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Betsie's Literary Page Newsletter
Betsie's Literary Page Newsletter
  Happy New Year!! January 09, 2004  

in this issue

In the News - Movie Reviews & More

Recipes & Jokes

Book Reviews

For Aspiring Writer's

For Screenwriter's

For Authors

The Latest Literary Scoop and More!

In the News - Movie Reviews & More

NEW YORK (AP) - Thirteen journalists were killed last year covering the war in Iraq, the highest death toll for the media in a single country since 1995, a watchdog group said Jan. 3. In all, 36 journalists were killed worldwide last year, up from 19 in 2002, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Iraq was the main reason for the increase.

"Iraq is a dangerous place for many of the people who are there now," said Ann Cooper, the organization's executive director.

"It's still a huge story," she said. "It's particularly a huge story for American media. There are probably hundreds of journalists there at any given time, and they're at great risk."

CPJ said it was particularly troubled by the deaths of four journalists in Iraq killed as a result of U.S. military action. It has called on the Pentagon for a public accounting. Three of the four were killed in April, when the buildings they were in came under fire from U.S. forces; the fourth died in August after being shot by U.S. soldiers.

The count includes only journalists killed as a direct result of their work. The list does not include six other reporters who died from illness or accidents while covering the war. The group is also investigating the cases of four missing journalists, and 12 journalist deaths that may have been work-related. Conflict in the Middle East also claimed the lives of two journalists in Israel and the occupied territories.

Five journalists were killed in the Philippines, four in Colombia, two in Brazil, and one each in Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia and Somalia.

The death toll in Iraq was the highest for a single country since 24 journalists were killed in Algeria eight years ago.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A coalition of journalism organizations and media companies asked the Supreme Court on Jan. 2 to let them join an appeal in a secret terror-related case.

The news groups are siding with an immigrant in Florida whose challenge to his detention after the Sept. 11 attacks was handled in secret. Lower courts sealed the filings by Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel and kept private the existence of the case.

"It would be hard to imagine a case in which intervention in this court is more clearly justified," Washington attorney Thomas Goldstein told justices in a filing on behalf of the groups.

Bellahouel's lawyer has urged justices to use the case "to preserve and protect the public's common-law and First Amendment rights to know." Bellahouel is an Algerian waiter who the FBI believes likely served meals to Sept. 11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi in the weeks before the attacks.

More than 20 organizations and media companies made the unusual request to let them become a party in his Supreme Court case. They include the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Newspaper Association of America, Society of Professional Journalists and The Newspaper Guild-CWA.

On Jan. 5, the Bush administration asked the Supreme Court to let it keep its arguments secret in the case.

Solicitor General Theodore Olson told justices in a one- paragraph filing that "this matter pertains to information that is required to be kept under seal."

Justices sometimes are asked to keep parts of cases private because of information sensitive for national security or other reasons, but it's unusual for an entire filing to be kept secret.

The court will decide later whether to consider Bellahouel's appeal and at the same time whether to allow the secret filing. Justices will be able to review the government's private arguments.

The news groups can continue the appeal if Bellahouel is deported or if he reaches a settlement with the government, they argued in the filing.

"By participating in this case, the media aim to ensure that the proper balance is drawn between secrecy in the name of national security and the public's right to know," said Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, one of the groups.

DENVER (AP) - The judge in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case on Jan. 5 scheduled a series of hearings that will last until nearly April, making it unlikely the NBA star will have to worry about a trial until the season is over. State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle announced hearings for Feb. 2-3, March 1-2 and March 24-25 to settle disputes over what evidence can be used at trial. He has not specified what he wants to cover at each hearing. "I doubt if the Lakers' schedule will have any impact in the judge's mind, but it certainly will in Kobe Bryant's mind," said Denver attorney Dan Recht, past president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. "I don't see a trial happening in this case until summer at the earliest."

The NBA finals do not begin until early June and must end by June 20.

Bryant, 25, is charged with felony sexual assault stemming from a June 30 encounter with an employee of a mountain resort west of Vail. Bryant has said he had consensual sex with the 19-year-old woman. If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.

Bryant's attorneys are asking the judge to close the February hearing, saying evidence they expect to be discussed might taint the jury pool and may not even be allowed at trial.

Any parts of the hearing that deal with statements Bryant made to investigators should be closed, defense attorney Hal Haddon said in a Jan. 2 court filing released Jan. 5.

The February hearing was scheduled to deal with a defense request to dismiss statements the Los Angeles Lakers guard made to police early July 2. The defense says the statements were obtained illegally because a sheriff's investigator used a hidden tape recorder and never read Bryant his rights.

"If the statements attributed to the defendant are disseminated to the public and then suppressed, the intense media coverage of this case will insure that the jury pool will be exposed to these statements," Haddon wrote.

Haddon said the U.S. Supreme Court has approved closures of pretrial hearings, including those to discuss motions to suppress evidence.

Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan prosecutors will "most likely" file a formal response to the request to close the hearing.

Attorney Tom Kelley, who represents media organizations including The Associated Press, said the hearing can be conducted without disclosing the content of Bryant's statements. He said his clients had not yet determined whether to oppose the request.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General John Ashcroft on Dec. 30 recused himself from the politically-sensitive investigation of who leaked the name of a CIA operative. The Justice Department quickly named a special prosecutor to take over the investigation.

The announcement was made by James Comey, the department's new No. 2 official, at the Justice Department. He called the new top prosecutor "Elliot Ness with a Harvard law degree and a sense of humor."

The U.S. attorney in Chicago, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, will take over the investigation and report to Comey, who is Ashcroft's top deputy.

"He has the power and authority to make whatever prosecutorial judgment he needs," Comey said.

This will not be Fitzgerald's first high-profile investigation. He oversaw the investigation of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican who was indicted this month on 22 counts of corruption, including taking free vacations, tax fraud, lying to federal agents and skimming cash out of his own campaign fund. Ryan pleaded innocent a week ago.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the main critics of how the Bush administration has handled the leak investigation, praised the announcement.

