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

—Muriel Rukeyser

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Colorado Edition: The Strength Of The Human Spirit


A sign outside Stanley Marketplace in Aurora.


A sign outside Stanley Marketplace in Aurora.
STEPHANIE DANIEL / KUNC

Today on Colorado Edition: We explore the state's forecasted budget amid the coronavirus outbreak. We also round up this week's education news, learn more about the 2020 census now that it's officially begun, and get anxiety advice from a mental health expert.

LISTEN  HERE : The Strength Of The Human Spirit


Colorado's Forecasted Budget

Over the past week, we’ve been hearing a lot about the economic impacts that the coronavirus outbreak is having across the country. Today, we begin our show by digging into those impacts here in Colorado, beginning with our state’s budget.

On Monday, the state of Colorado held a budget forecast briefing for Colorado officials. KUNC’s Scott Franz was there, and he joined us to talk through what he learned. You can read Scott's reporting on the briefing here.

Economic Impacts Of The Coronavirus

To get a more full picture of how COVID-19 is affecting Colorado, we spoke with Dan Mika from BizWest, who has been following various industries key to our state’s economy.

The Week In Colorado Education News

As schools close around the state, the state of Colorado announced that it will cancel standardized testing for students for the year. This is just one effect that COVID-19 has on education in our state. To talk about the other impacts, we spoke with Erica Meltzer, bureau chief at Chalkbeat Colorado.

Advice For Coronavirus Anxiety

With all the news about the spread of the coronavirus in our state and across the world, it’s hard not to get anxious. So today, we talk to Vincent Atchity, CEO of Mental Health Colorado, to get some practical advice on how to maintain your mental health at this time.

What's At Stake With The 2020 Census

The 2020 census has officially begun! You may have already received an invitation in the mail from the census bureau. If not, you’ll likely get one any day now. To talk about what’s at stake in our communities, we spoke with Natriece Bryant, deputy executive director of Colorado's Department of Local Affairs.

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music in the show by Blue Dot Sessions:

“Charcoal Lines” by Sketchbook
"The Consulate" by Holyoke
Colorado Edition is hosted by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1) and Henry Zimmerman (@HWZimmerman), and produced by Lily Tyson. The web was edited by digital editor Jackie Hai. Managing editor Brian Larson contributed to this episode.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a news magazine taking an in-depth look at the issues and culture of Northern Colorado. It's available on our website, as well as on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can hear the show on KUNC's air, Monday through Thursday at 6:30 p.m.



How to Be a Successful Self-Published Writer


What are the ingredients of a New York Times Best Seller? Ken Atchity has the answers and they are not what you expect. He is a movie producer, author of over 20 nonfiction books and novels. He has spent his lifetime helping writers get started and improve their careers. Writing was in his blood from the beginning. ‘I never understood writers’ block because I never had it,” he says.

What is the right mindset for being successful as a self-published writer?

It’s about what Winston Churchill said: “Never give, never give, never give up!” Don’t doubt yourself, keep working and learning more about your craft.

You wrote over 20 non-fiction books and novels. Are you still learning?

Yes, I am. I am always learning. I love writing because it’s a way of focusing your learning. I write the book first, then I do the research and spend years revising the book.

Some writers confessed that they don’t read books when they work on something new…

While you write your first draft, there is no need for you to read something else.The time to start reading other things is after you’ve finished it and improved it. You can always study yourself to death and never finish the first draft. And that’s the danger of it, or being influenced by other voices. It is much better to get your voice clear in the first draft and then give yourself a limited amount of time to do further research to make sure things are accurate. You would be surprised how often your imagination gets things pretty much right.

What do you appreciate most in a book?

I love books that take you to another world and keep you there the whole time. A storyteller who knows his craft will do this by not making a single mistake. A mistake is something that takes you suddenly out of that world.

You helped several authors to make the New York Times Best Sellers list. What are the ingredients of a bestseller?

That list is a victim of the changing times we are living now. In today’s world, a person needs to be famous or write about someone who is. The most recent three NY Times Best Sellers were about John Kennedy. But this list is not the only judge. Selling books on the Internet is a direct and immediate way to see if you could find an audience for your book.

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Roy Freirich, in conversation with Jeff Dorchen, discusses and signs Deprivation

Please join them for excerpts, stories, wine and cheese, and insomnia. Thur. Mar. 12th, 7:00 pm PDT 

Book Soup 8818 Sunset Blvd West Hollywood, CA 90069 

Women's History Month: When Hollywood’s Power Players Were Women

Female writers, directors, and producers were pioneers of the silent-film era—but were pushed out of the industry as its influence grew.


Lois Weber, a prolific screenwriter and director, was the first woman to establish her own film studio.HULTON ARCHIVE / GETTY


Given the dearth of women among this year’s Oscar nominees for writing and directing, not to mention behind the camera in Hollywood at all, you may be surprised to learn that before 1925, during the silent film era, women wrote the outlines for roughly half of all films. In fact, a great many women were behind the camera in those days—producing and directing films, and running studios. Women also pioneered much of the film technology that still exists today—only to be pushed out of the burgeoning industry once its influence and moneymaking potential had become more widely recognized.

When the writer and satirist Dorothy Parker and her writer husband, Alan Campbell, moved to Hollywood and signed contracts with Paramount, she was paid four times as much as he was. Frances Marion, who would go on to become the founding vice president of the Screen Writers Guild, was the country’s highest-paid screenwriter in the 1920s and ’30s; more than 100 of her scripts were made into films, and in 1930, she became the first woman to win an Oscar for writing. Lois Weber, a prolific screenwriter and director, in 1917 became the first woman to establish and run her own film studio. The year before, her wage as a director was the highest in Hollywood.

