Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Surprise: a Snippet of New Material (Ze'evi + Mags)

EDITED TO ADD (ETA): I hate Microsoft Word. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I did a straight copy/paste from Word into the Blogger  new post web form and didn't actually read the snippet after posting it. I'd read it in Word and knew it didn't have typos so.... I apologize. I had no idea that every single line had a line-break character added to it (or removed from it) thus making words merge together, about once every 10-15 words (or once per "line" in the original doc). Ugh. I don't imagine I would be willing to read something like this so I won't be offended if you don't. Then again, it's a snippet. It's a free read of something not yet published. It's just for yucks and grins. Don't read it if technical errors due to formatting will drive you crazy. Do read it if you don't care and just want to read something new and interesting. Youse gets what youse pays fo-ah

We now return you to the regularly posted blog from last Saturday. -sry

This is an opener and I never write openers first. My normal style of writing is to compose the ending first (resolving the major conflict), then the peak of the major conflict in the middle (or at the 70%-80% mark) of the book and then I randomly flesh out scenes in between as they come to me (sometimes coming way too quickly to get them all out before I lose the thread, which is why we Out. Line.) and then last, but not least, I write the opener. I like to make the opener "balance" the closure at The End. I have a thing for symmetry.

So. Writing the opener first. This is a new experience. I can already tell it's going to have to undergo serious editing because it drags. There's way too much info dumping going on here and I want to get right into the conflict--or at least meeting of the Hero (Ze'evi) and Heroine (Mags)--much sooner than this, but this is what I spat out when I tried this new approach of writing the opener first. I've also got no clue what to write for a "pitch" but I'll give that a shot now, too. What the heck.

I haven't even drafted the outline of this book but these characters have substantial history already established by reference in the Lacey / Rainey Story, which occurs just under a year later. Ze'evi and the Orlov Twins, who all play prominently in Rainey's world, first make their appearances back in this book. They were created in 2003, when I first finished Dicky's Story. This book is definitely a "prequel" to the Lacey / Rainey Story, which is currently about 2/3 done (outlined and written) but I might finish Lacey / Rainey before I finish this prequel.

Now I'm writing prequels and sequels simultaneously and writing openers, I'm living dangerously, huh? As "Emperor Gregor" always says, Lets see what happens.

A sketch (not a pitch) for Ze'evi and Mags:

This is the story of a woman carting around the erroneous hommage of a name, Marlena Magdalene Dietrich, or "Mags" to her friends, and Zachary "Ze'evi" Levinson, the Prodigal Son who'd rather no one knew his real name, since living in his father's shadow has been a lifelong battle. When their worlds collide, will Mags draw Ze'evi into her shadows of anonymity or will Ze'evi's fame put the spotlight on her instead?

The Opening Snippet (the first 2600 words anyway, but I might have to post more later today as this seems to be flowing fairly quickly now that I'm all caffeinated up)


Marlena MagdaleneDietrich, or Mags to her friends, stopped just inside the door to let her eyesadjust to the dim light. The two couples pushing in behind her shoved her into theline to pay the cover charge. Great. This was going to be one of thoseevenings.

The place was packed. The music was booming even in thevestibule and it blasted out of control everytime another group went insidethrough the second set of doors. She kept worrying someone might have seen her,followed her here, but she’d walked from the T station without a tail and hadto assume, she was safe here. There was just that niggling sense of beingwatched raising the hairs on the back of her neck. Maybe it was the girl behindher staring her down and making snide remarks about how Mags was dressed,interspersed with giggles of objection to the guy pawing her. Yeah, this wasdefinitely going to be one of those nights. She just hoped it would be worththe ten dollar cover charge. That was half of all her worldly assets, notcounting the clothes on her back or the not-inexpensive hiking boots on herfeet.

She noticed the slush still clinging to her boot soles anddeliberately stomped onto the carpet where she was standing before taking astep forward. She had to smile when the girl behind her made a noise ofobjection as her spiky heeled shoes squished into the puddle Mags had leftbehind. The girl made her date trade places with her. She didn't want to be in the wet spot. Mags had to stop herself from laughing. Spoiled Girl probably blamed him for the wet spot in bed, too. Ungrateful bitch. She was lucky tohave a bed. And a date. And high heeled shoes to wear clubbing.

Mags had to stop herself from mentally railing against thegirl. It wasn’t her fault she was a spoiled middle-class twenty-something withno idea how hard life could really be out “in the real world.” From the accent,Spoiled Girl wasn’t Israeli but definitely came from the region, somewhere inthe north, maybe—Mags stopped trying to guess when Spoiled Girl switched to gutteralArabic and mentioned a neighborhood in Southern Lebanon. Of course, come toCambridge, Massachusetts to hear an Israeli rock star and get in line next toLebanese immigrants. Just her luck.

Mags focused on the line ahead of her. Most had taken theircoats off and obviously paid an additional two dollars for a ticket at thecoatroom off to the right. Mags would not be joining in the divesting ofouterwear. The group behind her did though, and Spoiled Girl’s dateapparently volunteered to deliver all four coats to the coat room. He deliberatelyshoved the pile into Mags’s back as he passed, giving his Spoiled Girl alittle chuckle. The guy smiled back at her over his shoulder. Mags repeated the common Israeli mantra I will not kill I will not kill It wasn’t working. Shereally wanted to turn around and whack the Spoiled Girl.

Mags would never get used to the idea of giving her thingsto a total stranger and then expecting to get them back again. It was hotin here though, especially with the overhead fan blasting just inside the door, so sheslipped her heavy backpack off her shoulders and dropped it on the floor infront of her when the person ahead of her advanced on the line. Next, she shed her heavywinter jacket and tied it by the sleeves around her hips. She pulled up on the hem of her turtleneck sweater, wanting to take it off too, but she was only wearing a tank topunderneath. She didn’t even have a bra on, as she was still dressed for comforton the long flight. She decided to err in the favor of modesty. At least for now.

She picked up her overstuffed backpack and tossed it backover her shoulders, not an easy task given how the weight made it ride low onher hips and the jacket pushed it up off her back. Then again, the jacket paddedher bony butt from the sharp objects in her bag that had shifted and beendigging into her ever since she’d left the T station.

She enjoyed the exclamations of displeasure coming frombehind her when she tossed the backpack around, trying to shift it up a bit andget it resettled over her jacket. Maybe Spoiled Girl shouldn’t stand right onher heels, then.

Mags couldn’t understand how people felt comfortableleaving their coats and things in a coat room, entrusted to a total stranger.Being a homeless teenager in Boston’s harsh winters had taught her to be more vigilantover her things, especially good outerwear! She kept an eye on all of herthings every waking moment—and sleeping moments, too, for that matter! Shecould sleep with one eye open if she had to, sense someone sneaking up on herfrom a block away no matter how busy the street or sidewalk, and she’d learnedhow to blend into almost any “normal” situation. Like a night club.

Like this night club. She was hiding in plain sight, asthey said. The cops hadn’t really known who she was walking down Lyndhurst but she’dgotten her ass out of Dorchester the second that black and white had sloweddown so the cop could look out his window at her. She’d only just arrived backin the States this morning, made one—and only one—stop on the way from Loganairport. That had been a mistake. No, not a mistake. She was glad she knew thetruth now. She was an orphan all over again. It was kind of a relief to be ridof that particular set of rents, but she seemed to burn through parents likemost people burned through old socks: just took her a few years of wear andtear. They’d wear her down and tear her apart and she’d run away.

This time, though, karma had been on her side. She’d leftthe country almost exactly a year ago on a Birthright program that had seemedlike a godsend at the time. Since her birth certificate—the only informationshe had about her genetic heritage—claimed she was Jewish, the Jewish Agency orAliyah Program had arranged for her passport and gotten her a charity spot inthe group trip. Her round-trip airfare had been covered completely. All she’dhad to come up with was two thousand dollars for her part of the room and boardfor the first few months in Israel. That was all. Hah! She’d had to sell just abouteverything she could beg, borrow or steal to raise that kind of huge sum, butshe’d done it. She’d never held that much cash in her hands before but she’dwalked into the office in downtown Boston and smacked it down on the counter.

The greased wheels of beaurocracy had spun quickly after that. The Birthrightprogram arranged everything. She had a place to stay in an Immigrant ProcessingCenter, a mehr-kaz ha-klee-tah, and they’d taught her some basic Hebrewin classes held three times a week for five months. The other immigrants in theMercaz Haklita mostly spoke Russian, the de facto second language inIsrael these days, but they also helped her practice her Hebrew in exchange forsome English lessons. She’d discovered her mother-tongue English was somethingof a marketable commodity in Israel. After the first five months, she had tomove out on her own but the program had arranged for her to have a six-monthwork visa. She’d actually found a pretty good job as a Java programmer—not thatshe really knew how to program in Java, so much as she could read codeand she bluffed her way through the interview. They were as much interested inher mother-tongue English as in any coding skills and in the first three monthsof working with real coders, she’d actually learned how to write Javacode. She had a marketable skill now. She just been learning how to do Testing and Quality Assurance when the company folded.

She’d been unable to get another job because her visa goingto run out, only good until the end of the calendar year, so she’d had to comeback to the States. Getting onto the plane in Tel Aviv, Land of Eternal Summer,and getting off in Boston at the height of the Christmas season in full swingwas a bit of a culture shock. The weather notwithstanding, the thing thatamazed her was how quickly she’d forgotten how much America flashes and blinksevery winter in celebration of commercialization and capitalism. Or the birthof some other religion’s Messiah depending on who you asked.

Mags didn’t believe in any religion, no matter how usefulthe designation had been on her birth certificate. Being called something andactually believing it yourself were two different things. People had tried tolabel her all of her life but Mags did not take well to labels. It probablystarted with her name, the evidence of how idiotic her biological mother hadbeen. The actress had been named Marie Magdalene Dietrich, not MarlenaMagdalene, and Hollywood had called her Marlene, not Marlena, but apparentlyMags’s mom was just that stupid. The best thing the woman had ever done wasleave her newborn baby behind at the hospital on New Year’s Eve.

She’d considered trying to stay in Israel illegally sincethere were ways, after all, to hide in a country with a thriving black market.If nothing else, she’d known she could revert easily to living on the streetagain. Streets are the same all over the world and streets populated by mafiaand black market sales are the easiest to exploit, but the Russians importedtoo many sex slaves for a blonde like herself to go walking around safely. Shehad poor Russian language skills, even after five months of living among them,and with no hulking man over her shoulder, she’d end up in a bad situation tooquickly to get out alive. She wasn’t stupid. She got on the plane.

Back to the land of her birth with nothing to show for heryear abroad but some new programming skills. Then again, she was also no worsefor wear and she’d lived through another year of life. She’d written to herfoster parents back in Israel when she’d known she was going to come back tothe States, but they’d never answered her. She figured they had no idea how tosend a letter internationally. They weren’t the brightest bulbs in the closet.

Little did she know—until today—that they’d been dead abouteleven months, murdered over some kind of drug deal gone bad, right there intheir own home. Well, their own rented home.To her horror, the only lead the cops had her foster parents’ murder were hername and physical description. A bad sketch of her face on a worn paper posterhad been tacked to a telephone pole two doors down from their old place,claiming she’d robbed them over drug money and then killed them and run. She’dbeen out of the country but Mags hadn’t stuck around to explain that when theblack and white showed up and slowed to take a look at her.

She’d turned down Lyndhurst and made the icy two-blocksprint before diving safely into the red line subway entrance at Shawmut. Shealmost didn’t recognize the place. It had been under construction when she’dleft and they’d added all kinds of wheelchair accessibility ramps and other nicefeatures. Gentrified, as they say. It was nice that it didn’t stink of urine andmildew anymore and she had to admit, the ramp made it easier to fly through tothe train platform quickly. Her knit gloves slid right along the wheelchairguide bars all the way down. It was almost like free running.

She scraped out the contents from her front jeans pocketand plucked one of the two ten-dollar bills out to shove under the slot in thecashier’s window pane. That’s when she noticed that she only had two rides lefton her 10-ride pass. She’d planned to conserve those last few rides for as longas possible. The good news, she reminded herself as the cashier rolled theblack light ink stamp over the back of her hand, was that from the club’slocation here in Cambridge’s Central Square, she knew a place no more than aten-minute walk down Brookline Street where she could huddle for the night. Shewouldn’t even have to fight Harvard Square’s Homeless for a spot out of thewind under the buildings down on Brattle Street.

She reminded herself there was always a chance she couldfind some guy she knew and convince him to take her home for the night. Aone-night stand with an old ex was a small price to pay for a place to stay inthe middle of a December night in Beantown. Spoiled Girl behind her made noiseswhen someone behind her made to cut the line and Mags gratefully pushedthrough the inner doors into the deafening music of Israeli rock legend, BerrySakharoff. The singer’s silky voice washed over her while the electric guitarpierced her eardrums. It was great. Exactly what she’d needed right now.

She let the door close behind her and immediately stepped sideways to the right, along the back wall to scout the room. She let her big backpack slide down her arms and then flipped it around, mounting it over her front instead of her back. She adjusted the straps longer as she scanned theroom to the right. It was an automatic move to put her pack on backwards, a means of protecting her property, just as scanning the room before engaging with anyone was a reflex. She needed to know she was safe here before she could relax at all.

As expected, the two couples who’d been in line behind her came crashing through the doors after a moment and they never even hesitated. If she hadn’t moved out of the way quickly, they’d have trampled her. They had either started drinking before arriving at the club or they had other chemical enhancements well underway. Mags didn’t object to recreational drugs, but she didn’t use them. She’d never been willing to spend what little money she had on something so counter-productive. Besides, job applications these days required that pee in a cup step and more of the club drugs were showing up on the pre-employment screenings. It was hard enough to get a job without a permanent address. She didn’t need ambiguous drug tests killing her slim chances.

She was about to cross over to the left side of the room where the population was more male than female, but the doors to the entrance opened again and two hulking goons camethrough. These guys were either wrestlers or professional security—or both—and shedid not want to get into a conversation with them. She didn’t like the AlphaMale types. They were always too controlling for a free spirit like her.

The Goon Brothers were followed by a set of identical twins that were just as tall but slimmer and dressed better. The one closest to herturned his head and made eye contact. She felt her throat tighten up when hesmiled. He had electric blue eyes to go with that long thick mane of black hairand even in the darkness here in the back of the room, when he smiled thatmegawatt smile, his eyes lit up. Or maybe it was at the sight of her. He rolledhis tongue to let her see a flash of a tongue piercing and his mirror image brothershoved at him, muttering something in Hebrew.

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