Television: Doctor Who, "The Bells of Saint John"

Well . . . The music was good. Some of it. Although the fact that I was noticing the music either suggests it drew too much attention to itself or the episode wasn't engaging enough to keep me from looking for something else to focus on.

I just . . . Nothing about it was very scary, or eerie, or funny, or clever. It just kind of . . . was. A show. I mean, the fez and bowtie thing have been so overdone at this point that they aren't cute or poignant any more; they border instead on self-parody, though it feels more like the writers and producers (some of them are the same persons) found something that "worked" and keep pushing that button, hoping for the same great audience reaction every time. The law of diminishing returns, however, states the more you do something the less people will enjoy it. You won't get as many laughs if you tell the same joke over and over, even if you tell it twelve different ways.

The Doctor tripping all over himself for Clara isn't cute or funny either. Making her say "Doctor Who" again and again was obnoxious. And Clara stringing him along with, "Come back tomorrow, maybe I'll say yes," doesn't make me like her.

I didn't for a second believe her as someone who didn't know how to work the computer, either.

And I knew the moment the baddies started talking about a "client" they meant the Great Intelligence.

Said writer(s) and producer(s) is/are rather in love with his/their own work, it seems. Use of text on the screen? Didn't I see that on the other show? A lot? It's all become one big lump of sameness. Because it's all the same writer(s) and producer(s) and idea(s).

It's kind of like having that old uncle at family gatherings who likes to hear himself talk and tells the same stories over and over again. Except every now and then he embellishes a little more. And then you say, "Last time he told that one, didn't it have . . .?" and your mother tells you to hush and says the uncle will die soon anyway so let him have his say. Which is fine until, after a few more such gatherings, you start to think, Not soon enough.

Too harsh? I feel like maybe I'm being too harsh.

But I also feel like Doctor Who has very little that's fresh and new. I want to be either surprised, or amused, or creeped out, or made curious, made to really think . . . maybe, on the outside, heartwarmed . . . But I was none of these things. The episode felt very empty to me. Like a bowl. It had shape and the promise of potential content but all I found in it was air.

This doesn't surprise me, but it does hugely disappoint me. I was really hoping they'd step up their game. Maybe this is a toe-dipper and there are better things to come, deeper waters to navigate. One certainly hopes so.

Shout out to my readers in New Zealand who are hitting me up in scores tonight. XOXO


Television: Revolution, "The Stand"

You know, like the Stephen King novel.

By the way, if the pendants are "amplifiers," what are they amplifying?

I wasn't sure I'd continue to watch this show, and clearly (from my belated posting), one can tell I didn't prioritize it.

But anyway, we begin with Miles & Co. escaping Philadelphia and Miles plotting to use his newfound (and literal) power to turn all of what was once the United States into the Monroe Republic.

I can't get over the sense that Elizabeth Mitchell is really just reprising her role from Lost for this show. Exact same attitude.

Pretty stupid, I'd say, for the Miles Mob to head straight for where they know the bad people are going to be (i.e., the Rebel camps). I realize this is because they are "good" and want to help, want to stop the bad guys from killing all the good ones. But how to do that if you're dead too? No one seems to be thinking things through very well. As viewers we're supposed to root for them, heart over head, even as they follow their hearts . . . This is, I suppose, what separates these good guys from the rational, unfeeling bad ones. The good guys only kill when there is no other choice. The bad guys kills "preemptively" and often delight in it besides.

But I am not connecting with these good guy characters. And since my heart isn't in it with them, my head only continues to point out how dumb they act and react to things.

In fact, the bad guys—Bass Monroe, Major Neville—are far more engaging than any of the good crowd. It's easier to connect to them because they are more complex and more interesting. Not in a way that makes you want to side with them, but you'd rather watch them than Miles and Friends.

Neville's son Jason breaks with his father by disagreeing with the butchering of Rebels. He runs off to warn Charlie that the choppers are coming. But instead of running, hiding, the Rebels decide to (title check!) take a stand. (Again, like the Stephen King novel. Also: Randall. These writers really like Stephen King, I think.)

Speaking of Randall—remember him? from when Rachel and her husband took on a project from the government? and now he has Grace? (oh, and Colm Feore was in that Stephen King miniseries)—Rachel and Miles go to one of her ex-associates (John) for help, but he alerts Randall to their presence.  It turns out to be not much of a plot point, however, because Miles and Rachel escape without too much trouble. And they get some bazookas while they're at it.

Danny uses said bazookas to good effect against the choppers when they come against the Rebels. Alas


the choppers manage to cut Danny down, sending Rachel on a self-flagellation bender while Charlie merely redoubles her determination to fight against Monroe.

Randall drives (yes, drives) with John to offer Monroe his services . . .

And Rachel removes a blinking light from Danny's corpse (though, seriously, the effects were weak because it didn't even look like real skin she was cutting into) . . . We can, one guesses, draw some kind of line between this light and the unique operation Danny had as a child.

Previews of coming weeks suggest, too, that someone has Daniel Faraday's notebook.

No Girls Allowed (Female Television Writers, or a Lack Thereof)

People have started sending me links to this article by The Guardian about the lack of female writers for shows like Doctor Who. "Why haven't you written for Doctor Who yet? Or Sherlock?" I get asked that all the time.

Look, it's not for lack of trying on my side. You can say, "Maybe you're not good enough," and maybe that's true, except I've done pretty well elsewhere. And I'd say Moffat's track record (or lack thereof) speaks for itself. ::shrug::

The UK broadcast system in general, I've found, is not female friendly, the US system only slightly more so. But especially in the UK, it is a very incestuous grouping of men who collaborate and are tightly armed against anyone new coming in, particularly women. You'll see the same names over and over again in the credits (and often the same faces across a handful of shows as the actors also benefit from this knot). It's a nasty little web. And until some kind of action is taken to dissolve that, it doesn't look to change any time soon.

But maybe I should try to be more sympathetic and understanding. After all, there may be real psychological trauma involved here. Maybe this is just a group of overgrown nerds who find girls just as scary now as they did in grade school. More so, even, since we're bigger now than we used to be. Or, on the flip side, maybe this is their revenge against all the girls who rejected them in grade school. Who knows? But whether driven by fear or spite, the result is the same: No Girls Allowed.


Television: Smash, "The Bells & Whistles"

When last we left our starlets, Karen had ankled Bombshell to move on to Hit List and Ivy's Liaisons had crashed and burned, leaving her free to return to play Marilyn.

In a contrast of directing styles, in rehearsal Derek tells Jimmy how to act and react while Tom throws open the doors by allowing his actors to make suggestions for each of their characters. Neither of these styles is working.

Oh, and Sam (that flame of Tom's that I was wondering about a couple weeks ago) has returned. Tom wants to find him a part in Bombshell but all the parts are taken. And then—miracle!—as Tom is searching for a break in Act Two, he pulls out an old musical number he'd been playing around with as potentially part of some other show, and Sam puts on a show of his own à la Nat King Cole. Tom, in a directorial decision, immediately inserts the number into the show, which riles both Julia and Eileen. And turns off a major Arts Editor who has come to see a preview.

Derek is having his own brand of troubles trying to make Hit List fancier and more upscale by bringing in big LED screens and technology. But pretty much everyone else thinks it's the wrong direction for the show.

So Tom is too nice and Derek is too mean. Where's the just right?

Derek steps back and leans on choreography instead of, you know, sets by making a pack of dancers into "obstacles." Jimmy mostly makes ridiculous faces while singing.

Oh, and Julia . . . Who has lost Peter and now is dealing with Scott who, by coincidence, is the theater manager (? truthfully, I'm not clear who or what Scott is) for the place putting on Hit List. Wow. Out of all the theaters in New York, and all the people who might be working at this one, it's the guy Julia screwed over fifteen years ago! In a plot point no one cares about, Julia and Scott have a confrontation then make up.

Sassy roommate's name happens to be Anna. She wants the role as "Diva" in Hit List. So it's her turn to put on a song and dance in order to convince Derek she's right for the part.

And Eileen wrangles an agreement from Ivy's mother to play a role in Bombshell. That will be fun.

Despite Derek's continuous efforts to detach Karen from Jimmy and vice versa, the episode ends with Jimmy coming up to Karen's apartment. I wish I could see/feel any kind of chemistry here, but there's none. Maybe this is because I can't see why anyone would like Jimmy to begin with; certainly I can't figure out why anyone would choose him over Derek (though I'll concede the awkwardness of sleeping with one's director).

Considering Debra Messing has now signed to shoot a CBS pilot, one can more or less assume Smash will not see a third season. And if next week's previews were anything to gauge by, there's a good reason for that. While I do enjoy the show, it really reaches for its drama. Ooooh, Karen's dad might catch her with a boy in her apartment? What is she, sixteen? Oh, and Jimmy's dealer comes looking for some money Jimmy owes him? If I cared at all about Jimmy . . . But no, even if I did, this device would be trite and forced. I feel like, when there's dialogue like, "Do you like me? . . . No, I mean do you like me?" that the show isn't sure who its audience is. High schoolers who are staying up late? Grown ups who can't be bothered with Glee? Or, based on the ratings, almost no one.

Last week Smash could have ended with everyone satisfied. But now it seems we are to be subjected to the strangled mess that will be the end of the season—and the show.

Books: Official Release of The K-Pro

Cross posted from PepperWords


 The big day has arrived! You can now get your copy of The K-Pro in a variety of formats:

Or read the first chapter for free here!

 Andra Martineau is no ordinary young woman. She's a Klêidouchos Propylaia (K-Pro for short), which means she has the unique ability to help certain people get exactly what they want. And Andra is good at her job—her clients have gone on to become a veritable who's who of the rich and famous. 

David Styles is an up-and-coming actor with everything going for him: looks, talent, and countless beautiful women vying for his attention. But when Andra turns up in his bed demanding to know what he wants, his perfect world starts to spiral out of control. And it's not just his reputation on the line—what David doesn't know can certainly harm him, in ways he couldn't possibly begin to imagine.

With the help of David's incorrigible costar, Andra begins to realize not only her own true nature, but David's hidden identity as well. Andra is forced to battle not only her attraction to David (and she never gets involved with clients), but the being within him that wants to take away everything she holds dear. As David continues to lose himself to the strengthening form within him, Andra navigates the jealousies of the film's director and David's would-be paramour in an effort to save him. She can make others' wishes come true . . . But can she grant her own?

Funny, readable, and populated with a host of entertaining personalities, The K-Pro is a fast-paced contemporary fantasy with a touch of romance.

