Monday, January 31, 2005

Going Sci-Fi

For the past five days, I've been plotting a science fiction story for submission to Raven Electrick in February. Two key stipulations from the guidelines: The story must be 1,000 words or less and PG-rated at most.

Having honed my short-writing skills on my last two stories, I figure I'm in good shape to write another short-short. Sci-fi is another question, though thinking back, the field isn't completely unfamiliar to me. I wrote two sci-fi detective stories for separate school projects (read: mediocre). One involved flying cars and mutants and the other involved colonizing Mars.

My latest attempt is far more real in the details, which I hope will take readers along when I do make the hop to speculative thinking. I drafted the story today. We shall see.

I Do Love it When a Plan Comes Together

I am Hannibal

Cool and dangerous Hannibal is a soldier for life. He was a well respected colonel in Vietnam who was forced to hide in the underground after being charged for a crime he didn't commit. The leader of the A-Team, Hannibal is a crafty tactician and as he always said "I love it when a plan comes together."

Which A-Team member are you???

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Safin Smooth in the End

AP Photo / Mark Baker

Mercurial Marat Safin, coming off a five-set victory over Roger Federer, defeated Australia's own Lleyton Hewitt 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to win his second Grand Slam title.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Selleck at 60

Tom Selleck's Raiders of the Lost Ark screen test, opposite Sean Young

Tom Selleck, best known as TV's Thomas Magnum, turns 60 today. Selleck playing Magnum reminds me of Harrison Ford playing Han Solo, both looking too boyish yet to be tough guys. You may know that George Lucas originally wanted Selleck to play Indiana Jones, but he was already committed to Magnum.

Magnum later paid homage to Indy with the episode "Legend of the Lost Art".

I'm looking forward to seeing Selleck as Chief Jesse Stone in the CBS movie STONE COLD to air Sunday, Feb. 20. Recently, I've enjoyed his work in the TNT Westerns CROSSFIRE TRAIL and MONTE WALSH; STONE COLD is from the same production company.

David Montgomery: Books Into Films

Reviewer and blogger David Montgomery yesterday posted some insights into why it's difficult to make a good book into a good film:

Making a good film is a difficult proposition. Making a good film that will please the fans of the book that inspired it is all but impossible. What’s more, it’s a bad idea even to try.

The thing to always remember about books and movies is that they are two very different and distinct mediums. You can't expect a film adaptation of a book to resemble its source material in anything more than surface ways. If you watch a film expecting it to somehow capture what made the book special in your mind, it is inevitable that you will be disappointed.

What makes a book special is not its plot, nor the physical attributes and actions of its characters. Not the dialogue, nor the pacing, nor the setting. Rather it’s all of those things put together in the author’s own unique way. Translating that from the page to the screen is impossible. It makes about as much sense as drawing a picture of a symphony.

In order for a film to be any good, it has to reflect the style, talent and artistic personality of its creators -- and the author of the book is not one of those creators. It must work on its own, as a motion picture. To the extent that the book, and the author’s vision behind it, can be used to contribute to the making of that film, so much the better. But above all, the film must be the unique creation of the filmmakers.

The chances of a reader being disappointed by any eventual film version of a book they love are nearly overwhelming. There is just no way that any filmmaker can capture what it is that you see in your mind when you read the book, no way they can duplicate that magical connection between the reader and the author. This is especially true because that vision and that experience are unique to each reader.

The only reasonable way to view these projects is simply to think of them as fun, disposable pieces of entertainment, almost completely separate from the books that inspired them. That and a fat paycheck for the writers, most of whom are pretty cool people.

More Trunk Fiction: "Endgame" by Carpathian

Having read the fourteen stories in Tuesday's "cybertrunk" project, Carpathian came up with his own story, posted Thursday.

Friday, January 28, 2005

CrimeSeen Graphics, Take 2

CrimeSeen banner with spotlight motif

Another CrimeSeen logo; the spolight motif suggests a TV or movie screen.

Proposed New CrimeSeen Graphics

Having polished spensneak's graphics this morning, I thought I'd do the same for CrimeSeen. Let me know what you think of these graphics using the comment feature.

Proposed new CrimeSeen web banner. Click the image to enlarge.

Proposed new CrimeSeen main page logo

Time to Brighten Things Up

Now and then I like to change the graphics on my sites, keep things fresh:

This is last year's Spenser's Sneakers banner.

This is the new model. Notice I've brought out Parker's face.

Shred of Evidence Readers' Choice Poll

Readers may vote now through March 15 for up to three favorite stories published in Megan Powell's Shred of Evidence in 2004.

If you're having a little trouble deciding on three stories, try this one.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Under the Microscope

After reading her "first public lukewarm review," Sarah Weinman asked fellow writers for their reactions to their first bad reviews. I could refer you to Sunday's recollection of my workshop with perhaps the most famous member of Hofstra's creative writing faculty, but truthfully, that wasn't the first time I took criticism.

In my early workshop days, my stomach flipped as soon as I finished reciting my work and started anticipating the verdict of my peers. As I commented on Sarah's entry:

My lesson didn't come on any one day. I used to believe a story could be dashed off, that if readers didn't get one part of a story or another it was their fault. That attitude didn't survive college, thank goodness.

Since embracing revision, I've never been confident (cocky?) enough to blow off criticism. In fact, if I look at any work after a long enough time, I see flaws left and right, things I could have done better.

I manage not to tear my hair out by remembering any submission is my best effort at the time. It's natural, necessary even, that my skills improve with more time and practice.

The more you write in any one field, the more natural it becomes. The vulnerable feeling of putting a story out there and the prickly feeling of a bad review are both soothed by the knowledge that--whatever happens--you'll be back to work tomorrow. Because writing is what you do.

One of the best editors' letters we wrote for Font ended with, "We thank those writers brave enough to put their work in our hands." I may always feel my greatest victory is having the courage to submit. But I'm also wary of submitting to the same market too often, going to the well, so to speak. The only way to keep growing is to keep looking for and trying new markets.

I Love a Mystery

Tania at I Love a Mystery reviewed the fourteen stories from Tuesday's online story project.

