Buy one of our books and a life is saved.
We donate our proceeds to Doctors Without Borders,
The American Red Cross and Second Harvest Food Bank.
Click on a dustjacket to read more about that book —
Click here to learn who we are –
Down and Out in Silicon Valley is a warm, topical comedy. The lead character is a hip, smart, funny woman. Join the crazy-making when Michelle Beldatori becomes a reluctant employee at Pipes. She finds the tragedy of a stressful job mixed with comedy. Michelle works with a wacky bunch. They’re always getting into hilarious situations. Is it funny or heartbreaking? The answer is both, at the same time – like your friends.
Story Line …
Michelle Beldatori is in an impossible situation. Her credit cards are maxed out. Her boyfriend’s laid off. Their savings are gone. She can’t face living out of a camper shell and showering in a gym. Not to worry – Michelle’s got a plan. She’ll get hired by an Internet startup company, earn bonuses and pay the rent. Goodbye to Starbucks barista – hello to Twitter and life on the run.
Then she meets Bud. He’s got a different plan for Michelle. Bud’s going to use her as a scapegoat for his problems. Watch sparks fly as Michelle struggles her way through Silicon Valley’s hot new startup. She faces outrageous assignments – scavenger hunter for gourmet Chinese food, planner of wireless ski trips, divorce court nanny, therapist for pets …
Her life shifts again when she meets a wealthy, but misunderstood man. Martin Avery’s a rogue and a risk taker, which makes him sexy and unpredictable. But he’s caught in a lifestyle that’s paid for with his freedom. Find out what happens when Michelle and Martin collide - and her future twists in an unexpected direction.
Read the opening scene —
“Lack of money is the root of all evil.” – Mark Twain
Michelle Beldatori felt desperate for emotional support. She made an emergency phone call to a friend. A brief drive took her to a tree-lined street in Palo Alto, where she parked and waited for her friend to arrive. Minutes ticked past with the slow pace of bumper-to-bumper traffic until a rap on the car window broke her reverie. She looked up and saw an older version of her favorite teacher at UC Berkeley, Lance O’Brien.
Michelle slid from her Miata convertible and gave O’Brien a fatherly kiss on the cheek. Together they entered a restaurant, weaving around flower boxes holding pink tea roses. A waiter led them across a tile mosaic floor, a stain-glass pattern of burgundy, mustard and ivory. They passed film memorabilia – a lobby poster of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and reels of The Secret Garden, plastered with Technicolor labels. Michelle and Lance slid in a booth, across the table from each other.
“You picked a good place to wash away your problems. Successful Hollywood film director opens chic Italian restaurant, featuring his own wines. You get art, great pasta and enough wine to fog your brain, so you don’t care what happened at work. Clever girl, Mickey. Oh, I’m assuming that’s still your nickname.”
“Mickey’s fine. Michelle’s fine. Anything’s fine. Two glasses of wine and it’ll be even better.” She lifted a glass of cabernet from the waiter’s tray and thanked him. Michelle clinked glasses with Lance. “Here’s to drowning our sorrows.” She took a swallow and let the alcohol burn a trail through her miseries. She gave him a weak smile. “Thanks for coming on short notice. I really need to talk with someone.”
“Sure. No problem. You didn’t say much on the phone. Hope I can help. Been a long time since I doled out advice to you.”
“Well, you got me through Berkeley. With your help, I got a B.A.”
“That was school. Life is harder. Trust me.” O’Brien, on the high side of fifty, studied Michelle like she was one of his own daughters. “I’d guess you had a bad day at the office. No, make that terrible.”
“You guessed right.” Michelle sagged against the red leather upholstery of their booth.
“I don’t mean to pry when I ask this. How’s Colin – you’re still together?”
“Yeah, but Colin got laid off last month and can’t find a job. He’s in a strange place.”
Lance nodded. “I figured it was something like that. Or Colin’d be here, helping you recover … from whatever clobbered you today.”
Michelle laughed. “I got hit with a pipe. Actually with Pipes, to be exact.”
“What’s Pipes? The name of a company where you work?”
