Excerpt from The P.U.R.E.

The P.U.R.E ARCs (advance reader copies) are finally here and with it my last chance to catch boo-boos.  It’s also my chance to give YOU a tiny glimpse of the first 500 words of the novel.  I hope it grabs you enough to want to keep reading.  Beginnings are always so tough and I’d be lying if I told you it was my strong suit.  But with my editor’s wise assistance (and that of countless others from beta readers to critiquers at my writing sites), hopefully this gets a passing grade.  The best reason to read is the definition the acronym P.U.R.E. will be revealed.  So without further caveats or hemming and hawing…

The P.U.R.E.

I shouldn’t have listened, but my curiosity beat out the entire feline population of Dallas. Who was I to fight it? It hadn’t killed me yet.

If the voices hadn’t been raised and full of discord, I might have resisted temptation. Perhaps . . . but probably not if I were being honest.

“You can’t possibly sign off, Bob. We found too many blatant errors and even more questionable treatments,” a woman’s voice said. Marilyn. The voice of reason—my mentor if I could impress her enough to take me on.

“Duly noted, but you’re overruled. It’s a done deal,” Bob said.

I pulled away from the door and scanned my surroundings to double check that no one would catch me spying.

My heart pounded as I considered the implications of what I’d heard. Why would a partner, a leader in our accounting firm, do something so obviously wrong? Why would he put its reputation, his reputation, at risk?

“Aphrodite is showing missing cash, two luxury cars and a jet no one can seem to produce, to name a few things we’ve found. You can’t ignore this, Bob.”

I mouthed, ‘Don’t forget the overvalued inventories and past due payroll taxes,’ as if I might somehow prompt Marilyn through the door.

“What about the overvalued inventories?” Marilyn added.

Exactly! I checked my watch, needing to get our lunches. Another few minutes wouldn’t hurt.

“That’s not an Aphrodite issue,” Bob said. “Gayle and Jon royally botched the counts.”

What? No friggin’ way! Where’d he even get that idea from?

“We can’t hold Aphrodite’s audit hostage because of our own abysmal staff,” Bob said. “You should have replaced those two PUREs at the beginning of the project like I suggested.”

My heart sank to my feet. I waited for Marilyn to come to my defense.

“You said you had everything under control, Marilyn.” His tone took on a steely, accusatory edge. “The cost to redo the entire count is out of our budget. We’re just going to have to take the risk and sign off.”

I drew back as my stomach knotted. Abysmal? Bob thought my work was abysmal? Jon’s too? PUREs? Partners never called staff Previously Undetected Recruiting Errors unless they were one step away from the unemployment office. I did a good job, and so did Jon. Marilyn had even complimented our work.

How could Bob be so glib in front of our client?

Private conversation or not, I needed to hear more. My hoop earring clanked against the door as I returned my ear to its station.

I froze. Should have worn studs. Hoops were so much less professional. Of course, eavesdropping was too.

Listening for signs I’d betrayed my presence and hearing none, I pressed closer.

“. . . a lawsuit waiting to happen.” Marilyn said. “Your costs’ll look like loose change in comparison. You can’t possibly sign your name to those financial statements, Kenneth. Consider the implications to this company, to your reputation, your license.”

If Kenneth commented, he spoke so I couldn’t hear. “You could go to jail. We could all go to jail,” Marilyn said.

© Claire Gillian 2012

Day Jobs in Novels

His Secretary

Image via Wikipedia

When you read a book, does it matter what the heroine or hero’s day job is?  Probably yes, if you’re reading a crime drama or urban fantasy, probably not if you’re reading a contemporary romance.

Contemporary and historical romance novel jobs tend to parallel the times in which they are set, but aren’t that interwoven into the larger plot.  In the older contemporary romances especially, the protagonists were secretaries, nannies, librarians, nurses, chefs—jobs little girls wanted to have when they were growing up in the fifties, sixties and even the seventies—but only temporarily until the ultimate job of marriage and family could be secured.  The men were business tycoons, doctors, princes, architects, lawyers and detectives–all strong providers.  They were also very rich, very commanding and very fertile.

I’m a business woman, a certified public accountant or CPA.  My pedigree means I understand numbers and finances.  If I had a penis and a lot more testosterone, I’d be the hero the ladies swooned over, uh, once they got past the glasses and the pocket protector, of course.

Such a background means I can sniff out an author who knows next to nothing about business.  She (“she” is used in a gender-neutral way) often creates paper doll facades of her tycoons.  These alpha male heroes read reports and create spreadsheets that allow him to decisively make bold alpha moves and prove his prowess in the business jungle.  Meanwhile his underling female takes dictation (haha…all hail the dying art of Gregg shorthand), makes copies, files, and types his words of alpha genius.

Sometimes the heroines have been the thankless invisible trooper so long, they take a stab themselves at whipping up a business plan or removing an appendix.  Riiiight.  That always makes me laugh, like through the mundane processes of typing and copying, they have through osmosis learned how to compute internal rates of return and payback periods, while applying the proper accounting rules to the transactions so they can anticipate the impact on fully diluted earnings per share.  If the heroine was going to night school for her MBA, maybe I’d buy it, but that’s rarely the case.

Does this knowledge gap between me and the author prevent me from enjoying her book?  Nah.  I’m willing to suspend my disbelief over the heroine’s latent head for business (and “bod for sin”, to throw a nod at Working Girl) as much as I’m willing to buy that every tycoon and prince works out in the wee hours honing his finely sculpted muscles so he can drive his obedient secretary into short-circuiting her keyboard with a tsunami of lust-induced drool.  Riiiight.  I buy that they all drive very fast, expensive cars (and drive them with manly skill) and have villas in Italy.  I am easily convinced they have a live-in housekeeper (who practically raised them under the austere eye of the paterfamilias) to whom they give handsome benefits and full pensions.  (Arnold Schwarzenegger anyone?)  I’m totally convinced they are skillful lovers as generously endowed as the charitable foundations bearing their philanthropic names.

I buy it all because these details are the window dressing there to show me that, yes, the hero is a worthy alpha male and yes, the heroine is deserving of his attention, and yes, they will be a well-paired match, if only they can get past obstacles A through Z, whatever they may be.

And really, if I lay a contemporary romance side by side with a paranormal romance, I see very few differences other than what the A through Z’s are.  Tackling an Excel spreadsheet can be just as commanding as facing down a three-headed hellhound.  Convincing the bank to extend a loan’s balloon payment can require just as much verbal finesse as inciting a pack of shapeshifters into attacking the king’s evil guard.  The main difference is would readers rather pour over prose about Excel spreadsheets or three headed hellhounds?  I know what I’d pick.

Assuming I’m not the only one who chose spreadsheets, hellhounds, I’m hypothesizing that the more compelling the complicating factors A through Z, the less conflict in the buildup in the relationship between the hero and heroine is necessary.

Watch any guy flick vs any chick flick.  While both will have a love interest, the guy flick will be more, “I’m bad. You’re hot. Hey? You wanna? Followed immediately by: kiss, tussle, smoke a cigarette, then “LET’S GO GET THE BAD GUYS!!!”  KABOOM!!! AND EVERYTHING IS IN CAPITAL LETTERS UNTIL WE’RE READY FOR ANOTHER LOVE SCENE, then we’re back to lower case and even a few cursive letters”.

The chick flick will be, “Let’s have a series of encounters that will show in turn how lovable I am, how lovable you are, how there is someone detestable standing in our way or someone pushing us who might also be lovable, and while we’re at it, let’s make sure we have thorough debriefings with our BFFs over the pros and cons of succumbing to our desires, blah, blah, blah, lather, rinse, repeat, break up and start over, oh and hand me that Excel spreadsheet, will ya?”

I like both types of films, and both types of books.  Sometimes I want to focus on what the characters DO when they aren’t interacting with each other and sometimes I mostly want the interaction.  The believability and/or interest level of the day job is inversely proportionate to the character development.  The most boring day job parts of Jane Eyre were the scenes with her pupil, Adele.  The most exciting day job part was where she frightened Rochester’s horse into rearing up and unseating him only to discover hours later he was her new employer.  But let’s face it, the governess aspect of the story would never stand alone, so Jane needed a hell of a back story to make her interesting to Rochester, and that’s what Bronte gave her.

So, after all this rambling, I circle back to my main point.  If you have a strong, character-driven romance, an author can put her characters in milquetoast or Mary Sue day jobs and readers probably won’t notice or care.  If the author’s romance is weak or is an especially long, slow burn type (which I love), the protagonist had better blow up stuff, kill bad guys, or behave recklessly.

What kind of stories do you lean toward?  Character-driven or action driven?  How tolerant are you of Mary Sue or ho-hum day jobs?