Problems with the Press

Betty and I were nearing the end of the writing process, and I felt that we needed one more chapter, something about her adopted daughter. I knew the story of how Betty had seen the daughter’s unborn spirit during her experience, and how the proof of that daughter’s identity was made clear to her later in this life. I thought it was special. Powerful. Betty wrote a beautiful chapter and faxed it to me. The story brought tears to my eyes. It was the perfect ending for the book.

Artwork was already being prepared. We sent the manuscript off to four professional editors that we trusted. All four edited manuscripts came back to us, and Betty and I incorporated the changes (mostly word choices) that we felt belonged in the book. It was nearing Halloween by then, and we hoped to release the book the week before Thanksgiving, in three weeks. It would be very tight.

We sent the typeset book and artwork to the press and waited. A week later we got a phone call. Something had happened at the press that had never happened before: the brass plate used for stamping gold foil onto the jacket had broken. Cracked in half. They would have to send back East for another customized plate. Time was running out. We authorized the extra expense to fly the plate out to Salt Lake City as soon as it was prepared. The next week, the presses ran again. And we got a phone call again. The plate had cracked in half again. Something they had never seen before. Brass doesn’t crack. We authorized a new plate, and new next-day shipping, and waited another week.

The press called: they were about to run the jacket through the foil stamping machine again. Those of us in the office waited for the next phone call—whatever it would entail. The next day, the call came: the press had run all night—no problems whatsoever.

The next day Stan closed our office door and sat me down. He had a strange, ashen look on his face and seemed hesitant to speak. Then he told me what he had done. Knowing that the press was going to give it a third try, and knowing that if it failed we would almost certainly have to go to a new press, which would push our release date to well after Christmas, he had driven up to the press, feeling impressed to do something unusual. He drove around behind the press (it’s a very large building, probably taking up a couple of acres of ground), raised his arm to the square, and pronounced a priesthood blessing upon the press, its people, and, of course, its machinery. He also felt impressed to cast the Adversary away. Then the word came back that night—all was running smoothly. But from the moment he pronounced the blessing to that moment in our office, he had been unsure that what he had done was appropriate—or perhaps more correctly, he felt it had been inspired, and thus appropriate, but so unusual that he wondered if he could have possibly have gotten things wrong.

I smiled, relieved. From the pallor on his face, I had imagined woes aplenty, loved ones killed in an accident, devastating illness, personal bankruptcy, or worse, company bankruptcy. But no, it was just an unusual blessing. By this time all the jackets and covers had been stamped, and the threat was behind us. I might have said something about Mormon’s speech on discerning good from evil, that things that produced good fruits were therefore good, and I thanked him. In fact, I wished that I had thought of it. I wished I had been so inspired. But perhaps Stan’s faith, good and pure, was what was required at that moment.

The night before the text of the book was published, I received a phone call from Betty. She had discussed matters with Stan and decided to include my name as the co-author of the book. She had already asked Stan to call the press and make the change on the title page. I was stunned. As per my vow to God, I had not asked for this, or anything like it. Would allowing my name inside the book, rather than “on it,” be a denial of my vow? I hardly had time to consider that, as the call was very short. All I remember saying is, “Thank you.” It was a gift Betty had not needed to give me. It was not expected at all. Embraced By The Light was, and is, her book. In many ways, she is Embraced By The Light. The gift of “co-author” changed my life, especially the trajectory of my career, and it speaks to the generosity of this very good woman.

The books came off the press, as hoped for, the week before Thanksgiving. As we began delivering them to stores up and down the Wasatch Front—twos and threes, fives and tens—we did not know that one of the owners of the company had decided on his own to start running an ad on several radio stations in the area. The ad sported the sound of a heart monitor, beep, beep, beep, then the very loud sound of it flat-lining, BEEEEEEEEP. Over this came a man’s voice: “On November 19, 1973 Betty Eadie went to the hospital for routine surgery. But something happened, and BETTY EADIE DIED.” The sound of the machine flat-lining was so loud that hospitals around the state had people scrambling every time the ad came on over a visitor’s transistor radio. It really got people’s attention. As it so happened, thousands of people along the Wasatch Front must have read the photocopied notes by Jane Barfuss (Betty had heard from readers in all fifty states by then), because thousands of people went to the stores to buy the book. We got irate phone calls from bookstores the next day: “Why didn’t you warn us? Send more! A lot more! Hundreds more!”

Which we did, and our 20,000 books were gone in a few weeks. Fortunately, right after we saw the response to the book, we ordered another printing. And this time the plate did not break. In fact, we never had another problem with that press on any other book we printed.
But a new problem was brewing—bigger, in some ways, than any problem so far.

