Who Writes NAVY NCIS?

I got this email IN ALL CAPS today, so I know HE’S SERIOUS.


I’m not sure what he expects me to do… forward to him the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the writing staff so he can make his demands to them? I don’t know anything about the dynamics behind-the-scenes of NCIS, but maybe the actress who played Caitlin wanted to move on to other things or maybe she wasn’t happy on the show or maybe she was a complete lunatic they couldn’t bear to work with another day. I don’t know.  Cast changes on a TV show are common (ER, LAW AND ORDER, BOSTON LEGAL, BEWITCHED, M*A*S*H, GUNSMOKE, MONK, LA LAW, ALLY McBEAL, THE SHIELD, HILL STREET BLUES, CHICAGO HOPE, NYPD BLUE,  CHEERS, etc.). and a fact of life in this business.  Live with it or, as you say, change the channel.

The Evil Jedi

SciFi author Orson Scott Card angered a lot of Trekkies a few weeks back by writing that STAR TREK sucked. Not just ENTERPRISE, the whole Roddenberry franchise. Unsatisfied with alienating that huge percentage of scifi fans, now he’s probably infuriating legions of STAR WARS talifans by saying the Jedi, and their ideals, are extremely screwed up…even evil.

The Jedi may claim to be in favor of democracy, but in fact they function as a ruling elite, making their decisions among themselves. They occasionally submit to the authority of the legislature, and they seem to respect the rule of law, though whose law it’s hard to say. By and large, however, they decide among themselves what they’re going to do and when it’s OK to break the law and defy the civilian authority.

They are, in fact, utterly anti-democratic, like a militia that owes nothing to civilian authority…

…So instead of looking at the storyline of Episode III as a conflict between good and evil, you could read it as a conflict between the entrenched aristocracy trying to preserve their monopoly on power, and an ambitious upstart, who is determined to break that monopoly and take control for himself. The only reason we don’t see it that way is because the other side is so
much more evil.  But the body count left behind by Jedi knights is — or should be — disturbing.

He’s not the first person I’ve heard say this. I was stuck in traffic the other day and heard a commentator on NPR make a very persuasive argument that the Jedi were the true villains of REVENGE OF THE SITH  ("The flawed despotism of the Empire is better than the aristocratic smugness of the Jedi.")

As I watched REVENGE OF THE SITH, I might have paid more attention to the values of Jedi vs those of the Sith if the movie wasn’t so dull. Somewhere between STAR WARS and REVENGE OF THE SITH George Lucas forgot how to be funny, entertaining and lively. God, I missed Han Solo. Sure, the effects are astounding…it’s a shame the rest of the movie has all the drama, emotion, and humor of an HOA meeting.

(Thanks to S.L Viehl for pointing me to Orson Scott Card’s essay)

What Do You Call Rabid Fans

I belong to a tie-in and novelization writers discussion list…and many of the writers have been discussing how they deal with rabid fans, the kind who live, eat, and breath the fictional worlds of STAR TREK or STAR WARS or BUFFY or even DIAGNOSIS MURDER and seriously need to get a life.  One of the writers came up with a name for them… and I predict it’s going to catch on: The talifans.

UPDATE: I want to clarify my thoughts on this.  Fans are great, they read and support our work and deserve our respect,
kindness, and attention. But rabid fans, for whom the TV show or movie becomes
something akin to a lifestyle or religion, are scary and hostile. There are some
STAR WARS, STAR TREK, and BUFFY tie-in writers who have some real horror stories
to tell about their interactions with fans like this…the Talifans. Heck, I
have a few I can tell myself from my SEAQUEST days (I even wrote a novel about
it!).  Talifans aren’t average fans…Talifans are rabid fans.

Here are some links to other Talifran discussions. Author Karen Traviss talks about how the term "talifan" came up.

This came from a media tie-in compadre after a mutual colleague had been given a
pretty grim tme by their fandom over parts of their book that did not fit
said fandom’s view of What The Character Should Have Done –  even if their view
bore no resemblance to continuity:

And Brian Hogg, pondering the religious implication in the term "talifan," wonders if fandom has become a religion  to some fans.

