Who You Know

on June 7, 2010 in Misc

Santa Fe

It’s late Sunday night and I know I’m supposed to be writing something to post Monday morning.  But for the last few days I really didn’t do any Layla stuff because I spent them in Santa Fe for my niece’s high school graduation.  Yes, I memorized some Arabic vocabulary during the long drive down and back, but that doesn’t count for much.

Of course this means I’ll have to spend the coming week making up for lost time.  It was good to have a mini-break, but the weather was so hot in Santa Fe that I only did a couple of stretching routines.  Getting back now to my (only recently renewed) thorough workout will feel great, and settling down for some language learning sure beats those long hours of driving while zoning out along the highway.

Anyway, while in Santa Fe I sat in on a tech rehearsal for a play my sister is directing and met a few of the actors who’ll be in it.  As a species, actors are pretty much Layla’s opposite:  they’re flamboyant, outgoing, fizzing with fun (and sometimes neuroses), and in love with the limelight.  They could never be part of Layla’s shadowy world or skulk about doing very discreet work. 

dos equis

But the actor who really got me thinking about how Layla is different from them was R. Eric Gustafson.

You know that silly commercial for Dos Equis beer — the one with the fictional “most interesting man in the world”?  Make the man elderly and gay, and you’ve got Eric.  Swear to God, Eric himself isn’t famous, yet he has known everyone and gone everywhere.  He had drinks with Harry Truman, met Pope John XXIII in the Vatican, can tell you which famous actress always sat around buck naked in her dressing room, was pals with Andy Warhol, danced with Rita Hayworth, and on and on.  When he developed a drinking problem, it was Elizabeth Taylor who sent him to the Betty Ford clinic, where of course he hugged Mrs. Ford herself.

Get the picture?


Layla is so not like him.  And obviously I’m nothing like him.  But this got me thinking…

Maybe instead of isolating Layla as much as I do, I should expand her social life and introduce her to a boatload of famous or remarkable friends.  After all, she has a well-known reputation among museums and wealthy individuals for finding and delivering rare ancient manuscripts and writings.  In The Compass Master I already show a couple of her shadier but intriguing underground friends.  Maybe I should also have her hang out with more respectable, well-heeled, colorful individuals.  This makes sense, because I don’t want them to treat her as hired help; instead, they themselves are fascinated with her, and Layla has enough sense to professionally network.  She should also know her way around a variety of social settings.

Trouble is, if I expand Layla’s circle of friends then I’ve got to do the same for myself, and that ain’t so easy.  I live in Denver, not in New York City or any other place suitable for hobnobbing.  And I’m an editor/production manager at a consulting firm, not a hunter of rare manuscripts.  But at the very least I can put out some social feelers and see what I come up with.  Maybe I’ll even have some fun.

8 Responses to “Who You Know”

  1. Ben says:

    Just tossing out some ideas here. If it were my book I would: Make all her wealthy, respectable, well-to-do people know nothing of her action side. They only know that she is knowledgable in her feild and recieves artifacts, the details are hazy, but she sugarcoats it and weaves around telling them the direct truth. There is a man within this circle who is a millionaire, and he is falling for her. She bumps into him in another country while trying to break in to an old church or something, and has to wrestle with both sides of her personality: suceed in the mission, and not give away her identity to this wealthy suiter. It might make it interesting. (And of course, have the man overbearing and Layla try to avoid him to little success)
    Anyways, there’s my two-cents, whatever it’s worth.

  2. Helena says:

    Ben — those are some great ideas! I think you’re right that Layla would hide the less-than-legal tactics she sometimes uses, especially since she has to protect herself. She already has a shady reputation with the authorities, so she knows when to keep her mouth shut. I’ll use your suggestion.
    But as for the man in her life — the millionaire is a great invention, but I’ve already written about Zach, the architect/adventurer from her recent past who gets pulled into the plot by a master manipulator, and even though he and Layla don’t trust each other they have to work together. (His expertise in sacred geometry is needed by both the good and bad guys.)
    Seriously, it sounds like you have a couple intriguing plot lines you could use in a book of your own. Is that what you have cooking?

  3. Hart says:

    I think it’s a good plan–I figure spies deal in information, and the best source of info is often the movers and the shakers so she HAS to be competent in that world, even if she doesn’t LIKE it that much. And yeah… like the idea that they wealthy have no clue they’re being worked or what she is really up to.

  4. Helena says:

    Hart — I hadn’t really thought of it, but what you say about movers and shakers having info and connections is so true. I’m gonna have fun making Layla’s personal world more complex.

  5. Ben says:

    I totally understand if you don’t want to make another character; it can be a hassle and sometimes unecessary. But, for this guy, let’s call him Greg; for Greg, he is a pompous, stuck up, rich douche that can’t see past his own ego. He sees himself as irrestistable and assumes that Layla is falling for him, when in reality he is nearly unbearable. So, this would not be a love interest, but a thorn in the side of her work, and support some drama, and maybe you could even have her partner in crime mis-interpret something between Greg and Layla and be hurt/back off/or get mad. Everyone loves a good heart break and drama. Just wanted to clerify in case you thought i was introducing another character as a love interest.
    I’m working on a kidnapping, hostage situation, trainwreck love triangle, no-game hacker who has no courage to approach the girl he loves, a kidnapping investigation to write, a twist to manipulate, maybe a con to create, an escape to perform, another escape to perform, and a cliff-hanger to leavew the audience with. So, nope, those ideas were my musings, the ones i’m working on are plotted out, but still in the rough stages of development.

  6. Ben says:

    Oh, and you mentioned that you liked the show Leverage, so I checked it out online, and now I can’t stop watching it! That inspired me to make a con in my book.

  7. Helena says:

    Ben – From the sound of it your story is deliciously complex, and I love the idea of a no-game hacker. I also like the stuck up rich douche. In the back of my mind I have the vaguest outline for a sequel to The Compass Master, and in it someone from Layla’s past comes back, which really complicates things between her and Zach. Throwing in some new heartbreak would certainly add depth to the story. I’ll keep your suggestions in mind.

  8. Helena says:

    Ben — Good for you! Isn’t it funny how tempting the idea of a good con can be?