If we love and tell the truth…what need we fear?


Nice thread on “Better Call Saul” yesterday, so I thought I’d say a little more.  “Saul”, “Breaking Bad” and before them “The Sopranos” have (IMO) likable, bad people at the core of the shows.  We are tempted to empathize with their world views, to excuse their behaviors, justify their rationalizations.  Believe other people or external events are responsible for their choices.   I compared them to  mini-Macbeths, where horrifically evil actions are made comprehensible by seeing the humanity of the guilty party.  

Tragedies–men of force and intellect (well…I’d say Jimmy is clever, but not hugely smart) who think they can make their own rules in the world.  Of the three, I’d say Walter White is the most evil–he sees totally innocent people killed or destroyed as a consequence of his actions, and continues his behaviors. Unless I’m forgetting something, that’s worse than anything Tony Soprano ever did.  “Saul” is a step removed from direct evil physical actions, but constantly warps rules, and supports those who DO engage in direct, evil actions.


It’s a slippery slope indeed. What are the doorways to evil, the portals we often pass without realizing we’ve opened the gates to hell?  Well, Musashi speaks of one, and the Sufis another.


Musashi’s first principle is:   “Do not think dishonestly.”  Well…I’ve certainly never met anyone I could declare honest 100% of the time.   But the occasional lies we tell ourselves or others are not the same as excusing our lies by saying “everyone does it” and employ/rely upon them as a tactic and strategy.   It is even worse if we realize we are not disconnected from those around us. That, in essence, when we lie to others we cannot help but lie to ourselves.   That distorts our reality map, takes us off the road to wisdom and Awakening.    On “Saul”, Jimmy cannot even understand what is wrong with his lying, cheating, and stealing.  If he doesn’t get caught, what’s the problem..?


Every parent knows that a lying child is thinking this way, and we pray that something will finally “click in” and they will become internally directed, begin to seek honesty for their own sake.  When they do, we breathe a sigh of relief.


The Sufi piece is the thought that the beginning of evil is treating human beings as means rather than ends.  In other words, failing to extend your own humanity to others.   Walter White cares about the people close to him, but is so bought into his own bullshit that everything, including human lives, are just pieces on a game board to be moved around for his entertainment and profit.   


And make no mistake: they give him a way off that train–he is offered insurance.  His EGO won’t let him take it.  What is disturbing is that even after this telling moment, fans of the show continued to insist that he HAD to continue to be “Heisenburg”.   Wow.  Really?   Are these people not describing their own moral landscapes? That they would excuse themselves in the same circumstances? Do the same things and use the same justifications?


What did Walter White tell himself after that boy was shot in the desert? After the plane blew up? He is directly or indirectly responsible for HUNDREDS of deaths, and until the last fifteen minutes of the last episode, continued to claim he had no responsibility.   THAT is human evil.


“Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged” is often quoted.   But I think that comment is connected to “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”   Very clearly, Christ evaluated the worth and rightness of human actions, so there can’t be a blanket statement against having values or measuring behaviors.  But what is being said is that if you judge others, you will be judged.  Well, actually, according to Christian doctrine you’re gonna be judged whether you judge others or not, so I have to think some thing is being lost in translation.


The truth is that we NEED the judgement of others, especially those who have walked the lifepaths we desire, who have the skills we covet, or have accomplished what we seek.  Without that judgement, we are denied the very feedback we need to improve.


That doesn’t mean to be cruel, mean, insulting, or anything else.  It means we need the truth. And frankly, yes, that little kid inside us wants that truth to be offered in the softest, sweetest way we can get it.  But in the adult world, if you are about to be hit by a train, do you REALLY want someone to spend five minutes telling you what a good, sweet, wonderful person you are, or would you rather hear someone say: “hey, idiot, get off the tracks!”    Yes, there is room between the two.   But if you are going to tell me that unless someone says it “nicely” you’re going to stay right there on the tracks, is that your “adult” or your “child” speaking?   


Either we are responsible for our actions, or we are not. If other people are responsible for our emotional states, we have NO AGENCY.   There is simply no behavior we cannot justify by saying someone else treated us in this or that manner.  None.


Yes, I’m talking personal responsibility, and I fully grasp the danger some will see in doing so.  What happens when we apply this principle to entire groups, some of whom (ahem) statistically have more issues with the legal system or other dysfunctional or destructive behaviors?