Getting the Rights

In the flurry of a long weekend, I flew to Seattle and interviewed Betty for fifteen to twenty hours. Everything was recorded except the parts where she told me to turn the recorder off. Some things were too sacred for the public. Then, for the next six weeks, every night after work I would go home, eat, then go back to the office and work with the transcripts of the interviews, as well as her previous manuscript, and any other details she gave me over the phone. Bit by bit, week by week, we created the account now known as Embraced By The Light.

Almost immediately I knew why I had been prompted to fast each week for the past year. The growing sensitivity to the Spirit over that time became a blessing to me now. Perhaps it had even prepared me to receive the answer to my prayer about how to find Betty. Perhaps it had helped soften the hearts of others to allow me the privilege of working on it. Perhaps this unseen, almost undefinable sensitivity would help me work with Betty, a deeply spiritually woman who could speak on subjects, and at a level, that most others in my experience could not. Every night we wrote, and every day we spoke, and gradually a new voice emerged, a blend of our two voices making the perfect voice for Embraced. Of course, Betty Eadie was its owner and creator. Everything came from her. Not a single word was written without her consent. She has often called herself a she-bear protecting her experience, and there were times when I felt the wrath of that bear. It was her perfect experience, her patience over 19 years, and her love for Christ and his work that led to the creation of this near perfect book.

At the same time, Aspen Books was rearranging its publishing schedule. Until this point, we had only published books for the Latter-day Saint market. We now created a new company, Gold Leaf Press, for this book and any others we might choose to publish to the world. We got the okay to begin working on the book during the first week of September. Both publishing companies wanted it out before Christmas—a difficult challenge. Betty and I worked six days a week, and Stan and the others worked full-time to prepare the marketing and publicity groundwork. Our sales director, Georgia Carpenter, immediately felt a kinship with Betty and began letting stores know that we would have an extremely popular book in their stores before Thanksgiving. We were still a fairly new company (barely two years old), and our word that something would sell well was largely taken with a grain of salt. But Georgia and Stan persisted, fully believing in the work and the promises that Betty and I both were making. Our company had never sold over 10,000 copies of a book before (The LDS Speakers Sourcebook, over two years), but now we were telling the press and bindery (Publishers Press and Mountain States Bindery), to prepare for a printing of 20,000. We were working on artwork, marketing, pre-sales, and even editing while the writing continued. It was a work of faith in more ways than one.

Of course, we were preparing only to sell the book in national chains and independent bookstores—no LDS stores allowed. Then something changed.

I was lying awake in bed in the small hours, trying to decompress after writing until midnight, when a thought hit me: I know this book will be a bestseller, but the other publishing company doesn’t really seem to support it, or perhaps even want it. The owner there, my old boss, had been expressing misgivings about it recently, mostly concerning its reception among Latter-day Saints—and especially among Latter-day Saint leaders. I saw the same possibilities but dismissed them, as I knew that I had been led to Betty and had clearly been shown that the book would help increase faith in Christ and love in the world. What greater purpose could a book have? Mormon said that a man (or woman) should be judged by their works:

For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also. For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing… Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift. For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil. Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. (Moro. 7:5-14.)


I had heard the details of Betty’s experience and knew it to be good, very good. Anything after that, I assumed, was of this world and of little merit. Thus, I did not share the other publisher’s concerns, at all. But there was another issue, a complication that I hadn’t yet resolved.

While writing the first page of the book, after returning from interviewing Betty, I knew that the book should not be written to Latter-day Saint audiences. A feeling, soft and gentle, but clear and unmistakable, told me that the book should be written for general audiences. Somewhat surprisingly, an image came to mind of a 40-something woman with a beer in her hand watching a sit-com on TV. I felt that this was who the Lord wanted us to reach, along with millions of others who would dismiss the book if they felt it was biased toward a single church. I elected to follow that feeling, and write for that woman, rather than heed the other publisher’s call to write for the members of the Church. That had been a few weeks before this night, now as I lay awake, knowing the other publisher would likely reject the new book and cancel our contract, whereupon he would likely publish the smaller, less complete manuscript in his collection of near death stories.

What to do?

An idea struck me. We should offer him cash for all the rights to the book. A lot of cash, so much that he wouldn’t dare turn it down. A figure entered my head. A large figure. More than we had. More than he could possibly turn down.

I took the idea to Stan and the five owners. Not all of them were as certain about the book’s future as I was, but some were on board. The president of the company said he had been having dreams about the book, that it would do much good, that it would sell extremely well, and he liked the idea of owning the book outright. But where to find the money?

