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«Bell, Book, and Scandal», Jill Churchill

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It took three hours before almost everything was clean. When Mel started making the bed, Jane realized he didn't even know the right way to tuck the top sheet in tightly at the bottom. "Mel, stop. Don't you know how to do a nurse's corner? Watch this and do the other corner like I do this one."

He was surprised. "My mother failed to teach me that. In fact, I don't know if she knew this. She always had a maid to do things like this."

 

Jane sat down on the bed when they were finished. "Don't you want to hear my good news?"

"I'd rather we made good use of this bed first."

Jane smiled, slipping off her shoes while saying "Me, too."

 

Later, while Mel went for carryout Chinese for their lunch, Jane took a look in the fridge and decided he'd have to deal with it himself. But she'd tell him all about the writers' conference over the egg drop soup.

As time went on, Jane and Shelley received updates on activities and speakers. Jane became more excited every time she perused one of the bulletins.

"You sound as if you know who these people are," Shelley said when Jane rhapsodized about one of the additional speakers — a woman named Taylor Kensington, who wrote superb romantic suspense.

"Not to say 'know' for real. I admit I've been subscribing to a publishing magazine ever since I started this novel. I've kept track of names and reputations."

"How so?"

"There are columns about big sales of manuscripts every week or two. The magazine sometimes knows, and tells, the amount of advance paid. They always name the publisher, the author, and the agent who sold the work. Lots are nonfiction, of course."

 

"Advance? You mean they give a writer money before the book even comes out in the bookstores?"

 

"Of course. Sometimes they give advances without anything but a concept that hasn't even been written yet."

"You're kidding! I've got a lot to learn about this, I guess."

"The terms of the contracts are often interesting, too. I wouldn't let you see one, however. Nor would I show it to an ordinary attorney for fear he or she would have a stroke."

 

"Why is that?"

 

"It's something they'd know nothing about and think was indentured servitude, I understand. That's why writers need agents who are used to the weirdness of publishing contracts. I hope there will be some seminars on contracts."

"You will show me the contract!" Shelley exclaimed.

"Not until I understand the rules well enough to explain them. Oh, Shelley, I may not ever see one at all, you know."

The conference was to start on Thursday, and the Monday before, Jane set out for the grocery store early with a long list of things her two remaining children living at home could eat while she was gone. Shelley was just coming home from some errands.

 

"You're not letting your mother-in-law take care of them this time?" Shelley asked.

BELL, BOOK, AND SCANDAL 7

 

"Thelma's got a conflict. She's going to her younger sister's house in Saratoga because the sister's husband is having very serious surgery and wants someone from the family with her in the waiting room. Besides, Katie and Todd are, I hate to admit, fairly responsible and should be able to take care of themselves."

"Right. But you're going to be calling them to check every five minutes, aren't you?"

Jane grabbed her purse and pulled out a cell phone. "I finally caved to technology," she said. "Isn't it darling? So very tiny."

"You didn't invite me to help you shop for it," Shelley complained. "I could have advised you."

"It was on sale for twenty-two dollars at the department store, and I'd seen another just like it for a hundred. How could I go wrong?"

 

"Twenty-two dollars!" Shelley almost screamed.

 

It was the same kind of cell phone Shelley had, and her reaction led Jane to suspect that Shelley had paid the full hundred for hers.

"I've made the kids memorize my number. They're to call me or leave a message every time they step foot out of the house."

"So much for you trusting them," Shelley said. "Did you buy them their own phones at this sale?"

"I regret to say I did. I figured they'd be a whole lot happier about the rules if they had their own phones. But I made sure that they can't call long distance on them, and when their free min-

utes run out, the phone doesn't work anymore until the next billing month starts."

"Good Lord! I didn't know you could do that! I've been afraid to let my kids have one for fear they'd run up huge bills. You remember when Denise stupidly called that psychic hot line and I got a bill for a hundred and seventy-five dollars?"

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