Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Body of Proof" - Anyone Watching?


Scott D. Parker

I've caught the first three episodes of this new series and its growing on me. I wrote a little blurb last week, but I think I'll expand my thoughts today.

Dana Delany is good. I know her only tangentially, having never watched her in "Desperate Housewives" or whatever else she's been in. I did, however, catch her in my favorite show, "Castle," last season. She played an FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer. She was excellent and, in retrospect, that part might've been the impetus for this role.

Delany's Dr. Megan Hunt is a neurosurgeon who had a bad car accident and lost her edge primarily to her shaking hands. Unable to perform the job for which she was trained and had a passion, she ends up as a medical examiner in Philadelphia. Along the way, as so often happens in TV shows, she gets divorced from her husband and is estranged from her daughter. She makes a great point to her partner, Peter Dunlap. When talking about her divorce she says "A man works 18-hour days and he's considered a provider. A woman works 18-hour days and she's a negligent mother."

The supporting case is, to be honest, cut from basic casting. Her partner, Peter, is a sensitive hunk who asks Megan the hard questions so that we viewers can learn how she thinks. Her boss, played by Jeri Ryan, is the good supervisor, trying to keep the wolves away from Megan and always having Megan's back. The two other doctors in the ME's office are a modern day Laurel and Hardy: young skinny one and older fat one who likes to remind Megan that he outranks her.

Into this mix we have the cops. Like countless detectives before her (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Adrian Monk, to name three), Megan is blessed with obtuse, slow police officials. In a surprise, Sonja Sohn, best know for her work on "The Wire," is one of the cops. She's street tough, though not as harsh as her "Wire" role.

The surprise has been John Carroll Lynch's Detective Bud Morris. He's the lead detective that wants to close the case quickly. He sees the given evidence, asks few, if any questions, and just wants to move on to the next case. Naturally, he and Megan are oil and water. But as the first three episodes have aired, these two have found a grudging respect for each other. Gradually, he has seen the way Megan works--curt, to be sure, and, like Holmes, light years ahead of everyone else--and, though he doesn't like her meddling in a case he considers open and shut, comes to realize that her methods end up nailing the correct culprit. That his character is having marital troubles gives the two some common ground.

Where Delany shines is in the small moments. She and her daughter struggle with their rocky relationship, trying to figure out where to go and how to get there. So far, it's been pretty typical network TV stuff, but there is room to grow. Both characters want the relationship, but there's a wall between them, likely a result of both Megan's former profession and her former husband.

Episode three had a nice moment between Megan and Bud as well. She's been trying to "get friends" and open up to her co-workers. That she's doing this years into this new job is a bit far-fetched, but it still makes for humorous TV moments. It also opened up Bud and Megan to some deeper understanding of each. It was very nice.

The mysteries are good, not extraordinary, but clever and make use of Megan's medical expertise. Seeing an ME interviewing witnesses and victims is a little odd, but that's what the show is about so I roll with. It's a good show, one with room to grow, and I'm hoping that ABC will give it a chance next year.

So, am I the only one watching this show? What do you think?

Albums of the Week (tie): new material from Paul Simon and Robbie Robertson, both at NPR Music. Both wonderful records from older artists who still have something to say.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fresh from the Ideas Factory...

By Russel D McLean

One of the most frequent question writers are asked is this:

Where do you get your ideas?

It’s become a common gag that it’s the impossible to answer question. Because it is over-asked, because when we start to think about these things, writers often lose track of the exact process.

Ideas are fuzzy, you see. Indistinct. Not clearly defined. They have no clear beginning and most decidedly no clear lineage.

But I can talk a little about the inspiration behind ideas. The things that spark the creative process. I think that all writers should be continuously open. For little things.




Today, I was idly flicking through a copy of the free paper, THE METRO, when I saw a small article that talked about how a lottery winner from South Lanarkshire never claimed their ticket and now the time has run out. My brain started ticking over, wondering why they hadn’t collected the ticket. The idea that they simply lost it was pretty far down the list. What if they’d died? What if they were in hospital? What if… what if… what if…

It’s become cliché now to say that all storytelling starts with what if. But one of the clichés of clichés is that they’re true. And this one’s no exception.