“I’m trying to work there. Well, that’s where I get confused. I don’t want to work at Pipes, but it seems I have to.”
“Lot of that going around. But what trapped you? Oh, that’s right. Colin got sunsetted.”
“Sunsetted,” she mused. “There’s a politically correct word. You aren’t fired, destroyed, or screwed. You’re ‘sunsetted.’ The glowing orb of your life sinks into the Pacific.” Michelle took a long pull from her wine glass, draining half of it.
O’Brien matched her guzzle with a modest sip. “Wow, Mickey. You’re finding bitterness early. Men wait for middle age to realize their life is messed up. You’re way ahead of me. I had grand dreams right into my forties. Pipes must be quite a place. What’d they do to you?”
“Shot questions into me. Told me how inadequate my answers were.”
“Did you pass?” Lance tugged his mended sweater over his shirt sleeves. He’d tried to wash the sweater and it shrank.
“Sure. Today, little Michelle got to first base. Tomorrow afternoon, I try to steal second. It’s baseball season, right?”
“I think so. I don’t follow sports. You must’ve done OK on their test. I’m really curious. What kind of questions did they ask?”
She took another gulp, draining the wine glass. Michelle flagged the waiter for a second. “Well, I’ll never forget the opening question. They try to disqualify you fast, so they can go back to work. Girl in the front row, no makeup, wearing old sweat suit, got the floor. Smarmy bitch. Makes up this scenario. Tells me to imagine I’m with the Secret Service. The President is chained up. I’ve got to get him loose.”
“That doesn’t sound too hard. Use bolt cutters. Buy a pair at Home Depot.”
Michelle wagged her empty wine glass at Lance. “No. Not that easy. Prez is chained to atomic bomb. Seconds are ticking off the clock. The whole thing is booby-trapped. Gotta solve puzzle.”
Lance cocked his head. “Oh, that is more interesting. Go on.”
“Interesting for you. Under-arm deodorant failure for me.”
“True.” He nodded in sympathy. “Um, the bomb?”
“Yeah, ka-bloo-ey. Only way to disarm this nuke is by solving a chess problem. One mistake and bang. You’re all dead, along with Washington D.C. Lots of stress here.”
He nodded. “Tons of pressure. You play chess?”
“I drink wine even better than I play chess.” Michelle gratefully accepted a second glass of red wine from the waiter.
“Well, based on your poor alcohol tolerance, I’d wager you never played chess.”
“Strip chess. Played with Colin, early on.” Michelle gave Lance a naughty smile.
“Only time in the history of chess both sides won. But –”
“I know. Everybody’s curious what happened to the President. West Wing wants to know, even though the series is in reruns. I had no idea how to solve this chess problem, so I gave the audience a dose of my girlish charm. Told them it was a job for Batman and Robin, not me.”
“Good answer. I like it.” O’Brien clinked his glass with Michelle’s.
“Sadly, the Pipes types didn’t agree. Most wrote a zero on their little whiteboards and got up to leave. You flunk any question and the interview is terminated.”
Lance gave her a puzzled look. “Then how’d you get invited to a second round?”
“What kind of luck?”
“Guy with dreadlocks, be-bopping to reggae from an iPod. He wakes up and scores me a ten, perfect answer.”
“I gather he must be special or his vote wouldn’t count for much.”
“Yeah. He’s their big technical gun. Ratty T-shirt, cutoffs, thongs. But he’s some kind of Internet god. He told them Batman is a ‘handle’ for the president of the American Chess Federation. Robin is his wife, also a grandmaster. They tweet friends, daring them to play chess.”
“Yeah, Tweet as in Twitter. No gotta look at your email. Ka-pop, ka-ping, you see a message on your cell phone. Seems this Batman and Robin are a chess duo. They love playing lightning games, where you get only five seconds to think. Their restless minds pop off chess moves with friends via Twitter.”
“Wow. It was lucky you knew Batman and Robin were chess gurus.”
“Heck no. I had no idea. Talked to Mr. Dreadlocks afterwards. His story’s a bunch of crap. He made it up. Said it just to tweak the sweat suit girl – the one who asked the Prez question. Dreadlocks hates her.”
