Proofreading and Writing Services – Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Hi, my name is Lawrence, and I’m a writer of fiction and non-fiction.  If you clicked on this page, then you are probably interested in my proofreading services, or at the very least, wondering what I can do in regards to the written word.  Let me first tell you a little bit about myself and this website.  Many people know me as an author of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy and horror), and my name is pretty synonymous within the small press.  I’ve been writing for well over fifteen years, and I have an extensive publishing history.  Think of this site as a sort of virtual resume of some of my previous work, upcoming work, and publications.  Not just the services I provide, since I consider myself a working writer.  I’ve been called prolific when it comes to writing short stories and informative when it comes to magazine articles.  Wherever I go, any social media platform I visit, people tend to say, “Oh, Lawrence Dagstine, he’s that Scifi/Horror writer.  Sure, I’ve heard of him.”

This is me, hard at work for you.

Unfortunately, it’s a label I’m stuck with—because I chose to enter that field and write in that form.  You see, as a child I grew up to movies like Star Wars and Aliens, TV shows like Doctor Who and The Incredible Hulk, and I read Marvel comic books and digested good science fiction literature (no, great!).  Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, you name it.  I read voraciously! I lived around the corner from a Forbidden Planet and was practically there every day.  I did book reports on lengthy Stephen King novels in 2nd and 3rd grade, and was the head of the boys in reading and writing in my school district at the time (the 1980s).  Years back my IQ was tested and I got a score of 150 (teachers called me gifted).  I even delivered prescriptions to the late Kurt Vonnegut and, for a brief period, became friends with him and he a sort of mentor to me.  So reading and writing, especially genre, has always been in my blood.  But I prefer to be called a Freelance Writer because I work with words in general.  It’s what I studied.  Not just fiction.  Genre fiction is pretty much the “fandom” side.  And it is very hard to make a full-time income writing fiction, as most genre writers are paid a pittance.  I’ve known writers who got their BA or MA, thinking they were going to write the next literary masterpiece or appear in The Paris Review, only to become editors or teachers.  They weren’t delusional, they had the confidence, their hearts were in it, they just dreamed a little too high is all.  Even I dreamed high once, then my first client base involved writing and proofing pamphlets and instruction manuals.  So you really need to expand your writing skills to other areas, other venues.

Now if you’ve written something that you feel needs improvement, but don’t know how to go about fixing it, ask yourself a few questions… Have you ever had trouble with words like ‘further’ and ‘farther?’ Perhaps verb usage? Do you know the difference between their/there/they’re? Did you know that words like ‘never mind’, or ‘any more’, or ‘all together’ are not compound words? They’re all two words! Does your story have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Plenty of conflict? Because something has to happen in your story, and something has to be resolved.  The first sentence means more than you know, because it’s the first thing the reader sees after the title and byline.  It’s what immediately draws the reader in.  What about non-fiction, or product placement, or a cool advertisement? Maybe you have an idea and want somebody to word that idea a certain way, where it can potentially become a moneymaking vehicle.  Maybe you need help creating or formatting a resume or cover letter, want to stand out from the rest of the crowd when it comes time to apply for that killer job.  Need a catalog done, or a brochure, or a catchy slogan? Need some minor ghostwriting (query)? Textbook writing or editing? Essays or proposals? Striking web content for a business or organization? Help with a novelette or novella? What’s that? Want me to write you a Western Romance? Okay, I’ll write you a Western Romance.  You’re the boss.

No matter what it is, if it involves words, I can probably help you.  My publishing history consists of over 400 fiction credits in print magazines, webzines, anthologies, and miscellaneous periodicals.  My non-fiction consists of 150 credits, online and offline, for small and medium circulation newspapers, trade journals, regionals, and everyday magazines in need of good filler.  I’ve penned video game reviews in the past for Nintendo Power and written greeting card jingles for Hallmark’s competitors.  I’ve written articles on the paranormal, pharmaceuticals, beach erosion, Native American spirituality, theology, historical subjects, marriage, divorce, pets, vacation spots, real estate, wrestling and more.  I’ve shared tables of contents with two Hugo Award winners and two Bram Stoker winners.  I can do just about 75% of what’s out there.

Still in doubt? Well, ask yourself these 12 sample questions.

Do you know how to assemble a story arc? Do you know what character development is? Do you know what a three-act and five-act narrative is? Are you familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style? Have you ever referenced the work of John Gardner (On Becoming a Novelist, The Forms of Fiction, The Art of Fiction)? Do you know the difference between literary and mainstream? Do you know what structural analysis is? Have you ever studied English Literature—authors like Graham Greene, Truman Capote, EM Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the like? Do you know what proper manuscript format is? Do you know the difference between filler and feature article? Do you know how to write a pitch? Do you know the difference between a plot formula and a plot device? Heck, do you even know what I’m talking about?

If you answered no to five or more of the above, then it wouldn’t hurt to have me or some other qualified individual as your proofreader/editor.  Because I will only improve your fiction or non-fiction project, and only to your liking.  That is what I do.  I work with words.  Think of me as a sort of literary engineer.  I check for errors, make corrections, do any necessary research, and make your prose more persuasive.  I assist you in getting it the attention it deserves.  I develop fresh, innovative, and compelling work.  I drive constant voice, grammar, format, and diction across all text.  I know that your project is your baby.  It was birthed from your imagination.  But you must be able to take criticism and suggestions.  It will only help your project stand out from the rest, and help you get better.  What I am not is a copy editor.  A copy editor is an entirely different animal.  Copy editors usually work, or have worked, for publishing houses.  And good ones (not the kind you see for these run-of-the-mill small presses, who also publish their own books with the same company).  They do what’s called line edits.  They review your manuscript and send it to you with revisions in a program like Microsoft Word.  I do NOT do line edits.  Yes, I am certified in editing, but there is a great difference between a workshop certificate and a staff editor with more than 10 years experience at one of the big houses.  Yes, I have a background and education in journalism, creative writing, technical writing, and the business side of writing that could very well meet your needs.  Yes, as a proofreader I will go over your manuscript a minimum of three times, acquiring your voice and style.  Yes, I will print out your story or article, take a red pen to it, highlight certain areas I feel should be highlighted, and tell you what I think.  Yes, as your proofreader I will pay attention to the usual stuff like grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency and sentence structure.  But I am not a copy editor.  I’m being honest here.  Even I use an outside editor for lengthy projects.  Because everybody needs a qualified editorial eye.  After all, how can you successfully edit a work that came from your own subconscious mind?

Difference between copyediting and proofreading:

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-difference-between-copyediting-and-proofreading/

Difference between copyediting and line editing:

http://publicizeyourbook.blogspot.com/2007/04/difference-between-copy-and-line.html

A copy editor will usually charge you by the word or line (I charge a flat fee).  They often do book manuscripts, and make up what’s called a style sheet.  If you’re looking for one, personally, I suggest looking for someone with at least three years experience.  Also, be careful of line editors posing as copy editors, as they can really screw up the flow of your manuscript if they don’t know what they’re doing.  This has happened to me.

Once again, I charge a very affordable flat fee.  Satisfaction guaranteed.  On a budget? I understand we’re still in a recession, the economy may very well not be good for years to come, and because of that, I am willing to work with you.  I expect at least half the cost of the project at the beginning of our agreement.  You are to pay me the other half after the project is finished.  Our email acts as a sort of electronic contract, if you will.  Research or additional time spent on projects (like staying up all night and losing sleep to meet a deadline on your behalf), costs extra.  And no, not an arm and a leg.  You are responsible for the cost of things like encyclopedias, visual aids, books purchased on Amazon, transportation places, or other reference materials.  I fact-check well, and I give citations where instructed or needed.  I do great copy—print copy! I’m not the kind of lazy individual who just looks something up on Google or Wikipedia.  Google is one of the worst reference tools you can turn to.  That’s because you usually find more than one answer to a particular question.  A long time ago I was commissioned to do a short article on Planned Parenthood in the new millennium.  I needed abortion statistics.  I found eleven well-rounded, informative sites by using Google.  The only problem is I found eleven different statistics.  So which was the right answer? For your project, if I have to go to a library, then so be it.  To the library it is.

