=Of Manuscripts, Editors, and Coffee stains=
It all started on a rainy day. Six hadn't really paid any mind to what he was doing. Actually he hadn't paid any mind to what he was doing. All he knew was he was wet and he was cold. The slush room was unsurprisingly uncomfortable. Piles of books and papers lay from the floor to the ceiling. Six was going to have to read through it all until he found that author.
At Deck Publishing, there was a rule for the newest editors. You would live in the slush room until you found that author. This law also applied to transfers. You brought someone with you or you were in the slush. Six had been in the room for over a year. King, full name John Kingsley and he had the biggest office, had sent him there. That leads to the point of: how someone could be called Six? Well, he's practically live in slush room six for the past three months in addition to growing up in that particular room.
So he went on reading. For a while, he just filed through the badly written and the ones that should be burned (those were tossed out). A few more promising ones were relayed to Queen. Of the time spent in editing, Six hadn't found a single writer that he adored. Good ones were all nice and fine but never a really fantastic author. That was what made Deck famous. They found authors and editors that got on well. So far none had caught his eye.
Six sneezed and started flipping through another writer. Perhaps, this one wouldn't require a red pen from hell.
It was another month until he found someone remotely promising. In that time, slush room Six was turned into an office. He had a desk and chair made of manuscripts. A few of the other editors from his time had already fallen for brilliant authors. That new series about magic and a young Merlin? Yeah, Jack of Clubs was handling that.
Six just planted his butt in his make shift chair, the original was thrown out a window after a particularly bad Twilight remake, and popped his headphones on.
"Hey, dude, you shouldn't be slacking off."
Six woke up groggy. He'd been trapped in the room for the better part of a year. Just that day, he fell asleep halfway through a bed-and-breakfast murder. He already knew the murderer was the creepy kid who lived in the broom closet. After reading a library's worth of tropes and clichés, he'd gotten pretty good at listening to his gut. That one was one to be burned.
"You'll have to live in here longer if you keep that up." Six stared at the visitor. He was in a button up and jeans. Six wondered how Grysat let him in. The secretary was a little scary.
A grin was plastered on the stranger's face. Six found it somehow menacing.
"This is a restricted area," he found himself saying.
The man extended a hand. "Kyntak Heath." Six recalled the name.
"As in Jack's boy?" It was a long shot. But, he could see the same mischievous glint of mal-intent.
"Yep, I'm not so little now." The first writer, the launcher of Deck publishing, had passed on a few years ago. His face was seen just about everywhere as the office commemorated his skill and imagination. Six saw the look on his face.
"Six." It was said in a way that denoted it wasn't his real name. Though, considering how even King called him that Six was inclined to think no one remembered his real name. Actually, he wasn't that sure either. It had started with a B; that much he knew.
Kyntak gave him an odd look. "I'm sure it's on your birth certificate somewhere."
Sic nodded working out the crick in his neck. "Yeah, I'll have to dig it up and check." That was ridiculously close to a joke. He needed some caffeine and fast.
Kyntak raised an amused eyebrow. "How's this: I'll bring you something that'll take the edge off and you read this thing." Kyntak was pointing to a new pile of manuscripts.
Six recognized the label. It was the Burning Heart's imprint, aka the erotica and romance. Mostly erotica. He groaned. "Why? They already labeled it." How had he been assigned to edit romance? He had no love life as it was.
"I don't want to read through another spine-snapper," he whined. Kyntak looked up from where he moved a box.
"You know the anatomically impossible ones where you need to remove a part of your spine to be that bendy." Six made gestures with his hands as he tried to explain but it came out more like a flailing. He needed a coffee infusion. Heck, he would inject it straight into his blood stream if that wouldn't kill him. Actually, on second thought that wasn't a bad idea.
While he pondered possible ways to evade reading more, Kyntak unloaded the rest of the boxes.
"I'll get you something to eat. You look like a pile of sticks." Six grumbled and started tearing a lid off a box. Stupid Jokers. They just had to reassign him. Why hadn't he been moves to Spades? Finance and marketing sounded like a lot of fun. The children division, Club Clover imprint, wasn't half bad. At least those writers had some self respect. Diamonds handled the nonfiction. He would have been very good at that. No, he was shipped to Hearts, the most vicious division in the company and possible all of Australia. They were the top line of adult fiction.
