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Authors: Janice Thompson

Hello, Hollywood!

BOOK: Hello, Hollywood!
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© 2011 by Janice Thompson

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

Ebook edition created 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-3404-9

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.

Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Published in association with MacGregor Literary Agency.

To my dog-sitter, Heather, who used incredible restraint and did not duct-tape my dogs to the ceiling while I was away.

“Tell me what you think about this idea.” I turned to face my fellow writers, my imagination shifting into overdrive as a clever scene unfolded in my head. “Angie and Jack are in a hut in the Amazon. They’re wrapping up their honeymoon—maybe packing their bags or something—when an unexpected monsoon hits. Within minutes they’re trapped inside the hut, water rising around them.” I rubbed my hands together, unable to contain my excitement as I shared the best part. “Only, it’s not
a monsoon, and they’re not
in a hut.”

“Huh?” Bob, the youngest in our band of writers, looked up from his spot on the sofa, his laptop nearly sliding to the floor. He scrambled to catch it, then steadied it on his knees. “What do you mean?”

Taking the empty chair next to the sofa, I laid out the rest of the idea. “I mean the whole thing has only been a dream. In reality, Angie is sound asleep in the bathtub in their Los Angeles apartment, and the water has overflowed. The scene takes place a month after she and Jack have returned from their honeymoon. She’s dozed off reminiscing about what a great time they had in the Amazon. Then she wakes up to find the bathroom flooded. Great, right?”

From his spot at the desk, Paul groaned, his thick black brows furrowing. “Athena, again with the Amazon thing? We closed out the last episode with that shtick. We’ve finally got the show’s ratings back up, and we need to keep them there. Rehashing a previously used story is a death sentence for a sitcom.” He rose and stretched, then leaned down and attempted to touch his toes—his usual routine after several hours of unproductive powwowing. When he stood upright, his cheeks were flushed.

“Yeah, network execs pay us to come up with new, fresh material every episode.” Bob reached for his coffee cup and took a swig, splashing some on the edge of the laptop. He used the tail of his shirt to clean it off. “Not the same old, same old.”

“But that’s just it,” I argued. “This will be fresh. I’m talking about a flashback scene. It’ll be a great way to transition the viewers from one episode to the next. We left them hanging, you know. They’ll expect us to pick up where we left off.”

Besides, guys, this is a great idea. Swallow your pride and admit that a female writer can come up with something brilliant every now and again.
I reached for a piece of baklava from the tray on the desk and took a bite of the honey-encrusted goodness, grateful for the excuse not to speak. My gaze shifted to the piano on the far side of the room. I could almost hear the Amazon theme music playing now. Maybe before the day was out I could actually compose something usable for the episode.

“I was thinking we could start this episode with Jack and Angie on an airplane flying back from their honeymoon.” Bob put his cup down on the coffee table, his eyes taking on that familiar glazed-over look that so often accompanied one of his more far-fetched ideas. “Maybe a couple of the animals from the rain forest are on the plane in the seat behind them. The monkey and the . . .” He scratched his head. “What did we use again?”

“A macaw,” I reminded him, mouth still full.

“Right. The macaw.” He typed a few notes into his computer, then looked back up at me. “So, we give the animals dialogue. What do you think?”

“Talking animals?” Paul did not look convinced. He took a few steps in our direction, plopped down on the sofa, and gave Bob a “you’ve got to be kidding” look.

“Or . . .” Bob backspaced with a rapid
, erasing the words he’d typed onto the screen. “Maybe we give the animals thought bubbles or something like that. They can be talking about how happy they are to be coming to Los Angeles with the newly married couple. Then we can use the macaw and the monkey all season long as props.”

Paul shook his head as he leaned over to look at Bob’s laptop screen. “Look, I know we’re supposed to keep this show funny and all, but talking animals? We might as well be writing for Pixar or Disney. I don’t know about the two of you, but I signed on to do a weekly sitcom involving real people, not some animated show with talking monkeys and ducks.”

“Macaws,” I corrected after licking my sticky fingers. “A macaw is not a duck.”

“Technically it’s a parrot,” Bob added. “But if you want to nix that idea, I’m okay with it. Now that I think about it, it sounds pretty stupid.” He shrugged. “But hey, you know my motto.”

“Throw all of your ideas out on the table, even the really dumb ones.” We quoted his favorite mantra in unison.

And boy, was that talking animals idea a dumb one.

I released a slow breath, feeling the pressure of the situation. We had until five o’clock today to come up with a rib-tickling episode that our producer would put his stamp of approval on. Otherwise we might not have a show next week. And if
Stars Collide
didn’t air . . . I shuddered, thinking about it. We would air, even if it killed us.

From the looks of things, it might.

Paul rose and paced the tiny office, his nervous movements presenting yet another distraction. Suddenly he turned our way with a gleam in his eye. “Ooh, here’s an idea. Jack and Angie are talent scouts, right? They have one of the top agencies in L.A. with the most gifted up-and-coming young stars. Why not take advantage of that? If we want to keep this episode fresh, let’s incorporate the kids. It’s been weeks since we’ve really showcased our younger cast members. We’re overdue.”

“What do you have in mind?” I asked, my curiosity piqued. Writing for the kids was always a blast. Maybe Paul was on to something.

His soft blue eyes sparkled. “Remember that old
Dick Van Dyke
episode? The one where they were on a hunt for child stars to appear on
The Alan Brady Show
? Every parent in the neighborhood showed up without warning so their kids could audition.” Paul pulled out the piano bench and took a seat, his face now beaming.

“Priceless,” I said, unable to keep a grin from erupting. “One of my favorites. So, what are you thinking? Variety show?”

“Sure, why not? We have enough young talent in the
Stars Collide
cast to pull off a variety show–type episode.” Paul chuckled and slapped his knee. “I can see it now. We’ll showcase the talent of the kids. Songs. Dances. Drama bits. You name it. The children will get a kick out of it, and all of those stage moms will be thrilled. What do you think?”

“I love it.” Clasping my hands together, I thought about the possibilities. This would buy us another week, and the audience would eat it up. I hoped.

Just then the door to our office eased open, and Rex Henderson stuck his head inside. The elderly man had served us well over the past several months in his new role as producer, and I had nothing but respect for him. He took a look around the room, his eyes widening. “You’ve changed the furniture in here.” His gaze narrowed. “Is that a new sofa? Looks like something I owned in the sixties.”

“Yep.” I pointed to the divan. “Got it at a garage sale.” I rose, excited to share my vision for the room. “We set everything up just like the office set on the old
Dick Van Dyke Show

Rex’s eyes widened again. “Oh?”

“Yes, see where we’ve put the rest of the furniture?” I motioned to the chair I’d been sitting in, then gestured to the desk across the room. “Pretty clever, eh? Even have an old typewriter like the one they used in the show. And, of course, we kept the piano right where it was, so we can be inspired by music whenever we like. I think it’s the perfect space for a weekly sitcom team.”

“How’s it working out for you?” Rex asked. “Helping the creative flow?” He took a few steps in my direction, the wisps of soft white hair atop his head looking a bit unruly. His eyes narrowed as he took in the tray of baklava. I motioned for him to take a piece, which he did.

“Oh, well, you know . . . We just brought in the new furniture yesterday,” I said. “Haven’t really had time to see the long-term effects.”
Hopefully it will work.

He plopped down onto the divan and bit into the pastry, a look of pure satisfaction settling over him. Good. If I couldn’t win him with my witty writing, maybe my baklava would do the trick.

After eating every bite and licking the honey from his fingers, Rex glanced my way, and I knew we were ready to get down to business once again.

“Where do we stand with this week’s episode?” he asked. “Come up with something to wow me yet?”

“Actually, we have.” I smiled, praying he would like the idea we’d been mulling over. “We’re thinking of a variety show episode, showcasing the talents of the kids.”

“Variety show?” Rex appeared to be thinking about the idea. “What’s the theme?”

“A welcome-home extravaganza for Jack and Angie,” I said, hoping the guys would play along. “When they get home from their honeymoon, they find that their clients—the kids they represent—have prepared a show to celebrate.” Another thought occurred to me, so I voiced it aloud before it slipped away into the great abyss of unspoken ideas. “Maybe the whole variety show could be jungle themed, if you don’t think we’ve overdone the Amazon angle.” I gave him a pensive look. “What do you think?”

“Might be a good transitional piece, to remind the viewers where Jack and Angie have been on their honeymoon.”

I knew it! We’re not done with that Amazon bit yet.

Rex glanced at the clock on the wall. “But you’d better lock this thing up tight. Give serious thought to each of the cast members. Come up with a specific song or dance they can do, then tie it all together with some sort of believable thread. The kids can’t just be putting on a show for the sake of putting on a show. The viewers will never buy that. You need a story too. So get with it.”

Bob saluted and I groaned inwardly, praying Rex wouldn’t see it as a sign of disrespect. Bob tended to be a little sarcastic at times. Hopefully today he would guard his tongue.

“Oh, and by the way,” Rex said, his gaze drifting once again to the tray of baklava, “network execs have been talking about bringing in a fourth writer. I think it’s a great idea myself.”

“A fourth writer?” we all echoed.

I felt my pulse rate increase as I thought about what he’d said. “Who?” I finally managed. “And why?”

He shrugged. “This is a pivotal season for the show. After years of keeping our hero and heroine apart, we’ve now brought them together as a married couple. The sense of anticipation is gone, and our advertisers are afraid the show is going to slip in the ratings if we don’t keep things fresh. So a new creative voice will add a whole new dimension. That’s the idea, anyway. But nothing has been finalized, so don’t get yourselves too worked up.”

Ugh. Like that’s possible.

“Oh, and speaking of advertisers . . . could you guys possibly work in a scene where someone is brushing their teeth? We’ve been asked to do another product placement—Sparkle toothpaste.”

I groaned. How many times over the past several months had we been asked to sneak products into a scene? Forcing a smile, I nodded. Surely we could come up with something creative. Maybe a singing, tooth-brushing macaw scene.

Rex rose, giving the divan another glance, then headed to the door. I followed him, my heart working overtime as I contemplated his comment about adding a new writer. Would he—or she—end up replacing one of us? A shiver ran down my spine as I thought about the possibilities. Beads of sweat popped out on my brow as I watched my future in the industry slipping through my fingers.

Stay calm. Don’t get worked up when you don’t even know what’s happening.

“We’ll have something on your desk by five o’clock,” I promised him. “And you’ll love it. Everyone will love it. It’s going to be great.”

Smile, Athena. He’ll think you really believe that.
I flashed an Academy Award–worthy grin, holding it to the count of three. Perfect.

“That’s why you were named head writer, Athena.” He gave me a gentle pat on the back. “You know what it takes to get the job done.”

I felt the edges of my lips turn down as a wave of insecurity washed over me. Nothing like a little pressure in front of my fellow workers. And male workers, at that.

Rex disappeared into the hallway and I closed the door behind him, bracing myself for Paul and Bob’s reaction to Rex’s parting words. I knew they hated the constant reminder that I’d been named head writer. Who could blame them?

I glanced at Paul, who had shifted to a slumped-over position at the piano bench. He muttered something indistinguishable under his breath. Probably better that I couldn’t hear it. Bob paced the room, his pursed lips cluing me in to the fact that he hadn’t taken Rex’s words well.

How could I fix this? I needed these guys—more than they knew. Over the past few weeks I’d battled more than a few inner struggles related to my writing skills. I certainly couldn’t write this week’s script by myself.

“Listen,” I said, looking back and forth between my two good friends. “He doesn’t mean anything with all of that head writer stuff. Everyone knows you two are the real talent. I’m just . . .”
Washed up. A has-been. Wondering if they’ll hire me as a waitress at Mel’s Diner once you guys figure out I’m a fraud.

BOOK: Hello, Hollywood!
12.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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