My review of The Black List script listing and coverage service

Approximately one year ago, I paid $25 to use The Black List script hosting service for a month. Like Inktip, The Black List service allows writers to upload a script so that industry professionals can find it based upon whatever tags they choose. What distinguishes The Black List from Inktip, however, is that you (the writer), other users, and industry members can find and rate scripts. The ratings of the scripts can be made public or private based on what you decide, and the public ratings are only determined by industry members or paid readers. (That means your fellow writers can't be haters and bash your work to lower your score.) All scripts with a rating of 8 out of 10 or better from a script reader would be promoted through the company's email blasts.

The last bonus for The Black List site is that it partners with groups such as the Writers Guild of America (WGA), Warner Brothers, and Disney; and writers can submit to these partners' writing opportunities for free if their work is listed for at least a week. When I hosted my script, I submitted for one of these fellowships, and the submission process was easy.

When I used The Black List service a year ago, I paid for a one month listing and $50 coverage for my horror script THE LADDER. THE LADDER centered around a desperate young woman who moved  in with her sister's strange, sadistic family. My script was viewed fifteen times, but no one ended up contacting me. I concluded that my viewing rate was low for two reasons. 1) One month was not enough time to give my script time to be found, but I did not want to pay for multiple months because of the cost 2) My script received an average rating from only one user, the paid reader. No one else had read or reviewed my script, and my average score meant that it would not receive promotion on the site.  Fair enough.

If someone were to ask me if I recommend The Black List hosting service, I would tell them to be aware of the amount of time necessary to get noticed on a site (3 months to a year), and to calculate that with the overall cost when making a decision. However, the $25/month is worth it if you think of the $25 fee as an application fee for the The Black List partners' fellowships. It is noted that WGA writers are allowed to list log lines and information about their scripts for free.

Although I am neutral when it comes to the site's listing service for aspiring screenwriters, I do highly recommend its coverage. When it came to THE LADDER, I liked the script overall, especially its ending, but I sensed there were story problems. I was hitting a wall when it came to pinpointing what those problems were specifically, and my coverage from The Black List did a good job of outlining the good and bad parts of my story. Although my coverage was only one page, it was concise, and it put me on the right path to a rewrite. Even though a year has passed, I have not done any new work on that script, but maybe after a rewrite, I'll try to list my work again. We'll see what happens if my script actually achieved a score worthy of promotion.

Has anyone else had experience using The Black List services? If so, please leave a comment below, or you can connect with me through Facebook or Twitter

Roaring Nights: The L.A. Zoo isn't just for kids

The first time that I had ever attended the Los Angeles Zoo was in the summer of 2009. It was very hot that day, and I remember wandering around from exhibit to exhibit as various families would pass me by. I spent a few hours there and I had a fun time, but I didn't really see myself coming back in the future unless I was with children. However, my view of the L.A. Zoo expanded when I attended Roaring Nights on Friday August 22, 2014 with my friend Chad.

Chad and I arrived at the event around 8pm, and although the free zoo lot was full, we still found parking in a lot across the street. (For cyclists, there was a free bicycle valet service available so that was cool and eco-friendly.) There were plenty of people walking up to the zoo entrance with us, but the lines were short and moved quickly. This was impressive considering that Roaring Nights, a summer series that is held once a month from June to August, averages 3,000 attendees per event.

Chad and I got our tickets and then we had our IDs checked before we were allowed entrance. Unlike my day trip at the zoo five years ago, the evening event, Roaring Nights, was 18 and up, and the clientele was a mix of couples and groups of friends looking for a fun Friday night. According to Laura Stegman of the LA Zoo, "The Zoo has had summer "Music in the Zoo" evenings for many years, and "Roaring Nights" was introduced a few years ago to attract new 18+ audiences looking for nightlife in unexpected venues."
T.Lo and Chad heading into Roaring Nights at the L.A. Zoo (Photo courtesy of Instagram.)
ENTERTAINMENT
For the past three years, Roaring Nights has taken place during the summer once a month in June, July, and August. Each month, the event has different hip, musical guests. For August 2014's event, it hosted We Are Twin and DJ V Money. Previously, it hosted popular local band, Queen Caveat, a band that performs high energy, kickass shows. (Fun fact: I was in the music video for Queen Caveat's Breathe!)

Chad and I unfortunately never found where We Are Twin was performing, but we did enjoy DJ V Money who was set up by the carousel. He spun a lot of fun modern dance tunes such as Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," which despite its dirtiness was very fitting for the setting. By the end of the night, Chad joined the dance party and almost twerked. It was wonderful. 

In addition to the dancing, zookeepers had tables set up where guests could see animals such as slithery snakes up close. Most of the other animals were turned in for the night, but the elephants were available to view. Because this event was all adults, many of whom were drinking, it was hilarious to witness their reactions. When I attended the zoo during the day, I heard a lot of wows from the kids, but at Roaring Nights, I just couldn't stop laughing at some drunk woman who nearly teared up saying, "The elephants! They're so beautiful. Why are they soooo beautiful?!?"**

**I mean, the elephants were beautiful, but I wasn't crying over them like they were Beyonce, but to each her own.

A zookeeper at a pop up animal display talks about snakes

PERSONAL SOUVENIRS 

Near the entrance, photographers were on hand to snap photos of guests. They took one serious picture and one picture of people pretending to look scared with their hands out so that they could photoshop an animal into their hands. Chad and I partook in this, and at the end of the night, we went to the photography stand to preview our pictures and they were really cute. We hesitated on buying and were told we could check out the photos later online. I've checked the website, and unfortunately Chad and I are nowhere to be found. Bummer. Luckily, there was another photo opportunity, and this one was free. The Zoo had a background set up along with random props, which included cut outs of animals and a fake Instagram border.

One of my favorite aspects of Roaring Nights was a painting station called “Animal Artistry Paint Party.” The station was near the front of the zoo, so people could paint when they came in and when they left, they could pick up their dried work. Canvasses and paint were free, and afterwards, everyone was able to hang their art work on a clothesline to dry. It was a smart idea, and it was a fun personal souvenir to take home at the end of the night.

Guests enjoy free painting at Roaring Nights
A variety of artistic expressions including an homage to bears

FOOD AND BOOZE
At different areas of the zoo, there were different bars and food trucks set up. Some of the food trucks included Baby’s Badass Burgers, Coolhaus, Lobsta Truck, Potato Tornado, Ragin Cajun,  and The Grilled Cheese Truck.  Like at most food truck events, the lines were long. Chad and I got Lobsta Truck, which was delicious, but we spent over thirty minutes waiting in line. Considering that the event lasted from 7pm to 10pm, waiting in food truck lines took up a large chunk of our time, but this seems to be a Los Angeles norm so we were used to it. At least there was never a long wait time for the bar service. 
Placing an order at the Lobtsa truck (All photos by T.Lo)
OVERALL
The L.A. Zoo's Roaring Nights is a well organized, classy event that's a great option for adults wanting to have an entertaining evening. Considering how many people attend Roaring Nights, it never felt crowded being there because the event planners were smart about where to place each station. The entertainment, food, and drink options were top notch, and every employee Chad and I encountered was friendly and seemed to take pride in the zoo. The only critique Chad and I had was that we wished that the event went on at least until midnight, but that may lead to a giant zoo rave so maybe nevermind... (Although that would be really fun. Just saying.)

Although August's Roaring Nights was the last one of this year, the Zoo holds other evening events tied to holidays. For instance, for Halloween, they will hold an event on October 25, 2014 called Night of the Living Zoo, and for Valentine's Day, they will host Sex and the City Zoo. Additionally, they will debut this year a night time wonderland of festive lights called Zoo Lights, which will open nightly (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from Friday, November 28, 2014 to Sunday January 4, 2015. For more information about the LA Zoo night time events, check out their website: http://lazoo.org/

Chad paints a masterpiece

After seven years of hard work, University of Kansas alumni sees his comic book dream come true

To connect with CW Cooke, find him on Facebook.
CW Cooke and I were classmates at the University of Kansas, and since graduation, he has gone on to write comics, work the independent comic book scene, and create worlds for various companies. After years of hard work and effort, his first series, Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story, is going to be distributed to the public, thanks mostly to a successful Kickstarter campaign. CW's campaign not only surpassed his original goal by several thousand dollars, but it was also named a Kickstarter Staff Pick.