Soft Sell, by Gerald So, reads like a light, fun story until the great dark twist at the end. A very good read!

Thanks again, Tania.

Safin Beats Federer

In an Australian Open match I didn't see, 2000 U.S. Open champion Marat Safin took five sets to beat Roger Federer, ending Federer's impressive 26-match winning streak.

"I Was Born in the Wrong Era."

From IMdb:
Former teen pop idol Deborah Gibson is set to finally shed her clean-cut image, after reportedly posing for Playboy magazine. The 34-year-old singer and actress, who has starred in Broadway shows such as Cabaret and Grease since moving away from the pop world, had previously refused requests to shed her clothing for the cameras. In a 2001 interview with newspaper USA Today she said, "I was born in the wrong era. I'm not comfortable with showing everyone everything. I never say never though. I've said I'd never get a tattoo and I got one." According to American columnist Liz Smith, Gibson's spread in the March issue of Playboy will hit American news stands on February 11.

As you might guess from my previous entry, I sometimes feel I was born in the wrong era. There have always been forms of expression considered edge-of-the-envelope, and I applaud those who can and choose to pull them off effectively (pun incidental). Personally, I believe in the power of imagination. Expressing myself—whether in behavior, speech, or writing—is a matter of deciding how much help the imagination needs. Too little help is ambiguous; too much help is condescending:

"I get it. You don't have to draw me a picture."

What is This On-Demand You Speak Of?

Having slept through Smallville last night, I thought I'd tune in to Law & Order to get my first look at Annie Parisse, whose first episode Lee Goldberg praised as more distinctive than Elisabeth Rohm's entire run.

I flipped to NBC in time to hear Katie Couric say, "I want to talk to you about teenagers and oral sex. Before you change the channel..."


The Williams-Sharapova Rivalry

It started last June, when unseeded 17-year-old Maria Sharapova beat six-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams at Wimbledon, raising questions about Serena's commitment to tennis. Sharapova has since made more noise—pun intended—than Williams around the circuit. She had beaten Serena in their last couple of meetings, proving Wimbledon was no fluke, but has yet to win a second Grand Slam herself.

Their latest clash ended about five hours ago at this year's Australian Open. With Melbourne sixteen hours ahead of New York, watching matches—such as Jennifer Capriati's 2001 win over Martina Hingis for her first Slam title—feels surreal, as if I'm watching a match on tape, the outcome already decided.

In this latest match, Sharapova started strong, but by turns, neither player looked her confident self. Sharapova earned a hundful of match points, but couldn't close out Serena. Williams won 2-6, 7-5, 8-6. In a match like this, I forget favorites and root for the rivalry. Call me a sap, but there's something hollow in defeating opponents who aren't in top form. I don't know how long it will last, but it's nice to see Serena playing with fire again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I Hate Red Kryptonite

Yahoo TV's description of tonight's Smallville:

Released from Belle Reve hospital, Alicia returns to Smallville to rekindle her relationship with Clark, but when she does not get what she wants, she uses red kryptonite to turn him into Kal.

For those who don't watch, Kal is the personality Clark Kent voluntarily slipped into at the end of Season 2 by putting on a red kryptonite ring. It seemed Clark wanted to run from his destiny as the Son of Jor-El.

"What's going on?" you ask (if you still care). Well, in Smallville lore, Jor-El sent his son to Earth to conquer the planet and resurrect Kryptonian society. The major forces then responsible for Clark's heroic future are Jonathan and Martha Kent. To drive this point home, Jor-El is played by Terence Stamp, the actor behind the ultimate evil in the Superman universe, General Zod.

In the comics, red kryptonite's effects are unpredictable. It might turn Superman into an ape, or a midget, or...

On Smallville, "red k" is like a drug to Clark, removing his normal tortured reserve. Red kryptonite leads Clark to do things he never would. When its influence wears off, he can't explain his actions, but his friends more or less forgive him anyway.

I don't like the drastic changes in character forced into plausibility by the red k wild card. I'm a superhero fan, but in every superhero legend, there's at least one aspect that kills suspension-of-disbelief and makes me say, "Yeah, right."

I'm Gonna Need a Moment

...thanks to Jennifer Jordan.

My blood runs cold,
my memories have just been sold...

The Birthdays are Back

Happy birthday to two of my favorite actors, Paul Newman (80) and Scott Glenn (64). Also celebrating are TV's Ellen DeGeneres (47) and Sara Rue (26).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Open Mouth, Insert Ego

On his new blog, Ed Gorman relayed Bob Sassone's critique of the following comment by Robert B. Parker upon the death of Spenser actor Robert Urich:

"This is a shock. It's too soon, and he was too young...He wasn't the perfect Spenser...Bob was not a great actor, but he was big and physical, and he looked good and he showed up to the set knowing his lines. A lot of people liked him in the role, but I can't even say in honor of his memory that he was quite right for the role. But then, who is?"

Agreeing with Sassone, I commented:

From what I've seen and heard of him, Parker is often insensitive. I suspect somewhere along the line he began to believe his level of success gave him the right to say whatever he wanted. And he does seem to be one of the more quoted authors.

But much of what Parker says has the ring of shallow macho bluster that seems to have originated in the Spenser books, seeped into Parker's professed outlook, and bled--in more sappy form--back into the books.

I've always been a fan of Parker's books, but I've tired of the man himself.

I didn't think Urich was the perfect Spenser precisely because...he seemed the nicest guy. Spenser, on the other hand, has more rough edges. If anything, I'd say Urich's likeability rubbed off on Spenser, creating the character seen on "Spenser: For Hire". To a lot of people, this was Spenser; no use in Parker denying it. His comment does seem incredibly stupid.

The Quertermous-White Perspective Project

On December 21, 2004, Bryon Quertermous and Dave White launched a project wherein participating authors with blogs or websites were given the germ of a story and left to develop the details on their own:

The idea to get you started is that a character is driving along with something in the trunk when they are pulled over by the police. The character, the something and what happens when they are pulled over are all up to you. The stories should not be longer than 3,000 words, though we assume many of them will be shorter. You have until January 25, 2005 to complete the story.

Below is my story, some notes on my creative process, and links to the other participants:

Soft Sell

by Gerald So

Renée Roberts was relieved to see the California Highway Patrol car in her rearview. Three years a licensed masseuse, Renée was still self-conscious about hauling her massage table around in the trunk of her Jetta. Though the legs folded, the table—over six feet long—stuck out of her open trunk. Add to this a ten-year-old suspension, and the Jetta practically sashayed on worn pavement. Being pulled over was validation that the car’s suggestive behavior wasn’t all in her head.

Catching sight of herself in the side mirror, Renée wondered whether this was about the table at all. Her body had begun to shape itself at fourteen with minimal effort on her part. By senior year, boys gawked at her. One aspiring poet extolled her "raw animal beauty."

Renée only really looked at herself when something forced the issue, like being pulled over.

She steered onto the shoulder and cut the engine, feeling the usual tinge of worry it would never start again.

The patrol car pulled in behind her, lights still flashing. She listened as the driver got out, trudged over, and tapped on her window. Officer Burly.

Here we go, she thought, and cranked the window down.

Turning, she brushed a hair from her face. The cop blinked behind sunglasses.

"Yes, Officer?"

Words stalled somewhere in his windpipe. His mustache jiggered like a caterpillar. Renée held him with her eyes. All he could do to start was lick his lips.

"Uh...Miss...Is that a table in your trunk?"

"A massage table. Portable."

The cop worked that around in his head. His right hand went to his left shoulder, up by his neck. Renée imagined him saying, Can I get a freebie?

She almost smiled.

What he said was, "Ought to have that suspension looked at."

"Soon as I can afford it."

He smiled, not too broadly. A gentleman. "Don’t make much money as a whatchacall..."



Renée waited.

"Well, all right then. You take care now."

"I will. Thank you, Officer."

Blushing, the cop stepped back. Renée listened again as he trudged to his car, got in. She turned her key, and the Jetta sputtered to life. She pulled back onto the highway, going easy on the gas until the cop was well ahead of her.

In the clear, she felt the sweat on her face. She’d always thought her story, the details, too obvious—especially the table. But finally put to the test, everything worked.

Officer Burly only asked about the table. If anyone were ever more inquisitive, Renée could go as far as to hand over her oils. They looked authentic. Only with more thorough tests—the kind not performed roadside—would you discover they were lethal.



In my junior year at Hofstra, having appropriated a cubicle for Font, we set about furnishing our new digs. One piece was a wooden table with a removable center plank and folding leaves. My friend John drove the table from his house to Hofstra in the trunk of his 1980 Bobcat.

As we carried the table from the parking lot into the office, someone asked, "Is that a table in your trunk?"

I searched the Web for a table that would be similarly portable and fuel my imagination for the story. Why not a massage table, a traveling masseuse? And Renée Roberts was born.

Renée allowed me to write across the gender line. I went for an intimacy that, as I progressed, felt close to first person. I hope readers enjoy the results. Please do comment.


Others Tackle the Topic:

Ray Banks - "Delia's Gone"

Andrew Beeston - "Endgame"

Aldo Calcagno - "The Anniversary"

Jennifer Jordan - "I Must not Think Bad Thoughts"

Jon Jordan - "No Cure For Cancer"

Pat Lambe - "The Dummy Receipt"

Graham Powell - "Bonnie and Clyde's Last Ride"

Bryon Quertermous - "Trunk Shot"

John Rickards - "Four Billion Funerals and a Wedding"

Duane Swierczynski - "State Trooper Joke"

Bob Tinsley - "Moby Dick In A Can"

Sarah Weinman - "Rulebreaker"

Dave White - "Negative Lottery"

Dave Zeltserman - "She Stole My Fortune!"

Monday, January 24, 2005

Out Tomorrow on DVD: Sky Captain and MacGyver

I enjoyed SKY CAPTAIN in the theaters, and the commentary track should be cool. I also like tracks with several cast members, such as THE GOONIES or the handful of key Smallville episodes.

Though I probably liked the first season of MacGyver best, it looks as if the DVD set won't have commentary and will be full screen...Still, may be worth buying.

Richard Dean Anderson turned 55 yesterday, and has now been on Stargate SG-1 longer than he was on MacGyver. SG-1 is almost a complete departure from the theatrical movie—where the parasitic nemesis had no name and spoke no English—but Anderson and his mates supply rooting interest; I sometimes gladly forget I'm watching cheese.

Goodbye, Johnny

I'm late reporting the news, but here's a good AP tribute to Carson, who died yesterday from emphysema.

I've never been a night owl, but I respect the class Johnny brought to latenight. No one's presence was quite like his.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

"At Last the Circle is Complete..."

Checking Sarah Weinman's Massive Weekend Update (TM), I came across an item from a creative writing prof with whom I studied at Hofstra. Probably the most famous name in the department (though I hadn't heard of him), several teachers recommended I take a workshop with him until—in junior year—I did.

My experience was less than ideal. When my first story was up for critique, I got a heck of a wake-up call. Several students in class had had the teacher before, and they agreed with everything he said. I was left to pick copies of my story off the floor. Two friends waited to exit the building with me, the only sign I wasn't an amoeba.

Luckily, the experience sparked a fire in me. I decided I would meet the teacher's expectations and write work I believed in. Today, that's what I do whenever I submit to a new market: write something that fits both the guidelines and my developing voice.

So, in the second-greatest irony, that class—the only time I studied with that teacher—was both my worst and my best. If nothing else, it cemented my resolve to write.

The greatest irony, by the way, was sharing an office with said teacher some years later. A couple of times when he was out of the office, I took calls from his fans:

"Isn't he the greatest?"
"Um, yeah."

"I Know That Laugh."

Angel and Firefly are TV history, but several of the actors can be heard on Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited:

Amy Acker (Fred on Angel) voices the Huntress.

Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb on Firefly) voices time-traveling bounty hunter Jonah Hex.

Morena Baccarin (Inara Serra on Firefly) voices the Black Canary.

Gina Torres (Zoe Warren on Firefly) voices animal-powered Vixen.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Professional Gratitude

The latest target of Ray Banks's trademark scrutiny is the phrase "Thank you for your kind words":

WHY? Why did I use that line? It's not me, it's nothing like the way what I speak, so WHY? Use that line, and it automatically makes you out to be aloof, but trying to be one of the little people. I am one of the little people, when the fuck did I start acting this way? And who gave me that line in the first place?

I've never really written to authors before. As a breed, they kinda scare me. For all the realities of my own book-writin' thang, there's still a part of me that believes these guys sit in darkened rooms with classical music playing and they absolutely loathe to be interrupted in their work. And when they get an email from the likes of me, they read it, stick it to one side and then name their poor hapless schmuck of a character Raymond and have him chewed on by wild dogs.

Am I crazy? I can't be crazy. I'm fine. Sane. Altogether sorted.

But every time I see "Thank you for your kind words", whether it be in email or online group or comment on a blog, something in my left cheek twitches violently.

To me, the phrase conveys a good mix of gratitude, humility, and professionalism. I prefer it to some authors' practice of deflecting compliments with sarcasm or self-deprecation. When they do this, I'm embarrassed to have said anything at all. I get the sense the author really didn't know what to say to my compliment. In short, we're both embarrassed. No one wants that.

The truly professional, down-to-earth author knows positive reader reaction could just as well be negative reader reaction, and he shouldn't get too caught up in either. "Thank you for your kind words" says to me, "I'm glad you enjoyed this work; I know I'm only as good as my latest and I have a lot more in store."

When people compliment me on my work, I try to keep it in the context of the work:

"I really liked the impact of this scene."
"Yes, it worked out really well."

"I really got into this character."
"So did I. She was a lot of fun to write."

It's the same level of professionalism without the pesky catchphrase.

Friday, January 21, 2005

TV Tonight

JAG is a rerun, so it's a night of Enterprise, Jonny Zero, and Monk for me.

The first holds the least excitement, but it's comfort-viewing at this stage. I liked the feel of the Jonny Zero premiere, but we'll see how the series holds up. And finally Monk is back, with Traylor Howard as the obsessive detective's new assistant.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Winter 2005 Hardluck Stories Zine

The latest issue of Hardluck Stories Zine is now online, guest-edited by Michael A. Black and featuring an audio reissue of Bob Tinsley's Jack Brady story, "Grasshopper".

Laws of Fiction

Replying to my comment on Lee Goldberg's blog about the surprise ending for Law & Order's Serena Southerlyn, someone made the point that real lawyers can have the same blandness of character that fictional Southerlyn did.

I replied:

A couple of essential differences between real life and fiction:

1) Real life can be random; fiction has to have "roundness": expectations set up in the beginning must be resolved in some way by the end. Revelations at the end must have some basis in clues, however subtle, along the way.

2) Fictional main characters such as Serena Southerlyn have to hold our attention longer--be more memorable--than any dozen real people passed on the street, or we could care less about them.

...if Southerlyn's orientation really didn't matter, as her boss said, why not introduce it sooner? If nothing else, it would have piqued my curiosity and made her more memorable.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Betting on Bond

From IMDB:
Jackman Favorite for Bond Role

Australian actor Hugh Jackman has emerged as favorite to become the next James Bond, with bookmakers tipping him to take over from departing 007 Pierce Brosnan. Leading British bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill are offering odds of 2/1 on the Swordfish star slipping into the superspy's famous tuxedo for his next big screen outing - ahead of Closer star Clive Owen and third favorite Ewan McGregor. A Ladbrokes spokesperson says, "Hugh Jackman certainly appears to be the punters choice but we've seen more twists than the average Bond movie. At one point or another, Colin Farrell, Colin Salmon, Dougray Scott, Eric Bana and Ewan McGregor have been subject to serious support for the role." A decision on who will replace Brosnan has been delayed while a power struggle wages between Bond movie makers the Broccoli family and MGM over who should be offered the role. The spokesperson adds, "Who takes on the role could well depend on who comes out top in the power struggle behind the scenes. If the Broccoli family win we could well see an unknown actor, while if the money men have their way we could see a top star in the role. Last year, a source told us that the producers had a list of ten actors that they were looking at."

Who Wants to See a Friend on "Millionaire"?

Back in October, I served on Phone-a-Friend standby for Deshant Paul, whose episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? aired today. I missed it, but Deshant's DVR got it.

How'd he do? Apparently he missed the $8000 question--going with Ask-the-Audience, figuring he'd save Phone-a-Friend--and went home with $1000.

Not bad.

Reuters: Writer McLarty Scores Big After Years in Basement

By Mark Egan

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. - Ron McLarty was so convinced he would never succeed as a novelist that after years of obsessively churning out book after book in his basement, he sought the help of a shrink to make him stop.

McLarty, who made a good living as a television and stage actor, wrote because he was an insomniac. Starting at 5 a.m. each day he wrote for five hours, producing nine novels and 44 stage plays of which not a single word was published.

McLarty feared his friends saw him as a delusional dreamer, a literary Walter Mitty. After all, he wrote his first novel when he was 24 and had nothing to show for it...(read full story)

McLarty is a fine actor who was at one time saddled with the wrongly-conceived role of a sloppy, donut-chomping Frank Belson on TV's Spenser: For Hire. Belson is supposed to be conscientious, more sympathetic to Spenser than his superior, Lt. Martin Quirk.

To be fair, generally-good-guys of this sort probably lack the personality to be good TV characters--just as a more faithful portrayal of Parker's taciturn Hawk would be an unfair role for any strong supporting actor to play.

Too much personality can be a pickle, too. Actor Mackenzie Gray appeared as old-school shooter Vinnie Morris in A&E's adaptation of WALKING SHADOW. Appear was all he did; Gray had a handful of scenes, but no lines. Vinnie's book dialogue is laced with its share of curse words, Parker's idea of tough-guy talk. Did A&E run and hide?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Thrilling Submission Deadlines

Kevin Burton Smith and I will soon implement submission deadlines for each issue of Thrilling Detective Fiction, slotted for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Holidays. We're still reading subs year-round, but if you want your story considered for a certain issue, you'll have to submit by a certain date. More to follow.

