Sounds like a good title for a book or story, but it’s only the title of this post. Today, I’m giving a sneak preview of the Holly Jahangiri story I’m working on.
For those new to my blog, I ran a contest last year for the right to name a character in a short story I was working on to publicize a novel I had coming out from Echelon Press. An internet acquaintance, Holly Jahangiri, won, and wanted her name in the story. She ended up being the main character and heroine, and now lives as a character in my inner universe as well as living as an actual person in the real world. Her real self is even more awesome than the character, by the way.
I ran another contest this year, and dang if she didn’t win it AGAIN! I used a random number generator to pick the winner, so there was no fix. Unless…. Holly is pretty tech savvy…. You don’t think…. …Nah….
Well, that’s my quota of ellipses for a week, I think, so here is the sneak preview. This is a rough draft, so don’t judge it too harshly:
SURVIVING THE BOOK (sneak preview excerpt)
by Marian Allen
Assistant Librarian Holly Jahangiri continued entering data on her electronic desk pad when she heard the knock at her office door. Living Books required a great deal of data entry. Besides the dates they were checked out and the dates they checked themselves back in, there were all the expenses of pedicab or hovercab fares, costumes, makeup, throat lozenges, props and the occasional false mustache.
“Come in. Put it on the little table. Thank you.”
The door opened, but the figure in the doorway wasn’t Parlormaid Tambar Miznalia with the tea. This was a tall man, dark and dour.
Holly sprang to her feet and extended her hand.
“High Head Librarian Bistipherus Ownip! Welcome! I apologize for not greeting you at the front door. I didn’t expect you.”
“No,” he drawled. “You didn’t.”
“Does Head Librarian–”
“No, she doesn’t know I’m here. My business is with you.”
He entered the room and hooked thumbs with Holly. “Your parlourmaid greeted me if ‘greeted’ is the word for it.”
“Yes, I understand. We’d love to terminate her contract, but she always outbids us at the Employment Exchange. We just don’t have it in the budget to fire her. Did you tell her to bring more tea and an extra cup? Two extra cups? And fresh cake?”
Another man now stood in the doorway. This one was young and bright-eyed and shifted from one foot to another, grinning at Holly as if she were a high-fashion tunic designer. This must be the new Message. A job as Living Message was a great way to break into the Living Book business, and Living Message for the High Head Librarian was a position much sought after.
High Head Librarian Bistipherus Ownip used electronics as much as anyone else on the planet Llannonn, but he preferred to send messages by mouth. The notion so enchanted him, he defeated his purpose by accompanying them so he could hear them delivered.
Holly gestured for the men to be seated, but the High Head Librarian remained on his feet and gestured for his companion to stand.
“We won’t be here long. Proceed.”
The Message cleared his throat and said, “Three weeks ago, a small pleasure ship carrying a tour group of privately employed Living Books was lost at sea.”
“Excuse me,” Holly said, “but which sea? On Llannonn? How could it get lost in our little bitty seas?”
“Meadow of Flowers Sea,” the High Head Librarian said. “Apparently, it’s big enough. Continue.”
The Message cleared his throat again, and said, “Three weeks ago, a small pleasure ship carrying a tour group of privately employed Living Books was lost at sea. This being unlikely, the Meadow of Flowers policing force is sending an investigator to look into it and, if possible, recover the books. The policing force thought an expert on Living Books would be useful. Since you’ve worked successfully with the force before, you were chosen.”
Holly well remembered that adventure, and it was with reluctance that she said, “Head Librarian Devra Langsam has more experience than I do, and she was part of that investigation, too.”
“Ah,” said High Head Librarian Bistipherus Ownip, “but she wasn’t born out in the hinterland, as your records tell me you were.”
“I wasn’t born at sea!” She snapped her jaw closed. It didn’t matter. What mattered is that she wanted this assignment. She hardly knew whether she hoped for a rest from the endless chaos of work in a library or for an ironically hair-raising escapade.
Guess which one she gets.
WRITING PROMPT: A character is given an assignment which turns out to be more complicated than expected.