Discovery Draft: Why I Was Researching Las Vegas

Since I opened that can of worms by mentioning Las Vegas, here’s the discovery draft of that scene.  You’ll notice that it’s completely unstructured, starts abruptly, rambles, and then just stops; that’s because it’s a discovery draft.  I know it’s terrible.  I haven’t revised it even once.  This is raw Crusie.  And I may decide to cut the whole thing and write a new breakfast scene (there are a lot of breakfast scenes, six I think) with no proposal, so it’s just a placeholder for now.  But this is what happened while I was writing, and why I researched Las Vegas and then discarded it.  

“There’s a white power group on the island,” Nita said over her eggs.  “How in the hell did I miss that?”

“Why was Lilith here?” Nick said.

“To seduce you?” Nita said.

“I’m dead,”  Nick said.  

“You need a t-shirt with that on it.”  Nita picked up a piece of bacon and looked toward the sunny bay window.  “It’s really nice here.   I’m going to talk to Vinnie about moving in.  After I put a lock on the door to keep Lily out.  Syrup please.”

Nick passed her the syrup.  

Nita frowned at her French toast as she sloshed the syrup on.  “Marvella is running a white power group to kill demons.  Did she kill Jimmy?”

“No idea.  We’ll put it on the list.  Pass the syrup please.”

Nita handed back the syrup.   “I can’t put it on a list, I have to figure this out now, and I don’t have much time, I have to get to work.”

“Not today.”  Nick got a second orange juice out of the drinks carrier.  “We have work to do here.”

“Look,” Nita said.  “I have a job.   Which pays my rent.” She looked down at the plate full of eggs and French toast that Nick had given her.  “And the few crusts of bread needed to sustain my existence.  So as soon as I’m done here, I have to go work or get fired. Which would be bad.” 

“No problem.  I’ll marry you.” Nick peered into another carton.  “I don’t even know what this stuff is.”

“Marry?” Nita said, for once not distracted by food. “Where the hell did that come from?”

Nick passed her the carton.   “You need money to survive.  I have money.  If we’re married, you get my money.”

“You want me to marry you for money,” Nita said, putting her fork down.

Nick shrugged.  “I don’t need it.  The Devil has his own account on Earth and it’s huge, so once I take office, I won’t need mine any more.  I only used mine when I came to Earth and wanted something that wasn’t official.” He looked at the table.  “Like a flat surface on which to eat eggs.”

“Marry,” Nita said again, trying to be calm.  The Devil just proposed.  He’s an old-fashioned guy, he should have asked  the Mayor’s permission for that.  Or Satan’s.

I’m losing my mind. 

He looked up.  “Nita, I can’t give you money to live on because the US government gets interested if you give anybody more than ten thousand a year.  If we’re married, you get it all, no problem.”

“Well, there might be a few problems,” Nita said, trading confusion for annoyance.  “Like you’re dead and you live in Hell.”

“Yes, but my money is here,” Nick pointed out.  “You don’t need me, you need money.”

“This was some kind of inheritance from your grandfather?” Nita said, ignoring the not needing him part because of course, she didn’t.

“No.  I swindled a demon out of $260,000 in 1934.  I put it in a bank for the next time I needed money, and then when I came back in 1986, the interests rates were insanely good, so I switched banks. Compound interest did the rest.” He chewed on a piece of bacon thoughtfully.   “Look, it’s a simple solution with no drawbacks.  You’ll have complete freedom, and the money’s just going to sit there and rot once I’m Devil.”

“Uh huh.”  Nita picked up her fork and cut into her French toast.  French toast was normal.  “So how much money are we talking about here?”  She bit into the toast, thinking, Why am I having this conversation?

Because the Devil asked me to marry him.

She was having a really weird week.

“What?” Nick looked up from his eggs.  “Sorry, missed that last bit.”

“How much money do you have?”

“A little over forty-three million.  What is in that carton?”

“Grits,” Nita said. “Forty-three million dollars?”

“Compound interest is a wonderful thing.  What are grits?”

“Forty-three million dollars,” Nita said.

“Yes,” Nick said.  “Do I want to try grits?  Because my instinct tells me no, but then I’m dead.”

“Forty-three million dollars.”

Nick looked over at her. “Well, a little less since Rab’s been burning the card to set up the bar and Sadiel bought Demonista and a baph with it, but generally, yes.”

That’s a lot of money, Nick,” Nita said, and then caught her breath as her voice rose.

“Yes, I know.  So we get married, you get the money, and if you get fired, it doesn’t matter, you’re covered.  Problem solved.  I’m going to put the boys back on the Hellgates and you and I can focus on whoever’s sending demons to kill you and Jimmy.”

