Thursday, January 28, 2016


Does it ever feel like some soaps tell the same stories over and over again?

For a Groundhog's Day post on Entertainment Weekly, I want to write about plots that get recycled (sometimes even with the same characters).

Which ones you like, and which you hope you'll never see again.

Please tell me in the Comments, or email me at:

Looking forward to reading!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Let’s cut General Hospital’s tiny terror Jake some slack. It’s not easy coming back from the dead. Especially when you “died” a cherubic preschooler and are now an angsty tween. Who was held prisoner for years by a psychotic (though well-dressed) villainess known for her tendency to brainwash. And the guy who rescued you, the one you thought was your dad, takes off with some vague excuse about “keeping the darkness at bay” and whatnot. Then you find out another guy, the one who once shared your name, prompting everyone to call you Little Jake (how demeaning!) is really your dad. Except he and your mom aren’t together anymore, and he’s inching closer to his ex, the mother of his other son. The one who’s still a cherubic preschooler.

Anyone would go a little batty after all that. So if Jake is the one making it look their family is being stalked in order to push his mom and dad back together, who would blame him? The kid definitively needs some therapy. (Though it’s questionable whether ex-serial-killer-turned-art-therapist Franco, the one who was once obsessed with Jake’s mob enforcer dad, is exactly the right person for the job.)

Alas, poor, traumatized Jake isn’t the only tiny terror currently living in Port Charles. There’s also Spencer who, save a kidnapping or two, up until his recent Phantom of the Opera style face-burning incident, had led a pretty charmed life. (So, okay, his mom died when he was an infant – and didn’t come back from the dead. But in the grand scheme of soap-opera kid tragedies, that one barely rates.) Nonetheless, in addition to his precocious vocabulary, Spencer also boasts a precocious rap sheet. At only 10 years old, he’s already tampered with a local election by stealing a ballot box, broke into his father’s safe to snag a family heirloom ring, and dropped sand-bags onto the stage where his (also 10 year old) “romantic rival” was performing a tango with the girl Spencer wanted for himself.

But lest your think Port Charles is exclusively popular by bad boys, meet Josslyn. Cancer that led to a kidney transplant as a tot is no excuse for such later acts as locking her babysitter in the attic, trying to smash a man’s brains in with a crowbar, general scheming with Spencer, and lots of standing around, looking very Bad Seed-ish. On the other hand, Joss seems to be one of the few people in town who realizes that her mother’s on-again/off-again husband, Sonny the mobster, is a horrible person. Takes one to know one?

Meanwhile, over on The Young & the Restless, there’s a budding tiny terror in the making as Max blames stepmother Abby for his mother’s recent death. As opposed to blaming his mother for driving and talking on her phone at the same time (let this be your PSA, kids!). Abby thinks she can smooth over the situation by getting Max a sneak preview of a new video-game. Abby is wrong.

Will Max eventually stop sulking, or will his whining escalate into GH kids’ territory? Let’s check out the trajectories of some previous soap-opera tiny terrors, in ascending order of sociopath, to see if they might offer a clue at Entertainment Weekly!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Yup, I'm still at it.

July 2014, I started writing my next romance novel - live with reader feedback (after all, what's the point of telling me you hate something after the book is finished and it's too late for me to do anything about it?) and keeping a log of how it's going. Here are the latest updates:

UPDATE 10/19/15 
So last week I oh so triumphantly announced that I’d finished the first draft of this live written manuscript, and would be starting on the editing today. But then, over the weekend, I thought of an extra scene I needed to make the last ones pay off. So it’s back to the drawing board…

UPDATE 10/30/15 
It took me a long time to learn to like editing. With my first book, “The Fictitious Marquis,” back in the dark ages of 1993, when editorial notes actually came scribbled in the sides of a printed out manuscript’s margins, the first time I got a revision letter, I actually left it on the kitchen counter and tip-toed around it for an entire week before I had the stomach to read it in detail. Revisions? What do you means, revisions? Isn’t the manuscript perfect? Isn’t that why you bought it?

Cut to (I also write for TV) twenty years and over a dozen books later and I’ve worked with editors who had suggestions for nearly every line, and also ones who would give vague feedback like, “This scene doesn’t work. Make it work.”

I haven’t gotten much better at dealing with those sorts of notes, but I have taught myself to enjoy editing my own work. I look at it as sifting through the garbage and finding the decent story that’s buried underneath.

