I Crave A Bestseller
Wentworth Falls, New South Wales
Julian Pilkington-Smyth was in a state of extreme agitation. A letter had arrived from Forever Romantic publishing house and he could not find his glasses to read the contents. So far, he had sent his manuscript –The Sands of Time to at least seven similar publishers; each of whom had rejected it, out of hand, with similar and dissimilar reasons. Namely: too clichéd, too esoteric, too much sex, not enough sex, too many characters, lack of characterisation, too much fantasy, not politically correct, and (Julian’s favourite), not environmentally sensitive enough! Just when he thought he’d exhausted every possible location from the ensuite to the refrigerator to find his spectacles; his wife walked in having returned from a shopping expedition.
‘Where are my infernal glasses?’ he bellowed, ‘Have you put them away somewhere?’
Verity replied rather bemused, ‘I believe if you look in the bathroom, you’ll find them!’
‘In the bathroom? I’ve already looked there you silly …’
‘Try again and look up!’ She cut across him and made her way to the kitchen with two heavy shopping bags. ‘Then come and give me a hand to put this stuff away … idiot! She added under her breath.
Julian watched the retreating back of his wife, as she waddled away towards the kitchen with a look of total bewilderment. Look up? What on Earth does she mean by that mean? Nonetheless, he did as he was told. He walked into the ensuite once more and scanned the surrounds of the wash basin and cabinet. Finding nothing, he glanced upwards at himself in the mirror. Mystery solved. His reading glasses were on top of his head!
Julian entered the kitchen rather sheepishly, ‘I found them … why didn’t you just tell me?’ he said more circumspect that he had before. ‘Do you know how infuriating this has been for me? I’ve got a letter from the publisher. I’ve just finished reading it, listen to this …’
She cut him off again, ‘And do you know how infuriating it is to be yelled at because of your stupidity?’
‘It could’ve happened to anyone,’ he replied, miffed.
‘It’s the third time this week,’ she said spitefully. ‘Why don’t you get yourself a lanyard like everyone else? Anyway … what did they say, this time? Plot too soppy, or couldn’t your heroine, Ava the pirate, find her buccaneers on the side of her buccan-head?’
‘Oh very droll, well Verity, my little doubting Thomasina, as a matter of fact they’re going to publish Avarice in the Caribbean very soon!’
Verity’s abrasive tone altered immediately, ‘You’re not serious – but that’s wonderful! Jules, I’m so happy for you … darling! But what happened to the title The Sands of Time?’
‘Been used too many times before – not catchy enough, apparently. You remember that Ava was so greedy that her crew called her Avaricious Ava?’
Verity nodded vigorously.
‘Well they reckon that as avarice or greed appears to be the main theme running through the book that it should become a metaphor as well and be reflected in the title. In fact they reckon I should take it a step further and call her Ava Rice! Hence, Avarice in the Caribbean. You get it? Clever, eh?’
Again Verity nodded her assent. Privately, she thought it was a stupid title, as stupid as the name of his heroine. But who gave a damn as long as they’re going to publish? Other disparaging thoughts came to mind: Ava Rice bubbles her way through the Caribbean with her bloodthirsty companions – Snap, Crackle and Pop! Oh God! Or perhaps he could call her Ava Cado or Ava Lanche or … Ava Goyoumug! Who cares as long as he makes some money! Verity herself was not immune to avarice. She was heartily sick of their hand-to-mouth existence and longed for some luxury. She began dreaming of an idyllic life on Barbados or somewhere similar; like Jamaica where Ian Fleming had lived and wrote many of his James Bond adventures. Ah balmy nights, palm trees, caviar, cocktails by the ocean … actually it had been her idea for Julian to place his story within the Caribbean. Essentially, Verity knew that Julian was a reasonably good writer. The trouble was he suffered from delusions of grandeur; wanting to write ‘important’ novels as Tolstoy, Joyce and Lawrence had done. She shuddered, Lord I hope he hasn’t made the story too arty-farty, cerebral or florid …
‘Oh well Verity, just as long as this pot-boiler doesn’t get in the way of the serious writing, eh?’ Julian replaced his glasses on top of his head once more.
‘Forever Romantic reckon that it just needs tightening in a few places, but they’re really keen on the idea of a bawdy female pirate in the Caribbean; sort of Moll Flanders meets Jack Sparrow, with a bit of Dickens for good measure to give it a bit of gravitas.’ So I’ll just need to apply a bit of polish maybe, or make it a bit coarser; you might like to do some proofreading? I’ll send the cheque off in the morning!’ His enthusiasm was mounting …
‘Jules, do you think they’ll be able to give you an advance …?’ Verity’s voiced trailed off. She suddenly felt a shadow pass over her dream of cocktails by the ocean on balmy, moonlit nights. Verity had only been half listening to Jules prattle on.
‘Wait a minute – Forever Romantic? You’re sending a cheque off? Are you telling me that this is a Vanity Press you’re sending this heap of crap to for publication?
‘Well, yesss, they assure me that all will be well and they’re certain it’ll be a bestseller. Look on it as an investment in my literary future. Anyway, it’s not crap – not complete crap anyway.’
‘How much? Give me that!’ Verity snatched the letter out of his hand.
She read for a few moments, ‘You complete fool!’ She exploded.
‘You give them five grand; to start, and they’re only going to print about fifty copies and 10% to be divided … between …’ She couldn’t continue. She glanced at the company motto printed below the masthead. Your Vanity is not Insanity! ‘Bullshit!’
‘Anyway, I’d better get to work,’ said Julian somewhat miffed, ‘Fire up the computer and make my Ava Rice the buccaneer a bit sexier. I crave a bestseller! Now where have my glasses got to?’
‘They’re up on top of your buccan-head.’ Verity spat and turned away. ‘I crave a cocktail!’
Bio: James says that every writer wants to have a bestseller. It just depends on how avaricious they are! This is how James sees it anyway. To see more examples of James’ work visit his website here.