Friday, January 14, 2011


Things were going on behind my back.  I hate it when things go on behind my back.

Turned out that Literary McAgent had pitched me to Team McGrouchy after the male ghostwriter who Literary initially wanted for the project -- remember, Cranky McGrouchy wanted to work with a dude -- had the gall to bring in his own agent to negotiate with Literary.  (As she was too cool for school, Literary couldn't stomach being involved in a package that wasn't her's, and her's alone.)  Turned out that I was number one, two, and three on the list of potential ghosts for Cranky's book, and there wasn't any number four.

I had no idea this had gone down until 8:45 on a Saturday night, when I was hunkered down at home for a night of Netflix.


Me: H'lo?

Wimpy McGrouchy: Ghosty?

Me: Yeah.

Wimpy McGrouchy: Wimpy McGrouchy.

Me: Who?

Wimpy McGrouchy: Wimpy McGrouchy.  Cranky McGrouchy's manager.

Me: Oh.  Wow.  This is a surprise.

Wimpy McGrouchy: What, Literary McAgent didn't tell you I'd be calling?

Me: Yeah, no.  Not so much.

Wimpy McGrouchy: Okay, well, Cranky is doing a couple sets at The Giggle Factory, and she's going on in about 15 minutes.

Me: Um, I live over an hour from The Giggle Factory.

Wimpy McGrouchy: Cool.  So I guess we'll see you for the second set.

So much for the Netflix.

I made myself presentable, slapped on some clothes, Mapquested The Giggle Factory, and split.  Forty-five minutes later, I were lost as hell.  (Suck it, Mapquest.)  Twenty minutes after that, I got my bearings back and found The Giggle Factory.  Fifteen minutes after that, I found a parking spot.  Oy.

I'll spare you the details of tracking down Wimpy, because a recounting of badly given directions via text isn't the least bit interesting.

When we finally connected, Wimpy took me into the dressing room, and there, in all of her glory, sat Cranky McGrouchy.  I pasted on a smile, stuck out my hand, and said, "Ghosty McGhostwriter.  A pleasure."

Cranky looked at my hand, then looked at me, then my hand, then me.  Then she said to Wimpy, "Yo, cuz, how do we get some food up in this bitch?"

Next: Cranky and Ghosty converse.  Ish.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Our cast of characters:

Ghosty McGhostwriter: An ever-awesome literary collaborator.

Literary McAgent, Jr.: An ever-frustrating literary agent.

Cranky McGrouchy: An ever-angry stand-up comedian.

Wimpy McGrouchy: Cranky's ever-spineless manager/cousin.

Cool McEditor:  An ever-cool editor.

There are a whole heap of people whose books I'd love to ghost: Meryl Streep, Lorne Michaels, Bruce Springsteen, Liz Phair, you know, those sorts of random, seemingly cool folks.  (I'd put Brett Favre on that list, only because I'm curious to see if he'd text me a photo of his undoubtedly teeny weenie.  What a douche.)  I think big now, but back in the day, I shot low, and took what I could get.  (Shit, who am I kidding: I still take what I can get.)  So when Literary McAgent told me she'd landed a deal for the hot comic Cranky McGrouchy, I threw my hat in the ring.

Cranky was a stand-up who'd dome some time on an ensemble sketch show, and while she was inconsistent, she had moments of pure genius.  Very lowbrow genius, certainly, but genius nonetheless.  I thought, This foul-mouthed chick might just have a book in her.

I called up Literary and said, "Attach me to the project.  Attach me to Cranky.  I'm in."

"I dunno, babe," Literary said, "Cranky kinda wants to work with a guy.  She likes dudes.  A lot."

"Um, isn't she married?  With kids?"

"Yeah, but she's not a fanatic about it.  She digs strip clubs."

"Male or female?"


That was a big ol' a red flag right there, but sometimes I'm dumb about those things.  I said, "Well, if she decides she wants to work with somebody who she can't bang, I'm here for her."

