"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

—Muriel Rukeyser


Tome Tender Reviews A Potter's Tale by Dave Davis

A fascinating and intriguing tale of life, love, betrayal and murder, Dave Davis’s A POTTER’S TALE challenges readers with mysteries from the past, the brilliance of a present day life snuffed out too soon and long held secrets that could spell the destruction of the universe.

When a former physician now reporter teams up with his tenacious partner, they had no idea that the story of the murdered teen would lead them across continents, civilizations, religions and scientific research facilities. Who is trying to cover up hidden secrets of the universe? To what end?

Dave Davis has added enough twists and left enough imaginative breadcrumbs along the way that science fiction buffs, history buffs and lovers of all things mysterious and suspenseful will each find a compelling reason to turn page after page! Taut writing, believable characters and some “didn’t see that coming,” moments make this one of those tales that boggles the mind, because, what if?...


Love. Betrayal. Murder. Then the universe started to collapse. They say it all started in 1935 when Roz Lhulier and his team unearthed the massive tomb of Pakal, the greatest Mayan king, and with it, an ancient text, called a codex. They're wrong.

The codex is deciphered by Alan Turing, the genius who broke the German's Enigma Code during WWII, but its message is jealously guarded by the Astronomers, a lethal offspring of the Catholic Church. Astronomers have compromised or killed anyone with knowledge of the secret--presidents and prime ministers, just for instance.

The codex pulls others into its deadly orbit: Noah, a former physician, and his partner Kate, reporters for the Washington Post. They investigate the murder of DiShannia, a precocious teen, who's achieved national recognition for her research on the demise of Mayan civilization. They're led from Washington DC, to the British Museum, to the Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, to Melbourne, Australia.

Each step enlightens them, offers clues, frightens them. And us.

The two strands of the novel--the codex and its rich human stories--are joined by another narrative, creating a kind of weird DNA. This third strand involves the Potter, who crafts the story. And the genes that craft us all.

Does the universe collapse? The Potter knows the answer. Noah, Kate discover it. We learn it too--on the last page.

Are Screenwriters Really No Longer Looking for Agents? By Nancy Nigrosh

Misdirection in how to get or ‘manage’ an agent, has always been abundant

I wrote what I believe to be a still useful Indiewire article, If You Want Screenwriting Career Tips, Ask A Literary Agent, in 2015. For those of you who believe writers need an agent in order to have a writing career, my advice, then as now, is the same: be open to learning about and appreciating agents as uniquely trained professionals. They’ve been taught to carry on basically the same work ethic and industry practices handed down to them since the Golden Age of Hollywood. No joke. 

Every class I teach, I ask: “What does an agent do?” and then wait. There’s silence until someone finally volunteers. Typically, it goes like this:

 “They make calls…” 

 “They make deals.” 

 "They’re gatekeepers.” 

Many people seem to think the relationship between agents and writers as being some form of doctor/patient relationship — a dreaded necessity due to illness or injury that requires clinical intervention, but much harder to appreciate. It seems to be a lot more logical to trust a physician’s skills than your average literary agent’s. Not so with managers, who generally receive a globally hearty thumbs-up. “They really care about you,” is the comfort meme, while the conventional sentiment “agents only care about the deal” won’t go away.

All the managers I know personally or professionally care just as much as the agent and the client do about the deal. But, managers also care about the essential role agents play. Yet, unless that manager was once an agent, or trained to become an agent, even the manager might consider the literary agent’s playbook to be as mysterious as a magician’s hat. One thing everybody does know for certain is that lit agents zero in on high-profile media buyers in order to broker intellectual properties. While they’re sharpshooting in the stratosphere of the insider media-marketplace, they can also secure gainful writing employment for their clients. But, no one is sure exactly how they do that. I can assure you it would take a few hundred pages to explain the how and why of what lit agents do. 

 Some aspects are deceptively simple: agents are clinicians to clients, and magicians to buyers, and vice versa. Nevertheless, their skillsets, though obviously invaluable, can also generate doubt. Doubt creates instability within the intimate alliance between a writer and an agent, a situation that is routinely disrupted by the demand that literary agents be experts in negotiating changing realities in an evolving marketplace, while also staying in touch with a writer’s usually static expectations. 

Yet, even when they are far apart about one issue or another, agents and writers have more in common than you might think. The majority of literary agents, like their clients, work alone in organizing meaningful information from multiple sources in a committed effort to convert that intelligence into calculated opportunities. From raw to refined data on any given day, agents customize complex immediate and long-range strategies to further their client’s overall career. These are skills that are not fungible to a writer’s immediate and long-range overview of their tangible creative work, so it’s harder for a writer to evaluate or measure what an agent is doing for them. The efforts made in representing a client appear to be awfully subjective, making the agent’s job hard to appreciate. When it comes to paying up the ten percent generated by mutual success, nearly every writer becomes a stingy tipper. Add to that the often universally expressed suspicions both inside and outside the industry about what agents do, and it seems everyone is quick to denigrate them as a whole population. 

Whether they’re understood or appreciated, lionized or devalued, literary agents, often in close tandem with managers and entertainment attorneys, professionally orchestrate more than 99% of all screenwriting careers. 

Yet the web contains no end of screenwriting career recipes snapped from the lens of one person’s single literary or literary-related career in declarative “listicles” of career must-haves and must-do’s. Doesn’t insight from the lens of only one career seem a little… narrow-minded? Those who know most about the professional screenwriting trade are literary agents, whose seasoned expertise encompasses thousands of careers. 

I was often told I didn’t “seem like an agent,” as though this were a compliment. I was proud of the job, handed down to me by my mentors, Phil Gersh and Scott Harris, who created his own fiercely independent agency that consistently books high scores in the daily talent hunger games. Scott was trained at what was once the William Morris Agency by TV maven, Jerry Katzman. Also, Scott’s dad had been among the well-armed ranks of Lew Wasserman’s MCA, once upon a time the largest talent agency in the world. Wasserman invented the 16-hour workday and broke the long-term studio contract system. Jack Valenti likened Wasserman to a God, rather than a mere Hollywood “Godfather.” 

 Phil represented a dazzling array of talent — among them, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Wise, and Don Siegel. He didn’t dwell on his own past, but preferred to toss me Golden Age nuggets about the career-steering feats of legendary agents Charles Feldman and Ray Stark. Feldman invented packaging and profit participation in 1942. His clients included Cary Grant and John Wayne, while Stark started out as a literary agent representing Raymond Chandler, then branched out into talent and shepherded the careers of Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Kirk Douglas, Richard Burton and Ronald Reagan. Phil also enjoyed reminiscing about lesser-known participants, like the raspy, chain-smoking studio business affairs attorney, who invented rolling “breakeven” — which may have been inspired by his tobacco habit, since it was as inexhaustible as a studio’s overhead expenses. 

Conversations with Phil made it clear to me that agents had the best access to information by virtue of their incentivized maneuverability, especially when it came to the guarded inner-workings of the entertainment machine. He taught me about very specific insider-business behaviors, gauging predictability and unpredictability as part of the art (and science) of the deal. I learned that in Hollywood, a negotiation could be as grubby as a wrestling match over the cash drawer, yet at the same time, as cerebral as chess. 

He explained many other important concepts, while warning me about routinely camouflaged snares. He was also quick to give tough love. While I was still a baby agent, I made the mistake of insisting that a production start date for a script I’d sold was poured in stone, though no star was set. The director’s pay-or-play date passed, so to update the agency’s talent and below-the-line departments, I announced the film’s production start at the staff meeting, to which Phil retorted, “She’s right. They’re starting on that date… with or without actors!” 

The key difference between a missile and a rocket is that one is guided while the other isn’t. Agents strategically calibrate career trajectory for maximum impact using their unique tactical training in service of creative storytellers. If you want to know all about what it takes to have the screenwriting career you want, ask a literary agent.

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Nicole Conn's More Beautiful For Having Been Broken International Independent Film Awards!!

Best Actor - Cale Ferrin
Best Actress - Zoe Ventoura
Best Supporting Actress - Kayla Radomski
Best Choreography - Kayla Radomski
Best Narration for a Feature - Henry J Carr
Best Original Score - Nami Melamud
Best Editing - Nicole Conn & Dave Eichhorn
Best Picture - Nicole Conn & Lissa Forehan
Best Directing - Nicole Conn

Fall in Love With Time...

Film Courage: One of your many books Ken is WRITE TIME? And in the forward you say that the world can be divided into two people, productive people and non-productive people. And you say that productive people have a love affair with time. I’ve love to know what makes someone on the right side of time and what make someone where time is their enemy?

Dr. Ken Atchity, Author/Producer: Well that’s a very good question put in a very intelligent way that makes it hard to get a handle on it because time is…time doesn’t really exist. Time is a human construct, we created time. Squirrels and chipmunks don’t have much idea of time. They know that the sun rises and the sun goes down and they know that it rains but they don’t think the way that we do and they don’t keep track of their birthdays for example, only humans do that. And it’s unfortunate because you’re only as old as you think you are. And that’s the way a squirrel looks at it and nobody is arguing with the squirrel about it but humans know better.

Some people look at time as the enemy and some people look at it as a friend. There is an old Spanish saying that is “There is more time than life,” which I always thought was a wonderful way of looking at it because that is what a productive person would say “there is more time than life.” And another Spanish or Italian saying says that “Life is short, but wide.” And that’s another way of productively looking at it. Like people say “How can you do as much stuff as you do?” Well that’s because that’s what I do. I don’t do anything else. And I used to give classes on time management and do a lot of studies on it, in fact WRITE TIME is filled with time management theories. And one of the things I noticed about people was they had no idea where their time went. And they go “I don’t know where you find all the time.” And I would say “I don’t know where you lose it.”

I mean we all have the same amount of time and they go “How much time do we have by the way? How much time is in a week?” And 2 out of 10 people can ask the question right off the top of their heads because they’ve never really multiplied 25 by 7 and realized exactly how many hours there are in a week.

Everybody has the same amount of time. So what I would do in a time management class at UCLA or elsewhere is I would say let’s chart your time this week. I just want you to make a chart of what you do with your time and let’s come in and talk about it next week when we come back together. And they would come back in and that was before I asked them how many hours there were in a week I would wait for the third week to ask that question.

And some people would come in with 98-hour weeks and some people would come in with 62-hour weeks and nobody seem to agree in general how many hours there were in a week because the hours they gave me didn’t add up, they didn’t make sense. They’d say “I sleep six hours a day.” But it turned out in the third week of analysis that instead of 6 hours a day they were actually sleeping 10 hours. They just were telling themselves they were sleeping 6 hours a day.

How much time do you spend talking on the telephone? Most people thought they maybe spent 15 minutes a day, when in fact it might be an hour a day. And watching television (of course). Some people said they were only watching an hour a day when they were actually watching three hours a day.

But a productive person knows exactly how long it takes to do something. Like when I write a screenplay or a book, I can tell you how many hours it takes to do it and so I know that I can get it done in a certain amount of time. Agatha Christie apparently wrote as many as 10 books a year. She had to use four or five pen names because she just kept writing. When you think about it writing is a function of how fast you type. Because I always say (in my writing book including that one) if you’re making a rule not to sit down to write if you don’t know what you’re going to write then you’ll never waste any time and you’ll never have writer’s block. So simply don’t sit down until you know what you’re going to write. It’s just a matter of how fast can you type. So it’s better to be walking along the beach thinking about the structure of your story then it is to be wasting a lot of time sitting in front of the computer typing stuff and throwing it away and all that stuff. Just figure it all out in your head. “Well what if I forget it?” Well guess what? If you forget it that’s probably good. You are forgetting forgettable things? You won’t forget it when it starts getting really good. Because then it will do what Faulkner said, it will start haunting you and you won’t be able to forget it and then you’ll just write it down.

William Saroyan was asked once how long it took him to write the Human Comedy because somebody had told the journalist it had took him three days and he said “No, it took me all my life to write it. It just took me a few days to type it out.”

5 Lessons Hollywood Can Learn from the Surprise Hit "Hustlers"

The popularity of “Hustlers” is poised to send a message to Hollywood: It stars a pack of women of all different ages and ethnicities, deftly handles tricky subject matter, and feels like a bonafide event for audiences. So what can the industry learn from the success of Scafaria’s winner?

1. Women want to go to the movies
As Forbes reports, 68 percent of the opening night ticket-buying audience for “Hustlers” was made up of women. The breezy film is a perfect fit for girls’ night out events, and positioning it against films like “It Chapter Two” and “The Goldfinch” meant it had little competition for that honor. But women go to the movies even without such enticements, something Hollywood seems keen to forget even when numbers consistently prove otherwise. In the MPAA’s most recent THEME Report (billed as the trade associations’s “comprehensive analysis and survey of the theatrical and home entertainment market environment”), the statistics again show that women make up 51 percent of domestic moviegoers, a number in line with the population representation.

And what do women want to see on the big screen? More women. Of the top five highest-grossing films last year, the MPAA study found that only one of them included gender parity amongst its audience (“Incredibles 2,” which leaned on a female-centric storyline involving Elastigirl), while the other four were dominated by male moviegoers.

Earlier this year, a study by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that the top-grossing movies with women as central characters took a huge jump in 2018. According to the study, women were main characters or co-leads in 40 of the top 100 grossing movies of 2018. The number marks the highest percentage of female-driven films in 12 years, an increase in eight movies from the previous year. When Hollywood backs movies about women, the audience comes out in a big way.

2. Diversity is big business
The numbers also point to an audience eager to see diversity and inclusion on the big screen. Scafaria’s film includes stars of various ethnicities, ages, and gender identities, all bound together by their gig stripping at a Manhattan club — from Lopez to Constance Wu, along with Cardi B, Lizzo, Trace Lysette, Keke Palmer, Mercedes Ruehl, Lili Reinhart, and Madeline Brewer. Forbes also reported that, on opening night, a similar dynamic was at play in the audience, which was made up of 73 percent attendees over the age of 25, with an ethnicity breakdown that included 33 percent Caucasian, 28 percent African-American, 27 percent Hispanic, eight percent Asian, and four percent Native American.

That same Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study also found that films that offer such diversity are moving up in the box office world. Per the study, underrepresented racial minorities were leads or co-leads in 27 top films, compared to 21 from the previous year. In addition, 11 films featured a female lead from an underrepresented group, compared to just four the previous year. Lastly, 11 movies were led by a female actor age 45 or older, versus 5 in 2017. Overall, the percentage of characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups rose from 29.3 percent in 2017 to 36.3 percent in 2018.

3. Female-centric movies don’t need romantic subplots
What could have been a marketing pickle — just what genre is this film, really? — is instead one of the greatest strengths of “Hustlers.” It’s not quite a drama or a comedy, and even the “dramedy” distinction doesn’t really fit. It’s also a crime-centric feature with elements of a thriller. Even IMDb is at a loss here, listing the film’s genres as “comedy, crime, drama.” It’s all that and more, but what it’s not is a standard female-centric comedy that hews close to convention. While films like “Bridesmaids,” “Booksmart,” and “Mistress America” are all winners in their own right, they also tend to stick to the playbook, and are mostly comedies that sandwich laughs next to emotion.

While that’s refreshing enough — and “Hustlers” also makes space for key female friendships, just like those other films — Scafaria’s film refuses to stick to the kind of genres, tones, and stories that most female-centric films are expected to embrace. Consider this: “Hustlers” doesn’t include a romantic subplot. Olivia Wilde’s charming “Booksmart” hinged on the bond between its leading ladies, but even it was beholden to the inclusion of some minor romantic entanglements, just like “Bridesmaids,” which similarly shoehorned in a cute flirtation that was ultimately unnecessary. “Hustlers” finds its heart elsewhere.

4. Crime films aren’t just for guys
This fact-based tale of grifting, drugging, and credit card fraud definitely is also a crime story. It’s no coincidence that, at one point, Martin Scorsese had considered directing the film, envisioning it as something a female-facing “Goodfellas.” For all the glitz and glamour of “Hustlers,” it’s still very much in tune with those sensibilities, and it doesn’t shy away from the dirtiness of breaking the law or the way it impacts everyone involved.

Scafaria’s film doesn’t give its stars an easy out, either, and the film is intent on showing the mucky side of crime along with all the perks. The closest “Hustlers” gets to characters preaching about its lessons is a fraught conversation between Wu’s crime-committing stripper Destiny and Julia Stiles as straight-laced journalist Elizabeth (a stand-in for Jessica Pressler, who wrote the article the film is based on). It’s the kind of back-and-forth that trusts its audience to draw their own conclusions.

5. Don’t discount festival momentum
There’s nothing quite like debuting a film at a lauded festival like Toronto, where any well-received fall release gains instant cachet. Combined with persistent buzz for Lopez’s potentially awards-earning performance, the choice to premiere “Hustlers” at TIFF ensured it would be viewed as much more than a late-summer film aimed just at women. This means “Hustlers” stands a shot at being a genuine awards contender, even in a competitive season that includes everything from Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit” to Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” just by virtue of its launchpad during TIFF’s crammed first weekend. “Hustlers” may not be a frontrunner for Best Picture, but it did manage to remain visible and generate real buzz alongside some of the bigger contenders.

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Turn your book into a movie: 16 treatment tips by Kenneth Atchity

Making a book into a film can cost producers anymore $1 million to $200 million, so this is clearly a major investment.

Talk to a story editor from any production company, studio, or agency “story department,” and they will tell you the weaknesses they see in novels submitted for film or television.

The story department’s report on the book’s potential for translation to film, referred to as “coverage,” is their feedback to the decision-making exec. It can make or break it for you — and it kills countless submissions.

The sad thing is, most writers will almost never even get as far as a coverage of their novel.

That’s often because of the book’s “treatment.”

What’s a treatment?

A treatment is a relatively short, written pitch of a story intended for production as a motion picture or television program. Written in user-friendly, informal language and focused on action and events, it presents the story’s overall structure and primary characters. It presents three clear acts and shows how the characters change from beginning to end.

You can write a better treatment if you know about the typical weaknesses story editors find as they prepare each option’s “coverage” (see my book, Writing Treatments that Sell). When you address these common weaknesses, you give your story a much better chance in the rooms where people decide whether, and how much, to spend on putting your story onto the screen.

Then you can use that treatment to market your story to Hollywood.

16 treatment tips that will help you turn your book into a movie

Here are 16 things to know about what your treatment needs to include.

1. Make sure your primary characters are relatable (that’s also called sympathetic).

If we can’t relate to them, we don’t feel for them. This addresses the comment: “I can’t relate to anyone in the book.”

2. Trim the number of characters way back so the treatment’s reader isn’t boggled by the immensity of the cast. 

Also, keep the treatment focused as much as possible on the protagonist (and his or her love interest and/or ally) and antagonist. Comment: “There are way too many characters, and it’s not clear till page 200 who the protagonist is.”

3. Build a strong protagonist in the 20 to 50 star age range, one we want to root for

Comment: “We don’t know who to root for.”

4. Make sure your hero or heroine takes action based on his or her motivation and mission, and forces others in your story to react.

Comment: “The protagonist is reactive, instead of proactive.”

5. Offer a new twist in your story even if it’s a familiar story to avoid the comment: “There’s nothing new here.”

6. Write it so the story editor reading your treatment can see three well-defined acts: act one (the setup), act two (rhythmic development, rising and falling action), and act three (climax, leading to conclusive ending).

Comment: “I can’t see three acts here.”

7. Make sure the turning point into the third act of your story is well-marked with a major twist that takes us there.

Comment: “There’s no Third Act…it just trickles out.”

8. Create a well-pronounced theme for your story (sometimes called “the premise”) in the treatment, so that the reader (audience) walks away with the feeling they’ve learned something important.

Comment: “At the end of the day, I have no idea what this story is about.”
9. Be sure there’s plenty of action in your story. 

Action means dramatic action, of which there are two kinds: action and dialogue. Action is obvious:

She slams the door in his face.
The bullets find their target, and he slumps in his chair.
The second plane crashes into the Pentagon.
But good dialogue is also action:
“Would you do something for me now?”
“I’d do anything for you.”
“Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?” (Hemingway, “Hills like White Elephants”)

10. Sprinkle character-revealing dialogue throughout, enough to let the reader know what your characters sound like—and that they all sound different.

Comment: “There’s no dialogue, so we don’t know what the characters sound like.”

11. Make sure the plot is hidden not overt, dropping clues act by act so the audience can foresee its possible outcomes.

Comment: “At the end, the antagonist lays out the entire plot to the protagonist before he’s killed.”

12. Ruthlessly go through your treatment and remove anything that even hints of contrivance.

The audience will allow any story one gimme, but rarely two, and never three, before they lose their belief. Everything needs to be grounded in the story’s integrity.

Comment: “The whole thing is overly contrived.”

13. Make it well-paced, with rising and falling action, twists and turns, cliffhangers ending every act, etc.

Comment: “There is no real pacing.”

14. Be able to pitch your story  in a single punch line (aka “logline”), and put that line at the beginning of your treatment in bold face:

She’s a fish out of water—but she’s a mermaid (“The Little Mermaid,” “Splash”).
He’s left behind alone. On Mars (“The Martian”).
An inventor creates an artificial woman who’s so real she turns the table on her creator, locks him up, and escapes (“Ex Machina”).

This is also called “the high concept,” which means it can be pitched simply—on a poster or to a friend on the phone.

Comment: “How do we pitch it? There’s no high concept.”

15. Make sure your story feels like a movie, which includes taking us to places we’ve probably never been, or rarely been.

A movie transports us to locations we want to feel, like Antarctica, or the Amazon jungle, or a moon of Saturn, or, in movies I’ve done, a brothel in New Orleans (The Madams Family), the experimental lab of the inventor of the vibrator in Victorian England (Hysteria), a mountain cabin during a blizzard (Angels in the Snow), or the Amityville house in Long Island (Amityville: The Evil Returns).

Comment: “There are no set pieces, so it doesn’t feel like a movie.”

16. Get someone who knows the industry well to read your treatment and give you dramatic feedback on it before you send it out.

Comment: “The writer shows no knowledge of movies!”

Of course anyone with the mind of a sleuth can list films that got made despite one or more of these comments being evident. But for novelists frustrated at not getting their books made into films, that’s small consolation.

If you regard your career as a business instead of a quixotic crusade, plan your novel’s treatment to make it appealing to filmmakers–and to avoid the story department’s buzz-killing comments.

Available on Amazon