The One About Project Horses

Maybe it’s because ASHES has been sitting on an agent’s desk without comment for the better part of two months, but everything is starting to parallel the writing process for me. Can’t get my dishwasher to work? Neither did my last hero. Husband recently set himself on fire? Yeah, well, who hasn’t envisioned torching an entire manuscript? Incapable selling my latest project horse? Well, that comparison isn’t much of a stretch. Except it kind of is because we’re talking about Lucero here.

Or Lucifer as we are prone to calling him when his owner is out of earshot.

Anyway, it’s a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and Andrew is using one half-finished cigarette to light another. “Now listen to me,” he announces. “This is going to go great. Lucifer has as much jump as he does stupid. This will work in our favor…possibly.”

The comment makes me pause as I tighten Lucero’s girth. Andrew is especially evocative when nervous and half in the bag and most people would object, but we’ve known each other for so long I only hear the doubt in his determination.

But I nod anyway. Partially because there really isn’t anything else to say and partially because…no, there really isn’t anymore. That’s it. I’m actually pretty nervous myself. It isn’t that Lucero is evil, but he is a problem horse. High-strung and opinionated, he kicks like the storied mule and missed my head by inches last week during a particularly expressive temper tantrum.

That being said, I like him. Very much. But it remains to see if the waiting couple will. The waiting couple whose checkbook has the ability to put another financial wall between Andrew and a retirement spent eating Fancy Feast.

“Okay.” Andrew squares up his shoulders. “I’ve got this. Just let me do the talking, okay?”

Like, duh. Mine is not a personality that holds up well under scrutiny. I am perpetually one over-caffeinated blurt away from offending someone. This works because he always does the talking.

So I hang back to adjust Lucero’s leg protection and Andrew strides out of the barn with a grin suspended by strings. I recognize the look. Used it at my last editor appointment actually. It’s the only shield you have when you’re about to present something you’ve made for someone else’s approval.

But for all of our worries, Lucero did well. He trotted and jumped and cantered and made it all look effortless. Except for the corner where he did, in fact, buck, but Andrew and I smiled it away. The couple passed anyway though and disappointment teethes on both of us as we walk our problem child back to the barn.

Their excuse was that Lucero “just wasn’t what they were looking for.” Put that on a form letter and any writer will recognize it. The implication is that there’s nothing wrong with Lucero. He’s quite nice. He might even be lovely, but he still isn’t right. There is something fundamentally lacking in him.

Writing can be the same way. You can be lovely and still not right. You can do all the revisions in the world and still not be what they want because our fundamentals, our bones, our selves just aren’t “what they were looking for” and that is what scares me the most.

We cannot change who we are and we certainly cannot change who we are on the page. The words can shift and morph, but the bones stay put. And what if that isn’t good enough? What if it will never be good enough?

But we soldier on if only because the alternative is to give up. After all, I have that new idea that just won’t leave me alone and Lucero’s younger brother is coming up for training. His name is Soleil, but his groom calls him Satan.