Back when I was president of the SoCal chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, some aspiring writers got upset with me for refusing to refer to them as “pre-published” instead. I think it’s a ridiculous term, a lame attempt at empowerment that makes me want to “pre-vomit.” Should we also calling aspiring screenwriters “pre-produced?” Midlist authors “pre-bestselling authors?” Are horny guys “pre-laid?”

I recently expressed that view again on Dorothyl, the mailing list for mystery fans and authors. I’m sure I’m about to get slammed again, accused of being a heart-less, successful author who is unsympathetic to the plight of struggling, unpublished writers.

And to them I say, “Hey, I was an aspiring writer for a lot of years…I wasn’t born with a book contract and a TV gig.”

The term “pre-published” is bullshit, a silly empowerment exercise that only makes whoever is using it look even more amateurish and desperate.

Writing doesn’t guarantee publication. And just because you write, that doesn’t mean you are any good at it. And as hard as it is for struggling writers to accept, you aren’t a professional writer until you’re published and paid for your work (or, in the case of screenwriters, until you’ve actually sold a screenplay).

Granted, there are a lot of professional writers who aren’t any good. I may be one of them. But the fact remains, they are authors. Those who aren’t published and paid for their work are not. They are aspiring authors/aspiring writers.

Someone who needs to call themselves “pre-published” for their self-esteem is more likely to become “self-published” than anything else…

“ER” Needs Medical Attention

I know one reason why ER is slipping in the ratings…

It’s new episodes all feel like reruns. After nine years, or however long the show has been on, every single doctor in the E.R. has been a trauma patient. It’s become ridiculous. This week, they wheeled in not one, but two, critically injured doctors. How often can they play the “oh my god, the patient is Dr. Schmeckle!” beat? It’s bad enough when they play the “oh my god, the patient is Dr. Schmeckle’s brother!” (or mother, or girlfriend, or sister, etc. etc.)

But if that wasn’t bad enough, how many times can they do the “doctors trapped in rising water” bit? Ever since that terrific George Clooney episode in season one or two, they keep rehashing that plot, and variations of it, every season.

It’s time for E.R. to go in for an Extreme Make-Over. It’s become a tired, maudlin, uninspired soap opera… no wonder people are changing the channel.

Anne Rice Bares Her Fangs

the blog Something Positive reports that Anne Rice wasn’t too pleased by the reader reviews of BLOOD CANTICLE on Amazon… so she fired back with spirited defense of her own work. I had to check this out for myself. And it’s true… (I’m assuming, perhaps stupidly, that Amazon has confirmed its actually Rice)…

Here’s some of what she wrote…

Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work. In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon’s willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you’ve said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul. Also I use and enjoy Amazon and I do read the reviews of other people’s books in many fields. In sum, I believe in what happens here. And so, I speak.

She also is anything but modest when it comes to her own work…

Every word is in perfect place. The short chapter in which Lestat describes his love for Rowan Mayfair was for me a totally realized poem…

I leave it to readers to discover how this complex and intricate novel establishes itself within a unique, if not unrivalled series of books…

And she doesn’t take kindly to people who differ with her high regard for her own work.

Now, if it doesn’t appeal to you, fine. You don’t enjoy it? Read somebody else. But your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies. I’ll never challenge your democratic freedom to do so, and yes, I’m answering you, but for what it’s worth, be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you, especially those of you.

If you don’t think every word is in perfect place, or that her writing is great art, she’s willing to offer you a refund.

If any of you want to say anything about all this by all means Email me at And if you want your money back for the book, send it to 1239 First Street, New Orleans, La, 70130. I’m not a coward about my real name or where I live.

While I think it’s gutsy to offer a personal refund to any unsatisfied reader, I don’t think she did herself any favors by responding to her critics. If anything, she paints a rather unflattering picture of herself that’s more damaging than any negative review.

Diagnosis Murder Fanfic

I know there are people writing Diagnosis Murder Fanfic out there, and I thought I’d heard every possible permutation (Hurt/Comfort, Slash, etc.), but this… well, this one is the champ. An anonymous poster alerted me to "Nesting", a Diagnosis Murder story by Sarah Saint Ives, at this fanfic site

"He’s a brilliant doctor." Dr. Mark Sloan was saying as Steve entered the office. "His work with invitro fertilization is incredible. He’s helped a lot of childless couples conceive and deliver normal, healthy babies."

"So, what do you think? Should I go through with it? Dr. Jesse Travis asked. The younger doctor looked up to Mark as a mentor, even as a father figure.