"It is not everything we asked for but it comes darn close," Schumer said in a statement. "And tonight, the American people can, as a result, feel more assured that there will be a full and thorough investigation, no matter where it leads."

Comey said Ashcroft's decision to recuse himself was not based on an actual conflict of interest but on the appearance of a possible conflict.

"The attorney general in an abundance of caution believed that his recusal was appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances and the facts and evidence developed at this stage of the investigation," Comey said. "I agree with that judgment."

Comey did not say exactly what evidence necessitated the recusal.

President Bush, vacationing in Crawford, Texas, was informed of the decision and supports it, the White House said. "He wants to get to the bottom of this. He said in September that he welcomes this investigation and has absolute confidence in the ability of the Justice Department to do a good job," spokesman Trent Duffy said.

Comey said he considered bringing in an outside counsel but decided Fitzgerald was the "perfect man for this job" because of his experience in national security matters. He also said by choosing somebody from within the Justice Department, there would be no delay in continuing the investigation.

Fitzgerald can keep the career prosecutors and FBI agents who have handled the work so far, Comey said. Unlike an outside counsel, Fitzgerald can make prosecution decisions without having to first inform Comey, who is acting as the attorney general for this investigation.

Comey and Assistant Attorney General Chris Wray will supervise the investigation. "It is not in the public interest to move this matter entirely from the Department of Justice," Comey said.

Comey said he had a simple mandate for Fitzgerald: "Follow the facts wherever they lead and do the right thing all of the time."

Investigators want to know who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA officer, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in July. Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who has said he believes his wife's identity was disclosed to discredit his assertions that the Bush administration exaggerated Iraq's nuclear capabilities to build the case for war.

The leaker could be charged with a felony if identified.

The FBI has interviewed more than three dozen Bush administration officials, including political adviser Karl Rove and press secretary Scott McClellan.

The interviews have extended beyond the White House to other government agencies. The Defense and State departments and the CIA itself also are part of the probe.

The focus, however, remains on the White House, two law enforcement officials said on condition of anonymity. While the initial, informal interviews have yielded no major breaks, the FBI is satisfied that the dozen agents assigned to the probe are making progress and have not encountered any stalling tactics, the officials said Thursday.

So far, no grand jury subpoenas have been issued, they said.

Wilson said he had no idea why Ashcroft chose to recuse himself now. He speculated that Ashcroft, who has long ties to members of the president's staff, simply wanted to make sure that any findings at the end of the investigation are not tainted by even the suspicion of conflict of interest.

"I would have no idea whether a report has emerged that led him to recuse himself," Wilson said in a telephone interview Dec. 30. "I have always said, as some senators have argued, that the administration needed to take a good hard look at this."

He declined to express satisfaction over Ashcroft's recusal.

"It's not a question of whether I'm happy about it," he said. "The crime that was committed was not committed against me or my wife, but against my country. It's the country that's the victim in this."

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A bitter Hollywood feud has turned even nastier. Famed Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer sued his former longtime partner Jay Rifkin, accusing his collaborator on such award-winning soundtracks as "The Lion King" of secretly embezzling money from their business to support a lavish lifestyle.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, counters a $10 million legal action filed by Rifkin last month against Zimmer, in which he accused the composer of plotting to take over their Santa Monica, California, music studio "in a textbook example of breach of fiduciary duty."

The dueling accusations come about a month after Zimmer tried to end the 15-year partnership after learning that Rifkin's behavior was threatening his reputation and livelihood, Zimmer's attorney Bonnie Eskenazi said.

"We told him that unless we could wind up the business fairly and quietly and quickly we were going to file a lawsuit," she said. "We were in settlement negotiations."

Rifkin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Eskenazi said that rather than harming Zimmer's career, his bitter public split with Rifkin "has increased his desirability in Hollywood tenfold."

The pair head the Media Ventures Entertainment Group, a large work space that is home to about a dozen composers. Zimmer's lawsuit asks a judge to order the company into receivership and to force Rifkin to pay him $20 million in reparations plus punitive damages.

A Mississippi man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that he threatened to reveal security weaknesses in the Web site of electronics seller Best Buy unless the company paid him $2.5 million. Federal prosecutors charged Thomas E. Ray III with two counts of extortion for allegedly sending threatening e-mail messages to Best Buy under the guise of "Jamie Weathersby" between Oct. 16 and Oct. 30 last year.

Filmgoers Targeted over Piracy

Moves to ban US filmgoers from videotaping films inside cinemas have been stepped up by the movie industry. Suspected offenders in California and Ohio could be subject to citizen's arrest under the latest steps designed to cut film piracy. Similar laws exist in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, with penalties of heavy fines or jail. The Motion Picture Association of America said it had acted to combat piracy costing $3.5bn (£1.97bn) a year.

Critics say the movie industry should be more concerned about illegally copying of films by its own employees. The MPAA has moved to stop sending preview tapes and DVDs to Oscar judges, although it insists that most pirated films are made from camcorders.

Movie Reviews

Cheaper by the Dozen
The movie is basically a family film and does not touch on many higher social issues. The original made you question the actions of Gilbreth's and whether society was going in the right direction. The remake is "Home Alone" with twelve children. Many of the scenes are taken standards for the family movie genre. Children running wild, people hanging from chandeliers, dog bites in sensitive places - pretty much the standard bag of tricks.

Who should see this movie? Anyone that is looking for a safe family movie to take the kids to.

Paycheck is based on the book by Philip K. Dick, author of Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report.

Paycheck is a retooled version of a lot of other movies you've already seen. That may or may not be a problem for you, but it's undeniable that this movie doesn't really break any new ground. There's nothing new here about memory wipe (see Total Recall). There's nothing new about leaving clues behind for someone with amnesia (see The Bourne Identity). Paycheck doesn't even cash in on the fact that it's set in the near future like Minority Report. So from that point of view it's a disappointment.

Cold Mountain
It is a very good movie and feels shorter than its 2.5 hour run time. The acting is top notch. The story is a good one that is not cheapened in the last reel. The pacing might be too slow for some people, but if you want to get involved with some characters, then this is the movie for you.

Who should see this movie? If you are a Civil War buff, you will appreciate many of the things that were done right, but this is not a romantic version of the war.

Movies Released Today

Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer (limited) Director: Nick Broomfield
Nick Broomfield's second documentary on Aileen Carol Wuornos, a highway prostitute who was executed in 2002 for killing seven men in the state of Florida. This second installment includes the filmmaker's testimony at Wournous's trial.

The Battle of Algiers (rerelease)
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
"The Battle of Algiers" is one of the most viciously realistic films of all time. Initially banned by the French government, it quickly won wide acclaim: an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film and garnishing 11 international awards. Struggling to rid their country of French colonialism, Ali L Pointed and his terrorist group painting the streets of Casbah red with the blood of their enemies. Children shoot soldiers at point blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor.

Chasing Liberty
Mandy Moore, Mark Harmon, Annabella Sciorra, Jeremy Piven, Matthew Goode
Director: Andy Cadiff
Budding teenage beauty Anna Foster (Moore) wants the American dream: life and liberty to pursue happiness. But as the only child of the President of the United States, every detail of Anna's life is constantly monitored by the media, the public and her very protective parents - who are backed up by a battalion of Secret Service agents that safeguard Anna from any danger, including the perils of first dates.

Distant (limited)
Muzaffer Özdemir, Emin Toprak, Zuhal Gencer Erkaya, Nazan Kirilmis, Feridun Koc, Fatma Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, Ebru Yapici
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
A photographer who is haunted by the feeling that the gap between his ideals and his real life is growing finds himself obliged to put up in his apartment a young relative who has left behind his village looking for a job aboard a ship in Istanbul to go abroad.

My Baby's Daddy
Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson, Michael Imperioli Director Cheryl Dunye
Lonnie (Griffin), G (Anderson) and Dominic (Imperioli) are three bachelor buddies from the hood who, after a lifetime of hard partying, are in for a rude awakening when their respective girlfriends all get pregnant at the same time. The fathers-to-be embark on an always hilarious and often touching journey while learning as much about themselves as they do about love and fatherhood.

Upcoming Movies

January 16

Crimson Gold (NY)
Hossain Emadeddin, Pourang Nakhael, Azita Rayeji, Kamyar Sheisi, Shahram Vaziri
Director: Jafar Panahi
A murder and a suicide occur early one morning in a jewelry store. Behind this headline lies the story of a desperate man's feelings of humiliation in a world of social injustice...

Along Came Polly
Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Debra Messing
Director: John Hamburg
Ben Stiller portrays risk-averse Reuben Feffer, whose best-laid plans for life and love zoom wildly off track when his wife (Messing) dumps him on their honeymoon for a scuba instructor (Azaria). Stunned, humiliated and in the grip of acute indigestion, Reuben plans to play it safer than ever. But a chance encounter with an adventure-craving, globe-trotting friend from middle school (Aniston) shoots him into a whirlwind of extreme sports, spicy foods, ferrets, salsa dancing and living in the moment.

Teacher's Pet: The Movie
Nathan Lane, Shaun Flemming, Rob Paulsen
Director: Timothy Bjorklund
Spot Helperman is one smart puppy leading a secret life as Scott Leadready, the coolest kid in the 4th grade. But when wack-o scientist, Dr. Ivan Krank gives Spot the chance to become a real live boy, the little dog's problems end up being man-sized!

Tokyo Godfathers (limited)
Toru Emori, Aya Okamoto, Yoshiaki Umegaki
Director: Satoshi Kon
Three homeless people-Gin, a former professional bicycle racer; Hana, a transvestite; and Miyuki, a runaway young girl-are living together in Shinjuku, Tokyo. On Christmas Eve, the three discover a baby girl at a garbage dump. They head for the brighter parts of the city where people are enjoying holiday festivities, looking for the baby's parents. Their encounters with various people result in adventures that force each of the trio to confront his or her own life, which they've almost thrown away.

Ice Cube, Martin Henderson, Jaime Pressly
Director: Joseph Kahn
Biker Cary Ford (Henderson) has returned to his hometown to reunite with his girlfriend Shane (Mazur) and take care of a little unfinished business. When he skipped town months ago, Ford was in possession of several motorcycles belonging to Henry (Schulze), a ruthless drug dealer and leader of the Hellions biker gang. Now Henry's putting the squeeze on Ford in an attempt to retrieve the bikes, which have something a little more valuable than gas in their tanks.

   Greetings Dear Members!

I wanted to take a moment to thank all kind souls that sent warm invitations, well wishes, good cheer, as well as blessings, they were received with deep gratitude and a smile.

Thank you for opening your homes, hearts, and extending your kindness to a stranger. My greatest wish for 2004 is that the heavens shower down on all of you, ten times the good fortune it has bestowed upon me.

** Ok now on another note: No you weren't imagining things. We didn't send out a newsletter last week. But we do have much to catch up on this week! **

If you think you have what it takes to write an article (any subject will do), why not send an email and if we like what we see we'll be more than happy to send it out for our readers to enjoy along with your link!

  • Recipes & Jokes

    Since it's still pretty cold here, I'm sticking with the warm stuff !!

    Mexican Hot Chocolate

    6 cups milk
    1/4 cup sugar
    3oz. unsweetened chocolate
    1tsp. ground cinnamon
    3 eggs
    2 tsp. vanilla

    whipped cream

    In a saucepan, combine milk, sugar, chocolate and cinnamon. Heat until chocolate is melted. Cook and stir until mixture almost boils (do not boil).