Usually, writers are advised to let their work sit and “air out” for a bit before diving in for a 2nd go. But as you can see by the dates, I started this manuscript over a year ago, writing live so aspiring writers could see what a real 1st draft looks like. I figure, by the time I got to the end, the beginning has aired out enough.

Writers are also advised never to show anything other than their very best work. That ship has obviously sailed.

Now that I’ve demonstrated what a real 1st draft looks like, I’m going to do an equally ill-advised thing and show what happens in a 2nd draft edit.

As a reader, I like a tight manuscript that gets right to the good stuff. No description, minimal introspection, just tell me what happens next! During the course of writing the 1st draft live, I found that plugging a sentence into Twitter and making it fit the 140 character limit is a great way to hunt down excess words and unneeded adjectives. I intend to edit my entire manuscript using that method.

As of today, this document runs 96,566 words. My goal is to get it down to around 80,000 without sacrificing story - well, actually making it better.

UPDATE 11/9/15
During today’s live editing pass, I cleaned up some typos, turned paragraph-long run-on sentences into two or three shorter sentences and, most important, got rid of at least a dozen “he said,” “she swore,” “he insisted,” etc.... Reading it over, I found I didn’t miss them. The dialogue conveyed the emotion (as it should). What do you think? How does it read?

UPDATE 11/30/15
The key to being a professional writer is writing even when you don’t feel like it. I am exhausted from the 4 day break (yes, I clearly don’t know what it means to vacation) and then the work I needed to turn in this morning to make up for the short week. I don’t really feel like writing or editing. But I’m going to do it anyway. (In my experience, afterwards there is no difference between work written with enthusiasm and work that forced to meet a deadline.)

Follow along as I edit live at:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Clayton Prince played Reuben on Another World from 1988-1990.

Read Part #1 and Part #2 of our Where Are They Now interview series with him at the links.

These days, Prince is in the news for claiming that Lee Daniels stole his idea for what became Empire.

I didn't give the accusation much credence initially. After all, Empire is basically King Lear and/or The Lion in the Winter set in the musical world. It's hardly an original idea. Execution is where you draw a distinction.

But when Prince claimed that his version, of which Daniels allegedly saw both a script and a pilot, featured a middle-aged, white doctor misdiagnosing the patriarch of the family... things got interesting. (That doctor, by the way, on Empire, was played by Jennifer Joan Taylor, who'd been Chris on The Edge of Night.)

That would be a hell of a coincidence.

Read what Prince has to say about it and more, here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


On Wednesday, January 13, The Young & the Restless’ comatose Billy will be waking up a new man. Because he will be played by actors Jason Thompson who, only last week, as Patrick on General Hospital, was (re)-marrying Robin and heading out of town with their daughter for a presumed Happily Ever After (or as close as a soap can get to one).

One of the guests at Patrick and Robin’s wedding was Jason, played by Billy Miller. Billy Miller used to play Billy (Abbott) on Y&R. The actor who played Jason on GH prior to Miller was Steve Burton. Burton now plays Dylan on Y&R. Got that?

You should. Because it’s just another day in the world of soap hopping. Back when there were over a dozen shows on the air, actors had a lot more roles to inhabit (and some even played two different characters on the same show, though usually separated by a period of years). Now, the circles they spin in are a lot smaller, and the time gaps between roles a lot shorter. GH, for instance, brought on actors Michael Eston, Kristen Alderson and Roger Howarth as their One Life to Live characters. A lawsuit from Prospect Park, which had re-launched OLTL online, forced the show to turn all three into new people within a matter of months.

Meanwhile, due to the furiously shrunken soap-opera universe, actor Tristan Rogers is pretty much bouncing back and forth as Colin on Y&R (where he plays the ex-husband of Genie Francis, who was his best-friend’s wife on GH) and Robert on GH, while Eileen Davidson is doing the same as Ashley on Y&R and Kristen on DOOL, and Wally Kurth is splitting his time between Justin on DOOL and Ned on GH. Because of the shows’ different shooting schedules, they sometimes air on both shows simultaneously.

Now, word comes that a pair of soap hoppers, Vincent Irizarry of Guiding Light (where he played two different roles), Santa Barbara, Y&R and All My Children, and Jordi Vilasuso of Guiding Light and All My Children, are coming to DOOL.

The reasons for casting the same actors over and over again are numerous. But the main two are that they bring their fan base from the previous show(s) and, when faced with 40 script pages that need to be done in one take, they know how to do it. That last bit counts for a lot when it comes to producers who most definitely don’t want to pay overtime.