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Women's History Month: Virginia Woolf - Time Woman of the Year 1929






Illustration by Oliver Sin for TIME; George C. Beresford—Hulton Archive/Getty
MARCH 5, 2020


In 1928, addressing distinguished female students at the University of Cambridge, novelist and critic Virginia Woolf declared, “A woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction.” Replace “write fiction” with any creative, intellectual or political pursuit, and in a sentence, Woolf had summed up millennia of inequality. In her 1929 extended essay “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf played with both fiction and nonfiction, building on the themes of her lectures. She invented the indelible figure of Judith Shakespeare, sister of William, who had equal talent but would never become a world-famous playwright because she was barred from education and relegated to the home.

Suddenly, readers imagined a world history filled with the ghosts of gifted women and the works they never had the opportunity to create. Before 1929, Woolf had established herself with Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse as one of the boldest novelists of the 20th century, and then when “A Room of One’s Own” was published to both celebration and outrage, she became a political visionary too. Her essays were—and still are—a rallying call to women around the world. —Lucas Wittmann

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The Last Full Measure - Audience Reactions



THE LAST FULL MEASURE tells the true story of Vietnam War hero William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), a U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen (also known as a PJ) medic who personally saved over sixty men.  

During a rescue mission on April 11, 1966, he was offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of a combat zone heavily under fire, but he stayed behind to save and defend the lives of his fellow soldiers of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, before making the ultimate sacrifice in the bloodiest battle of the war.  

Thirty-two years later, respected Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman (Sebastien Stan) on a career fast-track is tasked with investigating a Congressional Medal of Honor request for Pitsenbarger made by his best friend and PJ mission partner (William Hurt) and his parents (Christopher Plummer & Diane Ladd).   Huffman seeks out the testimony of Army veterans who witnessed Pitsenbarger’s extraordinary valor, including Takoda (Samuel L. Jackson), Burr (Peter Fonda) and Mott (Ed Harris). But as Huffman learns more about Pitsenbarger’s courageous acts, he uncovers a high-level conspiracy behind the decades-long denial of the medal, prompting him to put his own career on the line to seek justice for the fallen airman. 

With a superb all-star cast and an emotionally gripping story, The Last Full Measure is a film everyone should see. Get tickets: www.thelastfullmeasurefilm.com



Celebrating Disappointment by Kenneth John Atchity



Are you disappointed? We all get disappointed by life from time to time and, in these “interesting” times, no doubt more often than usual.

Maybe because I savored my Roman Catholic upbringing, I was drawn to a profession in which rejection became not a daily occurrence, but an hourly one—until the email era, in which rejections come in once every few minutes! As an intellectual property manager, I try to tell my rejected clients that every no is a step further to the one yes we’re looking for. I remind them of a story I was once told:

There’s a big blackboard in the sky. On it are all the NOS you or your dream project will ever get. And there too is the final YES.

The only problem is that you can’t see the blackboard.

Since this is the case, what does the dreamer do? Only three things:

Never give up. You never know, but the YES may be lurking behind the NO that makes you want to throw in the towel. There’s only one way to find out: Persist. As long as you live and breathe. My definition of a happy death is dying in the middle of your dream.

Get through the NOS as fast as you can.

Don’t think negatively about them. Do you really wish your dream was accepted by the WRONG person? That’s what a NO is, a wrong person for your dream. Nothing would be worse, believe me, than having your dream partnered with someone you talked into it when they didn’t see it in the first place.

Celebrate each NO as a step forward toward making your dream come true. No successful dreamer has succeeded without dealing with rejection over and over. Edison….

Disappointment and celebration. To live a happy life, you can’t have one without the other. Think of them as life’s teeter-totter, disappointment on one seat, celebration on the other.

Imagine that you’re on that teeter-totter (because you are) but don’t understand how it works. Every time disappointment has the upper position, you sit there like a lump on a log and bemoan your fate.

That will literally get you nowhere, allowing disappointment to maintain the upper hand. I went to an ashram outside of Delhi some years ago, to check out for myself whether a certain guru was all my current girlfriend believed he was cracked up to be.

I have to admit I was nodding during most of the program, but during the question and answer period I came awake as I heard a distraught westerner lament that she tried so hard to lead the path of perfection and serenity but, because she was only mortal, kept falling. “What shall I do?”

He looked at her with that infinite ennui that teachers who have heard it all a thousand times experience, and said:

“Pick yourself up and keep going.”

“Master, I try to do that,” she lamented. “But I am weak, and I only fall again. How many times can I pick myself up?”

“Sister,” the wise man replied, “how many times can you fall?”

That’s when I decided he was indeed a wise man.

You’re sitting there on the ground, disappointment in the air, wondering your glass of life is half-empty. Finally you get tired of the half-empty glass. Or you figure it out—or you remember--and you use your legs as pistons and celebrate your ability to return to the top of the teeter-totter where your glass of life appears to be more than half full!

That’s celebration in action, countering disappointment. That’s optimism, the only logical program to adopt for life. It’s logical because it either proves to be justified—by success; or you’ll actually never know because you remain optimistic to the end. That’s why, in The Godfather, we all loved the Don Corleone’s last words as he fell to his knees with a massive stroke in the tomato garden: “La vita é cosí bella…Life is so beautiful”—optimistic to the un-bitter end.