I put in the time and effort to make your project as professional as possible.  I am proficient in Microsoft Word and Open Office (sorry, no crappy programs like WordPerfect).  I can give your project the treatment it deserves, and if you feel it needs work or you are not fully satisfied, I will tailor it to suit your needs at no additional cost.  I want you to be happy with my work.  I want you to succeed.  You retain all rights.  My name does not go on your written material.  I merely spruce it up.  So do you have something that involves the written word? Send me an email today for a free evaluation or price quote.  Give me an outline of your project and what you’re looking for.  Tell me about yourself and the work you do in three to six paragraphs; small businesses and companies most welcome.  If you want, I’ll even give you a freebie.  Three double-spaced pages for fiction (or 1,000 words); a half-a-page for non-fiction (150 words)—absolutely free! Have a fax machine? Want more proof emailed to you? Press clips always available upon request.  And I do simple typing too!

So contact me today, tell a friend, because no project is too large.  All material should be sent as an attachment.  I look forward to our partnership and any questions you may have.  Contact: ldagstine @ hotmail.com

Sincerely Yours,

Lawrence Dagstine

Speculative Fiction Author/Freelance Writer & Editor

Proofreading and Writing Services

Also be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin

Other New Entries: “Proofreading Services”

Einstein’s Pocket Watch, July to September 2010…

You can now find me for a second time  in what has become a very popular and free webzine for writers of poetry, inspirational stories, Christian and Experimental Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Christian Science Fiction, literary, and more or less stories that are uplifting.  NO horror pieces.  Friend and editor Rob Crandall presents: Einstein’s Pocket Watch.  Rather than genre this time, I have a mainstream piece.  It’s a wonderful blog webzine.  Do check it out.

Einstein’s Pocket Watch – July to Sept. 2010

2nd Appearances – Mainstream – Edited by Rob Crandall

Fiction & Poetry in link below:

FREE READS – CLICK HERE:

http://peafant.wordpress.com/

Photography: “From Train Site On World Wide Web”

Other New Entries: “Magazines”

Einstein’s Pocket Watch, September 2010 (2nd Acceptance!)

I’ll be coming for a second time to what, over the last year or so, has become a very popular and free webzine for writers of poetry, inspirational stories, Christian Fiction, Experimental Fiction, Some Science Fiction and Fantasy, Christian Science Fiction, and more or less stories that are uplifting.  NO horror.  Rob Crandall’s: Einstein’s Pocket Watch.  This would be my 2nd upcoming appearance to the webzine, but with a mainstream/literary piece this time.  I was in the first issue, and I’ll be back again September 2010.  It’s a wonderful blog webzine.  Check it out.

Einstein’s Pocket Watch – Coming September 2010

2nd Appearances – Mainstream – Edited by Rob Crandall

Fiction & Poetry in link below:

http://peafant.wordpress.com/

 

I’ve also gotten 2nd acceptances to “Shelter of Daylight” and 3rd acceptances to OG’s Speculative Fiction.  I’ll try and post those over the next two, three weeks.

Other New Entries: “Magazines” – Webzines

Lawrence Dagstine: “Christmas Time 2009…”

For the 2009 holiday season, I decided to update my blog homepage and fill my fans and followers in on some of my gifts and achievements of the last twelve months, along with what to look out for and what will be under the x-mas tree this yuletide season (for the little one).  Regardless of the last year-and-a-half of dying markets and a bad genre economy, 2009 still managed to be my best year in the “earning” department, where I doubt I will ever be able to rival 2007 in the quantity and material department.  Some of these achievements range from smaller press and semi-pro fiction acceptances, minor proofreading, non-fiction writing and essays, resumes, my first official short story collection being released, my first Kindle title being released, making over 2000 friends and followers on Facebook, and just a lot revolving around the written word and The Spirit of Christmas.