Soap hoppers are daytime’s reliable MVPs. And in honor of them, we list our three favorites at Entertainment Weekly:

Thursday, January 07, 2016


Excerpt from my BlogHer review of Telenovela:

Viewers learn that “Isabella used to be the leading lady until the day Ana took her place. She didn’t not handle it well.”

There’s video of Isabella throwing a massive tantrum. Which is exactly what Ana does when she learns that, due to her complaints about working with Javier, “You got your wish. You’re not playing my love interest anymore. You’re playing my love interest’s mom.”

This, unfortunately, is a very common occurrence on soaps. Because of something the fans like to call SORAS (Soap-Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome), an actress in her 30s, who gave birth to a baby on-screen five years earlier, might suddenly find herself playing the mom of a teen-ager (who, in turn, is played by a 25 year old… some of the age differences between actors on soaps are truly ridiculous. Joan Collins and Gordon Thompson, who played mother and son, Alexis and Adam, on Dynasty, were only 12 years apart in age. Thompson’s Santa Barbara dad, Jed Allen, was only seven years his senior. And Judith Light is exactly three years older than Mitch Pileggi, who played her son on the TBS reboot of Dallas.)

Many actors believe that once they’re playing a parent of a teen-ager or – God forbid – a grandmother, their days as a romantic lead are over, and they’ll be relegated to pouring coffee and listening to other characters’ problems (this, as a rule, happens almost exclusively to women. Soap-opera leading men have much longer shelf-lives. As Matthew McConaughey says in Dazed and Confused, “I get older, they stay the same.”). As a result, some daytime divas with enough clout have a “grandmother clause” inserted into their contracts.

As the World Turns star Eileen Fulton (Lisa) about her demanding one in the 1970s, “I was involved in a hot romance at the time. I knew… soap-opera grandmothers had no fun.” (Savvy fans, consequently, blamed Fulton for Lisa’s on-screen son, Tom, and his wife, Margo, losing their baby.)

General Hospital’s Denise Alexander (Lesley) followed suit, which is why daytime TV’s best-known couple, Luke and Laura, had no children until Alexander was off the show.

But, the fact is, Fulton was right.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


There is a reason why I can write so many theme posts, be it about surrogacy that goes tragically wrong, how near-death erases sins, and murder mysteries where the non-contract player did it. It’s because soaps tell the same story over and over again.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing (and it’s hardly exclusive to the genre). There are, after all, only so many stories to be told, and spinning the same tale with different characters often leads to different plot twists and denouements.

There’s also the fact that needing to keep the story going while keeping fan favorites on the front burner leads to an inevitable lack of Happily Ever After. All four of the soap-operas still left on the air spent their summer and fall trying to lure back lapsed viewers by bringing back fan favorites from the 1980s and 90s.

Days of Our Lives reunited super-couples Bo and Hope, Patch and Kayla, and Adrienne and Justin, General Hospital brought back Laura so she and Luke could have one last grand adventure before Luke’s portrayer, Anthony Geary, left the show for good… again. Meanwhile, The Young and the Restless stole Eileen Davidson from DOOL (a back-and-forth game the two Sony shows have been playing for decades, which sometimes results in the actress airing and competing against herself in certain markets), and dredged up the Victor/Jack feud well for the umpteenth time. Only The Bold and the Beautiful, which premiered in 1987, didn’t have as deep of a nostalgia vein to tap. So they pivoted in the opposite direction and went with killing off young legacy characters. Which was odd.

Unfortunately, bringing back characters who’d either sailed off into the sunset together or at least went out heroes meant either breaking up the celebrated couples (though death or infidelity), or undoing their heroism. For instance, GH’s Duke, who’d “died” trying to extricate himself from the mob so he and love of his life, Anna, could have a future together, inexplicably returned to the criminal lifestyle, which broke the pair up (again)… then died (again) for his trouble. At the very least, characters had changed from the folks fans fondly remembered, if only because all memories are covered in a golden haze. As opposed to the harsh Technicolor of reality.

This summer’s Star Wars sequel, The Force Awakens, faced a very soap-opera like challenge. How to reconcile golden haze memories of the past with characters inevitably moving forward from the happy ending we’d left them at in 1983 (complete with the Ewoks singing the original Ewok song!)?

How did they do compared to the soaps? Find out at Entertainment Weekly: