Wisecracking pen-for-hire Jaine Austen is back--and she's about to discover that working on the set of a Hollywood sitcom is no laughing matter. . .
Jaine still hasn't found a good man--or a way to keep all those sugary snacks from going straight to her hips. But--with a little help from her best friend Kandi--she's finally landed a gig as a sitcom writer! True, Muffy 'n Me (aka "Bewitched with Tits") isn't going to win any Emmys. And her office at Miracle Studios needs a little sprucing up, and a few dozen rat traps. But it sure beats writing boring brochures and bad resumes, so Jaine's not complaining. Until the plot thickens--with murder. . .
Jaine figures the trouble all started when Muffy 'n Me's hottest star, gorgeous Quinn Kirkland, seduced the head writer--whose husband also works on the show. But when Quinn's caught in bed with the barely-legal actress who plays his niece, things really heat up--and his many jealous girlfriends start to figure things out. . .
So when the no-good heartthrob drops dead after nibbling a poisoned doughnut, Jaine isn't terribly surprised. But who could have done it? A competitive co-star and a couple of scorned lovers top Jaine's list of suspects, but the police have zeroed in on her man-crazy pal Kandi. She fell hard for Quinn--and nearly fell apart when she learned of all his other women. Now Jaine has to figure out who finally stopped Quinn's cheatin' heart--before her best friend ends up behind bars. . .
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May 01, 2012
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Excerpt from Last Writes by Laura Levine
I should've known there was trouble ahead when I saw the sign over the studio gate:
"If It's a Good Picture, It's a Miracle"
Miracle Studios, for those of you lucky enough never to have been there, is a sorry collection of soundstages in the scuzziest section of Hollywood, a part of town where the hookers outnumber the parking meters two to one.
But when I drove onto the Miracle lot that hazy Monday morning, I was a happy camper. I, Jaine Austen, was about to become a bona fide Hollywood Sitcom Writer. After years of toiling at my computer as a freelance writer, churning out brochures and resumes and personals ads, I was about to strike it rich in show biz. No longer would I have to come up with fictional resumes for college grads with room-temperature IQs. Or slogans for my biggest client, Toiletmasters Plumbers (In a Rush to Flush? Call Toiletmasters).
I owed my good fortune to my best friend, Kandi Tobolowski. Six weeks earlier, she'd called me with the news:
"Guess what," she said. "I've kissed the cockroach goodbye!"
The cockroach to whom she was referring was the star insect of a Saturday morning cartoon show, Beanie & The Cockroach, a heartwarming saga of a chef named Bernie and his pet cockroach, Fred. Kandi had been a staff writer on Beanie for more years than she cared to admit, like most animation writers, she'd long dreamed of landing a job in the far more prestigious world of live-action television.
And that day had finally arrived. Her agent had taken enough time off from lunch at Spago to line up a job for her on a comedy called Muffy 'n Me--a Saturday morning syndicated show about a buxom teenage girl who gets hit on the head with a volleyball and develops magical powers.
As the Miracle bigwigs pitched it to the network, "It's Bewitched with tits."
Okay, so it wasn't going to win any Emmys. But it vas a big step up from the cockroach, and Kandi was thrilled. So was I, two weeks later, when she told me she'd managed to get me a script assignment on the show.
At first, I was terrified. After all, I wasn't much of a comedy writer. But then Muffy 'n Me wasn't much of a comedy. So, after chaining myself to my computer, armed with only my wits and a copy of Henny Youngman's Giant Book of One-Liners, I managed to complete my comedic masterpiece, "Cinderella Muffy." It's all about what happens when Muffy magically changes her ratty bathrobe into a glam prom dress, only to have the spell wear off in the middle of the prom, leaving her stranded on the dance floor, doing the Funky Chicken in her jammies.
I know, it sounds ghastly to someone of your retired tastes. But remember, we're talking Hollywood here, the town that brought you My Mother the Car and The Gong Show. The head writers loved it! Okay, so maybe they didn't love it. But they liked it. Enough to invite me to be a "guest writer" on the show for a week. And here's the truly wonderful part. If they liked working with me, they were going to offer me a staff job! And if I did well on Muffy, it would be only a matter of time before I made the leap from syndication to prime time. Do you know how much prime-time sitcom writers make? Well, neither do I. But I hear it's scads. Truckloads of really big bucks. Think Bill Gates. Think Donald Trump. Think plumbers on over- time.
Ever since I'd handed in my script, I'd had visions of Seinfeldian contracts dancing in my head. I'd already men- tally bought my beach house in Malibu, complete with his and hers Jaguars for me and my husband. Not that I had a husband, but I was sure I'd pick one up along the way.
All of which explains why I was in a jolly mood that morning as I drove past the wino sunning himself at the studio gates and onto the Miracle lot. I pulled up in front of the guard booth, where an ancient man with rheumy eyes and the unlikely name of Skippy asked me where I was headed.
"Muffy 'n Me!" I grinned.
Was it my imagination or did I see a trace of pity in those rheumy old eyes?
"Park over there," he said, waving to a tiny spot next to the commissary dumpster.
I parked my trusty Corolla in the shadow of the dumpster and stepped out onto the lot, trying to ignore the smell of rotting garbage. Swinging my brand-new attach� case, I headed over to the office I was to share with Kandi, eager to start on this exciting new chapter of my life. Somehow it still didn't seem real. I had to keep reminding myself that I actually had a job at Miracle Studios.
Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but the real miracle was that I'd live to tell about it.