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JamesSavik

Story Idea: the Rainmakers

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The Rainmakers

Byrum, MS 3:00am

David Case got the call about 3am. He always loved those calls. It was either a drunk ex or a desperate client.

Either way he won.

He answered the phone, "Yeah?"

"Dave You available?"

"What have you got Max?"

"The Superdome people have a big concert this weekend and they're scared shitless that they'll have a repeat of the Superbowl fiasco."

"I thought that they had Courtland Systems people all over those control systems."

"They did. Courtland has all of his assets in Brazil on a big job for Petrobras and the Superdome people want a good Systems engineer onsite. You want it?"

"Sure."

"Good. You've hit the lotto with this gig. Look at your email for instructions. Be in New Orleans by ten at the Marriott. Marty Lebeau will be waiting for you there."

New Orleans

Dean Stalls had a big problem. The producer of boy-bands had at least three in play at all times: one emerging, one in its prime and one hobbling around long after its members were too old to interest Tigerbeat's readers.

It wasn't a band that was his problem. It was his solo act Kevin Carter.

Stalls had seen him when he was twelve and signed him on the spot. The Carter kid was a producer's dream: cute, charismatic, talented and malleable. He sang what they told him to. He did what they told him to. Stalls quickly turned Kevin Carter into another adorable teen idol. That had been four years ago and millions of albums ago.

Carter was capable and bright. He mastered the piano and classical guitar and practiced tirelessly. He listened to other musicians and developed a taste for classic rock. He was often seen in the tabloids wearing a Pink Floyd or a Led Zeppelin t-shirt.

Of course Stalls didn't care what the kid did in his spare time. He posed for pictures, behaved himself and played the songs that they gave him.

That was up until the boy turned sixteen and developed a mind of his own. Already a star, when it came time to press his fourth album, Carter had twenty-four songs produced and ready. It was his own original material and it was good. Damned good. It blew Stall's production people out of their shoes. They were excited. Some of the old hands that had worked for Cheap Trick or Supertramp and were in love with it. Against Stalls better judgement they pressed the album. It would serve the little shit right to fall on his face.

The album was pared down to sixteen songs. Carter named it Songs of the Highway. The CD cover was featured an empty instate with an electric guitar sitting on a stand. Who knew it would go triple platinum in near record time.

Old people- not just people in their thirties and forties, were buying it. People who had grown up on the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Even the kids liked it. They liked it so much that Kevin Carter went from being a cute kid playing bubble gum music to near mythic proportions almost overnight. Even the most snobbish of critics sat up and gave props to Songs of the Highway as one of the most original and fresh albums of the decade.

Older groups were being re-discovered. The critics compared Carter's new album to Supertramp in its prime, so the kids bought Supertramp. They said he had a stage presence like a young Mick Jagger so the kids googled Mick Jagger to figure out who they were talking about and bought old Rolling Stones CDs. In the space of a few short months, Carter's charisma and talent had created a renaissance of rock.

That was all well and good but it wasn't what Stalls was selling. His other acts were tanking and according to his accountants, he was losing upwards of a million dollars a week. He wanted bubble gum pop and the little shit had resurrected arena rock.

Stalls situation was so dire that he would be completely broke by the end of summer unless something changed and, by all appearances, Carter's popularity and success were just beginning. Already other producers were fronting power trios hoping to ride the wave.

Without any malice at all, sweet little Kevin Carter and all of his talent had put Stalls in a terrible corner. However, there were ways. In the music business all sorts of super-talented young people were found dead. Not that Carter ever used drugs but in this case, his first trip was going to be his last.

New Orleans Marriott 10:00

Case handed over his keys reluctantly to the valet. He was particular about his truck and he hated having anyone else drive it. He wasn't used to hotels like the Marriott and was startled when another bell hop grabbed his luggage and hauled if off to his room.

The hotel's staff were waiting for him. They bypassed the front desk and took him to a suite on the twentieth floor where Marty Lebeau was waiting with a pile of blue prints and schematics. He stood and extended his hand, "Dave. It's been a long time."

Case shrugged and said, "I know. I don't have quite the connections that Courtland's people have in the Louisiana legislature."

"And we didn't have the problems that we have now when you were running things. It all started when we did a whole bunch of upgrades after Katrina. Minor stuff really. Until it bit us hard on the ass in the middle of the Super Bowl in front of God and everybody."

Case stifled a grin. In such a situation a little schadenfreude was understandable but bad for business. "I heard about it. Courtland has been over every inch of that system with a fine toothed comb. A very expensive comb if I know them."

LeBeau shook his head and said, "Courtland blames an equipment manufacturer. The manufacturer blames incorrect installation. Its been months and we're still no where near a solid answer. The whole power distribution and control network has been rebuilt and we just don't have an answer. That's not the worst of it. We are having trouble booking big acts and even the NFL is looking past us for future superbowls. The Rainmaker concert has got to go off without a hitch. We've got a hell of a lot riding on it."

"OK Marty. I see you brought everything I need. Let me go over it this morning and I'll meet you at the Dome after lunch. I'll want to talk to some of your in house people and we'll see what we can find out."

LeBeau stood and said, "Thanks Dave. This is the first event that we've hosted since the Superbowl of national prominence. My job is riding on it going off without a hitch."

Case said, "Courtland's people are electricians that do systems. I'm a systems guy. I'll be looking at it from a whole different direction and I think you'll be pleased."

Canal Street Parking Garage 11:20

Dean Stalls drove up two levels from where most of the cars were parked and backed his rented Lexus into the parking place that he was instructed to park.

It wasn't long before a big, black Chevy Tahoe with tinted windows pulled into a parking space right beside him. The window came down and a revealed a small balding man.

He said, "Mr. Stalls. You may call me Remy. I heard about your problem and I'm here to make the arrangements."

Stalls handed the man a briefcase and said, "It's all there. The money, credentials and keys that you will need."

Remy opened the briefcase in his lap, took a quick look and closed it. "Very well Mr. Stalls. I ask this once and only once. Are you sure about this. Once I leave here, the plan is in motion. There is no backing out."

Stalls shook his head.

Remy said, "Killing one so young, it does things to you know? Just so you know. After its over, don't have an attack of conscious. It would be unfortunate."

Stalls said with a hard edge to his voice, "I made that little shit. Now he is ruining me and I have to break him."

The hit-man nodded, "Just so we understand each other Mr. Stalls."

He rolled up his window and drove away.

Superdome Sound Set 11:45

Kevin Carter's young strong voice filled the sound stage.

Cheap hotels by the highways,

Smelling like diesel and sweat,

Make me long for the by-ways,

That will take me home to you.

As I travel the by-ways,

Most often the wrong ways,

As I sleep on cheap sheets,

I'm dreaming about coming home to you.

'm dreaming about coming home to you.

The sound engineer was a local pick up and had never worked with or heard the Rainmakers before. They were aptly named. They had a sound that he had not heard the likes of in a very long time. He sat in stunned silence in the booth as the song ended and finally said, "OK guys that's a wrap. Take lunch."

He took off his head phones and left his booth and stepped down to talk to the musicians. Several of them were set players who had been around for a while.

Wiley Cunningham on bass. Graham Norton on rhythm guitar. The drummer was a younger guy named Sam Erickson as was the keyboard player Riley Thompson who were friends and discoveries of Kevin Carter.

The sound engineer drifted down to where Carter, Erickson and Thompson were in a clump talking and said, "Hey guys, I'm James Ellison. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed working with you."

Carter grinned and said, "We surprised you didn't we?"

"Well yeah! I haven't heard stuff like this since the eighties. This is real get back to the heart of it rock and roll stuff and by God I'm glad to be a part of it. It's not the syntho-pop crap that the big labels have been pushing for the last twenty years. I haven't been this jazzed since I did a set with Rush back in '85."

Erickson said, "I'm just glad they let us do it. Even better that it worked out."

Carter said, "I think that my manager was just humoring me expecting that we would flop. When the album came out this spring, we only had a dozen concerts booked out West. It wasn't until it really took off that it became a national tour."