CW was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share how he successfully crowdsourced his project and how other comic writers can get their foot in the door like he did.

TL: What inspired you to create Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story?
CWC: Inspiration started at a very young age for this one, honestly, and kept coming in different ways. I've wanted to make comic books my whole entire life, and started out creating crappy X-men and Superman ripoff comics. Over the years, I had great teachers and professors and friends who inspired me or gave me the push that I needed to make comics. And as I couldn't draw well at all, I took a chance at writing. And I've always wanted to tell my own stories and I've always wanted to have this ongoing piece of me out there for the world to digest.

TL: You have worked with such publishers as Big Dog Ink, Devil's Due, Action Lab, Arcana, Viper, and Bluewater. How did you form those relationships? What works did you publish with them?
CWC: A lot of the relationships were built over time. Most started by emails or letters or mail that I sent, submissions that I sent out, and just meeting various publishers and editors at comic book conventions. Big Dog Ink was a company that I met at a local comic book convention and lucked into handing them some of my work. Bluewater was the first company I worked for and they gave me a chance based on an email submission I had sent. That opened a number of doors and then blind submissions and request emails or interest emails were sent to the various other companies (and honestly, I probably sent emails and letters to every single comic book publisher out there, some more than once).

Check out Solitary's FB page
TL: Why did you decide to do a Kickstarter?
CWC: Kickstarter was chosen out of necessity. Putting together the book as I have been, I spent a bit of my own money and funds were becoming tight due to bills and various other issues coming up. Kickstarter was essentially a last option, to ensure that the people I'm working with get paid and get compensated for their time, their effort, and their hard work.  I had a lot of help and suggestions from Devil's Due in determining what amount would be necessary to get certain goal levels and how to ensure people got paid what they deserve. Exceeding the goal and continuing to do so has been a wonderful, amazing, and far less stressful aspect of the whole thing. Getting to the goal was tough and terrifying. Surpassing and getting higher and higher makes me think people are excited for the book and excited to see the story unfold (now I just hope I don't screw that up). Everything above and beyond will go back into the book and will take care of the rewards and shipping. The additional amounts will ensure that the book keeps running for as long as possible. Now I just hope people KEEP picking it up!


TL: Now that crowdfunding has become trendy, it seems to be harder to stand out in the crowd and get people to open their wallets. Why do you think your Kickstarter succeeded? What advice would you give to other writers/comic book creators when it comes to fundraising?
Artwork from Solitary
CWC: I think mine succeeded because it's a story that hasn't really been told (I hope). I'm a big fan of the mash-up and throwing two ideas as disparate as Superman and Death Row just seemed too incredible to pass up and too bizarre not to try (and like I said, I hadn't really seen anything like it where the hero was behind bars and that's how the story starts). I think the other lucky bit has been that Orange Is the New Black is a huge thing right now and I lucked into that being around when my Kickstarter started. Not to mention the countless other just strange and lucky coincidences that happened and helped get this thing out there. I also think the cover seals the deal with a lot of people and the image of the electrocution. I have had preview copies of the book for a little while and those two images are what catch people's eyes first. Beyond that, I think my honesty and my truth helped a lot. That's the first and best advice I can give to people. Be honest. Be open. Giving the people what they want is nice and having a brilliant and strange new idea is wonderful. But if people don't trust you or think you're a used car salesman, it might not work out. To say I'm lucky is one thing, but you have to build on the luck and you have to do the work and you have to show people that you are willing to do the work and put in the time to build the audience. It's been a long time coming, and I still owe a great deal of it to luck.

TL: Publishing a comic book requires multiple components such as hiring an illustrator and editor. How did you put Solitary together?
CWC: I've been putting it together in one fashion or another since I was 8 years old, but since 2007, it has been the major focus of what I've been doing. I've found and started with a number of different artists on interiors and put together a large number of pitch documents. I've pitched it to various different comic companies since 2007 and I've changed the title, the artist, and large portions of the story at least 3 or 4 times each (if not more). This final iteration, this final version, took the time to get here. Carl Yonder, the cover artist, has been with me for a long time and has helped struggle and fight with me to make this better. I found him and the interior artist, Nando Souzamotta, on websites like Digital Webbing and then built a friendship/relationship/working relationship from there. Carl & Fake Petre, the colorist team, were found for me via Devil's Due and I have zero issue with that as they do incredible work. And I can't, for one second, do anything but say how great Devil's Due has been. Josh and his team have been a blessing, have helped with heavy lifting like marketing and getting the word out and spreading the news everywhere they can. Getting them to pick the book up was a wonder and just luck, like I mentioned before. It was from a blind submission to them via email, and Josh got back to me, told me how much he loved it, and that's where we are now. And I can't forget Alex for his logo and design assistance, Kit for her amazing help in getting stuff done, Johnnie for the lettering, and Shawn for his editing. I know I've been the voice and face, but there are so many amazing people behind the scenes (and I'm probably forgetting somebody).

TL: Now that your passion project is finalizing, what are you working on next?
CWC: I have SO many things going on right now. I have at least 4 active pitches out there at any given moment, two that I'm currently working on getting out there and hopefully both will be out there as creator-owned ongoing series as well. We shall see. Beyond that, I have a number of different stories I have to tell. I have science fiction, horror, romance, action, everything. I love comics and want to create for the rest of my life.

TL: Thank you for the great insight into how to break into comic book writing. You really provided some valuable resources. Is there anything you would like to add before you go?
CWC: It's been a hell of a ride so far and I'm just so happy for my friends, family, and fans for helping get me there. I'm especially happy to chat with you again as it's been FAR too long! But yeah, it's been a strange, wonderful trip, and I have one last thing to add for all the creative types and people who want to create or want to work in a creative field: Never give up. You might hear a million people telling you no and a million people telling you that you can't do it, but if you keep trying and keep working and keep growing as a writer or artist, you just might have a shot. Giving up means you won't do it. Trying means you just might. It took me 7 years of hard work, edits, changes, rewrites, and absolute luck to get where I am.

If you'd like to donate to Cooke's Kickstarter, click here. There's still one day left to contribute! You can also connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

Despite long lines and hot sun, L.A. Taco Festival 2014 was Boyle Heights success

August 16 LA Taco Fest (Courtesy of Instagram)
Neil and I boarded the Gold Line of the Los Angeles Metro on Saturday, August 16. It was blistering hot walking to the train station that afternoon, but we were excited about spending a day listening to live music and eating a ton of good Mexican food. We were headed to the Mariachi Plaza stop in Boyle Heights to attend the Fourth Annual L.A. Taco Festival, a fundraiser organized by Jovenes Inc., a non-profit organization that provides housing and support services for homeless youth. It is the largest event in Boyle Heights, an area of East Los Angeles.

Neil and I had premium wristbands which entitled us to tequila tastings and all you can eat tacos. The price of premium wristbands was $45, or $28 for those who purchased their tickets through LivingSocial. Beer, beverages, and other snacks were not included in the wristband price, but they were available for cash purchase. There was also an option for an all-you-can-eat tacos only wristband, which cost $20.

