Jul 212014

Jeff Cohen

My children, who are in their 20s, do not really grasp the idea of episodic television.

Oh, they get that there's a new chapter in a television series every week, and that they have to wait until the next one is aired (or if they're binge-watching, 15 seconds)  to find out what happens next. They get, mostly, that the story doesn't just play from beginning to end in one shot.

But they don't know very much about the way television was back in my 20s. When the same characters showed up every week, but for the most part they dealt only with the problem posed by the current episode's writer(s), they solved it, and they they disappeared until a whole new set of challenges showed up seven days later.

On shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or  1180207320_1F Troop, there was no concept of a story arc. There was a story and that was it. Next time there would be another story. That's how television worked.

Things changed in the early 80s when Hill Street Blues and shows like it challenged viewers with continuing storylines that were not concluded at the end of the week's show. You'd have to wait to see what was going to happen, and sometimes it could take quite a while. Characters would recur from season to season. Viewers were rewarded for their attention with callbacks to previous episodes.

Now, television (particularly in one-hour drama) is almost entirely made up of stories that stretch over longer periods of time. And like most other things, it has some good and some less than good to it.

The new show  Halle-Berry-ExtantExtant is an example: Starring Halle Berry, it tells the story of an astronaut in the elusive "near future" who returns from a 13-month mission to discover that she is pregnant despite her belief that such a thing is not possible. Not surprisingly, answers to the main story questions were not provided at the end of the first episode.

And I'll tell you, I'm just tired of the whole thing.

Lost was the breaking point for me--years of hints, quandries, theories, suggestions, and in the end, the answers given were just as irritating as not knowing. I have avoided some you'll-never-guess shows since then, and not avoided others I wished I had.

You're wondering what this has to do with crime fiction publishing, and you have a point. Consider this: each novel in a series--and I'm trying to complete the second book in one series so I can start the seventh in another--is an episode of a television series. The same characters usually reappear, a new plot is introduced for them to confront, and their relationships will possibly shift or change depending on the circumstances of the story.

Except: I solve the mystery at the end of each book. The reader (who finishes a book it takes me around three months to write in an odd number of hours) is not asked to wait a year until the next installment shows up to (maybe) get some answers to the burning questions.

At the same time, though, there is continuity. Characters grow; they develop. I don't have patience for a character who is the same in book #5 as in book #1. If the silly bugger didn't learn anything from the first four experiences, I can't expect him/her to be any smarter about the situation now. 

Sometimes a character will show up as a minor player in a book and I'll realize s/he has something that can be interesting in the series. 9780738741512_p0_v1_s260x420Two books later, it would be a major omission to the reader if that character weren't involved in the action.

So there is both the Old Television and the New Television in mystery series. On the one hand, people will develop and change. On the other hand, they won't change a lot, at least not very quickly. Because that's the way life is: People tend to evolve rather than have an epiphany every time something happens to them and completely change their personalities in accordance with their new self-understanding.

On the one hand, the story will conclude at the end of the book. On the other, the characters' lives are (usually) not over, and that means their stories go on to the next installment. (In the Guesthouse books, they can go on even after the character dies, which adds a level.)

The one thing I won't do is introduce a story that is huge to the characters and make a reader wait until the next book to resolve it. I won't leave a pregnant Halle Berry wondering what the hell happened for however many episodes Extant will go on. That's not how I write.

Oddly, my children do read my books, and it doesn't seem to bother them.


P.S.: Of course we're sorry to see our pal Ben LeRoy leave DEAD GUY, but this Thursday we'll be thrilled to welcome the wonderful Terri Bischoff of Midnight Ink to the fold! Make sure you check out DEAD GUY this Thursday (and every one thereafter) to welcome Terri and get her distinctive perspective on the publishing scene.

Jun 162014

Jeff Cohen

I know; I promised this week would be the antidote to last week's post, in which I would show you how to write a really good query letter to an agent. And I still will post on that, even after Josh's rebuttal last Tuesday (which made very good points), but not until next week. If you were waiting with baited breath for that one... it's possible you need to reprioritize.

