The Good Dinosaur is Better

good dinoI finally watched The Good Dinosaur, and while I may be in the minority here, I felt it was a better movie than Inside Out. You may be surprised by this statement–I was certainly surprised by the revelation.


Seeing the previews, I kind of thought the movie was just going to be a cutesy story about a kid and a dinosaur. Really, the kid doesn’t even need to be there. He ads to the movie’s emotional pull for sure, but the story could have been largely the same without him. But that doesn’t matter. What this story is really about is the dinosaur losing a parent, getting lost, and then finding his way home.

Sound familiar? Of course it does, because it’s the plot of a lot of movies. But most importantly, it’s very similar to the plot of a very famous and amazing dinosaur movie, The Land Before Time. And this is probably one reason I liked this movie so much.  (more…)

Layla Marie Hunter and the WGF Veterans Writing Project


616Wb8YEq0L._UX250_As another session of the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project approaches, I thought I’d highlight a previous attendee. Please let me introduce you to Layla Marie Hunter. Military veteran, and writer!

  1. Tell us about your military experience and how you see this helping you in Hollywood.

I served in the Navy and even though my service was cut short due to an injury it has instilled the utmost respect for ethics and ambitions.

  1. When you were transitioning out, did you have any idea you wanted to go creative? What were some early steps you took to make this transition?

I’ve always been an artistic person and have always wanted to get into that area but with living in Ohio, the idea of it seemed far fetched until, years later, I moved to Los Angeles. A fellow VFT member told be about the program and about 3 months after applying my life and my writing techniques were set on to a different course.


We’ve launched the Military Veterans in Creative Careers PODCAST!

MVICC podcast logoWe’re happy to announce that we’ve launched the podcast titled MILITARY VETERANS IN CREATIVE CAREERS.

iTunes || Googleplay (coming soon) || Simplecast.Fm 

This is a podcast where we discuss how veterans can transition into creative careers such as writing, acting, directing, producing, and even sometimes art and dance. We bring on amazing interviewees, and I’m sure you will love it!

Check it out, and leave a review please. Thanks!

And to celebrate, I’ve dropped the price of the Military Veterans in Creative Careers book to $0.99 – so now’s the time to get it if you haven’t yet!

Nook || Kindle || iBooks

The print and audiobook are now available!


Who are we?

Tom-Morkes-headshot3Tom Morkes is the CEO of Insurgent Publishing, a book publishing and marketing company responsible for numerous bestselling books, the author of “The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing,” and the creator of, a community, training program, and book launch platform for indie and self-publishers.

Tom has marketed and published books that have been featured on Forbes, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, as well as have reached USA Today, Amazon, and other international bestselling lists. Tom is considered a thought leader on growth hacking, pricing, and digital products and has been interviewed or featured on leading publications, including Forbest, Business Insider,, and where he’s been featured alongside the people behind Twitter, Dropbox, and Apple.

Tom is also the co-founder of, a website devoted to helping veterans make the transition from military to business and entrepreneurship.

Tom is a West Point grad, Iraq War veteran, and spent his last year in the Army in a Special Forces Airborne unit where he got paid to jump out of helicopters.


Trevor Scott VeteranTrevor Scott is a Los Angeles-based actor who has appeared on television shows such as Criminal Minds (CBS), Enlisted (Fox), Days of Our Lives (NBC), The Young & The Restless (CBS), and General Hospital (ABC), and has had lead roles in the films Zulu 6, Book of Choices, and Texas Zombie Wars. He has appeared in numerous national commercials as well. Trevor recently was seen starring on stage in “Tracers,” directed by John Difusco and co-produced by Rogue Machine Theatre and USVAA. L.A. Weekly declared the play their “Pick of the Week,” singling out Trevor’s performance as “particularly compelling.” Trevor holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Loyola Marymount University and has also studied at Lesly Kahn, Margie Haber, and The Groundlings. In addition to his acting career, Trevor served five years in the 1-506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division in the U.S. Army, completing tours in both Ramadi, Iraq and Wardak Province, Afghanistan as an Infantry Sergeant.


Justin Sloan HeadshotJustin Sloan is a video game writer on such titles as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, as well as a novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of such fiction books as Falls of Redemption and non-fiction as Military Veterans in Creative Careers. He studied writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing program and at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s Professional Program in Screenwriting. Justin is also a co-host on the Self Publishing Answers podcast.

Justin was in the Marines for five years and has lived in Japan, Korea, and Italy. He currently lives with his amazing wife and children in the Bay Area, where he writes and enjoys life.



New Podcast: Creative Writing Career

CWC Podcast Logo_v3If you’re anything like me, you love podcasts. But hey, even if you’ve never heard one, you at least have an interest in either writing or understanding a bit more about writers, right?

Lucky you, because we just launched the CREATIVE WRITING CAREER podcast!

So far, we’ve interviewed or have scheduled such folks as Elias Madias (Shadow of Mordor), Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides), Matthew Ritter (Telltale Games, comics, and indie Games),  Jazon Denzel ( and publishing with Tor), Will Wight (The Traveler’s Gate trilogy), Lee Jessup (Getting it Write, Screenwriting coach), and Linda Poitevin (Sins of Angels), and more.

Find it on iTunes or through your android podcast search. You can also find it at Please remember to share and leave a review!

Hosts: Stephan Bugaj, Justin Sloan, and Kevin Tumlinson

Launch date: November 2, 2015


How to Prepare for the Austin Film Festival

AFFAre you going to the #AFF2015?

I’m super excited for the Austin Film Festival this year – for one, I’ll be a panelist, which should be fun (catch me Friday morning at 10:45 am on the Writing in Games panel, and Saturday at 9:00 am at the Roundtable), but also because the Live Scriptnotes panel is supposed to have some AMAZING guests, and I can already taste the BBQ. Yum!

Many of my friends and acquaintances have asked me questions about how the film festival works, what to do to prepare, and how to see what movies are available. Therefore, I want to delve deeper into the Austin Film Festival, for those of you with this question.

In general you should prepare to have fun and drink lots of coffee. The first time I went, I was exhausted! Of course, I stayed a mile away at the Super 8 (I think it was only $70 a night there). Regardless, you will be running around to different presentations, and in some of the smaller rooms (like the one where one of the Pixar presentations was held when I attended), you will be standing.

In the Driskill Bar and other networking locations, such as the special parties if you have the Conference or Producers badge, the celebrity writers seem totally cool with you approaching them. I think they look at this as the reason they are there. If they didn’t want to be approached, they would find their own spot with the other writers and ditch us wannabes. When you approach them, be friendly. Maybe just a “Hi, my name is X, and I appreciate your work. I just wanted to say hello. I am incredibly excited about your upcoming film Y. What are your thoughts on BLAH BLAH?” That could work, but what you should NOT do is try to pitch them your story ideas. Chat, be friendly, and politely dismiss yourself after 30 seconds or so, unless they seem to be having a blast and you think you might have just met your BFF. If you do meet your new BFF networking with a celebrity like this, introduce me and let’s go grab some drinks in that special secret bar somewhere!

For films, I recommend you go to the ones with filmmakers in attendance (as stated on the schedule). Otherwise, you might as well see the film at the theater back home or on Netflix, right? But here in Austin you get actors and directors to talk to you about the process, and maybe do the Q&A. That is awesome! But you must arrive at the theater 30 minutes or so in advance, because there are often lines. For the Vince Gilligan script reading with Will Ferrell, I was just at the cutoff point—and it was a two-hour line, if not longer. You will have to juggle your time between attending the presentations you really want to attend and getting to the theater in time. I had free time when I missed presentations I wanted to see, but my fellow attendees and I ended up making this free time our dinner or beer time, so it was not a total loss.

Presentations are the meat of the Austin Film Festival. Go to them, take notes, learn your craft, and introduce yourself to the person beside you. I would say you should not miss the following speakers if you see their names come up in any event descriptions: Craig Mazin, John August, Ashley Miller, and Terry Rossio (there are many more events you should attend, but I am highlighting some of my top picks). The schedule varies from year to year, but a good place to check is in the DoneDealPro forums. Someone will always be discussing the Austin Film Festival there.

The special parties are wonderful for networking, especially since the price of the beer is generally included with the badge. John August was the host of the first party I attended my first year, which meant he was hanging out talking to everyone. (He must have been so tired by the end of the night.) John was super friendly, and I am glad I got the special badge that allowed me to attend his party. That said, the Driskill bar is perfect for networking and does not require one of the more expensive badges to get in. You may find you want to stay the whole weekend on a couch in the bar, and I would not blame you. Some of the parties get way too crowded for my blood, so you will probably see me at the couch next to you if that is where you end up.

The roundtables are worth attending, because you sit at a table with just you and a few other wannabes and talk with professional writers almost one-on-one (taking turns). You sit at one table and the professionals rotate, so you are able to meet with three or so different professionals in the one hour you are in the room. One year I was able to talk with some folks from Pixar, and they were super helpful. Next I spoke with some television writers, which was educational even though I had never heard of them nor had I watched their shows. So there is that element of potentially not knowing who the experts are, but it cannot be avoided because you are not able to pick which professionals come to your table. You are allowed to sign up for just one of these sessions, but if you go to the others you may be able to get in to more. Furthermore, second-rounders and above in the screenplay contest are able to attend two roundtables (their special one and one regular roundtable event).

If you enter the screenplay contest and make it through to the second round or beyond, there are events just for you. From what I have seen, these events do not seem to differ too much from the regular events. A problem with them some years is that they are mostly or all on Friday, which is unfortunate for those of us just going for the weekend. If you can attend the “First Ten Pages” event with Lindsay Duran, do so. You will likely learn that, while you may have made the top 10% or higher, you and the others there still have a long way to go.

The Austin Film Festival pitch event made me a bit nervous at first, but after I was done it was quite fun. You sit in a small room with about thirty people and listen to them pitch. Then you get your turn, so you stand in front of them and a table with a couple of judges (one of mine didn’t show up), and get one minute to pitch. They are strict with that minute, but if you talk California-fast like I do, you do not have to worry about the timing, you just have to worry about sounding nervous. If you pass this round, you can compete in the pitch finale at a bar in front of many more people. Either way you should attend this party, and get there early. One year we even got to see John August and Ashley Miller, among others, perform a little pitch game.