    In a bowl, beat eggs with vanilla. Add 1 cup of hot milk, then return to saucepan. Cook 2 minutes. Beat until frothy.

    Pour into mugs and garnish with whipped cream.


    Misunderstanding Military Terms

    One reason the Services have trouble operating jointly is that they don't speak the same language.

    For example, if you told Navy personnel to "secure a building," they would turn off the lights and lock the doors.

    Army personnel would occupy the building so no one could enter.

    Marines would assault the building, capture it, and defend it with suppressive fire and close combat.

    The Air Force, on the other hand, would take out a three-year lease with an option to buy.

    The Show Off Pilots

    An F-111 was flying escort with a B-52 and generally making a nuisance of himself by flying rolls around the lumbering old bomber.

    The message for the B-52 crew was, "Anything you can do, I can do better."

    Not to be outdone, the bomber pilot announced that he would rise to the challenge.

    The B-52 continued its flight, straight and level, however. Perplexed, the fighter pilot asked, "So? What did you do?"

    "We just shut down two engines."

  • Book Reviews

    Title: Scarlet Moon
    Author: K. C. Hughes
    Publisher: PublishAmerica; (October 2003)
    ISBN: 141370073X
    Paperback: 167 pp

    Rated: Highly Recommended

    When Atlanta fire fighter Rick Edison is accused of the murder of his recently divorced wife, he and his partner set out to find her killer. Together they manage to block the police investigation and the coroner who is helping them turns up dead. When the FBI is called in Rick, must fight his physical attraction to the female agent.

    This is a fast-paced action packed mystery with strong sexual content. Author, K.C. Hughes makes you love and hate the main character, because of his human flaws. I enjoyed this read!

    Reviewed by: Susan Weekley


    Title: Typhoon Rising
    Author: David M. Dibble
    Publisher: Asgard Publishing Company (Nov 2003)
    ISBN: 0974579009
    Paperback; 250pp

    Rated: Highly Recommended

    Espionage On the High Seas!!

    This novel depicts the journey of a Naval Intelligence Officer, John Blake on a mission to locate two stolen American Mark-48 homing torpedoes. To accomplish this task John attracts the attention and aide of Japanese Secret Service Director, Yoshiro Takagawa. John receives Takagawa's assistance only after proving himself worthy by surviving a few "life or death" tests. John and Takagawa devise a plan in which John must impersonate ceramic's expert, George Franklin, gaining him access to one of the top "godfather's" of the Asian crime syndicates.

    Throughout his mission, beautiful and mysterious women surround John. He is being trained to play the role of Dr. Franklin by Riko and Kiko, employees of Takagawa, and his daughter, Kalani.

    Once John penetrates the Yakuza and Oyabun syndicates, there is sexy Cheri, Tomoji Sato's secretary. Cheri is trapped and cannot get out of Sato's grasp and attempts to solicit John's aide by befriending him. Then there is Dr. Katsuro who could possibly blow John's cover before he can foil Sato's plot to hold the world hostage in exchange for billions of dollars!

    Author David M. Dibble, uses catchy and intriguing subtitles for each chapter. This exotic, action filled, spy thriller is chuck-full of suspense and surprises. Bonus features between the covers of Typhoon Rising are extortion, murder, romance, deceit, culture, and possibly insanity.

    On a personal note: I don't like war stories of any kind, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this "007" thriller.

    Reviewed by Juanita Reynolds


    Title: Surviving Pieces
    Author: Dana A. Matthews
    Publisher: PublishAmerica; (September 2003)
    ISBN: 1591299551
    Paperback: 201 pp

    Rated: Highly Recommended

    Detective Tiffany Potter is alone in an abandoned rubber plant when she is ambushed and left to die. Somehow through a mental connection she is given the will to survive by someone she has never met before.

    Sitting in her dressing room, studying her script, actress Jasmine O'Reily is not only feeling Tiffany's pain, but she watched the ambush as it unfolded in front of her.

    Now through this strange connection the two women must discover what the common bond is that has brought them together in a way that neither has ever experienced before.

    Author, Dana Matthews has masterfully crafted a tale of reincarnation and mystery. Added to that is the perfect mix of love, devotion, and well-written scenes. This was an intriguing mystery that pulled me along page after page!

    Reviewed by: Susan Weekley

  • For Aspiring Writer's

    Our desires and wishes are not just about love and sex, but also about adventures we long to have, and our desire to live more intensely, more passionately, more fully. Look to your dream adventures to find possiblities for action-adventures and thrillers and mysteries.

    Dreams can present solutions to your writing problems. One writer, Sue Grafton, uses her dreams to find answers in several ways. Sometimes she drinks coffee late in the day, knowing that the caffeine will wake her up in the dead of the night. "So I get to sleep perfectly soundly, and then, at 3:30 a.m. when left brain is tucked away, not being vigilant, RightBrain comes out to play and helps me."

    Dreams can help you understand a character from the inside out. The action in dreams can give you ideas about ways to keep a story moving or to express a character.

    ** I find that most of my characters come to life in my dreams and direct which path and level the story should take next. This is something that most of my friends fail to understand when I try to explain it. At times I wonder if one day the men in white coats may come knocking at my door.

    Now, as you collect your dreams, force connections between them, free associate, apply all your creative techniques.

    Add, subtract, multiply, divide, change the point of view, ask why.

    Your dreams and your unconscious mind can deepen your story, but more importantly, deepen you as a person. You will, as a result, be able to bring more insights, emotions, unique images, and original perceptions to your work.

    However, to achieve an even deeper level to your understanding and your work, you next need to be in touch with your shadow.

  • For Screenwriter's

    The Screenwriter's Dilemma
    by Greg Rempel

    There is a wealth of information available these days for writers of almost every genre. As a screenwriter, I am amazed at the sheer number of articles written, classes offered and websites devoted to the screenwriter.

