WIP Week 2013, Dispatch #3: The Celeste Ballesteros Mysteries (Series)

And now, for the last entry of WIP Week 2013: A spin-off from Cada Veces starring the book’s original “leading lady,” Dra. Celeste Ballesteros.

Series Title: The Celeste Ballesteros Mysteries 

Elmore Leonard’s Rules of Writing, condensed..

Proposed Installments: Stunt (Script Frenzy 2013); Seven Funerals (NaNoWriMo 2013, assuming that none of my previous WIPs will require me to rebel)

Premise: After years of waiting and speculation, the notorious professor (and acclaimed writer) Celeste Ballesteros has been granted an extended leave of absence from teaching at the University of the Philippines. Her absence from the classroom, however, has sharpened the sense of perception that she has developed from years of reporting for the Manila Herald. She may be no Sherlock Holmes, but she knows the National Capital Region well… and rare is the criminal element that can escape her watch.

I haven’t figured out what to do with Seven Funerals yet (though it has been hinted at in the NaNo 2012 draft of Cada Veces, since she does attend at least three of the seven funerals in the title) but I do have an abstract for Stunt, which I’m putting through the rewrite process right now. 
Title: Stunt (scheduled for Script Frenzy 2013)
Abstract: A stray bullet kills an innocent fruit vendor during the shooting of a Hollywood film in Manila, which turns into a PR nightmare for the entire production. Caught in the middle of the media circus are Hollywood star Ethan Trent, who top-bills the film, and his wife Daria Benedicto, who turns to her former professor Celeste Ballesteros for help. While Celeste is reluctant to play detective, it does not take long for her to get involved as the body count rises and old secrets come to light. With time running out on the production schedule in Manila, it is now up to Celeste to figure out the mastermind behind the murder – and the next victim in the evil scheme.   
No, Really, What’s Going On Here? Of course it’s a parody of Bourne Legacy. Of course there’s a hot leading man running around Manila in a leather jacket, only that he’s married and monogamous to an equally talented Filipina screenwriter who isn’t being taken seriously by the folks in the writer’s room. Except: 
1) The whole shoot falls on a contentious election year in the Philippines. 
2) Daria is a former actress who used to star in teenybopper films with her frequent on-screen partner (ka-love team, in local parlance) Ulysses Ortigas.
3) Ulysses Ortigas is now one of the 13 24 Senators of the Republic. 
3a) Whose marriage had been annulled in the year prior to the events of the movie. 
3b) And, conveniently, is running for re-election. 
3c) Did I mention that people still want Uly and Daria to get together?
Take all of the above elements together, and you have one hell of a melee going on: showbiz, politics, news media cycles, fangirls (and fanboys) all over Tumblr and LiveJournal. Not to mention that, at this point, there are so many red herrings in here that I might as well serve them with a side of hot pandesal. 

Well, okay, these are sardines, but am I making you hungry yet?
(from Dessert Comes First)

Also, It’s hard to feel sorry for Daria because she’s caught between two cute guys, but that’s why we have Celeste to remind her that she used to be just as annoying as the students from Cada Veces when she was an undergrad at UP. (There are also some Cada Veces cameos here; there’s a chance that Rhobelle and Kim may serve as her assistants here, and Sabrina may be a distant relative of Daria’s.)

That said, I have already identified the real killer in the endgame, and I promise you that it will make you throw your shoes at me… but in a good way. (And it’s not: Celeste, Ethan, or Daria.)

What else is going on? Some of the characteristics that made Celeste distinct in Cada Veces will be explored here. Despite all the admirers, she refuses to be “worshiped” by fawning sycophants who look to her as a role model. (This probably explains her nefarious teaching style at UP.) She chooses to pick her battles privately at a time when most of her contemporaries take to the blogosphere to go at each other’s throats. Stunt, however, brings more of her eccentricities into light: Her unwitting involvement in the Mang Errol case starts with her obsessive stalking of her crush, the Korean actor Jung-Ho Chang. We may also get to see more of her friends and frenemies, as well as her apartment in Quezon City.

Do I want to see this published produced? It’s hard to say; most of the cast here is Filipino, except for Jonny Lee Miller as Ethan, Daniel Henney (or even Lee Min Ho) as Jung-Ho, and Danny McBride as the weapons expert Alex, who is guilty (or is he?) of placing the bullet that ultimately kills Mang Errol.

Does this need a critique? I haven’t written it yet, but if I do, I suggest bringing a lot of pandesal while reading. 

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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