The president decided to borrow some of it by mortgaging a property he had, and dear Georgia, bless her heart, went to her family, told them how great the book was going to be, and offered them a rather high interest rate on any loan they might make. Incredibly, they did it.

So, a couple of weeks later, with the money in hand, I drove 45 miles to the other publisher and gave him the rather large check. No, the very large check. Far more, no doubt, than he expected to earn from the book itself. It was a Saturday morning, but there still seemed to be a full staff on hand. His wife was even there, perhaps to make sure the transaction went on as called for. His lawyer had prepared the contract. We both signed it, and I gave him the check. It was over. We owned all the rights and could prepare the book as we saw fit.

Guided by the Light

I need to back up. Over the years certain “experiences” had come to me regarding the other side. Sometimes they were dreams, sometimes random understandings, sometimes unusual sights that left me humbled and, almost as often, puzzled. I won’t go into detail except to say that they gave me an idea of what the other side was like. By the time I was eighteen I had learned by hard experience that my priesthood leaders were as baffled by these experiences as I was—nay, more so, as I knew the experiences tended to lift my spirits and bring joy, but to my leaders they seemed to portend trouble and suspicion; so, like young Joseph, perhaps, I learned not to bother my spiritual leaders with spiritual things.

When I scanned the papers, I saw that they were notes taken by a Jane Barfuss at a lecture given by a Betty Eadie, two women I had never heard of. Betty had evidently spoken at a library, and Jane had taken these single-spaced notes. The lecture seemed to be about Betty’s near death experience. At that point, I only had a passing interest in near death experiences, but something on the first page caught my eye, and I sat down and started reading. She spoke of inanimate objects in the spirit world being imbued with intelligence, of a stream cascading down a hill that created audible music as it bounced and splashed, with each random drop producing its own tone as it flew through the air, which perfectly harmonized with the greater, ever-evolving music of the larger stream.

I was astonished. I knew this was true, because I had seen similar things—but I had never heard another soul speak of it. My own efforts at sharing my experiences had produced, at best, quiet misgivings, but this woman was telling an entire audience at a public library about sacred things. I read on, throwing time to the wind, and learned of Betty’s death in a hospital after surgery, whereupon she went to heaven, where, in fact, she was embraced by the Creator of Heaven and Earth, Jesus Christ. Then, after what seemed like months, she was sent back. She had been dead for about two hours in our time.

After reading about each detail in her experience, I would stop and ponder, comparing it to my own limited experiences. When I finished, some two hours later, I had one desire: to help this woman put her experience in a book and publish it to the world. A few days earlier, I’d had a dream in which my father, who was still living at the time, said to me: “Every great thing accomplished in this world is done through passion.” Well, I had a passion to do this work, but there was a problem—I didn’t know who she was or where she lived. In the entire text there was no mention of her home. So, I knew what I had to do.

I took the notes upstairs to my room, closed the door, and knelt down by my bed. In a prayer full of desire, I told Heavenly Father that I had a passion to help this woman create a book from her experience. I told him that I thought the book would do much good, that it could help heal hearts and wounded spirits—but I didn’t know where she lived or how to contact her. I didn’t even know where the notes had come from that I had read that morning. (It turned out that they had come from our 12-year-old daughter, who had brought them home from Young Women’s the night before. Her advisor knew that I published books and thought they might be something I would be interested in. But even she didn’t know where the original notes had come from.) As I was praying, a thought came to me: Make a vow that I would not seek to have my name on the book or ask for any royalties. This would be easy, I thought, since I only wanted to be a part of the effort. I didn’t want any credit or money from it. I just wanted to be a part of this wonderful gift to the world. So I made the promise in very direct, simple terms. Then, before I could say another word, I saw an image in my mind of a library several miles away from our home. Instantly I knew that if I went there, I would discover where she lived. There were other libraries closer to us, but that was the library I was supposed to go to. I thanked Heavenly Father for this knowledge, when another understanding came to me, telling me that the book we would produce would be the best-selling book in the world. Also, that it would increase faith in Jesus Christ and cause millions around the world to be filled with his love. This knowledge was absolute and could not be shaken.

I ended my prayer, picked up the notes, and went in to the office, two hours late. Immediately I made copies of the notes and distributed them to everybody in the office, including the owners of the company, then I said I would be back soon, that I had to go to the library.

