The Mail I Get – July 4th Weekend Edition

A self-published author sent me this email today. I have removed his name to save him embarrassment.

I, XYZ, author of the book [Really Pretentious Title] am looking for an agent who will work on percentage. I am
planning on publishing two more books in the near future. If you are interested
please feel free to call me at ###-###-####.

I replied that first of all, I am not an agent, so why would I be interested? And even if I was an agent, his pitch  has no salesmanship whatsoever. Why would any legitimate agent bother to respond? It’s amazing to me how clueless some people are. It’s no wonder the vanity presses do such good business.

I also got a note from a Monk fan, who is troubled by something on the covers:

In the books, you mention that
everything in Monk’s life must be an even number or it upsets him to much.
However, in the show and on the cover of the books, he is wearing a jacket with
three buttons on it. Is there a reason why? I just happened to notice and would
like to know why.

I replied:

Why? Because Monk isn’t real. the person on the cover is an actor. I mean no offense by that answer, but there are lots of continuity
mistakes in the show….which is bound to happen,
since it’s all make-believe anyway. It’s not always possible,
economical, or reasonable to remain consistent with everything that’s
said and done in 100 hours of tv (and seven books) . The priority for
everyone involved is to make an entertaining, great-looking
show…whether Monk, or rather the actor portraying him, is wearing three buttons on his jacket or not ultimately doesn’t
matter. You could also argue, for instance, that all of his shirts and
his jackets have a pattern on them that isn’t consistent or
symmetrical…so how can he ever wear them, regardless of how many
buttons they have? Bottom line…it looks good and its cheaper for the
wardrobe department. So my advice is to relax, it’s just a TV show!

My favorite email of the weekend (so far) comes from someone who wants my help usurping me as the only author of MONK novels. He wrote, in part:

A friend and I co-wrote a script for
MONK […] I notice that you write books based on the MONK series, and was
hoping you could tell me what my friend and I can do to turn our script
into a book. […] I figure you are the expert
here. Please, what do we need to do? What permissions do we ask for,
and would we have to contact the network? I hope you can help us. We love the show, we’ve grown very close to the characters, and we believe we have a good storyline here.

I congratulated him on completing their spec script and told him that, unfortunately, my publisher isn’t in the
market for other writers for the MONK books since they have me under contract for a few more and I seem to be doing a pretty good job at it. What chutzpah. Did he really think I’d help him take my job? He got right back to me:

My co-writer and I wondered if you would be interested in our script,
in terms of you turning it into a book. (And we both think we’ve seen
at least one other MONK book written by someone else. Is that possible?) It’s awfully hard to let go of this plot. We would love to see
someone turn this into a MONK story, one way or the other.

I informed him that he was mistaken about another author writing MONK novels and I politely passed on his generous offer to use their screenplay as the basis for a book.

The Mail I Get

I got an email this evening from a woman who was offended by an off-hand opinion expressed by Natalie in MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE:

There was a part where
Natalie describes listening to NPR, getting a dose of “left-leaning
news” and “liberal commentary.” NPR is a nonpartisan organization that
offers only the facts when delivering news updates. I mean, nothing
personal, but I dont like reading Natalie’s thoughts about anything,
but that was pretty outrageous. I get so frustrated because I really
like Monk but the fact that that was said, I don’t know if I can
continue reading them. Why can’t the book be in the third person?

Of all the things someone could be offended by in the book, I never would have picked the comment about NPR. I thought of a lot of smart-ass replies, but instead I wrote:

I’m a big fan of NPR, too, and I
contribute money each year to my local NPR station, but surely you know
as well as I do that the network is widely perceived as having a
liberal slant. Whether it is true or not, it’s a perception that
Natalie happens to share. It’s a shame that you don’t like hearing Natalie’s thoughts because I intend to continue writing the books in her voice.



Orson ossoman as Mapes 
I’ve had some very nice emails today from people who attended the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky and enjoyed my play, MAPES FOR HIRE. I also stumbled on a blog by Tony Brewer, who led the foley team who did most of the live sound FX for the “radio” plays. He writes:

I love doing sound effects, especially live, and boy did this project
stretch me. I think I commented elsewhere: 8 shows, 34 performances, 10
days, with a little over a week of real-time face-to-face onstage prep
and rehearsal. Damn.

But what made this so rewarding was the
talent involved. From the seasoned audio producers, to the pros in the
sound booth, to the versatile actors, to the great writing, add me to
the mix and you’ve got a unique, hybrid theatre experience. A little
bit old-time radio, a little black box, plus 3 of the shows were
screenplays adapted for live performance — basically movies performed
live — all done on a shoestring.

Amy Walker
co-starred in MAPES FOR HIRE as Carol and you can get a glimpse of her amazing range in her YouTube video “21 Accents,”which went viral on earning over three million views.

(The picture on the left, taken by Bryan Leazenby, is Orson Ossman performing as Harvey Mapes)

Defend the Defenders

Dawn O’Bryan-Lamb has established the Author Advocate Defense Fund  to help the bloggers, web sites, and organizations being sued by literary agent Barbara Bauer:

“On September 20,
2007, Barbara Bauer filed suit in New Jersey against a list of
defendants, ranging from the Wikipedia Foundation, to message board
owners, to bloggers.

More information about the precipitating events can be found in the archives of Making Light. There is additional information about the case regarding Wikipedia at the Electronic Frontier Foundation site. 

 Another defendant is Science Fiction Writers of America for its Writer Beware “thumbs down agencies” or “Twenty Worst” list. Yet another is the former and current owner of  Absolute Write which has a thread about the Plaintiff on their site. 

oneself against a lawsuit is expensive, and many of the author
advocates being sued could use help to pay the many legal costs
involved, which are adding up over these past 9 months.

set up a PayPal site where you can donate to help these writers with
their legal fees. Any amount is welcome. Any fees assessed by PayPal
will be covered, so your full donation goes to the legal defense fund.
All funds will be disbursed directly to the defendant’s attorneys in
equal shares.”

It’s a good cause. I urge you to make a donation.

UPDATE 7-4-08 : Score one for the good guys. Bauer’s lawsuit against Wikipedia has been thrown out by the court. The Ashbury Park Press reports:

Judge Jamie S. Perri dismissed complaints by Barbara Bauer and her
company, Barbara Bauer Literary Agency Inc., against Wikimedia
Foundation, the owner and operator of online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Bauer in court papers alleged that Wikimedia Foundation defamed her by
publishing numerous false statements, including one that said she was
“The Dumbest of the 20 Worst” literary agents and that she had “no
documented sales at all.”

Perri cited the Communications
Decency Act, enacted by Congress in 1996 to promote free speech over
the Internet. The act immunizes a provider of interactive computer
services from liability for publishing content provided by another.

This judgment dealt only with Wikipedia, not the cases brought against the 19 other defendants.

Get your fix of THE FIX

My brother Tod has posted a link to the first chapter of his new novel BURN NOTICE: THE FIX, which comes out nationwide next month. He also talks about some of the challenges he faced writing the book:

I would be lying if I said writing this book wasn’t a challenge. It
absolutely was. I’ve never written a traditional crime novel. Anyone
who has read my work in the past will tell you that linear storytelling
isn’t exactly my calling card. Nor is having a narrator who is
reliable. Of course I’ve written linear work in the past. And of course
I’ve written reliable narrators in the past. But one thing I don’t
think I’ve ever written is a hero, even an ironic hero like Michael
Westen. My characters tend to be pretty fucked up and of course Michael
is fucked up in his own way, too, but not in the “he may have killed
his wife and daughter” sort of way. The challenge for me was to convey
him on the page in a way that made me enjoy writing him and also was
true to Matt Nix’s creation.

I think it’s the best book my brother has ever written, but hey, I’m biased.

What a Difference Acting Ability Makes

Many years ago, Michael Mann wrote and directed a flop pilot for NBC called LA TAKEDOWN, starring Scott Plank and Alex MacArthur. The pilot would be a forgotten footnote in Mann’s career if not for the fact that he pulled off an amazing feat — he manged to remake it, almost word-for-word, scene-for-scene, as the big-budget feature film HEAT, starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. This may be the one and only time a busted TV pilot has been remade as a feature film…with hardly any changes. Here is the original “restaurant” scene from LA TAKEDOWN and the same scene in HEAT.  Same words, better actors. What a difference acting ability makes…

Mr. Monk Goes To Germany

Lohr article0001
Today my latest MONK novel, MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY, hits the bookstore shelves nationwide in hardcover. Here’s what it’s about:

Adrian Monk is actually doing well lately. He’s
solving murders as fast as they come, and he’s been noticeably less
compulsive—he doesn’t count his morning Wheat Chex until they’re in the bowl. Progress is progress, and Monk knows he owes it all to his therapist, Dr. Kroger.

So when Dr. Kroger attends a conference in Germany, Monk ends up in
trouble. He can’t tie his shoes, forgets how to swallow, and loses
track of his blinking. Desperate to regain his footing, Monk follows
his shrink to Germany. And that’s where Monk sees the man across a
crowded town square. The man he’s never stopped searching for.

The man with six fingers. The man responsible for his wife’s death.

Or did Monk imagine crossing paths with him?

Now, in a foreign land full of… foreigners, Monk must deal
with his multitude of phobias and contend with an especially unfriendly
polizei department in order to find the six-fingered man. He must also
confront someone who thinks Monk may have just gone officially
insane—his own psychiatrist.

Over the weekend, the book got big play in the newspaper in Lohr, Germany, where much of the story is set (if you can read German, you can see part one of the article here and part two here in PDF format). And the German edition of the book doesn’t even come out until this fall. I wish I could get coverage like that here!Lohr article0003