"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Jeff Rivera Interviews Kenneth Atchity on Pursuing Your Dreams Later in Life!

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” —C.S. Lewis


As the man who found everything he was looking for in his “retirement,” Dr. Atchity is a shining example of the never-ending potential of dreams and aspirations. In a HuffPost interview with Jeff Rivera Ken outlines many of the problems he encountered when shifting to a new career along with some useful advice for those looking to go down the same road.

Taking into account how the film industry has changed over the past couple of years, what advice would you give today that you wouldn’t have given two years ago?

I think it’s becoming harder to sell anything to big studios because they have become almost entirely married to producing big franchises and pre-sold concepts. Marketing has taken over the entertainment industry. Even in the publishing world, big publishers are only interested in how many copies of a certain book they can sell.

For new voices it can be extremely difficult to get published and this is very much the case in Hollywood. It’s often easier to get your work produced independently or through the MD method than it is to go to the studios. Keep in mind that the big studios used to produce hundreds of movies every year whereas now they produce dozens. Some studios are completing as little as three movies a year, but they’re making $400 million films from pre-established franchises like Spider-Man and Captain America.

There’s a global market for these movies and it’s a safer bet for them to spend a lot of money on one movie and earn it all back plus extra. This can make it even more difficult for new writers to sell their ideas, although I think writers can be proactive in finding ways to draw attention to their stories.

If someone, for example, lived in Nebraska and had a story about a family that lived in a cornfield, would they have any hope of having a studio make that film?

Always remember that if you don’t have hope then you shouldn’t be doing it, and hope is never something that can be analyzed statistically. It comes from within. In any industry, looking at the odds can be more than a little discouraging but if you believe them then you might as well go back to work as a bank teller. You have to think to yourself, what can I do? How can I think outside the box to draw attention to my story?

These days, the internet can be hugely beneficial if you’re looking to get your story out there as it provides millions, if not billions, of people access to you work. If you’re looking to generate interest then the internet is the best tool you can use. Studios have executives who do nothing but trawl through the internet looking for new stories. The Hunger Games is one of the biggest success stories of the last 10 years in this sense.

I think the gatekeepers are becoming predictable because they’re so enslaved to their corporate owners but what the true creative executives are looking for is someone who’s not saying the same thing as everyone else. Anyone who has a following as the result of their work is a potential line of interest. So, if I were in Nebraska facing that dilemma, I would focus on the thing that I have in front of me – that everyone has in front of them – the internet. You just have to find a way to pierce that golden shield.

What specific advice would you give to the person in Nebraska if they had access to the internet? How can they get noticed?

Well, honestly, if I had an answer to that I’d be a billionaire. This is where creativity comes in. If you were putting together a cartoon, for example, you might start putting it into a small book. Books are easier to get to people than anything else. I don’t recommend putting an entire screenplay on the internet but you could try generating interest by creating a website or blog and doing everything in your power to drive traffic to it.

On there you could maybe share stories, although I also like the idea of doing cartoons or animations because they can end up going viral. You can usually find someone to animate or do a cartoon for your story. Remember that social networks are a key part of using the internet, especially sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter which are all vehicles that can reach millions of people. I boosted a post the other day from Naples and over 8,700 people saw it in the first hour. That’s how you get exposure.

Try not to be too shy or humble when promoting yourself. Shakespeare wasn’t shy when he talked the queen into building the Globe Theater and Sophocles and Aeschylus wouldn’t have been remembered today if they hadn’t gotten patrons to sponsor putting their tragedies in the Great Dionysian Festival every year. The most aggressive writers have always gotten their story told and it’s important to push your point across.

As for writers who think “I’m just a writer, I don’t really do marketing and all of that,” you have to snap out of that mindset. As Cher says in Moonstruck; “Snap out of it!” It’s not going to get you anywhere!” No one feels sorry for a poor writer who can’t sell their own work and if you really are that person then you need to find somebody else to sell your work for you.

What about the independent route? Is there a way for a really passionate writer to go out and make the film themselves? How does that work?

In theory, the indie route is always possible because anyone can buy all of the equipment needed to physically make a movie. You can enlist the help of friends, write the script yourself, or do it even without a script as many small pictures have been done. That is the ultimate indie route. 