Simple, really.   While some of the underlying issues have been debated for thousands of years and will continue to be so for thousands more, I have no problem maintaining an internally consistent position, and it is this:


The average person cops out, stays asleep, lies to themselves an average amount of the time. And given the same stimuli will mis-behave or under-perform an average amount.  While individuals MUST be responsible for their behaviors or miss their lives, most are, by definition, only average about this. Such that if you see a group of people operating at a level of pain, it is reasonable to assume that they are dealing with different environmental pressures.  m So yes, I can see the problems in group X.  But the Ys wagging their finger would ON AVERAGE be the same, given the same history and situation.

That’s my position.  I’m perfectly aware that at least 20% of people have a different theory about such things, and that’s all right.

If you are an X, and you want a better life, you have to be other than average, or you are screwed. And much of that will be dependent on telling the truth and extending empathy.

Love and fear.  Telling the truth demands having sufficient control of your fear to actually deal with the worst that could happen, not need the balm of illusion.


And empathizing means loving yourself to reach the core of your being, to fill your own heart so that you need no emotional reinforcement from others.  Free of that neediness, you tap into something larger than human ego, and begin to expand outward, naturally beginnning to share that love with others. The consequence, to see your own soul in the eyes of others, is the door to heaven, just as objectification and dishonesty are  the doorway to hell.


If Jimmy and Walter and Tony had  loved themselves, told the truth, and extended that love to others…precisely what evil would they have ever done?  I may be forgetting something, but I don’t see it.  


Tragedies were considered a high social art, in classic dramas the downfall of a powerful human being because of their personal failings.  Watching them destroyed by their own hubris or lack of wisdom or evil was an uplifting experience, and the coffee-house discussions that followed allowed the audience to discuss and reinforce the social values at the core of the downfall.  


Watching “Breaking Bad” or “Better Call Saul” or “The Sopranos” (or “The Godfather”, probably the very best of the popular American explorations of this theme) is a fascinating Rorschach test.  What people say about the events tells you what they think of humanity, the ethical structure of the universe, what is acceptable, who is responsible for our actions and emotions.  Sometimes, what they wish they were courageous enough to do themselves.


It is educational.   And fun. And at times…just a little scary.




Octavia Butler’s Life and Legacy


This month celebrates Octavia Butler’s life and legacy. I find myself pulled into numerous discussions on the subject, although I’m not a scholar of her work: she was my friend, my big sister, my neighbor, my colleague. Sigh. It is good to see people finally recognizing what we had walking among us, but also just a little sad. TELL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE THAT YOU LOVE THEM WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE will you please???

Octavia was a hard-SF writer who was driven by questions about sexuality, gender relations, race relations, human violence, and our misuse of the environment. “Who are we?” and “What is true?” To me, although she certainly had politics, she was far far more philosophical, genuinely wondering if humanity had what it would take to survive, given our hierarchical and egotistical tendencies. And…her massive research into realms biological suggested to me that she was searching the natural world for answers. Were we animals? And if so, were our flaws outgrowths of our survival traits? Or our destructive traits? Or something else?

Hard, hard questions, and very few writers have gone as deeply into these questions, let alone written of them with grace and power. She was one of a kind.

Tananarive and I visited with her as often as possible, and for years Octavia and I lived walking distance from each other, and frequently got together for dinner, lunch, and conversation. She didn’t drive, and I often took her to speaking engagements so that she’d not have to take the bus.

This Friday, we’re going to discuss her life and legacy, art and craft, politics and philosophy in our ongoing exploration of how the inner and outer worlds of the artist combine to create genius. This Friday, 6pm pst on Lifewriting

Join us!




“The People Versus O.J. Simpson”


Yeah, I thought he was innocent too.  But it didn’t’ take long for me to come to very different conclusions, and as the years went by, more and more evidence came my way, until I reached my current level of conviction that he is a murdering bastard.  And no, I don’t think the “Not guilty” verdict meant any more there than it did with George Zimmerman.


I felt total fury at the fact that I knew I couldn’t prove anything, but T and I laid out our case in the Tennyson Hardwick novel IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT, in which we punished his fictional avatar.  Perhaps coincidentally, that book won the NAACP Image Award.  Gee, you think maybe there were some other pissed people?


At any rate, as the television movie is about to hit, I thought I’d lay out my case.   Every word I’m saying is true so far as I know it.


