“Where the fuck has your author gone?”
Michelle sighed as she looked up from the manuscript she’d been trying to edit since she got in that morning. All she wanted to do was get this one manuscript completed before she got home, for a change, instead of staying up until midnight. It was heading toward lunch, and she’d barely made a dent. She glanced at the desk clock, half hidden by stacks of manuscripts, galleys, and review copies.
Senior editor at Faraday Publishing might be her dream job, but the actual work was a slog.
She took a deep breath, focusing on the current emergency. “How can I help you, Pam?”
Pam the Publicist stood over her. In the year that they’d worked together, Michelle had noticed that the woman was often pissed, or at least irritated. But now Pam was so angry, she was shaking. Her short, red-tipped gold hair stuck straight up, like she’d been tearing at it with both hands.
“You can help me by getting your special snowflake in line,” Pam snarled.
“Which snowflake?” Michelle responded, thinking of her current list of authors. Sterling Knight was an old-school, hard-core sci-fi writer who was generally a pain in the ass about publicity. Phil Geunther was an up-and-coming epic fantasy writer who needed equally epic amounts of hand-holding and ego-stroking. There were plenty of options.
Before Pam could answer, Michelle’s phone buzzed, signaling an incoming call from Ted, one of the best literary agents in the business. He’d been hounding her for feedback on a controversial proposal he wanted to start shopping for the past few weeks. He’d been nudging her with texts and calls more often, since he wanted it out by the end of the week.
Ted also happened to be her husband. But since he never called her during work hours in his spousal capacity, she didn’t feel too guilty hitting “ignore.” She pushed a wayward strand of black hair out of her eyes—stick straight, a legacy from her Filipina mother—and frowned, realizing that she’d forgotten to put any product in this morning. She’d been in a hurry to get to the office, and honestly, to avoid Ted, who had seemed more and more irritated with her lately. She just didn’t have the time for it. She’d have to wait until Pam was finished with her rant before straightening her ponytail and getting herself organized.
But damn, she hated looking disheveled. It seemed to spill over into everything else in her life. And her life was disheveled enough right now, thanks.
Pam crossed her arms. “Aditi Sodhi. You want her book to hit the list, remember? So does Gwen, after all the money we spent on it.”
Now Michelle focused like a laser. “What’s going on with Aditi’s book? I thought things were going well! What happened?” She mentally scrolled through the strategy marketing had presented to her, the one she’d greenlit. “We should be getting the starred review in PW, and a good write-up in Library Journal. I thought all those ARCs got sent out. The damn thing launches in June! Did the . . .”
“Would I be bugging you if I fucked up?” Pam interrupted. No, this is all on your girl.”
Michelle winced. Everybody knew Aditi’s book was Michelle’s baby. It was her biggest acquisition, and the series was one of the biggest buys in the publisher’s history. There was a lot riding on this—for her, for the marketing team, and for the publisher. “Okay, what is she doing?”
“It’s what she’s not doing,” Pam said. “I got her into the diversity special week of io9, I got her personal essays on Jezebel and Bustle, and a bunch of guest posts for some great sci-fi sites. Fucking Den of Geek stuff. Maybe even a book pick from Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy book club. That means Aditi needs to give me content. She’s delivered nothing, and she is totally MIA!”
Michelle felt her stomach knot with tension, but kept her face impassive. Good thing she’d worn her “stay Zen” pale jade twinset today. Hopefully it projected calm. “She’ll get you something. I’ll talk to her.”
“I can’t have her vanish on me! You know that.” Pam’s eyes flashed behind her gunmetal-gray glasses, glinting with a promise of retribution if she were dicked around. “I need it by the end of the week, latest. And that isn’t one of my usual padding-for-lollygagging deadlines. That’s a drop-dead-latest-or-they-tell-me-to-fuck-off deadline.”
Pam leaned her knuckles on the desk, close enough that Michelle could see her tiny nose ring. “When it comes to this book, we’re all in, you know that. But if she doesn’t hit it big with this, my head’s going to roll, not yours. Not at first, anyway. Make sure Aditi fucking plays ball.”
“No one’s more aware of the stakes than I am,” Michelle said coldly, hiding her anxiety behind her carefully cultivated “corporate bitch” shield. Seeing Pam’s sharp look of hurt at her arctic tone, Michelle softened. “I’m not going to screw you over, Pam. She’ll get it done. If I have to fly to Wisconsin myself, I promise, she’ll get you the posts.”...