"I'll let her know, babe.  I'll let her know."

Much to my eternal regret, Literary let her know.

Next: In which Ghosty has a face-to-face with the surprisingly cranky Cranky, and the ill-equipped Wimpy, and briefly fears for her life.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Ghosty McGhostwriter on Twitter:

Ghosty McGhostwriter on Facebook:


I still have no idea how Literary McAgent convinced Confused McManager to convince Mumbles McReality to cancel her trip to China and make herself available to me.  Maybe it involved giving up some of her commission.  Maybe it involved an expensive dinner and a bunch of drinks.  Maybe it involved a blow job.  I didn't know, and I didn't care (much).  I was just happy that what was shaping up to be an entirely impossible gig improved to only a slightly impossible gig.

Over the next four days, I managed to get eight hours of Mumbles on tape, which wasn't anything close to enough material for a book, but I suspect that even if I had five times that much, it wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference, because the girl had nothing.  No insightful stories about her childhood, no cute anecdotes about her castmates, no response to the rumors that she was gay, no comment on my gentle probing about her drug use, and, worst of all, no concrete answer to my questions about where she scored her weed.  Since these tapes would yield me, at best, 30,000 words -- about 125-ish pages -- I was going to have to pull a book out of my ass.

So I did what any ghostwriter would've done: I went to the videotape.

I transcribed most every word that came out of her mouth on Your Reality Show of Shows, a painful endeavor, because Your Reality Show of Shows was the lamest reality show in the history of reality shows.  (I'm not saying that from a snobby perspective; I likes me some quality reality tube as much as the next girl.  I mean, without Top Chef, the world would be a bleaker place.)  Since Mumbles got kicked off the show only seven weeks in, there wasn't much transcribing to do.

There's no exciting ending to this little tale.  For the next two weeks, I wrote for 14-ish hours a day, somehow managing to complete a competent 60,000-word manuscript.  And when I say 60,000 words, I mean 60,000 words.  I couldn't have come up with another sentence if you put a bazooka to my boobs, but the editor was happy, and that was good enough for me.

It's possible that Mumbles read some of the first draft, but I'm certain she didn't make it through the whole thing, because after I emailed it over, she didn't give me one single editorial note, so the book that was eventually published to shitloads of derision was virtually the draft of the book that I turned in.  Not one of my finer pieces of work, but it kept the lights on for a few more months, so there's that.

The moral to our story is, if you find yourself crashing a book for a weeded-up pseudo-celebrity, well, don't.

Next: Ghosty McGhostwriter Meets the Angry, Angry, Angry Stand-Up Comic.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I've been lucky enough to have two perfect clients.  That's a shitty batting average, but in ghostwritingland, you take what you can get.

The question is, what, to a ghostwriter, constitutes a perfect client?  For me, it's all about the Three P's, baby: Punctuality, preparedness, and positivity.  After years of doing this, it's gotten to the point that if I could only pick one P, it'd be the first one.

See, celebrities don't work under the same time constraints as you or me.  Like what time do you show up at work?  When you're supposed to, right?  Now in Ghosty world, a book equals work, and if we set a 10:00 meeting to prepare said book, I'm ready to go at 9:55, and blah blah blah, yak, yak, yak, you get the point.

When it came to being late for a meeting, my old pal Child McStar set the gold standard, if only because of her remarkable consistency.  She was committed to lateness.  She owned it.  You knew that if she said she'd be ready to go at 9:00 AM, she'd be ready to go at 9:00 PM.  It was inspirational.  Mumbles McReality wasn't in Child's league, but she represented nonetheless.

The previous day, Confused McManager sent me an email warning me that Mumbles was a late sleeper, and probably wouldn't be functional before noon, but he also promised that because of the urgency of the project -- i.e., two-ish weeks to complete 60,000 words -- she'd be ready to roll each morning at 9:00.

