And here’s another walk down my “thought bucket” memory lane. Dead Messengers was an idea spawned from the phrase “don’t kill the messenger” and the fact that many story villains prove their evil disposition by killing off the person delivering bad news to them. People working in the villain’s organization have to know this and would probably be willing to part with a sizable chunk of their criminal cash to send someone else in their place to deliver bad news (Money does you little good when your dead… or does it? That’s an entirely different story.). Thus, the Dead Messengers service was born.

The service scrounges up people with suicidal tendencies but afraid to act on them because of a sense of responsibility to their families due to the suicide clauses in most insurance policies. But at “Dead Messengers”, you don’t have to worry about a thing… you give up crazy things like salary and benefits, but if you die in service, your family gets taken care of (all bills paid and comfortable living expenses). The only problem you might have to deal with is if (like the hero of our story) you find something to live for… and can’t get out of your contract.

Apparently. the time has come for studios to throw down in the fight for the expendable income rolling around in the pockets of all us sci-fi/fantasy/comic/video game geeks.

• Stan Lee. Disney. Sounds like it could be the makings of some crazy lawsuit. Oddly enough, it’s a partnership. The with the voice burned into the brains of many comic fans has set up a first look deal with Walt Disney Studios and his very own POW! Entertainment.

• Someone secured the film rights for the City of Heroes game. I remember when my wife, my friends and I first heard of this game. We came up with a crazy/fun idea for a theme-based team called, “The Scientists”. My wife wanted to play a flying, gravity manipulating character known as “Neuton”. One of my friends wanted to be “Tesla” with lightning powers. And I wanted invisibility with a character named “Schroedinger” (I also wanted to have a costume with cat ears). We later decided the team would work better as a group of villains. ^_^

• Warner Brothers snatched up the screen rights to Terry Brooks Shannara series. Almost every person I’ve played or discussed D&D (and many other role-playing games) with in the past has read books from this series.

• The WB also optioned one of those wordy screenplay thingies for a live action Thundercats movie. Hmmm, I remember Rachel McAdams mentioning she’d like to play Cheetara a couple years ago.

• Warner Brothers (again, damn they’ve been busy lately) released more details about the live action Speed Racer movie being done up by the Wachowski brothers (yeah, those Matrix guys).

• Even more Warner Brothers? Yep… along with Joel Silver. And Orson Scott Card’s Empire.

• And Spy Hunter has a director now. It’s the same gent that brought us the AvP movie. Not sure what to think about that yet.

The King of Kong. Ahhh… Donkey Kong. It’s not just for reminiscing about the old days or Futurama What-If Machine skits anymore.

With a gazillion different things on each planet, doesn’t it seem probable a hungry world-eater would run into a major food allergy sooner-or-later?

“This is galactic correspondent, Iffy Gotcha. I’m here today chatting with an anonymous world-eater about how to break into the planet chomping industry.

“Sir, can you tell us… wait… you don’t look so well.”

“It’s the purple helmet. Gives my complexion a funky appearance.”

“It’s not that. You’re sweating. And I think your lips are turning blue.”

“Oh… that. Yeah, I got a hold of some bad terrestrial matter on a planet I had for dinner the other night. I think it might have been polluted or something cause my stomach’s been doing flip-flops ever since. And I have heartburn something fierce.”

“I’m sure some other would-be world-eaters would like to know… is that a common occurrence when devouring planets?”

“Oh yeah. Happens every few planets or so. Mostly on the civilized ones. The only thing worse is when I get those little trees stuck in-between my teeth. They don’t exactly make floss in my size, so I have to cope until they work themselves out on their own.”

“Do you have any advice for the planet devouring public?”

“Sure… don’t eat the yellow planets.”

So, the group behind National Novel Writing Month has a new insane venture that kicked off this month… Script Frenzy. The goal for this one is to write a screenplay in one month. Take a wild guess what I’m doing with my spare time this month.