O’Brien sat back in his chair, laughing and shaking his head. “Mickey, you lead a charmed life. Me, I never have any luck. I tried wedding photography and digital turned everyone into Ansel Adams, at least in their own mind. Only the rich have a pro snap their wedding. Everybody else asks friends to bring digicams. So I closed the doors and slid away with my tail between my legs.”
“Sorry. Didn’t know that happened.”
“Aaah, it’s all right. Just as well, I guess.” His eyes glazed over and his attention drifted away.
“Lose a lot of money on the wedding biz?”
“Lost my wife. She had enough of supporting a non-paying artist.”
“Big ouch. Maybe you need a second glass of wine after all.”
Lance shook his head. “I’m over it. Happened years ago. Kids adjusted. I adjusted.” He gave her a fatherly look. “Don’t lose Colin. He’s a good man. I mean good for you. Nobody’s perfect, but you’re right for each other. I saw that from the beginning.”
“That’s one of the things that worries me about this job.”
“The longest.” Michelle took a sip from the second glass.
“Colin worked long hours at his start-up. That didn’t seem to hurt your relationship.”
“Somehow it’s OK when he’s the one who grabs the brass ring, makes us a fortune. Not OK if it’s me.”
“His ego got hurt bad with this dismissal, huh?”
“Trampled. Crushed. Colin chased his stock options like a greyhound at the track. He was only a month from earning enough stock to get rich, if his company went big. He’s sulking.”
“And you’d be in the same game, chasing stock options. Can’t you stay at your current job?”
“Doesn’t pay enough. With Colin out of work, we’ll lose our cabin in the woods, small as it is. We’ll be pulling a trailer again, looking for a safe neighborhood to spend the night. Use public toilets, shower in a gym. I don’t think he can stand that. Maybe I can’t either. You get used to privacy. You know what I mean?”
“Sure. I’m a roommate now, with two other guys. Hariko got the townhouse. It was mortgaged to the max, so the kids could attend college. No equity to share. In fact, I have to give her alimony so she can make bank payments. For a while, I managed Kodak’s film lab in Oakland. They shuttered it, laying me off. Now I’m in charge of a Wal-Mart photo kiosk, helping people get prints from their digital cameras. Slack times, I stock shelves. That’s what happens when you go from manager in a big company to retail clerk. You know what retail’s like.”
Michelle sighed. “Yeah.”
“Which is why you should take the job at Pipes.”
She frowned. “They want me to wear skirts and pantyhose. The Pipes security officer, Libby Swornfeld, warned me. She claims IBM has this dress code. My new boss-to-be, Bud Glassrod, worked at IBM.”
Lance sighed. “It’s probably not a written policy. Just a de facto reality. Want to get ahead? Dress like us.”
“Fine. Problem is my credit cards are tapped. But Libby told me I can’t wear something reasonable, like TJ Maxx. Has to be expensive stuff.”
“Stanford Shopping Center’s close. You could walk from here.”
“Naw. Even their deep discount prices are higher than my budget clip. I’ll hit designer outlet stores in Gilroy. I’m supposed to have the outfit tailored, like I could do that overnight. Snap my fingers and take in the seams.”
“Bud will like you. Smart, perky, what’s not to like?”
“You haven’t seen me in a skirt. I’m bowlegged.”
“You are not,” he scoffed.
“I have it on good authority.” Michelle drank more wine.
“I don’t believe it. Who told you this?”
“Boy in second grade. I’ve worn jeans or pants ever since.”
Lance shook his head. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told my daughters, when they got their first period. Don’t believe anything boys tell you.”
She reached for the check and he beat her to it. “I’m paying this time. You buy next time, after you get the job.”
“Deal. Assuming Bud Glassrod makes me an offer. Think I should take it?”
He took a deep breath. “Yeah. From what I’ve seen, Colin won’t have an easy time finding a job. Things are tight. Very tight.” Michelle reached for the wine glass to drain it. Lance intercepted her. “Last bit of fatherly advice. Don’t drink and drive . . .”