Productive Failure

We all like life to look like a highlight reel, and only release our successes and the cool moments. On the other hand, the failures happen, and sometimes they’re hilarious afterwards, and can produce the best stories. What war story ever started with “I exercised sober good judgment on a calm day where everything went according to plan”, eh?

So, I flunked out of the Amazon Ads course. How do you flunk out of a class that’s free and isn’t graded? By not doing the work. Specifically, by getting into a conversation with some fellow authors full of hyperbole and hilarity about some of the covers and blurbs that poking in unaccustomed corners of Amazon inflicted on my eyeballs.* “Alcohol may have been a factor”, as one of my late and much-loved friends in law enforcement used to say with a straight face and perfect comedic timing.

…and then I woke up the next morning with a story born of biting satire beating at my brain, trying to get out. Trying so hard I ended up writing almost 4,000 words in a day, when normally I’m lucky to get 400.

This was great, in that I had been gently reminded over dinner that I had a short story due soon for an anthology, and before that moment had no idea what to write for it. This was terrible, in that I had no way to deal with writing all this, working full time, and doing an intensive course at the same time.

Of course, writing something born as a biting satire of a particular romance subgenre doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll entertain anyone not well read in the tropes and trappings of that subgenre. So I sent a snippet to two of my favourite retired sailors, who has never read in that genre, much less subgenre, to see if any of the humour still carried over.

Jim Curtis sent back a text saying, simply, “ROFL”, and my husband firmly suggested I finish it for the anthology. (Yes, Peter started in the naval portion of the South African Defense Force before getting needs-of-the-forced up to the border portion of the war… there’s a reason I wink at him when he comes to pick me up, and call “Hey, sailor, going my way?”) Meanwhile, a third sailor I know leaned over her husband’s shoulder and read what I was putting up in chat, and I was politely instructed I must keep amusing his wife.

So I flunked the course and wrote the story instead. In which a chief petty officer is hotbunking on an overcrowded passenger liner on his way to his next assignment. Only, it turns out that the other two sharing the bunk are a pair of newlywed aliens. And they have the Bright Idea to ask him for help in figuring out how to do what with which to whom…

There are also pirates, honeypots, a server who tries to tell the Chief he’s not allowed to have coffee, and paperwork. And it’s PG-13 to read, but rest assured, the course of young love never did run smooth.

There are worse fates than failure and a fun story, and hey, I don’t even have any medical bills or scars this time!

*I did find some good new things to read, too, and I ought to mention them. Like The Vixen War Bride, which despite the title, has no sex, lots of realistic language and cultural barriers, and along with the sequel was a fun read.

6 comments

  1. Yep, you done good with that one! And it’s producing output, which is good! Especially considering how much you ‘complained’ that “I can’t just sit down and write a story on command!” LOL

  2. Thank you for the recommendation for Vixen War Bride and Holdouts. While the books have some minor technical issues (like referring to a hat as similar to a French beret while speaking from the viewpoint of an alien who knows nothing of Earth), the central idea of the communication problems with aliens is both intriguing and well handled.

    1. *grins* Glad you enjoyed them. There were a couple of rough spots, yeah, and a few points where I shook my head as the suspension of disbelief started getting as shaky as the Tacoma Narrows bridge, but overall, enjoyable reads! And I appreciated the touches that showed he was filing serial numbers off real soldiers, and real historical examples. If he comes out with more, I’ll read ’em. 🙂

  3. Wait, a chief being told that they’re not allowed to have coffee!?
    “Man all lookout stations, prepare for man overboard!”

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