DM Fans Are The Best

My Mom is going through chemotherapy for a third time and wrote about the experience on her blog. She was delighted and touched to get this email this morning from a DIAGNOSIS MURDER fan. So was I.

Dear Mrs. Curran,

You don’t know me, but I  know you through your son Lee.  I am a big Diagnosis Murder fan and a devoted reader of Lee’s books. Sometimes I click on your blog and read how you are. Today I read that you are facing a chemotherapy again.  I am sending  you my best wishes and hope that the new therapy doesn’t make you sick! Keep strong!

Sincerely Yours,

Ute was also one of the many Diagnosis Murder fans who inundated me with get-well cards, letters, emails and stuffed animals with bandaged arms when I had my bad accident a year ago.  I dedicated my DM:  THE WAKING NIGHTMARE to them but, in truth, all the DM books I write ar for them.  They’re the best!

The Struggling Writer

Author Tess Gerritsen is saddened because her book only reached #17 on the NY Times Bestseller List.

I’m sorry to report that I didn’t drink champagne on Wednesday
night. Alas, the first partial week’s paperback sales of BODY DOUBLE
only got it to #17 on the NYT list. Sigh. Then I looked at the other
authors whose books debuted the same week: Nora Roberts. Dean Koontz.
Clive Cussler. Catherine Coulter. Janet Evanovich. And I realized —
whoa, there’s some pretty tough competition there! I’m going to hang on
tight this coming week and see what happens next Wednesday. And hope
that there are enough readers out there who care enough about Jane and
Maura to want to find out what happens next in their lives.

Publishing lesson: Success is never a sure thing in this business.
Ever. This is what keeps me humble and always feeling like a struggling

Gee, life is tough.  I guess when you reach a certain level of success, you lose all perspective. Having a book reach #17 on the NY Times bestseller list may put Tess  in the doldrums…but for the vast  majority of published authors, cracking the list at all would be cause for celebration. Surely, she knows that, right?

On the other hand, here’s a peek at the real world that most authors have to live in. Author Beth Ciotta has had three mass market paperbacks published but isn’t making a living at it.

Last week, I visited my family in Indiana. When I mentioned this box
office gig and the one I’m waiting to hear about, my mom said, "What do
you mean you had to get a job? Don’t you make money from your books?"

night my husband and I met up with a group of musician
friends. Everyone asked if I was still gigging a lot, to which I had to
answer ‘no’ and then I mentioned the ‘jobs’. Again I got a strange look
coupled with comments like, "But I thought you had another book coming
out."  The thought behind it… can’t you live off of that?

no. Not yet. Just now I need to supplement my writing income to make
ends meet. It’s a reality many writers face. Another reality is
juggling the alternate job, writing, and promoting multiple
books–building a ‘name’. It ain’t easy.  Every now and then I allow
myself to dream and think, someday I’ll be writing full time and all
this angst will be history.


I bet if Beth reached #17  on the NY Times Bestseller list, she’d not only be drinking champagne, she’d be bathing herself in it.

Writing You Don’t Need

Screenwriter John Rogers offers some excellent screenwriting advice on his blog today.

Your scene descriptions and actions — don’t waste time on specifics. Somebody
else is going to visualize the set, someone else is going to design the set,
someone else is going shoot on that set. Don’t write for the storyboard, write
what the TONE of the set is, conveying how it informs the actions, creates the
context for the characters within. Is this limiting? No, it’s freeing. It’s
paradoxically MORE power. You’re creating the world, mood, story — let other
people sweat the window size and wallpaper pattern.

Character intros:
gahhhh. I never, ever want to read a line of character backstory again. The
audience will know this character by what he says and what he does. (in that
sense, in-script backstory is actually cheating) The actor will create whatever
mindspace/backstory for the character they need to work the person up on screen.
Just get the best, snappiest description of who this person is — not how they
dress or how they talk or how their goddam hair’s cut, but who that character
is in the
script-world– and move the fuck on. Again, not saying we’re just typists. Not
saying it has to be bland. The challenge is to create the most telling
impression in the fewest words.

Don’t sit their like so many screenwriters
and try to jam whatever central casting idea of a character you have into the
reader’s head — create the notion necessary for the reader to complete the
image of the script in his head, to personalize it, and move on with the

Great stuff. And there’s more, much more. Check it out.

