Wednesday, December 19, 2007
IAMTW Members Lee Goldberg, Christa Faust, Steve Leiva, and William Rabkin walked the picket line together Dec. 19 in the rain with hundreds of their fellow TV crime writers outside the headquarters of the AMPTP.
It was a terrific event that once again demonstrated how amazingly unified and determined the Writers Guild is. The AMPTP has greatly underestimated the Guild's dedication to their cause. Celebs participating included the stars of NUMBERS, CSI, THE UNIT, RENO 911, BONES, and DEXTER and showrunners like Carlton Cuse (LOST), Shawn Ryan (THE SHIELD), Rene Balcer (LAW AND ORDER) and Naren Shankar (CSI).
Pictured are Lee and Christa, and William Rabkin with Robert Patrick, star of THE UNIT.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Self-described “pulp writer” Christa Faust, who recently won an award for her novelization of the 2006 film Snakes on a Plane, celebrates another coup with the January release of Money Shot: the first female writer in Dorchester’s neo-noir Hard Case Crime imprint.
You won the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers’ Scribe Award for Best General Adapted for your novelization of Snakes on a Plane. How did you get that job?
It was an assignment. Originally it was called Pacific Air Flight 121 and the [Samuel L.] Jackson character was just a generic action hero.
Novelizations need to be completed before the film is shot, sometimes before it has even been cast, in order to be released at the same time as the film. The amazing Internet buzz for SOAP didn’t gear up until I was nearly finished. In fact, we had to do some last-minute scrambling to get hold of a final draft of the script that included the famous “motherfucking snakes” line in time to meet my deadline.
Is the award great, or what?
The award itself is a wonderfully cheesy golden star that sits in a place of honor beside my desk with other bits of writer’s mojo like my letter from Richard Prather and a small statue of the Blessed Virgin dressed as a Dominatrix.
Some people look down their noses at media tie-in work and think of tie-in writers as a bunch of soulless hacks just out to make a buck. I love tie-in work and have infinitely more respect for hard-working writers like Lee Goldberg and Max Allan Collins than I do for self-styled literary geniuses who are still sitting in mom’s basement polishing their unpublished masterpiece. It was a hell of an honor to be recognized by my fellow tie-in writers. They really understand how tough the job can be.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
From Tod Goldberg's Blog:
I just signed a three-book deal to write original novels based on the show Burn Notice for Penguin. How this came about is how many things come about when you're not expecting them -- your brother calls you from a scratchy phone in Germany and says, "Hey, do you like the show Burn Notice?" You reply, "Yeah, I love it. It's like an Elmore Leonard novel crossed with Steven Soderbergh's direction and a dash of Albert Brooks' mother issues for good measure. Why?" And then twenty minutes later you're on the phone with your agent, 36 hours later you're making demands of the publisher, 72 hours later you're sitting down with Matt Nix, who is your oldest and dearest friend's fraternity big brother, and who grew up down the street from you in Palm Springs and who has several of the same childhood friends as you, and also wonders how that very quiet, but very large, kid brother of Jason Homme became Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and who you've known via emails for years, but never really in person, and you're discussing the show he created, Burn Notice, and then, about 100 hours later, you're figuring out just how on Earth you're going to meet your first deadline -- February -- without getting hooked on crank (again).
It's a unique opportunity for me sales-wise. When you write literary fiction, as I sort of do, it's not unusual to count sales in 4 digits as a success. And while I've earned a good reputation critically (I mean, you know, after Fake Liar Cheat...) for my work, I've never been a huge seller and this series of books will open me up to an audience that, heretofore, did not exist to me. I've always straddled the line between crime fiction and literary fiction, the result being that no one is quite sure where to shelve my books. Now I'll have these crime novels and the literary fiction, too. Plus, I love the show, it's fun to be working with Matt, and I now have a good (tax deductible) reason to go to Miami.
The second thing, and equally exciting thing, is that I finished my new short story collection this week (which I think will be called Where You Lived...but it could be called The Salt...or...The Models...or, well, I have 12 choices) and, after Thanksgiving, it will go out into the world to find a happy home. I think I know where I'd like that home to be, but it should be interesting to see where it all ends up. All I know for certain is that by the end of 2009, I'll have four new books out...which makes me a little sick to my stomach...
Monday, November 12, 2007
Climbing out of the black hole and seeing light and catching my breath again.
At the end of July I was in San Diego for Comic Con International to ramp up for the release of THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON. On August 3, I left for three weeks of book signings for SANDWORMS OF DUNE. Starting in Seattle, Brian Herbert and I went to Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Livermore, Half Moon Bay, Pasadena, Los Angeles, and San Diego. The book debuted at #4 on the New York Times, selling 20% better than any of our previous Dune novels.
