Flying off the Shelves at B&N

I’ve just learned that MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE is #40 on the Barnes & Noble mass market bestseller list this
week and #5 on the B&N mass market mystery bestseller list.

Meanwhile, our episode for MONK is developing nicely. We’re having such a good time working on the story with Andy Breckman and his terrific writing staff.  The story has only passing resemblance now to MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE. The episode won’t even have the same title as the book and I’m fine with that. I think it’s worked out for the best — had we done a straight-forward adaptation, anyone who read the book after seeing the episode would have thought it was a novelization. Now the book can continue to stand entirely on its own and so can the episode.

Mr. Monk and the Pierce Brosnan Impersonator

I spent the day out in Summit, NJ working with the MONK writing staff on our next script for the show.  It is so much fun cracking a story with them — you spend the whole day laughing (a stark contrast to, say, plotting a story on MISSING).  These guys have way, way too much fun. It’s a shame all shows can’t be like this.

The script began as an adaptation of my novel MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE but, for a number of reasons, is evolving into something very different and, I think, very funny. By the end of the week, my writing partner Bill Rabkin and I should be heading back to L.A. with an approved outline and the go-ahead to script.

What’s really weird for me is working on the MONK script by day, then returning to my hotel room to work on the MONK book by night.  I’m telling stories about the same character, but in two very different mediums.

I’m squeezing in a little socializing while I’m here — dinner with my literary agent on Wednesday, breakfast with my publishers on Thursday, and dinner on Thursday with my old friend Terry Winter, an exec producer on THE SOPRANOS. He’s come a long, long way since we worked together on THE COSBY MYSTERIES and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF FLIPPER.

A Jew in the Big Apple

I’m in NY.  I’m staying at the Hudson Hotel, a supposedly hip spot, judging by all the young, beautiful people in the lobby and bars. I’m sure the bars are great. It’s the rooms that suck. From what I understand, this was a women’s dormitory or something before the Morgans Hotel Group turned it into a hotel. They didn’t put a lot of effort into renovating the dorms into hotel rooms.

The rooms are smaller than a typical train compartment (the hotel prefers to say they’re "reminiscent of a private cabin on an upscale yacht." More like a fishing trawler). The wobbly steel writing desk, which is about the width of a Time Magazine, and matching steel chair, harder on the ass than a bus bench, appear to have been stripped from a prison cell.  Actually, a prison cell is  more sensibly designed than this room.  No amount of dark woods, mirrors, and pin-point halogens can hide the fact that this room is the size of a Camry.

The room is slightly wider than the low, Queen-size bed that dominates the space. The space can barely accomodate one average-sized person. The bathroom has plexiglass walls, which are covered with a thin, transparent curtain. So if you like privacy while you’re on the toilet, forget about it. If you do sit on the toilet, your knees will hit the wall and you’ll think back fondly on the spacious lavatory on the plane.

There isn’t a single drawer in the room, just an open "closet" in front of the door that isn’t large enough to fit a suitcase and that only has three hangers. There are no ice bucket in the room because there’s no space for one. The tiny TV set is in a narrow cupboard, gets no reception, and makes my laptop screen seem huge. The heater gurgles and whines (even when its off), has two settings (freezing cold and blisteringly hot) and is conveniently located behind the headboard. The walls are so thin, when the guy next door called his wife on the phone, I was able to say hello to her.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is an upscale place.  With luck, this will be my first — and last — night in this hotel.

I’m Outta Here

It’s dark outside, and the limo that’s taking me to the airport is pulling into my driveway, so I’m outta here.  My next dispatch will be from NY later tonight. 

Mr. Monk and the Signing

I had a great time today at Mysteries to Die For, where I participated in a lively panel discussion about book critics with Dick Adler (of the Chicago Tribune) and Dick Lochte (of the LA Times  and also an acclaimed mystery novelist in his own right), bookseller Richard Brewer, and authors Bob Levinson, John Shannon, and Terrill Lee Lankford. The funniest comment came from a woman in the audience. When she reads a book that sucks, she sends it to prison.  She doesn’t give it Goodwill, or donate it to the library, or even toss it in the trash. No, she puts the book in a padded envellope and sends it to her local prison. At least she doesn’t make the authors do hard time. 

The panel event was followed by a discussion/booksigning for MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE.  Boths were well-attended and a lot of fun. I really enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces (like Teresa Murray of the MONK FUN PAGE and Mark Baker, diehard DM fan and Amazon book critic) and meeting so many new people. I should write books more often!

We Are Family

My younger sisters Linda Woods & Karen Dinino have started setting up signings and other events for their new book VISUAL CHRONICLES, which is already getting lots of enthusiastic, pre-pub attention in the crafts & hobby art world. They will be on hand at the big Craft and Hobby Association convention later this month in Las Vegas, where their publisher is mounting a splashy debut for their slick, amusing and beautiful book.

You’ll Never Go Wrong with Harry

I’ve never read a bad book by Harry Whittington. Ed Gorman posted an appreciation of Whittington’s A NIGHT FOR SCREAMING on his blog today.

You want twists and turns? You want to be knocked out of your seat not
three but four times in about the last forty pages? You want to change
your politics and take up with a chick with Hooters and run away to the
sunny beaches of Indiana and hold yur breath for six days? Well, this
slender little novel with one of the truly classic cover paintings will
make you do all those crazy things and more. I promise.

This is an example of taking a familiar set-up and turning it into
a novel you’ve never read before. I’m in the process of outlining it
now. I want to see how he did it.

What I find fascinating about this post isn’t the rave for Whittington — Ed has done that before and he’ll do it again. It’s the idea that Ed, the acclaimed author of countless mysteries, westerns and thrillers of his own, is outlining Harry’s novel for himself.

It just goes to prove that a true professional writer knows there is always more to learn about their craft — and that the best way to do it  is to never stop reading, appreciating, and studying what other writers have done.

When is a Tie-in Not a Tie-in?

Word that a sequel to PETER PAN will be written by award-winning children’s book author Geraldine McCaughrean (authorized by Great Ormond Street Hospital, which owns the copyright to
the original characters) got novelist Jeff Mariotte wondering why literary tie-ins aren’t treated with the same lack of respect in the publishing industry as other tie-in novels.

Books set in the world of Peter Pan, or The Godfather, or Gone With the Wind, are works made for hire, based on characters and settings created by other writers.  The originals are loved by millions.  The new books are approved by the copyright holders of the original material.

Every word of that is true of a Star Trek novel or a Conan novel or a Buffy novel.  And yet, the literary establishment embraces one while frowning on the other.  Readers of what are traditionally considered tie-in novels are made to feel like they’re indulging in a lower form of entertainment, on a par with cockfighting or something.

He goes on to say that this kind of bias is why an organization like the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers is long over due. Obviously, I couldn’t agree more. So far, we’ve brought over a 100 professional media tie-in writers together and will soon be announcing more details about our first annual Scribe Awards, honoring excellence in tie-in writing.

UPDATE: Several other tie-in writers/bloggers, like Karen Traviss and Keith R.A. DeCandido have also commented on Jeff’s observations.