  1. My first thought when I heard of the murders, and the fact that the cops were looking at him, was that he was much too smart to do it.  If anything, he would have hired it done.   The first crack in the image came when I heard the phone conversation in the White Bronco driven by his good ol’ pal Al Cowlings. I believe that  the Bronco chase took place when he didn’t want to turn himself in to the police, and that bizarre slow-motion chase, the LAPD giving him so much rope you could have woven him a cocoon out of it, was all the evidence I needed that yes, as I had heard, the cops LOVED O.J.  Adored him.   Any way, the cell phone conversation was  basically self-pitying:  “sob sob”  I hope my children remember me as I was, and not this miserable creature here today…” or something of the like.


And…the hair on the back of my neck stood up.   Something wasn’t right.  I called about five male friends and asked them the following question: “say you’re divorced from your wife, who you still love. She and a friend are BUTCHERED in the driveway of her house, while your children are asleep upstairs.  What is your first thought?”

And every single one of them, EVERY ONE, said: “OMG!  The Mansons must have gone after my family!   Protect those children!”   That was the first thought of any man I knew.   There would only be one reason I could accept for that not to hit anyone with a spoon of testosterone (hell, or estrogen): you knew who did it, and knew that there was no risk to the kids.


Under what circumstances would O.J. KNOW who did it, but not speak, allowing the life he had spent decades building to be utterly destroyed?  Who could that be?   His son? His brother?  A friend?  I don’t believe any of that.   Get that close friend or relative the best legal defense in the world?  Sure.  While O.J. is out eating steak and screwing starlets.  Not for a fraction of an instant to I believe that man loved anyone or anything enough to destroy his own life to protect him.


How about the theory that a drug ring did it, and his children would only be safe so long as he remained quiet?  All I can say is that anyone who believes that has seen entirely too many direct to video movies.


No, at that moment I realized that I would respect him MORE if he killed his wife than any scenario I could think of if he didn’t. There was simply no way he could know who did it and not speak. And if he didn’t know who did it, there was no way he wouldn’t think his children could be next, and be concerned.


The simplest conclusion: he did it.    I wasn’t quite sure yet…and the next piece came months later.

2. Ronnie Ship was the LAPD cop who claimed O.J. was partying after the murder.  O.J.’s defense team made him out a liar.  The problem is that I went to Alta Loma elementary school with Ronnie Ship. He was a straight-shooter, a protector of the weak even then, and used to pull bullies off me.   My oldest friend, Lee Taylor, called me one day and told me to turn on the television. The trial was on.  Ronnie Ship was on the stand.   He was testifying, but looked heartbroken.   I watched him look directly at Simpson and silently mouth the words:  “tell the truth, O.J.”  Whoa.

3.  Let’s say that due to a series of coincidences, I came to know a “very” good friend of a friend of O.J.’s., call him “Driver”.     This person told me that QUITE soon after the murders,  “Driver” showed up at their door in an extremely agitated state.    And said that there was nothing in the world as stimulating as cutting a woman’s throat.


4)   In O.J.’s book, “If I Did It” he lays out a hypothetical scenario for the night of the murders.  In it, he says that a friend went with him that night, and helped him execute the crime.

5)   I was standing in line at a grocery store, and picked up a tabloid newspaper, one of the ones that actually has a reputation for breaking real (if lurid) stories.   On a back page was a column of short articles.   One said that a woman in the same line of work as the person  in #3, a friend of White Bronco owner Al Cowlings said that the reason the infamous Bloody Glove didn’t fit was that it belonged to good old Al.

6.  Following the acquittal, he has behaved precisely as I would expect someone with an exploded ego and a shitload of guilt to act: simultaneously considering himself invulnerable, and seeking redemption through punishment.


Look–none of this is likely to change any minds.  I’m just saying that in combination, we have precisely my reason to consider him a monster.  Others are welcome to think of him what they will.


But as with Zimmerman, to me he is a walking pusticle, and I couldn’t wait to watch the world fall on him.  It did.


Batter up, G.Z.



(and tomorrow, I’ll talk about how T and I channeled our outrage into the book!)


The Revenant (2015)


I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life seen a movie with such a combination of raw beauty and even rawer brutality than Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant”.  Written by Iñárritu with Mark L. Smith and based (in part) on the novel by Michael Punke,  “The Revenant” is a mythology spun off the true story of a 19th century frontiersman Hugh Glass (a 100% committed Leonardo Di Caprio) this tale of revenge, survival, and just possibly redemption simply reeks of authenticity–not historical accuracy, but rather the willingness on the part of the filmmakers to get inside Glass’s skin, to recreate the qualities of mind and body necessary to drag a shattered body through the snow in search of the man you need to kill.


