The Secret Last Line

Secret last line 02You know how you sometimes hear those apocryphal stories about writers and writing: Ernest Hemingway’s wife leaving his entire manuscript on a train; Sherwood Anderson writing the bulk of Winesburg, Ohio, in the middle of the night and naked; Alice McDermott basing an uncompleted novel on one of my short stories?  Some are completely false (like the thing about Alice McDermott; I just really like her). But some are based in fact and a few of those happen to be completely true.

Here’s one I know is true: The very last line of my novel, Californium, is not the line with which I originally intended to end the book. I was struggling with exactly how to word that line and my editor at Plume solved my dilemma by striking it completely and ending on the penultimate line. I didn’t know things like that actually happened, and I wasn’t sure my editor was wrong to do it, so I got a second opinion from my other editor at Plume, and then my agent, and all agreed that the second-to-last line was the better line and the very last line should go.  At this point, it was hard to argue with people who had taken such care with my manuscript and, frankly, helped me make it a much better book than I ever could have written completely on my own, so I agreed and the last line was lost to history. Well, almost. I still have it saved on a draft of the novel.

I’m never going to sneak into bookstores and pencil in that last line so people will know what it was. BUT, I am willing to reveal it to anyone who reads Californium, who cares to know, and (here comes the marketing pitch) who has bought Californium by July 31, 2016. (I know, to completely lose my soul I just need to add that operators are standing by and if you’re not completely satisfied you can send the book back at no cost and keep the steak knives as my gift to you). But, it would be kind of cool to know, wouldn’t it? Sort of a director’s cut of the book?

If you’re interested, I promise I won’t send the last line and spoil everything until after you’ve read the book. So if you think you’ll want to know, all you have to do is this:

  1. Buy Californium by July 31, 2016
  2. Save your receipt
  3. Either attach a dated receipt or a selfie with the book to r_dean_johnson@yahoo.com by September 30, 2016, and I’ll give up the goods

That’s it. You’ll help preserve a very minor part of literary history, and you’ll be able to say, “Thank God that guy had good editors” Or will you?  Maybe my instincts were right at first. Decide for yourself, then feel free to email me exactly what you think.

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