Larry Bjornson's Blog: How I Wrote a Novel and Got It Published by Penguin

March 13, 2013

Being a chronicle of Wide Open's creation, from first idea to publication...
To read in sequence, go back (or down) to Part 1.


After all the blood, sweat, and tears of research and preparation to write my novel, you'd think I would've been dying to get at what is presumably "the fun part." The drudgery was over, let the creative joy begin! Nothing between me and the Great American Novel. Don't hold me back! I'm ready, I'm good to go, I'm...

At a dead stop. From the early 1980s to the mid 1990s, I did exactly nothing. I wrote checks. I wrote grocery lists. I wrote emails. I wrote memos. But, of my novel, I wrote exactly nothing.

How come? Honestly, it was so long ago I can hardly remember, but I'm sure it was the traditional problem that all authors face — that initial clean, very white, sheet of paper. Or, to be more exact, the "New Blank Document" page of a Word file, you know, the one with the ominously blinking cursor at the top left. Believe me, that quiet blinking cursor has more stamina than you or I. If allowed to, it will still be blinking long after the poor aspiring author has gone to his or her grave.

Which is not to say there isn't good reason to procrastinate. A good size novel is an enormously intimidating and complex thing. All the multitude of gears and moving parts have to mesh pretty darn well or the whole thing belches smoke and dies by the side of the literary road.

Research may look like drudgery, but in comparison to creative writing, it's enormously safe and comforting. You're just reading and taking notes. And if you aren't entirely certain what you're going to write about, the research isn't even very focused. You can certainly fail at research, but you don't feel that way. It's just kind of a fun treasure hunt. "Oh, look at that fascinating factoid! No, wait, look at that insightful insight! Oh, that's a good one. It's a doozy. I'll have to write that down. I'm sure I can do something with that, someday. Oh, yes."

Sigh.

This is the stuff aspiring authors are made of. Most aspiring authors want to write because it seems fun, creative, cathartic, or they feel they have a great story to tell, but when confronted with the truly enormous commitment of actually sitting down and writing the damn thing, well, it's just so easy to put it off until tomorrow, or next week, or when life isn't so busy.

That's what I did, for well over a decade.

Eventually I did rouse myself, but not to write Wide Open. The first thing I wrote was a small novel for middle readers, nine to twelve years old. It was about 150 pages, came straight off the top of my head, no research, a fun project I must say. About as unthreatening as a book can get. I sent it off to five of the major New York publishing houses (you could get by without an agent back then) and was ultimately told by the chief editor of one of them that it had survived their winnowing process all the way to the finish line. "Larry," she said, "it came down to your novel and one other, and we chose the other one."

Ouch! But, hey, wait a minute, isn't that pretty good for a first effort? Sure it is.

Emboldened by my almost success, I wrote another novel for middle readers. This one was even better than the first. After all, I was an experienced almost-successful writer now. My rookie days were over.

That book went nowhere. I got one rejection form letter after another. "We wish you success, elsewhere, but don't feel this one is right for us." The implication is that they doubt it's right for anyone else either.

Oh yeah! Well, maybe my writing is just too good for you!! Maybe all you folks at the biggest publishing houses in the world just don't have the insight to appreciate what I've done here. Yeah! Breakthrough material is always under-appreciated by the old guard. Isn't that so? There's no vision. No long view. No...

And that's when I had my big idea. I'd show them. I'd do an end run around "the man." I'd show the establishment my backside. I'd publish my own books.

And I did. Some of them are still lingering on Amazon even today. Secrets of Power Conversation (a conversation skills book) and 50 Secrets of Becoming a Millionaire ("secret" is a big word in the marketing world). The Millionaire book was my favorite, a series of fifty chapters that isolated this or that skill of famous self-made wealthy people from Rockefeller to Gates (not good enough to make me a millionaire though).

In all, I wrote four self-published books and sold them through a big national catalog company. Did pretty well too. My plan to end run the publishing industry actually worked.

I still hadn't gotten around to writing Wide Open, but I had at this point done a lot of writing. Six books. I didn't see it at the time, but these books were my training ground. As Stephen King says, the best way to learn how to write is to write.

I also didn't know that I was now just about to begin writing Wide Open. And the way that beginning took place had more than a little magic to it.
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Published on March 13, 2013 15:39 • 233 views

September 15, 2012

Being a chronicle of Wide Open's creation, from first idea to publication...
To read in sequence, go back (or down) to Part 1.


