The Novelist’s Approach to Writing Soaps

Soap : a serial drama, on television or radio, that features related story lines dealing with the lives of multiple characters. The stories in these series typically focus heavily on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama. (Wikipedia)

There has been much speculation about the cause of decline in soap ratings. Some say that it’s due to women working outside the home. Others blame the presence of internet, or the rise in popularity of reality TV. But this raises a few questions for me. I ran home from school every day and watched with the help of a VCR. Working women can still watch with the aid of DVR. Why aren’t they? And if young people are watching reality TV for the melodrama it delivers, then why are soaps, which by definition deliver melodrama, unable to cash in on this? My theory: a decline in quality of writing. Some may assume that you can only attract younger viewers with fast-paced, non-stop action. I respectfully disagree. Action alone does not good drama make. Viewers, young or old, are not stupid. They have high standards for entertainment and recognize a good story when they see it. If you pick up a novel and the author doesn’t deliver, you put it down. If you turn on a show and the writer doesn’t deliver, you turn it off. Good writing is good writing, no matter what form comes in. Here are three key elements to good writing that apply to novels and TV serial dramas alike.

Characterization

In addition to a good story line, you need believable, consistent characters. They need to be people we can relate to on some level and identify with. Sometimes, we love them and sometimes we love to hate them, but we need care about them. We want to root for them. And perhaps most importantly, we want to know what to expect from them. That doesn’t mean that the story has to be predictable. In fact, in most cases, we don’t want that. But, each character has a history and a personality that should dictate their words and actions in any given scene. Yes, we expect them to change and grow over-time, but if they behave in a manner that is uncharacteristic, then there should be a reason for it and that reason should be made clear to the audience.

Relationship Building

The audience will not be invested in what happens to your characters if they’re not invested in the relationship between the characters. If you want your audience to feel for a man who lost his wife, they need some explanation of the relationship. They need some kind of evidence that he actually cared for her. This could come in the form of a flashback that shows them a piece of the couple’s history. It could be by way of a discussion the man has with his potential love interest about his past. You need to evoke those emotions from the audience by showing them what he felt for her, not just telling them he loved her. They need to see it to believe it.

An audience will feel the gut-wrenching pain of a mother who has lost her daughter when they’ve watched her act as a mother to that child and seen the relationship develop over time. They will cry with her when they remember the good and bad times that they celebrated or survived together. They are less likely to weep for an aunt who loses the niece she’s been raising if said aunt and niece only appeared in one scene together throughout the entire story line. If you want the audience to buy into the emotion, the relationship building cannot take place completely off of the canvas. It takes away from the drama. (Face it. Nothing that takes place off camera is emotionally satisfying. You can’t tell me that Julie Chen’s recap of the HOH competition is as exciting as watching it live!)

Proper Use of Flashbacks

I am a fan of a good flashback. I use them in my writing. I enjoy a good flashback on television. But the operative word here is good. Flashback should serve a very specific purpose. That purpose is to provide the audience with information that they did not have before without taking away from the original story or disrupting the flow of the action. Flashbacks should not be used to recap information that the audience has already seen. Nor should they be used to explain a part of the mystery that the audience is capable of figuring out on their own. If you’ve done your job well, the audience will be involved and interested enough to follow along. Taking the time to explain what they already know is a waste of time and assumes something about their intelligence.

I’m not naïve. I do understand that writing for a show that runs five days a week fifty-two weeks a year is different than writing a single manuscript in that same amount of time. The fast pace of soap production must present its own problems that a novelist can’t even begin to understand. But I have always seen soaps as the world’s longest series of romance/mystery/action-adventure novels all rolled into one exquisite, dramatic presentation. (For those of us who watched the alien and demon possession story lines of the 90’s, you can throw sci-fi into that mix too.) A serial drama, in print or on screen, has to grab and keep the audience’s attention. You have to deliver not only on the action, but with the characters, and avoid over-explaining or playing down to your audience. A very wise editor once told me, if the writing isn’t up to snuff, a reader may not know what is wrong, but they will know that something is wrong. That something will turn them off. Soap writers, if your viewers know something is wrong, they are likely to turn your show off.

These are just my two cents, though I have a feeling, based on my twitter feed, some other fans might agree. If you do, or you don’t, please feel free to comment. I’d like to hear your thoughts. This brings me to one final piece of advice for the soap scribes out there. When reviews come in, some are good. Some are bad. Authors have to choose which pieces of criticism to ignore and which ones to learn from. Writers, you are under scrutiny. Everyone has opinion and a voice in today’s social media circus. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay attention to all of them, nor are you obligated to respond or defend yourself. Sometimes you just have to brush off the negative stuff. (You’ll never make everyone happy when it comes to who should be sleeping with whom.) But, if you find that there is a common thread to the critiques, you may want to take some time to reflect. We all have room to grow. It’s a necessary part of life and professional development.

 

Don’t Do This to Me – Endgame Ch 7

“I never thought I’d step foot on this bloody island again,” Robert mumbled to himself as he entered the Cassadine compound, closing the door quietly behind him. He moved stealthily through the maze of darkened hallways, listening carefully for any signs of life. He made his way to the top floor with the idea of checking rooms from top to bottom. Each time he came to a new room, he flung the door open, gun drawn, prepared for anything. He found nothing. Every room was tidy—empty.

He entered the deserted kitchen. After a quick sweep he paused to catch his breath. “Damn!” he grumbled, beginning to feel discouraged. But as he leaned on the counter near the stove, he found a glimmer of hope radiating off of the back burner on the electric stove. It was still slightly warm. Not hot, but definitely not cold. It had been used recently, probably within the last half hour. That gave him all of the encouragement he needed to keep moving. Even if Obrecht and company had already left, he might find a clue as to where they’d gone next. He briefly considered going back upstairs to check the rooms more thoroughly, then decided against it. He’d check downstairs first. With a cryogenic chamber, a lab and God knows what else, that area was a treasure trove of evil genius.

Cautiously Robert side-stepped his way down the stairs into the basement of the compound prepared to engage at any moment. All was relatively quiet except for two armed guards who sat playing cards outside of a large steel door in the antechamber of the lab. He wouldn’t be able to take on both of them at once. Robert needed a diversion. It would have to be simple. Time was of the essence and he had virtually nothing in the way of supplies. He moved quickly in the opposite direction toward the cryogenic chamber, plotting as he went.

* * *

“What’s that?” one guard said to the other, detecting a strange beeping sound.

“I don’t know. Sounds like it’s coming from Area C. I thought we were supposed to be here alone.”

“Yeah. Mr. Jacks said the others were all evacuating, but…”

“So, what do we do now?”

“What do you mean, ‘what do we do now’? We go check it out! He said there was a possibility that we’d have more visitors. That’s why we’re here, right?”

“I guess so.”

“So…”

“So… what?”

“Go check it out, little brother!”

“You go check it out.”

“I said it first.”

“Let’s both go.”

“No way. One of us has to stay here and guard the lab the make sure the woman doesn’t escape.”

Robert listened to the argument echoing through empty halls. He chuckled to himself. It was almost too easy. “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb,” he smiled.

“What’s the matter? You scared, Roy-boy? Geez, come on!”

“Fine!” Roy snapped. “You know what? You suck Dale!” He headed off in the direction of the beep, glancing back several times.

Dale just gave him a disgusted look and shooed him off with a few flicks of the wrist.

When Roy came around the corner, Robert was waiting for him. One quick chop and Roy was down without a sound. Robert pulled his phone out of his pocket and turned off the alarm. “That came in rather handy,” he said, rather pleased with himself.

Had he waited long enough, the other brother might have come looking and Robert could have taken him out the same way, but he was getting impatient. Not only that, if his intel was accurate, the lab would be thumbprint protected. Robert was banking on the fact that all of the guards had access, but he would need to take one out in close proximity to the entrance. He left Roy there in a heap and made his way back toward the lab.

Just outside the entrance to the antechamber, Robert paused again. Taking a chance that Dale was as dull as he appeared, he cleared his throat and spoke, “Dale, come quickly. Roy has been injured!”

“Mr. Jacks, Is that you?” came Dale’s response, followed by footsteps as he rushed across the floor.

Seconds later Dale was surprised by Robert and met with a fate not unlike that of his little brother. “Works every time,” Robert muttered. He dragged Dale’s limp form to the lab door and stopped for a breather, slightly distressed that he was so out of shape.  With no time to waste, he didn’t dwell on it. He took hold of Dale’s arm and with a yank, pressed his thumb to the keypad.

“Ha ha! Still got it,” he smirked as the keypad recognized the print.

Robert peaked in as the door  squeaked open and was horrified.  “Anna!”  He rushed to her side as she lay motionless on the floor. “Anna!”

There was no response.

He put a hand on her cheek. “Anna, come on baby, don’t do this to me.” He moved his hand to her neck and was relieved to find a pulse. He leaned closer and felt her breath on his cheek. “Thank God!” he whispered. She had no noticeable wounds at first glance. Robert put his arms around her and pulled her close, cradling her limp body.  “Anna! Anna, can you hear me? Anna, sweetheart, I need you to wake up now. We need to get you out of here before those goons come around.” He patted her face. “Anna, come on.”

She began to stir, slight moaning sounds coming from her throat.

“Anna,” Robert said, getting more excited.

“No,” she whispered.

“Yes. Come on, Anna. It’s me.”

“Robert?” she questioned before opening her eyes.

“Yeah baby. I’m here. But we need to go.”

“My head.”

“You’ve got a nasty bump,” he said, after further examination. “Do you know what happened?”

“Where are we?” she said. She glanced around, blinking to regain focus as she opened her eyes.

“Cassadine Island.”

“What? Oh. The boat,” Anna said, still trying to get her bearings. She struggled to sit up.

Robert let go, but stayed by her side, prepared to grab hold again if needed.

“Robert, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in hospital. God, are you all right?”

“I’m fine. I’m more worried about you.”

“You found me. How did you find me?”

“You left me you a clue, didn’t you?”

“I did?”

“Your phone. Outside Steinmauer.”

“Oh. Right. I kicked it under the bench. I didn’t know if anyone would find it.”

“How did they get you?”

“Chloroform , I think. From behind. I didn’t know who it was, but…

“Obrecht.”

“Yeah. I saw her on the boat. With Faison!” She gulped as she said his name. “She broke him out.”

“I know.”

“She drugged me and broke him out,” she continued, sounding aggravated.

“Any news on Robin?”

Anna shook her head. “I tried to make a break for it when we docked and something… someone… hit me. That’s all I remember. How did you even know to look for me?”