That’s what Robert Rodriguez did with El Mariachi, which is a masterpiece of ingenuity. I heard that he didn’t even give lunch to his actors because he couldn’t afford it; so they had to knock off at noon. Rodriguez also shot all of his scenes so that nobody’s lips were ever facing the camera. He then dubbed all of the dialogue in post-production, completely diverting the chance that any sound problems would crop up during the shoot.

You can find somebody to work with you and to help produce your movie and raise enough money to develop it and so on. There are ways of doing it and every year movies breakthrough that are made unconventionally, but still in a really old-fashioned, pioneering style. If you follow in the footsteps of Robert Rodriguez then you’ve reached a point where you are doing it all yourself because nobody is doing it for you.

Is it true that your company has a division where they do this? They match people with money to producers such as yourself who help in making their films. How does that work exactly?

Yes, that’s correct. We work with writers who have access to resources as well as those who have a great story. Money makes things happen: If they have access then we help them prepare their movie. If you imagine a big conveyer belt with every project that has the potential to become a movie on it, you can see stories, treatments, and even books on the far end of it. These are naked ideas but by the time they reach the front of the belt they’re “fully-clothed” and ready to leap onto the screen.

These movies need to have a professionally prepared budget that shows exactly what the cost of the film is going to be. They need to have that budget bonded by a completion bond company. They will have the locations chosen, along with a director, cast, and start date. They should also have a distributor interested or attached, and so on and so forth.

If you already have the ability to put together some money then you can leapfrog over the other projects on the belt, which is what happens every day, but if you’re on the belt there’s no guarantee that you’ll get to the front of the line because you’ll always be leapfrogged over by another project with better casts, directors or financing. Our goal is to work with people who can find the money they need for their project. With writers have access to funds our goal is to turn them into producers so that they then have control over their project and don’t lose the rights before their movie is made.

If I’m an author that lives in Iowa, or Canada, how can the book that you just released help me turn my 70,000 word tome into a feature film?

Well, that is the exact purpose of the book - sell your story to Hollywood. It’s basically a little handbook that just shows you all the steps that have to happen in order to sell a story. This includes how to get an agent, how to get a manager, how to attract attention of producers, and even how to prepare sales materials that will help you in delivering a short pitch or contacting people via email. The purpose of the book is to provide you with an outline of all the things you have to overcome in order to get the story into the hands of the buyer.

My second aim with the book is to offer some alternative selling methods including some information on making a movie yourself. It gives examples of treatments and other materials that you need to build along the way.


What is a sizzle reel and how can someone use one to pitch a reality show or drama?

A sizzle reel is basically a teaser or sampler of a program that’s used as an outline by the creator. The term came out of reality programming because you need a sizzle reel to sell a reality TV show. A sizzle reel is usually three minutes at the most and it’s supposed to be an exciting, well-edited teaser that gives you a vision of what the program is and what it is intended to be. In theory, the reel gives you a strong inkling of how the program will continue and how it will go beyond its pilot episode. Sizzle reels can introduce characters as well as convey the excitement and points of interest within the show.

Knowing how to make a decent sizzle reel is extremely important but very, very difficult because if you’re not actually in show business you don’t know what companies are looking for. Learning how to put one together is an extremely beneficial way of getting into the industry and it’s a great way to show what you have to offer.

If someone had a sizzle reel, would they then upload it on Vimeo or YouTube? Would it also be included in a pitch to a producer?

Yes, it’s important to send it everywhere you can. You can come up with a log line, or short pitch, that would get producers to watch it. Do a short version for Instagram. YouTube is definitely a great tool. People scour YouTube all the time looking for ideas for movies. Facebook is also good. It’s important to send it it in whatever way you can. If you have an email list, send it to everyone. Ask people to share it, pass it on.


For those wanting to enlist your help in producing a project, what’s the best way for people to pursue you? Are you looking for work or simply developing your own projects?

I’ve been in the business for so long now that I’m not really looking for a whole bunch of things. I’m already involved in a lot of projects, but things that do often catch my eye are ideas that I’ve never seen before; new concepts that are truly exciting—and female-driven action, thrillers, and drama.

