My Book is Finished

This is the seventh in a continuing series of posts about my experience (limited as it is) as an author. Click here for a complete index of all the stories in this series.

I finished writing my book.

What? You are asking. What book?

It’s a book of my collected failures as a fiction writer. Let me explain…

On August 23, 2020, I decided to try my hand at writing science fiction. As I’ve explained in previous installments of my Author’s Journal, I’ve done some technical writing and I was able to publish two autobiographical essays in Indianapolis Monthly Magazine in the late 1980s. However, with the exception of one or two stories for high school English classes, I’ve never completed a work of fiction. Even though my autobiographical essay “The Reunion” was awarded Best Magazine Feature of 1987 by the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, that doesn’t mean I’m capable of writing publishable fiction. I’ve always said, “Just because I know how to tell a story doesn’t mean that I know how to make one up.”

Have I also had a lifelong dislike for doing research although I discovered that these days with Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube research can be quite fun.

I did have a few ideas for science fiction stories that had been rattling around in my head linearly for decades. Admittedly some of the stories originated as fantasies that would occupy my mind on sleepless nights. What if I was a famous inventor? What if I could be an astronaut? What would my life have been like if I did not have a disability? Perhaps these fantasies could be the basis of some interesting stories.

In the spring of 2020, I resubscribed to some of my favorite science fiction magazines that I had not read since the late 1970s. My worsening disability had made it impossible for me to handle books and magazines. But these days the major science fiction magazines are available through Amazon Kindle and other online sources that I could read on my iPad using the Kindle app. After reading several issues, I convinced myself that although I wasn’t up to the standards of my beloved Golden Age Masters like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, or Robert A. Heinlein perhaps I could write well enough to be published.

Since then I’ve written seven science fiction stories, one general fiction story, and a science fact article related to science fiction technology. I have submitted stories to 11 different print and online publications. I have collected 25 rejection emails as of today, January 16, 2022. Two of my science fiction stories and my science fact article are currently under review at three venues. According to a chart I’m keeping, I have just most seven more opportunities to publish my stories unless I can discover additional markets.

My Plan B has always been that if I could not publish a story, I can put my rejections together into an anthology e-book and sell it via Amazon for a dollar or two. I didn’t really think I could get rich off of this. I’m doing it just for and to please myself.

Along the way I decided to write an introduction to each story and then after the story write an essay explaining how and why I wrote the story the way I did. My stories are often filled with Easter eggs relating to real events of my personal life. A professional author who had read one of my blog posts said that I had a strong ability to make my life interesting to total strangers. It seems that in many cases, the story behind the story is going to be more interesting than the story itself.

Perhaps this confirms the adage that it’s all about the journey and not necessarily about the destination.

I have completely run out of ideas. I don’t think this is already an ordinary case of writer’s block. Most of these stories have been rattling around in my head for many, many years. I’ve heard that the best way to become a writer is to write continuously to hone your craft. Well, I don’t know how to do that without ideas for stories. The well has completely run dry. Unless I find my muse somewhere along the way, this is the end. There are potential sequels to my stories to be written but I don’t have any reasonable plot lines remotely figured out. I haven’t given up completely but realistically it’s going to be a long time until more ideas appear at the rate I’m going.

As my submission spreadsheet has approached being completely filled in, I have been putting the final touches on the essays and preparing my anthology for self-publication. Today I did a semifinal proofread of the entire collection of both stories and essays. I cannot release the book until all of my potential markets are exhausted.

None of the professional markets allow you to submit stories to two different markets at the same time and most of them require that you only submit to them one story at a time. So it could still be many months until the chart is completely filled.

The title of the book is “You can’t do that… But what if you could?”

Most of the stories I’ve written can be described by that sentence. And the science fiction stories I like to read fall into that category as well. Take something like the classic science fiction technologies such as a limitless, clean, cheap source of energy such as cold fusion. You can’t do that… But what if you could?

What about gravity control? Get in your shuttlecraft, push a button, and it silently floats off the ground and soars into outer space without using chemical rockets? You can’t do that… But what if you could?

In TV shows and movies there is a classic scene where a young girl says, “I got myself pregnant.” My response is always, “No you didn’t! It takes two people.” You can’t do that… But what if you could?

Here is the table of contents of my anthology of essays and stories that will be released as soon as I run out of markets. If by chance one of my stories does get published, I will delay the release of my book until my contract allows me to republish it in my anthology or I will simply remove it from the list.

You can’t do that… But what if you could?

Part 1

  • Forward to “You can’t do that… But what if you could?”
  • About the Author
  • Essay: How I Started Writing Science Fiction
    • Chapter 1 – Why I Don’t Write Fiction
    • Chapter 2 – I Hate Research
    • Chapter 3 – Why Science Fiction?
    • Chapter 4 – Why Start Now?
    • Chapter 5 – What to Write?
  • Essay: My Pet Peeve – Plot-Driven Technology

Part 2

  • Introduction to “Race to the Future”
  • Novella “Race to the Future” (21,000 words) The biography of orphan Edward Tillman who grew up in Chicago and Indianapolis and perfected cold nuclear fusion. It is a clean, inexpensive, safe energy source that makes electric cars self-charging. His wife Julie Hendrix invents a new branch of physics called “quantum resonance” which explains his breakthrough technology. The start of a planned trilogy titled “The Tillman Family Chronicles.”
    • Chapter 1 – A Tragic Start
    • Chapter 2 – A Winning Move
    • Chapter 3 – Dammit! Let Him Try.
    • Chapter 4 – The Paper Chase
    • Chapter 5 – Not Being A Fool Who Rushed In
    • Chapter 6 – A New World Order
    • Chapter 7 – Negotiating Mergers
    • Epilogue – The Checkered Flag
  • Essay: Making of “Race to the Future”
    • Chapter 1 – “This is Reality Stupid!”
    • Chapter 2 – Funding the Future
    • Chapter 3 – I Didn’t Know There Would Be Math Involved
    • Chapter 4 – Location, Location, Location
    • Chapter 5 – Family Tragedy
    • Chapter 6 – “Children’s Book of Saints”
    • Chapter 7 – The Chicago Years
    • Chapter 8 – Linear Versus Nonlinear
    • Chapter 9 – Eddie and Me
    • Chapter 10 – Indy Bound
    • Chapter 11 – Indianapolis as a Character
    • Chapter 12 – Educating Eddie
    • Chapter 13 – Eddie’s Mentors
    • Chapter 14 – Eddie’s Friends and Lovers
    • Chapter 15 – The Technology
    • Chapter 16 – The Real Story Behind Cold Fusion
    • Chapter 17 – Making Your Case Before God
    • Chapter 18 – The Ending and What’s Wrong with the Story

Part 3

  • Introduction to “The Rescue”
  • Novelette: “The Rescue” (16,600 words) The Tillman Family Chronicles continue with the story of Julie’s invention of the TED – a Thrust Emitting Device that turns electricity into thrust. Eddie and Julie’s 19-year-old genius astronaut daughter Teresa flies a daring rescue mission to save eight astronauts aboard the damaged International Space Station. (Note: No chapters in this story.)
  • Making of “The Rescue”
    • Chapter 1 – The Premise
    • Chapter 2 – The Opening
    • Chapter 3 – The Magic Show
    • Chapter 4 – What’s in a Name
    • Chapter 5 – Launch and Rendezvous
    • Chapter 6 – The International Space Station
    • Chapter 7 – The Actual Rescue
    • Chapter 8 – The Aftermath

Part 4

  • Essay: What Happened to Part 3 of the Tillman Family Chronicles – In the third part of the Chronicles, Teresa’s husband Thomas Linwood was going to invent a faster-the-light spaceship drive. This is the story of why that story didn’t work.
  • Essay: Saving the Tillman/Linwood N-Drive – I invented a unique FTL drive but could not come up with a workable story to go with it. It’s a shame my invention would go to waste. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could patent fictional technology?
  • Flash Fiction: “Literary Patents” (1300 words) A science fiction author is sued for patent infringement when he incorporates a piece of fictional technology invented by another author into one of his stories.
  • Making of “Literary Patents”
  • Science Fact Article: “Eliminating Einstein Doesn’t Help” – A review of various plot devices science fiction authors use to get around the fact that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Includes a mathematical examination of the physics of Star Trek warp drive which will shock you.

Part 5

  • Making of “Denizens of My Dreams” – The story behind a 300 word piece of flash fiction that was inspired by a dream I had.
  • Flash Fiction: “Denizens of My Dream” (300 words) – A somewhat surreal reflection on the people who occupy your dreams.
  • Essay: Another Dream Inspired Story – The story behind the only non-science fiction piece of fiction in the book. Inspired by an actual dream I had.
  • Flash Fiction: “The Big Lie” (1500 words) – An overheard phone conversation at a food court leads to a political discussion between two strangers in wheelchairs.

Part 6

  • Making of “I Can’t Say” – I had an idea for a novel about a disabled man who is given an opportunity to live his life over again with all of his adult memories intact and to relive his life without his disability. After writing the first chapter, I realized that chapter might make an interesting short story.
  • Short Story: “I Can’t Say” (3500 words) – A mysterious voice makes an offer to a dying disabled man but refuses to divulge any information about who is making the offer or why it is being made.
  • Essay: How Reality Killed My Elaborate Fantasy – The plot outline of a novel to be titled “The Reboots” the first chapter of which is the short story “I Can’t Say”. Explores the reasons why current events ruined my clever idea for the novel.
    • Chapter 1 – Want to Get Rich? Become Bill Gates
    • Chapter 2 – Averting Disasters
    • Chapter 3 – Bring in the Love Interest
    • Chapter 4 – Reality Destroyed my Fantasy

Part 7

  • Essay: My Greatest Sci-fi Story May Be Unpublishable – I wrote a science fiction story that has science, genetics, courtroom drama, family drama, teenage pregnancy, LGBT+/gender identity issues, religion, politics, prejudice, romance, abortion rights, math, and ultimately the fate of the human race. Unfortunately in the current climate, my qualifications to write such a story will come into question any may be too controversial to publish. Ultimately I may not end up self-publishing the story I call “The Duosexual”
    • Chapter 1 – The Premise
    • Chapter 2 – Why the Story Right Never Be Published
    • Chapter 3 – I Need a Fuckin’ Expert
    • Chapter 4 – The Helicopter Story
  • Novella “The Duosexual” (17,000 words) – A pregnant intersex girl fights to prevent her parents from forcing her to have an abortion. Embarks on a lifelong course of action that has profound effects on her personally, society in general, and ultimately the fate of the human race as we know it. This story may be too controversial to be included in the book.
    • Chapter 1 – “In the beginning…”
    • Chapter 2 – “In the image of God He created them male and female”
    • Chapter 3 – “This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”
    • Chapter 4 – “God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”
    • Chapter 5 – “The one who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”
  • Making of “The Duosexual”
    • Chapter 1 – The Birds have the Bees
    • Chapter 2 – 23 and Me
    • Chapter 3 – “In the beginning…”
    • Chapter 4 – The Trial
    • Chapter 5 – Teen Sex
    • Chapter 6 – Self-Identity
    • Chapter 7 – Mystery Revealed
    • Chapter 8 – “God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”
    • Chapter 9 – This is the End
    • Chapter 10 – The Metaphor

Part 8

  • Introduction to “The Pope of the Apocalypse” – My fascination with post-apocalyptic stories leads me to fantasize about what it would be like to survive the apocalypse with a disability and how would the church survive if there were no more priests.
  • Novella: “The Pope of the Apocalypse” (13,000 words) – A 32-year-old man with cerebral palsy is one of the rare survivors of a deadly pandemic. When he finds a woman who came to help him survive, his face with a difficult choice of marrying her or being ordained as a Roman Catholic bishop to ensure the survival of the Church.
  • Making of “The Pope of the Apocalypse”
    • Chapter 1 – The Premise
    • Chapter 2 – Special Education
    • Chapter 3 – “The horror…”
    • Chapter 4 – Salvation and Matrimony
    • Chapter 5 – An Offer of French Fries Doesn’t Mean True Love
    • Chapter 6 – Discerning the will of God
    • Chapter 7 – Ordination
    • Chapter 8 – Being a Priest
    • Chapter 9 – Becoming Pope

Final Thoughts

    Stay tuned for further developments.

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