Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Passing Strangers Chapter One, scene one

Thanks for your questions and comments yesterday. The housewife in the prologue is Janette. The character in book one is Tuesday, the middle book is Matthew, and the final book is Janette again.

The prologue is something like Nov. 7, Tuesday's scene picks up on Nov. 8 and runs through about the 10th, Matthew picks up on the 10th and runs through about the 15th, and Janette picks up on the 15th and runs until about the 18th. See how it works? And, of course, most of the story takes place when they are all on the train trip.

This morning, as I was reading final pages for THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY, I realized that these books do have something in common: they are both books with three protagonists. The the protagonist POVs are mixed in INSINCERITY, and they're kept separate in the train story. I just wanted to experiment with differing forms, and when characters have a secret, it's fun to have the other characters misreading what that secret is.

Okay--chapter one, scene one. Feels like I have a clapper and am holding it before a camera: take one!

Chapter One

Providence, Rhode Island

Wednesday, November 7

When the phone on my desk rings, my assistant stares at it as if I’ve received a call from beyond the grave.

“Is that your cell phone ringing?” Jasmine’s eyes widen and meet mine. “In all the years I’ve worked for you, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phone ring.”

I ignore her comment and pick up my phone, but the hair at the back of my neck rises. Only a handful of people have this number, and none of them would call during work hours unless they wanted to tell me about a bona fide emergency.

I glance at the number in the viewer, then tell Jasmine we can finish our reports later. After she tosses me another bewildered look, she backs out of my office and closes the door behind her.

Something inside me goes still as I press the receive button. “Tuesday Crystal. Is this Mr. Rueben?”

My lawyer’s baritone voice immediately puts me at ease. “Tuesday, how are you?”

“Fine, but I was surprised to see your number on my phone. Is everything okay?”

“I’m not sure how to answer that.” His sigh echoes over the airwaves between Rhode Island and Chicago. “I’m calling for two reasons. First, I wanted you to know that we’re putting your check into the mail today. It’s not the windfall I wish I could send, but it’ll be a nice addition to your retirement fund.”

I laugh and move to my window, which offers a view of a busy downtown street. “That’s okay—I’m amazed every time I get a check.”

“I’m not. TV Land loves the show, and in his cover letter Oliver mentioned that Nickelodeon just picked up the series. So it’s a fair bet that you’ll be in reruns and earning residuals for months to come.”

I grab a hank of hair and glance at the ends to be sure the color is holding. I’m a blonde in those reruns, and sometimes I suffer from nightmares in which my copper color has washed away, leaving me with the yellow blonde hair of my teenage years . . .

“I hate reruns.” I blurted out the thought without thinking, then realize that my lawyer must think I’m awfully ungrateful. Embarrassment burns my cheeks as my words hang in the silence like a belch at a formal dinner party.

Fortunately, Mr. Rueben knows me well. “I know you wish someone would lock all those episodes in a vault, but your mother depends on those residual checks. I would imagine that your siblings don’t complain about unexpected paychecks, either.”

“Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining.”

The lawyer chuckles. “After all these years, don’t think you can fool me. And that brings me to the second reason for my call—and I’m sorry as I can be about being the bearer of bad news.”

“Should I sit down?” I’m half-joking when I ask the question, so when he answers yes, I fall into my chair as if my knees have given way. What is going on? Thomas Rueben hardly ever calls me; he usually mails my checks with a cover letter and his best wishes. For him to feel compelled to pick up the phone—this must be spectacularly bad news. Could something have happened to one of my—

“It’s your mother,” he says, his voice flat and somber. “Oliver said she hadn’t been feeling well, so he finally got her to a doctor.”

“She’s . . . seriously sick?”

“Cervical cancer. The prognosis isn’t good.” Mr. Reuben’s voice is smooth and calm; my lawyer is an expert at delivering portentous announcements. His news whirls in my head, intelligible and specific and complex, yet my brain reduces this report to one conscious thought: my mother is too stubborn to die on a doctor’s schedule. She might be too stubborn to die at all.

