Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Excerpt: Or Your Money Back

From Or Your Money Back. The POV is Seb, a dream who was brought to life and is now working for his creator.

I am beginning to learn the business of The Dream Doctor. Thaddeus says it’s a slow season for dream actualization, so there are fewer clients to admit. Even Gail the protester seems to realize this, and she spends more of her time in front of the shop talking on her cell phone than hoisting her sign and shouting at passers by. I tilt the blinds beside my desk sometimes when I get bored and watch her eat her lunch. Every day she brings an orange, and she peels it a bit at a time, biting into the exposed flesh like it’s an apple instead of breaking away the individual segments. It leaves a mess on the sidewalk for me to clean up, but asking her to bag it herself only results in an argument - according to Gail, if God grew it from the ground, it’s not littering. I’m not sure God is mentioned in the city littering laws, but she leans so close to my face when she argues with her eyes so wide that I’m a little afraid to confront her with the facts.

Because of the slow stream of clients, it’s easy for me to get in time for my routes. And the routes are where most of my learning occurs.

I learn that I am in the business of wants. No one needs what we are selling - not really. For some, like the boy in the middle of the map who asked for a six-foot tall tiger emperor, their commission from The Dream Doctor actively complicates their lives. This boy’s mother complains to me because her son’s tiger has declared the house his kingdom and demanded to make a throne room out of her craft room.

“Derek never plays with him anymore,” she tells me, rolling her eyes. “‘His royal majesty’ has made a mess of my scrapbooking supplies, and he used up most of my beads making himself a crown.”

I add her comments to her client page. “Would you mind if I spoke to the, uh, emperor myself?”

“Do what you want, but he doesn’t speak English,” she shrugs with a small huff. To herself, she adds, “Wish I’d thought to get the Fail Safe.”

I try to ask my predecessor’s questions to the massive tiger who’s seated on a throne of cardboard boxes in the craft room, but all I get in return is growls.

A man living in a squalid rental house near the park has an elderly woman with large sheer wings living on his back porch. The entire time I’m talking with him, she’s puttering around in the kitchen, baking cookies. There are piles of cookies scattered all across the countertops, cookies on the end tables in the living room, cookies stacked precariously on the banister leading upstairs, and cookie crumbs everywhere. The man eats three cookies while answering my survey questions, and his dream offers me one. It’s warm and gooey, a perfect blend of bittersweet chocolate and toffee.

“Does she cook anything else?” I ask.

“Why?” says the dreamer, as if I’ve asked something incredibly stupid. That’s when I notice the pizza boxes stashed under the kitchen table.

One older widow on the top right corner of the map has at least twelve dreams living in her house, all of them cats. As I sit in her parlor between a stack of old magazines as tall as myself and a collection of ceramic angels, trying not to make a face at the mildewy air, she introduces me to all of her cats by name. All of her dream-cats were once real cats she had - and, she informs me, all of her real cats are destined to one day be reborn via Thaddeus’s business, assuming she dreams about them. I can’t tell the difference between the real cats and the dream cats.

A young woman in an apartment complex near the shop has a pet hedgehog that rides in her shirt pocket, whispering directions to her when she gets lost. I think this is my favorite use of Dream Doctor technology - until, that is, her boyfriend points out to me that she could have bought a GPS device instead and wouldn’t need to feed it.

Yes, it’s definitely a business of want. Listening to the dreamers talk about their dreams fills me with wonder. How can one world contain so much want? I was content when I was a figment of Bella’s imagination - I wanted nothing, needed nothing. Now, I find myself eyeing everything appealing around me, trying it on for size in my mind: clothing in shop windows, apartments I visit, lives belonging to other people. I think of what Sky asked me about wanting someone other than Bella, though, and I still can’t imagine that.

But I am beginning to figure out something I do want, above and beyond the shop windows and casually tried-on lives. A calling, maybe, like he was talking about. I think…I think I want to help someone. And I think I know just the someone to start with.

Yes, I have sombrero pictures. No, I'm not posting them here.

I searched Google Maps for the universe's crotch, but all it brought me was a bunch of sports equipment and gun stores and a bookshop in NYC's West Village. So, either the universe's crotch isn't on Google Maps, or its location is in a retail store. Equally likely options, I think.

Life in general has improved a lot since my last post, so to borrow a tradition from the Very Longest Thread on Ravelry, I'm going to post...

Five Cheerful Things:

1. The agent hunt is underway! This gives me a big dumb grin. I've gotten nothing but rejections so far, but I find the whole process oddly thrilling. (The last time I queried literary agents, I proclaimed myself a letterhead hunter and started tacking rejection letters up on my wall like trophies from a big game hunt. Writer friends have told me this isn't normal behavior. They're probably just jealous because they lack safari hats.)

2. Hobbes may be an old dog with an old dog bladder and old dog ears, but he still seems to be enjoying himself. And because of the hearing loss, he can't hear the front door opening anymore when he's sleeping on the couch. Which means instead of waking up and doing his "OMFG A PERSON BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK" routine when I get home from work, he's been waking up to me petting him. Which means I get to come home to a sweet old dog sleeping in a patch of sunlight.

(Five seconds after this peaceful sight, he's awake and breathing the dreaded Stink at my face, usually while I've got my mouth open to say hello, and then there's gagging and a momentary plea for the merciful hand of death. You can't smell the Stink through the internet, you lucky reader.)

3. My birthday was last Thursday, and several cheerful things happened that day, which I'll condense into one item on the list: I got the day off work, my brother washed all my dirty dishes, and my friends took me out to Boca Chica for dinner, where a waitress put a tiny pink sombrero on my head and gave me a free sundae that was about the same size as the sombrero. Oh, and I baked show-offably good cookies.

4. Supernatural, a show that's given me years of fangirlish glee and more than a couple of plot ideas - a show that I never expected to reach the five seasons its creators had planned for it (because how do weird little shows that I love ever live that long?), has been renewed for a sixth season. I'm a little embarrassed by how happy this news makes me.

Actually, fuck embarrassment. I LOVE THIS SHOW! I love the characters! I love the world! I love that it tells the kinds of stories I would write if I were on the show's writing staff, but twists them so they're even better than what I'd come up with! I don't think I've ever been this invested in a TV show. Every time I think about having one more year of that, I start grinning.

5. I'm not on fire, falling out a tenth-story window, or being chased by zombies at this particular moment. Always something to celebrate!

My knitting mojo is still gone, and I've had to place a moratorium on new projects due to lack of time (thanks, school!), but the projects I've got in progress seem to be coming along nicely. I'll post some writing tomorrow.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Good News, Bad News -or- My New Hobby: Threatening the Universe

It's been a tumultuous two weeks. Allow me to break it down for you.

Good news: I spent the first week of February getting a good chunk of writing done.

Bad news: ...while I was at jury duty, not getting selected for a jury, listening from afar as hordes of orcs ravaged my workplace, set fire to the consultants, and forced my boss to run sobbing into his office. At least, this is the picture that's been painted for me by the consultants. It may be an exaggeration - my office didn't smell like orc when I got back.

Good news: I've been making good progress on reading The Princess Bride aloud to my dog, a goal I took on for 2010.

Bad News:
...because I figured out last week that Hobbes is quickly going deaf, and I feel the need to finish reading him the book before he can't hear my voice anymore. Yes, it's irrational. Yes, I'm a crazy person. But I've had this dog since I was ten years old, he loves it when people talk, sing, or read to him, and reading aloud has always been a passion of mine, yet somehow I've never read an entire book to him. It seems wrong.

Good news: I won't have to shovel the deck stairs of my apartment next winter!

Bad News: ...because last week I found out that the bank is foreclosing on my building, so I have just over six months left in this apartment I love so dearly before the bank starts trying to sell it out from under me. This apartment where I was planning on spending three more years. This apartment that was so perfect for me because on top of its unique space, its proximity to everything I need to get to, and the fact that there are freaking fruit trees in the back yard (fruit trees, people!), it's owned by a friend of mine who has been the best landlord I've ever had.

So you understand why I haven't been blogging lately. I've spent this last week stomping around fuming and making threats to punch the universe in the crotch. My friends say, "And how will you find the universe's crotch?" and "But you have very small hands," but goddammit, I'm sure Google Maps can give me a vague idea, and if I need to sculpt a giant fist, there's always paper mache.

But then, on the other hand...

Good news: Thanks to feedback and a kick in the ass from a fabulous new writer-friend and beta reader I found through Ravelry, I now have a polished draft of Or Your Money Back that's ready to be shopped around to literary agents! Which I'm planning to start doing this week! And I'm so excited about it that every thought that has anything to do with the querying process ends in an exclamation point! I should print out address labels! I think there's still some nice paper in my desk drawer at work! Do I have envelopes?!

Bad news: No, I think I used up all my envelopes! (But I'm sure I can borrow some from work!)

Yeah, that's it. I've got a query letter almost ready to go and a list of my four top pick agents sitting on my desk! I've been excited to start the agent hunt since I finished the first draft of this novel, and this week I'm finally doing it! I'm hoping that all the crap that's come my way these last two weeks is the universe's way of balancing out something really awesome that's on its way. Maybe something publishing related, even.

And if it isn't? Well, then, I'll plow ahead on the agent hunt and spend my spare time making that giant paper mache fist.