MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Check out this Inspirational Movie!

The Thrillionaires(SM) online community that I'm working on just came out with a 3 minute Inspirational Movie that is really great. I urge you to go watch it right now and to keep this email handy--it is super inspiring and uplifting:

The Thrillionaires Inspirational Movie

Every now and then, it's good to get some inspiration. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Monday, September 28, 2009

AEI CLIENT TRACY PRICE-THOMPSON'S 1-900-ANYTIME IS IN STORES NOW


IN STORES NOW!

1-900-ANYTIME


The Sexy New Thriller
by
Tracy Price-Thompson





Bliss Sampson was every woman.

It was all in her.



Bliss had discovered a winning formula that kept her clients satisfied and coming back for more. She accommodated them. She encouraged them. She indulged them. If they fantasized about a redhead, then her hair was red. If they wanted a slut, then she was the sluttiest bitch on the planet. If they wanted to know how wet her panties were, those suckers were drenched.






1 900 Anytime


Hello friends and fans! Tracy Price-Thompson has just released her latest novel 1-900-ANYTIME.

From this Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-winning, national bestselling author comes a sexy, thrilling new novel featuring a working woman whose obsessive clients are determined to get her all to themselves.

Bliss Sampson is a sensuous but severely disfigured woman who turns to selling phone sex in order to satisfy some of her most erotic fantasies. Blessed with a silky voice, a kinky wit, and the ability to construct erotic portraits through words, she lulls men into her fantasies and builds a colorful clientele base as a phone sex worker. Bertha's distinctive voice allows her to escape the bonds of her physical limitations. But intimate attachments can be formed in many ways, even through a phone line, and to her horror anonymous sex is not always anonymous. Her sumptuous voice and phone skills are so captivating that two of her clients become obsessed with meeting her in the flesh. They both relentlessly track her down -- one wants to love her-- the other wants to kill her.

To read an excerpt
visit
www.TracyPriceThompson.com


1-900-ANYTIME

by

Tracy Price-Thompson

GET YOUR COPY TODAY!

www.TracyPriceThompson.com





Sunday, September 27, 2009

Renegade 83's 'Smash Cut' set to bow on CW Sept. 27

JON WEISMAN - VARIETY

CBS Television Distribution has achieved 95% clearance of "Smash Cuts," a series that will amass viral short videos taken from the Internet, in time for a planned launch the week of Sept. 27.

Designed for weekend viewing in back-to-back half-hour episodes, "Smash" has been sold in every top-30 market to Tribune, CBS and CW station groups, airing primarily on CW affiliates including KTLA Los Angeles and WPIX New York.

In addition to amateur content, "Smash" will showcase new professional short vids as well as past clips from the CBS TV Distribution library. Affiliate stations will also have destinations on their own websites for local viewers to submit their own content for consideration.

David Garfinkle and Jay Renfroe of Renegade 83 ("Blind Date") are exec producing. Renegade83.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

JOIN ME AT AUTHORS 101 LAS VEGAS OCTOBER 31st WEEKEND


"Top Publishing and Marketing Experts Reveal Tools and Techniques to Get Your Book Published and Double or Triple Your Income as an Author or Publisher."

Author101 University is coming October 30 & 31, 2009 to Las Vegas





Join Mark Victor Hansen, Rick Frishman, Ken Atchity, David Hancock, Alex Carroll, and more... (read more below to see why you won't want to miss what they have to share with you)

Mark Victor Hansen
Mega-Best Selling Author

Rick Frishman
Public Relations Expert and Best Selling Author

Ken Atchity
Literary Manager
David Hancock
Morgan James Publishing, Author and Speaker
Alex Caroll
Best Selling Author, Radio Interview Expert





James Malinchak
"The Big Money Speaker™"
Stefanie Hartman
“The Expert’s Expert”
Scott Hoffman
Folio Literary Management
Berny Dohrmann
Craig Duswalt
RockStar Speaker and Author






Loren locum
Master Trainer
Tom Antion
Internet Marketing Expert
Mike Koenigs
Brendon Burchard
Best Selling Author, Speaker and Coach
Gary Spirer
Entrepreneurial Leverage Expert


Are you curious about what publishers like Harper Collins, Morgan James, Adams Media, Wiley, Random House, and Simon & Schuster are looking for? What is the best way to get your manuscript read when you're an unpublished author? Want to know the biggest mistakes to avoid when writing book proposals? You'll be engaged as these top pros share their expertise, reveal the inner workings of the publishing industry, and discuss various approaches to common marketing and publishing challenges.

Additional bonus after hours cocktail party where you'll have the opportunity to network with speakers from the day, industry experts and other attendees.


This is a small intimate event and will sell out quickly

SPACE IS LIMITED - ONLY $399

VIP PASS $149 INCLUDES PREFERRED SEATING, SPECIAL ACCESS TO AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS, FREE DRINKS AT THE EVENING COCKTAIL PARTY, AND AUTHOR 101 2008 7 CD SERIES - A $200 VALUE


Register yourself and a friend and save!!
Only $399 plus a $50 reservation deposit refunded at the event.

Some of the key topics that will be covered include:

  • How to write and present your book proposal to an agent so that your book can be sold to a publisher.

  • What are publishers looking for in a new book? What separates "yes" from "no" and what you can do
    to get the best advance.

  • What do you need to do to make your book a best seller.

  • How to promote yourself using low-cost means online to catapult your sales and exposure into the stratosphere.

What you'll learn

How to create "hooks" for yourself and your business that will make you virtually irresistible to every media outlet and make coverage for yourself a virtual certainty.

How to get rich and become famous by being a guest on radio show without spending a dime on advertising.

How to create promotional materials (media kits, etc.) that will have the media running to you for your opinion every time a story in your area pops up

How to quickly and easily create an automated process to capture leads and sales and to up-sell and cross-sell these people with a minimum of effort.

How to make any book you write or publish an Amazon best-seller with a system that has been PROVEN to work.

If you'd like to learn the secrets of getting your book published or how to turn your book or publishing business into a money machine, this course is for you. Keep reading to find out more.

You'll get more out of this $399 seminar than any event this year offered at any price in the publishing industry. http://www.author101university.com/

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

HOW TO INTERPRET AMAZON SALES RANKINGS IN TERMS OF BOOK SALES [via Linda Radke]

Inside the Amazon Sales Rank

Understanding Amazon Sales Rank

The Amazon sales rank is a number that says how many other titles sold more than your titles. The smaller the Amazon Sales Rank number, the better the sales. The Amazon sales rank is normally re-computed daily.


As an example, a major publisher tracked 25 titles over a six month period, correlating the weekly Amazon sales rank with actual reported sales from Amazon. Here is what they found correlating Amazon Sales Rank with real sales:


Amazon Actual
Sale Rank Books Sold per week
--------- -----------------

75-100 250-275/wk
100-200 225-249/wk
200-300 150-200/wk
450-750 75-100/wk
750-3,000 40-75/wk
3,000-9,000 15-20/wk
10,000+ 1-5/wk


You will also see fluctuations in the Amazon sales rank when your book is first released on Amazon. As the initial backorder are filled, the sales rank plummets (sometimes below 1,000) for a brief period. You might also see dramatic drops in Amazon sales rank when a large Corporation or a University buys your book as a textbook.


Here is a GREAT article on Amazon sales rank calculations:

Amazon's sales rank is calculated as a rolling figure. It's based on sales over a recent period. I can't remember if the period is 60 or 90 days, though. It is, however, weighted by overall total sales (they put this back in after having dropped it for a couple of years), keeping long-term big sellers afloat even after their sharp sales peaks have leveled out.

Not all books are recalculated with the same frequency. The top 1,000 are recalculated hourly. The next block (up to 100,000, I think) are recalculated weekly, while the rest get checked monthly. However, a sudden burst in sales is enough to force an immediate recalculation on a 100,000+ book. This is probably based on a percentage of overall sales, but that's just a guess.

· 1 - 10,000 are recalculated every hour.

· 10,001 - 110,000 are recalculated every day.

· Above 110,001 are recalculated once a month.

To begin with, any book which has no assigned sales rank has yet to sell even one copy on Amazon. So, if you're looking at a book with a sales rank of 4,000,000, then you at least know it has sold at least one copy.


Rosenthal also says that all items are assigned unique rankings. So if you're listed at an Amazon Sales Rank of 34,385 (my book's Amazon sales ranking for May 10, 2001), then there are only 34,384 books selling better than yours, and your book is selling better than approximately 4,000,000 other books.


Rank

Copies Sold/day

1

3000

10

650

100

100

1000

13

10,000

2.2 (11 copies every 5 days)

100,000

0.2 (1 copy every 5 days)

1,000,000

0.006 (3 copies every 500 days)

2,000,000

0.0001 (1 copy every 1000 days)


Rosenthal estimates that Amazon sells over 150,000 books per day. Using that as a baseline, he has developed a chart where he plots Amazon sales rank against sales.

· The top-selling book MAY be selling as many as 3,000 copies a day.

· The 10th best selling book MAY be selling up to 650 copies a day.

· The 100th book MAY be selling up to 100 copies a day.

· To break into the top 10,000 listings, your book needs to sell at least 2
copies a day.


An ASR above 10,000, it gives books / day / 5 (approx. the number of years Amazon has been tracking ranks). In other words, if you sell 14 books, you'll get a rank around 900,000. The graph will tell you that you're selling around .006 books per day, multiply by 365 and get = 2.1 books / year. Since Amazon has been doing this around 5 years, the graph predicts you've sold around 11 books - pretty good! It doesn't matter if you sold 11 books seven years ago, 11 books last week, or just over 2 books a year for 5 years, the rank will be the same.

Monday, September 21, 2009

St. Simons Activist Fights Anew in Book









By AMY CARTER The Brunswick News


September 8, 2009


She's back.

With her wiener dogs.

And a cause.

It's not a real cause this time, mind you. Virginia Gunn is not looking for another one of those.

"In fact, I never was," says Gunn, a former Glynn County commissioner and St. Simons Island resident whose island activism is the inspiration for a new book by television personality Nancy Grace.


The real Gunn's eponymous alter ego in the book, however, is passionate enough about protecting the beaches of St. Simons Island that she will spend hours in the Kroger grocery store parking lot, waiting to enlist in her fight the as-yet-unknown driver of a beaten up Volkswagen Beetle sporting a shiny new Greenpeace bumper sticker.


Meet the fictional Virginia Gunn, heroine of an entertaining little subplot in "The Eleventh Victim," a novel by HLN news host Grace, a Georgia native and former prosecutor of violent crimes in Atlanta.


Grace's Gunn is cocked to fight. Over condos. On the beach. Even if you weren't living here 18 years ago when the name "Virginia Gunn" and the word "beach" first appeared in the same news story, your interest should pique to find the two reunited again.


Grace read those stories of the real Gunn's fight in the community while still working as a prosecutor in Atlanta. A Macon-born Methodist who spent summers in youth camp at Epworth By the Sea, Grace says she remembers the St. Simons Island of old, "in a pristine condition." Keeping up with the development of the island through newspaper articles, she found fodder for the plotline of her first fiction book.


"Virginia Gunn has always been such a high profile celebrity in the city of Atlanta and we met when I was a felony prosecutor," Grace said. She wrote the story of the St. Simons Island beach first, and then named her character for Gunn later "because of her deep love for St. Simons."

Grace's novel is a thriller not unlike the kinds of books written by the real Gunn's fellow activist in matrimony, the late Bill Diehl. Diehl's fame was cinched when Burt Reynolds directed and starred in the 1981 movie version of Diehl's novel "Sharky's Machine." The couple married in a televised New Year's Eve ceremony at The Cloister on Sea Island as 1982 turned to 1983. They later moved to "Thunder Point," a house in King City that overlooks the St. Simons Sound. Diehl wrote seven of his nine bestsellers there. A retired Emmy-winning Atlanta television personality, Gunn was known during that St. Simons Island interlude simply as "the turtle lady." Until Glynn County proposed a nourishment project that would have rebuilt the unstable beaches of St. Simons Island with sand dredged from the ocean floor and held in place by two massive concrete groins, or jetties.

One of her earliest headlines in The News appeared on May 8, 1991: "Citizens Question Beach Renourishment." A sidebar asked: "Is Project a Threat to Turtles?" In that story, the real Gunn, a volunteer member of the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, asked government officials: "Why are you doing this (renourishment project) during turtle breeding season? The dredge boats killed 83 turtles last month. Turtles are coming in all sliced up and I know what's doing it. Five turtles were killed last week."


And so the war was on.


Eventually, Gunn and Diehl would parent an organization devoted to finding alternatives to the county's beach building plan. The Save the Beach organization argued that groins would only increase erosion; that beaches are, by nature, unstable, building and eroding as Mother Nature deems. They researched alternatives to the $7 million project. They picketed in front of the historic Glynn County Courthouse. They daily called in to the local radio talk show, bought full-page newspaper ads and made the cover of "Creative Loafing," an alternative newspaper published for the Atlanta market.


They fought the county for the better part of a year, until the idea of beach nourishment was finally abandoned.


"Bill and Virginia were perfect leaders for the Save the Beach movement," says Nancy Thomason, a former member of Save the Beach and owner of Beachview Books in the Village on St. Simons Island. "They had brains, glamour, celebrity and passion. They worked tirelessly and fearlessly because they knew they were right."


Like her fictional self, Gunn is a former member of the Glynn County Commission, elected the year the beach project died.


"Sometimes being commissioner felt like a blood sport," Gunn said.

Not unlike the battle for the beach. Still, the good memories trump the bad.

"Somehow Virginia, and others in the group, were always able to see humor in what was happening," Thomason recalled. "We laughed a lot. We always knew we were having more fun than the other side, even when it looked like they were winning."


The people were the ultimate victors, Gunn said.


"I'm very proud. The beaches look great, and we saved the taxpayers millions of dollars by getting this project abandoned. I hope it is a story that is never completely forgotten."


Meet Virginia Gunn.


Virginia Gunn - both live and fictional - will return to St. Simons Island on Saturday (Sept. 12th) to sign copies of "The Eleventh Victim" by Nancy Grace at Beachview Books on Mallery Street. She will bring bookplates signed by Grace. Gunn will be available from 5 to 7 p.m.





Saturday, September 19, 2009

TRULY EXCELLENT WRITING VIRGINIA GUNN DIEHL WRITES ABOUT HURRICANES AND LOST PLACES

The internet is a wonderful tool for research or to find places from my past.


Parioli International Day School was where I went to school when I lived with my mother in Rome, Italy. I googled it the other day. I found one woman who went to school there. She remembered the pears that we were served at lunch and how good they were. I don't remember the pears. I remember three things about that school. I received my first kiss there. I would hardly call it a kiss, more like an innocent gang bang. Elizabeth Taylor's two boys went to the same school while she was filming Cleopatra. One day they and a few of their friends chased me into the girl's locker room. They held my arms down and kissed me all over my head. I broke away and ran out yelling, "Cooties!"


The second thing I remember was I was given a job with responsibility connected to it.


We were having a fair and I was in charge of getting the horses. They probably were really ponies, but they seemed pretty big to me. We had to bring the horses across town to the school. Now you would think that they would have loaded up on a trailer for transport, but nope. A man and I transported them by leading them to the school. Through the streets of Rome. Have you ever seen the traffic in Rome?! Roman traffic is scary enough if you are in a car. Walking with horses is a death wish. Somehow we did it. I was so proud of myself. So proud in fact, I jumped up on one and started riding him around the school grounds. It had been raining. I rode him onto some asphalt court. He slipped and fell full force on top of me. It knocked the wind out of me. Stupid thing to do. The horse could have broken a leg. I could have been killed. Only by the grace of God we both lived. It was at that point in my life that I started losing interest in horses.


When I came back to the states my father allowed me to enter a horse show. I placed third, out of three. My love of horses was gone. I like to look at them, but I'll leave the riding up to others.


The last thing I remember about Parioli International Day School is the day we graduated.


I guess we were graduating from middle school. We were all dressed in our uniforms, listening to whatever you listen to at such an event when a bird shit on my head and shoulders. This was so damn funny to everyone in attendance except me. Some nice teacher said it was a sign of good luck. Who thought that up? To me it was a sign that a bird had shit all over my head, and I can't remember any good luck coming out of that situation.


All in all, I had a wonderful time at that school. Now it is gone. According to the internet, it moved to Milan. I don't know why someone would move a school from Rome to Milan, but it's gone. It made me sad. I don't really know why. It's not like I have some great desire to visit it. It just made me sad. I wonder what stands there now? Losing people and places from my past is just a reminder that nothing last forever. I guess that's the sad part of life.


Today I was informed by the television that hurricane Bill has formed. I wish Bill, my husband was alive. He would be pleased that there is a hurricane out there named after him.


The number of vacations that Bill and I took together can be counted on one hand. We never went anywhere much unless it was for business. There was no one to take care of all of our animals and I've been just about everywhere already, so it was never really important that we go places. We lived on an island, on the most beautiful piece of property, with amazing sunsets, and dolphins playing off our deck. Who needs to leave that?


Before we married, we did take a vacation. The year was 1979. We started off by going to Montego Bay in Jamaica. We had a pretty, little bungalow that was almost right on the water's edge. We had our own pool out the back door of our room. When we arrived the weather was perfect. I remember him on that first day rolling around in the sand, laughing and splashing in the water. We got sunburned and had room service bring our dinner to a table that sat outside the room. It was lovely and it seemed as though we were the only people there. Later that night, the rains came. They came and never left. Day in, day out, it rained and it was very windy. We would order room service and the waiter would try to bring food, but by the time he got there, half of it had blown away. This was no longer fun. One night I got up to go to the bathroom. The water was up to my ankles. I opened the back door and I could no longer see the pool. Just water, everywhere. A mongoose was trying his best to swim out of town. I opened the front door and the ocean was at the front door. We were surrounded by water, front and back. I tried to wake Bill and he said, " If the water gets to the top of the bed, wake me." I guess he figured since we had no radio, no T.V., no phone, what's the point of getting up? I figured if he didn't care, why should I? The next morning I got up and there was no electricity. No water. No nothing except lots of wind and rain. At this point, we both decided we needed to get out of dodge. We dragged our bags to the reception area and checked out. The guy behind the desk actually says, " Was there a problem?" We told him to find us a car. We needed to get to the airport. After what seemed like hours, a car is located. The man actually spoke English. He proceeded to tell us that hurricane David had come through. Many people were dead. The courthouse had lost all their records as the water rushed through it. Trees were down everywhere. You couldn't even see a street. We were making our own streets. It was a most horrible sight.


We finally made our way to the airport. It was packed with people trying to get out. So many unhappy people just standing around. The airport was closed. More hours passed.


Finally Bill took control. He left and came back later with a big grin on his face. When in doubt, throw money at the problem. He had found a drunk pilot in the bar. For a large amount of money he agreed to fly us out of there, if we could find someone to remove the palm trees from the runways. He paid people to go out and remove the debris. Then we rounded up some other people who were just as desperate as we were to get out of there.


We split the cost. We didn't bother to tell them that the pilot was drunk.


We finally ended up in Haiti. A place called Habitation LeClerc. A fifty acre, walled luxury resort. They say it once was the home to Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister. I have never stayed in such a beautiful place. There were thirty six guest villas. Nineteen swimming pools. Each one of the eighteen swimming pools were shared by two villas. The nineteenth one was the main pool. Once again, we were alone in our own villa, with our own pool. I imagine now, the reason we were alone was because it was hurricane season.


I didn't care why. I was in heaven. Each villa had a large bell that you rang when you wanted anything. Food, drink, a massage. It would be delivered immediately by someone who must have been living under the villa. They would just appear. I would swim naked in our pool. There was no one to see me, and at that time in my life, I looked pretty good, so why bother with a suit? The villas were almost like living outdoors. No doors on interior rooms. No glass anywhere. Shuttered windows that stayed opened most of the time. It was simply magical for many days, and then THEY came.


The family arrived in the villa next to ours. They were fat and loud and very unhappy. I didn't care that they were fat. I've been fat at times, myself. I did mind that they were loud and pissed off. You could hear them screaming at each other. Especially the wife. She hated the place. No phone. No T.V. No air conditioning. She was one miserable person.


I was just as miserable thinking of spending time with them in "my" pool. So, she storms out on the balcony, still yelling at her poor husband. I did the only thing I could think to do to irritate her even more. I went down to the pool, stripped down to nothing and dove into the water. The woman looked like she was going to have a heart attack. Shortly thereafter, they checked out and life went back to pure bliss. It was a most wonderful time with the man I loved for so many years. So, I decided the other day to google it. Not that I would ever want to go back without Bill, but just for a trip down memory lane. This is what I found out about Habitation LeClerc.


At one time in the seventies it was the place to go. Jackqueline Bouvier Kennedy stayed there . Mick and Bianca Jagger did too. It shut down in the eighties. This is the description of it now: " The ancient stone wall surrounding the fifty acre forest has collapsed into heaps of rubble. Squatters and thugs have invaded the once-pristine grounds, moving into its bungalows, cutting down trees, destroying plants and dealing drugs. It is now a metaphor for the environmental problems facing Haiti.


Territorial bandits, mountains of trash, and pigs have eased their way up to and over the walls of the buildings and Botanical Gardens, causing most of the plants to be near extinction or die. Makeshift machine-gun slots now block the windows of the hotel reception area, and the marble fountains have long since run dry. A notorious drug gang called the Red Army has overrun the place, terrorizing and extorting "rent" from hundreds of squatters who have occupied the estate's thirty five mildewed villas. Nighttime gunfights are common, with corpses left on display in the morning."


How could something like this happen? Sixty percent of Haiti's seven million people live on less than one dollar a day. With poverty at this level, I guess it's not so hard to understand.


So, Parioli International Day School and Habitation LeClerc are gone, and I'm just sitting here wishing I still had the body and the confidence to swim naked in a pool, without a care in the world. Wishing my husband was still here to rent a drunk pilot.


Hurricane David killed thousands of people before he made landfall in the United States. He came in south of Savannah, close to where we ended up living most of our married lives. It was a tragedy for so many people. We could have been killed, but we weren't, and it will always stand out in my mind as one of our most excellent adventures.


Nothing last forever, not even the Bonaparte's villa. Not my school, and not my husband.


Cherish the memories of your life. Cherish the golden moments, and try to make some more.


And then there was hurricane Hugo, but that's for another day.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I WILL NOT READ YOUR F**KING SCRIPT







We know you've been working very hard on your screenplay, but before you go looking for some professional feedback, you might keep in mind the following piece by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson.
I will not read your fucking script.

That's simple enough, isn't it? "I will not read your fucking script." What's not clear about that? There's nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever.

If that seems unfair, I'll make you a deal. In return for you not asking me to read your fucking script, I will not ask you to wash my fucking car, or take my fucking picture, or represent me in fucking court, or take out my fucking gall bladder, or whatever the fuck it is that you do for a living.

You're a lovely person. Whatever time we've spent together has, I'm sure, been pleasurable for both of us. I quite enjoyed that conversation we once had about structure and theme, and why Sergio Leone is the greatest director who ever lived. Yes, we bonded, and yes, I wish you luck in all your endeavors, and it would thrill me no end to hear that you had sold your screenplay, and that it had been made into the best movie since Godfather Part II.

But I will not read your fucking script.

At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I'm a dick. But if you're interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who are the dick in this situation, please read on.

Yes. That's right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.

I was recently cornered by a young man of my barest acquaintance.

I doubt we've exchanged a hundred words. But he's dating someone I know, and he cornered me in the right place at the right time, and asked me to read a two-page synopsis for a script he'd been working on for the last year. He was submitting the synopsis to some contest or program, and wanted to get a professional opinion.

Now, I normally have a standard response to people who ask me to read their scripts, and it's the simple truth: I have two piles next to my bed. One is scripts from good friends, and the other is manuscripts and books and scripts my agents have sent to me that I have to read for work. Every time I pick up a friend's script, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring work. Every time I pick something up from the other pile, I feel guilty that I'm ignoring my friends. If I read yours before any of that, I'd be an awful person.

Most people get that. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the guilt factor is really high, or someone plays on a relationship or a perceived obligation, and it's hard to escape without seeming rude. Then, I tell them I'll read it, but if I can put it down after ten pages, I will. They always go for that, because nobody ever believes you can put their script down once you start.

But hell, this was a two page synopsis, and there was no time to go into either song or dance, and it was just easier to take it. How long can two pages take?

Weeks, is the answer.

And this is why I will not read your fucking script.

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.

(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)

You may want to allow for the fact that this fellow had never written a synopsis before, but that doesn't excuse the inability to form a decent sentence, or an utter lack of facility with language and structure. The story described was clearly of great importance to him, but he had done nothing to convey its specifics to an impartial reader. What I was handed was, essentially, a barely coherent list of events, some connected, some not so much. Characters wander around aimlessly, do things for no reason, vanish, reappear, get arrested for unnamed crimes, and make wild, life-altering decisions for no reason. Half a paragraph is devoted to describing the smell and texture of a piece of food, but the climactic central event of the film is glossed over in a sentence. The death of the hero is not even mentioned. One sentence describes a scene he's in, the next describes people showing up at his funeral. I could go on, but I won't. This is the sort of thing that would earn you a D minus in any Freshman Comp class.

Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn't actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn't require any kind of training, skill or equipment. Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don't regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.


So. I read the thing. And it hurt, man. It really hurt. I was dying to find something positive to say, and there was nothing. And the truth is, saying something positive about this thing would be the nastiest, meanest and most dishonest thing I could do. Because here's the thing: not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I've done you a favor, because now you'll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is. The unlucky ones keep on writing shitty screenplays and asking me to read them.

To make matters worse, this guy (and his girlfriend) had begged me to be honest with him. He was frustrated by the responses he'd gotten from friends, because he felt they were going easy on him, and he wanted real criticism. They never do, of course. What they want is a few tough notes to give the illusion of honesty, and then some pats on the head. What they want--always--is encouragement, even when they shouldn't get any.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell someone that they've spent a year wasting their time? Do you know how much blood and sweat goes into that criticism? Because you want to tell the truth, but you want to make absolutely certain that it comes across honestly and without cruelty. I did more rewrites on that fucking e-mail than I did on my last three studio projects.

My first draft was ridiculous. I started with specific notes, and after a while, found I'd written three pages on the first two paragraphs. That wasn't the right approach. So I tossed it, and by the time I was done, I'd come up with something that was relatively brief, to the point, and considerate as hell. The main point I made was that he'd fallen prey to a fallacy that nails a lot of first timers. He was way more interested in telling his one story than in being a writer. It was like buying all the parts to a car and starting to build it before learning the basics of auto mechanics. You'll learn a lot along the way, I said, but you'll never have a car that runs.

(I should mention that while I was composing my response, he pulled the ultimate amateur move, and sent me an e-mail saying, "If you haven't read it yet, don't! I have a new draft. Read this!" In other words, "The draft I told you was ready for professional input, wasn't actually.")

I advised him that if all he was interested in was this story, he should find a writer and work with him; or, if he really wanted to be a writer, start at the beginning and take some classes, and start studying seriously.

And you know what? I shouldn't have bothered. Because for all the hair I pulled out, for all the weight and seriousness I gave his request for a real, professional critique, his response was a terse "Thanks for your opinion." And, the inevitable fallout--a week later a mutual friend asked me, "What's this dick move I hear you pulled on Whatsisname?"

So now this guy and his girlfriend think I'm an asshole, and the truth of the matter is, the story really ended the moment he handed me the goddamn synopsis. Because if I'd just said "No" then and there, they'd still think I'm an asshole. Only difference is, I wouldn't have had to spend all that time trying to communicate thoughtfully and honestly with someone who just wanted a pat on the head, and, more importantly, I wouldn't have had to read that godawful piece of shit.

You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it's not a huge imposition. It's not your choice to make. This needs to be clear--when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you're not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you're asking them to give you--gratis--the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.

There's a great story about Pablo Picasso. Some guy told Picasso he'd pay him to draw a picture on a napkin. Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, and said, "One million dollars, please."

"A million dollars?" the guy exclaimed. "That only took you thirty seconds!"

"Yes," said Picasso. "But it took me fifty years to learn how to draw that in thirty seconds."

Like the cad who asks the professional for a free read, the guy simply didn't have enough respect for the artist to think about what he was asking for. If you think it's only about the time, then ask one of your non-writer friends to read it. Hell, they might even enjoy your script. They might look upon you with a newfound respect. It could even come to pass that they call up a friend in the movie business and help you sell it, and soon, all your dreams will come true. But me?

I will not read your fucking script.

Josh Olson's screenplay for the film A History of Violence was nominated for the Academy Award, the BAFTA, the WGA award and the Edgar. He is also the writer and director of the horror/comedy cult movie Infested, which Empire Magazine named one of the 20 Best Straight to Video Movies ever made. Recently, he has written with the legendary Harlan Ellison, and worked on Halo with Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp. He adapted Dennis Lehane's story "Until Gwen," which he will also be directing. He is currently adapting One Shot, one of the best-selling Jack Reacher books for Paramount.

©2009 Josh Olson. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I’M ATTENDING THE NEW ENGLAND CRIMEBAKE TO SPEAK ABOUT WRITING YOUR NOVEL TO BE A FILM!












NEW ENGLAND CRIME BAKE 2009

8TH Annual Mystery Conference for Writers and Readers
November 13, 14, 15 ---- Hilton Hotlel, Deadham, Mass.

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!




Check out the exciting participants and schedule. http://www.crimebake.org/schedule.htm
See you there!