So far the reviews have been good, too:
"I’d recommend “The K-Pro” to readers of contemporary fiction whether or not they’re fans of fantasy—this isn’t fantasy in the “quest through a made-up world” sense, but in the sense that it takes our own world and douses it in a little magic. This is a charming, well-written and well-plotted book that makes me look forward to more by this author." –Erica Lucas
"This novel has everything that you want in a good fantasy novel . . . The characters are easy to fall in love with." –J. Hollister
And once you've bought your copy of The K-Pro, please hop over to Christine Rains' blog. She's helping me celebrate this release by hosting an article I've written about my adventures in self-publishing. It's been quite the learning curve, but it helps to have a marketer in the family. Still, even if you don't have personal access to a marketing guru, I give a few tips for self-publishing success. So go take a look!

Random Trivia: The K-Pro is dedicated to Benedict [Cumberbatch] because he was my original inspiration for the character of David Styles.

*signed copies will be available through Tintagel's Gate


I'm Still Mad At You, Variety

Remember when I told you how your new site sucks?

Your response has been two-fold. (1) You've opted to cease publishing the daily paper version of your magazine. (2) In your final print edition you put in a little how-to for your new site.

Guess what? That didn't make things any better.

You wrote about how your redesign makes things easier. For whom? What your redesign does is make things busier and uglier. You've got three columns of varying sizes going down the page, and then those are sometimes cut across by horizontal columns . . . It's a basket-weave mishmash of information.

Oh! But I'm supposed to use these little navigation buttons at the top of the screen. Considering there's so little organization to the content of the "front page" of your site, one would think clicking over to the section one wants to read about would make things easier. But if I click on the + one thing happens, and if I double click on the text something else happens. How fun. By which I mean "obnoxious."

What about VScore? So, you know, I can get that data I used to be able to get right on the front page when I came to the site? Your how-to tells me this is where to go for ratings and such. Except when I click on it, all I get is "Coming Soon . . ." How soon is soon? Things move fast in Hollywood, and numbers are key, but apparently VScore is still waiting for a greenlight. I give it a MeScore of F.

Yes, yes, I do realize that the far right of the front page has some box office info. Some being the key qualifier here.

I'd say I'm averse to change except I'm usually quite adaptable. It's when the changes are for the worse that I get grumpy. And if I, a 30-some-year-old, finds navigating your site to be the online equivalent of hacking through a jungle with a blunt machete, I'm pretty sure the old guys in the executive suites hate it just as much if not more.

Except they probably have interns to find that info for them.

So hey, Variety: I and the interns all hate you right now. Just sayin'.

Movies: Les Misérables

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway
Directed By: Tom Hooper
Written By: William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer (screenplay); Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schönberg (musical); Victor Hugo (novel)
Universal, 2012
PG-13; 158 min
4.5 stars (out of 5)


Let me start by saying I've never seen the musical.

As a freshman in Honors English Lit, we were required to read the novel (unabridged), and I hated it, so I steadfastly have avoided seeing the stage version. My thinking always having been, God, why put myself through it again?

I have many friends in theatre, and many who love Les Miz. But no arguments they could make in favor ever swayed me.

Now, though, having seen the film . . . I might like to see it on stage.

So what convinced me to see the movie if I hated the book and wouldn't go see the musical? Honestly, the trailers I saw last year made me want to try it. And then it kept winning awards, so I figured I really had to see it then.

I had managed over the years to forget (or block) most of the subtleties of the story. I remembered that Jean Valjean got thrown in prison for stealing bread, and I remembered he came out and made good for himself and adopted Cosette. And that he was still being pursued by Javert, though I couldn't remember why exactly. (I also remembered that one of the school projects regarding the book had us casting a potential film, and my group had chosen Patrick Stewart for Jean Valjean. But Jackman was good, too.)

Somehow, though, I'd managed to forget the whole bit with the Revolution (though I knew the story took place during that time) and the barricade and Marius and so on. And really, that was the least interesting bit of the film, too, though I understand that on stage the production is amazing.
Truth is, Les Misérables is pretty depressing. Not because of the central story, which (without giving too much away) leaves a viewer with hope and a bit of faith—something I don't really remember feeling when having read the book, but then again we've also just seen how I don't remember a huge chunk of the story either—but the setting, which for Hugo was the world as he lived it, was a bit dismal. I mostly sat through the film realizing how comfortable I am in my life, and being grateful I don't have to worry whether or not I can feed my children. By whatever Providence, I was lucky or blessed enough to be born and raised, and to live in a country—and in a strata—that at least has enough. And there are still such huge parts of the world, and also people right here in my own nation, who are not so lucky.

In that sense, then, Les Miz can make the viewer a bit uncomfortable (assuming the viewer is at all introspective and/or self-aware). That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's also not why most people go to see a movie or musical.

Of course, if they're going to see something that in effect is named "The Miserable Ones," they've probably asked for it.

The film itself, then, is quite an accomplishment. Mostly very beautifully done, though the matte paintings in the background were a tad distracting. The singing was . . . uneven. I wanted Javert to be more forceful. I felt like Russell Crowe couldn't quite commit himself to playing the role of "bad guy." But the thing about Javert as a character is, he doesn't think he's the bad guy. Not until the end. He thinks he's the hero. So I wanted more conviction from Crowe, particularly when singing those solo numbers.

Jackman did a lovely job, and Hathaway owned her few minutes on screen. I was less impressed with Seyfried and Redmayne as Cosette and Marius.

I think themes of faith in God (Valjean) and faith in the law of man (Javert) are interesting ones to explore. But I also think the reduction here of the complexities of the French Revolution are kind of a shame. There was so much more to it than simple class warfare. I won't go into a history lesson here, but my father's family left France just in time to keep their heads from getting cut off, so . . . I'll admit I may have some personal bias in the issue.

Also interesting is how Marius drops his revolutionary ideas and goes back to being happily wealthy once all his friends die and he has a rich bride on his arm. Um . . . So faith, yes, but also money. After all, Valjean gained his faith after the bishop was kind to him . . . But he still took the silver and used it to start a new life. The more things (and people) change, the more they stay the same, eh?

Jean Valjean was a good man to start with, trying to save his sister's son by stealing bread to keep them from starving. And he becomes a better man once he has the funds to help others more overtly. But maybe Javert isn't entirely wrong either, since Valjean does change his stripes—but only by painting over them.

I didn't mean for this write-up to become an essay, so I'll sum up by saying it was a solid movie that gives anyone with enough interest something to think about and discuss. And it was a good enough movie to somewhat diminish my early hatred for the source material.


Books/Blogs: St. Peter in Chains Revisited

So I've started work on the sequel to St. Peter in Chains; it will be titled St. Peter at the Gate and will pick up with Peter and Charles having settled abroad in Salzburg. More than that I can't (really, won't) tell you now.


If you're really needing a fix in the meantime, Peter and Charles will be central to my A–Z Challenge in April. You can read about the Challenge, and Peter and Charles's part in it, over on PepperWords. (PepperWords will also be where I'll be posting for the Challenge, so look there, not here, come April 1st.)


Television: Smash, "Musical Chairs"

So Derek has ankled Bombshell and is now helming Hit List. Having a bit of trouble adjusting to the much smaller scale though. You know, getting his own coffee and all.

Meanwhile, Tom is so enjoying directing Bombshell. But no one else is enjoying him directing it. Jerry again asks what the viewer is wondering: "What the hell am I watching?"

(Is this car ad part of the show?)

In a weird sort of pseudo-breakup and reconciliation, Tom courts Karen in director-to-star fashion. But let's face it: like all relationships, directors and stars have natural matches. Tom's is Ivy and Karen's is Derek. DerekVision (TM) doesn't work without Karen to spark it; she is his muse. And Tom and Ivy understand one another instinctively, while for him and Karen communication is an effort. Goes to show that the best theater shows (or movies, or TV shows) hinge on having the right chemistry between people.

Jerry is working to get Derek back as director of Bombshell while Eileen, Julia, and Meryl Streep's daughter work to get rid of Jerry.

Still, with so many pieces moving over the board, the end result continues to feel foreordained. There's really only one correct answer to this puzzle.

Liaisons is so boring, Terry and Ivy decide to spike it. This clearly gives Terry the wherewithal to go wherever he needed to go to motivate himself into putting on a decent show. Though he falls and injures himself after.

Seeing Tom and Ivy chatting after the show brings Karen the realization that everyone watching this show has known for two or three episodes at least: Ivy should be Tom's Marilyn and she [Karen] should move on to Hit List.

In short: Tom & Ivy = Broadway, Derek & Karen = more rock 'n' roll.

And Eileen & Co. confront Jerry with all his perfidies and twist him into submission.

One supposes the writers and showrunner knew odds were even that Smash would end this season. So here is a tidy package; the show might end with this very episode and be done.

But it's not quite done. There's a rumor NBC may move it to Saturdays—the place shows go to die. I'll be watching until the end, and I'll miss it when it's gone. In a viewing schedule heavy with drama, I find Smash to be my lift. It's also a drama, and I do watch comedies like Modern Family, but Smash fills a spot that no other show does. It is a strange and rare animal. Uneven, to be sure, but there's nothing else quite like it on television. And once it's extinct, it seems unlikely there will be more of this breed any time soon.

Food: Big Red Soda

It's that time of year again. The time when I order copious amounts of Big Red and stock my fridge and cabinets. Because while they have a lot of great stuff out here in California, one thing they don't have is Big Red.

In my life, I've never met another person who drinks Big Red. I'd say it's an acquired taste except I've loved it for as long as I can remember, yet no one in my family will touch it, so I have no idea how I acquired the taste for it. Maybe just from growing up in Texas and Louisiana, which is Big Red's natural habitat. I used to always grab a bottle of it for long car trips. Or freeze it at home for homemade slush.

Once at orientation for uni, I had a Big Red and my bunkmate (who was from Boston) asked if she could try a sip. She hated it. Too sweet, I think, for some tastes.

Big Red touts itself as a "red cream soda" but it doesn't taste at all like those caramel-colored creams. I'd say the closest description would be "liquified bubble gum." And since I love bubble gum, and all things of that flavor, Big Red is a win in my book.

Alas, it's difficult to find outside its immediate region, so I must resort each spring to hoarding it as if provisioning against some kind of cataclysm. Even so, it won't last the summer. But that's fine. I'll get my fix and then go back to Dr Pepper (which at least has a wider reach). And when next spring rolls around, it will be time for another huge order of Big Red.


Television: Bates Motel, "First You Dream, Then You Die"

Tense but not (so far anyway) very creepy, Bates Motel seems to aim for the whole Twin Peaks and/or Happy Town vibe.

Here is Norman Bates at age 17, living with his mother Norma (geez, way to lump on the whole tied-to-the-apron themes, there). His older brother is absent, and his father has just died. Norma sees her widowhood as a chance at a fresh start—"second chance" and "fresh start" seem to be her favorite phrases, and here again the writers go a bit far in repeating them—and so buys a rickety motel and its attendant home, made so famous in Hitchcock's Psycho.

But this is not 1960. Despite what seems to be a conscious attempt to evoke that era, such as Norma's Donna Reed-like dresses and a surfeit of cardigans, the kids all have iPhones too. Yet the juxtaposition is not as jarring as one might expect. In fact, the art direction here is quite lovely.

Not so lovely is the previous owner's threats to Norma and her son, and he makes good on them in a somewhat graphic rape scene that leads to murder.

As I said, the tension is thick. Vera Farmiga as Norma does a solid job of emotionally manipulating her son, and Freddie Highmore as Norman hits a nice medium of craving his mother's approval while simultaneously yearning for independence. His is a soft and squishy exterior, as in the kind of kid that might usually get teased or bullied, with a steel rod core.

Meanwhile, the episode also strongly suggests strange things going on in the town, hence the Twin Peaks/Happy Town comparison. (Not quite crazy enough to be David Lynch quality, but it may yet move in that direction.)

While I'm not sold on the high school hijinx plot line in which every girl in town makes nice with Norman, on the whole the premiere makes me willing to give the show another outing.


Television: Elementary, "Deja Vu All Over Again"

Holmes shoves Watson out of the nest by giving her sole responsibility for finding a missing woman.

Background: Holmes's father asks Holmes to help an attorney, who in turn wants Holmes to help his assistant (Rebecca). It is Rebecca's sister Callie who is missing and has been for six months; Rebecca thinks Callie's husband Drew may be to blame. (This made me wonder whether the writers were thinking of Drew Peterson when they wrote the episode.)

Meanwhile, Holmes develops an interest in an old case in which a woman was first given flowers by a stranger on a subway platform, then was pushed in front of the oncoming train by him. Callie mentions the incident in her farewell video to her husband . . . But why was Callie so hung up on it?

After interviewing Drew, Watson is convinced he killed his wife. Holmes moves things along by sending Drew an anonymous text message to "gaslight" him.

C Plot: Watson has been neglecting some of her old friends and must make time to see them. They stage an intervention, having heard Watson has become a private detective. With her drug addict client for a mentor. (Okay, yes, when you put it that way, it does sound a little crazy.)

Watson and Alfredo (that's a story from a previous episode, but in short 'Fredo is Holmes's sponsor) follow Drew to a storage facility where he removes an heirloom trunk belonging to his missing wife—one he had previously lied about having. Watson gets caught trying to check the trunk for Callie's body.

Between her friends' reaction and landing herself in jail, Watson begins to think she isn't cut out to be Holmes's protégée after all. But while visiting Rebecca to apologize for being "too aggressive" with the investigation, she sees a photograph of Callie in a jacket matching the description of the subway pusher.

So now the reason for Callie's fixation on the crime seems clear.

In a clever twist (finally! good job writers!) it turns out that Callie's video was made more than a year before. But in order to make it look once again like his wife had left him, Drew was forced to re-enact an old subway tragedy, and so became the subway pusher.

The one problem I do have with this twist is that it is somewhat unfair to the audience because viewers have not been given all the information (the earlier subway tragedy story) and therefore are unable to put together the entire story themselves.

Too, it does tend to be glaringly obvious when the writers use things like Drew Peterson and subway pushing, or other relatively fresh headlines, as springboards for stories. I find it a bit distracting.

Meanwhile, the introduction of one of Watson's friends (Em . . . Which is almost like M . . .) as a journalist has the potential of adding a new layer of interest to future proceedings. Assuming Watson ever has the time for her.

Watson's eventual victory appears to scrub her initial misgivings. What I would have liked to have seen is perhaps a little more concern on Holmes's part that he might lose his sidekick. I think this project of teaching Watson to be a detective has revived him somewhat, and it would be intriguing to explore the other side of that, i.e., what might happen if he were to lose this particular lifeline. Or if it were even seriously threatened.

This was a good episode, but all the character development seemed very superficial. Watson's concerns were over almost before they began. By the end of the show she was happily changing her online profile to read "Consulting Detective." So while the plot(s) were pretty solid, the interplay and emotions were perfunctory at best, and Elementary really does better when delving deeper into souls than storage bins.

Note: Next new episode isn't until April 4. They seem to be spacing them out and saving up the bulk of remaining eps for May sweeps.

Books: The 13th Floor Series by Christine Rains

I have posted past reviews of some of the earlier installments in this series: "The Marquis" and "The Alpha." Since then two more have been released, so I'll remark upon them together here.

"The Dragonslayer" was a good one; I liked the modern-day knight theme. I always was more of a girl who liked the chivalrous types over the bad boys. I found the reporter a bit obnoxious, but maybe that's just because I was siding with Xan (the titular dragonslayer), and he also found her somewhat irritating.  I didn't quite get the chemistry between them, but the story as a whole was pretty good.

But "The Harbinger," which was just released this week—this one is my favorite so far in the series. Using a mythical harpy as a heroine? That definitely beats the usual stuff out there. And again, Rains supplies a nice guy as the love interest, which is simply very much my speed.

I'd say on the whole the series gets better with each new addition. Two more to come, in April and May respectively. Something to look forward to.


Kids & Television

I received an e-mail asking if this might interest me, and I have to say, just based on personal experience, I can see a real difference in my kids based on what they watch on any given day.

Hardly empirical evidence, I realize, but here's what happens in my house: My kids get up, and they know how to turn on the television BUT they can't change the channel because we keep the remotes up on a shelf (and we're way past the days of hand dials). So every night I make sure the channel is set to PBS Kids. Or sometimes Disney Jr.

And do I miss a few nights? Yes.

One morning I discovered the kids watching HGTV. They were weirdly mesmerized. And then they all went off to draw their own versions of a "dream house." Not so bad.

And PBS Kids is fine, and Disney Jr. is, well, okay (but never my first choice).

And then there are channels like Hub. Those shows are so cute, I totally get it, and my kids just love My Little Pony and Pound Puppies. But the commercials . . . I can't go to a store without my kids pointing out stuff they saw on commercials on The Hub.

Do I feel guilty that my kids watch a lot of TV? Well . . . What's "a lot" I guess is my real question? I watched plenty of television growing up. Loved Pinwheel, Danger Mouse, all that stuff Nickelodeon imported. But I was also allowed to watch Moonlighting and British comedies and Dukes of Hazard and Love Boat . . . My kids don't stay up and watch adult TV. And they watch a lot less TV than I ever did. I had my own television set in my room; we have only one television set in the whole house.

I don't know how much TV my kids watch compared to other people's. TV seems to have become a guilty secret that parents aren't willing to admit to. Like a drug they slip their kids from time to time. No one really talks about it except to say they never, or at least almost never . . . Except maybe when they're sick . . . Or when mom or dad really needs ten uninterrupted minutes . . .

But hey. My kids are really smart. They have fantastic vocabularies and can carry on extremely intelligent conversations. (The pediatrician is utterly amazed at my 3-year-old's ability to express himself.) I'd like to say it's all me. That having a writer for a mother means my kids will naturally be articulate. And maybe that's part of it. But I'm kind of sure Sid the Science Kid has at least given my children something to talk about and be interested in. And I know for a fact that my 3-year-old, the one the pediatrician thinks is so amazing, has culled a lot of his expressions from Thomas the Tank Engine.

I think TV is like any candy or junk food. Everything in moderation. It's about portion control, and it's about taking in the "right" nutrients. We've all heard of kids whose parents never let them have candy, and then those kids grow up and eat nothing but cookies and become diabetic and obese (or something like that). It's the same with television. Let them have a little junk now and then, and also make sure they're digesting the good stuff. But (at the risk of upsetting some parents and/or doctors) don't abstain completely. Your kid is going to see TV eventually—at a friend's house, at the mall, wherever—so start good habits early and you won't have to worry later.

Courtesy of EducationNews.org Better TV Infographic


Television: Smash, "The Fringe"

Tom wins. (Which makes me wonder whether the writers of Smash really just needed to keep most of what had already been written.) And is Jerry speaking for viewers when he says, "There are a lot of songs . . ." And then demands cuts. (?)

And a re-worked Rent Hit List is on its way to the Winter Fringe Festival. With Karen in a key role. But when Jerry finds out, he demands Karen back out of Hit List because Bombshell should be her big introduction to the world. Given an ultimatum—do you want to do Fringe or do you want to open on Broadway?—Karen ditches Hit List to predictable results (i.e., a tantrum from Jimmy).

Meanwhile, Peter works to drive a wedge between Tom and Julia by using the Bad Dialogue Generator to tell her that Bombshell no longer needs her and that Tom has already left her. Then Peter invites Julia to London.

Apparently Tom must prove his love for Julia (as a collaborator) by convincing Jerry to keep one of Julia's favorite songs. He does this by giving Karen new direction and motivation, which sets Derek's back up since, you know, he's the director. When everyone loves the new direction . . . And really, when the problems with theatre-by-committee come to the fore . . . Derek quits the show.

Oh, and Ivy's show is tanking. Until Ivy makes the workshop audience laugh. Which makes Terry insist her number be cut. But at least he's honest about his reasons: he wants to be the funniest on the stage. But Ivy's brutal honesty works for her; when she tells Terry how awful the show is, and how awful he is in it, he gives her the song back.

In a completely unnecessary, time-filling scene, Karen, wearing a dress that looks like some curtains I had when I was five, goes back to the Fringe Festival to confront Jimmy and tell him not to take his temper out on everyone else.

Derek goes to check out Hit List on its last night, and surprise! Karen is in the show! DerekVision (TM) returns! (Really, all of Smash should be in DerekVision (TM).)

[Nobody on a plane is that nice, Windows. No one gives a little kid their tablet. I don't give my own kids my tablet. And I'd feel weird if some stranger gave my kid his.]

So of course Derek ends up agreeing to direct Hit List. Jimmy will star, but Karen opts out because she's signed to Bombshell.

And Eileen, tipped off by hearsay from Karen, discovers proof of Jerry's perfidy. Then she and Julia put Tom up as director for Bombshell.

The real shame in Smash is how terribly predictable the story lines are. All my snarking aside, it's a fun show, one I look forward to each week. But I wish they'd do something really surprising. As things stand it's easy to see Karen going for Hit List and Ivy stepping back into Bombshell (since Tom is her big champion, so if he's going to direct the show . . .) The supposedly make-or-break decisions of these characters always seem predestined. There's not yet been a point at which I've really wondered what someone will do; my biggest question is usually when they'll get around to it. So I think Smash would benefit from some real turnover.

Ah, well, it really is all predetermined now. The second season wrapped filming not too long ago, and it probably won't see a third. Enjoy it while you can, friends.


Odds & Ends

One of my Sherlock Holmes stories is free on Amazon Kindle at the moment. Go get it here.

And then read my other stuff (including one other Holmes story, the novella version of my award-winning screenplay St. Peter in Chains, and the brand new and highly rated K-Pro), all of which is listed here.

And if you still want more Sherlock stuff, just for fun you can go over here.


The State of Things

So here's where I'm at:

I've been asked to pen this script, so that's a priority. Hope to have the first draft done by the end of the month.

And there's the K-Pro book launch. I'm looking over proofs for the hard copy now. (It's already on Kindle if you want to read it that way; other formats will come online on the official launch date of March 26.)

And my Sherlock script has done well in competition (finally), though it needs some rewriting . . . But since it's just a spec/writing sample, that goes to the back. (You can read a draft of it on my Stage 32 profile under Loglines & Screenplays.)

So I'm busy and not reading as much (though I have started The Dante Club and really like it, except it's giving me grotesque dreams). And shows like Elementary, which I usually cover here, have been in repeats. Though I'll go ahead and take this moment to admit I've been late to the Community party but really enjoyed last night's Thanksgiving episode.

Revolution is coming back in a couple weeks, too, and I might try to watch it. Or not.

Lots of movies I keep meaning to see. When I have time. I'll write about those when I do. Have time. And see them.

Finally, back to London in July. Looking forward to that.

So stay tuned; I do intend to keep content up here as much as possible.


Books: The K-Pro

Early reviews count The K-Pro as a unique and fun fantasy. "[E]verything you want in a good fantasy novel" and "The characters are easy to fall in love with." Also, "left me enjoying every page."

To be clear, this is no sword-and-sorcery, high-fantasy novel. It takes place on a contemporary film set on the English coast. But it takes "movie magic" to another level.

Although the official release date is March 26, Amazon Kindle users can read it now. (Here's the UK version; other regions are also available.)

On March 26 Nook, iBooks, and Kobo readers will also be able to get The K-Pro. And we're working on a paperback as well; ideally it will be out on the 26th, too, pending the proofing process.

So go forth, read, and (hopefully) enjoy!


Television: Smash, "The Read-Through"

Now we have TomVision(TM)? Not nearly as entertaining as DerekVision(TM) though. And apparently Tom mostly envisions variations of himself, male and female, and of many different nationalities.

And in case Bombshell's read-through, er, bombs . . . Derek gets Kyle's and Jimmy's Hit List a slot in the Winter Fringe Festival. That way he won't have all his eggs in the Bombshell basket.

Meanwhile, a random guy gives Julia cause to question Peter's loyalty. The writers for this show are far from subtle about inserting plot points and exposition.

And Ivy is having trouble dealing with the fact that the lead in Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a comedy star (Sean Hayes) turning the show into a farce. Sort of like casting Jerry Lewis as Hamlet. Ivy takes the brave step of privately telling Terry (Hayes) that the play is actually a tragedy. Backfires when Terry and the director get together and decide to "lighten" it up.

The real tragedy, however, is that Karen is mooning over Jimmy. It's sappy and one-note.

Also, random return (and extended use) of Karen's sassy new roommate. Is she going to be a "real" character now? What happened to all the other friends Karen had? And while we're at it, that guy Tom was dating?

Julia's suspicions of Peter are confirmed by an encounter with Jerry's assistant. Or so she thinks . . .

While Bombshell gets its read-through, which goes over very well, Hit List is simultaneously getting one of its own. Jimmy's songs sound very radio-friendly. But the story itself—the dialogue and characters—don't go over so well. And so while Bombshell gets a green light, Hit List is sent to the back burner.

Ivy shames Terry by refusing to cop to his asinine behavior. Which somehow compels him to go off his meds.

Oh, and Nick is in the slammer. Does anyone still care about Nick? I don't.

And Karen's roommie lays it on the line for Jimmy by telling him not to toy with Karen.

New plan for Hit List: make it more like Rent by stripping it of dialogue and turning the entire story into a pseudo-opera. (And by the way, Jimmy believes Karen is dating Derek.)

Finally: Jerry tells Derek, Tom, Julia and Peter that though the reading went well, Bombshell is not Broadway material. And here comes the big twist: he wants to produce the show BUT . . . He wants to work from the workshop draft from seven months before. A draft Tom had sent him.

Time to bring in Eileen to break the tie. Old draft or new?

We won't know until next week, but one has to wonder: can Eileen legally produce, or otherwise be involved in, whichever one is NOT Bombshell? Could we have dueling Marilyn Monroe shows? And Eileen and Jerry going head-to-head? Tom versus Julia?

Nah. Overkill.

Right? . . .