There were several imprints to their name. The most famous being the Burning imprint. If you walked into any book store, three-fourths of the titles in the explicit erotica were Burning. Ace was very proud. The burning Imprint was for all erotica though. Of course, there was the Remote imprint that handled all the sci-fi and fantasy. Dead Man imprint took care of period pieces. Then there was the ever lovely Transmission division that took care of whatever else was in the air. That was the largest division being supervised by King himself. Add a heart to any imprint and you had the romance division handled by Queen. They all reported to her and her alone.
By the time he had ripped the pages out and started folding origami cranes, Kyntak had returned.
"That bad?" He placed a trenta on the "desk". He went out because the coffee was only colored water. No, really, someone had it tested. The reusable traveler cup would leave a ring but the manuscript he had placed it on claimed to be steamy and violently passionate so he figured it wouldn't be that big of a problem. His new friend could thank him later.
Six looked blankly at his birds.
"Squirrels. They were mobbed by squirrels."
Kyntak started unfolding one of his birds. "What?" He read over the page.
"Oh, my god." Six heaved a sigh.
"Yeah, they go off to a park after their fight sex and get attacked by morally ambiguous squirrels."
Kyntak sipped his own mochaccino. "It can't get worse?"
"It does. Public nudity. Not even tasteful public nudity."
Kyntak unfolded and read another one. "Oh, god, she's sucking his brains out." Six held up a hand.
He took a fortifying gulp of coffee. "Then, their dying father tells them they are siblings."
"At least she isn't terminally ill." Six gave him a look.
Six held up his smart phone. "Yep, I checked. It doesn't exist." Kyntak peered at the tiny screen.
"You think she meant that?"
"I don't know how a foot condition could stop her from living. I mean, it could always be amputated. He brother doesn't love her for her feet, or her personality for that matter. I think he would do better to shack up with the nurse." It seemed the writer agreed because if either bothered to read further they would have discovered threesome over a dead man's cooling body.
Kyntak nodded. Then, he "accidently" spilled coffee on it. "I don't think that's going to come out."
Six gave a happy sigh and tossed it into the rubbish bin. Kyntak just won some major points in his book. That and the coffee so bonus points were awarded.
"You can't leave until you found a writer you like?"
"Yes." Six couldn't help but think that this would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
"Man, you are going to die a very lonely death." Kyntak grinned. "But at least the last thing you'll see will be my handsome face."
Now to do something about that personality.
"I don't understand why you're in here." Six started munching on his sandwich. Kyntak had gotten into the habit of getting lunch (and sometimes dinner) for the two of them. Six always told the blond he wouldn't be a kept man and so paid for their meals. Kyntak never minded saying something about how Six's commission (never his author, just in-the-air projects) earned him more than enough to treat a friend on a regular basis. A good four months in, more than a dozen manuscripts had set off the sprinkler system and even more had coffee stains.
"Yeah, I don't get it either." Kyntak flipped through another manuscript. "Someone should rearrange these commas. On this Mary Sue's face."
Six looked up from the one he was reading and winced. "They should spell 'I hate you'."
"Don't hate on the virgins, unicorn boy. You can't hate your own species." Kyntak just had to bring up that meeting with the Remote imprint. Six was marketing a rather fantastic one about werewolves to them. That's when the consultant to the romance department, and human virginity detector aka the unicorn, walked in and walked straight at him completely enchanted by the slush room editor.
"You're one to talk," Six muttered. Kyntak tossed it into a burn pile.
"You're forgetting the unicorn ran away from me." She practically jumped on Six the moment she saw Kyntak's just shagged hair. Six hadn't minded too much. It was interesting to see her so terrified.
"Gigolo." The office had gotten used to his presence in the large claustrophobic rooms. Many pitied Six for not finding his author. Even more were just happy to have Kyntak around to lighten the atmosphere.
"You pay for everything, sugar daddy." Kyntak gave him a saucy wink before getting up. "You look like you're gonna want a steak. Vegan?"
Six didn't look up. It was a veggie steak day alright. "Meat is evil."
"Then, I'm the Satan." Kyntak went off to get lunch.
"Six, what do you think about this one?" Just yesterday, they got bean bag chairs in the room. That led a few to ask why grown men with college degrees owned bean bag chairs but that is a question for a different time. Six started reading the section Kyntak pointed out.
"Kent looked up at the woman in front of him. Her red hair was striking and the color of sin. He eyes gave the mild hints of impatience, but they were merciful. Her lips were painted in the tint of a ruby, a sinful smile played on them. The smile was for him. Everyone the room faded as he stared into her eyes. They spoke volumes. A bleeding heart and the steely knight she needed to hold her together. He couldn't help but imagine himself that knight. Never in his life had he been so enraptured than with the vision before him. Never had he seen such grave and malevolence in such a beautiful form.
He knelt before her and dipped his head.
'My lady, I live to serve thee.' He had found his Queen."
Six flipped to a few other sections. "This isn't bad. She has a very strong but fragile personality. She's kind and a beautiful soul. Kent is very realistic. He's not perfect but he tries his hardest for the woman he loves. He's a real knight, alright."
"Six, do you think we are the most undersexed people in the world?" Six looked up.
"Yeah, a little."
"Good, because you just said she had a beautiful soul. You skipped that part about her…"
"Okay, a lot." Six got up. "Let's get this to Remote Hearts. Queen would shoot us if we missed this one."
Kyntak got up with him. "Yeah, don't you envision King when you think of Kent though?"
"I don't like to think of my father going down on my boss."
"You've lived in there for a year." Kyntak looked a little sad. He held out a cup of coffee. Six just ended up giving his friend his card. There was a little abuse and a few questionable purchases but for the most part it was cleaned up.
"Yep. You've moved in with me for the past six months too." Kyntak made a choking sound.
"We have no lives." It finally occurred to him.
"You got that right."
Kyntak moaned. "I had dreams you know."
"What? Be a writer like your da?" Six was dealing with some annoying semicolons.
"No! I wanted to marry a pretty girl and live off the money he left me until she murdered me for the rest of it," Kyntak yelled. "I had dreams!"
Six replied dryly, "Yeah, steamy, porn filled dreams replaced by steamy, porn filled dreams on paper."
"At least, I get some." Kyntak just wouldn't let it go.
"I think my libido has jumped off a crane, gotten kidnapped, gone back in time, and faced zombies. I'm better off being forever alone with my red pen." His red pens loved him very much, thank you.
"Well, when you put it that way…" Kyntak began sarcastically. The blonde just slumped in his chair.
"You even have the dark and edgy look going on." He waved an arm. "I can't win."
"You wouldn't happen to bat for…"
Six responded without looking up. "You don't have an ice cube's chance in hell."
Kyntak was silent for a few moments.
"We all good then?"
"Bloody brilliant," Six muttered.
"Six, we have to do something." The said man tried to ignore the rest of the conversational monologue.
"…So you should just read it." Kyntak was brandishing a manuscript. Six took the proffered carrion and started reading.
It started simply. There was a strong voice. He rather liked the dark humor and conversation. Being a romance novel, a love interest had to be introduced. It didn't describe her a lot but her physical description screamed through her conversational skills. She was confident, cold, and sexy in a way that drove people crazy. She knew but never capitalized. He found himself captivated by the commonplace, almost vanilla, romance between an office worker and a gardener.
He fell. Hard.
"This is it!" He gripped Kyntak and kissed his cheek. Kyntak seemed star struck.
"What?" Six looked at the piles of loose leaf paper everywhere. He really had to clean up after the blondie in his free time.
"Where's the cover?" he asked.
Kyntak's eyes bugged out as he realized what was happening. "There isn't a cover."
"No cover?" Six stopped. He looked at the formatting. He looked at the man in front of him. "The formatting…"
Kyntak chuckled awkwardly. "I know you like Comic Sans?"
Six grabbed the blonde by the collar. "You are bloody brilliant. Why aren't you writing?"
The blonde scratched the back of his neck, which was rather difficult as he was pinned against a mountain of boxes. "My da, he was great…"
Six whispered harshly into his ear. "You're better."
"He was the best," Kyntak protested.
"You're better. We have to tell Queen." Six made a mad leap for the manuscript which had landed somewhere in the corner.
Kyntak let himself get dragged to the huge office with plush chairs. "So you're not angry?"
"No, I'm not angry at all that you kept this from me while we slaved away in here working on go nowhere manuscripts." Six had tightened his grip on Kyntak's collar.
"That's just wonderful. You're vindictive." Kyntak spared a passing thought to how people would react to see a typically introverted man dragging an affable friend into a room known for the cementation of lifelong relationships. People would talk.
"I will murder your commas," Six promised cheerily. He grinned, which was rather disturbing. Kyntak tried to run away at the point and Six just dragged him in the right direction.
"Vindictive!" Kyntak screeched.
The rest of the office just wondered how long it had taken them to figure it out.
Commemoration of my first year with The Lab.
I don't have any knowlege of the publishing industry beyond what writers deign to tell us mere mortals and a few television shows.
Wall is up.