Countdown to Timeless: Time to order!
You can preorder your copy of Timeless now, and I really, really hope you will. You see, I’ve told you about and the settings in NYC and Darlington. I told you about the cover: Front and back. I even told you about my new author photo. Many of you have followed this project on social media from the day I started writing. I love that about you. You’re with me all the way, sharing in so much of this process. I’ve talked to you about all the ups and downs, or writing, editing, and publishing this book, but there are some things I haven’t been able to talk to you about. Big things!
There are parts of the story I’ve been sitting on for so long, and it’s killing me. I want to talk about the actual story of this book so badly, but that would be a spoiler. A big spoiler. (Side note: When you know what I’m talking about, please don’t post about it on social media or review sites without using spoiler alerts). Of all the books I’ve ever written this has been the hardest to talk about without spoiling. And when I say spoil I mean reveal a MAJOR plot point. Like the-bulk-of-the-book major. It’s also the first time I’ve ever written a plot point like this. And I’m covering my mouth with my hands in so many situations to keep from spilling the beans.
Anyway, I want you to read all my books, (please) because I love them, but when you read this one, I get the added benefit of finally getting to talk about it!
So, instead of doing more talking about the book, I decided I am going to let you just start reading the book. Yep, you heard me right. For the next three weeks I’m going to give you sneak peeks of Timeless. That way when you do get your copy of the novel, because I know you ordered one, you’ll have a jump start on the story. That way you can read it faster! You gotta promise me, though, that when you do you’ll let me know what you think, deal?
I’m going to assume you said, “Deal,” so without further ado, here is the first scene of Timeless.
“You’ve got to put yourself out there more, Stevie.” Edmond’s voice came through clearly on the speaker of my iPhone.
I lay on my bed and stared at the line where my high ceiling met the rising brick wall. Holding the phone against my cheek, I thought of how I’d describe the intersection of two such unique textures. Of course there was the aesthetic, the rich colors, the materials, the symmetry, but in this moment I felt more drawn to what the structure represented. The very building blocks of my loft symbolized stability, strength, and most of all, safety. They offered a symbolic balance to my current phone conversation with my publicist.
“Make yourself vulnerable, available, transparent. It’s what writers do.”
“Thanks for the explanation. All this time I thought writers wrote.”
“Unpublished writers, maybe. But you’re a successful novelist, and you want to be a produced playwright, which means you have to network.”
“I’m not good at networking. It’s all fake small talk and sweaty palms. I don’t want to waste an evening being socially awkward with people I’ve never met and will probably never see again.”
“It doesn’t have to be strangers. I got a call from Rory St. James yesterday. She wanted your phone number.”
I sat up at the mention of Rory’s name. The small-town gay activist who’d confronted her demons head-on had been in the news a lot lately after remaking herself and finding love in the town she’d once fled. The same hometown I’d left in my rearview mirror. Everyone we’d grown up with was a bit in awe of Rory, myself included. I was also impressed she even knew I existed. “Why does she want to talk to me?”
“She’s on some arts committee in Darlington.” Edmond sounded like he found the idea amusing. “They want to give you an award.”
That wasn’t so bad, but it wasn’t so great either. I probably should’ve been flattered but felt only a mix of relief and disappointment Rory had called on a formality. “Just have her mail the certificate to your office, will ya?”
“They want you to go there to accept it.”
“What do you mean ‘pass’? It’s free publicity.”
“It’s fluff, I’m busy, I don’t want to.” I flopped back onto the bed, unwilling to give the idea of a return to Darlington another thought. “Whatever. Just pass. Okay?”
“Fine.” Edmond acquiesced, but the flippancy of his tone made me suspect the topic wasn’t fully closed.
“Have you had any bites on the play?” I asked, ready for a change of subject.
“Not yet, but you’ll have another shot at the Theater of Youth fund-raiser next week. Especially if you agree to say a few words.”
“Not going to happen.” The tension in my neck ratcheted up a notch at the prospect of spending a night in a room full of politically charged actors and activists. “I’m not going to the actual dinner, but I’ll send a check.”
Edmond blew out an exasperated breath directly into the phone. “This is your charity of choice. You’re the one who mentioned the event to me. You said you loved youth theater.”
“I do. That’s why I’ll send a check, but I don’t want to get into politics.”
“Even politics you agree with? You won’t lift your voice for something you claim to love?”
