The Road Ain’t No Place To Start A Family…Or To Write FanFic

Unlike my brother, who has been involved in a long standing war of attrition with writers of fan fic, fans of Battlestar Galactica and a legion of Ken Bruen fans who want to beat his lily white ass, I try to stay away from calling people clueless morons or shut ins or hermits or other names because of their fandom. I mean, I don’t always understand it, and am a little frightened by some aspects of it, but I am generally more  disturbed  by authors who dress like their characters in their author photos.

However, when I saw a link on Gawker to Steve Perry fan fiction, I couldn’t help but think that on a sunny island in Hawaii, Lee would want me to mention it here…and, if possible, engage in a lengthy discussion with the writers of the fan fic, those who support it, lots of people from England (check out Lee’s previous threads on this…a surprising number of Brits call Lee all sorts of interesting names!). But the fact of the matter is…I love Journey! Yeah, I really do. Along with Rick Springfield and Nutella, Journey is one of my main guilty pleasures.  In college, when "Faithfully" came on during a fraternity party,  if you were in my arms on the dancefloor, it meant loving time. That and "I Need Love" by LL Cool J were my jams, man. (To answer your next question, I was in college from 1989-1994, we just had really bad DJs.)

So: if you’re going to write fan fiction about Steve Perry, lead singer of Journey, originator of the red leather pants and shirt tied at the waist look for men, maybe think about inserting a little Tod Goldberg action in there as well.


Novelization Sparks Book Series

It’s not unusual for tv tie-in novels to continue long after the TV series they are based on have ended ("Star Trek," "Murder She Wrote," "Buffy," "Diagnosis Murder" etc.) But in what may be a first in the book-biz, Elizabeth Hand’s novelization of the "Catwoman" screenplay has sold so well, it has sparked a series of original novels from Del Rey. What makes this news even stranger is that the execrable  "Catwoman" movie tanked at the box-office.

The success of the "Catwoman" novelization is also notable for another reason. More and more novelizations and tie-ins are being written by established novelists as opposed to anonymous scribes writing under house names (though such pros as Lawrence Block, Jim Thompson, Walter Wager, Dennis Lynds, and Harry Whittington wrote tie-ins and novelizations).   Elizabeth Hand is an established author of  Gothic horror and romance novels. Undoubtably, that experience made the "Catwoman" tie-in a cut above most of the novelization hack-work out there… and perhaps  tantalized her readers into sampling a book they otherwise wouldn’t have bought.

Max Alan Collins is perhaps the best example, regularly penning novelizations ("The Mummy," "Saving Private Ryan") as well as original TV tie-ins ( "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "Dark Angel").  Edgar winner  Stuart Kaminsky is writing original "CSI: New York" books and Edgar winner Thomas H. Cook wrote the novelization of USA Network mini-series  "Taken."

The availability of name-writers to pen novelizations may have less to do with publishers trying to raise the quality of tie-in merchandise than with the obliteration of the mid-list.  Authors who might not have been available,  or interested, in tie-ins/novelizations before are now glad to accept a quick paycheck for eight weeks-to-ten weeks of work. And now, with the lure of  that quick paycheck turning into a long-running gig, more authors may be lining up for tie-in opportunities.

While authors and publishers benefit financially, readers are getting better-written novelizations and tie-ins.  So is it a win-win situation? Not really. There is one serious downside.  More and more valuable bookshelf space is being taken up by merchandizing tie-ins while fewer and fewer original paperbacks are being commissioned from new authors.

As The World Turns

While Lee continues to sun himself in Hawaii, the rest of us have to get back to living, which in my case means avoiding the writing I need to do…hence, a bevy links to things that have inspired me to great horror this afternoon:

The Literary World Waits With Baited Breath: Pop singer Ashanti has vast plans to take over the the writing world, she just can’t figure out which avenue to drive on, or, as she told Teen Hollywood, "I was thinking, do I want to do something for the children, or do I want to do something like Ashanti: Behind The Scenes?" I can’t tell you how I’ve clamored for both. I think: Ashanti — My Secret Desire To Be In the Battlestar Galactica Movie would cover both bases.

Dean Koontz Let His Dog Write A Book: And here Lee and I thought it was cool that our sisters will have a book out together next year.

A Year In Books: The Kansas City Star takes a look at the last 12 months of books…including this gem from January:

“Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” screenwriter (are you ill yet?) Joe Eszterhas publishes his 700-plus-page memoir, Hollywood Animal, which will stand up 11 months later as one of the year’s worst books — or at least the one with the highest hubris quotient.


Susan Sontag, Dead at 71

Author, essayist and National Book Award Winner Susan Sontag died today at the age of 71.

Susan Sontag, the author, activist and self-defined "zealot of seriousness" whose voracious mind and provocative prose made her a leading intellectual of the past half century, died today. She was 71.

Sontag died at 7:10 a.m. today, said Esther Carver, a spokeswoman for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.

The hospital declined to release a cause of death. Sontag had been treated for breast cancer in the 1970s.



Screenwriter John August  discusses the perils of exposition on his terrific screenwriting blog.

Always ask yourself: Would the character actually say this, or is he
only saying it because you need the audience to know some fact or
detail? If the answer is the latter, you’re writing exposition and not

That’s not good.

The  advice he gives applies as much to writing novels as it does to writing scripts.

Wherever possible:

  1. Show the information, rather than having a character say it.
  2. Try to follow a natural line of thought:  A to B to C. 
  3. Simplify.  The reader may not need to know everything.
  4. Keep your hero active in learning the information, rather than passively listening.
  5. Balance natural speech patterns with efficiency.  People rarely say things as concisely as they could.

Avoiding exposition is hard, especially in plot-dependent stories.
But it’s one of the first things a reader notices, so spend the time to
deal with it.

Postcard from kauai

Here’s the view from our condo in Kauai, where I’m enjoying the Christmas holiday with my family (click on the photo for a larger image).Poipukapili We’re having a wonderful time —  though the weather has been cloudy and rainy for the most part.  We’ve been going to the beach  and taking long walks anyway, even if it’s pouring.   I’ve managed to write a few pages on DM #6 since we got here…though not nearly enough.  We get up early, spend most of the day outside, and are exhausted by the time we finish dinner. We’re all in bed by 9 or 10. I’m sleeping really well (which I haven’t been able to do since my surgery last month), though the roosters outside wake me up around 4 a.m. and I have to put a pillow over my head to go back to sleep.  I still have to go to physical therapy here for my arm, but somehow it isn’t so bad when I can take a long walk on the beach afterwards.  We’ve only been here since Wednesday night…but I already feel so much more rested.

I hope you and your loved ones are having a Merry, and restful, Christmas, too!

Robert Sims Reid

Whatever happened to author Robert Sims Reid? He wrote a bunch of cop novels set in Montana but I don’t think he’s had a new book out in nearly  a decade…

I read his book RED CORVETTE a few years ago, liked it so much that I picked up everything Reid ever wrote, and then for some reason didn’t get back to him until last week, when something made me pack BIG SKY BLUES among the paperbacks to read in Hawaii.  I’m glad I did. James Crumley, in a cover blurb, called the book

"Perhaps the finest police novel I’ve ever read. I absolutely loved it. Wonderful writing, fine characters, and a great story.  Reid has taken the police novel out of the genre and into literature."

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Crumley, but I thought it was a great book. For all the hoo-hah about THE GUARDS, I thought BIG SKY BLUES was better. At least I enjoyed it a lot more. Although it was published back in ’88, it seems so much fresher than the cop novels I’ve read the last few years. For one thing, the hero isn’t an alcoholic loner on a path of self-destruction who’s hated by his bosses and inexplicably desired by women. The hero of BIG SKY BLUES is married with a teenage daughter and isn’t addicted to anything. And yet, he’s still a deeply troubled, complex character whose life is falling apart around him, particularly his relationships with his wife and his partner.

When I get home, I’m going to catch up on Reid’s other books…

Libraries Love Mysteries

The Library Journal and USA Today report that mysteries are the most-borrowed novels in the nation’s libraries.

done book-buying surveys over the years, and it always comes out that
mysteries are the first and romance is a close second," says Francine
Fialkoff, editor of Library Journal. "I do think this (list)
just confirms that libraries are huge lenders of mysteries. Almost
every one of the popular fiction (titles) is a mystery.

"Another thing about libraries that it is so clear when you look at this list is who the favorite writers are."

authors who consistently turn up: mystery writers Patricia Cornwell,
Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, Carl Hiaasen, Michael
Connelly; romance writers Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Danielle Steel;
and thriller writers John Grisham, Stuart Woods, Dan Brown.

4,000 libraries report the number of times books are borrowed or put on
hold. The list is posted at 20 times a year.

1. Trace by Patricia Cornwell.

2. R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton.

3. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

4. Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Sidney Sheldon.

5. Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich.

So…why is it that mysteries get so little respect?

