Coffee, Tea, Or My Book?

I’ve heard a lot of novel ways to sell books (nice pun, huh? This is why I get the big bucks). Lee Child told me how he strolled through a London commuter train, handing out free copies of his book. For the next week or so after his stunt, any time someone got on the train, it looked like everybody in England was reading his book… and sales spiked. Another author told me how, after his publisher told him women weren’t reading him, he sent copies of his books to hairdressers across the country to spike word-of-mouth. It worked.

My brother Tod passed along this tidbit about an author who did a book-signing on a plane to Italy… with mixed results.

“Have a free book,” I say again, my cheeks straining under the evident pleasure this is giving me. A hand comes out. “I’m the author,” I announce. And, for some reason, this seems to do the trick. Maybe it’s pity. Maybe it’s curiosity. But hand after hand is thrust towards me.

“Is it free?” comes a question.

“Oh, yes,” I reply. “And it’s very good.”

“Tuscany for Beginners,” reads a rather large lady, her forefinger tracing the title. “But that’s where we’re going.”

“I know,” I grin. “Isn’t it great?”

“Is it about love?” asks a bloke.

“There’s some in there,” I reply.

“Yuk, no thanks,” he says, handing it straight back.


When I was writing/producing DIAGNOSIS MURDER, I was surprised to discover that the show had a devoted fan following, and not just among people receiving social security. I was even more surprised to discover there were fans who particularly liked seeing one of the major characters get hurt… and then get comforted by the other worried characters. They particularly enjoy watching Steve get shot, beaten, and otherwise abused…and then see his Dad filled with concern about his injured son, who is preferably recuperating in as little clothing as possible. These viewers call themselves “hurt/comfort” fans and, since the cancellation of the series, they have written scores of fanfic where Steve gets abused real good and then is passionately weeped over by everybody else (or so I’ve heard, judging by the chatter I used to read on the PAX discussion forums). To be honest, the pleasure these fans get from seeing Steve in pain kind of gives me the creeps. Maybe when you read this note to me, posted on, about my book THE SHOOTING SCRIPT, you’ll understand why…

I have read a few more chapters. I just finished the part where Mark was injured and shot at and Steve wants Mark to go to the hospital.

I don’t know quite how to put this. I’m tired of reading about Mark getting hurt. In two books Mark has been hurt. I’d like to be able to read a DM book that has some Steve hurt/comfort in it. And I don’t mean he’s upset because Mark, Jesse or someone else is hurt. I mean Steve hurt himself, and Mark having to worry about Steve for a change…

Steve Hurt/Comfort Fan
Steve Angst Fan
Steve and Mark Relationship Fan
Steve and Ellen Fan

What do you think?

Lots of Killing

maddiesignsThat’s the title of my daughter Madison’s first novel in her “Adventures of Kitty Wonder” series… which she wrote, illustrated, edited, and published, just in time for my signings at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks and the Mystery Book Store in Westwood. I’m pleased to say she captivated the audience and sold out her entire first printing.

Aldo Calcagno, aka The Mystery Dawg, was kind enough to report on the event on his blog… and post some pictures… one of which I borrowed to illustrate this post.

Maddie’s books are about the adventures of the Kitty Crew… Earthquake Kitty (who has the power to stop earthquakes with a special gadget), Hole Kitty (who’s job is to be nice and kind to other people except monsters, which she gladly kills) and Super Kitty (who’s job it is help people when they fall out of bed). Together they are a crime fighting team who take on thieves, Giant Robots (in the sequel, “Robots Fighting”) and mutated piranha.

The characters are inspired by the stuffed Beatrix Potter Tom Kittens she’s kept as her “security blanket”/”cuddle toy.” One kitty she’s had since her days in a crib (Hole Kitty), one was stowed in her pre-school earthquake kit to comfort her in case of disaster (Earthquake Kitty), and the other (Super Kitty) was a spare we kept in case the other two beloved stuffed animals ever got trashed…hence their names and super powers.

