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Corrupted Chapter 12, Page 2

Omar Tyree

  Davis looked at him and said, “Absolutely. You damn fuckin’ skippy, I’d pay you.”

  Jackson wasn’t expecting that answer. He said, “How much?”

  “For an original screenplay? We’d have to sit down and see what you wanted to write,” Davis commented. “I mean, if it’s a big idea, like a Mission Impossible, a Born Supremacy, or a James Bond movie, then that’s a much bigger vehicle, you know.”

  “And could I keep the rights to novelize it as a book?”

  Davis paused. “Well, no, you’d have to let us in on that. When you write an original screenplay that we pay for, by nature, those characters don’t really belong to you as a writer anymore, they now belong to the production. But surely, if we cut a film deal for it first, just think about all of the other commercial and franchising tie-ins that you could be a part of.”

  Jackson shrugged and said, “I could do the same thing with my book and have all of the rights to make all that with.”

  Davis told him, “Nobody makes all the money, kid, unless you’re George Lucas with Star Wars, if you wanna be that fucking involved in it. But even the Harry Potter babe had to get into bed the right way with Warner Brothers to be a part of their franchising orgy. And boy is that a big fuck!”

  “Yeah, but it all started from her books first,” Jackson countered calmly. Davis had no angle to break his book-writing reserve.

  Finally he shook his head and grinned. He said, “That’s why you book writers are so fucking hard to deal with. This is all a team game we’re dealing with to get this shit all out there in the right way. Even George Lucas has a fucking team,” he commented, “an incredible team.”

  Jackson looked at him, read through his frustration, and grinned back. He thought, He’s the same kind of guy in high school who wouldn’t give a damn about me if I couldn’t write shit that meant anything. Now he’s talking about building a ‘team’, where everyone gets to eat of my creativity. He’s an asshole! Vincent warned me about guys like him.

  Nevertheless, Jackson kept his cool beside him. It was good to be the king.

  Davis said, “All right, what if we make you the creator of your own television show, where you can get paid for the creation and just for consulting? You’ll also have input on the scripts, the cast, how we market it; the works. Because I know your input wasn’t included on any of the other deals you’ve done. But if you’re at the center of the creation, then we can cut you all the way in.”

  “Yeah, if I’m at the center of it,” Jackson said with obvious sarcasm. “That would be nice of you.”

  That comment got Davis to thinking, This kid’s an asshole! He thinks it’s really all about him. God, I hate these fucking writers! I need to learn how to write my own shit.

  But on the outside, he continued to smile and shake his head as if he could handle it all. “You writers are a piece of work, man.”

  So are you Hollywood producers, Jackson responded to himself. You’re the top pimps of entertainment. It’s all about hoing the talent.

  And they both went back to waiting for the action to jump off on the set.

  Antonio Martinez was so serious about revising his werewolf novel that he continued to make howling noises up and down the aisles at his Post Office gig in Jersey City, while placing the new mail into P.O. boxes.

  “Ou-wuuuuu . . . Ou-ou-ou-wuuuuuuu . . .”

  Pamela Weber, his African-American co-worker frowned and asked him, “What the hell is wrong with you today? You been watching too many werewolf movies?” She was a slightly older woman in her thirties, dark brown and tall. She was helping to load the P.O. boxes in their light blue uniform shirts with dark blue pants.

  Tony chuckled at it. “Yeah, I’m a little juiced after watching The Howling, Skinwalkers and An American Werewolf in London, all back to back to back on Netflix last night.”

  “Well, those movies are over with, baby, so you need to stop it before you start to scare me.”

  Antonio grinned and howled again for the hell of it. “Ou-wuuuuu.”

  “Stop it,” Pamela warned him. “Seriously.”

  “What, it’s only make-believe. You don’t believe in werewolf stories, do you?”

  “No, but I believe in crazy people, and right now you’re it.”

  “Have you ever read any vampire or werewolf stories before?”

  She frowned again. “No. Why would I want to?”

  Tony shrugged. “Because you love to read.”

  “That don’t mean I love to read that.”

  “Why not?”

  “Because that’s not my kind of thing.”

  “Why not?”

  Pamela stopped what she was doing to stare at him. Antonio stopped to stare back. “What, I’m just asking you a question?”

  “A question that I already answered.”

  “I’m just curious to know, that’s all.”

  “Why? Why do you care if I read vampire and werewolf books or not?”

  Because I want to see how many people I can count on to read mine, he answered to himself. But to Pamela, he answered, “I guess I am crazy then, because paranormal books are the rave right now.”

  “Not in my community it’s not,” Pamela countered.

  Well, what do Puerto Ricans read? Tony asked himself. “Well, who’s reading all of these vampire and werewolf books then?” he instigated.

  “White people,” Pamela answered frankly. “You don’t know that?”

  “They can’t be the only ones reading it.”

  “Just about, they are. And young people are reading them, a bunch of teenagers.”

  Yeah, that’s why I have young characters too, Antonio thought. “You sure know a lot about it not to read any of it.”

  “Yeah, it’s just common sense. I know who’s reading what.”

  Antonio nodded as he continued to load the P.O. boxes on his side. It looks like I have my work cut out for me, he thought. Then he shrugged. But so be it! I have to do what I have to do. And if Darlene can go for a hundred thousand on a publishing deal, then I should at least aim for fifty. I can’t be worse than half of what she’s worth, can I . . . ?

  I guess we’ll soon see, he mused. In the meantime, I still have to find representation.

  At the Williams & Klein offices, the word had already begun to travel through the corridors that several positions would soon be cut from the company. There was a major leak in corporate information that caused dozens of employees to fall into panic mode.

  “Did you hear the news?” the same, dark-haired, editorial assistant with the family and kids asked Susan over her cubicle wall. Her name was Clara Johnston, and panic was all around her.

  However, Susan was oblivious to the turmoil that had hit the fifteenth floor by that Wednesday afternoon. She was only focused on completing her first read through of Darlene Krause’s manuscript.

  “What news?” she asked, puzzled.

  Clara leaned in to whisper. “They may be cutting up to twenty positions in the editorial department.”

  “Where did you hear that?” Susan asked her.

  “Everyone’s talking about it,” she answered quickly. “As soon as Arnold took a walk around the building and through the departments with Bob yesterday, the veterans at the company began to speculate that staff cuts were coming.”

  Susan heard that and thought of Clara and her family immediately. The older woman always seemed to have more free time to gossip and roam the hallways than any other assistant at the company. And she was constantly being shuffled off to new editors, as if no one wanted her long-term. So she seriously needed to be concerned about her job if the news was true.

  “What are you thinking about?” Susan asked her.

  Clara shrugged, “I’m toast,” she joked. Then she giggled nervously. “I mean . . . they never took me seriously here anyways,” she commented.

  She spoke as if she had already received a notice, and Susan felt sorry for her.

  But I would probably cut her positi
on myself if I had to, she thought. As Vincent had told her for three years now, business was business, and Susan had always felt that Clara had the least amount of responsibility. New editors would rarely allow her to offer them much outside of her secretarial duties, because they were usually attempting to prove their skills to the company, and would need to grow to trust the skills of their assistant first. And with Clara being frequently moved, it was a clear indication that she was never able to gain the trust of any editor.

  Susan, on the other hand, was quite secure in knowing that her editor, Vincent Biddle, was one of the strongest at the company, who was constantly bringing in the goods. And he had grown to trust her to assist him in editing his new projects. Furthermore, his stable list of mostly African-American authors was needed for company diversity of content. So it was highly unlikely that his job would be in jeopardy, especially with Jackson Smith as a major bread-winner under Vincent’s tutelage.

  Yeah, they wouldn’t move Vincent any time soon, unless it was for a promotion, she figured. And I know that he would protect me. Or at least I would hope to think that he would.

  Even Clara presumed that Susan’s job was secure. “But you don’t have anything to worry about,” she commented. “Vincent’s like their favorite around here.”

  Susan cringed and didn’t like her particular spin on the statement, as if Vincent didn’t deserve the publisher’s good graces.

  “What do you mean by that?” she asked her immediately. She wanted Clara to explain herself before she would form her own conclusions. But as far as she was concerned, Vincent had earned his respect from the brass.

  Clara shrugged again. “I mean, you know, he’s always in the middle of things, that’s all. Which is actually good for you.”

  Susan still didn’t like the woman’s suspect slant, but she decided to leave it alone and move on. She’ll be gone from here anyway if they decide to make cuts as she’s suspecting, she mused.

  “So, anyways, what are working on there?” Clara asked her. “Is that the same book that you were reading yesterday?

  Susan figured, What’s the point? Clara was only asking to pass the time while wasting time.

  “Yup, it sure is,” she answered her simply. Now move on, Susan pleaded.

  “Is it any good?”

  “Yeah, it is.”

  “What’s it about?”

  Susan stopped and stared at her. She needed to make a decision to either explain the novel or tell the woman to get lost. Either way, Clara was disturbing her work mode. And she didn’t appear ready to budge until she had an answer to her frivolous question.

  “Good afternoon, ladies,” Thomas Richberg stated as he walked up on their conversation.

  Clara was startled out of her wits by it. She jumped and turned to her right to face him. “Oh, hey, good afternoon, Tom. We were just ah, you know, catching up.”

  She was grinning and was obviously nervous about being busted for doing nothing for no good reason.

  “Catching up on what?” Thomas asked her with a deceptive smile of his own.

  Clara shrugged. “Oh, just editing work. I was just asking Susan what she thought of the new manuscript.”

  Thomas looked over at Susan, sitting inside of her cubicle space with a nearly finished manuscript on her desk, and he nodded to her. “Hey Susan.”

  She smiled and nodded back. “Hey Tom.”

  He looked again at the small amount of manuscript that remained to be read on her desk. “I see you’re almost finished with it,” he commented. “Is that the Darlene Krause book?”

  She nodded to him again. “It is.”

  “It’s pretty good, isn’t it?”

  “Yeah, it’s pretty refreshing.”

  They spoke as if Clara was no longer even there, which pretty much represented her level of importance. She was indeed expendable.

  “Well, keep at it,” Thomas told her as he headed toward Vincent’s closed office door behind him. He then looked back briefly to Clara and nodded cordially. “Have a productive day, Clara.”

  “Oh, thank you, I will.”

  Vincent was on a call with the Williams & Klein sales force inside of his crowded, corner office when he heard the expected knock on his closed door.


  “Come on in,” he called out from his seat in his office chair.

  Thomas Richberg walked in quietly and closed the door behind him. He greeted Vincent with a raised hand before sitting in the chair to the left that sat in front of the flooded desk of book material.

  “So, they won’t even allow us to move thirty-thousand copies?” Vincent asked over the line, sounding discouraged. He took a deep breath and shook his head as he listened to the response . . . “Okay, well, Thomas Richberg is in my office now, so we’ll follow up again by Friday.”

  When Vincent hung up from his call on his office phone, he shook his head again. He had his striped-shirt sleeves unbuttoned for a morning of constant battles.

  “That was about DeWayne’s new book?” Thomas assumed.

  After a long sigh, Vincent confirmed it. “Yup. With the closing of Borders, we’re only able to push twenty-three thousand out the door from the fifty-thousand that we printed. And if we’re only doing half of his usual tour this year, then we can expect to take a real blood bath on this last book.”

  Thomas nodded gravely himself. “Don’t I know it. We’ve been taking those blood baths for the past three years now. We have a warehouse full of unsold books. But these authors all wanna look at us as the bad guys.”

  Vincent said, “I had a conversation with his lawyer this morning about buying copies at forty-percent wholesale.”

  Thomas frowned and shrugged. “Yeah, but how many copies is any author gonna sell on their own these days? Even if he bought a thousand, which is unlikely, that’s not gonna put much of a dent in the twenty-seven thousand that are still in the warehouse. Really, we shouldn’t have even printed that many.”

  Vincent wavered and said, “Yeah, but he still sold thirty-seven thousand last year.”

  “So, we should have printed forty thousand.”

  Vincent didn’t necessarily disagree with him, he just wanted to give his author a chance to earn out his contract. But in the present economy, few authors were earning their large advanced back anymore. There were dozens of authors at Williams & Klein who were still in the red.

  Thomas said, “Okay, so, knowing what we know about the present book market, with no more Borders, and new ebook sales that are eating a hole into the print business, what’s our smart number for Darlene Krause?

  Vincent shrugged. “Natalie used to do seventy thousand and above three years ago. Now she’s down to forty-four, forty-five.”

  “So, we start Darlene off there then,” Thomas concluded. “What’s the half royalty number to that, about a hundred thousand?”

  “Yeah, just about.”

  “Well, that’s more than good enough in this market,” Thomas commented. “Anything more than that would be a stretch. And with her book slated to be published sometime next year, which is an election year, if it doesn’t make the summer, we may have to push it back to two-thousand and thirteen. You don’t want her going up against Obama and Mitt Romney in the fall.”