Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The best part of getting older...

... is seeing karma in action.

It really works. :-)

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beresford & Wallace break through!

Talk about good news!

For several years, my best friend John Beresford - an artist of many trades (novelist, lyricist, poet, singer, screenwriter, webmaster supreme, more) in Manchester, England, and singer/musician/composer Annie Wallace, also in Manchester, have been creating songs.

As they became more serious about this endeavor, John and Annie gave themselves a name that can be remembered and unlike many modern bands, one that cannot be considered too clever for its own good: Beresford & Wallace.

Since they are song writer/composers - not professional singers - their goal is to sell their songs to performing singers who love their music.

In order to do that, they record their songs for the pro's to sample. Established songwriters have their recorded songs (usually bare bones productions, just so the listening performing singer can hear the melody and lyrics) delivered to artists who decide whether they want to perform them and/or include them on their next album.

Beresford & Wallace's first collection was Suburban Nostalgia. They kept at it, learning, re-inventing and enhancing their sound, and two years later, bravo! They finished Weird and Wonderful, which is now featured on iTunes and cdbaby!

Weird and Wonderful is a collage of their emotional reflections of every day life - with just a touch of social criticism in one of its hits, "Spin Doctor."

The impressive cover is the artwork of John's daughter Natalie - whose day job is that of a college zoology student studying ornithology - so of course there had to be a bird cast in the picture!

More, Beresford & Wallace are participating in a frenzied British Facebook competition called Storm the Charts - comprising all independent and unsigned songwriters and bands who perform their own music. This was inspired as an antidote to Simon Cowell and his ubiquitous, tentacled hold on defining popular music and artists in the UK.

In a recent popular vote, an independent band won a song competition over Simon Cowell's entry - in part because the Brits were rebelling against Cowell's formulaic, PR-driven approach to pop music (Don't worry, Simon, we know you'll always have people topping the charts - the push is for more diversity!).

As a personal experience, I've loved watching John (and Annie) continue to pursue their passion over the years with unending fervor, whether they have all these new opportunities and accolades or not. Always learning, always improving, always striving to be better artists - and succeeding.

It's always fun to get an email from John with a subject line like, "We just finished cut #11!" Or, "Annie just got a (whatever the do-dad is to enhance an instrumental sound)!" Or, "Natalie just finished the cover - what do you think?"

Actually, the ! exclamation marks ! are mine. John is very British and uses them, appropriately, sparingly.

Congratulations, John and Annie- wha-? Oh! Of course! I mean Beresford & Wallace!

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

gratitude - goals - guidance = grounded

Life's a roller coaster these days, so the way I keep grounded is a three step process I developed that's easy to remember and recite to myself to maintain my focus: gratitude, goals, guidance.

I have so much for which to be grateful - I maintain a gratitude list to which I keep adding; time for review. I also have a list of what is working in my life that I review. Sometimes when tumult strikes, it's hard to remember just how much is working just fine - bumps are the oddity, not the norm.

I review and renew my goals; prioritizing them and picking just one or two so they feel manageable with all the upheaval surrounding me.

Then I get, like, spiritual and ask for guidance - as I do the legwork, I also let myself be open to whatever insight, inspiration, instigation or intuition I need to make it all come together and go forward. Whatever pops up is worth considering, no matter how unrelated it seems.

Somehow, this works to put me on the right path to whatever next step I must take, doing what I need to in order to create the next chapter in my life in a way that is positive, contributing and rewarding.

Whether it's an up or down day, I enjoy some degree of happiness because I remain convinced I'm in the right place at the right time doing the right thing with all the right people (and animals) for all the right reasons.

'cause I welcome the changes that make that true day after day. The real priorities remain - health and nurturing the important relationships in my life.

It all adds up to feeling grounded in an insecure, dynamic, uncertain world.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Set pets for life

When I worked as a volunteer at the Seattle Animal Shelter for two years, it was always a little more heartbreaking to discover an otherwise well cared for pet was there because a loving owner died -- but because the pet's care was not provided for in the will, their pets were picked up by animal control or surrendered by family members who did not want the animal.

That deserted pet looks fervently for its owner at first, then becomes depressed. It can take awhile to come around when they are adopted by a loving family (if, hopefully they are adopted); it's important for new owners to understand that.

It's also important that people looking for pets at shelters understand that many animals are not there because they misbehaved or have cruelly been dumped to be picked up by animal control.

In my living will, I have not only outlined what medical care I do and do not want should I be incapacitated, but also where my four pets should be placed. More, where all their food, toys, pet care products and medicine are located.

