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The Book I Will Write #71: Love is a Red Tomato

flemingTHE BOOK I WILL WRITE by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. THE BOOK I WILL WRITE is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. Fleming has been exchanging emails with an editorial assistant and a senior editor at Knopf, as well as with an agent. He’s been kicked out of his apartment, and was living at the library following a kidnapping episode with The Zeppelin Society. Fleming recruited a library memoir group to help him confront his would-be killer. After a tense showdown, Fleming disappeared, seemingly kidnapped again by The Zeppelin Society.

#71 LOVE IS A RED TOMATO

Dear Mr. Fleming,

I hope this finds you well.

Good news! The restored Mrs. Shill (that’s right, we re-tied the knot, tighter this time!) and I have landed a contract for our tomato recipe book! The book will be published by Dirt Visions, the new spirituality and organic cooking imprint of Simon & Schuster. We expanded the book’s scope to tell the story of our rekindled romance. We’re calling it Love is a Red Tomato: The Illustrated Guide to Romance, Sexuality, and Cooking after 60.

Mature romance and organic cooking are hot sellers these days, and Love is a Red Tomato delivers this double whammy like nobody’s business. Sir, this book is hot, hot, hot—even when the recipe calls for an hour of fridge time. (Because what can a pair of lovebirds do during an hour of fridge time? Cue the soft-focus illustrations, my friend!)

And with our six-figure advance, we can finally remodel the apartment, starting with the new kitchen/bedroom. Who wants to haul the old bones out of bed just to turn off the oven? Problem solved. And why separate the basic human needs of food and sexuality? Okay, some point to hygiene issues. We’ve solved that problem, too, with a new line of luxury disposable kitchen mitts we call Condomitts. “Add zest with Condomitts!”

The book is only the first in a series. We’re considering squash next. Then beets. They say the market’s saturated with potato books, but Mrs. Shill and I have some fresh ideas that will shake up the industry. We’re suddenly on the cutting edge of the mature erotic cooking field. Pun as you will!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak of the downside to this. Sorry to say, I can no longer serve as your humble and admiring agent, the champion of your work. The truth is, I no longer have time for agenting, and I’m giving it up altogether. It hasn’t made me a decent living in twenty years. Still, I thank you for giving me hope again, and I owe you some gratitude, too, for the role you played in bringing me and Mrs. Shill back together. We’ll think of you sometimes as we cook in our new bed.

I still believe in you, and I hereby make it my final act as a professional agent to opine that your book is a surefire winner, especially after Love is a Red Tomato raises public awareness about the virtues of organic tomato farming. And when you throw Michael Jackson into the mix? What could be better?

Wishing you the best in life and writing.

Yours,

Martin Shill
Author and Husband

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About John Henry Fleming

John Fleming's stories have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, and Carve, among others. He is the author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel, and Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary. He teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the founder and advisory editor for Saw Palm: florida literature and art. He blogs at johnhenryfleming.com.

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