Married to the topic I’d chosen for my novel that is. And, as they say (interminably), you have to work at your marriage if it’s to be a success. So, work I did.

I still did a great deal of research related to the era. However, I also read materials that on the surface would seem unrelated but which I thought would be a source of inspiration or a source of useful knowledge.

For instance, I read a rather long book about Russia’s Peter the Great who ruled in the late 1600s. Why would I choose to read something like that as preparation for a book about an 1871 Kansas town? Because the court of Peter the Great and Abilene, Kansas, had something in common—they were both hotbeds of political machination, maneuvering, and gamesmanship. Prairie cattle towns were immensely political and factional. I thought, not without reason as it turned out, that there would likely be political understanding and story inspiration to be gained by studying other political cauldrons, even if they occurred hundreds of years before on the other side of the planet.

I also read lots of books and material about other Kansas cattle towns — Dodge, Wichita, Ellsworth, Caldwell, Hunnewell — in the belief that there would be much to learn about Abilene by looking at other towns that found themselves dealing with similar circumstances—the pressures of encroaching farm settlement, violence, vice, out of control police forces, disease carried by Texas longhorns, crop trampling by passing herds, lingering post-Civil War anger and resentment, and so on.

I continued to grow my own personal dictionary of nineteenth-century vocabulary, dialect, terms, slang, and sayings. My dictionary would eventually be about 75 single-spaced pages. And I used it a lot while writing Wide Open. After finishing a chapter, I would then compare my original dialogue against the materials in my dictionary, substituting in nineteenth-century words and phrases where appropriate. Sometimes I'd have to do a bit of re-writing because getting the right dialogue feel required more than simple substitution.

I also started collecting plot ideas, whether it was just a scene or event, a character’s personality or background experience, or a major structural idea for the direction of the novel’s main storyline. These ideas I would jot down on notepaper that I kept handy. Eventually the then unorganized pile of loose notes got to be three or four inches tall. At the same time, I did my best not to commit myself to any of it, not yet. I just let the idea pile grow.

However, despite all this reading and research, there was one class of material which I scrupulously avoided—other novels.

As much as possible, I wanted my book to come from materials that had survived from the original place and time. To the exclusion of other influences, I tried to live in the source material—memoirs, accounts written at the time, letters, newspapers, city council notes, historical non-fiction, and so on. I wanted to see things through the eyes of those that had been there and avoid allowing anyone else to step in between the source and me. I hoped that this would make my work a more accurate reflection of the times and give the reader a feeling of being there. Consequently, I ceased reading all Western fiction and almost all other fiction while working on Wide Open.

Still, there have been fictional works that have had an effect on me as I was selecting the story I wanted to tell and the way I would tell it. To Kill a Mockingbird beautifully weaves the lives and personal issues of fictional characters into a larger moral dilemma of the community in which they live. I also admired the way the Clint Eastwood’s movie Unforgiven showed the moral confusion of “the Schofield Kid,” (the youthful sidekick of Eastwood’s William Munny character), when the reality of his actions clashed harshly with who he thought he was and what he thought he believed.

In time, I came to the point where I really had to dig straight into Abilene itself. So, I flew out to Kansas, rented a car, and drove out to the town. There I got the lay of the local geography, went down to the Smoky Hill River and explored its banks, walked the streets of the town (most of which have the same names and layout as they did in 1871), judged distances, talked to locals and local historians, and toured some of the town’s grand Victorian homes built with cattle and farming money.

Following that, I went to the Kansas State Historical Society in the state capital of Topeka. Why would I go there instead of doing my research in Abilene? Because that’s where most of the original source materials from Abilene were collected—all the back issues of the Abilene Chronicle newspaper, city council minutes, other public records, the personal letters of locals (including Wild Bill Hickok writing home to his family in Illinois), other rare memoirs of citizens of the time and place, old photographs, and on and on. I spent weeks there taking reams and reams of notes. I wrote so much, so relentlessly, that I developed a permanent crease on the side of my middle finger where the pen pressed in on it. Finally, I knew I had all I needed. I carefully packed up my copious materials, the collected treasure of my Kansas visit, and boarded a plane for home.

After all the study and effort, after all the thought and planning, I was at last ready to start writing my novel.

But I didn’t—not for a very long time. It would be sixteen years before I wrote the first word of Wide Open.
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Published on September 15, 2012 19:22 • 207 views • Tags: fiction, historical-fiction, romance, western

July 23, 2012

Being a chronicle of Wide Open's creation, from first idea to publication...
To read in sequence, go back (or down) to Part 1.


One of the toughest challenges in writing a novel doesn’t involve writing at all. How do you a select a subject or theme? The possibilities are endless—this world, past worlds, futuristic worlds, underworlds, fantasy worlds, other worlds, post-apocalyptic worlds, netherworlds, and so on. And each of these can be divided again into untold subcategories. It’s a bit like going out to dinner and receiving a menu that lists a million meals. There’s just too much. How do you decide? Do you finally just throw up your hands and cry out, “Just bring me an burger!” That will solve a restaurant problem, but not a writing problem (although I have a theory that any topic, no matter how bland it might appear on the surface, can be made interesting, if not fascinating, by a skilled writer).

The problem of choosing has two main elements (not saying there aren’t other factors as well). You should write about something that’s likely to be of interest to others and something that’s of interest to you. And if you’re a good writer, you can probably ignore the first, focus entirely on the second, and get away with it. A good writer with a subject that interests him or her is probably going to create something that others find interesting as well.

Why’s that? Because interest and enthusiasm are steroids for the creative muscles (without the unfortunate side effects). The brain just works better when it’s fully engaged. After all, creativity isn’t something that responds well to being forced. If a physical object is stuck, say a car lodged in the mud, bracing yourself, summoning all your strength, and then pushing as hard as you can, may indeed move it to higher ground. Pushing as hard as you can against a creative obstacle, however, has a technical name—it’s called writer’s block. You can push and push, until the cows come home, and it won’t mean a thing (and sometimes even the cows stay out for the night).

My novel, Wide Open, came out two months ago, but I’d thought of writing a book for decades, since I was in college actually. I did more than think about it. At some point during my later college years, I got the idea to write an historical novel based on World War II. I was wildly enthusiastic about all this and did a tremendous amount of research and speculation. I had some plot ideas that even today I think were pretty good. But in the end, the scope of the project was too grandiose for me. I’d never written anything longer than term paper, and here I was envisioning an 800-page book with monumental research issues. Short and sweet—I chickened out. And rightly so. At that point, except for youthful enthusiasm, I didn’t have what it took. As my grandfather used to say at dinnertime, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

But, after some years had passed, and with a tad more maturity (presumably), I took another stab at large scale writing. Only this time, I decided to do a little training before I tried out for the Olympics. The first thing I did (wisely I think) was to teach myself how to write. I’m talking the basics here. I bought about two dozen grammar books and immersed myself in them for about a year. And, by the way, the best writing skills book I ever found was Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing by Claire Kehrwald Cook, a wonderful, practical how-to instruction of a type that’s truly hard to find. I owe a lot to Ms. Cook.

When I was done with the basics (and not before), I started to write. Initially I wrote two novels for middle readers (age 8 to 12) that were about 150 pages. Both were written pretty much off the top of my head, involved little research, and being middle readers, were relatively short. This seemed like a non-threatening way to begin tackling book writing, and both were a lot of fun to create. I got very close to having one of them published, but neither made it to the finish line. Next, I began writing self-published how-to books, such as Secrets of Power Conversation, which was a conversation skills book. I wrote four such books and found a large catalog mailing company to include my books in their issues. I did quite well with this over a ten-year period.

But, despite all this, I never set aside my desire to write a substantial novel, even though I had ceased to actively work on it. At some point though, my writing confidence had grown to the point where I again took up “the big project.”

In the end, my choice of topic for my novel was pretty simple (if you don’t count all the years of research that came before). That’s often the way it is when you meet “the one.” I had begun to focus more and more on Abilene, Kansas, during its glory days as the first of the great prairie cattle towns. And, I can’t be too specific here because the elements of Abilene’s story that appealed to me would be spoilers if described too specifically. One element was a community shattering surprise that was unleashed on the town during its 1871 cattle season by one of the Abilene’s most respected town fathers, a secret that threw the town into turmoil and ultimately changed its future (and perhaps the future of the entire Midwest). The other element was a shocking event involving Wild Bill Hickok. These two unrelated pieces of western history fascinated me intensely and had enough substance to support a full-length novel.

So. I had met “the one,” and I was in love. From that point forward, I cast aside all other options. How did I do it? Easy (sort of). I just exposed myself to a huge amount of material. Trusting that at some point I was going to stumble onto the thing that lit my fire.
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Published on July 23, 2012 15:35 • 122 views

June 16, 2012

Being a chronicle of Wide Open's creation, from first idea to publication...
To read in sequence, go back (or down) to Part 1.

Here is a story about the unexpected joys of what might otherwise seem to be unexciting research.

Maybe you recall this scene from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Paul Newman & Robert Redford). After brazenly robbing a train, Butch, Sundance, and gang are now being pursued by a posse that seems almost unnatural in its cool, unerring, utterly relentless pursuit. Butch is skilled in shaking off posses, but this time nothing he tries works. At last, frustrated and exasperated, he exclaims to Sundance, “Who are those guys?!” And later, now somewhat amazed, “Don't they get tired? Don't they get hungry?”

The man Butch was referring to, the unwavering man who would never quit, was Joe Lefors.

But Lefors did quit. Almost immediately after his unsuccessful train robbery chase depicted in the movie.

There was actually someone else who better deserved the “Who are those guys?!” line, and his name was Charles Siringo. “Charley” truly was quietly, ruthlessly, relentless in his pursuit of Butch and Sundance and was surely responsible for driving them out of the country to Bolivia, where the pair was apparently killed by the Bolivian army.

For four years, Siringo, a Pinkerton agent working for the vengeful railroads, traveled 25,000 miles, mostly in the saddle, in his hunt for the two train robbers. In the end, he only quit when the Pinkertons finally forced him to abandon the case as a lost cause.

Charley was a classic western character. He had been a cowboy, a stock detective, and a Pinkerton railroad detective. At the time I began my research, I had no idea who he was. But the more I read, the more I began to run into him. He had apparently been almost everywhere in the West and had known most of the major figures of the time such as Wyatt Earp and Tom Horn. He had also written a highly successful book with the flamboyant title of A Texas Cowboy, or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Cow Pony. Today, this book is widely agreed to be one of the absolute first-hand historical classics of western life and times.

Anyway, the repeated references to Siringo in my reading had made me increasingly curious about him. By now, in my mind (and in the minds of most scholars of the West) he had become legendary. Then, one day as I was exploring the stacks in the ASU special western collection cage, I looked up and there was his book, right in front of me. I pulled it out, glad that I was at last going to have a chance to read the work I had heard so much about, and opened it up. To my great amazement, there on the cover page, in black ink, was Siringo’s autograph.

I have to say, a shiver ran up my spine - Siringo had once held this book. After staring at the signature for the better part of a minute, I began leafing through the book, and about two thirds of the way through, I found an old yellowed playing card, an ace of hearts, inserted between the pages. The initials CS were scrawled on it. Same handwriting as the signature on the cover page.

Another shiver. Ace of hearts! Either Charley had been a romantic, or the person he’d initialed the card for was a romantic. Who had that person been? A woman? A random admirer? A gambler? Had it been the winning card in a poker game? I’d never know, but it seemed to have represented something in Siringo’s life. My imagination squirmed.

Research to me means repeated search. One search leads to another, or to five more, or ten more. In the above case, references to Siringo in other works led me to look for him and his book, with dramatic results. Frequently one book quotes from another book, or a footnote cites another book, or a bibliography lists a pertinent source such as a book, magazine article, or city council minutes. If it’s relevant and valuable, you now have another avenue to go down. You never know where your searching is going to take you.

And once you’ve decided on a topic for the book you want to write, anything you find, or stumble onto, that’s good or insightful or useful can be very exciting. You just sit there saying to yourself, “Oh, man, this is gold, this is just gold!” Why do you feel that way? Because you become ever more certain that you’re finding the material it takes to write the novel you’ve envisioned. Or, quite often, your discovery may alter the course you thought your story would follow, for the better. You can feel yourself refining your ideas, carving your way closer and closer to the best story you can tell. Even better, in time, you get so familiar with the material of the era that you almost feel like you’ve lived through it. It is exciting - although someone seeing you seated behind a pile of books, at a small desk, repetitively turning pages, leaning close to the print, painstakingly scribbling notes, might never recognize it as such.

So, for a long time, over a year, that was my life – laborious reading and note taking by day in the ASU library, jogging three or four miles around the ASU track at dusk, and, not infrequently, going to a party somewhere in the vast apartment complexes adjacent to ASU by night. I was young. It was a fascinating time. The world was filled with promise. I couldn’t have known that it would be just over twenty years before my vision became a published reality – Wide Open.