And just how well is this writing endeavor proceeding? Well, I still have all my hair, and the hair turning white seems to be giving me a nice distinguished appearance. My fingers are still a far way from cramping up or blistering. I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m sacrificing sleep for this (so those close to me don’t have to deal with the cranky force of devastation known as tired Jeff just yet), but I do have over a dozen Diet Coke cans stacked up on my desk.

I’m also thinking of getting a sign for my home office that says, “Office of Solitude”. ^_^

Honestly though, I’m still in the fun portion of all this. Going through the process of discovery as the flurry of words breathes life into characters and places and events. Not debating on whether some cool thought comes to mind would actually work with the story or not… you get to toss it in and let that cool thought adrenaline drive you onward toward more cool thoughts and scenes.

In a week or so, I’ll hit that wall of “this movie makes no sense and completely, utterly sucks” that I’ll need to get over. Gotta remember it’s okay for this first draft to be crappy. It’s okay for there to be some clarity issues. It’s okay to have extraneous scenes. It’s okay for characters to spit out inconsistent voices in their dialogue. Hell, it’s okay for all the characters to wind up sounding like Barney Fife during this part of the process.

Well, it’s all okay as long as I keep writing.

Well, I am a rambling blogger, so I’m just lumping together some quick thoughts from the week.

• Even though I have a teeny-tiny bit of history with BloodRayne, I never watched the movie adaptation. As I was flipping through the channels the other night, I caught it on the Sci-Fi channel, so I decided to give it a fair chance. I only made it through a few minutes, and I remember the moment when I decided to change the channel… it was when I was sitting there and thought to myself, “Wow, Kristanna has a really nice tan.”
• 2009. Universal Studios in Orlando. Harry Potter theme park. For some reason, I feel an urge to drink way too much ale in the Hogsmeade tavern.
• My mix-it-up crazy thought of the week. Dr. Seuss stories done up by Jhonen Vasquez.
• So You Think You Can… Clog? Clogs are cool. I’m totally gonna custom order a sweet pair of pimped out clogs.
• Once upon a time, there was a wondrous and insightful television show known throughout the lands as The View. Meredith provided a sense of professionalism and decorum. Joy pounced on unsuspecting guests with her predatory wit. Debbie pitched in with an overabundance of youthful energy and enthusiasm. And Star joined in with her lawyer-like analysis and cross examination of guests. It was a good mix, and I used to watch it every day I could. It seemed to cycle through a typical startup business cycle where you start out with less serious business and more fun but eventually work your way into more serious business and a lot less fun.
• The movie Music and Lyrics turned out to be as much fun as I thought it would be after seeing one of those “behind the scenes” shows on cable about it. Lots of fun… lots of laughs.

There’s a first time for everything. As I’ve learned from many (very) personal experiences is those firsts can carry a lot of clout… especially in the youthful experience-deprived mind of an adolescent. Probably the most memorable first for me was my first kiss (of the non-familial variety). It was nothing like what I’d imagined because… well, you’ll see…

At one point in my young life, I found to my complete and utter shock there was a young lady with a crush on me. I’m not sure how I made this initial discovery. Maybe it was due to her stalker-like qualities… showing up everywhere I’d be. Walking by my house every day after school even though she lived in the opposite direction. Watching me in classes we shared. Leaving stuff behind in classes I had after her, so she’d have an excuse to go back into the classroom after I was seated.

Yet, I ignored her. I was in love with the most beautiful girl in our class, and this other girl… well, she didn’t exactly turn heads. If you looked close enough, there was potential for her to develop into a gorgeous woman, but as is the folly of youth, you don’t spend much time looking ahead (and just noticing the undeveloped girl). But I did notice her eventually. It was difficult not to. Especially when she gathered up all her courage one day and asked me out on a date.

