Changing of the Advisors.
Xander was back at the local writer's convention, which he adored coming to. The new writers' panel was fun. He learned a lot even though he had over a year in now. He raised a hand. His mentor from last year smirked and nodded at him. "Even though you're not a new writer anymore."
"I learn more here than I have in some of the other panels. What do you do if you know what's going to happen for the next ten chapters but you don't know what's going to happen for the next ten words?"
He considered it. "When I get blocked, I get a total block. I'd say write ahead and come back to join? Or I usually end up getting frustrated and moving onto something else. An editing job, that stuff."
"Blocks like that do happen," one of the others assured them all. "He's right, write around it and come back when it comes, or go work on something else. That's about all you can really do. Do you know why you're stuck? Is it a problem writing something you're unfamiliar with or uncomfortable with?"
"I don't think so. They're joking over a beer and it's going well then suddenly I can't find the next word. I know what happens later, after the bar, but I'm thinking they're going to talk during this and maybe spill some back story."
"Go around it," she said. "Most likely you'll get those pages in a few hours."
Richard shrugged. "I never had that sort but that's my only idea too. That or get out and do anything but write for a few hours since I heard you've been so active again."
"I did last week. I wasn't sure that's why I lost that one."
He shrugged. "Maybe but it'll come back, kid." Xander nodded, sitting down again. "Most of you have more than one thing you're working on anyway and even when you get stuck it's important to keep working on something, otherwise you lose those muscles."
"In cases of crippling writer's block, because I have seen a few where you weren't able to write anything, even an email, go on vacation," the other one said. That got a few nods and some notes taken. "I remember you from last year," she told Xander.
He grinned. "Thank you."
She smirked back. "First book out?"
"First three books out," he said sheepishly. "I still learn more here."
"Three different first books in series," Richard told her. "One's doing okay on the chart. The other two, kid?"
"Pretty normal for fantasy books from what I'm told."
Xander beamed. "Thank you." The others smiled at him. "You keep going until you get something they like," he told them. "And listen to your agents if they say change things. I had to tone down a character because he was so flaming but he was straight."
"Characters that are too polarized can lead to problems," Richard agreed. "Ambiguous will win those fights instead." Xander nodded. "But there's places for the more polarized characters, or even the more flamboyant ones. The paranormal series?"
"I read that first one," he said with a smirk. "I'm surprised they let you keep those dwarf jokes."
"I went with a smaller house because they said they would. It gave them a lot more notice. Plus they could do more to pimp me around because they had the time to pay attention to me."
"That's not a bad reason. About equal money?"
"Little bit less but better hand holding since it was my first few."
"Then that's reasonable." He smiled at the others. "For those of you who're lucky enough, you'll have to make that decision some day. Think of it like selling a house. You have to see who offers the best price, the best perks, and who wants to do what to your stories. Then you decide based on what you've decided is important. Going to a smaller house may mean that you don't climb so far up the bestseller list but they can also give your book more attention to make sure more people want to read it.
"The bigger publishing houses have a department to arrange for signings, coming out parties if you're good, that sort of thing. Smaller houses don't usually have the same amount of contacts to do those but they can wiggle their way into other areas that could help. Individual promotions like book signings. Interviews with some of the better magazines that more normal people, instead of bookies, read. Also with some more regional papers instead of the biggest names."
"I'm finding it's making mine sell for longer. My agent said he expected my first book's sales to taper about a month ago and they're still staying pretty steady because we've been doing a lot of regional and lower key work to get information out. Comic conventions, that sort of thing."
"Which is a good thing in your field. I couldn't push mine there," Richard said with a smirk, "but I can at places like law enforcement conventions if I was so unknown. If you have something out there, see if your agent can get you places like that. Any good advertising will do your sales good."
The female author nodded. "He's right. I did a lot of comic conventions for my fantasy stuff and a lot of romance writers stuff for the stuff I was writing to pay the bills."
Xander raised a hand and got a nod. "The groups, like Romance Writers of America and the Sci-Fi guild, which I can't remember the name of, or the local writer groups, are they good for newer writers? I'm part of one that meets at a bookstore but a few of them are grumpy and jaded."
"They can be," Richard said. "But I've never been part of one." He looked at her.
"I am a member of both of those," she admitted. "It does give you news, there's information on people looking for books. There's information on contests for writing if that's your way of making some extra money. I think it's good but you'll find a lot of bigger authors, the ones that've put out a few at least semi-successful books, won't be there. I think for new writers and those who haven't made a name yet it's a good thing. I also think it's a shame that the bigger writers don't stay around to mentor others. It could help some of the younger writers." Xander checked his watch. "You got half an hour, Alexian."
"Thanks." He grinned. "So the grumpy viewpoint is just local?"
"No. There's always some jaded writers," she assured him with a smile. "Those who've sold very minor things. Things that weren't wildly successful. People who've been doing it for ten or twenty years and haven't gotten sold at all. So I think it is good for the information. The conventions are fun, and have a lot of good panels like we do here. I think that it's not a bad idea if you want to go that way but to be careful of the advice you get sometimes."
"So joining good, being happy good, but it's like campfire stories, beware of the ending?" another new writer asked.
"In a few ways, but definitely go to the conventions if you can. Genre specific ones mean that you meet a lot of them in whatever you write. People who've been where you are, and higher, and lower. You can have some newbies that can barely string a few words together all the way to major authors there who may or may not give advice. Some of them are only there to sign things."
A few more took notes. "That's something I never thought about," Richard admitted.
She nodded. "I joined to get the information on upcoming events where people were looking for unsolicited manuscripts and who was accepting new submissions at all."
"Interesting. Good for those with an agent?"
"I've met some agents that didn't know that there were groups," she admitted. "It gives you more areas to shop to and you can tell the agent to see if they know about it. You do get a lot of smaller publishing houses that way."
"Very interesting. So it's probably worth the dues just to get the information and the convention."
She nodded. "It was for me."
"Good question, kid." He got a happy smile back. "Next question?"
"Editing? Is there an easier way?" one female author asked. "I keep missing typos and things."
"Either put it down for a month or so, that way you're not looking at it from memory. You're reading it fresh," the female author said. "Or hire an editor."
"Some college english departments do offer a writing center," Xander told her. "They might be willing to let you hire a TA more cheaply than an editor."
"Editing services can be expensive, depending on how much you send them," Richard agreed dryly. "You're just prolific." He looked at her again. "That's not a bad idea. Hiring someone who would look it over for you. Or a best friend if they're reasonably good at grammar. The thing I see most usually, that makes some of us cringe, are grammar issues instead of spelling. Those happen even with editors but sometimes the grammar gets ignored. Not everyone speaks perfect english but sometimes it's really bad."
"Would that be nearly free?"
"That would depend on the school," he said. "You'd have to talk to them."
"Some do have writer's groups on campus. You might think about that, or see if there's a writer's group where you are. Again, some can be jaded but they might know where and who you can go to more cheaply if money's an issue."
She nodded and sat down. Another one stood up. "What about contracts? Do we have to worry about them?"
"I know pretty well how they should go," Richard said.
The female author nodded. "That should be pretty standard with only a few individual changes like rate of pay for the agent and you, those things. Kid?"
Xander looked at him. "My agent explains every single clause to me, still. I'm thinking about taking a class in contract law, enough that I can read the things myself. Generally, mine so far have been pretty standard. We're agreeing to buy your book, you owe us this many more or for this long, we want this series and anything new in it, you or we can break it at any time, rate of pay for you, cut for your agent, that stuff. My agent joked it was about as complicated as his prenup. Why are you unsure about yours?"
"I'm not sure that they didn't put in clauses to obligate me to stick with them even if they don't like it. Which means they don't have to publish my stuff, right?" he asked the more famous authors.
"Some houses can do that. What did your agent say?"
"He's gushing about the publishing house."
"There's a panel later on about contracts," he said. "I'd say bring it there. Ask another agent about that clause. See what they think. That can be a limiting one if they don't like everything you write and you can't shop those others around."
The writer nodded. "Would taking a class in it help?"
"I don't think it'd hurt but I'm not sure how many classes it would be until you understood contracts."
"I talked to a guy at UCLA and he said three classes until you got all of contract law down. I told him why and he said I might miss things like terminology but I'd still get enough out of it to be able to read my own contracts and at least look up any terms I didn't understand," Xander told him. "They're not offered at the same time though."
"So the panel today is going to get me a quicker answer but for general purposes it's not a bad idea?"
Richard shrugged. "I don't think it's a horrible one unless you start to over think them. Most of our sort of contracts aren't that complicated. They fill in the blanks basically. Now I will say to let someone else do a prenup if you're getting into a relationship. Someone official so it's binding and legal. That has ruined many authors over the years." He saw the subtle glance at the watch and looked at his. "We are running long. Last questions that we can answer before the panel for your first book and what to do with it?"
"Is it good to get agent suggestions from other writers?" one female asked. "I'm looking for one since I took the suggestion of going to magazine work first."
"Yes," Richard said. "Like getting a recommendation for any other professional in your life. That way you know if they fuss, nag, whine at you, anything like that."
"Who's yours then?" she asked. He pointed at Paula since she was attending to look at writers. "Thank you."
"Welcome. To all of you, welcome to writing, kids. It's a wild ride if you can make it." They clapped. He smiled at the one heading over to his panel. "Paula." She smiled at him. "Good news?"
"Very good news. Yours is doing very good." She handed him something, looking at the kid who had the question about the contract. "There will be six agents at that panel tonight. Bring it so we can see it." He nodded. She looked around. "Where did the kid go?"
"Young writer's," the female said. "He sat on it last year too."
"He started at sixteen." Paula smiled at the other writers piling in for autographs. Soon the kid would have to deal with that.
Xander sat down. "Am I late?" he asked.
"We're waiting for about ten minutes. You are?" the girl next to him asked.
"Alexian Harris." He grinned and shook her hand. "I started at sixteen, got published at seventeen."
"So you know about being a young writer." He nodded. "That's wonderful. Full novels?"
"Magazines then. I've just put out my first few novels. One in each series within the last year."
"Congratulations." He beamed. She waved a hand down the table. "Do you know the rest of us?"
"I sat on this panel last year. Hey, Dell." He smiled and waved, going back to his reading. "I do not know the one on the end."
"That is Marjorie. She started later but she's co-authored with a few younger writers."
"That's cool." He got up and introduced himself. "Hi, Alexian Harris," he said with a smile.
"I heard you were here last year," she said, shaking his hand.
"I was. I was in their spots a few years back." He shook her hand. "Nearly there." He sat down, looking at the growing crowd. "Hi, guys," he said. "Who's moderating the panel?"
Dell put his book up. "It's my duty this year." He smiled. "We have a good turn out this year."
"It's encouraging to see," Xander agreed. "First, give yourselves a hand. You're writing. You're young, it's fantastic, and a way to deal with our lives and how confusing they can be, plus helping us be better people." They clapped for themselves. He smiled at Dell. "What's this year's topic?"
"First, let's talk about how we started and when. Marjorie?"
"I started a bit later than this panel covers but I have co-authored with a good number of younger writers. Usually young writers looking to break into established areas."
"Like the Star Trek books?" Xander asked.
"Yes, like those. I co-authored with three young ones this year and I've mentored a few others into the field."
Dell smiled. "Thank you. I'm Dell, I've been writing since I was eighteen. First sold at twenty-five, critical success at thirty-eight. Still making ends meet to blow any bubbles open."
"I'm Christine, I've been writing now for about five years. I've sold a few in the established series work."
"I'm Alexian Harris," he told them. "I started at sixteen. First magazine short story just after my seventeenth birthday. First novel just after the convention last year." A few smiled at that. "Now a few more out." He looked at Dell when he snickered. "What?"
"We were all giddy and high when our first few came out, Alexian. It's normal to add that to everything you do for the next few books."
He grinned. "I probably always will. It's like a dream come true in some ways."
"It can be. It can also turn into a nightmare when you're struggling."
"Don't remind me of the block, please," he said dryly, getting an understanding look back. "Questions?" he suggested. Dell nodded. He pointed at the first hand to go up. "What's up?"
"Did you need a parent to sign things so young?"
"Usually, yes," Christine said.
"Though if you tell them that your parents aren't exactly available, some may work with you," Xander said. "Or if your parents are scary and pushing. Generally if you're reasonably adult they won't ask. They didn't on my second one."
"Mine usually has," Christine told him. "But that could be because I look younger than you do, Alexian."
"It could be," he agreed. "That's also a case-by-case but generally I'd expect you to need some sort of adult to sign contracts since you can't until you're eighteen. You can definitely sign over your paycheck at your age."
"So if our parents aren't going to turn out to be thieves or anything like that, we should expect it. If they are, tell them?"
Xander nodded. "Let them know, offer another adult instead. For some that may work. I only ran into that the first story and that one understood. A lot. He had seen the writer's version of a stage mom."
"Generally," Dell agreed. "You should have one. If you have circumstances where it's not viable, then do let them know. They may still allow it with another person signing. If you have an agent on the sly they can do it for you."
"Or you can possibly get someone like a notary public to do it for you," Christine offered. "I had to do that for one of mine since my parents were on vacation in Peru when something sold."
"So there's ways around it but expect them to need it," the kid said. They all nodded. "Thank you." He sat down.
Dell looked at Xander. "Do your parents know you write?"
"Nope. They're in their own world."
"I guess that happens to some of us. I always imagined guys like you writing angsty poetry."
"I know a guy like that who's older, but no. Not me. Fantasy."
"I read your first one," one of the girls in the audience said, standing up. "How did you get ideas?"
Xander shrugged. "I have very active muses who like to wake me up at four in the morning for taking dictation. I have no idea. An idea just pops into my head. I go until someone like Tara brings me out of my writing to eat. I have heard a lot of other authors get theirs from watching people. Sitting in a mall watching people go by wondering about them."
"That's where I get a lot of mine," Dell agreed. "I see someone that catches my attention. I start to wonder 'what if' about them. That can also depend on your genre. In some, like fantasy and the established series, it's a matter of an idea that hasn't been done. You can't watch people in the mall and wonder about starships."
"You can find some seriously fascinating alien species though," Xander quipped. "Especially among the teenagers who aren't among your friends." A few kids laughed.
"I have," Christine agreed. "I based a whole alien species on the new Valley Girl movement."
"I have a whole clan of priestesses based on some beta sheep cheerleaders," Xander agreed.
Dell looked down at him. "I saw that in Tral," he said with a smirk. Xander just grinned back. "Ex?"
"Their goddess. I dated an alpha cheerleader for a bit." He looked out there. "For those still in high school, you have the best opportunity to find out the various ways groups interact. Even if you're part of one. I've read my near sister's psychology textbooks and laughed at the way they theorize people go together in groups. You guys are living it. Look around you. You will find tons of characters that will never be believed. The strife for those who want to write drama. Angst, emotion, romance for those in that field. Teenagers do it more simply than adults since most of them don't have the outside complications that adult relationships do, but they do it with more drama."
"In some high schools you can find true crime things too," Dell agreed. "Generally I'd say to take down whatever random ideas are coming to you when your mind is wandering. If you're people watching, if you're writing true crime and watching the news. What about fantasy, Alexian?"
"I can get some people watching. The 'wow, they'd make a good troll and he's hitting on an elf-like girl' sort. That can depend on how you see the world. If you're writing fantasy and you see the world in terms of other species instead of human, then it's a lot easier." That got some laughs. "Otherwise, I've gotten some while reading. A few thinking I could do that story *so* much better, and other things. I looked at some of the paranormal stuff out there and snorted that it was crap so I decided I could do it better. Apparently I'm not too bad."
"What about research?" another one asked.
"Depends on your genre of choice," Marjorie said. "If you're writing in an established series, like I and Christine do, then you probably should have done all you can to be familiar with that series."
"For real-life books like true crime and spy novels, I'd do a lot," Dell agreed. "I don't know what sort of research you can do in fantasy."
"I do," Xander promised. "How many of you guys have seen the hero using a sword that was only realistic in anime?" He raised his own hand. A few others did. He smiled. "If you're going to write people handling a sword, you should at least know what types of swords are available. Same with other weapons. I've actually handled a lot of them. I'm very good at the sword work outside of fencing actually. I'm also a crack shot with a crossbow.
"A lot of authors don't take into account that you get really tired during a fight. Especially when you're using a sword or a staff. It's not like walking up to someone and punching them. You've also got the weight of the weapon wearing on your muscles. Even with practice, you can't have an hour long, non-stop fight with a sword. By then your hands are sweaty and even with leather bindings it can slip out of your hands. Your arms are going to be exhausted by then.
"So I would suggest that you at least handle the weapons. Learn how they weigh, how they feel in your hand. You may not write that specific, but if you know that a ten pound sword is unlikely, and even with training that you can't really run a seven minute mile with it in your hands, then that's going to figure into your writing."
"A lot of fantasy is historically set for timeline," Dell added. "The Dungeons and Dragons series are set about Middle Ages for technology?"
"Bit before then," Xander told him. "There wasn't a whole lot of technological difference outside of some weapon styles. Staffs fell out of use before guns came on the scene."
"So maybe a Ren Faire might not be amiss?" Christine said. "Get to know the clothes, the weapons, the things that they ate?"
"That's not a bad idea. You want to think about those things," Xander agreed. "Unless you have a walking source to that time," he offered with a grin. That got a few more laughs. He pointed at one. "What's on your mind?"
"Clothing. I know it's a female thing but in fantasy novels you see silks and satins."
"You did see them sometimes in the higher born but what no one tells you is that they took a bath once a week during the summer and usually once a month in the winter," Xander told her. "They lived on about four outfits. Things like your shift, you slept in them and lived in them until they wore out then you had another one put on. Sometimes sewn on you." She shuddered, sitting down. "It's another part of setting. The same as back then they didn't have bottled water. People drank a lot of near beer, real beer, some ales depending on where you lived, and some weak wines. You didn't get the great feasts unless it was a special event if you were a peasant. You lived on what you farmed and what you caught. You traded those for things that you needed or wanted."
"Historical novels often have things like that which irk real historians or those who play at being historians," Dell agreed. "You have to try to set it as much as you can in your chosen time period's abilities." Xander nodded at that. "Good wine?"
"Rich people got good wine. Regular people drank home brew. In modern terms they drank the equivalent of moonshine and hooch like the guys in jail make in milk cartons. Brewed beers were weak because you needed the stuff for food. You often used the grain you used to brew the beer or ale with in a dish afterward so it didn't go to waste. Stuffing in a bird that you killed. Part of a stew. Maybe even in bread making. Also, they didn't have a huge set of pans. They had a dutch oven, they had a frying pan usually. They may have had two of each or so. Maybe a flat pan to bake on. Probably a spit. All in iron. Heavy, durable iron." A few took notes. "They had spoons they carved, dishes they carved. Pottery dishes were for expensive things and rich people. Normal, average people made most everything or had to trade whatever they could raise, mine, hunt, or steal for it."
"I've seen books who had peasants who had china," Marjorie agreed.
Xander nodded. "So have I. It wouldn't have stood up to daily use. Oh, on horses? Geldings. Stallions are more high strung, they're harder to control. Most horses are mares or geldings. Stallions are kept for the mares or someone had one for breeding and they still used mares for most everything else. Like women, mares had little rights and did a lot of the work."
"We've all seen inaccuracies," Dell told him.
"Yes, but some of them will get you yelled at by some people. Especially if you have strong, outspoken feminist friends like I do. A few of them don't want to think about what women went through and like to gloss it over. Some of them will yell at you though."
"I've had a physicist yell at me," Marjorie sighed. "I pointed out it was fantasy."
"But it's teaching people wrong," Xander mimicked in a falsetto, cracking half the audience up.
"Yes, he did speak about that high pitched," she said dryly.
"You get past those with the 'it's a story' explanation and you ignore most of them while trying to make sure the next one is a bit more accurate," Xander told the group. "There will always be someone who will not like what you write. People from other genres, people who don't like your style, all that. Remember that you write because you want to write. Because you like to write, even though there's days you consider your word processing program the sucking pit to hell. Add that with late teen and young twenties stresses and you might throw it if you've got a laptop. I had a few of those days."
"Mostly at the people who criticized you?" Christine guessed.
"You have no idea," he said dryly, making her smile. "Even the bigger name writers get it, guys. At our age, we don't have as many calluses but sometimes you've got to form some."
"It's not all fun and games," Dell agreed. "Writing is work. Sometimes you do get some fun."
"I was promised groupies sometime," Xander said with a bright, cheery grin.
The whole audience cackled at that.
Dell looked down at him, shaking his head. "Someone lied, Alexian. Groupies only come with top ten best sellers."
Xander shrugged. "Some day I'll get there."
"If you're sure." He smiled and pointed at one impatient looking young man. "Your turn."
"What's the most important virtue a writer can have?"
"Persistence," the women said.
"Patience," Xander said. "Because even when your agent is sending things, it can take *weeks* to hear anything, and the sooner the worst as I've seen it."
"They're both equally important," Dell agreed. "Persistence while writing, patience afterward. Patience sometimes while writing and persistence with your agent. It's very helpful. That and staying calm. Even when things go well, if you don't you tend to do something dumb that gets you the wrong notice and can ruin a career." He looked down at Xander.
"Don't give me that look," he quipped with a grin. "It's not my fault the club I was celebrating in got busted for too many cat fights that night. Or that I had to run behind a male officer to save me from two of the female ones, who were later arrested. My friends say I draw bad girls." He smiled sweetly at him.
"I think that night proved it, yes," he agreed, cracking up the women on the panel. "I looked into his background. This last year he's had four girlfriends arrested?"
"Yeah. All for things like homicide," he agreed. Christine gaped at him. He beamed at her. "Aren't you glad you only think I'm goofy and slightly cute?"
"Definitely. I'd hate to be that bad of a girl."
Xander shrugged. "They can be fun but mean." He grinned at the guy. "Yoga, dude. It helps all that and ideas like to flow when you're in that calm mental state for most of us."
He nodded and sat down. "I can see why."
One girl stood up. "Do you consider yourself in a different class of writer because you're not working in an established universe?" she asked Xander.
He shook his head. "No, I tend to write in universes, I'm just the first to write in it." He grinned. "All authors, even the ones that never get published, are still authors. It's just that there's different tastes. I may appeal to some of their readers and I've read plenty of established series books over the years. I might even write one some day. Don't know. To me, writing is writing. Christine? Since I seem to be dominating today?"
"I don't see much difference. We're a bit more goal oriented than he is in our writing. A lot of us who write in it would love to write something more original and all our own but it's not going to sell right now. It's not the flavor or trend of the moment. Alexian got lucky because a lot of younger authors do start out in established series so they can get a foot in. You started in magazine short stories?" He nodded. "Which is the other most common path for young writers. Is it harder to write short or long, Alexian?"
"Depends. Sometimes the hardest thing is staying within the word count they want. I've had one of my novels that's coming out cut down and some of that put into another book in the series instead because of length. There's been times I had to edit severely to get within a word count a magazine wanted. We're all slaves to the editors. I love mine but he's almost a nazi about grammar issues. My agent keeps telling me to write simpler so it can fit into necessary guidelines. It takes me longer to write something longer. Usually you have more leeway on the word and page count in longer things. I had one story I had to cut into two and then struggled for two weeks to beef up the second half because it was too long and there was no way to cut it down."
"So it'd depends on the demands made of you?" Dell asked. He nodded. "Marjorie, do you concur?"
"I do. Word counts can be strict," she said. "Usually I end up having to add a bit instead of cutting down. I've read one of his stories in a magazine and it was well written but it did leave you going 'where's the rest'."
"Babes in gun land?" he asked. She nodded. "I had to cut nearly ten pages from that one. The rest may be in another short story some day. If I can add to it."
"It's not long enough on its own?" Dell asked.
"I have to add back story to make it make sense to those who didn't read the first one anyway."
"I guess that's reasonable. It's an interesting question," he told her. "I don't see a difference and I've done both. Some writers temp in other genres for the same reason. It pays well."
"They're almost always guaranteed to at least moderate sales. Writing all original stuff in an unestablished universe is iffy. You sell if people like it or the book reviews like it. They'll sell just because they're in that series. I know people who have bought Star Trek and Lycan'verse books just to have them, even if they never read them. Mine, you have to want to read to buy."
"That's why it's more steady for your career," Dell agreed. "You get a lot more work offered to you."
Xander nodded. "I have to sell people on my stories. They only have to sell someone who's doing the series that yeah, this fits."
Marjorie nodded. "That's why it's much easier for young authors to break in this way. Short stories are a wonderful way. There's not as much stress. You don't have to worry about violating your own cannon. In an established one you'll get guidelines. Things like 'this couple is together' or 'this character is this old and this way'."
"How many of you guys have seen that stuff written online?" Dell asked. Most everyone raised their hands. "Writing in an established series is like that. You write the characters true to themselves, you stay within cannon. Doing it all original and having to make up your own worlds has driven some of us nuts." Xander nodded quickly, getting a few grins. "Four universes, Alexian?"
"Four at the present time, one stand alone that may or may not be followed with the publishers. Three uni's out, one that's coming out this spring. Tara sat down to write out cannon facts so she could refer back to them when she got lost between two of them. She thinks they'll end up being merged but I don't think so. Unless I pull a _Rowan_."
"That is an interesting way to do that," Dell agreed. "Tral?"
"No. The two that's not that or the paranormal one."
"I saw the cover of that one."
Xander beamed. "We worked for *weeks* on what it should look like so it's dark and shady but can still be made out."
He nodded. "Looked good." He smiled at them. "If you're lucky, you turn into him or the next Stephen King. If you're just a good author but people don't twig to you really fast, you turn into us, who've been doing this for years but we're not household names."
"Does Mr. King get groupies?" one girl asked, cracking up the audience.
"I'm sure he does. I've seen some scary fans at conventions too. Not all of them in costume."
"Did I date them?" Xander asked, looking up. Dell reached over to pinch him, making him yelp. "Sorry, my mind's going strange since I'm blocked."
Marjorie looked down. "You really should date better women before they kill you, Alexian."
"I'd like it if nice girls were attracted to me." He shrugged. "They're not." He beamed. "So I'm having fun while it lasts." He smiled at the group. "Which is the important part of writing. Yes, it's work, but if you hate your job that much, don't do it. We've all had days when we hated it, but if it keeps up, try something new. Or just walk away for a bit. Happy writers create better things. The unhappy, bored ones give you things that you plod through."
"Shakespeare was happy," one pointed out.
"And for his day he was also a randy little sucker who slept around a lot from what I've been told," Xander said. "But he wasn't *unhappy* with his writing."
Dell nodded. "Writing is a business and like any business we'll have people who leave it because it doesn't suit them. Know when that's you. It's called burn out. It leads to good authors drinking too much or taking drugs. Then we lose good authors."
"Like guitar players. Even if Jimi Hendrix did it, it doesn't mean you can and you won't get the same results."
"Is this a common problem?" the guy from earlier with the virtues question asked.
"Within ten years we'll be missing a good quarter of this room due to addictions or them dropping out of writing." The kid shuddered.
Xander nodded. "Especially if you get that famous. There's people who'll offer. We won't get it like starlets do."
Marjorie nodded. "I've had a few I've mentored fall into that trap."
"It's an artistic industry wide problem," Dell told them. "While we'd hate to lose you, we know it will happen." He looked down at Xander. "You we may miss for different reasons."
"You may," he agreed but he grinned slightly. "You never know what sort of woman's next to come to me." He shrugged. "We deal with it. Like he said, we'll miss you guys, and it's a good idea to talk to other writers about these stresses. My main agent's assistant offered me a bump of coke and Chuck nearly beat him to death for it."
"That's true, there's groups out there. Genre specific, writing groups, local ones."
"Now, this did come up in the new writer panel," Xander asked. "Because I asked if they were worthwhile. The senior authors there did say it wasn't a bad idea to join them. That you'd get information, some solidarity with other writers, but sometimes you can find the over experienced or jaded."
Dell nodded. "Definitely. Especially those who have good books that never went on to become a critical success. You'll find a lot of them will complain about young writers who hit the spotlight without paying their dues. Ignore them. We're chosen to go higher whenever someone notices us. Some of us were lucky to hit it younger," he said, pointing at Xander and Christine. "Some of us got noticed older." He pointed at him and Marjorie. "I think for young writers there is a lot of good in them. People to bounce ideas off of, to get help with problems, to talk about topics that are important to what you're writing."
"Conventions just like these," Xander added with a smile. "We were told not to take all advice without examining it for reasonableness."
"That's a good idea anyway," Dell agreed. "Are you a member?"
"Of the local one in LA. I've been thinking about joining the bigger fantasy guild, which I still can't remember the name of."
"That's not a bad idea," he agreed. "Especially those in their twenties and late teens. It's like joining a fraternity in a way. Only with less alcohol everywhere but the conventions." Marjorie snickered at that, shaking he head. "Last year's Drama Writers Association convention had beer pong and a drinking trivia game among the younger ones."
Xander snickered. "I pimped my first book at a regional comic con. No contest to how wild some of them got."
"Is it important for authors to go to conventions like that?" one female asked.
"If you're writing in a genre that has conventions, yeah, it can help your sales. I've had some very good sales from the comic-cons, plus as a geek I got to enjoy the con itself a few times a day. It's led to more sales, getting more word of mouth out there. I won't get a spread in _People_ for years yet, but half the geeks on the west coast know my books now."
"So it's helpful in marketing."
"And ideas," Xander told her. "Especially if you write fantasy."
Delll nodded. "Plus you meet agents at them sometimes and others seeking unsolicited manuscripts. This is early writer issues, not later ones, but at your age we all had to do some pimping of our stuff. Fantasy and sci-fi books go to comic cons. Those in true crime to go murder mystery events or sometimes a booth set up a law enforcement convention. The only one that left out of that is really the true drama writers. Those who write things like _Angela's Ashes_ and the like."
"I thought the depressed people had one," Xander said with a grin. "Something about epic poetry slams?" Dell pinched him again, getting a grin back. "If you want to sell once you're published you've got to get the word out there. Ads are nice, but most people, including most of us, skip over ads. Or book reviews in magazines. There are tons of books out there and more get printed every year. If you want to sell you've got to make people want to read your stuff instead of the other things."
"You hear that some go on promotional tours," she said.
He nodded. "I've been warned I might have to some day," Xander agreed. "Dell?"
"You don't get those that much for established series work," he said. "For original stuff, yup. And the more you sell the more they want you to go."
Marjorie nodded. "Romance writers get that a lot more often than some other genres."
"And depending on where you are on the best sellers list, depends on what sort of pimping you're doing. Guys like Castle don't go to conventions. He goes on Good Morning America. We go to conventions and dream of the day we're on GMA," Xander added.
She nodded. "So we'll be needing time off work."
"Ask your agent. You can start close to home. Conventions if that's in your genre are usually weekends. Book store events are usually late afternoon or early evening. Book signings can be really fun. You get to talk to the fans, hear what they liked and didn't. It gives you feedback that floats your soul for a good few hours."
Christine nodded. "I love signings and conventions. I get to talk to the people who read it, get what they liked. I feel it makes me a better writer."
Marjorie nodded. "It can and it does give you a natural high that makes you happy for weeks."
Dell nodded. "Definitely." He checked his watch. "Two last questions." He pointed at one. "What's your question, young man?"
"When do we get to sit on the panel and mentor?"
"When you've sold at least one big thing," he said with a smile. "It's a goal of mine to pass my seat onto Alexian some day and let him monitor the board while some other young scut takes all the questions about his best selling novel." He pointed at another. "What's your question?"
"What about people who are writing to get rid of their demons?"
"They fit in the drama section," he told her. "Sometimes they're even more important than anything one of us will write. It can help others deal with things. There's plenty of room for them." She nodded. He pointed at one who was nearly crying. "What's yours since those were easy ones?"
"How do you get started?"
"You write. You print. You send your best efforts out to wherever you can find an opening. Magazines, publishing houses. You wait and probably get rejected a lot. Then one finally says 'okay, we'll try it'. That's why you have to have patience and persistence." He smiled at her. "We've all been there. It took me three years to send my first thing in. Another few to get accepted. Alexian is not the norm for that." Xander shook his head quickly. He saw one biting her lip and pointed at her. "Last one."
"Do all really big authors know each other?"
Xander shrugged. "No idea. I'm not that high up yet. Ask me in a few years."
"Yes, a bunch of us play poker," Richard said from the back with a grin for her. "Depends on the author. We meet at events like this but most of us don't do the penpal or email pal thing. Some of us do play poker now and then."
"He'd know," Xander told her with a grin. "That's Richard Castle." She squealed.
"Ah, the sound of fangirls and fanboys everywhere," Richard teased with a smirk. "That's when you know you've made it. You hear that." He walked out.
Dell smiled. "I think that's a good note to end on. Congratulations for getting this far and I hope you all success and good writing."
"And very few moments when you can't," Xander added, getting some smiles. They filed out. "Sorry," he told Dell quietly. "I didn't mean to take over."
"Half of those kids want to be in your spot, Alexian. It was good you gave them some reality. Be less preachy and teacher-ish, but otherwise it was fine." Xander beamed at him. He spotted someone in the door. "I believe that pretty thing is yours."
Xander looked. "Friend, nothing more." He shook his hand and then Chrstine's and Marjorie's. "See you guys next year or at later panels." He walked off, going down to stare at her. "What's up?" he asked quietly.
"Checking on you. Tara said you've been blocked."
"I know what's going to happen later but not the next ten words."
"I've seen you get there before and it suddenly break." She patted him on the arm. "Mom wants to see you."
"That'd be fine." She smiled. "I know this stuff is important. It's good one of us has a career."
He leaned down to get next to her ear. "Buffy, you have a career you hate," he said quietly. He looked at her. "Do what Kendra did. Travel to handle things."
"That might not be so bad," she decided. She smiled. "Thanks, Xander. Any big shocks?"
"I'll have to meet with the agent shaped people." He pointed. "That's Paula. She's helping Chuck pimp me to bigger sources on the other coast."
"Cool. She's pretty."
"She's an agent so she's a tiger when she needs to be," he quipped.
"Eww, TMI, Xander." She swatted him. "I'll tell mom that."
" I might pop around just to hug her Sunday night. I'm not sure how late this is going."
"Cool. Thanks, Xander." She walked off.
"She's cute," Richard said, looking over at him.
"Friends only. I crushed majorly at one point in time. She's one of the reasons why I have no idea about guy things but I can shop very well, match an outfit, talk about fashionably short versus trashy short, and PMS or boobs."
Paula gaped. "Really? Which one was that?"
"That was Buffy."
"I imagined her as a bit taller." She shrugged, looking at him. "You have news waiting in your inbox, young man."
"I haven't been able to get online for the last two days. My internet is down at home. What good news? Sales figures? Offers of nubile, young finger rubbers?"
"You only get those for the first three spots on the list, kid," Richard said with a smirk. "For me, it is party time," he said, sliding into his sunglasses.
Xander pointed to the left. "Two blocks that way is a low key club. This side by a block is a martini bar." He pointed right. "Two buildings up that way is a decent enough dance floor or a better one at the end of the block. Really kick ass floor and drinks with the starlings are up about eight blocks this week. They're liking Lava."
He smirked. "Thanks, kid. See you tomorrow."
"I'll be at the farce event." He smiled at Paula. "If they have straightened out my bank's screw up, I would gladly take you to dinner, My Precious."
"You're calling me a ring?" she teased.
"Hell yes. You inspire dangerous urges. Many men have wanted to possess you but you're too smart to do more than make them your slaves. You have power and the knowledge of how to use it. You are quite the version of the One Ring."
She blushed, shaking her head. "Flattery won't get you more sales."
He shrugged. "It's true even without sales." He took her arm and walked her off. "What can this humble man do for you today?"
She swatted him. "Behave for a start. Tara said you needed a new girlfriend."
He smirked. "There's a few bad girls out there with my name tattooed on them. They're waiting for me later."
She moaned, shaking her head. "Beyond that, kiddo." He smirked. "Fine. Sales are in."
"Good! Or bad?"
"Yay." He jumped up and down. "So they want more?"
"They want more after what they've got. Any more in the paranormal ones?"
"Stuck and started. Three with Donnie."
"I'll check with him then." She pinched his cheek. "If you weren't so young."
He kissed her on the cheek. "I am legal to do anything I want, Paula. So are you, barely." He walked off. "Other good news?"
"Not yet. See me Sunday?" she called.
"Of course. All you have to do is call." She smirked at him so he winked. "Farce and then leather. That's a good night." He got onto the elevator, going up to his room to deal with the dinner stuff. Then he could go to the farce panel. He hoped he wasn't on it this year for more than dwarf jokes.
Paula shivered, pressing her thighs together. "That boy is evil and a tease," she complained. "I'm not evil enough for him." She went to cool down before her board later with the other agents. A few gave her understanding looks but that was fine. He had probably hit on them too. She'd have to make sure he knew not to flirt with other agents. They might try to steal him.
Richard looked up at the moan from the women around him. He wasn't getting that much play tonight. LA was always rough on him that way. Too many big names. He found the reason for the moan and stared. Maybe he could use this in a story. The boy was clearly in a league of his own if the aspiring 'actress' next to him was any indication. He sipped his drink, seeing how the boy did it. The 'actress' went out to get his attention. A few others were trying the same thing but he was dancing with one woman only at the moment. The seat next to him got taken by a leggy brunette and he glanced at her, giving her a smile. She shook her head, tapping her pocket. "Vice?" he guessed.
"How did you know?" she asked as quietly as she could.
"Richard Castle." He held out a hand. "Author."
"Oh, you're *him*," she said with a smile. "Liked the last two."
"Thanks. Why are you here? I can clear out if this is going to become a bust."
"No, we're tracking that one," she said with a point at the boy on the floor.
"Is he in trouble?" He sipped his beer. Maybe he was wrong about the boy?
"No." He grinned at that. "You know him?"
"We share an agent. So why is he so interesting?"
"His last six girlfriends have been deadly to someone. We know they're drawn to him for some reason. If we watch him, we'll know who to get next."
"I joked about his last four earlier," he said with a smile. "I'm still wondering how he does it."
"I don't know," she sighed. "It's animal magnetism and it's not. It's smoother than that. Like he's begging you to take him. That hint of vulnerability with the strength to knock anyone down who tries him."
"He's a classic white knight," he assured her. "I know someone who knows him better."
She looked at him. "Why would they? Has he been in trouble?"
"It seems a few years back someone around him was so they looked at him too."
"Oh. Pity. Was he in trouble?"
"No. Had a very needy girlfriend from what I was told."
"Interesting. I could handle that." She moved out there, taking the present girl's place by bumping her out of the way. "Mr. Harris," she purred with a smile.
"Detective Morris." He pulled her closer to dance with her, making her happy and giggle a few times. He nuzzled her neck, looking over her shoulder with a wink. Two huffed off. One looked very interested. He let her go slightly so that one and another one came over to join them again. Yup, his type of woman. He sniffed one. "Hmm, nice scent. Smells like home," he said in her ear. The other was definitely his sort too. She was so evil. And braless, which he liked a lot. "I'm in a nearby hotel," he whispered in that one's ear. She moaned, dancing back against him. He winked at her. "Let me take care of the fan?" She nodded, dancing with the detective. He led the first one off with a blown kiss and a wink. She followed, taking his hand to hold. Once they were out of view he stared at her. "You guys never had my picture?" he guessed.
"No, we do, but now you're worth more status," she snarled, vamping out. He staked her and walked back out there once he was dusted off. He smiled at the detective as he slid up behind the other one. "Ready?"
"That was fast," she purred.
"She only wanted a grope." He slid his hand around her stomach, getting swatted for it. "But that's the tip of the iceberg."
"Bragging is bad for me," she quipped. He ground against her backside and she moaned, nodding. "Two minutes?"
"That's fine. You two are beautiful together." He glanced around, spotting Buffy, who rolled her eyes and went back to her drink. "Hmm, you just see all sorts of old friends today." He walked them off, stopping to get his new friend a drink. Which she shared with the detective. He winked at her and left with her.
"*That* was a smooth way to get fingerprints. I'll have to use that someday," Richard said, sipping his beer.
The detective put it into her purse. "I'm sure you will." She smiled. "Thanks. So, you know Xander very well?"
"Not in person. We've talked a few times, share an agent. I definitely do not draw the bad girls he does. I prefer smart, sexy, and capable."
She tapped his chin with a fingernail. "I'm on duty. If I see you when I'm not, we'll see who gets to be the cop and who gets to be the perp." She strolled off with her purse.
Richard watched her walk. "That may be fun. Maybe I need leather pants to draw like the kid?" He shook that thought away. It wasn't good for men his age. That was for young things, like the kid. He got back to the hotel in time to see the officers go rushing in and up to the tenth floor. He was on the other end of the floor thankfully.
"Can't I just get off first?" Xander was complaining. "Just five more minutes?"
"Save me," she moaned. "I'm sore. He's an animal in bed." She let them lead her off, barely able to walk.
Xander pouted at the nice detective. "You couldn't give me five more minutes?"
"How many people have died from you?" she asked.
"None. My last true girlfriend was a go all night bunny. Literally."
She nodded. "Hard?"
"Not her. Often was more her motto. Especially in public." He shrugged. "I guess I'm flying solo tonight. What did this one do?"
"People trafficking," her partner said with a smirk.
"Better than homicide I guess." He went into his room and slammed the door.
The detectives shook their heads and walked off. The brunette ran into Paula in the lobby. "Hi. You're obviously lurking."
"I'm hoping you didn't arrest one of my writers."
"No, we arrested the skanky ho one of your writers picked up if you're representing Mr. Harris," the male said.
She nodded. "I am. Skanky ho?"
"Moment of fun from the club but she was trafficking in people."
"Since we've arrested his last six, we watch him to see who he's dating this time. They're always dangerous."
"Well, there was that one geek," she reminded him.
"Yeah, him, but he was dangerous at home. Part of some evil geek trio thing." He shrugged. "He's pouting if you wanted to talk to him. Especially since she was limp and tired and he wasn't done yet." He walked off with his partner. "Who were you talking to in the club?"
"The author Richard Castle. He was watching the same guy. Said they shared an agent."
"Huh. He writes cops pretty well." They left, going back to fill out forms for the system. It was the bane of their job but it had to be done or she'd come back and try to hook up with the guy again. Just like the others who had made bail had.
Paula went up to Xander's room, hesitating to listen then knocking. "Are you all right?"
"Of course I am. I'm used to dating deadly women, Paula." He kissed her on the cheek. "I'm about to play solitaire if you wanted to come in." She blushed. "Not that sort. I adore you and worship at your pointy-toed shoes, but are you really dangerous enough for me?"
"I hope not." She patted him on the bare chest. "You try to rest. Remember, the convention goes on tomorrow too."
"When I was with Anya, I worked, patroled on the safety patrol, came home to her and her needs, slept two hours, then went to work construction again. This sleeping thing is getting out of hand. But the muses did force three of those ten words out."
"Congratulations." She smiled. "You try again later. Maybe it'll be better." He gave her a sheepish look. "They said she was...limp?" she asked hesitantly. "Do I want to ask?"
"Oral sex. I love me some oral sex giving." He grinned. She shivered and nodded, patting him again before leaving. "Night, Paula." He went back inside to stare at his solitaire game until the next word finally popped out. Clearly sex was helping it so maybe he'd watch some porn. He turned on a movie and laid back to watch it from the tiny screen on his laptop. He wasn't going to spend extra for it on the tv when he had favorites with him.
Richard opened the door, staring at her. "Long night?"
"She was *limp* but it's helping his writer's block."
"He's not my type," he assured her, letting her in. He closed the door and looked at her.
"I'm hoping I'm not his."
"You're not that dangerous. You've never killed anyone on purpose. Maybe suicide by dropping them but not homicide."
"Thank god." She sat down. "We have got to get that boy more manly time. He's surrounded by girls and that's his only masculine output. Maybe if we do he'll date someone nice."
He shrugged. "That's not my area of expertise either. I'll ask around." Someone knocked and he opened it, taking the purse. "Thanks, kid. You okay?"
He shrugged. "Sixth one this year. It happens. That's why I'm looking forward to groupies."
"I'm sure plenty of us would give you all our psychotic ones."
"I might like that." He grinned. "Give her that?"
"I can do that. Night."
"For now." He walked off, humming.
Richard tossed her the purse as he closed the door. "You're right, he needs more guy friends."
She nodded. "Desperately. Tara's sweet but a shy lesbian sort."
"Near sister, right?" She nodded. "I have no idea who lives out here at the moment. I'm sure he'll pick up more guy friends."
"I'm more worried that all he knows about guy friends are things like gay bathhouses."
He shrugged. "He's twenty-one. We were all wilder then."
"True." She sighed and stood up. "I don't know what to do to help him so one of them doesn't kill him some day."
"He can probably defeat her."
"If you're sure." He nodded. "Fine, I'll push him to find more male friends that aren't gay and wanting him." She patted him on the cheek. "You could use some definition."
"I'm just fine, thank you," he said with an evil look. She raised a hand and left. He looked at himself in the mirror. "I can't compete with a twenty-one-year-old boy," he complained, walking back to his working area. He'd hit the gym in the morning. He was single, again, and could use a nice woman. Nicer than the last one anyway.
Xander bounced down the next morning, finding people waiting on him. "Willow. Buffy. Gunn. Problems?"
"Last night?" Gunn asked. "Was it?"
"No. The detective was tracking her."
"You," he corrected.
Xander shrugged. "At least it's helping and it was good." He grinned. "Breakfast? Did they fix it?"
"They fixed it," Willow told him. "Tara said to tell you that and you've got mail at home from Chuck's boss." She handed it over. He opened it and scowled, looking around. The bar, the restaurant. He walked in there. "Xander!" she called.
"Five please!" he called back. He walked in and found Richard with coffee. "Where's Paula?"
"Hiding in case you flirt," he said bluntly. He read the letter that was held up. "Why?"
"I don't know. I was going to talk to her to see if she knew."
"Um..." He considered it. "It's before nine. She's in her room up on six." Xander grinned and headed off. "That's strange. He's selling and they're dropping him?" He shook his head. It made no sense to him.
Xander walked past his friends. "Problems. Five more." He got into the elevator and went up, getting off and following someone. "Paula said something about 615," he muttered.
"The blonde agent?" the woman in front of him asked. He nodded. She pointed. "Grumbling." He beamed and knocked. "Yours?"
"Maybe. She's kinda sharing me." He walked in when she opened the door, handing her the letter.
"Early, Xander." She read it. "What the hell!" She stared at him. He shrugged. "I have no clue. Have you tried calling?"
"I thought you might know. Chuck won't answer the phone this early."
She sighed. "If he does, I'll take you, evil women and all." He squealed and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Good boy. What are you doing today so I can find you?"
"My friends are here. I was going to get nagged about last night."
"Go. Make it to the panels." He nodded, leaving her alone. She looked at herself. "He didn't say anything about the ugly nightgown. Huh." She went into the bathroom to rinse her face cream off. Then she called. "Chuck, Paula. Xander got a letter from your boss?" She smiled, walking back out to turn on her in-room coffee maker. "He said you wouldn't wake up this early. He wanted to know if I had heard anything until you woke up." She sat down to sip, listening to the story. "Oh, dear. I didn't know your boss was that uptight. I'll be telling mine that." He said something else. "Thank you, Chuck. I will baby the boy all he needs. Of course, dear. Thank you." She hung up. It was time to be impressive.
Xander appeared back in the lobby. "Sorry, agent problems," he said with a sigh at the end. "I have no idea what's going on. Were you guys worried that I dated another bad girl?"
"No, we knew you boinked another bad girl," Willow said.
He stared at her. "So? It happens to everyone sometime."
"I've never dated a girl that bad. Wicked maybe but not that bad," Gunn complained.
Xander shrugged. "She came onto me, guys. With the detective standing there. And a vamp that I got." They all groaned. "Any other worries? It's breakfast. I'm nearly starving because I missed dinner."
"Writing?" Willow snorted.
"No, actually, I was running a bit late for the farce panel after my shower. They liked Tral and the dwarf jokes, agreed it fit well with the book." He stared at Buffy. "What's up beyond that?"
"Nothing much. We haven't seen you in weeks."
He shook his head. "I was there for dinner not three days ago."
"She was gone," Gunn said. Xander nodded he remembered. "I don't know, I'm just the driver."
Xander looked over his outfit then at his face. "You'll look good in my old shirts."
"I'd cap myself."
Xander shrugged. "Your thing." He smirked. Then at the girls. "I was coming over after I was done or tomorrow before going to see Joyce. Like I told you last night, Buffy."
"I was here?"
Gunn glared at Willow. "Not me!" she complained. "He hates it."
Xander looked at Buffy. "Head injury?"
"Not that I remember."
Gunn shook his head. "Not that I remember either. We'll figure it out. Tonight?"
"Tonight or early tomorrow so Angel can grump about something."
"That's cool. See you then. Let me get her home so we can figure out her memory thing." He walked the girls off.
"Later," Xander called, waving. He looked behind him as the door opened. "Anything?" he asked her.
"Many things. His boss is a bit...traditional. He thinks that you get bad press by dating."
"Bad girls or because now and then I dabble?"
"I did manage to get him up." He patted himself down and took her phone when she held it out. "Chuck?" He listened. "I don't know, man. If you move I'll still like you as my guy." He smiled. "Okay. If you do change agencies, let me know. Sure, I can hang onto Paula if she'll let me. Thanks. No, they brought me the letter from home. Tara's with her girlfriend today. Yeah, of course. Call me if you need me for stuff. Yeah, that stuff too. Sorry, man, but if you move okay." He grinned at what he said. "I'm good. You do what's best and I'm here. Let me know." He hung up and handed it back. "Can I beg?"
"You'd be adorable doing it but it's already a done deal. I'll have new contracts for you next week." Xander grinned and hugged her. "Let go. Go do boy things."
"Eating. I missed dinner for the farce board. They laughed at the dwarf jokes." He jogged off, going to get food to go.
"Way too active," she decided, going to the restaurant. She sat down at Richard's table. "His other agent's boss dropped him for being too open to dating."
"Really?" he asked dryly.
"Yes." She called the bigger boss. "Sir, it's Paula. I have some troubling news. You know that I've been working with an agent in our west coast probable partner?" He told her what he knew. "The young author in question got a letter saying he was dropping because of his dating." Her boss asked a pointed question. "It's possible it was the former but definitely the later," she admitted. "I've already agreed to keep him. Definitely. He's a good account, he's a rising star. Exactly. He even flirts." She smiled. "Yes, it's fine. He's already talked to him. He said if the other agent switches that would be fine with him. For now, he's just mine. I'll need a new contract sent out if possible. Ten. Yes, standard. With penname clause. Please. Send it via email and I'll fix that part myself. Thank you, sir. Yes, I thought you'd want to know that they're proving they have morals at the expense of their business. You have a good day as well, sir." She hung up. "He's not happy."
"I wouldn't be happy. The kid know it's that reason?"
"Chuck told him it was both. It's possible that it just tipped it," she said quietly, looking around.
"He bounced out a few minutes ago." He sipped his coffee. "So he's yours?"
"Fully mine unless Chuck switches."
"I can share with the new young thing." He smiled. "Not like he'll hit bestseller most of the time."
"That paranormal series is hot right now. Very hot. It's moved up two spots in a week."
He nodded. "That's wonderful for him. I'm glad."
"I'm glad you're not jealous," she quipped. The waiter came over. "Coffee, black, equal packets. Then I'll eat when I'm fully awake." He nodded, getting her a pot. "Smart man," she praised. "Eggs?"
"How, miss, and how many?"
She smiled. "Flatterer." He smiled a bit. "Two, poached, toast. One slice of bacon. Fruit?"
"There's a nice fruit cocktail with melons and oranges or there's individual fruits like grapefruits and oranges." He checked the menu in his hand. "Or we do have a berry torte that could double as a sinful pastry for breakfast."
"Sin sells. Give me that and the rest." He nodded and left. "He's working very hard for his tip," she said, watching him walk. "Tight."
He shook his head. "Flirt with the boy, teach him what good girls are for." He dug into his breakfast again.
"He does flirt very well but you told him not to date his agent."
"It's usually sound business sense." She stared at him. He smiled. "No comment." He stuffed his mouth.
She snorted, taking her torte plate. "You should treat me better, like this young thing does," she said. The waiter smiled as he walked off.
Xander walked into the Hyperion, looking at everyone, including Joyce. "I was going to come over specially." He gave her a hug. She squeezed. He smiled at Tara. "News."
"The letter?" she guessed.
He nodded. "Chuck's boss fired me because I dabble."
"The bastard!" Willow shouted.
"Thankfully we have Paula?" Tara guessed.
"For ten percent so I make another five," he offered with a smile.
She relaxed and smiled, nodding some. "Good. Other news?"
"They're debating asking me to be closer. Donnie's moving to New York since his company got eaten too."
"Oooh," she said with a sigh, sitting down. She hugged Joyce too. "That's not good news."
"No, it's not," Xander said. "But I don't know. Chuck might come back if he finds a new agency. His boss fired three other writers too. Two successful and one that was going to sign this week. He's breaking it to sign them anyway." Tara gave him a pat. "I don't know. You have a girlfriend here. We're needed here."
"We can work without you and her," Angel said. "Call you back for emergencies."
Xander nodded. "That's one worry." He looked at Tara. "Girlfriend?"
"Mean," she sighed. Joyce gave her a squeeze. "She wanted me to be more assertive, more like her. We broke up last week." Xander stared at her. "I didn't want you to complain to her."
"Fine. Okay, so anyone against it?"
"I think it'd be bad, having you so far away," Willow complained. Tara glared at her. "How would we look out for him the next time he dates someone evil?"
"We can tell the cops there to watch him," Buffy told her, making her mother laugh. "We can. They do now."
"They do. Detective Morris is very nice."
"Yes she is," Tara agreed. "Thank you for not bringing this one home."
"I was *so* kicking it on the floor with the pants you helped me buy and a tight t-shirt."
She moaned. "That's bad."
"I got the vamp too. Made the nice, pretty detective blush."
She shook her head, hugging Joyce again. "I know, it's insane of him," Joyce soothed. "Is there less activity there that he'd have to worry about?" Joyce asked.
Angel shook his head. "About as bad."
"He won't have backup," Willow pointed out.
"I'll have more *guys* around," Xander told her. "Because Paula was worried that I had no guys to hang with here. She was worried I was going to break out a facial kit and help hers."
Buffy snickered. "I taught you well."
Tara looked at Xander. "Can we sell the condo?"
"Probably. Are we certain? You have a semester left."
"You can move then."
He nodded. "Of course I can." She smiled. "It'll take a bit to find a place out there too."
"Good." She smiled. "Are you ....."
He snorted. "Of course I'm coming to your graduation!" He gave her head a shove. She beamed. "Even if there's an apocalypse during it we'll be there."
She blushed and ducked her head, shaking it slightly. "No videos?" she asked.
"Fat chance," he said dryly. "I'm going to be hiring a film crew....." She swatted him. "Meany!"
"God, they are like siblings," Gunn said.
Xander's phone rang. "It's me." He listened. "We're talking about that now, Donnie. Yeah, I got a letter Saturday while I was at the convention." He nodded. "Tara's doing her last semester here." He smiled. "He said congrats." He listened. "That's what we were thinking and coming back for emergencies. Exactly." He listened to him complain how that was going to keep him from living some day. "Donnie, we've had this talk. Not like the army still is." He rolled his eyes, walking off. "Sure, when we have the condo sold we'll ask you about good areas." He walked back.
"Sure, let us know some decent areas or a decent realtor. Thanks, Donnie. We'll see you in a bit. No, I'll email," he said dryly. "That way I don't dump multiple dozens of things on you." He rolled his eyes. "Good. See you then." He hung up. His phone beeped that he had missed a call. "I hate call waiting. The beep is never loud enough." He got into his voicemail, grabbing Tara to listen with him. He replayed it for the group, making them all squeal. "So maybe we can live in Manhattan on the cheaper edges." She hugged him. He grinned at her then at Joyce. "You're going to help us, right? Because we're pathetic with the moving."
"We did prove that with the move here," Tara agreed.
"Hire someone unless you want to drive across country," Joyce said simply. "You won't need the car in Manhattan. There's no parking and traffic is horrible. You'll need to find a parking garage if your place doesn't have dedicated parking. So no car if you can. You'll have taxies and busses and subways." Tara shuddered. "Taxies."
"Maybe. Car?" she asked Xander.
"We'll see if we can. And if we can find somewhere that has at least a few blades of grass under glass. Or we'll live in a forest inside the house."
She smiled. "I'll keep it down so we don't have squirrels."
"Good because city squirrels are mean."
Buffy nodded. "One tried to chase me for my nuts the other day."
Joyce snickered. "You were cute running away from the big, bad squirrel."
"It was meaner than Spike."
"I'm sure it was," Willow said.
Gunn looked at Joyce. "Video?"
"Camera phone," she admitted.
"I couldn't resist, Buffy. You know that."
"Fine. Just don't share it." She sat down with a huff.
Xander looked at her. "I'll bribe you with Gucci as long as the bank got fixed."
"It did," Willow complained. "I told you that."
Tara shrugged. "The balance was right when I called it a while ago."
"Good!" He smiled at her. "We'll see. I'm doing good. With the money from the condo we might be able to get something tiny."
"'Spensivist city," he told her bluntly.
"Damn," Tara muttered then grimaced and wiped her mouth off. "The last girlfriend was a bad influence."
Xander nodded. "Kinda. She kept trying to make you eat sushi."
She smirked. "Naughty."
"Me or her?"
"You. Was she good?"
"They didn't let me finish. She walked out whining that she was tired. She was pretty but weak in follow-through." He shook his head. "Pitiful. Really."
"New York has plenty of scary socialites," Buffy told him.
"I will be a lowly writer for many years yet. Then I may bag a socialite. Lots of work though. I'm not sure the muses would like that." Joyce swatted him. "They might not!"
"Don't worry, you're too unfashionable for them," Buffy assured him.
"You did try," Joyce reminded her.
She nodded. "Often. Didn't work all that well," she said, looking at Xander's present outfit. Tara swatted her. "Fine!"
Xander sighed. "Okay. We'll go somewhere slightly south of fashionable but above roaches, rats, and those neat things."
"We'll deal," she reminded him. "Even if you do have to live in New Jersey."
"Then he'll get a mafia princess," Gunn said. "Or don't you remember Andrea?"
"Oooh, yeah her," Tara sighed. "I didn't like her."
"She was cute, fashionable, and cooked," Xander offered.
"She wanted you to snort coke," she said impatiently.
"I know. I resisted."
"Because you'd be totally bouncy and never calm down."
He nodded. "Didn't do much for me when I tried it before." Joyce gave him a horrified look. He stared back. "Yes, I do have my wild side, thank you." He gave her another hug. "So should I come over later tomorrow night?"
"If you want. You know that. You can come for dinner too."
"I'm not that hungry right now for some reason and I don't know why."
Tara swatted at him. "Because you didn't eat all weekend."
"I did so. I had popcorn during the farce panel. I had breakfast the next morning. I nibbled on nuts and trail mix through the panels. Got a few dirty looks too."
She shook her head. "We'll have dinner later." He beamed. "Then you can get lost in the muses for a few more days."
"Cool! I broke the writing block for all but one word!" She nodded, smiling back. "Or you can stay over tonight while I go make myself dinner and write in my room?" he guessed.
"Then you'd burn down the house and never eat."
"Microwave," he said.
"Uh-huh. Not good for you."
"You stay." He kissed her on the cheek. "I'll see you when you're happier with everyone." He bounced off. "Later all." He headed for home.
Tara sighed, sitting down on the couch. Joyce gave her a hug. "He's being thoughtful," Joyce pointed out.
"He understands girl moods too well."
"Yeah, that's Willow's fault," Buffy said. She got up. "Let me go make you a sandwich, Tara."
"Thank you." She looked up. "What am I going to do with him?"
"Find him a nice girl who likes dirty things so he can play." She walked off.
"Do they make them that way?" she asked Joyce.
"They're rare but maybe. New York would be a good place to find one."
Tara nodded. "Maybe it'll be good for us."
"Hopefully. We'll see you every few months anyway," Joyce pointed out.
Tara nodded. "Yeah. LA's like that."
Xander looked at the realtor. "To be honest, I've got to move at the end of the semester. My agent wants me to go to New York."
"Writing actually." He grinned. "But we have to wait until the end of the semester because Tara's finishing this semester."
"Okay. So you're selling a condo here and moving to one there?"
He nodded. "Slightly above scummy but I'm not rich enough yet for fashionable."
"That's understandable. By what you brought me," she said, looking over the forms. "You bought a year ago for just over six hundred thousand." She smiled at him. "The condo fees are very reasonable." He nodded. "I see pictures?" She looked them over. "You have grass. That's a very good selling point. They were stupid to sell that low."
"They wanted to leave ahead of the cops," he admitted. "A week after we moved in, cops came in with a search warrant for anything they left."
"That explains a lot." She looked over them. "Two bedroom, two bath, but nothing too fancy. Open kitchen. Nicely furnished. Tara's doing?" He nodded at that, grinning some. "Nice living area. No dining area?"
"Where my desk is. It's a nice place for a small table and chair set. That's why I put it there since I usually eat there or on the couch. She eats wherever. We're in our young twenties. We're not doing dining rooms."
"I can understand that." She kept looking. "If it's all right, I can list it in about two months? That will give you almost three before you have to move." He nodded. "I can refer you to a nice realtor out there if it'll help."
"I have my editor already out there and he's referred me to his. He found a great spot in Manhattan that only needed a bit of fixing up."
"Excellent of him." She looked. "All right, with the way prices are inflating right now, we can get you a pretty bit of money for it."
"Enough for somewhere fashionable with grass?"
"Grass in Manhattan is called a park."
"That's cool. Tara's Wicca."
"I'd try for trees. You won't have enough for directly on the park."
He nodded. "Okay. What about a smaller park?"
"Parks are expensive. Even outside the city."
"Damn. She'd like that."
"I'm sure she would." She started the paperwork. "I can get you at least eight-fifty."
"That's a damn big return."
"You don't have to run from the cops."
"Maybe a few ex girlfriends who are wanted by the cops, but no."
"Even better. They can't confiscate it."
He grinned. "So, about two months we have to really clean, start packing and putting into storage."
"It'd be a good idea. It's easier to sell when it's not cluttered."
"I'll try to be writing in a corner that day."
She smiled. "That's fine. We'll make you write outside that day." He shrugged. "So, we want to sell it fast but close after..." He handed over their tentative schedule. "Are you looking out there?"
"Yes. We have had *no* luck."
"That doesn't surprise me. Especially in Manhattan." She tapped into her computer. "How good are you at fixing things?"
"Crew lead on a construction site for nine months?"
"Then I have something." She turned her screen around. "Needs some severe work. Well within your price range, is on the more respectable side but the building is in *very* bad shape. It is exactly what you want, without grass. Views of grass though."
He considered it. "That's going to take a hell of a lot of work."
"Months of work." He considered it. "That's a practical give away."
"Yes it is."
"And I have that in savings." She beamed. "But not much more."
"We can file for a mortgage."
"I write sci-fi and fantasy. I get monthly sales checks but ...."
"It's not a steady income so they'd probably turn you down," she said. "Can you sell that condo sooner?"
"Only if Tara can finish school this semester."
"Can you guys stay at a hotel?"
"No. Not and have money left." He considered it, checking his watch then calling her. "You done?" She hung up. He waited five minutes while she giggled and called again. "You done now?" She excused herself and walked outside. "They have a perfect place in New York. Needs craploads of work. Within view of grass, airy, light, building's ancient and in disrepair. I can fix it but it's only the amount that I have in the accounts. So we might have to sell sooner?" She said something.
"Because it'll take me *months* to fix it pretty for us." He winced at her current complaint. "Which is why I called?" He winced again, worse this time. He hummed. "It's under three hundred thousand, on the edge of a fashionable area, three blocks to a park, the building's *ancient* so it's cheap. I can clean it fully. We can make it stunning. The building is crap. Well, that's an idea," he admitted. "Later on. When I have more money. Or we make millions." He sighed, nodding when she pulled something up.
"That's very nice. This would be much cheaper and no fees. No, directly to the utilities." He nodded. "Exactly. No, it's perfect, well within our price range, fixing it will be well under what we're making off the current condo. I know it's mine, but that means you'd have to live with Joyce for three months. Because it'll take me about two months to fix it up?" He nodded. "Exactly. Yeah, I can. Yes I can. Of course I can. Not like I forgot everything from working construction."
"It's got one other bid," she said. "But I'm going to say they lowballed it."
He sighed. "Do you want to buy it now, live on the next royalty check, and then fix it up? Or would you rather live with Joyce?" He listened. "I get that. "I can, yeah. Okay. Thanks, Tara." He hung up. "What's the chance of a short term mortgage? Even at outrageous rates?"
"If you're willing to pay outrageous rates? I can find you one through one of the less picky companies. Why?"
"Buy it, get me an extra hundred fifty?" She nodded slowly. "That'll pay for a contractor. I can pay it off once I sell the condo. You are sure it'll sell?"
"Positive. I can price it 850 and sell it within a month."
"Good. Can we do that today and list it in about three months?"
"I can do that." She started the paperwork. "I do hope it works out for you."
"It is so far." He grinned. "I've got one climbing slightly on the best seller list. It's at about number 95. Which is great for a first novel and sci fi."
He beamed. "Thank you."
"I have you listed as wanting a quick sale starting in three months on the first."
"She graduates on the sixteenth."
"It'll take a few weeks, even if they sign a contracted offer that same day. Close whenever you're ready. Say a month." He nodded, accepting that. "When you close, you get the money."
"That'll be nice. Wow, I'll have a lot of savings." His phone rang. "'Scuse me. Donnie, my man!" He listened. "I'm talking to the realtor who's selling mine here who has found me a crappy building with a two bedroom, two bath condo without fees. Lower Lexington." He looked. "Yeah, about there." He nodded. "My editor," he told her. "I am." He wrote down an address. She looked it up. He stared. "That's huge."
"For just a bit more money but it's farther out. You'd be in Harlem."
"Will I like Harlem, Donnie?" He listened. "That's very nice. I don't know. Still less than I'll get for the one out here. Is that a blinking light?"
She looked. Then she nodded. "It's a seizure, won't be up for sale for a few weeks."
"Drug or otherwise?"
She shrugged. "Doesn't say."
"Donnie, what's the chance that the prior owners' friends will show up?" He listened. Then he read off the address of the other one. Donnie said it was nice, there were some artists, but the building was falling in. "I saw that. They have external pictures. I can fix the inside up. A lot." He wiggled his head side to side. "So which is better?" He nodded. "That one," he said with a point. She went back to filling out the paperwork. "Unless you can find me a three bedroom?"
She looked. "Same building, two floors up, looks less steady. Farther from grass. Four bedrooms. Double the price?" He shook his head. "There's one on the same floor on the other side of the building. Which means you'd have a small balcony. The size of a grill maybe. But there is a bigger bathroom, a bit bigger living room area. Same price."
"Deal." She smiled and added it. "Yup, across the hall. Floors?"
"It's standard to have a pre-buying inspection."
"Good. Thank you." He listened. "I am, just not today. Because my wrist hurts. No, no bar brawls or anything. Arm wrestling with a drunk Buffy. Sure, I did break it. It took two bad girls. I promise. It's in your inbox that's why." He laughed. "You're welcome." He hung up. "He said we're on the edge of a yuppie and slightly fashionable area."
"About two blocks if I remember right. There's every chance the rest of the building will be fixed up, which will raise your property values almost instantly."
"That'd be nice." He leaned forward to sign where she wanted. "That's a high rate."
"It is," she agreed. "You start repayment in two months." He beamed. "That will mean one payment before you sell."
"Which I can probably do." He finished signing. "How soon will I know?"
"She submitted the forms and called. "It's Suzanne Tolmere, with Prudential. I have a client here in my office that sent you an offer on that two bedroom with the balcony unit. I emailed it to you, sir." She waited while he pulled it up. "Soon. Pending an inspection of course. He's moving to New York from LA. He'll be having a contractor in for a few weeks to fix things that need it." She leaned back, nodding at what he was saying. "That is our offer." She smiled at him and nodded. "No, he's an author. A quiet sort. Has a sister he lives with who's finishing college in a few months. They want to buy it now, get it fixed up, then move in once she graduates. No, I'm sure it'll be tasteful. She's a new age sort. He's a bit down to earth but he writes fantasy novels." She nodded. "He's worried how you'll decorate."
"Tara likes traditional. I don't want totally modern."
"Tasteful," she said. "Closer to traditional. It does have furnace heat." Xander nodded. "He's certain. I have him pre-approved." She looked to make sure. "He has a book in the nineties on the best seller list. Harris, yes." She smiled. "He liked the paranormal book."
"I've got four others with my editor and two with my publisher."
She repeated that. "He's thrilled. Yes, full asking price today. Pending an inspection. He's going to be doing some work on it to make it liveable for them. No, sister. Is graduating in a few months. Exactly." She put the phone against her shoulder. "He's on his cellphone with them." She put it against her ear. "Wonderful news." She smiled. "Inspection can be arranged this week. Once we get the report, we can close within days. That would be acceptable by his time line. Thank you." She sent him something else. "There you go. Notify us of the inspector's name and particulars so we can pay him."
"Non affiliated with any construction company."
"Someone good," she ordered. "He's a former construction worker himself." She smiled. "That was an original plan but he can't move for a few months and leave her here by herself." He nodded at that. "That would be wonderful. Please do."
"Can they do the exterior of the building as well so we know the whole thing won't cave in?" Xander asked.
"Of course," she said, telling him that. "That's reasonable to worry about he said." Xander nodded. "Please. I am at this number. Let us know about the inspector soon. We'll be sending everything to you as soon as you do. Thank you. You have a wonderful day as well." She hung up. "There we go." She smiled and made notes in her system. "And done." She smiled. "Congratulations."
"Thank you." He shook her hand. "I'll see you in about a week. You have my number?" She nodded. "Good." He got up and walked out, being very happy. That would solve a lot of problems if the building wasn't going to fall in anytime soon. Not that New York had earthquakes, hurricanes, or anything like the Santa Anna winds.
Xander walked into the bookstore the writing group met at, smiling and coffee in hand. "Hey, guys, am I late?" He sat down in a free spot.
"We were just talking about you," one said. "Good job, kid." Xander beamed. "What's your next miracle?"
"I've been ordered to move to New York since my former agent's company hated my dating habits. Thankfully he had asked another agent for help getting me to a few other names on that coast so I still have her. She's out there and she's ordering me to move closer. That and my editor moved out there because his company got bought and gobbled up."
"So you've got to move soon?" the old, grumpy guy who ran the group asked.
Xander nodded. "We found a condo that's just off a yuppie fashionable area. Two blocks don't make much of a difference. The building's ancient and the condo needs tons of work. So we'll be moving once Tara graduates." He smiled at the manager, giving her a hug when she came over for it. "I need the name of a good bookstore in New York where I can hang out and find good selections in."
"I know a few." She pinched him on the cheek. "Fifty is a great spot to be for your first one."
He beamed. "Thank you. I'm still so happy that it jumped that way last week." She poked him on the shoulder then walked off. "So, I'm in a happy mood. Tara has a test tomorrow. I'm ordered to be less than noisy if I come home tonight. If not, I might go pick up someone in a bar. What's the DT tonight?"
"How did the convention go?" one asked.
"It went really well. I went to the newbie panel, because I learn a lot there. I sat on the young writer's panel and got told I was a bit teacherish on a few subjects. The farce panel was hilarious and they got Castle this year for goofing up his detective during a few scenes. He almost turned into me." They giggled at that. "They liked the dwarf jokes in Tral. Then I went and picked up a bad girl the nice Vice detectives arrested a few hours later. The next day was kinda normal for a convention. Wackiness, fun, and panels."
"That's good." The older one smiled. "I heard you brought up a question about us?"
"There's a lot of authors who don't know that there are writing groups like this one and who don't know that there's actual *guilds* or associations in our genres. I wanted their take on joining the big fantasy writers one. I did point out that sometimes you can be a bit grumpy about things when it was noted."
He nodded. "I can be. I've been doing this a long time."
"Which entitles you to be grumpy about things." Xander shrugged. "I figure newbie writers can use all the support we can get. Advice, the 'yeah I get that too' when we get blocked, all that. Plus the bigger groups have conventions."
"Paula liked the idea too. Donnie too. Said I'd have great fun at the fantasy writers convention."
He shook his head. "I don't see how you can write something so frivolous."
"It's an escape. To take you away from all that you've turned into dreary mundania to quote one of my fellow authors. To make you laugh and have fun."
"That I can see," another one said. "I've often wanted to escape but not everyone can find that in a book."
"Fantasy's not for everyone anyway. Some people do it by watching Law and Order or reading Castle's stuff. I see enough of that stuff when I date so it's not really an escape."
"Good point," the grumpy one said. "I can't read either one without sighing in displeasure at the frivolous nature of them."
Xander shrugged. "To each their own, Paul."
"True," the other agreed. "Did you ever meet him?"
"We share an agent. He sits on the newbie panel too. Popped in to end the young writer's one." He grinned. "He's not a bad guy. Seems pretty interesting. He caught me out trolling for my bad girl of the moment that night. Not that many clubs around the hotel."
Paul shook his head. "I can't see why you young men can't date."
"I did date. Homicide *loves* it when I date. They track whoever I'm dating to see what this one's done that's evil." The others choked or laughed at that. He shrugged. "I draw bad girls. It happens. They're fun, and bad for my back and swearing habits, but it's cool with me most of the time."
"Tara must protest," Paul complained.
"Only when we keep her up. She does have her own room. We're not together."
"Fine." He huffed. "Perhaps a mail order bride?"
"He'd get an evil one of those," one of the others joked.
"I did date a nice Russian girl a few weeks back. Then she tried to go hire an assassin for her father. He's in some sort of shipping business she said."
They all stared at him. "I should base a book off you," Paul complained. "It'd be just as insane and make the top twenty."
"Most people do consider me a fantasy," Xander quipped with a grin, getting a swat from Paul. "They do. I even ran into my first groupie a few months back."
They mostly shook their heads. Xander was insane. He really was. They got down to the more mundane discussion topics, interrupted a few times by people who wanted things signed. Xander only got two, the rest got about five total. It salved their egos since they had been doing it longer.
Xander walked into his contractor's office in New York. "Hi. Alexander Harris."
"I've been expecting you."
"Sorry, I had no idea traffic was that insane." He shook his hand and sat down.
"It usually is," he admitted. "We're used to it around here." He smiled, pulling out the floorplans he had for the building. "I understand this is going to be for you and a young woman?"
"My non-biological sister."
"Okay, so not sharing the bathroom." He shook his head quickly. "That's going to mean less work in the long run." He let him see the inspection report. "I heard you were in construction?"
"For almost two years. Nine months as crew lead." The man nodded at that. "Are the floors structural with the building?"
"No, you have a few broken joists because they used cheap wood the last time it was updated, in the fifties. Most of the others have been fixed."
"Okay." He turned the page and handed it back. "There's some things we'll definitely need. Washer/dryer hook up. Decent kitchen. Decent tubs and showers. Tara's a bather. I tend to soak now and then myself." He nodded, making notes on that. "She and I talked. I'm taking the upstairs bedroom. She's taking the bottom one. Can we expand her closet under the stairs?"
"We can part way. Make the rest a storage area?" Xander nodded that would be fine. "Most people will want to update the kitchen?"
"We can both kinda cook. We don't need gourmet things. It's rare either of us is going to drink. I do microwave and make snacks."
"Entertaining?" he asked as he noted that. He looked up. "A lot, a little?"
"Probably not real often. We're kinda quiet most of the time. A good tv area. I have a beautiful flat screen at home. I need a place for my desk. One not real well lit by distractions, like the window or the tv. She needs windows though. She's very much a plant grower."
"We can add some of that to the balcony area. A few boxes?"
"Oh, so she's really a plant person." He nodded. "Hmm. There's some nice ways to incorporate herb trays," he said, grabbing a magazine to find what he wanted. "Here, that's it." He let him see the idea. It was basically support poles that had herb trays built around them in a climbing spiral or embedded into it that stepped out from the bottom up. "You do have a few support poles we can use. Including two around the kitchen."
"She might like those." He looked at the floor plans. "This one," he said with a point. "The other won't get very much light unless we have some small ones embedded as well."
"That may be doable. I can look over that company's options." He made that note, with the page number of the magazine Xander handed back. "How do you intend to decorate? Couches and things?"
"We have a few. I like water colors. She doesn't mind them but again, plants. We've both been up a lot at night for work reasons in the past. She did ask for something orangish to be included. Can we do that on the balcony?"
"I can easily have the planters be terracotta."
"That might be nice. Good in the weather too." That got a nod and a smile. "Okay. Inside, we have a couch, big chair, love seat, coffee table we could probably change out. My desk and the coffee table are both darker wood. I think she'd like something lighter but I'm not sure. I never asked."
"There's probably not much use for one. Maybe a small one that can expand. We don't have one right now. The island might have a breakfast bar though?"
"That's easily doable," he assured him, making that note. "As I'm sure you saw."
"We were doing a school when the town got shut down. A few buildings up at the college."
"So you were more commercial construction than residential?"
"We were. The boss moved his company to a nearby town and they're doing whatever comes."
"That's good though. It means that you're flexible about ideas and using technologies that aren't standard."
"I definitely want to replace the windows with things that are energy efficient. Including the sliding door."
"Of course you will." He made that note as well. "Technically it's a large window like they have in the South." That got a shrug. "Did you want to change that?"
"Not really. Windows are less of a break in risk that high up." That got a nod. "I will have an alarm system. Tara is a bit worried about crime."
"That neighborhood isn't bad. It's in renewal." Xander nodded at that. "Now, paint colors for the walls?"
"Lighter but not white. She and I can go over that tonight." He nodded at that, making that note. "How's the insulation value?"
"Low but we're going to up that. The bedrooms both have one wall with exposed brick. Did you want to keep that?"
"I think I might," he admitted. "I'll see if she wants to put something like a rose bush on it."
"That could ruin the bonds of the wall," he warned.
"I know. I'd build her a small trellis."
"Then at least you're practical."
"For all that I write fantasy I am, yeah." He smiled. "I will tell you that I need a closet for storage of things. A small safe for my laptop when I don't put it in my desk's safe. I have a few swords I'll need to keep in there."
"So a display cabinet type of thing?"
"Not in the open since I'll be keeping my gun in it."
"That's a sound idea." He made that note. "You have this area. It can abut into the stairway."
Xander pointed. "If we moved it this way?"
"It would take space out of her room, especially if you expanded the closet. Now, we can do a small built-in cabinet." He drew out the idea on a blank piece of paper. "Basically a locking, closed door display cabinet. That could be blended well with an entertainment system for that wall." He drew that in. "Which we can get stock from cabinet stores or you can from a home store."
Xander considered it. "I can probably hang anything that won't fit on the walls. I have a mace and things too."
"I'd expect fantasy authors to have things like that for research purposes. It can be deeper if that would help. It's make a nice entrance to your stairs." Xander nodded at that and he drew out what he meant. "That way if you wanted to put up a gate there, like if she has a child someday, it'll be easier."
"That'll work for me." He smiled and made note of that and what they'd need. "Make that one moveable? That way if I want to I can move it next to the desk for a bit?"
"I can do that." He made that note as well. "Kitchen, how technical do you want to make it?"
"Stove, fridge, microwave, counters, cabinets?"
He nodded, pulling out those design books. "Anything in there that you like?"
He looked, finding one he liked. "I don't need anything that huge. I like the colors and counter tops. I don't need granite. I've never seen why granite became popular since it ruins knives and doesn't do great when you put hot pans on it."
"This one has marble or granite inserts for those who do pastry work," he said, pointing at it. "That does come in that light maple color."
Xander looked. "Maybe on the island? That and a cutting board?"
"That's easy enough to do." He made those notes and notes on the color and styles. "Any idea about the walls and back splash?"
"I like tile ones. She hates them. She grew up in the south kinda."
"You can have a marble back splash or a simple painted one."
"I like the look of mosaics but I'm not sure she would. Tile on the floors though. Something non-slippery if we spill something?" He nodded, pulling that box out for him to feel and look at. He patted one. "This is nice. And I like this color."
"It's a bit dark. Nothing falling would be seen."
Xander considered the other colors. "It comes in a pretty light tan. She looks good in that color." He let him see it. "That one."
"That won't show tracking either." He wrote down that number. "Just there?"
"There, will it stay warm?"
"It is rated for bathroom work as well, yes."
"That's a nice shade and buying it all together would be cheaper?"
"It's about the same. Unless we're doing the entire condo in it we probably won't be getting enough to get a discount for bulk."
"Hmm. Then make her bathroom a sunnier place? Like a pond in summer." He made note of that. "Mine's good with a good tub and being calming. He looked at the colors, pointing at one. "That one for mine. I'll pick out a paint and/or wallpaper later."
"That's fine. It's a nice, semi-neutral choice. I would've gone with the lighter version." He flipped pages, showing him that one. "It's very water oriented. We could make it almost Roman with some marble accents."
Xander considered it, taking the magazine he had for that design style. He found one. Then looked at the others. "I like this tub," he said. "Deep enough to soak in. Jets aren't necessary but hey, if you find it." The guy nodded. He looked back. "I like the wood and marble in this one," he admitted. "It looks simple but it's not."
He looked. "That's a bit more traditional than that tile would suggest." Xander spotted another blue one with a subtle pattern, going to it. "That's very expensive." Xander went back, finding one pattern he liked and looking for the lighter blues. He found one he could stand. He hated the tile's slickness though. He kept going, finding one. "That's a good choice," he said when it was presented to him. "That blue with the marbling?"
"Or the gray with the veins." He pointed. "Or the lighter version." He nodded, finding that in a magazine. "Definitely lighter," he agreed. "But this tub and that vanity. Then this and the plants in this one?" he suggested, handing those pictures over.
"That may go very well." He wrote those down. "Have you been in there?"
"I have and I know my bathroom's not huge." He looked at the plans. "Take this ten feet here for a linen closet for me. Put a corner shower here. Give me enough arm room, that's all I ask. Maybe big enough for two, maybe not. Tub here. Which would mean moving the vanity to this area and the toilet here. Which I don't like." He considered it. "Can we extend the platform the bedroom and bathroom sit on out some?"
"Yes we can. It'd move to shade the top of the stairs." He sketched that out. "Then we can put the toilet here. The shower here and tub here against this more sturdy outer wall. Not that the rest won't be but something that's going to hold that much water needs more support underneath. Then the vanity here?"
Xander nodded. "That'll work, yeah. Or do like hotels do and move the vanity out into the room and part of the dresser. I was going to put my bed here. I'd still like a sink in the bathroom but we can use that against the doorway?" He considered it, resketching what he wanted. The contractor nodded that it made sense to him. "Bathroom door here and here, pocket doors easy to do?"