Isn’t that a beautiful Christmas tree? The lights flash blue and white.  Progress-wise, this year I had very little time to blog/plug but got a lot of acceptances (some straight through 2011), let go of a lot of reprints, wrote 26 BRAND NEW short stories, wrote 8 BRAND NEW novelettes, wrote four unfinished novellas between 15,000 and 30,000 words in length — which I may make available on my blog to read next year.  I mean, why let good stories go to waste.  Or maybe I will get around to editing and finishing those novellas.  I have future eBooks & Kindle titles on the horizon.  I realized that, money-wise, it doesn’t pay to release a second short story collection.  I can earn more individually.  I was shortlisted a couple of times by some decent pubs, made second readings, almost made it into 4 professional level magazines/venues.  And that’s just the fiction department.  Oh yeah, did I mention the steampunk and satire offers?

Below you will find pictures of just half of this year’s gifts.  It’s mainly a Cybermen-themed Christmas this year, with David Tennant regenerating into Matt Smith and all.  And my son is now a Dr. Who fan and absolutely adores The Cybermen (he’s scared of the Daleks).  Oddly enough, he’s also more a Christopher Eccleston fan.  One of the items I searched the UK high and low for was The Cybermen Age of Steel 4-figure collection.  Collect them all, open up the packages, and you can build a fifth figure.  The Cyber Controller.  I also picked up The Next Doctor on DVD and ordered a Cyber Leader Voice-Changing Helmet to seal the deal.

Some of the other gifts, which are already wrapped, consist of model kits with glues and paints from my old man, though they say ages 8+ and 12+ on the packages.  So I guess the little one will have to hold on to them until he’s old enough to understand them.  Those are made by Revell.  There are also Bob the Builder videos.  Believe me, Doctor Who wasn’t the only stocking stuffer.  There are some other wonderful toys and gifts ranging from Super Mario to Toddler Costumes to Spongebob Squarepants-themed games, and, like last year, play food items.  Like “make your own pizza.”  The Spongebob game in the picture below is actually Connect Four, but obviously for a slightly younger age group.  Then there’s the one last-minute gift I just couldn’t put down.  The paint job was so realistic.  It reminded me of the Super Powers Action Figures of the 80’s.  Remember those? The Justice League of America Boxed Set: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.  These figures are mint and pristine! And who doesn’t love the JLA?

Now that’s a big ass cup of coffee (by the way, that’s made of metal).  Just couldn’t resist.

In a reduced and very affordable fashion, I also treated myself to a few early-season gifts.  First, notice the non-fiction book above on Pompeii.  You got it.  It’s research time.  Lawrence Dagstine will be coming your way sometime in 2010 with a story set in Pompeii.  It could be before Volcano Day, it could be after.  It could be Alternate History or not the story you’re expecting.  But you know me when it comes to Historical Weird Tales.

Also, I can’t recommend enough WEIRD HISTORY 101 — published by Falls River, and if you’re a B&N member, you might be able to get it reduced now for $4.00 — in hardcover.  This tome is sooo awesome.  It’s like a mini factbook and reference tool for the writer, and just all around interesting to own.  If you’re a writer of historical tales, alternate history, steampunk, or period pieces, trust me and go to Barnes & Nobles and get this book.  Doesn’t matter what genre.  Author is John Richard Stephens.  You won’t find these kind of facts on Google, or between the pages of traditional historical reference books.

And if you look up above, I finally have a new computer desk.  Nice to have shelving and a drawer, but still unsure of what to fill it up with yet.  Now that the little one has gotten older, the bookcase units pretty much belong to him and his toys.  Now that I have a Kindle, most of my print books will be donated.  Those I wish to keep will be locked away in storage between two households (yeah, there’s that many).  But that desk above is situated in a new corner, it’s my new workspace, and it’s where I’ll pen that Pompeii tale for you Dagstine readers when the time comes.