Instead, I felt the need to vent a little on the "holiday" of Father's Day, which if you're keeping score at home, was yesterday.

Today, Father, is Father's Day

and we're giving you Necktie-The-Best-Collection-Men-Necktie-Formal-And-Poly-Silk-Tiea tie.

It's not much we know;

it is just our way of show-ing you 

we think you're a regular guy.

You say that it was nice of us to bother

but it really was a pleasure to fuss.

For according to our mother,

you're our father.

And that's good enough for us.

--Burt Kalmar and Harry Ruby, "Father's Day"

Just a few short weeks ago, Americans (and for all I know, people everywhere else) celebrated Mother's Day, a holiday designed by florists and greeting card companies to exalt the concept of motherhood and move some inventory. 

I have nothing against Mother's Day, nor mothers in general. I think they should in fact be exalted and recognized for the impossible job they do raising children every single day. And that is exactly what happens on Mother's Day. You can see it in the respectful, reverent advertising that goes on for weeks before the Day itself:

Square_200_5922d8805ef7921354a78930 Tokyo-lebanon-mothers-dayKhoury-home-Mothers-Day-Ads-in-Lebanon

Mothers are, then, then, to be honored and celebrated on their day. Bravo (brava, actually). A nice idea. I always felt bad before the holiday at school for the kids who didn't have mothers while the rest of us worked on a card that (supposedly) looked like a flower, but okay. 

Good for you, moms. More power to you, and thanks for all you did and do.

So imagine my delight when this lovely specimen arrived in the mail days before fathers were to be equally well feted:


Father, Groucho Marx once said, is the town schlemeil. (That's something of a buffoon, Gentiles.) And while I could easily dispense with the once-a-year Hallmark fest because I have two children who show they love and respect me all the time, it's the presentation that rankles a bit.

Father-fruit-loom-hed-2014     Wearable-Sleeping-Bag-10-Fathers-Day-Gifts-So-Bad-Theyre-Awesome

Yes, that's right. All Dad wants is bacon in bed, a remote control, and a nap. Or a sleeping bag he can wear. (?)

The image of fatherhood has taken a pretty harsh beating since he Knew Best in the 1950s. Of course the antiquated idea of a man's home being "his castle," (which one assumes means he should have a crocodile-infested moat around it and parapets from which to pour boiling oil on rampaging Visigoths) has been swept away, and that's good. The family unit gets stronger when everyone has a voice.

But what's happened in addition to that is that fathers have become comic figures, and not heroic ones.  (I subscribe to the theory of Heroic Comedy, and this ain't it.) They are figures of ridicule, cliches, easy and fair targets. Make fun of mothers and you're a beast. Turn Dad into a grotesque figure who just wants to sit on the couch and drink beer, and you're the showrunner of a sitcom, making millions in Hollywood.

Oh, and by the way: Buy this Double_34855power tool for the old man. It's what he REALLY wants. (No, it isn't.)

So Father's Day? Eh. We didn't do much. Errands, mostly, some for my mom, some for my spouse, one for my daughter, recently back from wandering Europe following her graduation before starting work in August. The baseball game wasn't worth watching.  The only gift given was to my wife, whose birthday was a few days ago (we waited until the whole family was on the same continent). It required some assembly. Guess who did that.

And when you think about it, that's how fathers should spend Father's Day--reiterating the idea that we are essential, useful, and worthy of respect and love.

Maybe it isn't such a bad gig after all, huh?

May 252014

Jessy Randall


In a recent article in Salon, Susie Meister talks about her experiences on reality TV shows and her love/hate relationship with reality TV. Her piece is interesting to me because of what she says about the gender dynamics of reality TV, but here's the non-gender-related part that keeps reverberating in my mind:

"the cast is banned from bringing books, music, television, phones, cameras, computers, games and other forms of entertainment that would distract from cast interaction."

Well ... NO WONDER they all go batshit crazy and turn on each other! No books for weeks? I'd be crying, shaking, screaming, ripe for cult kidnapping.