Basically, Glass was the guide for a group of trappers traveling deep into the wilderness.  Everything imaginable goes wrong, including the bear attack you’ve heard about.  And yes, it is amazing, terrifying, and oddly beautiful.  


Horribly wounded, his fellow woodsmen leave him for dead, in a stunning   act of betrayal.  While much of the story is (by necessity) fabricated, what follows, as Glass seeks life and redemption, is so real that it seems churlish to insist that real history would have been better.  It is a MOVIE, not a documentary, and the cast and director so obviously exposed themselves to the elements (including -15 degree weather that drove some of the crew to quit), filming using only natural light, actors doing (most) of their own stunts, filming in chronological sequence (this has been done quite rarely, in films like Casablanca and Deliverance), and world-hopping to find the snow conditions necessary for filming.


Excruciatingly long, harrowing, violent, and mesmerizing.  Di Caprio and his blood enemy (an occasionally incomprehensible Tom Hardy as the man who abandoned him) plunged so deeply into their roles that it is mind-boggling to think of “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “Legend” and realize these are the same guys.   


For this cinematic version of Glass, his “Hero’s Journey” is, externally, one of survival. But internally one more important than mere fleshly existence.  In order to preserve life, Glass becomes an animal, willing to do anything a wolf might do to survive.    And the real question is not “will he live?”  or even “will he get revenge?” but “what will be left of this man?  Will he even be a human being by the time this ends?”


Those first questions are “what is true?” and they are gripping. But deeper is “who am I?”   asked as “what is a human being?”  and “what is he, what are WE?” and “how can we keep our souls in the midst of life’s crushing, numbing fight for survival?”


Each set of questions is important, and together they open the doorway to a deeper experience.  This is superb filmmaking, and if “The Revenant” (a term for a spirit returned from the dead) wins “Best Picture” I won’t be surprised or displeased in the slightest.   It is not a perfect film–nothing is. But I think it is a true film, and that is no small thing.    Iñárritu and his cast went through hell to create this work of art, and emerged with a sliver of heaven.    It earns a solid “A”.
–Steven Barnes

Tears streamed down my face. Was it too late?

About thirty years ago, I was sitting in a Greenwich Village restaurant speaking to Leo and Diane Dillon about art.   These were REAL artists, fabulous graphic geniuses (the inset image is from their cover to Harlan Ellison’s DEATHBIRD STORIES), and a husband-wife team who performed as a single mind.  When she started a line, he finished, and vice versa.  In the presence of such greatness, all my pretense of wanting to interview them to help an artist friend just…dissolved.   



Tears streamed down my face, all my bullshit stripped away in the face of such artistic purity.  I realized that in trying to maintain a career, to support my family, I had often written things purely for the money, sometimes scrabbling to please people with corrupt values and petty creative minds.  “We can’t do that story” I remember being told once.  “If we did that story, people would think this show is about something, and our only excuse for putting on a mass murder every week is that this is pure entertainment.”


Name of God.   And…I needed the money.  Instead of excusing myself and using up a bobbin of mental floss, I stayed and pitched madly, desperate to get that check.   Frankly, honestly, it took me a year to recover.  


That’s another story.


I explained my situation to Leo and Diane, and choked out the words: “is it too late for me?   Can I still find my way to my art?”


They looked at me not with scorn or mocking, but pure compassion.  Diane reached across the table and took my hand.  Through a film of tears I heard her say words that changed my life: “if you can even ask that question, it’s not too late.”


Bless her.  I’ve lost my way at times. We all have.  If you have ever wanted to work in Hollywood, you have been tempted to sell out, to change your words, to write what’s “hot” instead of what’s true.   It’s the war between heart and head, child and adult, and it is eternal.


In prose writing, the answer is often to write short stories, which cleanse the palate, give you a chance to study your craft for its own sake, and to play with nutty ideas for the sheer joy of it.


But what if you want to make movies?  In the process of chasing that dream, is it possible to create a path that takes you CLOSER to your creative impulse, while satisfying your heart, and simultaneously learning the skills you need to succeed in the money game?


Tananarive and I believe there is.  And it lies in making short films.  We’ve done it for nothing, for 30k, and I’ve done it in writing for television’s The Twilight Zone.   There you have it: from zero to 100% Guild, a continuum ANYONE can begin, a road ANYONE can walk, easier than at any point in history because of changes in technology.  


This Friday, we’re doing a totally Free webinar to create more material for our exclusive SCREENWRITING MACHINE class.  We’d love to have you in the audience for it.  We’ll be discussing the nuts and bolts of actual creation of short films, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you want, from the “why” to the “how” and the “how much.”  It will be at 6pm pst Friday the 22nd of January 2016, and we’re going to have serious fun, and show you how you can do the same.  Not “some day” but NOW.




If you can even remember your dream…it’s not too late.




A Note From “Future You”


Hey there!   I know this feels strange, but yeah, this is a note from you,   three years from now.  Just thought I’d reach back and give you a little encouragement, and a little push.


You see, I’ve accomplished so many of the goals you set out to achieve that I just wanted to say “thank you.”  For what?


–for keeping my dreams alive.

–for working so darned hard

–for maintaining faith that tomorrow could be better than yesterday

–for keeping a loving, optimistic heart no matter what.


That’s what it takes, you know.   


And one of those dreams seemed impossible, I know.   You wanted to write movies.  But you understood what that meant: not “write scripts”.  Anybody can do that.  You wanted to write MOVIES.   To create, to share, to build images that change the world.  And oh, yes, you wanted to conquer Hollywood, the apex of the world’s creative flow. There was and is NO other world destination that pulls the greatest talent from every corner of the globe.


And that is not just the tallest mountain, but all those hands seeking to climb it have polished it slicker than glass.    


You saw the task ahead, and climbed anyway.

You saw the crushed bodies at the bottom of the slope, and climbed anyway.

You listened to everyone saying “you can’t do it” and climbed anyway.

You saw the awards and money going to others.  Sometimes these were people with wonderful skills and talent…and other times it was to people willing to sell out, or those who had connections, or those who were the flavor of the month.


And you never gave up.


Because you saw a way to do something extraordinary.  You realized that the game had changed, and that there was a different way up the mountain.


One that would teach you the skills necessary to climb as fast as you were capable, but at the same time actually have the fun and satisfaction of REAL CREATION.  That’s right. You were one of the first to see that you could have both. And that if you did, then no one could stop you.


You were like “Rocky.” Remember that terrific first movie, before Stallone discovered Roman numerals?  Where he decided he couldn’t beat Apollo Creed?  When Adrian asked him what they was going to do, and he said that if he could just be on his feet at the end of fifteen rounds he’d declare victory?


And because of that change, because he defined success as something within his grasp, something determined by HIS actions, not the judgements of others, he ultimately became champion of the world?


Remember that?   Wow. What a moment.  That was TRUTH. And you saw and felt it.


And because of that, I’m where I am now. And I owe it all to you.


I just wanted to encourage you to trust your instincts.  Follow your dreams.   To clarify your goal of writing MOVIES, not just “scripts.” Of creating, and having faith that if you do your very best, day after day, learning as you do, that you will raise your skill and ability to the highest level you can. And that you can have FUN along the way, learning at accelerated speed, meaning learning the WHOLE business…


-How to write

-How to FINISH and polish

-What a producer needs to make a movie

-What a director needs and wants

-What actors need and want

-How an audience responds to your work.


You knew that without ALL of these things, you could chase your tail forever, hallucinating that you were making progress instead of actually growing.


Yes.  You found the “loophole” in the game.   A way to succeed, GUARANTEED, simply by shifting your paradigm a little.   And that made all the difference.  


You decided to go to WWW.HOLLYWOODLOOPHOLE.COM and take control of your career, your creativity, your learning process, your ability to speak your truth to the world.  You did it, and I am so darned proud of you.


I’m nothing without you, really.  


Today was the day we planted that seed, wasn’t it? The day we made one of the best decisions we’d ever made?  Trust your instincts about that.  If you like this future “you”–one who is writing and making films, who has a new supportive community of like-minded people, who is taking our dreams to the next level…just go to and take the next step.


I’m counting on you…


Signed, YOU
(p.s.–only five more days to be a part of the three-part teleseminar where you’ll have a chance to ask Steven Barnes, Art Holcomb and Tananarive Due ANY QUESTIONS you have about the SCREENWRITING MACHINE or writing in general.  I’m SO glad you didn’t miss this opportunity!)