I recently read a piece on a boy who was born in the US but ended up being taken to Saudi Arabia at the age of seven or eight and raised over there as an outcast because he was half American. He spent his teen years trying to figure out a way to escape and when it finally happened he ended up joining the US marines where, to his amazement, he was treated like an outcast because he was half Saudi. What I loved about the story is that it’s something Americans really need to understand; it’s exactly what Saudis are taught as they’re growing up and what makes a person turn against his country. When I see something that unique and that unusual it captures my attention despite how many things I’m involved with.

If anyone is looking to speak with me then I’m contactable through referrals, emails, and phone calls. Email is the best way to approach people like me and I’d suggest keeping it brief. If an email is longer than five lines long, the chances of me jumping on it are very, very diminished. If it’s only two lines long and says something amazing about you and your story then it will be hard to resist. Use some examples from your work and write-up a short pitch, that’s the best and most respectful way to do it. atchity@storymerchant.com

Jeff Rivera

Writer | Producer

Jeff Rivera is a writer | producer. He began his career as an author, co-author and ghostwriter of nearly 100 books. He has appeared on national television, radio and print in such outlets as Forbes.com, The Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Right On! Magazine, Rotarian Magazine, TMZ, WABC, WNBC, WCBS, SITV, American Latino and NPR. He has written for Entertainment Weekly, Mediabistro, GalleyCat, Publishing Perspectives, Digital Book World, Examiner, American Chronicle, School Library Journal and the Huffington Post and has been invited to speak worldwide about his rise from American poverty and living in his car to fast-becoming one of the most sought after writer | producers in the nation. Rivera has been on panel discussions for The Library Journal, Authors Guild, the Harlem Book Fair and many others. Rivera has produced social media campaigns, Skype/Google Hangout tours and web content for many high profile people including Mark Cuban, Mark Victor Hansen, Jeff Kinney, Elmore Leonard, Mitch Albom, Stan Lee, Seth Godin, Nicholas Sparks, James Van Praagh, and cast members from from Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Rivera now develops film, television and web content.

Therapist Dennis Palumbo on the Writer’s Inner Life

Nicolas Cage in Adaptation

This is from an interview for Shrink Rap Radio:

Initially, when you start writing, or at least when I started writing, you think the reward is, wow! It’ll be so great to see my words on screen, to see my name on screen…

I think what happens over time when, because you’re a writer – especially once I became a screenwriter – you’re very powerless as a screenwriter.

And what happens – and it’s a subtle change, but I think it’s the one that most mature writers go through – is the gratification becomes personal… the process of writing becomes its own reward… you tell the story the way you want to tell the story and then hope for the best…

The frustration, I think, boils down to the fact that I believe screenwriters are the most crucial aspect of a movie, and they’re the ones with the least power and the least control.

Continued in article Therapist to the Hollywood Stars.

Yes, Mr. DeMille: At the Right Hand of a Hollywood God

FREE  This Week on Amazon 

Phil Koury was Cecil B. DeMille's "personal representative" since 1946 and stood close as DeMille made some of the most successful movies of his time. 

This is a first-hand account of the ups and downs of one of our most controversial Hollywood legends. It covers his legendary qualities, exhibitionism, terrorism as a director, rampant individualism, tremendous public following, and box office success—and the scorn of the critics—and follows his career from the theatre to early "flickers" and on through the talking pictures.

It is not to be missed if you love learning about the mechanics and foibles of the film business.


Story Merchant coaching client, Samia Nassar Melchior, has published this salient study in COUNTERPUNCH

 Caravaggio in Iraq


Of all the pictures to come out of Abu Ghraib prison, the most striking is that of the naked prisoner standing with his back turned to the camera, arms stretched out and what seems like human excrement covering his well toned body. Facing the man, and the camera, is an American GI, predictably blond, predictably butch holding a menacing stick diagonally to his chest.

Although horrifying in its content, one cannot deny the beauty of the piece. That captured moment of intense humiliation and degradation, pronounces itself with all the drama and contrasting colors of a Caravaggio painting.

Baroque art, although maintaining Renaissance Art’s emphasis on the beauty of the human form in both shape and proportion went a step further, it captured the moment. The best example of that difference can be seen in the sculptural rendition of the biblical story of David and Goliath. Standing with his head turned sideways and his sling nonchalantly thrown over one shoulder, Michael Angelo’s David celebrates the perfection of the human body through malleable stone, but one would be forgiven if one forgets that this is the same Biblical David about to face his overwhelming enemy Goliath. It is Baroque Art’s rendition of the same subject matter by its most prolific artist, Bernini that denotes the difference. Bernini’s David, although as perfectly sculpted as Michael Angelo’s, captures the perils of the moment. Depicting the exact instance when David is about to project his stone, his knees bent, his torso twisted, his arms stretched backwards holding the sling, his jaw muscles clenched and his eyes focused ahead, the viewer is caught in the pinnacle moment of the whole story.

The pictures stemming from Abu Ghraib might prove to be the images that capture the pinnacle moment in this War in Iraq. This distilled moment of high drama may prove to be the moment when the dynamics between East and West irreversibly change.

The best of Baroque art invites the viewer to be part of the artwork. In the case of Bernini’s David, it is the viewer who finds himself cast in the role of Goliath. Looking at the pictures, the West cannot help but feel monstrous. By viewing these atrocious pictures, the West becomes part of the drama, the missing link in the circle of oppression. They are Goliath, they are the oppressors, they certainly are not the liberators.

For the Arab, more used to being talked of, talked over or downright ignored in matters as basic as the land beneath his feet, he finds himself the hero of the piece, the central issue that can no longer be ignored.

Forced to walk in a straight line with his legs crossed, his torso slightly twisted and arms spread out for balance, the Iraqi prisoner’s toned body, accentuated by the excrement and the bad lighting, stretches out in crucifix form. Exuding a dignity long denied, the Arab is suffering for the world’s sins.

These two very different perspectives have predictably resulted in very different reactions. As the western elites were holding their breath awaiting the much-dreaded reaction of the Arab world, they missed the point of these pictures. In seeking to humiliate, the Americans have humiliated themselves.

One should not underestimate the effect of this shift in perception.
Long thought of as unworthy of self rule, the Arab has always been portrayed as having the great fortune of residing on Oil rich land but again cast as unworthy of his luck, hence unworthy of his land, therefore unworthy of self rule (a philosophy that beautifully ties in with Zionism’s claim that the land of Palestine is meant only for the Jews, God’s chosen people, again a people more worthy).

Now with the Abu Ghraib pictures the reverse is true. It is the American that is seen as unworthy of power and unfit to rule. Trying to write off this act as the work of a few “bad apples”, the West does not realize that its credibility had started taking a beating a long time ago, reaching its pinnacle at Abu Ghraib prison.

With Al-Jazeera reporters targeted and killed, it has become obvious to its Arab viewers that the West’s version of free speech is a one sided monologue. Watching Israel steal more Palestinian land unhindered and Sharon, the architect of Palestinian dispossession called “A man of Peace”, whilst in an almost mirror like symmetry, the American military behaving like its Israeli counterpart on Iraqi soil, the once subservient Arab has realized that his resistance is the last stop between the rule of law and the rule of the fist.

Long told that his culture is substandard, his religion mad, his plight the result of his own failings, the Arab is finally standing up, ready to take exception. The West inspired respect when it held up the principles it says it wants to propagate, without them, all that the Arab feels is a heavy boot on his neck.

As the Arab watches the bulldozers at Raffah render the defenseless homeless and the prisoners of Abu Ghraib degraded and humiliated, it becomes obvious to his part of the world that the rights conferred by International Laws, the UN charter and Free Speech are being defended by the Palestinian claiming his rights and the Iraqi protecting the sovereignty of his land. If these now infamous pictures have captured a moment, it is when the world realized that it is not the advocators of human rights that defend them, but rather their victims.

SAMIA NASSAR MELKI is an architect and writer living in Beirut. Email: samianm@inco.com.lb

via Counterpunch 

New From Story Merchant Books Leo Daughtry's Talmadge Farm


It's 1957, and tobacco is king. Wealthy landowner Gordon Talmadge enjoys the lavish lifestyle he inherited but doesn't like getting his hands dirty; he leaves that to the two sharecroppers - one white, one Black - who farm his tobacco but have bigger dreams for their own children. While Gordon takes no interest in the lives of his tenant farmers, a brutal attack between his son and the sharecropper children sets off a chain of events that leaves no one unscathed. Over the span of a decade, Gordon struggles to hold on to his family's legacy as the old order makes way for a New South.

