Monday, April 4, 2016

Take One, And Done?

You never know about Hollywood.  Let me explain.

Dashed off to Universal Hilton in Universal City last week.  Sisters in Crime National put together an incredible opportunity for members to meet with Hollywood producers and developers of feature films and TV for companies such as Warner Brothers and Dreamworks. One of the speakers was the woman, Laurie Zaks, who developed Castle for ABC! Can you believe that? Seriously. This was serious.

I LOVE Sisters in Crime!

Before we met with our perspective Catchers (we were the Pitchers, hence the clever reference to those who received the pitches – you get that, right?) we were prepped. In between a great continental breakfast and a terrific lunch, we were treated to talks and panel discussions by famous producers and screenwriters. I mean famous. The writer for Marvel: The Agents of Shield was there. The writer for Bones was there.  It was a mesmerizing and wonderful experience. (Okay, it was overwhelming and scary.) But we hung in, every Sister and Mister Sister to the next step—Industry-savvy people joined our perspective cohort groups to help each of us hone our pitches. This part was to help center us, write the perfect Tag Line, find the true heart of the story so we could spew out the details of what took (some of us) several years to write—in five minutes. Our coaches were so nice, so encouraging, so skillful. They tried so hard. We were convinced, however, that we were still completely befuddled when our coach smiled and hurried away, saying “Let me know how it goes.”

Just before leaving she told us that probably no one at the conference would get a “buy”. The odds were against us. But, she hastened to add, that didn’t mean some of us wouldn’t get a call months down the line. “You never know what a producer is really looking for. He or she could already have a story like yours ‘green-lighted’ (going to production.) The producer might be thinking about the cost of production, or by the type of story that those companies are not looking – at the moment – are not needed. "Maybe next year,” she said with a bright smile. “You could still get a call.”

So, into the pitch session I went unprepared for what we were told to watch out for—the polite stare of the person to whom you are pouring out your heart—in my case, two very nice, very young women who work for a large Cartel that sells screenplays, books, concepts to the Hollywood factory. They were adorable while I gave it my all which was a bunch of words that at the moment I was sure had little to do with the heart of the story. What was the story? Ugh! I am so glad that Claire Abramowitz (Princeton graduate and previously at Random House Studio and Penguin Development Group where she developed original Intellectual Properties—IP in the trade—for film and television) asked a great question about the traumatic event that sent Darcy away from home in the story. Oh, what a relief. Claire really was listening. She even asked for the postcards I made as a ‘leave behind’. So – you never know.

I could, and any of us writers could, sell a story to Hollywood, because they need and want our stories according to everything we heard at this conference. But it could take years to get to the screen and will have very little resemblance to the book you wrote. So be prepared to just let go if you sell to the movies.

On our second day there was a panel of “Gatekeepers”, screenwriters and developers that work closely with studios. They made it very clear that one has to have an AGENT to get to them. But there is one way that might work. Screenwriting contests. Winning one of those might get you noticed. Otherwise, yeah. AGENT.

Oh, but wait.  There is another way. A path that reveals, it seems, only every decade. A Sisters in Crime Conference that brings members into the same room with the elite of Hollywood writers and producers. Yes! This opportunity allows those who attended to contact the speakers, Catchers, developers that came to meet with us. That possibility is there. And who knows? As the song says:

Hooray for Hollywood

That screwy, ballyhooey Hollywood
Where any office boy or young mechanic
Can be a panic, with just a goodlooking pan
Where any barmaid can be a star maid
If she dances with or without a fan
Hooray for Hollywood

Hollywood is crazy wonderful. Just have to remember not to not end up as crazy as Barton Fink did when he went there to write a screenplay. Have you seen the movie? It's hilarious. Well, maybe a bit scary. :-)

Thank you, Sisters in Crime 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Guest Blog Today. The next in the Blog Hop!

Today, Sandra Masters is blogging about her Regency novel. 

Sandra Masters
Hello Writers:  I do not have a functioning blog but am working on it. My story ONCE UPON A DUKE, has been ruminating since 2007. It was formerly My Divinely Decadent Duke.

I am in love with the Regency period. To me it was a Classic Romantic Elegant era. Dashing Alpha heroes and strong, fiery, smart women and clothing to die for.

This book has been polished and is ready to go for re submissions to three publishing houses who expressed an interest.  At the Yosemite Romance Writers October meeting, I won the raffle that our presenting author, Sarah Richman, offered. It was her agreement to be my Beta Reader. I got the results back and her encouragement and suggestions were worth their weight in gold.  Thank you, Sarah.
Setting:  Regency England 1817, Lord Geoffrey Austen, Duke of Sutton—a handsome gifted rake with raven black hair and piercing grotto blue eyes is a fictional character, Alpha male, age thirty-four,  He's tall, scarred face and a tortured soul.
He meets the widow Lady Serena, an artist, who holds a dark secret, believes she is unlovable and that she was responsible for her parent’s death in a carriage accident.
Note from Author, Sandra Masters:  Your Grace, I have created you out of the figment of my imagination. Did I do you justice?
Lord Geoffrey, after being betrayed by an unfaithful fiancĂ©, resolves never to marry for any reason and is suspect of all women. His arctic mother made it clear she married his father for security reasons only and never wanted any children.  When I met Serena, sparks blazed and our  two worlds collided.
I thought to have Lord Geoffrey answer the questions from his viewpoint.
Interviewer: What is your main fear, Lord Geoffrey?
Answer: Getting leg shackled by a woman. I fear commitment and what love can do to a man. My interaction with Lady Serena, started out as just another notch on my bedpost, but somehow it grew into something profound when I saw the scars inflicted on Serena’s back by her sadistic husband. My heart melted at the sight and I found a need to show her tenderness.. I demonstrated to her the gentleness of a man and woman who share a real relationship. In a caring gesture, I gifted her with a puppy, who she named Adonis, after me and the mythical God of Love.
Interviewer: What is the main conflict?
Answer: She wants a commitment of marriage. I have offered the position of mistress. She refuses. I left without saying Goodbye. It was not a manly thing to do.
 Interviewer: What has messed up your life?
Answer: When I arrived in sooty air defiled London, I found everything a bore. My thoughts were consumed with Serena whom I left behind. I did return and visited her surreptitiously one night at the lakeside manor and it was comfortable.  Her maid prepared a warm meal for me. Adonis, the pup I gave her, wagged his tail merrily and tried to bite my shoe as usual.  Serena said, “WE missed you.”  I wondered how along the way I had acquired a family: woman, a maid and a puppy.  Our lovemaking was unbelievable and this time I woke her up before I left.
I returned to London and all I could do with think of her. The concept of a future relationship started to intrigue me. I returned to visit her the next week, but she was gone. I met with her brother and he told me she was engaged to another man and that she only toyed with me to make him jealous enough to propose marriage. He did. She accepted. Her brother approved. They are to be married in three weeks. Her brother informed me she ordered the puppy drowned and my portrait burned because it only reminded her of how foolish she had been.
You can imagine how outraged I was. I did not care about the portrait she burned, but to order Adonis killed—how could I have misjudged her? I drank myself into a stupor with a good friend and while I tried to find any woman who might ease the pain of her loss, they all were found lacking.  And just when, I thought there was no other choice than to forget her, all she said, all she did and all she represented to me, visitors came to my London townhouse. It was Serena’s maid and the groomsmen who had returned the puppy to me, unharmed, the week before. Her maid handed me a personal letter written hastily by her mistress. Serena advised she was being held prisoner in an armed fortress and that the marriage was forced upon her, without her knowledge or consent. She reaffirmed her love for me and indicated she would throw herself from a parapet into the ocean rather than marry the monster of a man that her betrothed was.
It was then I realized, when I was shown a picture she had drawn of the three of us, as a family, Serena, myself and the pup, that her brother lied to me—about everything. To add to this, the maid brought the portrait she had painted of me, the one that was purportedly burned, and I knew that her brother was guilty of lies for his own selfish purposes.
Serena’s letter ended with the words that she would love me forever, in this world or the next. What else could a rake do but reply that the maid, should return to her mistress and tell her that she would either attend our wedding—or my funeral.
I leave to come to your own conclusion on how the ending of the novel came about.
Interviewer: Is there a working title to this novel?
Answer: Yes, it is the ONCE UPON A DUKE, (That’s me.) by Sandra Masters. She's the author. You can visit the author’s website where there is an excerpt at and you are invited to leave a comment on the Guest Page.
Interviewer: When do you think the book will be published, Ms. Masters?
Answer: It has been re-submitted to a publisher who has assigned a review editor to read the manuscript and either recommend or reject the novel. It is hard for me to wait to have readers connect with me.
I've been on this pages for a long time. I hope you like our fairy tale romance.  I nominate Bonnie Phelps who blogged about her novel at this link:




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Drawn into the Web of my characters' stories . . .

My friend Cora Ramos nominated me for a Blog Tour to talk about my book, a paranormal romantic suspense, which is waiting to be published.  

This novel is part of a trilogy set in the general area of where I grew up in Arizona. The paranormal aspect is inspired by an Indian legend that intrigues me. Native American Indian myths are fascinating and come from some point of reality. The story of Morning Star and Feather Woman, a high plains Indian myth is integral to the magic of the haunted canyon in my story.

"Morning Star placed the yellow feather in her hair and, giving her the juniper branch, directed her to shut her eyes; she held the upper strand of the spider's web in her hand and placed her foot on the lower, and in a moment she was transported to the sky."

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historical? The fictional heroine and hero of the first book in my trilogy, The Haunting of Sunset Canyon, are Darcy Peel and Alan Brandt. Tying these two together is the mystery of the canyon and the mysterious Emmaline Marton who inhabits it.

When and where is the story set? The story is set in Arizona where I’ve constructed a fictional environment that borrows physical aspects of both Sedona and Prescott—high desert and red rock terrain in which a little town called Dry Creek exists. Darcy grew up here. Due west of Dry Creek is a rugged mountain range that I named Prospector’s Mountain. Slicing deep across the northern section of the mountain is the fictional Sunset Canyon, a beautiful, carved sandstone gorge created by eons of erosion from Little Springs River, also a figment of my imagination. Breathtaking in its towering walls and the way light plays on every twist and turn, the canyon delivers more than scenic glory (as evidenced by events in the story that reinforce the myth of “the curse”.) It brings death to anyone searching for the Lost Blood Stones Mine.

There are several time frames in this story. 1911, 1984 and the present.

What should we know about your characters?  Though Darcy Peel spent her youth in Dry Creek, she had been away for a very long time.  The reason she left Arizona to teach and do research at a prestigious university in California after receiving her doctorate, had everything to do with the mystery of Sunset Canyon.  Darcy purposely put distance between herself and the constant reminder of something she saw in the canyon when she was twelve years old, just before an unexplained flash flood almost killed her and her siblings and took the lives of two people.  Her sister, Deanna Peel, however, stayed to take care of their mother, keep the family roadside cafĂ© and gas station going, and ultimately to raise their brother’s son after the brother, Derek Peel was killed.  Derek was only twenty-six years old when the canyon took him.

Now, her sister Deanna has disappeared while looking for ancient ruins she theorized proved that Indians inhabited Sunset Canyon and were the real-life people that inspired the stories of ghost warriors and Fleshtakers who are part of the “curse” of the canyon.  Darcy is compelled to come home, heavy-hearted with regret for not being there for her sister, to find out what happened to her and ultimately to face the horrors of that long-ago tragic day in the canyon.

Alan Brandt has also returned to the Dry Creek area, though he doesn’t think of his signing on with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy as actually returning home. He was very small when his mother took him to live in Sedona. He grew up there away from his mother’s family, unaffected by his illegitimacy as he would have been if he and his mother stayed. The McCann family owned one of the biggest cattle ranches in Arizona at the time, and Mary McCann, a beautiful, elegant and artistic young woman had embarrassed and outraged her own father when she refused to divulge Alan’s paternity.

What is the main conflict? What messes up their lives? Both Darcy and Alan are dealing with multiple issues and conflicts in their lives. The uncertain fate of her sister has thrown Darcy’s life into turmoil.  She knows that her sister would never get lost in Sunset Canyon. But a box of research and diaries sent by Deanna one week before she went missing compels Darcy to leave her settled, productive academic life and come back to Dry Creek. The more Darcy finds, the more she is convinced foul play was involved. But with the growing intensity of haunting dreams of the canyon that are awakening her memory of the strange occurrences on the day of the flood when she was a girl, Darcy wonders if the foul deed was by human hand—or something much more frightening.  

Complicating her life even more is her incredible attraction to Alan. He says he can help her investigate but conflict begins when she discovers he is associated with Craig McCann who hates the Peel family. Darcy finds that he had been at heated odds with Darcy’s sister about development plans near the canyon. Some even say McCann and Alan are in business together. Is Alan just playing her to find out what Deanna was going to report to the Bureau of Indian Affairs with the intent of halting the development plans that would include stepping up gold prospecting in the area as well?

For Alan the level of attraction between him and Darcy heightens his desire to start his life over and do it right this time. He feels it should be simple—their first meeting proved they had chemistry—an overwhelming attraction he has never felt before. But he soon finds out that Darcy has come back with a purpose that puts him in the middle of the long-standing feud between the McCanns and the Peels. Trust is an issue. She has to be convinced that he is not in the enemy’s camp.  

What are the personal goals of the characters? Darcy – to solve her sister’s disappearance, honor her work to halt any plans that would bring people into the canyon.  Darcy wants to come to terms with her childhood fears.  Alan – to begin his life anew after that rough and violent episode earlier in his life. He needs for this new life to include Darcy.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? The first book in the series is Blood Stones. Starting with this blog hop, I am planning on sharing more teasing details about the haunting of Sunset Canyon and the mysterious Emmaline Marton – the character I haven’t written about today. She is pivotal, but I don’t want to divulge too many of her secrets. I will say that she has the capacity to love someone for a very long time.:-)


When can we expect the book to be published? Oh, I do hope by summer, 2015. This has been a labor of love, but I’m so ready to deliver this bouncing baby novel before I am too tired to raise fingers to keyboard and -- Push!

 I nominate Sandra Masters to talk about her book next Tuesday. She will be using this blog to share about her story but you can also visit her at her website.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Mystery of Writing Romance

A Romance Writers first Left Coast Crime Convention:  

Okay, I attended my first Left Coast Crime convention. It was close to where I live. I had a mystery writer-friend to go with. And, I’m writing a romantic suspense. What could it hurt even though I have been pursuing writing romance and concentrating on that market, I could definitely learn from any writers, of any category.  Right?
Of course.
What I didn’t expect was the epiphany. The serendipitous discovery that I am writing a mystery, that it has been a mystery from the beginning, and I needed to understand that about the complexities of the plot that I keep developing. Even as I try to make romance the heart of the story, it is really about something bigger. And something more fun. Because I love a mystery.
I have always loved mysteries. And for me, the Left Coast Crime convention inspired me to work even harder on my story so that I will love it more. Which could be a bad thing if no one else loves it, but as they say, write what you love, so, I will.
And with all the love in that last paragraph, I can’t deny that feelings and relationships in stories are just as important as a mysterious plot. Just not as intriguing to me as a reader. How to develop the intrigue, the crafty ways that authors use to create story arcs, plot points, how they make characters real and likable (warts and all, because a good protagonists always has flaws) and the important conflict development that puts a reader on the edge, were all discussed during the conference. The format in each session was always a panel of writers with a moderator to initiate discussion. I found this very helpful and the dialog between the participants fun to be a part of, as well.
So, I came home, went to my writer’s den and stopped fighting my natural inclination to write deeper and work harder on all those elements of a good mystery.
 But I’ll definitely be keeping the sex scenes. Writing a good love scene is really hard, you know. Uh, no pun intended. . .

Monday, September 2, 2013

Caught in a Haunted Canyon: My writing process - Scary!

Two months after my “graduation” to the retired life and I’m not nearly as far along on my novel as I’d like to be. I wasn’t prepared for the new and, I think, very cool direction that my story has taken (after too many uncontrollable late night diversions into research that in the end were not totally germane to the story I am writing, and untold meanders and offshoots into dead ends that had my characters, with hands on hips, staring up at me like “what the ____ are you writing here?”)

I truly hope I am not the only one who finds herself with sudden subplots and really neat minor characters that then must find a relevant place in the story (!) Amazing how creative one can be when one hates to admit three hours of mad creation has yielded a thousand square words that have to fit a rounded-out plot.

Oh, I am having just so much fun.

How did I get here—sitting on a stool in my cozy spider and lizard infested writer’s den in the barn writing a paranormal romantic suspense about a haunted cave? I am wondering that myself.

