I haven’t blogged in forever, but it’s for a good reason I swear!
Between the screenplay I’m writing, the festivals and events I’ve been speaking at and working on other writing projects, I’ve been swamped.
The good news is that all this TV development work I’ve been doing has produced some good ideas for the end of book four (which is about half-written).
How goes it in the rest of the writing world?
As many of you know, I have had a uniquely fantastic experience with my Canadian publishers, Fierce Ink Press. Based out of Halifax and run by wonderful people who cared about me and my characters, I was determined that any Portia Adams book I ever wrote would be published first, here in Canada, by Fierce.
Sadly, the indie publishing industry is a harsh climate, and after a mere four years, Fierce Ink is closing up shop.
This means that starting very soon, this edition of the first three Portia books with their magnificent Emma Dolan covers will not be available at all while I seek a new publisher.
If you want to buy this (now Limited) edition, I am supplying some local Toronto indie bookstores with copies or you can order them directly from me.
Even then, I’m sure the new publisher will want to edit the books, and will get new covers designed. My hope is that we can coordinate a new edition launch with book 4’s publication, but who knows what will happen.
I’m very sad for myself and for the Canadian publishing industry because Fierce produced some great books, and like I’ve always said, set a standard for how to treat authors that I’m not sure I will find anywhere else (at least according to every other author I’ve spoken to).
Hopefully the humans who worked at Fierce will be able to employ those skills I loved them for somewhere in the publishing network, but regardless, I wish them the very best, and thank them so much for bringing Portia into the world.
One of the items on my list of things to deliver for this CFC/EOne Adaptation lab this summer is a bible for my TV series. I haven’t really talked about it yet because I’ve been focused on learning how to write for TV, and sharing with you, my lovely followers, the process of taking the Portia Adams Adventures and adapting it for the small screen.
But as I make decisions about characters and their respective arcs, I am adding to a document that will eventually become the series bible.
As I do this I find that I am adding what might be described as ‘commandments’ that come from my own TV watching.
Thou shall balance victims between male and female.
This is one of my serious peeves (not a pet one at all). Most cop shows you watch these days feature a majority of victims of the female persuasion. That does not count towards the Bechdel test by the way, just including a gorgeous dead body on the floor is not an acceptable way to include women in your script.
Thou shall avoid stereotypical gender crimes.
Have you ever noticed that every accused husband featured on a program is a cheater? Or that every accused woman is revenging herself on said cheater? Or every good looking woman is too stupid to be careful in her choices? Not here. Not on this TV show. If it’s stereotypical, turn it on its head or drop it.
Thou shall include people of color in non-token rolls
This is especially hard when you’re writing a 1930s pulp fiction, but I am determined to represent the diversity that existed in London at the time. Asher Jenkins is one example of that diversity, but I want to open up the ally, victim and suspect lists to include all colors and backgrounds. I actually need to do this more in the books as well.
What do you guys think? Do you have some commandments to add to my TV bible?
In other news, I wrote an article for a fantastic Sherlockian magazine called The Magic Door and it’s featured on the front cover of their spring edition!
In the article, I highlight the themes that appeared in letters between Arthur Conan Doyle and his editor. The universality of the themes like writer’s block and arguments over editing made me feel even closer to ACD and I think make for an interesting piece. Click on the graphic to read through the PDF version of the magazine.
Ok, so the feedback from the production company is that there were elements of my pilot outline that they really liked, but the mystery I chose (with Viscount Snowden and his wife) was not one of them.
So, back to the drawing board we go!
The ‘notes’ as they are called in TV-land are that the thing they love about Portia is her outsider status – as a Canadian in London, as a woman in a man’s field, that kind of thing. They would like the first case she takes on to be demonstrative of that lens.
What kind of cases would Portia be attracted to given her background?
What observations would she make because of her outsider lens?
What crime would seem important to her and the subjects because of their shared experiences?
I’ve also been thinking about my personal connection to Portia (thanks to my friend Kathryn for suggesting it) and the whole idea of ‘passing’ for white. Maybe I can incorporate that into the pilot as well.
So here I go again my friends, into the breach. See you on the other side.
I’ve taken Rami’s good advice to create a whole new mystery as the central plot in this TV pilot. I’ve picked Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount and member of the privy council as my mark, specifically that his life is being threatened due to his stance against government relief during the Great Depression.
Stay tuned for more spoilers!
I’ve started the process of ‘breaking’ the pilot. According to the multitude of books I’ve now read on writing for TV (that post is coming soon), breaking an episode is about breaking down the elements of the story. There are lots of different stages to breaking an episode, and it varies depending on your experience and the demands of the network, but I decided to start with breaking down my characters and what had to come out of them in the pilot:
|What happens to Portia in this pilot?
Portia Adams discovers her connection to 221 Baker Street, and takes on her first case trying to find prostitutes that are going missing in the Whitechapel district of London.
What is the first thing to know about Portia? She is alone.
What do we need to reveal about Portia in the pilot?
- She is alone and without options
- She is highly intelligent
- She has trust issues
|What happens to Adler in this pilot?
Adler is finally able to reveal herself to Portia, her granddaughter, she begins her campaign of making Portia a social darling.
What is the first thing to know about Adler? That she is a tough old broad.
What do we need to reveal about Adler in the pilot?
- Demonstrate her extreme loyalty to Portia (above all else)
- Demonstrate her disregard for legality
- Demonstrate her intelligence
| What happens to Brian in this pilot?
Brian is confronted with the corruption at Scotland Yard, and meets Portia Adams, and starts helping her with her case.
What is the first thing to know about Brian? That he is a smart rookie detective with high morals.
What do we need to reveal about Brian in the pilot?
- His lifelong admiration of Holmes and Watson
- His love for his family
- His instant attraction to Portia
|What happens to Michaels in this pilot?
Michaels is also dealing with the corruption at Scotland Yard, and will have a fight with a lawyer over missing evidence.
What is the first thing to know about Michaels? That his job is everything. He has nothing else, so it’s the most important thing in his life.
What do we need to reveal about Michaels in the pilot?
- Demonstrate that his job is the most important thing in his life
- Reveal his hatred for Holmes
- Demonstrate his distrust of Portia
What happens to Jenkins in this pilot?
Jenkins and Adler are working on a minor blackmail scheme.
What is the first thing to know about Jenkins? His loyalty to Adler and their friendship is tantamount.
What do we need to reveal about Jenkins in the pilot?
- He loves Adler (maybe as more than a friend)
- He’s a criminal with a past
- He’s someone Portia can trust
|What happens to Gavin in this pilot?
He is paid off to corrupt a key piece of evidence in a case against a local politician.
What is the first thing to know about Gavin? He is brilliant and corrupt.
What do we need to reveal about Gavin in the pilot?
- His intelligence
- His disdain for everyone else’s intelligence or contribution
- His attraction to Portia
Last week I had the opportunity to workshop my TV pilot with the teams at EOne and the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) at their North York campus location. First of all, it’s a gorgeous place to spend a week, just take a look:
E.P. Taylor’s historic Windfields Estate in Toronto, otherwise known as CFC’s campus
Secondly, we (Kat Sandler, Michael Stewart and I) met with a fantastic range of writers and producers who took us through the stages of adapting our work for television.
Al MacGee, Lynn Coady, Martin Gero, David Shore, Morwyn Brebner and Michael MacLennan all gave us so much to think about and were incredibly open about their own journeys.
Now all we have to do is write! Next post will be about the pilot shows I’ve been watching to break them down into their act structure (thanks to Al and his day of deconstructing).
I’ve recently been given the opportunity to write a pilot for a Portia Adams Adventure TV Series, and I’ve decided to add this process to my website as well, in the hopes that fans find the development of interest.
The journey begins at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, where I attended several fascinating sessions.
gave a great demonstration of how to break down a season into acts that I’m excited to put into action. I got a chance to speak to him after his talk about pilots, and he had some specific tips and tricks for me.
’s breakdown of Damien was fascinating. He played the first episode for us but paused every few beats to explain how each scene developed.
The session that really made it hard to sleep that night, though, was Corey Mandell
’s TV Series Engine. His By Association
concept is one I’d like to try, in conjunction with the 3-act process Falk demonstrated.
This photo was taken by reporters from The Brandon Sun
I had a fabulous time travelling around Manitoba for Book Week 2016, and I cannot thank all the fans, librarians, teachers and students enough for that.
I got the opportunity to meet students at Crocus Plains School, Ravenscourt School, Wellington School, Samuel Burland School, MacGregor Elementary and Yellowquill, and many other fabulous students along the way at libraries and events.
Thank you so much for the memories!