As we’re heading to the close of 2023, I must admit I’m glad it’s over. I usually don’t share much, except with close family and friends, but this year has been turbulent and, frankly, crappy.

I won’t bother you with details because everyone, in one way or another, has had their own cross to bear. All I can say is…hang in there if your life is in turmoil. It will pass. Everything, eventually, passes.

Still, within the crapola, there are moments of beauty and fulfillment. One of those was that my granddaughter was born this year. And I was able to finish my cozy novella, which I’m currently editing based on my editor’s suggestions. I’m working on a sweet romance, and thinking about what crime my Detective Nick Larson will solve.

HOWEVER, there is INCREDIBLE news that I wish to impart to all.

Can you guess what the following image is??????

If you guessed a screenplay, you would be correct. And THAT is the incredible news I have to impart to you all.

After pitching my suspense/thriller novel, The Coin, to the powers that be, they LOVED the project and invited me to their prestigious screenwriting workshop, held in France in September 2024, to work with my assigned mentor, Peter Lydon, on a one-on-one basis and get the project going.

Peter Lydon successfully moves between commercials and high-profile TV drama, blending great performances with a cinematic eye.

In the TV world he has directed classics like SHAMELESS, TEACHERS, SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL, VINCENT AND POIROT. He won a Royal Television Society Award for his BBC1 period drama series GARROW’S LAW.

As a commercials director he has clocked up work for brands like Carlsberg, Ikea, Sky, VW, DHL and Mercedes. In this arena he’s directed iconic names like Al Pacino, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Caine, Danny Trejo, Joanna Lumley, Jose Mourinho and Scarlet Johansson.

Peter cut his directing teeth as a documentary maker with award winning films for BBC ARENA and THE SOUTH BANK SHOW. His three-part biography of comedy legend Peter Sellers was BAFTA nominated and won several major awards in the US including Gold at The Chicago Television Festival.

Peter is also a prolific cartoonist, but that’s another story…

And not only that, but they also awarded me with a half-scholarship to attend!!!! And I can also pitch a second project to none other than George Parra!!! (For those who don’t know, George Parra is a fabulous producer, who has worked on over seventy feature films, covering all genres from big action movies such as TERMINATOR 2, THE ROCK, and XXX and studio classics such as GHOST, THE MASK OF ZORRO, and THE FAST AND FURIOUS, Parra’s success came from smaller, more independent films, such as ELECTION, SIDEWAYS, THE DESCENDANTS, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, THE WAY WAY BACK, NEBRASKA, AMERICAN HUSTLE, and JOY). This is an incredible opportunity!

To say that I am thrilled is the understatement of the year. I wrote the screenplay for the novel in 2003 and have been working with a dear friend of mine to get it noticed. And so, it has been, finally. This is a fabulous opportunity for me to grow as a writer, learn craft of film writing even better, and get my project developed and filmed.


The workshop will be held in Château Marouatte, near Angoulême, France. I CAN’T wait to return to my old stomping grounds, a bit east of where I used to live, and to meet all the producers and directors in the film industry which will be there at the retreat.

I sure started 2023 on a low, but ended it with a bang. And, as soon as I finish the edits of my cozy mystery, that one will be going up for pre-sale end December/beginning January. So stay tuned. You won’t believe who the protagonist is in that cozy.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas, and a happy, healthy New Year.


María Elena Alonso-Sierra