Home > Professor Feelgood (Masters of Love #2)(5)

Professor Feelgood (Masters of Love #2)(5)
Author: Leisa Rayven

She gives me a sympathetic look. “If I had something with any sort of potential, I’d absolutely give it to you. Unfortunately, nothing exciting has crossed my desk in weeks. But even with the bestseller landscape seeming barren right now, I have faith in you. You’re clever and have good instincts.”

“To be fair, the same could be said of Devin. Plus, he’s part of the Shields/Whip cartel of publishing heavyweights, so he’ll have eyes and ears on every slush pile in the city.”

“Devin doesn’t have your ingenuity. That’s where you can beat him. Bring us something left of center. Something we haven’t seen before.”

Like that’s an easy task.

“Okay, thanks, Serena. I’ll do my best.”

She smiles. “You always do. That’s why you’re my favorite.”

Unfortunately, being her favorite means jack squat in this situation.

As I return to my desk, I run my hands though my hair. I regularly mine the depths of the company slush pile, but finding anything with gold-star potential in the mountain of unsolicited manuscripts is like diving headfirst into landfill and emerging with a pristine Chanel handbag.

I could trawl through the plethora of free fiction online and see if I can find any talent there, I suppose. More than a few bestselling authors have been discovered that way, but it doesn’t show much in the way of originality.

I’m still deep in thought when my friend Joanna appears beside me. By the look on her face, she’s already heard the news. Then again, Joanna has a way of finding out things no one else can. If these were war times, she would have made an awesome spy. She seems to have networks of informants everywhere.

“Devin already emailed Sandra Larson about submitting a new book,” Joanna whispers as she sinks into the chair beside my desk. I open my mouth to say that’s a ridiculous idea, but Joanna’s already shaking her head. “I know she hasn’t published for five years and everyone thinks she’s retired, but Devin’s brother at Random House knows her, and he swears she’s writing again. She’s almost done with the first draft of a new book set in the Rageheart universe.”

The tension in my stomach ramps up a notch. Rageheart was a massive fantasy trilogy that was not only an international bestseller, but also spawned a blockbuster movie franchise. How the hell am I supposed to compete with a series for which there’s a whole set of action figures, for God’s sake?

“Surely she’d have to offer it to her current publisher first,” I say. “Why would she move to us? We’re so much smaller.”

“Word is she’s been unhappy there for a while and is looking for a change. Devin might just be the boy to sweet talk her into going with us. You know that silver tongue of his is the only reason he gets laid.”

My mind reels. “If he pulls it off, he’ll get that promotion in a heartbeat.”

Joanna nods. “Yep. So, we have to find you something better.”

I take off my glasses and rub my eyes. “Better than a spin-off of a wildly popular fantasy series? Like what?”

Joanna shrugs. “I don’t know, but you can totally do this. I can feel it in my boobs.”

That makes me smile. One thing I love about Joanna is her positivity. She seems to have a never-ending well of optimism and is content to share it around.

“Well, as long as your boobs believe in me …”

Joanna takes my hands and pulls me around to face her. “Listen, I don’t tell many people this, because it scares them to know how powerful I am, but I often get strong feelings about events and people, and I know that if you grab this opportunity with both hands, it’s going to have a major impact on your life. Trust me on this. My boobs are never wrong.” She gives my hands a squeeze then stands. “Now, get to work. I’ll go and grab you some coffee. You’re going to need it.”

As she leaves, I lean back in my chair and close my eyes. A surefire bestseller. Two weeks. No problem.

I take a quick look beneath my armpits. Sadly, no leprechauns appear.

Looks like I’m on my own.

THREE

____________________

Bestseller Hunting

AFTER SITTING ON MY BED for hours with my laptop resting on my thighs, I roll my neck and wince as it cracks. Over the past couple of weeks, Serena has forwarded seventeen manuscripts to me in an effort to help with my bestseller quest, but nothing has set my creative loins on fire. Now it’s two days before our presentations are due, and I’m desperately skimming through the last few books on my list in the vain hope I’ll find a rough diamond.

I have a spreadsheet open in which I’ve made notes on everything I’ve read and have color-coded their potential. Red means “use for lining litter trays or starting fires”. Yellow is “read while drinking or high, it’ll hurt less” and green stands for, “My God! I don’t hate this! I think I just came a little!” Of course, I don’t have anything marked in green. I have one that is a greeny-yellow, but I’ve classified it as my fire alarm manuscript: Use only in case of emergency.

I’ve read so much in the past fourteen days, I’m practically cross-eyed. Dozens of books and millions of words have filtered through my brain, but to no avail, and now I’m out of time.

Goddammit.

I open a new document and rage-type my feelings about my search for the Next Great American Bestseller. I start out intending it to be some kind of epic poem, but as my fingers fly over the keys, it comes out sounding more like Dr. Seuss.

I searched through towering piles of slush,

I searched through libraries full of shush,

I plundered high-brow magazines,

and witnessed word crimes quite obscene.

I waded through fanfic and genres galore

I tried to go on through boredom and snore

but alas, nowhere was the grail I sought

Nothing cried out to be lauded and bought

And so I’m now tired, distraught and despairing

I’m out-of-time running and pulling-out-hairing

For the book I need is mythically rare

and resides safe and sound in the land of Nowhere.

I shove my laptop away and lean back against my headboard. I can’t believe this is happening. After years of bending over backward to prove myself, this promotion is going to come down to a stupid challenge I have no chance of winning. The rumors about Devin and Sandra Larson are true. All week he’s been crowing about it, like the giant cock he is.

Beside me, my phone buzzes on the nightstand. It’s a text from Joanna.

<Be there in twenty. I have alcohol.>

Great. She’s coming to help me fine-tune my presentation, and right now I have a big fat pile of nothing.

I’m about to go back to finishing off a sci-fi novel that’s basically a badly written version of Pride and Prejudice in space, when Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball blares from my phone. At the same time, a picture of my grandmother appears on the screen. Her gray-streaked red hair is in two Leia-style buns on either side of her head, and she’s grinning and curving her hands into a love heart.

That picture sums up Nannabeth’s personality perfectly. In other words, a thirteen-year-old girl living in a seventy-five-year-old woman’s body. I sometimes wonder if there’s a poor high school girl out there somewhere who body swapped with her during a full moon and now complains about how ‘the kids these days know nothing’, and gauges when it’s going to rain by the pain in her trick knee.

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