The thought of my mother being terminally ill is so absurd that I almost begin to laugh. Mona Huggins, dying? I’ve seen my mother fly in the face of network executives; I’ve seen her bully her way into a bat mitzvah at the Beverly Hills Hotel so our band could play for a talent agent. The woman is half superhero and half politician. No way could she be dying.

But if by some chance she is, why should it matter to me? I can’t count the number of times I’ve reminded myself that I no longer care about what she does. Long ago I decided that I won’t cry when she dies, and I won’t go to her funeral. I am Tuesday Crystal now, and Mona Huggins has nothing to do with me—

But though our relationship has been severed and I haven’t seen Mom in years, this news drops me into a pool of confusion where I find myself swimming in a current of emotions and memories.

“How long?” My voice emerges in a rusty croak.

“The doctors give her four to six weeks. I’m so sorry, Tuesday.”

I shoehorn a note of gratitude into my voice; my lawyer might have been reluctant to make this call. “Thank you for telling me. I appreciate hearing about this before the tabloids get wind of the story.”

“Tuesday, there’s something else.”

His comment distracts me from thoughts of Internet rumors and gossip journalism. “What else could there be?”

“Your mother wants to get the family together. She wants one last reunion . . . with all of you.”

A cackle of protest rises from my throat. “Impossible.”

Mr. Rueben’s voice gentles. “Perhaps you should call—”

“I’m not calling her.”

“I was going to suggest that you call Oliver. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.”

For about half a minute I consider calling my former agent, then I shake my head. “He’d tell her that we spoke. I’ve worked too hard at making a new life for myself. I’m not Christy Huggins any more.”

“But you’re still your mother’s daughter.”

His words echo in my head, and I am unable to argue.

I am my mother’s daughter. But I was also my father’s daughter, and Cole’s big sister.

And I can never forget that Mom is the reason Dad and Cole are dead.

Angie here again: Still with me? What do you think? What are your impressions of Tuesday? Do you like her? Why or why not? How old do you think she is? Do tell all! :-)


Kathy C. said...

Okay, now you're teasing us.....

Ruthie said...

Not fair!! I know you authors love to keep your readers hanging, but this is too much!! LOL I want to know WHY Tuesday thinks her mother is responsible for her dad's and brother's deaths.

I would imagine that Tuesday is in her late 20's, early 30's. She is possibly the youngest child in the family. I don't know if I really like her or not...I think I do. Obviously she is an actress; maybe came from a "show biz" family.

This is fun, Angie. Got more tidbits?

Mocha with Linda said...

You do love to torture us, don't you?! How many months or years until the book is in our hands?

It's kinda hard to tell how old Tuesday is. I was going to guess 39-ish, but the whole rerun/Nickelodeon thing made me wonder if she's older. I assume she's not married and she doesn't have kids. Don't know if I like her or not - she's obviously got some bitterness and resentment, and her likeability depends on how much I can see the hurt simmering vs. just a hardened woman. Don't know if that makes sense. . . .

I think you are enjoying dangling this carrot in front of us way too much!

Mocha with Linda said...

Argh, I meant to say 30-ish - my fingers got in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

Tuesday sounds like a spoiled brat. Probably in her late 20s and someone that had too much too soon. She sounds cold and has a lot of anger and hurt inside. I can see her storyline centering on forgiveness.

For whatever it's worth, I don't care for the name "Tuesday". It automatically brings to mind a negative feeling for the character.

Snowed-in in Alabama said...

Wow! You make the craft look so easy.

I don't see the character as spoiled, just bitter. And she thinks she has a good reason to hold on to that bitterness. But that makes her even more real because how often do we do the same in real life?

Paige said...

I am intrigued and really want to read more already :) I do not see her as spoiled, but as a pushed "show biz" kid with an overbearing stage mother. Obviously, something in her career and family has gone horribly wrong. I would say she is late 20's,early 30's, because we have to still have time left for a romance and family ;) I do not care for her name, though. It sounds like a call girl (sorry!).

Leslie said...

Well somewhere I know I read you saying that this character is a former child reality-tv star - so because of that I'm inferring she's in her mid-20's.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I like this character as much as yesterday's. She is not as young as she would like to still be; she's trying to disguise herself through new name, hair color and new hometown: although she seems to be the breadwinner for her family (who may or may not be appreciative), she doesn't seem to like them very much. The name ... I think of Tuesday Weld, a starlet of the 50s-60s, who redeemed herself in my eyes by marrying a highly respectable classical musician.

