Under the Knife

Myarmxray_1Tomorrow I’m having surgery to cut away the scar tissue and remove the titanium implants in my right arm. I’ll be out of action for a few days. During my absense, my writing partner William Rabkin and my brother novelist Tod Goldberg will be posting about their writing lives, their rants, and their whinings.

Down for the Page Count

Author Laurell Hamilton writes in her blog:

There are two main methods that writers choose for deciding how to measure their productivity on a book. One, is page count, how many pages you can do per day. Two, is at this time of day you sit down and you can’t get up again for two hours, or four hours, or whatever. Or a variant of method two, is whatever time you sit down at your desk you work for two hours, and until two hours are up, you cannot leave your desk. Yesterday was a day that reminded me why I’ve always done page count and never hours at the desk…

Laurell is a "Page Count" person because her day is too hectic and unpredictable to schedule a block of uninterrupted writing time. Me, I don’t use either method. I just ask myself if I feel I’ve done good work today… or at least given it my best effort. (Or, in the case of a TV script, at the rate I am going, will the teleplay be ready in time for Prep?)

I don’t think that five pages of shit or eight hours spent staring at the screen until your eyes are bloodshot really measures anything. For me, it’s quality, not quantity, whether you’re measuring pages or hours. What about you?

Why We Read Books

I read books for the stories, the characters, and the writing. Apparently, according to mega-agent Robert Gottlieb, I’ve got it all wrong.

"If you’re stuck thinking of authors as ‘writers,’ you’re never going to [understand branding]," says Gottlieb, some of whose clients work with up to six people, including writers, book packagers and a business manager.  "Remember: TV is a format, film is a format and books are a format. Unless you’re talking to Farrar Straus & Giroux; then it becomes a literary experience."

The quote came from a two-year-old Forbes article about James Patterson, who is the subject of a lawsuit that’s resurrecting the industry discussion about how little writing he actually does on the books that bear his name.Patterson  I fear that the publishing business has become more and more about "branding" and less and less about the "writing." They’ve forgotten why readers read…or at least why they used to.

Are readers really only buying brands now? Do they care anymore about what’s between the covers of the books they buy? Do they care how a book is written? If the story is interesting? If the characters are compelling?

As a writer, I can’t imagine putting my name on a book that someone else has written.Then again, I can’t imagine making $60 million from my writing, either. Maybe if I stopped thinking of myself as a "writer," but as a "brand," that could change…

(Thanks to Sarah Weinman for the links)

Remote Sex

Most women have to fight over the remote control with their husbands and boyfriends. But here’s one remote they won’t be fighting over. ABC News reports that Dr. Stuart Meloy, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist in Winston-Salem,  accidentally stumbled on a device that will give women extreme orgasms… by remote control. It’s an adolescent sex fantasy come to true, no pun intended.

While Meloy was putting an electrode into the spine of a female patient with chronic back pain, the woman reported a decrease in her pain and a delightful, but very unexpected, side effect.

"When we turned on the power in this case, she let out a moan and began hyperventilating," Meloy said on ABC News’ Good Morning America. "Of course we cut the power and I looked around the drapes and asked her what was going on. Once she caught her breath, she said ‘you’re gonna have to teach my husband how to do that!’ "

Meloy soon realized he may have discovered a device that could help thousands of women who have trouble achieving orgasm.

"The device is the use of a pre-existing device called a spinal cord stimulator," he said. "Instead of treating chronic pain with the stimulator, we’re treating orgasmic dysfunction." 

In a surgical procedure done in his office, Meloy implants the electrodes from this device into the back of the patient, at the bottom part of the spinal cord. When the electrodes are stimulated with a remote control, the brain interprets the signal as an orgasm, he said. The device is about the size of a pacemaker and can be turned on and off with a handheld remote control.

In a study he conducted for the Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists,  ninety-one percent of the women he tested experienced orgasms.  Not surprisingly, the test subjects didn’t want to give the machine back when the study was over. One patient commented:

"When I gave it back, I came in the office and Dr. Meloy took the electrodes out of, you know, out of the back and it was like I was losing my best friend. It was very hard to give it back."

Now, if they could combine the orgasmatron with a Tivo remote, think how many marriages could be saved!

The Final Frontier

Sexytrek I just finished watching the DVD "Trekkies 2," a documentary about STAR TREK fandom. But here’s one thing the documentarians missed… Fleshbot has uncovered Sexy Trek, a porn site for Trekkers. This is how they describe their site:

"Sexy Trek is the only sci-fi fan site dedicated to Trekkies. A universe of porn for the Trek Fetish Enthusiasts. You will get to know many people who live the Trek lifestyle to the fullest. It seems only natural for our passion to consume every area of our lives, including our sex lives. You will get to know those who live out their Trek fantasies. Our fleet command center is filled with sci-fi content. Step into the transporter. We’ll beam you up to a sci-fi galactic fantasy!"