The engineer said, "You know, I used to buy a lot of CDs and listen to new groups. I don't know. I guess I was looking for THE SOUND you know? I sort of quit that. I stopped looking. With you guys, it's like it's all new again. Thank you. Thank you so much for helping me love my job again."

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I got the idea for this from the Bieber in trouble thread.

I'm going to play with it a bit and see how it works.

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Superdome Master Control Room 1:25

David Case laid the big drawing he had spent the last couple of hours working on in Visio on the table. LeBeau and his team surrounded it with great interest.

Case said, "Of all of blue prints and schematics that you showed me there was no one diagram for the most important thing: the fiber optic network that ties all of the control nodes together. This is it. Notice that it's shaped like a race track."

The engineers all nodded. One of the younger ones said, "That's for redundancy. The spanning tree algorithm built into the switches uses it until there's a fault in the network and then re-establishes a new connection pattern."

"Quite right. But suppose there was a fault in the network here and here.", Case pointed to two key network nodes.

LeBeau said, "Oh shit. That would isolate..."

Case finished his sentence, "That would completely isolate the power control subsystem and your network would look and act like it was just fine. I'm guessing that it's not a hardware issue at all. It's the network."

LeBeau ordered, "Okay. This we can fix. Art: go get the fiber up-link spares. Matt: Go get us replacement patch cables."

Case asked, "That's all multi-mode fiber?"

LeBeau said, "Yeah.

Case said, "Have a look at this segment here and here- not on this network map but on the architectural blueprints."

LeBeau rolled out the blueprints and found the two junctions weren't even on the same page.

Case said, "This trunk and this trunk are too long for multi-mode finer to run reliably at giga-bit speeds. It was fine BEFORE the Katrina renovation but the new stuff runs at different tolerances. We need to pull single-mode fiber through the conduit and change the uplinks and patch cords to single mode. I think that will pretty much do the trick."

LeBeau looked panicky and said, "We don't have any single-mode stuff onsite."

"Relax", Case said. "Single mode fiber is big with the phone company. I've got suppliers on speed dial that will have what we need here in an hour. We'll have this done by this afternoon and you'll be able to rock the house tonight and keep your lights on."

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If the producers worked on Cheap Trick and Supertramp, they're 60 years old!

But there's a good story idea in there. My feeling is there's too much technical jargon in there, but that's just me. I have the same problem coming up with a contemporary kid singer who has a Pro Tools studio in his house. How much technical stuff is enough to establish the mood, vs. too much? It's a subjective call, but my fear is the writer knowing so much about one thing to the point that we snowball the reader with it. A little jargon goes a long way.

And BTW, I laughed and laughed when the New Orleans Superbowl in the stadium had that big power failure this year. The real stupid thing to me was, the video kept going, but they hadn't spent $500 on power backups for the audio, so it killed the announcers for 10 minutes. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Guaranteed, jobs were lost on that screw-up.

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Doh, I would also say that a FOH (front of house) mixer would not use a pair of headphones. They'd monitor through speakers. Big difference between an FOH concert mixer and a music recording studio mixer, and those are also different from a TV mixer.

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Good start, James.

I like the technical jargon; it makes the backstory believable. Maybe now's the time to focus on the characters and their interaction.

Colin :icon_geek:

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James, it does get a little technical but that helps to underscore Case's competency. You could back it down some. What always impresses me about your writing is your ability to write concurrent threads into your story and pace them so that you keep the reader moving with interest from one to another and thus get pulled deeper and deeper into the development.

I think we need to know soon how these main characters might relate.

Good, edge of seat stuff.

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I like the technical jargon; it makes the backstory believable. Maybe now's the time to focus on the characters and their interaction.

Colin :icon_geek:

I agree with Colin, there is nothing in the tech jargon to confuse anyone, and it does give the guy some street cred. Leave it in.

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I'd agree with Merkin that balancing several different disparate plots is often an interesting way to go, as long as there's a payoff for them on down the road. I love leaving little breadcrumbs here and there in my stories, just to see if the readers are paying attention.

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Guest Dabeagle

I like the idea. The only thing that I wondered was if the 16 yo was headed for something with the fellow that gets called in - maybe a large age difference, or just two relevant characters. Good idea though, I hope it leads you somewhere.

