Acting & Experiences, Life in General, New Novels, writing

Hiding Behind the Real Me.


The lady behind the ARC’s of Invisible Ellen

So…last Wednesday, I’m booked to do a radio show. It’s been set up by the Putnum publicity department in NY, and communicated to me by email. The show, “Connie Martinson Talks Books” is ‘taping’ in Santa Monica at 11:00 and she’s featuring me and “Invisible Ellen.” So, I put on some jeans and a comfortable, very wrinkled shirt, throw on some mascara at the last minute, (I hate makeup, but I don’t want to offend anyone) and make the drive. Parking is tricky, and I go the wrong way, and have to run back to make it to the studio on time. I rush in, sweaty now, and look around.

Cameras. In the back of my mind, a little buzzer is going off, Not Radio. Television.

I look down at my wrinkled shirt and almost clean jeans, realize I’m pale and shiny, will be totally washed out by the lights, my hair is frizzy and snatched back with a plastic clip, and all I can think is…. Perfect. As I’ve said, I’m an everyday philosopher, meaning that I say, ‘Oh well,’ a lot. And this one has an exclamation point at the end.

Oprah has her “Aha” moments. I have my ‘Oh Well’ moments. So I get miked up for sound, sit in the hot seat, chat with Connie, who, it turns out, shares an ice skating past in Lake Placid with me, (small world) and then we roll. We have a delightful thirty-minute conversation about my new book. She’s so complementary, has me read a page, ‘to show how well-written it is’ which is delightfully flattering, and then asks me to sign a book for her at the end.

I couldn’t be happier. After years of soaps and movies and modeling, to appear on a TV show where nobody gives a crap how I look, but is interested in how and what I write, is a major milestone for me. Not because of my attitude. I have always preferred to not wear makeup and be liked, or disliked as the case has often been, for who I am. I have spent a life time with idiot men telling me I was “smart for a women” and thinking it was compliment when I was twice as smart as them. And too much time dealing with and diffusing  women  feeling competitive with me because of how I looked. Insanity. Unworthy. Ridiculous.

We count as people. Our actions must speak louder than the surface. They don’t call me Shari Action for nothing. If something needs to get done, I’m usually the first to pitch in. Be it as a mom at school, or my charity, or speaking up for someone who can’t, I’ve just never been able to stop myself.

So much for that. But there is more to this story. As soon as I saw her, I realized that I had been on Connie’s show once before, years ago, and thank goodness, she did not remember either. It was for my third book, “The Man She Thought She Knew,” and the only reason Connie had me on was that she was friends with the publicist. I answered her incorrectly when she asked about a character, telling her that they weren’t in this book, (wrong) thanked her at the end of the show by calling her Colleen, and she definitely didn’t ask me to read from the book. Shhhh. So when she asked me this time, before filming, if this was my first book, I answered, “No I have two series, one is a woman named Calla-….uh, it’s a crime series.” Cutting myself off because I’m embarrassed that the light will dawn and the flattering, soft-filtered veil will fall.

It always does, eventually of course, but sometimes we find a few moments of forgiving grace. Yep I’ve got a past, and it’s back there,but as one friends said to me, “That’s what pasts are for.” We don’t need to wear our learning curves, but we can use them for traction.

‘Oh well’, and ‘Aha!’ They make a good combo, and both are welcome in my life now. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those other moments, those mistakes, those embarrassing scenes, those times I fell on my butt on the ice in front of twenty thousand people. But you know what? I’m glad I did. I lived to tell the tale, as it were. And most likely, as it shall be.

So embrace your fundamental imperfections. Be human, let the wrinkles on your shirt and your face show. You earned them. And if, in spite of all that, you can hold up your book—or better yet, your life—and be proud, then you are a success.

In my case, it’s a success with some pretty scathing memories behind it. That’s me, Shari Action. If my life were a race, I’d look back and see lots of hurdles laying on their sides where they were knocked when I didn’t quite clear them. Look closer and you’ll see my cartoon outline in the brick walls I sped into and crashed through. You’ll see the indents where I gave up for a while and curled into a ball to rest.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the word ‘imperfect’ describes me best. It describes us all.

