Home on the Range

I’ve just returned from another whirlwind trip to Cologne, Munich, and Berlin, where I met with the network honchos at ProSieben, RTL and Sat 1 with my good friends at Action Concept, the production company behind the long-running, hit German series ALARM FOR COBRA 11 (among others). I had a great time, though I am exhausted and suffering from a major case of jet lag that started over a week ago and hasn’t let up. My Tivo is bulging with shows I missed while I was away (including the DEADWOOD finale) but I am too tired to sit in front of a TV. In fact, I am fighting sleep as I type these very words….

Fistful of Laughs

I absolutely love my brother Tod’s "Letters to Parade" feature on his blog. I never miss it … even now, while I’m toiling in Berlin (he really has to gather them all together  into a book).  Today’s edition was so funny, I almost wet myself:

Exhibit B: Dan Travers of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. Travers,
you insipid fucktard, I ask you:  When was the last time you saw a bunch
of 65 year olds performing A Chorus Line?

When A Chorus Line returns to Broadway next month, will it feature any members of the original 1975 cast?

Dan, they are all returning. Even though they are collectively 1239
years old, the entire original cast is planning on stuffing their
sagging appendages into the leotards once again to reprise their roles
from THIRTY ONE FUCKING YEARS AGO. What is wrong with you, Dan? I mean,
really? Where’s the disconnect between reality and whatever it is
you’re living in? Is there anything you did especially well in 1975
that you’d want people to see you doing today? Even the writer of A
Chorus Line, James Kirkwood, is dead. Do you want him to reprise his
role, too?

And that’s just a sample of the fun and frolic awaiting you at Tod’s blog today.

At Least Tod Isn’t Up Against George Pelecanos Again

My brother Tod is a finalist for the Southern California Booksellers’ Assocation Award for Best Fiction…a list that includes Aimee Bender (his friend since he was 11), Susan Straight, Carolyn See and the team of Jennifer Kaufman & Karen Mack.  In the mystery category, my friends T. Jefferson Parker, Paul Levine, Barbara Seranella,  Jacqueline Winspear and Denise Hamilton all snagged well-deserved nominations.

Speaking of awards, I just got word over here in the Berlin that  Tony Shalhoub snagged a third Emmy for his performance in MONK, and my friend Terry Winter snagged his second (or is it third?) Emmy for his writing on THE SOPRANOS.  Howard Gordon also copped an statuette for his amazing work running 24 this year. Congratulations one and all!

The Fanfic Mind

Ah, another fascinating view into the bizarre workings of the fanfic mind from a writer/reader of Potter porn:

To be perfectly clear: I don’t give two shits about minors having access to sexually explicit material on the internet. This may well be a byproduct of my own hypersexualized childhood (I started reading romance novels at age 8 and my barbies were doing some very nasty kinds of nasty shortly thereafter), but I don’t buy that reading about sex or
seeing images of sex is going to warp kids’ fragile little minds. Which is why "Won’t someone please think of the children?" is one of my chief sarcastic lines. "The children" don’t need half the protection we insist on giving them, and I wish prudes would just admit that it’s not
"the children" they’re safeguarding when they’re arguing for censorship
— it’s their own delicate sensibilities.

But anyway. I do give several large, steamy, well-textured shits about respecting
artists and creators. That was part of my oh-so-eloquent and
not-wanky-at-all OUTRAGE over fanfic plagiarism.

[…]Even though I can’t point to anything Morally Wrong about
copyright-infringing fanfic, even though I’m a pomo slut, even though I
would cry if there was never another Blackcest dub-con femslash fic
waiting for me on my flist, part of me still wants to concede to
artists the right to disallow derivative works that they don’t like.
It’s their sandbox, and all the justifications about "just playing with
their toys" don’t change that. And so: guilt. Not enough guilt to keep
me from reading and (if I ever get my lazy ass past the outlining
stage) writing adult-rated HP fanfic. But enough to make me feel dirty.
Not in the good hatesex-on-the-Hogwarts-Express kinda way, either.

Let me get this straight — exposing kids  to kiddie porn is okay, copyright infringement is okay, but she is OUTRAGED by fanfic plagiarism.  Uh-huh. She feels a slight tinge of guilt about violating an author’s wishes regarding their works, but not enough to actually stop writing or reading the crap. But fanfic plagiarism — that’s INTOLERABLE (she even wrote this howler:  "In short, fanfic matters, so plagiarism in fanfic matters.")  Interesting set of principles she has.


Edward Champion reports that Otto Penzler  is threatening to sue him:

I just received the following message from Otto Penzler:

“If you don’t remove this TODAY, I will sue your ass. I have already
discussed this with my lawyer who agrees it is actionable. You may find
this humorous–I don’t. I do have your address and you will be served
with a cease and desist order, plus a liable suit, copyright
infringement suit, and some other stuff as we think of them. NOW, Mr.

Mr. Penzler takes apparent umbrage to several recent posts that satirize and parody his New York Sun columns.

Champion is leaving the posts up, but has added a disclaimer that they are a parody. I wonder if I should be watching my mailbox for a letter accusing me of  "liable," too.

(Thanks to Arizona Jim for the heads-up).

Look, Up in the Sky

There’s a fascinating interview with my friend Paul Bernbaum about the writing and production of his spec script TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY, which has become the movie HOLLYWOODLAND.

courted a couple of stars and a couple directors before they were lucky
enough to get Allen Coulter. They also began pressing for me to shift
the story more toward Adrien’s character and away from Reeves, which I
strongly disagreed with. I did a number of drafts with Allen, who is a
terrific filmmaker, and a great guy. But apparently, Focus wanted more
of Adrien’s character than I was willing to give them, at which point
they hired another writer. Needless to say, this was heartbreaking for
me, as this movie was a deeply personal one.

Paul and I have known each other for over a decade (and worked on three series together). This script has been his passion project for years…I wish it had been shot the way he originally envisioned it. Despite the rewrites by another writer, Paul ended up with sole screenplay credit.

Off Again to Germany

I’m heading for Germany today to pitch some series to the networks there on behalf of a studio I’m working with. I will be traveling between Munich, Berlin, and Cologne, so I may be scarce here for the next week.  Play nicely amongst yourselves while I am gone.

Discipline, Deadlines and Creativity

Yesterday, in my post "Going Hollywood," I wrote:

You can’t always force creativity, regardless of the immutable reality of a production deadline. But I have to believe that if I have a bad afternoon or a completely wasted day, that I’ll make up for it later.

After reading author Loreth Ann White’s thoughts on the subject, I realized that I needed to clarify my comments. In TV, you can’t wait for inspiration to strike…the show is shooting on Monday whether you are feeling creative or not.  A deadline is a deadline. The pages must be written. A professional TV writer will get them done.

The same is true of my MONK and DIAGNOSIS  MURDER novels. I have 90 days and, in some cases, less to write them. I may not feel motivated or inspired today, or even tomorrow, but I will make up for it later…because I am a professional writer, and that ‘s my job. Some days are better than others. I try not to sweat the bad ones too much (though I do).

What I should have said is that I have faith that if the writing is going badly at any particular moment, I will "get inspired" in time to meet my deadline, whatever that deadline may be.

It’s amazing how inspired I am the closer I get to a deadline. The reality that something has to be done at a certain point forces you to focus and to silence your inner critic.

If I don’t have a real, honest-to-God, make-or-break deadline, then I have a much harder time focusing…which may be Paul’s problem with his pilot.

Going Hollywood

Tess Gerritsen writes today about her first and last experience as a screenwriter. It’s a funny and all-too-typical experience.

But I don’t plan to ever write another screenplay again, and here’s why: for me, it feels like writing by committee.

She’s right, that’s exactly what it is. And it’s why I like it. No, not the getting notes from executives part…but being in the writers room, cracking a story with a staff of clever, creative, and enthusiastic writers. And I like production, collaborating with directors, actors, editors, composers, set designers, location managers, casting directors, and everyone else who brings the story to life. Does the episode turn out exactly as I originally envisioned it? Can I claim it as all mine? No, but that’s also part of the fun…and yes, sometimes, the disappointment.  Which is why I happily work both as a screenwriter and as a novelist.

What prompted Tess’ anecdote was a terrific post by my friend Paul Guyot on discipline. He writes:

Discipline. The single greatest asset a writer can own. Better than talent, better than imagination, better than anything.

If you have discipline, you are light-years ahead of anyone trying to write without discipline. It is no coincidence that the best writers I know – both prose and screen – are also some of the most disciplined.

And it’s no coincidence that the majority of people I know who have yet to taste any real success as a writer lack discipline. And most of them don’t even know it.

Discipline. Stephen J. Cannell, of TV and multiple novels, is disciplined. Up at 4:30am EVERY day, works out for an hour, showers, eats and WRITES. Every day.

He then beats himself up for another 1000 words. I think my friend is being way too hard on himself. It’s not about getting to the computer at a set time every day and writing…it’s about getting to the computer at all.

My ass is being bitten right now. And not in a good way. My lack of discipline is not only keeping me from writing today, but its domino effect on my entire process is awful. Because my deadline doesn’t care. It continues toward me. Like a freight train. And losing one day of writing means that when I do turn in my pilot, it will not be as good as it could be. Because I lost roughly six or seven hours that could have, most likely would have, been spent making the thing better.

You can’t always force creativity, regardless of the immutable reality of a production deadline. But I have to believe that if I have a bad afternoon or a completely wasted day, that I’ll make up for it later. I’ve never missed a production deadline — there is always a finished script to prep. And I’ve only missed one book deadline in my life (by two days). So I know, in my heart of hearts, that I will get the job done. Even so, the self-doubt, anxiety and fear always comes back.

I have a tight deadline right now on a book and two big studio pitches on Tuesday to prepare for…yet here I am, writing this blog post. Is it lack of discipline? I don’t know. I’m here at the computer, my fingers on the keyboard, aren’t I?

I write this blog as a promotional tool but, between you and me, it’s real purpose is as a procrastination device. When I’m stuck on a script, book, pitch or whatever, I turn to the blog as a way to stay at the computer and keep typing…otherwise, I might just leave the room and spend the day doing something else, something that isn’t writing. In fact, it’s how Paul’s post got written:

And this isn’t the first day I have not written. Because I lack discipline, this is one of many, many days in my writing career that have been spent not writing. Not staring out the window working, those days count as writing days. I mean simply not doing anything.

I hurt myself. I hurt my family. By not being disciplined. So, I’m trying to fix it. Right now. This very second.

See, I’m writing this because, one, I love JT and would do anything for her. But also because I’m trying to jumpstart myself. Get my bitten ass in gear. Because writing something, anything, is better than not writing.

I agree. But Paul is far more disciplined than he realizes. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be at the computer and he wouldn’t be beating himself up so much.