    Having been a faithful reader of this material for the past several years, I can't help but find a striking contradiction in some of the most basic and oft-quoted advice. The first has been repeated so frequently, it has become a writer's cliché: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. In essence, this means that to create something of substance, we are advised to rely upon our own life experiences. Here we think of projects like "Antoine Fisher," the true story of a young black man coming to grips with his ugly past. We find an authentic lead character in a script filled with conflict, drama and resolution, all the elements of a successful story. But for most of us, our own life stories aren't nearly so interesting, let alone inspiring. Writing the story of a middle class person who leads an uneventful middle class life seems like a waste of time. Who would pay $8 to see such a dull and boring movie?

    Which brings me to the second most popular bit of advice for the screenwriter: BE ABLE TO DESCRIBE YOUR STORY IN ONE SENTENCE OR PHRASE. Are they kidding? No, they're quite serious. They've even provided examples such as IT'S CASTAWAY MEETS THE LION KING or IT'S THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS MEETS THE MUMMY. This is "the pitch" and, according to the screenplay gurus, it is the hook that gets the big fish biting. Is it just me, or do these two pieces of screenwriting advice seem at odds with one another? Take a "pitch" such as IT'S THE MATRIX MEETS TITANIC. Let's assume that what the pitch is trying to convey is that this story is some sort of science fiction epic that takes place during a major disaster. Is there any chance in the world that the author of this screenplay listened to the first piece of advice, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW?

    Was the author of the original "Matrix" screenplay writing about his own life experiences as a member of a secret organization devoted to revealing the truth about our very existence -- that machines are running the universe and humans are nothing more than fuel cells, powering these machines? I doubt it. So, what advice is most valuable to the screenwriter?

    First, let's think about both schools of thought and consider the outcomes of both pieces of advice. If, as a screenwriter, I am writing a deeply personal story based upon my own experiences, am I likely to have my script made into a Hollywood blockbuster? Probably not. Most stories along these lines, "Antoine Fisher," "Lost In Translation," "About Schmidt," and "Bend It Like Beckham" are often independent productions, made for much smaller budgets.

    The second school of thought, condensing one's story down to a single phrase, is more likely to put us in the realm of the Hollywood blockbuster. But, for every well- written movie that becomes a blockbuster ("Lord of the Rings" comes to mind) there are dozens of sub-par sequels like "Legally Blonde 2" and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," as well as remakes like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Nothing is easier to describe in one phrase than a sequel or a remake. At the pitch you simply say, "Remember Charlie's Angels? This is part two."

    It's your choice. As a writer, which path do you choose? Obviously, almost all of us would choose writing a great, personal screenplay that becomes a blockbuster. But that is a rare animal. The small, personal stories tend to be independently produced, but generally attract big stars who are dying to play the roles you've written. Incidentally, though these films seldom come close to earning the revenue of the blockbusters, they are usually Academy Award nominees and, often, winners. It's not likely that Hollywood blockbusters like "Bringing Down The House," "The Cat In The Hat," or "Bruce Almighty" are going to be Academy Award winners. They may clean up at The People's Choice Awards, but that's an entirely different story.

    Each day there appears yet another resource for the screenwriter. Because there are so many kinds of writers it's good to get a variety of advice. But, ultimately, you've got to choose the path that is right for you. All of us are individuals with unique stories to tell. The point is to continue writing and to become a better writer with each passing day. This is as true for screenwriters as it is for writers of poetry, essays, articles and novels. There is no list of rules set in stone that fits every writer. And oddly enough, sometimes we do find that rare crossover -- the writer who has chosen a high-concept idea, yet found a way to make it personal.

    I think of my friend, Maria Romero. Maria has been writing ever since she could string words together. She just can't stop writing. It's in her blood. It's a compulsion. She writes nearly every day. The sheer volume of this young woman's work is staggering. She has written a number of screenplays and has not had much luck finding success. So she kept writing. This time she tried her hand at a novel, and Maria's very first work, "Caleng and the Moonstone Pearl" has gotten her some long overdue recognition. Did she set out to write a blockbuster? I don't know. But knowing Maria the way I do, I would bet she started out with a kernel of an idea and added her own personal touches to it, polishing it every day. And little by little it took shape. Do I believe that Maria lives in a land of fairies and magic? Not literally. But if you read the book, you'll find traces of Maria on every page.

    Greg Rempel is an independent writer/producer living in Pittsburgh, PA. His first feature film, "The Murder," opened The Three Rivers Film Festival in 2002 and is currently making the festival circuit. Greg is raising money for his next movie, "Burn," an old-fashioned ghost story.

  • For Authors

    Crime Scene Investigation

    The scene of the crime. The phrase itself has a certain dramatic grittiness. It carries a frisson of excitement that writers are understandibly eager to exploit. Crime scenes, however, are fraught with danger -- for the investigator and the writer.

    An undisturbed crime scene (which sounds like an oxymoron) offers the police a tremendous opportunity.

    It's easy to make a mistake when dealing with crimes scenes. And in both real life and fiction, if you make a mistake at the crime scene, that mistake may come back to haunt the rest of your work.

    Evidence is the point on which criminal trials are balanced. The more evidence pointing towards a defendant's guilt, the moe likely there is to be a conviction (although, as any trial lawyer will tell you, there are no guarantees). The more exculpatory evidence produced, the more likely the defendant will walk.

    There are two basic types of evidence: verbal evidence and physical evidence. Verbal evidence is what folks say about what took place. Physical evidence, as the name indicates, pertains to stuff -- the physical evidence of a crime. Broken windows, fingerprints, burn patterns, bits of cloth, dead bodies, the bugs attracted to dead bodies.

    Crime scenes are mostly about physical eveidence.

    Physical evidence is generally considered to be most important type of evidence. Why? Because physical evidence is morally neutral. It doesn't lie. In fact, physical evidence cannot lie. A broken window is a broken window. A fingerprint is a fingerprint. A bullet hole is a bullet hole.

    While physical evidence doesn't lie, it is open to interpretation. Different people may have different opinions on, say, a blood spatter pattern -- how it got there, who it belongs to, from what direction or height it came. But its physical evidence can't be questioned. It's there-- manifest truth, just waiting to be understood.

    By closely examining a crime scene, a good detective can obtain a fairly accurate idea of what took place: that is the progression of the crime.

    It might even point to who's responsible. A crime scene, after all, is the residue of criminal behavior, and behavior reflects personality.

    Police and private detectives both have a keen interest in the physical evidence found at crime scenes. However, they are often looking at different things for different reasons. Police detectives, of course, have a single, simple focus: They want to catch the person responsible for the crime.

    Private detectives on the other hand, have a much more complicated view in regard to crime scenes. They usually see cold crime scenes and examine them coldy. They pick through the bones of the scenes looking for some means to attack the cases against their clients. PIs look for mistakes. Why? Because Private detectives engaged in criminal work almost always work for a defense attorney. Thus becoming involved days, weeks, and even months after a suspect has been arrested and charged. By this time the crime scene is almost certainly ruined.

    As a writer you have the right to present the crime scene any way you choose. But it's important that you know the truth before you embellish or alter it. There's no reason you can't have a PI discussing evidence at an active crime scene with a police detective, so long as you are aware it doesn't happen that way in real life.

  • The Latest Literary Scoop and More!

    The Dallas Morning News recently launched its newest daily newspaper, Quick, a "quick-read" paper designed to deliver a digest of the day's news for "readers on- the-run." Quick is a free publication distributed Monday- Friday. Quick presents the news in a "quick-read," tabloid-size format designed to reach a young demographic of readers, ages 18-34. Quick will compete with the new A.M. Journal Express, a tablod-format newspaper targeting the same demographic, which was recently launched by American Consolidated Media in the Dallas market. It also introduced two new editions, Al Dia, to support the growing Hispanic market; and The Dallas Morning News Collin County Edition, created to reflect the needs of residents in the fast-growing Collin County area. These and other new product initiatives had been in development and testing since September 2002. The Dallas Morning News is published by Belo Corp., one of the nation's largest media companies with a diversified group of market-leading television, newspaper, cable and interactive media assets.

    The "classics" are coming back. Could it have anything to do with Oprah's new book club, which only chooses classics? Barnes and Noble has reported a huge increase in sales of classics, and Bookspan is starting a series featuring classics. Borders is also jumping on the bandwagon, by increasing their offerings in the classics area.

    Is there anyone who hasn't read The Da Vinci Code? It continues to be a leader in the fiction field, with a whopping 4.5 million copies now in print.

    Homeschooling Companion: Learning Through History recently launched. This bi-monthly magazine features historical topics and themes. Their website is

    High School Hoops magazine recently launched, and will be available at high school basketball tournaments, as well as at newstands.

    McDonald's Restaurant started it's first magazine last month. The mini-magazine, called Relax, is distributed free with "Brother Bear" Happy Meals, and is geared toward parents.

    Tracks, a new music magazine, launched last month.

    Vanguarde Media, publisher of Heart & Soul, Savoy, and Honey magazines, is ceasing publication and filing for bankruptcy.


    Special Announcement

    January 06, 2004 - Allbooks Reviews ( is pleased to announce the Allbooks Reviews Editor's Choice for 2003.It was a difficult decision due to the number of excellent books reviewed by Allbooks in 2003, however we are happy to announce our final decision.

    EDEN FOUND author: Steve Hart
    Available at: and most bookstores.
    PUBLISHER: Hart-Burn Press ISBN Number: 09740318 01

    Eden Found author, Steve Hart was born May 1, 1949 in Methuen, Mass, north of Boston. He dabbled in poetry during early teen years and harbored thoughts of some day becoming a novelist. As time went by the dream of writing remained a ghost in his subconscious, but was never able to burst its way through the everyday clutter of working for a living. It wasn't until his father died in early 2001 that he finally decided, "now." Out of work with a bad back he wrote the first draft of Eden Found. By the time he was healthy enough to return to work he discovered that he wanted to keep on writing full time. Allbooks Reviews congratulates Mr. Hart on taking a difficult subject and turning it into a literary masterpiece.

    Steve Hart's second novel (a sci-fi called, "The Reluctant Prophet) will be released in the spring of 2004.

    We would also like to announce the Allbooks Reviews Honorable Mention for 2003 in various categories:

    Children's books- Caleng and the Moonstone Pearl --- -M. Romero

    Children's Picture books- Various Faerious--- Jacqui Grantford

    Fiction/Suspense- Deception's Guard--- Jacqueline G. Randolph

    Philosophy/Religion/Inspirational- Doorway to Eternity-- - Kiara Windrider

    Travel/Memoirs- Tuscan Echoes, A Season in Italy--- Mark Gordon Smith

    Young Adult- A Gentleman's Tale --- J. A. Short

    Congratulations to all of the authors. Visit the Allbooks Reviews website today to read the complete reviews.

    Shirley Roe, Managing Editor Allbooks Reviews (


    Places of Interest

    The following contains useful information whether you're a screenwriter or not. I've been reading Jerrol's newsletter for over a year now and he always manages to surprise me with something interesting.

    This time I thought I'd share and I'm sure many of you will feel how close to home it hits:

    ----------------------------------------------------- We all at (Jerrol, Norma, Stephanie, Maia and Stella) wish you a happy, prosperous and satisfactory New Year!

    As our company tries to assist in the matching up of screenwriters/scripts with representatives, producers and industry professionals, I thought I would make a couple of comments and clear up a misconception that I hope you will find useful.

