By Monica Alonzo
By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Robrt L. Pela
Then, one morning, Nobel's husband, Jerry Williams, noticed a small item in the Arizona Republic's business page. A publishing house in New York City was launching a new line of romance novels at Wal-Mart. They'd be cheaper than the usual books — and, Williams pointed out triumphantly, they were to be shorter, too. He urged her to give the publishing world another chance.
Nobel grudgingly agreed, vowing it would be the last time.
"On Monday afternoon, I packaged it up and sent it out," she remembers. "On Thursday, as I was coming in from the grocery store, my phone rang."
"This is Kensington Publishing in New York City," the caller said.
Nobel thought it was a friend from her writing group, pranking her.
"No, really," the caller said. "We'd like to publish your book."
And that was that; Nobel became a published authoress, albeit under the name of "Natasha Dunne." ("That's how romance writers do it," she explains.)
Except that wasn't that, not really. As any modern author will tell you, getting published is only half the battle. These days, publishing houses almost never pay for book tours — and all but the highest-profile authors get little, if anything, in the way of a marketing campaign. If you want to sell your book, you have to market yourself. (No one else is going to do it.) You have to press the flesh. (People need a reason to give your book a chance, and a personal entreaty, while awkward, often does the trick.)
In Nobel's case, she had to do it at Wal-Mart. Her writing group friends were downright snobbish: "Do you realize where you'll have to sign those books?" Nobel wasn't nearly so picky.
It wasn't easy.
She bought a "dynamite" suit, she says, but still felt invisible. One day, sitting behind her table with a stack of books, a woman approached with a child in a shopping cart. She pointed at Nobel, a huge grin on her face.
"I thought, somebody has finally recognized me as an author," Nobel says. "And then she reached right over my head for a can of Cheez Doodles."
But Nobel eventually learned how to compete with Wal-Mart's array of bulk cleaning supplies and Jessica Simpson CDs and, well, Cheez Doodles. She learned that you can't just sit there, playing the big-time author. Instead, she'd walk up to shoppers with a smile and flier — "they may not buy your book there, but they'll follow up later."
Her friendliness paid off. "At my first Wal-Mart store, I sold two books," she says. "In my last one, I sold 102 in two hours."
The lessons came in handy when Nobel was finally able to publish the first Kendall O'Dell mystery. Plenty of publishers were willing to take her book after her success as Natasha Dunne, but Nobel was savvier this time. She didn't like the idea of getting pennies per book even as she did all her own marketing.
She and her husband decided to start their own small publishing house. Jerry Williams is a gold and silver broker, so he knows business. And Nobel had certainly learned how to sell her writing.
They hired an artist to design the book jacket and a Chicago-based distributor to help place it. Then they printed 10,000 copies, nervous about whether they'd sell any.
Using the lessons she learned as a romance writer, Nobel barnstormed Arizona, selling the book from under an "EZ UP" canopy at craft fairs and local festivals. She (successfully) begged for shelf space at Barnes & Noble. She even hawked books at Sky Harbor Airport.
Thanks to her hard work, the book found an audience that spanned generations. Nobel heard from a number of readers who were pleased that she'd eschewed sex and violence. One woman wrote Nobel to advise that she'd shared her copy with her daughter and her mother. "She wrote, 'Three generations of us have enjoyed this book,'" Nobel says, adding, "I just love my fans."
Deadly Sanctuary is now in its sixth printing. And it's been followed by three more Kendall O'Dell mysteries.
From the beginning, Nobel's fans clamored for a film. And, for four years, Deadly Sanctuary was under option in Hollywood. But when the option expired, Nobel chose not to renew. Like many authors, she was eager to protect her characters from Hollywood-style changes. ("They wanted me to make Kendall Hispanic, or African-American!" she says. "I wanted to stay true to the book.") She started pondering the idea of going it alone.
At a book-signing at Sky Harbor, she'd met a guy named Chris LaMont, who'd introduced himself as a local indie filmmaker. (Today, he's also director of the Phoenix Film Festival and a part-time instructor at Arizona State University.) After letting the Hollywood option expire, Nobel dug up LaMont's card and gave him a call.
She'd become a D.I.Y. publisher. Why not a D.I.Y. movie? LaMont agreed to partner with her on a screenplay.