When I went to the Murray Library, I had no idea how I would learn anything about Betty Eadie. Maybe I would find something in the card catalog. Maybe a worker would know something about her. I walked through the large glass doors and almost ran into a large A-frame easel with a dozen atlases on it. The display caught my attention, and I thought, “Oh no, do I have to look through all these atlases?” All were atlas of the world, except one, in the upper right corner. That one was an atlas of the state of Washington. I thought, well, I might as well start with the most specific one, then go from there. I pulled it down, took it over to a counter, and opened it up to a random page. My eyes immediately fell on the word “Burien,” and I knew that’s where she lived. It seemed I had seen that word in the notes, though I couldn’t recall. But I was sure that I had found her town. I closed the atlas, put it back on the easel, and walked out. I hadn’t been there more than a minute, maybe less than thirty seconds.

I went back to the office and called information in Burien, Washington. (This was pre-internet days—August 1992.) I asked for a Betty Eadie and was given a number. Hallelujah, she did live in Burien—I mean, how many Betty Eadies could there be in Burien, Washington? I called the number and had a short, interesting conversation.

“Hello, I’m calling for Betty Eadie.”

“This is she.”

With bated breath: “I just read some notes about a lecture you gave at a library, and I…”

“Oh, I’m sorry. You have the wrong number. I think you want the other Betty Eadie. I get calls for her all the time. Actually, if you can wait, I can get her number for you.”

While she went to get the number for the correct Betty Eadie, I said a thousand thanks that this good woman had thought to write down the correct number. If she hadn’t, I didn’t know what I would have done. She came back and gave me the number, which I carefully wrote on my pad on my desk, then I thanked her profusely and hung up.

Then I called the right number.

She answered after two or three rings.


“Hi, my name is Curtis Taylor. I’m the managing editor of publishing company called Aspen Books, and I just read the notes Jane Barfuss wrote about your lecture at the library.”
She was silent.

“I’m calling because I want to help you put your experience into a book. I’ve written a few books, and if you need any help, I can assist you. I won’t ask for any royalties or even for my name to be on the cover. I just want to help. I just want to be a part of this project. I have a passion to do this work.”

She was silent a few more moments, then she said something like, “What took you so long?”


“I’ve been waiting for your call for nineteen years.” She didn’t sound pleased.

“Well, uh, I had to make copies of the notes for the other people at the publishing company, and then I had to find out where you lived, which was quite a wonderful experience, and then I called the wrong number, because as it turns out there’s another Betty Eadie in Burien, but she gave me your number, and then, right away, I called you. I promise.”

“I see.”

I explained again about the passion and great desire to be of help.

Still not sounding pleased, she said, “I just signed with another publisher.”

The world stopped. Dumbfounded, I found my voice and asked her who it was.

She gave me the name, and I became more dumbfounded. It was, remarkably—no, impossibly—the same man who had rejected my novel after paying for it. Of all the publishers in the world, why him? He had already admitted to making one mistake; could I possibly get him to make another and let me publish the book? I told Betty Eadie that I knew the man and would give him a call immediately.

I later learned why Betty was less than pleased. Some time after having her experience, she was told that she was to record it in a book and that a “young man” would call to help her. He would say, “I have a passion to do this work.” She actually heard him say it, so she would know what his voice sounded like in the future.

It turns out that my voice and this other man’s sound somewhat similar.

As with all great deceptions, the counterfeit came first.

I called the deceiver. He wasn’t in but would be back later that day. I got in the car and drove to his office, forty-five miles away.

I waited an hour. It turned out that he had been up my way. Whatever. I wanted answers. Did he have the rights to Betty Eadie’s story? He said he did. Did he want to give them to me? He said he did not. Did he want to sell them? He said he did not. He asked how my other book was going. I said it was doing fine, along with the other twenty or thirty I had published since, but I wanted to talk about Sister Eadie’s project. He said he couldn’t help me. I told him that if I could ever help him—with this book—I would gladly do so. I drove back to the office, where I called Betty and gave her the bad news—the man would not part with the rights.

Then I waited for a very strange three days, wherein I pondered the imponderables of agency and revelation. I still had the passion, but I didn’t have the rights to do anything with it. I tried to distract myself with my other work, which was going fine, but seemed rather run of the mill in comparison.

Three days later a phone call came. The other publisher was on the line. He’d been thinking about it. Would I like to assist in the project after all?

“Yes.” I managed not to yell it.

Very well, he said. (He often said very well, even when things were not very well, especially on my end of things.) Betty had written a short manuscript, which he had planned to incorporate into a selection of near death experiences, but now he was considering creating a separate book out of it, and would I be interested in interviewing her and enlarging the work with more details to make it a full-sized book?

“Yes,” Again in a moderate tone.

