Day of the Living Dead

Today I was so jet-lagged that I felt like I was sleep walking around Munich. I know I looked like the undead. But I fortified myself with some tea and chocolate at Kafer before the big pitch and it went well. Between the sugar, caffeine and adreniline, I've managed to stay alert from mid-afternoon until right about now (8:30 pm on Thursday night). We had a post-pitch discussion over dinner and then on my way back to the hotel I treated myself to a Kopenhagener pastry for a job well done. I am going to go to bed as soon as I finish typing this post.  Tomorrow morning I have a breakfast meeting with my friends at Hofmann & Voges Productions and then it's back to L.A.   All in all, I think it was  a very productive  five days that I hope to build upon in the coming weeks.

Hot Dogging

Greetings from Munich. I arrived here on Tuesday night from London, where it was rainy and gray, to weather that felt more like Southern California than Germany. I guzzled Diet Coke on the flight so that I wouldn't fall asleep when I met my friends Daniela & David Tully for drinks at 9 p.m.  Daniela is a top executive at ProSeiben, a major German network, and her American husband David is a screenwriter. It was great to see them again and to get caught up on the state of the German TV market (which is lousy, just like everywhere else).

The next morning I awoke to a beautiful day…clear blue skies, warm weather. It was the nicest weather I've ever had in Munich and I took full advantage of it, walking all over the city and discovering it anew.  The best part was sitting in the Viktualienmarkt, eating a delicious hotdog and butter streusel, sipping Diet Coke, and enjoying the scenery.

I got back to the hotel in mid-afternoon for meetings with my friends at Action Concept, the studio I am working with over here. I ended the day with a nice long dinner at an outside table at an old Bavarian restaurant with Heiko Schmidt, the terrific line producer I worked with on FAST TRACK. I was in bed by midnight…but I awoke at 3:30 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep. So I got up around 4, called home, answered some emails, and studied my notes for my meetings.

Now it's 7 a.m. I have been up for three-and-a-half hours already, and my meetings start with breakfast at 9. The most important meeting is at 3, when I will have to pitch three projects to a potential international coproduction partner. I hope I don't fall asleep in middle of it.

Tomorrow morning I head back to L.A….and hope to do some serious plotting for my next  MONK book on the plane. On Monday I start jury duty.

Lazy Monday

I woke up at 6 a.m. on Monday…I would have liked to sleep more after a day without sleep, but that's jet-lag for  you. I say in bed for an hour, trying to sleep, then  got up, had breakfast at a nice little cafe, and spent an hour or so making notes on a feature rewrite that I am up for. Then I roamed around London as it woke up, too. 

Around noon, I headed out to actor Shaun Prendergast's  home for easter and had a marvelous time with his friends and family. I lost track of most their names in my jet-lag haze, but there were lots of actors and writers there, including Stephen Tompkinson, the star of a series called WILD AT HEART. I've  never seen his show but I knew that I'd seen him before, I just couldn't place his face until the train ride back into London…he was in the final PRIME SUSPECT.

 Stephen and his wife shared some fascinating stories about life in South Africa. They also shot a documentary in Africa…I didn't quite get what it was about, but part of it involved taking tribesmen up in a hot  air balloon to see their land from the sky for the first time.  Another actor, who I gathered is also a director, regaled us with tales about his time on location in India on SHARPE'S PERIL.

Anyway, I had a great time chatting while stuffing myself with Shaun's delicious steak & oyster pie, roast potatos, and all sorts of tasty dishes laid out buffet-style on a big table in the kitchen. I learned that the TV business in the UK is going through a rough patch, too. Shows are being asked to significantly trim their budgets or face cancellation. I was told that two hit shows, LEWIS and WIRE IN THE BLOOD, were cancelled over costs and that one of the networks is on shaky financial footing. I'm sure I will learn more about that when I have breakfast with my UK  agent and head off together for some studio meetings.

I spent my evening walking around London and then went back to my hotel room to write up my notes for my pitch on the feature rewrite…and was in bed by 11. I awoke 45 minutes ago…at 5 am. Wide awake. That's jet-lag. I have lots of meetings this morning…then a flight to Munich late this afternoon…and drinks tonight with some friends from a German TV network. I hope I can catch a nap on the plane…

London Calling

Just a few days ago I was in Cape Girardeau Missouri and today I am in London. The contrast is pretty jarring. I haven’t slept in over 24 hours so I am seeing the city through a Zombie’s eyes. It’s Sunday, all the stores are closed, but the streets are jammed with people. I don’t know if this is normal for London or not…but it looks odd to these bloodshot eyes. It’s 3 pm here…time for me to take a quick nap…then I will try to stay up until 10 pm to try to get a step ahead of my jet lag. Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…

I am off to Europe  in a few minutes for two and a half days in London and two and a half days in Munich. In London, I'll spend Easter Monday with actor Shaun Prendergast and his family (Shaun was one of the stars of my film FAST TRACK). On Tuesday,  I'll be meeting my UK agent for the first time face-to-face for breakfast and then he's got meetings set up for me with some studios. Then I am jetting off to Munich, where I will be joining my good friends at Action Concept to pitch some projects to broadcasters. It's going to be a whirlwind week but I am really looking forward to it.  It's been a year since I've been to Europe but it feels like much longer, especially after spending so many months working there in 2006 & 2007. 

Revised Thinking

I watched the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA finale again tonight. Don't ask me why. Procrastination, maybe? Anway, I liked it much more the second time around. It's a better finale than I initially thought it was.

The Mail I Get

This one came today from Amazon Customer Service and the subject was "Your Amazon Inquiry." But I didn't make an inquiry. Here's what it said:

My name is Janet; I am a senior member of our Connect team, a part of my job
consists of deciding if AmazonConnect postings adhere to our guidelines. As
such, your account was brought to my attention.

Some of your posts have been found to be spiteful. In order to facilitate
customer buying choices, we encourage authors to discuss their work and
information related to it, however posts that are spiteful will be removed.

If this continues, we will remove your posting privileges from your
AmazonConnect account in accordance with our Conditions of Use.

My Amazon blog is a mirror of this one. I was curious which posts troubled Amazon (if it's really Amazon, of course… it's probably a ruse) and sent this note:

Spiteful? Oh my. Please indicate to me which specific posts of mine you believe are "spiteful" and why so I can better understand Amazon's thinking in this regard.

I'll let you know what they say.


Fox is yanking DOLLHOUSE after episode 12 and will not air the 13th episode. Now, on the surface, that would scream "The Show is Cancelled." But the folks at DOLLHOUSE are spinning this news in a very odd way. See if you can follow this explanation from producer Tim Minnear:

Okay. So maybe I can help clarify this somewhat. Because we scrapped the original pilot — and in fact cannibalized some of its parts for other eps — we really ended up with 12 episodes. But the studio makes DVD and other deals based on the original 13 number. So we created a standalone kind of coda episode. Which is the mythical new episode 13. The network had already paid for 13 episodes, and this included the one they agreed to let us scrap for parts. It does not include the one we made to bring the number back up to 13 for the studio side and its obligations. We always knew it would be for the DVD for sure, but we also think Fox should air it because it's awesome.

If I understand this correctly, and I'm not entirely sure that I do, he's saying that the Fox Network ordered 13 episodes, which included the pilot, which was scrapped and cannibalized in subsequent epoisodes. But the Fox Studios made commitments to networks overseas and to a DVD distributor for thirteen episodes. So, since they were one episode short after dumping the pilot, the studio alone bore the cost of shooting an extra episode that the network doesn't feel like airing.

Finaldh_13grouppool_1179_ly3bKeep in mind that the studio and the network are owned by the same people…Fox. They are simply moving cash from one pocket to another.

So here's the bottom line: Fox Studios paid to produce an episode that The Fox Network doesn't want to air (in other words, they don't want to pay a $3 million license fee for a show that's delivering terrible ratings). What does that tell you about the network's confidence in the show?
A lot.

More Vanity Press Kool Aid

Every time a major magazine or new outlet does a story touting self-publishing, in this case a piece on the CNN tech website, I get inundated by readers asking me what I think. So does Victoria Strauss at Writers Beware...only she probably gets it ten times worse than I do. She's written a post on the formula most of these articles usually follow. She says, in part, that they:

1. Pick a rare instance of self-publishing success–in this case, Lisa Genova, whose iUniverse-published novel Still Alice garnered a major publishing deal. Make sure not to tell the whole story–omit, for instance, the fact that Genova hired PR firm Kelly & Hall–the same firm that propelled self-published Brunonia Barry to success–to publicize her book, and acquired a literary agent as a result of the attention Kelly & Hall was able to generate.

2. Segue to the growth of self-publishing and the great possibilities it offers for budding authors, while taking a swipe at the commercial publishing industry. Totally ignore the contradiction inherent in the fact the success of the self-published author just discussed hinged on her transition to a commercial publisher.

3. Toss out a few random facts about self-publishing (not all of them necessarily relevant–Khatami notes that the self-published author "retains the copyright to his or her book," as if this were not the case with commercial publishing), while ignoring the issue of low sales (the average self-published book sells fewer than 200 copies) and limited distribution (most self-pubbed books are not distributed beyond the Internet).

These articles never mention the tens of thousands of dollars that these "successful" self-published authors had to spend…and how extraordinarily rare it is for vanity press authors jump to a real publisher, which despite their hoo-hawing for vanity presses is what they all want.

The CNN website story mentions that Lulu has published 820,000 titles since 2002 but they don't say how many of those authors actually sold more than a few dozen copies of their work. A real reporter might have asked that question…and posted the answer as a reality-check. But this was nothing more than a vanity press puff piece…the last thing anyone was interested in doing was shining a light on the ugly truth.

AuthorHouse's online Fact Sheet, updated in September 2008, reported 36,823 authors and 45,993 titles. According to the New York Times, AuthorHouse reports selling more than 2.5 million books in 2008, which sounds like a lot, but averages out to around 54 sales per title.

iUniverse's 2005 Facts and Figures sheet reports that the company published 22,265 titles through the end of that year, with sales of 3.7 million: an average of 166 sales per title. Obviously some titles can boast better sales (Amy Fisher's If I Knew Then sold over 32,000 copies)–but not many. According to a 2004 article in Publishers Weekly, only 83 of more than 18,000 iUniverse titles published during that year sold at least 500 copies. And in a 2008 article in The New York Times, iUniverse's VP, Susan Driscoll, admitted that most iUniverse authors sell fewer than 200 books.

The vanity presses make their money selling books to authors, not selling books to readers.

There are three more items on Victoria's list and I'm going to refer people to it every time they email me a mindless article like this one.