Thursday, November 8, 2018

Enough about writing... Let's talk about Paul McCartney!

I'll get to Paul McCartney, just hear me out.

My husband and I traveled to the Azores, Ireland, and flew to Liverpool as part of our 35th wedding anniversary celebration in April of this year (2018).

The Azores and Ireland were part of our first transatlantic cruise. But why fly to Liverpool?

My father's side of the family originate from the Merseyside area. So I wanted to connect with cousins and get some genealogy answers for a project. Namely, I was looking for details about my 2x great grandparents Matthew and Anne Hayden, who both came to England from Ireland. Their daughter, my great grandmother, Esther Hayden, came to America from the shores of Liverpool to Ellis Island aboard Cunard's Carmania in September 19, 1906.

Funny, my grandmother cruised to America, and my first trip to Europe is via cruise ship.

Anyway, while on our cruise an act called: Just John & Paul were part of the entertainment.

I found myself obsessed. I can't explain how two people can replicate the Beatles as they do, but I was immediately transported back to my childhood. I received my first record player and The Early Beatles album at age six.

I wore out the album.

While we loved the Azores and Ireland, it was Liverpool that captivated me. Between the Maritime Museum and all thing Beatles, I felt supernaturally connected. I didn't get the answers I was looking for regarding my great grandparents, so I must return.

However, what I did find was my true self. A part of me that has been buried since growing into a teen and then an adult.

The Beatles brought me back to a time of wonder. A time when my parents were still together. When our family was happy. When anything was possible. When black and white television was cool. When using a telephone was limited and you had to take turns to talk.  When I could just lie on my stomach and listen and sing along to Love Me Do, Baby It's You, Do You Want To Know A Secret?

As soon as Tom and I got home from our trip, I discovered SiriusXm's The Beatles Channel. My husband is subjected to my renewed obsession. Thankfully he waited several weeks before he asked if we could listen to other music. LOL

Ironically, Paul McCartney's Egypt Station promotions and his Carpool Karaoke on James Corden followed. I am ecstatic and jealous of those who were in Liverpool during that time! But also thrilled that Paul is still making music, touring and I'm determined to see him before his tour is done.

So, I challenge you to find your true self. My inner child is happy to be back, and she still has a crush on Paul McCartney. Shh!

Just John & Paul on the Celebrity Eclipse
Just John & Paul on the Celebrity Eclipse
Just John & Paul on the Celebrity Eclipse
My husband Tom on the left in Waterford, Ireland dancing with another cruise acquaintance
The Cavern Liverpool
The Beatles giving us a tour of Liverpool

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Marquel Series is complete!

 Book 3 releases on 9.27.18

     This is an ad that will be displayed in Studio Movie Grill's Seminole, Florida location on Thursday 9.20.18 at a Seminole Chamber of Commerce mixer.
     A Hollywood novel promotion in a movie theater!
     We'll see.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Elements of Successful Screenwriting - Part 2

It is easier to write a screenplay than a book. Well, that's my opinion.

I've written five books, a feature film, a television pilot, a half dozen short film scripts, as well as numerous newspaper articles. Each one required a word count/page length and a set of standards in the writing process. And yes, I have one short film in post production, Dough Nuts And More.

For me writing dialogue for a script is by far the easiest.


Because each page is one minute of screen time and 120 pages of mostly dialogue is less agonizing than taking a reader through a novel with multiple settings, character descriptions and twists. Well, you still need the twists in a screenplay.

Here are two examples from the script and book Marquel.

Script example:
Novel sample:

Films and books don't match necessarily.

Most of us can write several screenplays in the time it takes to write a novel.

However, you have to complete something to know you can.

A bad 120 page script or 40,000 word novella can be reworked. My motto is finish what you start, no matter how bad you think it is.

Outlining is critical.

Whether a book or script, it is easier to put plot points on index cards and rearrange them until you feel certain your story has a beginning, middle and end.

Once you have the outline, you can begin the writing process. For me outlining is a sentence or two about a chapter or scene. In screenwriting it is called beats.

