“Pamela Anderson, here I come!”

The Contra Costa Times, the largest newspaper in the San Francisco East
Bay, has reviewed THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE.…three weeks after my signing up
there. Oh well, better late than never!

Hero Harvey Mapes is one of those
Everyman kind of guys. Yep, he’s more than a few levels down the ol’
status totem pole. In fact, he might be one of the few guys in the
world deemed unemployable by the car wash.

"What?" you say. "Can’t even get a job at a car wash? That’s
impossible." Tut-tut. Where do you think overnight security guards come
from? 7-Eleven? Perhaps you believe the urban legend that they are
dropped off by the Great Pumpkin?

Yes, Harvey is an overnight security guard. But a guy with some
brains, good instincts, stick-to-it-ness and an encyclopedic knowledge
of TV detectives: Think everything from Frank Cannon to Magnum.
"Iron-on Badge" is the story of Harvey’s transition from security guard
to MAN.

Writer Lee Goldberg is a local success story. Walnut Creek native.
Northgate High School grad. Former freelancer for the Contra Costa
Times, UPI, Newsweek. He’s written for numerous television shows:
"Monk," "Spenser for Hire," "Martial Law," "Hunter" and — boy, he must
have done something right in his past lives — five episodes of
"Baywatch."

"Iron-on Badge" is his latest book. It is a fun read, and it proves
that as a fellow Contra Costa Times columnist, I have something to look
forward to. Pamela Anderson, here I come! Woo-hoo!

The First Two Paragraphs Were More Than Enough

I went to my brother Tod’s house for Thanksgiving. In his office, he had a stack of ARCs and review copies (he reviews books for a Las Vegas newspaper). There was a new book by an author I’m curious about, so I picked it up and started reading. I didn’t get past the first two paragraphs and, as it turned out, neither did my brother.

The first howl sang across the night void and trembled the frozen air, a sound thin as the starlight poised on the blue plains of snow, with no more presence than the memory of a vanished loved one, and just as inescapable across the face of the world; and as with a ghostly visage rising before me, I might have denied the cry existed. But the horses plunged.

Sergei Gorlov, the friend and fellow mercenary who had mentored me for the last two years of cavalry warfare and who guided me now into the vast mysteries of his homeland, sat beside me, bundled beneath blankets in the open sleigh.

The (Wannabe) Romance Writers of America

Publishers Weekly has a lengthy article in the current issue about the Romance Writers of America, which has 9500 members, only 1600 of whom are actually published authors.

That can make for some uncomfortable moments at the group’s annual conference,
says agent Irene Goodman, who maintains that these aspiring authors "often view
editors and agents as gatekeepers who are the bad guys barring them from their
dream."

The agent, whose clients include bestselling romance writer Debbie Macomber,
continues, "They act as if we’re all part of some semishady, sub-rosa group."
Still, Goodman attends the conferences, wading through "this vast population of
the great unwashed masses of inexperienced, unprofessional people trying to
break in," in search of "a brilliant newcomer."

And there lies the paradox of RWA’s highly democratic (anyone willing to
write a $75 dues check is in) admissions policy. On the one hand, it is the
group’s greatest strength, enabling it to claim the largest membership of any
not-for-profit genre writers’ association in the world. And it creates an
important mission for the group, with a national conference and numerous local
conferences each year that make up a kind of finishing school for romance
writers. But this inclusiveness may also be the group’s biggest weakness,
diluting its clout by making it seem amateurish and, as Goodman points out,
making it harder for agents and editors to discover the truly motivated writer
among the dilettantes.

Still, as the group celebrates its 25-year anniversary, it’s a safe bet those
unpublished—or, as some prefer to call them, "pre-published"—writers will
continue to be welcome in a group that also boasts such big names as Nora
Roberts and Jennifer Crusie. Providing networking and support for aspiring
authors was, after all, the original mission when 37 charter members founded the
association in 1980…

…Crusie, who says everything she knows about the business she learned from
another RWA member, is more than happy to share the group with aspirants. "RWA’s
strength is that it’s got unpublished members. That’s where all the juice comes
from," she says. "I was a wannabe once."

The article makes passing reference to only one of the many embarrassing controversies that have rattled the organization in the past year.

At the annual conference this summer that marked the group’s 25-year
anniversary, some attendees felt less than celebratory after viewing a video
montage with a right-wing bent that was the centerpiece of the awards
presentation. It edited together footage of important political events from the
last 25 years with a pop-tune soundtrack, so that bouncy music played over
sobering images—none of which had anything to do with romance writers. Roberts,
who had been scheduled to serve as emcee, opted out. "I could not and would not
be a part of a ceremony that, rather than honor the organization and the
nominees, took the audience through 25 years of world tragedies," she says in an
e-mail. "I felt, and continue to feel, that it was horribly inappropriate and
offensive."

Crusie, who served on the RWA board for three years in the late 1990s, says,
"there’s always upheaval," but adds, "it’s the same with any organization."

