Martain was Sci-fi, self-published, made 3 mil, had no sex, and the film version made a ton of money.”

"Honestly," Simad sighed. "I'm having something like buyer's remorse. While I wanted that book finished, and I was happy to get a publisher, I'm worried it will not sell. And the company will depend on me to market it, and I'm terrible at marketing."

"Well, start out by printing out copies for us," says Shal, "I'll read it and give my honest opinion--and a review, not that I'm an expert or anything. And you know Simad, you won't please everybody. Books are a matter of taste, and interest.”

Thanks, Shal. I don't need charity. I need talent."

"Stop it, Simad," Sally virtually yelled. "You are arguing for your limitations. You know that creating something out of nothing is a task many cannot do. You also know that skill can be learned. If you have the imagination to complete an entire book, you must have something in that head of yours. Plus, it's not over until the fat lady sings."

[Sigh]. "You're right, Sally, I'm whining."

"We gave you permission to do it. Simad," says Ollie. "Just don't stay there."

"I'm just worried. And I need the money."

"Those are reasonable fears, Simad," says Ollie, "that's the trouble with putting out work to be scrutinized. Of course, you will worry."

"Guess I just want to be liked."

"Doesn't everybody? I always laugh at some of those design shows on TV," says Shal. "The MCs will say, "Knock our socks off, like the contestants aren't trying to do just that."

"Why do you think we are drinking champagne, Simad? You have done what many cannot do. You found a publisher, completed your novel, and are now having a letdown. It logical."

"Thanks Spock. I think I will begin my next book. I felt depressed when I completed that one. Got any ideas?"

"Yeah," says Harvey, "have an astronaut get wounded on Mars, left dead by his crew, and must survive on potatoes fertilized by his own excrement."

"Everybody laughed. "That's been done, Harvey!"

*Principle from Blair Warren's "One Sentence Persuasion Course"

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