Excuse Me, Sir, Can You Spare Your Name?

First of all, great game last night. I was hoping that the Forty-niners would pull it out, but…I really didn’t care that much. My team lost three weeks ago and I was mainly watching for the commercials.

Speaking of commercials. Living where I do, the God Made a Farmer ad was my favorite. Not funny, but made me proud to be the product of rural America.

Other favorites:  Joe Montana stain, Leon Sandcastle, Stevie Wonder and the voodoo dolls, and…ah, we’ll leave it with those three because what I really want to comment on is:

The Three Worst Ads of the Night.

1. Who on earth thought any of us would want to see a supermodel make out with THAT guy. He looked like Pat from the old SNL skits. Furthermore, who took that thought and said, “You know what would make this whole idea better? Extending the kiss and amping up the sound effects. Yeah, let’s do that.” Now I will grant you that they are getting a lot of buzz today, and maybe that was their goal, but I will tell you this. We have a new Carl’s Jr. opening here in the little town where I live. And I will not be going. EVER!!! And the reason I won’t be going is because I boycotted them long ago when they came up with the idea of showcasing the sound of people chewing their food. That is the most disgusting thing in the world and they think it will make me want to buy a hamburger? It makes me want to vomit. So, no Carl’s Jr. for me, thanks. And you can add GoDaddy.com to that list after last night. (Okay, they were probably already on the list, but they definitely moved up to the second position after last night.)

2. I know a good idea for an ad. Let’s make a beer that is bottled all in black and we will have a bunch of people dressed in black dancing with gold highlights on their faces and skin so that they look like rejects from the Capitol as described in The Hunger Games. Definitely a can’t miss.

3. Did anyone tell Calvin Klein that 1) This is a sporting event, therefore the audience will be made up of at least 50% men, and 2) umm, dude, kids in the audience?  I was watching with my 8-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. Thanks, Calvin. You definitely provided me the most exercise I got during the evening as I scrambled to grab the remote and change the channel. Not that I wouldn’t mind looking that good in my underwear, but still.

Now to the main topic of the day. Endorsements.

I hate asking people for help. It’s almost a disease for me. What is even worse is asking someone for help that I don’t know.

Now, just the other day, I was informed by my publisher that at this point in my book’s young life, I needed to get out of my comfort zone and ask anyone with notoriety that I might know to read my book and provide an endorsement. I felt a little sick. The problem is, I live in a small town and I don’t know very many people with notoriety. In fact, almost none.

Now, I do know Stephanie Meyer. She and her husband lived in the same ward we did back in our Arizona State days. She even threw my oldest daughter’s baby shower when she served in a Relief Society presidency with my wife. The problem is, that was almost fourteen years ago and we haven’t exactly kept in touch. So, I would feel a little awkward about calling her up and saying, “Hey, remember me? I know it’s been fourteen years and all, and you went on to massive wealth and popularity while I…not so much. But see I have a book coming out and…well, hey, you up for giving it a once over?” Something about that just feels wrong.  But I probably could have pulled that off were it not for the second problem. I don’t know how to contact her. In fact, that’s likely a much bigger problem than the first one.

So, that left me with a couple of options that I have taken advantage of, but still not many. So I did what any little brother does and ran to my big brother for help.

Jerry Rapier runs Plan B Theatre company in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is well known and well connected among the Utah arts community. The awards and accolades he and his projects have racked up over the years are quite extensive and could command their own blog entry themselves. My salesman of the month award from Countrywide Home Loans just prior to the housing crash pales mightily in comparison.

I felt silly having to reach out to my brother for help, but I didn’t see many other options. Thankfully, he was more than willing to help and immediately sent my book to Eric Samuelsen, playwright, retired BYU professor and former president of The Association of Mormon Letters, an organization dedicated to the production and study of Mormon literature and its enjoyment by all. I didn’t come up with that last sentence, it’s on their website.

Needless to say, I was thrilled Eric Samuelsen would even be willing to take a look at my book. My greatest hope was that he wouldn’t hate it. Three days later, I received the following endorsement:

“So you need a book cover blurb? Tell me how this one works:

“Man, I liked this book. Warm and human and real. A novel about growth and loss and pain, about Mormonism and judgement and forgiveness, about recovery and redemption. I read it in one afternoon, just couldn’t put it down. A winner.”

That’s my honest response. Really really liked it.”

I’ve never been so shocked in my whole life. When I had started writing THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, my greatest hope was that it wouldn’t suck. And now, THIS??? I have to admit, I cried a little. (To be fair, Jerry said he liked it, too. But he’s my brother. He has to say that.)

And so, I want to take the opportunity to say thank you. I don’t know if either one of them will read this, but I wish to express a massively huge thank you to Jerry Rapier and Eric Samuelsen. Your willingness to help me is immeasurable and something I doubt I will ever be able to repay. And since Jerry is continuing to hook me up, additional thanks are directed your way.

I have to admit, I’m now getting a tad excited for August.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, by Ryan Rapier, arrives in August 2013 from Cedar Fort Publishing.