My three Pomeranians, Mistletoe, Seeker and JR, whose ages range between 4 and 16, must stay together - so they're going to a trusted friend and Pomeranian expert, who works with a Pom rescue organization and will make sure they are placed with a perfect family ensemble. Some of my unwashed clothes would go with them so they can sleep smelling my scent until a transition is made.

My kitty, Allie Cat, must stay with a neighbor because she's wed to my house. Despite being an indoor/outdoor cat (this is a safe region for her to be outside), she never strays far from the yard. Most of the time, in fact, she does not even leave the yard; she's normally situated somewhere next to the house or on the porch.

She's an affectionate cat so she'll be welcome in her new home should she need new digs. But chances are, she'll still hang out in my yard as she does now. Probably be a good idea to have a piece of my clothing for her to lie on as well.

Of course, the fact that the neighbors already know and love her makes a difference; I'm sure they would keep a special eye out for her should the need ever be.

My only hope is that she wouldn't be too lonely because she and Seeker are best buds, but I know she'll be too frightened to leave her longtime homestead.

Seeker is the caretaker - he keeps ears and eyes clean for pups and kitty.

Having said all this, I plan to be around *much* longer than they are, but just in case - tomorrow is never guaranteed for any of us - they are provided for and will never end up in a shelter or pound, scared and wondering where the heck I am and how I could have let them end up in a place like that!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

The American Chauvinist's Traveling Companion

Having friends all over the world, I can tell you - if you are the type of American who *knows* the US is the only real country, that the US always knows *best,* - that you will undoubtedly, accidentally, say something to offend "the natives" when you travel to, say, Great Britain.

As a personal favor, let me impart information sure to catch the attention of the locals when you visit, so you can fit right in. Words and phrases sure to incite- er, inspire them to take you in their arms and show you the side of their British culture not seen by the average American tourist.

When in England, you'll often hear the term "mate." In this case, a mate is not a partner, husband or wife, a mate is a friend.

Another term to be affectionately shared among the British, used with store clerks, tattooed teenagers roaming the streets, "Bobbys" (police), vicars and all Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy: "wanker." A similar colloquialism used interchangeably: "tosser."

Used in a sentence with, say, a store clerk: "Thank you. Have a nice day, wanker"

When the clerk, not understanding your American accent, responds, "Say what?" Here's your chance to shine with, "You git, have a nice day, tosser!" Your smile will say it all.

"Git" is the affectionate description of a family member, your boss, or most politicians.

To the gang of hormone-oozing tattooed teenagers, especially if they frighten you, smile and say, "Hello, tosspots!" Tosspots, of course, meaning "tea drinkers." If they frown, laugh (loudly), offer a cigarette (always carry cigarettes for the locals) and ask, "Shag?"

If they respond with, "A shag and a fag?" Be aware that in the UK, "fag" means "cigarette." it is not a disrespectful term for gay men and "shag" is an invitation to a tea party. You're offering a cigarette and a cup of tea.

If they continue to display anti-American sentiments, giggle, "Belt up! No need to throw a benny because you're bent as a bottle of chips!" Translated: Relax!

One of the most popular tourist sites in England is Coronation Street. You can say you are from Coronation Street, and watch all your new British friends light up. "Where you from?" they ask. You say, "Coronation Street, born and raised."

If, once again, your American accent elicits a round of quizzical looks, simply smile and respond, "I'm off to visit my favorite neighbours (always speak with a "u" in words that are really spelled without them), Blanche and Vera."

Seriously, this may bring your new BFFS to tears, because everyone knows about them in the UK.

There's so much more, but this will get you off to a good start.

It's generally considered inappropriate to discuss politics in other countries, *but* -- in the UK, universal health care and gun control are not considered political subjects. Believe it or not, they are considered moral, public health and safety issues - can you believe it?

So if you want to express your disdain for the "socialist Obama" and their government's agenda of providing health care for all it's people, the outrage of not being able to carry guns into a British Starbucks - or grocery shopping for that matter, talk it up!

Or as the British would say, "Have yourself a good chin wag" about these American policies; insist they are the best in the world and why, and that other countries should adopt them.

One thing for which you will be particularly grateful: if you do happen to injure yourself or get sick while visiting England. They will provide proper health care for you - at no cost.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Writing a screenplay based on personal experience

... is much more exciting than I expected.

While I was living it, it didn't feel nearly as dramatic, but then there is this thing called artistic license. Still, the adventure itself was plenty engaging so there's no need to embellish - better to grind down to the innate truth of each character and the story worthy of an audience's attention.

It's made me pay attention to the truths that all the characters in the story experienced, rather than focusing only on my own point of view of what took place at the time. It's enlightening and entertaining for me - I'm working hard to make sure it translates for everyone watching as well.

Engaging with the central character, a truly unique and terrific teenager worth knowing, will hopefully give every viewer the chance to grow just a little, and feel good for having known him.

It is hard, however, not to make my own role in this scenario too complimentary! I have to tell the truth, the whole truth, yadda yadda. Maybe in the second draft.. ;-)

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Southland - damn you!

Well, great.

The *last* thing I want to do is get hooked on another TV program.

Honestly, it's tough for me to have much desire to watch a new series because here's what happens:

1. New show begins. The pilot is GREAT. Cool!

2. A few weeks later, just as we're getting sucked into the characters and stories? Reruns. Wait. Didn't this thing just start and already there are reruns?

3. OK, there's a decent if not hit status of ratings and before you know it there's a "break." Either the short "season" is over or there's a slew of reruns until the next ratings period.

4. As soon as we start to look forward to watching the new show? It's ratings week(s) - so "someone in charge" has decided to change the day on which the program airs. No longer Fridays or Thursdays or Mondays or... whatever, now it's shown on (pick a night and try to figure out why they switched).

5. It turns out to be a really terrific show and boom. "Someone in charge" cancels the show.

There is no longer any reason to have allegiance to any program because "someone in charge" is paying attention to someone other than the viewer when it comes to programming.

Or, in the case of Lost, they ignore the audience altogether in order to indulge in a completely disorganized mess of quizzes and puzzles that apparently someone writing and running the show has envisioned on a mushroom trip in the middle of the Sahara Desert after a week without water, food or a break from the sunshine.

After all- wha-?

Oh, right. Southland.

OK, so everyone I know in the biz of show tells me this show is on fire! So completely wonderful, superbly written (Emmy winner super scribe Ann Biderman), acted. Gritty without being gratuitous, human without being crazy, realistic without being gory.

Of course, it started on NBC, but for all the fans who hopped on board - "someone in charge" killed the show. Cancelled. Probably the same "someone in charge" who thought it would be a great idea to put Jay Leno on during prime time five nights a week.

Only this time, like Cagney and Lacey many years ago, fans fought to save the thing.

TNT came through. Recognizing the program's value and excellence.

So I figure I "should" at least get a taste of the show all the people I respect have fallen in love with... or at least have this giant crush on.

They ran a marathon of the shows on TNT leading up to its TNT premiere tonight. I'll catch a few minutes, maybe one show, so at least I can understand what my friends are talking about - I like to at least try to sound informed.

Damn you, Southland!

I should NOT have tasted that first episode. Sure, it was free and so was I - even though I should be writing (what I do for a living, not this), I just *had* to try it.

Thanks, Ann Biderman. Thanks a lot. Here she is with one of the stars, Shawn Hatosy:

After just these few hours of exposure, I can see it now: I'm going to need a 12-step program to deal with Southland. How am I supposed to wait until the following week for the next episode?

Other cop shows aren't personal. They're about catching a case, solving a crime - simple beginning middle and end with, hopefully, some intriguing twists here and there.

Not this one. Southland is personal. It shows these folks being cops, cops with partner problems, family people, single, married, dealing with kids, relatives, romance - failed and successful, strengths, weaknesses, personal issues, sexuality - the mess of real life as well as actual crimes that are committed in this day and age with all the modern complexities of high tech support for the good guys and the bad guys. Not to mention a massive drug culture.

And they don't forget the folks caught in the middle. All the "collateral damage" foisted on innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So there you have it.

This is an adult drama - with some natural human comedy sprinkled rarely and judiciously - extremely well written and performed, with a sepia tone that is not so dark that it feels creepy, but a photographic technique that accentuates the dramatic nature of the show and emphasizes what we would see if we were actually there.

And I love it.

Congratulations, Ann Biderman, cast and crew of Southland. Congratulations, TNT. Congratulations, fans - who saved the show so folks like me can have a chance to jump on your bandwagon. Good call.

Damn it. Now every Tuesday night at 10pm I have the dilemma between Southland and CBS's The Good Wife. Probably watching Southland and running The Good Wife on DVR right after.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The worst form of violence.....


--Mohandas 'Mahatma' Ghandi

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

When life throws you curves ...

Spiff up your karma.

Even when others don't - keep your word.

Maintain your integrity.

Do great work.

Be aware of what is really going on, not what is expressed.

Keep learning.

Treat people well, even when they do not return the favor - but get away from anyone who does not treat you well.

Get reliable support; people with good judgement.

Speak up - tell the truth as you see it.

Realize the universe has something much much better in store for us as long as we don't get mired and stuck in a situation that leaves us no options to improve.