"Very. That will cut down your closet area though."
"I'm not in society. I need a few suits. I need a dresser more than I do a closet."
"Which would mean this would be a better way," he said, designing that. "And it would be a good use of that extra expansion on this side of the bathroom. That would give you a roof over the bottom part of the stairs though."
"As long as I don't have to bend. Most houses have one anyway."
"No, you wouldn't have to. I can put a step up into it to make sure it's strong enough." He drew that out, getting a nod. "What about hers?"
"She's a very sweet, shy, girlish sort of girl. Long dresses, femme sort until you piss her off. Then she become the Goddess on steroids."
"So same sort of tub in white? Plan for white decorations. Large free standing mirror? Maybe a bit more Victorian?" He let him see that one. He pointed at a picture. "That's pretty and she'll like that." He made note of that picture. "Will she need more than a closet and dresser?"
"She'll probably dress in the bathroom. She does now even though we don't share one."
"Okay, so a dressing table in there." He added that note. "Where the towel thing in the picture is, we can put a full vanity for her."
"She might like that. Brass you think?"
"That would go well with the tiles you picked out and the other accents. We can get tub knobs in it just as easily. Yours in simple silver?" Xander nodded. He made that note as well. He looked at it. "It's not a lot of work really. The floor being fixed will be done first, just for safety reasons. Then your room, then the bathrooms. Then the kitchen and painting the rest." He looked up. "It's not going to be totally cheap."
"But not a million buck renovation," Xander finished with a grin. "I got an extra two hundred thou above the purchase price."
"That'll more than cover this," he assured him.
"Cool. Can you paint the hallway?"
"If the owner would let us. It does need it."
"I saw." He sighed. "If not, I'll do it later as a building present for the holidays or something. Let her plant a few things on the front steps." He smiled. "I know there's others there. They'd probably like it since it'd make the building look nicer."
"Probably. I wouldn't mind if I lived there as long as it was neutral and looked nice."
"I'd go with fairly simple off white." He took the book of wallpapers and paint wheels. He looked through it. "This color for her room." He made note of that. "This in the kitchen. The back splash?"
"Find us one." Xander nodded at that, going on. "That's going to be a bit dark for your room."
"But for my desk area it's great. It'll separate the area out." That got a nod. He kept going. "Living room and my bedroom." He found another one. "That in my bathroom please. With this border around the vanity area." He let him have the book back."
"That's very easy to do." He finished making notes. "Did you measure out the space?"
"In a friend's workplace's old ballroom. That way I got an idea."
"That's fine then." He smiled and shook his hand. "I'll have this drawn up into plans tonight. Are you staying local?"
"For a week. I have to meet with my overworked editor. My agent at her office. I'm going to soak later on." He grinned. "I deserve it after that flight."
"Some day they'll take less time. I'll draw up the official plans and estimate."
"Off that new overhang, can you put a box or will it be too high?"
"Probably too high but it's going to be dead space so she can fill it with whatever."
"That's cool. Maybe move that one part of the display cabinet there?"
"That's a good idea." He made that note with a nod. He smiled. "I'll call you in a few days so you can verify, see the final estimate."
"Thank you." He smiled and left.
"The kid has decent enough taste, just a bit dark," he decided, calling in his planning person. "I met with Mr. Harris."
He saw the notes. "He's specific but he has some nice ideas."
"He does." He let him see them and the pictures. "I need the plans within a few days."
"That's more than doable. We won't have to do that much work outside the extension and the bathrooms. Where did he want the washer/dryer?"
"He didn't say. We have this one dead area here," he said with a point. "Or we have this one next to the kitchen on the door side."
"I like that one. We can build a pretty closet around it, with a small pantry area." He took it to do the plans for. He came back. "Mosaic?"
"I told him to find us one."
"That'll work." He went back to his desk.
Xander walked into Donnie's new office, looking around. "It's smaller." He smiled. "Do you feel squished?"
"I do. Usually I work from home." He shook his hand with a smile. "I hate you for overloading me. Have I mentioned that yet?"
Xander shrugged. "Sorry? It's paying for the renovations to the new place." He sat down. "How overloaded did I make you this time?"
"I've got an extra two clients."
"Ow, I'm sorry."
"It's all right. We need to give your publisher a bit more breathing room anyway. Paula too. She has a box with your name on it right now." Xander nodded that was true. "Thankfully you've slowed down."
"It's about time for the usual fall problems. My muses know that and if I end up with a sword it'll be good inspiration."
"You're insane, Xander."
He shrugged again. "It has to be done."
"I know." He looked at him then at the pile next to him. "Yours."
"There's only three?"
"I sent Paula another four last week." He stared at him. "Celebrate a lot this summer?"
"We'll be exploring the new city definitely."
"Good!" He smirked. "Will Tara like the new place's designs?"
"I gave her a girlish bathroom with brass, white, and pretty tile. Plus more closet room."
"That'll definitely be liked. Somewhere to get pretty?"
"She'll have a vanity in her bathroom and a full length free standing mirror."
"Even better." He smiled. "So how is the selling the old condo going?"
"She says it can be gone within a month. Especially since it has grass."
"Excellent news. Anything you didn't put into your plans?"
"Yeah, but that's the weapons beyond the showy pieces."
"Uh-huh. I don't need to know." Xander nodded with a grin. "Good. Slow down? Please?"
"Talk to the muses."
"I am. They're in your head."
"Maybe that's part of Anya's curse. Who knows. Am I better or worse than I was?"
"Sometimes I can tell when you're writing too fast. You skip some words now and then."
"So I'm as bad as I ever was and you make me look fantastic?"
"I do." He smiled. "It'll be good. The next one will sell more."
"I'm hoping we have something minor coming out in a few months."
"I think you do but that's up to them and Paula."
"True. I'm seeing her tomorrow. Today I'm going to look at some clubs and things. When we get in, we'll invite you for a housewarming."
"I look forward to it, Xander. I'm sure you'll be happy there. The city has a lot of diversions when you get a bit stuck." He waved one. "Clear here since you didn't connect some things very well." He handed it over.
"Yeah, I got stuck on about two paragraphs and was advised to write ahead and join. I can go back and do that." He looked at him. "Anything else that you've seen that's an obvious problem?"
"Not yet. Fix that and resubmit in a few weeks. Let me get caught up." Xander grinned. "I know, you'll have more."
"I've only done two short stories for her to pimp around."
"Even better!" He smirked. "Shoo. Go soak and figure out how to join the two things better." Xander stood up and gave him a hug before bouncing off with the manuscript. Donnie shook his head, going back to work.
One of his coworkers leaned her head in. "Who was that?"
"Alexian Harris. I've been editing for him since his second short story." He smiled at her. "He writes more than King does."
"He's single. He only likes deadly women though." He smiled at her. "His last few got the attention of the LAPD."
"Oooh, I'm sorry for the boy then. He's really young."
"Yes he is," he agreed dryly. "Almost twenty-two."
"Huh." She went back to her office. That was an interesting tidbit. Not too many authors put out good stuff that often.
Xander leaned around the doorway in Paula's office. "You busy?"
"For ten more minutes, Xander."
"Please. Two of equal." He left. She smiled at her current client. "I'm a bit behind thanks to earlier." He smiled and they got down to why he was in there, sighing things. Xander came in with her cup of coffee and his, sipping his hopefully. She took hers with a moan of contentment. "Thank you, Xander." He sat down. "Do you know how much of a backlog you have?"
"Ten?" he guessed.
"Fifteen. Six I have to give to the publishers." She stared at him. "Take some time off?"
"I've only done two short ones recently since we're coming up on problems in LA."
"My other job, Paula. Happens every spring. Sometimes around Halloween too." He took another sip and put his cup next to his feet. "So it is slowing down and I know they're deciding on timing. This lets them move things around in the paranormal series. That way they can decide they like this one over that one."
"They're numbered in a lot of ways. You connected them well. You can't put out book five and then book three."
"Anne McCaffrey can do it."
"You're not Scottish."
"Good point." He smiled. "However they want. I think book two was a bit slower paced." She nodded. "Outside of that part connecting it back to book one and a connection of them remembering it in book five, which doesn't lead to anything I don't think, they can move that one back. I think the only one that the connections rests heavily on is a few where they run into a situation of 'remember how we did' in book five and seven, and the big talk in book five. Then again, book five is one I got stuck on."
"Good point." She made that note. "So technically they could take some of those out to rearrange."
"If I remember right, the ones that can be removed, outside five, six, and seven, which mostly have to be in that order because they all foreshadow nine, yeah. Eight they need the maturity from the other ones but there's no linkage back."
"Good." She noted that. "So five through nine have to stay." He nodded. "Can they be interswitched?"
"Six maybe. No, six has that damn prophecy found. That leads back to books eight and nine. Heavily in nine's case. Eight is a more fun romp before it gets a bit darker in nine, which I know Donnie has. He handed it back and told me to connect it better where I got stuck there." She nodded at that. "Two technically could be moved to four. One, three, four makes sense. Two then five, six, seven, eight, nine, and I'm working on ten, which is aftermath and that stuff." She made that note. "If they want of course."
"Of course." She smiled. "They wanted to do one, four, three, two."
"Four does have a stronger connection back to three. I'd have to rewrite more scenes. Like them finding out."
"I'll mention that issue." She made that note as well. "Housing?"
"Waiting to hear from the contractor that he has plans done."
"Excellent. Is it in a good area?"
"Slightly off fashionable part of Lexington?"
"Not a bad area. Lots of old buildings."
"Yup, which was why it was very cheap. I can pay for it, the renos, and still have money left from the sale of the condo in LA."
"Excellent. The building falling in?"
"Very ancient. The hallways haven't been updated in forever. Some of it was last done in the fifties."
"That explains why it was so cheap then. It'll be safe?"
"Yeah, very safe. I included a lot of growing spaces for Tara too."
"Even better. I'm sure she'll like that. Her closet?"
"Upped and gave her a storage area too."
"Even better. Most girls need big closets."
"She's not acquisitive."
"She's odd then."
"She's sweet. And no condo fees. Direct billing."
"Insurance," she reminded him.
"On my laptop? Hell yes!" He smiled. "On the new place, homeowner's."
"Good." She smiled at him, digging out a file. "Royalty check?"
"Should I bark?"
"If you want. I'm sure it'll be adorable." He barked and signed, taking the check. She smiled. "You're so goofy sometimes."
"Yeah, I am. But that's being a Xander." He smirked. "Anything else today, great one?"
"No. Go. Shoo. Go shop. You can cash that here."
"I need it for condo fees at home." He beamed. She snorted, shaking her head. "Thank you." He kissed her on the cheek and took his coffee with him. She faxed those suggestions to the publisher's rep she worked with for him. It'd go however.
Xander walked into the condo, staring at Tara. "Tell me now if you don't like brass, white, and slightly girlish tubs."
"No, I'd like that," she assured him with a smile, pushing her hair back behind her ears. "I'm getting a girlish bathroom?"
"With a vanity area so you can get pretty for dates." He kissed her on the head. "Hi, I'm Xander, the shovel committee if you hurt her." He shook the woman's hand with a smile and went to his room. "It's all set. The redo will be done in three months."
"Thank you, Xander. You spoil me very well."
"Miss Kitty will have some great areas too." He came back out. "Plus it'll have a nice, functional kitchen with a washer and dryer." She hugged him for that and he grinned. "Plus the balcony will have a lot of places for plants. Including the terracotta orange stuff you wanted." He smirked. "I made it subtle so we're not in a forest but it'll be pretty." He went back to his room. "Have a good night. I've got to finish connecting some spots Donnie didn't like."
"Okay. You too." She looked at her date. "Xander."
"I heard. Sibling?"
"Nearly." She smiled. "He's very sweet but a bit goofy when he wants to be." She went to get the car keys and came out. "Car keys." Her girlfriend smiled and joined her. They had dinner reservations. They could talk about New York later since she wanted to move that way anyway. Xander would play with her cat later when she was in a kitty mood. It'd make sure he ate later on.