“That’s a long story. We can talk about that later. We need to get out of here first. Before Chip and Dale wake up.” He glanced quickly over his shoulder at the open door. The coast was still clear. “Listen, Anna, can you walk?”

“Of course I can. Help me up?”

He stood and took hold of her under the arms, hoisting her up. Once she was on her feet, he pulled her into his embrace.

She let him hold her for a minute, relishing the sense security before forcing the end of the moment. “Robert…”

“Hmm?”

“Let go, then.”

“Right,” he said. He backed away cautiously.

She took all of three steps before the room started to spin and she collapsed into his arms again.

“Whoa. Looks like we’d better take it slow,” he smiled. He managed to get her over to the small bed in the corner.

“I’m all right. I’m just a little dizzy. That’s all.”

“Okay. Give it a minute and we’ll try again,” he said, his arms still wound around her as they sat.

Anna nodded and rested her head on Robert’s shoulder. “I can’t believe you found me,” she said again.

“Of course I found you. Robert said. “You know I’d move Heaven and Earth before I’d let anything happen to you.” He felt her nod again. He held her bit longer, and then said, “Okay, love. We’ve got to try this again. Are you ready?”

“I think so.”

“Okay. Here we go.” He rose slowly, bringing her with him. “Hold on to Bobby now,” he said in a playful voice.

“Yes dear,” she said. Her tone was sarcastic, but her lips curled up with the tiniest smile.

Suddenly a voice boomed out, “Well, well, well… Look what we have here. Two super spies for the price of one! I hate to spoil your plans, but you two are not going anywhere!”

Jerry Jacks maniacal laughter reverberated through the halls as the lab door slid shut, leaving a startled Robert and Anna staring after him in disbelief.

 

** All previous chapters are available in the archives or at www.fanfiction.net/~catkthompson **

5 Reasons for Writing Fan Fiction

Fan fiction is a term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator. It can be based on a book, a video game, a soap opera, or other pop culture phenomenon. If you google your favorite show, you will no doubt find some stories written by other fans out there. Some of it is written by amateurs just looking to have a good time or voice their opinions about what should have been. Some comes from writers or aspiring writers. From time to time, the value of writing fanfic vs. original fiction can be called into question. Some members writing community don’t consider it to be “real” writing. While it can never be published in book form or sold for profit, I would venture to say that it is absolutely “real” writing and I can think of at least five good reasons to do it.

Reason #1

Character development and consistency is very important when writing original fiction. With fanfic, the characters are already developed, but consistency is still the key. Staying true to the characters that people know and love is tough and must be taken seriously. To really do it right, you’ll need to examine their vocabulary, imitate typical speech patterns, describe their mannerisms etc. Both the actions and the dialogue need to be spot on. If your portrayal of a legacy character is not up to snuff, you’ll anger the fans you’re supposed to be writing for and they can get rather rowdy. They will keep you on your toes, but it’s good practice.

Reason #2

If you’re a fluffy romance novelist considering trying your hand at murder mystery or vice versa, writing fanfic may be the perfect way to test out a new genre. It’s a great way to try out new techniques in smaller chunks of serial fiction. That way you can see what works best for you and what’s best received by readers as you go instead of experimenting with a novel sized piece. You can apply what you’ve learned to the novel later on.

Reason #3

Fanfic readers are avid fans who are constantly looking for more to read. They get excited when a new chapter comes out. Many will read it almost immediately and review or comment on your work. They will be brutally honest, but that’s a good thing. This feedback can be very valuable. Of course, you have to weigh the responses and see which pieces are valuable and which pieces you should just let go. That’s good practice for when the reviews of your novel start rolling in. With any luck, however, you’ll be able to take some of the critiques and use them in your original writing.

Reason #4

If you write good fanfic, chances are you will build a fan base that will want to check out your book once it’s published. Some serious writers may tell you that they don’t want to be known for this fanfic. If you’re looking to go down in history with Shakespeare or Tolstoy, you may not think this is for you. But most of the time the goal is to write and enjoyable piece of fiction that people will buy.  I once read that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally marketed to the Twilight fanfic audience.  You tell me. How did that work out for E.L. James?

Reason #5

It’s fun!  Most of us became writers because we love stories. We love creating. It’s fun. It’s an escape. Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of a writing project, I get so mired down in the technique and the structure that I lose sight of the reason that I started to begin with. So, if you find yourself stressed over the current project, take a break and write something a little more frivolous. Again, that is not to say that fanfic should not be taken seriously, but it’s not what’s paying the bills, so you can afford to relax just a little bit. Enjoy your favorite characters. Rewrite their stories to make them what you always hoped they would be. Throw them into a wild love triangle or a new super spy mystery.  Just have fun!

A Final Word of Advice:

If you are writing fanfic to hone your craft with hopes of publishing your own original work someday, have fun, but make it good. I know I just finished telling you that it is a non-threatening way to experiment. I stand by that, but make sure that even in those experimental phases you are putting out the best product you can. Don’t forget to focus on mechanics too. Just because people are pop-culture fans and not literary critics, it doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a well-written story with good grammar. Too many errors will leave a lasting impression, and it won’t be a good one.  So spend some time editing.  Remember that once you put it out there, you can never really take it back. You don’t want to go down as the one who had a great story but mutilated the English language.

So there you have it. As far as I’m concerned, whether it’s original or not, it’s all good practice. You can’t publish your version of your favorite soap opera, but you can tap into the existing fan base for exposure and feedback. You can improve your technique by taking risks you wouldn’t take on your own.  Just remember, as in all writing, respect your characters. Respect their history, but don’t be afraid to take them somewhere they’ve never been. Go somewhere you’ve never gone.  Grow.  Get creative. Get busy. Get writing!

 

 

Not This Time – Endgame Ch 6

By the time they arrived at Steinmauer, Robert was wishing he had given Agent Tom Jacobs the famed WSB chop and left him prostrate on the floor at the clinic. His incessant chatter was getting on his last nerve. Unfortunately, Robert knew he needed Jacobs at the moment, or at least he needed his badge. His own status as self-proclaimed Agent of the World, who’d only recently come out of a coma, did not exactly give him jurisdiction here and he wasn’t about to waste a second waiting on his connections at various agencies to process the necessary paperwork.

Robert rolled his eyes as Jacobs attempted to give him a final warning about following his lead. “I know it may not be the way you’re used to doing things, but—” Jacobs was saying. But Robert was out of the car and half way to the door before the agent could finish his rant on protocol.

By the time Jacobs caught up with him, Robert was already at the front desk, preparing to launch a full scale verbal attack. Jacobs put a hand on Robert’s shoulder and stepped in front of him, flashing his credentials. It nearly killed him, but Robert forced himself to hang back and allow the young one to speak to the guards first. Only after his presence was explained, did he step up to speak again.

“I understand that a few days ago Ms. Devane arrived here with a request to visit Cesar Faison.”

“Yes, sir. She had clearance from one Frisco Jones at the WSB.”

“Right. You were on duty at the time?”

The young man, Schaub, nodded sheepishly.

“What else can you tell me about that visit?”

He cleared his throat. “Well, she—”

The older of the two men cut in. “You mean other than the fact that she somehow managed to tamper with our security system, take out two of my men, and usher the criminal out of here?” he growled in a Germanic accent. He glared at Robert, obviously irritated by his line of questioning.

“Listen, I know all of that.”

“Mister… Scorpio… is it? It has been all over the news. Worldwide coverage. I do not see the point in rehashing what we have told all of the authorities already.”

“I understand what it looks like, Mr. Zeller,” Robert said, eying the man’s name badge. “But I’ve had a lot of experience with this woman, and my gut tells me that things are not as cut and dry as they appear to be.” He glanced around Zeller to look at young Schaub again. “Now, I need you to tell me everything that you remember about that visit, and don’t leave anything out.”

Both guards looked toward Agent Jacobs who nodded in silent support of Robert.

The young guard cleared his throat again and started in. His voice was shaky. His English, though grammatically accurate, sounded strained. He seemed to struggle with stringing the words together. “She was admitted at nine-forty.  I processed her credentials and she entered the visitation area. Mr. Faison was brought in—”

“Hold on a minute,” Robert interrupted. “Tommy Boy,” Robert said to Jacobs, “What time does your report say she entered?”

Jacobs consulted his notes. “Nine thirty-two, sir.”

“How do you explain that?” he asked Schaub.

“Yes, sir. That was the first time.”

“What do you mean, the first time?”

“Sh-sh-she entered and was searched at nine thirty-two, but while I was verifying her credentials, she received a phone call. There was no service.” He looked sideways at his superior, who showed no signs of surprise at this admission. “So, she exited to take the call and returned at nine forty. At that time, I processed her and the visit began.”

“What time did she receive this call?”

“I don’t know exactly, sir.”

“Approximately… what time did she receive this call?” Robert asked, his temper starting to flare.

“Maybe it was two minutes after she arrived.”

“Which would be about what? Nine thirty-four?”

“I believe so, sir.”

“Let me make sure I have this right,” Robert said. “She left to take a call and returned six minutes later?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When she returned, how did she look to you?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, I mean… did she look nervous? Was her hair mussed? Did she look… different? In any way?”

“No, sir. She looked just the same.”

“And when you searched her again—”

“I did not search again.”

“What do you mean you didn’t search her again?”

“I had already done that.”

“She left and came back six minutes later, and you didn’t think that you needed to search her again?”

The senior guard broke in again. “What are you implying, Mr. Scorpio?”

“What am I implying? I’ll tell you what I’m implying. I’m implying that a hell of lot can happen in six minutes and —”

“Ms. Devane was—as far as we knew—a trustworthy officer of the law! Our procedure is none of your concern, Mr. Scorpio,” Zeller reminded him.

“That’s exactly my point!” Robert shouted.

What is your point?” Zeller asked.

Robert looked at Jacobs, who’d been watching the entire exchange, and then back at the guards. “What if the woman who entered the second time was not really Anna Devane?”

“That is absurd.” Zeller grumbled.

“Is it?” Robert said.

“Yes,” Zeller nodded.

Robert shook his head. “I don’t think so. You see, from the footage that I saw—now it was only from behind, mind you—but from the footage that I saw, the woman who left here with Faison did not look like Anna Devane.”

“Her face was identical,” Schaub countered.

“That may be,” Robert said. “I’ve seen some pretty convincing disguises in my time, but some things can’t be imitated.”

The men regarded him, still skeptical.

Robert continued. “Anna Devane is one of a kind. This woman… she didn’t act like Anna. She didn’t hold a gun like Anna, she didn’t walk like Anna, and she sure as hell didn’t wear a skirt like Anna,” he said with a bit of a snicker. When no one responded he added, “And she was taller!”

“She was?” Jacobs finally said.

“Yes!” Robert answered.

“And just who do you propose this imposter was?” asked Zeller.

“I haven’t figured that out yet.”

“Unbelievable,” Zeller shook his head.

“Humor me,” Robert said, looking at him with one eyebrow raised ever so slightly.

Zeller folded his arms in protest, but allowed Robert to continue with his questions.

“So, after this woman entered—the second time—what happened then?”

“I returned her weapon,” Schaub said.

“Why the hell would you do that?”

“Ms. Devane was authorized to carry. Faison is considered a dangerous criminal.”

“Tell me something I don’t know!” Robert barked.

“Within minutes our system issued a virus alert and several terminals began to shut down.”

“A virus? I thought you said the system was hacked?” Robert asked.

Jacobs looked confused. “I… ah…”

“It was a virus,” the guard went on, “introduced into our mainframe forcing a system shutdown. In the chaos, she waited long enough for the shutdown to affect the cameras, most of them. Then she took out our men in the room with the butt of her pistol, stole a keycard and—”

“All right, I’ve heard enough,” Robert said. “Jacobs, what the hell kind of investigation are your people running here? If I were you I’d get some men to trace the source of that virus. If the two issues are actually connected, you might actually get some answers.”

“Of course,” Jacobs answered, already commandeering the desk phone.

With Jacobs distracted, Robert took the opportunity to slip out for some fresh air. He sat down on the aluminum bench just outside the door and let out a sigh that was combination of exhaustion and frustration. Truth be told, he was nowhere near ready to be out of hospital, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. As long as Faison was on the loose, Anna wasn’t safe.

“Six minutes,” Robert mumbled. He still wasn’t sure what had occurred during those six minutes, but Anna had clearly been compromised. He stood up and began to pace slowly in front of the bench, his fingers occasionally stroking his face over his upper lip as he thought. At one point, he wandered a few feet away, consulting the reach and angle of the security cameras. When he returned to bench and sat down again he noticed a strange sound. It was an intermittent buzz of sorts and for a moment, he thought he could feel the vibration. He checked his cell phone out of habit. That wasn’t it. The sound continued for a few more seconds and then stopped. He glanced around and saw nothing at first. But when it happened again, he followed the sound more carefully until he found it. There, on the ground, wedged between the building and the foot of the bench, was a phone in a white plastic case.

“Anna!” Robert grunted as he practically dove for it. He pried it out and looked at the display. The screen was cracked, but it was still legible. It read: Duke Lavery. Slide to answer. Robert quickly answered before it could disconnect. “Duke!”

“Robert!”

“Yeah.”

“Robert is that you?”

“Yeah, Duke it’s me. What’s going on?”

“That’s what I’d like to know. Have you seen Anna?”

“Well, she came see me at the clinic…” Robert trailed off, unsure as to how much Duke knew.

“Have you seen the news? The reports are saying that she’s broken Faison out of prison.”

“Listen, Duke, about that…”

“Do you have any idea what happened or where they could have gone?”

“Not yet, but I’m working on it.”

“Where are you? I can come and help you.”

Anna’s comment about sending an amateur to do a professionals job replayed in his head. “No!” Robert shouted. “Ah, what I mean is, it I could really use your help there. I need someone in Port Charles to keep me apprised of the situation there. In case Anna calls. I need you to stay put and call me the moment you hear anything.”

“Robert, Faison is incredibly dangerous! Do you honestly expect me to just sit around and wait while he does God knows what with Anna—”

“Lavery, please, let the professionals handle this.” There was a long pause. “I will update you as soon as I have something concrete,” Robert added.

“Fine. See that you do,” Duke said curtly, his pride damaged. He hung up without another word.

Robert took a deep breath, relieved that he had managed to dissuade Duke. He took a few seconds to regain his bearings and then looked at the phone again, hoping to find a clue of some kind. Aside from the large crack across the screen, the case was also scratched up. It had obviously been dropped or thrown. Was that before or after the escape? Had there been a scuffle? Was she hurt, or had she hurt them? Robert hit the button on the phone, hoping it would contain some clue.

He slid his thumb across the screen to unlock it. Faced with a passcode screen, he paused momentarily, then tried four numbers. One-zero-one-two. He was granted access and greeted with a low battery warning. He dismissed it, thinking it was a miracle it had any power left at all. He scanned the long list of received calls. Most of them were from Interpol and other law enforcement agencies. Several were from Duke. Eventually, he scrolled far enough to find two calls received at nine thirty four two days earlier, from Dr. Brit Westbourne, the second of which included a voicemail. Robert pressed play and listened with bated breath.

“Commissioner, it’s me again. Our call got lost. As I said before, my mother recently made contact. We have reason to believe that she has my son and she’s holding my son on Cassadine Island. Nicholas and I are on our way there now. Please call me when you get this message.”

“Her mother. That’s it! Obrecht!” Robert said. Faison’s partner in crime. Why hadn’t he thought about her before? Hostages, kidnappings, medical procedures, she would stop at nothing for that freak! She had to be involved. And if Britt was right, they were hiding out on Cassadine Island.