Nita sat back.  “You want to give me forty-three million dollars.”

“Focus.”  Nick sloshed syrup on his toast.  “Don’t get hung up on the money.  Trust me, the Devil’s Earth accounts makes that look like chump change.”

“I know this is a bad idea,” Nita said, forking up a chunk of toast.  “I’m trying to think why.”

“Well, you might want to marry someone else.”

Nita looked up to find him watching her.  “No.  According to my mother, the women in our family don’t marry, and since I’ve never wanted to, I’ve been good with that.”

“So your mother will stop you from marrying me,” Nick said, not sounding as if he cared.

“If my mother finds out you’re worth forty-three million, she’ll get ordained and marry us herself,” Nita said.   “She’s independent, not nuts.”  She frowned at him.  “Marrying for money is bad.”

“Not if both sides know that’s what it’s about.”

What if I wish it wasn’t about that?

No, that was ridiculous.  She was still rocky from the day before. 

Forty-three million dollars?  Holy hell.

Nick waved his fork at her while he chewed.  “You could buy the bar from Vinnie and run it.  Live up here.  Pay Jeo a huge salary to run the place.”

“Jeo’s staying?” 

Nick shrugged.  “He wants to.  There’s no point in forcing him to go back if he’s serious about it.  I’ll  make him an envoy so he can report back to Hell.  Ambassador to Earth.”

“That’s nice of you,” Nita said. 

“So where do people get married here?” Nick pushed his empty plate away and looked at hers.   “You’re not eating your breakfast.”

I’m dealing with a lot of thoughts, okay?” Nita rubbed her forehead.

“Is the reverend at the Church of Satan ordained?” Nick said.  “There’s a kind of poetry in that.”

“Yes,” Nita said.  “But there’s a three-day waiting period in New Jersey after you apply for the license.  And to apply for the license you have to go to the local registrar.  Who works for my father.  You remember the Mayor.”

“I remember your mother, too,” Nick said, hitting the cartons again.  “But I am fearless in the face of homicidal in-laws.  I won’t be spending the holidays with them.  Eat something, Detective Dodd, we have a big day ahead of us.”

74 thoughts on “Discovery Draft: Why I Was Researching Las Vegas

  1. I needed that, thanks. I just did a file on a horribly unwell patient who had made the decision to end her medical treatment and, thus, her life. Both the resident dictating the file and I had a hard time with it.

    1. Deb, it has no beginning and no end, doesn’t move the plot, and doesn’t change character. It’s just two people talking about getting married. They don’t even come to a decision. It’s the epitome of a Chat Scene.

      You’re easily seduced, Blake. C’mon.

      1. I am. You’d think I’d date more.

        But I’m a sucker for witty banter. To be honest, I’d trade a beginning and a middle for some good witty banter. The world doesn’t have enough damned witty banter. There’s a shortage. A dirth. A drought of witty banter.

        Plot, schmot.

      2. Don’t harsh our buzz. We like Crusie dialogue. It has a rhythm and a flow and even comes to a satisfactory concluding chord at the end of this scene: it sings. We understand it doesn’t meet your professional criteria for a great scene, but we can still love it.

        You’re so good at this stuff.

      3. Okay, I know this scene is not up to your standards but easily seduced is not actually an insult.

        If you tightened it, I could see it working.

  2. I don’t care if “it’s completely unstructured, starts abruptly, rambles, and then just stops;”. That was fun and just what I needed to perk up a crummy day.


  3. Beautiful scene rhythm. Gotta like a book of action punctuated by breakfast scenes. Can you work in a lox, cream cheese, bagel with onions and capers? And good hot coffee and cold orange juice. Oh, yeah, and papaya.

    1. Well, Nita hates coffee (established in first scene) but Nick might like it. Orange juice plays a major role. Lox, cream cheese, et all is more NY deli than northern NJ. But yes, the menu expands as Nita settles in and Nick changes.

  4. That scene made me giggle. Multiple times. And I’m not the giggling type. I see all the problems with putting it in the book, but it’s brilliant dialogue.

  5. This was really fun to read. Above you said that it doesn’t move the plot, but couldn’t it, if this introduces the money component and the marriage proposal goes somewhere?

    My favorite line from it – “I’m dealing with a lot of thoughts, okay?” Nita rubbed her forehead.

    Thanks for sharing it!

    1. It’s just information exchange. Nothing actually happens here. If she says, “Yes, I’ll marry you, let’s go get the license,” then it moves the plot. This is just Chat.