Hollywood’s panic is your gain

I’m a dinosaur. For decades, I’ve discouraged students from self-publishing (although that’s MUCH better than “vanity” publishing, where you pay a company to publish your book for you). The “Machine” for writers says that you stay away from publishing books until you have published 10 stories (on average). Because there are hundreds of magazines, anthologies, webzines and so forth that pay at least a little money, Tananarive and I have always believed that a talented hard working writer WILL find her way through the system, no matter where in the world they are.

But I’ve come to realize that THIS IS NOT TRUE WITH SCREENWRITING.

The traditional method is:
Move to Hollywood.
Get a job in the industry/go to Film School
Write a stack of scripts.
Attract the attention of an agent
Enter production
Enter post-production
Get distribution deal

Fail a single step, and the entire “chain” breaks. Your “bridge” to success collapses. A single step. And frankly, that sucks. Even if you SUCCEED at doing it…once…you might not ever do it again. There are screenwriters who have won OSCARS and still struggled to get another film made. What chances do we have?

Well…this is where my friend Art Holcomb came in. Frankly, as an in-demand columnist, lecturer, Hollywood script consultant and media advisor, he has insights I lack. I’ve had plenty of scripts produced, but never actually been “on the other side of the table” as it were. What Art said about the actual nature of the game was depressing at first…and then exhilarating.

Because once we put our heads together, compared our experiences, and looked at what was working for young artists in the 21st Century, we realized that there really was another way. A NO-FAIL, NO-EXCUSES way for a screenwriter with a teaspoon of guts to actually “hack” the system.

Because THERE IS A LOOPHOLE. Yes, there is.

The shift in technology makes it possible. HOLLYWOOD IS PANICKING because of these “loopholes”, which are shattering their century-long “hold” on the industry.   (Think of the alarm in the music industry as services like Napster came into existence.  The movie industry isn’t as bad…it’s WORSE.  And that, my friend, is bad for major studios…but good for me and you!)

This panic, and the new technologies and social changes that triggered it, are YOUR ADVANTAGE, if you have the heart to take it.

This isn’t a joke, and it isn’t a gimmick. The answer? MAKE YOUR OWN SHORT MOVIE. We raised 30 thousand dollars to make “Danger Word” and it changed our relation to Hollywood. BUT YOU DON’T NEED THAT MUCH. NOT EVEN CLOSE.  In fact, you can probably do it for UNDER A HUNDRED DOLLARS.  Tananarive made hers for about SEVENTY BUCKS.

In two hours, we can teach you why this works, how it works, how to find the resources, why EVEN IF YOUR ONLY AMBITION IS TO BE A SCREENWRITER, with no slightest interest in being a director or producer, you will learn more screenwriting in ONE YEAR of following our program than you will from a FOUR YEAR film school.

This is new. It is complete. It is radical, and it is FUN.

You will learn:
How to START your script
How to FINISH your script.
How to banish the FEAR that stops you from speaking your TRUTH in your script
How to learn at accelerated speed, and learn the things that, before now, you had to join an expensive film school, or be one of the “annointed ones” who, through some combination of luck and skill actually “win the lottery” and get a film made.
How to position yourself to attract real Hollywood talent when you’re ready
How to have real FUN again. To recapture what made you want to write in the firstplace–to MAKE MOVIES.

Even if all you want to do is write, and have NO ambition to direct or produce, this is the fastest route to understanding your craft, guaranteed.    And if you DO want to actually make movies, to create your own films with total control?

Ladies and Gentlemen…start your engines!

Art and I have created something that opens the door to a totally different relationship with your creativity. You will have specific homework, specific guidance, a social media group to support you, a THOUSAND DOLLAR contest to inspire you, and teleseminars where you can ask anything you want. And at the end of the year, if you don’t agree you’ve had the time of your life, learned more, done more, and advanced your skill and career knowledge beyond your dreams, we’ll gladly return your tiny investment.

This is a path from “nothing” to “everything.” If you have even a smidgeon of self-confidence…if you are sick of being an “outsider” and want to get into the Great Game, just check out the “Screenwriting Machine” at WWW.HOLLYWOODLOOPHOLE.COM

You have nothing to lose but your helplessness!

Write With Passion!

Ladies and Gentlemen…start your engines!

I woke up this morning VIBRATING with joy, because I finally get to share my secret project with you!

Today’s finally the day the SCREENWRITING MACHINE revs to life.  To create it, to makes something that would cut through the Hollywood b.s.  I needed an ally, someone who is more of an “insider” than I am, and found a superb on in Art Holcomb, story and craft columnist for Creative Screen writing magazine, a gentleman of encyclopedic knowledge of the art and business of writing, and a man of genuine passion…and compassion…for the life of the writer.    

How I wish I’d met him in my 20’s!!  His insights cut through the b.s. like you wouldn’t believe.


The SCREENWRITING MACHINE is a specific path to success for 21st century screenwriters and film-makers, unique and powerful.  It is multi-media, combining video, audio, MP3, discussion groups, teleseminars and webinars and a THOUSAND DOLLAR contest into an absolutely killer package with a very simple goal–to turn you into a successful screenwriter.  Period.


We worked our hearts out, but I needed your help, and you didn’t let me down.   The flood of survey responses helped us “fine tune” the product, and in thanks we’re adding a very special LIMITED TIME offer for you, the ones who helped us get across that finish line.    More on that LIMITED TIME OFFER in just a minute.


The SCREENWRITING MACHINE that describes not just the paths others have followed, but a  new route to take you from rank beginner to as close to “pro” as your heart and skill can take you.  If you have the will to WORK, we have the way to maximize your efforts, and gain the tools you need.   

And to help motivate you we’ve done a dozen different things, but one of them is a THOUSAND DOLLAR   CONTEST.   A THOUSAND DOLLARS first prize, FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS second prize, and TWO HUNDRED FIFTY dollars third prize, just for extra motivation.    If you are ready to work, we are ready to help.

 WWW.SCREENWRITINGWEBINAR.COM is the URL, and you need to go NOW.   


We have built-in discussion groups, and a FB group, and other extras along the way, all at an unbelievably small investment, about what a single college lecture costs to attend.


Because Art, my wife and partner Tananarive Due and I want you to succeed, we’re offering something worth more than the investment in the course itself.   Everyone who enrolls in the FIRST TEN DAYS only will be invited to a  FREE THREE PART WEBINAR/TELESEMINAR to answer all your questions.  


ALL  questions.   The ones you asked in the survey, and new ones as well.     Nothing off limits.   The SCREENWRITING MACHINE itself was designed to deal with all of this, but there is nothing like live conversation.  Art,  T and I will be on the line, and holding your hands as you explore this new approach.


There it is, the whole kit and kaboodle.  We really hope you’re going to take advantage of this opportunity.




The future is here!

The Two Greatest Writing Concerns were…

The two greatest concerns, based on our flood of survey responses (thanks again!) were

  1. The Business of writing and
  2. Finishing our work.


In other words, people literally not knowing how to turn their creativity into sales and money, or not knowing how to motivate themselves to actually finish their work.


A couple of days ago, I discussed motivation, and said that, in general, we are motivated when we believe that we will gain more pleasure than pain from the process.  And while this is true of any human endeavor, the arts are a special problem, and if you want to be a screenwriter, a very special sub-set of the writing game, arguably the most competitive art form in the world (EVERYBODY seems to want to write a script!) this can create a very special nightmare.


When I started my career, I lived in Los Angeles, worked in the Hollywood area, but had never met a single person who had so much as sold a single television episode to the industry.    Took me years to maneuver myself into a position to meet such folks.  More years to find agents and allies.  And even more before someone told me a very special secret, and if you don’t know this secret you can spend DECADES toiling away for nothing.


Just two days ago, a friend and client, one of the most successful writers in Hollywood (certainly the top 1% of people who try to make a go in this industry) published a link to an article that was breathtaking and heartbreaking.   Here it is:


You need to check it out.  But the basic reality is that PEOPLE LIE TO YOU IN HOLLYWOOD.   No one wants to say “no.”   Not because they hate you and want to “trick” you, but because they LIKE YOU AND MIGHT WANT TO WORK WITH YOU ONE DAY.   Yeah.  I know that sounds silly.   But it’s not only true, but it is disturbing as hell, because…


  1. It prevents you from getting the feedback you need to improve
  2. Without that feedback, you are lost, emotionally, never knowing what will create pleasure, what will create pain.
  3. That lack of improvement means you don’t get to see the finished work, and without that, you will never hear how your dialog sounds spoken by real human beings never see how your stage directions look translated into shots.   Never get to see “behind the curtain.”  


And let me tell you something, there is another huge problem with screenwriting: a prose story is a story.  It is the finished product.   If published, it looks much the same on the printed page as it did on your computer screen.


