Took longer than I planned, but THE SELLING OF SUZEE DELIGHT: Tales From The Longview Episode 2, is now live and available here.
All rightee. Deep breath for me, here. Just got finished putting THE SELLING OF SUZEE DELIGHT, Tales from The Longview: Episode 2, up on Amazon.
It should go live tomorrow at some point, and when it does, I’ll send out notices.
I love this story. I cannot believe how much I love this story. It kept shifting and changing on me, getting bigger not just in length, but in what it means to me personally. In the end, after more revisions than I’ve done on a story in years, because my editor (a.k.a. my husband Matt) is a cruel genius who’s superpower is the ability to say, “You know, you never really showed me why X did Y…”
With X being a character or scene that I hadn’t thought completely through, and Y being the part of the scene I’d fudged, and Z, the variable we’re solving for in this little equation from Hell, equalling 10,000 words.
Yes. By the time I finished it, the story was over 30,000 words.
And I love it, I love it, I love it.
So. Here are the complete first two scenes for you. And yes, this is a LONG post.
ADDED LATER: Scene 3.
Transcript: Suzee Delight — Preliminary Death Sentencing Interview #1
Danyal Travers, SPORC Capital Offenses Interviewer, Cheegoth:
Prisoner, you have stated your professional name and ident. For the record, who are you?
Suzee Delight, First Courtesan, Court of the Diamond Dome, Mariposa Pleasure City, Cheegoth: What I am was chosen for me when I was nine years old, when the Educational Selectors discovered that I could sing and dance and play musical instruments and draw pretty pictures—and when they also discovered that my aptitude for science and mathematics was even stronger than my aptitude for the arts. Wishing to suppress my mathematical and science interests and to encourage my entertainment abilities, my Selector removed me from the General Consumer cohort, named me Tawny Girl, and placed me on the Introductory Arts and Pleasures track. I was trained to be a consort.
Because I exhibited superior skills and ability to learn and equally because I was obedient, when I was twelve I was placed into Advanced Arts and Pleasures and renamed Sweet Silver. Along with my physical and entertainment training, I began learning languages, courtesies, and what the Pleasure Masters refer to as Polite Observational Skills.
Danyal (interrupting): Spying.
Suzee Delight: I’ve heard it called that. I do not think that is the correct word. My training teaches that as a consort and courtesan, my service to my profession must consist of equal parts information gathering and recording on my clients, and the providing of entertainment and pleasure for my clients.
Third voice: Suppress that, Travers. That does not go into the public record
Danyal: I’ve deleted that. Prisoner, please continue.
Suzee Delight: By the age of seventeen, I had learned so far beyond the rest of my Pleasure cohort that I was moved into Masters training in Arts and Pleasures. At that time, I was renamed Suzee Delight, and for the past six years I have been the First Courtesan of Diamond Dome. I have served at the direction of the Pleasure Masters, and at the pleasure of my clients.
Danyal: While the information you have given is true, it does not answer my question. Who are you?
Suzee Delight: I’m sorry. I don’t understand your question.
Danyal: You murdered the Administrators of the five most populous and powerful Pact Worlds. You did so during a seduction dance performed for all five men at once, using a knife that you could not possibly have had, hidden beneath your costume and… on… on…
(The sound of the interviewer taking a deep breath is followed by a long silence.)
You killed all five of them before any one could warn the others. Our holos show that you never hesitated, that you never missed a step, that not one of the men had any inkling of his danger or made any move to protect himself when you killed him.
Suzee Delight: Yes. I am a remarkable dancer. And I killed them quickly because I wished to be merciful. I had always considered them dear friends.
Danyal: Prisoner, I want an answer to the question I asked you. Someone planted you in the Diamond Dome, someone gave you the order to kill the Administrators, someone gave you the knife, someone put you up to this. Who are you really?
Suzee Delight: You are mistaken in several ways. First, I am not a who. I am a what. I am the product of my training. Every moment of my life since I was tested at the age of nine has been recorded; every action I have taken with every man and woman who has paid for pleasure from me is available to you in full holographic detail. Second, in every encounter with every client, I have acted on my training, and I have done exactly what that training has dictated I do—including the encounter for which I am now here.
Danyal: You’re saying that you acted on your own—that you murdered the five Pact Worlds Administrators because your whore training required that you do so?
Suzee Delight: I am a courtesan. I don’t know what training whores receive. My lifetime of training as a courtesan required that once I learned and verified the truth about my old friends and longtime clients—Radiva Kels, Stannal Bregat, Nethamatnu Ha, Soth Smithe, and Kiero Chenzwa—I had to stop them before they could commit the crime they planned.
And the only way I could stop them, because of the enormity of the crime they were planning and how close they were to committing it, was to kill them. They were going to legalize sla—
Third voice: OH, GOD! Delete, delete, delete! Stop the interview, get her out back to her cell, and delete that entire last bit.
(The sound of someone pushing buttons while warnings sounded, and then a long pause.)
Danyal: Prisoner, we’ll resume this interview at a later time.
— * —
I lied to Danyal Travers. I know exactly who and what I am.
A courtesan is a whore with a good education, and what I am is the best-educated whore in the Pact Worlds—and the most famous one. I’m Suzee Delight, and from my original songs and dances and my Paint Beautiful Pictures as Suzee Delight Senso series, on through my instructional pleasure moves and positions, and right up to to my studio-recorded personal full-Senso sessions with famous clients, my mass-appeal products sell to more than three billion men and women across Settled Space. The Pleasure Masters make a great deal of money off of me.
As for who I am…?
Well, I’m the woman who, as a little girl, wanted to be a scientist and design custom nanoviral augmentations for GenDaring on Bailey’s Irish Space Station.
When, during my Wish Conference back when I was nine, I told my Educational Selector that I wanted to leave the Pact Worlds and become a citizen of Bailey’s Irish so I could make tiger people and pony people, he should have let me go.
Now—because he didn’t—I’m going to destroy the whole poisonous, corrupt Pact Covenants system and every power player in it.
The five great men who had entrusted me with their pleasure and privacy had come to the Diamond Dome to make use of me… but also write law—to modify the final language of the Covenants of the Pact.
They had a clever plan to become even richer and more powerful, though at the expense of the people they supposedly served.
And that’s where I come in. The life I wanted to live was taken away from me when I was nine.
In truth, it was taken away from me when I was born, but I did not find out that I was an Assisted child and that my government would choose my life path for me until my ninth birthday.
My life—the life I wanted—was over a long time ago. My execution—if that is where I end—will be the conclusion of my long humiliation and pain.
But if I die, I’m going to bury the people who did this to me right along with me.
It starts with my comment during my interview about me being nothing beyond the thing their training created.
I put that into the interview with Danyal Travers because I knew the new Administrator of Cheegoth was listening in, as were my Pleasure Masters, the Educational Selectors, and everyone else in the whole corrupt Personal Skills and Educational Tracking and Optimization system.
By stating categorically that my training required me to kill my clients once I knew and had validated that they were planning to commit a crime against the Pacts of the Covenant, I sent everyone responsible for my education back through every bit of it from the day I was old enough to toddle into General Consumer training at the age of two.
While they task ever more resources into dissecting those stored holos and figuring out where I came up with my justification for murder—and at the same time put more resources into searching for outsiders who might have somehow implanted in me a trigger they could use from afar—I have both the time and the means to contact an old client who promised to help me out should I ever find myself in a situation where I had to do something that was both right… and criminal.
— * —
Charlie, the Longview’s mandatory Pact Covenant Observer, sat in Passenger Room 5, her Longview quarters, and on split screens watched what was being billed as the holocast of the century, presented by ever-smiling Danyal Travers, who had been covering the story for days. Each of Charlie’s two screens showed a different datastream of the same event.
On the left screen, she had the official Pact Worlds coverage of the public confession and sentencing of Suzee Delight, First Courtesan of the Diamond Dome, superstar goddess of a thousand Sensos—some actually suitable for general audiences—and reputed simultaneous murderer of the Administrators of the five most important Pact Worlds.
On the right screen, she had the raw, siphoned, underground version of the same feed. If Charlie’s Pact Worlds controller ever discovered that she watched unofficial feeds of anything streamed from the Pact Worlds, he would recall her and drop her citizenship level to F-10: Permanently Unemployable, Sentenced to Minimal Survival Assistance Only.
However, as long as she was assigned to the Longview and had Passenger Room 5 to herself, she was safe. If she did her job and made sure the Pact Worlds received a steady stream of money in exchange for their sentenced criminals, she could hope to remain aboard the Longview, where she was treated better than she’d ever been treated in her life, for at least a couple more years before she received mandatory rotation orders.
Charlie’s only objective where her controller was concerned was to remain unremarkable—to do an average job, turn in average numbers, and in all ways be an invisible cog in the Pact Worlds’ massive machine.
So she was content that the Longview, rumored to be the most profitable Death Circus franchise in Settled Space for its owner, only managed to stay in the middle of the pack where its profits on criminals bought and sold was concerned. How its owner made his other money was officially none of her concern.
