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An Author’s Guide to Survival

Please welcome our first guest writer, Kimberly Emerson!  In accepting her challenge, Kim had the option of choosing between the following writing prompts, one from each of the BBB’s:

Erika- mullets, yes, the hairstyle

Wendy- You are stranded on a deserted island. You have a book signing in NYC in 24 hours for your NYT Best Seller An Author’s Survival Guide. Aside from the same flora and fauna you could find on any tropical island, you have with you the following: A single playing card (ace of spades), a pack of red vine licorice, a copy of the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents, a swag bag from the last conference you went to, and bacon. How do you get off the island and to your book signing on time?

Jen- Elmer’s School glue stick – fireflies and Olympus SP-620UZ (yep, she wants them all covered)

Cameron- “commencement time”  (note from Cam: The “C” can also be capitalized; I’ll leave the interpretation up to writer’s discretion!

Amy- The perfect summer afternoon

And here’s what she chose…

by Kimberly Emerson

The minute Shaun stuffed me in that duffel bag, I knew the date wasn’t going to end well.

It had such a promising start.  He seemed instantly familiar, like we’d met in a previous life.  He had a private plane, and we were going to fly from Honolulu to his favorite restaurant on Kauai.  In retrospect, I should have known that it was too good to be true, but things had been going so well for me lately.  My latest book had just hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.  Well, you know, one of the lists.  The non-fiction one.  But still, I’d seen it myself – #1: The Author’s Guide to Survival, by Allie Oliver.  It just seemed to be the time for exciting things to happen in my life.

As it turns out, being inside a duffel bag is not exciting.  It’s cramped – your definition of a “roomy” duffel changes substantially once you’ve spent time on the other side of the zipper – and your entertainment options are limited.  This one smelled like rotting meat.  Sheesh. Shaun had locked me inside this canvas prison, and he hadn’t even had the decency to empty it first.  I kept getting smacked by the objects floating around in it with me.  The only good thing about this duffel was its flimsy construction.  After what seemed like hours, when Shaun tossed me into the ocean, the seam around the zipper gave way, and I was able to swim to safety on a small island.

Well, you know – relative safety.  I was on an island I didn’t know, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  But I had reached a beach, and the warm sand felt better than a Sealy Posturepedic pillowtop.  I told myself to get up and survey the island, to find out what new dangers I faced.  My body, which after all had done the heavy lifting in the cramping, falling, and swimming departments, disobeyed me and fell asleep instantly.

Full sunlight streamed across my face when I finally awoke, some hours later.  Surveying my surroundings, I could barely stomach the irony.  How many times had I dreamed of lying on the beach of my own private island, with nothing to do but relax?  And now, here I was, with the beach all to myself and all the time in the world, and I was miserable.  I got up and wandered around.  A complete turn around the island took all of twenty minutes.  I found nothing and no one, aside of miles of maile vines, the occasional vicious-looking sea bird and the duffel bag that had washed up on the beach beside me.  I prayed that somehow the bag would contain an emergency phone in a waterproof case, but no luck.  Shaun must have come up with this idea on short notice, based on the junk he hadn’t removed from the bag before stuffing me into it.  An unopened pack of red licorice, a playing card, a half empty pack of bacon – hence the smell: bacon?  really? – and a plastic bag wrapped around what appeared to be a book.

I was going to die here.

Despondent, I sank down to the sand.  Tears stung my eyes, but I couldn’t even have a proper cry because the metallic-colored plastic bag kept winking the sun into my face.  I picked up the bag to toss it somewhere less annoying, but the sand coating it made me lose my grip.  It fell, dumping the book out at my feet.

Great.  I couldn’t even throw a plastic bag correctly.  I was useless, and I was stuck here in this sandy, deserted, irritatingly beautiful hell.

Even in my wallowing, the title of the book caught my eye – The 2013 Guide to Literary Agents.  Shaun must be a writer, too.

My book!  It struck me with the force of a thunderclap that I had a book-signing in New York in two days.  No – it couldn’t be more than twenty-fours now.  A big, important book signing for my #1-on-the-NYT-Best-Seller-List (well, one of them) book.  I was not going to miss that.  There had to be a way off this island, and I was going to find it.

Think, Allie, I told myself.  Cracking open the licorice for breakfast, I surveyed the remaining items.

A playing card.  The Ace of Spades.  The back had the emblem of the hotel in Honolulu where Shaun and I had met.  Useful if I were playing Spades with my mom, but it didn’t seem helpful now.   I slipped it into my jacket pocket to get it out of the way.

Bacon that had gone rancid.  Gross and stinky, but even with the wind picking up as it was, the smell probably wouldn’t carry over the water to a passing cruise ship.

The book had stayed mostly dry in the plastic bag, and I thought about writing on the pages, “EARN $10,000 FROM YOUR HOME!” and posting it on a tree, because that always attracted someone’s attention.  Alas, no pen.

