Room 222

We’re back in the classroom again…well, the virtual one, anyway. William Rabkin and I are teaching "Beginning Television Writing" for  Writers University, starting on August 1.

In this four week course, we’ll give you an inside look at the world of
episodic television. You will learn—and practice— the actual process
involved in successfully writing your spec episodic script (the sample you’ll need to start getting TV work). You will learn how to analyze a TV show and
develop “franchise”-friendly story ideas. You will develop and write a
story… and then, after incorporating our brilliant notes, you will be
sent off to write your outline. Finally, you will develop and refine
your outline with us… and leaving you the course
ready to write your episodic spec script…the first step in getting a
job on a TV series.

For more information, click here.

Maybe He Should Have Stayed ‘Off the Grid’

My brotherTod reviews John Twelve Hawks’ THE TRAVELER , the marketing ploy masquerading as a novel. Rather than push the book on its own creative merits, the thrust of the advertising and publicity campaign is that the author is anonymous and lives "off the grid," as if that’s a reason to buy a book (or, for that matter, to publish one). 

According to the book jacket and press materials for The Traveler, the author "John Twelve Hawks lives off the Grid." What the bio fails to mention and what the publisher might have failed to note was that, "John Twelve Hawks doesn’t know how to write dialog." In addition, "John Twelve Hawks never was told that pages and pages of expositional dialog broken up with meaningless secondary action isn’t engaging."

I wasn’t planning on reading it anyway.

Drive By Signings

My friend JA Konrath has been blogging from the road, keeping a running tally of all the "drive-by" signings he’s doing on his book tour.

A "drive-by" signing means you just show up at a store unannounced and unscheduled and sign whatever stock they have on hand as opposed to a formal signing, which is a scheduled event that a bookstore has arranged (and which generally means they will have lots of your books, if not customers, on hand). His book tour is built around the formal signings, mostly at independant and mystery bookstores, set up by his publisher…the drive-bys are something he’s doing on the side, taking the initiative to get as much bang for the publisher’s promotional buck as he can. A typical day of drive-bys for Joe has gone like this:

Got into San Diego around noon, picked up the rental car, checked into the slum that is the Westgate Hotel, and started the drive-bys.

Baja Books, signed 3 paperbacks.

B. Dalton on Horton, signed 2 hardcovers, 3 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble on Hazard, signed 4 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble on Grossmont, signed 4 hardcovers, 8 paperbacks, sold 1.

Bookstar on Rosecrans, signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.

Borders on Camino del Rio, signed 2 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks, sold 1.

Borders on 6th, signed 2 hardcvoers, 6 paperbacks.

Waldenbooks on Friars, signed 6 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.

I got stuck in some serious rush hour traffic, and it took 90 minutes
to get to my signing that night, at Mysterious Galaxy.

That’s lot of time, effort, and expense to sign 22 hardcovers and 40 paperbacks. But I understand what’s motivating him. Up until now, I’ve done the same thing.  Now, on the eve of two of my new books being released, I’m wondering if the drive-bys really make a difference and if there aren’t better, and more productive ways, to promote my book.  Your thoughts?

The Big Over Easy

The NYTime’s Janet Maslin likes Jasper Fforde’s THE BIG OVER EASY, which is a relentless parody of mystery cliches about a detective investigating the killing of Humpty Dumpty:

The crime scene is described with tongue-in-cheek attention to forensic detail.
("Jack noted a thin and hairless leg – still with a shoe and sock – attached to
a small area of eggshell draped with tattered sheets of translucent membrane.")
Then there is the requisite moody-detective moment of contemplating this cruel
turn of fate. "Humpty had been a jolly chap then, full of life and jokes," Mr.
Fforde writes. "Jack paused for a moment and stared silently at the corpse."

After a glancing reference to Spratt’s last case, "The Crown v. Three Pigs,"
in which the murder victim, Mr. Wolff, "went to his casket unavenged and
parboiled," Mr. Fforde is ready to go anywhere. Soon he has introduced a whiff
of Greek mythology at the home of Mrs. Hubbard, Humpty’s landlady. ("Sorry,
pooch," she says. "No bones for you today." ) Her other lodger turns out to be
Prometheus. "The Titan Prometheus? The one who stole fire from the gods and gave
it to mankind?" Jack asks.

"I’ve no concern with what he does in his private life," Mrs. Hubbard
answers. "He pays the rent on time, so he’s O.K. with me."

It sounds like fun. Coincidentally, my signed UK copy from Ralph Spurrier’s Post Mortem Books, arrived in the mail today…

Not My Words

I was procrastinating this morning, reading through the comments on my blog, and decided to do what an anonymous commenter in the "Hypocrisy 101" discussion did — run my name through Blogpulse.  What I found astonished me.

Naturally, there were a lot of folks (mostly on LiveJournal) trashing me for my views on fanfiction, which is fine and to be expected. But what surprised me is that on far too many occasions, I was being crucified for things I never said (and, in many cases, never would).  People were attributing to me comments that other people posted on my blog and trashing me for them.  There’s nothing I can do about it now, but the irresponsibility, laziness and stupidity of attaching my name to someone else’s opinions is infuriating and frustrating.