I don’t know that I’ll write a story about a lottery winner who loses everything. I probably won’t. My brain will stew over the idea and other connections will be made and somewhere down the line a credible and interesting story will emerge that will, on the surface, seem far removed from the initial spark. But there will be something left. A great loss. A bad judgement. A supreme moment of bad luck.

My favourite tale I like to tell when asked about ideas, is the one about a snippet of conversation I once overheard. Two old women were talking about how scary the world had become. I was near them in the store and couldn’t help looking up, they were talking so loud.

“Oh,” one of them said, “The world’s a terrible place these days. D’you watch the news? All them pedrophiles everywhere.”

I had to stop myself from laughing at that point. Not in mockery, but because I loved the word she’d just plucked out of the air. “Pedrophile”. Perhaps she really did someone who inappropriately loves Spanish men. But I doubt it.

The word clicked round in my brain. It became a one line gag in a Sam Bryson mystery I wrote for AHMM. And then, suddenly, it became the germ for an entire story. When the most awesome Jennifer Jordan asked me to contribute to the anthology EXPLETIVE DELETED – a collection of tales dedicated to the word “fuck” – she told me that she was looking for tales of the terrible, stories that would resonate, unsettle and even amuse (darkly). I wrote a story called,

“Pedro Paul”. The story evolved from that overheard conversation. The one about “Pedrophiles”. Publisher’s Weekly, bless ‘em, called Pedro Paul “awesomely dark”.

I wish I could find those ladies. And thank them. Though, given the story that came from that one snippet of overheard conversation, I doubt they’d thank me…

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Steven Moffat and Dr. Who

I've learned to follow writers, not series.

In books, it's easy. Most writers continue their own series, building each novel from the previous.

But in comic books and TV shows, it's difficult. A writer can sometimes create something, and leave it to another writer. The character may stick in your mind, and when the new writer comes on to take over that character, the character falters.

When I was a kid, I followed the character.

No longer.

Now I follow the writer. Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, and Duane Swierczynski. I followed them no matter who they took on.

Steven Moffatt is that way. Moffat created the show Coupling. It was basically a funny version of FRIENDS and the pre-cursor to one of my favorite sitcoms, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. He sprinkled the sitcom with wonderfully bizarre but relatable characters. He played with time. He told smart stories.

I next found him in JEKYLL. A modern re-telling of the Jekyll and Hyde story. Jekyll was a wonderful, funloving, giddy killer. The character, as told by Moffat, dragged you through the story. Time was played with. Fun was had.

He did the same with SHERLOCK. He brought Holmes and Watson into the 21st century. Added cellphones. Made Holmes a bizarre character, aloof in his own world. The best kind.

I've loved everything he's done.

And now he's the Dr. Who showrunner. I've never liked Dr. Who. It's too out there for me. Too sci-fi. Too much history and at the same time non history to follow.

But now... now I'm trying it. Because of Moffat.

Writers'll do that for you.

And, if the season premiere is any indication, I'm sold.

If only for this line, to the episode's villain. Totally earned. And typically Moffat.

"I'm the Doctor. So, basically.... run."

But I need more opinions. Should I keep on? Why?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

TV Gig

John McFetridge

A while ago I mentioned I was interviewing for a TV writing job and now I’m happy to report that I’ve just signed on to co-write the pilot episode of a new TV cop show. There’s a long way to go for it to become a series, but this is very exciting.

The show is going to be about narcotics cops in Toronto. It’s going to be on the CTV network (if it gets that far) and they’ve asked for it to be very episodic. This presents some real challenges for a show about narcotics cops.

Most network TV cop shows are about homicide cops – the shows often start with the discovery of a murder victim and the the next hour is finding out who the murderer is and then arresting them. So, it’s usually of a closed story.

With narcotics investigations the beginning and end aren’t so clear and the arrest is often not so satisfying as it’s usually just one link in a chain and often one that can be easily replaced. Something that was so well done on The Wire, but that was a very serialized show.

So, we’ve got some challenges ahead.

There have been a few TV shows about narcotics cops – The Mod Squad, Miami Vice, The Nasty Boys (I have to admit I’d never heard of this one about the Las Vegas narcotics squad).

Not that I’m asking you to do my work for me, but really, I need all the help I can get, so, what are your favourite TV shows about narcotics cops? What did they do well and what would you like to see in a cop show about narcotics cops?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


By Jay Stringer

Most people reading this probably aren't closely following English premier league football. But bear with me here. Wayne Rooney is an English player, currently plying his trade for Manchester United, who is a bit of a media obsession.

Every movement he makes -on or off the pitch- is documented, analysed and photographed. If he steps foot outside his house then there will be photographs. If he goes to the fridge in the middle of the night, there will probably be night vision pictures.

A few weeks back, in a game against Wigan Athletic, he committed an act of assault. With the referee looking elsewhere, Rooney ran up to a player and elbowed him in the face. If it had been done anywhere else -on the street, in the stands, on the side of the pitch- it would have been seen as a crime. He would likely have been arrested, charges would likely have been made. Expensive lawyers would have made expensive speeches written by expensive PR people.

The governing body of English football decided that they could take no further action. The newspapers laughed. Discussion was all based around whether he would get away with it, very little about the actual act itself or the potential damage done.

This week the same player scored a hat trick (when one player scores three goals in a game), bringing his team back from 0-2 down to eventually win 4-2. After his third goal, completing a remarkable turn around, he ran to the stands to celebrate and soon found a TV camera in his face. He swore a couple of times, then went and got on with the game.

He's just been handed a two-game ban. Letters of complaint are being written. The game has been brought into disrepute, and the newspapers are full of stories of a player out of control, and a celebrity who can't handle his own ego.

So you can commit assault and get away with it. That's fine. But if you swear on camera, thenyour ego is out of control and you cause a scandal.

Does it remind you of any genre close to all our hearts?

I remember talking to the brilliant Helen Fitzgerald once about one of her books. In a book that contained women being abducted, raped, beaten and set alight, the incident people were most shocked about was the killing of a cat. Be as violent as you want to a human, but don't hurt the bloody cat.

And recently reading reviews on Amazon for one of my favourite British crime writers, I was suprised to see reviews that complained about the swearing. This is an author who has had his characters chop up dead bodies, set fire to each other, crucify each other and commit multiple acts of brilliant deviance. But swearing? That's beyond the pale.

So how did it come to this?

Why are we entertained to see people, both real and fictional, tear lumps out of each other, kill, maim, elbow or screw, but we lose our stomachs and minds at something like swearing? How can we read about evils being carried out on innocent humans, but baulk at violence to a cat?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Foreplay For Readers

Darth Vader: There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you.
Darth Vader: Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.
Luke: I'll never join you!
Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough! He told me *you* killed him!
Darth Vader: No. *I* am your father.
Luke: No. No. That's not true. That's impossible!
Darth Vader: Search your feelings, you *know* it to be true!

You know that moment, in The Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vadar reveals the truth. That's a great moment. Not only do you have the element of surprise for the viewers, but you get the total shock, disbelief, borderline disgust of the character who just had the rug pulled out from under them.

Yes, it's a great moment. Movies, TV shows and books are filled with moments like that, when a story builds up to a reveal. And if the reveal turns the story on its head? Even better. Think The Sixth Sense. Or The Usual Suspects.

But reveals are not the only way to grab a reader with a jaw-dropping moment. Sometimes, it isn't a revelation that you should be building towards. Sometimes, it's a reaction.

I love reactions. It's probably the reason I'm a sucker for Survivor. Man, last week, tribal council? That was beautiful. "Don't get overconfident." That was the icing on the cake. The look on the person's face was enough.

It's also the reason that soaps are so popular. I mean, the audience knows almost all the secrets, but what keeps them watching is the anticipation of the moment when the characters find out the truth... and the anticipation of what the characters will do when they find out that truth. You want to see a great reaction scene? Terriers. Watch the whole season. The whole freakin' show was one great scene after another.

It's important to play fair with your readers, and it's important to build a credible basis for any revelations that are coming in your book. If you feel as though the readers will figure it out and that moment of truth will lose its impact, just remember that anticipation is like foreplay. The sex is never as good without it.

(I picked both WIRE clips because the first event, at the end of season one, is what causes two would-be enemies to join forces at the end of season three.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The guide to being an author in the age of the internet

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Yes – that is a lofty title to this particular post. Perhaps too lofty for me to accomplish alone. However, I’m going to take a whack at it in hopes that if I miss something someone will come to the plate and take their own swings.

Aside from the start of the major league baseball season, last week featured a terrible online moment for authors/writers/bloggers. You might have seen it. A blog featured a review for a self-published author that wasn’t entirely favorable. The author then decided to confront the reviewer in the comments section of the blog. Actually, the author commented more than once and was not only confrontational, but a bit classless. Word about the review and the author’s reaction spread over social media, as it has a tendency to do, and within hours there were over 300 comments posted. The author’s book also took a beating over at Amazon in the reviews section pulling 1 star reviews from people who were commenting on her online behavior and not on her writing.

We’ve talked about reviews here at DSD. Reviews are part of life. Good, bad, indifferent – authors have to deal with reviews and they are under an obligation to themselves to deal with them professionally. In the old days (yeah – I’m referring to less than ten years ago here), an author would get reviewed, tell all their friends and readers about the good ones and mourn the bad ones with a gallon of double fudge chocolate ice cream. If you didn’t subscribe to the trades, you never saw the review. Nowadays there is nowhere to hide. Social media spreads the word about good and bad – and let’s face it – it spreads the word about the bad much, much faster. Had the author from this week’s review meltdown kept quiet, the review would have basically gone unnoticed by the book reading universe. Her friends would never heard about it. Almost the entire pool of potential readers would never have seen it. The world would have moved on.

So here is my list of dos and don’ts for authors. Yes, some of these might seem totally obvious, but hey this week demonstrated that maybe for some they are not.

1. Keep your emotions and your conflict on the page – writers work hard at ratcheting up those things in their manuscript. Readers love emotion and conflict when it is central to your story, but they don’t belong as part of your public author persona.

2. Never put anything in writing online that you do not want to follow you for the rest of your career. A piece of paper can be burned but the internet is forever. Agents, editors, bloggers, booksellers and readers all can and do use Google. Trust me – you don’t want them finding this stuff.

3. Don’t create fake accounts on Amazon or on other review sites just to bump up the number of good reviews. Yes, people do this, and, yes, people get caught.

4. Always think twice before hitting send on any post be on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, e-mail or anywhere else. Refer to rule #2 for the reason.

5. Do not create a Facebook or Twitter account if you know you cannot control your emotions. This doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad promoter. This makes you self-aware.

6. Call your friends, family or favorite pizza place when you get a bad review. Never share that disappointment in public. It makes you look bad.

7. Never post on a blog where an author has created an unprofessional spectacle of themselves. You do not want your name associated with that kind of train wreck in any way, shape or form. With that in mind, you also don’t want to post Amazon reviews as a way of kicking an unprofessional author when they are down. Get out of the way of the train, watch it pass by and move on.

8. Posting a reviewer’s home address or phone number on Twitter (or anywhere else) and telling your fans to contact the reviewer to disagree with the review is never a good idea. (I wish this one had never happened, but a NY Times Best Seller did this. She has since heeded rule #5.)

9. Remember the Golden Rule. How you treat others online will determine how you are perceived. Does this mean you can’t disagree with people? Hell no! The best discussions I have on Facebook and Twitter are ones where there is heated disagreement. But it is the manner in which you argue and fight and even how you agree that is important.

10. When in doubt, turn off the internet and write. Hey – we’re writers. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

Well, that’s my list. What rules on your list did I fail to mention?