Maddie’s publisher informs me the books are going into a second printing just as soon as she gets a new printer cartridge…which means the 25 folks who bought the first printing now have a valuable collector’s item…

How NOT to Sell Your Book to Television

I got this unsolicited email today:

I have published a book and am interested in selling the television rights. I will send you a copy upon request, but you can go to and see a synopsis and excerpts from sample chapters. The book is titled "Six Days of the Pigs" and I wrote it under the pen name R.J. Carrie-Reddington. In retrospect, it was probably a mistake to publish it under a pen name, but if you are interested, I can explain my reasons for doing so. Thanks for your attention. If you are interested in representing me, please advise.

How’s that for salesmanship? After reading that compelling pitch, is it any wonder this book was self-published? Ordinarily, I would have deleted the message and moved on… but I’m writing under an insane deadline, so any opportunity for procrastination is, of course, welcome. And I haven’t posted anything on my blog in a while. So I checked out the site. Here’s how R.J. Carrie-Reddington describes his novel:

A story about the people of Eastern North Carolina, awash with hogs, and the men, women and children caught in a mixture of loving and fighting between the love of good living and the love of money. The story is about how powerful politicians and bureaucrats are pitted against citizens who want to live a life of quality. It tells about six days of fast-moving events which are the culmination of simmering happenings of romance, illicit sex and violence that leads to murder. The six days end with a horrific tale of fire and mass destruction, and teaches a lesson. The plot was set in a real time of events. The story depicts the interaction between power and money seekers and those average folks who kept functioning routinely each day…

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where "the plot was set in a real time of events." So I gave the first chapter a peek…and didn’t get past the powerful first line:

Midway between dawn and sunrise the Tuesday morning air, heavy with nature’s fog, reeked with the acrid odor of pig feces as the skinny white man stood at the edge of the front porch, listening to Addie cry.

Now I know why he approached me. I’m a skinny white man and I wrote for "The Highwayman." If anyone can make television that reeks of the acrid odor of pig feces, it’s me!

I’m an Actor Now…

Last week, I had my first acting role in a half-hour comedy. I got to play…

Lee Goldberg.

That’s right, I had to play me. A complex, compelling character with lots of quirky levels.

The role was part of a TV Land pilot called TV KITSCHEN, starring Martin Mull and Fred Willard. It’s a scripted talkshow (ala FERNWOOD TONIGHT) about TV culture. The pilot was written by Tom Hill and directed by Ted Lange, the bartender from THE LOVE BOAT. I was invited as a “Television Expert” to introduce clips from busted pilots which, if TV KITSCHEN goes, would be a regular feature of the show.

I’ve been on TV before as a guest — talking about my books, or pilots, or whatever series I’m doing — and I’m usually very relaxed and comfortable on camera. But this was the first time I had to learn lines and “act” natural… and do it opposite two comedy legends who like to improvise.

I was probably awful but it was exciting and I had a great time. And Ted Lange told me I’m a natural. Did I mention he was on THE LOVE BOAT? Every actor in television was on that show at one time or another. If Ted doesn’t know raw acting talent when he sees it, who does?

So after much thought, I’ve decided that if Pierce Brosnan really is stepping down as Bond, I’d like to throw my name in for consideration.

More “Best TV Shows…” Review


The Best TV Shows That Never Were (ABC, TV-PG)
You couldn’t pay me to watch ABC crap like According to Jim (wait a minute, they do pay me to watch that…or at least they used to), but John Denver as a karate-chopping, guitar-strumming FBI agent? I’m in. So in. Denver’s turn in Higher Ground is just one of the failed TV pilots that turn up in this fun and fast-paced special, which also includes Peter Boyle reincarnated as a talking bulldog in something called Poochinski. That’s right, you heard me-Poochinski. B+ (Dalton Ross)


Finally airing after two years on ABC’s shelf, this summer special turns a bunch of lemons into refreshing lemonade. Best TV Shows, based on the book Unsold Television Pilots by coexecutive producer Lee Goldberg, is a breezy hour of clips from sample episodes of series that the networks decided against ordering. Not surprisingly, most of them stink- which is why the special is such a good time. You’ll slap your head in disbelief- try not to hurt yourself- at the idea of John Denver as a singing FBI agent. You’ll wonder whether Joe Penny as a samurai district attorney would have been funnier – unintentionally – that John Belushi’s Saturday Night Live. And you’ll think Scott Bakula is pretty down to earth in Star Trek: Enterprise after you see him in a busted pilot as a wacky scientist who accidentally merges with a satellite. For tube-historians, this is a must see. (3 out of 4 stars)


