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Booking Bad: Dying Author Has Difficult Conversation With Literary Agent

11/22/2013 06:51 pm ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014

Just having been diagnosed with a terrible life-shortening illness, I decided to call my loyal agent to see how my book was doing. It had been two and a half years since I received his last report. I didn't want to bug him, but my time is very short. I desperately needed a sale.

[Sound Effect:
Loud cappuccino machine]

Linda: Hi! Is Stockton, there? It's Linda Urbach calling.

Male Voice: Who?

Linda: Linda Urbach. He's my agent.

Male Voice: May I ask what this is in reference to?

Linda: Yes, the book he's shopping around for me.

Male Voice: Would you hold, please? I'll see if he's in.

[Sound Effect: More loud cappuccino machine]

Male Voice [In background]: Lucy, Lucy, how the hell are ya? Long time no hear!

Linda [recognizing Male Voice]: Stockton--it's YOU and, it's ME, Linda Urbach. We haven't talked in a long time, and I was just wondering how The Daughters of Damascus is doing?

Stockton: The Daughters of Damascus? Remind me again.

Linda: Well, it's the story of twin girls who murder their father and their uncle and set fire to...

Stockton: Oh, yes, I remember--the big houses hated it, but I've still got one or two small, very prestigious publishers who are extremely interested. I'm working with Kitty Jones of Ampersand, one of their new editors. She loves the concept, but hates the character of Zsa Zsa. You were supposed to do some tweaking on it for the previous editor who's no longer with them.

Linda: I did, I did--and I also restructured the plot, cut a hundred pages and changed the ending. That was two years ago.

Stockton: You can't sit on these edits, Linda--times change, tastes change--you don't want to get left behind.

Female Voice [in background]: Can I have a mocha shot with that latte, please?

Stockton: I've also got the interests of Patsy Petrol at the newly formed Bluebird Agency. Loves-loves-loves your book. She's not crazy about the time period, though, and is disappointed in the lack of sex. She was wondering if you could take another stab at it and get back to her before her sales force meets next week.

Linda: Dear listen. I have a bit of bad news. I've got cancer and I've only got about six months left to live. I need to leave my family with a little something other than huge medical bills. I need to make a sale.

Stockton: Six months to live? Lucky you! How would you like to be like me and live your entire life with chronic Celiac disease? When I so much as look at a bagel, my stomach cramps up like a fucker. There's absolutely nothing I can eat. You try living with that. Dying would be so much easier.

Stockton: Hold on a second. Double latte, sir? [whirring coffee machine sound]

Linda: Stockton, are you working in a Starbucks?

Stockton: How else am I supposed to afford my gluten-free diet? You authors are so out of touch with reality. Say, did you ever do anything with that history of bestiality book? Talk about a book I thought had tremendous potential. Why don't you knock out a quick proposal and get it to me by the first of the week?

Female Voice: I've been waiting 20 minutes for my double espresso.

Stockton [to Woman]: Sorry, sorry. Say, did anybody ever tell you that you look like someone who has a good book in her? I'm an agent--here's my card.

Linda: Stockton, I did the Tails of the Beast: An Intimate History of Bestiality. You the sold the book ten years ago.

Stockton: Oh, really? How did it do?

Linda: Not well. 23 copies.

Stockton: I have a great idea! Insert some of the bestiality into the Daughters of Damascus and then we've got ourselves a big sale.

And Linda, don't let these little health issues get in your way. There are deadlines and then -- there are DEAD-lines. What's a little terminal cancer when you've the New York Times bestseller list waiting for your next book?