This Writer For Hire

Paperback Writer (author Lynn Viehl) has posted an excellent article on writing-for-hire. It’s great meat-and-potatoes publishing info.

A publisher, packager or franchise that wants a book or books written
to their specifications solicits and hires a novelist to write them.
The writer is contracted, usually for a flat fee. The assignment can be
anything from a vague idea to a complete package including specific
plots, characters, settings, maps, themes and so forth. Wordcounts,
page counts and certain creative restrictions (like sexual content) are
also generally spelled out.

To break into writer-for-hire
work, you usually have to audition, which is a lot like pitching one of
your own novels, or the publisher may seek you out based on your
published work or a recommendation from someone who knows you and your

I’m a writer-for-hire on DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK books. I got the DM job because I was an exec producer on the show and the publisher was aware that I was a novelist, too. So they came to me with an offer. The MONK books are being done by the same publisher…and I’ve worked on that show, too.  Writing-for-hire is a huge business and I know a lot of writers who make their living almost entirely on franchise work…

Used Book Haul

My wife and I were out running errands today.  One shop she visited was next door to…you guessed it… a used book store. Twenty minutes and ten dollars later, I emerged with:

HERITAGE OF BLACKOAKS by Ashley Carter (Harry Whittington)
SWORD OF THE GOLDEN STUD by Ashley Carter (damn, I was going to use that title for my next DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel)
DRISCOLL’S DIAMONDS by Ian MacAlister (Marvin Albert)

…then I got home and discovered I already have DRISCOLL’S DIAMONDS and SCANDAL OF FALCONHURST. Oh well.

The Mean Streets of Palm Springs

Gun in hand, the Mayor of Palm Springs leans forward, contempt written all over
his face.

“You need to go,” he tells the child molester in a slow drawl,
his icy stare never wavering as he takes a long drag on his cigarette.

“I ain’t going anywhere,” the molester answers, his 6-foot, 230-pound
frame quickly rising above the smaller man. “Punk.”

Without hesitation,
Mayor blasts him, blowing his kneecap clean off.

That’s a scene, as reported in today’s Desert Sun, from MAYOR OF PALM SPRINGS, a spec TV pilot being shot by Melarkie Brothers, an independant film company in the  Coachella Valley. It’s not actually about The Mayor, the politician who runs the city. It’s just one of those TV titles that’s a play on words.   

The show follows the exploits of Mayor Task, a good-guy cop turned Palm Springs
pool man who’s been recruited by a secret society to dole out justice, vigilante

Wait a minute. A vigilante pool man?

The scene Sunday depicted Mayor’s first assignment for the secret society:
confronting a known child molester.

“He wants to help people, that’s the
only thing he knows and loves,” Kienzle said of his character. “But he can’t do
it, because he was fired for dropping a gun at another crime scene to help out
another cop.”

The spec pilot is being directed by Bruce Carson, who makes a living shooting second-unit stunt work for feature films.  This is the second project for Melarkie Brothers. They did a 
short called “5 Minutes Alone” about what would happen if the state allowed the victims of crime five minutes alone with the criminals who have ruined their
lives.  I’m sensing a theme here. 

The Melarkie Brothers say they’re optimistic about the prospects for “Mayor of
Palm Springs,” but if it fails they say they’re not going to give up. This is
more than a hobby, and they are more than weekend warriors, they say.

“This is just about a bunch of guys that have a passion to make and tell
stories,” Miller said.

As long as they’re stories about people beating the crap out of criminals. Here’s my advice. If they really want to capture the way of life in Palm Springs, their next vigilante hero should be in his 70s. Or 80s.  Patrick MacNee lives in Palm Springs. Maybe they can talk him into starring. He was an Avenger, after all.  They could call it  RAGING WATERS… as in Nick Waters, an angry ex- cop with dentures of doom and arthritic fists of  fury who mows down bad guys with his slow-moving Buick Regal. Just a thought.

Used Book Haul

Between meetings today, I snuck into a used bookstore and here’s what I walked out with…

VENDETTA by Ed Gorman
DONOVAN by Elmer Kelton
.357 VIGILANTE by Ian Ludlow (I couldn’t resist getting an extra copy)
.357 VIGILANTE: MAKE THEM PAY by Ian Ludlow (ditto)
SECOND SIGHT by Charles McCarry
SECRET LOVERS by Charles McCarry
LAST SUPPER by Charles McCarry

Rockin’ Rockford

059534244201_sclzzzzzzz_If you’re as into TV… and TV Private Eyes… as I am, you’ve got to buy yourself Ed Robertson’s "Thirty Years of THE ROCKFORD FILES." The book covers every aspect of the classic series, from the making of the pilot through the production of the eight reunion movies (as well as unproduced scripts and the tie-in books by Stuart Kaminsky among other things).  Robertson interviews all the key players in front of, and behind, the camera, including James Garner, Steve Cannell, Roy Huggins, and Charles Floyd Johnson, and provides detailed episode synopses.

Technically, this isn’t a new book. It’s an update and revision of two earlier books Robertson wrote about THE  ROCKFORD FILES … "This is Jim Rockford" and "The Rockford Files: A 20th Anniversary Tribute." I have both of those books, too (told you I was a geek) and, like improved software, it’s well-worth "upgrading" to this new edition.

(By the way, it’s from ASJA Press, a special publishing program through iUniverse for out-of-print books by members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors)

“A Female Bourne Identity”

Variety reports that New Line Cinema has hired British mystery writer Mark Burnell to adapt his 1999 novel "The Rhythm Section," about the adventures of a female assassin, for the big screen.

New Line exec veep Mark Ordesky, shepherding the project with senior veep of
European production Ileen Maisel, describes it as "a female ‘Bourne Identity.’ "

"Rhythm Section" follows Patrick as she looks into a mysterious air crash
that took the lives of her parents and brother.

"What’s exciting is not just launching this franchise, but also the talent
discovery of Mark Burnell," Ordesky says. "We really feel he’s someone who’s
going to develop into something quite extraordinary."

Typical Day

Today was another typical working day for me (yeah, I know it’s Sunday, it makes no difference).

I spent the morning working on my second MONK novel. First, I revised the work I did yesterday, then worked on a new chapter. I managed to write 9 new pages.  I had lunch, then I spent the next few hours studying the three pilot pitches I’m going to be doing at various studios and production companies tomorrow (while keeping one eye on my daughter, who was in the pool with a friend). And then, just before logging on here, I spent some time sending out emails to some booksellers to arrange signings in October for THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE. Once I’m done with this post, I’ll BBQ some chicken for the family and then go back to work on MONK for a while before taking one, last look at the pitches before going to bed. 

Tomorrow moring, I hit the road at 8 a.m. to make it on time to our first meeting of the day, a 10 am pitch  in Hollywood.  I probably won’t get home until after 5 pm and then, after dinner, I’ll revise the MONK pages I wrote today and, if I still have some energy left, I’ll try to work some more on the book.

Okay, time to go, the BBQ is calling…