Latest from Hard Case Crime

File000I love Hard Case  Crime. They harken back to the glory days of Gold Medal Paperbacks… not only are their books are great but so are their covers.  Their upcoming titles include WITNESS TO MYSELF by Seymour Shubin, 
BUST by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, and THE LAST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins. They’ve also got reprints of Ed McBain ‘s  THE GUTTER AND THE GRAVE, Richard Stark’s  LEMONS NEVER LIE and Madison
Smartt Bell’s  STRAIGHT CUT in the pipeline (and, oh yes, an original noir novel by some writer named Stephen King).  I’ve been lobbying Charles to consider reprinting one of Richard Prather’s "Shell Scott" Gold Medal novels and some of Harry Whittington’s more obscure stuff. We’ll see what happens…

Score one for Brown

Lewis Perdue reports that he  has lost the first round in his lawsuit against Dan Brown.

Judge George Daniels sided with the world’s largest publishing conglomerate and
issued a decision that would keep the Da Vinci Cover-Up complete.

already talked with my lawyers.

We’re appealing because there is ample
evidence and law to indicate that Dan Brown copied my work and that a jury trial
is the ONLY procedure that will bring any measure of justice.

“We Don’t Know The Damage Yet”

There were lots of funny and interesting observations about our industry to be found today nestled in the LA Times reviews of new movies and TV shows.  Paul Brownfield, in his review of the new Showtime series WEEDS, laments:

What has writer Alan Ball done to his industry? He’s like President Bush — we just don’t know the damage yet…

…the show feels more like the spawn of Ball’s "American Beauty" and his soon-to-conclude HBO series "Six Feet Under," where the answer to the question "How much more implied and expressed pain and suffering can we be witness to?" is always the same:  "More."

Kenneth Turan, in his review of the movie version of THE  DUKES OF HAZZARD, observes that "subversive" has taken on new meaning in Hollywood:

"The Dukes of Hazzard" is a film that is not there. It can’t really be reviewed
because it doesn’t really exist. It is not empty calories, which implies
pleasure, but simply empty. It’s a cosmic void where a movie ought to be…

…The only person who thinks "The Dukes of Hazzard" is a substantial piece of work
might be its producer, who told the Los Angeles Times, apparently with a
straight face, that the film is "a tougher, more subversive movie than one might
expect." If you buy that, you probably think Krispy Kreme doughnuts are one
tough, subversive food group.

Rober Lloyd, in his review of the movie SLINGS AND ARROWS, had this observation about Canada, where so many movies and TV shows are filmed:

Canada is all over American television, standing in for New York and Chicago,
for foggy San Francisco and rocky Colorado, but it is only in Canada that Canada
gets to play itself…

When Canada stands for Canada… the country is
revealed not as a fake America but an authentic Canada.

Whatever that is. Lloyd doesn’t say. And although I’ve spent lots of time up there, I’m not sure I could, either.

“Inside” Development Hell

Writer/Producer Tim Minear talks to about  how his 21 JUMP STREET-esque pilot about an FBI agent going undercover in high school morphed into the doomed Fox series THE INSIDE.

began as a "21 Jump Street"-style tale of an undercover FBI agent (Rachel
Nichols) in high school. When that didn’t work out, Minear and pal Howard Gordon
("24"), who’d previously teamed on the short-lived 1999 ABC science-fiction
series "Strange World," reworked the idea, turning Nichols’ character into a
former childhood kidnap victim who parlays her unique insight into investigating
serial murder and other heinous crimes.

"I’ve got two unaired pilots," Minear says. "One of them is the original ’21
Jump Street’ version. The second one is the first attempt at shooting my script,
which we then went back and reshot."

If Minear never wanted to work in TV again, he could probably write a terrific non-fiction book about his experience.

Romance Melt-down

The fun doesn’t stop over at the Romance Writers of America, where the leadership seems to delight in making a joke of their organization with one embarrassing, bone-head  screw-up after another. This time, though, their utter cluelessness has managed to alienate one of their Gods… Nora Roberts, who was supposed to host the RWA awards. But shortly before the ceremony, Nora read her script and refused to participate.  Here’s the scoop form Nora Roberts herself:

As Ms. Quinn refused to read my statement, as agreed, before the
awards ceremony in Reno, then again reneged on her agreement to read
it after the awards, I will write it here.

"Nora Roberts declines to host tonight’s awards ceremony as she feels
the content is inappropriate and believes the focus should be on the
nominees and the organization."