Beware the person unwilling to listen, budge or negotiate.

Define what you want that's different from what you have now; how you'd like to see your situation change.

Be grateful for every experience and lesson this situation (or relationship) taught you.

Move on. To a healthier, more positive, communicative and supportive situation/relationship.

Most importantly - get everything you need to take care of yourself in writing; don't expect anyone to watch out for you, even if they insist they will.

Have fun through it all; as long as no one is seriously injured - emotionally or physically or both - don't take any of it too seriously.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing about the past

I'm writing a screenplay that takes place in the late 1970's ... so I've spent most of the day going through old photos, online images and news of the time as well as sparking memories I've not thought about for .. well, almost 30 years.

I tend to remember the big ticket items - the major events - but many details and names have eluded me. Perhaps for good reason.

Since my screenplay is based on a true story, the research needs to be impeccable. Even though it's based on my own experience, all the facts and tone of the time and environment need to be accurate.

So there are the bell bottoms, disco, faux 'fro's, huge glasses and all the other elements that in hindsight can be experienced as embarrassing. As in, "What the heck were we thinking?"

We saw it as a time of newfound freedom and unbridled expression - but the euphoria of freedom can obviously have hidden costs.

And some not so hidden.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PNWA Screenwriting Workshop News!

Folks attending my "A Practical Guide for Screenwriting" seminar at the 55th Pacific NW Writers Association Conference July 24 (Sea-Tac Hilton and Conference Center):

Script Fly, my favorite resource for professional scripts, is giving you a generous discount on any scripts you buy from them!

I'll let you know how to get the 25% discount after you've registered; of course shipping is not included, but you can receive most in .pdf (no shipping fee) as well as hard copy form. I prefer hard copy, because I like to hold the script and make notes on pages along the way.

I'm not getting any money from this offer, I just want to let you know about Script Fly and what they have to offer student and professional writers. I believe one of the best ways to learn about writing great screenplays is to read more scripts than books about how to write them!

There are free script outlets online as well, but Script Fly has a great selection of very current and classic screenplays from their original sources you can't find anywhere else, and I've yet to find a transcripted movie "script" that is helpful.

The Script Fly offer runs from now through August 31, 2010.

The workshop focuses mostly on the script writing creative process, helping you decide how best to create the story you want to tell onscreen. Practically.

Here are a few hints to get you started:

1. If you have not written a screenplay, don't sweat the format - too many people get swept up in worrying about whether the terms and pages look "right" rather than concentrating on the story and characters. If you read several great professional screenplays, you'll see similarities and differences.

2. Look around. What is in your environment that tells us *visually* who you are? Notice those things that are apparent and those things that are more subtle. Then, most importantly - what is missing. What is not in your surroundings that tells us something very important about you.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

A Practical Guide for Screenwriting

That's the title of the seminar I'm presenting at the 55th Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference this summer.

My workshop takes place Saturday, July 24th, 10am, at the Sea-Tac Airport Hilton Hotel and Conference Center. The room number will be made available after you register. Workshops normally run 90 to 120 minutes; I hope it's a full two hours, but won't know until the schedule is released.

I'll be talking about the ins and outs of screenwriting that I've never heard at other screenwriting workshops, most of which are held by folks who are script analysts and writing teachers rather than professional screenwriters who actually write and create scripts. So expect different.

It's down to earth, hands on, from the trenches information I've learned over the years from actually doing the work. These insights should help experienced screenwriters as well as those who wish to be screenwriters.

It's about telling our onscreen stories from the page: how to do it most effectively, how to build successful habits, how to have fun doing what is ordinarily a solitary, stressful endeavor. Myself, while I work harder than anyone I know, find writing enjoyable and exciting - even its most isolating, grating, tedious aspects.

Being a writing coach as well, who has worked with dozens of writers one on one, I plan to fill the room with wall to wall effective writing tools, then show you how to use them IRL (in real life).

Warning: my seminars are not for the humor impaired. The material may be serious, but our time is designed to be enjoyed, so we'll definitely share a laugh. Or two. Or three!

Several literary agents will be on hand for conference participants to meet - be sure to check out the PNW Writers Conference website as their names and material they seek are posted over the next few months; appointments are scheduled with them on a first submitted, first considered basis.

I'll also be autographing my book The 100% Solution Friday evening, July 23, at the Barnes and Noble mini-bookshop at the Conference Center, in case you want to drop by and ask any questions about anything you want me to cover at Saturday morning's workshop. And perhaps even pick up my (autographed!) book!

I'll mention this a couple more times before the conference. Hope to see you there!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy (Lunar/Chinese) New Year!

Gung Hay Fat Choy! It's the year of the tiger!

Coincidentally, Valentine's Day and the Lunar New Year fall on February 14 this year.

I'm a monkey - check out your annual zodiac animal and personality here!

If you were born in a year of the tiger, you will have much good fortune in 2010!

Among the traditions of preparing for the new year is a thorough house cleaning - especially windows, so all that good fortune makes its way into your home!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

..as we treat the least of us ....

Here's an Erika Schultz photo of Oso, a dog rescued from the war in Afghanistan, flown to be with his new owners in the Seattle area.

Read The Seattle Times' story here.

This traumatized - yet friendly, affectionate dog will have a battle zone-free life the rest of his face licking, well fed days.

He's staying at a safe animal rescue haven for his quarantine period, then it's a short trip home to be with with his rightful owners, who eagerly anticipate giving him the tender loving care all creatures great and small deserve!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Training for life

Gifted performers and athletes often make the career-ending mistake of believing they don't need to train as hard or as much as their teammates or peers.

Without naming them, some young athletes celebrated for their exceptional talent and performance always run into a wall sooner or later - normally sooner - if they don't train, and hard.

The reason for training is not just to make the most of one's talent - but to build stamina and prevent injuries, which insures their ability to continue doing what they love for a long time.

A one-time youthful baseball phenom had a prodigious home run record. While he was happy with his performance, considering himself fortunate. Sadly, his training regimen was sporadic, leaving his teammates unhappy. They knew he would ultimately hurt the team, but said nothing because there was his current blockbuster record, wasn't there - and they couldn't argue with that.

Sure enough, soon after his career seriously stuttered because of injuries. Injuries that, most probably, could have been avoided by smart, consistent training starting at a young age.

Not focusing on off-the-field preparation is a short term gain, long term loss mentality. It does not prepare individuals for a long and achieving future, able to weather the highs and lows with equal aplomb.

Most businesses will ultimately fail for the same reason. They want to push for the highest profits NOW, rather than putting in the tough work it takes to plan for consistent and stable production, along with stable profits over the long haul.

Constantly pushing for the highest profits NOW means more and more injurious cost cuts - cutting corners, cutting experienced work staff and slashing other necessary costs that result in decreasing the quality of the product, desperate employees making desperate, cheating and often illegal decisions to save their jobs or status or bonuses.

Those at the bottom scrounge for crumbs and hang on to a ship that will ultimately sink as it currently performs; those at the top develop a something-for-nothing sense of entitlement = demanding phenomenal salaries and ridiculous bonuses for precious little contribution.

One of the - if not *the* most gifted basketball player in the history of the sport, Michael Jordan, comes to mind. Unlike the rest of the players, the lesser talented athletes, Jordan showed up early to practice - and stayed after everyone else left. To practice some more.

He was the one player who did not "need" to put in extra practice, but he did anyway. For himself. To be a better player. He was alone on the court, practicing to prepare, practicing to adjust - in order to play the same team better next time.

No doubt coaches and/or family influenced his keen work ethic and attitude as a youngster.

Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are two champion athletes with a strong work ethic whose understanding of establishing and maintaining a practice and preparation/training regimen early on has paid off. Both, incidentally, were strongly influenced by Peyton's father, former famed Saints quarterback Archie Manning.

While a young age is the best time to instill a strong, systematic work ethic, you can start all over at any age.

The key is to start where you are.

If you decide to train for a new body, remember that your age, weight and condition will tell you where you are capable of beginning. And slowly. With appropriate movement and diet, not overworking a system ill prepared for pushing yourself too hard. A friend of mine recently spent three days of agony after starting out with a New Year's resolution too harsh workout.

Remember being constant, consistent, and persistent is the key.

Do this to create a habit. Without a habit, we'll have a hit-and-miss record, whether it's watching our weight or hitting home runs. Success is actually a habit. Even when we run into pitfalls here and there, we still have a sense we can succeed in the end if we establish this habit in at least one area of our lives.

Keeping your word to yourself is the definition of success. Whatever you do, keep your expectations and goals real and within your ability to reach them. Low to start, raising the bar as you move along the scales of success. Keeping your word to yourself establishes the habit of success.

It's also a terrific way to be a good role model for children.

The "quick start" may in the end be a sabotage effort.

Whether learning to be an actor, writer, director, athlete or simply a happy person - start with what feels safe and successful, no matter how easy it may seem. One step at a time. One baby step at a time. Building on the stamina and power you gain, those steps can become leaps, those leaps can become vaults higher than you ever imagined.

The reason to start at a level at which you can keep your word to yourself is that it avoids the inner turmoil that will be the real cause of any setbacks. Once we stop keeping our word to ourselves, the mind games begin. We're failures, we're not what or who we appear to be - so we're phonies who don't want to be found out- and on it goes.

Success starts by just keeping your word to yourself - you can build on that success with more success over time because you feel good about yourself. You are authentically you, not someone you're trying to be.

I've gone through just such a process recently in two areas of my life - where I have in the past failed miserably. And so far, so good. As long as I keep my expectations low and my hopes high, it's working. I'll explain exactly what I'm referring to after I've had a record of success long enough to show a significant difference.

I share it with you today in hopes that it may help you as much as it has me!

Something else I'd like to share - Oprah.com has a program you can download called the O Dream Board; it's a method to help you visualize what you'd like your life and future to be. It's simple and easy if you have minimal computer skills. Remember you can use photos from any source since it is for your private use only and not for publication. My friends and I are enthusiastic about how cool it is and how it infuses us with great feelings about the future!

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Friday, February 05, 2010

TWT Foreign distribution is underway!

Spotlight Pictures represents our film THE WHOLE TRUTH starring Elisabeth Röhm, Sean Patrick Flanery and Eric Roberts for distribution in all nations excluding the US and Canada!

We're proud to be associated with them - they're top professionals.

You can see their trailer and artwork for TWT here.

Domestic (US and Canada) distribution begins soon!

News as it happens!

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Never a failure, only a lesson

"Never a failure, only a lesson," is Rihanna's newest tattoo.

"It's OK to make mistakes," she told Ellen DeGeneres, "just don't make them twice."

Up here, Rihanna!

She says we have to take chances and be willing to make mistakes .. but learn from them and don't repeat them!

Mark my words, this artist will be around for decades to come.

She has the juice - immense talent, smarts, *strong work ethic,* risk-taker, down to earth and the former tomboy is unaffectedly gorgeous.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Our brains are "elastic!"

Which means we can literally, physically, change our minds.

When we move our emotions from anger to compassion or love, scientists are finding our brains not only light up in MRI scans, but actually create a change in physiology. Sort of like growing a healthy brain - it's possible at any age.

In short, we can actually find happiness through experiencing feelings like love and compassion; they can actually replace negative and self-defeating emotions. This opens us up to new ways of perceiving and dealing with the same problems we've always dealt with in our lives that lead to more positive outcomes.

It's not a way to dismiss or deny the issues, it just gives us more tools to work with.

The article even includes a way to help you move from stuck in negativity to positive processing.

Here's the story, reported on oprah.com.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010


Opening my home page today, I was stricken by all the silly distractions surrounding bits of real news and helpful information.

There were meaningless quizzes, games, come-ons meant only to entice you to click on an advertiser's page, superficial questions about celebrities - asked in a way that conveyed the sense that these people actually matter in our lives, massive commercial messages, self-promotion, links to websites that blare unwanted music or bizarre sounds upon opening, and so much more nonsense that has nothing to do with a real life - that suck up time without any payoff.

Honest to goodness - I do not care if "Brangelina" are together or apart or square dancing.

It made me think of the T S Eliot poem "Wasteland," where he writes of pouring sand down a rat hole - a useless activity that has no real outcome, but still feels like we're doing "something."

Then there are the folks who take their time to respond to stories - leaveing "comments" that are frequently an extremely poor reflection on the American educational system and proof positive that common sense is not so common.

I usually ignore wastes-of-time on websites, but designers are getting more clever in pulling my attention to matters that really do not matter.

Even the modern website's "hard news" section is never without some sort of celebrity gossip or misleading headline geared to entice us to click to a page promising us information, but which again is filled with fluff and pure unapologetic junk.

I couldn't help but think of the book , "Entertaining Ourselves to Death." In essence, it says that while we're busy finding more and more ways to entertain ourselves, the folks in charge of our political futures, money and survival information surgically remove us from having - or for that matter even wanting - control over those things that are crucial to being a well informed electorate - consumer.

There's a vast difference between information and knowledge; the former being useless or useful, the latter being actually true and empowering.

Useless data without perspective only lays out "facts" which are not really facts at all. Just because someone says something does not make it a fact or true. It's only a "he said/she said" report without ever letting us know what the truth is. That is typical political reporting. Dems say x, Reps say y, without any real clue as to the veracity of either statement.

I'm not sure it will help in the long run, but I changed my home page.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Neverending smile...

For some reason I have been involuntarily grinning for two full days now - I have *no* idea why.

Maybe something wonderful is about to take place in my life and my face is psychically forecasting whatever it is.


Tiring - mouth muscles asking wtf.

And embarrassing in light of the trying times we're all facing.

