How the bottom line rules what you see on TV

 Francis SJ Shattered Lies coverToday I’m delighted to welcome my first guest blogger in several years, and I hope to have many more in the months ahead. S.J. Francis found my contact information on the Sisters in Crime website and asked if I’d be interested in a guest post promoting Shattered Lies, their new book.* I said I’d be delighted, especially since this author has extensive experience in the television industry. Hope Dawns Eternal, my vampire soap opera thriller, is set at a major TV network, and I’m constantly trolling for new information on the behind-the-scenes world of television. Here’s what they* sent me:

The TV Industry is a Fickle Business

When Julie asked me to write about something in the TV industry, I immediately thought, why? Even though I worked in several areas in television in different positions, from an intern to an executive producer, from network TV to community TV, I couldn’t think why someone would want to read a post about it. When I worked in television in the dark ages, TV shows were mostly scripted shows, which called for all industry professionals. TV was like that for a long time. Now TV consists of some scripted shows and a great deal of what is called, “reality TV”, which utilize mostly ordinary people and industry professionals. Eventually, reality TV will go to the wayside, when the public gets tired of it and the networks aren’t making any money from it. That’s just the way the industry is.

The TV industry is a fickle business. As with any other business, money keeps the momentum going. When the profits slow down, the networks change things, sometimes drastically. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. What may work for five years may not work for the next five years.  A lot of people go into daytime television for the security, stability and normal schedule. However, even daytime TV is not really that secure. Up until a few years ago, daytime television consisted mainly of talk shows and soap operas. That is until the networks decided to terminate soap operas in favor of more talk shows. I never saw so many talk shows on television before. Soap operas unfortunately were not able to compete with the growing popularity of reality TV.

During the 1990’s there were twelve daytime soap operas on the air, fluctuating between nine and eleven until the 2006 to 2007 seasons. The number of soaps started declining to just eight during the next season and then just seven during the 2009 to 2010 season. One of my favorites, Guiding Light, was a casualty of this new scheme in television. After seventy two seasons on the air, on both radio and television, this soap came to an end in September 2009. Other victims of this new scourge were ABC’s long running All My Children and One Life to Live.

As anyone involved in the TV industry can attest, working in television, whether as a performer, an executive, or a crew member is not for the faint of heart. There is no real security. It’s a high pressure, dog eat dog world. Stress is a constant. Deadlines and pressure is a never ending force. Politics play a huge role. Anger someone, put their nose out of joint and you’re out of a job, out of the game, and out of the industry.

At present, just four soap operas remain on network television. The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives and another favorite of mine, General Hospital, are the remaining survivors from the cut to soaps, but even now, these soaps are still in a precarious situation.  Television is a changeable industry.  More so than any other industry. Soaps are on the decline due to ratings. They’re also no longer money makers. Reality TV is where the money is at. Ratings and money run everything. When money talks, and ratings decline, soap operas lose out and go by the wayside. How many shows have you seen come and go? I definitely don’t miss the stress of it all.

S.J. Francis

S.J. Francis

S.J. Francis is a freelance writer with over three hundred publication credits, a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications and Law, and most recently, a novelist. Francis writes for many publications, as well as regularly contributing to the local newspaper. Francis’ background also encompasses working as a television producer.

A frequent traveler, Francis has resided in thirteen states and three countries. A confirmed bibliophile, when not writing, Francis can be found reading a good book, or spending time in the outdoors. Francis currently lives in Mississippi, where a major part of Shattered Lies takes place—but grew up in New York City, where the latter portion occurs—and has a great respect and fondness for both places, and considers the world a notebook full of endless ideas. Francis’ first novel, Shattered Lies, is a women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga novel. As in all the stories Francis writes, in the end, it’s all about family. Future projects include a sequel to Shattered Lies and a novel about the dynamic relationships in Hollywood. Shattered Lies was just released this October by Black Opal Books.

Visit S.J. Francis at or

S.J. sent the author photo posted here, and I asked if there was one that actually showed the author’s face. I got this reply:

Ah- another question about my author badge. Basically, Julie, I’ve been writing anonymously for years now. Mostly, because I don’t feel it’s important to know my identity. If someone likes my stories and articles I write, does it really matter what sex I am, or race? For me, it doesn’t. It’s all about the writing and the reader connecting with it. Besides a little mystery never hurt anyone.  It keeps life interesting, don’t you agree? 

An intriguing answer, but one I find hard to fathom. I crave recognition for my work, and that includes letting the world know who I am in hopes of having my ego stroked. I realize many authors use pen names, but this degree of anonymity is rare. The topic is worth a blog post of its own.

*S.J.’s answer forced me to resort to the words “they” and “their” to refer to a singular subject. I pride myself on my grammatical skills, and I can picture my high school English teachers, Miss Fuller and Mrs. Hadley, writhing in their graves. But I recently read a column by a syndicated grammarian saying that this usage has become acceptable. We need better alternatives, but he/she and all those weird new words like xer are even worse. Any suggestions, folks?



GENERAL HOSPITAL: Women writers break the balls of their big male stars

Is General Hospital terminally ill? Should the venerable soap be put out of its misery once and for all? After more than 50

Jean Passanante & Shelly Altman

Jean Passanante & Shelly Altman

years, perhaps it’s finally time to ring down the curtain for good. After a week of watching episodes credited to the new head writers Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman, I’m finding it virtually unwatchable, and I’m willing to bet thousands of other fans are feeling the same.

Ron Carlivati, the former head writer, was fired in late July, and the arrival of the two veterans of other soaps was announced with much fanfare. But the real-time arc of soap opera storytelling plays out months ahead, so Carlivati still got the onscreen head writer credit until a week ago, when Passanante and Altman’s names appeared in his place. But even if I hadn’t noticed the credits, I’d have known that something had gone grievously wrong.

Ron with the traitorous Jean

Ron with the traitorous Jean

First I noticed the increase in romantic scenes. The new writers have been quoted, most recently in the October 26th ABC Soaps in Depth, as saying they want to give viewers, in Passanante’s words, “a show that is character-centered and emotion-driven. That is our first aim….Whenever we talk about story, we ask ourselves ‘What are the romantic stakes?’ Where is [sic] the yearning and love and romance.”

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against romance. There’s plenty of it in my vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal, and I pay my dues to the Romance Writers of America. But suddenly characters are speaking in trite, saccharine clichés that don’t even sound like the characters we thought we knew. Saying those lines must make all those talented actors want to puke. Even the background music is more syrupy.

Julian flaunts it for Alexis

Julian flaunts it for Alexis

There are more lingering kisses and shots of men’s bare torsos. Again, nothing wrong with that, but I hope the presence of six-pack abs won’t become the determining factor when they hire new actors. Then again, maybe it already is. Take William DeVry, who plays Julian Jerome. His scene with Nancy Lee Grahn as Alexis, playing footsie and sipping champagne in a big bathtub, was pretty hot, and I like the fact that they’re both 40-something. But the fact that the top five actors in the latest reader’s poll all flaunt their bare-chested physiques on a regular basis somehow unnerves me. Personally, I’d rather the cameras focus on interesting faces—like Michael Easton’s for example. But oops, that’s not going to happen—they killed off his character, Silas Clay, the same week they fired Ron Carlivati.*

But what I found most unsettling this past week was that three of the most popular romantic male leads—all of them in the aforementioned top five—had spectacular meltdowns and made stupid decisions that went totally against character. Then in the same episodes, they calmed down and did rapid turn-arounds that made no sense either.

First there was Billy Miller, aka Jake/Jason, becoming visibly agitated and impatient in his frustration over a missing DNA GH billy-miller-shirtless-general-hospital-ABCstest. His character, nicknamed “Stone Cold” in his previous incarnation, would never have blown his cool like this, then decided it wasn’t important and taken to bed with the evil Elizabeth.

Then there was William DeVry’s Julian Jerome. Learning that the baby he’d fathered with Olivia wasn’t dead after all but was alive and well and living nearby, he went charging off to reclaim the baby through brute force, although Alexis tried her best to convince him the best way to get custody or at least visitation rights was to act calm and collected and pursue the case through legal means. But no, he went charging off to confront the mother, babe in arms, and snatch the baby away. Others managed to talk him down, and by the end of the episode, he and Olivia were chatting amiably about how they could share in parenting after all.

But the most egregious folly was that of Maurice Benard’s Sonny Corinthos. Still hospitalized and bedridden after a shootingMaurice Benard as Sonny that left him at death’s door, convinced he’d become totally powerless, he insisted on going home against medical advice and convinced his son Morgan** to smuggle him out in a wheelchair. When his wife Carly intercepted them, Sonny pushed himself up from the chair and promptly fell flat on the floor in a classic pratfall. Once resettled in bed, after an off-screen conference with Carly, he did a total 180° and docilely agreed to chill out and follow doctor’s orders after all.