…Well, anything she knew, she might be able to use to her own benefit. And she’d made it her business to know a lot.
Until she found a way to use what she knew, Charlie had decided that if she received rotation or recall orders, she planned to defect. Her defection details were fuzzy, but she was getting them together.
Meanwhile, however, she was in a position to make a difference for people the Pact Worlds considered fodder.
So she watched, tense, anxious, and at the same time hopeful.
Left-side Suzee said, “I am ashamed of my actions. I betrayed the trust of five men I loved, and used my position of trust to murder them because I envied them their power.”
Right-side Suzee said, “I am not ashamed of my actions. These five men betrayed the people they served. They planned to use their positions of trust and power to destroy the autonomy of the citizens they claim to represent.”
The cutwork on the official version had been skillfully done. Charlie couldn’t see or hear the blending between the segments that were actually Suzee’s words, and those that had been inserted.
Most of Settled Space would see the raw version, would know the venom in Travers’ voice as he asked her the questions, would see his eyes glitter as he envisioned her eventual fate.
Most citizens of the Pact Worlds, however, would only have access to the official version, which had little truth in it.
Left-side Suzee said, “I failed my government, my educators, my selectors, my trainers, my clients, and my profession as a courtesan—the highest calling to which any woman can aspire.”
Right-side Suzee said, “I accuse my government, my educators, my selectors, my trainers, and my clients for creating laws that make being a courtesan the highest work to which any woman can aspire.”
“Damned right,” Charlie muttered. “You tell ‘em, Suzee.”
Charlie had been lucky enough to be born homely and lacking in any discernible entertainment skills—she had been channeled into a low-level government job from which neither her intelligence nor her competence would ever elevate her. But her other government-designated career track had been D-3 Convenience Prostitute, and only the the shortage of PCOs caused by the higher suicide rate in the D-3 Pact Covenant Observer career field had saved her from that fate. The people she had to watch burn themselves to death on People’s Home of Truth and Fairness worlds haunted her. The executions she had to certify haunted her. She didn’t question for an instant the reason D-3 PCOs had the highest suicide rate of any career field in the Pact Worlds.
Her plan was to disappear from her job before it devoured her, too.
In front of her, left-side Suzee said, “Because I am guilty of five murders of men designated A-1, and because I freely confess that I committed these murders by intent…”
Right-side Suzee also said, “Because I am guilty of five murders of men designated A-1, and because I freely confess that I committed these murders by intent…”
Left-side and right-side Suzees both said, “I waive my right to trial in order to save the Pact Worlds the cost of such trial when the outcome is already certain, and instead elect to sell my death to the highest-bidding Death Circus, where my execution will be streamed for all viewers on all Pact Worlds. All Pact Worlds citizens need to be able to see me receiving the consequences of my actions.”
Charlie didn’t the hear Suzee’s last few words, however.
She was out the door and shooting herself onto the Longview’s passenger bridge transport, screaming, “I need to speak to the owner, I need to speak to the owner now!”
Shay, the owner’s representative, was on the bridge waiting for her when the passenger transport unlocked.
“Suzee Delight is selling herself to the highest-bidding Death Circus now,” Charlie shouted.
Both the captain and first mate looked back at the two of them.
Shay looked startled, then pleased. “Oh, that’s excellent. You and I will go to the owner’s quarters, Charlie. His condition is bothering him again, so he won’t meet with you personally, but you and I will talk, and he’ll watch us and relay suggestions to me.” She paused. “I’m assuming that you’ve brought this to me because you hope the owner will buy Suzee Delight’s execution.”
“Because you want to be the one to witness it?”
Shay’s suggestion was as far from Charlie’s truth as it was possible to get.
But Charlie shrugged and nodded. “That… is as good an explanation as any.”
The corners of Shay’s mouth twitched. “You have good entrepreneurial instincts. Come with me, then. I’ll let the owner know we have an investment opportunity for him.”
The story wrapped (in what I’m considering the final version) at 29,706 words. 9706 words over what I’d planned, or one third of another story. However, this episode turned out to be far more important to the overall series than I’d anticipated—I got into a couple things in it I wasn’t expecting to see in detail until around Episode 5.
It’s now off to the copyeditor, and I’m getting started on the last handful of pieces of MODULE ONE in the HOW TO WRITE A SERIES EXPANSION.
And because of the interesting time I had writing this story, I have some brand-new insights to add to MODULE TWO on what happens when one character in one story grabs the whole series and runs with it.
So I’d like to introduce you to Lauren Orbison, author of Tortellini [link goes to her site], and her tell you this story herself. Lauren garnered serious interest from a couple of BIG publishers, but in the end decided that going the indie route was best for her writing goals.
I’m thrilled with her success, and excited to see what she comes up with next.
In the first revision, I nailed the ending, but screwed up one big character issue while fixing a problem from the first revision.
Am doing the second editor’s revision today.
After that, assuming Matt’s third read of the story gets me a green light, the story will go to my copyeditor, and then I’ll put it out in print.
When it goes live, I’ll be about ready to start Module 2 of the HOW TO WRITE A SERIES EXPANSION.
As of this minute, the story stands at 27,102 words. (Out of 20,000 planned. Yeah. I’m over, and at this point pushing from 25% over to 33% over.)
This is old news by now, and I wasn’t even going to mention it, except I realize that a lot of my readers know the story, know that the bastard never paid for his crimes against my two older kids in spite of confessing much of what he did to them, and that these readers and friends would probably appreciate some closure.
The child-molester ex is the only creature in my entire life I wanted dead. Now he’s dead, and he suffered a lot getting there, and I’m glad of both things.
He doesn’t get the dignity of being named here (and if anyone knows his name and mentions it, I’ll delete the post). He doesn’t deserve to be remembered as a human being. He wasn’t one.
He was scum, and now he’s rotting scum, and the world is a better place because he’s stopped breathing the air the rest of us breathe.
I’m 60% of the way through the type-in, and as usual, the story is getting longer. Today, even after some big cuts, I ended up with a 522-word net gain, and a word count of 24,728.
I have some big cuts in the last third, but also MOST of my write-ins, so tomorrow’s word count should prove interesting. Not sure yet whether the story will end up longer or shorter overall—but I still haven’t gone ridiculously beyond my planned 20,000-word goal.
Next week it’ll go to my editor, and then to my copyeditor, and I’ll work on classroom stuff when it’s out of my hands.
I debated posting this.
It might not seem like it, but in a lot of areas, I’m a very private person.
And this story starts with a cancer scare, and switches gears bizarrely, and that isn’t something I’d generally talk about——but the fact is, no matter who you are, this post could help you and prevent a lot of pain for you or for someone you love.
So here’s what happened.
The Shit Goes Down
A couple months ago, I developed symptoms of colon cancer. Now symptoms of any sort of cancer are also generally symptoms of a million things that aren’t cancer, but if you value your life——and I value mine——the instant you experience the symptoms that could be something that MIGHT kill you, you have one sane option.
You IMMEDIATELY deal with the issue.
Now, I’m hell on wheels for skipping checkups, for avoiding medical testing, and for dropping out on age-group-standard recommended tests. I’m a retired RN, I detest hospital bureaucracy, and as far as possible, I avoid anything that might put me into the grip of this bureaucracy in world’s least desirable role: patient.
As long as I have no symptoms.
Symptoms change shit. When you have symptoms, you do not put them off, you do not ignore them, you do not wish them away, you do not hope for the best.
If you have symptoms, you IMMEDIATELY deal with the issue.
My symptoms started late on a Thursday night. Friday morning first thing, I called my GP and scheduled an appointment. The earliest one I could get was the following Wednesday. I continued experiencing symptoms up to and including the day of my appointment. Went in, talked with my doc, asked him what else it might be besides cancer.
He told me not to get ahead of myself.
I explained that my job as writer entails me immediately figuring out not just the worst-case scenario, but five ways to make that even worse. He laughed, I laughed. The truth is frequently funny, and there’s nothing like thinking you’re going to die to sharpen the edge on your laughter.
He got me a sit-down with a bowel guy the next day. I sat, he and I talked, I explained both my symptoms and my fears, and he scheduled me for an upper GI and a colonoscopy the following Monday.
Bowel Preps Are Fun
You drink horrible fluids in vast quantities at timed intervals, you avoid barfing at all costs, you live on the toilet. ‘Nuff said.
It Ain’t Your Mother’s Colonosopy
Things have changed a helluva lot since I stood beside a fully awake patient on an ER stretcher and instructed him to “pant like a puppy dog” while a tube the size of a city sewer pipe was inserted into unmentionable places by a sweating doctor.
If you have to do this, the procedure now is:
You fall asleep.
You wake up.
The Uncertain Results
Stuff on my insides were okay. No cancer there. BUT I had an atypical finding that required me to get a CAT scan. Might be we were still talking cancer, though of another sort.
Yippee. We scheduled my CAT scan for “soonest possible,” and on the appointed day, I got to drink barium.
And the WEIRD Results
The doc called me personally the next day to give me the results. Everything was fine. Well, fine for my age. I have a few normal “getting older” issues, but they’re no big deal.
Except, my doctor asked, did I know that I had a bad back? A really bad back?
If a doctor says something is “really bad,” he does not mean it in the way you mean it when you say “I have a really bad headache,” and two Tylenol fix the headache.
So I braced myself for BAD news.
I said I knew I’d had back pain since I was a kid.
What he told me wasn’t as bad as I’d considered it might be.
But it wasn’t great, either.
Turns out I’ve had scoliosis of the lower spine (Lumbar vertebrae 3 through Sacrum 1)——probably since I was a kid. I remember having awful shoulder pain when I was seven, so bad it made me cry. And I might have had lesser pain before that.
People who have idiopathic scoliosis generally know it. It’s a big deal, it’s visible with and without clothes, children are checked for it in schools when they’re young.
My kind of scoliosis——which turns out to be functional scoliosis from leg length discrepancy——is both fairly common and easy to miss. Mine is invisible externally.
But guess what. It’s capable of causing constant chronic pain including lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and migraines.
I did not have a single day or moment of my life from the time I was a kid in which my neck and shoulder muscles did not hurt. Folks ascribed this to me being tense. When I was a kid, I was told to quit complaining, to find something to do. When my back locked up, I lay on the floor with my feet on the couch until the pain lessened.
But consensus was that there was nothing wrong with me aside from the fact that I was a stressy bundle of nerves who would not and could not sit still.
Not so much, as it turns out. (Okay, I AM a stressy bundle of nerves who cannot sit still——but that turns out to be entirely unrelated to back, neck, and shoulder pain, and migraines.)
I figured out a free do-it-yourself test
The diagnosis on my CAT scan was “idiopathic scoliosis,” which just means “don’t know what caused it.”
But I was looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, and realized that my hips tilted just a bit downward to the left.
It isn’t anything I would ever have noticed, because it was a tiny difference. Only I’d been looking at my spine, trying to see if someone else might have noticed the problem just by looking at my back (the answer to this being, “Probably not”).
So I stood on my left leg and lifted my right leg.
Then I stood on my right leg, and lifted my left leg. I was noticeably taller. Did this a few times, went out and showed Matt. He said, “You’re bending your left knee.”
Only I wasn’t. We lined me up against a doorframe, and measured.
Standing on left leg.
Standing on right leg.
There’s half an inch difference in my height measured from left leg to right leg.
This is fixable, and the pain goes away
I decided to see what would happen if I just made my legs the same length.
I bought a few of the shoe lifts shown in the picture to the left (if you click the picture, it will take you to the actual product).
For the first week, my lower back hurt horribly, my upper back hurt even worse, and on day six of wearing the lift in my left shoe or slipper every waking moment, my entire back spasmed and I was back on the floor with my feet up on the couch.
Next day, though, the pain was gone. All gone. Lower back, shoulders. I literally cannot remember a time when my shoulders didn’t hurt. They don’t hurt anymore. My lower back hurts after I’ve slept from six to eight hours, but that’s because the spine is screwed up, and there’s some permanent damage there.
If you or someone you care about has constant lower back or shoulder pain, this is worth checking.
The test is simple. Get a ruler and a marker, and stand (or have your loved one stand) with back against the wall, shoulders back, chin up, ON ONE FOOT. Hold the ruler at a right angle to the wall, and mark the height (and the foot standing on). Then switch feet, and mark again. If there’s a discrepancy, this COULD be the cause of the pain, and a nine-dollar adjustable shoe lift might be able to relieve it.
Could the pain come from other things? Yep, and you’re responsible as an adult for getting yourself to a doctor to have those other things checked. If your loved one is a kid, get your kid to the doctor to see if there’s something better than a shoe lift that can be done to prevent the irreversible damage I have in my lower spine (L3-S1).
If someone had known to do this simple “stand on one foot” test for me, or even if as a young adult I had known to do it for myself, I would have spared myself constant pain for most of my life so far.
I had to write 2653 words today to HIT that deadline, but I did it.
So as promised, here is a largish version of the final cover art (clickable to show an even bigger version. Your votes and comments strongly influenced my final design.
Next week I’ll wrap up Module One of the How To Write A Series Expansion while I’m woking on the revision. It’ll take me a couple weeks to get the finished book through final editing, setup, and publication.
But we’re getting closer to Starting Module Two.