MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Publishers Weekly Reviews Dennis Palumbo's Head Wounds


 

Head Wounds: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery Head Wounds: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery
Dennis Palumbo. Poisoned Pen

The violence starts early in Palumbo’s engrossing fifth mystery (after 2014’s Phantom Limb) featuring clinical psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, who consults for the Pittsburgh PD. Daniel is at home reviewing the file of the unsolved murder of his wife, Barbara, when someone takes a shot at him through his living-room window. Soon afterward, the police apprehend the shooter, Eddie Burke, the drunk, disaffected boyfriend of Daniel’s attractive, well-to-do neighbor, Joy Steadman. Daniel does his best to comfort Joy, but when he returns to her house to check on her hours later, he finds her strangled body. He eventually learns that Joy told Eddie that she was sleeping with him, hence Eddie’s rage. The police suspect Daniel in Joy’s murder. Meanwhile, a computer-savvy psychopath sets out to torment Daniel by killing or maiming an ever-widening group of his patients, friends, and family members. The tension rises as Daniel uses his understanding of the human psyche to play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with his nemesis. Palumbo, a licensed psychotherapist, has delivered another well-crafted page-turner. (Feb.)
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Could This Be The Future Of Books?



I can't count how many times I've heard someone lament to me that they’re too busy to read a book. 

At first, I avoided these people. Who's too busy to read a book? But, the sad fact is that everyone thinks they're too busy to do most things these days. And why shouldn't they be? Our attention is constantly divvied among dozens of devices all bearing different distractions across mediums that dominate nearly all of our senses. 

The most common excuse people give me for why they haven't read a book is that they just don't have time to sit down and do one thing at a time. 

I want people to read more books, to continue to consume good stories, to let themselves get lost in someone else's imagination. 

That's why I'm intrigued about a new start-up that is trying to marry the best of books with the best of podcasts, to give readers the ability to consume stories across formats. 

Serial Box, which raised $1.65 million in funding in 2017, does exactly what its name suggests. It serializes books into episodes, bite-sized portions that are relatively easy to digest. In the past few months I've heard it called both Charles Dickens for the digital age and HBO for Books. 

The company acts as a hybrid between a production studio and a publishing house by hiring talented authors to write new fiction in addition to writing teams who can turn that books into easily consumable episodes released on a weekly basis, just like podcasts. 

A typical serial will run for about 10-16 weeks. Here's the part where it gets interesting. Consumers can listen to an episode or they can read it on an e-reader. Don't have time to sit and read a book? Listen to the next chapter/episode while driving to work or mowing the lawn. Find yourself with a spare half hour in the midst of a lazy Sunday? Why not read the next chapter in print. The two formats are aiming to be seamlessly interchangeable. This is what I find so interesting — the ability to enjoy a story in multiple formats as it suits you. 

"In the past 20 years our lives have changed as the book hasn’t changed while other entertainment forms like television and podcasting have," explains Molly Barton, Serial Box's co-founder. Barton knows books. She previously worked at Penguin Random House US as global digital director. She told me that she understands books can feel daunting to people. "The experience of reading a full-length book feels hard," Barton said. "The switching back and forth between reading and listening really appeals to people. I think people expect their content to be very mobile and very flexible." 

...So is this the future of the printed book? An evolution of the book rather than the death entirely of the printed page? Let's see if it gets more people reading before we make that call.

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Remember When Tim Burton Almost Directed a Ripley's Believe It or Not! Movie?


Director, animator, writer, and artist Tim Burton—who has directed nearly 20 features in the past 30 years—has brought scores of darkly stylish (and often lovable) characters from his own imagination to the big screen via cult hits and blockbuster movies alike. While hard work and pure luck have helped in getting many of those projects off the ground, even Burton hasn’t managed to successfully realize every one of his creative visions. Let’s all settle in for the moonlit tale of the Burton film that almost was: Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, about the cartoonist, adventurer, reporter, explorer, and weirdness-expert Robert Ripley.

Ripley was a lifelong entertainer and seeker of mind-bending oddities. He shared his discoveries from around the globe (such as his “personal collections of beer steins, shrunken heads, tribal masks, and ‘pranks of nature,’ like a two-headed calf,” according to The New York Times) through his long-running hit radio program, newspaper panel, TV show, and the seven Odditorium museums he founded before he passed away on May 27, 1949 (three days after suffering a heart attack on live television).
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So beloved was Ripley in his day that in 1936 he was voted the most popular man in America by newspaper readers and took the top spot on a Boys Club of New York poll asking kids who they most wanted to be like when they grew up—even besting then-President FDR.


The trademark of his legacy, however—which lives on in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museums around the word—is his dedicated celebration of the world’s "freaks," a term to which Burton relates. As the Oscar-nominated filmmaker told the Associated Press in 1990:

    "I think there's a necessity for people to categorize. I think it helps make them comfortable. And some of the weirdest people I've known get it the worst. If people can't put you into a category, they're inclined to just write you off as a freak."

Ripley and Burton shared not just a fascination for curious personas but a reverence and respect for them, too—making the task of portraying the lifelong work of Ripley one perfectly suited to Burton. And in 2007, it was all about to happen.

Deadline reported that the film's "locales were exotic and the sights were unbelievable.” The project also had funnyman Jim Carrey signed on as the title character, a script from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who had co-written Burton’s Ed Wood and Milos Forman's Man on the Moon), and a $175 million budget.

But then, about a week before shooting was scheduled to begin, Paramount pulled the plug.

Burton told the Los Angeles Times that he was "pretty devastated" when Paramount shelved the project, especially after nearly all of the pre-production work—including Burton personally scouting filming locations in China—was already completed. "I know it's a business," Burton said at the time. "But for those of us working on the film, you get excited, and it's an art form. They should feel lucky that you treat it like an art form."

The film was supposedly stalled due to conflicting ideas about the film's execution; specifically, Deadline noted, “the picture halted when Carrey came up with some ideas for a major overhaul. While Burton liked those ideas, stopping the film’s momentum cost the film its director,” with Burton promptly heading off to work on 2007’s Oscar-winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

That same year, Carrey explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’d had qualms about where the project was headed: "Tim [Burton] was headed in one direction and that wasn't where I wanted to be. And we talked about it and figured we needed more time. But it's going to happen and it's going to be really cool."

Paramount did attempt to revive the project a few years later, with some staffing changes; as Burton had moved on, Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) was offered the chance to direct, with a new script by John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Happy Feet) but that version also stalled.

In 2011, news surfaced that the studio was once again attempting to produce the project, this time hiring Oscar-winning screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) "to do a complete rewrite overhaul." Though there's been no news of its development since, Carrey was still attached as its star.

Burton, on the other hand, seems to have permanently moved on—though he has had plenty of other opportunities to explore the complexities of beloved oddballs with upcoming projects like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and the highly anticipated Beetlejuice sequel.



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Elena Ferrante: ‘I insist on writing things I think I would never put in writing’


There’s nothing I wouldn’t write about. In fact, as soon as I realize that something has flashed through my mind that I would never put in writing, I insist on doing so. Some say that you have to be vigilant, that writers shouldn’t necessarily put everything into words. And part of me is absolutely in agreement. I like writing that adopts a sort of aesthetics of reticence, writing that suggests, writing that alludes.

Reticence is right and good, and certainly effective when what we are silent about is too well known to us and to our readers. It is the application of the old formula: “I leave the rest to your imagination.” And the skill of the writer is best displayed when what she suggests is much more than what she says.

But I have to say that I write with greater dedication when I start digging into common, I would almost say trite, situations and feelings, and insist on expressing everything that – out of habit, to keep the peace – we tend to be silent about. I’m not interested in writing something new. I’m interested in the ordinary or, rather, what we have forced inside the uniform of the ordinary. I’m interested in digging into that and causing confusion, pushing myself to go beyond appearances. In doing so, I sometimes make myself set aside discipline and taste, because those, too, seem like blinkers. Restraint is all wrong if the task of the writing is to sweep away the resistance of the ordinary and look for words that will pull out at least a little of the extraordinary that is concealed in it. What is not suitable to say should, within the limits of the possible, be said.
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I know this means that I end up writing stories that may irritate people, and in the past I was sorry about it. I like the stories that I decide to publish; I’m fond of the characters I’ve developed, and it makes me sad to hear someone say: “You should have stopped, but no, you continue, you go even deeper – enough.” I’m talking about someone warning me that the protagonist of a story should be nice, shouldn’t have terrible feelings, shouldn’t do unpleasant things.

Once, a book of mine, translated and ready to be printed, wasn’t even published, because – it was said – it might have a bad influence on mothers. Maybe so. We never really know what effect the stories we write have. And if we as writers make a mistake, readers have the right to punish us – by not reading our works.

But I still think that those who are more or less arbitrarily given the job of telling stories shouldn’t be concerned about the serenity of individual readers; rather, they should construct fictions that help seek the truth of the human condition.

Sharon Farsijani Launches Desert35 Fragrances


Sharon Farsijani, CEO and Co-Founder of Desert 35 Fragrances, a customizable perfume for all occasions officially available at Macy's Galleria Fort Lauderdale,FL

Desert35 along with her memoir Shaming My Red Lips that inspired all the scents and in Desert 35's "create your custom scent" lines.