With that said, I’ll probably only update this blog four more times before the New Year.  Stay with me in 2010.  We have many adventures to go on together, and much awaits.  Won’t you join me? To all my fans and readers…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Lawrence R. Dagstine

Other New Entries: “About Me”

Lawrence Dagstine: “The Runaway Hack…”

DING-DING-DING! Hello and welcome, good fans.  How are you today? I’m fine, thank you.  Welcome to FREE SHORT STORY DAY!  Today I figured would be a good time to share a nice ditty.  It’s been a while since I’ve put up a work, which I often do around Halloween.  However, I decided to go this time with something a little bit absurd.  A bit of satire, if you will.  With that said, I hope you enjoy.

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The Runaway Hack

by

Lawrence R. Dagstine

He was moving into it all again.  It might be a few hours or a full day developing, but the mood rose in him, like compressed air in a tank.  It was a pressure that must move toward an exit.  He looked about.  He looked at the big picture: friends and peers mostly, a few fans and admirers, well-wishers who were wannabes themselves, perhaps a few enemies, and for the rest all wordsmiths.

Wordsmiths were kind of like fucksmiths.  Each had their own prominent place in this highly developed society.  Both fucked things up when the need arise.  The only difference was that the fucksmith was twofold: to have fun and to produce the works that will eventually not earn out.  They will, in turn, each have one other function: to leave the field in a little worse shape than it was or at least aspire to.  That is the history or function of each new generation: fuck it up a little bit more for the next.  Actually, wordsmiths could bleed on paper and still be criticized about the amount they donated.  In the end, they often begged for a rejection letter or a quick, painless death.

I’ve got that bit settled, Jermaine thought.

Much of his life he was looking for a kind of salvation called obscurity, which probably explained why he was always on the run from his profession.  He tended toward a gruesome and descending philosophy when he was moving into despondence.  Actually, when he wasn’t writing short stories, despondency was a chronic part of his nature.  One of the main objects of his days was to keep the subject matter of his stories concealed, for it was the very opposite of the way the world viewed him.  Off the page, audiences figured that he hadn’t a care in the world, and never did and never would have, that he lived for sensationalism alone.  He even told himself the same thing, that he had a great gift for words.  He wanted to live out of a fairy tale where, as someone had put it, there was indescribable bullshit eternally prolonged.  He said it, he tried for it.  He even sold it.  But underneath there were the ideas.  Often this showed on the page; it came out on his face, however, in a sudden set of despair.  Or, he’d fall silent a while and have nothing to say.  And the ideas drifted away from him then, fearing to cross him in all its syntactic glory.

Perhaps that was why he was looking for escape.  Perhaps that was why he was groping his way toward Something Else (and yes, with a capital S and a capital E).  Or maybe it was the repetitions of it that made it unbearable.  To be at a convention or on a panel or at a writing function, with its outer sign of sheer bragging, ostensibly even to the life of the party, and yet inside to be saying to himself that he wished he weren’t there—at all.  Not even alive.

He was alone.  For a washed-up hack, the worst kind of aloneness in the world.  It was a feeling he experienced more and more often, of late, at these special events.  People all about were close-joined, seemingly delighted, and all was well with them.  Then he would find himself on either side, but none opposite.  Renowned as he was in smaller circles, he’d be sitting there by himself, the world moving about him, and he presumably along for the ride.  The voyeuristic kind.

Here was a legion of the destined and doomed.  He spent most of his time at the bar, watching them.  Taking a sip of his brew, he stared up at a sign.  STARCON 34 in moon-streaming colors.  They should have called it NOBODY-CON.  Some would go on to become editors or work for literary agencies.  Some would start indie presses or become poster children for RPG handbooks.  Others would die horrible deaths: being unknown.  But was that such a terrible thing? He saw one poor sap at the door of the dealer’s room wearing Vulcan ears and selling some silly never-before-done novel about space stations that could create suns with smiley faces.  The ridiculous blurbs on the back went as far as to say that the book would put a smile on your face, too.