Sequels That Should NOT Be Made

From IMDb:
Stallone Promises Fans a 'Rambo IV'

Sylvester Stallone has promised fans of his Rambo franchise they can expect another installment of the all-action series - even though he's nearly 60. Stallone, who is currently 58 years old, is holding talks with movie bosses about resurrecting the 80s blockbusters, which centered on a violent, disillusioned Vietnam veteran. He says, "We're in the kitchen and we're cooking. I've had meetings about this and it looks good. We'll see what we come up with."

Producer Still Shooting for 'Star Trek 11'

The executive producer of Star Trek has denied reports that Paramount has vetoed the script for what is currently being called Star Trek 11 and has ordered that a new story be developed. "Unless there is something going on that I am not familiar with, the rumors are totally fictitious," Rick Berman told the Internet site Sci Fi Wire. "Absolutely neither statement, that something has been scuttled and that I have been asked to redevelop something, is true," he said. In fact, Berman predicted that the next Star Trek feature will be bigger and better than all the rest, saying "Of all the Star Trek movies I've been involved with and the previous regimes have been involved with, this one will undoubtedly have a larger scope and budget. It's a very ambitious project, and I'm hoping that it will get the support to come to fruition."

Monday, January 17, 2005

Noir or Not?

My first post today started me wondering whether I'd written anything that could be strictly classified as noir. According to

Noir fiction is dark, black. [It's] about our deepest fears & unspeakable desires. There's little hope or satisfaction, and there are no happy endings.

The aforementioned "Forgive Me Not" features a tragic figure hung out to dry by a woman with whom he thought he'd found happiness. The protag in "Home" tries to reconcile with his sister, but is forced into violence to protect her, and is in turn denied his chance to "go home again." Noir elements, perhaps, but not full-fledged noir stories. Maybe someday.

"And They Say There are No Seasons in Los Angeles."

I took the weekend to finally go through my Season One DVDs of Angel and Smallville, bringing to mind how subsequent seasons have lost some of my interest. There seemed to be so much more behind the early scripts, with Angel trying to live as a P.I. in L.A. and Clark Kent trying to reconcile his alien origin with the human values he's learned.

While it's true that first seasons of shows are often test runs to see what kinks need working out, I think it's also true that the people behind the shows have the most to prove in the first season. In subsequent seasons, the shows go to new writers, producers, etc. which can sacrifice some of the original vision. Also, forward movement fluctuates with the number of seasons a show is allowed. For much of Smallville's third season, Lana confronted Clark about their relationship and Clark looked at her, dumbfounded--a way to prolong the drama, yes, the worst way.

Angel opted to return to the character's horror roots. The plots involved a vampire hunter who hibernated only to wake up and have his revenge on Angel, Angel and sire Darla's human offspring (kidnapped and raised in a hell dimension by said vengeful vampire hunter), and finally the turning-evil of girl Friday Cordelia Chase (which, to me, was wrong on the same level as the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie making Jim Phelps an evil mastermind.)

Would. Not. Happen.

A Book By Any Other Name

Duane Swierczynski blogs that he's been asked to think of a new title for his second novel, which sold to St. Martin's. It's thought that the original title, SMELL THE ROSES, would make readers erroneously think cozy. So, since Christmas, Duane has waited for a brainstorm to bring him the new title.

I commented:

The title will come to you, Duane. Just be ready for it. Speaking of flowers, the title of my first Chris Harvey P.I. story was originally "The Laker Girl Murder"; however, as the story's tone went from spoof to serious, "The Laker Girl Murder" seemed too campy. Not to mention it gave away a crucial event of the story. Fairly late in revisions, I came up with the title "Forgive Me Not", which sounds like the flower forget-me-not, but slightly more noir to my mind.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


I like Frank Miller's Elektra as a foil/love interest for Matt Murdock, but I have little interest in her solo exploits. It's a case of two good characters bringing out the best in each other ala Batman and Catwoman or Buffy and Angel.

Critics are panning the Elektra spinoff movie starring Jennifer Garner. Elektra strikes me as a force of vengeance whose humanity is only brought out by Matt Murdock. This probably translates to a movie with lots of action and little story. For that, I can wait for video.

For a few years I wanted Robert Parker to write a book with Hawk as the main character, but now I think it would pose the same problems as a movie about Elektra or a series with Angel. Unless you are willing to show these characters moving on, living fuller lives without their more famous counterparts, there's bound to be less energy behind the spinoff.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ray Banks: Why Blog?

The refreshingly pragmatic Ray Banks asks, "Why have a web presence?":

...I ask myself these questions, because a lot of the author websites I've visited leave me a little cold. They tend to be nothing more than a list of books those authors have published. Yeah, there'll be some token nod to events in the future, the odd "hey-how-ya-doing" monthly letter thing, but all in all, they tend to be bells, whistles and not a lot else.

There are, of course, exceptions. The majority of sites on the left there prove that.

But I think I do this, and continue doing this, to maintain a sense of community in my life...

I commented:

I think, at the heart of it, readers want to get to know their favorite authors as people. By their nature, blogs are the most convenient way to--as you say--create a sense of community.

You might get a feel for an author's temperament from reading a site bio he wrote once upon a time. You might click on a mailto link and send the author a message. You might check out the author's forum/message board. None of these, however, is as current or user-friendly as a blog. An author bio doesn't tell you how the author feels today. Sure, the author gives an e-mail link, but can you be certain he wants to receive mail from you--and talk about what you want to talk about--today? How many authors actively participate in their forums? Are you largely willing to put up with other fans of varying fervor in return for occasional brief posts by the author?

With a blog, the author determines what he wants to talk about and when he wants to talk about it. Comments are easier to write than e-mails and easier to read than forum threads. Best of all, the best blogs aren't 100% shop talk; you get to know the author through other interests, hobbies, pet peeves, etc.

For my part, there's a lot I want to discuss that doesn't fall under the umbrella of Yahoo! Group moderator or Thrilling Detective Fiction Editor but is just right for this blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Characters and Casual Sexuality

Lee Goldberg blogs on the curveball thrown in Elisabeth Rohm's final episode of Law & Order, wherein her character is revealed to be a lesbian:

...The D.A., played by Fred Dalton Thompson, calls her character into his office and, because she often lets emotion cloud her judgement, fires her. If they left it at that Donald Trump-esque moment, that would have been fine. Instead, they had to go one more beat...

"Is it because I'm a lesbian?" she asked.

The D.A says no, it's not because you're a lesbian. She sighs, relieved, and says I'm glad, and that was the end of the episode.

The throwaway line was a complete, and uproarious, nonsequitor. Her character's sexuality, straight or gay, has never come up in all the years she's been on the show. Nor have they discussed the sexuality of any other regular. So what was the point of the line? It certainly didn't come off as drama, that's for sure. It came off as an unintentional joke.

I commented:

I'm a Rohm fan from her portrayal of Det. Kate Lockley on ANGEL, but I agree her L&O character had less personality than any of her predecessors. This might have been countered if her sexuality had been hinted at earlier in her run.

I hate to see a character's orientation dealt in a throwaway manner. It reminds me of Robert B. Parker's screenplay for A&E's THIN AIR wherein he turns a minor character into a lesbian who wasn't one in the book.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sarah Weinman: Hearing Voices

At Sunday's DetecToday chat, several of us said voice was an important factor in the fiction we read. I've mentioned I'm a fan of sound and its power to engage the imagination sometimes better than sight can. I try to let my characters talk to me so I can get into their voices. I don't, however, hear them on the same level as the musically-gifted Sarah Weinman:

...I actually assign particular voices to different characters, and the narrator gets one as well. It's not just amorphous, but specific. So I suppose that every time I pick up a book, I hear a litany of different--sometimes wildly different--voices in my head, an experience which is most often pleasurable but sometimes confusing as well...

Among other things, Sarah's full entry explores voices for S.J. Rozan's Lydia Chin and Bill Smith. (I'm currently reading the Smith book STONE QUARRY.)

I'm curious what types of voices Sarah has assigned to my characters.

Birthdays: Amanda Peet and Marc Blucas

Amanda Peet and Marc Blucas turn 33 today.

Before her breakout role in THE WHOLE NINE YARDS, Columbia University grad Peet starred in the WB's late '90s romantic comedy Jack & Jill, also starring Ivan Sergei and Jaime Pressly.

And before his role as Buffy boyfriend Riley Finn, Marc Blucas played shooting guard on the same Wake Forest Demon Deacons teams as Tim Duncan.

If You Want to Know About a Year of My Life this blog.

Today marks one year of birthday tributes, loose song lyrics, thoughts on writing, and whatever else crossed my mind.

It's hard to tell who reads a blog. I don't monitor the hits here like a slot jackpot, but I hope this corner of the blogosphere has been of value. It certainly has for me: the random thoughts seen here sometimes gel into stories or poems. Most of the time, they don't, but it's good to be writing. This blog has significantly reduced my fear of the blank page.

Thinking of what I've published so far, I'm not sure I have a traceable style. This might be a good thing. I like the idea of getting behind each project so any style seen fits the project. On the other hand, I look to write more, be more efficient with my creativity to cut the time between mind and page.

Monday, January 10, 2005


My two most recent story ideas formed as a result of writing prompts. Time was I might have looked down on prompted ideas as less original, and at this moment, I have no idea why. There's no reason I can't work from prompts and have original ideas. Anything to put words on the page.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Rainy Days

It's been rainy all day, but this morning I sent a Priority Mail package to my friend who as of Monday will be living in Los Angeles. Before that, I finished Winter's End.

I enjoy doing stuff on rainy days because there's such a temptation to not do anything. The more I do now, the less I'll have to do later.

"Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

"It gets late early out here."

Truth to tell, as the man said, I love a rainy night.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Erin Gray

Hawai'i native Erin Gray, one of two reasons I watched Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, turns 55 today. In addition to Wilma Deering, Gray played Kate Summers on Silver Spoons and was a finalist to play Star Trek: Voyager's Kathryn Janeway.

The second reason I watched Buck Rogers, by the way, was Pamela Hensley.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Belated Donna Moore Day

Somehow I missed the meme to salute one of the most creative writers I know on Jan 5th. Donna Moore brings a huge dose of welcome wit to 4 Mystery Addicts and has a book upcoming from POINTBlank Press.

On DetecToday, Donna is a regular at chats, and I'll always remember the in-depth comments she had on my C.J. Stone story, "A Twist of Kate".

Despite all this, for the longest time the self-deprecating Donna claimed she "wasn't a writer," and "couldn't get into short stories."

Hmm. Here's to you, Donna.

Quotes That Make You Go "Huh."

That's "huh," as in mildly suprised but ultimately indifferent:

From IMdb:
Actors Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor have teamed up with other stars of all six Star Wars movies for a new Vanity Fair photo spread. The American magazine grouped together 22 major performers in the legendary franchise, inviting cast members from the original 1977 film Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope to this year's final installment Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith. Mastermind George Lucas, who directed four of the intergalactic movies, joined Ford, Fisher, Portman and McGregor as well as original Luke Skywalker star Mark Hamill, Samuel L. Jackson, Liam Neeson and Hayden Christensen. Robots R2-D2 and C3PO also joined their human co-stars for the reunion shoot. Lucas admits the final part of the opening trilogy marks the end of an era in his career - and he now plans to stop making successful films. He says, "I'm going to make movies nobody wants to see. I've earned the right to fail."

James Bond Will Return (But In What Shape?)