He said if I would do that, he would offer me the worldwide rights to the book, except for the LDS rights, which was all he was interested in. I said he didn’t have to do that, that I would work on the book in my spare time and do it for nothing. He said, no, he would prepare a contract which would give me the worldwide rights if I would do everything at my own expense, including flying up to interview her. (A clever man, he was keeping the costs down again—in all conditions. No matter what.) Then he added a caveat: He wanted the book written for Latter-day Saint audiences, which was the market he was most familiar with. I said sure.
I called Betty and told her the good news—I could help her create a book, and we could market it to the world outside the LDS market. I also told my employers: if I could interview her and help write the book at our expense, we would have the greater share of the worldwide rights. They agreed to bear the cost.

Small Miracles and Hard Work

A few months after beginning his new company, the investor called a few friends who also had an interest in publishing, for some reason, and they formed a new company, called Worldwide Publishers, which acquired Aspen Books, which had hired Stan to be its general manager.

A few months later I got a phone call inviting me to come in for an interview with the president of the new company. They needed an editor. Janet went with me, not trusting the vital interview to myself. It was a short interview, matter of fact, all business, few pleasantries, and I, or rather, we, were excused. A few days later I heard back.
No thank you.

Our money was running out. The credit card was still in my wallet, but we only wanted to use that for sure things, like publishing books that other publishing companies had rejected. But I was really determined to finish school (I was in my thirties), so we prayed, and I wrote my papers every night, and we waited for a miracle.
And it came.

A couple of weeks later Stan called and invited me to start work the next Monday.
The president who had rejected me had read The Invisible Saint and changed his mind. Something about “talent” and random humor and goofy characters. I didn’t ask any questions, and every day after school, I commuted up to the publishing company in Murray and edited for six hours a day, whereupon I went home and wrote papers until midnight or dawn. I continued to do all this, gratefully, for the next two years. Composite English programs take a long time, even if you do take 21 hours a semester, or 24, which I completed in my last semester.

About that same time, I felt impressed to do something unusual: I felt a strong but peaceful desire to begin fasting one day a week. I didn’t know why. Like most Latter-day Saints, I fasted on the first Sunday of each month and donated the money saved to the Church to give to the poor as our bishop and stake president saw fit. But this was different; it was not for anyone or anything in particular, just to help bring me a little closer to the Lord. So, without telling my wife or anyone at the office, I left home each Thursday morning without eating and didn’t eat again until dinner. No great experiences came from it at the time, but I knew that it was the right thing to do.

These were long, mostly contented days, when our house payment was current, our credit card balance was zero, and our family was expanding.

At work, I was doing my best to entice strong authors to write for us, not for the guys uptown or down the road. I did this by being sincere. I called Orson Scott Card and sincerely begged him to write a Christmas story for our Christmas anthology by and for Latter-day Saints. I wrote a letter to Senator Jake Garn, who had circumnavigated the globe in the Space Shuttle, and explained how we and only we could help him tell the world what he had learned from his experience—and why he also believed in God. The Gulf War had just begun, and after three days of talking to instructors at BYU, I came upon a young assistant professor by the name of Daniel C. Peterson, who was both smart and entertaining, and I implored him to explain the Arabic – Jewish conflict in terms that average Latter-day Saints could understand. Then I gave him a time-table that made him catch his breath; we needed the book in a hurry, as the war was threatening to end sooner than later. All of these became successful books, and so did many others. And then one morning, soon after I had graduated, finally, from BYU, I was walking out the door to go to work when, for some reason, I turned and saw a small stack of papers on an end table in our living room. The six pages stapled at the top would change my life.

The older children were at school, and Janet had taken the younger children to the club where she worked out. So, I was alone. I was also late for work. But, again for some reason, I was concerned that somebody had left those six pages behind, so I went back to check them out.

Starting with Aspen Books

Starting with Aspen Books

Six years passed from my leaving Randall to when I was invited to join Aspen. During that time I wrote The Invisible Saint, which has a most peculiar history.

I left Randall for personal reasons. To protect the repentant guilty, chief among whom I was, I will not go into details. But I will add that I was most surprised when my former employer called and asked me to write a novel. I had left his employ with the understanding that my limited abilities were actually more limited than I had thought, so his call offering me an advance for a novel about a Latter-day Saint who goes invisible, both metaphorically and literally, baffled me. But, not being of independent means, I accepted the offer and went to work. It would be my first novel by myself; ergo, without Todd Hester and his towering creativity.

The idea wasn’t mine, but I knew that I had to make it mine if I wanted any chance of success. A local newspaper, The Modesto Bee, had been publishing some of my humorous sketches, and they seemed to be well received, so I chose to write the prologue in a similar vein of humor. I sensed that the tongue-in-cheek humor wasn’t the tone the publisher wanted (wise and somber), but it worked for me, so I went with it. The prologue basically wrote itself in an afternoon, then I turned to remainder of the story. As the story darkened and deepened, so did the tone, and soon I was lost in a miasma of conflicting voices and helter-skelter plot twists. So, I took some time off. About a year. Which was good for me because the story seemed to write itself when I came back to it. Unfortunately, the year off was not so good for the publisher, who had gone bankrupt meanwhile.

