Saturday, August 13, 2016

Zoe McLellan Leaves NCIS: New Orleans

© by Gerald So | | 10:45 A.M.

I'm late to the July 26 news that Zoe McLellan's NCIS: New Orleans character, Meredith Brody, won't be returning for Season 3, a creative decision stemming from Brody's Season 2 romantic dalliance with charismatic Homeland Security infiltrator John Russo (Ivan Sergei).

The casting of McLellan, whom I liked as P.O. Jennifer Coates on JAG, was one reason I bought into NCIS: New Orleans. Brody was awkwardly not fleshed out in the backdoor pilot, NCIS two-parter "Crescent City", but a mid-Season 1 episode revealed she was haunted by her twin sister Emily's death. Season 2 introduced her sassy yet secretive mother Olivia (Annie Potts) and uncovered the truth behind Emily's death.

I suppose, as with NCIS's Kate Todd, Season 2 completed Brody's arc and it was a good point at which to write her out. Sonya Percy (Shalita Grant) got off to a faster start than Brody and can fill the female action lead in her absence. Nonetheless, I'll miss Brody and occasionally wonder what might have been.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Sloppy End of the Yankees-A-Rod Era

© by Gerald So | | 6:00 A.M.

As a Yankee fan, I never wanted Alex Rodriguez on the team. In his prime, Alex played shortstop, and the Yankees had a shortstop, Derek Jeter. When the Texas Rangers couldn't afford to pay out the 10-year, $252 million contract they made with Alex, and the players' union voided his trade to Boston, the Yankees emerged as the only team that could eat swallow the contract.

Even so, Alex would have to move to third base, and the Yankees had a third baseman, 2003 ALCS hero Aaron Boone, at least until Boone injured his leg in a fateful game of pickup basketball.

Alex's first season in New York was an error-prone media circus as he apparently struggled to fit on the team. Just as he got comfortable, the evidence of steroid use surfaced, his denials, half-admissions, lies, his legal action against the union and the team...

He served the longest MLB player suspension to date, came back and had a nice season last year filling in for an injured Carlos Beltran at DH, surgeries on both hips leaving him without the lateral mobility to play third base. This year, with Beltran healthy, Alex hadn't found a spot in the lineup. When he has played, like many aging Yankees, he's struggled.

Last Sunday, the Yankees announced A-Rod would have one more week as a player before becoming a special advisor to owner Hal Steinbrenner. While it was a sign fences had been mended, it's put an unneeded spotlight on Alex's last days as a Yankee. Despite trading away the best pieces of this year's team, the Yankees still have an outside shot at the playoffs, and the organization hates to throw in the towel completely. That philosophy doesn't jibe with giving Alex this farewell week.

The team could have honored A-Rod later with a quieter ceremony announcing his advisor position, or they could have released him without ceremony. I think A-Rod's stature led everyone to handle his exit too carefully and ultimately incorrectly.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Gerald Goes to Bouchercon 2016

Bouchercon 2016 will be part of a road trip for me that begins September 1. If you want to meet me, I want to meet you. Feel free to introduce yourself. I'm booked at the con hotel Thursday through Sunday. I might arrive late morning Thursday, so here are the panels I plan to attend:

  • Thursday, September 15, 12:00–12:50 P.M., LaGalleries 6: "One More Time" - Novels and characters taking on another life on screen w/ Lee Goldberg, Alexandra Sokoloff, David Morrell, Burt Weissbourd, Nina Sadowsky, and Phoeff Sutton.
  • 1:30–2:20 P.M. - Mardi Gras FG: "Jive Talking" - Humor w/ Jessie Chandler, Ryan Aldred, Shelly Costa, Ray Daniel, Parnell Hall, and Kendell Lynn.
  • 3:00–3:50 P.M. - Mardi Gras FG: "Dead Man's Party" - Realities of Death Investigation w/ Ayo Onatade, Jan Burke, Karen Ross, D.P. Lyle, Alistar Kimble, Eileen Dreyer.
  • 5:15–6:15 P.M. - Balconies LMN, 4th Floor: "Once Upon a Crime: Minotaur Authors Collaborate Live on a Short Story"

  • Friday, September 16, 9:30–10:20 A.M. - LaGalleries 6: "Me and My Friends" - Writing groups w/ Eleanor Cawood Jones, Donna Andrews, Ellen Crosby, John Gilstrap, Alan Orloff, and Art Taylor.
  • 11:00–11:50 A.M. - Mardi Gras D: "Murder By Numbers" - Ellery Queen w/ James Lincoln Warren, EQMM editor Janet Hutchings, Shelley Dickson Carr, Ted Hertel, Steve Steinbock, and Otto Penzler.
  • 2:00–2:50 P.M. - LaGalleries 6: "Dirty Boulevard" - Hardboiled w/ Susan Alice Bickford, Craig Faustus Buck, Rob Hart, Barbara Nickless, Todd Robinson, and Lisa Turner.
  • 3:30–4:20 P.M. - LaGalleries 1: "The Boxer" - Writing violence w/ ZoĆ« Sharp, Sheila Redling, Melinda Leigh, Thomas Pluck, E.A. Aymar, and Taylor Stevens.

  • Saturday, September 17, 9:00-9:50 A.M. - Bissonet: Weapons with Jim Born
  • 10:30-11:20 A.M. - Mardi Gras E: "Thrift Shop" - Ideas from unusual places w/ Lori Rader-Day, Henry Chang, Alex Grecian, Carolyn Haines, Brian Thiem, and Karen E. Olson.
  • 12:00-12:50 P.M. - Mardi Gras ABC: "Bad to the Bone" - Anti-heroes w/ Chris Holm, David Swinson, Peter Spiegelman, Ian Hamilton, David Corbett, and Rory Flynn.
  • 1:30-2:20 P.M. - Mardi Gras ABC: "24 Frames" - Influence of movies and TV on crime fiction w/ Matt Goldman, Peter Blauner, John Connell, Danny Gardner, John Shepphird, and Ace Atkins.

  • Sunday, September 18, 9:00–10:00 A.M. - LaGalleries 1: "Watch That Man" - Thrillers w/ Russel McLean, Robert Bailey, Boyd Morrison, Doug Johnston, Edward Kay, and Julia McDermott.
  • 10:30–11:30 A.M. - Mardi Gras ABC: "Master of Puppets" - Manipulating your characters to get the story you want w/ G.J. Brown, Jim Sanderson, Mary Coley, Maegan Beaumont, Cathi Stoler, and Matthew FitzSimmons.

My Feelings on Fan Fiction

© by Gerald So | | 9:30 A.M.

This week's 7 Criminal Minds question: What do you think about fan fiction? Have you ever written any yourself?

Fan fiction was long considered infringement on a creator's copyright because fans would write about characters without the creator's approval. I'm against that sense of fan fiction. I'm also against fan fiction in general because it puts off a writer's time working with his or her own characters, the most fulfilling part of writing.

Fan fiction should be distinguished from licensed tie-in or continuation novels, such as the post-Ian Fleming James Bond novels, Lee Goldberg's Diagnosis Murder and Adrian Monk novels, or Ace Atkins's Spenser novels, rightfully approved by the creator or the creator's estate. I approve of and have enjoyed many of these, but continuation authors are often overlooked in the shadows of the franchises for which they write. Developing and shopping your own franchise brings you the most credit.

Have I written fan fiction myself? In 1999 or 2000, before I was aware of copyright infringement, I frequented a message board for the short-lived 1998 TV show Vengeance Unlimited, which starred Michael Madsen as enigmatic do-gooder Mr. Chapel, who nonetheless may have been psychotic. Members of the board and I began to write a fan story one passage at a time. Another member of the board was a fellow Spenser fan, and she brought Spenser into the story. I contributed some passages with Spenser. Sometime after the show was canceled, the board shut down, and I posted the complete story to my website.

Lucky for me, I learned about copyright infringement and took the story down before any lawyers had to tell me.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Baby, Remember My Name

© by Gerald So | | 4:00 A.M.

This week's panel question at 7 Criminal Minds is, "Which would you choose, fame or fortune?"

It's got me thinking. While I'd love to make enough money to support myself and my extended family, I didn't pursue writing, particularly poetry, to make a fortune. I know many writers who began in poetry but largely gave it up when their work in other genres took off. Discovering my talent at 13, I began in fiction because it seemed safer footing than poetry.

In 2001, teaching at Hofstra University, I befriended poet Robert Plath. He wanted to create a faculty poetry website but didn't know how to code HTML. In helping Rob with the code, I read the submitted poetry with an editor's eye and got into writing some myself. My first print acceptance was not a story but the poem "Night School", originally in the Spring 2003 issue of Long Island Quarterly, reprinted on the Web in Red Fez.

Remembering that, I've consciously chosen to keep writing poetry along with whatever else I can. Every kind of writing feeds its own kind of creativity. Poetry, moreso than prose, approaches subjects from surprising, instantly personal angles, letting the poet's voice through unfiltered by narrative expectations.

Fame or fortune? I choose fame in the sense that I'd like to be known for my work. If I make a fortune in writing or elsewhere, I'll keep writing.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Not Nice

© by Gerald So | | 7:00 A.M.

We don't expect terror
to be so clear as
to drive a truck through
roadblocks and people
in a bid to
be remembered
over Bastille Day.
It's just as clear
we should fight
memory with memory.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place

© by Gerald So | | 7:00 P.M.

Last Tuesday, Shout! Factory released the 11-DVD complete series set of Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. The main characters navigated grad school and the job search at roughly the same time I did, and while the cast went on to bigger and better projects, this is where I discovered almost all of them.

I had seen Traylor Howard on NBC's shorter-lived, similarly-set Anthony Clark sitcom Boston Common. On Two Guys... she played the shrewd, tomboyish Sharon Carter, her best friends fellow Tufts grads brilliant slacker Michael "Berg" Bergen (Ryan Reynolds) and idealistic Pete Dunville (Richard Ruccolo).

In Season 1, the three friends each pursued professional and romantic fulfillment, Pete most idealistically pursuing "the one" girl he's meant to be with. Season 2 brought in Nathan Fillion as handyman Johnny Donnelly, whom Sharon dates seriously and eventually marries, and Suzanne Cryer as Ashley Walker, who rivals Berg for smarts and sarcasm. By the end of Season 2, Pete developed romantic feelings for Sharon, but they weren't reciprocated, after which I lost most interest.

Having refreshed my memory of the series this week, I'm glad to see the characters went on to deeper relationships, particularly Ashley with Pete. Ashley was a very driven, abrasive character. As she was fleshed out, viewers got to see, as tough as she was, she was often lonely. Her arc with Pete went from utter dislike to the kind of connection they had always wanted.

As much development as four seasons offered, as Sharon, Berg, Pete, and Ashley were often unsure about work and love, the show never seemed that sure of itself. Original pizza place regulars Juliis Carry, David Ogden Stiers, and Jennifer Westfeldt were gone after Season 1; in the course of the series, Berg's dad was played by Howard Hesseman and Steve Landesberg, his mother by Cheryl Ladd and Bo Derek; Pete changed careers from architect to cosmetics executive to fireman. There were musical episodes, speculative Halloween episodes, an episode without dialogue, and the de facto series finale, of which viewers chose the ending via Internet vote. Can you say, "Ratings ploy?"

Still, my best memories are pleasantly intact. Shout! Factory's set hits the soft spot I have for the show.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Independence Day, 1976

© by Gerald So | | 5:00 A.M.

I originally performed this poem for Episode 55 of Seth Harwood's CrimeWAV podcast. You can order a copy of The Lineup #3 from