MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Dennis Palumbo Book Signing at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Pittsburgh

A nice photo of author Dennis Palumbo and Jim Denova, from his recent book signing at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Pittsburgh.







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Bloody Disgusting: Movies Here’s Every Shark Attack Horror Movie Swimming Our Way in the Near Future!



The film adaptation of Steve Alten’s Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror has been in development for many years now, with various filmmakers attached at different times. At one point, Jan de Bont (Twister) was seated in the director’s chair, while Eli Roth was more recently set to direct. What’s taking a bite out of the big screen this Summer is, instead, a film directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) and being released by Warner Bros. Jason Statham leads an international crew into the deep, Megalodon-dominated waters in The Meg, which looks to be putting F-U-N ahead of terror. With a unique cast including Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Bingbi Li and Cliff Curtis (who appeared in Deep Rising!), The Meg looks to essentially be Deep Blue Sea for a new generation, and I write that with nothing but excitement in my soul. This one promises to be a wild spectacle and one hell of a good time.

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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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This pottery is mesmerizing

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.
Elena Ferrante: ‘God didn’t make a good impression on my teenage self’
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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.










 

Steve Alten Teases Seventh ‘Meg’ Franchise Novel, ‘Meg: Purgatory’!


Ahead of the release of The Meg in August, author Steve Alten is soon unleashing the sixth book in his mega shark series that inspired the Jon Turteltaub-directed film. It’s titled Meg: Generations, and pre-orders for that novel are ending today, May 31 at midnight; Generations is being sold exclusively through Alten’s website.

Pre-ordered books will be shipped in June, along with the eBook launch.

But Meg: Generations won’t be the final chapter in the saga, as previously suggested. Alten has revealed over on Facebook that a seventh book is rumbling around in his head!

“As I worked on [Generations], my imagination sparked an amazing alternative ending that will lead to a 7th novel called MEG: PURGATORY,” Alten announced.

In the meantime, Meg: Generations “picks up after MEG: Nightstalkers with David Taylor in the Salish sea attempting to locate and rescue any surviving Megalodon pups before a local fisherman slaughters them. Meanwhile, Jonas is coerced into joining an expedition into the Panthalassa sea in search of a prehistoric predatory species possessing liver enzymes that can cure cancer.”

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The Meg TV Movie Trailer... Your Next Guilty Pleasure!

 After a deep-sea submersible is attacked by a massive shark, expert diver Jason Taylor teams up with an oceanographer and his daughter to rescue the crew trapped at the bottom of a Pacific trench. Taylor faces off against the perils of the ocean and the prehistoric 75-foot-long Megalodon, which was believed long-extinct. In a twist of fate, Taylor encountered the shark once before and must face his fears to stop the terrifying creature. "The Meg," rated PG-13 is in theaters August 10, 2018.


6 indie bookstores you’ll love, all thriving in Pittsburgh

Every independent bookshop, like a good novel, has its own story to tell.

As we explored six of Pittsburgh’s best, we set out to solve a mystery: How have these unique businesses, some nearly a century old and others much newer, escaped the fate of chain stores such as Waldenbooks and Borders?

A few years ago, independent bookstores nationwide were in peril. But instead of becoming anachronistic outposts of literacy, independent bookshops are now thriving.

According to the American Booksellers Association, approximately 570 independent bookstores have opened in the U.S. since 2009, bringing the total number of shops to a little over 2,200.

Author Dennis Palumbo visits Oakmont. Image courtesy of Mystery Lovers Bookshop.


Mystery Lovers Bookshop
Oakmont Opened: 1990

When Natalie Sacco and her husband Trevor Thomas bought Mystery Lovers Bookshop three years ago, they knew there was a tradition to uphold. The cozy shop in Oakmont’s business district has been the pulse of Western Pennsylvania’s mystery community for 28 years. Any attempts to deviate from the mystery genre would not only devastate devoted readers, but also be economically foolish.

 “Mystery Lovers has been able to weather all those storms because of that niche,” Sacco says. “The store has always held on to this very core customer base. You have these mystery fans who want to talk to people. They want to talk about mysteries and get recommendations.” Since it opened in 1990, Mystery Lovers has known how to pick winners: They’ve hosted numerous unknown writers who went on to huge careers, including Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Lisa Scottoline, Craig Johnson, and Ian Rankin.

It’s a great place to meet authors one-on-one. At the ongoing event series, Coffee & Crime, you won’t find “an author standing up there lecturing from a podium,” Sacco says. “They’re sitting down, at eye level with the audience,” as people drink coffee and dive deep into conversation about sleuths and villains.

Sacco credits Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman, who owned Mystery Lovers from its opening until 2012, for creating a strong foundation and a loyal customer base. “They kept it going for 22 years,” Sacco says. “They continue to support us and be good advocates in the community. We’ve gotten a lot of goodwill from authors who know them and want to come to the store because they knew Richard and Mary Alice.”

“I think people want conversation, they want a human connection,” says Susan Hans O’Connor, owner of Sewickley’s Penguin Bookshop. “They want to talk about ideas; they want to talk about books they’ve already read or that they haven’t read that they should read.”

Stephanie Flom, executive director of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, agrees that conversation and that the sharing of ideas are key.

“Independent bookstores are essential to the health of our community,” Flom says. “We say that the mission of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures is to create community, stimulate public discourse and inspire creativity and a passion for the literary arts. Isn’t that what happens in indie bookstores every day?”

Ready to go exploring? Here’s a guide to some of Pittsburgh’s coolest literary hangouts.   Read more!

Nancy Nigrosh: An agent's perspective on diversity in Hollywood

Female directors are finding more opportunity in Hollywood, including on TV's "Jessica Jones." Zetna Fuentes, left, Mairzee Almas, Millicent Shelton, Liz Friedlander (seated), Rosemary Rodriguez, Jet Wilkinson. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)


Regarding "Things Are Getting Better for Women Behind the Camera in TV" [March 11]: Kudos to the current crop of prominent showrunners on their commitment "to break old habits" of gender-based bias by influencing their TV studio employers to hire more diverse directors. However, given my 23 years as a literary and talent agent, I was struck by the reference to industry gatekeepers as "typically agents with a tried-and-true Rolodex." Hardly. In my experience, agents have always pushed back on the institutionalized mind-set to exclude women and minority clients.

Without the agent perspective on how hard won the recently open climate truly is, the story is incomplete.


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Steve Alten's MEG Comics!

With a major motion picture coming out this Summer!  The best way to prepare yourself, is to make sure you pickup your copies of Steve Alten's The "MEG" comics.




The comics are currently available for order via comic book stores (www.comicshoplocator.com).



Issue #1 Rough Layouts



  



Feathered Quill Reviews Larry D. Thompson's White Witch

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Every country has their own legends they pass down through generations, and the original story that starts each legend probably has some truth to it, but over the years the stories change slightly. The country of Jamaica was no exception, and one of their most well known legends was that of the White Witch. The legend says that she was a ruthless sugar plantation owner who lived over 300 years ago.  This White Witch instilled fear in the slaves she owned through cruelty and dark magic. The story goes that she was a priestess who could wield dark magic, and possessed a snake dagger with ruby eyes that she used to kill slaves who disobeyed.  Finally, a brave slave decided it was time to rid the world of this terrible priestess, and he killed her. Unfortunately, he lost his life in the struggle as well, but gave specific instructions to four other slaves on how to bury her body so that her soul would never return from the grave. However, these men were spooked by the recent events and did not follow his instructions, and legend has it because of that the White Witch has been free to haunt the island ever since.

Meanwhile, the slaves began to create a community in the rainforest, calling themselves Maroons. Over the years they fought off the Spaniards and then later fought against the British. Using guerrilla warfare tactics, the Maroons were successful in their efforts and the British began to realize that fighting the Maroons in the jungle was a losing battle for them, and they were not truly interested in the rainforest anyway. A treaty was struck between the Maroons and the British saying that the Maroons owned the land, and they would have control of it for as long as they wish. Now, 300 years later a mining corporation is threatening to build a mine in the middle of this Maroon country, and it may be time to fight for their land once again.

When Will Taylor came to Jamaica he had no idea about the stories surrounding the White Witch legend - he was there to do his job and that was it. He was hired as head security for a large mining company call Global American Metals, and it was his job to make sure all employees of this company stayed safe. With the background of a Navy Seal, he was ideally suited for this job and did it well. However, when he arrived on the island he could not shake the feeling that this job would be much more difficult than originally thought.

His intuition turned out to be right as within a couple days of being there a Global employee was found dead, and it appeared to be no accident, it was murder. Whisperings that the White Witch has returned spread through the island, but Will did not believe in this superstitious talk. He knows there is a living, breathing human who is behind the murder and he plans to discover the truth. As he begins to look for clues, he realizes he is a little out of his element.  Soon another employee is found dead, but still there are no leads on the murderer. Before it is over Will gets some much needed help from a local Maroon and comes face to face with the dagger of the White Witch.

This book put together such a wonderfully entertaining array of characters that I found myself loving every page.  It was more than just a murder mystery - it also had action, superstition, and romance that were all beautifully combined to make a great read.  Author Larry D. Thompson did a wonderful job of bringing the emotions of each character to the forefront, and I felt as if I was right there beside them throughout this story.

Quill says: White Witch combines all of the best things I love about reading!

To learn more about White Witch, please visit the author's website at www.larrydthompson.com

Warner Bros. has released new hi-res stills from The Meg, teasing the terrifying giant shark.






It may seem like the Megalodon might just be too much for the film’s protagonist team to take on. But with Jason Statham playing the lead, fans are looking forward to seeing The Transporter actor battle the gigantic apex predator.
In Empire’s recent issue, Statham shared his excitement in being part of The Meg movie. Moreover, he also seems to be confident about the movie’s ability to pull in the audience.

I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a movie about the biggest shark that’s ever existed? And I get to be in it? This is as good as it gets,” said Statham. The stills below were first shared by Empire magazine.

The Meg Water Ride!

This prehistoric beast sends thrill seekers into a near-vertical, zero gravity experience! Hold on tight as your raft surges up the wall, hangs weightless then drops suddenly swinging into a narrow exit. This attraction will be the largest in the park and will definitely live up to its nickname as “The Meg”.



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The Meg – Exclusive Image From Jason Statham’s Giant Shark Movie



When Bruce first swam into Amity Island for a small bite to eat, it took Chief Brody and co. several days to track the toothy bastard down. What they could have done with is a precision shark-fighting tool: Jason Statham.

Thankfully the Stath is on board to battle another aquatic apex predator for this year’s popcorniest popcorn film. Cinema’s premiere brawny action star is going face-to-face with a gigantic Megalodon (that’s a huge prehistoric shark to you and me) in The Meg — and it could prove the summer’s most exciting showdown. “I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a movie about the biggest shark that’s ever existed? And I get to be in it? This is as good as it gets,” Statham told Empire.

We’ve got a brand new shot of the titular 'don, as seen in the new Summer Movie Blowout issue of Empire which hits shelves later this week.

3 Things Every Great Story Has To Have by Dr. Ken Atchity



Film Courage: What three things does a great story have to have?

Dr. Ken Atchity, Author, Publisher, Producer: What three things? Well, it has to have a hook that gets people instantly involved in the story and that’s a huge part of the story itself. And it’s got to have a very strong character in the story that you care about and other than that, it has to have twists and turns that lead to a surprise ending. If I had to just say three things, I guess that’s what I would say the three things are. Every story needs that because a story about nothing is not going to hold anyone’s interest.

And sometimes writers when they begin their careers think that if they just write, they can write about anything but the truth is they need to write from their heart about things that matter to everyone and if they do that, you can hardly go wrong. Because stories are really not about words or word choice or anything like that. They’re about conveying the power of a character facing a dilemma that you have no idea how he or she will resolve and when you do that you’ve got everyone’s attention.

And in ancient times there was a thing called The Oral Tradition which I used to teach as a professor of Homeric Greek. The Iliad and the Odyssey were sung at campfires and everyone in the culture knew the stories. We are publishing a book right now on Homeric song and how it worked and how it held culture together. And my first book those…I call those stories the shield of memory and it was because of those stories that a person knew how to deal with himself in battle or when facing an attacking boar or when facing an angry wife or when facing pillagers trying to burn down his village. He would instantly think of the story of Heracles who did this or that or the story of Aegean who did this and that and that’s all they had. They didn’t have books for learning. It was all passed along through the oral tradition. And I think stories have never failed to play that role in human life and when you think about it you know “What’s your story?” is probably the most human response to any encounter and it goes from the court of law where the jury is trying to decide which of the two stories do they believe, to a political campaign where the voters are making that decision, to a first date where you are going “Do I believe his story? I just don’t believe it? I can’t buy his story?”  That’s the ultimate human turn down, you can’t buy the story. And it goes through everything. Advertising is conveying stories that people will want to buy the product. This is how humans operate on a daily basis so to me it’s absolutely amazing that an industry has been created where people will pay millions of dollars for stories and where stories can basically conquer the world and I believe unite the world.

I mean look at all the work we are now doing with China in the movie business. I just saw Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (the new version of it) where the male lead is Chinese and she is Western and clearly as a producer I’m watching it going “This was a Chinese financed movie,” because I understand how it works for the market…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

REVIEW: Dog Training the American Male by Steve Alten

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Dog Training the American Male is a humorous fictional tale about a Doctor. Her profession as a counselor is going well but, her own personal life is not. Once Jacob Cope, another dashing character comes into play, things change. The two have to blend their families together passing through all the fluffy parts of the initial stage, move in together and make things work with the additional new dog.

The plot and storyline seemed very simple. There wasn’t anything novel about it. What made it enjoyable to read was the way it was told and the writing skills Steve Alten demonstrated in his book. The New York Times best-selling author did not shy away from making you laugh and ponder on certain aspects of the story.

The content was suitable for a more mature audience and the humor suited the situation built from the storyline. I particularly enjoyed Jacob’s personality and his behavior before and after meeting the protagonist.

The big sloppy German Shepherd was a nice addition bringing all of the elements of the story together. The love of an animal was a beautiful and insightful way to validate how animals do, in fact, influence us and affect us.

I recommend this book to anyone seeking a good fun read. There is nothing more delightful than reading a book like this, on a day when you really don’t feel like doing anything.


Written by Jeyran Main

A Meeting of Holy Men... From Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann.

I was Richard Ellmann’s assistant at Yale. I actually remember reading this years after, and I adore Oscar Wilde. He it is who said, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth learning can be taught.” I put that on the top of every syllabus I created in my 17 years of teaching. 


When young Oscar Wilde, the controversial Irish poet, playwright and novelist, visited Philadelphia in 1882 to lecture, he made a special point of visiting the much older poet Walt Whitman at his simple residence in nearby Camden, New Jersey. It was on this American lecture tour that Wilde first gained a wide degree of fame:

"Wilde's next lecture was scheduled for the Horticultural Hall in Phila­delphia on 17 January. But he had another errand to carry out first. When he arrived at the Aldine Hotel in that city on the 16th, he was asked by a new batch of reporters which American poet he most admired. He replied without hesitation, 'I think that Walt Whitman and Emerson have given the world more than anyone else.' Longfellow, admirable as he was, was too close to European sources to have much effect in Europe. Wilde actually valued Poe, 'this marvellous lord of rhythmic expression,' above the others, but Poe was dead. 'I do so hope to meet Mr Whitman,' Wilde confided. 'Perhaps he is not widely read in England, but England never appreciates a poet until he is dead. There is something so Greek and sane about his poetry, it is so universal, so comprehensive. It has all the pantheism of Goethe and Schiller.' Two of his friends, J. M. Stoddart and George W. Childs, both publishers, were planning parties in Philadelphia for Wilde, and both invited Whitman to come from Camden, New Jersey, and attend them. Whitman declined both invitations, but asked Mrs Childs to give Wilde 'my hearty salutations and American welcome.' On 18 January, how­ever, perhaps after reading Wilde's encomium in the press, he sent Stoddart a card, 'Walt Whitman will be in from 2 till 3 1/2 this afternoon, and will be most happy to see Mr. Wilde and Mr. Stoddart.' ...

"They drove companionably (across the Delaware River) to Camden (Wilde Londonized it later to Camden Town). At this time Whitman was living with his brother and sister-in-law.  ... Wilde initiated the conversation by saying, 'I come as a poet to call upon a poet.' Whitman replied, 'Go ahead.' Wilde went on, 'I have come to you as one with whom I have been acquainted almost from the cradle.' He explained that his mother had purchased a copy of Leaves of Grass when it was published; presumably this was in 1868 (Wilde put it two years earlier), when William Michael Rossetti edited a selection of Whitman's poems. Lady Wilde read out the poems to her son, and later, when Wilde had gone up to Oxford, he and his friends carried Leaves of Grass to read on their walks....

"[After they drank a bottle of home made elderberry wine], Whitman proposed that they go to his den, where they could be on what he called 'thee and thou terms.' ...

"After two hours of talk Whitman said, 'Oscar, you must be thirsty. I'll make you some punch.' 'Yes, I am thirsty.' Whitman made him a 'big glass of milk punch,' Wilde 'tossed it off and away he went,' as Whitman recalled afterwards. But as he departed the old poet called out after him, 'Goodbye, Oscar, God bless you.' On the ride back to Philadelphia with Stoddart, who had played silent partner in these eager confabulations, Wilde unwontedly kept still, full of emotion at what he called 'the grand old man.' Stoddart, to lighten his mood, remarked that the elderberry wine must have been hard to get down. Wilde brooked no such criticism: 'If it had been vinegar I should have drunk it all the same, for I have an admiration for that man which I can hardly express.' The next time he was interviewed by a re­porter, he said of Whitman, 'He is the grandest man I have ever seen, the simplest, most natural, and strongest character I have ever met in my life. I regard him as one of those wonderful, large, entire men who might have lived in any age and is not peculiar to any people. Strong, true, and perfectly sane: the closest approach to the Greek we have yet had in modern times.' "

Marily Oppezzo: Want to Be More Creative? Go for a Walk.

Your next big idea could be around the corner -- as long as you walk the half a block to get there.  




In her research, behavioral and learning scientist Marily Oppezzo tested groups of people as they brainstormed creative uses for everyday objects. She found that those who performed the exercise while seated averaged about 20 creative ideas in four minutes, but those who brainstormed while walking on a treadmill came up with close to double. 

When the treadmill group tried the exercise while seated, they still beat the average -- meaning the potential creativity benefits tended to last even after they stopped walking. Oppezzo suggests taking a walk before your next big meeting or whenever you’re stuck, but she says it’s important to intentionally choose a problem or topic to brainstorm about as you move. To avoid forgetting any ideas you float, she suggests using a voice recording app.

Fundinmental Review: Voodoo Magic in White Witch by Larry D Thompson



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I began reading this delicious novel about voodoo and Jamaica and I couldn’t help but think of James Michener. Granted, James went much further in his historical novels, but Larry gave him a run for his money in White Witch.

We begin in 1812 Jamaica. Annie Palmer is not only a sadistic plantation owner, she is a black widow. She mates and she kills. She is an Obeah priestess, the White Witch.

I love the Caribbean. It is my favorite travel destination. To me, nothing compares to the raw beauty and power of the islands. The mix of the old and the new draws me into the mix of the tumultuous world of voodoo and bauxite mining, greed and history will be bumping heads in a big way. For some reason, lately I have been reading a lot of books that deal with mining…and it is never in a good way. Is it a current theme in the publishing and writing world? No matter, I am eager to begin.

Will is rough, tough, a o nonsense kind of guy. Right off you know better than to push him too far. He’s a decorated Seal and he’s head of security for Global American Metals. I start off not liking the guy. Can he redeem himself in my eyes? We shall see.

He’s sent to Jamaica to smooth the ruffled feathers of the Maroons, who have plenty to say about the strip mining of their tropical rain forest.

A tropical rain forest, an unhappy nation of Maroons, a curse, voodoo, and now a dead body. Let’s rock!

All the ugliness of corporate greed rears its ugly head. The only reason I am not super ticked off is because I believe the destruction of the rain forest, at least if Annie has anything to say about it, will never happen.

It takes a novel like this to make some people think about the environment, let alone a rain forest. I love when novels contain important elements of real life, making them more believable.

White Witch by Larry D Thompson is so much more than what I was expecting. The twisting and turning, the mystery and danger, the tension and suspense kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning. I love when an author can incorporate fact and fiction with a little mysticism into an adventure that makes me see an exotic tropical island in a new light. I knew some of Jamaica’s history from reading and visiting this world tropical paradise. That makes it easier to get lost in the story.

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From the Writer's Trenches Marilyn Horowitz


One good thing about all of the snow was that it felt great to stay inside and write.  As I sat writing and watched the big white flakes fall, I marveled when I remembered that each snowflake is unique, in the same way that each of our stories is unique.  

One of the principles I use when developing a new TV series or screenplay is to encourage the writer to be as specific as possible. The more specific we are, the more universal we are. By embracing your personal past, ethnicity and race, the better the work gets, and the deeper the connection with the intended audience.

                                 


I met with my friend, Ken Atchity last week. Ken is a former professor turned producer, and is rare combination of erudite erudition, streetwise savvy and kindness. He has just written a new book, Sell Your Story To Hollywood: Writer’s Pocket Guide To The Business of Show Business.

There’s a lot of meaty information, but one thing that really spoke to me was his advice to writers when waiting for a meeting, for the deal to close, or production to happen. DON’T WAIT! Do something while you wait. 

Work on a new project. Every story has it’s own flow and it can take 10 minutes or ten years to set up a project. One of my colleagues just sold a project to Netflix that took ten years!


Ken quotes Ray Bradbury: “ Start writing more. It’ll get rid of those moods you’re having.”


I’m looking forward to speaking to FilmMakeHers, a dynamic group of women dedicated to furthering their careers in the business. I will be giving a talk about how to use The Four Magic Questions Of Screenwriting when structuring a film or TV pilot.  I’m planning to have the attendees use the technique to either structure a new story, or review one they are currently working on during the three-hour class.  It’s so exciting to work on new stories with new people!


Ask you write, consider how your personal history can successfully influence your work, and appreciate your own uniqueness.


Here's to your successful writing!



Professor Marilyn Horowitz

There Are 3 Ways To Break Into Hollywood And I Didn’t Use Any Of Them by Dr. Ken Atchity


“You cannot fail at being yourself, which means doing with all your might what you were born to do with your light, your vision, and your time.” ... let us remember the words of Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset: “I think the only immoral thing is for a being not to live every instant of its life with the utmost intensity" ~ Jose Ortega y Gasset



Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: What key steps did you take to go from being a tenured professor? Most people would do many things that aren’t good to be in those shoes. I’m sure first of all you had to deal with social pressure, people were probably trying to talk you out of it…maybe not? What steps did you take?

Dr. Ken Atchity, producer/author: Well…in retrospect you can always make it look more planned and logical than what it was at the time. But I basically…I ran into a very inspiring many whose name is Norman Cousins who was the editor of Saturday Review world of those days and he came to speak in a class of mine at Occidental College and it turned out we shared a motto that no one else in the world had ever heard of and that motto was a single sentence by the Spanish philosopher [José] Ortega y Gasset that said “I think the only immoral thing is for a being not to use every instant of its existence with the utmost intensity.” And I had never heard anyone else quote that, but after his talk in my class I asked him to come to my office and I showed him that it was framed above my desk and so needless to say we bonded. 

Long story short, I asked him what I should do when I grow up which I’d asked male authority figures all my life basically. He told me after we got to know each other that I should consider the entertainment business because it was much broader than the academic world and people can basically do whatever…anything creative you’re encouraged to do basically. You can find your own way. There are no rules and schedules and all of those kind of things that we find in academia.

And I love academic you know? The world and the ideas that are exchanged and all of that. But it was restricting and it was (for me) suffocating. Which is a word that means a lot to me personally. It’s my most ancient nightmare being suffocated and I’ve never been suffocated in the…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


The Meg Standee from the floor of CinemaCon!

The Meg standee will allow you to take a photo inside the mouth of a shark, which should make for a fun social media pic! So keep your eyes peeled, Meg-heads.



Film Courage: Starting at Age 43




Watch the video on Youtube here


Film Courage: Ken, as a tenured professor in your mid-40s, what made you think you could change careers?

Dr. Ken Atchity, producer and author: Well, this is America and you can do whatever you want to do. It’s one of the great things about this country.
What I was doing was very related to a career I’m in now. It was developing stories, developing writers, and of course, teaching a number of things that I no longer teach like classical literature and Italian literature.

So it’s all united by storytelling. I had no idea which world was sort of the bigger world of ideas, the world of academia that I had been in for 17 years, or the world I went into. And I discovered that the world I went into was really the world of ideas, because it’s a world in which people are tracking ideas across continents to find out who owns the rights to a story.

They pay lots of money to acquire the story (at least they used to pay lots of money) and they spend millions of dollars to turn the story into a movie and they’re fiercely competitive about the world of ideas. The motion picture business is the jungle of ideas and it’s survival of the best idea and the best business people.

I always so it’s called show business for a reason. It’s not just about show, it’s about the business of how stories get developed into movies that the whole world can see.

Film Courage: I’m hoping we can go back to maybe before you made this transition to wanting to be in film? Was there something that happened, was there a time in your life that where you felt like “You know what? I want a new challenge.”

Dr. Ken Atchity: That’s a good question because I’ve reflected on it all of my life since then and it was actually provoked by my receiving tenure. I actually belonged to an untenured faculty committee against tenure. One day when I was a Fulbright professor in Bologna, Italy, I got a telegraph from the Dean of the faculty at Occidental College telling me that I’d received tenure in my absence.
And my reaction to it was not very understandable to my friends and colleagues. I became deeply depressed for about a year. And it took me a long time to figure out why I was depressed and it was because I had really never asked to be in this golden cage where nothing can happen to you. It was like the most secure place you could be and I realized at the time that my father’s chief value in life was security. He was a child of The Depression and security was all important to him. And I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t that important to me. I never worried about being secure. I’d published lots of things and I was in demand as a speaker and just never had to worry about it.

And what I valued was freedom and I didn’t feel and I didn’t feel freedom when under a structure where you had to behave a certain way and you had to know a year in advance that on the week of October 12th you’d be teaching the 8th book of The Iliad. And it was wonderful to be teaching The Iliad, but that to know a year in advance you were going to be somewhere.

I now live in a world where I don’t know where I am going to be tomorrow literally and it’s complete opposite, it’s a free world. And of course I realized that as I got older that freedom is as much an illusion as security (both of them are illusions), but it was my illusion. Security was not my illusion and so I’ve lived with complete insecurity. But with the freedom to express myself creatively and in every possible way (which is what the film business allows me to do) and so that was very exciting to me.

Film Courage: And do you ever tell people that? If they are looking to be in a creative pursuit whether it’s being an author or screenwriter or actor, that security will probably be something that they will not encounter and to be okay with that?

Dr. Ken Atchity: Absolutely. I mean this is not a career to wish on anyone. You have to have a burning desire to do it and you have to be willing to sacrifice anything to do it and to persist despite every setback and I can tell you that this is a business in which (a career) this never gets easier, I don’t care how many movies you’ve done. The next one is going to be the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced, the world changes all the time. It’s been changing ever since I’ve been in it which is around 30 years now and it never gets any easier and it never gets any more secure and even if you’ve had windfalls and lot.

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