"That’s up to you, Jesse. It’s your body."

Steve glanced curiously at his father, then his best friend. "What’s up?" he asked. "What about his body? You thinking about giving someone a kidney, Jess?"

Jesse looked down, then met his eyes a little shyly. Steve mused that it was an engaging flaw in his character to be occasionally reticent. Although Jesse Travis was gifted with an impressive IQ and an insatiable curiosity, he was laden with personal insecurities, which, to Steve, made him even more adorable. "Dr. Homer Penrose. He asked me to be a guinea pig for an experiment."

"Well, tell me about it." Steve said. "Judging by the looks on both your faces, if you asked me right now, I’d say the answer is not just ‘no’, but *hell*, no! What does he want to do to you?"

There was a long pause, then Jesse said, "Make me pregnant."

Hey, it could happen. All Jesse needs, the story goes on to say, is a proper "birthing orifice," and everything will be fine. Steve is all too happy to start looking for the orifice because, ladies and gentleman, this is also slash fanfic.

Once the "birthing orifice" issue is resolved, there’s just one hitch.

"Very minor ones."

"He would like an answer to the question, Penrose." Steve said, not so nicely.

Penrose was irked by the policeman’s presence. "He will be unable to perform sexually with a woman during the pregnancy." he directed the statement at Steve. "It’s necessary for the sake of the baby."

Hey, the doc didn’t say anything about sex with a man, so no problem! Everything works out and Jesse gets knocked up, though Jesse has some jitters…

She’s going to be perfect in every way, Jesse.” Placing his hands on either side of his friend’s face, Steve forced calming eye contact. “She’s going to be beautiful and smart just like you. She’ll have your big blue eyes, your cute little nose, your sweet personality and your radiant smile. It doesn’t matter who the biological parents are, Jess. She’s yours, and she’ll be the way you raise her.”

Jesse laid a hand on his chest. “I’m so glad you’re here with me, Steve. What would I do without you?”

“You’ll never know because I’ll be here forever, my love.” After placing a soft kiss on the younger man’s button nose, Steve started the car and drove toward Jesse’s apartment. Conversationally, he asked, “Would you feel safer if your own sperm cells had been used to fertilize the egg?”

“Nothing makes me feel very safe except being this close to you.” Jesse was still attached to his arm.

Excuse me, I have to wipe the tears from my eyes… and the vomit off my keyboard.

The Mail I Get

Dick Van Dyke, you might have noticed, is on the cover of my Diagnosis Murder novels. He was also the star of the show. He’s also the central characters in my Diagnosis Murder novels. Seems to me that makes sense, right?

Well, today I got an email from a fan who is very upset with me for not “putting Steve front-and-center.” She’s referring to the character played by Dick’s real-life son, Barry Van Dyke. She said she was “sick and tired” of me “making it very clear which character I prefer.” She also went on to say that if the next book didn’t feature Steve on equal footing with Mark, then she’d stop reading the books.

I sent her a note back, saying she could stop reading now…what she wanted wasn’t going to happen.

“Diagnosis Murder” wouldn’t have existed without Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan… everyone else was a supporting character. The same is true in my books. Dr. Mark Sloan is the central character… and always will be.

I got another email this week from a fan who believes that Steve should be as much of a deductive genius as his father… at the very least, they should be a team. Here is what I wrote to her:

Thank you for your thoughtful note. Steve is a good cop in his own right. But Mark Sloan has a gift… a natural affinity for solving mysteries… that Steve doesn’t have. Steve loves and respects his father… and recognizes his father’s gift. In some ways, the characters mirror the actors who played them… Dick Van Dyke is a living legend, a brilliant actor, comedian, singer and dancer. His son Barry is a fine actor… competent and professional… who nonetheless doesn’t match the amazing talents his father has.

Sex in the City Spinoff

Cynthia Nixon, who just won an Emmy for her role in SEX IN THE CITY, is spinning off into new sexual territory. She’s involved with a woman now, or so reports the NY Daily News.

Cynthia Nixon is trying a different kind of sex in the city, the Daily News has learned.
For almost 10 months now, the Emmy-winning actress has been dating another woman, sources say.

Back in June of 2003, Nixon split with Danny Mozes, the father of her two children. Last January, according to friends, she began a lesbian relationship.

Right now, Nixon, 38, does not want to be as outspoken as Rosie O’Donnell, the sources say.

But Nixon did not flinch when we asked her yesterday whether she is involved with another woman.

Speaking exclusively with the Daily News, she said, “My private life is private. But at the same time, I have nothing to hide. So what I will say is that I am very happy.”