TALMADGE FARM is a sweeping drama that follows three unforgettable families navigating the changing culture of North Carolina at a pivotal moment in history. A love letter to the American South, the novel is a story of resilience, hope, and family - both lost and found.

James Pierre Talks About the Success of his Novel Gambino: The Rise ⁠ ⁠


Having my book optioned by a major production company is a dream come true. As a writer, you write for yourself, because you can’t help yourself. The characters chatter endlessly in your mind, begging you to bring their stories to life on the page. So you do, but almost entirely as a means of quieting the voices. You hope—but never really think—that others will find your characters as intriguing and engaging as you did. So, when in fact others do, it’s a validating feeling. 

Available on Amazon 
Ken Atchity was the first person to believe in me and in Carlo Gambino, the main character in my book, Gambino: The Rise. Before Ken, I felt like I was the only person that was interested in crime boss Carlo Gambino and his organization, the Gambino Family. Ken opened my eyes to the fact that the general public might be just as interested in the Gambinos as I was. And he was right. Years after publishing the book with Story Merchant, renown Hollywood producer Julius Nasso expressed interest in the novel, and here we are today. On the precipice of a great achievement—and what is every writer’s dream—to see their book turned into a movie. I cannot thank Ken and Julius enough for this opportunity. It validates  the many years of research—and long hours in front of my keyboard—that went into bringing Gambino and his world to life. I pray that we see this film project all the way through, so that the world will get to meet and fall in love with Carlo Gambino, just as I did. 

And to all of the aspiring writers out there: never give up on your characters. Listen to them. Then breathe life into them, on the page. And then find a literary agent who believes in them as much as you do, and chances are, at some point, if you remain patient and committed to the process, your characters and their stories will be introduced to the rest of the world, for everyone to enjoy.


James E. Pierre

Your Partner in Success with Denise Griffitts Interviews Matt Atchity

Your Partner In Success Radio Talks with Matt Atchity: Entertainment Industry Powerhouse

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Matt Atchity, a multimedia powerhouse with over 20 years of experience shaping the entertainment industry, is celebrated for his transformative role as Editor-in-Chief of Rotten Tomatoes. During his tenure, he established the #Tomatometer rating system as the definitive metric for movie criticism. Beyond Rotten Tomatoes, Atchity has produced acclaimed content across platforms such as Moviefone and TYT Network. His deep understanding of audience dynamics and innovative drive has cemented his status as a leading authority in engaging viewers in the digital age, making his insights invaluable for creators, studios, and fans alike.

At #RottenTomatoes, Matt led a decade-long charge that elevated the site to household name status, pioneering TV reviews and expanding its industry influence. Additionally, he co-founded and co-hosted "What the Flick!?" with Ben Mankiewicz and Cenk Uygur, marking it as the inaugural spinoff show on the TYT network.

Now, Matt Atchity has transitioned to a new chapter in his career, joining forces with his uncle Ken Atchity at Story Merchant - a company that represents and assists storytellers (writers, authors) in getting their stories published or adapted for film and television. Drawing on his extensive background and industry expertise, Matt brings a wealth of knowledge to the company's ventures in Hollywood. His strategic insights, honed from years at Rotten Tomatoes and other prominent platforms, promise to enrich Story Merchant's creative endeavors and expand its footprint in the entertainment landscape. Matt's shift to collaborate with Ken Atchity reflects his ongoing commitment to innovation and storytelling, ensuring his contributions continue to resonate across the industry.

Download and listen wherever you consume your favorite podcasts.

Story Merchant E-Book Deal FREE June 24 - June 28 Gambino: The Rise by James Pierre



Fleeing a murder charge in his native homeland of Palermo, Sicily, in Italy, young Carlo Gambino finds refuge in the United States of America. It is the Roaring Twenties, and New York is a melting pot of decadence and excess. As well as unprecedented violence. The
Volstead Act creates a new and booming black market for booze, one which gangsters of all denominations seek to control.

