“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“Ok, 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 reached for her phone without looking at it, quickly hitting “ignore” again as Ted called for the fourth time.
She felt her stomach knot with tension, but kept her face impassive. “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 looked unwilling to let the issue drop as Michelle’s assistant, Jamie, sidled into the room looking paler than usual.
“Michelle,” she said, “Um . . . Ted just called.”
“I’ll call him back,” she told Jamie, her focus still on Pam. “Did he say what it was about?”
Jamie looked nauseous. “He says . . .” She cleared her throat, glancing at Pam. “He says he’s moving out, and thought you should know.”
She should have expected Michelle to start nudging a little harder. Hell, she probably shouldn’t have gone on the Slack channel at all. But after a week of isolating herself in the house, working on the damned sequel, she had been stir crazy and climbing the walls. Ordinarily, she’d just work a few intermittent hours, with plenty of daydreaming, playlist-building, and cooking peppered in for good measure. Or going out shopping, grabbing coffee, and the like.
She grabbed a thepla off of a glass plate on the counter, munching on it as she picked up her phone. She was stress eating—she had to be up another five pounds, she thought—probably at around 215, not that she paid much attention to that. Still, it was something her mother would no doubt notice and comment on the next time she saw her.
The writing wasn’t happening. She’d been given a high six-figure deal to sell her “trilogy” even though she’d only conceived of one book. She’d worked on that book for nearly three years, with Michelle pushing her the last twelve months. Now, she was supposed to somehow repeat the performance in twelve months. And she was scared out of her mind.
She needed to blow off steam. She needed to get in a better frame of mind.
She glanced down at herself. She was in writing mode, which meant wearing her Lululemon-knockoff yoga pants (until the damn people make a size eighteen, she thought with a frown)...