All I Never Got For Christmas Part 3: The Final Conflict

Our last episode…

Denise: Funny, I wanted Rock ‘m Sock em’s and and EZ Bake oven, too. I got the former from a secretary as a gag gift because my writing partner and I fought so much. It blows. And I bought the latter as a holiday gift for my daughter. Interesting, going on the web site I found out back in 1963 when it came out it cost 19.95, exactly what I paid for it today. Now I know why I never got it. You do the math. Sadly, I never wanted things. I wanted people. We were the only three people in our family on this continent and we weren’t even Christian! So Xmas became a sad anemic ritual. Now I do the whole shabang, tree, big dinner, lots of cheer, and what a pain in the ass. When I was 9 I got a real Singer sewing machine that I didn’t even ask for and it was thrilling. I still use it today. The best toy I ever got was the Mattel Thing Maker with the open hot plate that I’m sure could cause third degree burns and industrial fires. God I loved that thing. I can still smell the Goop you used in it today. David C.: I can only think of one story – and it came way past childhood. My (well-intentioned) mother bought my then-fiancee a hobo-doll that looked insane. It so scared the hell out of her that I had to bury it in a box in the garage. Convinced that it was a cousin of Chuckee, and would therefore chew its way out of the box and murder us in our bed, she insisted that I take it to the dump where it was bulldozed into oblivion Vanessa: Things I wanted but never got: plastic high heel dress up shoes, Strawberry shortcake doll. Things I got that ended up sucking: Barbie dolls. Wanted them so bad. Then I cut their hair and realized that changing their outfits was really, really boring. Other thing that ended up sucking: Shrinky-Dinks. Plastic things you colored on that shrink in the oven. Whoopdy-doo! Kristy: I wanted a Barbie Head Doll forever. Then I got her and found out that she had the same balding problem after a month as my Uncle Bill for whom my Aunt Julie took responsibility for pulling all of his hair out because "he wouldn’t do everything she wanted." So back to the Barbie head doll. The brush was too small and the fake rollers didn’t make her hair do anything but stick inside them. I even remember the makeup it came with was like one giant hard cake of chalk, like writing chalk. What a disappointment she was. Barbie Beauty Queen beheaded onto a plastic plate. Sick really. Oh and now that I think about it, you had to place her between your legs to get any leverage on that long silky plasticide-like hair. Much like an oral sex pose. It was Barbie Head Doll…but c’mon…. Carey: Since I was an only child, I pretty much got everything I asked for when I was a little girl. Except, I always wanted a pony. Living in Palm Springs, all of my friends had one so I thought why couldn’t I. For every year I asked, my parents thought that horse-related gifts would suffice: a collection of Black Beauty novels, plastic collectible horse figures, cowboy boots, etc. While all those things were cool, I still wanted the horse. My sucky Christmas gifts didn’t come until I was an adult, actually, last year to be exact. My husband of five years (now ex) gave me boat loads of Bath & Body Works lotion–the really strong smelly stuff. While most women love that stuff, my asthma kicks in just being within two feet of it. (I think he was trying to inadvertently kill me for leaving him.) Also, a good friend of mine gave me one of those martini shakers that have recipes for all bar drinks engraved on it. I am not a heavy drink and put myself through college being a bartender and cocktail waitress. I guess, the friend wasn’t as close as I thought. Jerrilyn: This is the very stuff that has probably inspired me to avoid therapy lo these many years, but if you insist: Things I wanted from Santa: Barbie with the cool poofy silk skirt, EZ Bake oven and every packet and miniature box of cake mix they made, and a real microscope. Things I got in my stocking each and every year: One apple. One orange. One banana. And a small package of sequins. (Additional note of pathos: Since we didn’t have a fireplace in our mid-century (hah!) split-level house in the suburbs of Chicago, my brother and I hung our brown stockings (borrowed for one night only from my dad’s sock drawer) from a piano bench in the living room–the room with the clear-plastic slipcovers over the pastel blue couch. The above was what my sweet Jewish mother imagined was enough for her kids to get from that Santa Claus. Barbara: I wanted cowboy boots. I was probably 8 or 9. For some reason, I thought my parents weren’t going to get them for me and I was really upset. I searched the house hi and low, couldn’t find my hidden gift. (They knew better than to leave it under the tree before Christmas morning.) By the time Christmas day arrived, I had worked myself into a real snit. When I opened the box to see my authentic, leather, pointy toe boots, I made one attempt to pull them on and then threw them across the room declaring in a hysterical pout, "They don’t even fit. I found out later that those boots are stiff and you really have to work them on, especially when they’re brand new. Linda V.: I really wanted a chemistry set, and in a moment of temporary insanity when my mother gave the gift-getting over to my father, I actually scored one. Of course, I didn’t have a lick of talent for anything scientific, and the only thing I ever ended up doing with my chemistry set was burning sulfur. The house would smell like rotten eggs for days on end. Mary: I don’t really remember any gifts that sucked, but I will say that the gifts that hold up best, long-term, seem to be live animals. Like the hamster I got one year – it was the best gift I can remember. I would have liked a pony, but I understood it was never going to happen. Jennifer: Well, I have thought long and hard about this one (I was an only child for the major portion of my childhood) and the only thing I can think of is a baby blue jersey wrap skirt from K-mart that said "Disco" on it. Thank god my mom said no. I told her she’s not the one wearing it, and she replied, "Yes, but I’m the one who has to walk around with you."