Before attending, I read that individual tacos could be purchased for $4 and that these tacos could only be purchased with taco tickets that were sold at the registration table, which often had a long line. However, upon arriving, I saw one vendor's sign that stated some tacos were being sold for $2 a piece, cash. Although this vendor was breaking the rules, many people didn't know that, and this price discrepancy seemed to bother some of the people around Neil and me.  Maybe next year to avoid any problems with people's perception of the price, the festival could include drinks and snacks with the AYCE price. This will give people the impression that they are getting more bang for their buck, and it will also eliminate any cash handling between the vendors and the festival attendees.
Awesome meat tacos from Tacos El Gallito 
Wandering around Mariachi Plaza, I was amazed at how many people were there. The lines to obtain tacos from each vendor appeared long and daunting, and actually waiting in line probably took fifteen to thirty minutes on average. It felt even longer because of the sun. Neil and I strategized that we would get our tacos and then immediately get in another line. This kept us not hungry, but it would've been nice to be able to sit and eat instead of waiting in line in the heat. I should state though that I actually had fun chatting with people around me, but they seemed pretty grumpy about how much they had paid with how much they actually got to eat. Some of them even complained about the quality of the food, but I thought it was good overall. It goes to show that even though this was a fundraiser, most people primarily cared about their actual experience, not the cause. (Hey, it's human nature.)
Long lines waiting for tacos. Photo by Neil
Un Solo Sol had mixed vegetable and cactus tacos
When Neil and I were done eating, we headed to the beer garden where there was a booth set up for tequila tasting. I should repeat that the price of a wristband for AYCE tacos was $20, and it cost $25 more to get the tequila tasting option. Unfortunately, to get tequila, again there was another long line.  I was disappointed that after waiting in line, the tequila tasting consisted only of two half shots of Don Fermin. Although the tequila was smooth and I liked the taste, even I, an optimist, could not justify the $25 cost of those two shots. Technically, I could have got into line again, but by then, I was too tired and Neil and I decided to call it a day.   

All in all, despite some flaws, I had a great time. The food at the event was authentic, and the energy there was lively. I think next year the festival should figure out ways to cut down on the lines or increase the number of vendors. Or the festival should just get rid of the AYCE wrist band and just allow vendors to charge whatever they want. I have high hopes that the relatively new L.A. Taco Festival will improve with time, and I definitely think Los Angelenos should travel to Boyle Heights more often and see what the area has to offer. It's a hidden gem in East Los Angeles, and there's more to it that should be explored. 

Didn't get to watch any short films so hung out in a porn shop instead: My tale of a Friday night

TEARING UP AT THE HOLLYSHORTS FILM FESTIVAL
On Friday, August 15, Neil and I met up at the TCL Chinese Theater in the evening to catch a screening of shorts at the Hollyshorts Film Festival. The event was held on the third floor of the historic theater in Hollywood, and my intention was to find new filmmakers to profile on The Daily T.Lo.

When Neil and I arrived at the festival, our eyes immediately watered, and I started to cough uncontrollably. Those around us had the same reaction so they evacuated the lobby, and we followed suit. We returned over an hour later and learned from a security guard that someone at the festival had been maced.

A stock photo representation of what it's like to get maced (Photo courtesy of RapGenius)
The remnants of the mace in the air that had caused everyone's adverse reactions had seemed to subside so I went to the check-in table to get press passes for Neil and me. There was a misunderstanding between me and the publicity person, and she couldn't accommodate Neil. We were bummed, but we left the festival and decided to wander Hollywood instead.

HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD WINDOW BROWSING
Some say the Hollywood Walk of Fame area is "dirty" and judging from a handmade sign politely asking strangers not to pee on the building's wall confirms this reputation. However, the dirtiness and embracing of vice may actually be the main draw of what makes the area so unique. While Neil and I were walking the few blocks down Hollywood Boulevard from Highland Avenue to Cahuenga Boulevard, we couldn't help but be entertained by the numerous tattoo parlors, discount t-shirt shops, lingerie boutiques, and drug paraphernalia stores. The businesses were colorful and creative, and everything for sale, which included Hello Kitty bongs and armored lingerie, was a reminder that in Hollywood you are free to be whoever you want to be. Just let your freak flag fly.



24/7 SEX SHOP
Neil and I decided that we still wanted to see a movie so we turned south onto Cahuenga Boulevard so that we could go to the Arclight Hollywood. For those unfamiliar with the Arclight, it is a massive movie theater complex and one of its theaters is literally inside of a giant dome which gives a panoramic movie watching experience. It's incredible.

Anyway, Neil and I were heading to the Arclight when I got distracted by a neon "Open" sign above the tinted door of a nondescript, windowless building with a sign that advertised it was an "Adult" store. "Let's go inside," I said, thinking it would be funny to go into a sex shop. "I don't think it's open," Neil said. "Its open light is on," I said. "But look inside. There's nothing in there," he said, referring to the blackened windows. We debated whether or not the store was open for a few minutes before one of us just tried to enter, and that's how we spent nearly thirty minutes inside of Hollywood's famous 24 hour sex store, Cahuenga Adult Video (1651 N. Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028.)

The entire time, we nervously giggled at the giant dildos, racially divided pornography titles, and the fact that the store had a VHS selection. However, we knew it was time for us to go when we could hear someone watching a porno inside of a private viewing room in the back. When we left, the rock star-looking cashier wished us a good night and told us that the store was open 24 hours a day, in case we wanted to come back. Being a small store, we knew that he could hear our immature conversation, and we also knew that we were probably one of the most stereotypical types of customers to wander into an adult shop. If we were a stereotype, then that meant that the storekeeper knew that one day one of us was going to come back. He was like the Yoda of porn shops.

THE GIVER
Finally, Neil and I arrived at The Arclight. Because it was late, we didn't have a ton of movie options so I suggested we watch The Giver because I liked the book when I was a child. The movie started off fairly strong, but after a while, there were too many plot holes and the story just didn't make any sense. I don't want to give any spoilers so I'll just say, "Read the book instead" and leave it at that.
Not really feeling this adaption...
Overall, although we didn't get to watch any short films at The Hollyshorts Festival, Neil and I were exposed to pornography and mediocre book adaptations so our night of supporting filmmakers was still a success!

Changing your mind isn't quitting: a story about fishing

As I have previously shared in my essay After The Flood, I grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas; and my parents owned a restaurant called China Garden. Although I think my parents liked the autonomy of owning their own business, the stress of it was hard on my family, particularly my father. He was angry a lot, and whenever I acted up (I was technically the "bad" kid because I was too opinionated), he would retort, "You think I want to work this hard? You think I like this? All I want is to go fishing!" Every time he would say his great want in life was to go fishing, I thought he was full of shit. After all, not only did it seem absurd to me that to fish was the life dream of someone who had a master's degree, a successful business, and assimilated to another country's culture; it seemed like a cop out.

In the past, my mother reaffirmed my disbelief with my father's words. She often said she wished that he didn't have to sacrifice his dream of being a scientist, and that he had to give up science to take care of his family.  However, never once did I hear my father say this. He talked proudly about his career as a physics teacher and of his time in school, but when those words escaped his mouth they were always past tense. They weren't passionate declarations of what he wanted, even though at the time, I thought they were. It wasn't until later in my life that I really grasped the concept of moving on.

Coffeyville under water 2007 (Courtesy of USA Today)
In 2007, my family lost China Garden in a freak flood that wiped out half of the town. After years of adjustment to the change in lifestyle, my parents have now retired and live close to my older sister, who resides in Kansas City. While owning a restaurant was stressful and manually tiring, they now enjoy every day seeing their grandchildren. My mother cooks for everyone, and my father spends hours fishing. Never once since he lost the restaurant did he make any serious steps to own a new business or go back into science. When he was finally able to have the freedom to live out his dreams, he actually lived out his dream, which was to fish; and every time I see him post a picture of him smiling with his catch of the day, I laugh a little and I almost tear up. Who was I to disbelieve his expressed want? Who was I to think he was "copping out" when really he was just being honest in a world that forces people to veer away from true happiness and chase superficial things?

My dad, my niece and my nephew show off their catches (Courtesy of Facebook)
People often ask me, "What do you want?" I tell them that I want to write, and this vague answer annoys them because it appears as if I have no career goals. Sometimes people try to push me to continue trying to "make it" as a big shot screenwriter because that's what I wanted seven years ago, and it is they, not me, that can't seem to let that concept go. But unlike my father, I am too much of a coward to say, "You think I want to politic with assholes? You think I want to work 60 hours a week with no life stability? I just want to laugh, wear sweatpants, and drink lattes." And maybe writing that sentence and sharing it with the world is my declaration of fishing.

My dad brings home dinner (Courtesy of Facebook)
The goal of fishing is different for everyone, but the general concept is to express what it is you truly want to do with your life and not what you started off doing, or what you think you should be doing, or what others think you should be doing. It took my father decades before he could retire and spend his days fishing, but I use his life as a model for my own decisions. For instance, would it really make sense for me to take a low paying job to obtain "connections" (I'm referring to entertainment jobs) when I could just take a  non-glamorous position that would give me the ability to save? Would it make sense for me to date a superficial man who wants me to doll myself up all the time? Would it make sense for me to allow people who hurt me to continue being in my life? Absolutely not to all three of these questions because they would stop me from my dream of laughing in sweatpants while drinking lattes.