What’s In A Name

My entire adult life I have wanted to write a book. But the thing about wanting to write a book is that you REALLY have to want to write a book and that was always the thing that stopped me. I enjoyed the idea of being an author, but didn’t have the drive or discipline to make my desire a reality. However, through the years, I have had several ideas that I thought would make a good novel. Looking back, they were all horrible. They included:

-A society where every new human was born as an old person and aged backwards. (I know this idea sucked thanks to the movie Benjamin Button)

-A religious thriller where the anti-Christ came in the form of a woman. (I think this idea may have formed in my mind during the final days of sleeping in a double bed before my wife and I made the marriage-saving decision to switch to a California King.)

There were others, but they were all so bad I’ve chosen to forget them and let them die in their own misery.

Then, about four years ago, I was struck by an idea that wouldn’t go away. I thought about it constantly-and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Not only was the idea good, but the title was completely obvious, The Square Pegs.

I wrote this title down on a piece of paper and kept it visible on my desk at work to provide the inspiration that someday I was going to write this book. And there it sat for over two years.

Then one day, a mid-life crisis hit. I was sitting at my desk asking, “What do I even do?” This question was born out of my inability to satisfy my two boys with an explanation of what my job actually consists of. I was like Billy Crystal in City Slickers when he goes to his son’s career fair.

So, I dusted off my plans and looked at my idea with fresh eyes. I knew instantly it wouldn’t work.

The original idea was writing a book about four Mormon men, all in their mid- to late-thirties, who were, for very different reasons, single. Single in a culture that reveres marriage.

The four men that would be represented were: a widower, a cocky divorcee, a hen-pecked husband separated from his wife following her affair, and a man who had never married. Over time, these four guys had found each other and formed their own little social club that got together at least once a week. They called themselves The Square Pegs (Just in case there is anyone not seeing the connection, they were square pegs that didn’t fit in the round holes of regular Mormon society.) In my grand scheme, the book would have covered such topics as: depression, infidelity (in all forms), the definition of manliness, homosexuality, plural marriage, dating again with children as part of your package deal, death, and whether the Mormon church really could be all things for all people. It was not going to be a conversion story and not all four of the protagonists would come to the same conclusion.

Pretty quickly, I realized my scope was waaaaayyyyyyy too big. So almost immediately, I settled on one of my characters and made him the focal point. I chose the widower.

I’m not sure why. I suppose my best explanation would be the same as Stephen King’s. He once said something to the effect that he wrote about his nightmares. Well, for me, my worst nightmare would be if my wife were to pass away. So I started there and let the book take shape.

Once that decision was made, then I had to decide how to tell the story. I had been keeping up a family blog for a couple of years. Pretty quickly I realized that my subject was going to be heavy and depressing unless I found a way to infuse it with humor. And that was when it hit me: I need to write this book the way I write my blog. But how do I do that?

What if the widower is just not moving beyond the death of his wife? What if the problem has gotten so bad that he’s been forced to see a psychiatrist? Mormons hate the idea of prayer and faith not solving everything. Wouldn’t having to see a psychiatrist make him even more depressed? He’d probably be so bad off, he’d make a horrible patient.

There it is.

My main character, Todd Landry, is so depressed, he’s been forced to seek psychiatric help from a Jewish psychiatrist his bishop referred him to and it’s killing him. He knows he needs the help, but he is so embarrassed at being there that he won’t allow himself to talk to the doctor. So, as a last ditch effort, the psychiatrist requires Todd to write nightly on a private blog that only the doctor and patient can see. Then, each week they will discuss what Todd writes about.

Seemed like a winner to me. So the book became Todd’s blog entries.

With my new setup, some of the issues I’d wanted to address fell by the wayside. Meanwhile, focusing on a widower opened up several new possibilities that hadn’t existed prior. Before long, one of the four characters from the original idea fell by the wayside, but the other two remained. And through it all, I kept the title intact.

Then, when the day came that I finally finished my first draft, I began to let a select few read my work. That ended up being one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my life. Laying myself out there for criticism, especially since I had ended up putting so much of myself in the main character, was brutal. But mostly the feedback was good. Some changes were needed and were made, but one thing that kept coming up was, “Why do you call it The Square Pegs?” 

Because I was stubborn, I would explain my thought process and usually when I finished, the person I was explaining myself to would look at me skeptically and say something like, “Okay…it’s your book.”

D%@* right it’s my book! And I kept the title all the way through the submission process to different publishers. Finally, that blessed day came and Cedar Fort agreed to publish it. But after I signed the contract, the first communication back was, “The editorial board wasn’t really comfortable with the title. We think we are going to change it. Do you have any suggestions?”

Uh, Yeah…how about The Square Pegs? But in the end, they returned with The Reluctant Blogger, and I have reluctantly accepted that this is a much better title for the book that actually got written.

So there it is. How the book I wanted to write became the book I wrote, and how The Square Pegs became The Reluctant Blogger. And now, come August, we’ll find out what people think of Todd Landry and his blog entries. If you want to sign off now, go for it. Otherwise…

The Plug: If you know someone who may find this story interesting, please invite them to visit this website or to visit my Ryan Rapier, Author page on Facebook. If they become a fan, they will receive notices of blog entries like this one that further describe the process of writing this book and getting published, as well as additional insight into what the book is all about. Thanks again for everyone’s support. 

Look for The Reluctant Blogger, Coming August 2013, from Cedar Fort Inc.