Yeah, but few do it quite so publicly and over such incredibly stupid stuff.

 

Streaming Goldbergs

Have you ever heard Sammy Davis Jr. sing the theme for HAWAII FIVE-O? Do you swoon when Chuck Norris sings "The Eyes of a Ranger?" Well, you’re in for a treat. You can revel in the vocal stylings of  Sammy and Chuck, among others,  as well as the wit and wisdom of the brothers Goldberg over at Pinky’s Paperhaus. You can stream the complete two hour interview and musical extravaganza or you can hear a 15-minute podcast version with all our really stupid comments and our worst musical selections edited out.

Screenwrite My Book

I got this email today. I’ve edited out the title of his book to protect his identity:

Hello Lee!

Would you be available to screenwrite a book that I had
written and published in Australia.  Title: XYZ. This is a true story based on my work with
the Australian Federal Police, Computer Crime. I’ll be honest, I have
no idea what is involved, especially from script to production. 

He certainly doesn’t.  You have to wonder why people don’t even bother to do a minimal amount of research before sending out emails like this. They simply don’t want to invest the effort, as slight as it may be, and instead hope someone else will do it for them. 

"Screenwriting" a book, as you call it,  is a complicated process with many variables. No two paths to feature film adaptation are necessarily the same.

But for starters, let’s look at your email.

First, I would have done some research on the person I’m sending the email to. I would have started the note with something that reflects my knowledge and appreciation of his work and why I think that he, in particular, would respond to the book. 

Then I would have enthusiastically pitched the book as something exciting and packed with screen potential that the person might be interested in reading with an eye towards developing as a movie or TV show. 

You haven’t done any of that.

All you’ve given me is the title. You’ve made no attempt to actually spark my interest. You haven’t told me anything about your book, what makes it special, or even why I should want to read it. What’s the story? Who are the characters? Did the book get good reviews? Did it sell well? Why would I, an American TV producer, be interested in a book about Australian computer crime?  (I’m also not clear, from the way you worded your note, whether you  actually wrote the book or hired someone else to do it and whether the book was published or you paid to have it published yourself.  Were you the investigating officer, the victim, a consultant, or the criminal who was written about?)

The first  steps towards getting someone to adapt your book is to research who you want to approach and then do a much better job selling the book as something with theatrical potential.

Condensing

Author Lewis Perdue is condensing his 347 different blogs into just three ( I don’t now how he can even do that — I have a hard enough time maintaining just one). His new, main blog is The Crock Pot. He’s keeping his DA VINCI CODE lawsuit blog and his Dan Brown blog as standalones. The inaugural Crock Pot post is about the Author’s Guild lawsuit against Google.  Lew is one of the few authors to come out publicly in favor of Google scanning books without first obtaining the permission of the copyright holders.

From all the misleading sturm, drang und hype coming from the plaintiffs,
you’d think that Google was planning to out-pirate Johnny Depp by stealing every
published word on the planet and posting it on a Kazaa or BitTorrent
file-sharing service.

But … no.

Google is being sued for having
the good sense to scan books in order to make them searchable online much as
Amazon has done. The books would then be available for purchase with appropriate
payments to copyright holders.

Think back a little. When Amazon made books searchable, the industry freaked
out, afraid of a new idea that had dropped from the sky like a Coke bottle in
the African bush. I thought it was a good idea then and a better one now. My
books are searchable on Amazon and, if anything, it has helped sales. I’ve used
the Amazon searches for research and ended up buying books I would never have
considered otherwise.

 

The Runaway Train

Corey Miller, a story editor on CSI: MIAMI, has an excellent post on his CBS blog this week about the pressures of series production.

Our shooting schedule lasts ten months out of the year. The writers
work eleven. The writers spend the month of June spitballing stories,
thinking about possible character arcs, and honing in on breaking the
first few episodes. We try to get as ahead as we can during this
period, because once shooting starts, there’s no turning back. We have
to have a new script completed every eight working days until the end
of the season. And we’re doing twenty-five.

As far as when the episodes air in relation to when they were shot, there is no pat
answer. It really depends on a number of things. This season, we began
filming our first episode on July 18. But it didn’t air until September
19. So there were two months in between. The episode that I’m doing
that shoots on December 7th is tentatively scheduled to air on January
30th. So you can see how that window has shrunk a bit, the deeper we
get into the season.

It’s all due to that pesky train, because once it is in motion, it’s a runaway.

He uses the runaway train metaphor and for good reason.  When I’m producing a series, I inevitably have the nightmare that I’m on a train, shoveling scripts into the boiler to keep the engine going…and that I just can’t keep up.

…And in other news, Michael Jackson is launching a program to help parents protect their children from pedophiles.

From today’s news:

DENVER (AP) — Former FEMA
Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency’s slow response to
Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help
clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

”If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their
homes and better prepared in their businesses — because that goes straight to
the bottom line — then I hope I can help the country in some way,” Brown told
the Rocky Mountain News for its Thursday editions.

(Thanks to Ed Gorman for the heads-up)