Happy Holidays one and all…Tod

All I Never Got For Christmas Part 2: The Spawning

A continuation from below…

Stacy: Okay, I totally wanted this doll, and I can’t think of what she was called, but basically you would make this food for her (packets were included I think, probably some scary red powder that had to be mixed with water or something) and feed her, and then she would develop diaper rash. The television commercial showed the red-dot rash emerging from pin holes in her bottom! I thought this was the coolest doll ever! But then my mom heard from other moms that much of the food stuff gets stuck inside the doll and the doll starts stinking up a storm in no time. My mom refused to have two (if I got one my little sister would want one too!) smelly dolls in the house, so she instructed Grandma to get Baby-Crawl-Away for us instead. Here comes the story of the doll that blew. Baby Crawl Away was only coordinated enough to crawl on the first two seconds of her battery. (You had to take her plastic ass apart constantly to put new batteries in.) After that she was a mess of arms and legs and fell flat on her face every time. Sometimes my sister and I would race our Baby Crawl Aways and bet on which one would bite it first. And to make a doll that (so-called) crawled, she was all hard plastic with mechanical joints and stuff–the least cuddly doll ever. So when she fell on her face, it didn’t really occur to anyone to pick her up and hold her, so everyone just left her there in her battery-induced seizure. Sad. And no match for diaper rash on command…. Chad: The year was 1984 (I think) I asked for the 8-bit Nintendo game Commando from Santa – I also told my mom that she could buy it at Toys R Us. She proceeded to tell me that Santa doesn’t buy his toys from Toys R Us. I then explained to her that I knew she and my dad were "Santa," and that there was no real fucking Santa.So Christmas rolled around and under the tree was a box for me from "Santa" that was roughly the shape of a nintendo game. I opened it up and found a god-damned piece of black coal. My mom told me that kids who don’t beleive in Santa get coal. That was my christmas present for the year. And yeah… it sucked. Jennie: Since I was lucky enough not to need to ask for my two front teeth, I got to concentrate on other stuff. I totally bought the advertisements that Maniac was a cool game, and it sucked. That was my school of hard knocks education on advertising. One year my brother and I asked for a Coleco Vision game system, and it rocked. The graphics were way better than the Atari systems my friends had, and we spent hours playing Donkey Kong, Ladybug, and Xaxon David DB: When I was in high school I wanted a subscription to Playboy and my mom wouldn’t get it for me. When I was in grammar school, the kids across the street from me got these really cool new transistor portable radios, leather covered, they could hold in their palms up to their ears. I asked my dad for a portable radio and he got me a big pink one with tubes. Try taking that to school in your bookbag, or pulling out a pink radio in front of the local Pacoima gangs. Ned: The six foot long GI JOE aircraft carrier…$100 from Kay-Bee Toys with multiple levels for all your GI Joe action…pretty sure "Shipwreck" was the action figure that came with it. That or Optimus Prime from the Transformers. I can remember countless annoying sweaters or other boring clothing items instead. Then there were the pillow cases we got from our babysitter, Mrs.Cooper. Way boring!Of course, probably the worst Christmas I had, which I don’t even remember,came when I was all of 20 months old and was pounding on our piano in the living room. The lid came down and lopped off the tip of my left index finger. We hurried to the emergency room and the doctor decided to sew it back on. Country wisdom being we can always take it back off again if it wasn’t going to set. Dr. Rodawig knew what he was doing and I have the tip to my index finger to this day…albeit a little misshapen. Clair: I never got the EZ Bake oven and I always asked for it. I also never got the Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop. Instead, my twin sister and I got the Play-Doh Monster Mold set, which was totally lame. It had a pump — sort of — through which you squeezed Play-Doh into these monster molds. Then you pried the two halves of the mold apart, and you were supposed to get cool-looking monster figurines. Instead, you got big lumps of Play-Doh with lines in them that might have looked like monsters if you were astigmatic. Plus, when we tried to create multi-colored figurines, as shown on the box, we just wound up squishing together all our different colors of Play-Doh so it could never be used for anything else again. Then again, we were four, so maybe it would have worked better if we’d had better motor skills. But I’m sure we would not have had these problems with the Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop.