Indie Author Excerpts: A Fool Among Fools by John Terracuso

Posted on 12/12/2014 in Indie Author Excerpts / 0 Comments

Indie Author Excerpts Welcome! Indie Author Excerpts is a feature allowing indie authors the chance to showcase one of their books and allows readers to find their next favorite story. Each week, an indie author gets to promote a 1-2 page excerpt of their book here at BookShelfery. This is a win-win for everyone! This feature was inspired in part by Indie Author Spotlight, a meme hosted by Beckie @ Bittersweet Enchantment and CYP @ A Bookalicious Story.  Are you an author that would like to be featured in Indie Author Excerpts? If so, check out this page and fill out the form.   [indie-author-excerpt] So when Gwen invited us to stay late that night and have a drink in her office, I think we all suspected what she was up to. Usually, she drank alone in her office. Her idea was to pitch the Old Atlanta Peach Schnapps business using a Gone With the Wind campaign. I took a sip, and had to agree with Jenny. It was terrible. “I don’t think it’s going to work, Gwen,” I said. “I can see why they don’t advertise this hooch. The only way I can think of to connect it to Gone With the Wind would be to show General Sherman using it to set fire to Atlanta.” I should point out here that I spent my adolescence in front of a TV set watching old Warner Bros. films on Million Dollar Movie, and that I generally identified with whatever character Eve Arden was playing. “You’re not helping, Michael,” Gwen said. “And you don’t have to work on this assignment if you don’t want to. I just thought you might like something else for your portfolio.” Henry Barnett, the more senior of our new art directors, attempted a second diplomatic swallow. “This really isn’t very good, Gwen.” Henry was roughly my age. I don’t know which bothered me more, the fact that Henry had already come this far in his career and I was just his secretary, or the fact that I was also Jenny’s secretary and she was only twenty-two and fresh out of art school. “I happen to think it’s tasty,” Gwen said, blowing cigarette smoke at us and refilling her glass. “Now, I thought of a great campaign line today at lunch.” She produced a napkin on which she had scrawled with a felt-tip pen: OLD ATLANTA PEACH SCHNAPPS. IT’S THE RHETT STUFF. “Get it?” she chirped. “Rhett Butler? Georgia peaches? We call it ‘The Rhett Stuff!’” I gagged on my second swallow. “Yes,” I sputtered. “It’s the Rhett Stuff to use to unclog the pipes under your kitchen sink.” “Gwen, you can’t be serious about pitching this junk with that awful line,” Jack said, finally speaking up. Gwen turned on us. “I’m quite serious! It’s a dying brand because they don’t advertise. If we do something great, they’ll give us the account and we’ll save it for them. Now, I want you people to do a campaign using that line, and I want it to look like something out of Gone With the Wind , and if you don’t like the idea, I’ll bloody well do it myself!” That said, she dismissed us. I wanted no part of this assignment, and begged off when Jenny asked if I would work on it with her. I’d help everyone get the presentation together, but I wouldn’t touch Gwen’s horrible slogan. Back at my desk, I watched as the lines on my phone lit up – first Henry, then Jack, then Jenny, each probably canceling whatever plans they had for the evening. I called Irene. “Hi, Lambie. What’s up?” “What are you doing now?” I asked. “What am I doing? Me and seven other college girls are testing Neet. What else would I be doing in my office at 5:30?” “I mean, can you get time off for good behavior and meet me for a drink?” “Isn’t tonight a gym night?” “No. Actually, I disappeared at lunch and went. I was planning to work on the play tonight.” I was writing a play about life in an ad agency called Dial Nine to Get Out, but couldn’t seem to get past the first act. I looked for any excuse to avoid working on it. Irene was an editor at a big publisher across town. She put in long hours, mostly on a series of lusty historical novels by one Mara Everds, the titles of which I could never remember, whose hoop-skirted heroines always seemed to be fleeing someone – their gowns torn but their virtue intact. I used to beg her to get me dates with the men who posed for the cover art. Irene was two years ahead of me at Georgetown, but somehow our paths never crossed until after I had graduated and returned to New York. After months of trying unsuccessfully to find work in film as a production assistant, I gave up and, out of desperation, took an entry-level job at a small book publisher where Irene was already working as an editorial assistant. We started talking in the hall shortly after I was hired, quickly established the college connection and branched out to having lunch together. We found we had a lot in common, especially a passion for old movies, and became friends. Things began to get awkward when I realized that Irene wanted more than friendship from me, and didn’t seem to sense that friendship was the best I had to offer her. I always thought I wore being gay like a red picture hat, but some people need to be told. Irene practically had to be clubbed. “I can meet you at six,” she said. “I shouldn’t leave yet, but what the hell.” “Great! I’ve got a good story for you. Meet me in the Village?” “Michael, I’m not going to Uncle Charlie’s Boystown with you again.” “Uncle Charlie’s Downtown, and that was your idea. Anyway, you said you had fun that night. All those guys wanted to know where you found those big Bakelite bracelets. No one paid any attention to me.” “Well, let’s go someplace tonight where if a man notices me it won’t be because I’m wearing fabulous antique jewelry, okay?” We settled for an outside table at the Riviera Café. Irene let me have the view, provided I alerted her if anyone cute, straight, and preferably tall with glasses walked by. I told her all about Gwen’s idea for Old Atlanta Peach Schnapps. “The Rhett Stuff,” Irene said. “Is she kidding?” “I wish she were. Thank God I don’t have to work on it.” Our drinks arrived, Cape Codder for me, Screwdriver for Irene, both made at my insistence with Smirnoff, just to spite my friends at Dover. “Well, this will put O’Hara on your chest!” she toasted, and sipped her drink. “Oh, that’s perfect. Let’s get Gwen on the phone.” “Wait,” Irene said. “I have a better one: As God is our witness, you’ll never go thirsty again!” “No,” I said, laughing. “Don’t wait for tomorrow, buy some today!” Irene smiled. “Drink enough, you’ll turn Scarlett!” I let out a big laugh and almost knocked my drink over. The waiter shot us a dirty look. I kept laughing the rest of the week. Every time I looked at the empty schnapps bottle in Gwen’s office, I wanted to say, “Puts O’Hara on your chest!” But Henry, Jack and Jenny were not in the mood to laugh. They worked late every night for a week and a half, churning out comp ads using that dreadful line, each layout more terrible than the last. We did get the account, but that was only because the CEO of Dover and the senior account manager at Malcolm were old golf buddies. The CEO said we could have the account only if we did a recipes campaign, showing how to cook with Old Atlanta Peach Schnapps as well as make mixed drinks with it. He made us promise not to make him reconsider “that godawful ‘Gone With the Wind’ idea.”  

About John Terracuso

John Terracuso spent most of the 1980s working in New York City as an advertising copywriter. He then moved to HBO Home Video as creative services manager, followed by a stint in the New York PBS press office. John has worked on several documentary and independent films, and wrote, produced, and directed the video short It’s Someone’s Wonderful Life. John also wrote the pilot and several early episodes of In the Life, the pioneering LGBT news and variety program seen nationwide on PBS stations. He is currently a freelance writer and fundraising consultant. John has written four screenplays, including an adaptation of The Traveler in collaboration with the play’s author, Jean-Claude van Itallie. John grew up on Long Island and graduated Fairfield University in 1979. He lives in Massachusetts with his husband, Wendell Wyatt. They met in 1997 and were married in 2014 on the seventeenth anniversary of the day they met. A Fool Among Fools is his first novel.

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Jennifer is both a book nerd and professional photographer. That means she lives in the fantasy world all the time, whether of her making, or someone else's. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids, and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.


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