Hey! Lots going on over here, but the biggest at the moment is that the Kickstarter campaign for Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2 has launched!
In case you haven’t read back through my posts, this is a collection of yet more pulp stories, headed up by Crazy 8 Press’s Robert Greenberger. Having read volume one, I cannot convey in words how excited I am to have a piece included in this anthology!
The authors involved include: Bob (of course!), Aaron Rosenberg, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Russ Colchamiro, Glenn Hauman, Paul Kupperberg, David Mack, Paige Daniels, Will Murray, Karissa Laurel, William Leisner, Danielle Ackley McPhail, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, Greg Cox, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Michael A. Burstein, Richard White, Scott Pearson, and Sherri Cook Woosley! And me!
The rewards are spectacular, and the stretch goals…well, go see for yourself!
A direct link to the campaign for your convenience!
And now, a teaser from my story, “Casting Couch”….
There it was—Sizemore Studios—larger than life in an arch across the lot entrance, and all lit up even though it was just before ten in the morning. He stood there looking at it, a smile half-cocked under his thin, black mustache, and hands akimbo. It was nicer than the sign to the lot at Shortfellows Productions, but it wasn’t a flashy sign that had brought him here.
He passed through the gate and headed toward the main office building. There was plenty of tipping his hat to the ladies and tittering and whispering behind his back. People knew his face. The reactions were enough to float him above the packed-dirt roadways, if only in his head.
The office was bustling with the chatter of secretaries on telephones, writers commiserating over scripts, and various others coming and going. A good amount of that activity stopped when he walked in and removed his hat. He flashed smiles all around—they deserved that for giving him their undivided attention. He even winked at a few who recognized him and watched roses bloom on cheeks.
He turned to see a lovely, little blonde with sparkling blue eyes and a nice pink dress. She had plucked up the receiver from her telephone the moment he walked in, likely to announce his arrival to the boss, and was now practically melting at his feet.
“Why, yes, miss?”
“Ms. Valentine will see you now.”
He knew exactly who Ms. Valentine was. Judith. He’d never met her before, but someone like her didn’t go long without someone like him knowing about her, or vice versa. Sure, Judith made her sound in charge—and she was, unusual as those things tended to be. But Valentine? Valentine was soft, warm, complacent. She’d probably give him anything he asked for, she just didn’t know it yet. Why she’d never requested a meeting with him before now, he didn’t know. Shortfellows had held him over well enough, kept him on the silver screen, made sure he had his public eating out of the palm of his hand. But Sizemore—better late than never.
Even though it was rumored that Shortfellows would catch up to raking in the same sort of dough Sizemore did, it had yet to happen. No one could really blame him for wanting to test the waters between studios to see who would pay top dollar for him. Maybe he could start a wage war in all this, making it better for everyone, all the way down the payroll. Just as long as, in the end, he was the one who ended up making bank.
The blonde doll went to a dark, austere-looking door and then opened it, quickly stepping aside so he could enter. From behind a heavy desk of cherry wood, a tall, voluptuous brunette in a scarlet suit stood up. Her eyes were so dark they were black, and there was an exciting, fierce look about her. She wasn’t of the petite model brand like the secretary, but he couldn’t argue that she was rather attractive in her own way.
“Mister Ducats—” She came around the desk to shake his hand.
“Misses Valentine. Pleasure to finally meet you.”
The Eastern European accent that carried her words sent a delightful buzz through him as her hand remained in his.
“Is that so?”
“It is.” She withdrew her hand before he could give it a squeeze and resumed her place behind the desk. “Please, sit.”
He took a glance around and spied a black leather sofa. “Is that your casting couch?” he asked with a wink. She didn’t respond, visibly unimpressed, so he took a seat on a matching armchair that squeaked under him in the suggestive way only leather could.
“So,” he began. “This is a surprise—being invited here. Looking to do a little star-napping?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, I’m sure you know—I’ve been acting for Shortfellows. And the invitation was from you, was it not?”
“Mister Ducats—stage name, is it? Buck Ducats?”
“Yes, ma’am. It didn’t seem likely someone named Charlie Diddle was destined for the pictures—” He reined in the twang in his voice that only appeared anymore when mentioning his real name. “—So, I changed it.”
“Mm.” Her nod was curt and of disinterest. “Mister Ducats, I’d hardly consider you to be a star just yet—” The sting of her jab was unexpected, and Buck silently soothed it with a veil of smugness. What did she know? “But it has not gone unnoticed that your popularity has grown substantially over the past year—”
“So it would seem.”
“I invited you directly because I think you have the potential to become the star you think you are. Clearly, you are here because you’re interested in that prospect.”
“You’re twenty-four, yes? You’ve done—” She looked at her notes. “Two films so far. I’m sure you’ve been led to believe that your face on the screen means big dollars for any studio that you’re a part of.”
“Well, believe it or not, Mister Ducats, your face has nothing to do with it—it’s your voice. That’s where your value is and, look—I’m not going to mince words, Mister Ducats—whatever contract you may have with Shortfellows, I will buy it out. I want you to work for me. For Sizemore Studios.”
The idea of making the switch—and so easily—was just as intriguing to him as the mysterious woman who offered to make it happen.
“You can do that?”
“Mister Ducats, would you even be here if you thought there’d be any complications for you?”
He would have come no matter what, just to see what it was all about, but Shortfellows was in the game for the money. Surely, they’d understand that he was, too.
“Well, no. But it just so happens that those two films I did for them were all I was scheduled to do, so you don’t really need to bother them about it.”
“Oh? Is that what was in your contract?”
“Oh, sure. Kind of a disappointment that was all, but I guess they didn’t see what you do—things switching from silent pictures to talkies and all.”
“So, you are interested then?”
The almost impatient prompt struck up visions of flashing camera bulbs and endless champagne in Buck’s thoughts. She had invited him, in a world where a person’s voice in film was starting to equate to gold, and it was he her studio wanted. Never minding that something as naturally occurring as his voice was out of his control. Buck managed to refrain from huffing on his knuckles and then dusting them across his lapel.
When his pause was mistaken for indecision, she added, “You’ll always have top billing with us, and be paid accordingly.”
Buck was suddenly struck with elation over it all and this seemingly out-of-nowhere luck. “When should I start?”
“Tomorrow. And seeing as how I couldn’t locate your agent—”
“Yeah, I don’t have one.”
“I see,” she said after a pause. “Well, in any case, we have a new script that you can read for, though the part was practically written for you. Formalities—I’m sure you understand.”
“Oh, of course.
“Good. Of course, if you work for me—and Sizemore—it will be exclusively. You will be under a new contract. We don’t want you working for any other studios.”
“Naturally,” he accepted with a shrug and a schmoozy smile.
“Not even small, independent ones. I know how inconsequential they may seem. I promise you: it will be worth your time. You think you’re a star now? You cannot imagine what you could become with us.”
So there you have it! What will become of Buck Ducats?? Back our Kickstarter for Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2 and find out!