Friday, November 30, 2007

And the Strike Goes On

The press blackout has been lifted, and details are surfacing on the studios' latest proposal, a residual rollback.

Much as I want to see fresh TV, this is an offer the WGA had to refuse.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"This is an emergency. Get me -- "

Just saw this on my local FOX news broadcast:

When there's trouble, who ya gonna call?

According to The List at 6, a survey of the Hollywood heroes Americans trust in an emergency are as follows:

No. 5: Jack Bauer

No. 4: James Bond, Jason Bourne (tie)

No. 3: John McClane

No. 2: Indiana Jones

No. 1: MacGyver

Information from The McCormick Tribune Foundation

The MWA and Self-Publishing

I've been following a debate on Sarah Weinman's blog over whether the book Songs of Innocence should have been eligible for the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award.

Songs of Innocence was written by Hard Case Crime co-founder and editor Charles Ardai under the known pseudonym "Richard Aleas". The MWA has a rule prohibiting self-published books from Edgar consideration, as outlined by MWA board member Lee Goldberg:

"Among (but not all of) the situations defined as "self-published or cooperatively published" are [...] those published by privately held publishing companies with whom the writer has a familial or personal relationship beyond simply author and publisher; those published by companies or imprints that do not publish other authors; those published by publishing companies in which the writer has a financial interest"

As I'm not an MWA member, I won't go into whether the self-published rule is good or bad, but no one can deny that rules are necessary and that any rule excludes some cases.

As an outsider, it seems to me one of the issues the organization is tackling is the appearance of impropriety. Reading the self-published rule as outlined by Goldberg, it does appear to apply to Ardai as owner of Winterfall, LLC (See this scan of the copyright page of Songs of Innocence).

Ardai commented, in part:

It would be foolish, of course, for me to argue that I am not, in the public's eye, the "publisher" of Hard Case Crime (and the editor of the line and the face and voice of the line -- I'm proud to play these roles). But I think there is a clear and meaningful difference between the facts of this case and the case of someone who goes to iUniverse and pays $1000 to print up 100 copies of his book, which then sit in his closet unless he takes it on himself to peddle them to bookstores or give them to friends and family. Lee talks about being accused of favoritism if MWA were to allow this book to be the only "self-published" book to be eligible -- but what of the opposite complaint, given that it is (I believe) the only book to be published by a publisher on MWA's approved list, in the conventional advance-and-royalties fashion, with the author paying no part of printing or distribution or sales/marketing costs, to be deemed *ineligible*?

Goldberg later clarified that stories authored by anthology guest editors that appeared in said anthologies are Edgar-eligible

because the writers did not work for the company in any capacity. They were invited to create the edition. It’s the same as the MWA anthologies, where the publications committee and the board choose the guest editors and they in turn, pick 10 people and the rest are by blind submission. The editors are hired with the expectation that they will also provide a story. They are hired as writer and editor. They don't have any connection to the publishing company unlike, say, Charles Ardai, who is editor, publisher and co-owner of the imprint that published his book.

Ardai later responded that Hard Case Crime books:

are "Published by Dorchester Publishing in collaboration with Winterfall LLC." Those sentences may sound interchangeable, but they're not. Dorchester is a book publisher, by the customary definition anyone might use; if you look into the actual facts of what Winterfall does and doesn't do, Winterfall is not. (Useful test: If Dorchester did everything it does and nothing else, would books ever get published? Answer: yes. If Winterfall did everything it does and nothing else, would books ever get published? Answer: no.) In the case of Hard Case Crime, all the functions normally performed by a publishing company are handled solely by Dorchester, except for two (editorial and art) and even those are 100% paid for by Dorchester and operate under Dorchester's review and approval.

Based on this more thorough description of the relationship, I commented that Songs of Innocence should have been considered for the Edgars if Ardai functions the way an anthology guest editor does, just as a guest editor's story would be eligible.

In response to my comment, Ardai further explained:

It's not quite the same way a guest editor functions -- that would be the case if Dorchester had come to me and said "We have this idea for a new line of books, would you select and edit them for us?"

It's more akin to the way a writer with an idea for an anthology functions if he's pitching the project to a publisher (as, for instance, I imagine Jason Starr and Maggie Estep did when they pitched BLOODLINES to Vintage, or as Reed Coleman did when he pitched HARDBOILED BROOKLYN to Bleak House). I came up with the idea for Hard Case Crime; I could have put up the money and published the books myself, set up a distribution arrangement, and so on, but I chose not to; instead, I pitched the project to a dozen or so publishers, got an offer (exactly as an anthologist or author might: advance, royalties, Dorchester pays for everything, Dorchester produces and distributes the books, I pay for nothing, I split the money I get from Dorchester with the other authors contributing to the really is almost exactly like an anthology, only an anthology of novels rather than an anthology of short stories), accepted the offer, and proceeded with my anthologist-like role of choosing material, editing it, etc. I also wrote a "story of my own" for the anthology that is Hard Case Crime. The eligibility of that "story" for Edgar consideration is what's being discussed here.

I guess the question is whether Jason's and Maggie's stories in BLOODLINES would or would not be eligible for the Edgar if that book were published today. If so, my contribution to Hard Case Crime would presumably be eligible by the same reasoning. (It's all an academic discussion at this point, since MWA has made its decision and I have accepted it -- but it is a worthwhile academic discussion, since it may have an impact on other authors in future years.)

I then agreed that Ardai's book should have been eligible if Starr's, Estep's, and Coleman's stories would have been; however, Goldberg blogs:

[E]ven if one were to accept [Ardai's] new characterization of himself as a book packager and not, as he has claimed before, a publisher and editor -- and if you were to accept his arguments regarding his relationship with Dorchester -- his book would still not be eligible for Edgar consideration under our rules that define "self publication."

Like many others, I enjoyed Songs of Innocence. Whatever its rules, there will always be questions as to whether an organization is recognizing the true best of a field. At least in Ardai's case I'm gratified the MWA recognized his writing talent with his previous Edgar win for "The Home Front".

WENN: Craig Denies New 007 Contract

Actor Daniel Craig has denied reports he has signed a $67 million deal tying him to the James Bond franchise for a further four films. Reports surfaced last month, claiming Craig had accepted an offer by film studio MGM to stay in the role for the next 10 years. But the blond 39-year-old insists the reports are grossly exaggerated, and he has so far only committed to one more film in the spy franchise. He says, "It's not that it's not true, but I haven't signed up on that level. I've signed for the next movie and after that we'll see. That's the way I'm doing it and it's certainly not formal." Craig is currently filming Bond 22 - his second outing as secret agent 007 following the success of 2006's Casino Royale. His predecessor, Pierce Brosnan, starred in four Bond movies - but Sir Roger Moore remains the longest-serving 007 star, having played the iconic role in seven films between 1973 and 1985.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Best Words the title of my latest poem accepted for the January 2008 time-themed issue of remark. My thanks to editor Kathleen Paul-Flanagan.

Staying Tuned

I'm glad to hear NBC has picked up Chuck and Life for the rest of the season, but I wonder what "the rest of the season" will be in light of the ongoing WGA strike.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How I Spent Thanksgiving Weekend

I didn't post because my brother and I were playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Assassin's Creed for the PlayStation 3. Both are considered too easy by gamers more adept than ourselves, but we're moving along. We agree the former is the better game, an Indiana Jones-style story with ample jumping, shooting, quipping, and treasure-hunting.

Assassin's Creed is neat in its own right, but the storyline of your character being an assassin from the near future seems only in place to explain the game's crowded heads-up display. That said, I'm a sucker for a good sword fight.

When not playing video games, I watched two of my favorite Star Trek films, The Undiscovered Country (Spock enlists Kirk to negotiate peace after the Klingons' primary energy refinery explodes, crippling their economy) and First Contact (The Borg try to prevent humankind's first meeting with extraterrestrial life). I, of course, enjoyed the former as the last hurrah for the original Enterprise crew, but the DVD provides a fascinating look at why the Soviet Union collapsed and how fundamentalist thinking and international diplomacy work.

And you can't ask for a movie with higher stakes than the latter, a pulse-pounding horror flick as well as a return to Star Trek's roots (that unfortunately Enterprise mishandled).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Digital Thanksgiving

Our gathering will be a smaller one this year as several extended family members have begun families of their own. As has become tradition, my cousin Alan is bringing over a fried turkey. Mom has made soup and stuffing, and from there we're winging it.

Yesterday the founders of Font and I e-mailed good wishes and plans to get together next month. Who knew we'd want to hang out a dozen years after college? I think we all did. It's rare you realize how special a time is as you're living it.

This morning I thanked the members of my three discussion lists for keeping things lively, and now I thank you, my bloggy friends. Cheers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Literary/crime fiction writer Tod Goldberg, brother of TV writer/producer Lee Goldberg, announces he's signed a three-book deal to write Burn Notice tie-in novels. Having read Tod's short story collection, Simplify, I'm excited to see where he takes Michael Westen and the gang.


