Diane Sawyer Newsletter/Blog #18 August/September 2014

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello to all my loyal newsletter readers and welcome to my new readers. I hope you enjoy this August/September 2014 edition. In my previous newsletter I mentioned that I’d finished two of the novels in my St. Petersburg Series (The Diamond Murders and The Tell-Tale Treasure) and was making progress on the third, Trouble in Tikal. The progress continues at a pace of its own as I consume myself with the writing, editing, thinking, plotting, and re-organizing. Am I having fun? Yes. Is it easy? No. Would I do this again? Absolutely.

Now, let me tell you what happened about two weeks ago when I hit a snag in the plotline. I decided to take a break, go through my huge stacks of written files, and throw out all the old drafts that had led up to a final manuscript and publication. I carefully looked through each folder to see if anything had gotten mixed in by mistake and could be useful. I think you know where this is going.

First, I found notes and reference material I had gathered about two years ago after enjoying an exhibit with my family at the Tampa Museum of Art. Among the exhibit’s wonderful paintings, several of them American Impressionist works, was a gorgeous seaside scene set on Long Island, not too far from the area where three of my novels (The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, and The Treasures of Montauk Cove) had taken place. Bam! A tiny idea started to form about a novel, another Montauk novel somehow related to its predecessors. I immediately created a nice little file with ideas and a color photo of the painting, and set it aside and hadn’t been able to find it until that file-cleaning day.

Inspired by that long-lost find, I worked through the remaining old drafts and found a folder called “Labels,” the title I had originally chosen for my first novel, The Montauk Mystery. The editors at Avalon loved the story (especially the Montauk Indian info) and accepted the work but suggested a title clearly identifying the work as a mystery to attract fans of that genre. I came up with The Montauk Mystery. They liked it and so did I. Anyway, there I was, poking through the “Labels” folder when I came upon a paper-clipped set of pages called Chapter 19. Quite a surprise since The Montauk Mystery has only 18 chapters.

I read through the chapter and remembered a telephone call from my talented editor at Avalon. She wanted to discuss the ending. She said when the heroine is in the hero’s arms and the mystery is solved, the writer needs to end the story right then and there, leaving the readers happy and satisfied. A first-time novelist, I had separated the heroine and hero for a year to pursue their dreams—Annie as an artist-illustrator favoring Montauk Indian motifs and Matt as a race-car driver. The re-writing, based on the editor’s suggestion combined with the ideas that came to me as I wrote, improved the story tremendously. Just for the fun of it, I decided to include Chapter 19 at the end of this newsletter. If nothing else, it might inspire those of you who are writers, especially in the early stages, to learn from every editor’s critique what you can about structure, character development, story arc, and other “big picture” ideas. Editing to correct run-on sentences, missing commas, and so on is necessary and helpful, but critiquing is something else altogether: a learning experience and a gift. Thank you, Peggy and Elenora, my current critiquing friends.


Diane Sawyer

Writing News

Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

The hardcover, paperback and e-book editions are available on Amazon and other on-line sites. Happy Reading! Repeated from my last Newsletter: Amazon has included my 5 novels in their Kindle Unlimited (KU), a new subscription service which allows customers in the U.S. to freely read as much as they want from over 600,000 Kindle books, all for only $9.99 a month. My contact at Amazon tells me this will expand my readership. Hooray!


This and That

Some important dates in September

September 7, Grandparents Day…..