One of the former owners started his own publishing company, and I felt an obligation to give him the finished novel. He read it, I suppose, and promptly rejected it. I suggested he reconsider; after all, I would apply the cash advance to his new company, so he wouldn’t owe me any royalties for a while. But further discussions gave me the impression he wouldn’t publish it unless I paid all costs of doing so myself (which is how his new company was doing things). Well, I thought that sounded a might generous on my account, so I bid him good day. My still faithful and patient wife and I had somehow just qualified for a credit card, so, extending her patience even further, she allowed me to max it out in publishing the book, which I did, with my future partner, Stan Zenk, who managed a book distribution company at the time. We paid for artwork, a quick edit, and ran to a printer and binder, who quickly emptied the card. When the book came out, It looked wonderful, magnificent, but nobody knew it existed. So Stan went to the stores, pleading and dickering and cajoling, and soon we had some orders. Then we had a few reorders.

There is a little known quirk in the publishing industry. Because stores can return books to the publisher within ninety (90) days for full credit, they don’t want to pay the publisher for ninety (90) days. So they don’t. In the meantime, we were selling more and more copies of our little book and were starting to hear anecdotes of people actually reading it, and in rare instances, enjoying it. So Stan kept selling, and I kept making payments on my credit card (Janet was teaching aerobics and I was slinging pizzas at Dominoes). When the glorious day came to be paid what our little company was due, the company for whom Stan worked full-time, and who was officially distributing the book, decided we could wait a little longer. Now, Stan and I were good friends, so things became a mite awkward, but we continued on, figuring the payday would come soon enough. And, as I recall, it did—in part. And eventually Stan and I both began to penetrate the fact that the big company he worked for was doing no better than the little company we were now giving life support to. Just as we weren’t getting paid by them, they weren’t getting paid by the stores. Or so they claimed. So, in one of the more difficult decisions of my life, I pulled the book from that company and gave it to you know who—the former owner of Randall Book who had rejected the novel, after having first paid an advance for it. Things were getting confusing.

Now, one of the great lessons this man had learned from his earlier bankruptcy was to keep costs down. At all costs. In all conditions. No matter what. And as a result he was able to pay his bills. It was a refreshing concept. About two weeks after he got the book, he called me:
“Hello, Curtis?”


“You know that book you asked me to distribute for you?”

“Oh, yes, the one you paid me for in advance.”

“Mmm, maybe I made a mistake. The fact is, we just got an order for twelve hundred more copies, from a single account.”

“Wow. That seems like a lot.”

“It is. Like I said, maybe I made a mistake.”

“You mean you should have published it?”

He was silent for a long moment. “Well, anyway, don’t expect your payment for ninety (90) days—you know how these things work.”

I was beginning to learn.

We hung up on good terms, for at least the next ninety days, whereupon he paid his bill—yes, a very refreshing concept—and he continued to pay his bill every thirty (30) days thereafter (an even more refreshing concept). In a few months Janet and I had paid off our credit card, and over the next year or so had made enough money to enable us to move back to Utah, where we bought a house. (The Invisible Saint eventually sold its first printing.) Of course, we had to go back to Utah so I could go back to school again. Which was the last time I did so, which was when I was put on academic probation, which motivated me to actually finish the darn thing. (Things had now been reversed: Instead of quitting school when I got a book published, I now went back to school, and stayed there until the eternal thing was done.)

I wasn’t the only one who changed companies. A successful investor wanted to start a new LDS publishing company, for some reason, and he hired Stan to manage it. That was the wisest decision he could have made, because Stan had also learned to keep costs down at all costs. In all conditions. No matter what. Plus, he was extremely talented. Plus, he still liked me. The new company was called Aspen Books.

Curtis Taylor, Relearning Old Lessons

While pursuing my degree over those 18 arduous years, I had been obliged to work from time to time. After mastering the craft of janitorial work, I applied for, and was rejected by two publishing houses as a part-time, temporary, unpaid editor. (A good friend of mine said there are two kinds of people—the humble and those who are going to be. Somehow I occupied both categories simultaneously.) Eventually I talked my way into a part-time, temporary, low-paid position as an assistant warehouseman at Randall Book Company, in Orem, Utah. The employers there made it clear that they would tolerate me only until the Christmas rush was over, so I began to scan the premises for other duties to make me less disposable.

While wandering through one of the empty offices (there were several, as the firm was not on the most solid of financial footings), I found a stack of manuscripts. Actually several stacks, all thigh-high and leaning toward OSHA-like hazards. I naively asked what the thousands and thousands of pages falling over themselves were. After my reprimand for not being in the warehouse where I temporarily belonged, I was informed that the stacks were dozens and dozens of manuscripts that had been submitted to the firm for possible publishing. I naively asked why they hadn’t been returned after being read. The look I received was one I will not soon, or possibly ever, forget. They had not yet been read, I was informed, because the owners of the company were businessmen, not readers, and since the company’s finances were actually more precarious than those Pisa-like stacks in the abandoned office, that’s where the people who knew anything had to spend their time—to wit, juggling bills, not relaxing with some two-bit LDS novel.

Seeing the picture more clearly, I proposed a solution: I would read the manuscripts, inform the august businessmen of any quality writing that may have snuck in to the piles (which were growing daily), and send the rest back with kind regrets. I almost said I would do it for free, just to endear my sorry self to these fine men, when a strange lapse of practicality overtook me. In the end, my wife and I read them at night, for something less than minimum wage, and, behold, one gem after another began sparkling before our eyes.

Over the next several weeks we found a future bestseller, at least in the Latter-Day Saint genre, The Worth of a Soul, which is still available some 36 years later (alas, now from Deseret Book). We found novels that would stretch into multiple printings. We found young, hungry authors who actually had important things to say. In the end, we found the salvation of the company, and by the following Christmas we had five bestsellers, including a wildly entertaining game called Celestial Pursuit, which alone would bring over a million dollars into the company’s soon-to-be perpendicular accounts. And, by and by, with more coaxing and pleading and sacrificing, I earned myself a near permanent promotion to “Assistant Editor.” Whom, exactly, I was assisting was a mystery, of course, as I could never find the actual Editor, but such niceties were of trivial concern—I had a job.

For a while.

Eventually, with more Latter-Day Saint bestsellers under my belt, I was promoted to Managing Editor, though, again, whom I was “managing” was a mystery, as the other offices were still empty. But life was good, so, of course . . .

I quit school again.

Which meant that I needed humbling, which meant that I would soon be out of a job, which meant that I would be groveling for admittance to BYU again. I say “groveling” because BYU’s academic standards had the annoying wont of going up, making it harder for dilettantes like me to get in, and by the time I squeezed into school for the last time it was with the stigma of “academic probation.”

(Sorry about going back and forth in time, but this is a blog, and all blogs I have read seem to make an art of this. Also noteworthy, and also going back or forward in time—I have lost track—I was the very last person in the world to graduate from BYU under their old “General Education Program.” This program was discontinued sometime in the 80s, and the school gave students ten years to graduate under that program or be forced to matriculate into the new program. I graduated ten years later, to the day.)



But, as I have said, repeatedly, I eventually graduated (though not until I was managing editor of another publishing company, which, remarkably, did employ other editors), and I was poised for a wild ride into the firmament, and into the depths of ecclesiastical contumely—indeed, into the strangest and most wonderful and worst and best and most enigmatically quixotic journey I could have ever imagined.

Next: My infamous journey to a little fame and a lot of trouble.

Curtis Taylor, The Beginning

“Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.”

—LL Cool J

As I write this I am 64 years old. I have known highs and lows few people ever experience. I have lived and I have died. I have seen heaven’s brilliance and have walked hell’s depths. I know the joy of truth and the stench of deception. I have tasted the false pride of the world and have felt the burn of its stripes. I know utter joy and utter hopelessness. I once stood on the mountaintop and was feted with the ether of praise. Then I plumbed the depths of devastating illness, of failure, of terrible loss, and said, “I am Job.” But now, with the help of God, family, and a few good friends, I am back. But like the man said, “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.”

May 22, 2020
I’ll start at the beginning. I was born in Japan. My father was an officer in the United States Army during the Occupation, and he was privileged to have his wife with him part of that time—an important part for me, as it turned out. We lived in Beppu, which is like Japan’s Las Vegas, but I was born in Fukuoka, at, as I recall, a drab army hospital with few amenities and even fewer toys. Fast forwarding, we came to the States before I could talk in either language, which left me a bit confused, and we eventually ended up at BYU, where my father graduated. After getting his teaching credential at Chico State, we moved to Modesto, California, where I was raised.

