Road Trip

Things may be very slow here next week… on Friday, my wife and daughter and I are heading out on our first family roadtrip, driving from LA to Santa Fe and back… stopping at the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and who-knows-where. If I may post some dispatches from the road otherwise, if I survive, you’ll find me back here around April 4th.

Gunsmoke Novel

Gunsmokebook_I devoured Joseph West’s new GUNSMOKE tie-in today. It wasn’t just
a great TV tie-in…it was a great western that stood tall on its own. Not only did
West capture the characters and tone of the series perfectly, he went much
deeper, adding vivid details about life in Dodge and the politics of the job. There was
also some wonderful prose… particularly when it came to describing the
landscape and frontier life.  If you’re a fan of the series (as I am), or are just a-itchin’ for a good read, grab yerself a copy of this rip-snortin’ tale lickety split (aren’t you glad I’m not writing westerns?)

Writing for Dummies

This book has been out for a while, but I stumbled across it for the first time today while visiting


the blog Rubis Bleu.  Who knew writing romance was so easy? I’m starting mine today.  (Speaking of which, am I the only one for whom the phrase  "her heaving breasts" conjures images of breasts vomiting or throwing themselves overboard?)

Speaking of Rubis Blue, she posts an example of the kind of email an attentive man ought to leave his lover "the morning after."  To start with, just the notion of sending your lover a morning after email made me feel old. Email didn’t exist when I was dating. And if it did, it would have struck me as an awfully impersonal way of saying how special the previous night had been. Even so…on to her example:

"…and you make those incredibly arousing
whimpering sounds as your body shakes. Then you kiss me hard with this
overflowing passion pressing yourself against me. Especially if I start
out by teasing your lips first, just barely grazing them, flicking them
with my tongue, watching your arms straining against my hand as I hold
you down. Your eyes with that hungry, burning look in them. I felt how
hard your nipples were and how your body trembled. I just wanted to see
you. To slowly pull all of your clothes off. Watch your chest rise and
fall. To feel your thighs, your smooth skin, all the way up. Bite the
insides of your legs while feeling your hips rising under my hand. You
are beautiful. You taste so soft, warm, and sweet. You have no idea how
much I wanted to take you."

I think if I left that note on my wife’s pillow, back in prehistoric times before she was my wife and email didn’t exist, I don’t think it would have aroused her or touched her. I think it would have made her laugh her ass off. 

Then again, maybe I will leave her a note like that. She loves it when I make her laugh.

UPDATE (3/23/05) Sarah Weinman unearthed this wonderful post on the blog "The Sum of Me" about how over-heated sex scenes in romance novels did little to prepare one avid reader for the pleasures, and disappointments, of "real" sex.

In romance novels, it’s not uncommon for the heroine – or hero,
even – to actually faint with pleasure. Like, without the aid of drugs.
Passed out cold because the orgasm was that good.


This, apparently, is how you can tell if it’s true love.

is also called "fiction" — and reality was a bit of a let-down for a
girl who gobbled up this stuff for years. I think my (rather hilarious)
reaction to the real deal can best be summed up as: "Holy SHIT is that
good stuff, hooo boy." And then a dawning realization and an overall
feeling of – "It IS great. . . but it’s only great? I mean –
plate tectonics never came into play. I’m still conscious. The
bedsheets are not reduced to ashes and no suns have gone supernova,
from what I can tell… are you sure we did it right?"

What Does a Writers Assistant Do?

That was the question posed on screenwriter John August’s lively blog today. He’s got a good answer, and so does his former assistant Rawson Thurber, who went on to write DODGEBALL.

It’ s a smart question to ask, since being a writer’s assistant is a good way to break into the business…which is probably why there is so much competition for the jobs (and why so many applicants are WAY over-qualified).  The pay is crap ($500-a-week), the hours are hell (9 am to as late as, well 9 am), and the work is menial (answering phones, running errands, typing scripts, printing revisions, organizing files, putting revision pages into scripts, etc.)… but the experience is priceless. You learn how a TV show works from the inside. You see how stories are broken. You read lots of scripts… not just the one that are written, and endlessly rewritten, for the show… but the specs that come in clamoring for the showrunner’s attention. You see how freelancers succeed… and how they fail. You see how the producers deal with writers, studio executives, network executives, managers, actors, and everybody else associated with making a show. You make lots of contacts…not just with the writer/producers on the show and the freelancers who come in but, if you are any good at what you do, with the network and studio executives who call the office 178 times a day. If you’re smart, you’ll also hang out with the editors, line producers, script supervisors, directors, assistant directors… hell, everyone… and learn whatever you can about production. A job as a writer’s assistant is a graduate school education in the television… and, in your down time (on the rare occasions when there is some), you can write.  And I know it works. Not only have a lot of showrunners I know started out as writers assistants, most of the our assistants have gone on to become professional screenwriters themselves… one even became a development executive (though I lost track of her years ago).