September 13, International Chocolate Day

Star-Spangled Banner composed, 1814

September 21, International Day of Peace

September 26, Native American Day

September 27, Ancestor Appreciation Day

And a day that none of us will ever forget—September 11, 2001


There’s an old saying that sometimes we have to travel to appreciate the joys of home. The opposite is apparently true too. On a recent family vacation trip to the Ashville, North Carolina area, we stopped along the way to pick up a few groceries for a family meal, featuring chicken fajitas with all the trimmings. On our list, provided by the host and hostess, was a package of Mexican Rice. Here we were in a small town in a local supermarket, but guess what? The rice area was huge with many varieties from around the world. Too many to even name and all sounded very tempting. I thought about stocking up for when I returned home to St. Pete, but didn’t think there would be room in my luggage. The rice, the just add water and simmer type, was delicious. I was only home a day or two when I went to a supermarket here in the city of St. Pete, armed with notebook and pen to record all the types of rice that I had never before noticed. I planned to feature all the info in my Cooking Delights Section of this newsletter. Guess what? The rice choices were white, yellow, and brown.

Cooking Delights

 Back to the chicken fajitas. I don’t own a grill but I loved grilled food when someone else is doing the cooking (and serving). So let me brag about the family cooks and what they served. Corn on the cob…on the grill. Chicken breasts…on the grill…and then diced. Cut-up onions and peppers placed in a special pan and cooked…on the grill. Okay, the rice was prepared stove-top; the chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, corn tortillas and other no-cook items were prepared in the kitchen. And here’s a tip for you: With all the spices that can be spread and sprinkled on Mexican food, HOT, is a word that comes to mind. Aha! Do what these cooks did: serve chunks of icy cold seedless watermelon as a side dish to tame the heat! Muy bueno! Bon appétit!


******This is the original ending to The Montauk Mystery that I had sent to my publisher, Avalon. It’s not horrible, but it’s not as good as the more romantic ending that actually appears in The Montauk Mystery where close dancing, high-intensity emotions, and Mother Nature create a super-dreamy moonlit night at the marina. If you have a lot of time on your hands (!!!), check it out of your local library or your personal copy and read the final pages. You just might fall in love with a certain someone all over again!

Chapter 19

“Darn, what bad timing!” Annie exclaimed when she saw the Out of Order sign on the elevator door. Disappointed, and left with no choice, she struggled up the five flights of stairs with her portfolio tucked under her arm, a small bouquet of fresh flowers in one hand, and, in the other, a bag of groceries that contained the makings of an intimate dinner for two.

Once inside the door of her tiny apartment, she set everything down and hurriedly checked her answering machine. No message from Matt. He was supposed to have returned to the United States two days ago. She had expected to hear from him last night. Certainly by now. She flipped through her mail. No telegram either. Had he changed his mind?

Throughout her senior year, Annie had heard from Matt often. He had telephoned frequently and had written at least twice weekly, regardless of the miles and time zones that separated them. He had even sent flowers to celebrate her first big success, the publication of a story that she had illustrated for Kid Time Magazine. He said he’d call as soon as he got home. Why hadn’t he?

She inched off her shoes and flopped on the couch. It felt good to relax her neck and shoulders after spending eight hours bent over the drawing board at Pinewood House. She closed her eyes thinking about the good fortune that had followed her from Grayrocks to Albany to New York City. Her series of Montauk oil paintings, entitled Sun Time and Moon Time, had received recognition beyond her college and had been bought by a collector from the Albany area. But it was her senior writing project, an illustrated book entitled The Montauk Treasures, that had caught the attention of several professors at Albany. Their contacts in New York had led to a book contract, freelance assignments, and her current position as a junior illustrator.

Fortune had indeed smiled on Annie Devane. Until now.

Where was Matt? That old uneasy feeling crawled into the pit of her stomach. She got up and brewed herself a cup of tea, hoping to dilute the churning poisonous doubts. She checked the light on her answering machine one more time. Still nothing. She re-read Matt’s last letter hoping to find something she had missed, perhaps a P.S. that promised he would call on a certain day. Foolish thought, since she had practically memorized the letter. Her eyes lingered on the final paragraph:

The thrill of the racetrack is an old dream that fades away like the morning fog off Big Shell Island. The constant traveling has lost its appeal. I miss you. I miss Grayrocks. There’s a future for me there. I can’t wait to see you after all these months and share my new dream with you. You’re in my thoughts night and day.

Life doesn’t always turn out as expected, Annie told herself. She looked from the small window of her living room to the tall gray building across the alley. She couldn’t see the sky. Lighted windows, not stars, sliced through the blackness of the night. She missed gazing through her bedroom window in Grayrocks at the bands of moonlight that flooded the tops of the apple trees. She longed to breathe in the salty air that mingled with the scent of lilac bushes. More and more she found herself yearning for Grayrocks.

Annie stood in the shower and let the hot water pour over her. A blanket of steam gently wrapped itself around her. She shampooed the city grit from her hair. City life was hard. No Matt or Gram or Sally and Tom, no Café Crowd or familiar faces in the stores, no small-town events where she knew everyone by name. Her career hadn’t lived up to her expectations, either. Maybe she had changed. Writing her own stories and illustrating them had become more appealing than breathing life into other people’s works. As for photography, she’d take country roads and flower-filled fields to glass and chrome skyscrapers any day.

Tension flowed away with the sudsy water. Annie stepped from the shower and toweled herself dry. She turned the dryer on full blast and her shoulder-length hair sprung into curls that framed her heart-shaped face. She wanted to look her best for Matt.

Why hadn’t he called? A year and half had gone by since they’d said goodbye at the Grayrocks Marina. Where was he?

Annie flung the towel over the shower door. She would get some work done. That would take her mind off Matt.

After slipping into casual pants and a T-shirt, Annie sat down at the drawing board in her bedroom. She spread paints on her palette and began illustrating the children’s story she had recently completed. Key scenes sprang to life as Annie’s paints flowed across the pages: The young Montauk girl, Running Deer, helps her father make wampum beads while her mother designs a wampum belt. Running Deer and her parents place the belt in the Montauk’s sacred cave when white men and enemy tribes invade. While hiding in the cave, Running Deer paints the ceiling and walls with pictures of the sacred corn god and goddess. The tribe believes that Running Deer’s paintings bring them good fortune and protect them from their enemies.

Annie took a fresh sheet of paper. She began to paint the peacemakers from the Montauk tribes and the white man’s world. They formed a circle of friendship around the evening fire.

The ringing of the telephone interrupted Annie’s work. It was Matt, she knew it for sure.

“Annie Devane? This is Joseph Revington, Matthew’s father. He asked me to call you. Matt…” His voice cracked.

“What’s wrong?” Fearing the worst, she didn’t wait for an answer. “Has something happened to Matt?”

“I’m afraid so.”

In the single beat of her heart, race cars spun out of control and collided, charred metal hurtled into the flame-filled sky, ambulances screamed toward the burning driver. This couldn’t be happening. Matt, her parents, everyone she’d ever loved dying in a car crash.

“Matt has been badly injured. He’s in Monte Fiore Hospital.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “He’s here in New York City?”

“Yes. He asked me to call. He wants to see you.”

Annie threw on her coat and grabbed the good-luck red scarf and hat she had worn the first time she’d met Matt. She ran down the stairs and burst through the front door into the night air. Snowflakes mingled with the tears that ran down her cheeks. She hailed a taxi and fought off panic as the driver raced through the night toward the hospital.

“Matthew Revington,” she told the nurse on duty.

“Visiting hours are over,” she replied.

“Please, I must see him. He’s asked for me.”

“Your name?”

“Annie Devane.”

The nurse peered at a clipboard and then at Annie. “Room 374. Down the hall, but don’t stay long. The first bullet barely missed his heart.”

“Bullet?” Instinctively, Annie touched the charms on her necklace.

“The second and third tore up his shoulder pretty bad,” the nurse said.

Annie staggered as if physically struck. “But I thought it was a racing accident. What happened?” She gripped the nurse by the arm. “Will he make it?”

“He’s a fighter,” the nurse said. “He’s been moved out of intensive care. We can hope for the best.”