One morning Brian and I got up at 4 AM and we each did 15 call-in radio interviews on drive-time programs by 7 AM. Another day, we got to our hotel at 9:30 PM. I went to bed, and got up again at 1:30 AM to make it to an LA television studio by 3:00 AM to do 18 satellite TV interviews by 8:30 AM, got back to the hotel for a one-hour nap before leaving for a booksellers¹ lunch, after which we drove 3 hours down to San Diego, grabbed a quick dinner, did a nighttime signing which ended at 9 PM, then we drove back to our hotel in LA and arrived by 11:30 PM.
Brian took a train back home to Seattle the next morning, while Rebecca and I stayed in LA to help teach the Writers of the Future workshop and present the awards. We came home, had a few days to do laundry, then we were off to DragonCon in Atlanta for Labor Day weekend. Afterward we had three days at home before leaving for a month in Australia and New Zealand to tour for METAL SWARM. We did signings and interviews in Christchurch and Auckland, NZ, then flew to Brisbane, Australia, to be guests at the Brisbane Writers Festival, then flew to Perth for school talks, library talks, and book signings, then more signings in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and then to
Canberra for the ConFlux science fiction convention. The last few days I came down with a terrible cold and full-blown laryngitis, so Rebecca had to do most of my panels and workshops with me gasping a few comments from the sidelines. It was a lot of work, but while I was there METAL SWARM was the #1 bestselling SF/F book in Australia and SANDWORMS was #5.
I tried to recover from the cold/flu for two weeks at home, before HarperCollins sent me out for eleven days to promote THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON -- Denver, Salt Lake City/Provo, then Reno (to be guest speaker at the National School Librarians¹ Conference), then Phoenix, Madison, Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Every day, my basic routine was to get up at 6 AM, get to the airport, fly somewhere, land at around 11:00 AM, get my luggage, meet the driver/escort, grab lunch (usually a Subway sandwich or something equally fast), go around to 8-13 bookstores to do drop-by
signings, get to my hotel at about 4, check e-mail, take a shower, change clothes, get picked up at 6 for my 7 PM signing, go out to dinner afterward at around 8:30, get back to the hotel room again by about 10 and go to sleep, then get up the next morning and start it all over again.
And throughout all this I was doing a full-fledged rewrite on my 750-page final Seven Suns novel, which I delivered four days ago.
Now, I sold a lot of books, met a lot of fans, got a lot of media coverage. But this was completely exhausting, and I have not yet fully recovered from the cold/flu I got in Australia six weeks ago. The only thing worse than having a frantic book-signing tour is NOT having any tour, so I¹m not complaining. I missed seeing a lot of friends as I raced through town on overdrive, but I just didn¹t have any time or opportunity for socializing. And I thought writers were supposed to be reclusive...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
It's 10:07 pm here in Los Angeles and I just finished writing my sixth MONK novel, MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY. This means I will be delivering my book to my publisher two weeks early, which will buy me a little time to relax before plunging into the outline for my seventh MONK novel.
MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY will be out in hardcover in June to coincide with the summer season premiere of the TV series.
My fifth MONK novel, MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE, comes out in hardcover later this week...which is a bit of an experiment, since this will be the first MONK book release that doesn't coincide with a MONK season premiere. It will be interesting to see how the book fares without the benefit of the promotion that accompanies the TV show (but my fourth MONK novel, MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS, comes out in paperback in January, when the new episodes of MONK return).
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Jonathan's Story (by Julia London and I) at #7, a tie-in to the daytime soap, Guiding Light; and Dexter in the Dark at #11, a tie-in to the returning cable drama, Dexter.
If you want to stretch a point, you can even consider #9, Bones to Ashes a sort of tie-in, though, in this case, the forensic book series predates the TV series, Bones.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
HBO v-p of licensing and retail James Costos, who joined the company in July 2006, said he has a mandate to “raise awareness for all of our licensed merchandise, which certainly includes books.” Costos said the cable channel is looking to highlight the HBO book line by taking advantage of its midtown New York retail store, Web site and newsletters, as well as through its broadcasts.
Almost all of the HBO titles come from Melcher Media and the distinctive packaging of their tie-ins come with a hefty price-tag for consumers. But that hasn't slowed sales. In fact, it's a selling point.
Melcher Media president Charles Melcher contends that HBO titles “reinvented the TV tie-in, which used to be priced under $20 and mostly filled with old scripts.” HBO titles like Deadwood: Stories of the Black Hills or Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Book, said Melcher, can sometimes feature scholarly research but, most importantly, they all have the complete involvement of the shows' casts of actors.
“HBO wants the books to be more than just a way to make money,” Melcher said. “They want their creative people to be happy. Like the TV shows, these aren't just books; they're HBO books.”
Upcoming HBO tie-in titles getting the "high-end" treatment are The Sopranos: The Complete Book, ' Entourage: A Lifestyle Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, and Rome.
“The books are an extension of the shows and a natural must-have for fans and viewers. The revenue will follow if we continue to deliver quality books,” said Costos.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Julia writes on her site:
This was a classic “work for hire” situation: the Guiding Light crew wanted a book with a specific story, and they needed an author to write the book. I was approached about writing the book by my publisher, who had a detailed plot the Guiding Light folks had developed, and one that would tie in to their show....So then I took the Guiding Light outline and turned it into a novel. The turnaround was much quicker than I am accustomed to, but I had lots of help from several people at my publishing house and at Guiding Light, who read the book numerous times to make sure it was true to their characters and their show. The result was a collaborative process, and I think the end product is good.
While writing a tie-in was a new process for Julia, NOT writing one was new for me. I had written GL's sister soap, "As The World Turns," tie-in novel, "Oakdale Confidential," the previous year (though, in the first edition, for storyline purposes, I'd been credited as "Anonymous").
This time around, a newborn daughter limited me to merely writing the detailed, chapter by chapter outline based upon a story idea provided by the show, then, at the end of the game, polishing Julia's final draft to make sure it sound like "Guiding Light." I had one baby at home, but this was my first time handing off another "baby" to a total stranger to do with as she liked!
Like Julia said, "Jonathan's Story" did prove to be a very collaborative process between writers, "Guiding Light" executives and publisher. Read Julia's take about it on her blog, then check out my version in the next issue of the Tie-In Writers Newsletter -- coming this Fall!
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
The winners of the Scribe awards were announced late Sunday afternoon at the San Diego Comic-Con. The convention is in its 38th year and drew more than 120,000 attendees.
The winners are:
· Speculative Fiction, Best Novel Adapted—Superman Returns by Marv Wolfman
· Speculative Fiction, Best Novel Original—30 Days of Night: Rumors of the Undead by Stephen Niles and Jeff Mariotte
· General Fiction, Best Novel Adapted—Snakes on a Plane by Christa Faust
· Best Novel Original—Las Vegas: High Stakes by Jeff Mariotte
· Young Adult All Genres, Best Novel—Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Portal Through Time by Alice Henderson
· Grandmaster, honoring career achievement in the field: Donald Bain
Max Allan Collins, president of IAMTW, said: "The San Diego Comic-Con is the perfect place to kick off our Scribe Awards. It's a virtual world's fair of popular culture, and the members of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers deal with some of the most famous fictional characters of all time."
The IAMTW was formed in 2006 by Collins, author of Road to Perdition and the USA Today bestselling CSI novels, and Lee Goldberg, author of many Monk and Diagnosis Murder novels. The organization is dedicated to enhancing the professional and public image of tie-in writers and providing a forum for tie-in writers to share information, support one another, and discuss issues relating to their field. There are more than 150 members of the IAMTW, including authors active in many other professional writer organizations, including the Writers Guild of America, the Mystery Writers of America, the Western Writers of America, and the Science Fiction Writers of America.
Collins said: "We've banded together to bring recognition to individual excellence in our field, as well as to shine a light on all of the writers who create the books that put movies on the printed page, and bring popular TV characters to life in prose. Working with characters from another medium, created by other writers, is a challenging task. Readers worldwide have responded to these books by buying them in the millions, and the creative minds responsible deserve some applause."
About the winners:
Donald Bain is the author or ghost/author of nearly 100 books, many of them bestsellers. They encompass both fiction and non-fiction, and include such categories as murder mysteries, westerns, comedies, investigative journalism, food, business, psychology and historical dramatizations. Among his books, the airline comedy, Coffee Tea or Me?, published almost 30 years ago, together with its sequels sold more than five million copies worldwide and was the basis of a television movie-of-the-week. His current project, a series of more than two dozen original paperback murder mysteries for Signet, are written “in collaboration" with TV's most famous mystery writer, Jessica Fletcher of "Murder, She Wrote," who exists only as a fictitious character. He is married to Renee Paley-Bain, also a writer, who collaborates with him on the Murder She Wrote series.
Christa Faust calls herself a writer with a fetish for noir cinema, tattoos, and seamed stockings. Among her books are Snakes on a Plane, Final Destination III: The Movie, Friday the 13th: The Jason Strain, A Nightmare on Elm Street #2: Dreamspawn, and Twilight Zone #5: Burned/One Night at Mercy, all published by Games Workshop.
Alice Henderson has been writing since her father gave her his old Underwood manual typewriter when she was six. From early on she wrote tales of the supernatural, spooking herself as she pounded away on the typewriter in her childhood turn-of-the-century house. Her passion for writing only grew, and she wrote her first novel at age eleven. She earned her B.A. in Literature and Language at Webster University, where she began writing screenplays. She once worked for Lucasfilm Ltd., where she wrote for video games, both manuals and strategy guides, including the manual for Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. In 2001, she became a full-time freelance writer.
Jeff Mariotte has written more than thirty novels, including original horror epic The Slab, and Stoker Award nominated teen horror series Witch Season, as well as books set in the universes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Las Vegas, Conan, 30 Days of Night, Charmed, Star Trek and Andromeda and a novelization of the movie Boogeyman. He is also the author of more comic books than he has time to count, including the original Western series Desperadoes, some of which have been nominated for Stoker and International Horror Guild awards.