The Rise will hook readers from the first page to the very last, and its violent, colorful cast of characters will continue to enthrall the imagination of readers long after the book has been put down. Strap in for this bumpy and brutal ride through America’s Age of
Prohibition, where gangsters roamed free and lived by their own code of honor—and blood.

All in the pursuit of the American Dream!

Veteran Hollywood multi-hyphenate George Gallo (“Bad Boys,” “The Comeback Trail”) is attached to direct “Gambino,” a high-end biopic about organized crime boss Carlo Gambino that Gallo is co-writing with two-time Oscar winner Nick Vallelonga (“Green Book”). Julius Nasso producing with Ken Atchity (EP).

Creativity and Dreams by Dennis Palumbo


Ideologies separate us.

Dreams and anguish bring us together.

---Eugene Ionesco

There are many anecdotes throughout history about writers, painters, musicians, and scientists from all fields whose ground-breaking artistic achievements or innovative ideas came to them in dreams.

As a therapist, I’m less interested in the idea of dreams as creative inspiration as I am in what the artifacts in the dream mean to the creative patient. What are the recurring themes, the images that keep showing up (often in different contexts), the emotional triggers that these dreams provide? Do your dreams inspire terror or offer solace? Are there similar psychological undercurrents that seem to be present in the dreams?

Rather than specific ideas or characters emerging from a writer’s dreaming mind, what I believe matters is how the emotional threads his/her unconscious is tugging at might lay bare the issues the writer is truly grappling with. Is he or she struggling with their work? Its importance or relevance? Grappling with feelings of lack of entitlement, fears of failure, painful fantasies of rejection or humiliation?

Bringing these kinds of themes into the light of consciousness can help guide a writer (for the sake of convenience, I’m just using writing as the example) to finally take ownership of the things he/she really wants to explore in their work. For example, for Faulkner, it was “the sin of slavery” that underlay his fiction. For Mary Oliver, it was her affinity for the natural world. For Camus, his writing was his way to exist authentically in a world he instinctively found absurd.

In other words, what are your dreams telling you about what’s at the core of your feelings? What enlivens or deadens your subjective experience? How do your dreams help illustrate your unique, personal mythology of how the world works?

Of course, this is just my (admittedly clinical) view on the subject. The therapist in me has always been more interested in how my patient interprets his/her dream than my own thoughts about it.

Then there’s the writer in me---particularly the one that writes thrillers--- who’s less interested in any clinical position on dreams. In fact, I find expounding on the subject to be about as valuable as someone asking, “Hey, where do you get your ideas?” The truth is, whether dreams are the source of creativity, its undefinable muse, or merely the psyche’s discharge of that day’s anxiety, these “movies in our sleep” resist our attempts to entrap them intellectually.

Or, in the words of St. John of the Cross, “I came into the Unknown, beyond all science.”

Hell, in my personal and professional experience, good writers do that all the time!

via DJ Adamson

Dennis is the author of the Daniel Rinaldi Mysteries. Check out his latest book in the series Panic Attack!  On amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1464213453

Your Partner In Success with Denise Griffitts Interviews Story Merchant Author Kevin Sparks

Your Partner In Success Radio, Talks with Kevin Spark, the author behind the acclaimed psychological thriller "id: A Novel."

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Kevin's path to becoming a published novelist is an inspiring one. After graduating from university, Kevin embarked on a career as a graphic designer. He honed his creative skills by developing ad campaigns and contributing to the art department of various TV shows across the UK, where he crafted props and brought stories to life visually. However, Kevin harbored a deep passion for writing that never waned. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, he seized the opportunity to finally pursue his literary dreams. Amidst the lockdowns and uncertainty, Kevin dedicated himself to penning his first novel - the gripping psychological horror "id: A Novel." This debut work has garnered widespread praise for its rich character development, vivid storytelling, and thought-provoking exploration of the human psyche.

As the owner and creative director of Onion Creative, a strategic
branding consultancy based in Brisbane, Kevin has over 15 years of experience crafting innovative brand strategies & campaigns. His firm specializes in brand development, design, advertising, and digital marketing. 

Join Denise as she uncovers the inspiration behind "id: A Novel," the challenges Kevin faced as a first-time author, and his insights into the writing process. Kevin's story is a testament to the power of pursuing one's passions, even in the face of adversity.

Download and listen wherever you consume your favorite podcasts.