Yeah, not so much.

On the plus side, starting at 9:15-ish, Mumbles stayed in touch with me via Confused McManager, who was assigned the task of calling me every 15 minutes with an update that inevitably went like this: "She'll be ready in fifteen minutes.  Promise."

The morning of the first Mumbles/Ghosty interview session, I received seven of those communiques.  7 x 15 = late.  Really honking late.

Was it worth the wait?  Meh.  Aside from the fact that Mumbles mumbled, she wasn't particularly forthcoming.  Getting any useful information from her was like pulling teeth, or pushing rocks, or insert your own metaphor here.  After two hours of cajoling, I had enough material to write, I dunno, three pages.  Maybe two.

Mumbles ran out of energy -- she didn't have too far to go, really -- so we shut it down and set a time for the following morning.  Mumbles promised she'd be on time.  At least I think she did.  That's how I translated "Mrgllefwop gshvinktzoid bnbnanbn ssssssss."

After that waste of collective breath and anytime minutes, I called Literary McAgent.  "How'd it go, babe?" she asked.

I filled her in on the Great Nothingness that was our interview, then said, "You know Mumbles is going to China next week."

"It's my job to know, babe."

"Of course it is.  But did you actually know?"


"Yeah, she's leaving the country, and I have nothing, and if it keeps up like this, I'll have less than nothing, and she'll be gone, and I'll be screwed."  What I meant by I'll be screwed was that I would be blamed if the book wasn't completed on time.  Y'see, most publishers don't give a damn as to why a project isn't completed on time.  At the end of the day, they want a book delivered, and if it's not delivered, they blame the person who's supposed to do the actual delivering, that being the ghost, that being me.

Literary said, "Hold on a sec."

"But..."  And then, hold music.  Two minutes of listening to Kenny G. later, Literary clicked back on and said, "I talked to Confused McManager.  We're gonna Skype it."

I said, "Um, what?"

"Yeah, we're gonna Skype it.  She'll go to China, she'll do her thing, and she'll Skype you for the interviews.  Seriously, Ghosty, I'm a genius.  I amaze myself."

"Okay," I said, "Two problems.  One, how can we guarantee she'll make herself available?"

"We can't, babe.  That's part of the fun.  What's the other problem?"

"We'll be 12 hours apart.  She'll maybe be ready to talk at noon her time.  That'll be midnight my time."

"What's your point?"

"She's already made me wait on U.S. time.  If she makes me wait on China time, I'll be up all night."

"That's why we're paying you the big bucks, babe."

I said, "You're not paying me the big bucks."

"Yeah, I know.  That's just an expression."

"Literary, I don't know if I can do this."

"What, you don't want to say up past your bedtime?"

"Well, no, I don't, but I will if I have to.  But I don't know if I can stay up past my bedtime and write a book in two weeks."

"Oh, yeah, right, you actually have to write the book, don't you?"

"Um, yeah," I said.  "I actually have to write the book."

"Okay, babe," Literary said, "let me see what I can do."

Next: Literary McAgent sees what she can do, which isn't much.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


In an ideal world, the ghostwriter and the ghostwrite-ee are in the same city for the preparation of their book.  A face-to-face interview setting lends to more honesty, and lessens the chance of crossed signals.  (Facial expressions are a beautiful thing.)  Thing is, it's almost always impossible to get the two of us physically together for any significant amount of time, because celebrities, be them A-list or Z-list, are generally on the go.  Some celebs really, really, really care about their project, and make it a point to be in one place for the interview process, which usually makes for a solid, cohesive book.  Others could care less.

Mumbles McReality was one of the latter.

Since this was a crash book, we needed to get started immediately, so I scheduled my first phoner with Mumbles as soon as it was possible.  We were going to start at 9:00 AM on, say, a Tuesday, and even though I wasn't convinced Mumbles would make a 9:00 call, I dutifully set my alarm.