The level of devotion that genre fans feel is not at all unlike religious
fervor… The truth is
that these fans are paying tribute, endlessly, to their favored properties —
properties which, as sci-fi, generally espouse an ethos, a specific mindset, a
way of living today to achieve some exhalted future.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I Miss Richard Wheeler’s Blog

Legendary western novelist Richard Wheeler left this comment on my earlier post about "’Not Ready For Publication’ Authors."  I couldn’t let it remain buried there… he has far too much wit and wisdom to share. 

I don’t know of any shortcuts to literary success. This story drawn
from memory may be apocryphal, and it may involve Thornton Wilder
rather than the crusty New York drama critic Alexander Woolcott, but it
makes the point, true or not.

Woolcott was invited to address the Yale Drama Club, which was
composed of aspiring playwrights. He stalked out on the stage, peered
down at all the young people from behind the lectern, and said, "Why
are you here? If you want to be playwrights, then go home and write."
And with that, walked off the stage. He returned a moment later, having
made his point, and discussed writing with the aspiring Yale students.

iUniverse is gifted at printing handsome books, and perhaps it
pleasures a writer to see his or her material printed. But it is not
true publication. It is not the authentic thing. I can best describe
what real publication is about by borrowing a paragraph from Ed
Gorman’s fine blog. On that day, some of us were discussing an agent,
Ray Puechner, who had a way of helping his struggling clients. Here is
what Ed wrote about him. It truly depicts what it is like to sell a
book to a real publisher, in this case Houghton Mifflin:

The day my wife Carol sold her first novel—to Houghton-Mifflin, no
less—he called (she was at school, teaching) and said, “Here’s what you
do. Buy her flowers and as soon as she comes in the door give ‘em to
her along with a big kiss.” I got the flowers all right but when she
came in the door, I put up my hand to halt her right there. I had the
flowers behind my back. And then I said, “Will anybody who just sold
her first novel to Houghton Mifflin please step forward.” Then the
flowers came out and then the kissing and hugging and laughing. When
she called Ray to thank him—I was on an extension phone—they both got
very teary. It wasn’t just a great day for Carol and Ray—it was also a
great day for me. And Ray had made it so.

Ed Gorman has perfectly described a real sale of a first novel.

I can only urge aspiring writers to write and write and write, and rewrite it again.

It’s posts like this that make me wish Richard Wheeler had stuck with his blog. Well, he’s welcome to post here anytime (and you can find him frequently at over at Ed Gorman’s blog).

“Not Ready For Publication” Authors

Novelist Karin Gillespie keeps running into a self-published author on the bookselling/hyping circuit and it’s pissing her off

Writing a book doesn’t make someone an author anymore than applying
a Band-Aid to a skinned knee makes someone a doctor. Reviewers of large
newspapers, publishing people and most media outlets can spot these
so-called “authors” fairly readily, but how can the average Joe tell
the difference between a real writer and a dilettante?

I know
I sound petty, but as a writer who went through a great deal of trouble
to learn my craft, I’m annoyed that my efforts and other authors’
efforts are diluted by not-ready-for-publication authors.

all, the public is deluged with plenty of traditionally published
books; it shouldn’t have to sort through the efforts of amateurs as

Yikes.  I hope she owns a Kevlar vest.  My sister-in-law Wendy apparently hasn’t learned anything watching all the trouble her husband and brother-in-law get into expressing their opinions on self-publishing, fanfic, and well, just about everything. She dives head-first into the controversy with:

I can say I agree with the sentiment that self publishing, well, doesn’t count as being published.  Printed yes, published no.

Boo hiss. Tar and feather me. I am not a friend of the artist. I’m elitist; a cog in corporate America’s machine to destroy fresh, young voices. Oh, grow up.

I have this theory: not everyone deserves to be published. It’s not like kindergarten where every kid gets a gold star for showing up. It’s more like high school where not every graduating senior has the academic chops to gain admittance to Harvard. A harsh reality for anyone with a dream, but a reality nonetheless.

They are both echoing the fine advice that Richard Wheeler left on this blog the other day. Even so, I’m sure these posts are bound to create a firestorm of anger among the PublishAmerica an iUniverse customers who call themselves published authors.

The Hazards of Emmy Voting

It’s Emmy time… that’s the glorious time of year when members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences get inundated with DVDs  of all the best TV shows (sitcoms and dramas), MOWs and miniseries that have aired on network, cable, and pay cable in the last year. (Fellow scribe Paul Guyot lists on his blog today  some of the goodies we’ve already received).

The great thing about Emmy time is that you get to see all the stuff you missed during the season… the very best episodes of every show on the air…in beautiful DVD transfers with no commericals.

The bad news is… there are a LOT of shows on each season. HUNDREDS.  Every year.  Which raises the question: What the hell are you supposed to do with all those DVDs when you’re done?

Used to be you could donate them to your local library (for their collection, NOT for re-selling), give them to friends,  tape over them (back in the days of VHS), or simply throw them out.

But you can’t do that any more. Things have become  so Orwellian in the fight against piracy that all the DVDs (and the occasional VHS) are encoded with some digital marker that can be traced right back to you. Which means if you toss your DVDs, and your  friendly trash man digs’em up and rips 1500o bootleg copies to sell on the streets, you could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, drummed out of the ATAS, perhaps even go to prison, just for emptying your garbage.

This is a serious problem for us big-shot Hollywood  Emmy voters. Those DVDs and tapes really stack up. So what’s the answer? An AMPTP exec recently joked that you should smash your DVDs with a sledgehammer and run your car over your tapes. Come to think of it…maybe he wasn’t joking.

There’s No Laundry Room in Neverland

17701056I’m sure you’ve seen the Halloween costumes that Michael Jackson has been wearing to court.  But did you know he never wears the same one twice? And did you know he has a personal wardrobe consultant who dresses him every morning? The LA Times interviewed his costumers Michael Bush (no relation to George) and Dennis Tompkins  today.

Each day, Bush wakes at 3 a.m. to drive the day’s outfit — typically a
colorful print vest and a suit with military details — from his home
studio in Los Feliz up the 101 Freeway to Neverland Ranch. There,
between 6 and 7 a.m., he dresses Jackson, who always says "Thank you"
and gives him a hug, Bush says. The designer returns by midafternoon,
in time to help Tompkins put the finishing touches on the next day’s
look. Tompkins makes most of Jackson’s costumes with a single fitting.
The pair create his courtroom wardrobe using the "Michael mannequin,"
built to the singer’s exact dimensions.

Perhaps what they are most proud of is that Jackson has never worn the same thing twice.

"We have two or three tailors around town making jackets because we can’t make them fast enough," Bush says.

My Feelings Exactly…

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker:

The general opinion of "Revenge of the Sith" seems to be that it marks
a distinct improvement on the last two episodes. True, but only in the same way
that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion.

The special effects, however, were amazing.

Otherworlders Unite!

An important message from Otherworlder Central Fan Command.  There’s a huge global following that will line up to  see a feature film version of OTHERWORLD with the original
cast. Sam Groom rules. It’s a crime he never won an Emmy for his powerful performances.  You aren’t human if the opening narration doesn’t move you, doesn’t haunt your soul forever:

Otherworld"Other worlds lie outside our seeing. Beyond the beyond. At the edge…
of within. The Great Pyramid, erected by the ancient ones as a
barricade. At the portal between two dimensions, two separate
realities. This is the story of one family, drawn through a mysterious
vortex into the other world and of their perilous trek homeward."

We never got to see them get home. That is just wrong. We didn’t get the final episode we deserve because of the suits at the network.  OTHERWORLD fans from all corners of the globe are rallying to support this urgent cause.
We have already designed the DVD box, movie poster and network promos. Look for our full-page
advertisements in the Hollywood Reporter, Parade Magazine,  Dog Fancy and American Spectator.