Winter, James Winter, posted his thoughts on the future of the James Bond franchise:

...I make no secret of who I'd like to see play 007. Ewan MacGregor is my first choice, with Hugh Jackman a close second. Jackman would also make my wife a huge Bond fan. Aside from Roger Moore, though, they've generally done a good job casting Bond. Sean Connery created the role only Pierce Brosnan could fill. George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton embodied Ian Fleming's vision of Bond - charming, handsome, but with a clear dark side. Moore, when he thought about it, could be Bond. Most of the time, though, he was just Simon Templar. (I may be biased. I also liked Val Kilmer better as The Saint.) I've heard Colin Farrell bandied about, and I personally will shoot Barbara Broccoli if she hires Nic Cage. (Cage can play many parts. James Bond is not one of them.)

What concerns me is the supporting cast. Judi Dench as M, Samantha Bond as a savvier, more wary Moneypenny, and John Cleese as Q are all part of what made the Brosnan movies work. To lose them, I'm afraid, might weaken the series.

Still, that may be the best way to start over. A new M, who could be male or female. A Moneypenny building on Samantha Bond's characterization. And Q? If Desmond Llewellyn could play Q for 19 straight movies, why can't John Cleese play him for a few more?

If they do indeed start over with a younger Bond and a newer supporting cast, they should recast and retool completely. Go back to the books and play it closer to Fleming's vision. I'd say do movies based on the later books, but then who wants to see a movie based on a John Gardner Bond novel?

Dave White commented:

...How's this for a rumor I read... Brosnan might be in negotiations for the role again.... and he said he'd only negotiate again if they decided they'd do a more gritty character driven film...

To which I replied:

But DIE ANOTHER DAY was as gritty and character-driven as Bond has been since LICENCE TO KILL. (In both movies, incidentally, Bond goes rogue.) I like Brosnan, but I think it would be a mistake for him to do another movie. NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN was Connery's mistake (some would say both DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and NEVER SAY NEVER); A VIEW TO A KILL was Moore's. I'd like Brosnan to avoid the trap if possible.

The Bond franchise (including the books) needs to take a breather. With all the real threats going on in the world, filmmakers need to reevaluate how they depict make-believe threats.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Poetry Days

I've submitted a different batch of poems each day this week, already exceeding my goal of at least two submissions per month. But I'm not stopping. Something is telling me, "Don't waste a day you can use; you may not get one later," and I'm listening.

There's something about having a poem rejected: Very rarely do I send it out again without a second thought. Instead, I try to hone the imagery and the diction to make the poem as immediate and clear as I can.

Revising always brings to mind the evil Donovan's words to Indiana Jones in THE LAST CRUSADE: "It's time to ask yourself what you believe." Do I believe in a poem or story's original intent strongly enough to have at it with my editin' axe?

The answer isn't always yes, but that answer can change with time. I just have to be there when it does.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The storySouth Million Writers Award for Fiction

(Megan Powell passes on word of this contest. Thanks, Megan.)

The purpose of the Million Writers Award is to honor and promote the best fiction published in online literary journals and magazines during 2004.

The Reason

The reason for the Million Writers Award is that most of the major literary prizes for short fiction (such as the Best American Short Stories series and the O. Henry Awards) have ignored web-published fiction. This award aims to show that world-class fiction is being published online and to promote this fiction to the larger reading and literary community.

How It Works

The Million Writers Award takes its name from the idea that we in the online writing community have the power to promote the great stories we are creating. If only a few hundred writers took the time to tell fifteen of their friends about a great online short story--and if these friends then passed the word about this fiction to their friends (and so on and so on)--this one story would soon have a larger readership than all of the stories in Best American Short Stories.

To help promote online stories, the Million Writers Award accepts nominations from readers, writers, and editors (and volunteer judges who assist with the award). There is no entry fee. The only entry requirement is that anyone making a nomination agrees to help promote the winners of the award by sending an e-mail about the winners to at least fifteen of their friends, with the added message that they hope the friend will pass on the information to more people. It is also hoped that nominators will help promote the winners through other means, such as linking to the stories, posting the information on message boards, and so on.

Best Online Publication Award

In addition to the award for best fiction, the online magazine or journal that ends up with the most stories selected as "Notable Stories of the Year" will be honored with an award as the year's best publication for online fiction.

Why Should I Do This?

The general gripe among writers is that no one pays attention to quality writings, while bad or mediocre writings get lots of attention because they are published in prestigious magazines or written by authors who are good at gaining media attention. This award is about countering this trend by promoting the best online writers. If enough writers, readers, and editors agree to help promote the winners of this award, then all online writers will benefit from a greater acceptance of online publications.

The Rules

1) Only stories published in online literary journals, magazines, and e-zines that have an editorial process are eligible for nomination. This means that an editor must have selected the story for publication. Self-published stories are not eligible. Stories published in the online versions of print journal or magazines are eligible provided that the online version of the journal or magazine is accessible by the general public.

2) Anyone may nominate ONE story for the award. This means that readers of magazines can nominate one story and that writers can nominate one their own stories, provided the story was published in 2004 in an online magazine. Editors of online magazines and journals can nominate up to THREE of the stories published in their magazine during 2004.

3) To be eligible for nomination, a story must be longer than 1,000 words.

4) Any writer, reader, or editor who nominates a story agrees to help promote the winners to their friends and/or e-mail mailing lists. The more publicity gained by these winners and the online magazines that published them, the better all online writers will do. In addition, the editors of storySouth will promote the winners in press releases which will be sent to various media outlets.

5) In addition to nominations from writers, readers, and editors, the Million Writers Award will also use a small number of volunteer judges to nominate stories for the award. The names of the volunteer judges will be released after the award has been announced.

6) From all of the nominees, a list of "Notable Stories of the Year" will be compiled. From this list, Jason Sanford, the fiction editor of storySouth, will chose the top ten stories of the year. The general public will then vote on these top ten stories, with the story gaining the most votes named as the overall winner of the award. Each member of the general public will be allowed one vote for their favorite story. In addition, the award's volunteer judges will be given what amounts to a "super vote" toward the best story of the year. The "top ten" story each judge selects as the best of the year will receive a 10% bump in its total votes.

7) Stories originally published in storySouth are not eligible. While stories from storySouth are naturally the best fiction being published anywhere (in the humble view of storySouth's editors), it would be a conflict of interest to nominate or judge fiction we originally published.

