DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi. If I did...well...it's best not to go there right now.
Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob
This story isn't really like anything I've written before. It's a future fic, which I normally hate, and it's set a year after Clare graduates from college. It will probably be about 10 Chapters long. It is dedicated to LiteraryLolita, since our conversations inspired this fic and she helped me work out my ideas.
I'd also like to give a shout out to anonymous reviewer Meg, who wrote me the most amazing review in the history of the world, even if it was for the wrong story. Don't Leave is still my favorite thing I've ever written, so you have no idea how much I appreciated what you said. Get Twitter and stop being anonymous, so you can be my friend. (And thanks to the other kind anonymous reviewers for being so sweet. I will leave them on for the time being, since it didn't attract any unnecessary bitchiness.)
I don't really want to get into the Drop the World fiasco here. There's a long rant on my Tumblr if you want to hear my thoughts.
I was attempting to lug the last of the boxes from the shipping room to the convention center floor, when the top box unceremoniously toppled over and spilled all of the books in contained onto the floor in the hallway. "Shit," I said under my breath, attempting to pick them up before someone tripped over them without losing the rest of the cart's contents.
"Here, let me help." A handsome guy who appeared to be a few years older than me, maybe in his early 30s, helped me gather the galleys and get them back into the box. He looked at my delicately balanced stack of boxes. "Why don't I just carry this one?"
"Thanks," I said, grateful for the help. I was working for a publisher so small that I was pretty much their only marketing person. My "boss" was out on maternity leave; I'd never even met her, but she sent me plenty of emails reminding me of just who was in charge. In her absence, they certainly hadn't given me her Head of Marketing salary but I was working enough hours to be doing both jobs.
My editor was flying in late tomorrow, but setup and running the booth were pretty much my responsibilities. I wasn't super fond of her either, despite the fact that she edited and published my book. The other books on our Fall list weren't exactly my taste, and I had to swallow a bitter pill every time I had to handsell "The Maiden's Dream Handbook," because they anticipated it could be their first big hit to crossover to a large market and put us on the publishing map.
I had spent the day hauling heavy boxes of books back and forth until a nice person from HarperCollins let me borrow their cart. Apparently you could rent them from the convention center but my publisher had probably been too cheap to bother.
I was sweaty and grumpy and couldn't believe I had three more days of this. This was my first Book Expo, but I'd pretty much determined it would be my last in marketing and it hadn't even started yet. If I didn't break into editorial by this time next year, I was giving up on the publishing industry.
We made it back to my booth in one piece, and he placed the box on the table that was already brimming with advanced reader copies I had unpacked when I was too tired to carry anything else. "Thanks for your help," I said and gestured to my cart. "I have to return this." I managed to get the boxes off the truck in one pile and wheeled away.
When I returned, the guy was still at my booth. He'd picked up a copy of "The Maiden's Dream Handbook" off the large center pile and was reading the jacket copy, but put it down when he saw me return. "You know you shouldn't put all of these out."
"Excuse me?" I was already opening up the next carton of books, preparing to make the stack even larger.
"People take them but they'll never read them. You should keep them behind in boxes so you're only giving them out to people who are actually interested in them. Trust me. Booksellers and librarians are vultures. They see free books and they take, take, take. Book bloggers are even worse."
"Well thanks for the advice, but that's not quite as true for us small press people. We need the free books to even get people to talk to us."
He nodded grimly. "And that's what's wrong with the publishing world."
He was still standing there and it was starting to make me uncomfortable. "Well thank you for the help with the boxes, but I've got to finish unpacking this stuff before the convention center closes and I'm sure you have some stuff to do."
"Nah, I think I'd rather just talk to you." He held out his hand. "I'm Dennis. Dennis Frantz."
I shook his hand, wishing mine weren't so grimy from all of the work I'd been doing. "I'm Clare."
"You need a last name?" I didn't even know who this guy was.
He laughed. "Sorry. It's just a journalist instinct. In case, I need to use you for a source."
"Journalist, eh? And now you're in book publishing?"
"Not exactly. I'm a book reviewer."
I narrowed my eyes. "Then what are you doing here? The convention doesn't even start until tomorrow."
"I find the floor easier to navigate without the masses. If I tried to talk to you tomorrow, you wouldn't have even made time for me."
His smugness was really starting to irritate me. "But if we were having this conversation tomorrow, I would have known you were a reporter and would have made sure this conversation was off the record from the beginning."
"Off the record? I'm wounded," he joked. "You're really bad at this marketing thing. If I had a book reviewer waiting on my every word, I'd be using this time to talk up my Fall line."
I rolled my eyes. "But I'm sure you're not from the Vancouver Daily News and they are pretty much the only people who ever review our books, and only because they are local. Not because our books are so good."
He laughed and pulled a notebook out of his pocket. "This is gold. Clare Edwards, Marketing Department Rep for..." He glanced at the sign over my shoulder, the only decoration in our small booth. "Dove Books says their books aren't very good."
"Like I said, this is off the record."
He wagged his notebook at me. "You're wasting a golden opportunity here."
"More like you're wasting your time." I held up "The Maiden's Dream Handbook." "I can see your review now: Cliches only a book club could love: A Review by Dennis Frantz."
He nodded. "That's a pretty good headline, but my editor would have to approve. Though my paper typically doesn't review books that pander to the book group crowd."
"And which paper is that?" I was trying not to sound too interested, but this was the first time a cute guy had engaged me in conversation since John – and that had been a long time ago.
"The New York Times."
My jaw dropped. His name had sounded familiar but I never would have thought. "Yeah, well then clearly you wouldn't deign to review anything on my Fall line. They are all written by women."
He smirked. "Ouch. We review everything Joyce Carol Oates writes, you know."
"Yeah but that's about it," I challenged.
"Well she's prolific," he shot back.
We grinned at each other and for the first time I felt at ease. Yeah, it was a strange guy, but he was pretty cute and I was comfortable in this bookish world. Most of my colleagues were women so I hadn't had to face any sort of workplace romance issues, but I liked the smile that Dennis was giving me.
"Would you like to have a drink with me?" he asked, and I was back to being flustered Clare. Was he really asking me out on a date? I thought back to John and how bad that went, and I knew that even though I was in New York City, thousands of miles from home, there was no way I could put myself out on the line with him.
"I'm sorry. I'm here for work."
He looked disappointed. "A work drink then? You try to sell me the best book on your fall list. Not the one you think will be biggest but the one you think is the best."
A light bulb went on in my head, and I realized I could make an opportunity out of this awkward conversation. I found the small pile of galleys with my name on them. The cover was plain yellow; the art department didn't have even a working cover by the time they went to print, which would have disappointed me if I had remotely liked any of their design ideas.
"Here," I said. "This is the best one. You can keep it and add it to your pile of books that you'll never read."
"Morning by Clare Edwards," he read off the cover. "You?"
I nodded, barely believing I was doing this. I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere, but he knew a lot of people in the industry, and if he liked it, it may open some doors. It might not help me write another novel, but maybe I could sneak into a low level editorial job at a New York house.
He flipped it over to the back to read the cover copy and his eyebrows raised in a way I couldn't quite understand. It was a pretty standard love story: high school sweethearts who just can't make things work.
He looked up at me. "You know, I think I'm going to have to take a raincheck on that drink. I'll have to read this tonight and come back to see you tomorrow."
"And if you hate it, I'll never see you again." I was mad at myself for feeling a little disappointed at that fact.
"I'm a book reviewer. It's usually more interesting when I don't like the book."
An announcement crackled over the loudspeaker, reminding us that the convention hall was closing. I groaned at the stack of boxes that I'd have to get up extra early to unpack. "I'll walk you out," Dennis offered and I gathered my purse and spring jacket from my hiding place.
"You know, I know our coverage isn't exactly comprehensive," he said. "We did slightly better when there were reviews in the Times every day but now that we've been cut back to two days of book reviews and not that many more book reviewers, it's difficult. I wish we did review more stuff, especially small press stuff."
He waved my book in his hands as we entered the main lobby. They had put up a lot of publicity for the "big books" of the convention, the ones that pay for this convention with their marketing budgets that cost more than my small publisher's budget for the entire year. There were banners with James Patterson's face on them, and Patricia Cornwell. John Green and Sarah Dessen.
"It's always the same old, same old," he continued. "Especially from the big publishers. I wrote a review of a debut novel for the first time this year. It's by a guy who's supposed to be the next Jonathan Franzen. Million dollar advance and they practically bought out all the advertising for Book Expo. I got to interview the author; he seems pretty down to earth for being a 24 year old wunkerkind." He gestured at the banner and my eyes widened in shock.
Midnight: A Novel.
By Eli Goldsworthy.