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Friday, January 15, 2010


This is a statue of Seabiscuit - probably the truest champion of them all. From start to finish, this "little horse that could" showed us what it means to win - in life and on the track.

What makes a champion is not really about how well someone plays a game - but most importantly, how they finish.

The stamina, the drive, the focus, the dedication, determination and heart it takes to play their best through to the end defines the champion.

To be in the running, we need daily preparation, paying attention to the basics and workouts in order to play well enough to qualify for that final competition. The champion knows all that work is required, relishes it, and loves the challenge of sticking with it to the very end, where ever that is.

The rest fall to the wayside.

This is true in our personal lives and work.

You've seen partners who are champions - they're there for each other, nurturing their relationship to the end. You've seen championship teams - they're there for each other, nurturing each other and the team as a whole to the end.

You've seen champions who choose the high road when everyone else caves to convention.

The one thing that deprives a champion of accomplishment or accolade is not being in the company of other champions. Peyton Manning could not shine as the champion he is unless he surrounds himself with other champion players there to support one another in their quest to be the best.

I've become very aware in order to excel as a true champion, to do all we can do and be all we can be, we need to work with and be with others who not only think, but act like champions as well. Who have a championship mentality.

I find champions are great communicators, since it takes everyone in the game to pitch in and we all need to know what each other is doing.

Champions are also planners - for the big picture as well as details; they can handle unforeseen problems because they've created alternatives. Plan B. Plan C. As many as it takes. Surprises and obstacles don't put them off their game, they maintain their focus and integrity through to the end.

I pride myself on writing scripts that have very strong endings - where most fail.

Champions are reliable. You never have to wonder whether they'll show up or if they'll show up half-hearted. They say what they do, they do what they say so everyone knows they can rely on one another on a championship team.

Champions look out for one another; they have each others' backs. On days when one is more frail, champion teammates step in and step up until the hurting member is off the disabled list and back in full force.

Champions are compassionate. They help other champions fulfill their promise.

Champions are courageous. Facing huge hurdles daily, they experience obstacles as a challenge to be outfoxed rather than a debilitating blow.

Champions are immensely resilient; they must withstand the slings and arrows of deceitful detractors. There are people who are so frustrated, who are unwilling to do the work it takes to be champions themselves, who dislike themselves so much that instead of working to discover their own worth, they spend all their time trying to sabotage and destroy people who are genuinely champions. Sadly, I've known a lot of people like this - some have changed over the years, others have only grown more bitter.

Champions win the game of life. They make us better people - better at what we do and better stewards of our own lives and of those around us.

Champions know that doing his or her level best day in and day out is its own reward.

Champions know when to adjust, modify or change their game in order continue to excel. Athletes must change up their game - constantly learning how to play smarter, because their bodies change literally daily as they age. They know when it's time to leave the field a champion player and triumph as a coach.

Champions don't cheat. They don't need to - they know that the moment they cheat, they are no longer champions.

If there's a need to move on to another team, the champion handles the "divorce" with compassion, integrity and respect.

Real champions are champions in every facet of their lives; they know fame is fleeting, fortune fickle.

I love working with, being with, people who have a championship mentality.

The trick is finding them.

There are a lot of wannabe's, some of whom appear to be champions at first blush, but who only disappoint in the end. There are a lot of people who want to be with or around champions who turn out only to be sycophants or users because they don't want to do the work it takes to be a champion themselves, even when they have a blueprint of how to do it standing right in front of them.

The way to identify the true champion?

How they maintain the integrity of their work day in and day out; how they follow through; how they finish.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Affection is not species specific

Pictures of any creatures being affectionate make me smile. And strangely enough, eat less.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Just as I declared yesterday a day of kindness...

This story says it all.

The staff at the University of Washington's National Primate Research Center allowed a monkey to starve to death last year.

A sickening and inhumane story, I would think, even for those who believe in using animals for scientific testing.


Friday, January 08, 2010

Make this a day to be kind

.. to yourself and others.

If I start my day with this mission, chances are my choices of thought and action will reflect it.

I think I'll post this on my bathroom mirror so I can make every day one to make kinder choices.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tired of being ripped off by big banks?

Put your money in a credit union or smaller local community bank.

I have not done personal banking in a big bank for nearly 20 years; I use a member-owned credit union.

My money is protected and actually safer than a big bank because my credit union will never ask for your taxpayer money to bail it out. More, I make more interest, do not pay for my checks or checking account .. and the list goes on.

I use a VISA debit card from my credit union; I will be getting a regular VISA credit card through my credit union as soon as I pay off my big bank credit cards so I will do all my banking business through it.

My credit union has all the financial services of a big bank, and because it's membership owned, there is more motivation to provide us members (every account owner is a member) with terrific customer service.

We must be doing well because we have several branches to better serve members who live in neighborhoods away from the headquarter branch.

Online banking, bill pay, ATM service - everything I need to keep my money safe and flowing is available there.

Small community banks can also be more consumer oriented because they're run by your neighbors.

BTW, credit unions have had to fight the big banks for decades to provide all the services they now furnish. For years, big banks have prevented credit unions from dispensing major financial services through lobbying congress. It's only been in the recent past that credit unions finally got "permission" to give every financial service we all need.

I've only spoken about this before with friends and co-workers who have had difficulties with their big bank; but last week Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post has begun a crusade to get everyone with money in big banks to put it in smaller community banks and credit unions.

Part of the reason is that the big banks' credit cards can, for no reason other than they want to, charge up to 28% interest on their credit cards. These are the same banks that took many many billions of our tax dollars to get themselves bailed out from careless financial practices - being charged 1% interest by the government.

So they're getting money for 1% interest, and charging us 28% for credit card interest.

I found transferring my money from a big bank to a credit union easy; because we can request the beginning check number, there's no reason to start at "0001" to look as if you're new to your chosen non-big bank institution.

I am so happy I made this switch all those years ago.

By the way, when I joined, you had to qualify to be a credit union member by being an employee at certain places; most of those requirements have been rescinded - lots of credit unions do not require a specific employment to join.

I am self-employed and have never had an issue with my credit union.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

It's January 1! Go big or go home

I received just the jolt of inspiration I needed to pursue all I want to do and accomplish in 2010 last Sunday.

It hit me watching the Indianapolis Colts lose a winnable game and the chance at a perfect record because their coach pulled quarterback Peyton Manning and other starters at half time when they led the Jets, replacing them with 2nd stringers.

Manning has not slowed down at all - the coach just wanted to give him a couple more hours' rest before the last regular game of the season next week. After all, they're already in the playoffs, aren't they?

And he wanted to protect them from the possibility of injury in the rough and tumble game. Play it safe.

Problem is, we can all be injured simply walking across the street or slipping in the shower. Tripping on the stairs; most injuries occur in the home. The number of athletes injured off the court, field or diamond are legion.

Manning said he wanted to go the distance to see if he could win that perfect - winning every game in the regular season - record. Manning said his team did, too.

I'm not talking about taking ridiculous chances or being foolhardy - which simply wasn't the case. After all, they were playing the Jets. It was a winnable game within ordinary playing boundaries for the starters.

Champions are champions. They courageously prepare and play when ever they can; they push forward despite what might appear to be insurmountable obstacles. Champions are not rewarded by pulling them out of the game; champions are rewarded by putting them in a position that tests every fiber of their being to see how far they can take themselves.

That's what makes a champion - they don't have the limits the rest of us do, they make that extra effort; they take that extra chance; they leave the average performer in the dust because that's what they've trained their minds, their talents and skills to do.

Mind you, I'm aware that Peyton Manning is not the best athlete in football. But he and his teammates are champions. They have a championship mentality and drive. They prepare themselves to use their strengths for their greatest good and limit the exposure of their weaknesses.

Pulling a healthy champion from a championship performance or winning game is not usually personally experienced as something done in their best interest or the best interest of the team.

In fact, it can play on the minds of some - intellectually understanding why the coach made the decision and being an obedient, respectful player for him/her, but viscerally confused and unhappy that a winnable game - and record - was lost.

It's one thing to lose when we've put our very best work forward, another to lose because the coach decided it was OK to throw the game.

Now we'll never know if the Colts - Manning and his starter teammates - could have put an undefeated regular season notch in their long list of record-breaking achievements.

In my life, I want to know.

I want to know if I can do it.

I don't want to be pulled from the game for fear I might get hurt because I am fit. I've prepared and trained, I'm in terrific shape and have been playing a winning game fearlessly and effortlessly, accommodating my strengths and weaknesses, doing my homework for each team's unique challenges. Most especially I don't want to be pulled if I'm playing the Jets.

I want to go big or go home.

I want to stay in the game and give it my all - 110% - to challenge myself, the other team and final score be damned, to see if I can pull it off. See if I can push myself to overcome those insurmountable obstacles to do everything I wish in the best way possible before the game ends.
I'm not pulling myself on the sidelines to "play it safe" or let a challenging opportunity pass, knowing I'm prepared, ready, willing and able to do my best to the very end!

Lesson well learned, Colts coach, just in time for the new year - and the rest of my life.

Happy New Year, Dearest Reader!

May 2010 be your championship year!

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