I threw off the covers and put my bare feet on the cool hardwood floor. I didn’t have to defend myself to him. He worked for me, not the other way around. Not that I’d ever have the guts or the inclination to tell him that. Still, I wouldn’t be pushed into a political minefield. I’d lived almost thirty years by staying above the fray and had no intention of slipping now.
“Stevie, these kids need this program, and they need people in a position of power to speak for them. You’ve got the time, the money, and the talent. What do you have to lose?”
“Why do you care? If youth theater matters so much to you, then why don’t you give the speech or direct a play?” Why couldn’t anything be easy? I just wanted to give money to a good cause without fighting with anyone.
“I’m not the one shopping a new play. I’m not the one selling books. You are, and you hired me to help.”
“Right, I hired you so I could focus on my writing and you could handle all the publicity.” Actually I’d hired him because he was the only publicist I’d ever heard of. And he only took my call because I went to school with Rory, but still I paid him a nice cut of my royalties so I wouldn’t have to exert any energy on anything but the actual writing.
“You have to give me something to publicize first.”
“I gave you the script for the play.”
“Yes, you’ve got a great play, but so does half of Manhattan.”
“Fine.” I threw up my free hand in defeat. “If their plays are better than mine, I can live with that. I just want to be judged on my merits.”
“You’re adorable.” Edmond laughed. “But you clearly don’t understand how this business works. Without a solid hook you won’t get judged at all. The big names won’t even read the synopsis of an unknown.”
“I’m not an unknown. I have three high-selling novels.”
“They could be best-selling novels if you’d publicize them.” Edmond’s voice rose in volume and pitch as his frustration built. “And I could sell a best-selling author, but I can’t sell someone who refuses to put herself out there.”
I wandered across my apartment to my one big window. Ignoring the reflection of my black hair standing out at odd angles, I pressed my forehead to the cool glass and stared down into the gray streets of New York. I sighed, unwilling to be swept into an argument. I hated confrontation, and this one had already drained me enough for one day. “What do you want from me?”
“Something, anything personal to help me connect you to a producer. Give me an impassioned speech about theater education, or play up your small-town-girl-makes-it-big backstory. Hell, fuck a Rockette in the middle of Times Square to get your name in the tabloids. Do something I can spin.”
Damn. He’d led me right back to the event in Darlington because he knew I’d never consider the other two options. Well, I was open to sleeping with a Rockette, but not the tabloids, and that’s the part he cared about. “I don’t want to go back to Darlington.”
“Why not? Look what it did for Rory St. James’s career. Connecting yourself to her right now would move you way up the social food chain, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my client too,” Edmond said with a hint of pride in his voice. “Go back to your hometown for one night, talk to people you already know, accept an award without a speech, and then come home.”
“It’s not simple.” My resolve wavered but didn’t crack. I had a bad feeling about this whole thing, though I couldn’t articulate why.
“Sure it is. I get a human-interest story, and you get an award and your picture taken with a celebrity. Rory gets to mentor an up-and-coming artist. Everyone wins.”
“She doesn’t want to mentor me, and it doesn’t matter because I’m not Rory St. James. I have no ax to grind. My writing isn’t about Darlington. It’s not even about being gay. My hometown means nothing to me. It’s just a place I used to live.”
“Then why are you afraid to go back there?”
“I’m not afraid.” I was protesting, but I wasn’t sure what I felt about Darlington. Maybe fear was part of it, but more than anything the idea exhausted me, much the same way this conversation did. I’d spent my youth trying to get by, trying to do just enough to stay solidly in the middle. I didn’t want to stand out as exceptional, but I didn’t want to be an outsider either. Maybe that’s what bothered me about this award. I’d stand out. I’d be acknowledged and therefore exposed.
Still, at least I could leave after a day. Even if I did humiliate myself, I wouldn’t have to live with the consequences there like I would if I messed up in New York. Plus in Darlington no one whose opinion actually mattered would be around to see if I fell flat. I could slip in and slip out, then leave all the publicity spin to Edmond. I did want to see my play produced, and while I hated taking a chance, this one seems the least risky of my current options.
“Come on, Stevie. You’ll be in and out, and I’ll even drive down to hold your hand along the way.”
I wasn’t sure if his presence would make me feel better or worse, but at least with Edmond around I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping up my end of the conversation since he rarely let anyone else get a word in “Fine, I’ll do it. For one day.”
“Yes, of course, just one day. How bad can one day be?”