I have written with an outline and without. Even if you know the end of the story, you'll feel like you are in a maze without an outline. Trust me.

I wrote two books in a TOTAL of 82 days with outlines, and three books that took several years without outlines. I had to try it both ways. I actually did outline later in the process of the three non-outlined books to keep my sanity.

The outline for Marquel's Dilemma (the 2nd book in the Marquel series), is now going to be the 3rd book Marquel's Redemption, because my characters were not cooperating during the book 2 writing process. The upside is I now have a 3 book series.

Know you are doing well when the characters take over the writing. They have a way of steering the story in directions you've not thought of.

With a script, it is okay if your characters don't go where you want them to, as long as they hit the beats and get to the plotted ending. Your characters always have better ideas than you do.

I can write a 1/2 hour pilot in 10 days. A short film in one day -- a working draft that is, not the finished product.

Once you have your screenplay complete, you'll want to put it away for a week or so before you begin editing and rewriting. You need fresh eyes.

Warning: you'll be amazed at parts and totally erase parts.

Next - Elements of Successful Screenwriting - Part 3

To learn more about my books visit

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Elements of Successful Screenwriting - Part 3

There are a lot of good books about writing screenplays.

I think Aaron Sorkin's recommendation to read William Goldman's "Adventures of the Screen Trade" is a good place to start. Goldman gives real examples of the industry, funny tales from his work life in Hollywood and at the end, he gives an example of the process of converting a short story to a script. The example answers a lot questions beginners need and veterans likely want to remember.

Yours truly, writing this blog post.

Current screenplays will reveal style changes from William Goldman's heyday. Read your favorites or the genre you want to master. Many can be downloaded free. Just do a Google search and take a look.

Get index cards and as you read a page of script, write a sentence about what you read.

Example: Page 1 - Introduction of main character xxxx. Action sequence xxx.

If you do this, you'll have a blue print for that film or show in an outline format.

Once you have the outline, you can pace a film of your own in a similar fashion. There is a definite order that script consultants look for. You are modeling, not copying another person's work.

The first few pages are the set up of what the end should fulfill.

Example: If your character says they never get the girl or respect in the opening. Guess what has to happen in the end? The character has to get the girl and respect.

After you have read and outlined a film, watch the movie or episode and see how it was translated to the screen by the director, the cinematographer, wardrobe, set designer, lighting, sound and acting talent. Each department has a vision of the script the director is trying to convey. Everyone on the film has a stake in telling your story.

The cast and crew share your vision.

I hear stories from my producer daughter Blair.  Everyone wants to be a part of a quality project. The crew enjoys the challenge of making the best show possible. So give your script your best.

Another tip I learned from actors (my daughter Marquel). Give your small roles a name vs. Girl #2


Actors work long and hard to get even the smallest role. They deserve to a role they can be proud of. No matter how small. Make sure your script is considerate of all the characters. Don't take any for granted.

Also, as a newbie, avoid writing a big budget film that has loads of explosions and special effects. Tell a story with a reasonable budget and limited locations/cast.

I took a producing workshop from Chris Wyatt, the producer of Napoleon Dynamite.
Wyatt explained how they shopped the film to investors until they found a private individual who ultimately made their script a film reality. It was easier to pitch a comedy rich in quirky characters and limited locations.

Napoleon Dynamite is either a film you love or not. --I love it. It's offbeat, and made a huge splash at Sundance Film Festival. The rest is history.

In conclusion, get screenwriting software like Final Draft, read scripts in your genre, outline a few and watch the film(s). Outline your script in a similar fashion to what you have read, without infringing on another's work and then send it for script coverage and see what the experts say.

Good luck!

Watch for our short film Dough Nuts And More - coming to a film festival near you in 2018/2019.

My book links are at


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction - The Days of Our Lives!

This happened...
My daughter Marquel on the left, Marci Miller on the right

When I wrote my novel Marquel (about an actress who becomes a soap star), I never imaged my real daughter Marquel would become an actress, let alone appear on a soap opera. It was extremely generous of Marci Miller to post this photo on Instagram and mention our Marquel.