      The scene before this, Stuff Happens. This, I was just following my nose after that. The scene before Nick shows up with breakfast (they’re in the apartment over the bar) there’s conflict, character changes, it’s still rough but it’s a scene. This is just “and then they talked about this.” Not good enough.

      1. Don’t think of it as a scene. Think of it as the foreshadowing of an actual scene.

        I tried to explain to my nieces that 1. Jack Benny was very funny and 2. they’d never know how funny he was because the humor in his radio & tv shows was based on a character he’d been building for years. And you couldn’t get that from one clip on youtube.

        When the robber says “Your money or your life.” Benny’s silence is the funniest thing in the sketch. His line “I’m thinking, I’m thinking” is funny but it’s the long silence that makes people laugh. And it’s the years of characterization as a cheapskate before that which makes the silence funny.

        I know you want every scene to be multipurpose but this was pretty funny and I can see parts of it being useful later.

        1. If I was writing 200,000 words books, I could see it. But I only have 100,000 words. I can’t waste any of them.

          1. You do realize we’d still buy and read (and reread) your books with 200,000 words verses 100,000, right?

    1. Where’s the conflict? How does it escalate? If I cut this scene from the book, what crucial change would I miss? How many classes have you taken from me? (g)

      You guys are too easily swayed by snappy patter. One hundred thousand words of snappy patter is like a gallon of hot fudge. A spoonful goes down great, but then . . .

      1. Ha! Remember me, the Chocolate Stalker? I like that you think I wouldn’t eat a gallon of hot fudge…

        Mostly this scene just made me happy. I understand that it might not be exactly what you need to move the book forward or whatever, but very little is making me happy these days, and this did. So I’m still a fan.

      2. Have you read Game of Thrones? And you get to like, the fourth or fifth book and it’s hard. Every scene is pivotal, every scene has conflict and moves the plot forward and you want to stop, not only because what is happening is horrible, but because it’s too much, there’s too much tension in turning the page.

        There’s a lot to be said for some hot fudge sauce.

        1. Nope. I heard about the rape and the Red Wedding and life is too short.

          I think you need to pace the conflict, move it in waves, plus there are subplots that work at a lower intensity level, but I still maintain every scene has to have conflict to move it. Of course, I am often wrong.

  6. As ever, I mangle-quote Rocket Racoon from GoTG1 – you’re good with the vocabulistics, Jenny. Even if it’s all talky-talky now, you’ll figure out how to make it work.

  7. THERE WAS A MARRIAGE PROPOSAL. Huge. So *make* it move forward. Great revealing detail, and you say yeah, nah. I mean!

    1. This. If you write one of the elemental scenes of a romance–maybe THE elemental scene–it’s huge. I get your point about chat, but this was chat about marriage. Had it been chat solely about grits…

      1. But it’s not chat about marriage. It’s chat about money. Nick’s saying, “You’re worried about money? I’ll fix that.” It’s what he does, he’s a fixer. He’s not emotionally involved. Even she’s not thinking, “Wow, I’d like to be married to him.” She’s thinking, “This dead guy just asked me to marry him. Also FORTY-THREE MILLION DOLLARS?”

        1. She doesn’t -know- if he’s emotionally involved. The money is his first reason but not his second or third reason for the proposal. Men just don’t propose unless there’s reasons. So I see this as a chat about marriage (with a heck of great excuse for him to make it without putting any heart on the line). But I’ve been reading romances while you’ve been focussing on mysteries lately: different expectations.

          1. Yes, but he’s dead. He’s getting emotions back, but he’s still practical. There’s nothing lover-like about him, no undercurrents there. She’s got some undercurrents but he’s still getting the hang of this.

            However, the rest of his day does go that way. I’m just thinking if he proposes, even for practical reasons, it does not go here.

          2. He’s also an Italian poor boy at heart right? From the Renaissance?

            He thinks marriage is about money. The love part comes after you’re married to other people.

            The only weakness I see is if he’s inheriting Satan’s money, wouldn’t someone be inheriting his when he changes position?

          3. When his term as Devil is over, he’s dead dead. He’s only alive now because of Satan.

            My take is that he doesn’t remember much about being human. He’s about to remember it all, but at this point, he’s still Mr. Practical Problem Solver.

  8. You know, if you’ve saved Cut Conversations from your books the way television shows have Deleted Scenes, we would probably buy a book that collected those Cut Conversations from your books. I can’t be the only person who sticky notes favorite banter bits so I can turn back to them when I need a pick-me-up..

    1. Yep. I will read anything with good banter including the phone book. Just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.

    2. Oh totally. If you published a book of your outtakes, Jenny, I’d definitely buy it. It was a rough week for me too and I needed something to make me laugh, so this was great.

  9. This problem reminds me of characters in Georgette Heyer novels running around to procure a special license.

    I live in such a small town that Jenny, our town clerk, would waive time limits. (When our son came to visit from Poland and needed a new license and to register to vote, Jenny said, “I know your mother. I don’t need other proof of residence.”

  10. So I’m still unclear on if there’s an issue with three days? Nita doesn’t strictly need all of that money right now, she can get by with the one-time $10K transfer for the next three days before she gets access to the accounts.
    Can’t they start the registration process now, and then she can decided within the next three days whether or not to call it off?

    1. They’d have to apply for the license immediately, and she doesn’t need the money at all.

      I just wrote a post for Monday on this (g). This scene is a solution in search of a problem. She has a job, she lives within her income, money is not a problem. She mentions she has to get to work, Nick says not today, she points out that she needs her job, and he offers her marriage so she doesn’t need her job. I wrote it following my nose, no plan. It doesn’t make sense.

      As I said, I just analyzed it, and I think if this happens, it needs to come later in the story when there is a pressing problem. But then she won’t have time to get the license. So I’m cogitating.

      1. Oh. If this is just a solution to his not wanting her to leave him for the day, it’s kind of like, “block of butter, meet laser canon.” In other words, overkill, which reveals a whole lot about Nick.

        And on second thought, Nita has received a lot of proposals and commitment speeches from her former partners. (Many of which are about the partners’ desires for children and companionship, if I’m reading between the lines correctly.) She’s run into this before, even though she’s never had it on the “I’m going to be on my own for ten hours; marry me so that doesn’t have to happen” level. That’s fascinating.

        Well, whatever happens, this book is going places I never dreamed it might. Very exciting!

        1. It’s not that he’s trying to bribe her to stay. He just assumes she’s going to stay because everybody does what he tells them to. It’s because he’s a fixer. “I need you here to work on this problem that we have to fix. That creates another problem for you. I’ll fix that and you’ll stay.”

          I think the problem I’m running into here is that the idea of “marriage” is so freighted in a romance that readers will default to him having an ulterior motive even though he just wants to solve his problem and get back to Hell. So the whole marriage thing may just go away.

      2. Is the state New Jersey? Because Delaware has a 24 hour waiting period.

        And as someone else pointed out, the mayor could probably backdate the license.

        1. Yeah, but the mayor is her dad and he’s not a fan of Nick’s.
          State is NJ. Did not know that about Delaware. I think I want them staying on the island because I want that crucible setting.

  11. I like director’s commentaries. In the one for Mr and Mrs Smith the director explains the scene where the Smiths discussed their indiviual exit plans if either got caught.

    It didn’t work as a regular face to face conversation. He instead put them in a storm drain while they were hiding from both of agencies’ killers and filmed the same thing and it worked. Sometimes it’s setting, not just plot.

    1. That also raised the tension. It’s been a long time since I saw that movie, but I think (not sure) that it was one of those “the thing we’re talking about is not what we’re actually talking about” scenes.

      One of my favorite scenes from Legends was Sara and Snart talking about Rory because they were playing cards during it. I remember reading that it was supposed to be shot just the two of them standing and talking, but they’d decided to play cards sitting on the floor at the bottom of some stairs, and the relaxed way they were playing the game and the relaxed way they had what could have been a tense conversation showed an arc in that relationship that a couple of people just talking would have. Setting has meaning.

      In the marriage scene, they’re having breakfast in Nick’s apartment, but there were many scenes just before that in Nick’s apartment between the two of them with people coming and out and things happening, so by the time we get to this one, that’s all been established.

  12. (I’m a hopeless Crusie banter fan but it’s your book so of course ignore my fangirling thoughts if they don’t work.)

  13. I’m awfully late to the party, but … I read a book once where they wanted to get married and the hero pulled a marriage licence out of his pocket that he’d applied for weeks earlier.

    What if Nick noticed that being married gives people certain protections, like access to his money, and thought Nita might need that in a hurry sometime, so applied for a licence in advance? I expect Nita would go ballistic and I’d love to read that!

    1. I don’t think she’d go ballistic; I think she’d be puzzled. But I don’t think Nick would think like that without knowing that she might lose her job and therefore need money. That is, I don’t think he’d look at her, think “This woman might need money some day,” and decide to get a marriage license. Also I think–not sure–that you both need to be there to get a license because you both need to sign for it. I think. Could be wrong. Even in Vegas you both need to show up to sign after you apply online.

      I’m starting to really like the idea that they get the license and people talk. That would be a nice complication, especially since her boss already has suspicions she’s got a personal involvement with him.

      1. In California, at least, both parties must be present to get a marriage license. … I would feel very suspicious about a “hero” who just happened to have one on him. That goes beyond planning ahead and into stalking.

        1. Yep. I think that Nick being dead undercuts that a lot, but he’s shortly going to be not dead, and then it becomes highhandedness at the least. I think given his motivation, the reader won’t think “stalking,” but he can’t get it without her anyway. I think. Off to google NJ marriage licenses.

        2. Regencies.

          English law said you had to read the banns for three weeks OR you could be married with a special license straight from the bishop.

          So it gets used a lot as a plot device for couples who can not or may not wait the three weeks (not to mention that telling everyone you’re getting married is sometimes a problem). And since the woman is incidental to the process, it’s usually just the man who gets the license.

          Not seen as stalking – often seen as a way to get around family disapproval. Sort of like eloping but more expensive and faster.

  14. “If my mother finds out you’re worth forty-three million, she’ll get ordained and marry us herself,” Nita said. “She’s independent, not nuts.”


  15. Jenny, some quibble about a scene you’re not going to use.

    Where did you get the $43M calculation? Because for that kind of return, he’d have to be in the market not a bank I believe. (Yes, the 1980s had high interest rates, but the 1970s had high inflation). For investments, he’d need a broker. (Although there you could make a couple of the Wall Street firms have an office in Hell – which most of us would believe.)

    Also if he was in a bank and not regularly checking in, the bank would have declared it abandoned property and turned it over to the state. In NJ, I believe they have to send it to the state 10 years after the last contact.

    And the state will audit for it. So banks turn it over.

    1. I started with the $260K in 1934 and figured the rate of interest at the interest rates at the time, up to 1986. Then I looked at rates in ’86 (nope, just checked my notes, it’s 1969) and they were insane, so Nick switched banks to the great rate. Since he was posing as a crook at the time, he wouldn’t have been going through Chase or Citi; probably something in Switzerland or the Caymans or Turkey if they were banking back then. Also, he was on Earth off and on during those years and could have churned the accounts then. The only years I’m keeping track of are those where he was here longer than a couple of weeks because those are the times he starts to assimilate so when he starts cycling through his past, those are the years he wakes up in. It’s 1502 (?), 1621 (?), 1934, 1969 and then the present, which is 2011. He came down briefly in between those, though, for quick jobs, so he had plenty of time to play Monopoly.

      1. I found my notes. Please keep in mind that this was quick and dirty research so that I could get a ballpark. I absolutely don’t have the expertise you do, Bridget.

        Nick’s money.

        He took $260,000 off a crook in 1934.
        Invested it at 5% in a bank in Switzerland.
        1969: $970,698.64

        June Reinvested at 8.5% 1969 (thirty-five years later)

        2017: $42,124,596.42 (forty-eight years later)

        Except that it’s not 2017, it’s 2011, so it won’t be $43 mil. But I’m cutting the scene so it probably won’t matter.

        Compounding monthly, it’s thirty-five million and change in 2011. Compounded annually just short of thirty mill. Still a tidy sum.

        1. I don’t have expertise per se.

          I have 15 years of proofreading financials & prospectuses & sometimes investment documents looking for errors. And sometimes those were logic errors.

          I know you’re not using it but for your own calculations, because Swiss banks were the gold standard, and considered extremely safe, their interest rates are lower than your number. They started closer to 3% and hit 6% in 1975/76, and then retreated to the 4.9%-5.8% range until 1991. They went back down in the 2000 to the 3.7% -and are roughly at 2.181%.

          It’s not that he couldn’t have gotten better returns, it’s just that he would need either to be a little more hands on or have someone buying notes & mortgages etc. And then there would be a fee. If he’s in the US stock market – European stock market gets a little wonky with that small squabble they had in 1939 – your returns are much, much better but he doesn’t have index funds until Bogle comes along.

          But you say he pops in here – he could easily get your returns with an annual rebalance – but it’s just not something he could park and find when it was convenient. Pre Internet, it’s really not that easy to invest and not lose your shirt if you’re not paying attention.

          I hesitate to say this – but I have a table of Swiss interest rates if it becomes a plot point versus Bridget’s minor OCD.

          ; )

          I’ve got a link to a table.

          1. Actually, I’m liking the Vatican idea.

            And then in the realm of Big Plans, I was thinking about doing a sequel to this that would be short stories that combined to make a novel, and having the IRS and the police and everybody else descending on them then along with the marriage plot would make a lot more sense than trying to stuff all of that into this already overstuffed book.

Comments are closed.