    Though, there is still turbulence in the world, it does appear to be calming down somewhat and it looks like the entertainment industry is calming down and getting more focused as well. Thank goodness for that!

    Producers, reps and the studios are still looking for scripts and writers and perhaps more so now than they were in the last couple of years. Despite all of that, 10 films were made from scripts and writers found through our network in 2003, whereas we had one made in 2002. Next week (when our web designer gets back), you will be able to see the details on the films made on this page:

    Since we are embarking on a New Year, a New Years resolution is in order. For us, it is to do some improvements to the site and to use what we have learned in this past year in dealing with producers and reps, in order to get 20 films made through our network for 2004. Of course, some of that is already in motion, due to the number of writers hired and scripts optioned from previous years, but we still need to work on bringing our average up so that we have between 5 and 10 scripts sold/optioned or writers hired a week. A tough goal, but I believe we can do it.

    As for the working or aspiring writer's New Years resolution, I don't even need to mention that writing is an art and skill and should always be honed down and perfected, in the same way that a dancer continues to work on his/her grace and performance. This is a given.

    However, I have found that most writers are weak in the area of marketing. For any writer who is not making six figures a year as a writer and who really knows his/her craft, this is an area that requires a New Years resolution.

    On a one-for-one basis, almost all of the writers who have 'made it' spend a good deal of their time selling themselves. To this day, even writers with major representation who are successful working writers routinely spend time taking meetings and getting to know more people in the industry. To some degree, they remain aggressive about marketing their talents and never fully rely on representation.

    We have all seen movies, which we thought we could have done at least as good a job or better on. The difference is that the writer(s) involved were better at marketing themselves(s).

    Whether you place your works on our site for the additional exposure or subscribe to our Preferred Newsletter or not is a personal decision. But a writer must sell/market himself to become successful and no writer should put their scripts on our site and think his/her job is done, just as no writer having obtained representation should think his/her job is done; far from it.

    There is a cliché along the lines that if your script is good enough, somehow it will find its way into the right hands and get made. This is misleading to say the least. There are far too many incredibly well written commercial scripts, which prove this cliché false. There isn't a producer alive who doesn't have an incredible script that for some reason or another didn't get made. 'Unforgiven' sat on the shelf for decade, 'ER' suffered a similar fate and Peter Jackson's trilogy almost didn't get made. None of these would have gotten made if someone wasn't really, really pushing and marketing it. -----------------------------------------------------

    If you're interested in reading more about Inktip and what it can do for you or want to sign up for Jerrol LeBaron's newsletter go to:

    Story Analyst Services

    Why not take the time to get your screenplay, novel, short story or poem ready before you rush it out the door? A professional analysis at a reasonable rate can help you get the results you need.

    Trust me, the rates really are low and the feedback provided is great! Very professional - I highly recommend this site. Visit Kriss Perras at: i-reels
    for more details, including free services.

    Media Links

    PASADENA, CA 91106

    LA JOLLA, CA 92307
    P (619)218-7665 F (858)454-7974

    NEW YORK, NY 10020

    Looking for a certain book? Authors wanting to setup a book signing? Here's a short list of bookstores in San Francisco.

    North Beach:
    Black Oak Books (540 Broadway, 94133 415-986,3872, Third branch of the Berkeley bookstore. You apparently either love it or hate it. Open Sun-Thu 12N-10PM, Fri-Sat, 12N-12M.

    City Lights (261 Broadway and Columbus, 415-362- 8193, The best place for general literature.

    Eastwind Books (1435 Stockton, 415-772-5888). Eastern thought, Buddhism, etc.

    Tower Records (Columbus Ave & Bay, 415-885-0500). Also has books. Open 7 days 9AM-12M.

    Fisherman's Wharf:
    Barnes & Noble (Cost Plus complex near Fisherman's Wharf).

    Builder's Booksource (Ghiradelli Square, 415-440-5773). Architecture, construction, landscape architecture, engineering, interior design, etc. From coffee-table books all the way to the AISC Steel Manual.... Also has a larger store in Berkeley.

    Maritime Book Store (Hyde Street Pier near Fisherman's Wharf). A very good selection of new maritime books.

    Louie Bros Book Store (754 Washington near Grant). Chinese language.

    [Yes, there are several bookstores on the second floor of 49 Geary. All of them are fairly antiquarian oriented.]

    Brick Row Books (49 Geary, Suite 235, 94108-5705, 415-398-0414,,

    Jeffery Thomas Fine and Rare Books (49 Geary, Suite 230, 94108-5705, 415-956-3272, FAX 415-956-2738, Open Mon-Fri 9AM- 5PM.

    Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books (49 Geary, Suite 244, 94108-5705, 415-981-4100, Open Mon-Fri 10AM-5:30PM, Sat by chance or appointment. Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books (486 Geary). Open Mon, Wed-Sat 11AM-6:00PM.

    Robert Dagg, Rare Books (49 Geary, 94108-5705, 415- 989-6811).

    John Windle, Antiquarian Bookseller (49 Geary, 94108- 5705, 415-986-5826). Open by appointment. 871 Fine Arts (49 Geary, Suite 513, 94108-5705). Art and artists' books.

    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art bookstore (151 Third St between Mission and Howard, 415-357-4035). Its museum store is greatly expanded, and has the best selection of new art and art-related books in SF; also some interesting children's books.

    Foto-Grafix Books (655 Mission, 94105, 415-495-7242, FAX 415-495-0579,

    Photography. Formerly Friends of Photography Bookstore. Open Tue-Sun 11AM-5PM.

    Civic Center:
    European Books (925 Larkin, 415-474-0626, THE place to go for European-language books. Mostly French, German, and Spanish, but other languages as well. Open Mon 11AM- 4PM, Thu-Sat 11AM-5PM.