This nuclear proliferation comedy is a personal favorite. Conceived by Dan Aykroyd and Dave Thomas and written by Aykroyd, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, the movie stars Aykroyd and Chevy Chase as two civil servants who unknowingly serve as decoys while a faction of the U.S. military carries out a plot against the Soviet Union.

Chase and Aykroyd flawlessly complement each other's strengths. The movie is especially memorable to me for blonde bombshell Donna Dixon (Aykroyd's real-life wife) and as my introduction to the equally unforgettable Vanessa Angel.

With's DVD sale on, I debated between this movie and Fletch. The latter has some funny moments and, as a mystery, it's generally more my speed. But after reading Gregory Mcdonald's original books, I can't buy Chevy as Fletch. By contrast, he owns the roles of Emmett Fitz-Hume and Dusty Bottoms (Three Amigos!).

Every minute you don't tell us why you are here, I cut off a finger.

Mine or yours?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"I've been waiting for you, Charles In Charge..."

We meet again at last.

The second season of Charles In Charge, the first with Nicole Eggert and the fictional Powell clan, is out on DVD today.

Can I watch Nicole knowing she goes on to get breast implants and date Corey Haim?

Can I stand to remember how naive I was, watching Charles pursue countless co-eds, not suspecting art was imitating life?

Can I watch Buddy Lembeck's sad descent from fun-loving sidekick to village idiot?

Then again, if I do get the DVDs, I can free up about a dozen tapes for current shows.

Your powers are weak, old man.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Origami Condom the new .pdf poetry and art zine from Kenneth P. Gurney and Carrie Gilstrap-Nettle. I just submitted four poems.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Negotiations to Resume

The WGA and AMPTP announced last night that formal talks will resume Monday, November 26. WGAW President Patric M. Verrone reports.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Cracked CD Case

It happens to us all now and then. My latest CD, Robert J. Kral's soundtrack to Superman Doomsday, arrived in one of those super-flat tear-open mailers also known as damage-awaiting-inspection. I thought briefly of returning it, but before I knew it, I'd broken the plastic wrap and peeled the security seal. Not only was the familiar bite taken out of the front cover, the booklet window had a crack in it, one of the booklet-holding brackets had come off, and as I removed the CD itself, a plastic shard fell out from who-knows-where.

I put the CD in my player—it played at least—removed the front booklet, and was trying to get at the track listing on the back when I noticed all of the damage was to the snap-on front cover. I removed the cover from an unfortunately purchased, long-purposely-lost instrumental medley of Broadway songs (What? Not the original recordings?!), matched it to the back cover of the Doomsday soundtrack, and voila!

Out of This World

I've mentioned being a fan of this first-ever syndication-only sitcom, and today in my early morning wanderings, I found a May 2007 interview with its star, Maureen Flannigan.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I guess it's official...

Sarah Michelle Gellar legally changed her name to Sarah Michelle Prinze as a romantic gesture on her fifth wedding anniversary.

"I've given a name to my pain."

Patti Abbott was pondering character names yesterday, and I commented:

Character names usually come to me. Occasionally, I'll use a name that has stuck in my mind for whatever reason. ...I'm wary of loaded names ala Marlowe and Spenser. I don't want the baggage.

One of the longest times I've spent on a name was for the protag of "Home". In the earliest draft, his name was "Jack Charles," but by the time "Home" was published, I had published several stories with a protag named "C.J. Stone," and the initials were just too coincidental to last.

It was a while after I came up with his new name, "Tom Gregory," that I realized those were the names of a friend's brother and cousin.

In the case of C.J. I suppose I'm cheating a bit. One of his names was mentioned in the first story, but I may just make that a guess. Stone is a mercenary pilot and the nickname "Siege" seemed to go with that.

...I think characters grow into their names to an extent. Ian Fleming chose the name "James Bond" because he wanted a plain-sounding name. I doubt it strikes anyone as plain anymore...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An A-Rod in Judgment?

Alex Rodriguez, speaking directly to Yankee brass without his agent Scott Boras, now sounds as if he wants to stay a Yankee. Hank (son of George) Steinbrenner says he's convinced of Alex's sincerity.

Most likely Alex realized no one could pay him as much as the Yankees could. Simple as that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reaper: "Love, Bullets, and Blacktop"

Tuesday was a night of great episodes as Sam pursued a pair of souls who liked to crash blue '70s muscle cars while he was pursued by a sexy blonde he met at a bar (Pascale Hutton). After capturing the male soul, Sam had considerably more trouble with the female (Mercedes McNab). Rounding out the episode's guest cast was the inimitable Curtis Armstrong as a 70s nerd/stoner co-worker.

