Ball Vamps & ‘Medicine’ wraps

Variety reports that Alan Ball’s next TV series for HBO will be based on Charlaine Harris’ SOUTHERN VAMPIRE novels. I’ve met Charlaine and she’s a very nice woman — to be honest, I expected someone more, well,  goth.  She’s so sweet and polite…she  struck me as the kind of person who’d write cozy mysteries in the world of baking or knitting instead of vampire novels.

Project is set in a world where vampires and humans co-exist after the
development of synthetic blood. First book, "Dead Until Dark," revolves around a
waitress in rural Louisiana who meets the man of her dreams only to find out
he’s a vampire with a bad reputation.

"It’s not a high-concept pitch," Ball said. "Charlaine has created such a
rich environment that’s very funny and at the same time very scary. I bought the
book on impulse and I just couldn’t put it down."

HBO entertainment prexy Carolyn
said she’d been sure Ball would leave the television
world for movies after he wrapped "Six Feet," and she was surprised and grateful
that he came back to the network with yet another passion project.

"Alan really fell in love with the books," HBO entertainment prexy Carolyn
Strauss said. "At its heart, the books are a metaphor for difference and
outsiders and fitting in. That’s Alan’s bailiwick and what he writes so well

In other TV news, Lifetime has axed STRONG MEDICINE, saying the show has "run its course" after six seasons, three different stars, and 132 episodes.

Strong Medicine" is one of the "truly remarkable success
stories in cable TV history. We’re grateful for all the contributions of exec
producers Tammy Ader and Whoopi Goldberg and the cast," he said. But it’s time
"to offer our viewers another option."

"Medicine" won’t necessarily be leaving the air anytime soon: Lifetime has
exclusive rerun rights to the medical drama through 2010.

This leaves MISSING as the only original drama left on the network…assuming it’s picked up for a fourth season.

Going Home Again

Last night, I had a signing at the Barnes & Noble in my home town of Walnut Creek, California. I drove up from Los Angeles, which took longer than usual due to rain, fog, and more cops on the road than I’ve ever seen before (I guess end of the month is ticket-quota time).  But it was a pleasant drive. I lost myself in mysteries — finishing a  J.A. Jance book on tape and starting the latest Spenser.

Once I got up to Walnut Creek, I couldn’t resist visiting Emil Villa’s Hickory Pit, a place I used to love as a kid. It’s probably been a decade since I’ve eaten there. Well, memories can be tricky things. Either I’ve changed or the ribs have. They tasted like they were frozen and then marinated in solvent.  I should have known better — they weren’t good ten years ago, either. Why did I think they’d be more like I remembered now?

I did some drive-by signings at  B &N in Concord, B&N in Dublin, Borders Express in Concord and Borders in Pleasant Hill before heading to the main event in downtown Walnut Creek.

The signing didn’t pack a big crowd, but I never mind that. The bookstore ordered quite a few copies of THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, which were prominently displayed (and had been for the week prior to my arrival and will be after I leave), and there were two posters in the store announcing the event. They even had a healthy number of DM books on hand. There was a film crew there from Rossmoor, a retirement community that has their own television station (The DM books are big with the retirees, as you can imagine), so my signing will air on TV in the next few weeks, so I reached more people than actually attended. I was on a mike, so more people came as I started speaking, answering questions, and telling all my Hollywood anecdotes.

I finally got to meet Chadwick Saxelid, who has reviewed the DM books on Amazon and is a frequent visitor here — and who I just killed (with his permission) in the DM novel I’m writing now. And my old high school chum Jim Sampair showed up with his lovely wife and mother (I’ve always known her as "Mrs. Sampair, " so when it came time to sign her book, I realized to my embarrassment that I didn’t know her first name!). I also forgot, in middle of my talk, how many days there are in a year — I blame those solvent-soaked ribs for my mental hiccup.

Tonight I meet the members of Mystery Readers International at Janet Rudolph’s home in the Berkeley hills. I’ve heard from lots of other authors that her "At Home" events are a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to it.

Riding into the Sunset

Author Jory Sherman blogs about the death of the western novel, a genre he excels at.

Now, I see some small signs of life, but the publishing industry continues its
blind slaughter of the genre, a veritable libracide using the tactics of small
print orders, no publicity, no nurturing of new writers and the gradual genocide
of the older ones.

Some writers are dropping out, having seen the bold
handwriting on the wall, and turning to the Mystery novel, the Christian, or
other markets. The Western, which has made great strides as our exclusive
American literature, is being ignored by the publishing industry, the
distributors, wholesalers, book sellers, and the reading public.

not dead yet. It will probably never die, because of the power of its mythical
backbone. We are the only country in the world which has the Old West,
and we have the brave writers who continue to explore its oceanic depths, its
big sky heights.

But, we’re dying out, too, along with our books which
are being killed off, one by one, by the insidious indifference of all

The real loser here, is, of course, the Reader, who never saw
the blips on the radar and if they ever did, never cared. They missed a lot, and
that’s a crying shame.

The New TV Guide

I’ve picked up the first two issues of the new TV GUIDE and I have to say, it’s
a big improvement in just about every way. There’s far more content — and
livelier, too —  and the listings are much easier to browse. The old TV Guide
had a musty, dull, dated feel…but was comfortable, familiar, and dependable.
While I have some affection for it, I can’t say I miss it. It’s like
having your cranky, but lovable  78-year-old next door neighbor move to
an assisted living facility and a bright, 22-year-old college student with a
porn-star’s surgically-enhanced body moving in and inviting you to her parties.

Award Winning POD Isn’t Winning

David Montgomery reports that the  "winning" novel in the  Aspiring Authors Contest, sponsored by the POD vanity press,  is the perfect candidate for self-publishing…because it’s doubtful any other publisher would be interested.

The purpose behind this contest was to legitimize the self-publishing or
vanity/POD "alternative" for writers unable to break-in via the traditional
route. If the sponsors could come up with a great book, one of the alleged many
that languish unpublished due to the elitism and ignorance of New York
publishers, surely this would be a triumph for aspiring vanity authors

Well…not so fast. Unfortunately, it turns out that the book wasn’t
very good

Rinse. Lather. Die.

I got this email from a friend of mine and thought it was so funny, I had to share it with you.

One of the prominent trends in mystery fiction todayis the publication of
what I call "niche mysteries." These are books that, in theory, will appeal
to a small niche of readers due to their unique and charming specialty

As a result, we have suffered through the Mommy mysteries,
the scrapbooking mysteries, the needlepoint mysteries. Mysteries set in the
world of bed and breakfasts, travel agencies, and old age homes. Mysteries
with recipes, patterns, or tips on making candy.

But now they’ve gone
too far.

Today I received in the mail a mystery novel ("first in the
new series," the cover proudly trumpets) that is set in the exciting and
quirky world of…


That’s right. Soapmaking. It even
includes soapmaking tips.

The title? Dead Men Don’t Lye.

couldn’t make this shit up.

What’s next, Glass-blowing  Mysteries?  Nail Polishing Mysteries? Mohel Mysteries?

Send me off to the Motion Picture Home

On DorothyL, the mystery list-serv, Terry G. wrote:

Hi DLers, I was perusing the latest dl list and went off to check out the
mystery readers international site, which I was not familiar with, and
enjoyed an article by Elaine Viets and Lee Goldberg in particularLee, who must be in the sixty range in years since
his tv PI touchstones were about the same as mine, mentioned Richard S
Prather, who would certainly fit into the humorous thread that was being
bandied about for the last couple weeks.
Um, I’m 43. You know, it’s possible to read books and authors who are older
than you are. If I’d mentioned Sherlock Holmes, would that mean I was 100 years
People always assume I’m much older than I am. I can’t tell you how many
times DIAGNOSIS MURDER viewers or readers meet me and say  "Oh, I thought you’d
be so much older." I guess they figure because the show stars an 80-year-old man
(and the books have his picture on the cover) that the author must be getting
the Senior Citizen discount at Hometown Buffet, too. I always smile politely
when people say that to me but I’m not quite sure how to take it…

Open Up Those Golden Gates

I’m heading up to San Francisco today to sign books at Barnes & Noble in Walnut Creek tonight (7:3o pm), chat with the members of Mystery Readers International on Friday, and do a signing at M IS FOR MYSTERY in San Mateo on Saturday at 2 pm.  That means postings here may be sparse over the next few days. In the meantime, you can always go back and get yourself riled up by all the nasty things I have to say about fanfic and vanity presses.


TV writer Paul Guyot continues his unflinchingly honest and informative chronicle on the development and production of  the pilot he wrote for TNT. The network subsequently brought in a big-name showrunner and Paul found himself relegated to the sidelines (despite assurances to the contrary). Sadly, this happens all the time in our business and Paul, being a pro, knows that. Even so, it still hurts when it happens.   

What has been the hardest thing for me to deal with is that the network has
completely supported the showrunner and his "tweaking" of my script. My story.
My setting. My characters. After telling me (in the beginning), that they wanted
something unique and edgy (sic), what they now have that they so dearly
love, is the very thing they told me specifically they didn’t want… a typical
TV show. And not a conference call goes by that someone doesn’t rave about how
much better the script is now.

Hey look, it may be better. The
guy has Emmys and I don’t. I just wish the network had given me a shot to do
this other version, and then brought in their high-priced Showrunner.

It’s like this – the network wanted me to hit a home run. So in my first
at-bat, I hit a double to left. But instead of getting another swing, they bring
in another guy and he hits a double to right, and they all cheer and say,
"That’s just what we wanted! A double to right!"

But again, nature of
the beast, folks. Don’t feel sorry for me – I already took care of that. No need
to post comments about how much they suck or whatever. This is TV. Ask Lee.
Happens all the time. As I said earlier – you have two choices in these matters
– quit or ride it out. I chose to ride it out. Though it’s being done
differently than how I’d do it, and I’m being basically ignored throughout the
entire process, I’m holding on. I want to feed my kids. I don’t have the luxury
of conviction. And someone much smarter than me once warned about the paralysis
of conviction. Especially when it wasn’t your story to begin with.