One Year Is Nothing

“There are dreams and there are career plans. They are not the same. Some dreams are compensatory: visions that we retreat to in times of stress, like blankies for infants, things that comfort us and tell us what we need to be told. The dream of being a famous writer can be like that: a dream of infantile power and attention that disguises the more immediate need — for safety, self-love, serenity, peace in our hearts.”

via Should I leave L.A. after one year? | Salon Life.

On Writing (Taking a Really Long Time to Bear Fruit)

Just a quick post to point out a nice long post John Scalzi made re: the dedication/stamina/stubbornness necessarily to write and get published as a novelist. Here’s a choice pull-quote I can relate to:

[Some writers] start writing something that they thought might be a book-length idea, only to find not only did it not qualify as a short story, it was better for everyone involved if the stunted, weird thing was taken behind the tool shed, whacked with a shovel and buried without anyone else knowing it ever existed.

From “Why New Novelists are Kinda Old, or, Hey, Publishing is Slow“.

I Wrote This One, Too

This episode was a bit harder to write, but I’m really proud of how it turned out, especially considering how rushed I was when I wrote it. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to find more places for comedy and/or jokes.

Eddy, Nick and Daniel all say they’re happy with the tone of the episode and love how it turned out, but I knew there would be fans that might complain about it being “too serious”. Oh well. Can’t please ’em all.

Feel free to check it out, although I do recommend catching up on previous episodes first. The Leet World has become almost entirely serial at this point, so if you aren’t caught up on the previous episodes, you’ll be lost in the wilderness watching this one.

So… I Actually Wrote Something!

Yes, it’s true. Jeff James, continually procrastinating writer, has actually produced new work! Specifically, Episode #9 of The Leet World.

To be completely honest, I actually finished the script about a month ago, but I haven’t talked about it for a few reasons. First off, I wanted to wait until the episode was actually released. However, that happened on February 1st, and here it’s two weeks later and I’m just now writing about it. Can’t really explain that part, except that I did kind of want to wait a little while to see what people thought of the results. Most people seem to think I did a good job, so I guess it’s about time I talk about it.

In any case, I’d like to share the episode and talk a little bit about the writing process. If you’re completely new to the show, however, I’d recommend watching one or two of the previous episodes since the first part of my episode resolves a cliffhanger from the first half of the season.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the show, go ahead and check out the episode:

The final version you see there is about 85%-90% stuff that I wrote. The Player/hat love story (which is *great*, by the way) is the biggest addition they made, and is a joke I couldn’t even have come up with in the first place since I had no idea there was a freakin’ snow man on the map. There are also a few line tweaks and improvs here and there.

If you’d like to know more about the episode and my writing process, continue reading… Continue reading “So… I Actually Wrote Something!”

A Blast From The Past

So it occurred to me recently that Google Video will let you post videos of pretty much any length. A guy on the Leet World forum posted a 40 minute video, so I thought I’d get in on the act and digitize the footage I have of Knifepoint, which I haven’t watched in years.

I ended up having to re-digitize the video into iMovie, and it took forever to convert the 43 minute video into a format that Google can use, but here it is:

You need to have flashplayer enabled to watch this Google video

This performance is from 2003, and is the final dress rehearsal, so there’s no audience other than the techs, who occasionally walk in front of the camera. The show was directed by Andrew Richey, and stars Barrett Michael, Lauren McCauley, and Liam Boyer. I haven’t talked to most of those people in years…

I think most people I know managed to come see the show when it was performed, but there may be a few of you out there who didn’t get the chance, so it’s nice to have this available in an online format. I think I may do the same thing with some of the other videos I’ve got lying around…

Eggs

EggThis time it was a puzzle piece.

I watched, fascinated, as its edges began to curl in the crackling oil. I saw, perhaps, the leg of a small dog. Or could it be flowers, ready to bloom? Was this where all the lost puzzle pieces of the world ended up?

I imagined some poor soul assembling this puzzle on their dining room table, anticipation building as everything began to come together, and then… one piece missing, never to be found. The unfinished puzzle, boxed back up and returned to the shelf, ready to mock them whenever they needed a bath towel or decided to play a game of Sorry.

At this point, I realized that I was talking to myself, speaking my thoughts… slowly. Like reading a book to a small child. I was clearly weak with hunger.

I reached down, pulled the piece (now soggy with oil) from the skillet, winced as the cardboard scalded my fingers, and popped it in my mouth.

It was hardly as satisfying as I had hoped, but with some persistent chewing and a glass of water, I managed to gulp it down.

I tossed the pieces of broken shell into the sink and grabbed another one from the carton.

Always the optimist.

Untitled Dialogue #1

Last night, as I lay in bed preparing for sleep, a bit of dialogue was running through my head, so I decided that I had better write it down to make sure it didn’t go away. 30 minutes later, I had this scene. Enjoy!

(Two men on a roof, standing by the edge and looking off into the distance. They are making no effort to conceal themselves.)

A: Yesterday some man on the street told me that I was ‘making a mockery’ of what I ‘stand for’. How can I make a mockery of it when I don’t even know what I stand for?

B: For that matter, how could he know what you stood for?

A: Exactly! Besides, I was just standing there.

B: Maybe you got him confused. Maybe he meant that you were making a mockery of what he stood for, id est, what he actually said was ‘You’re making a mockery of what I stand for!’

A: …No, no… that doesn’t sound right. In any case, I wasn’t mocking anything, I was just standing.

B: What if the act of standing was mockery in and of itself? Was he in a wheelchair? I could see how someone in a wheelchair might get sensitive about those sort of things… standing and the like.

A: No, no, he was standing perfectly well…. he was wearing pants, mind you, so he may have had a wooden leg under there, or prosthetics. It’s amazing… the things they can do with prosthetics.

Continue reading “Untitled Dialogue #1”

Mr. Gantry Comes To Visit

So tonight was “Cathedral For a While” party #3. I didn’t perform, but I did put together a second issue of Summer Reading. (If you’re curious, issue #1 is available in .zip form here.)

For some reason I wasn’t satisfied with just formatting everyone else’s stories, and I didn’t want to include something old. So I wrote a new story. In an hour.

I have this feeling that it’s probably terrible, but it is amazing considering I forced myself to produce in a very short time limit. I threw caution to the wind and I just wrote! Perhaps a lesson can be learned?

(Don’t write under deadline?)

In any case:

Mr. Gantry Comes to Visit
by Jeff James

Davis woke suddenly from a very deep sleep. This was less than comfortable. His eyes would not, did not focus, and his thoughts were still dozing, lethargic and lost in the jumble. What had awakened him? Something sharp and metallic. Jabbed right into the soft part of his left foot. There was no sign of it now.
He rose from bed, walked unsteadily across the room to his miniature bathroom. “Walked” was perhaps giving him too much credit – he stumbled, cursed, stumbled again, and stepped on something that irreparably broke.
He splashed water on his face, cold water. As cold as his faucets would allow, which meant somewhere just below lukewarm. It seemed to help, at least a little bit. He could focus his eyes now. He no longer saw his apartment as a colorful field of fuzzy jumbles. The jumbles rearranged themselves into his fairly depressing collection of earthly possessions.
He toweled himself off and heard, faintly, the sound of clinking glass in the kitchen. A voice called out: “Coffee’s ready.”
Davis stepped into the hallway and walked towards his undersized kitchen. A full pot of coffee steamed on the burbling automatic coffeemaker. Just to the right of that on the counter, at about chest level, was a man’s face.
Or, to be more specific, a man’s head.
Where the man’s neck logically should have continued down into his body, there was a small metal platform that sprouted spider-like metallic legs. They clicked softly on the kitchen counter as the head skittered from side to side.
This was Gantry. He said: “I would have poured you a cup, but these things’re worthless for gripping,” and gestured meaningfully with two spider-legs. Continue reading “Mr. Gantry Comes To Visit”

The Orchard

I was in the shower and I began picturing this scene. I don’t know who these people are yet, or where this scene is going, but it’s something new.


(The stage is empty except for a large, alien-looking tree, all twisted trunks and ripe-looking fruit. A slight breeze seems to be passing through and making the leaves gently ripple, or perhaps it is our imagination.

A man – tall, dressed in a sharp, dark business suit and clutching a briefcase in one hand, slowly walks onstage. He peers cautiously around until he is sure the coast is clear, and then he walks directly up to the tree and begins attempting to pick a piece of fruit. He does this without ever loosening his grip on the handle of the briefcase. All of the fruit seems to be too high at first, but he finally manages to get a grip on one and tear it off the branch.

Sometime during all this – we did not notice, it seems – a woman wearing a light, flowery dress and holding a double-barrel rifle walked in from behind the man, who didn’t notice either.

He buffs the fruit on the lapel of his suit jacket, inspects it, and is about to take a bite, when the woman – gun at ready – finally speaks up.)

WOMAN
Don’t. Eat. That.

(At the sound of her voice, the man freezes, mouth open, fruit at the ready. After a few loud, slow milliseconds, he carefully turns around and holds out the piece of fruit to her.)

MAN
Pardon me. (Pause.) Is this your orchard?

WOMAN
Put it down. On the ground. Here in front of me.

MAN
No worries, no worries. No need to get so worked up over a little piece of fruit.

(The man walks slowly over and places the fruit a few feet in front of the woman. She covers him the whole time. After he has backed away, and is an equal distance from the fruit and the tree itself, the woman walks over, gingerly picks up the fruit, and wraps it carefully in a piece of soft paper. She puts the parcel away and then turns back to the man.)

WOMAN
You’re a long way from the office. (Pause.) What’s in the briefcase?

MAN
(Looks at the case, then at her.)
Papers. Business cards. One of those magazines they give you on an airplane. Nothing interesting.

WOMAN
Must be important stuff, though… Couldn’t you put it down to pick some fruit?

MAN
Listen, I’m… sorry I trespassed on your land, ma’am, but I’m a bit lost and I got hungry. If you’ll point me in the direction of the nearest highway, I’d be happy to be on my way.

WOMAN
Highways? (Pause.) Oh, there’s no highways around here, I’m afraid.


Another fragment: “I want you to see things clearly, with sharpened eyes.”

A Sister

I had a sister once. Three years younger than me, with long, skinny arms and legs, and eyes greener than pine needles. I never liked her very much, except when she was quiet, which was hardly ever.

We lived on the beach back then, without neighbors for as far as the eye could see. We owned the whole horizon, and the whitecaps, and all the polished round rocks. My sister and I would play in the sand, making and building and crushing whole worlds that ran through your hands when you tried to pick them up. We used to go just far enough from the house that you could hold up your thumb in front of your eyes and squint at the house and suddenly the beach looked empty as far as you could see, and it wasn’t hard to believe that we were the only people left on the whole planet.

My sister and I never exactly played together. We played in the same spot, but never the same games. I loved to swim and build castles and take great running leaps from the sand to the waves and back again. She would just sit indian-style, combing her doll’s hair and talking to me as though I was listening.

I have tried to remember what she talked about, but it never seemed as important then as it does now. When I try to listen to those memories, everything sounds like waves and angry seagulls.

One day I was running in the waves pretending to be a fighter plane. I looked up and saw her walking towards me, crying and holding her doll. I don’t know why, but I laughed. I laughed, like I thought something was funny, and when I was laughing, I noticed the way the sun made her hair burn and glow, like everything was on fire. It suddenly hurt my eyes to look at her, and I turned away.

When I looked back, she was gone.

Now, like I said, I never liked her very much, but when she disappeared so suddenly my heart stopped and all I could hear was a rushing sound in my head. I ran to where she had been, kicking my way through the water, and cut my foot on a piece of glass hidden in the rocks and sand.

I swore and fell and grabbed my foot. Then I noticed that there was a hole in the ground where she had been, something dark and bottomless. My head was all stuffed full of cotton because of the pain, and I thought that maybe my imagination was playing tricks on me, but the hole started to get smaller and smaller as I watched, until finally it was just a pinprick in the ground, and then nothing.

I felt something inside my head snap like a rubber band, and before I knew it, I had run the distance from the beach to our house in a panting, stumbling flash. As I ran, I left a zig-zag polka dot trail of gleaming red that floated right on top of all the stones. I ran and I bled myself all over the white of the porch and smeared a streak of horror all down the front hallway. I barreled into the kitchen and grabbed my mother and tried to tell her how my sister had fallen into a hole in the ground and disappeared.

She shushed me and then saw the blood on my foot and picked me up. She carried me straight to the bathroom and held my foot under water, and all of a sudden it didn’t seem to hurt so much because she had wrapped it all in gauze and kissed me on the forehead. Then she asked me again what had happened.

I told her one more time, but slowed it down so that she could understand.
All she said was “Honey… you don’t have a sister.”

******

Sometimes, when I am walking, I will see a woman out of the corner of my eye who has hair like my sister’s, and I will stop and turn to stare at her. Every time this happens I want to grab the woman, whoever she is, and hug her until her bones creak. Instead I just stand there, motionless, holding my arms out like I expect something. Most of the time I realize soon enough that these women aren’t my sister, but it gets harder and harder every time. I usually have to turn my head and look at them sideways to really be sure.

I want to meet her, like she is now. Like she would be, if she hadn’t disappeared.
We would have so many things to say to each other – I just know it. Every time I think about meeting her again I run our conversations through my head. I’m sure we could talk for hours, just sit in a coffee shop and tell the stories of our lives.

She would live upstate, and have an older husband with a gray patch of hair on one side of his head, and they would have two boys – twins. Their house would be big but modest, and have the kind of driveway that curves through trees and around bends. She would be an archeologist, digging for dinosaur bones, or for pottery from an ancient culture. She would cry a little bit when she saw me, especially since we had been apart for so long. I would realize how much we had in common, and how funny it was that we hated each other so much when we were young. Distance and time would actually have brought us closer.

I just wish my family felt the same way. I used to try to talk to my mother about what happened and why nobody believed me. For a while she reacted like she thought it was a little funny, but when I kept bringing it up more and more, she started to look like she was talking to me from behind a glass wall that got thicker every time. I had to talk to a therapist eventually, but that never really helped anything.

I got older and we moved away from the beach, and all my memories of that place became like watercolors in my mind, great big strokes of blue sky and sand. But I never forgot her. I remembered her even if nobody else did. I could still remember the way the wind coming over the sea made her dress twist and billow, and the way she disappeared without even making a sound.

And then, one night, I had a dream and my sister was in it. This wasn’t like most of the dreams I can remember; I knew I was dreaming, but at the same time things smelled and tasted and felt more real than being awake.

She was the same age she had always been. Her face was frozen in time like the one painted on her doll. She just stood there, playing with the folds in her dress. A few moments passed in complete silence and then she sighed and held out her hand.

“Come on. Let me show you where I’ve been.”

******

When I woke up, I tried to hold onto the details of my dream, because It seemed like there was nothing more important that I could ever do, nothing that mattered so much, but the longer I sat the more it felt like I had never even dreamed anything after she took my hand, it was all I could do to keep from knocking the back of my own head in, and I felt the memory skipping away, rushing off somewhere else like blood in my veins, so I went downtown.

I went downtown, and I counted the faces of every woman I saw with hair like strawberries and wheat. It was all I could do. I had to get to know as much about them as I could before the light bouncing off the midday concrete burned so bright that I could no longer see anything else.

National Novel Writing Month

so neil gaiman’s website posted info about this contest that i think is absolutely hilarious. it’s called national novel writing month. the object is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of november. the only way to win is with 50,000 words. you win a nice pat on the back and the knowledge you wrote a novel. the idea of the contest is to write something, anything, as long as it goes for 50,000 words. if i think about it, that’s not that much. i’ve written plenty of 2000 word papers in my day. i’ve written a 70-page play. i could do this. not that i have an idea for a novel…. but it doesn’t have to be good. it just is. anyways, i entered. i may be posting a novel on my website, but we’ll see how that goes. the link is here.

Making Sweeten the Punch Work

I think I know what I need to do to make Sweeten the Punch work. (for those of you who may not know, Sweeten the Punch is the full-length play I wrote last semester.) Basically, I’ve already decided that the revamped storyline will have something to do with Marcy’s father being a radio producer who creates an old-timey serial called the American Vacation, which is the 1950s family in the old script. Somehow, Marcy and her family will have some sort of adventure, and find ways to be close to each other, although not everything will be peachy. Somehow, over the course of the play it will be revealed that the whole thing is a fabrication and that the truth is that marcy’s father committed suicide, and that she realized at his funeral that she never knew him. the whole play is an attempt on her part to get to know her father. it fails because she imagines his life as it would be if he had been happy and had lived.

this came to me recently and I needed to write it down so I wouldn’t forget it. unfortunately, it’s looking like I’ll have to chuck most of the original script. fun.