I’d like to thank Lisa Baxter, the folks at Investing in Children, and the other organizers of the London Book Camp for having me over to the Central Public Library in London, Ontario today. The London Book Camp gathers children and young adults ages ten to sixteen together, who all have an interest in writing, to engage in writing workshops, share their passion with each other, and hear professionals from the field speak about the field.
I field tested a new presentation for two attentive audiences about what people need to get published, but as I was heading into London this morning, an inspiration hit me for The Dream King’s Daughter that I thought I could add into the discussion. As the organizers ate lunch, I sat down and dashed off a new scene in under an hour, and then I asked the kids’ indulgence as I read the old prologue, got their opinions on what was wrong with it, and read them the new scene, asking if they thought it was an improvement. The response was very positive, I thought, and it led into a discussion about how often writers have to revise their works before they are published.
I had a lot of fun, and kids came up to me at the end of each presentation to ask me to sign their Book Camp t-shirts. It is always a great joy to me to make these connections with young people, and the rush at the end of the presentation more than makes up for my butterflies at the beginning of it.
As for the scene in question, I include it below. It modifies what some of you read here. The first scene, of Dawn hypnotizing Sally, is still largely intact, but the second scene with the receptionist has been completely removed, replaced with this:
Sally’s mother looked up as Sally emerged from the office. “How did it go, Pumpkin?”
Sally beamed at her mother, beamed at Dawn as she put on her shoes and shrugged on her jacket. She beamed at the day as she left the office, holding his mother’s hand. Dawn smiled and waved. Then, when the door shut behind the child, the doctor’s smile faded. She stood a long moment, staring at the door through which Sally had gone. Then she turned back to her office.
She sat in front of her computer, scrolling through her case notes, but staring past the screen at nothing. She ran her hand over her cheek. Then she shrugged. “Maybe I’m better than I think.”
The traffic hummed and rumbled outside her window. The roar of a truck engine, very close, made her look up. She looked at the parking lot outside, but it was next to empty, glowing in the lamps and the last rays of twilight. She looked away, then heard the roar of the truck engine again. She glanced back irritably, then froze.
A black big rig was parked in the parking lot, taking up two spaces at the edge of the trees. How could she have missed it? Its engine was off, and the driver stood on the pavement outside, his arms folded. He wore black jeans, black cowboy boots and a black polo shirt with a collar. A black stetsen shielded his eyes, until he looked up, at her window. His smile shone like the sun emerging from behind clouds.
Dawn blinked, then twisted the blinds closed over the window. She shook her head and waved a hand dismissively at the figure outside. Nothing to do with her. She must just have been tired to have missed it. It was the end of the day. She grabbed up her jacket as she locked up her office. She didn’t wait for the elevator. She took the stairs three flights to the lobby and left the squat medical building.
The truck driver was still there, standing by his rig, while Dawn made a bee-line for the streetcar stop. He made no move towards her, but followed her with his eyes. Dawn got a good hold of her purse, its comforting can of mace inside, and quickened her pace.
“Dawn,” said the truck driver. “Don’t go, Dawn.”
She froze. His voice, warm like the Caribbean Sea, rumbled across the empty parking lot and wrapped around her mind. Her breathing quickened. She glared at the man, but he didn’t move. He stood, waiting, and Dawn couldn’t look away.
She turned towards him, hands on her hips. “How do you know my name? Who are you?”
His chuckle resonated in her chest. Her breathing became more ragged. The glare faded, along with fear, even as the rational part of her mind tried to slap some sense into her. “I am strength, Dawn. And I’ve been wanting to meet you for a long time. I’ve seen how you salve people’s dreams. I’ve watched your gentle hands at work—”
“Wait,” said Dawn, taking two steps forward before she realized it. “I’m a hypnotist, a psychiatrist. I don’t use my hands.”
He laughed. “I’m speaking metaphorically. Your work amazes me. I had to get to know you. Will you come with me, please?”
She took another step forward, then halted. “Are you crazy?” she spluttered. Then she thought, am I? She could feel his presence pulling on her like magnetic north. Behind him, the big rig’s black exterior made a backdrop like a black hole.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said softly.
“I’m not afraid,” she snapped. Then she frowned. She should be afraid. She knew she should be. A strange man who knew her name, asking her aboard his truck. He was bigger than her, stronger, and yet…
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he said, looking away.
…she wanted to.
“What’s in it for me?” she asked, her voice level.
“Realizing your dreams,” he rumbled. “Maybe more, if you want. It’s your choice, Dawn. I’m not here to force you. Ask me to leave, and I will.”
Behind her, a streetcar pulled up to the stop and opened its doors. A man got off, hunched his coat over his shoulders, and walked away down the street. The streetcar kept its doors open a moment longer. Then they shut. The street rails clacked as the streetcar pulled away.
Dawn just stood, listening to herself, and the strange feelings within her. Why am I not afraid? Why do I want this? Why am I not walking away, or spraying him with mace right now?
Then she looked back at his face, saw his eyes look at her beneath the brim of his hat, and the magnetic pull returned. His smile, this time, was almost shy.
I’m going to regret this for the rest of my life, she thought. But I’d regret this more if I didn’t. She stepped forward. “Show me,” she said.
His smile widened. He stepped back, and opened the door of his truck.
Dawn clambered in.
As always, comments are welcome.