NCIS: "Requiem"

This moving episode written by new showrunner Shane Brennan opens with DiNozzo shooting two assailants and diving off a pier after a car containing Gibbs and an unidentified young woman. After the opening credits, the show flashes back twenty-four hours and we learn the woman is Maddie Tyler (Cameron Goodman), best friend of Gibbs's murdered daughter Kelly. Maddie is being stalked by a Marine just back from Iraq. Gibbs warns the Marine off, but soon Maddie is kidnapped.

The episode reveals more of Gibbs's closely guarded past while delivering the usual clever mystery. Anne-Marie Johnson, who played an anti-military congresswoman on JAG, guest stars as a Marine colonel.

The episode's title reminds me there's a strike on, and we may not get closure on any arcs this season. I hope the strike is resolved before most scripted shows are visibly affected, but the writers may have to hold out to force the studios' hands.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ellen, Ellen, Ellen.

Not long ago, I enjoyed Ellen DeGeneres's comedy and her talk show. Then she gave her adopted dog directly to another family, not letting the adoption agency vet that family, and then demonized the agency's taking the dog back by crying about it on her nationally-syndicated show.

Now, according to WENN:

DeGeneres Under Fire for Crossing Picket Line

Comedienne Ellen DeGeneres is facing the wrath of angry Hollywood protesters - after failing to act in support of the screenwriters' strikes. While fellow U.S. talkshow hosts David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Conan O'Brien have all stood in support of the striking members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), DeGeneres crossed picket lines to tape her show Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Tuesday - the day after the union went on strike. Defending her actions, she told the studio audience, "There's a writers' strike going on, and here in Los Angeles, it's a huge story. I want to say I love my writers. I love them. In honour of them today, I'm not going to do a monologue. I support them and hope that they get everything they're asking for. And I hope it works out soon. In the meantime, people have traveled across the country. They've made plans. They're here. I want to do everything I can to make your trip enjoyable and give you a show." But it's a decision DeGeneres may come to regret, as screenwriters are already attacking the move. One writer for her former 2001-2002 sitcom, The Ellen Show, reports she treated her writers "like s**t". The unnamed writer adds on his internet blog, "I'm disappointed in Ellen (for crossing the picket line) but not surprised... given what I've seen from her with my own two eyes." A TV insider tells the New York Post's PageSix, "DeGeneres is unwilling to honour the picket line because this is her last chance in show business. This show is the only thing keeping her from a lifetime of touring college campuses." A representative for the star has refused to comment.

I would have no problem with Ellen working on her show if she were only a producer and not also a member of the WGA, as explained by WGAE Director Mona Mangan.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Not about Lisa Kudrow

Editor Gordon Purkis has accepted my poem "Phoebe" for Mastodon Dentist's Winter 2007 issue.

Tom Gregory Returns

Tom Gregory was the protag of my 2004 story "Home". He was an ex-Marine sniper who returned home upon reading of his aunt's death from cancer. While visiting, he suspected his younger sister might be in trouble, but would she accept help from a brother she learned to live without?

I didn't expect to write about Tom again, but when I wanted a submission for Out of the Gutter's July "War is All Hell" issue, there he was. Out of the Gutter passed on "Have You Seen Savannah Frye?", but DZ Allen liked it and has posted it to Muzzle Flash. Thanks for the good word, DZ.

Fly on, mighty chapbook.

After a week of preparation, furious editing, and poem-writing, I've mailed my entry for the 2008 Nerve Cowboy Chapbook Contest.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Gone, Baby, Gone

I was gone from about 3PM this afternoon walking to the train station to catch a 4PM train to watch Gone, Baby, Gone at the 34th Street AMC Loews. I zipped the winter lining into my coat and wore it over a sweater, jeans, and watch cap, perfect for the brisk weather. The incessant internal chorus as I walked was "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles". (Huh?)

So anyway, the movie. As you may know, I'm not the biggest Dennis Lehane fan. Though I found his Kenzie-Gennaro books compelling, I also thought he tried to do too much. By the end of the series, I'm not sure the books were P.I. anymore, and I'm not sure that was a good thing. That said, Lehane's trademark put-'em-through-hell plot is tailor-made for a movie, and Ben Affleck nails Boston's local color so squarely the accents and attitudes grated on this New Yorker's ears. Wicked.

The performances are all good. Casey Affleck especially nails Patrick Kenzie's hewn righteousness. I did think there were a few lulls. For those who've seen the movie, I would have ended it with Angie's line, "There's nothing to say."

All in all, a keeper.

Places, Everyone.

Responding to a summary of my WGA strike thoughts posted to Crimespace, mike D suggested writers should be paid more than actors because writers come up with the ideas and write the scripts while actors just perform them.

I'm not a screenwriter, but I'd guess the same way authors aren't fulfilled until their work is published, screenwriters aren't fulfilled until their work is performed by actors, and actors are most fulfilled when they get to play well-written characters.

The practical reality is, if a writer pulls out of a movie or a showrunner leaves a series, a new writer can step in and rewrite a script or retool a concept. If need be, the new writer can mimic the original writer's style closely enough to satisfy most viewers.

On the other hand, if an actor bows out of a movie or TV show, most of that actor's fans will probably follow suit, and whoever fills the actor's shoes has to build up a new fan base (e.g. George Clooney leaving White Jazz, Mandy Patinkin leaving Criminal Minds, James Caan leaving Las Vegas). The new actor cannot duplicate the original actor's presence or drawing power. This is why actors will always be paid more than writers.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A New Business Plan for the Movies

Thinking about the AMPTP's contention that there's less money in the industry to pay writers, it might be wise for studios to spend less trying to get people to go out to movies and accept that home theater (DVD, HDTV) quality rivals traditional theaters more than ever before. Given the choice, you can't beat the convenience of home. This may mean smaller budgets for movies overall, but less money often leads to greater creativity with good results. I liken it to video games. Graphics/sound effects will never matter as much to me as gameplay/storyline.

WGA Strike - Day One

The Writers Guild of America is on strike as of 12:01 AM Pacific. As you might guess, I side with the writers. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) makes the point that there is less money in the industry to pay the writers, but the industry's income is not the issue. With the evolving technology through which content is delivered, written work is used in more places, and writers should receive a bigger piece of the pie, whatever the bottom line.

As a fan of TV and movies, I don't want anything to keep them from being made, be it a writers' strike, directors' strike, or actors' strike; however, sometimes action must be forced, when continuing to work is tacit approval of working conditions. The writers probably won't get all they want, but it seems a good time to ask.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

SLIDE by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

Picking up from last year's Bust, Max Fisher wakes up in a motel in Robertson, Alabama, no idea how he got there. Using his friendship with a young stoner desk clerk, Max returns to New York as a high-rolling crack dealer. Meanwhile, femme fatale Angela Petrakos finds herself mixed up with an aspiring Irish serial killer called Slide.

Slide is less plot-driven than Bust. The first half of the novel mostly follows Max building his drug empire, and you just wonder when things will start to go sour. It's nonetheless fun to see where the characters are now. My favorite sections of the novel are from Max's seriously warped and thus hilarious view of himself and others.

During a DetecToday chat in September, Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai mentioned Bruen and Starr were working on a third book in the series, To The Max.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hit me with your best shot.

Megan Powell received an e-mail asking which she considered her best story. She put the question to writer-slash-readers of her blog, and I commented:

I try to improve with every story I write. I don’t think much about how they’ll turn out as I’m writing them. At that point, I’m concentrating on cohesiveness. I don’t think anyone is the best judge of one’s own work. Not that anyone else’s opinion has more value, but the writer is too involved in creating the story to totally detach when reading it.

My favorite stories to read are those with distinct voices and good pacing. When judging (i.e. editing) a story of mine before submitting, I ask what the story’s goals are and have I met those goals. (Sometimes I’m not aware of the goals until I finish the story.) In terms of style, I try to cut out anything clunky.

To readers of this blog, which of my stories do you think is the best? If you need a refresher, there's Gerald So's Desk. Click on the "Fiction" label.

And now, virtual karaoke:

You're a real tough cookie with a long history
Of breaking little hearts like the one in me.
That's okay, let's see how you do it.
Put up your dukes and let's get down to it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

WENN: Craig Signs $60 Million Bond Deal

Actor Daniel Craig has signed a $60 million deal to star in the next four James Bond films. The blond 39-year-old is currently filming Bond 22 - his second outing as secret agent 007 following the success of 2006's Casino Royale - and movie executives have reportedly signed him up for another three films, tying him to the franchise for the next 10 years. A source says, "To date Daniel has been quite cautious over saying how many films he'd be starring in. It was presumed he'd probably do a couple more but the word is the new deal ensures he'll do at least another four across the next decade." Craig's predecessor, Pierce Brosnan, starred in four Bond movies - but the longest-serving 007 star remains Sir Roger Moore, who played the iconic role in seven films between 1973 and 1985.

When I read Jeremy Lynch's report of the deal last Saturday, I thought it was for four movies on top of Craig's original three-picture deal, equaling Roger Moore's seven. Still, I worry Craig may play Bond one time too many. It's good to know he's similarly wary.