I began working on a story for the 4th volume in the Airship 27/Cornerstone Books anthology series, Secret Agent X, while I was still finishing up my story for volume three. I had a sudden rush of inspiration about the character, Betty. I had realized that, in all the stories I’ve read, including my own, Betty was always a side character. She was a supporting character that often was relegated to damsel in distress, foil, or worse, side kick, for the main character.
Betty wasn’t a hero in the classical sense. She didn’t work for the government. She didn’t have training with weapons or other matters dealing with spy craft and warfare. But she was brave, resourceful, and just as willing to get down and dirty to get the job done. I decided I wanted to write a story that focused more on her. Of course, I still had to include Secret Agent X, this was his title and his world after all, but Betty would play a much more significant role.
The theme of the story had to do with fear. How do we overcome it? How do we fight it? The main villain was, of course, Doctor Fear. Betty was my focus for conquering fear. Secret Agent X does this all the time as he fights one bad guy after another. But in this confrontation, Betty had to work that much harder to overcome the fear that weighs us down, day after day, manifested as a metaphor in a wicked invention by the sinister Doctor Fear.
This is a pulp fiction story, so everything comes out okay in the end, but I really put the screws to Betty in this one and I think she was able to grow as a character as a result. This take on the character is, I believe, what led to consideration for nomination for best pulp short story with the annual Pulp Factory Awards. These awards are annual industry accolades nominated and voted for by authors and publishers of New Pulp Fiction every spring at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. I didn’t win anything, but I felt honored all the same.
This story didn’t come easy to me. After the initial rush of inspiration that led me to spit out the first few chapters in a day, my engine stalled. I didn’t have a true deadline, so I kept putting off the story for a sudden lack of ideas. I had a lot going on in my life that wasn’t conducive to being able to focus on writing. And, I had a fear of not being a “true” writer and coming up flat with an ending that would satisfactorily entertain. My editor suggested the name, Doctor Fear, for the villain and I slapped my forehead with my hand exclaiming, “Duh!”
I powered through though. It took me close to a year to finish a mere 40 pages. There was a certain thrill to the completion, the submission, the anticipation of publication, and then the minor accolades that came with it. It all wasn’t enough. Writing this story took a lot out of me. Like Betty, I overcame the obstacles in my way to defeat my nemesis. Betty carried on, being the all-star reporter that she was. I didn’t go on to become an all-star writer. I gave it up. I had other things to do, and my heart and mind weren’t in it anymore.
Now, I’m back in the saddle again, keeping it short and sweet. If you’d like to check out my story, it’s available on amazon. Secret Agent X Vol. 4 from Airship 27. I think I’ll keep it light from now on, avoiding burnout while overcoming all the old fears.