Just when I thought fandom couldn’t get any creepier…

Sell Books! Get Rich

I got this unsolicited email today:

Get Bookstore Orders for your Books!! Would you like to get your book on the shelves in bookstores nationally? Visit www.WritersUniverse.net  today!!

Writer’s Universe meets monthly with book buyers as well as representatives from major libraries across the country — We will get you book orders! Book Store and Library Package — $500 for six week campaign. This is a limited time offer. We will get you book orders! WritersUniverse.net specializes in book orders from book stores as well as public libraries. Put our specialization to work to today.

I’m assuming I received this pitch because several of my "out-of-print" books were republished by iUniverse through the Authors Guild’s "back-in-print" program…because someone published by a major publisher wouldn’t have to hire freelance book reps. Or are they publicists? I went to their website to get more info. But their site is suspiciously threadbare when it comes to actual details about the services they provide and what a small-press or self-published author can realistically expect to gain for their $500.

Has anybody ever had an experience with them? Are they legit… or just another scam that takes advantage of the self-published?

This Sounds Cool

Zap2it reports:

"Law & Order" is reaching back to its first season, signing veteran actor David Groh ("Rhoda," "General Hospital") to reprise a role he first played in 1990. In that episode, based on the 1987 Joel Steinberg case, Groh played a psychiatrist convicted of abusing and eventually killing his daughter. Steinberg was paroled earlier this year, leading the show’s writers to revisit the character.

What a great idea! I hope they use some footage from the original episode for flashbacks…that would give the episode an extra punch. Either way, I’m there.

It’s rare when a show revisits an old episode… and reunites the guest cast. As it happens, I watched an old episode of GUNSMOKE today entitled "Mannon" which they revisited nearly twenty years later (with Steve Forrest back as Mannon) for GUNSMOKE: RETURN TO DODGE. They did it again in GUNSMOKE: THE LAST APACHE… revisiting characters and events from the old episode "Matt’s Love Story." It really gives the story emotional resonance… and solidifies the sense that the characters live within an evolving universe… that past events (which we share with them as an audience) still ripple through their lives. It doesn’t happen in television often enough… on most non-serialized series, it’s as if past episodes never occurred.

We sort of did what LAW AND ORDER is doing  when we had private eye Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) on an episode of DIAGNOSIS MURDER. We took a MANNIX episode from 25 years earlier, reunited the guest cast (Pernell Roberts, Julie Adams, Beverly Garland) and continued the story… using the old footage for flashbacks. Boy, was it fun.

Bill Rabkin and I always try to reference past episodes — even if only in passing –in the series we write & produce. On MISSING, our characters have spoken of past events (ie episodes), acknowledging those events the way you would any life experiences.

I’m also trying to do it now in the DIAGNOSIS MURDER books… I often have the characters refer to events that happened on the series and in previous books, though not so much that it would alienate readers who have never seen the show or read the earlier tales.

The book I just finished… DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE PAST TENSE… revolves around Dr. Mark Sloan’s first case in 1962… and I explain some events only hinted at in some of the TV episodes, particularly one we wrote guest-starring Jack Klugman entitled "Voices Carry."

I love that kind of stuff. It brings out the TV geek in me.

Scott Peterson Guilty

Petersen The jury has found Scott Petersen guilty of killing his wife, Lacy. I guess this means that Scott and OJ can’t team up as PIs — the ex-fertilizer salesman and ex-football star —  to track down the Columbian Drug Dealers, Satanic Cult Members, or Sociopathic Weirdos who may have killed their wives. Excuse me, I have to go cancel my pitch meeting at ABC…

Exec Shuffle

Variety reports that Susan Lyne is stepping in to run Martha Stewart’s company.

Former ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne is going from the Mouse House to Martha’s, effective today. Lyne was appointed president and CEO of Martha Stewart Living OmniMedia at a board meeting Thursday, replacing Sharon Patrick who informed the board she wished to resign. Appointment comes five months after Lyne joined MSO’s board and nearly seven months after she got the ax at ABC along with ABC Entertainment TV Group chair Lloyd Braun.

"I had the summer to really think about what I wanted to do next," Lyne told Daily Variety. "This is a company that has everything it needs to grow. It is a really strong brand and has a deep relationship with its core customers."

This news comes on the heels of Carole Black’s announcement that she’s leaving as head of Lifetime Television at the end of her contract this winter. How are these two stories related? Rumor was that Lyne was in the running to replace Black… or perhaps to fill the vacancy left by Barbara Fisher, who left as vp of programming six months ago. Now Lifetime finds itself looking for two high-powered female execs to fill two major posts at the network.

Of course, I have a personal interest in how the Lifetime exec hunt goes… they are the network that’s running MISSING, the series I’m working on…

Lit Blogs Pack Punch

NPR’s "Day to Day" reports on the increased influence of bloggers in the book publishing world. Karen Grigsby Bates reports here. She argues that blogs are filling the void left by the lack of book reviews in newspapers and magazines.

Several of the blogs in my Blogroll (in the column on the left) are among those featured in the report.