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Novel Bites: Missy’s Tahoe Christmas

Novel Bites is a series of short stories from the perspective of secondary characters in my novels. Sometimes the story is straight from the novel, sometimes it’s not. This story is from Michael Dolan McCarthy, his little sister Missy talking to us after a conversation with Michael in which he reminded her of Christmas in Tahoe. Please comment. Thanks.

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I remember the last Christmas we were all together. I didn’t used to, cuz I was only in kindergarten back then, not second grade like I am now. But Michael helped me. He’s my big brother and he takes care of me.

Once I remembered my puppy mittens, that Christmas came back all shiny and warm – except for the snow. I got wet and cold when we went sledding, but then Daddy put me in the front seat with the heater going full blast and I warmed right up. When we made a snowman, it didn’t matter that I got wet cuz I could go inside and warm up every time.

We stayed in this place that was even nicer than our house – we lived in a house back then, not that creepy old apartment where we left Mama last night.

That was a bad place. I don’t like to think about it.

That Christmas, when we went to the mountains all of us together, I did have to share a bedroom with Jimmy, but there were twin beds. We even had our own TV to watch the Grinch and the old movies Mama liked for the holidays. Michael slept on the couch in the living room cuz he was old enough to stay up later than us, as late as Mama and Daddy.

We got there Christmas Eve and Daddy went out and got a little tree and put it on a table in a corner of the living room. Mama popped popcorn and we made popcorn strings and paper snowflakes for that tree. It came with some lights and little decorations, but Mama said it wasn’t a Christmas tree until we put some of our love into it.

There was a fireplace in the living room, too, one where you turned it on with a switch like a light. We brought our stockings from home, all excited to have a real fireplace for them, but there wasn’t any way to hang them above it. Jimmy wanted to put nails in the wall, but Daddy said we couldn’t do that. So we put our stockings on chairs next to the fireplace, and sure enough, Santa found us and filled the stockings and put presents under that little tree, and three sleds were against the wall next to it with bows on them.

I’d been worried about how Santa would find us if we weren’t at home, but Daddy said he wanted snow for Christmas. When he was a little boy, he lived where it snowed every winter, lots and lots. Mama, too, but in a different place. She told me a little about it while I helped her put glitter names on the stockings and bows to make them pretty. She hardly ever talked about when she was growing up, so I listened to every bit, except I don’t remember all of it because I was only five. But it was a farm near a big lake and she played outside all the time and drove tractor when she was younger than Michael!

Now I’m seven and Michael’s driving Mama’s old Explorer across the country to take us to her parents on that farm, even though we never met them before. He tried to call them again today, but I don’t think he got to talk to them yet. We slept in the car last night and now we’re driving up into really big mountains, way bigger than that Christmas we went sledding, and it’s starting to snow, but Michael says we have four wheel drive and that means we’ll be okay.

Sometimes people are surprised he’s my brother, cuz his skin’s kind of brown all the time, but that’s cuz he had a different father first. Michael called our Daddy Swede. Daddy said that was okay, that Michael started calling him that before he married Mama and it didn’t matter what Michael called him, he was still Daddy to all of us.

Anyway, Daddy was so much fun. He pulled me back up the sledding hill every time, so I wouldn’t get tired before the boys. And he rode behind me, holding me close against him, so I wouldn’t get scared when we hit a bump or tipped over. He laughed every time.

But this Christmas we’ll be with our grandparents in that big farmhouse where Mama grew up, with snow to make snowmen with and oh, Mama showed me how to make snow angels, too.

I can make one for her and one for Daddy, angels for angels. They’ll like that.

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Novel Bites: Maria’s Secret

Novel Bites is a series of short stories from the perspective of secondary characters in my novels. Sometimes the story is straight from the novel, sometimes it’s not – this one is not. Maria’s husband is Joe in Running Away and Peg’s Story (soon to be released). Please comment. Thanks.
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“Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue” – Buddy Holly’s song haunts my husband.

Every time it plays, Joe’s gaze turns inward and saddens. I know he’s thinking of Peg, a girl he knew briefly as I planned flowers and music for our wedding.

It’s not what you think. It’s not that kind of connection between them. He was her white knight one sunny day when she most needed one. He rescued her, listened to her, soothed her with stories, and got her safely home – at least with no more damage.

Today, he would have talked her into going to the hospital, stood by her as she talked to police and pressed charges against the boys who so callously used her body. My Joe understands that body and mind and spirit cannot be separated, that what injures one injures all parts of the being. So when he hears that song and remembers, he blames himself for not knowing more than he did at the time, for not being more than he knew how to be.

Joe confessed to me, after his last visit to his brother in Canada, that he’d driven back to the place he dropped her off,  and asked a stranger raking leaves in a yard if a girl named Peg lived in that neighborhood.

The stranger pointed to a house. “She used to live there.”

She ran away and they were told she was swept away by the flood that ruined my wedding plans. Her loss was of course the more tragic event, but the wedding, moved from a riverside venue to a small chapel at the last minute, with a fraction of the guests able to attend, that is what marks the time for me. That she died here haunts my husband – he wonders if she came looking for him, hoping he could help her again, or perhaps still searching for deliverance from her trauma?

And this is why I have a secret from my partner in life. Not from any foolish jealousy. He treasures me – there’s no insecurity between us. No, I hold secret from him that which would only deepen his unreasonable sense that he failed this stranger somehow. It is a secret I share with his aunt. You see, the girl did come looking for my beloved.

She was thin and pale and impressed his aunt as old for her age. It had to have been her, though despite the circumstances in which they met, my husband admitted she was quite pretty with a figure that may have drawn unwanted attention. Auntie says the girl came only the one time, looking quite desperate, and quick to believe when told the Joe she sought was out of the country on his honeymoon. We agree he doesn’t need his guilt reinforced by that knowledge.

Since Auntie shared her story, I share my husband’s unreasonable guilt.

On our wedding day, the storm had passed and the waters had begun to recede, leaving their destruction behind. When we saw the state of the garden by the river, my mother suggested waiting a year for the venue to heal, but I didn’t want to abandon our honeymoon trip to Europe. When I shocked her by suggesting my virginity would not last another year and any wedding that late might be with a rounded belly in the gown, she helped me find the small chapel where my beloved and I exchanged our vows on the date we’d planned.

So you see, the girl was not swept away by the flood waters. She came looking for my Joe while we were on our honeymoon.

But believing she is dead must be easier for her family than always wondering what became of her. I know it would only haunt my husband more to know she may still be out there, still trying to put body, mind, and soul back together.

I know she haunts me.

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Novel Bites: Lizzie from Running Away

Novel Bites is a series of short stories from the perspective of secondary characters in my novels. Sometimes the story is straight from the novel, sometimes it’s not. LIzzie is sister to the main character in Running Away. Please comment. Thanks.

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Lizzie

“How could they not have known what was happening in the concentration camp! How could they have put Hitler into power in the first place?”

John Swanson has only been in our class for a week. I think he’s trying to be noticed by playing devil’s advocate.

Mr. Ludes doesn’t mind. He likes any class participation. He pushes up his glass as he says, “Tyrants come to power by manipulating public opinion and often by doing things that are right. Remember, the Great Depression was world-wide. People in Germany were starving. Hitler promised to make things better, and he did. Employment increased when he first came to power. And he started youth groups—that sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? Hitler seemed like a hero to many people.”

“Well, they all must have been really stupid, then,” John snorts.

“No! They weren’t stupid.” My voice startles me, and the rest of the class. I’ve been very quiet this year.

Mr. Ludes grins. We are actively engaged in learning.

John mutters something that makes the people near him snicker.

I stare at my fingertips with their raw cuticles where I’ve been chewing and ripping bits of my own flesh. My voice is quiet but steady. “When people are evil, they’re really good at hiding it. In fact, that’s what makes the difference between someone who does some bad things and someone who really is bad.”

“Yeah, right. Sounds like Sunday school crap.” John snorts. His buddies grin.

I pull my hands into fists so I don’t see the bloody evidence. “No. It’s not from church.” I don’t even go to church, except the support group meets there.

Mr. Ludes asks us to think about it. “You’re old enough, there’s probably been a time someone tricked you, or broke a promise, or seemed nicer than they were.”

I stop listening and stare out the window. Looking off into the sky is the centering technique that helps me hold it together when I want to scream. When I glance back at the clock, the eyes of another girl who never talks catch mine and hold for a moment. We instantaneously share knowledge we don’t want to have. The bell rings and we escape together.

“I’m Cindy,” she says. “Wanna ditch lunch?”

We slip out to a spot under the bleachers where we can have privacy. Her story is my sister’s, abuse by a step-father, delivered in short, tough phrases. Mine is different.

“At first, we both thought he was a creep. And Maggie did start acting out, but he made her sound so much worse, especially next to me. Mom had always taken it for granted that I’d do well in school, but Richard made a big deal about every A. He convinced Mom to let me babysit on school nights, and when he caught me sneaking one of his beers to take with me, he just winked and pretended he hadn’t seen anything. I was the good girl; Maggie was evil or on her way to it.”

“Guess I was lucky I don’t have a sister,” Cindy says.

“I was beginning to like him.” I swallow hard. “When Maggie complained about the way he treated her, I ignored her and figured it had a lot to do with the way she was acting.” I can’t hold them in anymore – the tears stream down my face. “I blamed her in my head, even though I never came out and said it. Our counseling group says he was manipulating both of us, that I shouldn’t feel bad. Maggie even says not to worry about it.”

“She must really love you.”

“She does. But it’s not just that I feel guilty. I would have been next . . . What if someone else tricks me?” My fear is reflected in Cindy’s eyes. Will we ever be whole?

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Novel Bites: CJ from Running Away

Novel Bites is a series of short stories from the perspective of secondary characters in my novels. This is a scene from Running Away, told from a different perspective.Durare RunningAway 300dpi2Tall

CJ

“You didn’t come home last night.”

Uncle Joe’s  not angry and he’s not specifically asking where I spent the night. After all, I’m eighteen. But it’s clear he’d like to know. He figured out I smoke weed long ago – the smell clings to you – but I don’t do that much and never before work, and he doesn’t bug me about it. So I don’t mind answering him now.

“I drove a friend to the grocery store and by the time we got done, you would already have been in bed. I didn’t want to wake you up with a text.”

“Don’t worry about that. I turn off the sound at night, but we’d have seen it in the morning. Your aunt was worried. Send her one now.”

I nod and pull out my phone to do it right away.

My dad died when I was ten and when my mother married six years later, Uncle Joe and Aunt Maria said they’d be happy to have me come live with them to finish high school. They knew I’d never liked the guy. And I’d already been spending my summers with them anyway, helping in the restaurant. It reminded me of when Dad was alive. I was so mad when Mom sold his place. It was supposed to be mine when I grew up.

Now I realize maybe she felt like she’d always been in competition with Dad’s restaurant. She certainly hadn’t ever loved it the way he did, even though she was right there by his side working with him. Selling it was the right thing for Mom. She was happier working for someone else instead of struggling to make a profit every month.

Aunt Maria texts me back right away, so I know she was waiting to hear from me. Next time I’ll make sure to let them know ahead of time.

Maybe I should plan on staying at Charlie’s again tonight. I already used my extra work clothes today, but I could run home on my dinner break to get more.

It’s not safe for Maggie at that house. And it was nice waking up next to her. But we might end up having sex if I come back tonight, and she’s not ready for that. I don’t want to be that guy. She’s messed up enough by what her step-father did to her. Not to mention she’s jail bait, though she doesn’t seem that much younger than me.

She’ll probably be okay. Charlie’s got Crystal, he won’t hit on Maggie.

Besides, I’m really pissed with Charlie about last night. Uncle Joe would give me the boot for that, even if I was just the driver and didn’t shoplift anything myself.

No, I don’t need to go back to that house.

***

It’s been busy all day, easy not to think about Maggie or worry about her being alone in Charlie’s house. She’s just a kid, fifteen today, all alone because her mother married the wrong guy. At least my step-father wasn’t like that.

Then I see her standing outside, looking at the stained glass hangings I did for Uncle Joe.

Before she can leave, I step outside. “Maggie, how’d you find me?”

“I was just looking for someplace to eat.”

But she looks stressed out and she has that huge backpack with all her stuff.  I nod at it. “You find another place to stay?” I hope Charlie didn’t try anything.

She looks past me, over to the side, avoiding my eyes. “I’m going to check out some other parts of the country.”

Shit, he must have done something. If she stays, maybe she’ll talk to me. I’ll kill him. At least beat the crap out of him. But I’ve got to sound cool so I don’t scare her off. “So I might not see you again. Come on in. I’ll buy you dinner.”

She smiles, so I lead her inside. It’s packed, but there’s a table in the corner open. She’ll be more comfortable there. I help her take the pack off and set it against the wall.

“This is Aji’s section. He’ll be right with you. Order anything on the menu.”

I know this will be okay with Uncle Joe. He helps out people all the time. He has me in charge of the coffeehouse side of the place, while he manages the restaurant. It’s the same kitchen and same menu of Greek food, but the ambiance on my side’s less formal.

Once I assure her that I’m paying for her dinner, Maggie relaxes some. I make her promise to talk to me before she leaves, then get back to work. But I keep an eye on her. She wolfs down the lemon-flavored soup that’s one of our specialties, but when Aji takes her a lemonade and gyro, she just looks at it. I stop by the table to ask if everything’s okay.

“Great. I probably won’t be able to finish it all.”

“Good.” I was going to sit down and see if she’d talk more, but there’s a customer up front waiting to pay. As I start to leave, she calls me back.

“This is weird, but I’ve gotta ask, is your uncle’s name Joe?”

I told her all about the restaurant and living with my aunt and uncle last night. But I want to know how she guessed his name.

“I think my mom met him a long time ago. When she was my age.”

So that’s why she came to Harrisburg – her mother must have been here. We get runaways, but winters are cold and rainy. It’s not a great place to be on the street.

And Joe’s always helped people. So I say I’ll go get him. She backs off, saying he probably wouldn’t remember her mom, but I figure he might, and besides, the longer Maggie’s here, the longer she’s safe. Maybe Uncle Joe will have a way to help her.

When I’ve cashed out the customer on my side, I go over to the restaurant and ask Uncle Joe to talk with me a moment in the office, a tiny room off the kitchen where we do the bookkeeping.  He goes with me right away.

“Is it about last night?” he asks.

“Kind of. There’s a girl. She’s run away because her step-father raped her, but she probably wouldn’t want me to tell you that. I stayed with her last night. It’s not a good place for an innocent kid. I’ve been trying to figure out how to help her all day, then she showed up and I bought her dinner. She says she’s going to move on, but anyplace she finds . . . ”

“How can I help?”

“She thinks you may have helped her mother, way back. Maybe . . . I don’t know.”

He says he’ll come over to meet Maggie as soon as he’s taken care of a few people ready to pay and leave. I take her a piece of baklava with a single birthday candle on top. Her smile warms me to the core.

“Thanks,” she says, “and thanks for not singing.”

I tell her Uncle Joe wants to meet her and ask what she did for her birthday. Her face tenses a moment, then she claims she just spent the day reading her mother’s journal, the one that told her about Joe and Harrisburg.

There’s something else though. I know something bad has happened.

Then Aji brings her a refill on her lemonade and she passes him her dirty dishes. She drops a fork on the floor and bends down to get it. As she sits up, she turns so she’s facing me and hands the fork to Aji without looking at him. Her eyes are glazed in terror.

Once he’s gone, she squeaks out, “How well do you know Aji?”

Aji’s worked for us for about six months and has always seemed like a good guy. He’s the one who introduced me to Charlie. But her question has me ready to pound him for hurting her, if that’s what he did. But it’s not. Not exactly.

“He robbed Charlie today.” I can barely hear her as she explains how two of them came in with guns, wearing ski masks, and stole Charlie’s stash of drugs and weapons.

She recognized Aji’s shoes. When Joe told him our wait staff all wear black shoes, Aji painted his Nikes black and swapped to skinny dress laces for them. Charlie recognized them, too, and he’s looking for Aji. What’s worse is Matt is with him. I met that guy once and he scared the shit out of me, and we were just sharing a joint. Matt was there to sell her ID. When she left the house, they were going to hunt the robbers down. If they know Aji works here. . .

Suddenly Uncle Joe’s at the table, pulling over a chair and asking Maggie about her mother, how she knew him.

“You just gave her a motorcycle ride one afternoon.”

My mind’s spinning, trying to think how to avoid having a shootout here while they chat back and forth. He remembers her mother, though. It was the year of Agnes, the storm everything’s still measured by here. He was on his way to see my dad up in Canada. Grandpa never really forgave my dad for dodging the draft.

Joe says Maggie has her mother’s eyes. Her mother must have been important somehow, because he and Maria looked for her when they were coming to visit us. So he didn’t know her here, didn’t know Maggie’s mom ever came to Harrisburg.

Joe gets up to leave and shakes Maggie’s hand. “Good luck, and give your mother our best. Tell her to stop in if she’s ever in town. Maria will be sorry she missed you, but she’s in Greece a few more days, visiting family. Nice meeting you, Maggie.”

Once he’s gone, she asks me what I’m going to do about Aji.

“I’ll tell him Charlie’s after him. If you’re right, Aji will leave right away and we won’t see him again.” I hope that’ll work. I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to say when Charlie shows up.

I wrap up her baklava and walk her out.

She’s right to be leaving town. Charlie’d probably be chill with her having been there when he was robbed, but Matt is one scary dude. I try to talk Maggie into calling her mom. If her mom ran away, too, she’d probably understand. But the creep of a step-father has Maggie convinced her mother will blame her for everything and hate her.

I give her a quick hug, hoping she’ll be okay.

Aji takes off like I figured he would and when Charlie shows up with Matt, I pretend I’m ticked at the guy for leaving us short-handed with no notice.

I finish with, “He didn’t even wait for his last check.”

The look Matt sends Charlie chills my blood. I shouldn’t have said that.

I hope Aji doesn’t come back for his money now.

I hope Maggie’s ride already has her clear of this town.

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Short Term vs. Long Term

As I write this, I’m in the middle of negotiations to write another screenplay for the company that optioned and produced Running Away. This time I’m having an attorney look at the contract.

She immediately warned me that the company is known for making movies “down and dirty” as cheap as possible, and that while she could read the contract and give me advice, she couldn’t negotiate for me because the only union they deal with is SAG. However, they do produce and sell a lot of movies.

She advised me to think about whether I want to focus on the short or long term before hiring her to analyze the contract.

Well, she didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t figured out already. I know the contract they’ve offered is not reasonable by WGA standards. She’s looking over the contract.

But I did stop to consider her point: Will working for this company work against me in the long run?

Does it mean I’m a hack incapable of writing quality scripts? No. It means I want the validation of being paid for writing, even if it’s not the best pay.

Will other people decide it means I’m a hack incapable of writing quality scripts? Maybe, but if they take a closer look, they’ll see some benefits:

  • It shows I’m not a prima donna – I understand the final product is a collaborative effort and my words are not sacrosanct.
  • It shows I can get rewrites done and back in a timely fashion – or they wouldn’t ask me to do a second script.

I also consider it an opportunity to practice my craft and improve on it:

  • I’ll analyze each script against the movie to learn more about what works – as I already have done here with Running Away.
  • I’ll be practicing writing for a specific audience, which is a good exercise for any writer.

So, while accepting this contract may work against me somewhere along the line, I believe I can sell it as a positive growth experience if I do a few more movies for this company.

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Press release:

Sheri McGuinn at Gold Country Writers Six-Author Event! Official release.

Event date: Sunday, March 25, 2018 – 1:00pm to 4:00pm Event address: FACE IN A BOOK, 4359 Town Center Blvd #113, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

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Novel to Film: Looking at Change

Last week, I explained the major differences between my first novel Running Away and the Lifetime movie made from it. The movie did a great job with the suspense line but the backstory for the characters changed, which changed the dynamics between characters and the focus of the story. It works as a TV movie, but part of me would still like to see the theater version with my themes and characters as I’d intended.

The contract was for one production, so a remake is a possibility, or utilizing parts of the script in a film version of the mother’s story – the novel Peg’s Story: In Search of Self is coming out later this year. With those possibilities in mind, I did two things:

  • I asked the screenwriters at Capital Film Arts Alliance in Sacramento to review my original script. As always, they gave thoughtful feedback.
  • Before the movie went to the director, I did revisions to make it more affordable to shoot. I watched the movie again with that script to analyze the later changes.

Pertinent observations and conclusions I took away from CFAA and my own analysis:

  • Some of the changes were great. I knew going in that there would be changes over which I would have no control. I really liked some of them. For example: 
    • The director’s version of the climax is more visual and dramatically satisfying than the version I’d written.
    • The film has a better, more logical basis for the friendship between Maggie and Chip (the boy who helps her get away).
  • It’s important to grab the audience quickly. Director changes immediately show Richard as an aggressive jerk and expand on his villainy. People who’ve seen the film talk primarily about his character, so yeah, that worked, but that emphasis lost one of my main themes, that sexual predators are not always obviously bad guys, that they are often masterful actors. However, CFAA feedback on my original script included that it started slowly, so I’d need to find another way to begin. 
  • It doesn’t take much to dramatically alter a character and how the audience perceives them. Most of the scenes are still from my revision, but there were a few brief additions that made major changes in Peg and her girls. For example:
    • The first time Peg appears, she’s on the phone pleading for more time to pay a bill. Shortly after that, she tells Maggie that going out with the contractor working on the house didn’t count as dating because she only did that so he wouldn’t overcharge… In just a minute or two, I saw her as weak and someone who used men, so when Richard turned out to be rich, the entire relationship was suspect. I didn’t like her until the climactic scene.
    • In contrast, my Peg was strong and financially secure – she had a good job and owned the house she’d grown up in without a mortgage. She went camping with her girls alone. Her vulnerability came up when she was hospitalized on a camping trip and Richard flew to her side to take care of her. That scene was deleted and Richard went camping with them, adding another creepy bit.
  • The collaborative effort made a better film.  Even with the added scenes and an added thread expanding on the villain, most of the lines spoken were in my script. However, those scenes were trimmed. This wasn’t just to make room for the additions – it also kept the action moving better. Honestly, a film made rigidly by my original script probably would not have held a TV audience as well as this one does.

The bottom line:

“The movie is different from the book” does not mean one is better than the other; it just means they’re different. What matters for each is: Does it work?

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Does it work?

My next novel, which will come out later this year, is Peg’s Story: In Search of Self. It’s the story of the mother in my first novel, Running Away. After that book came out, I wrote and sold the screenplay – the selling part took a few years. You may have seen the movie Running Away on Lifetime, and it’s been pirated to YouTube as well.

If you’ve read the book and watched the movie, you know that the movie did a great job with the suspense line but the backstory for the characters is different. That also means the dynamics between characters and the focus of the story changed.

This is how the changes look:

The novel is about the relationship between mother and daughter and how a subtle predator manipulates both of them to the point where Maggie (the daughter) ends up running away. The emphasis is on the mother-daughter bond – that’s why the hands are reaching for each other on the novel’s cover. My original script stuck with that emphasis, as did the re-writes I did to make it more affordable to shoot.

I’m still the only screenwriter on the credits, however the director added short scenes, including some up front to establish the stepfather as a bad guy quickly. The filmmakers explained that was essential to hold the audience. With several short scenes, the director also added a storyline making the stepfather evil beyond what he does to Maggie. As in the movie poster, he becomes the focal point.

Film is a collaborative medium and the final measure is always: Does it work?

  • Whenever someone tells me they’ve seen the movie, their comments center on the creepy stepfather – no one talks about the girl or her mother. My central theme didn’t survive, but the film does grab people and hold their attention.
  • I sold the script to a production company with a track record for producing and marketing films to television and computer movie markets. They sold the film successfully to French-speaking European television and then Lifetime. They knew their market.

So yeah, the film works. I got paid, got my credits at the beginning and end, and it’s added to my IMDb page. I’m happy.

Next week I’ll take a closer look at the film and how it compares to my screenplay.

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Me Too + My Fiction

People always ask if the stories I write are about me. No, their stories are not mine.

But, yeah, #Me Too.

My fictional characters have more dramatic experiences than me, but Me Too. I was drugged and “taken advantage of” in my dorm room, as we mistakenly called it back then. I’ve worked in what they now call a hostile work environment more than once. Actually, if you include annoying garbage like the boy behind me in Spanish continually trying to undo my bra, there are too many incidents to list.

As a writer, I use all of it to make my fiction come alive.

In Running Away, Peg marries the wrong guy. He molests her daughter Maggie, who runs away because she’s sure no one will believe her. She’s right. Her mother’s first reaction is denial. Why? Because the predator skillfully manipulated each of them to damage their formerly strong bond. Fortunately for Maggie, her mom’s denial doesn’t last long.

When Peg’s telling a co-worker how she wants to drop everything and go look for Maggie herself, she tells him she ran away at the same age and “My parents thought I was dead for ten years.” The novel is as much about the mother as the daughter. Peg’s been running away from her past all her life.

I didn’t convey that clearly to agents or editors, so I ended up self-publishing. When I sold the screenplay, I never got to talk with the director and with the addition of a few short scenes, he changed the mom’s backstory and made the villain obviously evil. While most of the script is still mine and Running Away is a good Lifetime movie, someday I hope to see it redone with my characters and the theme as intended.

Meanwhile, readers asked for Peg’s story and I’ve finally finished it. While it starts while she’s an innocent teen, it’s her “Me Too” story and the long way back to liking herself enough to be comfortable with all of her past. It will be released later this year.

Keep an eye out for it: Peg’s Story: In Search of Self.

Sheri2012RGB2inchwww.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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Never Pay to Publish – and OMG

I had this writer’s blog, Never Pay to Publish, ready to post today. For anyone following this for writing tips, it’s below.

But sometimes life happens.

KatieRiver2My daughter Katie has always been a risk taker – when she was twelve, she bought two tickets to whitewater the Colorado River for my birthday. She knew it was the only way she’d get to go. That’s her grinning. I’m under the wave, still in the boat.

After college, she surfed the beach off San Francisco alone – worried me sick. When she and her husband first met, they surfed the Pacific beaches all the way to Panama. She has a little scar where coral ripped open her lip in Costa Rica. Now she lives in far northern California where she can teach safe kayaking and surf year round – with a wet suit.

She’s gotten old enough to call people in their late teens and twenties “kids” and when she and her husband saw the surf near home was big and rough this morning, they decided to go north to a different beach. On the way home, they stopped on the cliff overlooking the beach they’d decided was too rough to surf – they always take time to enjoy life like that. What they saw was three “kids” on boogie boards in an area they NEVER surf because of the rip tides, two boys and a girl in their late teens or twenties. They saw the white of the boys’ backs and realized they had no wet suits. Even in August, the water up there is icy cold. The “kids” were caught in a rip.

Katie and her husband drove down to the beach, where the kids’ friends were finally calling 911 – they’d already been in the water at least 45 minutes. Katie and her husband got their boards and headed out, through the waves they’d chosen not to surf, out into the rip they’d never go near.

When they got to the kids, Eric took charge of the two who still had some strength to help them back to safety. Katie took the boy who was sinking into hypothermia.

At first she tried to tow him to shore, but he was too weak to hold onto the board. So she pulled him onto it, got on top of him, and paddled the best she could.

Once they got back to the break, they still had to ride the waves into shore – the waves that were big enough Katie and her husband hadn’t surfed that beach earlier. The other two were still strong enough to ride in on their own and walk out of the water. Katie’s kid couldn’t hold onto the board. She had to ride in on top of him.

They made it most of the way before they got dumped and she lost him. But by then, the fire and rescue crews were on the beach, ready to help, and they got her kid to shore and onto a stretcher for the ride to the hospital.

The helicopter that would have looked for them at sea was still at least 15 minutes away.

Today, my daughter called me from under a tree, where she’s sitting, still shaken up by the whole episode. She didn’t want me to find out by reading about it somewhere. But there were no news cameras, so it may never be noticed by media. She found out the kid she helped warmed up and was released from the hospital.

I’m still tearful. My daughter saved that kid’s life by risking her own. I’m terribly proud of her – both her actions and her need to sit under a tree and absorb it all today.

20170817Never Pay to Publish

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Critique Groups – Key Elements

I was extremely lucky in my first critique group. Running Away was losing agent interest in the first pages. I read it to the group and they unanimously proclaimed I’d started in the wrong place. They were absolutely right!

The best critique group is going to include people with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skills. They’re going to be supportive of each other, even when they’re giving negative feedback. Every person will leave the meeting energized.

Aside from that, there are a lot of different ways critique groups may work. Here are a few variations.

Sheri McGuinn
I write.
www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

Critique Group What to Look For

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