Dani yelped and stumbled backward as the squeegee bounced off her forehead. A knee knocked the mop out of her hands, followed by a rubber boot which connected with her stomach. This racked up her butt’s twentieth rendezvous with the floor of the supernatural sanitation company’s training room.
The impact jolted her spine and forearms as she tried to catch herself. It also prompted a plastic crunch. She groaned and eyed a pants leg pocket, where a wet splotch started leaking through the material.
She undid the zipper and pulled out the cracked remains of a small bottle of sanitation gel . Barely a handful remained inside, and she dribbled this into her palm in the hopes of salvaging something from the mess.
Then she stilled as another squeegee whipped into the floor beside her—except this one sliced through the concrete like an axe splitting a particularly unlucky watermelon. She glowered at this as her attacker spoke.
“Your opponent is not about to pause and let you tidy up after every hit, Miss Hashelheim.”
She grabbed the squeegee handle, thinking she could snap it back in a surprise attack. But her gel-slicked fingers didn’t give her a solid grip on the embedded Cleaner weapon.
Between tugs and grunts, she tried to formulate a decent excuse. “I was … trying to … coat my hands … with a substance that’d keep … any Scum back.”
Huffing and admitting defeat via squeegee, she lay back and tried to let her exasperation ebb away. Sweat trickled down her neck as she took inventory of her latest bruises.
Josh Vogt writes:
Sequels are tough to write, especially when you’re trying to keep the series accessible to new readers, whether they’ve read the first book or not. With The Cleaners, now that we’ve moved beyond the events of Enter the Janitor, the opening to The Maids of Wrath had to pull a bit of extra weight.
I wanted it to do quite a few things at once. I needed to establish the central context of the story—that being people working for a supernatural sanitation company. I also needed to introduce a main character—Dani—and give a sense of her character from the get-go.
At the same time, I wanted this opening to raise a lot of questions in the minds of new and returning readers alike so they’d continue on to discover the answers. Why does this sparring match involve cleaning equipment? What are Scum? How did that squeegee slice into the floor? Will Dani ever find a fresh bottle of sani-gel again? (Okay, maybe that last question isn’t so important.)
Plus, since The Cleaners is an urban fantasy series with more humorous elements than most, I wanted to introduce that comedic tone as early as possible so expectations could be set as to what the rest of the story will be like.
In the midst of everything else, the immediate setting quickly becomes ground zero for the major crisis of the book, catapulting Dani and friends into a race against time to save the whole company. In Enter the Janitor, she underwent a rough-n-tumble initiation into this weird world of magical janitors, maids, plumbers, and more. Now she has the chance to be more proactive, take even more control of her powers, and discover just how much of a mop-wielding badass she can be.
Assuming she survives her first official job in the field, of course.
About the Author:
Author and editor Josh Vogt’s work covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes, published alongside his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. He’s an editor at Paizo, a Scribe Award finalist, and a member of both SFWA and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt.
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