 I’ve been a reader all my life for enjoyment, for the connections to fictional characters as well as to humanity in general that books bring to the reader, and for my academic pursuits, of course. At some point I thought to write a book myself. And, for heaven’s sake, it’s turned out to be about a haunted canyon in the high Sonoran Desert with which my heroine’s family has a long and deadly association. Had someone asked me if I’d be writing a romantic paranormal story about ghost warriors and Indian legends when I retired, I have to say that that would be a very unlikely subplot in my life’s story! But well, here I am listening to Indian flute music and as soon as I get done with this blog-thing, I’ll be back to it.

So, okay, I grew up in the canyon lands of Arizona, so creating a world around the Indian lore I heard when I was a child is not such a stretch. And if it is best, as they say, to write about what you know, then perhaps I’m on the right trail. I am like the young woman in my book that dwells as a spirit in the canyon:

Emmaline enjoyed the view from a ledge high on the wall of the ancient canyon. A beautiful canyon few had ever seen. She mused as she always did that it wasn’t the violence of pounding flood waters that had scoured the canyon, but rather it was by a skilled potter’s hands that the sides of the deep ravine were so divinely formed. With a practiced touch, her giant artisan had molded the mountain’s core into a spectacular labyrinth of turns meandering this way and that, upward and downward, while smoothing the layers of sandstone into flowing silken ribbons that stretched around each bend. When the stone was still moist clay, he had gouged out caverns and narrow gorges in a wild, artistic frenzy. He then left it all to bake into the masterpiece before her with no purpose but to find glory in the medium, no reason but to press a sinuous trough of red-stained sandstone ever deeper into the bony back of Prospector’s Mountain.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tomorrow really is a new day.

Tomorrow I end my long academic career at the University of CA! It will be a momentous day - Graduation Day, as I have thought of it for these many months since I made the decision to DO IT - to go on to the next adventure.

Actually, it feels like my life has been pacing itself in a predictable gestation period - I'm in my second trimester. The first was being a girl, a young bride, a mother.  Then I entered the second phase, the "I want a career" phase. That phase ended my marriage. It was a killer, that frame of time . So many lessons to learn that I should have already mastered, one would think, at that point of life. When I was thirty-something.

Going out on my own, trying to have it all, do it all, was harrowing at times. But I managed, as we all do, by just staying the course, even if  I wished I could go back - retrace my steps, and step back into the life I left behind. But - I had my career, and adventures and managed to keep the things that matter most. I feel so blessed - family, friends, a decent relationship with the Ex, a second marriage even. And still married this time, by gosh.

So, into the third trimester I go, a little heavier, thinking about botox and skin peels and hell, a whole face-lift would be good at this point. Full of plans I wouldn't have thought possible when I was that young bride, pregnant then with number one child, now expecting to have time to nurture my loved ones, and myself. I don't know what the future holds, or what the ultimate human experience - my total story arc - will produce. I don't know what I will deliver by the end of my lying-in on this planet, but I do pray it will be worthy.

And I hope by then,  my "late trimester" labor pains will produce a really good novel!!! Maybe, by starting this whole "I want to be a writer" phase at this time of my life, I'll really have something to write about!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Writing, I am. And doing way too many other things, today. Found this terrific Dream Song from the Wintu tribe. May be a good quote with which to start a chapter.

"Where will you and I sleep?
At the down-turned jagged rim of the sky you and I will sleep."

Love it - and the book of Indian poems that I have had for a long time. I gave my mother a copy in August of 1986. I wrote her a poem. We hadn't seen each other for a long time--life can be that way.

To Momma,
    I can trail the wind.
    Earthly ties do not bind me
    From you.

    In the trail of the wind,
    Mountains sigh
    Arching against endless sky

    And the Solace
    Reminds me
    Of you.

    Then, wind's wild wings beating
    Carried heart's songs away
    Not gently.

                                                               Now, pray hear my true wind song
                                                               Across the distance for you
                                                               Spoken intently.

I see my mother at the old wood stove making the best biscuits or tortillas that ever melted in a child's mouth. The spirit of that moment and so many more like it feed my soul and I hope flow out onto the pages of my book. It is simple to feel and let the memory call me back - to remember the smells, the smile, the browned by-the-sun hands that yet were soft as kittens, the touch of those hands that healed every childhood ill - it is so hard to capture it all with the right words!!

The great challenge!

And I'm on it!