I was tempted to defend myself at each of those blogs or discussions, to say I never said those things they said I said, but it’s futile and time consuming and ultimately pointless. The damage is done.

I’m not sure what I can do to stop it.. I mean, I take responsibility for my views and deserve to be held accountable for them. That’s why I put my name on everything I write.

How hard is it to make the distinction between my views and those of complete strangers  –and a few of my friends, colleagues, and family — who post comments on my blog? Here’s a hint. My opinions are the ones with my name on them.  Trash me for those, not someone else’s.

UPDATE – Here’s an example:

"The number of people worldwide into a particular segment of fanfic would
probably have trouble filling a bar for a Thursday night set by your average
garage band. Those who read it are even fewer.

~ Lee Goldberg,
winner of the WTF?!YouLoseAtTehIntarweb award, 2005 ~

I don’t know which of hundreds of commenters here over the last few months actually posted that, but it wasn’t me…nor is it something I would say.


I got this email today:

Is Booksurge a vanity press? They are owned by Amazon, which sells the books, so isn’t that different?

Yes, Booksurge is a vanity press. Being owned by Amazon doesn’t change that.  The big clue is that  they charge for all their publishing services… starting at $498 for their "Author’s Advantage" package and on up to $899 for the "Master Bookmaker" option. Add another $999 for Professional Cover Design or "upgrade your book to a library-quality hard cover for a truly professional look" for another two hundred bucks (so everything else they publish looks unprofessional?).  Getting accepted by Booksurge doesn’t mean you’ve written a great book. It means your credit card is good.

Amazon sells iUniverse and other POD vanity-press books, too. I suppose the only difference is that orders might be fullfilled faster for Booksurge titles than other vanity press titles bought through Amazon.

I am, I Said

I’ve always posted under my own name where ever I go on the Internet. I consider it a matter of principle. I can’t help noticing that 99% of the most opinionated flamers and abusive insult-slingers always hide behind pseudonyms in newsgroups and back-blogs. That makes it easy for them to behave in ways they never would if they had to take personal responsibility for their words and deeds. But that’s my reasoning…what’s yours for using your own name or choosing to use a pseudonym or handle instead?

The Five Stars

I received an email press release today from Ben Costello, who has written a non-fiction book about GUNSMOKE, one of my favorite shows. Naturally, I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued when I saw the book came from Five Star, one of my favorite publishing companies (which is bringing out my book THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE).

I checked out the book on Amazon and discovered it was selling for the outrageous sum of $75. Surely, Five Star wouldn’t price the book so high… and then I noticed something. His book was published by "Five Star Publications." I’m published by "Five Star Publishers." (aka "Five Star Press," though not to be confused with Five Star Press, Five Star Publications’ publicity arm)

So I checked out Five Star Publications and discovered it’s a vanity press (to further complicate things, there’s also a Five Star Publishing, a completely different company, which does magazines for the Agricultural and Construction industries). Five Star Publications offers every publishing service you can imagine…for a price.

While I was at it, I visited Ben’s website, and discovered he’s represented by  Janette Anderson, an agent with Five Star Celebrity, which appears to be a division of — you guessed it — Five Star Publications, which published Ben’s book.

[Portions Deleted 7-27-05]

UPDATE 7-27-05: I’ve been contacted by Five Star Publications, who would like me to make it clear that Ben Costello’s book was not self-published. Although Five Star Publications does offer self-publishing services, they state that his book was published under a traditional publishing contract (you can see the complete text of their letter in the comments section of this post). I apologize to Ben Costello for the error. By the way, before I heard from Five Star Publications, I ordered the GUNSMOKE book. I couldn’t resist. I’m a GUNSMOKE geek.

I’ve also been contacted by Janette Anderson’s representatives, who wish to make it clear that none of her clients have paid to be published. I apologize for the error and have deleted the inaccurate portions of the post.

They also state that she doesn’t work for Five Star and that there is no affiliation between "Five Star Celebrity" and "Five Star Publications."  I replied to Ms. Anderson’s representatives that the press release on her site
seems to say the opposite — and that she shares the
same logo and website as Five Star Publications. Any reasonable person
would conclude there is an affiliation. But I said that if I am
mistaken, I will be glad to immediately correct any errors or
misinterpretations I have made.

UPDATE 7-29-05 –  Janette Anderson responds with a letter, presented unedited and in its entirety, to the issues raised in this post.

The Conservative View of Hollywood

I got a laugh out of Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott’s description of how conservatives view us folks who work in the movie and TV industry:

the liberal radical Jewish homosexual Prius-driving ingrown stem-celled elitists
who look down on average Americans from their windows on David Geffen’s plane.

It came in a blog posting recommending that people read Kung Fu Monkey’s (aka screenwriter John Rogers) ruminations on politics and Hollywood

Having entered Mordor and dined in its commissaries, he is able to relay what
bubbles and festers behind the studio gates. And has little patience with those
who parrot the same old squawks of untruth.

Both Wolcott’s witty post and Kung Fu Monkey’s long essay are worth a read.