Nobel knew nothing about screenwriting. But she knew her character and she knew exactly what kind of movie she wanted: something for the whole family, something true to the book. LaMont and Nobel got to work.
Today a friend forwarded to me this very interesting piece by Paul Rosenberg...
Sociopathy is a very important subject, and one we should all be familiar with. Let’s start with definitions, to be clear:
A sociopath is a person who lacks empathy. A psychopath is the same as a sociopath; it is just an older word. This term was more or less dropped when people started calling each other “psycho.” Sociopaths very seldom become “psycho killers.”
There has been a lot of debate over these definitions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in its third edition, changed these terms to anti-social personality disorder (ASPD). (In my opinion, this was purposely done to confuse the concept, as well as to promote the sales of psychological services.) In so doing, they obscured the original markers of the condition, which were:
* A lack of empathy. * Superficial charm. * An inflated self appraisal.
These were the original characteristics attributed to sociopathy, and the ones we will stay with.
Lack of empathy is the root of this condition, and the other characteristics flow from that.
Empathy is the ability to imagine ourselves feeling what another is feeling and feeling along with them. It is actually the root of morality, but that explanation will have to wait for another time. What is important now is that empathy lies at the heart of human cooperation. People who lack empathy do not cooperate – they use others. They may use you in ways that appear to be pleasant, but they are still using you.
One of the primary functions of empathy is to say “how would I like it if someone did that to me?” Normal people do this all the time, and it makes us uncomfortable as we begin to do something we really shouldn’t. The sociopath, however, does not feel this. So, with no internal restraints, the sociopath appears confident, unconflicted and charming. This sucks in a LOT of victims.
The third characteristic of sociopaths is an inflated self-appraisal. This seems to be something that sociopaths learn as they pass through childhood. The process works, more or less, like this:
* The empathy routines of ‘normal’ people cause them to presume that sociopaths also have empathy. We tend to think that other people are like us. We would never imagine that the sociopath would care nothing for how we feel.
* The sociopath makes use of others. He gets them to do chores for him, or take the blame for him. Since the rest of us have learned to “pitch-in together” and “watch out for each other,” we play the role the sociopath lays in front of us. We are sure that he’d do the same for us… because we are sure that he is just like us.
* This false pattern gives the sociopath a clear predatory advantage, which normals seem to have no ability to resist.
* Thus the sociopath feels like a member of a more powerful class of beings, and is biased toward the plunder of others. Even in youth, the ease with which normals accept them as ‘meaning well’ confirms a natural order to the sociopath: He uses and the others line-up to be used.
I think you can see from this why people who lack empathy present significant and unusual dangers. This condition exists in only a small minority, but it has caused a massively disproportionate share of damage. The reason for this is simply that people who lack empathy naturally seek power, awards and applause. Obedience, praise and demeaning others become their sources of satisfaction. Being unable to feel empathy also means that they can’t process appreciation and respect the way the rest of us can.
On one hand, it is natural to feel compassion for the sociopath – they are damaged, after all. But, we cannot show compassion for them in the normal way – that plays directly into their abusive game. (Sociopaths seek the compassion of normals – it makes using them much easier.) We should show compassion, first, for the victims of sociopaths. Then, perhaps, someday, methods of fixing sociopaths may be found.
Remember, you cannot allow yourself to play the sociopath’s game, and you should protect yourself and others before you do anything else. That is not being “hard-hearted,” it is merely the acceptance that reality is, in fact, real.
So, how many people are really sociopaths? Figures have ranged from one to four percent, but recent cross-research shows that the true number is probably very close to 2% However, it is also important to know that sociopathy is not all or nothing. Some people are partial sociopaths, rather than full sociopaths. (No matter, they are still almost certain to make use of you.)
Remember that sociopaths are very good at blending in, and that even when you see evidence of their condition, you may have difficulty admitting it.
There is absolutely no known treatment or cure for sociopathy. (Sorry, that’s the truth.)
Here are some tips for recognizing a sociopath:
* They make you feel sorry for them. * They scare or worry you. * They make you feel guilty. * They make you feel that you owe them. * They make you feel used. * They take a lot and give very little back. * They take advantage of your kindness. * They are easily bored. * They blame others, not themselves.
I have worked with Chris Lamont in the past and all he did was whine and cry about every little thing. He tried to tell everybody how to do their jobs and would not accept advice from anybody. I even agreed to loan Chris a significant portion of the money for one of his films and he still has not paid me back. What's more is that he listed himself as the executive producer because he "got" the money.
What Chris does not seem to understand is a basic principle of film making, ...it is a collaborative art form which requires many professionals to work together NOT one whiner trying to boss people around. If Chris ever wants to make a film worth watching he should start to listen to trained professionals and stop trying to do everything himself.
YOU CAN'T LIE ABOUT HAVING INTEGRITY!
...and "Buyer Beware" is a cheap excuse! It doesn't matter if what they did was "legal" or not, it was IMMORAL. If you can't conduct business with integrity, then you should be made to wear a sign which reads "DIRTBAG" and that's all there is to it. You don't take someone else's film money and buy a titty-bar with it, AND you don't offer to "help" your friend catalog his film collection, then run off with it!
If Chris Lamont wants to know what it feels like to have even the smallest shred of integrity, then he can stand up and admit that he's a liar and a thief, ...then return (or replace) my property.
I have worked with Chris LaMont on many occasions and he has conducted all of our dealings with integrity. I would do a HANDSHAKE deal with him ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.
Nobel admits to not playing an active role in the legal side:
"We asked Mark about this, several times," she admitted to Haeusler. "We didn't really understand what he was talking about. And he made us feel embarrassed that we didn't understand, so we finally stopped asking."
As an independent artist, I don't care how stupid I felt, I'm not going to let someone shame me out of making sure that my best interests were being considered.
And regardless of what happened, how it happened, whose side your on, and who's to blame, the entire country is going through a rough patch right now. We're all struggling. We've all been scr*wed at some point in our lives; and we're all doing the best we can to pick up our sticks and move on.
Every artist needs a story to stay in the media; but Chris LaMont is not a crook, or a hack. I have always found him to be the type of person that gives more than he receives.
To Nobel: I sincerely hope you find a way to move past this as an artist to become a stronger story teller - and perhaps a little more involved in the business side of your career.
To the Phoenix New Times: Whether or not I agree with you on this story, I am grateful that you exist. There are many stories in Phoenix that would never be told without your presence and muscle (*ahem - Sheriff Joe). Michael Lacy is a pioneer. Niki D'Andrea is my favorite writer in the whole world. And I lurves you gais, too!
To Chris LaMont: If you ever wanna do another deal together, I am always willing to be on your team.
To everyone else: (((hugs)))
Chris Lamont is a sleaze-bag. I've known him since elementary school. I was the producer of the first film he worked on. After two years in pre-production, my family put up the money for us to make our movie. Chris used his position of trust to get access to my rare film memorabilia, then walked out on production and disappeared with my property.
I've been asking Chris for my property to be returned for decades now. Guess what he had to say when I cornered him about it?
"I don't know what you're talking about, ...and even if I did, there's nothing you can do about it."
"You abandoned your property and the statute of limitations is up. Besides, my wife's a lawyer and my mom works for the police, ...so get over it".
It looks like he hasn't changed one bit. I don't think "arrogant" or "non-professional" even start to describe this guy. He is a liar and a thief with NO morals. If you have anything to do with Chris Lamont or his associates you're a sleaze-bag too, ...or a SUCKER!
That the money was returned is beside the point. When you broil the facts as presented down this is a story about a lawyer who abused his clients trust and engaged in what appears to be in unethical behavior. He took advantage of her nativity.
Quite the hit job...anyone who's ever been on a set knows you don't let writers go anywhere but craft services and NEVER let them produce their own movies. I've met Mr. LaMont on several occasions, and have never found him to be anything but a pro. Don't know Mr. Briggs, but if the money he loaned himself was paid back with interest, that's additional budget, as far as I'm concerned. With micro-budgets on a film production you sometimes have to get creative. Get over it, everyone!
I first heard of this story over the summer, and I am saddened to see how it has ended up. I forgot about it till I read that the original owner of Sugar Daddy's is going to serve BIG TIME for falsifying books to the IRS.