If these total turn-arounds in the span of a few minutes are what the new head writers mean by character-driven plotting, General Hospital is in deep doodoo. Such major transformations take time, and maybe months of therapy. (Where’s Dr. Kevin Collins when we need him?) In the examples above, it’s as if the women in these guys’ lives waved a magic wand, and voila! Men who’d been acting like raging bulls were instantly brought into submission. The new women head writers may give lip service to romance, but beneath the surface, perhaps they’re man-haters at heart, making their most powerful and sympathetic male leads into out-of-control idiots, then having the women break their balls and whip them into docility.

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

Do I sound bitter? Unlike many fans, I didn’t swear off GH forever when they fired Michael Easton, but I may not be watching much longer—more and more, the show’s an insult to my intelligence. Does anyone out there agree? I’d love to hear your comments, both pro and con. And I’d love it even more if you buy my vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal. You can read the prologue and first chapter right here on this blog, and I guarantee you’ll find it more entertaining.

*The murder of Michael Easton’s character may have been one of the factors that led to Carlivati’s firing, but the true story has never come out, and Michael’s been unfailingly gracious in his comments after he was let go. His millions of fans have been public in their outrage, however.

**Speaking of Morgan, I wonder what the new writers will do with the theme of his possibly being bipolar, which I blogged about a few posts back? I’m willing to bet they’ll drop it completely.


Lots of GH fans took offense to the blog above and/or the way I described and linked to it on a Facebook post. Let me clarify: in no way do I want General Hospital to be cancelled. I still watch it daily, and I still like many of the actors. I hope the new writers prove me wrong, and they deserve time to settle in and hit their stride. Perhaps I was feeling particularly cranky when I wrote the above post. Nonetheless I stand by what I said and defend my right to say it!

Great new blurbs and a poetic rant

My new author photo by Shannon DeCelle

My new author photo by Shannon DeCelle

Here’s the new back cover copy for Hope Dawns Eternal. I’m reformatting the interior to increase the size of the font and width of the margins. That results in more pages, which requires adjusting the cover as well. While it’s being tweaked, I decided to add an author photograph and some review quotes as well. Since some of my blog readers may not know what the book’s about, this will give you a good idea. I hope you’ll order it on Amazon, either in print or on Kindle.

It’s hard blowing my own horn, and I hate it when people come up with excuses for not buying my book. I wrote a poem about it which I read at “Poets Speak Loud,” the monthly open mic at McGeary’s in Albany hosted by Mary Panza. I thought of posting it on my blog but decided it was too vitriolic to float around the Internet in its entirety. But if you’re curious, below the book description, I’m including a censored version.


“A fascinating twist on the vampire romance theme takes you on the set and behind the scenes in the world of soap operas. This well-crafted page turner was hard to put down.”

—Robb Smith, author of Granny Porn 

“Lomoe’s witty, playful and thrilling novel, like the daytime dramas it depicts, entangles its characters in a mysterious web of murder and passion. Fans of soaps and the supernatural should be captivated by this fast-paced read.”

—Alison Armstrong, author of Revenance

Jonah McQuarry is the new cop in town on the soap opera Sunlight and Shadow. Tall and slender, with dark good looks and Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]blazing blue eyes, he has millions of fans thanks to his years on Hope Dawns Eternal, so the showrunners bring him along when the QMA network cancels Hope and replaces it with Brand New You, a self-help reality show. When he meets the raven-haired beauty Abby Hastings, he suspects he knew her when the actor who plays him was a vampire on a long-defunct soap and she was his leading lady.

When the host of Brand New You turns up dead and drained of blood, Jonah becomes a prime suspect. Even worse, he begins to suspect himself. Could Mark Westgate, the actor who plays him, be suffering from dissociative identity disorder, and could Jonah truly be a vampire?

Watch for the sequel, Sunlight and Shadow, coming in 2016.

Reading at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary's

Reading at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s

Okay, now here’s my shadow side, coming out in an expurgated version of the poem I read at Poets Speak Loud. No words have been altered but some content has been deleted because I don’t want to identify or diss the people involved.


“Julie, if you mention your new book one more time,

I’m going to walk away whenever I see you coming.”

Thus spake a respected elder of our church,

In front of a dozen others. Raised an obedient girl,

I followed orders and stayed mum thereafter

^&*($* Bragging’s bad, and so is pushiness.

Just ask poor Hillary, being pilloried for strengths more seemly in a man.

My &*()%$ group’s no better. &*(#& they meet

To coffee klatch and tell each other how great their writing is,

&*()#% You think they’ll buy my book?

Maybe a couple will, if I beg and wheedle, swallow my pride

And gulp down bile and anger, all for a measly ten bucks, plus

Palpitations and dangerously spiking blood pressure.

Hand selling, they call it—I call it shit. I’d rather dirty my hands

My dog Sirius, who stars in Hope Dawns Eternal

My dog Sirius, who stars in Hope Dawns Eternal

With poop when I scoop my dog’s turds on our morning walks.

Compared to the stench of personal rejection, his shit smells sweet.

Besides, he gives me unconditional love.

Then there’s the Internet, Facebook and the fan groups

That count me as a member, showing just how low they’ll go

But bristling if I try to guide them to my blog. I know they’d love my book,

But blatant self-promotion’s frowned upon, could even get me banned.

The moderators issue dicty warnings—one more transgression,

One more step over the invisible line in the cloud,

And I’ll be forever blackballed.

And what about the friend I asked for a review, at least a measly quote.

“I’ll blurb your book,” I said, “if you blurb mine. A win-win for us both.”

She’d read it but turned me down, claimed she had nothing to say.


And all the friends and relatives, with all their lame excuses:

“I just don’t have time to read anymore.”

“I’ve got too many books already.”

“I still haven’t read your last one.”

“I don’t like vampires.”

HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL: it’s yours for a measly ten or eleven dollars,

The same as a half-way decent glass of wine, and I could really use the money,

Though it’s beneath my dignity to admit it.

F*(% you, I want to scream. You crappy tightwad! You lousy piece of shit!

Instead I smile politely, paw through my purse for another Tum

And turn away before I trash what used to seem like friendship.

What happens to all this anger? Strangely enough, I find it energizing,

higher up the tone scale than depression,

the deadly black hole that could really do me in.

I’ll channel it into SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW,

the next in my vampire soap opera series.

Hmm, whose blood should I drain first?

Writers, can you identify with this rant? Readers, have I totally turned you off? I’d love to read your comments.

General Hospital’s new bipolar plot line: like father, like son?

Maurice Benard as Sonny Corinthos

Maurice Benard as Sonny Corinthos

On Friday’s General Hospital, Sonny Corinthos, played by the actor Maurice Benard, gave an eloquent description of his struggle to come to terms with bipolar disorder. I’m still furious with the former head writer, Ron Carlivati, for killing off Silas Clay, a plot twist that enraged thousands of fans and may well have played a part in Carlivati’s firing, but I have to commend him for addressing the topic of bipolar disorder in a major new story line.

Loyal viewers have known for years that Sonny, the moody mob boss of Port Charles, is bipolar. (So am I, by the way; I’ve blogged about it elsewhere.) I never watched General Hospital until my favorite soap star Michael Easton came on board after ABC cancelled One Life to Live. Now that they’ve murdered Michael’s character, I’ve been tempted to stop watching, but this new development may keep me hooked. In the few years I’ve been watching, there have been references to Sonny’s mental illness, and the fact that he generally keeps it under control by faithfully taking his meds. But I’ve never seen him markedly manic or depressed.

Maurice Benard, who’s been playing Sonny Corinthos since 1993, has been outspoken about his own bipolar disorder. He

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

was diagnosed at age 22 and has been on lithium nearly nonstop ever since. He’s spoken openly about his illness in interviews and on many talk shows, has worked with nonprofit organizations that focus on the disorder and won awards for his advocacy work. His heartfelt soliloquy about his bipolar disorder in today’s episode had the authenticity of real-life experience.

GH Fan event in 2014. From left: Laura Wright, Michael Easton, Bryan Craig, Maura West. Bryan plays Morgan, who's now possibly bipolar.

GH Fan event in 2014. From left: Laura Wright, Michael Easton, Bryan Craig, Maura West. Bryan plays Morgan, who’s now possibly bipolar.

Sonny and his ex-wife/bride-to-be Carly were speaking to their son Morgan, trying to convince him to see a doctor for evaluation. For weeks they’d been expressing concern that he might be bipolar, especially since the disorder can run in families, but I couldn’t see it. Morgan’s been one of my least favorite characters, a dim bulb with such flat affect that he’s the last person I’d peg as bipolar. He and Bryan Craig, the actor who plays him, have a huge fan base, and I know they’ll hate me for saying this. But today Morgan was brimming with energy, grinning and telling them how great he feels, so clearly he’s at the start of a manic upswing. In the near future, maybe we’ll get to see if Bryan Craig can actually act. He must have something going for him, since he’s engaged to Kelly Thiebaut, a gifted actress who played an evil doctor and left the show of her own volition. She can always come back, though, since the writers didn’t kill her off; she merely left town—unlike Silas, who was shown lying dead on the floor with a knife in his back.

As Sonny and Carly point out, Morgan’s been acting erratically for months—poisoning his brother, screwing his girlfriend’s

Nina saying her final farewell to Silas, while Franco looks on. They're both suspects in his murder, along with several others.

Nina saying her final farewell to Silas, while Franco looks on. They’re both suspects in his murder, along with several others.

mother Ava, then screwing her again when she’s pretending to be his aunt Denise—but that kind of behavior is run-of-the-mill for soaps, nothing that would suggest bona fide mental illness. Still, those kinds of off-the-wall escapades can be symptoms of bipolar disorder, so I’m guessing Sonny and Carly are right. And who am I to question their judgment? They’ve been married and divorced five times, and they’re about to put a ring on it for the sixth time. Perfectly normal, right?

Coincidentally, one of the main characters in my novel Hope Dawns Eternal is a temperamental mobster named Tony Giordano. But he’s not into marriage or preoccupied with multiple children and babies, and he’s not bipolar. A sociopath, perhaps, who’s obsessed with becoming a vampire, but nothing like Sonny Corinthos.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]When I began writing Hope Dawns Eternal three years ago, I took care to create original characters with minimal resemblance to soap stars or actors who might have inspired them, however distantly. But so much has changed on General Hospital—in terms of both fictional characters and real-life behind-the-scenes drama—that I can now genuinely state that any resemblances are purely coincidental.

You believe that, right? Whether or not you do, I’ve got a wonderful book to sell you. And by the way, like Maurice Benard, I religiously take my meds. But that may not be enough to save me if my books don’t sell.

Attention GH fans: I’d love to hear your comments. What do you think of the current plot lines? Were you watching GH when Sonny had genuinely manic or depressed episodes? Do you think they should bring back Silas?

A lonely birthday marred by murder of my favorite soap opera character

The bar at Ashfield Lakehouse (winter snowmobilers, but a similar crowd)

The bar at Ashfield Lakehouse (winter snowmobilers, but a similar crowd)

It’s not often a man strikes up a conversation with me in a bar, but then it’s not often that I find myself alone at a bar in a strange town where I know no one.* New York City doesn’t count—I met my husband at a bar there over 40 years ago, Max’s Kansas City, to be specific. And when I’m in Manhattan for the day, I sometimes treat myself to a libation in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel or the Marriott Marquis before heading back to Penn Station. But those are elegant upscale establishments with overpriced cocktails and comfy upholstered chairs that invite lounging, so they don’t count.

The Ashfield Lakehouse, on the other hand, is the quintessential blue-collar pub, and the man who asked me about the book I was reading at the bar when I took refuge from the storm was a perfect match for the place—middle-aged and moderately paunchy, with curly brown hair and a ruddy complexion suggestive of Irish origin. I’m not sure he was actually hitting on me. Perhaps he was just being friendly. But when he told me that like Abraham Lincoln, he had kind of an evil side, I decided it was time to settle my tab and make tracks back to Wellspring House, where I’d gone for a writer’s retreat week.

Whatever his intentions, I’ll admit I was flattered, especially since my seventy-fourth birthday was just hours away.

Robb and his motorcycle

Robb and his motorcycle

Back in my room, when I logged back online, I found a Facebook message from my husband wishing me an early Happy Birthday. I poured myself a nightcap, settled into bed with Abe the vampire hunter, and read myself to sleep.

Friday was the first birthday I can recall spending alone in over forty years, and the first day my voluntary solitude weighed heavily on my mood. The dozens of birthday greetings from friends on Facebook brightened the day enormously, but I missed Robb, and I longed to hang out in my garden with my dog Sirius and my cat Lunesta.

