Thursday, July 6, 2006

We Interrupt This Program...

for a sneak peek into THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES.

I've been talking about ROMANCING THE WEST a lot lately. I'm happy to report the story is moving along and I'm loving it. I'll still be writing right up until deadline, but I'm not sweating that contracted date quite as much as I was a few weeks ago. ROMANCING THE WEST will hit shelves July 2007 (Medallion Press).

As soon as I wrap RTW, I'll dive into the revisions my HQN editor requested for ALL ABOUT EVIE, the first book in THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES (also 2007 release-HQN). I'll have to adjust my brain big time as I'll be jumping from a historical western to a contemporary. Instead of writing about a librarian and a cowboy, I'll be featuring an entertainer, a con-man, and a government operative. Instead of writing exclusively in third person, I'll be writing in first and third. Here's a sneak peek. I hope you enjoy it!

Unedited excerpt from ALL ABOUT EVIE...

It finally happened.

I, Evie Parish, the ultimate professional, snapped.

At an audition no less. In front of several peers and a table of entertainment and marketing executives.

Bad enough I even had to audition.

I'd performed in this casino on a number of occasions throughout the years as a singer, an emcee, a dance motivator, and a character actress. Not just this casino, but every casino in Atlantic City. I was known as the poor man's Tracy Ullman. I had versatility out the wazoo. A stellar reputation. A kick-butt resume. I had more experience in entertainment than any one of the six stony-faced executives who'd insisted upon this live demonstration.

I also had sequined bras older than any of the people deciding my fate.

It wasn't their youth I resented. (Okay. That's a lie.) It was their inability to afford the performer their respect and attention. In between memorizing the script that I'd been handed on arrival and checking for the umpteenth time to make sure my blush and lipstick hadn't faded, I peeked out from the wings to gauge the reaction of the powers-that-be to the actress on deck. I watched those suits yawn, mumble, and fidget through five seamless auditions. The only time they showed interest was during a giggly, stilted presentation from a big-breasted twenty-something-year-old. Granted, Britney was young, stacked, and beautiful, but she was as green as the bagel I'd found this morning in the back of my fridge.

I traded a disgusted, knowing look with two friends who were also auditioning for this gig: both a year shy of the big 4-0. Talented, experienced, and equally ignored by the Gen-X execs. Nicole and Jayne were already slipping into day clothes and trading their heels for flats.

I should have cut my losses then and there and followed suit. I should have collected my purple fake fur coat and I Love Lucy travel tote and vacated the showroom in a dignified manner. But no. I was stubborn, desperate, and, dammit, hopeful. Hopeful that they'd see something in me that they didn't see in my friends. Hopeful that talent and experience would win out.

Talk about idealistic.

Or stupid.

When my time came I strode on stage with confidence and grace wearing a turquoise bikini top, flowered sarong, three-inch heels, and a dazzling smile. I hit my mark and launched into the poorly written promotion intended to wow casino patrons. Me, Evie Parish, a mild-mannered, small-breasted, forty-something.

Normally, I excel when reciting monologues and pitches. I can sell camp like Liza Minelli. Unfortunately, I was distracted by an overly loud conversation from the vicinity of the 'judges' panel. I stopped mid-sentence. Did I mention that instead of reading off of the page like Britney, I'd memorized the copy? But I digress. No one instructed me to continue, so I didn't. Instead, I shielded my eyes from the bright wash of the spotlight in order to pinpoint the commotion.

I'd endured a lot of humiliation in my twenty-five year career--including a crotchety patron yelling, "You suck!" three inches from my face while I was performing--but this took the cake. Instead of focusing on me, the executives, the people controlling my paycheck or lack thereof, were scanning a menu, seemingly arguing over what to order in for lunch! Three of them anyway. Another yapped on his cell phone, while the remaining two studied me with bored expressions.

For crying out loud!

Seething, I tugged at the hem of my mid-thigh sarong. Michael, my agent, who also happens to be my ex-husband--don’t ask--had told me the theme was tropical. Show some skin, he'd said. Then again he always says that.

"Should I wait?" I asked. "Start over? Pick up where I left off?" Go tell it on the mountain?

"Do you have bikini bottoms under that skirt?" This from the bored clean-shaven man who looked young enough to be my . . . younger brother.

Certain I knew where this was leading, I shifted on my strappy heels and cocked a recently waxed, perfectly-shaped eyebrow. "Yes."

"Would you mind losing the sarong?" This from the bored woman sitting next to him. At least she knew it was a sarong.

My heart pounded with fury. The last several months, months of being rejected solely on my advancing age, weighed on my shoulders like an unlucky slot machine. "Yes, I mind."

I heard a collective gasp from the wings. I knew without looking that Nicole and Jayne stood side by side, shocked by my defiance. I didn't cause scenes. I was the calm one, the logical one, the one who sucked it up and took the high road no matter how low the blow.

Up until now that is.

***
THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES is a series about a divorced and forcibly retired 41-year-old showbiz veteran who rediscovers passion and purpose when she unwittingly teams up with reformed grifter and a government operative in their mission to expose nefarious scams. Look for the first in the series, ALL ABOUT EVIE, in the spring of 2007 from HQN.

3 comments:

Tori Lennox said...

Oh!!! I want to know how the judges reacted to Evie's defiance!!!

Beth Ciotta said...

Actually, Tori, that was only the beginning of her defiant moment. She strikes back big tme and in a way that shocked even me. ;)

Tori Lennox said...

WTG, Evie!!! :)