I am also curious about the not-so-large-as hoped-for check that the attorney is sending to her. Sounds like a one-time payment, not royalties or maybe the royalties have dropped off because she is no longer a "box office draw"? (Especially if Oliver is her "former" agent?)

Can't wait to meet tomorrow's character! Clyde

Anonymous said...

Whew! In typical AH style, sudden jolts to my brain and expectations. All good, though.

Initially I’m thinking she’s upper thirties, early forties due to her obvious position of power and Jasmine’s “years” of working for her. The lawyer’s comment about contribution to retirement fund does make me wonder if she’s a tad older, but that could be standard off-hand remark about $ at any age.

Re: liking her? Initially intrigued by the secrecy. Then she seemed a “typical” successful business woman: smart, observant, incisive, with a drive to go further, and perhaps a little self-centered and cold-ish. But I needed only to put up with wondering if she was a resentful cynic before I encountered the Angie Hunt ah-ha. Mona Huggins is the reason Tuesday is without father and brother. And – as they say—the rest is history; I am along for the ride.

The hair surprised me, though. I pictured her with short hair, almost Carly Fiorina-like and was surprised as she checked the color on the ends. (Perhaps I was initially correct, though, and her talent is as a contortionist?) Also, at that moment—child in television, now-grown, name of Tuesday—I saw Tuesday Weld. Maybe a little too close unless that is intended. (And maybe more of your readers are w-a-y younger than I am! Ha.)

Anything else? Oh yes. Your ability to slip in snippets (just enough, not too much) of info that hint at back story continues to amaze—and instruct—me.

Thanks for sharing, Angie.
God bless,
Mary Kay

Anonymous said...

Tuesday must be in her mid to late 30's and successful (hint: the assistant). She was thrust into the acting spotlight as a young girl is my guess.
Her mother was the dominant character in the "family" is what I am seeing from Tuesday's POV.
What happened to her father and brother that would leave such bitterness against her mother?
She is so threatened by her past acting that she moved and her haircolor is different or she could just prefer Rhode Island; leaning more toward the previous and not the latter.
Angie, I'm still hooked ;)

Miriam D (FB friend)

Joyce said...

Hi Angie,
The comment from Paige said exactly what I was thinking. You have me hanging on and can't wait to read more.
Sorry but I don't like the name Tuesday either. It's a little distracting for me. She is probably in her 30's.
I think Tuesday's father and brother were killed in an accident brought on by her mother while doing something for her acting career, which she was not really interested in. If they didn't go or do something than they would still be alive! It was her mothers fault for pushing it and she's very angry!
Love it so far!!

Lynda in MO said...

I actually liked this character. I don't think she's as cold as she seems - there was a flash of sadness when she first heard that her mother was ill. I think she's just had a lot of hard things happen and apparently a lot of unfinished business with her mother.

Since her siblings are getting checks too, maybe they were like the Partridge Family! Lol

My guess is like the others - she's in her 30s. As to her name, I'm not crazy about the name Tuesday, but then again, it sounds like a name some goofy starlet would give herself. I'd like to make a prediction that, by the end of her story, she will go back to being Christy.

I'm liking all of this so far Angie, and looking forward to the complete story!

Anonymous said...

PS Angie,
Didn't read the blog yesterday, so I just read about Janette. I was thinking J/ was hit by a teenager (or older if they've been married 30 yrs), but hit by one of her kids. COULD be an Alzheimer's parent, but I think kid. And that's because if it was her husband, typically she'd be less solicitous of his feelings, and more anxious about him finding her.
Just my 2 cents. Mary Kay

Kay Day said...

I like Tuesday and I like her name.
I think she's very lonely. Nobody ever calls her cell. Friends call your cell, even when you ask them not to.

I feel for her.
I think she was part of something she no longer wants anything to do with. She hates being associated with the show. She's been hurt. Maybe even beyond losing her dad and brother.
I picture her in her 30's, but could be younger. Especially if it was a reality TV show.