Meister was on Road Rules and The Challenge, which may be different from my beloved Top Chef and Project Runway, but when I think about it, I'm not sure I've ever seen any of the cheftestants or designers reading books. I guess I always figured they were reading off-camera, for obvious reasons. But maybe they, too, aren't allowed books? I know the chefs can't have cookbooks, duh, and the designers can't have pattern books, duh again. But what about just books to read? I mean come on.


May 042014

Jessy Randall

I just finished binge-watching True Detective. Best show I've seen on TV in a long time.

Seems to me there would be a market for a book of True Detective craft projects, with chapters including:

stick sculpture (small)

stick sculpture (large, bones and skulls optional)

stick mobile

cross-stitch: "Death created time to grow the things that it would kill"

cross stitch: "All the dick swagger you roll, you can't spot crazy pussy"

beer can people

antler hat


And speaking of beer can people, here are some helpful tips for making them:

And here are fifty compelling questions about the beer can people:

Also, if you, like me, had trouble understanding what Rust was saying half the time, then you may enjoy this:

 And several other excellent parodies here.

Mar 032014

Jeff Cohen

You never know who may be listening to you--Paul McCartney, "Take It Away"

How about those Academy Awards, huh? Were you shocked? I was stunned.

I'm lying. I wrote this a week before the Oscars. Hey. Life gets in the way sometimes.

Still, thinking about the glamor and silliness of Hollywood--and the best thing about the Academy Awards is how silly they are--got me to wondering. My writing has certainly not made me a household name, and I'm perfectly fine with that. But if I'm being accurate (to the best of my knowledge), my books have, in the past few years especially, sold conservatively in the tens of thousands, and that's probably an underestimate. 

So after a while you start thinking that maybe one or two of those mass market paperbacks has made it into the hands of a famous person. 

It's sort of a cool thought. Who might be a fan of the Haunted Guesthouse series? There's no way of knowing, really, unless said celebrity were to reach out and communicate with the author (that's me). And so far, they haven't, with one exception, who was a friend before the series started and has blurbed a couple of the books.

Erin posted a while back about the impression an author leaves when making public his/her thoughts about politics or some other sensitive topic. The flip side of that is wondering whether someone whose positions I support might be reading my work.

Or what if it's someone with whom I disagree vehemently? What would that say about my novel?

So in order to prevent myself considerable embarrassment (after this display of undigestible hubris), I've decided to provide a list of celebrities whom I hope are or will be fans of my work. Because you never know.

My Hoped-For Famous Fans

  • Mel Brooks: Always at the top of my list, unless Harpo Marx is resurrected. If someone knows how I can get Mel a copy of any of my books, don't hesitate to get in touch;
  • Jon Stewart: The smartest comedian at work for the past 15 years. Can take an incredibly obvious joke and still make it hilarious. I don't even care if he likes the book; I just want him to read one;
  • Queen Latifah: Hey, a fellow alum of 8096523-standardFrank H. Morrell High School and multitalented performer. Jersey girl with attitude, someone I'd be proud to have as a reader;
  • Ringo Starr: The People's Beatle and funniest of the bunch;
  • Steven Spielberg: Let's face it--if he were a loyal reader, Josh and I would have heard from him by now;
  • Derek Jeter: Not only an unparalleled athlete entering his final campaign, but an aspiring publisher--someone get this man a book!
  • Bette Midler: Because she's damn funny;
  • Craig Ferguson: Doing the funniest, most subversive talk show on the air, and a fan of crime fiction who books authors on his show. Yeah, you could do worse;
  • Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Simply the coolest guy in any room he enters. A superstar astrophysicist? You know if Dr. T. likes your work, you must be smart;
  • Bill Murray: I'm not sure why, because I don't think he'd like my work, but I want to hope he would;
  • George Clooney: This generation's attempt at Cary Grant, falling a little short but way closer than most of us get. Smart, talented, committed; what's not to like?
  • Tina Fey: She's really funny, and if she publicly said she liked my books, my wife would be impressed with me for the first time this millennium;
  • Gene Wilder: The best comic actor of the past 50 years, and an author in his own write.

To be fair, of course (or even not to be fair), it's probably right to list a few celebs who, if they are fans of my work, I'd appreciate keeping it to themselves:

Thanks-But-No-Thanks List

  • Ted Nugent: Yeah, and his music is lousy, too:
  • Mel Gibson: I hold a grudge. Move on;
  • Rush Limbaugh: You shouldn't have to ask why;
  • The Duck Dynasty Guy: I'm almost ashamed to have a beard because of you;
  • The Boston Red Sox: Nothing personal. It's a religious thing;
  • Alec Baldwin: Luckily, he's getting out of public life, so that will never become an issue;
  • Vladimir Putin: Keep your shirt on, Vlad. I didn't watch your Olympics, either, so we're even;
  • John Travolta: If he can't get my name right, he's not going to be much help anyway; *
  • Justin Bieber: Get help, man--or just get better advice, and listen to it;
  • Isabel Allende: You know why.

For the record: I doubt any of these people has ever been in the same room with one of my books, but this is a fantasy league sort of thing, where you get to choose the names and assume they'll go along with you--or not. So that's my list. What's yours?


P.S. Recently the world of comedy has lost its grandfather and its funny uncle. Rest in peace, Sid Caesar and Harold Ramis. It doesn't matter how old you were; either way, it was much too soon. This is a world that can't afford to lose the laughs.

*Added after the Oscars

Feb 242014

Jeff Cohen

BALTIMORE, MD--It's not about baseball. Not this time of year, although there are stirrings in Florida that can cause a fan's heart to hope. It's not about the impending retirement of the noble Derek Jeter or the welcome relief from the year-long sabbatical imposed on Mr. Rod. No, I'm not in Baltimore this weekend, staying within spitting distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, for the baseball. It isn't here yet.

I'm here because a Mad_squirrelsquirrel got into my attic.

A few months ago, we woke up one morning to a nasty scratching sound in our bedroom wall. This is not something you want to wake up hearing, but it was undeniable and just as unmistakable. Something was living inside our walls, and that something was larger than a mouse.

You can be all anthropomorphic about squirrels and how "cute" they are if you want, but when one has taken up residence in your attic, it's just a rat with a fuzzy tail, and one that can do a good deal of damage. So we had an "animal control expert" come by, and he determined exactly how Rocky was getting inside our house. There was a hole in the soffet next to our attic window.

I asked him if the hole could be plugged, and Mr. Ranger shook his head. "You need a roofer for that," he said.

Well, the time had come. We'd been living in this house for just about 20 years, perhaps to the day, and had not addressed our roof except for a few patches after Hurricane Sandy had her way with the entire state of New Jersey and its neighbors. So the roof now had to be replaced.

That's not why I'm in Baltimore. Hang on.

After batting around the idea of a new roof for a few days, Rocky_the_flying_squirrelJessica and I decided it was best for a number of reasons, not the least of which involves our partners in all endeavors the IRS, to take our a home equity loan to pay for the roof. And if you're taking out a loan, you might as well get a few other things done. So we had a number of windows replaced too, just to experience the thrill (once this interminable winter, um, terminables) of opening a window and not having to prop it open with a book (I know, book lovers, but it's a cruel reality).

Still not the reason I'm in Barry Levinson's backyard. I'm getting there. Here. Wait.

Besides the roof and the windows, we had to prioitize the 15-million things that we could have chosen to fix in our ramshackle abode. And the one area (besides that roof) we'd been working hard not to discuss all these years was the staircase.

Our stairs, which go from the living room up to the bedrooms, were in desperate need of replacement. We'd talked to our contractor friend who lives across the street some time ago about repairing them because of the hideous, cacophonous creaking that caused us to pause the television anytime someone would walk up or down, or put the phone on mute because of the noise. And our contractor pal had informed us that repair wasn't an option. These stairs had to be ripped out and new ones put in. And he intimated, without actually coming out and saying it, that it was best we do so before someone were to head for the living room taking the local and end up there via the express. If you know what I mean.