Don’t think I’m not as bad as the woman at the ashram in terms of sitting at the bottom of the teeter-totter wondering what happened to put disappointment in the cat bird seat. I am as good at lamenting as the next guy, maybe even better! One day I was complaining to my best friend (you need to be careful who you complain to, by the way) about a clump of setbacks that happened one after another, yet another reflection of the turmoil of our times. I recited them to my friend and explained why I questioned whether life was still worth living.

He said, “So some deals fell through, and so it’s hard to earn a living.

“But you don’t have mongoloid children, but two kids who are earning a living and leading an okay life. You go back and forth to New York whenever you want to. You have a beautiful Japanese wife who cooks, takes care of the house, works hard, has her own non-profit, loves you. Loves you. Your brother is not in jail, but is a millionaire who leaves you alone. Your sisters aren’t drug addicts, but doing okay. You aren’t pushing a walker, you ARE playing tennis 3 times a week. You’ve been involved in a whole bunch of books that have your name in them. You’ve been involved in a bunch of movies. You have a bunch of projects that are still viable. You have friends who haven’t killed you yet. You’re not driving a junk heap but a luxury sedan with air conditioning. You have a view out three sides of your apartment in L.A. You have a cat who loves you. You meet Hollywood people and literary people all the time. You’ve developed your companies in a whole new direction and had the best year in six years last year. You have several major feature films nearing production. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR ATTITUDE?”

One thing about attitude: you’re entirely in charge of it. Celebrate that. Celebrate that the problems you have are the ones you asked for. The cost of admission to the stage of your life.

Reposted from Tome Tender

How To Read More Books

Maybe you'll relate to this scene: you're sitting around, cracking open a good book and thinking of all the incredible knowledge you will drink up. Then suddenly, it's two hours later and you're three months back in an Instagram account about cats with their mouths open (side note: it exists, and I love it) and the book is just sitting there, judging you quietly from where you put it down.

If this is you, you're (clearly) not alone! Making time to read is increasingly hard, what with your phone and the latest binge-worthy TV show just waiting to suck up all of your attention. But never fear, future book nerd — Life Kit has your back. We talked to the experts and got some really good best practices that will hopefully transform you into a regular Hermione Granger.

Lynn Neary has been covering books for NPR for over a decade and even though she could probably pave a road to the moon with the books she's read for her job, she says she's not a speed reader by any means, and doesn't judge herself for that. Here's her advice:

1. Read in the morning

"What I've found is a really good time for me is to read in the morning — particularly on weekend mornings," Neary says. "I love to lie in bed on weekend mornings and read. It's just one of my favorite things to do now, and I get a lot of reading done at that time." Doesn't that sound just lovely? Sure, it might not be right for everyone (I see you, chronic snoozers!) but waking up first thing in the morning and getting a few pages in is a good way to start your day. Plus, Neary says, it means you won't fall asleep the way you can if you try and read before bed.

Our second piece of advice comes from a man who reads 100 books a year. ONE HUNDRED! I can barely do one hundred sit ups in a year, so truly I feel like he's achieving greatness. Kevin Nguyen has been writing about books for the majority of his career and even has a piece in GQ that can give you even more advice. His advice for folks who want to read more is our second takeaway:


2. Read wherever, whenever (especially when commuting!)

As the great prophet Shakira quoth: wherever, whenever. When Nguyen walked into the studio to record our Life Kit episode, he had two paper books in his bag and three more that he was reading on his phone! He says that having books with you at all times is a great way to get in a few pages here and there. Commute times in the U.S. are also at a record high, which means that if you wanna be a bigger bookworm like Nguyen means you can spend those precious minutes reading. "The hardest part about reading a book in 2019 is just opening the book," Nguyen says. "We have in our imagination, like oh reading time is like this luxurious thing and I'm in my armchair sipping scotch. You have to make it a more regular habit than that because if you just wait for all those moments you're never gonna finish a book."

3. Tailor the book to the situation

This is another genius Kevin Nguyen tip! "We should think about it like you sit down and watch Netflix," Nguyen says. "Maybe one day you'll get to that queue of documentaries but you're probably just going to watch The Office." Nguyen says that you should apply the same thing to the books you're reading. So, just like you would choose a really peppy song for a workout, you could choose a breezy book for when you're waiting to pick up your coffee. And, conversely, when you have a little bit more time to focus, you can read something that's a little more involved. Cool, right?

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"Writing must have an element of magic to it. When that magic takes over, the writer himself loses track of time during the writing—and the reader will lose track of time during the reading. If you’re happy at work and think of it as your own private briar patch—a place of escape from the world in which time is your time—the clock of life becomes your clock, and even the thorns in that briar patch are of your own choosing.”


― Kenneth Atchity, Write Time: Guide to the Creative Process, from Vision through Revision-and Beyond

Library Life...

Not a NYT bestseller yet but the local library has this on their New Arrivals shelf! 

A Potter's Tale by Dave Davis... murder, betrayal and a collapsing universe. Oh, and a little romance!



Welcome Back to Gotham City Interview with Dennis Palumbo


Dennis, you’re a Pittsburgh native but now have a psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles. I can understand why you’d want to place the Daniel Rinaldi thrillers in the Steel City. Are there any plans for sending Rinaldi to LA in the future?

Not at the moment, but you never know. The Eastern guy experiencing LA for the first time has been done to death, so I’d have to come up with a pretty compelling reason to send Daniel Rinaldi to the City of Angels.

Like you, Rinaldi’s a psychologist from Pittsburgh. But rather than merely grafting some of your experience onto your protagonist, you’re using your three decades of being a licensed psychotherapist to make you a better writer. Almost exactly two years ago, you’d written an article for The Strand Magazine saying how, precisely, being a psychologist has made you a better writer. It’s one thing to analyze a living human mind and another entirely to analyze one that you first have to create within yet outside your own. Which is more difficult for you?

Well, I find doing therapy and writing to be similar in that both are difficult but satisfying. In the clinical setting, one of the most crucial traits for a therapist is the ability not only to empathize with a patient but to relate to that patient. In other words, the therapist has to take ownership him- or herself of many of the same feeling states and core meanings that the patient exhibits. I believe the same is true when crafting characters. In my view, all writing (whether fictional or nonfictional, and regardless of genre or medium) is autobiographical. The characters in my Rinaldi mysteries are all birthed from within my own psyche, and represent my own experiences, prejudices, virtues and vices. Even the bad guys! I sincerely believe that the more a writer mines his or her own feelings and beliefs, the more personally relevant the writing becomes, which translates to the narrative being more compelling to the reader. As Emerson said, “To believe that what is true in your own heart is true for everyone---that is genius.”

Every hero has a weakness. What’s Rinaldi’s demon, his nemesis?

He has several. In general, he certainly drinks too much and can be a real smartass when dealing with authority figures, both among his clinical colleagues and with the Pittsburgh Police officials with whom he works. He’s very stubborn, can be quick to anger, and sometimes resorts to fairly unconventional means as a therapist in pursuit of helping his patients. Many of his professional colleagues view him as a maverick, which doesn’t bother him one bit.

At a deeper level, he still struggles with survival guilt, having survived a murderous assault that killed his wife but left him alive. Having been an amateur boxer in his youth, Rinaldi feels he should have been able to stop the assailant. But, more to the point, having survived at all has fed his survival guilt to such an extent that friends and colleagues fear he has a “hero complex” or “death wish.” So besides his clinical specialty of treating victims of violent crime---who often struggle with the classic symptoms of PTSD---he tends to see his work as a kind of “mission” that results in his getting involved in high-profile criminal cases, despite the protest of the Pittsburgh PD.  

Have any of your patients ever made their way into one of your novels?

Not directly, no. However, the issues that patients with whom I’ve worked have had to address---both in my private practice and my internship at a private psychiatric clinic---
show up in all of my novels. From depression and anxiety to substance use and relationship crises, emotional and psychological issues underlie the themes of all of my stories. Because I write mystery thrillers, these issues are enhanced or exaggerated for dramatic effect, and to sharpen the edges of my characters, but I try not to stray too far from reality. In other words, when I portray a narcissist or sociopath, I make the portrait as accurate as I can, just as I try to describe the trauma symptoms (PTSD, etc.) that arise from horrific personal events as realistically as possible.

Your career arc is almost a complete circle. You started out as a TV and screenwriter, then you became a psychotherapist before deciding to take up novel writing. Was this a deliberate circular route or did you just fall back into the writing game?

None of my career path was planned, though it does have the circularity you mentioned. In college, my goal was to be a novelist. However, when I also discovered a love for film and TV, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue those goals. I was very lucky in my Hollywood career, and when I retired to go back to grad school and become a licensed therapist, I thought my writing days were behind me. But the bug never went away, and after building up my private practice, I started writing short stories and essays, until finally getting the opportunity to do what I’d originally intended, which was to write novels. Since I’d loved mysteries since my Dad bought me “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” when I was home sick from school, I figured why not create a series character? And that’s how Daniel Rinaldi came to be. Perhaps most gratifying is that doing the series allows me to write about two things that I love: my hometown of Pittsburgh and the profession of psychology. They both provide (to me, at least!) a fascinating world from which to fashion suspenseful, complex thrillers.

Put yourself on the couch for a moment. You’d written an essay explaining how being a psychologist has made you a better novelist. But is the reverse true? Has being a novelist made you a better psychotherapist dealing with other creative types?

It’s hard to say, since most of my patients are in the entertainment industry, and so I tend to think that it’s my own seventeen-year experience in Hollywood that offers me a unique perspective when dealing with these patients. But I’m sure that in ways too difficult to quantify, my dozen years as a series novelist has given me an even deeper appreciation of the struggles all creative types go through. Including me.

In an earlier interview, you mentioned a pivotal “Road to Damascus” epiphany after a talk with a Hollywood producer and it led you to abandon your TV and film work and devote yourself exclusively to your patients. So was there a similar turning point that led you to get back into writing or did you know you were temporarily lying fallow?

As I mentioned above, I did think that after attaining my clinical license and going into private practice my writing life was behind me. But after being asked to contribute an article about writing to WRITTEN BY (the magazine of the Writers Guild of America), I realized my love for putting one word after the other had never gone away. That article led to a monthly column in the magazine (called “The Writer’s Life”) which addressed the issues most writers struggle with: blocks, procrastination, rejection, fears of failure, etc. Then the column led to a book called WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT. By now, I’d returned to submitting mystery short stories to various magazines, something I’d done even throughout my show business career. So I think it was a natural leap to the idea of writing books, particularly a mystery series.  

You co-wrote My Favorite Year (a nominee for a Writers’ Guild of America award). As a young screenwriter, how did it feel hearing Joseph Bologna and Peter O’Toole speaking your dialogue for the first time?

Pretty amazing, though it’s important to remember a film is a group effort. Not only was the script co-written by Norman Steinberg, but there was the usual amount of ad-libbing and other creative bursts while the film was being shot.

Was O’Toole’s character Alan Swann based on a specific actor you knew in Hollywood, was he an amalgam of several or was he pure fiction?