I could not pass up an opportunity to share this #proudMOMent.
Thank you Days of Our Lives!

Okay, back to writing!

For a link to the book Marquel see my website:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Elements of Successful Screenwriting - Part 1

Once again, I am a novice.

However, I am studying the subject matter from many different resources: books, screenplays, Master Classes, seminars and watching television interviews with award winning screenwriters on shows like Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter.

It seems logical that successful books and screenplays combine the writer's unique voice with their life experience vs their interest. Meaning, I may be interested in rocket science, but I'm not a rocket scientist, so my writing will suffer from an authentic relationship with the subject matter -- if I try to write outside my knowledge.

As they say, "Write only the story that you can tell."

You may admire another writer, but you shouldn't copy or mirror a work that isn't true to your voice or knowledge. Fan fiction may be the exception? However, finding one's voice takes time.

The first thing film school applicants should learn is how to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. It is less about the cinematic vision, than it is about story.

When our daughter Blair toured film schools in her junior year of high school, she had an awakening. We traveled to UCLA, USC and UCF. We didn't make it to tour NYU (a movie in itself). But being a a gifted director, Blair made lots of films in high school with little written. She directed her talent and fed them what they needed to know. Every film school we visited expected her to be a writer.

Film Schools should state, "only writers need apply."

Because a lot of filmmakers are techies and don't realize they need to sharpen their storytelling skills, as well as their technical abilities. It can be quite jarring to discover your dream requires you to take English and Creative Writing seriously.
Tim Albaugh back row 2nd from right & workshop students.

Anyway, back to the Successful Screenwriting - when writing a book there are many roads the writer may travel, but in film there are limits. 

Tim Albaugh of UCLA Film School says, "the beginning of the film is the promise of the end." Meaning, the opening scene must give us a hint as to what will ultimately be resolved in the final scenes.

How many times have you seen a movie and been disappointed by the ending?

A powerful opening requires a meaningful conclusion. The stuff in between is equally difficult. However, there is hope.

Stay tuned -- Elements of Successful Screenwriting - Part 2 next.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Taking Master Classes

I discovered Master Classes on Facebook. My daughter Blair recommended the James Patterson novel writing class. That was my first Master Class.
Patterson reminded me of my mentor, Harry Whittington. Both work at a fast pace. It was a wonderful experience and I came away with a complete outline and chapter for a book I will be writing as soon as I'm done with my other projects.
I answered the MC survey after the Patterson class and recommended Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin may have already been on their list, but I was ready to sign as soon as they posted Sorkin was developing a class.
I have no affiliation with the Master Class site, other than being a fan and student. As mentioned in a prior blog post, I completed a script for my novel Marquel.
Taking Sorkin's class helped me understand some of my story issues. I was having problems with the resolution in Act 2, though I didn't know it was Act 2, until I learned more.

I was also one of the lucky students who got to call in and ask Sorkin a question. Master Class offers different bonus events from contests for co-authoring, to office hour Q&A, to live events like the one I participated in.
I asked Aaron Sorkin something like this, "If I disagree with the notes I've been given on the setting or period of my script, do I have to follow that advice." I say I said something like this, because I was so in awe of the chance to speak with Sorkin that I just remember part of my question and his reply.
Sorkin said something like, "If you feel strongly about something, you can tell Mr. Spielberg  why it has to be this way." Hurray! I thought. Because I had a note from a producer, who wanted me to change the period and challenges of my screenplay from the 1990s to the 1950s.
I am still a novice, but it is nice to hear a pro say that you can stand up for your work. However, the reality is if you are being paid to write a script, you may not have the luxury. It depends on the agreement.
After taking Sorkin's class, I took Shonda Rhimes Television Writing and David Mamet's Dramatic Writing Master Class.
All four of the classes were honest, instructional and provided recommended reading and resource materials. To think that you can learn from the top experts for less than the price of a college text book is mind blogging.
The Master Class format is entertaining, if one just wants to watch an educational program. However, if you ever wondered what it would be like to be a college student who enjoys a guest lecture from one of the industry experts, you'll find Master Class a treasure.
I am super lucky, because I enjoyed working with a pulp master, Harry Whittington. And now I have resources online that make it possible for me to get closer to my book to film reality.