Annie hurried down the hallway and stood motionless at the door to Matt’s room. Fighting back tears, she pushed open the door. Matt lay on the bed, asleep, his handsome face pale and drawn.

Annie’s heart ached. How foolish she’d been. All this time apart. He could have died and she would never have seen him again. She moved a chair to his bedside.

“Matt,” she whispered and took his hand in hers.

His eyelids fluttered.

“Annie…” He tried to sit up, but fell back on the pillow.

Annie smoothed his sweat-drenched hair away from his forehead. “What happened?” she asked.

“I walked into a bank…interrupted a robbery.”

“Thank God you’re alive.” Tears welled in her eyes.

A weak smile played at the corners of his mouth. “I was safer behind the wheel of my car than cashing a check.” He reached up and brushed his fingertips across the three charms on her necklace. “I’ve missed you.”

She leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. She had almost forgotten the warmth of his lips, the feelings that surged through her body whenever they kissed.

The nurse knocked softly on the door. “Time to leave,” she told Annie.

“Visit me every day?” he asked.

She nodded, barely able to speak. “Of course.” Annie kissed him gently on the forehead.

She had her hand on the door handle, ready to leave. She turned to say, “I love you. I want to be with you forever. Drive your racecars, do whatever makes you happy,” but Matt’s eyes were closed and he was sound asleep. She marveled at his handsome profile, the high cheek bones of his Indian forefathers.

“Sweet dreams,” she whispered.

During the next several weeks, Annie never let a day go by without seeing Matt. They talked about everything and anything, but Matt did not bring up their future and Annie was afraid to ask what he expected of her. For the first time since her parents’ deaths, Annie found herself able to confide in someone. All the feelings and emotions that she had bottled up, now spilled out. She felt such a deep and abiding love for Matt that at times she wondered what her life had been like before she met him. There was no denying that she loved him more than ever. Yet as the day of his release from the hospital approached, she grew apprehensive.

Where do we go from here? She wondered. His dreams included Grayrocks. Did they include her? She wanted so much to fit into his world.


“Meet me at the marina,” Matt said. He had been recuperating in Grayrocks for several weeks and Annie had visited him each weekend.

“Why the marina?” she asked, curious.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” he replied.


At the docks, Matt took Annie’s hand and helped her board Island Hoppers. “I want you to meet the new owner of the marina.”


“Me,” Matt said proudly. “Uncle David has decided to give up boats and devote himself fulltime to golf and tennis. He’s buying the East Bay Country Club.”

Annie was speechless.

“I’ve already worked out a loan with the bank. My racing winnings will cover the down payment for the marina. I’ve decided to stay in one spot and Grayrocks is the best place I know. Oh, I almost forgot.” He reached down and picked up a small blanket wrapped around a bundle. “I have something for you.”

“What’s this?” she asked, taking the bundle from him.

“Open it and find out.”

She sat down and carefully rolled back the edges of the blanket. Wampum beads glistened like amethysts and pearls in the moonlight. “Matt, it’s beautiful,” she said, running her fingers over the strings of purple beads with four inserts of white beads.

“It’s a Montauk courtship string,” he said. “Donald thought I might find a use for it. So how about it?”

“How about what?”

“Marrying me and living in Grayrocks,” he said.

“But Matt—” He kissed here. “There are so many obstacles,” she said.

His gaze was steady, his voice sexy. He held her so tight she could hardly breathe. “We could have a good life here, Annie. With your talent, you’ll have more work than you can handle.”

She had only to trust him, to say yes and she’d have exactly what she wanted. “Yes, Matthew Revington. With all my heart, yes. I love you. I’ll marry you.”

She threw her arms around his neck. They held each other close.

“You’ve just made all my dreams come true,” he said, and Annie smiled. Matt had taken her thoughts and spoken them out loud.

© 2000 Diane Sawyer All Rights Reserved




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