    A Clean Well-Lighted Place For Books at Opera Plaza (610 Van Ness Ave between Golden Gate and Turk, 415- 441-6670, A good general selection of books, and a helpful staff. Also hosts, quarterly mystery events in association with Sisters in Crime to which the public is invited." Sun- Thu 10AM-11PM, Fri-Sat 10AM-12M.

    Acorn Books (1436 Polk between Pine and California, 415-563-1736, Very large collection of SF paperbacks. Some hardcover. Some highly priced collectibles. A good selection of pulps in average condition (AMAZING, ASTOUNDING, ANALOG, etc.). Open Mon-Sat 10:30AM-8PM, Sun 12N-7PM

    Fields Bookstore (1419 Polk, across from Acorn Books, 415-673-2027). "One of the best esoterica/New Age selections I've seen."

    Richard Hilkert, Bookseller (333 Hayes, near the Performing Arts Center, 415-863-3339). Has a large number of books on architecture, as well as a large collection of books, new and used, on design, the arts, collecting, gardening, cooking, travel.... Carries new and used books, and has book signings from time to time.

    Kinokuniya (shopping center at 1581 Webster, 415-567- 7625). The largest Japanese-language bookstore in San Francisco. They also have books in English on Japan, translations into English, Japanese language textbooks, many periodicals, etc. They have a branch in San Jose (408-252-1300) and perhaps elsewhere. Sun-Sat 10:30AM-7PM.

    Marcus Books (1712 Filmore between Post and Sutter, a few doors down from the Kabuki Theatre complex). African and Black history and issues since 1960.

    Mission (and Noe Valley):
    Bernal Books (401 Cortland Ave at Bennington, 94110, 415-550-0293). New books.

    Borderlands Books (866 Valencia at 19th, 94110, 888- 893-4008 or 415-824-8203, http://www.borderlands- New and used SF. You need the hyphen in the URL, or you get a completely different bookstore!

    San Francisco Mystery Bookstore (4175 24th between Diamond and Castro, Noe Valley, 415-282-7444,

    Cover to Cover Booksellers. (24th at Sanchez--Noe Valley, 415-282-8080). Smallish general bookstore. A neighborhood place. Lots of kids books.

    Books Inc. (2275 Market, 94114, 415-864-6777,

    A Different Light (489 Castro Street between 17th & 18th, 415-431-0891 or 800-343-4002). This is a branch of the company that also has bookstores in West Hollywood and New York City. They have close to 14,000 titles of interest to lesbians, bisexuals and gay men, and occasionally carry a few used books.

    Green Apple Books (506 Clement and nearby, 415-387- 2272). New and used.

    Thidwick Books (first block of Clement Street). "Extremely enthusiastic, helpful proprietor, interesting selection of new books with a delightful children's section.

    Charlotte's Web (2278 Union, 415-441-4700). Children's bookstore. Excellent selection of children's books along with tapes, cards, art supplies and other good stuffcards, that children and parents will enjoy.



    2004 Toy Releases

    Ok I need these like I need a hole in the head, but hey... I have nieces and nephews to look out for.

    The new 45th Anniversary Barbie to celebrate 45 years of Barbie! A must for the collector!

    Another new collectible giftset. Includes Barbie and Ken as Arwen and Aragorn in the 3rd movie of this epic trilogy, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

    A classic miniature set of Raggedy Ann and Andy together titled "Forever Friends" will be available exclusively from THE TOY SHOPPE - the premiere RJW retailer.

    To help bring the joy of play to children of all abilities, Toy Industry Association, Inc. introduces the 2004 edition of Let's Play: A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs. This valuable resource is an expanded version of TIA's Guide for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, an award-winning publication first produced by the Association in 1993.

    The latest big steamers from 3rd Rail are the O gauge Pennsylvania RR Q1-class 4-6-4-4 locomotives in skirted (rear) and unskirted (front) versions. The brass locomotive comes with Lionel TrainMaster Command Control and RailSounds as well as Train America's Puff n'Chuff II and Engineer On Board speed-control circuits.

    Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. announced the much-anticipated release of EyeToy(TM), a revolutionary technology set to change the future of gaming by providing players with a truly immersive and interactive experience. Developed exclusively for the PlayStation(R)2 computer entertainment system, the EyeToy USB camera features unique motion-tracking technology to enable gamers to become physically part of the game. The EyeToy USB Camera comes with EyeToy: Play, developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, London Studio, the first title to showcase the PlayStation 2 exclusive EyeToy technology.


    For surveillance, a 2-ounce, camera-carrying UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) called the Dragon Eye, is built to be taken to the battlefield in a backpack. "A bungee cord serves as a kind of slingshot to launch the vehicle before its electric motor takes over. The operator directs it with a laptop computer." But Paul Saffo, a director of the Silicon Valley-based Institute for the Future, expects to see UAVs in wide civilian use within five years -- especially among teenage hobbyists. Saffo, whose work includes predicting how consumers might incorporate new technologies in their daily lives, says nobody will "be able to comfortably sunbathe topless in their backyards anymore."

    Microsoft Corp. announced it will unveil the latest version of its digital cable software platform, Microsoft® TV Foundation Edition, at the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas. Microsoft TV Foundation Edition version 1.5 enhances the consumer viewing experience by providing fully integrated support for high-definition television (HDTV) and digital video recording (DVR), while enabling network operators to better market and merchandize new and existing digital cable services including video on demand (VOD).

    Broadband on the go will get a lot closer to reality Thursday when the USA's No. 1 phone and wireless carrier details plans to build the first national wireless network that's truly broadband. While popular "Wi-Fi hot spots" offer public wireless broadband in coffee shops and airports, this service would make a laptop as mobile as a cell phone.


    Copyright by Betsie, 2004 All contents of this email are for the use of Betsie's Literary Page subscribers and may not be reproduced in any way and/or posted on websites without prior express written permission. If you would like to have friends or associates receive our emails, rather than forwarding this, please have them subscribe.

    Thank You for reading, see you next week!

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