One of the ideas readers suggested was posting parts of my writing. I found this section in my first book that illustrates a bit of Sophia's character. Hope you enjoy reading this!
The stoplight turned green and the steel blue BMW darted down the ramp onto the toll way. Sophia hummed as she picked her spot in the far left lane and slid into it with precision. As she neared the tollbooth lane, she zeroed in on a black Camaro.
She held her breath as she passed through the tollbooth, then grinned. I won, she thought while accelerating back into the center lane. Tollbooth match ups had been more fun when people had to throw change into the bin, but the game still worked with the E‑ZPass lanes. Exiting off the tollway, she sped down a wide boulevard and then turned into the office parking deck.
Zipping into the first open parking space, she popped out, reaching in the back for her laptop bag. She dashed over and pushed the elevator button.
Sophia took a deep breath as she waited. It was Tuesday -- assignment day at Personna Magazine. Normally, she looked forward to starting out on, as she called it, “a new journalistic adventure”. But her last couple of assignments had been disappointing, mostly “fluff” stories on friendly people who coveted publicity and made it very easy for her -- sometimes too easy -- almost interviewing themselves, even prompting her with questions. Sometimes it seemed that all she had to do is smile, which didn’t give her much opportunity for her to prove her intellectual or research skills.
She weighted the merits of asking Ellie, her editor, about a more challenging assignment. As she entered the elevator, she remembered her editor’s stern look when discussing her last article, a piece on an aspiring movie director.
“Your subjects love to talk with you because you exude a natural curiosity about people. You seem to capture the image they are trying to create. But the readers also want to see the dark side of these people. Be more dimensional.”
Relatively new at the journalism business, Sophia had used her natural skills to first network into the job itself, then to work up from a research assistant to a writing position. She still was regarded as a rookie, but when she compared articles, she thought her writing was every bit as good as some of the senior staff who worked on the more controversial and high profile assignments. How could she prove herself if she didn’t have a tough assignment? Yes, she had convinced herself. She needed to speak up today.
As Sophia entered the brightly lit office, Ellie was walking past her desk with a mug of coffee. Just the person she wanted to see!
“Ellie…” Sophia began.
“Good morning, Sophia.” Ellie raised her cup, but kept up her brisk pace. “Grab a cup of coffee and come down to my office. I’d like to get you started on your new assignment right away.”
“Sure.” Sophia answered as she stashed her purse and laptop in her cube and headed for the coffee room. A minute later, she appeared in Ellie’s doorway with two cups.
“It’s fresh -- they just made a new pot so I brought an extra.”
Her editor smiled. “Thank you. I could use some more – it’s going to be one of those days.” Ellie glanced at the cup Sophia gave her and nodded approvingly. “You even put cream into it, exactly the right color.” She took a sip, then put the cup down and began to speak in a slow, deliberate manner.
“Sophia, I wanted to talk with you before the others. You have a very special assignment. Once in a great while, our magazine has the opportunity for an exclusive interview, and you have been selected.”
Sophia’s eyebrows went up and she leaned forward. “An exclusive--that’s great! Who?”
“I think you are ready for this… I can tell you have been wanting to have something with controversy.” Ellie paused.
“Yes, I have!” Sophia exclaimed, not able to contain her excitement. She was so curious. “But who is it? A Howard Hughes type? How did we get an exclusive?”
Ellie looked down at the envelope on her desk. “The gentleman’s name is General Nicolai Hewzenko.” Ellie leaned back in her leather chair. “You have heard of him?”
Sophia nodded. “I’ve heard the name.” She had heard the name but didn’t want to admit she didn’t have the foggiest idea who he was.
“I need to tell you the background.” Ellie spoke as if narrating a story. “It was most unusual. They sent a letter asking for resumes of our reporters. I sent everyone’s, and they spent almost a month choosing. Apparently, the requirements included speaking either Russian or French and knowledge of world history.” Sophia looked at Ellie, quizzically.
“French? I thought most diplomats spoke English.” Perhaps they just want someone to know what it is like to speak in another language – she could understand that, remembering times when she had struggled with the French village merchants, often winding up with a purchase that she hadn’t intended on buying.
Ellie shrugged. “Apparently they have created a new language. A combination of several languages and dialects with Russian, French and German words, like Esperanto. It is supposed to unite the country, according to their spokesman.” She gestured at the envelope on her desk. “So no one here would know their official language. I would bet some of the staff speaks English, though, because all the correspondence has been in English -- but to be prepared, I’d recommend brushing up your French.” Ellie placed her half reading glasses back on her nose and looked over the top. “Were you very fluent?”
Sophia sighed. “Spoke it every day for several years. But since I’ve been back, I even avoid French restaurants.” She glanced at the ring on her right hand. It had a swirl design that surrounded half of what was once a heart-shaped ruby. Sophia remembered seeing the pieces on the counter when she had come in for her appointment to see if she could sell her wedding rings for some much needed cash. She had asked so many questions about the broken stone that the jeweler finally had offered to set one of the pieces into a ring. From one angle, it looked like an ordinary ring. But from straight on, it was a broken heart, which reflected her attitude and served to remind her to be cautious with relationships.
“But I can brush up.” She added, realizing she had taken a long pause.
“Good idea, you can do it on the plane.” The editor picked up a large white envelope with a crest embossed on it. “Here is the preliminary travel packet. Look it over, you have three days to learn all the background you can and pack.”
“Three days!” exclaimed Sophia.
“Yes, I figured you’d like to delve into your research and be prepared, but once they decided who they wanted they seem to be in a hurry. And since this is the first time this Dictator has allowed an interview... we’ll do it their way.” Ellie handed the envelope to Sophia, as if getting rid of it.
Sophia ran her fingers over the envelope flap. “How long am I to stay?”
“The ticket is open ended. They want to approve the finished article before you leave. This is very important to them, and to us, because this is the first interview the General has granted to an American reporter in over five years.” She stopped for a moment and gave Sophia a searching look.
“I need to warn you..."
From "The Essence"
Insights on writing, characters, humor and other tidbits from the author of the "Scoops and Schemes" series of novels.
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