Robert stood and slipped the phone into his pocket. He didn’t even consider going back in for Jacobs. Why bother. Interpol still believed Anna was responsible for this mess. Robert knew better. With no time to lose, he headed for the car that had dropped him and Jacobs off earlier. If his instincts were right that madman had taken her again, and he wasn’t about to let him get away with it. Not this time!

Ready or not, Robert forced himself to break into a slow jog. “Hang in there, Anna, sweetheart. The cavalry is coming!”

** All previous chapters are available in the archives or at www.fanfiction.net/~catkthompson **

 

 

 

The Tour That Never Took Off

Friends and followers,

I was asked to take part in the a blog tour several weeks ago, but due to finals week, a class trip, and moving classrooms, my tour was delayed. Below is the report on my night life, now that my day job is no longer getting in the way.

1. What are you working on?

I’m currently working on my second novel. It is the sequel to Once in Love with Lily. The working title is Forever, Tony. For all of those who read the original and wondered, “What happens now?”, you’ll have to read it to find out. But I can tell you that there is much more to Lily and Tony’s story. Happily ever after would be far too simple. There are still many twists, turns, and secrets to be revealed.

And yes, for my GH friends, now that summer has arrived I hope to have more time for Endgame as well. I know you have been waiting “patiently” for the continuation.  https://www.fanfiction.net/~catkthompson

2. How is your work different from other pieces in its genre?

According to the reports, the difference between my romantic fiction and typical novels of the genre is that Lily is far less predictable and much more realistic than others. Some say that it is a fairy tale, yet down to earth. Others have said that it “depicts how love actually happens”. Locations are also real and identifiable, so world travelers may experience nostalgia for areas of Paris, London, and New York, yet those who’ve never been can live vicariously.

  1. Why do you write what you write?

I write what I write out of an obsession for celebrity bios and soap operas. I love the idea of the show-business life. I’ve often said I think I should have lived in New York the 1950’s so that I could have enjoyed Broadway during the heyday of Lerner and Lowe and Rogers and Hammerstein. But, alas, I was born in 1975, and I fell in love with daytime television in the late eighties, when Gloria Monty was the queen of General Hospital and the tag line for soaps was “Love in the Afternoon!” The result: I’ve melded those two worlds together and created a love story that I would enjoy watching unfold like a daytime drama (without the aliens or prosthetic masks, or D.I.D. storylines).

4. Describe your process.

When I began the adventure, I had no process whatsoever. I didn’t even realize that there was a process. I never studied writing. I never knew that I wanted to be a writer. (Yes, some people have said that they hate me for this!) But now I can’t imagine not writing. For one thing, the creative outlet allows for the stories in my head to have a place to go.

If I had to classify myself, I’d say that I’m a pantser, not a plotter. I never plan out anything beyond a basic outline. I don’t even write lesson plans on a regular basis (Don’t tell my principal I said that! I do plan. I just don’t always write it down!) I’m certainly not going to plot out an entire novel.  I do have a beginning and an ending point in mind, but the stuff that comes in between is just the characters telling their story. There is a natural ebb and flow in the action, but I don’t focus on the plot arc too much at all.  When the first draft is complete, I then revisit those things and begin to add reinforcement to the general structure. I don’t over intellectualize, first of all, because I didn’t study the craft the same way others have. Second, because I believe that the quality of the story is as much about the way it makes me or the readers feel as it is about the plot outline.

A Note of Appreciation

Many thanks to Eric Ralph for encouraging me to participate in the tour and forgiving my untimeliness. If you haven’t experienced Eric’s work yet, visit http://ericmralph.com/ By his own proclamation, he writes strange, funny things and funny, strange things. He’s always good for a laugh, a pun, or an 80’s reference. His first novel is a remarkable piece of religious satire called And God said… An Absurd Tale of Love, Power, and Paperwork –the story of what happens when God retires, gets married, and moves to Jamaica.  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C334PIA

 

 

Technique, or Technically Crazy

It’s late, I’m tired, and I may be crazy, but I’m going to put this out there anyway just for kicks. Do what you will with it.

booksAs a novelist, part of my writing process involves reading completed scenes aloud in order to ensure that the dialog is realistic. That is nothing extraordinary. Many authors do it. But the conversations are often worked out in my head long before the words ever hit the page. This usually involves finding a quiet place to sit and… well… talk to myself. Now, I have heard people say that you can talk to yourself as long as you don’t start to answer back. Even if that’s the case, I’m still in trouble. I frequently talk back, yell back, and even swear back—all in a British accent. I don’t suppose it will help my cause to admit that I was born in Toledo, Ohio to parents of German and Polish ancestry.

As if what I have just told you is not enough to question my sanity, this morning I came to the realization that I may be truly certifiable. As I said before, I have to find a quiet place to talk, and often that sanctuary is in my car. So, this morning, as I drove to work, I began playing out a particularly emotional bit of conversation. I didn’t notice any of the other drivers staring at stop lights. They probably just thought I was talking on the phone. (Yes. I’m sure that’s it.) But, I did notice that about ten minutes into it, I was forced to remove my glasses and wipe tears from my eyes. Yes. That’s right. While driving to work, I allowed myself to get so worked up over my characters’ conversation that I actually made myself cry!