Variety's New Site


Seriously, Variety, you've just made it more difficult for me to find anything. So what reason do I have now to frequent your site? Um . . . Hold on a sec . . . Oh. None.

I've tried multiple times since your "relaunch" on Friday to find ratings information. You know, that little chart that was on the front page of the old site? Can't find it on the new one.

Instead, I'm being subjected to annoying ads that have no "close" button.

I get Daily Variety in the mail, of course, but since they can't seem to get it to me on a regular basis, I had been using their web site to keep updated. Alas, with this revamping now even the site is incapable of making itself useful.

And so I will need to go elsewhere for my info.


Books: What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? by Jack Douglas

This is a book I picked up years and years ago in a second-hand bookstore. Those places are filled with such treasures, books one would never have found, never have heard of. I'd never heard of Jack Douglas before finding this book, though according to the flyleaf he'd written several other books besides. But this one is from 1971, which is before I was born, and so Douglas clearly belongs to an earlier generation than mine.

Doesn't stop my enjoyment of him, though.

What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? is for people who enjoy the likes of, say, Dave Barry. It's slice-of-life humor in which Douglas writes about moving his family from Ontario to Los Angeles after he gets tapped to help write a screenplay. Hilarity ensues as Douglas, his Japanese wife, their sons, two dogs, a wolf, and a mountain lion navigate the Hollywood system. (And trust me, even with the menagerie, Douglas is still more sane than the studio execs.)

Sample text:

"How would you like to go to California?" I said.
"You mean Disneyland?" Bobby said.
"I guess I do," I said. "But they used to call it California."

Okay, so maybe I like this book because I'm a screenwriter. (I'm allowed to say that for real now that I've won an award.) But even before I'd written my first script, or even read anything by Dave Barry, I liked this book, which I discovered when I was in junior high. I take it off my shelf every few years and re-read it, usually over the summer; it's good, light-hearted fare for that time of year. And so now, as the weather out here on the West Coast is warming, and as I've been tapped to write a script of my own, I'm thinking about giving Douglas my attention once more.

And one day I'll maybe even go find some of his other books, too.


Television: The Following, "The Fall"

What we learned: Kevin Bacon is way better than James Purefoy at fucking with people's heads. Seriously. Watching Ryan Hardy mess with Jacob and Paul was really the only good thing about this episode.

Also, this was the last episode of The Following I will ever watch. Because really, this kidnapping thing is being dragged out, and the counter coups by Carroll's minions are starting to be ridiculous. If Emma had at least gotten a bullet in the head I might've been up for more, but no. I cannot stand the snail's pace of this show, and the fact that we always end up back at square one. There's no progress. It's the same problem I have with Revolution (and I haven't decided whether I'll still be watching that when it returns either).

Weird coincidence, though: as I was deleting the series recording from my DVR, James Purefoy only about twenty years younger appeared on my television screen. Turns out "The Boscome Valley Mystery" (Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes) was on . . . My worlds were colliding there for a minute, but I got over it with the help of some Oreos.

The Deck of 1000 Spreads

Here is where I admit my weakness for Tarot decks. Some I buy just because I like the artwork on them, a few others because I feel a connection to them. I'm no adept when it comes to reading these cards; in fact, I wouldn't say I entirely "believe in" them (and maybe that's what works against my being able to read them well, though I will say they make more sense when I'm reading for someone else than for myself, so I suspect it has to do with personal biases). I don't necessarily think Tarot cards predict a future any more than a horoscope does. These things are more like food for thought, at least for me, rather than a faith.

But all that aside, I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to play with and read the cards. Need an excuse to own all these decks, after all. I've worn out the Celtic Cross spread and all its kin, but being that I am not, as I said, some expert, I thought this Deck of 1000 Spreads might be fun.

The gimmick is deceptively simple. There are 65 color-coded cards, 59 of which are pre-printed with things like: Goal, Advice, You, Negative Influences . . . You get the idea. (The other six cards are blank so you can use them however you like.) You use these cards like a game of Tarot Twister, creating your own spreads by putting the colored cards down first as placeholders. Then you lay the Tarot cards on top of these cards. An example below:

You see how each of the pre-printed cards also offers guidance on how to interpret whichever Tarot card lands there; these notes also help in determining which of the Twister-y cards to use when creating a spread. (That deck I'm using is the Harmonious Tarot, btw, my personal favorite and the only one of my decks I use daily.)

For anyone feeling a little uncertain about laying out their own spreads willy-nilly, well, the accompanying book has suggestions that you can start with and build on as you get more comfortable.

Also, with all these options, it is possible to get a little carried away. After playing with it for a bit, I found myself laying out 14-card spreads, at which point I thought, Now this is just ridiculous. Because there has to be a tipping point, doesn't there? Do you really need to use the Romance AND Relationship cards? Or are you able to understand the nuances that differentiate the two, and is there no such thing as too much information? At the very least I would recommend dipping your toes before diving in.

Still and all, not a bad tool. Novices will appreciate the helpful indicators on the cards, old hands may enjoy the freedom this spread-building deck offers. Not that they couldn't make up their own spreads before, but the cards help focus one's intent at each point in the spread.

And yet . . . Beware. They can be a tad distracting, too. So if you do use these cards, you may want to redouble your focus once you begin laying the Tarot cards over them.

Oh, and this kit doesn't come with a Tarot deck. So be sure you already have one, or order one in tandem.