Although I had no access to television, I knew Friday’s General Hospital would end in a cliffhanger, and it was hard to focus on my writing. Would they really kill Silas Clay? I thought it more likely that they’d string out the suspense until the next week, maybe close with a pointed gun or an off-screen scream. But no, by 3:00pm the reports started flooding Facebook—he was dead, lying face-down on the floor, stabbed in the back. The only cliffhanger was the mystery of who had murdered him.

Silas Clay, stabbed in the back on my birthday!

Silas Clay, stabbed in the back on my birthday!

At first I felt surprisingly calm. After all, the rumors of the murder had been flying all week. But as I surfed through the messages pouring in, the sorrow was contagious. Women were crying nonstop, some for hours. One had vomited, another fainted. Many swore they would never again watch General Hospital. Like me, many had watched Michael Easton since he played the vampire Caleb Morley on Port Charles, then Lieutenant John McBain on One Life to Live and GH, then Dr. Silas Clay on GH. Fourteen years in all—it was like losing a member of the family, a close friend, a fantasy lover.

Elmer's (photo by Peacebear222)

Elmer’s (photo by Peacebear222)

I drank some wine, went for a swim, then headed to Elmer’s for a solitary birthday dinner. The place was crowded, though with a clientele very different from the Lakehouse. More upscale, dressed in country chic, speaking quietly with their partners—and virtually everyone seemed paired off with a partner. I was glad I’d be checking out the next morning.

I began this post as an exploration of my writing experience at a retreat house, and how it compares to the experience of writing at home in my own office. But I veered off on a tangent—much the way my writing got derailed by a drama being played out across the country in a Hollywood studio.

So in conclusion, I’d say I didn’t give the retreat experiment a fair trial; thus the results can’t be considered valid. If I ever decide to repeat the experiment, first I’ll treat myself to a computer or tablet equipped solely with a word processing program—one that doesn’t connect to the Internet.

*This is a continuation of the saga I began last time, in the post dated August 10th. If you missed it, I recommend you read that one first so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Real-life soap drama shatters idyllic writing retreat

Wellspring House. Photo by Julie Lomoe

Wellspring House. Photo by Julie Lomoe

“Wherever you go, there you are.” That’s the most significant lesson I brought home from my week at a writing retreat in the Berkshires the last week in July. You can change your surroundings, plop yourself down in an idyllic setting with maximal solitude and minimal distractions, but it’s fiendishly difficult to jettison your habitual ways of frittering away the hours you ought to be writing.

My husband had spent a couple of highly productive weeks at Wellspring House in Ashfield, Massachusetts, so I decided to give it a try. My goal: to get a good running start on Sunlight and Shadow, the second in my vampire soap opera series. In particular, I wanted to get inside the head of my heroine, Abigail Hastings. Hope Dawns Eternal, the first in the series, is told entirely from the point of view of the hero, Jonah McQuarry, who fears he’s being possessed by a vampire played by the actor Mark Westgate on a long-cancelled soap. This time, I plan to alternate between Abby’s and Jonah’s viewpoints, especially since that will give me more freedom to describe Jonah in more explicitly loving detail.

Michael Easton as John McBain

Michael Easton as John McBain

Wellspring is a beautifully restored, rambling old two-story house run by Preston Browning, a retired English professor. There are bedrooms for from eight to ten writers, each nostalgically furnished in New England bed-and-breakfast style, each with its own writing desk and chair. There’s no television, and the spotty cell phone service works only if you have Verizon, which I don’t, but they do have WiFi. A shared kitchen, but no set mealtimes, and you’re responsible for your own food.

The atmosphere is quasi-monastic. Talking isn’t forbidden, but people tend to speak in hushed voices, and if you encounter someone in the common areas, it’s perfectly okay not to speak. Since people spend most of the time in their rooms, presumably writing or confronting the reasons they can’t write, it’s possible to spend an entire day in silence.

Preston Browning, proprietor of Wellspring House

Preston Browning, proprietor of Wellspring House

I booked a five-night stay and arrived Monday evening, vowing to write at least 2,000 words per day. Only after a full day of successful writing would I allow myself to tap into the box of Almaden Pinot Grigio I’d brought along. But Monday was practically over and I was tired after my drive, so I decided to take the night off and get an early start on Tuesday.

I settled in with wine, cheese and crackers. I’d brought a few library books, so I cracked open Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Next thing I knew, it was two in the morning—an all too common bedtime, I admit—so I slept till ten, then went out for a leisurely breakfast at Elmer’s, the restaurant down the street. Back in my room, I whiled away a couple more hours with Abe, rationalizing that the book counted as research into vampire lore. When I finally buckled down to work Tuesday afternoon, I was delighted to find myself back in the flow. Jonah and Abby were trading lustful glances and barbed witticisms in their favorite bar, and I was happily channeling their words as fast as I could type. I felt good about meeting my word count for the day.

Wednesday morning, I was still in the flow. Around noon, I decided to take a break and check my email. As usual, my inbox was dominated by Facebook notifications from the General Hospital fan groups I belong to. I clicked on one of the links and brought up my Facebook page. Within moments, I was clobbered by devastating news: Michael Easton, my favorite actor on General Hospital, was leaving the show, and Friday would probably be his last day. Although he’d signed a three-year contract renewal in March, the news didn’t come as a total shock. His character, Dr. Silas Clay, had been given increasingly crappy story lines, and recently, he’d barely been seen at all. But had he quit? Been fired? I surfed from one site to another, checked out all the soap gossip columns I could find, but nowhere could I find an explanation.

Michael as Dr. Silas Clay with Ava's baby, January 2015

Michael as Dr. Silas Clay with Ava’s baby, January 2015

This called for more than a cursory lunch break, so I headed to Elmer’s again. I ordered a  Chardonnay and silently toasted Michael, whereupon Wednesday morphed into an official day of mourning and goofing off. I hung out at the beach, did some leisurely swimming, showered and changed, then decided to dine at the Ashfield Lakehouse, a boisterous blue-collar pub. What the hell, this was hardly the time to count calories, let alone words. Their sandwich of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil pesto went fabulously with the house red wine. After dinner, I retreated to my room and lost myself in the memoir of a classical pianist who had been molested by her father until I drifted off to sleep.

Thursday I tried my best to write, but I never got back in the zone, never reentered that state of creative flow where the words spill onto the screen of their own accord. I kept clicking back to the web, searching for the rest of the story of Michael’s departure, trading conspiracy theories and wallowing in collective grief on the fan sites. Rumors were flying that Silas Clay would be murdered on Friday’s show. What choice did I have? I headed back to the Lakehouse for a repeat of that yummy mozzarella sandwich.

Ashfield Lakehouse. This is exactly where I was sitting when the rain started pouring down.

Ashfield Lakehouse. This is exactly where I was sitting when the rain started pouring down.

Although storm clouds were threatening, I chose a seat out on the deck overhanging the lake. I was midway through my mozzarella sandwich when a drenching downpour let loose. The waitress helped carry my stuff inside, where I found a seat at the bar. I was back to Abe the vampire hunter once more, trying not to drip cheesy grease onto the pages, when a man asked what I was reading. When I told him, he grinned and said, “I think Abraham Lincoln had an evil side. I have kind of an evil side myself.”

(to be continued)

Ashfield Lakehouse, where I took shelter from the storm at the bar.

Ashfield Lakehouse, where I took shelter from the storm at the bar.

Michael Easton Leaving General Hospital

Michael Easton at Comic Con 2015. Thanks to Taylor Rose for permission to use this great photo!

Michael Easton at Comic Con 2015. Thanks to Taylor Rose for permission to use this great photo!

GH Fan Fantasy Auction. Laura Wright is auctioning off Michael's book while Maura West hugs him and Lisa Del Cicero reacts

GH Fan Fantasy Auction. Laura Wright is auctioning off Michael’s book while Maura West hugs him and Lisa Del Cicero reacts

Michael as Caleb Morley on Port Charles

Michael as Caleb Morley on Port Charles

Michael as Dr. Silas Clay with Ava's baby, January 2015

Michael as Dr. Silas Clay with Ava’s baby, January 2015


It’s official: Michael Easton is leaving General Hospital. Rumors have been flying recently, but yesterday his departure was confirmed by official sources. Reportedly he wrapped shooting at the end of June and in all probability his character, Dr. Silas Clay, will soon be murdered. I’ve got lots to say, but for now, I’m just going to share a few favorite photos.

Me and Michael at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

Me and Michael at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

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