I’d like to tell you that it’s all just a completely natural part of the creative process, but I’m not so sure. I mean, really… I was so wrapped up in the stories in my own head that I broke into tears in my car on the drive to work. Can that possibly be normal? Can you imagine walking into the office with red puffy eyes and having to explain it to your boss—or in my case to a bunch of teenagers?

“Ms. Thompson, are you okay? Did you have an accident or something?”

“No, Billy. I was just imagining that I was a forty-five year old British woman who finds out the love of her life is…”

I’ll just stop right there because there is no way that conversation is not going to end badly!

Friends and fellow authors, cast your vote. Can I chalk it all up to technique, or am I technically crazy? Just for fun, click “like” for technique and “share” for technically crazy. We’ll see who wins.

Oh… What is your book about?

This is a question I get asked a lot. So, here it is in a nut shell. This is the pitch that took Once in Love with Lily to round two of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2014.

Lily Josephson is a choreographer living in LA with her long-time husband, movie mogul C.S. George. She has settled into a comfortable, predictable, and fabulously wealthy lifestyle. Thanks to her husband’s connections and resources and the help of modern technology, she manages to maintain a successful career as a Hollywood choreographer, despite the fact that she hasn’t danced in front of a live audience in over seven years due to a tragic accident that nearly left her paralyzed.

When Lily’s brother calls seeking her help with his fledgling Broadway show, the idea of returning to New York and the live stage seems almost impossible. Even if she can ignore emotional and physical scars left by the accident, she will still have to convince the cast to put their faith in her and her untraditional methods. Unfortunately, her no-nonsense husband, more interested in protecting his investment in the show than protecting her feelings, doesn’t leave her any choice. Upon arrival in New York, she runs into Tony, the one person from her past she never intended to see again. Suddenly, the thought of professional failure pales in comparison to dealing with the man who walked out on her and all but destroyed her over a decade before.

A series of twists sends Lily and Tony on an intercontinental journey, filled with humor, romance, and betrayal. Old secrets are revealed and new ones created as the two of them begin to unearth the shards of their broken relationship. Torn between the husband who has given her the world and the man who once was her world, Lily must weigh the importance of faith, trust, and commitment. She must choose sides between love and passion and moral responsibility and decide if recapturing the past is worth risking her future.

Lily cover

Once in Love with Lily is available in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon.com.

View the book trailer.

 

 

Florida Welcomes You—with Free OJ and a Whole Lot More!

The last time we were in Orlando it was for a Disney World Extravaganza, complete with Park Hopper Passes and meal plans. We covered all four theme parks, one waterpark, and spent time at the hotel pool. It was an eight day fun-filled, fantastic, frenzy. Parents, kids, and grandparents all had a blast, but I’d be lying if I said it was relaxing.

This time we only spent one day with Mickey and Company and thanks to our friends and fellow Toastmasters, Jerry and Brenda, we got to spend several days enjoying the some of the less commercial fun that Florida has to offer.

Free OJ from the FLA Welcome Center!
Free OJ from the FLA Welcome Center!

We drove from Atlanta to Orlando on Monday and arrived just in time for a delicious dinner of Chili Verde, courtesy of Aunt Brenda, and the kids made themselves right at home in the spare room, enjoying Jessie on their own small screen TV. I’d say that having a television in their bedroom may have been the highlight of the trip, but I’m sure that it paled in comparison to Tuesday’s breakfast. That morning we sampled Uncle Jerry’s chocolate chip pancakes, which we topped with syrup, berries, and copious amounts of spray whipped cream. That was the day that the new “Five Second Rule” was born, five being the number of seconds that one must spray said whipped cream when topping one’s pancakes… or cookies… or ice cream… or coffee… You get the idea. (This rule may be modified to three seconds if needed for those who are faint of heart or in danger of a Diabetic emergency.)

Uncle Jerry's Famous Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Uncle Jerry’s Famous Chocolate Chip Pancakes

After our gourmet breakfast, we ventured to the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. We spent the day strolling through the beautiful tree-lined paths and seeing all sorts of new creatures that can’t survive in cruel Ohio temps. The kids were so impressed by the zoo’s super splash pad and the camel rides, that they didn’t even miss the gift shop. And we even got to feed the giraffes!

Is your name Alice?
Is your name Alice?

 

 

 

 

The next day was spent at Cape Canaveral National Seashore. We had fun in the sun, a picnic on the beach, and took pictures that made all of our friends back home just a little jealous. But the best part of that day was hearing my son yell at his sister as they dashed across the sand, “Audrey that’s the ocean!” She squealed and yelled back, “I can’t believe I’m at a real beach!” We lathered them up with sunscreen and off they went. They played on the shore for hours, building sandcastles, collecting shells, and letting the waves wash up to their waists. The water was freezing, but they couldn’t have cared less.

Cape Canaveral National Seashore
Cape Canaveral National Seashore

 

Thursday marked our return to Disney World and the Magic Kingdom. This time, the day didn’t seem nearly as hectic. In fact, from 9:30 am to 11:00 pm, Disney World really did feel like the happiest place on Earth. We had minimal waits, beautiful weather, and we were named Honorary Patriots at the Liberty Tree Tavern when we helped open the restaurant for dinner. I think getting to ring the dinner bell almost helped to heal the scars left after we forced the children to ride Space Mountain!