And isn’t that wonderful?

Shari, June 19th, 2014

Life in General

When it Rains…I Love It!

The view from my front porch where I won’t be spending much time in the next few months!

Okay, I’ve been hesitant to write a blog since my return from Italy and I figured out why. I miss it and I think it was my way of prolonging the experience.

But, like so much in life that we look forward to with such excitement, we must learn to look back on it with fondness and gratefulness. I feel so thankful for my time in Venice, yet it is only with the promise that I will return that I can ease the gentle twist on my heart that is so much like home sickness. 

Of course, we spent a good deal of time filming while we were there, and got some amazing footage. Venice in the snow, churches of remarkable beauty, streets that echo the footsteps of a thousand years and more, and now we are back and into full scale pre-production for the shoot of “Scream at the Devil.” 

And not just that, but while I was in Venice I sold a new book! The hardcover of “Invisible Ellen’ will be out spring summer of 2014. 

Yep, 2014. Here’s what non-writers don’t know. I wrote the book, I worked with an editor on my own, I had it copy edited, it sold—and now the work begins. 

The book was picked up by a senior editor at Penguin. Nita has been around for a while, she was so excited about Invisible Ellen that she bought it in two days. I think that’s a record, my agent had to ask her twice what book she was calling him about, he’d never had that happen before, and that’s all great. But this is one savvy woman, and her notes are both insightful and extensive. 

So I have 400 plus pages of homework, and every note she gave me is good, complex, and requires major thought, creativity and old-fashioned hours of work. 

Yea!! I do love this part, it’s intimidating at first, but as I go, I usually realize that what seems like a major story changer that will require massive rewrites can actually be condensed into touching up a few segments. I should be able to get it done in a month. 

Except of course, I’m producing and acting in a film at the same time. Yesterday we had our leading man tell us that he’s booked a major movie for some of the same dates as our filming, and that’s all good for us, publicity wise, but when you’ve packed the majority of a film into 15 days, and scheduled cranes, jibs, dollies, camera packages, crew, makeup, special effects, other actors, locations, reworking the schedule is equivalent to putting your good china in a large wooden box and shaking it really hard, then sorting out the pieces and gluing them back together. 

So…not a lot of time for delving back into Ellen’s very unique and complex story. 

Yep, when it rains, I say, bring it. 

I don’t  know if you are like me, but I find that the more I have to do, the more I get done. So, here’s my blog wisdom for the day— when it comes, take it on, you will find a way. 

Oh, yeah, and also, because we had to slide the film shoot, on top of everything else, I insisted that we be done filming in time for younger daughter’s graduation and my older daughter’s move-out day from college. 

Because nothing is more important than living your life. I didn’t take 10 years off of TV and film to raise my girls to miss those landmarks now. I love acting and writing, and being a mom and a wife. I will do each of these things to very best of my ability. 

So, here it goes, ask, receive, do. Success isn’t the job you have, it’s how well you do it. 

And do it with joy, what else is there? 

Shari April 16th, 2013



Life in General

The Sexual Orientation of Story Lines.



It’s been ten years since I sold my first book to Simon and Schuster. “Loaded” was the first book I tried to publish, and I know now that it was no small feat to get that done. There wasn’t the self-publishing craze that there is now. You couldn’t whip up a few hundred mediocre pages, peruse the stock photo sites for a cover, and throw it up on Amazon to see if it would stick like spaghetti on the ceiling. In fact, they didn’t have Amazon. Ack! Egads! Life in a vacuum! Cats and dogs living together! How did we exist in such chaos? 

They did have something called the Palm Pilot, the first electronic book distributor, I believe. Loaded was in the top 50 for that when it came out. I guess it was a big deal, but I don’t really think anyone had any idea of how the ebook world would eat the hard cover book publishing industry, with ketchup and onions. Burp. Excuse me! 

On Christmas day I re-released Loaded as an ebook with a new look, and I’m curious to see how this big ol’ electronic publishing monster works out. It’s all new to me. 

