A Very Important Message

Dear Friend,

I am a former general in the Nigerian army who has managed to steal
countless millions from my people. It has come to my attention that you
are an investing genius and I would like your help establishing an
account at a U.S. bank.

To start with, you need to know that Lee Goldberg’s new mystery novel
MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE will be published on Jan. 3rd and is
getting a big promo push from The USA Network, which has posted
excerpts from his book and a dozen streaming video interviews with him
at their site:


This is important, because I need you to buy 17,800 copies of the book.
In return, if you give me your checking account number, your credit
card number, and your social security number, I will wire you $122,000
as "reimbursement" for the purchase of this splendid book. We will all
be winners, especially you my dear, dear friend.

I look forward to hearing from you.


General Rgo Zan

My Natalie Blog

My first "Natalie Blog" is now up on the USA Network Monk Page.
The MONK novels are written from the point of view of Natalie, Monk’s assistant, so the blog will give
you a sample of what the books are like. Some of the blog entries are
"out-takes" from the first two MONK books, some are written just for
the site, and other stuff comes from the book I’m writing now. All of
the blogs entries, I hope, will give you some fresh insight into
Natalie’s character and her relationship with Adrian Monk. I look
forward to hearing what you think!

On The Edge

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that my mentor Michael Gleason, creator of REMINGTON STEELE, has a new show in the works for UPN entitled ON THE EDGE. Michael has teamed up with writer/producer Alan Moskowitz and director Penny Marshall on the Lions Gate project, which revolves around a young female assistant district attorney trying to discover who murdered her parents — while struggling with her alter ego who is bent on returning her to a life of drugs and alcohol. Marshall is likely to
direct the pilot.

Where We Write

One of my favorite little coffee table book is Jill Krementz’s THE WRITER’S DESK, which is filled with photos of authors at work in their offices. It’s fascinating and reveals a lot about each author’s personality. John Updike wrote in his introduction:

I look at these photographs with a prurient interest, the way that I might look at the beds of notorious courtesans. Except that the beds would tell me less than the desks do. Here, the intimacy of the literary act is caught in flagrante delicto: at these desks characters are spawned, plots are spun, imaginative distances are spanned.

Today, novelist Brenda Coulter posted pictures on her blog of where she does her writing, so I thought I’d follow her example and share with you where I do mine. This is my home office.  It overlooks our front yard and is adjacent to my daughter’s bedroom. What you don’t see in this picture are more bookshelves, a TV set/DVD/VCR set-up and a walk-in closet full of books, DVDs, CDs, videos and office supplies.  There’s also the original artist’s painting for the unpublished, fourth .357 VIGILANTE book on my wall.

To avoid throwing out my back, I also do a lot of writing laying on top of my bed, using my laptop, with my legs elevated on a couch cushion.

I showed you mine so now you show me yours.  Think of it as a photo "meme." All of you authors and screenwriters out there with blogs, please post pictures of your writing spaces…and provide linkbacks to this post so we can see them (or offer a link to those posts in the comments below).

Writing No Matter What

I always get a kick out of aspiring writers who whine about not having the time to write, or not having enough "peace and quiet." Professional writers know they have to write with whatever time they have, regardless of the conditions.  This is especially true in television, where you need to generate a new script every week. You can’t wait to be in the mood to write — you just have to do it. A deadline is a deadline and you have to meet it.  It’s also true in journalism and in the book world. Here’s a good example from the recent experience of novelist Joseph A. West, who had a mere six weeks to write his latest GUNSMOKE novel and wouldn’t even let a hurricane slow him down.

Hundred-mile-an-hour winds went
right over our roof and we were without electricity for eight days. My wife, a
resourceful woman, mail-ordered a manual typewriter that we were assured would
be delivered overnight. It arrived three weeks later. In the meantime, the staff
here at the condo complex found an old natural gas generator in the
basement that dates from the 1950s. They hooked up my laptop to the
infernal thing and I got to work immediately, having by then only lost
only a couple of days.
The temperature down there in the bowels of the building was about 120
degrees, the fumes were yellow, malodorous and choking, and I had to stop
every 30 minutes to let the damned generator cool down. "Otherwise you’ll burn
down the whole fucking building," I was told by one irate
tenant .
Were the words I was writing good or bad? At the time, gassed as I
was, I didn’t know. But, oh, the colors!
Finally the lights came on again and I got cranking and finished the book
in the allotted time. My editor, bless him, gave me a hearty, "Well done."
It was an interesting experience, but not one I’d care to repeat any time
P.S. We returned the manual typewriter with a very nasty note.

As Joseph says, his story simply shows that "the life of the wretched scribe is not an easy one." But what the story shows me is the enormous dedication it takes to be a professional writer. Too few aspiring writers realize just how much it takes to achieve, and then sustain, a career as a  professional writer.  We have a lot to learn from guys like Joseph West.

Project UFO

Jack Webb is famous for "Dragnet," and his  "just the facts, ma’am" -style of  emotionless, rigid dialogue and performance. He  used that same approach for the short-lived series "Project UFO," which was essentially "Dragnet" with flying saucers.  Here’s the opening narration and theme. And you can even see entire episodes in streaming video on this site, one of the most blatant acts of copyright violation I’ve stumbled across on the web. The show is so obscure, I guess the studio figures it doesn’t even merit spending ten minutes and a 37-cent stamp on a simple cease-and-desist letter…if they even know about the site at all.

The Pay for Script Readers in Hollywood Must Really Suck

There is a guy on ebay who has gone from auctioning his old comic books and Heather Locklear posters to offering to read any script, and provide coverage, for $49.

I will read it and send back a 2-3 page analysis of the script. Also
called coverage, this is what the studios use when reading scripts and
will include a summary of the script (because if what I see as the plot
is different from what you meant it to be, there is a problem!), and
include notes on strong and weak points, and ways to make the script
more marketable.

A little bit about me and my qualifications. I graduated from the
University of California (USC) School or Cinema-Television with a BA
degree in Film, emphasis on Critical Studies. I also hold a minor in
Creative Writing and Literature. I have been working in the industry
for almost 6 years now, and have worked as a script reader for
Zide/Perry Entertainment (credits include "American Pie," "Final
Destination," and "Cats & Dogs"), and for Blain and Associates
(credits include "Save the Last Dance") and am currently working at
Shaprio/Grodner Productions ("Scared Straight," "Rescue 911", "Big

This is a great chance for any aspiring screenwriter.

I don’t see how. Unless the reader is reading for a studio that’s actually considering the script for option/purchase, the coverage is completely useless. 

The sad thing about this isn’t really the desperate aspiring screenwriters who will send a stranger $49 to read their script (especially one who is so clearly on the fringes of movie-making).  The sad thing is the schlub who, after six years in the business, is still reading scripts — and is making so little money that he’s been forced to auction off his movie posters and underwear.

The guy isn’t doing a favor for writers — he’s asking you to do him a favor. This auction is an embarrassing act of desperation by someone still struggling to find a foothold in the industry. He’s trying to take advantage of wanna-bes when, in fact, he is still one himself.

(Thanks to Richard Yokley for the heads-up!)

Coming to a Costco Near You

TVShowsOnDVD posted a long list of TV shows  that are officially, and supposedly coming to DVD in 2006. The titles include such short-lived bombs as  ACTION, SIGNIFICANT OTHERS, THE FLASH, and LIFE WITH LOUIE, and such long-running favorites as HAWAII FIVE-O, STEP BY STEP, GUNSMOKE, GET SMART, CAGNEY AND LACEY,  MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE, WILD WILD WEST, HILL STREET BLUES and THE ODD COUPLE and cult favorites like SHE SPIES, ALIEN NATION, VIP, TIME TUNNEL, ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, ULTRAMAN and STAR TREK : THE ANIMATED SERIES.