One of the questions I get asked most often about the Belonging books is where I got my inspiration for the world of masters and slaves against a backdrop of cable news. And my answer to this is, well, “Cable news,” where I misspent a brief period in my youth. While I can’t say I met many masters while I was there, I sure did see my fill of people working like slaves. The hours are long, the tasks are tedious, the pay is terrible, the job is thankless, and perhaps worst of all, the work is never done. Working at a 24/7 news channel is a little like juggling five balls at a time. On a unicycle. While blindfolded. Until you’re old enough to retire.
So, I thought today it’d be fun to give you a glimpse of a typical day for someone like Daniel, the news anchor protagonist of Anchored and my brand new release, Where He Belongs. It’s not so different from the typical day that inspired me to write these stories in the first place . . . except he probably gets a longer lunch than I ever managed to take.
7 AM: Good morning! Let’s ruin it by getting up at this ridiculous hour and jogging five miles. What’s that? You want music on your iPod. Oh no no no, you get a podcast of the overnight news, instead.
8 AM: Shower. But don’t forget to multi-task; flip on that in-shower radio and listen to the morning’s headlines.
8:30 AM: Breakfast. You only need one hand to eat, so be sure to use the other one to page through the morning’s New York Times and Washington Post. Slow news day? Pick up the Economist instead.
9:30 AM: Off to the newsroom. Worker bees take the subway. Executives and talent get car service.
10 AM: Morning conference call. This is gonna be a while, so put the phone on mute and speaker and just listen for the next hour while the head of programming and the executive producers on the morning shift confer about coverage for the day. Get some ideas. Take some notes. Speak when asked. But only listen with half your brain. You need the other half to sort through the tape logs from that interview you shot yesterday and put a three-minute package script together.
12 PM: First production meeting. Discuss the stories you have planned. Leave room for breaking news but be prepared to fill an hour if there isn’t any. Decide what to lead with and what to follow with. Big celebrity drug arrest last night? Talk with bookers about arranging addiction experts and Hollywood watchers to come do an interview after you run your package. Weep into your third cup of coffee and lament the six years you spent studying Arabic language and culture while you surf TMZ for the least flattering mugshot you can find.
1 PM: Wipe away those tears and nab an empty studio to shoot a promo for the evening’s broadcast. Remind the makeup lady she only needs to cut glare, not turn you into an Oompa Loompa.
1:30 PM: Spend an hour scanning video archives for just the right footage of Arrested Celebrity’s prior six arrests. Build a montage in Desk Edit while you eat your fresh veggie wrap from Whole Foods.
2 PM: Harangue the intern for failing to log two hours of b-roll in fifteen minutes because you need to pick footage now, damn it. Record a voice-over for your Celebrity Arrest package, instead.
2:30 PM: Production meeting #2. Your booker nabbed Dr. Phil and, for some baffling reason, Laura Ingraham. Resist the urge to throw yourself out the tenth-story window. They don’t actually open anyway.
3 PM: Breaking news! Some Republican politician is caught picking up gay hookers. Meet with executive producer to rearrange the lineup. Scramble for new guests. Brace for thirty minutes of empty partisan bickering.
4 PM: Confer with writers for intros and extros. Finish edits on the Celebrity Arrest package while sussing out all the angles for the Gay Hooker story. Try not to think too hard about the four years and $100,000 you spent on J-school.
5 PM: Change into a suit and tie to shoot that pre-tape with the Gay Hooker expert who can’t be there during the live taping.
5:14 PM: Finish writing the interview questions for Gay Hooker Expert
5:15 PM: Gay Hooker Expert arrives in the studio.
5:45 PM: Check in with writers and review the afternoon’s headlines over the wire.
6 PM: Production meeting #You’ve Lost Count. Earthquake in San Diego! We’re live in two hours but fuck it, scrap everything. You’ve spent four hours on the Celebrity Arrest package and three on the Gay Hooker froofra and you’ve already got those guests lined up, but a hundred people are dead and more are missing and it’s time for some wall-to-wall disaster chat. This is what cable news was made for, after all. Don’t even bother to archive those packages; they’ll be old news by the time you can get to them again.
6:15 PM: Confer with writers for new script. Don’t stress too hard about it—live disaster coverage is always wing-it time. Get on the phone with sources. Trust bookers and producers to do the same.
7 PM: Comb over the latest earthquake footage and select the most gruesome, heart-wrenching, and emotionally manipulative 60 seconds to replay over and over again for an hour solid on the big screen behind you while you reiterate the same sparse facts over and over again live on air in 45 minutes.
7:15: Scarf down the broiled chicken salad some intern dropped on your desk while you review what’s written of the evening’s script and the three packages your correspondents have managed to scrape together in the last 90 minutes.
7:30: Studio ho! Hair, makeup, IFB, microphone. Check face for suitable solemnity. Confirm satellite linkups with correspondents. Review every last scrap of information available about the disaster so far. Don’t get caught with your pants down.
8 PM: Spend the next 60 minutes hitting a moving target like the motherfucking professional you are.
9 PM: Shoot teases for tomorrow.
9:10 PM: Back to the newsroom. Change. Wash the makeup off your face. Confer with the late-shift producer to make sure you’ll have what you need on your desk come morning.
9:30 PM: Head home. Kiss partner. Change, brush teeth, listen to the news in the background because you can’t help yourself.
10:00 PM: Sex, also because you can’t help yourself.
10:04 PM: Shower.
10:15 PM: OMG the new True Blood!
11:15 PM: Read. Weekly newsmagazine, or latest political doorstop? Choices, choices . . .
12:00 PM: Bed. Leave Blackberry on your nightstand with much reluctance. Sleep lightly, just waiting for it to ring.
7 AM: Good morning! You were lucky this time—no breaking news at 4 AM. Celebrate with a five-mile jog. And chin up—you have a day off the Sunday after next!
Where He Belongs
The hottest name in network news is Daniel Halstrom. He is a sensation, a rising star. He is also a slave, owned wholly and completely by NewWorld Media.
But before he was a star, he was a frightened child from a bad place with a promising, if limited, future ahead of him. In The New Kid, young Daniel begins his schooling. Then, for a slave, the simple pleasure of a Bathroom Break is sometimes the only pleasure to be had. Later, Daniel doesn't know it, but A Chance Encounter might be the most important of his life. Next, in Camera Obscura, one of Daniel's colleagues reflects on the fact that as much as the camera may show, it can hide even more. Finally, when you're a slave, Independence Day is just another day.
PRIZES! PRIZES! :-)
There are prizes up for grabs at every stop on Rachel's Where He Belongs tour. On this stop, you can win an ebook of the first book in Rachel's Belonging series, Anchored. But don't worry if you already have Anchored! You can still win goodies if you live the US, like an awesome box of Belonging-verse swag. Just leave a comment and your name will be added to a random draw. Contest closes Monday, July 4 at 11:59 PM (PST), and the winner will be announce Tuesday morning.
Where He Belongs is available at Storm Moon Press.
Visit Rachel's website for more info at RachelHaimowitz.com and get the rest of the tour stops here: Where He Belongs Blog Tour