Each convention it had been like this, sellers pacing back and forth, hours of windmilling about the dealer’s area of some hall or hotel before they could get to work or the customers would arrive to spend their hard-earned dough and pick up their usual merch.  A Star Wars book here, a Limited Edition novella there.  How the devil, Jermaine wondered, could a man in a Predator outfit have such a fat wallet and so many needs and appetites? What kind of an outfit was it that drew things into it like some absorbing tentacled underwear plant? Whatever reason, that was why the writers and dealers were here, to sell books and get insights into this strange being, in whom the rest of the public was so interested.

The man was trying to lure Jermaine further inside, to the point that he’d even give away his whole collection of Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew if he purchased just one book.  It was depressing.  Jermaine wanted to smack some sense into him.  The hotel lobby was filled with about four hundred people: fanboys with lightsabers and battleaxes and sonic screwdrivers, English fangirls in Japanese schoolgirl clothing, age-old scream queens in cheap corsets with terrible boob jobs and God knows how many facelifts, and another poor sap who had starred in one of the Saw pictures.  There had been so many, Jermaine not only forgot the actor’s name but forgot which one.

Then, of course, there were the writers…  Some retired, some semi-retired (which still meant retired).  There were the Grandmasters, and in-between panels, they had to take their Geritol.  There were the editors from the Age of the Flood, and they recounted tales of American Letters that had most people scratching their heads and thinking this all intoxicated drivel.  One man in a King Arthur’s outfit drank from a chalice and read from “The Death of the Old Guard.”  Industry heads disappeared upstairs to hotel rooms for hours.  When they finally returned to the lobby, they said, “That felt great! I’ll see you next convention!”

There were also the newbies.  Some weren’t published, some had a polished hand.  They had set out once with their aspirations and their energies, like young untried actors in Hollywood, and they had a story to tell, and now here they were pitching it.  Out of the two hundred or so of these fools who attended semi-regularly, only a dozen or so would go on to be anything.  Now they were spending airfare and hotel fare to tell the ‘Holier Than Thou’ communities that they’ve constructed worlds, that they’ve created unforgettable characters, that they’ve got the ultimate trilogy! And now they were flaunting it, at agents, at publishers, who smiled and nodded respectfully: “Sounds terribly interesting.  Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

And then, Jermaine knew their secret, he knew what the whole attendance of the convention was doing that day.  It was like a giant black hole swallowing everything up into a pile of computer-generated debris.  At some point he stood stock-still and asked himself, “What the hell am I doing here?” He was doing what a few others were doing: standing or sitting apart thinking.  Perhaps he was not alone after all. “I’m thinking while these other boobs are imagining that they’ve got a future or they’re having a good time.  The only difference is I’m trying to make some sense of it.”

A significant silence followed.

Jermaine no longer asked himself what he was doing there.  He frankly didn’t know, and he didn’t care anymore either.  He swallowed his drink in one gulp.  As a poor writer traveling from place to place, from editor to editor, from small publication to small publication, he discovered the world was seen from billions of varying vantage points.  Or disadvantage points, depending upon each person and what they believed.  His moment of failure just happened to come when he halted to ask himself what he was doing walking the floors of a particular convention.

He understood that writers were a sea at sea.  This convention was a wave on the surface, and only the best of the best—thinkers, wordsmiths, folks with MFAs and top degrees—or those with the right connections managed to get down under a few feet.  He tried to go under from time to time, but he didn’t see or feel much.  More often than not he found himself drowning.  He watched them at their work, for they were working at being productive and making money.  Most were actually having a good time, and that might be sufficient, for they were toiling for the maws of a great beast called legacy.

He sought the opposite now.

Jermaine was suddenly alone at the bar, lost in his reflections.  Those who had gathered about, talking with him, all at once received no answers. “I am just a mere hack,” he said, looking away shamefully, “you don’t want to know me.” After that, they sensed that the poor fellow was in deep thought, and they moved away.