That’s an easy one. The character is wholly based on Errol Flynn, my Dad’s favorite movie star. I remember watching the Late Show on TV with him, where he’d introduced me to The Adventures of Robin Hood and Captain Blood. I wrote the first draft of the script specifically for Peter O’Toole, an actor I’d always loved. There were, of course, many fictional aspects woven into the script. For example, while the film explores what happens when an Errol Flynn-like character is booked to appear on a TV show modeled on Your Show of Shows, in reality Flynn was never a guest on the actual real-life program.

I know you’re juggling a psychotherapy career with running your personal life and several other commitments but what’s your typical writing day like? Do you set word goals, use a notebook, laptop or a combination of both?

I’m afraid I’m not that organized! Given the weight of a full therapy practice, I write whenever I can squeeze in an hour or two, which is why so many years go by between Daniel Rinaldi novels. I know my crime-writing colleagues often turn out a book a year (and sometimes two!), a situation I can only dream about. On the other hand, I like the balance that I have to maintain between my two careers. Especially, as I’ve alluded to above, I believe one feeds the other. In terms of writing tools, I write directly on my laptop.

Is Daniel Rinaldi the only series on the horizon or are you mulling/planning another?

Believe me, I’m amazed that I’ve turned out five books in the Rinaldi series so far. The thought of considering another series gives me a headache. But if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that my crystal ball has a lot of cracks in it, so my predictions about the future aren’t to be trusted.

I already know the answer to this since I’ve read your old interviews but for the readers at home, are you a plotter, pantser or plantser?

Definitely a pantser. I literally have no idea what each Rinaldi book is going to be about when I start. I tend to pick a murder victim about fifty-sixty pages in, and then figure out the culprit by about page 200. Then, of course, I have to go back and seed in all the clues, red herrings, etc. It’s funny, because often readers tell me they love the twists and turns in my narratives, the unexpected surprises, etc. What they don’t know is that these twists and turns come as a surprise to me, too! They just announce themselves to me as I’m writing. Obviously, this approach isn’t for everyone, since it’s clumsy and requires a lot of re-writing. But I don’t mind, since I’d rather write than think.

Since the first entry in the Rinaldi series, Mirror Image, debuted a decade ago, you’ve gotten plaudits from luminaries in the mystery-writing community such as John Lescroart, Thomas Perry, Stephen J. Cannell, T. Jefferson Parker and Ridley Pearson, to name just a few. You’ve been with Poisoned Pen Press the whole time. But if a Big Fiver comes calling, what do you think you’d do?

Tough question, since Poisoned Pen Press has become an imprint of SourceBooks, a much bigger publishing entity. In terms of publisher, I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I remain a huge fan of the people at PPP who’ve remained since the changeover and hope it will continue to be a good fit.

If Daniel Rinaldi had you on the couch, what do you think he’d first ask you?

“Some of the crimes and situations in your stories are so horrific, Mr. Palumbo, I’m worried about you. Are you all right?” If I were to guess, I’d suspect that further therapeutic investigation would suggest that my intense, suspenseful books are a way to explore and expiate my own darkest impulses in a safe, contained way.    

What’s next for Doctors Palumbo and Rinaldi?

I’ll have to ask Dr. Rinaldi and get back to you. As you can imagine, he’s a very busy man and not so easy to reach.



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Empathy, Anger, & Hate: A talk with Vincent DiPersio, Documentary Filmmaker

It was our pleasure to work with Vince as Director on our Emmy-Nominated "The Kennedy Detail."


Vincent DiPersio (RUP ‘76) is a three-time Academy Award nominee for Documentary Feature. He has three Emmys. Last month he debuted a new film called Killed By Hate on the Oxygen Channel called Uncovered: Killed by Hate. It’s an examination of how the back-to-back murders of James Byrd and Mathew Sheppard led to Barack Obama’s enactment of Hate legislation and then examines how in the last two years hate has been on the rise in America.


From oxygen.com:

On June 7th, 1998, James Byrd Jr, an African American was murdered by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas.  He had been beaten, tied to the back of a car and dragged for three miles. Four months later, on October 6th, 1998, Matthew Shepard, an openly gay student at the University of Wyoming was beaten, tortured, set on fire and hung from a fence and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming. Both James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard succumbed to brutal injuries, but it was a far greater force that took their lives: Hate. Nearly a decade after their murders, President Barack Obama signed into Law the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. With one swift signature America sent a message to the world; that we would not tolerate crimes committed against people based on their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or disability. Now, ten years later, the real question is, has it worked?

Interviewer: I was hoping to talk to you briefly about the process in making Uncovered: Killed by Hate. You are playing to two very strong emotions: deep empathy and anger. As a director, I’d like to get your take on this. How do you tell the story in this setting? Obviously the interviews are very important. Could you say a few words about the role of empathy as you enter the process of making a film like this?

Vincent DiPersio: Empathy. That’s a big one.

I’ve done so many projects where emotions run high.

Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations. The absurdity of the so-called war on drugs. The madness of gun violence. The lie that led African Americans out of the Delta up north during the war only to pull the rug out from under them once the white boys came home from the war. The horrors that police officers see every day.

I’ve had to shine light into a lot of dark corners. It could make you cold and cynical. Or by some mysterious gift of grace it could lead you by the hand to empathy. Somewhere along the line, I really don’t even know how, this rough neck kid from Philly acquired that grace.

I know this. I know that it starts with listening.

It begins with arming yourself with enough knowledge of a story that you feel confident about loosing that knowledge in the face of someone who actually lived it.

