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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Life of Inches by Douglas Esper...


Just like most movies these days, my book had some scenes deleted before its release. In fact at one point, my novel, A Life of Inches, approached a length that forced me to consider breaking it apart into two separate books. One of the challenges revolved around the timeline of the tale, which stretched from 1990 until late 2015. I constantly trimmed and cut sections of the book, worrying that the tale jumped around too much. By the time I felt ready to publish, A Life of Inches had about 400 various versions saved on my computer. Sometimes the book started in 1990. Sometimes it started in 2001, about halfway into the timeline, and jumped forward and back. And in some versions the story started right before the last scene and the narrative played out in a series of flashbacks intermixed with the present day action. This last option found itself abandoned as soon as I watched the movie FOR LOVE OF THE GAME, which was told in the same fashion and also revolved around a baseball pitcher.
There were various reasons for cutting lines, scenes, chapters, or even entire sub-plots all together. Pacing, rhythm, and clarity were the downfall of most cuts, but some of my favorite and oldest materials for this book were cut for other reasons.
You see, my buddy Mike provided a lot of the backbone for one of my characters in the book, named Woodie. Mike and I went to high school together and bonded over music, sports, and our bowling team. Not only was Mike a talented athlete, but this kid also had an aura of good luck around him unlike anything I’d ever seen. If he pulled into a jam-packed parking lot, every spot might be taken, but when he reached the front, almost on cue someone in the first couple spaces would pull out and allow him rockstar parking.
Not that big of a deal, you say?
Okay, when Mike and I were juniors, he was selected out of over six million entrants in a Foot Locker competition to shoot a three point shot during the NBA all-star weekend, the prize being one million dollars. Mike was flown out to Phoenix for the weekend, met all kinds of NBA royalty, appeared on The David Letterman show, and oh, did I mention they did a feature article about his trip in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated that year?
Still not convinced this kid can tap into some stream of constant good luck?
Well, just after high school I wasted a couple years of my life working at a convenient store while trying to get a rock band that I sang for off the ground. Mike popped into my store one day, just another Ohio State Buckeye visiting his parents during Christmas break. His mom had given him twenty bucks and asked him to pick up milk, bread etc. With the leftover money, Mike bought five scratch-off lottery tickets. One of the tickets netted him 500$, which the ticket listed as the highest prize it offered. In all my time at the store I only witnessed two other people win over 100$, but the story isn’t over yet, folks.
The storeowner gave Mike his winnings and after I told my friend he owed me pizza that night, Mike went home. About twenty minutes later, Mike sauntered back in with fifty dollars his mom had given him out of her winnings, the original ticket having been paid for with her money. He bought a bag of chips, a candy bar, some gum, and a few Bingo tickets, which cost two dollars each. Mike scratched off the tickets at the store, everyone still buzzing from his exciting win earlier. That is, until he revealed his 2000$ winner.
When the initial stirrings of creative juices called me to write, A Life of Inches, I knew I wanted to portray Mike’s good luck as a character trait, so I composed a fictional retelling of the lottery story, adding in a scene in which my two main characters were able to meet their favorite baseball player and also involve the two main characters in a multi-state race home after their car broke down.
The feedback of the scene proved to be overwhelmingly positive except for one thing: Woodie winning 500$ from a lottery ticket seemed too unbelievable and too convenient to move the plot along. Little did my beta-readers know, the unbelievable portion of the story didn’t even come close to the amazing truth.
Typically I try to write about what I know, but sometimes my life is stranger than fiction.

Douglas Esper
Twitter: @douglasesper
Blog: douglasesper.com

A Life of Inches (Limitless Publishing 2015) available now on Amazon
A Matter of Words: A Collection of Short Stories (Scout Media) out Oct. 19th 2015
Remembering Our Parents: A Collection of Stories and Essays (AHTI Publishing) available via my website now

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Best wishes,
~Jennifer Labelle~

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