Stephen Niles is one of the writers responsible for bringing horror comics back to prominence, and was recently named by Fangoria magazine as one of its "13 rising talents who promise to keep us terrified for the next 25 years." Niles is currently working for the four top American comic publishers - Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse. Currently ongoing at Image is the creator-owned series Bad Planet with co-writer Thomas Jane, and The Cryptics with artist Ben Roman.
Marv Wolfman is known for his work in comic books, movies, television, animation, children's books, theme park shows and rides, video games, novels, and internet animation. His newest non-fiction book is Homeland, The Illustrated History of the State of Israel, which covers the founding of the country from the time of Abraham to the present. His novel, Crisis on Infinite Earths, based on his award-winning 1985 comic, was published April, 2005. The first printing sold out in less than three weeks and the second printing sold out a few weeks later. The trade paperback was released in April, 2006. Superman Returns was published June, 2006.For more information on the Scribe awards or IAMTW, contact Max Allan Collins, email@example.com
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
In the ensuing blizzard of e-mails, I realized that I'd been shanghaied into—ah, signed up for—providing a short essay for the website, once a month, on a particular day. Joe Nassise, who's in charge of the whole shebang, whip-cracked me with the 21st. That starts this month or, as the kids say, today.
So, stop by Storytellers Unplugged and check out my first essay for the crew. While you're there, be sure to poke around and see what the other press-ganged souls have come up with too.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
My novel THE LAST WORD is coming out next week... it's the eighth and final book in my tie-in series based on DIAGNOSIS MURDER, a show I also wrote and produced. Reviews are starting to come in and some fans/critics are surprised and a bit shocked by what I wrote. Some have called it "too dark."
I don't think it's any darker than THE PAST TENSE (#5) or THE DOUBLE LIFE (#7)...the other books in what I like to think of as an "unofficial" trilogy. It was certainly my intent with THE LAST WORD -- as well as PAST TENSE and DOUBLE LIFE -- to explore, as deeply as I could, Dr. Mark Sloan and to make him more than just a one-dimensional TV character, a "doctor who solves crimes." Over those three books, and to a lesser degree in THE SHOOTING SCRIPT (#3), I was intentionally confronting/deconstructing the ridiculous conceits of the series in a backwards attempt to make the implausible, underlying concept more believable and, by extension, the characters more real. I know that sounds pretentious, but I like to think that's what made these books read more like novels than simply knock-offs of a TV show...and why I was lucky enough to enjoy so much critical praise for them.
If I ever decide to do more DM books, the resolution of THE LAST WORD opens the door to go in a new direction which...after being involved in four seasons of DM as a writer/producer and as the author of eight books...I am ready to do. I think I have taken this particular format and these relationships about as far as they can go.
I'm curious to know what you think. Is THE LAST WORD a fitting end for the series? Or did I go too far?
"While I try to stay true to the continuity of the TV series, it's not always possible, given the long lead time between when my books are written and when they are published. During that period, new episodes may air that contradict details or situations referred to in my books. If you come across any such continuity mismatches, your understanding is appreciated."
Bottom line, it's fiction. We are sharing characters in two very different mediums. The fans have to understand that these are characters in a fictional world...and relax.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
UKSFBN: Do you think these awards are going to help raise the profile and respectability of tie-in novels and boost sales, or is it more of an intra-industry back-slapping exercise?
SAVILLE: Sorry, I can't help but chuckle at the idea of the awards existing to boost sales when as a general rule of thumb most media tie-ins outsell traditional SF and Fantasy novels quite considerably - and I don't mean one or two thousand more copies, I mean twenty or thirty or fifty thousand copies and often more.
I find it quite interesting, but tie-in writing is often seen as the 'ghetto within the ghetto', which is just absurd when you consider who are actually writing these books. Off the top of my head: Max Allan Collins, Brian Hodge, Christopher Golden, Craig Shaw Gardner, Tom Picirrili, Tim Lebbon, Kevin J Anderson, Keith DeCandido, Eric Nylund, Sean Williams, Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore... I mean, these are guys who can write, win those 'traditional back-slapping awards' and more importantly sell from the bookstore shelves.
Thanks to my Warhammer novels I was in a position financially to go full time as a writer two years ago. Whether they want to admit it or not, most genre writers would kill for the sales levels of even average tie-ins. Eric Nylund's recent Halo novel scaled the Giddy Heights of the New York Times Bestsellers list. I remember reading Allan Dean Foster's old media tie-ins and never once did I think of Splinter in the Mind's Eye as disposable fiction; as a young reader it was fantastic.
As a writer, for me, the most important thing is actually being read. The idea of sweating over a novel only read by 200 people is a pretty depressing notion. You want your words to reach as many people as possible.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
BOOKGASM: What do you find attractive about writing novelizations? And what’s not-so-attractive?