What I’ve come to understand over the years is that when people are in crisis, most of us rush in to help. To make it better. But in the process, intent on achieving some positive effect, we don’t really listen. We don’t let the other person fully express their grief. I’ve talked about it endlessly with my crews over late night beers. But collectively, we’ve come to understand that our job is to listen. To let the person we’re sitting with channel their voice through us. That’s the secret really. That simple act of listening, having the courage to understand that no matter how much you’ve prepared, you don’t know as much as the person you’re interviewing, sitting there listening, really listening, that’s what builds empathy.

Interviewer: What about anger? 

Vincent: Anger? Man, that’s a whole other issue.

The kinds of stories I try to seek out, something that needs serious illumination, those kinds of stories can surely raise your hackles. But again, and this happened over years, I’ve come to realize that anger can sometimes be just another pair of blinders. Anger can slant your vision, push you to infuse the story with too much of you and not enough of them.

I’ve also learned that yeah, you can make a dynamite film from that angry point of view. And that everyone who agrees with you will go along for the ride. But is that really your purpose? To preach to the converted? Or is it maybe more important to be expansive with your voice. To let in enough points of view so that maybe someone who didn’t agree with you going in, comes out the other side having the scales gently removed from their eyes.

So while I may throw an occasional shoe at the T.V. set, I’ve learned to temper my anger when I put on guy director’s hat and instead zero in on the larger, often very complicated truth.

The biggest part of all this though is your fellow travelers. The people riding around in that van with you from location to location, interview to interview. Over time you learn to read people quickly and to use that to surround you with people who not only share your approach, understand the empathy needed and the ability to be open, but that will also lift you up when you flag.

I always equate it being in a jazzer’s band, say like Miles. Miles always said that he wanted guys in his band that, if he were having an off night, would just play right over him. Guys who were going to make the night magic whether he was up to it or not. I”ve been lucky to find men and women to ride with me who are just like that.

Interviewer: And Goddard College? In what way did your education at Goddard prepare you for this work?

Vincent:  None of this, and I’m not being ingenuous, none of this would have been possible had I not come across a Goddard catalogue in my Community College back in Philly.

 At the time I was an angry young kid. From a broken household and a dirt-poor neighborhood.

Fresh from a stint in the Army that just made the chip on my shoulder bigger. The men in my life up to that point were ravaged by drink and working class torpor. I’d been told so many times that I was worthless or wouldn’t amount to anything that I almost believed it.

Almost.

The G.I. bill gave me the freedom to do what my broken household couldn’t- consider college.

Over the years however, I’d become awfully suspicious of rules, of authority, of the “accepted” way to go through your life. That Goddard catalogue, I remember it had a beautiful young woman in a peasant dress on the cover, promised something else. Promised the freedom and space I’d never had to explore, to figure out with some guidance exactly how to release this voice in my head that said things needed to be done about the world.

From the time I got off the Montrealer on that crisp fall morning and loaded into the back of a pick-up truck my life began to change. In those north woods, on that glorious campus I found men and women willing to reach out to me and ask me where I was headed, what I was trying to say.

For the first time in my life I was encouraged to not only find but also to have the courage to follow my own path. They did it with love, with compassion, with understanding. And with listening!

I mean this with all my heart, if it weren’t for Goddard, I wouldn’t be here today.

I was lost and those remarkable men and women who ran the joint and taught helped me find myself.

Interviewer: What’s next?

Vincent: Currently I’m working on a prison reform program with Kim Kardashian West, chronicling Kim’s efforts to get legislation passed to enact prison reform and to get the prison sentences of people who’ve proved themselves rehabilitated overturned, all in an effort to fight mass incarceration.




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StoryHinge: Kenneth Atchity A Life of Stories - PART TWO


With more than forty years’ experience in the publishing world, and nearly thirty in entertainment, Dr. Ken Atchity is a “story merchant”– writer, editor, producer, career coach, teacher, and literary manager, responsible for launching hundreds of books and dozens of film and television productions. His life’s passion is finding great storytellers and turning them into bestselling authors and produced screenwriters.

In one of his recent works he produced the film called “The Meg” (Jason Statham, Warner Brothers), “Hysteria” (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Informant Media), “Expatriate” (Aaron Eckhart, Informant), the Emmy-nominated “The Kennedy Detail” (Discovery), “The Lost Valentine” (Betty White; Hallmark Hall of Fame), “Joe Somebody” (Tim Allen; Fox), “Life or Something Like It” (Angelina Jolie; Fox), and “14 Days with Alzheimer’s.”

His own books include novels, The Messiah Matrix and Seven Ways to Die, and nonfiction A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments that Sell, and Sell Your Story to Hollywood.

This month is your chance to mastermind with Kenneth Atchity!


All you need to is:

Step 2: sign up for the mastermind with Ken and I.

When you get yourself a copy right now, you're invited to a one-of-a-kind mastermind with Ken and myself where we'll discuss all things Hollywood (especially how to get your story on the big screen)!

Here's what Emmy award-winning producer Norman Stephens said about the book:

Authors Kenneth Atchity and Alinka Rutkowska combine for a resume of talent and experience that towers above most pundits of the entertainment industry. Every page of "Your VIP Biography" is a gift to writers and producers whose personal lives may lack the extreme conflicts of a story’s principal characters, yet they embrace stories of others to share with a wide audience.

CHANGING SPIRITS WITH DREAMS: Lu Xun's Wild Grass by Carolyn T. Brown


One day Chuang Chou dreamed that he was a butterfly fluttering about, doing as he pleased. He was not aware of being Chuang Chou. Suddenly he awoke with a start and he was Chuang Chou again. But he could not tell whether he had dreamed that he was a butterfly, or whether he was a butterfly dreaming that he was Chuang Chou.

The dream of the ancient Taoist philosopher Chuang Chou (369-286) is the most famous of a long, rich tradition of dream narratives in Chinese literature. Chuang Chou's dream poses a problem of human freedom: how to transcend the limits of any duality whose first term, in this case dreaming, logically generates its opposite, waking.

Dreamworks 5:2: 1986-1987 (Dreamworks Magazine Book 5) by [Atchity, Kenneth]
Excerpt from  Dreamworks 5:2: 1986-1987 (Dreamworks Magazine)
Kenneth Atchity Available on Amazon

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People






The daily life of great authors, artists and philosophers has long been the subject of fascination among those who look upon their work in awe. After all, life can often feel like, to quote Elbert Hubbard, “one damned thing after another” -- a constant muddle of obligations and responsibilities interspersed with moments of fleeting pleasure, wrapped in gnawing low-level existential panic. (Or, at least, it does to me.) Yet some people manage to transcend this perpetual barrage of office meetings, commuter traffic and the unholy allure of reality TV to create brilliant work. It’s easy to think that the key to their success is how they structure their day.

Mason Currey’s blog-turned-book Daily Rituals describes the workaday life of great minds from W.H. Auden to Immanuel Kant, from Flannery O’Connor to Franz Kafka. The one thing that Currey’s project underlines is that there is no magic bullet. The daily routines are as varied as the people who follow them– though long walks, a ridiculously early wake up time and a stiff drink are common to many.

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New From Story Merchant Books Larry D. Thompson's The Trial: A Thriller







Luke Vaughan thought he had retired from trying lawsuits. That was his intent when he left Houston and moved Samantha, his teenage daughter, to his hometown of San Marcos, Texas, to establish a low-key office practice. Instead, he found that he traded the stress of trial work for the greater stress of raising a rebellious daughter. After Samantha volunteers as a subject in the clinical trial of a new antibiotic that both the drug company and the FDA knew was dangerous, she develops liver failure.

Unable to pay for a liver transplant, Luke is forced to return to the courtroom one more time in a last-ditch effort to save his daughter's life. When Luke's efforts expose fraud and corruption in both the drug company and the FDA, he is suddenly confronted with a ruthless adversary who is willing to resort to bribery, kidnapping, and even murder.

Echoing themes from today's headlines, The Trial is a classic David-and-Goliath tale of a small-town lawyer fighting the incestuous relationship of a giant pharmaceutical company with the FDA. In this fast-moving legal thriller, Thompson exposes the corruption involving the drug industry, which, all too often, leads to the approval of new and very dangerous drugs in the United States.





StoryHinge: Kenneth Atchity A Life of Stories



With more than forty years’ experience in the publishing world, and nearly thirty in entertainment, Dr. Ken Atchity is a “story merchant”– writer, editor, producer, career coach, teacher, and literary manager, responsible for launching hundreds of books and dozens of film and television productions. His life’s passion is finding great storytellers and turning them into bestselling authors and produced screenwriters.

In one of his recent works he produced the film called “The Meg” (Jason Statham, Warner Brothers), “Hysteria” (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Informant Media), “Expatriate” (Aaron Eckhart, Informant), the Emmy-nominated “The Kennedy Detail” (Discovery), “The Lost Valentine” (Betty White; Hallmark Hall of Fame), “Joe Somebody” (Tim Allen; Fox), “Life or Something Like It” (Angelina Jolie; Fox), and “14 Days with Alzheimer’s.”

His own books include novels, The Messiah Matrix and Seven Ways to Die, and nonfiction A Writer’s Time, Writing Treatments that Sell, and Sell Your Story to Hollywood.

Check Out Disturbing the Peace Trailer



A small-town marshal who hasn't carried a gun since he left the Texas Rangers after a tragic shooting must pick up his gun again to do battle with a gang of outlaw bikers that has invaded the town to pull off a brazen and violent heist.

Writer Chuck Hustmyre

Interview with Kenneth Atchity on The The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers With Joanna Penn



Many authors have a goal of seeing their book made into a film or TV series, but how can you maximize the chances of that happening? Ken Atchity has some tips for creating loglines and standing out in a crowded content market.

Listen to Podcast here

* How Ken went from academia to Hollywood
* What the journey looks like for a book that becomes a film
* Why it’s a good time for storytellers in Hollywood
* Tips on writing a treatment
* Why a clear premise sells a story
* Why character matters when finding a story’s premise
* Why it helps to have a representative in Hollywood
* Should you think about the budget when writing for the screen?


For Writers, Silence Might Not Be Golden After All



Certainly, many eminent writers from the past shunned clamor. Consider Marcel Proust. To remark that the French writer was sensitive to auditory interference would be an understatement. The man was positively neurotic about it. He treated the bedroom in his Paris apartment where he wrote like a sensory deprivation chamber—shutters closed, drapes drawn, the walls lined with sound-absorbing cork. It wasn’t enough. He wore earplugs too.

Anton Chekhov was similarly beset by hypersensitivity to sound. So was fellow obsessive Frank Kafka, who described his condition in his signature surreal style by saying that “I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’—that wouldn’t be enough—but like a dead man.” Sadly, by the time he got his wish, it was too late to do anything about it.

The correlation between high-level inventiveness and difficulty in filtering out sensory inputs is understandable, given that open-mindedness is a hallmark of the creative personality. The problem for off-the-chart geniuses like Proust, Chekhov, and Kafka was that their minds were a bit too open. Everything got through. Hence the extreme measures they took to avoid being immobilized by incoming stimuli.

...silence isn’t as golden as it sounds. Absolute noiselessness tends to focus our attention, which is helpful for tasks that entail accuracy, fine detail, and linear reasoning, such as balancing our checkbook or fixing a Swiss watch. It’s less supportive of the broad, big-picture, abstract mind-wandering that leads to fresh perspectives and a creative work product. On the other hand, excessive noise overwhelms our sensory apparatus and hinders our ability to properly process information at all. In between lies the sweet spot—noise not so loud that we can’t hear ourselves think, and not so quiet that we can’t help but hear ourselves think.

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A HISTORY OF BUYING BOOKS ONTO THE BESTSELLER LIST

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In November, Donald Trump Jr.’s Triggered hit number one on the New York Times bestsellers list—with an asterisk. Or more accurately, a dagger (†). This is the first time many people noticed this dagger and learned that it means the NYT believes the book has made it onto the list with the help of bulk purchases. It is, however, far from the first book to do this.
In fact, his father helped pioneer the practice among business people.
According to former Trump executive Jack O’Donnell in his 1991 book Trumped, the Trump organization purchased tens of thousands of copies of the Art of the Deal upon its release in 1987. They put copies of the book on pillows during turn-down service. He also pressured his executives to buy 4,000 or more copies of the book each. 
Though Trump helped to bring the idea mainstream, he was following in some authors’ footsteps from a decade earlier. Some of the first books known to make the list with the help of bulk purchases were Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 Valley of the Dolls and Wayne Dyer’s 1976 Your Erroneous ZonesThe list started in 1931, so there are probably authors who used this method we’ll never know about.
For those unaware of how bestseller lists work, here’s a primer. They each use different metrics and data sources, but the NYT is considered to be the most “curated,” with a secretive process. It is known that they poll a large selection of independent booksellers and major retailers. These are often called “reporting” bookstores. Those looking to game the system with bulk sales will only order from sources known or highly suspected to be reporting. The general wisdom is that you need to sell somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 copies a week to make most of their lists.
The NYT list is usually seen as the most prestigious, with the Wall Street Journal’s list being highly respected in business circles. The USA Today list is broader, with no category breakdowns—just a simple list of the top 150 books that week in print and electronic formats. These are considered “easier” to hit than the NYT list.
You’ll most often seen folks touting an “Amazon bestseller” label, or sometimes they’ll simply say “bestseller.” Marketer Brent Underwood blew the lid off these claims with a charming experiment and article in 2016. I myself am a #1 Amazon bestseller in “Teen & Young Adult LGBT Fiction,” but I don’t advertise that.
In 1995, the New York Times introduced the dagger symbol to indicate a book that had benefited from a bulk purchase after authors Fred Wiersema and Michael Treacy allegedly spent a quarter of a million dollars on their own book. But that didn’t stop businessmen and politicians from doing the same.
Politicians like Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, and Joe Lieberman have used campaign funds to purchase their own books as donor thank-you gifts. In 2015, Ted Cruz got in a very public fight with the New York Times over their decision to not include him on the list at all, citing bulk purchases. Donald Trump’s campaign, again in 2016, spent $55,055 on purchasing his book Crippled America, which would have hit the list even without this purchase.
In 2015, Mitt Romney switched it up a bit, requiring hosts of his speaking gigs to make large purchases of his book No Apology in lieu of a speaking fee. As a bonus, many people applauded him for “speaking for free.”

In April 2018, bookseller Emily Pullen pointed out that four of the books on the nonfiction list, all by conservatives, had the telling little dagger next to them. A few weeks later, Pullen posted an image of a donation the library had received of Our 50-State Border Crisis sent directly from Barnes & Noble, theorizing this was all part of the scheme.
Many businessmen found an easier—but more expensive—route. In 2012, megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll and wife Grace hit #1 on the list with Real Marriage, but it was revealed in 2014 that he did so by paying ResultSource over 200k to make it happen. The resulting backlash caused the company to adopt a lower profile, even though they were very public about what they were doing before then. In 2013, Soren Kaplan spoke openly about hiring the firm to get his book Leapfrogging on the Wall Street Journal’s list. ResultSource had an endorsement from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and breakdown of their campaign for his book Delivering Happiness. In an article about the companyForbes called it “essentially a laundering operation aimed at deceiving the book-buying public into believing a title is more in-demand than it is.” We may never know some of the “bestselling” books that used this service.
ResultSource was able to help these books make lists without that dagger symbol by carefully placing orders in a way to not trigger those bulk order alerts. Which is exactly how Lani Sarem of Handbook for Mortals infamy managed to hit the list with sales for books that may not have actually ever existed. After investigating the issue, the New York Times reissued the list without her book on it.
Why does any of this matter? There’s no denying the phrase “New York Times bestselling author” lends credibility and gravitas to people and to ideas. Many say it allows people in certain political circles to claim their ideas are more mainstream than they are in reality. There’s financial incentive, too. Hitting the list creates momentum and many of these books continued to stay on the bestseller list for weeks after their bulk buys. Booksellers know when a book hits a list, they will see more people coming in to purchase those books the following week. Lani Sarem was attempting to leverage the list into a movie deal.
And it also matters because only people who already have excessive assets are able to participate. You’ll never see one of these daggers next to a no-name middle- or lower-class writer. So it’s just another way that people of means can game the system in their favor, widening the gap between financial classes.