Friday, June 6, 2014

Are Actresses Smarter Today?

After my first Mackenzie Griffin mystery ( was published in the U. S., a London U.K. publisher offered a three book contract, thus happily allowing me to continue conjuring up stories and situations for the next few years.  

This was in the mid-to-late 90s, and from time to time (okay, it was actually pretty frequent on my part) I would allow myself to fantasize about the film rights being snatched up by some grateful producer.  Actually, it wasn’t so much film rights, it was television rights I was thinking of.  A limited series that would recur, or the once-a-year, twice-a-year TV movie.  (As you can see, I was already anticipating the programming patterns that were still a few years down the road. Quite the visionary, eh?)

Television was also a better option because I somehow envisioned the Mackenzie Griffin series as a possible updating to Murder, She Wrote with one advantage over that esteemed series:  Mackenzie Griffin, as a consultant to the NYPD, would have legitimate access to police cases.  This would help avoid what a few of us at various mystery writers’ conventions at the time referred to as the ‘dead guest at every dinner party’ problem. 

But one thing that stumped me, even in my fantasies about the series/TV movies, I couldn’t think of a pool of actresses of the appropriate age (late 20s to mid-30s) who would be believable in the role of a criminal psychologist/police consultant.  (Remember, this was around the time Denise Richards was cast as a nuclear physicist…)  

It became somewhat of a parlor game, and few of my friends or family could detect any young female stars with enough going on behind their eyes to make them believable as holding a doctorate in psychology and a specialty in criminal psychology.  

The first one who came to mind was Jennifer Garner, when she shot to fame with her starring role in Alias.  Lots going on behind her eyes, that’s for sure.  Callista Flockhart and Gillian Anderson were two other possible candidates, but they had good TV gigs going even before Ms. Garner did.

But in the current crop of actresses in that age range, there is a substantial supply of bright young women: Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Blunt, Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, and Michelle Williams all give evidence that there are wheels turning in their brains.

I don’t what know what the difference is.  Better pre-natal nutrition 35 years ago?  Better casting agents and more women in the process in the last 20 years?  Who knows?  All I can say is it’s noticeable.  Any thoughts?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Celebrating the Arts through Mystery and Mayhem

The Mackenzie Griffin Arts Mysteries

Earlier this year, my Mackenzie Griffin mysteries – Star Gazer, Artist Unknown, and Finales and Overtures, all originally published in the 90s made their eBook debut on Kindle.  I’m happy to announce a special week-long Kindle Countdown promotion.  If you act fast, you can get each book for as little as 99¢!  

A brief description for you: Dr. Mackenzie Griffin is a criminal psychologist on faculty at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She occasionally serves as a consultant the NYPD where she’s a favorite of Lieutenant Mario Buratti.  The first mystery, Star Gazer (, involves a rising pop music star and someone who appears to be patterning murders after scenes from his music videos.

Artist Unknown, the second in the series,  ( begins when the body of the local art gallery owner washes up on the beach not far from the home of Mac’s parents. This investigation becomes personal, since her brother Chad had purchased the gallery only days before, and now he appears to be a target as well. 

The third, Finales and Overtures ( is set in the company of a new musical about to open in New York.  The show is the big break Sylvie Morgan, Mackenzie’s long-time friend from college days, has been waiting for. But when the musical’s director is found dead, Sylvie immediately becomes the prime suspect. Buratti alerts Mac to her friend’s predicament – and impending arrest.

Hmmm…mysteries about music, about art, and about theatre.  Any wonder why I’m calling them The Mackenzie Griffin Arts Mysteries?  

I hope you’ll look for them on Amazon with the handy links I’ve included, and remember, you don’t need to have a Kindle to read Kindle editions.  You can get the Kindle app for your iPad, your iPhone or iPod touch, your Mac or PC, your Android device – phone, tablet, power toothbrush or whatever. 

Thanks so much – and happy reading!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Thank-you Note to Mark Burnett

Dear Mr. Burnett,
I hope you and your family enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving.  I thought you’d like to know that at our Thanksgiving table, The Voice was the subject of a great after-dinner conversation.  As we shared our enthusiasm for the talent that remains, we couldn’t help but add our dismay about those who had left the competition. For a few minutes, we could put ourselves in the coaches’ chairs. 

So this open letter is first and foremost a big thank you for bringing us The Voice.  Not only are you breathing new life into television’s great musical/variety tradition, you are doing it in an enormously positive way.  As I think you mentioned in your interview with Oprah Winfrey, the difference with The Voice is that contestants are there not to be judged, but to be supported.  The distinction you’ve offered between coaching and judging is an enormous one, and it’s a great model.

One small request, however, and it means extending the embrace of The Voice just a bit. I think you would be doing an enormous service for music education – especially for your younger singers and audience members – if you could somehow include a credit to the songwriters. 

I was thrilled to see your recent announcement about signing Ryan Tedder as a producer and songwriter for The Voice, so I know you’re aware of the enormous contribution songwriters make.  I’ve written a few things (including some posts you’ll find at the right) about how the world of digital music downloads has minimized the contributions of songwriters simply due to the fact that they aren’t being credited routinely.  Think back to the labels that existed on LPs or cassette just 20 years ago, and CD inserts after that which always included the names of songwriters.  There is no standard for crediting on downloaded music (even from The Voice, I’m sorry to say).  As a result, consumers – and even music professionals like your coaches – too frequently refer to a song as ‘belonging’ to the artist.

While my earlier posts can add some detail, I’ll give you just a few recent examples that spun my head around. A few weeks ago, Matthew Schuler sang Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen, but which Christina identified as ‘Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah’.  Yes, Jeff Buckley did have a bit hit with the song, but over 300 artists have recorded Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and crediting it to Mr. Buckley is actually misleading the viewers.

My other example is a bit closer to home for me, since in my early years in music publishing, I was with the company that published Harry Nilsson’s songs.  Yes, Without You is strongly identified with Harry Nilsson, as it should be.  But it’s the record that is Harry Nilsson’s Without You, not the song.  In that context, you could also describe it as Mariah Carey’s Without You – or any of the 150+ other artists who have also recorded it.  But the song belongs to Pete Ham and Tom Evans of the group Badfinger, who first recorded it in 1970.  (Trust me, it will still a sore point with the management of the publishing company I worked for that Harry Nilsson’s biggest hit was for a song he didn’t write.)

I realize it may be hard for your coaches to get over the habit of referring to songs by the recording artist. (Even the recent song list graphics posted to Twitter and Facebook by The Voice credit only the artists who recorded the songs.) But I think you could do a huge service to music education by adding a simple Chiron credit to the writers. I think your editors currently put the song title on the screen when you’re transitioning from the rehearsal/coaching footage to the performance.  Adding the name of the songwriter there would be a huge step in the right direction. 

I’ll be looking forward to these closing weeks of The Voice, and I hope you realize that you’re adding a wonderful element to our holiday season.  Many thanks to you and your colleague for that!

All the best to you,

Jeanne McCafferty

Jeanne McCafferty is an editor, writer and book designer.  
You can see samples of her work and learn how to contact her at  
She is on Twitter @IrishCabrini.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Back on the Case: The Voice and Songwriters

I’ve kept quiet for a few months now about how the coaches on The Voice – and their team members – sloppily and incorrectly attribute a song’s ‘ownership’ to the artists best known for performing it.  (You can take a look at the blog posts of May 10 and June 14 to read my earlier rants on this topic.) 

Once more, I have to say that Blake Shelton is the most shocking in this regard, being a Nashville artist.  Nashville has long been known for placing songwriters and good songwriting at the center of its music business, so his crediting only Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean, the artists who had the hit on the song Don’t You Wanna Stay, was a bit shocking to me.  Yes, Clarkson and Aldean performed it, and really well, but it was written by Andy Gibson, Paul Jenkins, and Jason Sellers.