Monday night at 11:30 -- well after the Larry David-mandated cut-off time -- I get a call from Confused McManager, "Here's the thing," he says.  "Mumbles' mother made this deal for Mumbles to go to China.  They're going to cut the ribbon at a mall, or something."

I assumed that "cutting the ribbon" was a metaphor, but I was kind of irked about having been woken up, so I didn't ask for specifics, as I wanted to go back to beddy-bye.  "When're they leaving?"


"When're they coming back?"

"Three weeks."  The book was due in two weeks.

"Oh.  Does Mrs. McReality know I can't write a book based on two days of interviews?"

"Yeah.  She doesn't care.  She wants Mumbles to get paid.  Like now."

On one hand, I could understand.  Mumbles' advance wasn't all that, and she wouldn't see any royalties until she earned back her advance, which might or might not happen (probably not), and if it did happen (which it probably wouldn't), it would take months for the publisher to get around to paying royalties.  It's hard to refuse immediate cash.

On the other hand, they made, y'know, a commitment.

I said, "It'll be impossible."

He said, "Yeah.  I know.  I'll call Literary McAgent tomorrow.  Maybe she'll have an idea."

She did.

Next: In which Mumbles is wayyyyyyyyyyy late for our first interview, and even later for the second one, and Literary McAgent comes up with a not-so-brilliant solution.

Monday, December 20, 2010


So I'm on the phone with Literary McAgent Jr., Confused McManager, and the star of our show, Mumbles McReality.  Our assignment: Try and figure out how to squeeze a 60,000-word memoir out of Mumbles in four weeks.  But first, I have to slap together an outline for Frustrated McEditor over at Mega Books.

Me: So, Mumbles, do you have any good anecdotes from the set of "The Reality Show Of Shows"?

Mumbles: Mgrmpr tppsqvs rbbtztv.

Confused: She says she'll think about it.

Me: Because I have to make a list of them.  Kind of fast.

Mumbles: Rgrgpllsff mrgtwwp.

Confused: Not a problem.

Literary: Don't sweat it, babe.  Confused, remember that convo we had last week?  Mumbles was on fire.  Anecdotes out the ying-yang.

Confused: Right.  On fire.

Me: Um, so Literary, or Confused, might either of you remember any of them?  I don't need the actual anecdote right now.  Just a one-sentence description.

Confused and Literary (simultaneously): Blrggrfzzltwrp Mpxddlr.

Me: Yeah, I don't want to be a pain, but Frustrated asked us to have a little something by the end of the day.

Literary: Guys, don't worry about it.  Confused, you have Ghosty's email address, right?

Confused: I think so.

Literary: Great, send him a note and schedule the interview sessions.  Ghosty, I'll call you in a minute.

Twenty minutes later...

Literary: Don't sweat it, babe.  Just make up some shit about the show.  As long as you turn the book in on time, Frustrated won't care what's in the goddamn the outline.

Me: (Not wanted to admit I haven't watched "The Reality Show Of Shows"): What's your favorite part of Mumbles' program?

Literary: Come on, babe, the whole thing's good.

Me: But what part do you think a viewer would want to read about?

Literary: What part do you think a viewer would want to read about?

Me (what I wanted to say): You haven't watched the goddamn thing either, have you?

Me (what I did say): Let me go to the blogs.

Literary: This is why I love you, babe.

So I went to the blogs, discerned what kind of secrets the show's rabid fans have been trying to uncover for the past four seasons, and slapped together a fake outline filled with promises of juicy backstage morsels.  To his credit, Frustrated McEditor knew it was a steaming pile of poop, but also to his credit, he didn't want to slow down the impending train wreck -- remember, we only had four weeks to get this thing done -- so he emailed me a note: "Can't wait to see what you come up with!!!"

Yeah, me neither.

Next: In which, the day before we're scheduled to start out interviews, Mumbles decides to head East.  As in the Far East.