Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Another Step

Yesterday my editor sent me the flap copy for Too Darn Hot. Part of it was good, but some things gave too much away. I emailed him about this (he’d asked for my input) and wondered what he’d think.

Same day he emailed me back, “I’ll make all the changes.”

I find it so strange that Ballantine does things so far in advance. Next week I get the copy-edited manuscript and I’m sure I’ll be getting jacket designs in a month. The book isn’t scheduled until summer 2006.

I would imagine that next week or the next, the negotiations for a new contract will begin.

Basically, This Dame for Hire is over until it comes out next summer in paper. Shelf life is incredibly short unless you’re a big name. It’s been two months and I’ll be lucky to get a few more weeks before the stores start sending the book back to make room for the Fall releases. On Amazon there are 52 used & new of my book. I’d buy one of those, wouldn’t you? And that, of course, brings me 0 royalties. I can hope that someone paid for all those books originally.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Writing for Television

Two people have asked that I say more about my television writing days. I didn’t do a lot, but I’ll try to remember what I did do.

A drama program named Playhouse 90 was on between 1956–61. My then agent got me a deal to write a tv play for the anthology show. It was a step-deal. I’m sure Lee Goldberg could explain this better, but I’ll give it a try. You were paid something on signing; when you handed in the script; then the rewrite (and there always was at least one); last on production. I didn’t get that far with this deal.

I did get to many meetings. The final one was in some upper east side restaurant with the director they’d chosen. He was Fred Coe. A very nice man. However, within weeks of this meeting the whole project was dropped. I never knew why. That’s the way it happened.

My soap writing experiences were awful (except for the money). The first was a short-lived soap called WHERE THE HEART IS. It had nothing to do with a novel by that name that came much later. The soap was on during the Sixties. I can’t remember a single thing about it. I don’t know who the head writer was except his first name. Bob.

The name for what I did escapes me. But I would get what was known as a breakdown for the script I was to write. Scripts were divided in five acts. Each act was outlined in a paragraph. I’ve since learned that most are pages long, but not on this show. I think I was given a week to do this, but somehow that seems too long. Maybe it was a week when I did 2 scripts per week.

I was meant to fill out each act in dialogue. And god help you if you tried to be funny. I felt I wrote pretty good dialogue, but it was always sent back to me with copious notes.

In the end I was fired. Everyone was fired. No one ever lasted. I did another later on and I can’t even remember which one it was, but it was one that was very popular. The head writer was a fairly well-known playwright but I’ll be damned if I can remember his name. When I quit he threatened me with a blackball so I could never write a soap again.

That was fine with me because I never wanted to write one again. Writing for a soap made me anxious, depressed and plain unhappy. I didn’t like the pressure and I didn’t like the idiocy of the whole thing.

One of the reasons I quit was because I got a deal for my last foray into writing for television. And that was for ABC’s The Wide World of Entertainment. This show came on at eleven and tried to compete with talk shows. My show aired the night some crisis (can’t remember what) happened in the world so it was bumped to a later time that night. As I said in another post the title was the best thing about it: A Little Bit Like Murder. I just tried finding a reference to it by googling the names of Elizabeth Hartman, Nina Foch and Sharon Gless who were all in it. Nobody listed my show. Getting the picture?

So that’s it.

My last experience of having a play mounted was in 1976. It was called Stuck and played in a theater way off-off Broadway. It was a strange part of New York City I wasn’t familiar with. It was called SoHo, but it didn’t mean anything to me then. In a few years I’d live there. Anyway, even though the last experience was a good one, I realized the collaborative life was not for me. And it was a good thing I was writing novels and enjoying it, because women playwrights were not sought after, and even though we’d had Lillian Hellman, no one broke that glass ceiling for years. Certainly not on Broadway. Even now the theaters on B’way are not filled with plays by women. Why is this still the case? I have no answer. Do you?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Television Possibility

Had a good talk with the woman from the TV channel.  She called it a preliminary talk. I liked her, but I count on nothing.