Who is the Tall Dark Stranger There?

Maverick_logEd Gorman has been pondering, and remembering,  my friend writer/producer Roy Huggins,  creator of such classic TV series as MAVERICK, THE FUGITIVE, 77 SUNSET STRIP and (with Steve Cannell) THE ROCKFORD FILES. I contributed a few memories of my own experiences with Roy to Ed’s blog, as well as a short piece on MAVERICK. If you’re interested in a little TV history, you might want to mosey over there to Ed’s blog and check out the posts.

Gone Baby Gone

Variety reports that Ben Affleck will write and direct, but not act in, a feature film adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s book GONE BABY GONE.  The movie, which will be released by Disney, will shoot in Boston this fall and could be the start of a "franchise." The book is one of a series that Lehane, back before MYSTIC RIVER, wrote about a team of private eyes.

Blog Spam

The kid who emailed me for career advice the other day sent the identical email to lots of other TV & film writers who’ve got blogs.  And we all responded. On our blogs.

Here’s another one.

We all gave him more or less the same advice. And, in doing so, taught him a couple of other valuable lessons:

1) All writers procrastinate.
2) One of the best ways to procrastinate is to run a blog.
The best way to avoid writing when you have a blog is to answer
questions about being a writer when you are in the midst of avoiding
being one.

All The Flowers Are Dying

Lawrence Block is at the top of his game.  Then again, he’s written fifty or a hundred books (I’ve lost count) and as far as I know, he’s never been anything but at the top of his game. ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING is prime "Matt Scudder" and Block at his best.  The writing is lean and assured, the story fast-moving, the character strokes deft and memorable.  Some of the scenes are vividly violent and disturbing, but they never feel gratuitous, or ugly for  shock value. The plotting is tight, the  pace ratcheting up the suspense with skilled ease.  Block  isn’t called the Grandmaster at this stuff for nothing, folks.

The prose isn’t the least bit self-conscious or arty and yet stunningly effective. Once again, he reminds us that sometimes the old pros at crime writing do it a whole lot better than the new wave of writers who think they’ve reinvented the form.  I doubt there are many writers out there who consistently deliver the way Block does. The book is a lesson in writing…from a guy who wrote the book on how to write books (actually, he’s written three excellent how-to books, but who’s counting?).

ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING is crime writing at its best. Don’t be put off by the fact it’s number 107 or something in the Scudder series — you don’t have to have read a single Scudder tale get the wallop this one delivers (though the punch is stronger if you have).  You’ll be seeing this one talked about again come Edgar time next year…

It Isn’t Easy Being Dan Brown

For one thing, there’s the $50 million you’re earned over the last two years to be counted, invested, tax-sheltered, and spent. Then there’s Lewis Perdue nipping at your heels.

As if that wasn’t enough, according to today’s New York Times, Dan can no longer travel on airplanes, because the aisles get
clogged with people lining up for autographs.  (And my favorite anecdote, he was in line at
airport security and realized he left his ID at home — so he borrowed a copy of
DaVinci Code from the guy in line behind him and used the author photo to get
on.  Of course, that does raise the question, what kind of moron goes to the airport, intending to leave town, and leaves their ID at home?) .  All of this is having a big impact on his work… a sequel to the DAVINCI CODE.

There are hints that the pressure to repeat his success might be wearing on
Mr. Brown. Long an author who worked in private, Mr. Brown now talks with his
editor, Jason Kaufman, often once a day, sometimes twice – far more often, Mr.
Kaufman said, than when the pair worked together on Mr. Brown’s three most
recent novels, including "Deception Point" and "Angels & Demons."

"We go over every plot point and twist," Mr. Kaufman said. "I function as a
sounding board for him."

Thrilling Thriller Writers

The newborn International Thriller Writers Association has sealed a big-money deal with Mira books to release THRILLER, an anthology of thrilling short stories edited by the thrillicious James Patterson. The thrillful contributors include Ted Bell, Steve Berry, Lee Child, Lincoln Child, David Dun, Joe Finder,
Greg Iles, Alex Kava, John Lescroart, David Liss, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Katherine Neville, Michael Palmer, Douglas Preston, Eric Van Lustbader, Christopher Reich, Christopher Rice, James Rollins, M.J. Rose, Jimmy Siegel, Brad Thor, and F. Paul Wilson. The book will be out in hardcover in June 2006 to coincide with ThrillerFest, the  first convention for thriller writers and fans, in Phoenix. All proceeds from THRILLER will go the ITW to help get the organization up-and-running, though they seem be to up-and-running pretty thrillingly already.