- Next,  What I've learned about Successful Screenwriting

Typos happen.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How to write a script based on a book

 Writing a film based on a novel sounds hard, unless you wrote the book as a movie. Not that I am an expert...
When I wrote the novel Marquel, I saw it as a movie.
The chapters are plotted in the progression of a suspense film, short and enough info to keep you guessing.
I was taught plotting by my mentor, the late master of the pulps, Harry Whittington. Harry approved the outline and sample chapters of Marquel before he passed away.
My chapters are film scenes with just enough background, emotion and dialogue to keep the reader engaged. Well, I hope so.
I work with my completed novel in Microsoft Word open, along with Final Draft Screenwriting software open.
I’m pretty much toggle between them.
Knowing that a book and film need to grab you from the opening doesn’t mean they’ll have the same initial start. A film might introduce a scene later in the book. Regardless, both book and film should interest the audience immediately.
I cut and paste sections I want to work on from Word into Final Draft. Naturally, it will be a bit jumbled moving from one program to the other.
Films have a specific format and the software is easy to use once you’ve read enough scripts and learned the structure.
However, I still mess up.
I put in camera shots and direction that shouldn’t be there. I get complaints in script coverage about formatting. So, I’m still learning.
Each page is a minute of screen time, so I edit down everything that isn’t dialogue. I pretty much wipe out all the descriptive stuff and get to the bare bones of the discussions my characters are having.
From there I add in the scene headings, action and such.
It takes time to learn how to set up the introduction to a scene, but reading award winning film scripts helps you get the hang of it.
I’m not going to explain what gets capitalized and such, I’m just talking translating book text to a script.
Good storytelling is key in book and film, however in film there is a three-act structure that Hollywood expects. Masterclasses and workshops will help you become more familiar. 

-Next, Taking Masterclasses

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Part 3 - My Author to Screenwriter Journey

Why I am doing it
Before I explain why I’m writing a screenplay.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
At 20, I bought a Smith Corona typewriter at a garage sale and made a career choice.

I was going to be a working writer. In fact, the next Erma Bombeck.
With my poetry phase behind me, I was ready to write a body of work.
To give you an idea of my skill set. I quit high school at 16 and went to night school while also working full time at a local carwash to help support my mother and younger siblings.
High school for me was after work with a lot of moms and dads, immigrants and people who decided to go back to school after dropping out.
To my credit, I finished on time when my peers (who went to high school in the day) did.
I didn’t feel I missed out. Rather I enjoyed not being in the company of teenagers, though I was one.
I was a go-getter. -- Eventually hired away from the local carwash to become a detailer for a local Saab and Subaru dealership.
Funny, I was so green that I didn’t even know I was negotiating my salary when the car dealer asked what I made at the car wash. I said, “I can’t afford to leave here.”
The day I bought that typewriter I knew I needed serious help. Grammar and structure were/are my weakness. Not story.
I have ideas.
Anyway, I signed up for every English and writing class the local junior college offered. Not because I wanted a degree, I wanted to write!
My college creative writing teacher, God love her, said I had a “certain naivete.” Which I took as a great compliment. I didn’t look up the definition. In fact, I was sure it meant gifted.

She had me. Clueless -- and fearless! So much so, I sold articles to the local weekly newspapers.

Ten dollars and a byline. Sign me up.
With my growing portfolio, I eventually moved up to stringing for the dailies. The big time.
Sure, I heard remarks about my writing, but they still accepted my stories and corrected my work. Made me look good.
I was getting noticed!
How do I know? The editor came out of his glassed-in office to the newsroom floor, paper in hand and screamed, “why is the stringer writing everything? What am I paying you to do!?”
Apparently, I was invisible. I was out in the open. He’d made his point, turned and stormed back into his display case.
So why am I screenwriting now?
Because I have a certain naivete.

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