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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spotlight & Giveaway: Post-High School Reality Quest by Meg Eden



Post-High School Reality Quest
(a text adventure for young-adult readers)
By Meg Eden
2017
California Coldblood Books
Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.
After graduating high school, a voice called “the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to live her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.
While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares.



Excerpt


Graduation: May 12th, 2009


You are in the cafeteria. There is a high school graduation happening. Mason, the valedictorian, is giving her farewell to the class. It takes a long time.

In your pocket, there is a letter. It’s crumpled and smeared from you reaching in and touching it so many times, to make sure it’s still there.
Exits are: out, back and stage.
Tristan was almost valedictorian. He was about .002 points away from it. And he makes sure to not let any of you forget. Not that you’d ever forget a single word he’s ever said.
>Back.
You get up from your chair and go to the back of the room. There is a piano. You look longingly at it.
>Examine piano.
You go over the piano. You run your fingers over the keys but are too shy to actually play anything. That’s what everyone says about you: that you want to do something but never actually do it. That’s why you wear gothic Lolita dresses only at home, curl your hair once a month, and paint on the weekends. Anything else might be too much.
> Exit out.
You are now in the main hallway. It is very long. There are lots of doors.
You wonder if you hide in one of them long enough you can avoid growing up. Everyone says that after today, everything that you do actually matters. That every decision you make will invariably have consequences on your existence and wellbeing. The only consequences you’re used to are not saving before entering the water temple in Ocarina of Time, or using up your master ball before encountering Mewtwo in Pokemon Red.
Exits are: cafeteria, door, another door, bathroom, main office, and out.
> Door?
You go into one of the doors. It’s not very exciting.
>Out.
You are now in the main hallway. It is very—
>Bathroom.
You go into the bathroom. There is an acidic smell you can’t quite place coming from the stalls. Sephora is in front of the mirror, fluffing her insignificant breasts. No one believes her birth name is actually Sephora but no one has any proof to say otherwise. She doesn’t look like a make-up model but you keep that kind of commentary to yourself.
Exits are: bathroom stall and out.
“You dying out there too?” Sephora asks, pressing her hands on her stomach. “It’s so humid in that small room.”
You nod. “Yeah, it’s really hot.” You feel sweat run through your hair, down your scalp.
“When there’s a whole twenty people graduating, you’d think it’d be shorter than this. But they still find a way to make us miserable.” Sephora reapplies a layer of lipstick. “And this uniform makes me look even fatter than usual. Ugh.”
You just graduated from a religious high school. You say religious, because as hard as it is for you to stomach the concept of a God, words like transubstantiation are even less comprehensible to you. And as much as your music class sings about concepts like grace, the signs posted on every door with commandments like: Skirts shorter than your finger tips are unacceptable and Earrings should be no larger than a nickel, have made you eager for the alleged freedom of college.
And not just freedom from rules, but freedom from people like Sephora, who are “your friends” only because of your small school population. Because everyone has to survive somehow, and it’s dangerous to go alone.
But you’ve survived, at least this far. Congratulations.
Sephora sighs, scratching at the dead skin on her cheek. “I can’t wait ‘til the sun comes out again. I mean, look at my skin! I need to tan again.”
Even if you hadn’t seen Sephora in size 00 bikinis before, one look at Sephora makes it clear that she has the Scottish pasty skin that never tans. Just like you. Besides your gender and your love of obscure video games, this is all you have in common with her.
“You know, now that summer’s coming, I’m thinking about trying something new, just for the kicks.” Sephora looks you in the eye. “I’m even thinking about going out with Tristan. Who knows. It might be fun! And I’ve been seeing him eye me…”  
You want to tell Sephora that she’s too stupid to date someone as brilliant as Tristan, that he has better taste than that, but you can’t seem to get the words out.
>Wrestle Sephora to the ground.
You wrestle the lipstick from her hands and scream “You whore!” and write mean things on the mirror. Then you stuff her head in the toilet and prevent this horrible story from actually happening.
And by that, you only daydream of wrestling Sephora to the ground.
If you had actually done that, you might’ve beaten the game in record time. Assuming life’s a game and you remembered to save more frequently.
>I don’t like this story.
I’m sorry. I don’t understand “I don’t like this story.” You think we get to choose our stories?

Meg Eden's work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, and Gargoyle. She teaches creative writing at places including University of Maryland, The Writer’s Center, and Anne Arundel Community College. She has four poetry chapbooks, and is a poetry editor for Wherewithal. When she’s not writing, she plays video games with her husband, namely Fire Emblem. She loves reading anything and everything she can get her hands on.  
Win an ARC of Post-High School Reality Quest + swag! Meg has generously offered up one ARC and swag for one winner
(US only, ends 1/27)

4 comments:

Danielle H. said...

This is a very unique and interesting premise for a book. I know gaming is very popular, so this book sounds like it would be fun and exciting to read. And I may learn a few things while reading it.

suzanne cattanes said...

Love the idea of this book, very intriguing and interesting x

Luke Johnston said...

This combines three of my favorite things: books, VR, and gaming. Can't wait to read this!

kay Slowey-Sly said...

I enjoy the use of "stage directions." Sounds very interesting.