Once in a while in my Usenet newsgroup, I post the current state of the table of contents from my book, just so I can demonstrate to myself that I'm making progress. If you don't care for statistics or for recitations of accomplishments that don't affect you, you might want to steer clear now.

I finished Part I of my memoir late in August (including an interlude that forms the connective tissue between the two halves), then shipped it off to my agent. That was 25 chapters plus a prelude and an interlude, and it amounted to a horrifying total of 523 manuscript pages.

Over the next few weeks, I whittled about 70 pages (and two full chapters) out of the manuscript, completely replaced the prelude, wrote a synopsis of the second half, and let my agent start submitting the thing. I also carved two excerpts out of what I had already done for her to try selling to magazines.

This was all a lot of work, and it took me a while after that to get my notes for the second half organized, get my head around the shape of the rest of the book, and get all the necessary loafing out of my system. It seemed like I'd been away from the book itself for quite a while when I finally sat down a week and a half ago, at last, to start producing new material. This morning before work I finished what is now Chapter 24, the first chapter of Part II of the book.

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The Curse of Michael Myers

            

Halsted's entry about the SAG commercial actors' strike reminds me of an incident from my past that used to be part of my memoir but is one of those bits that has ended up on the cutting-room floor—not because it was a bad bit of writing, but just because it turned out not to fit. I thought I'd rescue that bit from eternal obscurity and reuse it here:

I have a close friend in Utah named Scott. He's a writer and an actor, and for the past several years he's supplemented his sometimes lean income with guest appearances in television series and made-for-cable movies. He's also a devout Mormon, and more clear-headed about it than just about anyone I know.

One Sunday in 1994, Scott had asked me to drive him the forty miles to Salt Lake so he could attend the callbacks on a movie role he was auditioning for. His car had given up the ghost again, as it did every full moon or so. I readily agreed.

That summer was the last time I attended church on anything like a regular basis. It was my last-ditch effort—or so I thought—to get my life together and back on the right track. I was attending a student ward at BYU—a congregation made of entirely of eighteen- to thirty-year-olds, not all of them college students, but all looking for that certain special someone, that magic mate, that bright twin spirit from our premortal existence whose eyes you would meet with a shock of recognition, and you both would know you had found your foreordained eternal companion at last.

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Here comes the firestorm

            

I knew this was going to happen, but that doesn't make it any less aggravating now that it has.

See, as part of this Mormon missionary memoir of mine, I've divulged secrets of the Mormon temple ceremony that I'm not supposed to talk about. In fact, I took gruesome oaths on my life in the Mormon temple never to reveal the contents of that ceremony.

Now that the book is picking its paraplegic way toward publication, I figured I should give my parents a heads-up about the coming betrayal. (Not only will the book contain, early on, this temple material, but I've also culled those pages out as an excerpt for my agent to try to sell to some major magazine.) I emailed my parents, told them about the contents and purpose of my book, and offered to let them see what I had written so far so they could be prepared for the consequences. My mother asked to see the book so I sent it to her a couple of weeks ago.

Well, this morning I received the following loving email from one of my siblings (I have seven):

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The waiting game

            

Have you ever experienced Chinese water torture? I haven't either, but it's probably much like waiting to hear from an editor who has expressed a hope of making an offer on your book.

I'm writing this book called The Accidental Terrorist. It's a memoir, really—the first-person story of a loveable young Mormon dissident-to-be who unwillingly serves a mission for his church, only to have it lead him to a terrorist act when he starts taking the whole thing a little too seriously. It's a light-hearted book, really.

My agent submitted the (partial) manuscript to seven publishers last month. About two and a half weeks ago, she wrote to tell me that one of these esteemed editors had called her, and that he loved the book and hoped to be able to make an offer soon. I was stunned.

Then, about a week and a half ago, he called my agent again to tell her that he had a lot of support for the book at his house and was presenting to his editorial and publications boards the next week. He expected things to go well, though he was a little worried about the "dual" nature of the book (i.e., Mormon coming-of-age story melded with terrorism drama).

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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!