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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

This Is Us "Twist" Ending

WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS A SPOILER ABOUT THE SHOW “THIS IS US”.

If you haven’t seen ‘This Is Us’ yet, but are planning to, don’t read this. 

Okay…you’ve been warned.

I’ll let you know a little secret. I am sort of a television whisperer. I often figure out the “twists” in shows (and movies) pretty easily. I used to shock my former roommate by always saying the next line a character was going to say before he/she actually said it. Maybe it’s that, yeah, I watch a lot of TV. Also, I’m a writer so I listen to the dialogue and if you do that it is usually pretty clear what will come next.

One thing you should also never tell a writer is that your show has an “unexpected twist” at the end. Right. That triggers my brain to start coming up with thousands of “twists”.

Such is the case for ‘This Is Us’, a new show on NBC. I’ve been seeing the previews for weeks now and it looked pretty good. A lot of the reviewers said it was good. But then I read one of the Fall Preview magazines and it mentioned that there was an “unexpected twist” at the end.

Specifically, the article mentioned the show features interwoven stories of several people who are turning 36, and they are connected in a surprising way. Well shoot…now my brain has have to come up with scenarios about how they are connected and what exactly is the "twist" at the end.

Things I knew from the previews:
-The first couple (Milo & Mandy) is having triplets, but they lose one baby. Milo is 36.
-There’s an overweight woman asking the actor guy how it’s possible they’re 36.
-There’s a black guy who finds his father (he was abandoned as a baby). He is also 36.

My conclusion:

-Milo/Mandy are most likely the parents and all their scenes are in the past, specifically 1980 (36 years prior to 2016).

-The woman & actor guy are the surviving babies all grown up. Their scenes are present day.

Note: My writer brain actually took it one step further, wondering if the woman & actor even know they’re brother & sister. One scenario I dreamed up was that Milo/Mandy are killed somehow and the “twins” are raised by other families.

The puzzle was the black guy who was abandoned by his father. In my scenario Milo/Mandy are killed by a drunk driver and the black guy’s father was responsible. That’s why the son was left at the fire station.

Okay, I got that one wrong. The overweight woman & actor do know they are siblings. They are clearly in the present day though. People have cell phones and the actor’s on-set rant is on YouTube. 

Contrast that to the Milo/Mandy scenes. No cell phones anywhere, no computers. They are pretty good about not showing clothing. Most of the people are wearing hospital scrubs. The hospital room doesn’t have much technology though.

The real question was how the black guy fit in. He emphasizes several times that he was adopted. Then he brings the father home and he picks up a picture frame. “This is your family?” But the picture was not shown. Okay then… Milo/Mandy adopted that baby after one of their triplets died.

The nail in the coffin is of course Milo standing in front of the nursery looking at his daughter/son and there’s the abandoned baby right next to them.

And oh yeah...The fireman who brought the baby in offers Milo a cigarette. This happens IN THE HOSPITAL. Can’t smoke anywhere near a hospital anymore. That’s when the camera pulls back and you suddenly see all these people in 80s clothes and the TV screen is news with a picture of Ronald Regan.

BINGO…I am good.

Did you watch it? Did you figure out the “twist”?


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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Taking the Leap and Surviving the Pitch

On Saturday, I volunteered at the Writer's Digest Conference in Ft. Lauderdale. For most of the day I helped oversee the pitch room, with two other ladies, including one of my critique partners and a new friend who writes mystery and romantic suspense. There were eight agents there, representing just about every type of book you can imagine, from non-fiction and memoirs to genre fiction and children's books. While the speaker talked about craft and the publishing industry, the three of us were busy shepherding authors in and out of the pitch room. Each author was allowed 10 minutes to "sell" their book and get a request, so most of our day was spent staring at our phones to make sure no one went over the time limit.

The authors would congregate in the hallway outside the room and wait until they were allowed in. This gave us plenty of opportunities to talk to them during the wait. Most of the authors I talked to seemed very new, and very nervous. It's been a long time since I did my first pitch, so at this point I don't really get nervous, but I understand how nerve-wracking it can be to sit down with a stranger and try to sell your book in only 10 minutes. I ended up calming a lot of them down, with pretty much the same advice. So I thought I'd share my tips for surviving a pitch for the newbie authors.

1) Remember you LOVE this book!!!

With every nervous author, I would ask...do you love your book? After a moment of stunned realization, they would always get a huge grin on their face as they replied "yes". So I told them to just go in and tell the agent about the story they love. That's all you need to do.

2) Remember to Breath...

It may sound silly, but doing deep breathing exercises helps every time. It's an old theatre trick I learned way back in Junior High. You inhale to a count of 8, and then exhale to a count of 8. Do it several times. It helps calm you down and center your thoughts. 

3) Remember the pitch doesn't have to be perfect...

The point of a pitch is not to show how good you are at pitching. It's to tell them enough about your book...so they can tell if they're interested in seeing more. I've heard editors and agents say that a "good" pitch doesn't always translate to a "good" book. By the same token, a person might bomb at pitching, but their writing could be great. So don't worry if you aren't polished perfection. 

4) Remember editors and agents are normal people...

Agents and editors are not mythical creatures, with special powers (other than the power to represent or buy your book). I have heard a few stories about nasty encounters in pitch rooms, but for the most part they are extremely nice. They WANT to find a great book and they hope yours will be the one. So approach them like you would anyone else and just talk to them.

So there you have my pitch tips. 
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Deb Dixon...the Queen of GMC

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to take a road trip to Naples, Florida to attend Deb Dixon’s “Book in a Day” Conference. It was all about GMC or "Goal, Motivation and Conflict", which is the bedrock of genre fiction writing. 

I ended up getting one of the best writer tips I’ve ever heard. It's a tool to use when you’re stuck or struggling with how to start a scene. The lesson has you answer specific questions in the point of view of the character.

1. What do I see before me?
2. What do I feel?
3. What do I hear?
4. What do I smell?
5. What do I taste?
6. What’s the light like? (sunny, cloudy, fluorescent light, dark)
7. What is it that I want?
8. What do I think?
9. What happens next?
10. What do I do?

HOLY COW!!! It’s so simple, but so effective. I’ve been struggling with the opening of Book 2 in my Heiress Games series for a long time. I even skipped ahead and started working on Book 3. Well, I finally got an idea and applied the questions. And IT WORKED.

Here are the questions with my answers.

Q: What do I see before me?
Killian: Sexy red thong on the floor just inside the front door.

Q: What do I feel?
Killian: Confusion

Q: What do I hear?
Killian: One of Jackson’s “making love” songs is playing on the surround sounds speakers. (Jackson is his best friend, a singer)

Q: What do I smell? 
Killian: Rain coming in on the breeze with the storm clouds

Q: What’s the light like?
Killian: Dark, swirling clouds behind me. Bright artificial light in front.

Q: What is it that I want?
Killian: To find out where the panties came from.

Q: What do I think?
Killian: I think my teenage son hasn’t learned a lesson yet.

Q: What do you do?
Killian: I set out to teach the lesson, once and for all.


AND here is the opening scene...

Killian Rafael de los Santos O’Connor spotted the panties the moment he walked in the door. How could he not? The bright red thong lay against the gleaming marble tile in the foyer like a tiny cape meant to entice a bull.  
He stared down at skimpy piece of fabric, as a thousand questions racing through his mind.
Where had it come from? Why had some woman dropped her panties by the door? How had the fool women managed to get past, not only the massive gates that guarded his property, but inside the house? Where was she now? And even more important…where was his 'son' now?
A roiling bank of dark clouds was approaching at Killian’s back, bringing the humid scent of a summer storm. The clouds were already obscuring the sun, turning the sky from a glorious blue to furious grey ready to unleash a downpour.
Which seemed pretty fitting since Killian was about to unleash holy terror on the most likely culprit of today’s crime…his fifteen-year-old son, Rafe. 


I have to admit, I fell a little in love with Killian right there. So thanks to Deb Dixon for that.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why Star Wars Means So Much

Unless you've been living under a rock, you might be aware that Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this weekend. Everyone had a collective freak out when the trailers started airing, especially this one featuring a craggy, gray-haired Han Solo (or more accurately, a craggy, gray-haired Harrison Ford playing Han Solo) and Chewbaca and three words "Chewie...we're home."

I admit, I felt a stirring of excitement and nostalgia myself. I loved the original 3 movies (which were actually 4, 5 and 6 in chronological order) and completely skipped the later ones (1, 2 and 3). I got sick of the hype months before they were released, and nothing I heard about the movies after they came out gave me a desire to see them. I didn't want my memories of the great original movies sullied by a stupid, teenaged angst-fest.

I was 7 (or nearly 7) when I saw the "original" Star Wars in 1977. I went with my family. I think we had heard about the movie, but we didn't really know anything about it. We got to the movie theater late. In fact, we missed the first 20-30 minutes. So yeah, we were lost, but it didn't really matter. We were sucked in immediately. After the movie was over, we stayed in our seats to watch it again, specifically to catch the beginning.  We had never seen anything like Star Wars. (Obviously, no one had.) The flying space ships that seemed so real, the crazy alien beings in that bar, the music, the air battles, the spunky princess, the cute boy, the mystical guru guy, the funny guy hired to take them into space, the big hairy creature that roared, the beeping, shiny robots. I was pretty young, but I had no trouble following everything. It was story magic. Movie magic on a scale no one could imagine. You cared about those characters, and as the other two movies came out (Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi) you scared even more. You were truly stunned to know big, bad Darth Vader was Luke's father, and that Luke & Leia were brother and sister. (Come on, a lot of us secretly wanted them together in the first movie.) It was one of those "before and after" moments. "Before" Star Wars movies were one way. "After" Star Wars we realized movies could be something else entirely.

So I WILL go see The Force Awakens...I will hope that it will live up to the expectations of the FIRST three movies.
Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Launch Tomorrow - Left Turn At Paradise

TOMORROW, TOMORROW!! Tomorrow is the launch of my new women's fiction/romance, LEFT TURN AT PARADISE. It's also the launch of a new series set in Florida, the Shellwater Key Tales. So what is this story about? I know you're dying to find out!!! The series follows three childhood friends who all return to their hometown & become involved in reviving an old dinner theatre, The Paradise. 

Book one is Layla's story...Thought I'd introduce you to the cast.


Cast:

Layla McCarthy - Driven businesswoman who was raised by her grandmother, after being abandoned by her mother. She's spent most of her life trying to outrun her mother's wild reputation. She loses her business due to an unscrupulous partner. When she finds out her great-aunt & grandmother have bought the old Paradise Dinner Theatre, she returns to her hometown to ensure her elderly relative don’t lose their life savings. Reviving the theatre also brings an unexpected romance with Grayson Kendall, the enigmatic director hired to produce the first show.





Grayson Kendall – Famed theatre director from Chicago. He’s come to Shellwater Key to visit his aunt & uncle (and hide out) after a headline-making divorce from his gorgeous celebrity wife. The last thing he expected was to rehab a broken down theatre in the middle of nowhere, but he can't resist Layla.







Dr. Barbara McCarthy – Layla’s grandmother and the first female surgeon in Florida. While she was busy breaking down barriers for women, she lost the one thing that should have mattered more…her daughter.


Grace-Anne Carter – Barbara McCarthy’s younger sister. Grace-Anne moved in with Barbara after both their husbands died and together they raised Layla. Grace-Anne decides to buy The Paradise as an ode to a long-lost love connected to the theatre.



Elizabeth (Beth) McCarthy – Layla’s mother who returns to Shellwater Key looking to make amends for her past after a terrible illness. Her return uncovers some dark truths surrounding Layla’s birth, including the role played by her beloved grandmother.