She asked if I wanted to adapt the books should they want to do it.  I said no. I have no interest in anything like that.  Once I would’ve.  But now I’m strictly a novelist.  The idea of writing for movies or TV is a nightmare to me.

I wrote a spec scipt long ago that was optioned.  Went to Hollywood.  Got bounced around like I was in a rough ocean.  Nothing happened.

I had a TV script actually made for a late night drama show. The network was trying to compete with talk shows.  It was the first time I actually saw my words come to life on television.  Dreadful.  The only good thing was a woman in a very small part at the end.  She turned out to be Sharon Gless.  I have to admit it wasn’t a good script.  The only good thing was the title.  A Little Bit Like Murder.

I also wrote for a few soaps.  That was hell.  But it paid so well.  Still, I always got fired like everyone else.  The last time I quit and never looked back.

And now I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have the interest or the stamina to write for TV.  I would like to see these books made into a series, but I’m not going to hold my breath.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Yesterday I was sent an email from a man at  He asked me if I’d send my phone number so the VP of original programming could speak to me. I’d never heard of this place.  But I looked it up, saw that it was real. 

Normally, I would forward a request like this to my agent.  But she’s in France.  So I sent the number and within moments the writer of the email called me.

The company is interested in my series of Lauren Laurano books.  He said she wanted to ask me some preliminary questions.  We set up a phone conversation for today at 11:30 am.

I don’t get excited about these things.  My friends do, if I tell them.  I’ve been at this juncture all too often.  It would be nice if this happened.  More than nice.  I’m sure it wouldn’t mean a lot of money, but I’d like to see that series on TV.  What writer wouldn’t?

I’ve always felt those characters would make a good series and would be different.  I knew the networks were out, but at one time I thought HBO might be interested.  They weren’t.

Now comes this nibble.  I hope she doesn’t ask me who I’d like to see play the main roles as I never cast a book in my head.

We’ll see.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Promises Promises

On the back of my galley for This Dame for Hire it states that there will be ads in The Strand Magazine, Mystery Scene and the NYTBR. None appeared. When I asked about it I got a bit of a runaround.

It’s too late for the magazines now as they publish 5 or 6 times a year. In fact, it’s too late for the NYTBR. I wouldn’t have expected an ad for the first book in a series, but I believed what the galley told me. Naive of me, I guess. You’d think I’d know better at this stage of my career.

One of the answers given me when I asked about it was, “The advertising department waits until there are reviews.” This excuse seems disingenuous, to say the least. What more did they want than a starred PW, a starred Library Journal and a good Booklist for starters?

Then I got print reviews from many places and they were all good. Call me crazy, but promising those ads to booksellers and then not delivering seems like lying to me. That’s who they’re aiming at when they print those words on the back of a galley.

Some things never change.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


"I have written a great many stories and I still don't know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances."

John Steinbeck

I'm Back

I have to confess I’ve been back for a week.  But I was exhausted and didn’t want to post.

There have been some comments that asked me questions.

When will TDH be published? 

Next June or July.  Ballantine wants to publish the paperback of TDFH to coincide with the hardcover of TDH.  And I still have to deal with the copy-edited manuscript.

Will you have to do fresh background material for each book in the series?

Not really.  I plan to stay in 1943 for awhile.  Which means I might have to look up songs or movies, but not much more.

What’s next?  Do you wait till October to start your next book?

As I may have mentioned, I don’t have a contract for another book. When agent and editor get back in September I imagine negotiations will begin.  Or they won’t.  Perhaps Ballantine won’t be interested in another two book deal.  But maybe another publisher will.  I’d like to stay with Ballantine because I like my editor there very much.  Still, I’ll have to go with whoever wants me.  But that might turn out to be no one.

It’s hard to imagine that no one will be interested because of all the favorable feedback I’ve gotten.  The reviews have been great. But publishing is mysterious.  So who knows?

The answer to the October question is not possible now. I won’t start a book without a contract.  We’ll have to wait and see.