Oddly, I wasn’t given a script by Ms. Quinn. One was provided by a
member of the production team when I requested it on Friday afternoon
in Reno. The only significant change I was able to implement, though
I argued and debated with Ms. Quinn, Laura Hayden and Diana Pershing,
was the deletion of the video containing the fall of the Twin Towers
and the Oklahoma City bombing. How painful those images would have
been to the many editors in attendance who lived though 9/11.

Instead of a celebration, a night of fun and anticipation for the
nominees, and an entertaining and sparkling event, the audience was
treated to a three-plus hour world history lesson, heavy on disaster,
death, politics, war and tragedy–in one memorable moment, Don’t
Worry, Be Happy
was played over those images.

I can’t comprehend how such tragic events and images had a place at a
ceremony meant to showcase the nominees and the organization. Nor can
I understand how it was thought proper to juxtapose those with
presenters being driven on stage in a limo, walking to the podium to
Joan Riveresque commentary in a format that gave more play to the
presenters than those who were lucky enough to take home a Golden
Heart or a Rita.

The emcee’s place in all this seemed to be to recite
endless dry facts and figures of RWA dues, conference fees and sites
over the last quarter of a century, instead of relating the heart of
our organization.
It was tempting to resign my membership. But it wasn’t RWA that
pushed this agenda. It was a handful of individuals. RWA has, as
always, my respect, affection and gratitude. The current president
has none of those.

Nora Roberts

UPDATE: Author Brenda Coulter doesn’t get what the hoo-ha is all about.

I didn’t see it as as a debacle but merely a series of
unfortunate calls by the organizers and a program that was best
forgiven and forgotten.

Silly me. I should have known the blogosphere would be abuzz with this subject because that’s what RWA members do when they’re not writing books — complain about the current RWA leadership and what those volunteers are doing to ruin the lives of romance writers and screw up the entire romance industry…

…As for the big stink about Nora Roberts refusing at the last minute to
emcee the program because she objected to its content, I understand why
she bowed out, but she should have stuck with her original statement.
That last bit about supporting RWA but not the current president didn’t
come off as particularly classy.

UPDATE 8-6-05:The Intrepid Alison Kent has posted on her blog, in its entirety, RWA president Tara Taylor Quinn’s long-winded and utterly unconvincing defense of the awards debacle and Nora Robert’s far more credible reply.  Even if you take Quinn at her word, her  fumbling, clueless, and irresponsible approach towards her presidential duties is  rather astonishing.
Alison also reports that several members of the  RWA board have issued a statement apologizing  for the misguided and widely criticized awards ceremony. You can read it on the jump:

Read more

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

HelenKay Dimon and my lovely sister-in-law Wendy Duren are taking some heat on their romance novel review blog for panning a book.  The aggrieved author wrote:

I’m sitting here, trying to understand why someone who belongs to the
sistah-hood of struggling, blood-stained, published romance authors would trash
another author’s first book.

Apparently, there’s an unwritten rule that, well, if you can’t say anything nice about a romance, don’t say anything at all. HelenKay takes exception:

In an effort to promote the genre, to suggest we should be taken seriously
outside of the romance writing world, we don’t shy away from the negative
review.  After all, if we can’t self-critique in a way that amounts to more than
empty cheerleading, have we earned the credibility we insist we should have?

Helen elaborates on the point in the comments to her post:

I have to say I find romance writers’ professed views on this issue
completely disingenous. You see on blogs all the time how angry romance writers
are that their work isn’t taken seriously. How upset they are that their books
aren’t covered in magazines and book reviews and other public venues. Yet, these
authors get absolutely hostile if anyone dares to suggest their work suffers
from any deficiency. And, if the criticism comes from within the genre then the
calls for revenge and cries of unfairness start. That very reaction could be why
romance authors aren’t taken seriously. We act childish and unprofessional. When
we do that, I think we get what we deserve – laughed at.

I’ve got to agree with HelenKay on this one.  It’s not a situation unique to Romance Writers. The same issues pervade the mystery field, too.  My brother Tod had this to say to someone who didn’t agree with Helen:

You want to write and not have a critical eye placed upon your work? Fine. Stick
your stuff under your bed. But if you want to write and sell and have a career,
you have to understand that the written word is going to be examined. There’s no
genre of writing that is immune.

UPDATE: Alison Kent chimes in with a good over-view on both sides of  the "controversy."