COX: On the positive side, you get to let someone else worry about the plotting and dialogue for once. It’s also just neat, on a fannish level, to be privy to the inside scoop on some upcoming new movie. The challenge is trying to describe a movie you haven’t actually seen; I’m always desperate for any sort of visual reference material I can get from the studio. Getting photos of the supporting characters tends to be difficult sometimes. The deadlines can be pretty tight, too.
BOOKGASM: When you finally see a film you earlier wrote a novelization for, what’s that experience like?
COX: Usually, it takes a couple of viewings before I can appreciate the movie on its own terms. The first time through, I’m too busy wincing at all the differences between the book and the movie. “Hey, what happened to the barn scene? That chase doesn’t go there. Ohmigod, they changed the dialogue. Wait a second, nobody told me that character was a woman!”
Eventually, though, after enough time has passed, I can start to experience the movie as just another audience member again.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Our first annual GRANDMASTER AWARD, honoring career achievement in the field, will go to DONALD BAIN, author of the MURDER SHE WROTE novels and the ghostwriter behind COFFEE, TEA OR ME and other bestsellers.
The 2007 Scribe awards will be given out at a ceremony in late July at Comic-Con in San Diego. The details on the event, and how to attend, will be announced in the near future. Congratulations to all our nominees!
BEST NOVEL – ADAPTED
SLAINE: THE EXILE by Steven Savile
SUPERMAN RETURNS by Marv Wolfman
TOXIC AVENGER: THE NOVEL by Lloyd Kaufman & Adam Jahnke
ULTRAVIOLET by Yvonne Navarro
UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION by Greg Cox
BEST NOVEL – ORIGINAL
STAR TREK CRUCIBLE: McCOY – PROVENANCE OF SHADOWS by David R. George III
STARGATE ATLANTIS: EXOGENESIS by Elizabeth Christensen & Sonny Whitelaw
THIRTY DAYS OF NIGHT: RUMORS OF THE UNDEAD by Jeff Mariotte & Steve Niles
WARHAMMER: FAITH AND FIRE by James Swallow
WARHAMMER: ORC SLAYER by Nathan Long
BEST NOVEL - ADAPTED
SNAKES ON A PLANE by Christa Faust
THE PINK PANTHER by Max Allan Collins
BEST NOVEL – ORIGINAL
CSI NEW YORK: BLOOD ON THE SUN by Stuart Kaminsky
LAS VEGAS: HIGH STAKES by Jeff Mariotte
MR. MONK GOES TO HAWAII by Lee Goldberg
OAKDALE CONFIDENTIAL: SECRETS REVEALED by Alina Adams
YOUNG ADULT – ALL GENRES
ALIAS APO: STRATEGIC RESERVE by Christina York
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: PORTAL THROUGH TIME by Alice Henderson
DRAGONLANCE: WARRIOR’S HEART by Stephen Sullivan
KNIGHTS OF THE SILVER DRAGON: PROPHECY OF THE DRAGONS by Matt Forbeck
Saturday, March 3, 2007
One question I'm often asked -- aside from "where do you get your ideas?" -- is "what's it like to be an author?"That's rather like asking, "what is it like to be you?" Well, I've always been me, so I have nothing to compare with the experience. As for being an author, the big thrill is actually holding the completed, published book in my hand. I will never forget the day my first book was published, and it arrived at my home. On the hardback spine were the words THE SAINT BURL BARER. The full title was on the front, and it is a long title...but seeing THE SAINT BURL BARER on a high quality hardbound book, library binding, fully illustrated was a source of joy and accomplishment for me.
It hasn't changed. I feel that same sense of completion and reward each time I hold my latest book for the first time -- even STEALTH a novelization which I wrote in English but was published only in a Japanese translation.
And even though the publishers send me some promotional copies, I often find the book in the stores before my complimentary copies arrive -- so, I buy one, sit down, and read it.In truth, I can't really read one of my books as if I hadn't written it for at least a year after it comes out -- it is still too fresh in my mind. You know, where I was when I wrote a certain page, or note a paragraph that I agonized over uselessly.
THE SAINT: A Complete History was written in so many cities, on so many different computers, in many different programs: FIRST CHOICE ( dos) LOTUS, WORD PERFECT, MSWORD, RTF, and whatever was available. Hence, each page reminds me of the place I sat, the computer I used, the problems I faced, or the fun I had.
CAPTURE THE SAINT was written in such diverse locales as Burbank, California, Loon Lake, Washington, and mostly at my mother's condo in Seattle, Washington. A former newspaper woman, my mom would proofread each page, and encourage me with treats.
"Give me ten more pages," said Mom, "and I'll give you a bowl of ice cream."
Go to the middle of the page, find the section called "Writers Webcast with Chris Angelos" and download the link dated February 28, which is the interview. Bob is first, and Raymond comes on. You'll learn a lot about writing and the tie-in biz.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
It's always interesting to receive the proofs, as it's the first time that I get to see the book as it will look to the public, i.e. typeset, and no longer simply my manuscript. At that point, a transformation occurs in the way I view it. It is not just something that I rustled up on my computer. It's a book, and I judge it in a different way. I notice elements that perhaps I did not recognise before. I become more conscious of themes running through it, and I become aware, for want of a better word, of the 'feel' of the book.