So this weekend, two gentlemen (including our across-the-street neighbor) ripped up our Imagestaircase and installed a new and--since I can now verify it--vastly improved one. But it took the better part of three days, and there was no way to get up to our bedrooms while that was happening.

We decided on this particular weekend because it was one of the few coming up during which we had no plans, and initially assumed we'd book a couple of hotel rooms (one for us, one for our son the budding filmmaker and job seeker) and wait out the devastation. And then it occurred to me that if you're going to have a couple of hotel rooms anyway, it might be an idea to, you know, go somewhere.

It had to be within driving distance, and given the kind of weather we've been having since roughly Halloween, cancellable if necessary. And it might be a nice idea if we had an event, a destination, in mind for at least one day. So I started searching around.

And it turned out that this weekend, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was playing a series of themes from science fiction film and television, featuring our host, SuluGeorge Takei. And since we're all big Takei fans in this house, the deal was done. 

We returned Monday, before Josh's shift at the movie theater was to begin, to a lovely new and completely functional staircase, having enjoyed some film music presented by a distinguished group of musicians and an iconic actor and Internet personality. (Alas, there was no time to see Edgar Allan Poe's home as well.)

So greetings from Baltimore, Maryland, everybody. Except we're back in New Jersey now, and supposedly things will (sigh) return to normal. Sort of.

There's still painting and maybe a new floor in the kitchen to discuss. 

Damn squirrel.


*No squirrels were harmed in the posting of this blog.

Feb 102014

Jeff Cohen

There was much hoopla in the past few weeks about the date, 50 years ago last night, that a rock and roll group from England appeared on an American television show and "changed history." (You can't actually change history; you can make history. Once it's history, well, that's history. If you know what I mean.)

Nonetheless, I was not as ambivalent to the overblown festivities as I would normally be. I'm a lifelong (pretty much) fan of the ImagesBeatles, still think their music is fresh and amazing, and enjoy watching them be appreciated by those of all generations. So although the coverage was certainly disproportional to any event ever, it was not as irritating--to me--as almost anything else would have been.

This is not going to be another one of those this-is-how-the-Beatles-changed-my-life stories, I promise. I was all of six years old when Ed Sullivan put them on a bill with Tessie O'Shea, Myron John-lennonCohen (no relation) and a very young Davy Jones, in the cast of Broadway's Oliver at the time. Frankly, I wasn't all that impressed that night, and wasn't until I got to hear the studio recordings, on which there was no hysterical screaming by teenage girls. (After all, I was six. Girls? Ugh.)

No, my appreciation of what those four men accomplished goes in another direction, and I think somewhat deeper than most. What the Ed Sullivan performances show me are four guys who were just starting, who were used to the spotlight but not the United States, and who could have easily been exactly what the adults in the suits and ties were saying they were--a passing fad fueled by silly children.

Instead, they became probably the signature musicians of the century and their music is still relevant enough that today's PaulMcCartney60sartists cover their songs. Not bad.

I write books for a living. And in those books, I make up stories. If you want to call that an art form, I'm not going to argue, but it feels like entertainment to me. That is not to denigrate what I and my colleagues do; I have long droned on here about my high opinion of popular enterainment, and will not take back a word of that now.

The admiration I have for what John Lennon, Paul McCartney, MV5BMTUyNjE0NzAzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjQzMzU3._V1_SY534_SX475_George Harrison and Ringo Starr did is based in their ability to start as light entertainers and then grow into really great artists who were also fantastic entertainers. They never disappointed (unless you watched Magical Mystery Tour expecting a coherent film), but they also didn't rest on their laurels. They didn't stagnate.

George Martin, the producer of almost all Beatles recordings, has often said that one thing he loved about the group was that "they never gave me the same thing to do twice." The songwriters in the group were conscious of the danger in repetition; they wanted to progress with each new recording, and what is most amazing is that they actually did.

I have been struggling Imageslately with the feeling that I want to write something really notable, something that would stretch me into new areas, uncomfortable places (as a writer) and hit new heights for me. (Don't worry; this happens periodically. It'll blow over.) I don't want to stop writing the things I write; I love those--but I like to think there's something more as well.

Unfortunately, I suffer from a common malady among such entertainers as myself. I'm not sure what my limits are (I know; you're not supposed to have any, but we are given a finite amount of talent without an inventory of how much we have). And even such a revered writer as George Bernard Shaw, late in his life, was urged by a rather nervy acquaintance--Harpo Marx--to write something new.

Shaw looked over, stared Harpo straight in the eye, and asked, "Got any ideas?"

Yeah, I haven't hit on that yet.

And that is what, for me, is the defining genius of the Beatles. Given the opportunity to milk their success into a year or two of tremendous wealth and fame, they chose instead to push the envelope. The group recorded 13 albums of about 14 songs each. In a seven-year recording career. Writing almost all the material themselves, while touring almost nonstop for the first four years. That's astonishing.

The more they recorded, the more innovative they became. String sections in rock and roll? Why not? Backwards lyrics? Bass lines that were sung instead of played? Songs with false endings, concept albums, extended medleys of new material that didn't have anything to do with each other but managed to come together cohesively. Done, done and done.

A Hard Day's Night. Day Tripper. Yesterday. In My Life. Help! A Day in the Life. Here Comes the Sun. Hey Jude. I'm just getting warmed up.

So those of us who entertain for a living should take a hint from those four "youngsters from Liverpool," as the condescending and avuncular Ed Sullivan said. Don't rest on your laurels. Don't simply write what you've written before. Challenge the conventional. Write to entertain oneself as well as an audience. Try things that aren't supposed to be done and see if they work.

It doesn't hurt if you're a brilliant artist. Or four. But since none of us knows if that term applies to us, we must operate on the assumption that if we try hard enough, we can find out. Maybe we are brilliant artists, and we just don't know it yet.

Turned out The-beatles-0John, Paul, George and Ringo fit into that category. But ironically in the end, the love they took was not at all equal to the love they made. Countless millions were touched by the music those four men created. And they were repaid very well monetarily, no doubt. They also lost all chance at anything resembling privacy, their fame eventually drove wedges into their personal friendships, each one went through a divorce, one was shot and another died of cancer after being knifed by a madman.

Oddly, our memories of them are usually happy ones. We celebrate their work and we remember them fondly. And sometimes, when we dare to place ourselves in similar categories, we wonder, since they did it, if we can become great artists just by pushing ourselves to the limit. And maybe a little bit further.

Got any ideas?


P.S. Pitchers and catchers report in 4 days.

Jan 132014

Jeff Cohen

My beloved Garden State (that was NOT meant sarcastically!) was the focus of much news coverage this past week, when some good old-fashioned newspaper reporting revealed that highly ranked officials in the administation of Our Beloved Governor (might be a little sarcasm in there) might have purposely closed numerous access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a mayor from the other party who didn't endorse said Beloved Governor for reelection, of which he was pretty much assured, endorsement or no endorsement.

There's a lesson to be found here, crime fiction authors. You'll see in a minute.

At a nationally televised news conference on Thursday, the Gov took a couple hours to shoot the breeze with the press about this incident. And apologized, in his extremely imitable way, sort of. But when addressing the firing of a close aide, did he explain that it was because of the disservice to the citizenry? The flagrant illegality of what was done? The callous disregard for the citizens of Fort Lee and anyone else who wanted to get into Upper Manhattan for a few days in September?

Nah. It was "because she lied to me."

Forget the Claude Rains ("I'm shocked--shocked--to discover there's gambling going on here") implausibility of his declared amazement at what had happened. Don't even consider the possibility that the traffic gambit was the tip of the iceberg. The bit of wisdom we can all take away from this particular political nonsense is thus: 

It ain't all about you. Ever.

Some authors are tempted, for example when a negative review is posted on a web site, to rebut the points, even inaccuracies being presented as fact. Some authors (see last week's post) can't see past their own titles when considering possible excellence in the field. Some authors believe that the agents and editors with whom they deal should be devoted strictly to the advancement of said author and his/her brilliant product.

Oh, get over yourself. Just because each of us is intimately familiar with our works, and believe what we write to be fabulous in some way or another--a healthy ego IS necessary to do this job--doesn't mean the whole publishing world comes to a halt the moment your word processor keyboard cools off.