The metallic bag bore the emblem of the Great Western Literary Conference – by coincidence the last one I’d attended.  It was still in the sun, and I couldn’t’ look directly at it.  The thing was almost insanely shiny.

Shiny…

An idea began to form.  I pounced on it before rational thought could interfere.

I ran to the heart of the island and grabbed as many vines as I could carry.  Fortunately, there seemed to be an endless supply, and the roots were shallow.

Dumping them on the sand, I ripped some of the dryer pages out of the agent guide and crumpled them up, stuffing them into the plastic bag to puff it out.  I tied it with a vine at the bottom, and then tied that vine to another, and another, and another, making as long a rope as I could, hoping that the wind would last.

Finally, I ran out of vines. Praying that the knots would hold, I ran along the beach, tossing my plastic approximation of a balloon into the wind.

After fifteen minutes of running around like a dim-witted chicken, I got the bag into the air.  The wind whipped it around, and I fed more vine length.

I continued this until my whole body ached with the effort and I had lost all track of time.  At last, I heard a motor.  Looking around, I saw a helicopter closing in on my island.  Yes!  It came nearer with unbearable caution until at last I could read some numbers and the word NAVY on the side.  The pilot was making hand motions down, and a rope ladder appeared from the side.

At the last second, a flock of sea birds with five-foot wingspans and nasty long beaks flew in to investigate me and the helicopter.  Praying that they weren’t kosher, I threw the bacon at them and ran for it.

It worked.  As one, they dove on the smelly meat.  I grabbed for the rope ladder and climbed into the helicopter to safety.

The pilot yelled to me, “Welcome aboard, ma’am.”

I choked back a sob.  “Please, call me Allie.”

He smiled.  “Allie.  I’m John.  An Air Toyko pilot saw a weird shiny thing and called it in, so they sent me to check it out.  What the hell were you doing out here?”

I shouted back, “Going on a date.”

He turned back to stare at me for a second, his clear blue eyes so wide I thought they might fall out.  “Seriously?”

I shoved my hands in my pockets to stop shaking, and pulled out the playing card from the hotel where I’d first laid eyes on Shaun.  The bastard.  “If he calls, tell him I’m not dying to see him again.”

Fortunately, the island turned out to be only an hour’s flight from Honolulu.  After a long chat with the Honolulu authorities, they allowed me to get on a plane for New York.  The Navy pilot insisted on accompanying me, to make sure I made it to the signing event safely.

Several hours later, in a change of clothes provided by my agent and my former garments in a bag awaiting the dry cleaner or the garbage, I slid into my seat alongside the authors of books #2, #3, and #4 on the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller List, for the Grand Slam Book Signing.  Three and Four were busy setting up their stations, but Two got up and headed for the exit.

“Shaun!”

It was my kidnapper, trying to slink away.  No wonder he’d seemed familiar.  He was the author of the #2 Non-Fiction Best Seller, Write the Perfect Crime, and he’d attended the same literary conference that I had!  “Thought you’d never see me again, didn’t you?” I screamed.

He coughed.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I grabbed the bag of sandy, salted clothing and pulled the Ace of Spades out of my jacket pocket and gave it to the Navy pilot.  “You found me with this on that island.  I think you’ll find it has his finger prints on it.”

After everything that card had been through, he’d probably find no such thing, but Shaun stared at it like it was a death warrant.  “No!” he yelled.  “My plan was perfect!  You were going to die out there, and my book would be the #1 New York Times Best Seller!”

Non-fiction List Best Seller, I wanted to tell him, but he lunged for the card before I got the chance.  Fortunately, the Navy pilot deftly slipped the card in his back pocket and wrenched Shaun’s arm behind him, forcing him to the ground.  With his free hand, he gave the card to my agent, who slipped it into a plastic bag (just in case) while I called the police.

Talk about a trump card.

My book remained #1 on the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller List for thirty weeks. Shaun got sentenced to twenty years in prison.  John, the Navy pilot, gave me the ten digits to his phone number.

I was happy about the first two, but a little scared about the third.  He was cute, and I wanted to go out with him, but only if he promised we’d stay on the ground.

***

Me at Court of Two SistersKimberly Emerson lives in Los Angeles in space allotted to her by her cat, Zoë.  She began writing in elementary school and kept it up throughout the years to amuse her friends.  Attempting to evade suffering for her art, she majored in Political Science and worked for several years as an administrative assistant.   Finally realizing that suffering came in many forms, she returned to writing.  Kimberly is currently seeking publication for her novel, Perfectly Acceptable Woman.  Another novel, No Accounting for Destiny, is in the works.  You can find more of her writings and ponderings at http://www.kimberlyemerson.com.  Stop by, there’s always room for one more opinion.

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