I know exactly how he feels. I just finished going through the proofs for DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE LAST WORD and I felt as if I was reading someone else's book. It didn't seem to have any connection to the "file" I emailed to my editor months ago. I was reading it fresh and I was surprised by some of obvious themes that ran that ran through the book...themes I wasn't even consciously aware of as I was writing it.
When I read the proofs, I find myself seeing the prose, the characters, and the plot differently than I did in the midst of working on the book. But most of all, reading THE LAST WORD, I was aware of a pace and rythmn to the story that I definitely didn't feel while I was writing it in bits and pieces, at different times and in different places (L.A., Germany, Palm Springs... and at my desk, on airplanes, in hotel rooms, in waiting rooms, in my car, etc.)
The term "proofs" has a double-meaning to me. Holding the proofs, I have evidence to convince myself that what I wrote is actually a book...it's the first time the story feels like a book to me instead of work.
Monday, February 19, 2007
LAS VEGAS: HIGH STAKES by Jeff Mariotte
MR. MONK GOES TO HAWAII by Lee Goldberg
MURDER SHE WROTE: THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE DEAD by Donald Bain
GUNSMOKE: THE RECKLESS GUN by Joseph A. West
CSI: SNAKE EYES by Max Allan Collins
OAKDALE CONFIDENTIAL: SECRETS REVEALED by Alina Adams
ALIAS: NAMESAKES by Greg Cox
CSI NY: BLOOD ON THE SUN by Stuart Kaminsky
Whenever I see the above list, I am tempted to regress to Sesame Street age (it's not that hard, I have three small children, at any given point in any given day, someone is screaming that they want to watch it) and hum, "One of these kids doesn't belong here/One of these kids isn't the same."
The kid in question would be me. Alina Adams, author of "Oakdale Confidential." Because, while all of the other titles are tie-ins to shows that feature stand-alone episodes with beginnings, middles and ends, mine came from the soap opera, "As The World Turns," a genre where a story actually coming to an end would mean, well, the end.
In that respect, all of the stories featured in the other tie-in novels could have conceivably happened in between the characters' other adventures. My characters have no in-betweens. They're on five days a week (sure, maybe my story could have been squeezed in on that rare weekend off, but it's kind of doubtful).
In addition, even the longest running show on the list, "Gunsmoke," only ran twenty years. "As The World Turns" celebrated fifty years on the air last April. (Hence, my use of the word "only" prior to "twenty years.") Even if the writers had been so motivated, they would have had "only twenty years," at most, of history to summarize. I had fifty. And some of my under 25 year old characters have already been married three times. Not to mention come back from the dead once or twice.
Finally, all of the other books carry bylines of real people. Even "Murder, She Wrote" is credited to Jessica Fletcher (not a real person) and Donald Bain (presumably a real person -- we've never met). Mine is credited to Katie Peretti (not a real person) WITH Alina Adams (I like to think I'm real but, as stated below, I have three children, so altered states of sleep deprived reality are not out of the question).
So, one of these kids isn't the same... But I'm still thrilled to have been allowed to join in the fun.
Friday, February 9, 2007
However, when I wrote "Oakdale Confidential," the tie-in novel to the soap opera, "As The World Turns," all of my lead characters were pre-defined. And they were played by real-life people, whom I actually even knew and saw on a regular basis.
This caused a bit of a dilemma when I had to describe the characters (actors) in the book. Especially when I had to do it in the less than flattering terms that the story dictated.
One character accused another of being a "dandelion bit of fluff dumb blond." Another accused a grandmother of dressing like a tacky, wannabe teen-ager.
In a novel where the characters aren't (openly) based on real people, this wouldn't be much of a problem. In a tie-in, however, I worried: What if the actors thought this was me criticizing their appearance, instead of one character ragging on another?
Fortunately, no Daytime Emmy nominee ever called to complain, or threatened me in a dark and stormy studio.
But, as they say in Russian (my first language): It's not evening yet.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
How receptive are literary agents to getting media tie-in novel queries? Is there a reason they aren't listed in the genres that the agent will accept, or are tie-ins considered just part of the 'fiction' genre?
To answer this question, you have to understand what a tie-in is: it's a piece of fiction using characters licensed from a rights-holder like a movie studio, a literary estate, a gaming company, etc.
Usually the way a tie-in novel comes about is that the rights-holder will approach publishers with a property or publishers will approach the rights-holder. Several publishers, for instance, sought the rights to do "Monk" novels and Penguin/Putnam eventually won out. Only after the rights are licensed to a publisher do editors seek out authors to write the books. That's when an agent might enter the mix.
So it wouldn't make any sense for you to query a literary agent with an idea for a tie-in novel...or the manuscript itself... unless you are the person who holds the rights to those characters. Otherwise, what you're asking an agent to do is sell your fanfic...and no agent will do that. That's why tie-ins are not among the genres that agents are willing to consider for submissions.
If what you'd like to do is write for an existing line of tie-in novels (like, say, the STAR TREK series), querying an agent isn't the way to go. Agents simply aren't looking for new clients to take to the editors of tie-ins...for one thing, there isn't enough commission money in it to make it worthwhile. If an agent is going to suggest someone for tie-in assignment, it will be one of their current clients.
So, in general, you need to already be on a editor's radar to get an assignment for a tie-in... it's the editors you need to reach, not agents.
I'm in the midst of reading the copy-edited manuscript for MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS. My editor has made some trims and I agree with all of her cuts. But I thought you might get a kick out of this deletion:
We passed the turn-off for Buttonwillow & McKittrick, a collection of fast-food restaurants and gas stations right off the freeway. I didn’t know anything about Buttonwillow, except that it probably wasn’t as charming a place as it sounded. But I’d written a report about McKittrick when I was in fifth grade and I was tempted to terrify Monk by telling him what I knew.
It was a pioneer town that was built to serve the people who mined the natural tar that seeped out of the earth. Because of the intense heat and the sticky gunk, the miners worked in the nude. They wouldn’t bother cleaning up for lunch, they just gather naked and covered with tar, and sit on newspapers in the communal mess hall. At the end of the day, they’d have to scrape each other clean with knives.
That was an image that would have haunted Monk but I took mercy on him and kept the story to myself.
The passage may still end up in a future MONK book. I have a file of deleted bits and pieces that were either cut in the writing stage or later during the editorial process. I never throw anything out.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I'm currently in the outline stage of a new tin-in novel job--creating a storyline that will (one hopes) wow the bejeesus out of the various people at the publishing house and license-holder who have to approve it, so I can go ahead with the fun part of writing the novel. Since the contract is not yet signed, I'm not going to say what the job is, but it's based on a TV show, and just to write the outline is requiring a great deal of forensics research.
On a recent trip to Tucson with my pal, writer Steve Mertz, I hit several used bookstores. At one of these I bought a copy of a book called BODY IN QUESTION, a great big hardcover full of gory photographs and descriptions of forensic investigation. Today, for the first time, I started really flipping through it.
And inside, I found four pieces of paper tucked away, presumably for safekeeping. These were a birth certificate, a GED diploma and report card, and a technical school transcript, all belonging to a young woman from Georgia. Contained on these pieces of paper is enough information to steal her identity, obtain a fraudulent credit card, and fly to Paris for lunch.
Since the book I'm working on involves criminal investigation, I couldn't just shove the papers aside and focus on the job at hand. Instead, I started "investigating." A Google search eventually led me to a listing on Classmates.com for a person with the same name, who attended high school in the town in which her parents lived at the time of her birth, and who went to school there at what would have been the right time, given the date on her birth certificate.
A Q&A on Classmates indicated that she no longer lives in Georgia, but in Arizona. Aha! quoth I. Now the papers turning up in Arizona makes more sense. Classmates also told me that, sometime in the intervening years, she got married, and gave her married name.
Google's telephone directory option gave me a Tucson phone number and address for her, under the married name. I called the number, but it's disconnected. My suspicion now is that she sold the book to the store because she was moving, and it's heavy.
I also checked one of those "peoplefinder" services, which promised me satisfaction for $10, but which seems to think she still lives in Georgia. So much for that.
With one dead end after another, I tried simply e-mailing her via Classmates.com. I'm not sure that those e-mails ever reach their intended recipients--or that she still uses the same e-mail address that she did whenever she signed up. If she gets it and contacts me, well and good--I'm saving her paperwork for her. If she doesn't, I guess I'll have to assume she's replaced it by now.
It's strange to have a mystery fall in your lap while you're trying to plot out a mystery novel. But one of the joys of tie-in writing is that we get to write all sorts of different things. In the past year, I've had tie-in novels published that were straight fiction, horror, and sword & sorcery, based on TV shows, comic books, and a literary character. Now I'm working on a mystery novel and another horror novel.
And, frankly, I'd rather have a mystery fall in my lap than a ghost.
There's a symbiotic relationship between books and films. The movie business likes to use books for content and cut their risks by relying on pre-sold characters and stories. The book biz likes to use movies as big-budget commercials for their products and piggyback on the huge promotional effort that surrounds new films and TV shows. But as the December issue of Moving Pictures magazine points out, there are some dangers. In one article, headlined "Sin or Synergy," the magazine discusses the recent surge in alliances between publishers and studios...many of whom are owned by the same parent companies. But that doesn't guarantee hits...for either studios or booksellers.
Maria Campbell, a highly regarded book scout for Warner Brothers, believes "good movies are made because people are passionate about them and have a vision. Alliances can create conversations, but they can't create good movies.
Ron Bernstein, head of the West Coast Book Department at ICM shares Campbell's caution. "Books will always be part of the landscape, but it's certainly not the glory days. With movies based on video games, remakes and TV series, the extraordinary hold that the printed word had on movies is not what it once was."
It works the other way, too. Books based on movies -- also known as tie-ins and novelizations -- aren't the booming business they once were, either. The short window between the theatrical release of a movie and it's availability in DVD has cut down on the need to buy a tie-in novel to re-live the movie experience. Why re-live it when you can own it?
In an article headlined "Novelization is a Nasty Word," the magazine also explores the publishing industry's continuing practice of turning movies into books. Among the authors they interview is Max Allan Collins, who they dub the "Leonardo da Vinci of pop culture fiction," co-founder with Lee Goldberg of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. "Novelization is an unfortunate term that tends to diminish the process or, anyway, the end result," Max told them.
Max and Greg Cox do a good job describing in the article the enormous obstacles confronting writers of novelizations...including ever-changing scripts, insanely short deadlines (two weeks to three months) and bad pay. Not to mention lack of respect.
Cox points out [that] novelizers almost never get to see the movie in advance. All they have to work with is an early draft of the script.
"If you're lucky," he says, "you get a stack of still photos and maybe a copy of the movie trailer. "
But when a novelization scores, it can score big. Max's adaptation of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN sold over a million copies in the U.S. alone. And when a movie does well, the book it was based on reaps the benefits -- according to the magazine, the tie-in reprint of the DA VINCI CODE, with Tom Hanks on the cover, sold five million copies.
Regardless of the potential for these partnerships, the business still remains driven by agents, writers, and studio execs who have to read the material and get excited by it. As Maria Campbell observes, "it takes a village to publish a book. It takes a continent to make a movie."
We Are Tie-In WritersWe write science fiction, westerns, mysteries, romance and thrillers and sometimes all of the above. Our work embraces just about every genre you can think of, from STAR TREK to CSI, from GUNSMOKE to MURDER SHE WROTE, from DUNE to James Bond, from RESIDENT EVIL to Lizzie McGuire.
Our books are original tie-in novels, comic books and short stories based on existing characters from movie, TV series, books, games, and cartoons... or they are novelizations (books based on screenplays for movies and TV shows).
Tie-ins and novelizations are a licensed works... meaning they are written with the permission and supervision of the creators, studios, or other rights-holders of the original characters.
Well-known tie-in writers include Kingsley Amis, Kevin J. Anderson, Raymond Benson, Gregory Benford, Lawrence Block, Davd Brin, Greg Bear, Max Brand, Orson Scott Card, Leslie Charteris, Arthur C. Clarke, Max Allan Collins, Peter David, Ian Fleming, Alan Dean Foster, John Gardner, Elizabeth Hand, Stuart Kaminsky, David Morrell, Robert B. Parker, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, and Jim Thompson to name just a few.
Our books are published by the major publishing companies, are available everywhere, sell tens of millions of copies worldwide and regularly appear on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists... but the actual craft of tie-in writing goes largely unrecognized and is greatly misunderstood.
The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers will change all that.
Why the IAMTW? (I AM a Tie-in Writer)
Tie-writers and their work are often overlooked and under-appreciated by existing organizations like the Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction Writers of America, and the Romance Writers of America, even though some of their most respected members work in the field. Tie-ins represent a huge percentage of the books published each year, they are enormously successful and are widely enjoyed by readers. And yet we have no organization that represents our unique business and professional interests nor acknowledges excellence in our field.
Until now. Until the IAMTW. The name itself is a declaration of pride in what we do: I AM a Tie-in Writer. We say it with pride because we are very proud of what we do and the books we write.
The IAMTW is dedicated to enhancing the professional and public image of tie-in writers...to working with the media to review tie-in novels and publicize their authors...to educating people about who we are and what we do....and to providing a forum for tie-in writers to share information, support one another, and discuss issues relating to our field (via a monthly e-newsletter, our website, and our active yahoo discussion group). Our members include authors active in many other professional writer organizations (MWA, PWA, WGA, SFWA, etc.) and who share their unique perspectives with their fellow tie-in writers.
Every major industry has an award for excellence in their field...not just books, movies, records, and TV shows. Awards are a demonstration that people take pride in their work and strive to constantly do better. Respect from ones peers is important...and, up until now, tie-in writers haven't even been able to enjoy that, despite our impressive sales. Our Scribe Awards will celebrate excellence in our craft and, at the same time, draw attention to tie-in writers among publishers, booksellers and readers.
Who Qualifies for Membership?You do if you've written licensed fiction based on a TV show, motion picture, computer game, stage play, comic book (or strip), radio serial or other dramatic work as long as you were paid for it and it has been published (or is about to be). The membership committee will determine, on a case-by-case basis, what qualifies as "other dramatic work" (for instance, a series of books based on a toy or doll).
It doesn't matter whether you've written forty novels or one short story, whether it was published last week or thirty years ago, you qualify for membership as long as you were paid for your licensed work and it was published (or is about to be).
Fanfiction does not qualify.
Please visit us at www.iamtw.org