But what got me off my duff to compile the lists below was the reference to I Wish It Would Rain as only ‘by The Temptations’ and a later reference to contestant Preston Pohl’s tone as being so close to David Ruffin.  The song was written by Roger Penzabene, a Motown staff writer, and Motown’s songwriting team of Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield.  Lots of folks acknowledge Holland-Dozier-Holland as Motown songwriters, but there were others.

The earlier posts I referred to mention the problem that songwriters have today, given that downloaded music is the dominant sales point: there’s no consistent place for songwriters’ credits to appear.  Some talented folks aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.  My suggestion was for The Voice to add a “Written by” line to the Chiron of the song title that appears at the beginning of a contestant’s performance.  That would be a big step forward in acknowledging that these writers are where the music begins.  

So, here are the credits for the last two rounds of The Voice, the most recent first.  I’ve organized it by song title, then by the songwriters, and then indicated who performed it on The Voice.  Apologies in advance for any typos in the names.

Knockout Rounds
Performed on The Voice by
Already Gone
Kelly Clarkson, Ryan Tedder
Cosmic Love
Florence Welch and Isabella Summers
Mathew Schuler
Don’t Know Why
Jesse Harris
Stephanie Ann Johnson
Genie in a Bottle
David Frank, Steve Kipner, Pamela Sheyne
Nic Hawke
Hard to Handle
Otis Redding, Al Bell, Allen Jones
Ray Boudreaux
I’ll Be
Edwin McCain
Austin Jenckes
Last Name
Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey, Carrie Underwood
Shelbie Z
Let Her Go
Mike Rosenberg
Cole Vosbury
Living for the City
Stevie Wonder
Josh Logan
Mamma Knows Best
Jessica Cornish, Ashton Thomas
Amber Nicole
More Than a Feeling
Tom Scholz
James Wolpert
No One
Alicia Keys, Kerry Brothers, Jr., George M. Harry
Tamara Chaunice
No Woman, No Cry
Vincent Ford (credited to)
Preston Pohl
Serena Ryder, Jerrod Bettis
Jacquie Lee
Jörgen Elofsson,  David Gamson, Greg Kurstin, Ali Tamposi
Tessanne Chin
The Way I Am
Ingrid Michaelson
Caroline Pennell
We Can Work It Out
John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Jonny Gray
When I Was Your Man
Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Moe Faisal, Ari Levine, Andrew Wyatt
Will Champlin
You Oughta Know
Alanis Morissette, Glen Ballard
Kat Robichaud
You’re No Good
lint Ballard, Jr.
Olivia Henken

Battle Rounds
Performed on The Voice by
As Long as You Love Me
Sean Anderson, Justin Bieber
Caroline Pennell
Counting Stars
Ryan Tedder
James Irwin
Jessica Cornish, Lukasz Gottwalk, Claude Kelly, Max Martin, Henry Walter
Don’t You Wanna Stay
Andy Gibson, Paul Jenkins, Jason Sellers
Shelbie Z
Neil Perry, Reid Perry, John Davidson, Jacob Bryant
Olivia Henken
Harder to Breathe
Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael
Josh Logan
House of the Rising Sun
Jacquie Lee
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing
Diane Warren
Kat Robichaud
I Wish It Would Rain
Roger Penzabene, Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield
Preston Pohl
Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler, Anne Preven, Beyoncé Knowles
Amber Nicole
My Song Know What You Did in the Dark
Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman, Andy Hurley, Butch Walker, and John Hill
Mathew Schuler
Next to Me
Emeli Sande, Hugo Chegwin, Harry Craze, Anup Paul
Tessanne Chin
Not Ready to Make Nice
Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, Dan Wilson
Destinee Quinn
Ben McKee, Dan Platzman, Dan Reynolds, Wayne Sermon, Alexander Grant, Josh Mosser
James Wolpert
Mike Campbell and Tom Petty
Jonny Gray
Some Kind of Wonderful
Gerry Goffin and Carol King
Ray Boudreaux
The Best I’ve Ever Had
Gavin DeGraw and Martin Johnson
George Horga Jr.
To Love Somebody
Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb
Austin Jenckes