We finished out the week with one more round of chocolate chip pancakes, packed up the car, and headed for Savannah. We spent Friday night at the Hilton DeSoto, in Historic Savannah. The impressive chandeliers in the lobby were original to the hotel, built in 1890. The room was well decorated with walls painted in a calming powder blue. The pizza from room service was affordable and delicious. Fortunately, the hotel security team was also remarkably efficient when they removed the guests across the hall at two am for unsportsmanlike conduct and/or excessive celebration in the hotel pool!

We arrived home on Saturday night after an eleven hour drive, safe, sound, and happy to be home. It was a wonderful trip filled with great family memories, but there is nothing like the feel of your own bed on that first night back. I’m just thankful we had Sunday to recover before returning to work. I don’t know about the rest of them, but all that fun and family togetherness in the Ford Fiesta took a lot out of me!

Sunday—There’s Something Fishy Going On!

Colorful Fish Photo #9,852

After a quick bite at the coffee shop, we bid adieu to the gardens at the Hotel Gaylord and headed out of Nashville bound for Atlanta. We checked into the Hilton Garden Inn a few hours later and made a beeline for the Georgia Aquarium. I pleased to say that the drive was not nearly as eventful as the day before. In fact it was a great visit with hardly any drama at all….

Unless you count the food court feast of chicken fingers and nachos that cost fifty big ones and almost caused hubby to have “the big one”! Come to think of it, we only narrowly avoided a fit from the five year old when her arms weren’t long enough to reach the sting rays skimming along the bottom of the touch pool. We tried three different pools and all of them were just as deep. So, we distracted her with a slide at the indoor play yard just before she was able to launch a full blown tantrum. And of course, my son, in classic form, began to whine the moment he found out that we were seated in the “splash zone” for the Dolphin Tales presentation for fear he might melt. This is the same kid who stands directly under the dump buckets every time he visits a splash pad. It is also the same kid who conveniently forgot about his aversion to water the moment another boy his age sat down two seats away. He immediately asked to swap spots with his dad and the two boys began to pray for wild dolphin attacks so that they could get soaked and save themselves a shower before bedtime.

White Alligator
White Alligator

Aside from a few minor disturbances, it was an exciting day for the whole family, with rare white alligators and the Ocean Voyager Exhibit—the largest indoor aquatic habitat in the world. I’d highly recommend this stop to anyone with little ones. They’ll love all of the underwater adventures. Just a one thing…. Make sure you have plenty of storage space on your phone because your daughter may need you to take pictures of EVERY colorful fish you find. Oh! And you may be hard-pressed to get your son out of there at the end of the day. So, take my advice. Save the gift shop for last!

Spring Break 2014 134
Whale Shark (in a 60×30 ft window)

Saturday—The Grand Ole Family Vacay Begins!

We left home in the Ford Fiesta before 8:30 am, two parents, two kids, and several suitcases, ready for our first big family road trip. The gas tank was full and the excitement was high. It didn’t last long. By 8:53, we’d already had one episode of carsickness and one coffee spill in the new car. As the Starbucks soaked into the interior and the scent of used Asiago bagel wafted into the front seat, I shook my head and thought, “I can’t have nice things!” We hadn’t even made it off of the outer belt yet and we’d already had multiple mishaps. Needless to say, I was skeptical about the day—and the trip—to come.

Fortunately, things did improve from that point forward. Seven hours and one Cracker Barrel Stop later, we rolled into the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, rolled being the operative word. We actually rolled to a stop behind a very long line of other travelers eager to begin their own Opry Land Experience. After nearly another hour of starting and stopping, we reached the entrance and unloaded for the night. Children and parents alike were thrilled with the hotel accommodations, particularly the beautiful Cascade Conservatory filled with blooms and waterfalls of all kinds to explore.

Cascade Conservatory at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

We grabbed a slice of pizza from Paisano’s and we were off to the main attraction: A Night at the Grand Ole Opry! To be honest, this was not something that my husband and kids were all that thrilled about, but they indulged me, as I insisted that like it or not, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that everyone should take advantage of. Hubby made jokes throughout the show to amuse himself, claiming that John Conlee was actually our own Bud Watkins, former District 40 Governor for Toastmasters International. Child number one repeatedly threatened to doze off, while child number two interrupted frequently to point out that the entire event would be much more exciting, if only there were snacks to be had. I, while never truly a country music fan either, was enthralled, lapping up every note and at times, getting just a little misty.

Grand Ole Opry House

At some point, I questioned what exactly it was about the whole thing that could evoke such emotion. I think it’s this. Every star that appeared on stage that night, whether old or young, seemed to show a genuine concern and respect for each other that often seems lacking in pop culture. They truly appeared to be one big family. When Little Jimmy Dickens, who was easily 90 years old, ambled out on stage and sang, admiration filled the air. Somehow, I have a hard time imagining the same type of reception for Britney Spears performing at age 100. Not only that, but the stories told by the music were incredible and there was no use of auto-tune or synthesized music. There was something simple, very raw, and very real about all of the performances that you just don’t get from most pop music these days. I was touched. I don’t know if I’d call myself a country fan just yet, but my appreciation for the genre might run just a little deeper.

We walked back to the hotel, enjoying the night air, happy to be away from the Ohio weather. We fell into bed, ready for some much needed rest. And as I lie there in the darkness listening to my son urging his sister to keep her feet off of him, I thought, “Day one is done. Only seven more to go!”