Obsidian Launched

Penguin Group  is launching Obsidian Mysteries, a new imprint for  NAL’s mystery titles, including my MONK novels.  Obsidian premieres in September with
Alison Gaylin’s TRASHED and Donald Bain’s MURDER SHE WROTE:  PANNING FOR MURDER.  Other Obsidian authors include Tamar Myers, Sue
Henry, Selma Eichler, and Denise Swanson.

Fanfic vs Profic

Author and editor Keith R.A. DeCandido discusses the differences between fanfic and what he calls "profic."

First off, fanfic is illegal and profic isn’t. This is not an irrelevant concern — we’re talking about the theft of intellectual property. Does that mean fanfic shouldn’t happen? Of course not — I’ve written fanfic, read fanfic, enjoyed fanfic. But then, I also enjoy driving very fast, and sometimes state police have something to say about it, and I have to pay a ticket. Of course, most of the owners of those intellectual properties turn a blind eye, mainly because no money is being made off the fanfic, and since money is the primary reason for protecting your IP…

Scissor Skills

I’m not an expert in fashion or style, so I don’t always have the words to express how I see the look of the characters  in FAST TRACK. So over the Easter Weekend, I spent about 150 euros on magazines, bought some glue and construction paper, and started cutting out pictures with my daughter of fashions and styles I liked. Together we made up "style boards"  for each of the characters.  I also bought some architecture and automotive books and magazines to create style boards for the look of the cars and the "world."  It was  a lot of fun for us both and, when we were done, I must have had fifty boards.  I brought the boards into a day-long concept meeting with the director, line producer, production designer, and costumer designer. As it turns out, I must have done a pretty good job beforehand of explaining how I see the movie because the boards and examples they brought in closely matched what my daughter and I had come up with over the weekend. Even so, we filled the walls of  my office with their boards and mine and spent hours picking and choosing and refining the looks until we all agreed on what we were going for and what our color palette would be. We also watched clips of American and German films to refine what the style, lighting, and look of our film/pilot will be and that we want to convey to our director of photography…once we find him.

Tomorrow, I begin two days of casting for the German actors and then return to L.A. for three more days of casting to find our American actors. And then I have to quickly prepare and organize my life for living in Europe for the next three months more-or-less as I oversee pre-production, production and post-production of the movie.

Elaine Viets Suffers Stroke

Elainemarch2007 I have some horrible news to share  — author Elaine Viets has suffered a stroke. But she is out of danger and is, I am told, making a remarkable recovery. I am not surprised.  Elaine has always been a fighter. I’ve known Elaine for years and have worked with her on various MWA projects. I have always admired her humor, her candor, and her dedication to her fellow writers.

Checkpoint Charlie

It’s the Easter holiday here in Germany, so I finally had a day to sleep-in, relax, and get settled. Since the moment I stepped off the plane last week, I have been on-the-go non-stop, going from one meeting to another and, in some cases, one corner of Germany to another. Today is the first time I’ve actually felt "grounded," if you know what I mean. And best of all, my family is arriving tonight to join me for a week. I’m staying on Friedrichstrasse, sort of the Rodeo Drive of Berlin, and I if I lean just a bit this way and that, I can see Checkpoint Charlie and the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz from my balcony.

The pre-production experience for me on FAST TRACK has been exciting, familiar and in many ways, brand new. It’s my job as the writer & executive producer to relay my vision of the characters, the look, the sound, and the "feel" of the pilot (and subsequent series, if we are lucky) to all the people working on the show…from the production designer to the stunt drivers.  That’s always a challenge but it’s even harder here, where the culture,  language and ways of making TV shows are different. Not only that, our points-of-reference (other TV shows and movies, for instance) are different, too. It’s a new experience for all of us on the show, but I’m working with some incredibly bright and creative people. I think they are beginning to see the show the way I do. They are also enthusiastically embracing a different approach to film-making, a "hybrid" of the American & German producing methods that we’ve created (I’ll go into that another time…there’s probably enough material there for a book!). It’s very exciting for me and, from what I can feel talking to them and just walking down the halls of the production office, it is for them, too.

Yesterday I spent five hours with our German casting director, looking at dozens and dozens of showreels to pick the actors we’d like to come in next week for auditions. The clips on the reels are all in German, so I am having to judge the actors based on emotions, expression, body language, charisma etc. I have to judge  if they are conveying character  through every tool BUT language, since I can’t understand a word they are saying.  I have to guess the context & story of the scene and try to judge how good…or bad…a job the actors are doing (although the reels are all in German, the actors we are inviting in all speak English).  And, of course, their credits mean nothing to me, too….they are all German TV shows and movies. It was another new experience…one of many that I have each day, which is what makes this project so special for me.


Self-Publish Only Over Your Dead Body

Bestselling novelist Jan Burke has two excellent posts on her blog this week on the pros (virtually none) and cons (too many to count) of self-publishing. For non-fiction,  self-publishing can make sense. But if you’re a novelist, 99% of the time it’s a mistake:

So when should you self-publish a first novel?

If you are terminally ill — I am not saying this facetiously — and you all you want is for your family to have copies of your story in trade paperback book form (and simply making a photocopy of a clean manuscript to pass down to your grandchildren won’t satisfy you), and you have the money needed to self-publish, by all means do so.

[…]If you aren’t dying, you probably don’t have a worthwhile excuse for your impatience.

Unless, of course, you have written something that you are certain will never appeal to more than 80 or so readers and has no commercial value, and you have no fear of embarrassing yourself, and you really don’t care if you have to hand sell every single copy of your book yourself. If that’s the case, go ahead and self-publish.

Sleepy in Berlin

Sorry I’ve been absent lately — I have been overwhelmed with preproduction work on FAST TRACK and jetting around Germany and haven’t had time for  blog posts. I’m still wrestling with jet-lag and  in my stupor managed to lose my beloved video iPod on a flight between Cologne and Berlin. I’m sure there’s a airplane janitor out there enjoying episodes of ROME, HEROES, MONK, and a hundred main title sequences….

My family is joining me here on Friday and I’m looking forward to some time off over the Easter Weekend…

Donald Hamilton

I just learned from Charles Ardai, publisher of Hard Case Crime, that Donald Hamilton, author of the Matt Helm novels, has died. Ardai’s obituary is so informative and thoughtful, I’m sharing it here in its entirety as a tribute to Hamilton, who I was lucky to have met several years ago at the Edgar Awards:

Don was 90 years old.  Though his name may be little
remembered today, in the 1960s and 70s he was well known as the best-selling
author of the "Matt Helm" novels, a series of well-written and popular stories
about a ruthless agent of the U.S. government who fought evil in the Cold War
world (and eventually — briefly — the post-Cold War world).  Helm starred
in 27 novels between 1960’s DEATH OF A CITIZEN and 1993’s THE DAMAGERS;
he was also featured in several movies starring Dean Martin, as
well as a short-lived TV series starring Anthony Franciosa that reimagined the
character as a private eye.  More recently, Dreamworks optioned the rights
to all the Helm novels for feature film development.
A final Matt
Helm novel exists but has never been published.

Don also wrote a dozen
non-Helm novels, including several popular Westerns (including THE BIG COUNTRY,
which became the Gregory Peck movie, and SMOKY VALLEY, which was filmed as "The
Violent Men" starring Glenn Ford).  And he wrote several outstanding noir
crime novels, including one — NIGHT WALKER — which we’re proud to have
reprinted last year in the Hard Case Crime series.

In the last decade of
his life, Don moved back to Sweden, where he’d been born, and lived
there with his son, Gordon.  He died peacefully, in his
sleep, this past November.  Gordon kept the fact of his
death private until today, when he confirmed it in a phone conversation with

We’ve lost a number of giants of the mystery field over the past few
years — Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, and Richard S. Prather, among others — and
Donald Hamilton is very much of that caliber.  He sold more than 20 million
books during his lifetime.  But unlike Spillane, McBain and Prather, all of
whom were widely remembered at the time of their death, Don’s passing has sadly
gone unremarked.

Jack Webb’s Star

Publisher’s Weekly singled out my short story "Jack Webb’s Star" in their review of the upcoming anthology HOLLYWOOD AND CRIME:

The 14 stories in this entertaining anthology from Shamus
Award–founder Randisi span Tinsel Town history from the 1930s to the
present and intersect, literally, at Hollywood and Vine. Top billing should go to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch
story, "Suicide Run," and to Lee Goldberg’s "Jack Webb’s Star"—the
former for the detection and the latter for biggest laughs. Other
highlights include Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens’s
reinvention of one of the Three Stooges, Moe Howard, as a detective in
their clever "Murderlized," about the 1937 death of the Stooges’
mentor, vaudevillian Ted Healy. Robert S. Levinson delivers a wicked
portrait of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in "And the Winner Is…,"
which turns on her lackey’s efforts to stop a Nazi sharpshooter at the
1960 Academy Awards. From Harry Bosch’s visit to a photographer at Hollywood & Vine Studios to Moe’s meeting at a coffee shop at that intersection, all the tales pay homage to the storied Hollywood street corner. (June)