As far as Briggs and LaMont go. Briggs is a typical attorney - thinks he is infallible and can do whatever he likes or so desires. Thus the whole saying first we kill all lawyers. And as for LaMont. I have had the honor of meeting this egotistical jerk - and have no doubt - his intentions were nothing but shifty and larcenous.
Oops for the comment above! I meant to say I would use the borrowed money to buy a house, as an investment tool!Then rent it out!
I wish I could work as an accountant for Briggs and have total access to his accounts and of course his complete trust as did Nobel in this case. I would "borrow" some of his money to "invest" for him, then rent it out as my own at the highest amount that I could and eventually "pay the borrowed money back". OR, take out a loan to pay him back. I thought that was called STEALING! (Even if you pay it back) Something taken without permission is stealing, last time I checked. Well, they will get theirs, Nobel, keep writing, look up! You can't go wrong! Your books kept me hooked! Thanks!
Mark Twain once said, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." I've been around long enough to know that there are two sides to any story. I wonder how much this guy can defend himself with ongong litigation. I'm going to make a prediction. The stuntman from the 80's doesn't know as much about making movies as he thinks and the lawyer who gives all the money back is going to be vindicated.
Wow, way to justify some pretty damn shady actions. Actually, it doesn't really matter whether she lost "zero dollars and zero cents". Mr. Briggs did not have the right to invest the money. He was hired for a fairly cut and dried purpose. It truly boggles the mind that two professionals would make such a blatant grab for 75% ownership and set up multiple "hidden" companies to divert funds. Evidently, somebody has some 'splaining to do.
The New Times plays an important civic role in bringing us a story like this.
The anti-Nobel posts strike me as a smear effort by those who wish this piece never saw daylight. (Pathetic!)
Know this: The whole town is now aware and will be talking about it behind the wrongdoers backs for years to come. (Holiday parties they attend will be filled with lots of smirks and private conversation.) It's clear who is right and who is wrong. Very clear. What a shame any of this happened.
Sylvia will write again - and will have very believable bad guys!
So the money was "used" to invest in something which in the end gained money. I guess I am not sure why Nobel has an issue... Briggs made more money for this "Movie".
Get over it and move on!!!! Try again. Winners don't give up!!!!
The books suck anyway. Many more people would have lost much more money, $8.50 at a time, if the movie would have been made.
Briggs is a sleezeball. Sugar Daddy's sucks anyway, and so does the New Times.
As someone who has worked in both film/television and the financial industry I feel that certain comments made about this article need refuting. First of all the contract involved with regard to the use of the money was created after the money was taken by Mr. Briggs and never signed by Ms. Nobel and therefore bogus. Pretty convenient that your a lawyer who can suddenly create a "contract" on the spot when you need one to cover your tracks. And yes, in Hollywood, a contract that is legitimate is very difficult to break and does cause a lot of furor when there is an issue. This was, however, not the case with this particular contract. From an investment point of view, as a person working in the financial industry and dealing with real estate purchases when this investment was made, the value of real estate was sliding downhill rapidly. So why was this a "good" investment and how was it going to make the film money? In addition, if it was, in fact, intended to be a money making venture to add additional funds for the making of the movie, why wasn't Ms. Nobel consulted and at least allowed to voice an opinion about using the money? The answer to the last question is that Mr. Briggs and especially Mr. LaMont knew she would never agree to using the money to buy a nightclub. These guys were having a good time at the expense of the production and I truly believe they thought they wouldn't get caught. There is no altruism here in this situation just greed and the fact that they thought Ms. Nobel was too naive to ever figure it out.Bottom line is that regardless of motive, the fact that a lawyer helped himself to money that was not his to use should, if nothing else, get him disbarred! This film could have been a real feather in the cap of this state and also put many local industry people to work in this time of rampant joblessness.
This was a very interesting article. I do not know any of the people involved, however, I do know right from wrong. No matter how you try to twist it, the attorney took money he was not entitled to and spent it for his own purposes. That is illegal and I would think the Attorney General should get involved. Isn't it his (and that of his office) duty to protect us from this kind of action. This tap dancing that is taking place with Ms. Nobel not being able to find an attorney that does not have a connection with the thief attorney is ridiculous.
Another question that was not answered in the article was did all of the investors get their money back or just the 'little old lady' that had put up the million dollars?
I have read Nobel's books and enjoyed them. What a sad world we live in when betrayals like this occur.
Looks like these comments are all about "Friends of Sylvia" versus "Friends of Mark", so count me in as an FOM. Noble is waging a smear campaign against a civic-minded guy with a long track record of helping his community. Hey, lawyers should be held to higher standards (even when they are not actually engaged in legal representation), but Noble has an appropriate forum in the State Bar's disciplinary process. Sure seems to me that Mark acted ethically, but ultimately a committee of factfinders will decide. In the meantime, if Noble were really engaged in a search for the truth like her alter ego detective character, she would a) stop asking her own lawyers to engage in potentially unethical conduct [see, e.g. http://www.courtminutes.marico...] and b) tone tone her rhetoric. Or does she not really want the truth?
The story I just read is just another tale of a person who wanted to become famous by making a movie. I'm sure the majority of us have dreamed that dream at least once in our lives. I congratulate the author for getting as far as you did. Most writers can't secure an agent, let alone financing and you were able to do both. Well done you.
But more often than not, films fall apart for many reasons. Some simple, some complex. While it is a sad story that this film won't get made, it is just that, a story.
In real life the white hats aren't always as clean as they appear in print and the black hats are never as awful as they are portrayed. Especially in articles as one-sided as this one.
Ms. Nobel, get up, dust yourself off and try again. Just because it didn't work this time doesn't mean it won't work next time... Or the tenth time. Just keep trying. But you're going to have to let this particular story end. Because if you continue to bring lawsuits and accuse your co-workers through the press, no one is going to work with you.
That's a fact.
This article, like every New Times article, was overwrought, one-sided & written like a tacky melodrama - why didn't you draw evil mustaches on LaMont's & Brigg's pictures? It was about as childish as every single reference made about them - none of which is unbiased, none of which is unsensationalized.
Ms. Nobel, here's where you are lucky - if you were actually IN Hollywood, if your so-called "Hollywood Pros" were completely honest with you, they would have told you one truthful concept - a contract is a contract, and the suggestion of your Bunco Buddy to "have someone else look at it" doesn't fly in the Big Leagues - would you be able to do such shenanigans, such "buyer's remorse" in ANY other industry? No, ma'am. You would've been eaten alive for pulling this in Hollywood.
My goodness, yet again the New Times proves to be a poor man's National Enquirer - all flash, no truth in reporting. The ONLY professionals who did there JOBS in this case were Mr. LaMont and Mr. Briggs, whether you like their jobs or not. Sounds like an extremem case of sour grapes or naivete to me.
As a long time client of and friend of Mark Briggs, I can say this; first, the money didn't "disappear," it was invested and, when the time was appropriate, it was returned to the original investor. That's a lot more than some production companies would do! If the idea's so great, and the fan loves her so much, why won't the little old lady, as this piece of fiction calls her, invest directly in her beloved author? Next, Mark's a man of deep integrity and who would do nothing to impugn on either his or his company's reputation. This is ridiculous, and clearly another one-sided, "poor little author against the big, bad lawyers" fantasy. It's really a shame that someone with half a story can attack the good name of another person. What Mark did to make sure that money was returned was nothing short of heroic, and shows his true character. It will be very interesting when Mark is able to defend himself, and the other half (should say the true half) of the story comes to light. This gal lost ZERO dollars and ZERO cents to Mark, and has no claim whatsoever.
Mark Briggs is well known for his good works, public service, his excellent legal skills, and a great sense of humor. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would question his ethics or his intelligence.
A complete article would have included a more in-depth look into the reputations of the players involved before printing an account that is one-sided and clearly designed to attack the reputation of a good man.
About "The Missing Movie"What a classic morality tale!Greedy corporate lawyer can't keep his hands out of the cookie jar. Look at all the collateral damage he has caused to his profession, his employer, his family, his partners, the investors, unknown others and lastly to himself. And for what? He didn't even get to keep the money he stole, he's going to lose the business he bought and might even wind up in jail. Oh, and good-bye to his political career. At least this guy got exposed before he could get into some public office.
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