NEXT UP - I Find “The One" - Part 5
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Published on June 16, 2012 17:37 • 142 views

June 9, 2012

Being a chronicle of Wide Open's creation, from first idea to publication...
To read in sequence, go back (or down) to Part 1.

Having discovered this truly marvelous Arizona State U. collection of rare American West history books inside a chain link cage, there was no other choice than to spend a lot of time in the cage. Couldn't check out the books. couldn't even take them beyond the cage door.

If you were interested in them, you had to read them right there in the cage. So I did. Every day for five or six hours, sitting at a desk, taking notes by hand, for a year. Oh, and all the while, living off of my savings.

It wasn't long before the idea of writing a book got into my head, and after that the reading and note taking became more organized. Not too organized though, because I still didn't know what the book would be about. The West was a big place, and generated big history. I would have to find some piece of it that spoke to me. And so, initially at least, I wasn't so much researching as searching, searching for "the one," the idea upon which I could base a book - an historical novel.

But even though I was uncertain of my direction, I still took volumes of notes on anything I read. Any fact that was interesting, anything that described day-to-day Nineteenth Century life, habits, attitudes, customs, beliefs, prejudices, vocabulary, notable historical incidents, anything that described the accouterments of life, from hats to handguns, and how they worked or were used. This was mostly info that would be useful no matter what subject I eventually settled on.

I labeled my first notebook "A" in a big block letter on the cover. When "A" was filled, I bought another notebook and labeled it (drum roll please) "B" and so on. In addition, each individual item I wrote in these notebooks was numbered starting with 1 and usually going up to about 800 before the notebook was filled.

When a notebook was full, I organized all the facts in it by subject using a card system. If, for instance, item "B128" (notebook B, item number 128) was about the interior appearance of a saloon, I wrote B128 onto a card entitled "Saloon - Interior Appearance." In time, I would have hundreds and hundreds of cards on every imaginable characteristic of western life.

Later on, once I'd begun writing my book, I could use these cards to easily access any topic in my vast supply of notes. If a character in the book was entering a saloon, I could go to the "Saloon - Interior Appearance" card and find dozens and dozens of descriptions of the look, layout, and design of saloons. Other cards such as "Saloon Equipment and Methods" would take me to notes on how the saloons operated.

All of this may sound like a heckuva lot of work. It was. But, the payoff, to quote famous western novelist Johnny Boggs in his review of Wide Open, was a story that had "a perfect sense of place and time." Newbery Award winning writer, Louis Sachar, said of Wide Open "Larry Bjornson brings the wild west alive with such detail and clarity, if I didn't know better, I would think he lived through it."

And that was what I always wanted - a story that would transport readers to a long past era with such realism that they would feel they'd actually been there.

NEXT UP - "Who Are Those Guys?" - Part 4
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Published on June 09, 2012 15:21 • 138 views

June 2, 2012

Being a chronicle of Wide Open's creation, from first idea to publication...
To read in sequence, go back (or down) to Part 1.

When I arrived in Arizona, I took up residence in a large zone of apartment complexes adjacent to Arizona State University at Tempe. This was an area almost exclusively populated by ASU students, walking distance to campus, and known by its inhabitants as "Sin City." I suppose that whether the name described a fact or a hope depended on the person.

There was certainly an unending supply of parties, often held outside around the apartment pool areas. The beer flowed like, well, beer. Even at night in September and May or June, the temps would remain stuck at 100 to 105 degrees well through midnight. In the daytime, it would rise to 110 to 120. So, it was definitely "hot" in Sin City, even if you were an introverted bookworm. Never mind that nonsense about it being a "dry heat"; it was skin-frying, hair-splintering hot!

But it was fun. On my first day, as I was carrying boxes of belongings from my car up to my new apartment, I got into a minor traffic jam with a wonderfully attractive, ash-blond heading down to the pool area. She had on a one-piece red bathing suit, and I thought she was about as beautiful as a human being could get. I wouldn't actually have a real conversation with her for another week or so, but her name was Barbara, and she would be in my life for the next fifteen years.

Anyway, in an effort to step out of my comfort zone, I started taking computer programming classes, something I was fascinated by - and just as poorly equipped for as I had been for pharmaceutical sales. Sometimes that's what happens when you step outside your comfort zone - you end up uncomfortable.

So, somewhat disappointed that I wasn't going to start a new life as a highly-paid computer programmer, I found myself one day wandering aimlessly in the big ASU library.

I worked my way up through the floors, until I was on the fourth floor, and there came upon a large collection of books inside a chain-link cage. Curious, I went through the cage door and asked the librarian in charge about the imprisoned books. She said they were a collection of rare books about the American West, most of them out of print and unusually hard to find. Classics of that era, often first person accounts from the time. The books could not be checked out, but they could be read within the cage.

Over the next few days I became increasingly fascinated with this collection. I was part of a generation that had grown up on a steady diet of Hollywood westerns on TV and in the movies, and now I wondered what the reality of places such as Abilene, Dodge, and Tombstone had been.

I ended up spending over a year in that cage, reading and taking notes. And, as you might guess, the reality of that era bore little resemblance to the concoctions of Hollywood. In time, I came across the extraordinary events my novel, Wide Open, is based on.

NEXT UP: "My New Life in a Cage" - Part 3
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Published on June 02, 2012 13:45 • 124 views

May 26, 2012

Being a chronicle of Wide Open's creation, from first idea to publication...

Around the time I was 25, I began to suffer from early-onset midlife crisis, a disturbing case of midlife disturbance prior to midlife. This, paired with my remaining youthful recklessness and what I hoped was the temporary absence of a girlfriend, conspired to make it highly likely that I was about to do something foolish. I was about to get on my horse and ride into what I hoped was a sunrise.

At the time, I was a sales rep for a large pharmaceutical company (a legit drug dealer). Sadly, due probably to a lack of enthusiasm, I was no better at selling pharmaceuticals than I was at spelling "pharmaceuticals" (even today I have to look the word up to make sure I've got it right).

Although I still had a fairly large streak of partying in me, I was at the core a fairly studious type, more than a little shy, and not particularly concerned with whether pharmaceuticals sold or not.

I had a masters degree in public administration and while in school had naively assumed that I would ultimately work for a public entity - a city, or county, or...sanitation district - however, then as now, the economy was in the tank, and public entities all seemed to have hiring freezes.

So I ended up in sales. I knew it was wrong for me, but I was more focused on the pay (good) and the free company car (brand new). I felt so prosperous that for a while I hardly noticed that I was laughably ill suited for the work that spun off the aforementioned cash.

Ten years went by (actually, it was one year, it just felt like ten), and the time came for one of the periodic delights of outside sales - the district manager ride along. For three days, my DM would accompany me on my circuit of doctor office calls, judging my sales efforts and looking for any signs that I might have been slacking off.

I did not look forward to DM ride alongs. My sales technique was nonsense, but my slacking off was practically an art form. No DM who was conscious could fail to notice either of these drawbacks. In the past, I had managed to survive these ordeals by intense con-artistry, but now, suffering as I was from early-onset midlife crisis, I simply wasn't up to the effort of short-con grifting any more.

So, after avoiding my DM's calls until he was leaving "you better return this call or else" messages, I finally answered the phone and agreed to begin our ride-along the next day.

After hanging up, I paced in the living room, back and forth, back and forth, until suddenly, all at once, in a flash of pure white light, I had my realization, an insight of higher-plane consciousness - I didn't want to ride along with my DM for three days. But what to do with this new heightened perception?

Again I paced back and forth, back and forth, and again with startling suddenness, I knew why I couldn't ride with my boss - I was moving to Arizona!

Which was news to me. I hadn't been moving to Arizona at 6:15PM, but at 6:20PM I was. Still, there it was. I couldn't be moving to Arizona and doing a ride along at the same time. Something had to give.

So, I gave up on the stupid Arizona idea and rode with my boss.

Nah! Kidding! I called him back (the poor dear, I still feel bad about this even today), and I said, "I'd like to ride with you tomorrow, and for three interminable days, my every move being judged, but I can't, I'm moving to Arizona."

Long pause on the other end, and then, "When did you decide this?"

"Me? Oh, well, I've been thinking of it for years. I'm surprised I hadn't mentioned it."

Anyway, you can probably imagine the rest of the conversation. I think the key word would be "strained."

But, within days, I did move to Arizona, and although I had no thought of it at the time, that was when my book Wide Open was born.

NEXT UP: "Sin City" - Part 2
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Published on May 26, 2012 13:34 • 128 views

How I Wrote a Novel and Got It Published by Penguin

Larry Bjornson
A history of my passage from having no thought of writing a novel to publication by a "Big Six" publisher (Penguin/Berkley).
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