Word is that Nixon’s partner is not in show business.


I enjoyed the pilot for “Lost,” but I can’t imagine how they are going to sustain the show for 22 episodes, much less five years. I look forward to seeing if they can pull it off. Afterall, they are 48 castaways on an uncharted island thats apparently full of man-eating monsters. How many stories are there? Where can they go? What can do they? The monster bit is bound to get old fast. Figure one castaway munched per episode, and unless another plane crashlands on the island, they are out of cast members after two seasons. Those long-range creative concerns aside… the pilot was great fun to watch, and a lot of people watched it. According to Variety, the pilot scored big numbers:

The J.J. Abrams/Damon Lindelof survival drama, which has generated the best reviews for any program this fall, opened to surprisingly sockosocko numbers for the Alphabet, dominating its timeslot with the best young-adult rating for a drama premiere on any net (excluding spinoffs) in four years. ABC sure could use a breakout drama success, as it hasn’t had a real hit since “The Practice.” “Lost” reps the net’s best start for a drama in 18-49 since “Once and Again””Once And Again” in 1999, and in total viewers since “Murder One” in 1995.

That’s nice, but not very encouraging. Let’s not forget what happened to both “Once and Again” and “Murder One.” They barely survived their first seasons and were cancelled in their second.

ER’s Missing Audience

According to, CBS made a significant, symbolic victory last night:

In a much vaunted head-to-head match-up the third season premiere of “Without a Trace” trounced the eleventh season premiere of “ER.” For the first time in the show’s long and esteemed history, an original episode of “ER” lost to another drama in total viewers.

To be fair, though, ER is in its 11th season and has all but one member of its original cast. It’s not surprising that the show is losing some of its ratings power. That said, ER is still one of the highest rated dramas on television… and that it still draws those numbers after so many years and so many cast changes is amazing.

WITHOUT A TRACE is a good show…but you can’t discount the benefits of having CSI, the highest rated drama on television, as your lead in. Think how many comedies survived simply by following FRIENDS, SEINFELD or RAYMOND…and then died when moved elsewhere.

The victory is an important one image-wise for CBS… which for years was considered the nursing home network. CBS has clearly and decisively won its long battle to re-establish itself as the Tiffany network.


There’s a fascinating article in this week’s Entertainment Weekly about CSI, focusing on how the original actors feel about the tense (and ongoing) salary negotiations and the multiple spin-offs. William Petersen is getting $500,000 an episode, Marg Helgenberger is getting $200,000 and George Eads, Gary Dourdan and Jorja Fox are getting $100,000. Only Petersen is happy about the paycheck… but they are all pissed about the spin-offs.

Helgenberger is equally tense: ”One moment you are on something inspired and innovative, and the next minute you are the quasi-blond chick on one of those crime-solving shows,” she says. ”I’m a little bit nauseous from having been force-fed some humble pie.”

The cast, despite the big paycheck, are getting creatively restless as well.

“I get really bored just having to hold the flashlight up higher — which is one of the directions I get.” [Helgenberger says] Petersen, naturally, is even more blunt: ”I try and stay awake, and for me, that’s fresh at this point,” he says sarcastically.

Wolcott on Law & Order

William Rabkin steered me to journalist James Wolcott’s blog and his take on the new season of LAW AND ORDER…

I’m not sure how it does it, but Dennis Farina’s thick black-and-white mop of hair manages to upstage everything around it. As the new detective on Law and Order, replacing Jerry Ohrbach’s venerable Lenny, Farina dominated his first scene on the show just by sticking his head in the door. I’ve liked Farina ever since Crime Story–he has the “up” energy of a slick gambler who’s had a good day–and he got into the swing of L&O so fast and easy that ten minutes into the season debut you were no longer wondering what the loss of Ohrbach might cost the series.

But last night’s season debut also pointed up a chronic problem with L&O that has persisted unaddressed for years, not that it seems to matter (given the show’s durable ratings and franchise status in reruns). Which is: the “Order” half is so much better–wittier, twistier–than the “Law” half. Episode after episode fractures at the finish, leaving you slightly dissastisfied at having invested so much interest in the outcome.

My problem with the show is how linear and obvious the murder investigations have become…and how most of the “twists” come from with-holding clues that should have been revealed in Act One. Last nights episodes, particularly the second one, highlighted these weaknesses. If you saw the episode, they also never explain why the boat crashed, who killed the captain, or what the bottle of booze was doing in the wheelhouse…or did I miss something?