The awards lunch will certainly inspire you, but beware—they seem to seat newbies in the back where you can’t see. My first year, I had pillars and waiters in my way for half the lunch, and even when my view was not obstructed I could not make out the faces of the presenters. Everyone at my table was a first-timer. I had to look at the program to see the name of the famous actor who was talking to me (it was Robert Patrick, the T-1000 in Terminator 2, by the way). The food was great, and they had a nice presentation in honor of Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption). I would consider going again for sure if I had the Conference or Producers badge so I could be sure to meet and mingle with even more great people.

Speaking of the great people you will meet there, my first year at the festival Richard Michael Lucas (a second-rounder in 2012) kind of served as my Austin Film Festival mentor. He has attended the CS Expo eight times (considered by some to be the Austin Film Festival’s competitor due to competing time slots), and this year will be his third time attending the Austin Film Festival. He had the following advice to pass on:

“I think for the first year/time, it’s good to get out of the hotel environment at night, go to the parties, explore a little of the city, and meet a ton of people. It’s good for balance. During the day, you will have plenty of time for seminars, panels, impromptu lunch meetings, and networking. After year one, this type of exposure makes it much easier to reevaluate your strategy, strengthen friendships made, plan, and focus on a narrower set of goals. Be polite, professional, and open to making connections on multiple levels; even professional writers. Honor the professionals’ time and efforts. They’re exposing themselves and sharing great info. Respecting them as people is important in keeping the overall vibe of Austin Film Festival positive. Focus on craft and relationships. Ninety-nine percent of the time, deals are not made at a festival by anyone. But long-lasting impressions are!”

In conclusion: go and have fun, but do not attend thinking that you are going to sell yourself or necessarily advance your career. That said, you might do both. It happens. And if you want to know what to bring, I recommend the following:

** Business Cards: Best for handing to other writers at your level, to keep in touch. Not so much for the experts—Craig Mazin may think you are a tool if you try to give him one.

** Comfortable shoes: For walking all over and standing long hours.

** Tylenol: In case you drink too much at the Driskill bar.

** Cool clothes: It was pretty warm last year (high 70s to low 80s, if I recall correctly).

** A prepared pitch, in case anyone asks. Make it conversational, so you don’t sound like a robot. And don’t try to pitch everyone. Instead, be ready to talk about your script if someone asks; because I’m pretty sure someone will (even if it is just me).

So that’s it! And what else excites me this year? Well, Elias Madias (Shadow of Mordor) will be on the same panel with me, and we interviewed him for theCreative Writing Career podcast! Be sure to check it out in preparation for the festival.

NOTE: This was taken from my book, CREATIVE WRITING CAREER,though revised and updated.

The 2015 Austin Film Festival Schedule is LIVE!

AFFWhile I may have missed last year’s Austin Film Festival (AFF) due to having a baby, I consider myself an annual attendee. Well this year is special for me, because I will be a panelist. I look forward to seeing you all there, and especially at the barbecue! To see my panels, click here. 
Here are some highlights I’m seeing for this year’s festival:


Featured Writer: Paul Zeidman

Paul ZAs many of you may recall, I interviewed Paul Zeidman a while back for my blog and the follow-up book, Creative Writing Career. To keep you up to date and share what these awesome writers are up to now, I started a “Featured Writer” section of my blog, and am happy to share Paul’s updates below.

Check out his blog at MaximumZ. 


Supporting Operation Supply Drop with My Book

osd cupA few years back I realized I could no longer ignore my creative passions, and that I never should have ignored them to begin with. The problem was that, when exiting the military, I had no idea what it meant to actually make a career out of what I loved to do. Now I am living the dream, or at least my dream, as a writer on the games Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead at Telltale Games, as well as a novelist and screenwriter.

It is with this in mind that I’ve set out to ensure others no longer have their doubts. Too often the problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, but I’ve written my advice and interviewed military veterans who have gone on to follow their dreams. Many have succeeded, and many have at least seen progress toward success. Regardless, all are doing what they love, and they have shared their stories and advice with us in my book, Military Veterans in Creative Careers.

Nook || Kindle || iBooks


Featured Writer: Mark Simborg

DrivingAs many of you may recall, I interviewed Mark Simborg a while back for my blog and the follow-up book, Creative Writing Career. To keep you up to date and share what these awesome writers are up to now, I thought I would start a “Featured Writer” section of my blog, where I’ll check in with a writer every week or two, and let you all know what they are up to. So here goes – welcome Mark!



Veterans in Creative Careers: Thomas Hennessy, Filmmaker (Navy)

Thomas HThomas Hennessy was born September 17th, 1976 in Blue Island, Illinois, USA. He is a writer/director and cinematographer, along with occasional actor, best known for directing the feature films What We Can’t Have and Another Time, his supporting role in Nick Broomfield’s Battle for Haditha, and his work with Cloud Imperium Games.

Find interviews like this one on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast (more…)