Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here we go, again...

I've been inputting corrections and smoothing over the opening of "The Lyons' Den" and thought I'd share a solid version of how the book begins, again.  No HUGE changes...but smoother ones, I hope.


Okay, Daniel never should’ve agreed to help Tad (excuse me, Theodore J. Bentley, the Third) in the first place; let’s agree on that up front. But the way the guy rushed into the diner, breathless, his ice-blue eyes projecting fear and need and horror -- all on top of that tender little quiver he could get in his voice as he whimpered, “Danny, please, I don’t know what to do,” -- well I have to admit, it would’ve breached the first wall of any defense...maybe even mine, and I hated his ass.

Well, “hated” might be kind of strong, but I sure as hell didn’t like him, especially after what he’d pulled on Dan-O six months earlier. You see, that’s when Tad dumped him. After they’d been together for three years! It left my guy unable to do anything but just lie in bed for two days as he tried not to think, and the only reason he got going that quick was his rent was coming due so he had to work or get evicted. Not an easy time, lemme tell ya.

But crap like that don’t really matter to people like Tad (excuse me, Master Theodore J. Bentley, the Third; he’d snarl in disgust without the full and flowing exclamation of his name). He was one of those young, perfect East Coast types who know from the cradle that they’re destined for great and glorious things (meaning a producer in Hollywood, in his case; helps to know the shallowness of his aims). And man, was he putting everything he had into it. He’d already produced one cable movie using one of Dan-O’s mystery-suspense novels -- “High-Heeled Moccasins,” featuring yours truly, Ace Shostakovich -- but what made him a player (someone to be paid attention to, in Hollywood-speak) was that he had also taken an option on two more of Daniel’s books -- “The Tangerine 42-D Cup Madam” and “The Dr. Pepper Tryst and Tristan” -- all of them with a nice little cult following and, again, featuring me.

Meaning, yes -- I don’t really exist except on the page or in the back of your brain. But if you think it’s weird a fictional character’s telling this story, you ain’t seen what happened, yet.

Unfortunately, even having six mysteries published don’t mean making enough to live on in New York City. So while Tad was flying high playing Mr. Great-and-Glorious-Producer-Dude, my guy was still tending bar at two different eateries. And that’s probably how things would have stayed if Tad’s “little problem” hadn’t reared its ugly head.

You see, as the Golden-One put it, he’d hired this way-too-pricey-twenty-one-year-old-Cheeto-eater (AKA: laptop potato) to adapt those two books into eight scripts for a cable series. Everyone Tad talked to SWORE he was the hottest screenwriter since Orson Welles, so who better to give him something high profile and eye-popping to show the money boys?

Well...Tad finally got the screenplays on a Friday. And just knowing they would knock anybody’s nose ring off, Mr. Brilliant arranged a drop-dead face-to-face with the “yay or nay” guy at HBO for the following Monday (sort of a “meet me, now, or I take it to Showtime” kind of deal; being bi-lingual helps). Only then did he actually read the damned things -- and that’s when he saw his fledgling career crash and burn before his designer contacts.

Seems the Cheeto-eater’d had so little interaction with reality (since birth, I bet), he thought characters in movies were more real than real people were, especially when spitting third-rate film noir dialog that was dumb in the 40’s and doing crap that’d be idiotic even for a spoof of the mystery-thriller genre. But just as Sir-Perfect was about to toss himself off the balcony of his million-dollar condo, he remembered Dan-O worked lunches, nearby, so raced over to waylay him.

Now he and my guy were seated in a downstairs booth, in a back corner of the diner’s faux dark and white 1890’s d├ęcor, right by the hallway to the restrooms. And having filled my guy in on his “worse than death” situation, Tad shifted gears into whine mode. “This means ALL the scripts are crap, all fuckin’ eight of them, including the Bible.” (“The Bible” not being that book of Christian conflict but one that outlined the direction the characters and story would take; just keeping you up with the patois.)

“C’mon, Tad,” (Daniel being the only one allowed to call him that), “I write books, not scripts.”

“But they’re based on your books! And you’re the one who was always telling me, a story’s a story.”

My guy snorted as he said, “A script isn’t a story, it’s a desecration.” Then he dug into his cheeseburger, served nice and hot, for once, by his buddy, Orlando, and which he was using as both lunch and dinner since he had another shift to work, that night.

“Danny, I told you from the outset,” Tad snapped, “you can’t fit a whole two-hundred and fifty pages into an hour and forty minute movie without cutting some things. And you know, reviewers still said we stuck really close to your story.”

Didn’t matter. So the movie had turned out nice enough, so what? It still wasn’t...well, it just wasn’t right. I’d been made way too cynical and Carmen (oh, she’s my sexy secretary) was only a sex toy, not at all like we were in the novel. Honest. But Dan-O’d made enough cash off the rights and a bump in book sales to pay off a couple bills and move to an apartment that had fewer roaches, so he couldn’t bitch too much. And since this series of screwed-up scripts were based on what he’d written, he probably did have a pretty good idea of what they’d need to work.

“Besides,” Tad kept on with, “you’re the guy who’s always said...and I heard it every time you got stuck on a story...‘My characters’ll work it out. Ace’ll take care of everything.’”

“Which you said made me sound crazy.”

“Yeah, so why stop now?” said without a hint of irony.

Dan-O all but growled, “But I wasn’t, Tad.”

“Then why’re you on Prozac?”

“I’m NOT!”

Not anymore, anyway. He’d stopped taking it three weeks before the breakup.

“Danny, last time I was at your place, you still had a bottle in the bathroom.”

“It’s an old prescription and -- whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, you went through my medicine cabinet?”

“Yeah. I was -- was looking for some Tylenol and...” And all of a sudden, Little-Sir-Perfect realized he fucked up. He could see it in Dan-O’s glare.

Oh, a little background here -- he’d appeared at Dan-O’s door a few weeks ago with a list of questions the Cheeto-eater had about “...Tristan” and had used the bathroom twice while my guy was trying to understand where the hell the questions had come from since they had nothing to do with the book he’d written. And had said nothing concerning either the meds or the weirdness of the looming rewrite, then.

Well, Sir-Great-and-Glorious rolled his eyes in that way that always pissed my guy off (not so much because it was condescending or dismissive, but because he looked so damned good when he did it) and he said, “Okay, fine, fine, I shouldn’t have done that. And so what if I’ve seen you say things that would’ve put you in a padded room, fifty years ago? I know that’s just you being creative because I HAVE seen it work. I never should’ve said that, Danny. I -- I’m sorry.”

Which floored Dan-O and me, both. This guy was one of those people who never admit they’re wrong about anything, and who have the looks, attitude and charisma to pull it off. I mean, if he says the sky is green, it sorta-kinda is -- even when it’s really blue. If he says the world is flat -- hell, not even the horizon would argue with him. But here was big, bad, beautiful Tad (oops, Theodore J. Bentley, the Third; I keep forgetting one must have one’s moniker correct, y’know and...oh, the hell with it; let him snarl) -- here he was, allowing that he might have committed an error.

That alone would’ve told anybody with even half a brain that the bastard was up to something.

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