My nephew wants some sushi (Courtsy of Facebook)
It hurts me when people think a woman has given up because she chose a family over a career. Maybe she "leaned in" and realized seeing her children grow was her fishing. Or maybe an athlete realized that he didn't want to go pro even though he had the talent. Maybe he wanted to be a musician instead. That was his idea of fishing. Maybe a couple doesn't want children and just wants to own a dog. That's fishing too. To those who think I'm advocating being less ambitious, I don't think you have yet grasped the concept of fishing. Fishing is about figuring out your heaven on earth, and your true paradise is often something simple.

In conclusion, whatever it is you want in life, it's okay to be honest about it. Most people will try to help you find a way to get your dream, and those who doubt you will one day be in awe of you the way that I am in awe of my father.

Approaching women this way will get you slapped

I walked to lunch the other day, and a shorter man in his fifties was walking towards me. He wore a ratty t-shirt and really shiny blue aviator shades, and the moment when we passed would've been like any other whatever moment until he jumped in front of me and said, "Hey, beautiful!" His abrupt hello startled me; and as he smiled creepily at me, I quickly collected myself and stepped to the side before hurrying along my way.

As I decompressed from his approach, I concluded that even if he was age appropriate and dressed as if he had a job, I still would not be interested because of his method of introduction. After all, Neil Strauss shared the secret of how to approach women in his how-to-be-a-player guide, Rules of the Game, and his advice was on point.  The secret to approaching women is to approach from the side so they will feel less threatened. Hopping right in front of me proved that this sunglassed man was not a learned man of Strauss and therefore he was not worth my time.
Not the guy, but close enough in creepiness. Photo courtesy of NowWhatTheHaps

Protect your personal information by opting-out of background check websites

Whether or not you're an open or a super private individual, your personal details are spread online on various websites that aggregate information from public records or your social media. If you don't believe me, just Google yourself and be horrified. By searching your name, information such as your address, address history, and family members can easily be found by anyone on the following websites:


  • Intelius.com
  • Acxiom.com
  • MyLife.com
  • ZabaSearch.com
  • Spoke.com
  • BeenVerified.com
  • PeekYou.com
  • USSearch.com
  • PeopleFinders.com
  • PeopleLookup.com
  • PeopleSmart.com
  • PrivateEye.com
  • WhitePages.com
  • USA-People-Search.com
  • Spokeo.com
  • PublicRecordsNow.com
  • DOBSearch.com
  • Radaris.com
  • Knowing all of these websites exist, how do you protect your privacy?

    Luckily, Reddit user LawyerCT compiled a handy list of how to opt-out, and the list can be found on Reddit. The post was submitted three years ago so some of the information is outdated. However, the list is still easy to navigate, although the process itself does take time because you have to go through each background check website one by one.

    The downside to all this work, however, is that it doesn't opt you out for the future. For instance, if you remove yourself from MyLife, but later, you buy a home, your home buying record will create a new record for you that will appear on all of these sites. Public records have always been public like their name suggests, but with the internet it is now way too easy to find information about someone. However it is not illegal for these websites to exist and they do offer free opt-out options so it looks as if these types of sites are never going away.

    How to get involved with your local writing community

    Writer and publisher of Burial Day Books, Cynthia Pelayo, provided a great interview for me two years ago about her life as a horror writer in Chicago. One of the things that I was most impressed with her was how involved she was with the writing community there, and she gave some awesome tips on how others can get involved with their local community. Here's an excerpt from her October 2012 interview:
    Cynthia Pelayo said, "I’m a big fan of readings! In Chicago, there are many locations, indie book shops, pubs, and restaurants that hold readings. First, reach out to your neighborhood bookstore, find out if they have a writers group or if they hold monthly readings. Attend those events, introduce yourself to those readers/writers. There are also writer’s workshops that are conducted for free sometimes at art centers, cultural centers, schools and libraries. Those are great place to meet other writers, and learn about the tools for writing – for free. Finally, get in touch with independent literary magazines or publications in your area seeking submissions. Local publications love local authors. 
    So, get involved in the writing community by going where the writers go – whether they’re readings or workshops and then reach out to publications looking for submissions in your area and submit your work! What’s the worst thing they can say? No.  
    Finally, get a few live readings of your work under your belt. If there aren’t any regular readings in your neighborhood, reach out to your favorite coffee shop, indie book shop or pub and see if you can schedule an event. Organize some folks to come and read their work to a live audience. They’re free to organize, as they bring people to the location, and reading your work to a live audience (while it sounds frightening) is a great learning experience."
    For more information about Pelayo, check out her website: http://www.cinapelayo.com/

    Top 9 websites to help you find an entertainment job!

    Although finding employment in the entertainment industry can be tough if you don't hear of anything through your network of friends;  there are luckily several job boards that exist with plenty of legitimate opportunities. The following nine websites are the top ones that I personally use or that my friends use to find entertainment work. So in no particular order:
    1. LinkedIn: I like how LinkedIn has many professionals of all industries on its site, and I like how everyone's profile showcases their resume, skills, and network. When LinkedIn began to offer the feature of finding and applying for jobs, that added even more value to the site. I've applied for a ton of writing-related jobs using LinkedIn (mostly copywriting and social media gigs), and one feature that I'm a fan of is that they notify you when a recruiter reads your resume. Bonus that I know several people who have been recruited for new jobs with their LinkedIn profile.   
    2. Facebook: Finding work through your own network is usually the most powerful tool to finding a job. Since Facebook's primary purpose is to connect you with friends, it's naturally a great place to find work because often times it's your friends who are advertising that they are looking for staff. Besides using your own friend list, try to target alumni groups or filmmaking communities. Often those pages list job opportunities. 
    3. Craigslist: Craigslist is the wild west of job hunting. For every unpaid gig or porn listing, there are a few gems hidden in the mix. The important thing when job hunting through Craigslist is to be discerning. Is the listing detailed and written well? Does the person who responds to your query sound professional? Trust your gut when proceeding, but you would be surprised about how many legit opportunities can be found there. 
    4. MediaBistro: I look for copywriting, journalism, and ghost writing opportunities through MediaBistro, and most of the major publications, networks, and online companies post here. A great feature to the site is that it's easy to apply for multiple job listings, and they email you a confirmation with each submission. Plus, Mediabistro is not just a job search site. It has various blog posts about the media industry, and it's an insightful website for writers to check out. 
    5. EntertainmentCareers:This website has a ton of listings for assistant jobs in the entertainment industry. It also has listings for other areas of entertainment, although maybe not as many. For instance, if you're looking for an advertising job, MediaBistro usually has a larger selection; and the same can be said for casting notices. Check out Infolist or Nowcasting instead. 
    6. TrackingB:To gain access to TrackingB's job listings, you have to pay a subscription fee. I found that the fee is worth it. However, they also have pretty kick ass writing contests and if you enter two or more scripts, they give you a year's subscription for free. TrackingB is great because it lists a lot of assistant jobs, and it also provides industry posts about who got hired where and what scripts are being sold and by whom. 
    7. Mandy: I worked for one season as an office production assistant, but ultimately, I knew that production was not where my interests were. However, the people I know who do job searches for production gigs use Mandy when they aren't just being personally referred. Mandy has a mix of unpaid and paid work, and not only can you find professional gigs on there, but often student film projects or other independent endeavors. 
    8. Infolist: Jeffrey Gund started Infolist to share entertainment opportunities for whoever wanted them, and I'm a big fan of his newsletter. On his website and his newsletter, he posts a ton of casting notices as well as party invitations, script requests, or free classes. This list is especially useful to anyone who wants to be on a reality show or do acting in commercials. 
    9. NowCasting:I've never used NowCasting because I'm not an actress, but when I was in film school, this website was a popular recommendation for student filmmakers looking for actors. Since the website only offers access to members, I have no idea who is on here, but it seems worth it to check out if you're an actor.