Six impossible things

My Writing Life: An Adventure

You are standing in a hallway at nine in the morning, facing a dining room/kitchen to the south. To the west are stairs up. To the north is an office.

Your head feels rather fuzzy.

>Go north

You are standing in a cluttered office, full of paper, books, and office supplies. There is a desk here. There is a chair here. There is a cat here.

The cat jumps onto the chair and looks at you expectantly.

>Sit in chair

You can’t sit in the chair; there’s already a cat in it.

>Pet cat

The cat purrs.

>Pet cat

The cat purrs. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

You are standing in a cluttered office, full of paper, books, and office supplies. There is a desk here. There is a chair here. There is a cat sitting in the chair.

>Squint at desk

The desk contains a computer, a cordless phone, a printer/scanner, three DVDs loaned to you by friends, an overdue library book, a pencil holder full of pens, a cookbook, and a stack of papers.

>Leave office

Hey! Where are you going?

>I can’t deal with this right now.

Oh, all right. You are standing in a hallway. To the south is a dining room/kitchen. To the west are stairs up. To the north is an office.

Your head still feels rather fuzzy.

>Go south

You are in a dining/kitchen area. There is a teakettle here. There is a can of cat food here. There is an empty cat bowl here. There is a mug here. There are 17 different kinds of teabags here.

>Make tea

You fill the teakettle and set it on to boil.

>Select tea

Caffeine or decaf?

>It’s nine in the morning! I want CAFFEINE!

All right, all right, I was just asking.

You select a strong Irish Breakfast teabag and place it in the mug. The kettle is boiling.

>Make tea

You finish making your tea and drink some. Your head clears immediately.

There is a half-full teakettle here. There is a mug of tea here. There is an empty cat bowl here. There is a can of cat food here.

>Open cat food

The cat runs in from the office and winds around your legs, meowing plaintively, as you fill the cat bowl with food.

>Give food to cat

The cat starts eating the food.

>Take tea and go back to office

You return to the office. There is a desk here. There is a computer here. There is a chair here.

>Sit in chair


>Turn on computer

The computer whirrs and beeps. Eventually the main screen comes up.

>Check email

Do you really want to do that? You’re supposed to be writing.

>Check email

You have three fan letters, twenty-six pieces of spam that got through the spam filter, nine emails from the mailing list, an invitation to tea, and two emails from your agent

>Delete spam

You delete the twenty-six pieces of spam email. The computer chimes. You have three fan letters, one piece of spam that got through the spam filter, fourteen emails from the mailing list, an invitation to tea, and two emails from your agent.

>Accept invitation to tea

You email an acceptance to tea on Saturday. The computer chimes. You have three fan letters, six pieces of spam that have gotten through the spam filter, twenty-one emails from the mailing list, and two emails from your agent.

>Read agent emails

The first email is an urgent request to contact the agent by last Friday to discuss the proposal for your next book, which you were supposed to have finished last month; reading between the lines, there’s a potential offer she wants to discuss.

The second email is an auto-notice that your agent is out of town for the next two weeks, with no phone or email.

>Oh, crap.

I don’t understand that.


Panicking won’t help. The phone rings.

>Answer phone

You answer the phone. It’s a telemarketer. He talks very fast for five minutes and you finally have to hang up on him because he doesn’t give you time to say you’re not interested.

Your computer chimes. You have mail. Specifically, you have three fan letters, twelve pieces of spam that have gotten through the spam filter, fifty-two emails from the mailing list, an email with attachment from a member of your critique group, and an email from your editor, also with an attachment.

>Read editor’s email

The copyedit for your ebook is attached. They want it back by 4 p.m. EST tomorrow. There is the distinct implication that if you don’t get it back in time, the publisher will have to delay publication and you will miss out on any Christmas sales.

>Open ebook file

Your ebook reader doesn’t understand this format.


I don’t understand that. Your computer chimes. You have mail. You have four fan letters, fourteen pieces of spam…

>Close email reader

I wasn’t finished yet!

>Close the damned email reader!

All right, all right. You close the email reader.

>Get on Internet and search for free ebook reader

You open your browser and type in a search. Your computer hiccoughs and informs you that it cannot complete the search because you have no Internet connection.

>What! I had one seconds ago!

Your Internet connection is not available.

>Check router

All the lights on the router are out

>Out? Shouldn’t some of them be red? Wait a minute… Check cord on router

A cat is sitting on top of the power cord that leads to the router. The end of the cord appears to have come unplugged from the wall.

>Throw cat out of office and close door

The cat makes plaintive noises outside the door

>Ignore cat. Plug in router.

After a minute, the lights on the router light up and turn green.

You have an Internet connection.

The cat is making more plaintive noises outside the door.

>Ignore cat. Download free ebook reader.

After some searching, you find and download a reader that can open the file your publisher sent you.

Your tea is cold.

>Install ebook reader. Go to kitchen for more tea while file is installing.

You open the office door. The cat shoots inside and hides under the desk.

>Ignore cat. Get tea.

You proceed to the kitchen and make tea.

>Return to office

The office seems more cluttered than when you left.

>Examine office

You are standing in a cluttered office, full of paper, books, and office supplies. There is a desk here. There is a chair here. There is a cat sitting on a stack of papers by the desk, looking smug.

>Examine desk

The desk contains a computer and a printer/scanner. The phone, the DVDs, the books, the pens, and the papers have all been shoved onto the floor.

>Yell at cat

The cat looks smug and unimpressed.

>Throw cat out of office.

You put the cat out and shut the office door.

>Sit in chair. Open copyedit file

You open the file your editor sent you. It is completely full of comment balloons and changes to the text. Half of the changes are spot-on, but the other half will require rewrites or explanations, some of which will be extensive. This is not going to be quick.

>It has to be quick; it’s due tomorrow.

I don’t understand that.

>Lucky you.

I don’t understand that.

>Work on file.

You spend several hours working on the copyedit file. You are done with the first 10,000 words. You have 70,000 left to go.

>Call friends and cancel dinner appointment. Work on file.

You work on the copyedit file some more. You are half done. Your brain is getting fuzzy. Your tea is cold.

>Hit save. Go to kitchen for more tea.

You save your work.

You stumble over the cat on your way to the kitchen.

There is an empty teakettle here. There are 17 kinds of tea here. There is an empty, dirty cat food bowl here.

>Pick up cat food bowl and put in sink.

You put the cat food bowl in the sink. You notice there are no other dishes in the sink. Possibly because all you have had so far today is tea.

>Um, yeah. Check refrigerator.

The refrigerator contains half a gallon of milk, a jar of natural peanut butter, every kind of condiment known to man, three raw eggs, two hardboiled eggs, some cheese –

>Stop right there. Eat breakfast.

It’s lunchtime.

>I haven’t had breakfast yet. Eat breakfast. Eggs, cheese, toast and a glass of milk.

You can’t make toast. You’re out of bread.

>Fine. Eggs, cheese, and milk, then. Eat breakfast and get back to copyedit.

You eat breakfast, dump the dishes in the sink for later, make more tea, and go back to the office. You spend the afternoon working on the copyedited manuscript.

There is a blinking light in the bottom corner of the computer screen.

>Hit save. Check blinking light.

You have unread mail, and your computer wants you to open your email reader.

>Check time

It is 7:12 p.m.

You have unread mail. Your tea is cold. You are slightly more than half done with the copyedited manuscript that is due at 4 tomorrow afternoon, but you have left the hardest stuff for later. You are a month behind on the proposal for your next book. You have a story to read and critique for your crit group meeting on Sunday. You have not picked up the papers, pens, and books that the cat shoved onto the floor. You have not had dinner. You have a blog post to write. One of your cats is making noises in the living room of the sort that mean there is a hairball in the offing.

>The heck with it. I am going to order pizza and spend the rest of the night watching Marx Brothers movies.

  1. Good heavens!

    Hang in there, Ms. Wrede, and good luck!

  2. I love it…you are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike! And remember, very few of us actually got out of there without outside help! Good luck.

  3. Great post! Just the laugh I needed to start the day.

  4. The glamorous life of the author.

  5. The only thing this post is missing is a Grue!

    Thanks for the chuckles 🙂

  6. Beautiful! Bravo!

  7. >pat author sympathetically
    >try not to show that one is giggling
    >wish author good luck!

  8. Well, at least you didn’t have to set up the trap for the Babelfish…

  9. That’s hilarious!

  10. Ah, yes, adventure. The genre is usually called interactive fiction these days. I hope you enjoyed interacting with the cat. Speaking of which…

    The cat is hungry again.


  11. Bwah ha ha ha! This made me laugh for a good five minutes 🙂 And goodness, you get a lot of spam mail! That would drive me bonkers. I get maybe one piece of spam every couple of weeks that somehow passes through my filter and I hate it! (Then again, I have a separate email I give out if I ever suspect they might sell it or spam it.)

    Good luck with your edits, I’m sure it’ll be brilliant.

  12. Eh, sometimes you need a break. Currently I’m watching ‘The Bill’ (The *good* seasons, not the soapy ones) instead of finishing the chapter I’m meant to be finishing. I know where it goes. I know what happens. I know how it’s supposed to end.
    But sometimes you just need a bit of light relief.

  13. There’s an actual text adventure similar to this 🙂

    It’s called Violet. You are trying to write a thesis while being distracted by voices outside the door, the view outside the window, and the Internet. The narrator is the imaginary voice of your girlfriend threatening to leave you if you don’t finish your thesis.

    You have to overcome all of of these challenges and actually succeed in the action “>write”.

    Here’s the game in the Interactive Fiction Database:

    And a way to play online:

  14. YES! Been there, though minus the cat’s indoor contributions. Until this week, when the barn cat finally decided that, oh golly, indoors really WAS preferable to outdoors in wintry weather and haybales aren’t as comfortable as a couch, or an easy chair, or a bed, or right under someone’s feet so as to cause them guilt if they touch you with a foot.

  15. Damn, my shoulders scrunched up with stress just reading that.

  16. This was hilariously funny and also, sadly, what several people experience everyday. Hang in there and maybe hire a personal assistant? Good luck!

  17. LOL! Oh, the glamorous life of a writer, indeed.

    At least it’s not pitch dark. As long as the power stays on… (knock tree by-product). Though if you were eaten by a grue, at least you wouldn’t have to worry about the edits. (Good luck on them!)

  18. Send this to The New Yorker. They need a laugh.

    Seriously. Writer’s Digest, maybe. Somebody will buy this.

    This is as spot-on a parody of Zork. It brought me back to the UNC computer lab, 1982. Working on Apple II’s and learning Turtlegraphics when we’re not playing Adventure.

  19. Do you have a hidden camera in my office? 😉

    Thanks for the laugh!

  20. Oh, I just laughed and laughed! Soo true!! Thanks for sharing this.

  21. I remember that game!!!!

    Thanks for the memories! 🙂

  22. Does anybody remember what the name of the original game was?

    And I hope you got through the rest of that copyediting job… 🙂

  23. Susan: ‘Colossal Cave’, aka ‘Adventure’, was the very first.

  24. And here I’m picturing coding it up. Most of it works fine, though some of the human interactions are hard to put in…. I used to play both Colossal Cave and Zork (1,2,3).

  25. Hilarious! Bookmarking this to read in times of frustration.

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