Sun, Jul
4
2004

The Night Girl - A New Beginning

Sun, Jul 4, 2004

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I realize that I haven’t updated this journal in a while. Since Erin got back from her sister-in-law, however, we’ve been spending a lot of time enjoying each other’s company. That hasn’t left much time to work on this website, not that I’m complaining.

And I’ve made some progress on the writing front, both since Erin’s return, and while Erin was away.

For the :Trenchcoat Farewell Project:, I’ve completed the layout for Trenchcoat 4, which means that about 2/3rds of the issue is now in its final form. I just have to enter Martin Proctor’s revision for Ninth Aspect (Trenchcoat 5)’s Sentinel, and I’ll be well on my way down the final stretch. I fear a fair amount of momentum was lost this month, for a variety of unavoidable reasons, but it feels good to be making progress again.

And speaking of making progress, a revised draft of Rosemary and Time has now been sent off to another potential publisher. This one is Lobster Press, an imprint known more for its picture books, but one which has asked for submissions featuring “fresh and edgy fiction for young adults”. Sounds like somebody is looking to break into the genre. As they were asking for complete manuscripts, I thought I’d oblige. So the waiting game begins again.

I’ve uploaded the revised synopsis to Rosemary and Time, and I’m thinking about uploading the first three chapters of the story as well. It seems a worthwhile teaser, and a synopsis and the first three chapters is a typical submission to a book publisher…

I am pleased with how well the revisions to Rosemary and Time have gone, and I believe I’ve reached a point where I personally can do no more to the story except tinker. If I want to push further, I’ll need a professional editor to show me the way. If the story you’ve written ever reaches this stage, set it aside and start sending it out to publishers. Basically, you’re done.

Now that Rosemary and Time is done, what’s next for me? I have my eye on :Fathom Five: and The Young City, but I suspect my focus will be back on The Night Girl. In fact, I’ve written a new opening scene below.

I’ve decided that the story should start with Perpetua being fired from her old job. Thus we get to see the girl in action as she sees Toronto through the eyes of a normal individual before she goes to T.P. Earthenhouse’s interview and has her eyes opened. The job interview sequence is fun, but a lot of introductory stuff ends up happening afterward that would best be told beforehand, to get the normalacy out of the way. Well, relative normalacy, anyway.

It has been suggested that when it comes out, I should rent Wonderfalls, a quirky drama where a sharp-tongued twentysomething woman working in a Niagara Falls souvenir store questions her sanity when God starts talking to her through the souvenirs. Erin says that the lead character, Jaye Tyler, put her in mind of Perpetua. I think I will do that. It never hurts to be inspired by new source material. In the meantime, I continue to write…

The section below should (I hope) establish Perpetua as being solitary, slightly too intelligent for the world around her, and completely unwilling to take the crud the world has decided to throw at her.

As Perpetua slipped on the headphones, she prepared for battle.

The squadron of desks around her were ready, the people all in uniform: ties and dresses where appropriate. It didn’t matter that nobody could see what the soldiers were wearing. The enemy might not see you dressed up, her boss had said, but they could hear you.

Actually, her boss hadn’t used the phrase “the enemy”. He had, however, used every other military reference in the book, including standing to attention (which nobody obeyed), so she figured: why waste the metaphor.

As for the enemy hearing your dress, Perpetua seriously doubted this.

She sighed, then caught a glimpse of her drill sergeant eyeing her from across the room and making an elaborate glance at his watch.

Right. To work. Oh, joy.

Perpetua adjusted her headset and activated her terminal. The phone rang immediately.

*Click!* “Welcome to the Department Store Channel,” she chirped. “How may I help you?”

“Yeah,” said a man’s voice, brusque as a broom. “You still selling those novelty Noah’s Ark fridge magnets?”

Perpetua looked up at the television screen placed prominently at the front of the room, with its beaming suited salesman and his perky assistant applying magnetic animals to disassembled fridge doors, metal banisters, and a man with a plate in his head. Text scrolled across the bottom of the screen: “Still time to order! 413 items left! $29.95!”

“Yes, sir,” said Perpetua, her smile pasted on. “I believe we have a few still in stock.”

“Good! But, look here: could you just send me one of every animal?”

Perpetua’s smile disappeared. She blinked. “Um… sir? It wouldn’t be the Noah’s Ark Animal Magnetism set if we only sent you one of every animal, would it sir?”

“I don’t care,” the man snapped. “I don’t want to be wasteful! One of each is enough!”

“Not for Noah, it wasn’t,” growled Perpetua.

“Look!” Perpetua winced and pulled the earpiece away from her ear. She could still hear the man’s voice clearly. “I know what I want and the customer is always right. I’ll pay extra if that’s what it takes to get one of you kids to pick out one of every animal from my box!”

Perpetua’s brows lowered. Her mouth quirked. “All right. With the additional labour costs, I can send you the half set for about…” She crossed her fingers. “…$29.95?”

“Perfect! Ship it!”

Perpetua pumped the air with her fist. “And how about I throw back those animals I took out at no extra cost?”

“Great!”

Perpetua pumped the air again. “Wonderful, sir. Now if I can get your address and payment information, I can finish processing your order.” The information came and her fingers danced over the keyboard.

“Thank you, sir,” said Perpetua, her voice light with relief. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

“Actually…”

Perpetua’s knuckles whitened as she gripped her headset.

“Could you send my package to me… airmail?” the man asked.

Perpetua blinked. “Sir, you’re in Toronto.”

“So?”

“Sir, we’re in Toronto.”

“And?”

“Sir—” Perpetua pinched the bridge of her nose. “Sir, airmail isn’t available for shipments to Toronto.”

“Why not?” the man snapped. “I know we have an airport! Two, in fact! Planes are flying over my head all the time!”

Along with clues, thought Perpetua. “Sir, if you would just listen—”

“I want my package delivered to me by airmail, no matter what the cost!”

Perpetua slammed her desk. “You want airmail? You got it!” Her fingers rattled over the keyboard. “There! Now your package is on its way to Malaysia!” Her fingers clattered again. “And from there, it will be relayed to Morocco!” She didn’t notice how the room had drawn deathly quiet. “And from there the animals will be shipped to Miami, two by two!” She slapped the Enter key. “They should be in your mailbox in two weeks. That’ll be $147 in additional shipping and handling, which I’ve just charged to your credit card. Satisfied?”

“Well, no—” the customer stammered.

“Thank you for shopping the Department Store Channel! Have a nice day!” She clicked the phone line closed, whipped off the headset and covered her face to hold back a primal yell.

A hand touched her shoulder. She looked up, peering between her fingers. It was her boss.

“Um, Miss Collins?” he said. “When we say ‘your call may be monitored to ensure quality’, we’re not lying.”

Then she realized that everybody was staring at her, calls neglected, customers squawking, wondering where their attendants had gone.

She looked back at her boss and lowered her hands. Her mouth quirked. “What? I gave the man exactly what he wanted.”

Her boss held out his hand and gestured for her headset.

She pressed it into his palm with a huff. “Fine.”

She stood up and walked between the desks, her head held high. As she reached the door, she heard applause start slow behind her, then build, until everyone stood up, giving her an ovation.

She paused at the door, turned, and bowed low. Then she stepped outside and walked down the corridor. She did not look back.

***

My name is Perpetua Viktoria Collins. It’s not my fault.


On This Day

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