Consider the equally well documented case of one Mr. Alex Rodriguez, until recently third baseman for the New York Yankees: Mr. Rod has been suspended from all things baseball for a year because of a list of indiscretions involving banned substances that, from the sound of it, is impressive enough to drop the most jaded of jaws.

Mr. Rod was one of 13 players caught in a particular net, and the only one who didn't just take the punishment and slink back into the shadows. Granted, his punishment was about 3.25 times that of the closest runner-up, which again leads one to wonder exactly how many smoking guns he had left behind ("Leave the gun. Take the steroids."). Nonetheless, it was his handling of the brouhaha from which we can take our cue.

First, he exhibited confidence: The charges were false and he would undoubtedly be exonerated. There was no question. Until there was a good deal of question. Compromises were offered; deals were put on various tables, and it was suggested by the head of Mr. Rod's own labor union that perhaps he would be best served by negotiating. 

No way. Mr. Rod then clammed up. For a while. For the "good of the team," which was in awful shape last year but still had an unbelievably slim shot at success, which didn't happen. Once radio silence was broken, Mr. Rod attended the hearings on his case, even finding groups to picket the building where the hearing was being held. I'm not making a word of this up.

When it was clear things weren't going his way, Mr. Rod threw a hissy fit, banged his fist on the table, left the hearing in a huff, and headed directly to a sympathetic radio program, where he looked into the eyes of the host (and because of simulcast on a TV station owned by the Yankees, the viewer) and insisted he had never done any of the things of which he was accused. Nothing. Nada. 

The suspension was handed out on Saturday, and immediately Mr. Rod announced he would appeal it in federal court. Yes, he wants to literally make a federal case of a ruling that didn't go his way.

Authors, consider: Sometimes things aren't going to go your way. Some editors will reject your work. Some reviewers will criticize it. Sometimes the book buying public will simply refuse to spend its hard-earned money on your hard-earned brainchild. 

Think about how you look when you react. Denial--the editor asking for changes just lacks vision? Your ego can be seen from space; calm yourself. Hissy fit? You're petty. Escalation of the rhetoric? You have an inflated idea of your own place in the publishing universe. Refusal to budge an inch? Yeah, you have your artistic integrity, but you're overlooking one possibility--other people may be right about your work.

With your work, be open to suggestion. With criticism, be deaf to cheap shots. With your sales figures, be blind to any criterion other than whether you wrote the book you wanted to write and did it as well as you could.

Take the high road. But you might want to divert to the Lincoln Tunnel. I hear the traffic at the GWB is a little backed up.


P.S. Pitchers and catchers report in 32 days.

Dec 302013

Jeff Cohen

Let me begin by saying that I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. Promises made to oneself, particuarly those that involve doing things like dieting and exercising, are meant in earnest and forgotten by January 3.

Besides: Why not have March 28th resolutions? What difference does it make that Augustus Caesar decided this is when the year begins (and was careful to name a summer month after himself)?

But. I do believe in reassessments, and the arbitrary date ol' Augie set down is as good a time as any to take stock. I don't make promises, but I will consider the current state of, you know, me, and ponder what I expect to happen, not what I wish will occur.

Setting goals is good. Feeling like a failure for not hitting them is destructive. So I have set a few goals for the coming year, and will try to achieve them. If I don't, that's the way it goes.

Be It Resolved that:

  • In 2014, I'll have two novels published: The sixth Haunted Guesthouse book, currently with a title that can easily not be on the cover of the book when you next hear about it; and the first in the Samuel Hoenig Asperger's mystery series, THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD. I resolve that the next Guesthouse book will be better than the last, only because I believe in trying to improve each time. The Asperger's book can't be better than the last one, because there is no last one. No sense being silly about it.
  • In 2014, I will try to live a healthier lifestyle. Progress will not be measured in lost pounds, but in the way I feel. I feel okay now, so better would be pretty good.
  • In 2014, I'll teach my students to use punctuation properly; the difference between your and you're; that lie and lay aren't the same word. Will they learn it? Don't be silly. I'm not that good a teacher (and they should have learned all that in fourth grade).
  • In 2014, I'll do my best not to bother Josh and Danielle at HSG too often. (Note to Josh: please notice the word "try" in that sentence.
  • In 2014, maybe I'll read some books I didn't write. No promises.
  • In 2014, I'm making every effort to rewrite a screenplay I wrote back when. Yes, I know which one.
  • In 2014, I'll stop paying college tuition. (That's not a resolution; it's a fact.) Student loans? Those are forever.
  • In 2014, I will try to keep baseball in perspective. (Pitchers and catchers report in 45 days.)
  • In 2014, I will work harder on keeping my fingers pressed down on the strings.
  • In 2014, I will attend the Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic conferences. I hope some of you will resolve to say hello when you see me there.
  • In 2014, I'll do my best to come up with a more interesting post than this one each week.


Dec 232013

Jeff Cohen

Relax. There will be no Duck Dynasty comments made here. Some things are too stupid to merit discussion.

I am, I'm sure it is no surprise, not an Political_partiesapolitical person. I have opinions, as anyone with a working brain does. Not to worry: I'm not about to hit you between the eyes with any of my political views right now. If you want to know, feel free to ask and I'll be happy to answer.

But part of not being an apolitical person is to become involved, either as a participant or an observer, in discussions about such topics. And these days, many such discussions take place in cyberspace, because that's where we do pretty much everything now. You're reading this in cyberspace, after all.

Read enough of these things and you start to spot trends. So when I was watching one this past week about how... something or other... happens and one of the opinions expressed was that any information given was by definition suspect because "the media" distorts everything, my brain started to hurt. Again.

Man, I'm tired of people blaming the news Mediamedia for everything they don't like.

It's been a good long time since I was a legit member of a newsgathering organization, and even then I was a pretty feeble one. But the reporters and editors I've had the privilege of working with simply don't deserve the reputation they've gotten.

"The media" isn't responsible for you being uninformed or misinformed. You are. 

This particular trend, to point a finger at "the Media-spoonfeeding-cartoonmedia" and explain that the misinformed masses (meaning anyone who disagrees with you) are simply following along with whichever outlet you happen to despise (and yes, I despise at least one myself, but guess what--I choose not to get my news from that organization) once again removes the onus of getting information from the consumer. If we don't know where Syria is on a globe, or why Kim Jong Un offed his uncle, or which side of any idiotic Congressional debate we might favor, it is our own fault.

(Just as an aside: When people go on television and complain about "the media," who do they think THEY are?)

It's the responsibility of each citizen to seek out information, and if you're interested in being well-informed, one outlet simply isn't enough. Read both sides of an argument (yes, children, I said read, and not "watch" or "listen to" and certainly not "Google"). That's by design. Internet news is fine, except you only get what you ask for. A newspaper gives you what happened, and you choose or don't choose to read it. That's your job, and your fault if you miss something that's available to you.

Do some, if not all, news organizations distort some stories, intentionally or not? Of course they do. Guess what? It's up to you to analyze what you're told and see if it holds water logically. You don't just take in news and nod your head. Question. Research. Decide for yourself. 

I know; thinking, right? What a drag. But you have to do it anyway. It's not a reporter's fault if you drop the ball.

In the 1970s, Cronkite-smWalter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. Despite his strong political opinions, he kept them out of his reporting and told the viewer directly when he was offering commentary and not journalism. Have the lines blurred? Hell, yes. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be a more discerning consumer of news. 

The most trusted man in America today? Probably Tom Hanks. And he seems like a nice guy, but I'm not sure I need his reporting on Kim Jong Un.

I have my opinons. And I get my information from sources--yes, more than one--that I trust. But if they tell me something that is questionable, I question it. I do some research. I hear the opinions and the facts. And then I make up my own mind.

Stop blaming the messenger, ladies and gentlemen. We are in charge of ourselves. The buck stops here.

Oh, and Santa Claus is a fictional character. S/he can be whatever color or species you want.