Conference Kurfluffle

Left Coast Crime, and some other mystery conventions, have chosen not to place authors on panels unless their books are from companies on the MWA’s list of approved publishers. So now a handful of irate POD and self-published authors are running around blogs and message boards saying the MWA is responsible for this new policy.

The MWA has nothing to do with how conferences organize their panels or how bookstores stock their shelves or how reviewers choose the books that they review. Nobody in the MWA has ever suggested to any conference chair, book reviewer, book seller, or anyone else that they use the organization’s list of approved publishers as their guide. They are making the decision on their own.

Speaking for myself, the fact that other writers organizations (like the Romance Writers of America) and major writers conferences are following our lead only underscores the necessity and sensibility of the basic, professional standards that the MWA has set…and the good that it is doing for our members and the industry. I hope as a result that authors will be more careful about the publishers that they do business with…and that more publishers will hold themselves to higher ethical and professional standards in the way they treat their authors and conduct their business.

Let’s Put On a Show

Nikki Finke reports that "High School Musical 2" broke just about every record there is for a made-for-cable movie. For one thing, it was the most-watched cable program AND the most watched basic cable movie of all time. That alone would be remarkable enough, but with 17 million viewers, it ranked as  the most-viewed Friday program, cable or broadcast, in the past five years. As Nikki says:

Just shows that TV viewers will respond to good, clean, energetic fun. Not everything has to be edgy.

How many networks do you think will take that message from the numbers? None. What we will see are a lot more teenage musicals.

A Writer in Retreat

Author Sandra Scoppettone is having a dry spell or, worse,  is going through a bitter, creative depression. Either way, she’s candidly chronicling it on her blog. On June 20th, she wrote, in part:

How long has it been? I don’t know. It seems like months. It is months? Huh. Actually it seems more like a day. That’s how much I’m enjoying it. It being not writing.

On June 23rd, she wrote, in part:

I hear about the new upcoming writers and I read them.  Some are damn good.  I wish I could be part of them, in their grade, their class, so to speak.  But it’s no longer my time. That’s okay.  I had my chance.  Now, despite my wishes, which, by the way, are for the forty year old me, I don’t have any idea if I’ll publish again.  Or write again.  I’m inclined to think I’ll write, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be published. That’s not okay.  But there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

On July 21st, she wrote, in part:

I’ve been reading a lot and I have thoughts about the books I read, but this blog was meant to be about writing thoughts, as it says above.  The problem is I have no writing thoughts. […]Here’s the thing: I don’t miss writing at all.  I have no idea how long that will last.  Maybe forever.  Maybe until Labor Day. […] I know I’ve posted about publishing before.  So what more is there to say?  We all know it’s only going to get worse.

On August 3rd, she had a one-line post:

The title for the book I might write just came to me.

And then, four days later,  another one-line post:

I now hate the title.

On August 12th, she wrote:

Why am thinking about writing this book that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a few months?  What do I know about the things I’d have to include?  Who would be interested in this? 

I’ve said to myself and maybe here that I would probably start after Labor Day.  That’s 21 days away.  On Labor Day I’d be facing writing the next day. When I think of that it makes me sick.

If I start in September and don’t have interuptions (this has never happened) it’ll take me four to six months to complete a first draft.  And another one or two to rewrite.

And then what?  Give it to my agent?  She’ll hate it.  So maybe I’ll have to find another agent.  Not easy.  Or maybe my agent will decide to try and sell it.

Nobody will buy it.  Or even if somebody does it will fall through the cracks and three people will read it.

Why bother?

I’m going back to bed.

I find her posts disturbing and sad…especially since her blog used to be filled with such enthusiasm for writing. It’s unpleasant to see her in such a self-defeating, bitter retreat. And I’m not so sure it’s healthy for her career to be posting about it on her blog…then again, that’s probably exactly why she’s doing it. I hope she snaps out of her writing funk soon.

UPDATE: In addition to commenting here to this post, Sandra has also blogged about it.

Signing On and Signing Off

Yesterday, I had a booksigning for MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS and DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE LAST WORD at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks. It was the first formal signing I have done in eight months and I had a great time. The crowd was big and enthusiastic and there was a lot of laughter. I’m looking forward to my signing next Saturday at the Mystery Book Store in Westwood. But those are the only signings I have set up and I am not rushing to schedule any more.

In a way, it was probably a good thing that I took an unintentional signing hiatus, thanks to my travel committements overseas for FAST TRACK. Since about 2003, I’ve had about four new books out a year and I was doing a LOT of booksignings. I was signing too much…the events were becoming less special for me and for readers.

I also took an unplanned year off from conventions, missing Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, Left Coast Crime and Men of Mystery (I’m also missing Bouchercon next month), even though I had new books out to promote. I think that turned out to be a good thing for me, since you can become such a familiar face and frequent participant on panels that it diminishes the impact you have…it actually becomes counter-productive. There are some authors who are at every convention and do the same panels over and over and over…to the point that most readers probably know their advice and anecdotes by heart. I don’t want to become one of those  authors ("Oh God, not Lee again. Do we have to hear that Ian Ludlow story for the 112th time?"), though I fear that I already have.

For another thing, a big signing schedule and a lot of convention travel just isn’t cost-effective for me. It might be on a stand-alone original novel, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense with the lower royalty percentages I get on my tie-in work. And with all the international travel I have been doing lately for my TV work, I’m not eager to jump on a plane again to attend a convention as soon as I get home.

The next convention that I will definitely be attending, and am eagerly looking forward to, is Left Coast Crime 2009 in Hawaii…but I don’t know if I will be attending any before that. We’ll see.

Out of Touch

070815cover2 Mark Harmon is on the cover of TV Guide, illustrating their story on the "turmoil" behind-the-scenes on NCIS. The article is tepid, out-of-date and hopelessly vague…and laughable to anybody in the TV business. It just goes to show completely out-of-touch and irrelevant the reporting on the entertainment industry is in the mainstream media and even in the trade publications like Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. Most of entertainment industry reporting, and I used the term "reporting" lightly, is driven by press releases. There is no actual reporting going on any more…much less anything approaching "investigative" journalism. This week’s TV Guide story about NCIS is just the latest, obvious example. The fact is that the "turmoil" on NCIS is hardly anything new and has been common knowledge in the TV industry since the show’s first season. Just about every writer/producer but me, it seems, has been on – and quickly off – the show at one time or another. For the last few years, stories about the script woes and costly production problems on the show could be heard at just about any casual gathering of TV writer/producers. Did any of it creep into the press? Nope. And by the time the showdown between Harmon and series creator/showrunner Donald Belisario was reported by the press in a very watered-down form, it was old news and irrelevant to everybody in the TV business. The real story is why CBS allowed the ugly and expensive situation at NCIS to continue for as long as it did…but nobody is going to report that story. It would be too interesting and informative…and embarrassing for the studio and the network. There are several other shows that have had, or are presently experiencing, more turmoil than NCIS was…and we aren’t hearing about it in the press. And we probably won’t.

I’ve been slogging through the four months worth of issues of Daily Variety that accumulated while I was shooting FAST TRACK in Berlin and am shocked by how little useful information there is. I can get the same information – maybe even more – by just browsing the web each day. I am seriously considering dropping my Daily Variety subscription…and I’ve been a subscriber since I was nine years old.

Slush Hour

Blofeld4 I saw RUSH HOUR 3 today. The story made no sense at all, but I Flashweb005 had a good time anyway…mostly because of Chris Tucker. He was the movie. He made lines funny that weren’t funny. Max Von Sydow was in the movie, too, which I also found amusing. If you cast him in a part, you might as well hang a sign around his neck that says: ——-

Well, you know what it should say. 


Ah1l14poin I spent the day writing yesterday…but I am being generous. I only got a few pages done and it was like chiseling at stone. Today I looked at the crap I wrote yesterday and was convinced that I’ve lost whatever minimal talent I had. My days as a writer are over. Then I read an excerpt of Walter Mosley’s book THIS YEAR YOU WRITE YOUR NOVEL in Oprah magazine…and felt much better.

If you skip a day or more between your writing sessions, your mind will drift […] You will find that you’ll have to slog back to a place that would have been easily attained if only you wrote every day.

He’s right, and of course I already knew this, but I’m a writer, so I am naturally insecure. The fact is, I didn’t write for two days because I was bogged down with catching up on my life (after four months away from home) and with FAST TRACK stuff. So when I finally sat down with the book again, I was starting from a dead stop. It should go a bit better today…then even better tomorrow.