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I had been in L.A. for three weeks, and here I was, thirty feet from Christopher Nolan.
It was September 2008. The Dark Knight had just swept audiences everywhere away. My best friend and I went to see the movie twice. Other friends of mine went to see it four, five, even seven times. I could not remember a movie this popular since Titanic.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) was hosting an event celebrating Nolan’s first film, an indie feature about stalkers entitled Following. After the showing of Following, a Q & A with Chris was promised.
This was the real draw for me and my aspiring screenwriter friends. We wanted to learn everything from the incredible cinematic storyteller who, along with his ingenious brother Jonathan, had given the world the ridiculously popular Memento, The Prestige, and the 2000s Batman series.
During the Q & A, Chris was asked how he approached writing and directing. My friends and I leaned in close, eager for Chris’s secret.
“I don’t ascribe to any particular theory. I just try to be the audience.”
After I heard this secret, I spent six years learning screenwriting, TV writing, and novel writing in and out, from both sides of the industry, all with the focus on developing what Chris claimed was his secret into a practical, learnable method that would help writers in any genre.
To teach screenwriters, TV writers, and novelists how to apply the secret Chris spoke of to their work, I wrote my book, The Popular Writer’s Code.
You can learn to apply his secret, and possibly find incredible success, with my book’s help.
I can smell the dandelions’ scent dancing in the air around me, as I feel my husband’s arms around for me for the first time in months. We watch our kids, Bobby, our fifth grade genius, and Carly, our third grade super-athlete, play Nerf Wars, and I just know that this blissful weekend will save Ryan and my’s stagnant marriage, and keep us together for our kids.
Yet I can’t shake the feeling that we’re being watched. I keep turning my head to look into the woods by our lake house. I know that this is a very private community, and that people are literally only here when they’re vacationing for the weekend, so it makes no sense for someone to be there. I tell myself it’s just my nerves.
“Mom!” Bobby yells, running up to me with his nerf gun. He quickly glances back to see where Carly is – about a football field away from him – and then leans forward and conspiratorially whispers to me.
“I need you to tell me how to beat Carly,” he says.
“You know I don’t play favorites, sweetie,” I tell him.
“But she’s so much better at sports than I am!” he whines. “She has a way unfair advantage.”
Ryan and I laugh, and I quickly glance back at the woods again, thinking I’ve felt someone watching again, before I lean over onto my knees and beckon for Bobby to come close where I can whisper to him.
“Here’s what you do,” I tell him. “Pick a hiding place when you know she isn’t looking. She’ll then come looking for you.”
“But how will I see her so I can shoot her?” Bobby prods, using that cute, but somewhat impertinent intellect of his.
“It’s not important for you to see her until you shoot her,” I say. “Listen for her. Keep your gun ready, hand on the trigger. But here’s the thing,” I continue, speaking even more softly as I see Carly running up to me. “If she’s walking consistently, listen for the direction in which she’s walking. If she’s walking left, shoot a couple feet to the left of where you hear her. Same thing if she’s going right.”
“Thanks!” Bobby says with a smile, before tagging Carly and yelling at her to come on and play.
“Not yet, you lil’ nuisance!” Carly yells at him, before turning to me and whispering. “Mom, Bobby’s so much smarter than me. He has an unfair advantage in our game. Can you help me beat him?”
Ryan and I trade smiles – this kind of thing is why we love our kids, among a million other reasons.
I lean forward and whisper in Carly’s ear.
“Walk so he won’t be able to hear where you are,” I say. “Barely let your feet leave the ground, and lead with your heels. Don’t shuffle, though. You wait for him to show himself, by trying to hear you. Then, you snipe him.”
“Cool!” Carly yells, before running out toward the lake only to see no sign of Bobby.
Carly looks back at me with disbelief.
“He’s hiding!” I say. “Go play!”
Carly shrugs, then smiles, and begins walking stealthy, just as I taught her.
“You sounded like a professional Nerf gun shooter,” Ryan tells me, apparently finding this an excuse to put his arms around me again.
“Nope, just an observant Mom,” I counter. In this moment I stop worrying so much. I wonder if Ryan and I will share our first kiss in months. I think that maybe he hasn’t noticed how much I’ve changed from the woman he married, or that maybe he even likes the woman I am now.
It is a perfect day…and the kids are distracted, for the moment…
Ryan puts his finger under my chin and bliss fills me. I’m so ready to make out like we’re back in college when his damn phone starts ringing.
“Hold right there,” he says, smiling, before picking it up. “Oh, hello,” he says, before giving me a ‘hold on a minute’ signal with his index finger and walking several steps away.
I watch him, fantasizing like a school-girl, or maybe a frustrated house-wife. When did I become that? It snuck up on me. All of a sudden I’d read all the Fifty Shades Of Grey books in the time I used to spend kissing my husband.
A minute passes and he comes back, hitting the END button on his phone.
“I have to go,” he says, “ a member of the church’s gone into cardiac arrest. They want me to pray with them.”
“Do you have to?” I beg. It’s not like his prayer’s going to be the magic touch, I want to tell him, but I don’t want to hear him give me a speech of how little faith I have again.
“They need the Holy spirit. I need to be there to help them find it. God could save him,” Ryan says, before waving bye and running over to the truck. We didn’t even drive over here together because of him having to stay at church late. This whole day’s added up to a grand hour of family time.
I look back to Carly and Bobby. I don’t see either of them. I guess Carly decided to hide too. I walk down the open grass in front of the glimmering lake, passing the dense woods to the side, searching for every hideout Carly and Bobby could be using.
I only find a clump of bushes and a kind of tall tree to hide behind, and neither of them are there. Neither of them could’ve gotten inside the lake-house, given we had it locked and they had no chance to take either Ryan’s or my keys.
Where the hell are they?
The only other possibility is that they hid in the woods. I take a few trudges into the woods, a frightened feeling building in my gut.
“Bobby! Carly!” I yell. “Game’s over, guys! I need to see both of you, NOW!”
I wait a few seconds that feel like eternities, but hear no responses. I start breathing deep, trying to calm myself. They’re probably just playing around. I remember that I had the instinct we were being watched by someone who was in the woods earlier, but then assure myself that I really was just being paranoid. Everything is okay, I promise myself.
“Bobby, Carly, come out now!” I yell again.
I wait another minute and still don’t hear anything. They must be deeper in the woods, I tell myself. I push through a few branches and reach a small clearing. There’s a trace of a little pond here, that leads through the woods directly into the lake. I think for a moment that Bobby and Carly might have just decided to go swimming, and decided not to tell me.
I begin to follow the trace of the pond when I stumble over a blackened tree stump. My yellow sundress, the “I’m still hot even though we’ve been married for eleven years” outfit I planned for Ryan today, is stained, and ruined, just like this day is progressively becoming.
I spend another hour searching through the entire woods. There’s no sign of either of my children in them.
I drop down onto the grass and just sit and cry, feeling helpless. Where are my children?
Where are your children? is what you’re probably wondering, aren’t you, Jessica?
They’re loud little fuckers, by the way. You’re not at all good at disciplining them. It surprises me, given everything I know about you.
“SHUT UP!” I scream at them, for the fifteenth time. “Shut up, or I’ll do it harder!”
“I’m not scared of you!” Bobby yells at me, though his voice tells me otherwise.
“You will be when it’s your turn,” I snap at him.
“No! I’ll take Carly’s punishment for her, just don’t hurt her! Don’t hurt my sister!” Bobby screams.
I get the punishment ready for Carly, then glare at Bobby.
“It doesn’t work that way, Bobby. Everyone gets what they deserve. It’s just, see your Mom – will never fully get the wrath she deserves. So I have to give some of that wrath to you. It’s just math, you see!”
Carly screams as I get ready to deliver more wrath to her. This weapon is so genius.
I’m sitting on the ground and sobbing my eyes out.
I can’t bear this. Bobby, my little genius, could be gone forever. You only count all the blessings that the people closest to you bring into your life when things are in jeopardy. Like his love of dancing to old 80s pop songs, and the way he and I sometimes make up goofy moves together, which I know he’ll hate doing when he’s older, and it’ll be this story I embarrass him with…
…I think, as I’m reminded that I may never see Bobby when he’s older.
Or the way he loves to read, like me, and his eyes look green in the light, just like mine, when he reads. I’ve been giving him classic books from my collection for years now. Mom, when can I read Ivanhoe? Only once you’ve proven you can handle Great Expectations, I tease him…
…or used to tease him. I may never tease him again.
Then there’s Carly. Such a tom-boy now, asking me to help her hit softball better so she can beat all the boys. I was the same way. I’ve wondered often about how I’ll explain to her, when she’s in middle school, that the boys won’t like her if she beats them. How awkward a conversation that’s going to be, but it might get her her first date, her first kiss in the rain with someone. I’ll listen to all her boy problems, then cheer her on at her sports matches…
…if, of course, she’s still even fucking alive. Someone literally could’ve killed them by now.
And I have no idea who. What can I do?
I’m jarred from my thoughts by the sound of my phone vibrating. I hesitate, thinking it’s Ryan, not wanting to tell him what’s happened.
I pull it out of my pocket and see that it’s a text message from a number I don’t recognize.
Now you’ll know what it feels like to lose the people you love, it says. That’s all.
I stand up as the sadness inside of me turns into boiling anger.
I know why this has happened. Over the last five years, I’ve feared that the life I lead when my kids are at school and my husband’s at work would come back to haunt me. Today’s been the manifestation of my greatest nightmare.
Someone close to one of my targets wants revenge against me.
But that person has to know that they are dealing with the best hit-woman in the United States. And I’m going to come after them with everything I have. The life of my kids, and any hope of my family knowing bliss again, depends on it.
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All content © Michael J. Wood, 2016. All rights reserved.
The beginning of Jenna Roberts’ tell-all, Housewife/Hitwoman:
I’m hanging upside down from the Batman building in Nashville’s top tower. All I can think of is how I got here – and how my son and daughter will react when they read my obituary and discover the truth about me.
