Lisa, it's Patrick from Paulson Publishing. I wanted to thank you for submitting "The Duke's Ordeal" to us for consideration. Honestly, the first half of your story blew me away like no other piece of fiction has before. That's why I was so disappointed and confused, mainly confused, when the latter half of the story became multi-step word problems often requiring graph paper and an advanced understanding of applied mathematics.

Was there a specific reason why you made this choice? Because when I was reading about the Duke and his mistress bidding each other a possible final farewell with a furtive kiss under the train station's broken clock, I just wanted to be told what happened to them next. I didn't want to have to figure out whether the two would meet again in Marseille if the Duke's train left Paris at 8:36 AM traveling at 140 km/hr and the mistress' train left Paris at 10:22 AM traveling at 190 km/hr.

Why after so much beautiful prose and symbolism have the reader answer this question? Why stop a thrilling love story to test someone's concepts of time and speed? Why is that second train traveling so much faster than the first?

Lisa, there's a very good story in here, but it drastically loses focus after the Duke's cousin is revealed to be alive and only interested in how large an ant would have to be in order to lift the Empire State Building. All of the intrigue, the deceit, and the mystery is replaced by the integrals, the denominators, and the Mean Value Theorem. Then there's the ending. See, readers want endings with closure. I'm not sure if you wanted the Duke to die in the end or for him to survive and escape to Spain, but either would be better than how the current story ends with the number four.

At least I think that's how it ends. That's the answer I got to how many times the anarchist's pistol fired if he only fires when he counts a prime number and can count at a rate of two numbers a second and only has a 15 second window to shoot. You know, for an anarchist he sure follows a strict set of rules for firing his pistol, but I'm aware math requires a fair amount of suspending your disbelief to make sense.

It's true that great writers can get away with a lot of unconventional choices. Joyce dabbled with stream of consciousness. Faulkner dealt with inconsistent remembrances of the past through different narrators. Heck, Kafka didn't even write in English and somehow people let that slide. However, Lisa, I feel that the mandatory Venn diagram analysis and matrix multiplication only disrupt the story and muddle an already scattered plot. The numerous scatter plots didn't help either.

Ultimately, Paulson Publishing is very interested in acquiring "The Duke's Ordeal," but we want you to make some revisions in order to makes things more clear. Whether that means completely removing the math problems or focusing solely on them and resubmitting to our textbook division, that's up to you. We never want to get in the way of a writer's vision, no matter how baffling it may be.

Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you soon, Lisa. I hope your response won't require me to use a calculator, but I'm guessing it will.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock.