Tuesday, March 31, 2009

As much as I try, I can't shake it.

Every try to walk away from something you love? How about someone you love? Do you love yourself? Every try walking away from yourself? It's like taking your own heart and ripping it out of your chest, only to chuck it in the dust and then piss on it while laughing at the moon.

The mangler just belched and now I can smell the coils burning. Fuck it. I'll fix it in the morning... right after I fix my 6 am goodnight Jim Beam and diet Doctor Pepper. Some things never let you down.

This god forsaken script will be the end of me. But, as much as I laughingly pretend I have any willpower left, I try to tell myself -- just get to the end of it! This could be something real in your life. This could be a moment of change. But "getting to the end" is like asking a dying man in the desert to crawl across cactus to lick the edges of some fluttering mirage that keeps slipping backwards towards the horizon as the clickity-clack of hungry scorpions closes in all around.

The scab on my index finger fell off on my desk earlier. I screamed and slapped at it, thinking it was an insect and then when it wouldn't move I pushed it around the desk with the empty tampon applicator my sometime "girlfriend" left on the floor. After realizing it was a part of me, my own flesh, dried and now hardened against the ravages of the world, I decided to eat it. The crust on the edges was fine, like beef jerky but earthy. But in the center was a big piece of soft tissue -- my own blood and skin -- and it snapped back in my teeth as I tried to tear it free. The thick bubbling foam of burbon and diet DP came up in my throat which I spit out, somewhat irrationally as I was already eating my own scabs. What next, I thought? What next?

That's the question that's been dancing around the window of my brain like a fariy in sand dusted cowboy boots. How to end it all. How to finish what has been started.

I hope Pandora had it easier.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A dream... or something more?

I woke from the dream drenched in sweat. It’s a massive cliché, I know – perhaps because it’s something that never really happens to people, but somehow sounds cool and scary.

But I’m serious – the bed was drenched. I had rapid-fire flashbacks of my childhood, my bladder control weakened as a result of the indignities piled upon me by my siblings.

That’s s story for another time. The ever-growing autobiography, perhaps.

I didn’t want to lose the images that had erupted in my dreams, so I put off rushing the sheets to the washing machine for later. Instead I made a bee-line for my computer, slamming down the mug of day-old coffee to punch up my flailing synapses.

I needed to be clear. Mentally clear. This was important.

Vivid dreams have never been a frequent occurrence in my life. I’ve heard it said that the creative geniuses throughout history often noted that they couldn’t remember their dreams at all. I’ve always felt this to be a kindred notion.

But the last few nights have proven restless. Like a pustule striving for release, some THING has been pushing against my unconscious mind, leaking out in my nocturnal state. I read the box from the topical ointment my doctor had prescribed, to help quell the remnant traces of irritation from my recent “liaison” (see post “A Writer’s Method”). But the warning label said nothing about inducing feverish dreamstates.

I wrote as quickly as I could. And I couldn’t believe the words that were leaping from my fingertips to the screen. I waited until I had finished – and then breathlessly re-read it all. My dream springing to life in my words – a pale imitation.

But the substance was captured. My first impression was – sacrilege. This is nothing short of sacrilege, of the highest order.


What if it was… dare I even speak the word –

-- prophecy?

In the first century, a man named John, a lowly exile on a small Greek island, had a vision. His words were a controversy that would play out over many hundreds of years. There were many who did not believe in the “unveiling” he witnessed. There are many who still do not.

Am I somehow connected, over two thousand years, to this other “John”?

Am I creating a fiction? Or am I translating a message?

Too many questions for this hour. I must sleep. I must dream. I must write.

I must RECORD…

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Screenwriting Advice: Getting Out of the Cave

To say I spent the day in a whirlwind of despair is an understatement. Like winds whipping through the canyons, my personal demons swirled around me. They laughed, their cackles blending with the yips of the coyotes.

Sometimes a warrior must fight. Sometimes a warrior must retreat to his cave.

Today was my cave day. Outside the bright California sun blazed. The desert sweltered. The Salton Sea, relentless in its self-destruction, shriveled in the heat.

I closed my blinds. Shutting out the landscape of poisoned fish and date trees. Wanting only to wallow in my sorrow.

The afternoon was a blur of rum and The History Channel. (Such treacle!) At about four I turned on the Riverside Community College radio station, ready to revel in their weekly prog rock show. Unfortunately the students seem to have come late to the concept of irony, and were amusing themselves by playing 70s AM Gold. "Wildfire" gave way to "Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain." I was about to tear apart the radio with my bare hands when the truth seared through me. No more licking my wounds. If I couldn't face the computer, I had to connect with my creativity in other ways.

In short, I had to bake.

Every writer, every artist, needs a way to connect with the Muse. A way to let the unconscious run free. Proust gardened. Dickens walked. I bake.

What could be more compelling than the mystery of fermentation? Of dough rising, changing flour and water into bread, that most meaningful of foods. The alchemists of old could not have asked for more! The hypnotic process of kneading -- of slapping the dough against the board, digging into its soft flesh with my fingers, of probing its secret recesses -- ah, the freedom it could give me! The Muse would return, her sweet breath mixing with the scent of baking bread. I ran to the kitchen, ready to pummel dough as if it were my ex-agent's face. Perhaps I'd even bring him a loaf -- although the drive down to West Covina would be murder by the time I was done. (See, oh demon? The Beverly Hills post office box fools no one!)

It was then that I looked at my hands. Still bloody and bandaged from the trunk incident. As much as I wanted to make that bread -- nay, as much as I NEEDED it -- it was out of the question.

But there was another option. A recipe that reinvented an old standard, that blended disparate worlds. Just like I am doing with my script. I speak, of course, of cake balls. Bite-sized bits of cake and frosting enrobed in a chocolate shell. Pastry and truffle in one! For isn't my script, my passion, about disparate worlds mixing? Divinity and human folly. Man and beast sharing the same body. Yes!

A frenzy of baking followed. Of making cake, of rolling it in candy and nuts. Of embracing the ritual and the ecstasy of creation.

It was then that I emerged from my cave.

I thrust open the blinds. Knowing that life is good. The settlement from the fisheries department will last until I finish my script. The Generac 7000 will keep me secure. Soulless hacks will fight for the chance to write Leprechaun vs. Anaconda, but I will stay true to my vision.

I love you all. May you find your own ways out of the darkness.

Agent of the Devil

Got an email from my agent this morning. Apparently we are "moving in different directions". Yes, that is correct, he dropped me. Through email. I guess I should be happy that he didn't do it on Twitter. I have a hunch that this is all because I didn't want to chase after his stupid Leprechaunaconda movie. He was always telling me that a job is a job, and in the current economic climate blah blah blah. I don't write for money. I don't write for fame. I write because I must. I don't have the luxury of being able to turn off my creativity.

He will, no doubt, call me again when my spec sells for seven figures and I will tell him that I will take him back as soon as he delivers to me certain photographic evidence of him in a menage-a-trois with a genuine Leprechaun and an anaconda.

So, needless to say, I am looking for new representation. If anyone out there knows of an agent that isn't a bumbling, slobbering sycophant with a perpetual Appletini in his/her  hand, please point them in my direction. I should have a new spec for them to peddle in the near future.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thoughts on The Business

My agent has been pestering me about my progress with the script, and by "pestering me" I mean "not returning my phone calls." However, I managed to reach him in his office today after repeatedly spelling my name to his assistant. "Johnny, baby!" my agent exclaimed as soon as he got on the line. "How's it hanging?"

I detest that sort of vulgar small talk, so I immediately began explaining my idea of turning my ongoing screenplay into a franchise of films, related book adaptations and merchandising tie-in foam puppets and latex novelty items. After several minutes, I had to put more quarters into the Liquor Emporium payphone, and my agent took advantage of the resulting pause in my discourse to change the subject. "Listen, John," he said. "There's a hot new writing assignment I'd like you to take a meeting on."

"Haven't you been listening?" I nearly shouted into the greasy phone receiver. "I'm hard at work here on a screenplay that's going to change the very concept of entertainment as we know it! It's like 'Titanic' meets the Bible! I cannot possibly halt my progress for anything, much less the sort of trivial, demeaning script assignments that my spec will render irrelevant to the world!"

"This would be a paid writing assignment," my agent emphasized. When I was quiet, he said, "John, are you still there?"

"I'm listening," I said.

"Great, I thought you'd run out of quarters again. It's a genre project, a fusion of two big brand titles that the studio just acquired, and they're currently looking for writers to pitch takes the story. You ready for this? 'Leprechaun vs. Anaconda.'"

"Well, that actually presents a fascinating dynamic, as leprechauns are supernatural..." I started to say, then stopped myself before I could go further. "No, dammit! Nothing will delay my work on 'The Shroud!' Not a broken generator, not a hand injury and certainly not a 'Leprechaun' sequel!"

"Actually, they said they'd prefer for the pitch to follow the continuity of the 'Anaconda' series," my agent said, but I didn't hear anything after that. I really had run out of quarters that time.

As I left the Liquor Emporium with my environmentally conscious canvas grocery bag bulging, I fumed over the callous insensitivity of the business, and the effect it might have on an artistic type with anything less than my confidence and stamina. To be diverted by such meddlesome inconsequentialities when one is hard at work on the next major work that will change the landscape of narrative art! I mean, was Charles Dickens asked to consider a 'Leprechaun' sequel? Was Proust? Was Shakespeare?

Well, they would understand the insults I had suffered at the hands of their casual ignorance soon enough. Soon they would realize the level of genius they had been neglecting, even as it flourished under their very nose like some sort of hardy desert foliage that needs very little water to survive!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Had to get a new keyboard today. Sometimes it feels like the Universe is trying to thwart my every move. A chain of events, starting with the suspension in the springs of my car trunk giving out . I was unloading the groceries when the trunk slammed down on my fingers. I haven't felt pain like that since the dishwasher incident. To make a long story short, the nails on my right hand turned black and blue, and about twenty minutes later, the nail on my right index finger came loose.

All I can think about is finishing up the script. When I'm sitting at the computer, it's like time doesn't exist. Three hours goes by and in my quantum experience it feels like three minutes. When I have to break to eat, shit, shower or sleep I resent it. Human interaction is painful, it's hard to focus on what people are saying - the guy at the supermarket kept rambling on about his nephew's briss, and all I feel is this obsession to keep churning out the story. So having my fingers mashed is a major inconveniance, to say the least. I soaked my sore fingers in rubbing alcohol, which hurt slightly less than the accident, wrapped them in gauze and got back to work.

After about four hours of typing, I guess my finger with the missing nail started to bleed. I didn't even notice, until the 'K' button started to stick. I looked down and realized that I had leaked blood right into the keyboard. I did my best to wipe it off, but I was on a roll, in that fever pitch of writing and I didn't want to stop. Normally the pain would have registered, I'm sure most people would take a few days off to rest their injured fingers. But I've experienced enough creative blocks in my time to know that you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. When the floodgates open, you go with it. I feel so connected to this story, I swear it's almost like someone is dictating it through me and I'm just the vehicle to bring it into physical reality. And this unseen entity is a slave driving taskmaster, that won't let me rest or have any peace of mind until the job is complete. So I chugged some whiskey and Advil and kept pounding away at the keys. I must have written a good five pages before I even realized that the bleeding was getting worse.

The middle row of keys finally wouldn't respond, no matter how gently I coaxed them. So, first thing today I got up and went out and bought a new keyboard. Fingers are wrapped in thicker gauze now, which causes a few more typos, but I'm getting the hang of it. I'm warmed up now, gonna go dive back into it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Talkin' 'bout my Generation

Damned generator went out last night, right when I was in the middle of a hot streak. Had to resort to candlelight and handwritten pages. Not that I mind writing with a pen. In some ways, it fuels my work. The sound of the nib scratching on the paper is like nails on a coffin lid. The main problem is that the rest of my damned script was on the computer, so I had to try to remember where I was before the power went out. Now that I have a functioning generator again, I’m going to transcribe the pages I wrote last night and we’ll see how well they integrate.

I’m still perplexed by the generator failing. I’ve had my Generac 7000 for a couple of months now. I nicknamed it “the Mangler” after that Stephen King story. It’s a solid unit and I especially like the 12 1/2 kw surge capability. I had a three pole disconnect panel installed to connect to the house. Made up a 50 foot 10-4 cord set to connect to the outside receptacle to feed the disconnect panel. It’s heavy (240 lbs) and is not all that easy to push around on a soft surface such as grass. Also, I leave the idle-down switch on the off position. When hooked into the house circuits it seems to cause the engine to surge up and down continuously when there is only a light load on it. It is also really loud, but that’s somewhat comforting during the winter when it's 30 below and the coyotes are howling nearby. Just got to remember to keep a couple of jerry-cans of gasoline around.

Last night as it got dark, I booted her up, turned off all the breakers on the disconnect panel, switched the disconnect panel to the generator side and brought the circuits back on one at a time. Everything was going great. I got out the volt meter and checked the readout on each leg. Each had 122 volts... Nice and strong. Then, after the sun went down and I’d been working solid for about an hour, the engine pitch suddenly changed and the lights went out. I took my flashlight outside, checked the output voltage. This time, the reading was 0 volts on both legs.

I shut down everything and took the generator over my workshop and carried out further tests. By this time it was midnight and I was working by flashlight and cursing up a storm. If I had any neighbors, they would have called the cops to complain, I’m sure. I opened the generator up and looked for obvious signs and smells of overheating/burning, loose connections, etc. and found nothing.

This morning, I loaded it into the van and took it in to the nearest Generac repair depot. They told me it would take about two weeks to repair. Two weeks without power? Two weeks without my computer? I couldn’t have it. So I bought another Generac 7000 right then and there. I don’t know what I’m going to do with two of these things, but I suppose it’s better to have one for backup.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Morning Haiku

Sacred relic -- gone.
Rough beast with hairy loins leaves
Big tracks in the sand.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Writer's Method

“You know, if I didn’t know you was my wife’s sister, I would get ideas about you…” So says Mr. Brando to Ms. Leigh on my old black and white television set. And it suddenly occurs to me… I have not been going deep enough. I have only scratched the surface. It is time to plumb the depths. When your subject is the landscape of the soul there is no other choice. The thespians (most of whom I despise) call it The Method. Yet what of us scribes? Can we not live our work? Are we resigned to sitting at our laptops in cum-stained underwear as our characters come to life before our eyes? I say not. I say that is no longer enough. I resolve that I, a Writer, will pursue my own Method.

I write of a race of beasts that live among us yet which most are blind to. So I will become one such beast. If only for an evening…

It’s 3:37 in the morning. I slip off my clothes. I’ve only been wearing underwear all day, so it doesn’t take long. Oh, to stand naked! I have a moment of doubt. Much like that terrifying hesitation when I first sit down to compose. But I fight it. Because I am a Writer. It’s what I do.

I slip out the door of my apartment. The cool night air welcomes me. I feel a forbidden thrill as I run naked through my building. Oh, if my neighbors could see me now! Then they would understand. They would know my nature. They would know my girth.

I leave the apartment building behind. I am on the street naked! Oh, the liberation! So this is what the Yeti feels when he is out in the woods, his Dr. Manhattan free to sway in the night breeze. I am closer to him already. I am flooded with a feeling of communion. Yes. I am willing to go the distance to complete my masterpiece...

I run down the street, keeping to the shadows, hunched over the way I imagine the Yeti would be. My nostrils flare. I read the scents on the wind. I smell life. I smell danger. I smell myself (I must admit we scribes often go days without bathing – we hunch over our writing implements, stewing in our own juices – and it’s all for you, Dear Reader, all for you).

A police car suddenly appears before me and I leap down beneath the shelter of a parked SUV. I huddle there, throbbing with excitement, wondering if the lawman will pass on by. Or if he and I are meant to do battle on this night. The car continues onward and I find I am disappointed. I was ready for battle.

I sprint across the road, briefly bathed by headlights, then I am in the shadows of Mr. Griffith’s Park. I delight in the feel of dirt beneath my bare feet – so much better than the cold hard concrete. So much more real. I crouch behind a bush and then I see her…

A coyote. Noble. Gorgeous. And in heat (I just knew this, don’t ask me how, I was at the mercy of The Method). I stare at her. She stares at me. And I can tell. She understands. She is not gazing upon an out-of-shape, out-of-work slob… No, no,no. She gazes upon a fellow beast of the night. She gazes upon a Yeti. She licks her chops…

What happened then, my friends, I cannot write about. True, I have given everything to my profession. I would die for my writings. For my dear words. I pride myself on putting everything out there on the page for all to see. But this time, I am keeping this one sacred experience to myself. I have said too much already. There are pages to be written.

I am no longer a man writing about beasts. I am a beast chronicling the experiences of my brethren.

I love you all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Doubt Is My Bedfellow

I woke up in a cold sweat today. I just don't know if I'm on the right path. Everything I thought was rich and vibrant last night seems sickly in the harsh morning light. But I put on my robe, grabbed a Coke and sat down in front of the monitor's glow.

The demons of doubt were summoned by my title. Like moths to a flame they gathered during the night. A lot of screenwriting books say you shouldn't even start writing until you have a title, but this story was demanding to get out so I just started writing. I don't want to go into specifics, but my script deals with big themes: religion, mythology, the rich dark crevices of human experience that go unplumbed by most mortal men.

Right now I'm calling it "The Shroud."

I'm worried the title is too abstract.

Originally I wanted to call it "Lifting the Caul," because the theme is about exposing things kept hidden, but in our woefully undereducated society not many people know what that is. To be born "in the caul" means to be born with the amniotic sac still intact around the body, like so:

We rare ones born in the caul are known as "caulbearers." The ancient Romans believed that babies born with a caul possessed a second sight. Roman midwives sold cauls in the Forum for protection from witchcraft.

This is why I am a writer. As a caulbearer, my second sight gives me vision into my fictive worlds.

If only the caul would protect me from the demons of doubt.

Does symbolism make for a good title? Or should I spoonfeed the reader with something very literal?

Back to my script and my battle. More later.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I'm 46 pages into my script and its like I'm having my spine ripped right out of my back. Torture to get this story out of my gray matter and onto the page. But it's got to get out. It burns deep down in my gut. Churning like a fragile ship on a reckless sea. Every day I sit down to write and do everything I can to make the themes and the ideas and the whole scope of it come together.

I've given some pages to writers I met online. They tell me its good. They tell me to keep going and to have faith. I don't know if I can believe them. I don't know if I can believe anyone.

What I do know in those moments when the fever breaks and I step away from the computer and get a drink -- what I do know is that I am trying to do something great. Trying to tell a story that digs deep into the things that truly scare us. Not a man with a knife. No, not that. The twisted cultural institutions that repress us and the mythic beasts of our imaginations that signify deep-rooted primal thoughts-- these representations of man's fear all designed to keep the beast at bay. These are my tools.

Milennia ago we huddled in caves, firelight flickering on our faces. We told stories to keep the darkness at bay. To keep our fear in check.

Thats what I'm doing now. Except the flames are the glow of my computer screen. I sit alone in my dark room, writing. Hoping that someday my words will turn into pictures and light the faces of lonely men and women huddled in modernity's cave: the multiplex. Stale popcorn has replaced animal bones, but the meaning is the same.

Last night I lay awake listening to the winds whistling through the canyon. Coyotes howled. I felt their hunger.

In the morning I ate a stale coffee cake.

And then I did what I had to do. I wrote.

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