Shafts of Grace, Part 2

This is the conclusion of Shafts of Grace, Part 1.


It began slowly. 

There was no question that Richard had talent.  But his early books just didn’t quite make it.  True, he crafted mental images that were magical.  He took readers to places they had never been, and in most cases would never go in their lifetimes: the cacophonous and aromatic rabbit warrens of Manama Souq in Bahrain, the arid rocky surface of distant planets, and in the latest, the inner chambers of a Sultan’s palace.  His word pictures made these destinations as real to his readers as the homes they lived in.

Trouble was, once they got there, nothing much happened.  The action was predictable and boring, the dialogue stilted.

At first, he wouldn’t let Margo read his manuscript as it developed.  Not until he’d typed "The End" on the final page did he let anyone look at it.  She’d tried to sneak a peak while he was writing the first one, but oh, my, that hadn’t come to a good end.

“What are you doing?”

Startled, she swung around to see Richard glaring at her from the doorway.  Most of the typewritten pages slipped from her fingers and fluttered to the floor. 

“Um, I saw your manuscript on the desk, and just wanted to see how it was coming along.”   

“I told you I’d show it to you when I was ready, Margo.  For heaven’s sake, can’t you respect my wishes, just for once?”

His face red with anger, he came to where she was standing with her mouth hanging open and snatched the few pages she’d managed to hold on to from her grasp.

“I’m sorry, Richard.  I was just…”

“I don’t give a flying fuck what you were ‘just…’,” he said furiously.  “How about this? Just leave my manuscript alone.  How about that?”

He glared at her for a moment, and then dropped to his knees and began to gather up the pages scattered around her feet.

Her eyes filling with tears, she turned and left the room, all curiosity about the book well and properly killed.


When he completed the book, Richard became a changed person.  To celebrate, he took her out to dinner.  It was just to the little Italian place in the neighborhood but, still, it was a luxury they didn't often enjoy.  After they were seated at a table covered in a cheerful red-checkered tablecloth and had ordered, he moved flickering candle in its the wax-laden Chianti bottle to the side.  Grinning broadly, he ceremoniously placed the thick manuscript on the table between them.

“I’m sorry about the way I’ve behaved while I was working on the book, Margo.  I know I’ve been a real prick about it, but I just wanted it to be perfect before you read it.”  Proudly, he gave the ribbon-tied bundle of paper a little push toward her.  “Here you go, my dear. You are the first to read it.”

In the coming days, she read as he eagerly hovered.

“This is wonderful, Richard,” she lied when she had finished.

As she could have predicted, the manuscript was rejected.  But she had dared offer no criticism as she read, fearful of his reaction.


With each book, Richard loosened his control on his work, realizing perhaps that her input might make the book more marketable.  At first, she offered only small suggestions, mostly in the form of what-if-they-did-this or what-if-they-said-that.

From there it was like a freight train.  As more books were sent off and more rejection letters were received in turn, he came to rely on her help more.  And the more she helped, the more encouraging the letters from the publishers became.  The manuscript was still rejected, but the letters began to talk about "promise."

Then one day, Richard got a phone call from Bascomb House Publishing.  They were accepting his book.

“I did it! They’re going to publish my book!”  Richard shouted in elation.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

It was a history anyone who read Richard’s books knew well.  What they didn’t know was that, as he published more, he wrote less.  They didn’t know that Margo’s "help," which began as a few suggestions, now comprised the majority of the work. 

How could they?  Though he had promised many times to admit to the collaboration and add her name to the manuscript, he had never done it.  He always had an excuse.

He began with “I just need to get more established. You know, get my name out there before we add another name to the mix.”  And went on from there.  At first, his rationale made some kind of sense, but no more. 

Especially not tonight.  This is hers as much as it is his, damn it.

She has given it a lot of thought since the book was published, and decided to give it one more try tonight while they waited for the limousine to pick them up.  Tonight was the perfect occasion for him to acknowledge her contribution to the book, and announce that both of their names would be on future releases.  Now that Shafts of Grace had reached such a pinnacle of success, she thought there was little he could say to defend his reluctance to give her the credit she knew was hers.  She was probably right, she thinks bitterly. When she brought the subject up earlier this evening, he simply said nothing.

She should have known better.  She decides it’s time to give her own manuscript, the one that has been languishing in her desk drawer, the light of day.  It's her turn.


The applause dies down, and Richard is quickly surrounded.  No one notices as she slips from his side, least of all Richard.

She spots the bar in the corner of the room, lit by the glow of a soft spotlight  shining on something nearby, and heads that way, weaving through the crowd of beautiful people.  As she reaches the bar, she sees the poster displayed on an easel nearby.

First things first.  “Martini, please.  Tanqueray, extra dry, two olives, up.” 

As she waits for the bartender to mix her drink, she looks at the poster again. It is an enlarged photo of Richard, holding a copy of Shafts of Grace.  The book cover shows a camel standing in the foreground, the Sultan’s palace in the far distance.

Appropriate, she thinks with a wry smile.  This is the book that broke the camel’s back.

“Margo, you are looking especially lovely tonight.  Big night for you and Richard.”  She turns to see Richard’s somewhat disheveled agent holding her drink out to her. 

Smiling, she accepts the drink with her right hand, and then links her left arm through his, grateful that he has at least brushed the omnipresent cigar ashes from his suit for the occasion..

"Henry. Thank you, kind sir. Yes, it is a big night indeed. I'm glad to see you. I was going to call you this week, “ she says as they stroll back into the throng of Richard’s adoring fans.  “I have something to show you.”


  1. Awesome, Pati! Great plot, and great execution all the way through. Cant wait for the next instalment!

  2. nice...bet she is on the bestseller list next...smiles.

  3. aha...behind every idiot man is a great woman. (if he's lucky)

  4. Excellent, excellent, excellent. Now, in the next chapter ....

  5. Spot on way to conclude, Patti. I guess that to be the end of his career, but with an award winning novel - what the heck!

    Nice winding up of her angst and frustration.

  6. Your dialog has come a loooooong way (even with those blasted !-thingies you sneak it).

    This is, for a variety of reasons, my favorite piece of yours you've ever written.

    Oddly enough, are you familiar with David and Leigh Eddings? Quite a similar (true) story, but with a much happier ending.

  7. What took her so long? I like this. A lot.

  8. Patti...may you and yours have a Blessed Thanksgiving...bkm

  9. Haha, I agree with Tom. And now I'm so craving a martini.

  10. Everyone in there place. Wonderful write. -J


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.