My intentions were good, my objectives simple. I wanted to do more for the world than just be a good Mom. Actually, this decision came from a desire to be an even better Mom – to protect my children, even when they weren’t playing in my yard. I wanted them to grow up in a better world than I did.
So, in short, that’s why I decided to try to kill the governor.
I have a confession to make: I am desperately trying to get your attention.
I know that sounds weird. I only wrote it because, like I said, I needed to write something to get your attention.
I’m a solopreneur, and I believe in myself. I’ve written three eBOOKs that I really love and care about the fate of.
And I have been spending nearly two years struggling to reach the people I wrote them for.
According to Facebook, you, logically speaking, are “Interested” in stuff related to my books. For my sci-fi thriller, Quantum Love, I’ve been trying to reach people who like fast-paced novels, time travel, quantum physics, love stories, theoretical physics, The Law Of Attraction, psychokinesis – all elements which figure heavily in the book’s plot.
For my thriller novella, Worst Nightmare, I’ve been trying to reach people who are interested in horror-thriller, action-thriller books or movies, like Goosebumps, or Jurassic Park.
For my nonfiction eBOOK tell-all about my Hollywood/film industry experiences, The Popular Writer’s Code, I’ve been trying to reach screenwriters and fiction writers.
And I am struggling. I gotta be honest with you. It has been nearly impossible to get more than 1% of anyone who sees my Facebook ad to give me a few seconds of their time. I can’t make a living that way. And I so badly feel that writing is the best gift I have to give, but, the world runs on money, so I can’t afford to give my books away for free.
I know you don’t know me and you have no inherent investment in my success, because you have your own life and time to worry about. But I honestly, genuinely wrote these books with the pure intention of entertaining audiences, and it’s just been killing me inside to not be able to reach the people I’ve so desperately wanted to provide an entertaining experience for.
If you have a few moments to spare, here are what my books are about, one by one. There’ll be a link to read a sample underneath each of the books. In that sample, there’s a link to buy the book. Yes, I’m selling something. But I’m not a marketer. I’m only marketing because I have to.
Here are the books:
In Quantum Love, the power of scientific advances has created a war for the fate of the world. Evil scientists may have the power to kill masses of people without a trace. The good scientists may have the power to save the world from cancer, the most dire of illnesses.
A full out war between good and evil ensues between both sides.
You can read the beginning of Quantum Love by clicking on the link below:
Imagine you went to a psychic, who told you you were going to meet your soulmate – on the very night you were destined to die. Imagine the universe then tried to kill you in every way it could.
That’s the way Worst Nightmare begins.
You can read it here: Worst Nightmare
If you want to write a popular movie, an addictive TV show, or a best-selling novel, it makes the most sense to learn the tricks of the writers who have written them.
The Popular Writer’s Code analyzes movies, TV series, and novels that were commercial phenomenons, including Harry Potter, The Sopranos, The Da Vinci Code, and more. The book breaks down the techniques of these blockbusters and bestsellers, teaching you clear, practical methods to help you write your own blockbuster or bestseller – as well as showcasing real-world lessons from Hollywood that I learned the hard way.
Check out the samples below:
Here are examples of the testimonials the book has been receiving from buyers:
“This is a must read for all screenwriters. Gives you straightforward advice to help put the necessary touches on your creative masterpiece to make it “Hollywood” ready. In this book, Michael Wood shares his own professional experiences and all that he learned @ USC’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts. We are blessed to be writers. Reading this book may just be the necessary ingredient to propelling your writing career forward.” —Brian G.
“This book is a great script writing tool. Succinctly written yet packed with so much information and examples that’ll it’ll form part of my reference library and be constantly referred to. Its easy to read and understand building blocks integrate into a comprehensive step by step process from beginning to end. Well-presented and very explicit covering all aspects of scriptwriting. An excellent reference book for beginner and professional alike.” – David A.
Thanks for your time.
Everything you need to know about the realities of the competitive industry you’re fighting to get into is revealed in my tell-all: The Popular Writer’s Code
Why You Will (Or Won’t) Succeed As A Screenwriter
What you need to know about why you will or won’t succeed as a screenwriter is revealed in my tell-all from my industry experiences: The Popular Writer’s Code Beginning
- “Knock Knock.” (Who’s there?) “I can’t – uh, tell you.” (Why?) “‘Cause seeing you’s taken my breath away.”
- “Do you need a ride back to the North Pole?” (Person will probably ask, ‘wtf’, but then you’d say…) “Cause I know I’m not supposed to get the best present ever till Christmas.”
- “Hold up, we gotta take you to the Doctor, NOW!” (person is going to be like, wtf, why?) “‘Cause your angel wings got knocked off, we gotta get you stitches!”
- “Why did the chicken cross the road?” …”Cause your fine ass was on the other side.”
- “How many white guys does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” (How many?) “Infinity, because they’re all going to be checking you out why they try to do it.”
An even more hilarious one awaits you here: