Montreal Times Reviews Dennis Palumbo's Head Wounds

Check out Page 13 for Review of Dennis Palumbo's Head Wounds 

 ON SALE NOW! Daniel Rinaldi #5, HEAD WOUNDS 

"A riveting series." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY 

"Jack Reacher with a psychology degree." KIRKUS REVIEWS

Book Marketing Buzz: Interview with Literary Agent & Hollywood Producer Ken Atchity

Ken Atchity, who has successfully negotiated hundreds of publishing and Hollywood deals, edited and written numerous books, was a professor of comparative literature and creative writing, and produced over 30 stories for television and film, is interviewed here by BookMarketing BuzzBlog:

1. Ken, are you working with authors today?

I certainly am, more than ever, now that I’ve found a better way to do it. Through my webinars and services we can help with nearly every writer’s needs.

2. What are some of the biggest properties that you’ve handled?

By far the biggest to date is THE MEG, which has recently passed half a billion dollars at the box office! The next biggest is the franchise DR. FUDDLE AND THE GOLD BATON, slated to be three live-action animation films.

3. What do you enjoy about working with creative talent?

I enjoy almost every aspect of it, except for the bad craziness part. I love discovery, development, perfecting the story, publishing the story, and producing the story.

4. As an author yourself, what advice do you have for other struggling writers?

Never stop learning your craft, never stop being grateful that you’re a writer, and never stop writing.

5. What trends do you see in entertainment and book publishing?

The trend is toward an insatiable demand for better and better stories. It’s the greatest time for storytellers since the world began talking.

6. You used to be a frequent columnist for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.How have the changes in the news media impacted the book world?

Changes have made it even more difficult for books to become visible, though the internet offers countless ways to achieve visibility.

7. What’s a boy from Louisiana doing in LA and NYC?

Just back from a trip to Louisiana, I ask myself that every day. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have spent a lifetime in the story marketplace directing the power of stories.

8. Which genres excite you the most? Why?

Action and thrillers are my favorites, as well as Christmas stories, and powerful dramas; all of them have a huge attraction to the marketplace.

For more information, please consult:

In Memoriam: Art Johnson

Art Johnson was a very gifted composer and talented multi-instrumental musician, having toured with Lena Horne, recorded with Barbara Streisand, and accompanied Pavarotti.  Art was also a wonderful storyteller and author who battled two diseases at the same time: Parkinson’s and polio, and yet created words and music every minute of his life.

Born in San Diego, California in 1945. At the age of twenty-three, Arthur Johnson moved to Hollywood where he spent the next twenty-one years as a studio musician, composer for films and records and touring musician to the stars. In 2002, he moved to Monaco with his wife Patricia.

He continued to perform and teach throughout his illness as well as completing an autobiography entitled Memoirs of a Sideman (excerpts and other writings here), and three novels, The Devil's Violin, Deadly Impressions and recently Marilyn My Marilyn. Listen to his music  for Marilyn, My Marilyn Film.

7 Ways The Meg Was Much Better Than You Expected

Jason Statham, talent from around the globe and a great big shark? Sign us up!

Jason Statham’s The Meg, like its titular megalodon, swam a little under the radar on its summer release. In these times of Sharknado after Sharknado, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was more B-movie trash.

But honestly, that does The Meg a disservice. Yes, it’s a B movie but it’s bloody proud of it. Every single person working on the movie knows they’re on a popcorn flick set, and each scene shows how much fun they’re having.

From start to finish, the film is a treat. Jumping seamlessly from laidback scenes fizzing with chemistry to bloody gore, The Meg defies expectation at every turn. Jason Statham, backed up by Rainn Wilson (The Office’s eccentric Dwight Schrute), Ruby Rose and a whole cast of diverse faces combine to make a marvellous summer movie.

Awards season is coming up, and although it’s unlikely to get the awards nod, there are a lot of reasons this film was much better than it’s given credit for.

If you still haven’t caught this future cult classic, there’s a couple of spoilers on entry number six, but the rest are safe, open waters to swim through.

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Story Merchant Books New Release: Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles by Kathleen Vail

Just received first copy of Kathleen Vail’s Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles off the press from Story Merchant Books. With this surprise, and gratifying, dedication:

"To Dr. Kenneth Atchity I offer my profound thanks, not only for managing the publication of this book, but for all the time and effort he generously and wholeheartedly devotes to every project he takes on. My respect for his work is, I am sure, shared by everyone who knows him, but no one knows the lovely impact of his book, Homer’s Iliad: The Shield of Memory has had on my heart. While reading it, I felt like Penelope, spellbound by an eloquent bard telling the same tales she is weaving on her loom. I am deeply honored to see my reconstruction of Achilles’ shield on the cover of Dr. Ken’s digital version of Homer’s Iliad: The Shield of Memory, and my thanks to him are immeasurable for all the support he has given me. 

Makes it all worthwhile…"

purchase on

Kathleen Vail is a member of the Maker Movement taking on the Classics. Combining career skills as a computer engineer and graphic artist for the US Department of Defense with research skills as a lifetime student of Homer’s ancient Greece, Kathleen has created a physical, artistically relevant reconstruction of the divine shield of Achilles based literally and solely on Homer’s specifications in Book 18 of the Iliad.

Enjoying great success since its creation, Vail’s reconstruction of Achilles’ shield appears on the cover of Dr. Kenneth Atchity’s 2014 Kindle version of "Homer’s Iliad: The Shield of Memory," and Carolina López-Ruiz’ "Gods, Heroes, and Monsters" (2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2018). She has also given presentations of her work to various groups and organizations, including Virginia chapters of the Classical Association and Mediterranean Society.

Visit Kathleen’s website and blog, for an in depth exploration of all things Achilles, including his spectacular armor, and Homer’s amazing power to excite our imaginations and inspire great creations by artists and artisans, aka Makers, throughout the ages and across all art forms.

DZNE Award Lecture: Nicolas Bazan Author of Una Vida

 Nicolas G. Bazan, M.D., was honoured at the DZNE in Bonn in the context of the "DZNE Award Lecture". The DZNE thus honours scientists who have made outstanding contributions in the field of neurodegnerative diseases. At the award ceremony, Bazan gave a lecture on the topic: Resiliency of brain homeostasis at the beginning of neurodegenerative diseases: significance of the newly discovered elovanoids.

Shaming My Red Lips: The Movie

“Shaming My Red Lips” tells the story of an Americanized Brooklyn teenager transported back to Iran at age sixteen because her father evaluated her cultural assimilation and decided she was becoming too white! Poppy was ripped away from her life in a liberal American environment and thrust into a new and unknown life in an Islamic country. 

Upon landing, the captain announced that all women aboard were required to put on their coats and scarves before stepping off the plane; but Poppy found herself glued to her seat. Fear was a mild word to describe what she was feeling! In Iran she was faced with culture shock but came to realize that in the cultural differences of every country there is something that can always be appreciated and cherished: remaining true to yourself. 

From going to regular school to becoming the evening news anchor in an Islamic country this is a true, hilarious and eye opening journey of how a young woman, during the most formative years of her life, desperately fought to maintain not only her freedom, but her identity. It’s a story of change, fear, hope, and ultimately, triumph. It’s a story to be shared for anyone undergoing tough circumstances no matter where in the world or faced with various challenges.

Sharon Farsijani's Shaming My Red Lips is currently being adapted into a movie with the help of Forbes top 10 speaker Dave Meltzer, Entrepreneur keynote speaker Scott Duffy and Emmy nominated producer Ken Atchity. 

 Join us in making this movie! Visit Shaming My Red Lips: The Movie on IndieGoGo

Deadline Hollywood: Charlie Matthau Readying ‘The Book Of Leah’ With Armand Assante

Filmmaker Charlie Matthau is close to finishing the independent feature The Book of Leah starring Armand Assante, which tells the story of a teenage rape victim who rebuilds herself as a karate fighter and seeks revenge on her attacker.

Brianna Joy Chomer plays Leah Gold, who after sneaking into a night
Getty Courtesy of Stan Rosenfield & Associates
club with her friends, is sexually assaulted in 1980s Chicago. The police do not take her case seriously, trying to blame Leah for being a minor, and the way she dressed. Her high-class family, embarrassed by the incident, sends Leah to a girls school, where she ultimately meets her uncle, played by four-time Golden Globe nominee Assante, who is a Holocaust survivor.

More than another female Karate Kid film, there are layers in The Book of Leah which echo a lot of what we’ve read lately about sexual assault; how alleged victims like Christine Blasey Ford and Patti Davis remained quiet about their incidents for several decades for many reasons. The Book of Leah puts a spotlight on the injustice that rape victim weather; the disbelief some face by those in authority after pointing a finger at their attackers.
In the film, Assante’s Adam Siegel forms a strong bond with Leah and builds her into a karate champ. Also starring in the pic is jazz singer and pianist Freddy Cole in his first feature role as a musical mentor to Leah, Kate Linder as Leah’s mother, Ty Olwin as the love interest, and Melanie Neilan as Leah’s friend.

Based on a true story, The Book of Leah was written by Leslie Neilan and Alan Roth. Neilan also produces with Kenneth Atchity. Matthau’s directorial credits include such pics as the 2012 feature take of Elmore Leonard’s Freaky Deaky starring Christian Slater, Billy Burke and Crispin Glover as well as 1995’s The Grass Harp based on the Truman Capote novel in which Matthau directed his Oscar-winning father Walter Matthau, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. The Grass Harp won best English Language Film at the 1996 Palm Springs Film Festival.

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Clint Hill Selected as the 44th Recipient of the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award!

Gov. Doug Burgum today announced former U.S. Secret Service agent and author Clint Hill as the 44th recipient of the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the state’s highest commendation for its citizens.

Hill served in the U.S. Secret Service from 1958 to 1975, protecting the presidency through five administrations: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Richard M. Nixon and President Gerald R. Ford.

“Clint Hill is an exceptional North Dakotan who has risked his life and health time and time again to protect our nation and its commander in chief,” said Burgum, who informed Hill of the award Wednesday. “During his 17-year career with the U.S. Secret Service, he stood guard over the nation’s highest office through the many extraordinary and unprecedented historical events that occurred from the beginning of the Cold War through the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. His exemplary record of service at the highest level of national security continues to inspire pride and respect among North Dakotans, and we are deeply grateful for his lifetime of service.”

“It is an honor to be recognized by your home state, and North Dakota has always been my home,” said Hill. “Growing up in North Dakota, the values of hard work, dedication, integrity and the importance of public service instilled in me by my family and community served me well throughout my career. I am honored and humbled to be placed in the company of the many incredible North Dakotans who have received this award.”

A native of Washburn, Hill graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., with a degree in history and physical education. Though he intended to be a history teacher and coach, he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served as a Special Agent in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps.

After his honorable discharge from the Army, Hill applied to the U.S. Secret Service and, in 1958, was accepted as a Special Agent in the Denver field office. A year later, he was assigned to the elite White House detail protecting President Eisenhower. Hill served on President Eisenhower’s protective detail in the White House and during domestic travel and several international trips at the beginning of the Cold War.

When President Kennedy took office in 1961, Hill was assigned to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s detail. Hill was in the motorcade as a member of the First Lady’s detail on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Hill ran from his position on the running board of the Secret Service follow-up car and leapt onto the back of the presidential limousine as shots were being fired. Shielding President Kennedy and the First Lady from any further shots with his own body as the car sped from Dealey Plaza to Parkland Hospital, Hill is credited with saving Jacqueline Kennedy’s life and was awarded the nation’s highest civilian award for bravery in December 1963.

Hill remained with the First Lady’s detail for a year after President Kennedy’s assassination. In 1964, he was reassigned to the White House where he joined the presidential detail during President Johnson’s administration, eventually becoming the Special Agent in Charge of Presidential Protection.

Hill became the Special Agent in Charge of Vice Presidential Protection for Vice President Spiro Agnew upon President Richard M. Nixon’s election in 1968. Under Hill’s leadership, the size and capacity of the Vice Presidential Protective Division was expanded, and in 1970 Hill became the Deputy Assistant Director of Protective Forces. Later that year, Vice President Agnew visited Hill’s mother and family during a visit to Minot.

In 1971, Hill became the Assistant Director of the Presidential Protective Division. When Hill retired from the Secret Service in 1975, he was the Assistant Director responsible for all protective forces.

Hill has co-authored three books (with Lisa McCubbin) detailing his experiences as a U.S. Secret Service Agent, including the #1 New York Times bestseller “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” “Five Days in November” and “Five Presidents.” A television series based on “Five Presidents” is currently in development with National Geographic.

Hill has been a guest speaker at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and continues to participate with Secret Service personnel in discussing protective activities and procedures.

The Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award recognizes present and former North Dakotans who have been influenced by the state in achieving national recognition in their fields

of endeavor, thereby reflecting credit and honor upon North Dakota and its citizens. Established during the 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial, the award was initially given as an honorary rank of Colonel in the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders.

The award will be presented to Hill in person at a date and location to be announced soon.


The Counsellors Café Features Therapist By Day, Crime Writer By Night by Dennis Palumbo

image by Aaron Mello

I must admit, I’ve had an interesting career journey. For many years I was a Hollywood screenwriter, after which I became a licensed psychotherapist specializing in treating creative types in the entertainment community. Now, after 29 years listening to hundreds of people’s most intimate stories, I’ve fulfilled a life-long dream and begun a series of crime novels.

The first, Mirror Image, featuring psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi, appeared in 2010 from Poisoned Pen Press. After which followed Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds. 

Which begs the question: what, if anything, does a Hollywood psychotherapist and a suspense novelist have in common? Actually, quite a bit.

For both a therapist and a crime novelist, it’s the mystery of character itself that intrigues, puzzles, and continually surprises. As a therapist, I’ve borne witness to the awful suffering, painful revelations and admirable courage of my patients - many of whom have survived unbelievable abuse, neglect and loss. Not to mention those whose lives have been marred by substance use, violence, and severe mental illness.

How people cope with these issues and events, how well or poorly they meet these challenges, goes directly to the heart of the therapeutic experience. My job as their therapist is to help identify self-destructive patterns of behavior, and to empower patients by providing tools to address these patterns and, hopefully, alter them.

So much for my day job. Moonlighting as a suspense novelist, I find myself doing pretty much the same thing with my fictional characters. As a mystery writer, I believe that crime stems from strong emotions, and strong emotions stem from conflict. Kind of like life. Which means the secret to crafting satisfying thrillers lies in exploring who your characters are (as opposed to who they say they are), what it is they want (or think they need), and the lengths to which they’ll go to get it.

Moreover, using my experience as a licensed psychotherapist, I’ve woven many of the situations and people I’ve encountered into my crime novels. People like a particularly interesting patient I once met at the psychiatric hospital where I did my clinical internship. Now, many years later, he’s the inspiration for my hero’s best friend, a paranoid schizophrenic named Noah Frye. Much like this patient from long ago, the Noah of my novels is funny, combative, and achingly aware of the reality of his situation.

I’ve used other aspects of my life experience as well. For example, although my practice is in Los Angeles, the novels take place in Pittsburgh, my home town. In addition, the series hero, a psychologist named Daniel Rinaldi who specializes in treating the victims of violent crime, shares a similar background to my own - from his Italian heritage to his love of jazz to his teenage years spent working in the Steel City’s sprawling produce yards (Though, as each novel’s narrative hurtles Rinaldi into a vortex of murder and conspiracy, he reveals himself to be a lot braver and more resourceful than I am!)

But there’s another connection between my role as a therapist and my role as a mystery writer. Like the therapist, the crime novelist swims in an ocean of envy, greed, regret, and desire. As a therapist does, the crime novelist must relate to his or her characters. Must be able to understand and empathize with their wants and needs. Must, in fact, go inside their heads and think as they think, feel as they feel.

Since most of my patients are in the entertainment industry - writers, actors, directors, etc. - they present a broad canvas of creative passions, lofty ambitions, wild yearnings and devastating defeats. They love and hate deeply, with an artist’s fervor, and this extends beyond career considerations into the most intimate aspects of their personal lives.

So too the crime novelist must create and endow his or her characters with out-sized passions, hopes and dreams. How else can things go so awry in their lives? How else can things lead, as if inevitably, to treachery, blackmail, murder?

All the things, in other words, that make reading a crime novel so satisfying!

Dennis' latest book Head Wounds is available to purchase from many leading bookstores or here at Amazon 

“In Head Wounds, Dennis Palumbo delivers another remarkable first person psychological thriller, told through the eyes of besieged Pittsburgh police psychologist Daniel Rinaldi. When Rinaldi’s haunting past takes control of his present, no one in his orbit is safe, and no reader can escape the ever rising tension as you race to the end.” 

- Jeffrey Siger, Barry and Lefty-nominated best-selling author of the Andreas Kaldis series 

“Palumbo, who specialises in thrills (both) ruthless and baroque, outdoes himself in making life so harrowing for his series hero that he’s sure to need some extra time with his own therapist…” -

"Dennis Palumbo's Daniel Rinaldi books are cerebral thrillers of the first order, with twisting plots, terrifying villains, and a narrative driven by the insight and compassion of the psychologist at the center of it all."

- Timothy Hallinan, author of the Edgar-nominated Poke Rafferty mysteries 

"Dennis Palumbo always delivers the goods, and Head Wounds is his best yet. From the very first sentence you know you're in good hands. Propulsive action and unexpected twists keep you reading way past bedtime. In Daniel Rinaldi, Palumbo has created a hero for our time--as smart as he is tough, and resolutely humane in the face of madness and brutality.”

- Sean Chercover, NY Times best-selling author of Savior’s Game

Author's Bio

Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT, formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, all from Poisoned Pen Press), feature Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.

For more info, visit Dennis' website here

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Kirkus Reviews: Nobody Walks by Dennis M. Walsh

Pulpy, engrossing account of losing a family member to a senseless murder and retribution delivered through the criminal justice system.

Attorney Walsh was the only one among his four brothers to follow the straight-and-narrow path, perhaps due to the example set by their father, a Cleveland cop turned mobster. But none of them were prepared for the death of Chris, the youngest, at the hands of fellow denizens of the meth-and-gangs subculture on the fringes of Southern California’s pornography business. Walsh lived a sibling’s nightmare, asked to identify Chris’ decaying body. Street gossip quickly pinpointed the killer, David Steinberg, Chris’ former roommate, who was an associate of white supremacist prison gangs. Despite fears that he might pre-emptively sabotage eventual prosecution, Walsh began sniffing around Chris’ friends, a motley group of drug users, porn stars and entertainment-industry hangers-on. Many agreed to cooperate with him, given the implied threat of his more criminally inclined brothers’ thirst for vengeance. The narrative is sensibly straightforward, following the turns as police, prosecutors and Walsh make efforts to gather evidence on, arrest and successfully prosecute Steinberg and his cronies. As the author himself might agree, he is in some ways too close to the material. The narrative is populated by a surfeit of underworld figures who don’t really come alive as fully developed characters, but instead seem caricatures of seamy decrepitude. Still, Walsh captures the arc of his family’s involvement in an act of senseless malice, calling into question the cultural endurance of macho violence within certain subcultures and the difficulty of holding men responsible for horrific acts within the legal system’s overtaxed framework.

Gritty, effective, personalized tale of the outlaw lifestyle and its consequences.

Proper Manuscript Format

A reader writes to ask:

I have perused your formatting advice and have a question. You advise underline to indicate italics, what about bold? Make it "actual" or use asterisks, etc.? I need to indicate vectors in bold for a fact article but for Sci-fi geared magazine. Thanks

The use of boldface type is rare enough (at least in the fiction world) that, back in the olden days, one had to indicate it by hand by drawing a squiggly line underneath the words to be bolded. For whatever reason, our society has adopted italics as the preferred method of emphasis, which is why underling is a function readily available on most typewriters but undersquiggling is not.

Boldface is, however, more common in non-fiction. In cases where it may indeed be required, either by a publication's style guide or by conventions you've adopted for a specific article, I would just go ahead and use the actual bold function of your word processor. You are unlikely these days to submit a manuscript on paper, and using asterisks around the words to be bolded is likely just to result in mistakes in the final copy. 

The Dark Madonna: A Fable of Resiliency and Imagination by Nicolas Bazan A Review

The Dark Madonna
by Nicolas Bazan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Dark Madonna: A Fable of Resiliency and Imagination by Nicolas Bazan is absolutely mesmerizing with its intriguing blend of fact and fiction! With few pages, the tale of art forgery, greed, and religious beliefs and mysteries lead a scholar on a journey across continents and cultures, that left me wanting more from this brilliant author.

Nicolas Bazan has written with a passionate pen, telling his story in the first person, deeply emotional and moving, almost like a pilgrimage of self-discovery and inner awakening as I was taken to ghostly remains of the German prison camps, where the determination to survive and the spirit of those who died there could be felt in the air. On visiting Poland, almost drawn by fate, our main character finds his scientific expertise put to good use when a sacred relic appearance to be a clever forgery and a young religious man goes missing. Who is behind this great deception to the faith of the masses? Will the vandal e found? Will the relic be found? Were the reasons behind its theft truly evil or misguided? Can the answer to a religious mystery be found in science?
Wonderfully entertaining and very well written, this short novella feels like a much longer work with its attention to detail and deeply thought out plot.

A review copy was provided by the author in exchange for my honest review and I highly recommend it!

Story Merchant Books Launches Tell Your Story to the World & Sell It For Millions

New from Story Merchant Books
Available for review and author interviews


If there’s a story distracting you during the day and keeping you awake at night, ask yourself: Is this is a great story? If your answer is yes, then this is the book for you!

Writing a book or a screenplay that causes that effect is the bar, the end-all, dope, the cat’s ass. Storytelling is the mind and heart’s counterpart to sex—an essential act of communication by which life itself is perpetuated. After you read a good book or see a great movie, what do you do? You share it with a friend.

Part I of Tell Your Story to the World & Sell It for Millions is a step-by-step guide for writing your own top-notch page-turner. Part II teaches you the cutthroat publishing and Hollywood ropes so you, too, can achieve commercial success and join the ranks of writers making seven, eight, and nine figures annually.

In our encounters with other publishers, managers, producers, studio execs, attorneys, coaches, and agents, we found ourselves agreeing with them about one thing: it’s never a great scenario to submit a terrific concept that’s unprofessionally executed. Our mission is to shave years off your learning curve and make your storytelling dreams come true.

Dr. Ken Atchity’s lifelong core expertise is stories. He’s edited them, taught them, developed them, sold them (yes, for millions!), produced them—and written them. Author of two dozen books, longtime reviewer for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, professor of literature, literary manager, career coach, and motion picture and television producer, Ken has spoken, workshopped, lectured, and keynoted about storytelling and the story market at dozens of universities, writers’ conferences, at high schools, grade schools, and adult education centers throughout the US, Asia, and Europe.

Lisa Cerasoli and Ken are long-time colleagues and friends, and as of this book, partners in writing. Lisa has been working as Ken’s VP at Story Merchant since 2013. For the authors who have books they can envision on the big and small screens, Lisa serves as a bridge by assisting, advising, as well as writing, developing, and editing every step of the way. Lisa has authored and co-authored numerous books, her works have garnered over twenty-five national and international awards, and her memoir has been optioned for a television series.

To request a review copy or schedule an interview with the authors, please email

Guest Post: What's So Bad About Good Notes? by Dennis Palumbo

Opportunities in a Dynamic Environment

Story Merchant Dr. Ken Atchity believes in the power of stories to change the world. A storyteller himself (his thriller, The Messiah Matrix , can be visited on Ken has been privileged to spend a lifetime helping stories reach their ideal audiences in both publishing and entertainment. As a literary manager he has sold over 200 books (fiction and nonfiction), and overseen over twenty New York Times bestsellers, including Mrs. Kennedy and Me, The Kennedy Detail, Dracula: The Un-Dead, and The Last Valentine. As a producer working with both major studios and indie financiers, he’s produced thirty-something films, most recently Hysteria, Erased, The Lost Valentine, and the Emmy-nominated The Kennedy Detail.

His own books include several for storytellers, including How to Publish Your Novel, Writing Treatments To Sell, and A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process from Vision through Revision.

Former professor of comparative literature at Occidental College and Distinguished Instructor at UCLA Writers Program, Ken has also served as Fulbright Professor to the University of Bologna and as regular book review for The Los Angeles Times Book Review for twenty years.

With what he calls “the new Gutenberg Revolution” in full sway with the technologies of communication, Ken says, “I’ve not been this excited about helping storytellers for years. Today there is truly a level playing field, where the old gatekeepers are giving way to new methods of reaching the audience.” At a recent Thrillerfest in New York, his talk on “Direct vs Legacy Publishing” was the most highly-attended workshop in Craftfest. His analysis of the situation can be found on his website

For all his background as manager, producer, writing coach, and author, Ken is proudest of being known for “thinking outside the box.” “If I find someone stuck in old ways of thinking,” he says, “I’m not sure I can help him. We’re living in a world of accelerating change, and your mind must be open to seizing the opportunities such a dynamic environment presents. Storytellers haven’t been this fortunate in over a hundred years.”

Steve Alten The MEG & I: 20 Years in the Making Podcast Part 2 with Kent Hill



I first read MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror when it arrived on the scene in the late 90’s and believed then – just as a certain movie out at the moment  has confirmed for the world – that it was/is the basis for something cinematically awesome. But that was twenty years ago, when Alten was poised to become the next Peter Benchley and have his man vs big shark, or in MEG’s case, prehistoric bad-ass shark, optioned before it hit the shelves. All of the ingredients seemed to be there. A new JAWS, it appeared, was on the cards – then, it didn’t happen.

I followed the gestation throughout the years of this mighty megalodon movie that got away. Talented filmmakers crossed its wake, and I confess, I would have liked to have seen Jan de Bont’s take on the material – this talented director of photography  that came to the director’s chair and gave us SPEED and TWISTER. I think had his next picture been MEG, we might well be talking about Jan in a different way – and it might have saved us from SPEED 2?

But they all saw MEG a different way. They didn’t see it the right way. Thus the production floundered and the seasons came and went. The MEG, all the while, lay silent in the depths of development hell.


I contacted Steve ( to talk about the arduous journey his big shark book had taken to get to the screen. (A year before the worldwide press descended with the onset of the film’s success, I might add.) I was excited because, at long last, it seemed as though there was no stopping it now. A live action feature was in production and MEG, or The MEG, as it was soon to be titled, was rising and with or without the ‘The’, we who call ourselves ‘Megheads’ were about to have all we’ve ever wanted.

20 years in the making: An Interview with Steve Alten Part 1 by Kent Hill

Sometimes good things take time. Still, it is rare that Hollywood, being in possession of what it believes is such a ‘hot property’, would allow said property to languish in the depths of development hell. Especially for 20 years. But that is exactly where Steve Alten’s bestseller has been in residence. That, of course, is about to change. 

Yes ladies and gentlemen (and in case you haven’t been following the story) next year Alten’s leviathan shall rise and finally arrive at a cinema near you. I have long been fascinated with the journeys movies take on the road to the big screens on which we witness them. Some of these films never arrive, some appear in a confused and unfinished form. Others are the victims of too many cooks and most are a product of the machine. 

For the films that don’t make it, (see great documentaries like Lost in La Mancha and Jodorowsky’s Dune (though Gilliam seems to have at last remedied this)) their journey is often as intriguing, if not more so, than what the final product might have been. But with MEG, the powers that be have what is a potentially massive franchise on their hands. So, why the wait? 

The fates are strange and fickle. Steve Alten’s bestseller was optioned before it was complete, but it has taken the better part of two decades to arrive. I found this story intriguing, mainly because this was not some sort of artsy passion project or some grand tale of ridiculous hubris. No, what could have been, and what we may yet experience, might very well be the next JAWS? And while Spielberg’s film is by its nature a far more intimate piece; the shark menaces a small community and finally three men set out to kill the beast, MEG is something we are definitely going need a bigger boat for. A really BIG boat for! 

Thus Steve Alten agreed to have a chat with me about the origins of his book’s long gestation toward its screen adaptation. What he relayed I found fascinating, and still believe it could become a great extra feature or a terrific stand-alone documentary of the ride this big shark movie as taken. But, like most fans, I am just grateful that with each passing day, we finally are at last drawing closer to the MEG movie’s premiere. Of course the real relief belongs to the creator. In many ways it has been worse for him, he having served on the front lines, he having been present for each false start and each heartbreaking hurdle. I have agreed to catch up with Steve before the film’s premiere next year. As the hype builds and teasers and trailers and all the ads bombard our senses, what brings me pause and makes me smile is the thought of Steve Alten waking the red carpet, entering the theatre, taking his seat . . . and enjoying the movie… …as I hope you will enjoy this. 

Guest Post: A DARK MIRROR: Crime Fiction As a Reflection of Society by Dennis Palumbo

The author Tom Wolfe (The Bonfire of the Vanities) once said that the purpose of fiction was, among other things, to chronicle a society’s “status details.” In other words, to give the reader a felt sense of the social, cultural and political realities of the world the novel portrays.

Usually, this task has been seen as primarily the province of the “literary” novel, such as Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, or Updike’s “Rabbit” novels. But I believe that, in a similar manner, the best crime fiction has been exploring and illuminating the contours of American society for years.

For example, to get a sense of how Los Angeles worked in the 30’s and 40’s—how money and power actually operated in the lives of both the privileged and the desperate —you need only read Raymond Chandler. The “mean streets” that private eye Phillip Marlowe walked took the reader from the monied mansions of robber barons to the back alleys of two-bit hustlers and the chumps they made their prey.

Just as, fifty years later, nobody provides a clearer view of contemporary L.A. than Michael Connelly, particularly with his Harry Bosch novels. From the O.J. trial to the Ramparts police scandal, from the self-inflicted woes of the wealthy and influential to the municipal response to torrential rains, Connelly uses his dogged police detective to dissect life in the City of Angels.

For a wry, amused and knowledgeable look at Boston society, high and low, you’ll find few better guides than the late Robert B. Parker’s character Spenser. Or equally few authors who capture the self-delusions and broken-hearted dreams of petty criminals as well as Elmore Leonard. And I can’t think of a writer who better reveals the dark, noirish heart of the ostensibly laid-back surfer scene than Kem Nunn.

My point is, great crime fiction offers what no sociology text can provide. To feel the living, breathing essence of New Orleans, both pre- and post-Katrina, check out the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke. In similar fashion, Tony Hillerman brought the Native Americans of the modern Southwest to life in his novels about Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Just as Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski gave fictional heft to the idea of a strong female protagonist, and Walter Mosley’s “Easy” Rawlins gave us perhaps our most well-known African-American one. Since its inception as a genre, crime fiction has both mirrored and commented on society’s often-tumultuous change. In short, it told the truth about it.

So forget FrontLine. If you want to get the straight dope about the thriving gun trade going on along the border between the US and Mexico, look no further than T. Jefferson Parker’s thriller of a few years back, Iron River.
If you want to know what it’s really like to be a cop, read Joseph Wambaugh. If you want to hear the authentic street rhythms of New York’s Lower East Side, read Richard Price.

What all these fine crime novelists have in common is their use of suspense and intricate plots to underscore the conflict among vivid, fully-realized characters; and, moreover, how that conflict is inevitably intensified by the social context these fictional men and women inhabit. Utilizing the high stakes and narrative drive of crime fiction, these writers demonstrate how issues of class and status, and the yearning to re-invent oneself, continue to define the American character.

In the case of my own Daniel Rinaldi series, I use the exploits of my intrepid psychologist and trauma expert to illustrate a number of contemporary issues, not least of which is the current state of mental health treatment in America. Moreover, as a consultant to the Pittsburgh Police, Rinaldi treats people traumatized by violent crime—those who’ve survived a kidnapping, sexual assault or armed robbery, but still suffer the after-effects of their experience. Symptoms we associate with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As noted psychoanalyst Robert Stolorow has pointed out, we live now in an Age of Trauma, exposed almost daily to the threat of pandemics, natural disasters, terrorism—and, at the most personal level, violent crime. As I’ve tried to demonstrate in the five Rinaldi books published so far, the dedicated, determined and admittedly head-strong psychologist will never lack for patients.

Then there’s the city of Pittsburgh itself, which has undergone a startling transformation in the past two decades, morphing from a blue collar, industrial powerhouse into a white collar hub of technology and state-of-the-art medicine. Or, as I like to term it, a shot-and-a-beer town that’s collided with the Information Age. Since Rinaldi was born into a blue collar world, yet through ambition and schooling became a jacket-and-tie professional, he—like the city itself—has a foot in both Pittsburgh’s storied past and gentrified present..

However, in the latest Rinaldi thriller, Head Wounds, it’s Daniel’s personal past that reaches out to torment his present. Launching an intense, terrifying cat-and-mouse game with an obsessed killer who threatens not only the psychologist’s own life but that of those closest to him.  During the course of these events, the reader encounters many of the dangers associated with our current computer technology, highlighting issues as pertinent as Internet privacy and the limits of personal security, as well as the challenge to a rational mind when faced with an irrational one. 

Which brings me back to my point: no genre of fiction illuminates the “status details” of our evolving, conflicted society better than crime fiction. Where and how that conflict is played out, and how realistically it’s depicted, determines how powerfully the novel affects us.

In a line stretching from Dashiel Hammett to Dennis Lehane, from James M. Cain to George Pellicanos, from Ed McBain to Gillian Flynn, the best crime fiction—like all great fiction, period—shows us who we are.

via Poisoned Pen                                                                


Dennis Palumbo is a former screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice and author of the Daniel Rinaldi mysteries. For info, please visit

MaryAnn Anselmo Competes in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition: SASSAY Awards


Discover the jazz greats of tomorrow today at this exciting afternoon of performances by the five finalists in this seventh annual event, initiated in 2012 by NJPAC and WBGO in honor of Newark’s “divine” jazz icon.

Please VOTE HERE  and and share each of MaryAnn's 4 songs submitted to the competition.

Maryann Anselmo will be competing with rising vocalists from around the globe for the chance to perform in the finals of the competition, also known as “The SASSY Awards.” The only event of its kind, this competition for outstanding jazz singers gives the winner a platform for embarking on a career in the music business.

Singers will be evaluated by a panel of special guest judges, and rated for vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and ability to swing. The grand prize winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

This year’s judges include multi-GRAMMY-winning bassist Christian McBride, NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor; six-time GRAMMY nominated jazz vocalist-composer Nnenna Freelon; Mary Ann Topper, President of the Jazz Tree, Inc. artist management; WBGO Jazz 88.3FM radio personality Sheila Anderson, and trumpeter, conductor and composer Jon Faddis.

Voting Ends Oct 3, 2018 2:00 PM Read more 

THE MEG: How Imageworks Helped Make a Massive Megalodon


Visual effects studios are constantly being asked to deliver more shots more quickly than ever before. It can be a major challenge to get effects out the door for review, work to final them, and then deal with inevitable changes. Which is why Sony Pictures Imageworks Visual Effects Supervisor Sue Rowe decided to tackle things slightly differently when she took on the challenge of helping to craft the third act of Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg, the tale of a previously undiscovered prehistoric giant shark, or megalodon.

“When the Production Supervisor Adrian De Wet and Visual Effects Producer Steve Garrad came to us, they knew this third act was going to be tricky because story points in the climax of a film are always developing, and they knew they would need a really powerful engine behind them to get that work done,” Rowe tells VFX Voice.

“So the deal we entered into at the beginning was, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you perhaps 400 shots, and we want you to turn them around really fast and then give them to editorial, and then we’re going to hone it down from there.’”

Shark 2.0

To enable Imageworks to turn around so many shots for the third act of The Meg so quickly, Rowe employed several new methods. The first was to rely on Maya’s Viewport 2.0 to work on high-quality but still early versions of the shots directly in the viewport without the need to render.

“The reason I really liked it is that it was super fast,” states Rowe. “You can add fog as depth and you can put spotlights in. You see, when you distill everything down that you need for an underwater movie, it’s pretty much about bubbles and particulates.”

By using Viewport 2.0, Imageworks could turn around versions quickly in a kind of ‘post-vis’ workflow. This included shots that ultimately did not make the final cut of the film. Artists would quickly roto and matchmove plate photography of the actors filmed in a water tank (against an underwater bluescreen) and then hand that over to animation and layout. There was no lighting or compositing done for these early deliveries, but the results were more than good enough for the filmmakers to review shots, after which Imageworks could move onto generating finals with more precision through its traditional pipeline.

 Imageworks provided quick versions of the shots using Viewport 2.0 to get sign-off before continuing.

 Water cavitation effects played a big role in selling the final shots.

The final frame.

    “This is what I always say to people who start out in the industry – the computer might solve it in a certain way, but if it doesn’t look how the director ultimately wants it to look, then we just have to make sure it fits into the movie.”

    —Sue Rowe, Visual Effects Supervisor

Real muscle

Another weapon in Imageworks’ arsenal was Ziva Dynamics’ muscle- and skin-simulation plugin, Ziva VFX. The software takes a physically-based approached, which means more accurate looking skin sliding and movement straight out of the plugin.

“If you build your skeleton accurately, that’s the starting point,” says Rowe. “The system the guys have written will then make the muscles and skin move in the correct way so you don’t have any intersections and it won’t fold in on itself. What was interesting was, it’s also flexible. So if I wanted to have the shoulder of the shark shudder, but in a really extreme way, we could push it to that if we wanted.

“The idea that we employed for Meg was,” adds Rowe, “if you ever look at a thoroughbred horse and how their muscle shakes, it ripples down their body. And from that you know that this is a really muscular, powerful character. So we said, let’s do the same for the Meg. You’ll see a little twitch in the muscle or the gills. We definitely amplified those things using Ziva.”
Lots of coral, super-fast

In addition to the shark itself, Imageworks had to imagine an underwater environment, parts of which required vast amounts of coral. The studio had developed a scattering tool for plant life on Kingsman: The Golden Circle called Sprout, and this was also employed on The Meg for the underwater coral.

Imageworks’ animation pass for a scene involving the underwater glider and the Meg.

Lighting pass.

Final composite with effects and lighting.

    “We built multiple types of coral, different types of rock and sand, and we had some fish in there as well. And then we clustered them altogether and covered it in coral with Sprout. The cool thing about it was, I’d sit down with my effects artist, and they would show me a first pass of it all being laid out, and we were able to interact with the coral, scale them up, scale them down and move things about. It’s a really cool tool.”

    —Sue Rowe, Visual Effects Supervisor

“It’s a way of building indices or replicas of objects very quickly,” explains Rowe. “We built multiple types of coral, different types of rock and sand, and we had some fish in there as well. And then we clustered them altogether and covered it in coral with Sprout. The cool thing about it was, I’d sit down with my effects artist, and they would show me a first pass of it all being laid out, and we were able to interact with the coral, scale them up, scale them down and move things about. It’s a really cool tool.”


Imageworks had been able to craft a realistic shark and a realistic underwater environment, but there was still another element that was needed to help sell the shots: bubbles. More specifically, it was the cavitation of bubbles around submarines, propellers, and even the Meg itself.

Rowe and her team looked at a multitude of cavitation reference (cavitation actually occurs when the propellers cause the water to boil and get ejected out the back). Noticing that the cavitation trail tends to be quite elongated, this was how Imageworks originally approached simulations in Houdini. However, at some point, notes Rowe, “the director saw a few shots where the cavitation actually rose up, rather than shoot out straight. He really liked this look, even though it wasn’t necessarily physically correct.”

Animation pass for a scene in which the Meg breaches the water surface.

Muscle-simulation pass.

Final shot.

    “If you build your skeleton accurately, that’s the starting point. The system the guys have written will then make the muscles and skin move in the correct way so you don’t have any intersections and it won’t fold in on itself. What was interesting was, it’s also flexible. So if I wanted to have the shoulder of the shark shudder, but in a really extreme way, we could push it to that if we wanted.”

    —Sue Rowe, Visual Effects Supervisor

That meant Imageworks had to re-do several of its original bubble and cavitation simulations. Rowe thinks the ultimate result was much more engaging. “This is what I always say to people who start out in the industry – the computer might solve it in a certain way, but if it doesn’t look how the director ultimately wants it to look, then we just have to make sure it fits into the movie.”

Similarly, there were moments when the filmmakers felt that some underwater shots were still missing something. Rowe realized the ‘secret source’ were things she called ‘streams’ – bubbles that matched the tail movement of the Meg, or even crept out of the creature’s nose. “It just created this slight sense of movement underwater that we really needed,” says Rowe. “I remember sitting in dailies and going, ‘Give me more bubbles, give me more, more, more, more bubbles!’”

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