It got me thinking about what’s gone down in ten years. My girls have grown up, one is in college, I re-married, and found joy in a relationship that is co-supportive instead of giving 85 percent of my energy to someone else, as far too many working moms do, my values have changed as a result, I want what I have now, not what other people think I should want, and my writing has matured considerably, how could it not?  

That said, I had to re-read and edit all four Callaway books, (yes, there’s a fourth, it will be released after I get the other three up and running!) and it was…interesting. 

Ultimately, I liked them, but I wouldn’t have written them now. Here’s the opening paragraph of Loaded—

I was staring down the vocal end of a forty-four magnum. Any second now, it would scream at me, shout, blow my fucking head off. I was scared, pinned down, trapped. In spite of being overcome with terror, I noticed how the night wind felt on my face; it made me feel alive and I wanted to stay that way.

Clearly, I was going for a big opening. I wanted the reader to see it, if you know what I mean, and then feel the moment as well from my character’s point of view. The Callaway novels are noted for their pace. I would literally read back what I had written, and if there wasn’t something exciting happening for more than say, two pages, I’d make sure it did. 

Loaded wasn’t the first book I wrote, mind you, just the first one I tried to get published. First I wrote two others, as exercises. Oh, I didn’t know they were exercises, I thought they would be brilliant best-sellers, but they are still somewhere in a closet. As my fabulous first editor Amy Pierpont once said, “I believe every book should be written, but I do not believe that every book should be published.”  That’s a philosophy that has vanished along with the independent bookstore, and I say a book is like a painting or a shirt. If you like it, buy it, who cares if anyone else thinks it’s good. I did, however, learn a lot from my ‘practice novels,’ and here’s what I can share about that with you. 

There are two basic types of books, in fiction, anyway. Feminine and Masculine. Now that doesn’t mean that the book is about men or women, the sex of the characters doesn’t matter, but a Feminine story is one that is character based, in which, we experience a character’s feelings and watch them work out relationships, or learn to love, or deal with old wounds, or find the healing power of family, or…well, you get the idea. A Masculine story is about a briefcase, everyone wants the briefcase, the briefcase will save the world, or make someone the richest SOB in history, everyone chases the briefcase, the briefcase falls into the wrong hands, we think we have the briefcase, but it’s the wrong briefcase! Things explode, cars are crashed, and then…okay, you get it. 

So, I wrote one book about people feeling and communing with nature and their inner selves, (Yawn for everyone but them). That was my Female novel. And then I wrote another book where everyone wants the precious object, which triggers a chain of events in which everyone chases, loses, and rescues the precious object. That was my Male novel, busy, and kind of heartless. (Lots happens, about which, we feel nothing in particular.)

I haven’t read either of them for years, but I’m pretty sure they’re both dead rotten. Not to say they didn’t have a couple of good ideas for characters in them or the occasional clever metaphor, but in my quest to produce a deserving, well-rounded book, I’m confident that I actually created something closer to ready fuel for a beach bonfire. (They were written on paper, remember that?) 

So I set out to write something that I would want to read. Something with big fat characters who have an emotional ‘arc,’ meaning they grow and change, and a twisted, skidding plot, with humor and action, a book that would be as much fun as a triple loop roller-coaster, with hooks at the end of every chapter and no waiting to get on it.

And now, reading it back, ten years later, I see that Loaded is what I would call a bi-sexual book. It has both Feminine and Masculine elements. Someone overcomes a personal obstacle, and a murdering SOB is brought down.

So…fun, and, I hope, a hell of a ride. 

Any way, Happy tenth, “Loaded.” Take a deep breath, close your eyes little book, make a wish, and blow out those candles.

I’m not sure, because if you tell, it won’t come true of course, but maybe, Loaded wished that a new generation of e-readers will choose to take a ride, strap themselves in and scream with their hands in the air. Provided they have a Kindle or Nook stand, of course, otherwise, they have to hold on. 

Happy reading. 

Shari December 27, 2012