8) The deadline for submitting story nominations is February 1, 2005. The list of notable stories of the year and the top ten stories of the year will be released on Febuary 15, 2005. Voting on the top story of the year will begin Feb. 15, 2005, and will end March 15, 2005.

To Nominate a Story

To nominate a story (or stories), e-mail your name, the name of the nominated author, the name of the magazine or journal, and a URL hyperlink to the story to Jason Sanford at The URL must go directly to the story's page in the online magazine or journal that originally published it. Links to author home pages where the story is posted are not eligible. DO NOT e-mail the entire story, either pasted into the body of the e-mail or as an attachment. Doing so will guarantee that a story is not considered for the award.

Please make sure that the e-mail you use to nominate a story is the same e-mail the judges can contact you with later on. Your e-mail address will only be used to contact you with information about the award and the winners. It will not be given out to anyone else.

How Can I Help?

If you want to help promote this award and online writers in general, please pass the word about this contest or link to this page.

For more information, please e-mail Jason Sanford at

(My eligible stories include "Forgive Me Not", "A Little Trouble", and "Home".)

Reader Reaction

I've added a reader reaction section to my publishing history webpage, linking to public critiques of my work such as Bob Tinsley's aforementionted review of "Home." Visit the page and scroll down.

Birthdays: Booke, Sorrell Booke

Today is a birthday for actor and celebrity poker pitchman Dave Foley (42) and NFL coaching great Don Shula (75). Incidentally, Shula is the same age Sorrell Booke would have been. Booke played Boss Jefferson Davis Hogg on "The Dukes of Hazzard", but there was more to him than met the eye.

His IMDb mini-biography by Steven Dougherty:

Sorrell Booke was born in Buffalo New York in in 1930, the son of a local physician. He found his calling early in life, like most actors, when his family encouraged him to entertain relatives by doing impressions and telling jokes. He went on to study at Yale and Columbia University, and mastered five languages. During the Korean War, Booke worked in counter-intelligence where his lingual talents served him well. His intelligence and subtlety are often overlooked when considering his signature role as Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg during his run on "The Dukes of Hazzard" (1979). He died of cancer in 1994 just after his 64th birthday.

Monday, January 03, 2005

State of the Short Story

Noting Bob Tinsley's campaign to increase public awareness of short fiction, Sarah Weinman blogged about why she enjoys short stories, particularly of the mystery variety:

...I cannot count the number of times I've heard from dedicated mystery readers that they simply don't like to read short stories. A number of reasons are listed: not enough time to develop the plot or be engaged by the character, or they want to invest their energy reading a novel. I've said before and I'll say again that I don't get this attitude. When a short story is done well, it delivers a kick that's immediate and satisfies an urge that novels can't. It's an art form to write a short story in general, but a mystery story requires greater command of structure and form. So when it works, the payoff is excellent...

I commented:

In a good story, the plot *is* developed, the characters *are* engaging. I'd wager that many people who say they don't like short stories are apprehensive about reading them in the first place--worried there won't be enough space to satisfy--and their worry stops them from trying.

The art of short stories or poems (also intimidating) lies in the writers working around apparent restrictions to express themselves. For readers, spectators if you will, this can be like watching a gymnast, diver, or skater pull off a highly difficult routine. You have to give the performers their due.

I'm reading Donald E. Westlake's THIEVES' DOZEN collection of Dortmunder stories. The range he shows--from deadly serious, to mildly funny, to broad comedy--amazes me. And this is the same guy who writes the incredibly dark Parker novels.

Outbox, Inbox

Submitted my first batch of poems for 2005 to Nerve Cowboy; received my first rejection of 2005 from Fight These Bastards poetry zine.

The Short of It Reviews "Home"

Bob Tinsley has reviewed my story, "Home", on his short fiction blog, The Short of It. It's an honor to be included. (Notice I'm not giving the review away. Click and see for yourselves.)

Birthdays: Mel Gibson and Danica McKellar

Actor, director, producer Mel Gibson turns 49 today.

From Official Danica McKellar site

And Danica McKellar, best known as The Wonder Years's Winnie Cooper, turns 30 today. In addition to continuing to act, McKellar recently wrote and directed her first film.

On the academic front, she graduated summa cum laude from UCLA in 1998 with a B.S. in mathematics, co-authoring a proof for an original theorem dealing with magnetism in two dimensions.

More power to her.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Sounds Good: Recording "Grasshopper"

Bob Tinsley continues blogging his experience creating a media file of his story, "Grasshopper". This segment: making a digital recording. Fascinating.

"I Like Time. There's So Little and So Much of It."

I don't like to think too far ahead. I prefer to make the best decisions I can at any moment and let the short term become the long term.

Last year, my goal was to submit unpublished stories or batches of poems to at least one market a month. As mentioned, one story took longer to revise, but I was still ahead by the numbers: twenty-one submissions and six acceptances in twelve months.

This year, I'll bump my goal up to at least two submissions a month--a challenge, but it has the side effect of keeping my name out there.

Speaking of Kate Bosworth

The rumored next Lois Lane turns 22 today. It's also Christy Turlington's 35th birthday, Tia Carrere's 38th, and the 42nd for David Cone and Edgar Martinez.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane?

After several screentests WB look like they have found their Lois Lane. Reliable sources inform us that Kate Bosworth has won the role of Daily Planet's feisty yet incident prone reporter. After many young actresses screentested alongside Bradon Routh - with Elisha Cuthbert, Claire Danes and Keri Russell all believed to have come close it was Bosworth who Singer decided on. Kate who recently starred in Beyond The Sea now joins an impressive looking cast believed to be Shaun Ashmore as Jimmy Olsen, Spacey as Lex Luthor and Brandon Routh as Superman...(Read further at

I've only seen Kate Bosworth in interviews. She carries herself well. We shall see.

Live Long and Prosper

Welcome in, 2005. Multiple naps did the trick as I woke from the last one at 11:57 p.m. Wishing everyone a healthy and productive new year.