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Certainly an interesting one. Like others, I think it may need toning down on the technical front, but obviously it's done to make David Case believable as a serious expert. In the context of a longer story, if you have a relatively short part that is technical, and the rest not so, then it could work. The sin it doesn't commit is the use of unexplained TLAs (three letter abbreviations) that are common in many technical works.

Do I want to read more? Yes please, it has my vote. :icon_thumleft:

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I've come to expect jargon (technical detail) in James' stories, they are part of the mise en scène, so top speak. The thing is, they're always relevant and enticing as they inform as well make you wonder what's next.

As for the story, keep it going, James, it has all the promise of a good mystery thriller, maybe even a romance?.

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As a sidebar to this discussion, I'd like to point to Colin's serial stories over on our brother site Codey's World. Colin, writing primarily for young gay readers, makes a considerable effort to include technical details concerning issues that may have a considerable impact on young teens, of which they may know nothing at all or be very confused. Real facts concerning topics like the court system, custody hearings, adoption issues, medical procedures, and coming-out issues and concerns are deftly built into the stories Colin writes, and the result is not only very good storytelling but also a virtual "coping with gay life" handbook for young gay readers. Here is one instance of where the more technical information accurately supplied, the better.

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Sorry to be the wet blanket, but I found the producer's thinking to be unrealistic from a business point of view and a good chunk of the story seems to pivot on this, so that puts the whole story at risk.

Historically, we've seen bands/acts morph their sound and find greater success before and the response by the their labels/producers has generally fallen into three modes:

1) Make all their other acts change their sound to be more like the newly successful sound so that they can cash in.

2) Recruit/steal current/old acts with the same sound for their label so that they can cash in.

3) Sign up new/unknown talent with a similar sound for their label so that they can cash in.

To give some examples of what I'm talking about:

The Beatles went past their boyband roots to psychedelic and heavy and the result was people signing up Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Zeppelin.

When New Wave hit in the 80s, arena rockers like Styx, Queen and Jefferson Airplane (Starship) took on the synthesizer sound.

When Grunge/Alternative hit in the 90s, Metallica's producers steered them to a more solid, slower sound that gained them new fans.

When Eminem brought biting personal self-reflective lyrics to rap, the wannabe gangstas like Puffy started doing self-reflective too.

My point is that no producer is going to be that upset if his other acts are failing temporarily because of a shift in taste, especially if his own triple-platinum star is leading the change. He'll just see dollar signs everywhere, because he's got the lead in an emerging market.

-----------

Anyway, that's my view coming from a guy who's a big stickler for believable motivations in his fiction. Your mileage may vary.

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As a sidebar to this discussion, I'd like to point to Colin's serial stories over on our brother site Codey's World. Colin, writing primarily for young gay readers, makes a considerable effort to include technical details concerning issues that may have a considerable impact on young teens, of which they may know nothing at all or be very confused. Real facts concerning topics like the court system, custody hearings, adoption issues, medical procedures, and coming-out issues and concerns are deftly built into the stories Colin writes, and the result is not only very good storytelling but also a virtual "coping with gay life" handbook for young gay readers. Here is one instance of where the more technical information accurately supplied, the better.

[Blush] James, thank you for your kind commentary about my stories. What you described is what I try to do in my stories, establishing hopefully real-to-life situations that teens can relate to and, perhaps, learn from. I have several teen readers who provide their opinions and criticisms of my stories, and I take their points of view and recommendations seriously.

Colin :icon_geek:

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My point is that no producer is going to be that upset if his other acts are failing temporarily because of a shift in taste, especially if his own triple-platinum star is leading the change. He'll just see dollar signs everywhere, because he's got the lead in an emerging market.

No producer that is smart and acting in good faith. But... How many people have you seen in business and goverenment cling to the formula for a past success long after the conditions that made that formula work are long gone?

There's a certain political party that tries to out-Reagan itself every four years even though the world dynamic that made Reagan successful is thirty years out of date.

Villains and even ordinary people don't always act in good faith, nor are they smart. Sometimes they are clinging desperately to what they know and are willing to risk everything rather than risk allowing change.

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