But a finished script IS NOT A MOVIE.  It is a blueprint for a movie. And anyone who actually gets something “made” has a fantastic advantage over those who have yet to do so.   They get to see how the dreams in their head, and the process of their work, lead to the process of sales and production, and how it looks after actors, artists, directors, and editors finish their jobs.    Trust me: YOU HAVE NO CLUE if you haven’t been through the process.   And once you have, you can never be a virgin again.  You understand.  This is one reason why anyone who gets something actually produced probably has a 10,000% better chance of getting a second piece produced than a newbie has of getting in the door in the first place.


My “Machine” concept was designed to take someone from the outside of the industry to the inside.  And it works. But it breaks down if you can’t get the feedback.


Art Holcomb is the story and craft Guru from Creative Screenwriting Magazine, consultant to Hollywood studios, lecturer world-wide and a top coach and mentor.  I think he’s brilliant.    We spoke for hours about just this problem, and he challenged me to adapt my “Machine” concept for screenwriters, and at first I thought it impossible.


But planning and plotting, looking at every aspect of the “Game”, we realized that while, individually, we had no clue how to do it, TOGETHER we each had a piece of the puzzle, and that when we fit them together, they fit like a glove. That we’d created a 21st Century approach to the game.  One that addresses every concern we could think of, and all of those that you brought to us.


If you want to make movies, have we got something for you.  A path that will teach you everything you need…and more importantly, (MUCH more) will show you things you thought you knew that you really don’t.  And give you a foundation to build on that is simply phenomenal.


And this Wednesday, we’re going to let you in the door!


Stand by…


Write with Passion!


Your Heart Is In Your Hands

One of the toughest things in life is to realize that you MUST be excited and committed in order to educe your best performance. But if you do that, you risk pain if things don’t work out right.  Ugh!

But if you let the pain trigger fear, and let that fear dissuade you from investing your emotions again, or as freely, you drastically reduce your chance of success.  Instead, you must learn to generate the most appropriate emotions again and again and again, while protecting yourself from the downside of depression, as many times as is necessary to succeed.   The “I.D.E.A.” concept (Instinctive Designation of Energy and Attention) touches on this.  Not so much emotion that  you will be devastated if failure results from your efforts, not so little that you don’t tap into your deeper reserves.


Here are some things that can help.

  1. Model success.  Find at least three people who have accomplished your chosen goal (or as close to it as possible) and study the “recipe” for their success, specifically three things: their emotions, their belief patterns, their use of their bodies.    What is their day-to-day emotional set?  How do they deal with failure and success?  What are their beliefs about it?    Average out their answers, see what they all say in common. That is your “critical path.”
  2. Set an arbitrary number of efforts to complete before you judge your results. 100 is a nice, round, useful number.   A salesman might commit to making presentations to 100 clients before expecting a sale.   A writer might set a goal of 100 stories completed and in submission 100 stories before you even question whether you have the potential to be a writer.   
  3. Develop your “morning ritual” to intensify and awaken your emotions every morning.  Specifically “faith” and “gratitude” which are the antidotes for fear and bitterness.   
  4. Don’t neglect “goals” (long term) and “actions” (short term).  When you know what your long-term goals are and why they are important, THAT’S ENERGY.  If you have faith you can and should accomplish them, THAT’S ENERGY.   If you know how your actions TODAY are taking you a step toward your destiny, THAT’S ENERGY.  And if you start your day with gratitude, your heart fills with love and light, and THAT friends, is ENERGY.


My favorite role models have the ability to raise their emotions whenever they want, by

  1. Changing focus
  2. Changing language
  3. Changing the way they use their bodies.

They are also simultaneously internally focused and service oriented.  In other words, they don’t need other people or things to perform, react, or evolve in a specific way.  THEY are responsible for their emotional well-being, because they know that those emotions are NOT controlled by external events, but by how they interpret those events.

And “service oriented” because once they have connected with their own Source, and can fill themselves with joy, the next, natural thing is for their sense of “Self” to expand.  In that expanded state they see the joys and concerns of their loved ones, families, neighbors, students and customers as their own.   They seek ways to make the world better, people happier, but they are not dependent upon the results.   Because they are already full, they can give without needing to take.

And they have enough self-love and self-respect to protect themselves from Predators and “takers”.   

Every day you have the chance to form yourself anew, clarify your goals and dreams, take actions, embrace your life, fill your heart with joy and share that joy with those you love…and the entire world.


The choice is yours.  What is YOUR Morning Ritual?  Remember–the quality of your life is the quality of your daily actions.    Your heart is in your hands.