Then a writer-editor he’d talked to on occasion approached. “So which is it this time?” he asked. “Science fiction, fantasy, horror, or that paranormal romance junk?”

Still looking down, Jermaine said, “I dabble.”

The writer-editor felt sorry for him. “What’s really bothering you, Jermaine?”

“Do I look distressed?”

“I’d say so.”

“I am.  I have the feeling the gift is leaving me, the inspiration and gusto just dwindling away.” He smiled, knowing that such a verbal crime would provoke other writer-editors into a fury. “The thing is I kind of like the idea.”

“I don’t get it.  Why, because of deadlines or you’re under strain?”

“Heh! What deadlines?” Jermaine laughed. “When I was a kid genre magazines used to do a lot for me.  I’d buy handfuls of them.  The moment a new issue hit the stands, I was there.  I bought them so often that the act of reading short stories had some kind of impact on me.  It comes back to me from time to time, of its own volition, when I’ve got writer’s block or I’m diddling my own asshole for a forty-dollar check.  Sometimes, late at night I tell myself I don’t want to be famous and I put the computer away.  Sometimes there’s no reason for this at all.  That I can understand.  Go figure.”

“Interesting.”

“That’s not the only thing,” he continued. “I thought it easy and satisfying work, for one thing.  Lately I’ve got a feeling of monotony out of it.  When my fingers grow tired of typing, I am seized with a great discomfort.  I want to hurry outside and do other much livelier things.  When the job is finished and the words THE END stamped, it often seems to me that my hands are still held out though.  I could still feel the puppeteer looking down at me, face contorted and strings being pulled.”

“All writers get those urges from time to time, Jermaine.  We call it the Need, or the Fix.  There are many names, but no faces.  We finish one story, we tackle the next.”

“Well, I’ve refused to go through it again! I’ve had a bitter argument with my conscience, and I’ve seen the light.  Years and years of putting myself through this.  At critical moments, the re-reflection of this pseudo-literary image of myself, typing out a manuscript, watching yet another zombie or vampire story unfold before my eyes.  Sooner or later, the depression comes back.  I saw myself staring at the genre as its prostrate enlarged.  I saw my fingers curving, away from the keyboard over and around to the back door.  And as I prepared to open it, I always felt the heaviness.”

“What’s the point?”

“The point is that the same heaviness is over me now, a fatigue with the critical process.  As if the last yarn is spun.  The artform comes back to me every now and then, but it is blurred, hasty, and it’s a jarring impression.” Jermaine hesitated, then: “With time I have begun to understand what each piece of the story, from page to page, means in my own life.  It has become a twist from fear to stress, fear to stress, round and round.  After each story I write, sometimes before the story, the prostrate gets bigger and the puppeteer laughs harder.  Now I have the same feeling of monotony and pointlessness that pressed on me before the writing is done.”

“It’s an unpleasant image,” the writer-editor remarked with a consoling nod.

“It’s the key to me, my good man, it’s the key!”

“Perhaps.”

“The genre is getting very big now.”

Bloated would be a better word, but when you’ve worked in this business for as long as I have, what can you do?” The writer-editor reflected for a moment. “You know, now that I think about it, I don’t really know anything else either.”

They drank for a time.  They were silent as they knocked down rounds.  They were thoughtful.  Then the writer-editor asked, “What I can’t understand is why you keep working and seem so anxious to get to work.  I should think you’d be a little weary of the grind.  Puppeteers and prostrates aside, do you know why you’re still writing?”

Jermaine gave him a look that concealed what he really thought.  He thought, Real writers are not smart.  Real writers are so goddamned blind and ignorant, it’s a fucking blessing.  But he said, “It’s weird.  I have to write.  If I didn’t write it would all end at once.  Writing is the root of a tree, and if you take away the root the thing on top will fall over.  I’d fall over.  So I write because I write.  Whether I need the money or not.  There is a thing we hacks call Keeping Afloat (and yes, with a capital K and a capital A).  And you do it.  You keep afloat.  I keep afloat with the short stories; the short form is a bladder that holds me up.  Maybe the only time I feel alive and dead is when I write.”

Some of it was true.  The writing ruddered Jermaine, kept him afloat in the sea which shook more and more heavily these days.  Writing was the stabilizer.  He knew it, and like a twenty dollar a day drug addiction, he even escaped from himself when he wrote.  But how long could he keep on at it.  It was not salvation.  And that was what he sought.

“So where do you go from here?” the writer-editor asked. “What now?”

“Peace of mind,” Jermaine answered.

“Ahh, now that’s impossible in this game.  You and I both know that.”

“I don’t think so.  I’ve been yearning for obscurity for quite some time now.”

“But what for?” The writer-editor was confused. “After your death you have the chance to be anthologized.”

“No, I don’t.”

“But your fiction will be archived.”

“No, it won’t.”

“But your work exists, and therefore it is.”

“No, it isn’t.”

The writer-editor was astonished. “Don’t let the Literary Police find out.”

“I could give a damn about Grammar Nazis!” Jermaine shouted.

The whole bar turned around; one Grandmaster spit up his drink.

“Sorry.” Jermaine began again. “I need to walk away from these writing organizations a new man.  I need to turn my back on the politics and step down from these panels once and for all.”

“But how?”

“Through fiction, how else?” He snapped his fingers as if it were that easy. “Fiction got me into this mess, and it’ll get me out.”

“You must be some storyteller then.  You know what’ll happen afterwards, don’t you?”

“Yes, I am fully aware of the consequences.”

The writer-editor shook his head worriedly. “Is this so-called salvation— Let me rephrase that, is this permanent anonymity really worth that much to you?”

“Where sanity is concerned, yes.  It could also mean new growth!”

“But you yourself even said that if you didn’t write the thing on top of the tree would come plunging down!”

“And the moment I leave this convention, my good friend, I snap my fingers and reverse the polarity of my thoughts.  Hopefully, it changes for the better.  If it doesn’t, at least I tried.”

The writer-editor felt overly sentimental.  He shook Jermaine’s hand and patted him on the back. “I wish you good luck in your new life.  I only wish I had the balls to join you.  But I’ve been in this field for over two decades.  I don’t have anything else.  I just have my words.  Flinging myself into obscurity for some kind of deliverance would be too much of a risk on my well being.” He smiled. “I guess I lack the courage of a hack.  At least let me buy you one for the road.”

Jermaine accepted.

When he finished the drink, the author said his goodbyes and headed for the hotel’s automatic sliding doors.  He closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath.  He looked behind him very briefly… at the boys and girls wielding lightsabers and sonic screwdrivers… at the jolly attendees dressed in Vulcan ears and Viking’s armor… at the Grandmasters and Industry heads immersed in their readings.

Outside he whistled for a cab.  A taxi pulled up directly in front of the building.  He hopped inside.  The cabbie grinned at Jermaine’s reflection in the mirror. “You look like a Jedi Knight in that blanket.  A regular Obi Wan Kenobi.”

“I’ll give you an extra five bucks not to make any comments.”

The cabbie reset the meter. “So where to, old man?”

“Someplace far away.”

The taxi didn’t move. “Where exactly? You’re the author of this tale.”

Jermaine stared out the passenger side window and into the hotel lobby.  All the big writers danced outside the convention hall: wonder and uncertainty, progress and decline.  The bewitcheries of status, ambition, success and poverty rose from their voices.  The goods and evils of the human competition, the demonology of lives spent, misspent, the mystique of literature’s disorder and hope.  Fear of the new, dread of the old.  They were like witches celebrating a Sabbath of chopped-up modern catechisms.

Finally the hack turned around.  He was beaming, his big handsome smile, the one that had won the hearts of amateurs everywhere. “A place called obscurity.  Now step on it.”

The End