I Love It When Tod Gets Hate Mail

My brother Tod gets the most amusing hate mail from the strangest people:

You’re perhaps the most unlikable, trivial, angry person I’ve ever read
online. You would be an incredibly successful female middle-school
student. Try inserting a few spurious capital letters and misspelling
(more) words, and you could fit right in at MySpace. Your photograph
looks very Arabic and not very Jewish, and it’s also extremely creepy.
Some people were born to write (not you) and some born to be
photographed (not you, either).

my Arabic-looking brother, who clearly has too much time on his hands since my Mom moved from his neighborhood to mine, responded right away and asked the writer to be his mentor. He wrote, in part:

My mother and father, while both Jewish, were apparently quite ugly,
which lead to the unfortunate photo of me you saw that apparently makes
me me look Arabic. I guess looking Arabic would be a bad thing? I’m
sorry if my Fertile Crescent appearance in that photo doesn’t please
you, my mentor, but I assure you that there are other photos of me
online where I look Italian, which might please you. There are also
some where I look Persian, which probably wouldn’t please you too much.
Others still make me look like a Russian Jew, which I am, but that
might make you think I’m a Communist. I assure you, Neal, I love
America and am not a Commie. I do like Russian dressing, but only on a
certain chicken dish…

[…]I’m sad that you find me the most unlikable person online. That means
you’ve never visited my brother’s blog. He could use your help, too,
Neal, to see the way out of failure toward success. […]Will you be my life coach? Will you teach me how to write midnight
letters to novelists who you stumble upon while searching for the
lyrics to The Ballad Of Irving? That was you, wasn’t it Neal? Writing
me from the Lutheran Medical Center in Denver? Neal, I feel safe in
saying that I need you in my life now more than ever.

Neal immediately wrote back:

Now, the most important part of my advice. Masturbate one more time (it’s the closest you’ll come to  losing your virginity) and then kill yourself. Don’t stretch it out for twenty-odd more years of sucking dick to pay for your meth, getting turned down by crack whores, and constantly referring to your family as if anyone knows them. Just get it over with.

I am not kidding, the world will thank you. Your funeral will be a party, and we’ll enjoy dancing around your unmarked cardboard box.

Neal also cc’d his lawyer on his reply, which is the perfect punchline to the whole thing.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a blog post (though it was probably one of Tod’s famous Letters to Parade columns).

Airing Tonight in Oblivion

A year ago, I wrote abou lost TV series that were ordered and shot but never aired. Variety reports that the new CBS series WATERFRONT is destined to be another show that will only be broadcast in oblivion.

Over at the Eye, "Waterfront" was originally slated for midseason.
But with few holes to fill on its sked, CBS execs decided to pull the
plug on the drama from Warner Bros. TV.

Jack Orman created the
skein, which starred Joe Pantoliano as the mayor of Providence, R.I.
William Baldwin, Mary Stuart Masterson and Larenz Tate also starred.

episodes, plus the pilot, of "Waterfront" had already been shot.
Insiders said net execs weren’t completely pleased with the show’s
direction; without a pressing need to schedule it, the net decided to

Each episode of the show  probably cost at least $2 million to produce. Plus it’s likely that the producers and cast have pay-or-play deals, meaning they will have to be paid for 13 episodes whether they are shot or not. So this decision essentially means that CBS  will be flushing over $10 million down the toilet.


I’ve never written a biography, but I must get two or three emails a month from complete strangers who want me to write a book about their lives. Here’s one I got today (I took out the name of the person and the company she mentions):

I am 70 years old and I have been told that my autobiography should be written.I won an inhuman case against XYZ COMPANY.As you know that it is not the money you win, but I have been in therapy for many years. I have Newspaper clipping of the Inhuman treatment I received.I do hope you can help me, or know someone that can.

If you’re interested in writing about this woman and her inhuman case, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her.

Off To Germany Again

I am leaving today for another two week stint in Germany, where I will be teaching for The Media Exchange and doing some consulting work for Action Concept, the country’s leading producer of action shows and movies (you’ll be hearing a lot more about them, and the work we are doing together, in the coming months). I’ll try to report back here occasionally…but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me much. Note: While I am away, I am holding all comments for approval before posting them. When I return, I will deactiviate the comment-moderation.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing

I firmly believe it’s a mistake to pay to have your book published by a vanity press and that it’s tantamount to flushing your money down a toilet. But if you are intent on doing it anyway, then you must read THE FINE PRINT OF SELF-PUBLISHING by Mark Levine first.  He analyzes the major vanity presses and their contracts, their pluses and minuses, and gives you a thorough understanding of how that business works. 

He starts by talking about how he chose the vanity press route for his first book:

"In 1994, when I finished the novel, I put it into the hands of a few big-time publishing houses. They all told me the same thing. ‘We like the writing, but in order for us to sell it, you have to rewrite this and rewrite that, then send it back to us.’ I wasn’t about to start rewriting my book so that maybe some traditional publisher would take it."

To me, that attitude pretty much sums up the problem with most of the writers who go the self-publishing route.  He goes on to say his book was awarded ‘Book of the Year’ by the publisher he paid to publish his book, making it a dubious honor at best, and the fact that he’s proud of it, and touts it in his book, made me wonder about the guy and his credibilty (he claims that President Clinton read the book and that’s certainly worth touting).  On the other hand, he recognizes that a vanity press publication is, at best, a small step towards becoming a publisher yourself or landing a traditi0nal publishing contract. 

But Levine quickly won me over with his knowledge and professionalism in his approach towards his topic.  Levine is obviously pro-vanity press, but even with that bias, he does a remarkably thorough job analyzing the companies and their practices, even singling out the worst offenders by name (Authorhouse and PublishAmerica among them) and detailing exactly what they are doing wrong, line by line, in their contracts. During the research phase of his book, he even succeeded in getting some publishers to adjust their contracts to be more author-friendly.

The book is breezily written and very informative. THE FINE PRINT OF SELF-PUBLISHING is a long overdue, much-needed book and is worth buying whether you’re contemplating self-publishing or not simply for the education Levine gives in how to read a publishing contract and understand the terms.


I spent an hour or two today catching up on some of the "back-blog" debates here… the discussions going on in the comments to my posts. I tend to post, watch for a day or two, and then not look back. Well, today I looked back and I was surprised at how the discussions have eroded into name-calling and personal attacks.  I prefer not to meddle in the discussions, even when people are calling me names and criticizing my work, but now things are getting out-of-hand.  You can feel free to disagree with me and one another — I think that’s great. But I am going to start deleting name-calling and personal attacks (unless I am the one doing it. Hey, it’s my blog, after all).  I am also seriously considering either holding comments for approval before they are posted or going back to Typekey authentication to prevent anonymous posts. I’d rather not do either of those things so please, try to be civil, okay?