Ride on My Coat-Tails…For a Price

There’s hot gossip making the rounds in mystery-writing circles  about the husband of A Famous Author who sent letters to first-time novelists recently offering to sell them blurbs from his wife as part of a promotional "break-out bestseller" package they’ve put together. The services allegedly include having The Famous Author rave about the book on her website, provide links on her website to the writer’s, and provide the writer witha  mailing list of the "Minotaur 100" reviewers as well as members of MWA and SiC.  In that spirit, author Donna Andrews jokingly offers her own menu of promotional services.

I’m not going to introduce my own competing service.  But
I have some ideas.   Just tossing around some rough figures, mind you,
but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Website link: $5
Working website link: $50
Blog mention: $5
Humorous blog mention: $50
Blog entry claiming that I’ve read your book: $100
Actually reading your book and saying something intelligent about it: contact management for current rates.
Mentioning your book in public as what I’m currently reading: $25
your book as one of my year’s favorites: sliding scale, depending on
where the mention appears.  Contact management to negotiate terms.

The Guy Hanks School of Screenwriting

The Guy A. Hanks Screenwriting Program, established by Bill Cosby at the USC School of Cinema and Television, is starting it’s 12th year and accepting application this summer. The press release says:

This non USC program has single handedly
brought more successful African-American Writers into the entertainment industry
than any other program of its type.
It is designed to assist writers in completing a television or feature script, while examining African-American  history, culture and images in the media. Participation is free to those
selected. The program is not designed for beginning level writers. They are seeking writers who have taken the initiative to formally study television or feature writing. In an industry that
is extremely competitive, the program has found their greatest success in
assisting those who have a strong writing foundation in television or
screenwriting. Alumni from the program have
excelled in the entertainment industry and have been honored by organizations
including the NAACP. The program’s work has been recognized by the state’s
Governor, Senator and the Los Angeles Mayor’s office.

I’m a 1995 graduate of the Guy Hanks screenwriting program, only then it was called "The Cosby Mysteries" and Guy Hanks was the name of the detective that Cosby played. 

I was a supervising producer on the show and one of the invaluable screenwriting lessons I learned was that scripts don’t matter.  The best television is when actors throw out the script entirely and completely improvise scenes regardless of story continuity (or, in the case of whodunit mystery, the clues) or what what shot before… so that when the show is cut together, nothing makes sense.

MystlogoI only got one piece of screenwriting advice directly from Mr. Cosby. He called one day and said he thought it would be great if  some ninja assassins cartwheeled through the window in the finale, which was  shooting the next day (which also was the final day of production on the episode).  We mentioned it might be odd to see ninjas in the finale since there were no ninjas  in the show at all. As I recall, he said: "There are now."

We wrote the ridiculous finale, but after he read it, he refused show up for the scene at all because he felt we didn’t put our heart into what we wrote. So instead, we get a piece of amazing improvisation: The two villains not only get into a martial arts battle for no reason, they also explain to each other between blows how the murder was committed and how Guy Hanks might have put the clues together (since Guy Hanks isn’t there to tell us himself).  I was surprised they didn’t read each other their rights and arrest themselves. As it turned out, the police show up and slap the handcuffs on them after the fight…and, if I recall, there’s a silent shot of Cosby sitting in the car looking pissed.

A short time after THE COSBY MYSTERIES was cancelled, Cosby went on THE TONIGHT SHOW and blamed the show’s failure on the scripts.

I don’t know if there’s a real Guy Hanks and if the character, and the screenwriting program, are named in his honor. But I like to think that there isn’t, and that it’s Cosby’s way sticking it to the writers on the show one more time… 

Pen Pals

TV Writer Paul Guyot talks about how important it is for writers to have other writers as friends.

The intangible. See, I can talk to my wife about story, and she
reads everything I write, but even though she actually worked with
writers for a living, understands story and structure, gives very good,
precise notes, there is still something altogether different when it’s
a writer talking with another writer. There’s some nebulous thing
that’s shared.

My advice to any "aspiring" writers, be it screen or prose, is to find yourself a writer buddy.

Just don’t date another writer. I’ve made that mistake.

Buffy The Con Slayer

Variety reports that the organizer of Slayercon ’05, celebrating BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER down under, has disappeared with the $500,000 raised by ticket sales.

Edward Schumacher, topper of Scooby Gang Promotions — who organized
Slayercon 2005 in Adelaide for July 2-3 — is under investigation by South
Australia’s Office of Consumer and Business Affairs after dropping off the radar
in late April with all the event coin.

"We are trying to contact him to see if he has a bona fide intention to hold
the convention in October or to see if we can get the money back," said Mark
Bodycoat, OCBA topper. "But it doesn’t look hopeful, in my experience if things
start to happen like this it is not going to happen at all."

Unconfirmed reports speculate that he’s donated the money to the  Colonial Fan Force and their righteous cause.

There’s No Need to Fear, Another TV Remake is Here…

Following on the heels of SCOOBY-DOO, Variety reports that Disney is developing a live-action version of the TV cartoon UNDERDOG.

Underdog"Anything where you have a dog in that superhero context, that’s appealing on a
global basis," producer Gary Barber said. "Those films do very well, and there’s no better
brand than Disney for this kind of movie."

…The tongue-in-cheek "Underdog" skein, created by Buck Biggers and Chet Stover,
made its debut in 1964 on NBC and ran until 1973. The character was an unlikely
superhero: a beagle who sheds his milquetoast identity of Shoeshine Boy to
become a caped superdog who speaks in rhymed couplets. Wally Cox provided his

In the feature script, by Joe Piscatella and Craig A. Williams, a diminutive
hound named Shoeshine gets superpowers after a lab accident. When he’s adopted
by a 12-year-old boy, the two form a bond around the shared knowledge that
Shoeshine is really Underdog.

How Hated Am I?

I got this email today:

Do you realize that EVERYBODY in fandom hates your fucking guts you asshole?

I think it was from my Mom, but I’m going to answer it anyway. No, I had no idea. So, for fun, I thought I’d take a look at what some people are saying. Here’s a sampling:

From Jocelyn’s Other Desk:

Thy lips rot off, Lee Goldberg!  Thou jarring, fat-kidneyed scullian!  You speak an infinite deal of nothing!  […] Goldbergs one and all, thine sole name blisters our tongues.  Thou hath more hair than wit, and more faults than hairs.

From Nobody Knows Anything Blog:

I understand the impulse to write and read fanfic—you want to live in
this wonderful world as much as you can, and twenty-four hours a year
or one book every two years or whatever just isn’t cutting it for you.
There are several novel series that I am forever hoping will just happen to have a new installment at the bookstore every time I check. But
fanfic is like a steak dinner made out of meringue—might look the real
thing, but it’s not really going to fill you up.

From Dawn Rivers Baker’s Blog:

You know, it’s all very well to nitpick about the legal shimmies and shakes of fanfic,
but the legal stuff doesn’t cover what it must be like for the author
who feels violated by other people dipping their fingers into the
author’s creation. All you really have to do to "get" the author’s perspective is to ask a victim how it feels to have just been raped.

From Nick Mamatas:

Mystery writer and TV producer Lee Goldberg picks up a stick and whacks a hornet’s nest by taking on fanfic.
I have no dog in the fight; after all, what can I say? NOBODY had
better RIP-OFF my ORiGINAL CHARACTERS like … uh … Jack Kerouac and uhm Cthulhu and William S. Burroughs and and and…
However, I do like a good brawl, especially when everyone is so
obviously speaking past one another. "It’s illegal!" "It’s a hobby!"
"It’s illegal!" "It’s a hobby!" Haven’t these people ever heard of an
illegal hobby before? They sure seem to be acting like they run their
neighborhood meth labs.

Read more

Tod on Walter Scott

The best reason to read my brother Tod’s blog is his hilarious weekly dissection of Walter Scott’s Personality Parade column. I open the Parade magazine that comes bundled with my LA Times each Sunday trying to guess which stupid questions and inane answers are going to become the topic of Tod’s blog post. This week’s column was tough to guess, because it was a goldmine of inanity. You can see the questions that Tod tackled here. I knew he’d pick the Desperate Housewives question, but I was surprised he let this question-and-answer go:

I was surprised that Kenny Chesney was at the Academy of Country Music Awards without his new bride, Renee Zellweger. Where was she? Stella Wilson, Charlotte N.C.

The pair prefer to say out of each other’s spotlight, so Zellweger,36, was not in the audience last month in Las Vegas when Chesney, 37, was named Entertainer of the Year. (Our sources say she was at the hotel next door, but Kenny’s rep would only tell us "Renee was busy elsewhere"). The actress did attend a party afterward with her hubby.

Care to correct the oversight, Tod?