Actually, most of this cheeky clip-show special consists of appallingly bad scenes from the worst high concept television pilots ever rejected by the networks: Dennis Franz rides a horse in NYPD MOUNTED; Peter Boyle plays a dead cop reincarnated as a dog in POOCHINSKI and John Denver fights — and sings — as an FBI agent in HIGHER GROUND. Although it’s an entertaining hour, you’ll find yourself echoing the refrains “What were they thinking?” and “Look at that stupid thing!” SCORE 7 out of 10.

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER on “Best TV Shows That Never Were”

TV Review: The Best TV Shows That Never Were
Fri Aug 13, 2004 02:06 AM ET

By Marilyn Moss
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – It’s not a new idea, but it’s still a funny one: to sew together a slew of “almost made it” pilots that never hit the air and until now would never have been missed or mourned.

But now, in this hilarious (not to mention educational, in the funniest sense of the word) one-hour compilation of never-was, never-happened pilots, we get a treat. “The Best TV Shows That Never Were” is must-see TV.

The hour is divided by genres, of course, such as the crime show, the sitcom, the drama. We open with detective crime series that never made it, and we see Dennis Franz riding a horse (and not too well at all) in a failed pilot (are you ready?) called “NYPD Mounted.” That one rode off into the sunset really fast. Then we find out that a detective drama called “Bunco” never made it off the assembly line because the network, which like all the others remains nameless, thought its two stars, Robert Urich and Tom Selleck, could not carry a show.

We also find Marilu Henner, post-“Taxi,” starring as a woman just released from a mental institution who ends up running a television station (this one’s a comedy, of course). Let’s not forget John Denver as a singing detective in another lost and sterling television creation. The list goes on, and tuning in is highly recommended.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Why I Won’t Read Your Script, Book, or Epic Poem

Lots of people ask me to read their books and scripts… relatives, friends, my Mom’s friends, friends of my Mom’s friends, and as you’ve noticed from postings here over the last few months, complete strangers. My brother Tod, in his weekly column, describes one reason why I offer any excuse I can think of *not* to read people’s stuff…

there was a letter waiting for me from a man named Kevin. A month earlier, my cousin Leigh asked if I’d read Kevin’s epic poem as a favor to her–he cuts her hair–and see if I could help him on his quest to get it published. I said sure. I read the epic poem, offered some advice to Kevin on it, including an honest critique, and spent a good two hours of my life on his work. He sent me a two-page, single-spaced letter in return essentially calling me an idiot who obviously didn’t appreciate quality writing and that I should re-evaluate why I’ve chosen the career I’ve chosen and that he hopes I choke.

The smartest thing I ever did was co-write a book on breaking into television… now I just tell people to buy my book. All the advice I have to offer is there…

(Oh, I should add one exception…my wife’s best friend showed me her first novel. It was incredible… certainly better than any book I’ve ever written. She writes with such confidence, power and grace… I knew as I was reading it that she was a natural born writer. I immediately tried to convince my agent, and a couple other agents I knew, to take her on. Sadly, she’s still looking for representation…)

TV Tie-Ins Are Crap

A woman recently approached me at a signing for my latest DM book and said she hadn’t read them until now because “everybody knows TV tie-ins are crap.” She loved my book, but had to get past her built-in distrust of anything with a TV character’s face on the cover.

What got her to take a chance on my book was the blurbs from authors she trusted and enjoyed…. otherwise, she never would have picked it up. She was stunned that the book wasn’t hack work (she’s also started reading Max Alan Collins’ “CSI” books and is loving them…)

This got me wondering… is her general opinion about TV tie-ins something most people share? Does everybody immediately look at a TV tie-in mystery and think “it’s got to be hack work?” This hasn’t stopped the “Star Trek” novels from becoming huge hits…and an industry unto themselves. But is this a fluke? What do you think? And if you share her opinion, what would it take to get you to give a TV-inspired novel a chance?