One note on the confusion of my birth and quick transfer to the States. I was born on February 19. Now, any astrologer worth his or her salt knows that this is a cusp day: February 18 is the close of Aquarius, and February 19 is beginning of Pisces. Of course none of this mattered much to me over the years because I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (formerly known as Mormons) and had an inbred aversion to signs and such (Genesis 1:14 notwithstanding). But one day while ruminating on the confusion and addlement that has plagued me since my trip to America, I realized that if I had been born where I was raised, in California, I would have been an Aquarius, because it was still the 18th in that fine state. So, in Japan I’m a Pisces, but in America I’m an Aquarius. Who can handle such an existential conflict? Certainly not a three-month-old boy who barely knows enough kanjis to write his name. In that moment of epiphany I realized that “It is not my fault.” Let confusion spiral forth from me, let foolishness spew from my pen; let “bizarre” be newly defined by my words and deeds—still, It Is Not My Fault. I am the product of an arbitrary International Dateline, of unwise travels, of signs and wonders beyond my power to control. Thus, you may read and find fault, you may snicker at my errant “wisdom,” you may mock my foolishness but just remember, it is not my fault, and, as you well know, greater is the crime of not forgiving another’s sins, especially those of a simple man riddled by the vagaries of the universe.

Anyway, back to something I could control. Although I seemed to have some limited facility for writing in my early years, I had no desire whatsoever to pursue it. (I once got a D- in Creative Writing—and only got that because the teacher, one Miss Nicholson, was the picture of forbearance and generosity.) Then, when I was 17, a spiritual experience changed my course. Although I didn’t want to write any more than necessary, I felt that I was supposed to, so I began studying the craft, partly by viewing musicals and partly by reading scriptures. The next year, I went to BYU on a track scholarship (sprints and hurdles), then served a mission to Japan, where I was a Pisces again, in the mid-70s. After returning home, I resumed my education and embarked on a composite degree in English. A composite degree consists of both a major and minor in the same subject. In my last two semesters I had on average one paper due each morning. That’s when I learned to write fast, though not necessarily well.

During this time I also met Janet Scott, on the BYU women’s track team, and we were married within a year (April 6, 1979) in the Oakland Temple. She also ran sprints, and long jumped (20 feet). Although I had a respectable mark on the Top Ten record board in the Fieldhouse, Janet was the real athlete in the family, as she was ranked 5th in the United States in the indoor 60-meter dash when we married. (Another interesting fact is that we are both the oldest of eight children, both have five brothers and two sisters, who came nearly in the same order, and we both had brothers born to our parents two years before we were married. Also, we ran the same events in high school and college—sprints and jumps. We may have other uncanny similarities, but I have been too skittish to research the subject.

A year before our marriage, I had, quite by random, been roomed with one Todd Hester, an engineering student, who is undoubtedly the funniest person I have ever known. As it turned out, he also wanted to write, so we began working on an adventure novel for boys. It was called The Not-So Private Eyes and was published by Randall Books before the end of our sophomore years. Combining Todd’s creativity and humor with my ability to encourage him, made us a good, if unequal, team. He was truly the brains of the operation, and I was the lucky one to grab onto his coattails.

Getting published at an early age was both a blessing and a curse. It was nice to know that we weren’t altogether misguided in our attempts, but it gave me false hope. I thought we had arrived, that I could quit school and write full-time. But, alas, as soon as I dropped out of school, the royalties dried up, and I was working as a janitor back in Modesto. Needless to say, I hurried back to BYU, where I resumed both my studies and athletic career, where I managed to stay most of another year before another book got published and I dropped out again. I was writer, after all. I didn’t need homework and tests and term papers. Unfortunately, I was not a successful writer. Although our books received some nice reviews in library journals (where perhaps five or ten people glanced at the innocent pages), and although Todd and I had been invited to sign books alongside Walter Cronkite and Diane Keaton at the ABA convention in Dallas, Texas (American Booksellers Association), we were, again, financial failures. Some bookstores said our books were good enough to be successful, but unfortunately we had chosen to write them just when video games were beginning to rage across the land, consuming every self-respecting boy’s time and energy, not to mention hopes and dreams. Poor judgment on our part, I guess.

So, I went back to school, again, had another stint on the track team (my coaches were the epitome of patience), and I eventually passed a few more classes before mistakenly getting published again and trying the same old trick.

By following this course of action, college became the longest 18 years of my life, and I graduated (whew!) At the tender age of 36, with a number of books to my credit, a faithful and patient wife at my side, and four children under my feet (especially when trying to write). My track career had long since dried up, along with the coaches’ goodwill, and my mark on the Top-Ten board in the 400 meter hurdles had finally fallen off the board like a withered leaf from its branch. But the winds of change were blowing, and success like I couldn’t have imagined was sneaking up on me.