[from Missionary Man, a memoir still in progress]

I had a very stupid argument once with my girlfriend Bertha, back when we were still living together. (Actually we had a lot of very stupid arguments, but I only plan to consider one here.) This was 1995, and we were at a small club in Seattle waiting for Barenaked Ladies to take the stage. We had both enjoyed the opening band, an act which managed the impressive feat of playing tunes in tricky time signatures without ever alienating the audience.

"How would you count that last song they did?" Bertha asked me. She had taken a class in music theory in college, coming away with just enough knowledge to make her a danger to herself and those around her. "It didn't sound like you could count it like a normal song."

This was her way of asking the number of beats per measure. "It was in five," I said.

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Back up to 848 ms pages. Manuscript goes in the mail to my agent first thing tomorrow. Or today, rather.

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Shrinkage

            

Okay, I've taken the memoir about as far down as I can go now, from 947 pages to 833. That a little more than 12% shrinkage, or almost an eighth of the book. Wow! I've also gone from 47 chapters to 41.

Now I have just one more chapter to write—the money shot, "Words and Phrases You Must Never Use in Airports"—before I'm at a place where I can send the nearly damn complete manuscript to my agent for forwarding to HarperCollins. Tomorrow!

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Missionary Man

            

So my agent has an editor at HarperCollins interested in the memoir. Unfortunately, a different Harper editor has already rejected it, so the title has to change for this new submission. Therefore, the book henceforth is called Missionary Man, not The Accidental Terrorist. (It will also help, of course, that there's now almost twice as much book as there was on the previous submission. That will go far toward helping everyone involved pretend this is a fresh submission.)

In preparation for delivering the almost-complete manuscript, I've been eliminating some chapters that have given other editors pause, including the three chapters about my stint at the Clarion science-fiction writing workshop in the summer of 1985. I'm pleased to say that in the past week I've whittled the ms down from 947 to 855 pages, and I still have one more unnecessary chapter to purge. The tricky thing has been finding ways to interpolate condensations of some of the salient backstory from the material I've eliminated into the remaining narrative. But I'm just about done! With luck I'll have the ms in the mail to Shawna on Monday.

Anyway, that's why, when I resume the new-chapter postings, the chapter and page counts will have shrunk.

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947 ms pages and counting.

You may notice that this is Chapter 47, when the last chapter I announced was 48. I did a little reorganization, and now there are fewer chapters.

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933 ms pages and counting.

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Chapter 47: "Gator Aids"

            

919 ms pages. Still cranking.

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907 ms pages, and still the horror lives!

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Chapter 45: "The Oral Majority"

            

891 ms pages and counting.

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[get context here]

Gluttons for Punishment

The only significant way in which Snow and I ever got the better of Roper and Steed was with their nicknames. I don't remember which of us thought this up, but if we ever wanted to rile up the sisters, we just called them Doper and Weed and watched their hackles rise. Though they tried and tried, they could never come up with nicknames as good for us.

There were other times when Snow and I thought we'd gotten the upper hand, but inevitably we'd have the rug yanked out from under us. On one memorable occasion, we beat the sisters fair and square and still they had the last laugh, without even planning it that way.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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About the Book

What happens when an ambivalent young Mormon missionary is pushed to the limit in a challenge to prove his faith? Hint: the outcome is explosive. The Accidental Terrorist is the long-awaited memoir from Hugo and Nebula Award–nominated author William Shunn, based on his popular podcast. Available now from Sinister Regard!