I knew deep down I didn’t really have a shot at the girl I was in love with, and I was (extremely) single at the time. Probably due to my poor boy’s wardrobe, excessive nerdiness, super-svelte figure, extreme shyness and an uncanny ability when I did speak to nervously say what I felt in the most embarrassingly wrong way. For pretty much all of my younger days, I didn’t handle social scenarios very well and wasn’t comfortable with communicating what I thought (I learned much, much later in life these were aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome). As I considered her offer, I remember thinking at some point, “Maybe I don’t handle myself with all this boy/girl stuff because I haven’t practiced it enough. I always get better at sports when I practice. Maybe it’s the same principle underneath it all.”

So, I agreed to go out on a date with her.

Dinner was rough to get through. Being shy, I usually hung out with groups of people. People that liked to talk, so it didn’t make much difference if I didn’t say much. I was an expert in conversational camouflage. But at a dinner table, one-on-one with a girl. I was completely out of my element. I was hoping she’d be a talker, and I could just sit back and be a good listener, but there’s one thing to note for all those people out there dealing with someone crushing on you–even if they already know everything about you, they still like to ask a ton of questions hoping to find out even more about you. So, I had to talk. Well, kinda talking… I spat out verbs and nouns and adjectives and sometimes they were even in some kind of order that resembled real sentences. Since I was fumbling words left-and-right, I just decided to blurt out a quick joke about it. And she laughed at the joke. That one laugh calmed me down enough we were able to have a decent conversation (she was also filled to the brim with nerdiness, so that made it easy to discuss on-the-edge topics like chemistry and geometry and literature).

After dinner, we began our walk home (it was a small town, so you could get to most places without much wear-n-tear on your sneakers), and she led us by the park where we sat down to watch the last little bit of the sun setting. She sneakily wiggled her way closer and closer to me as we continued to talk, and when I turned to say something to her one time, she was right there… whispering her response where I could barely hear it as she stared deeply into my eyes. I leaned closer to hear what she was saying, and it suddenly hit me… this is gonna be my first kiss. Growing up schooled heavily in the ways of the hopeless romantic, it was a moment I’d thought about often. In my mind, it had been built up as something special. Something magical.

And when our lips touched, something “special” happened.

My mind raced through a gazillion thoughts… Am I gonna screw this up? What if I turn out to be a bad kisser and she tells everyone? Then no other girl in town will want to kiss me and my lips will remain virginal until I go to college where I’ll screw up another kiss and find myself banned from kissing any girls on campus. Then I’ll be selling blood to scrape up enough money just to get prostitutes to kiss me.

For some reason these thoughts caused a little anxiety. My face went pale, I started sweating, and I pulled away from her with a look of horror on my face. Then I stood up and ran.

Ran to the nearest set of bushes in the park where nerves and anxiety were transformed into vomit. Large quantities of vomit. And when she came over to see if I was all right, she caught sight of me upchucking and got hit with a serious psycho-sympathetic response as she started heaving her dinner into the bushes as well. She apologized to me over and over thinking we both got food poisoning from the restaurant she chose for dinner. The apologies quickly became tears. I figured this date hadn’t turned out anywhere close to what she had planned. I think she was hoping for a magical moment as well.

I wanted to make her feel better. I wanted to let her know it was all gonna be okay, but I wasn’t really sure how. So, I did the first thing that came to mind (well, second since I wasn’t sure how well kissing works with vomit-breath). I grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight. When she looked over at me, I looked into her eyes, smiled and said, “Maybe we should try this before dinner next time.”

It was enough to make her smile. And at that moment, it was the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. From that day forward, I found myself attracted to nice smiles. Sure, a woman with a healthy pair of legs will get noticed, but smiles always seem to keep my attention.

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I thought I’d dig into the ol’ “thought bucket” (estimated count is around 300+ ideas right now) and see what I have sitting in there growing stale from disuse (and at least let it see the light of day somehow). Here’s one that was a fun, crazy idea I had a long time back that I abandoned when some other time travel stories showed up on the scene.

“The Temporal Pimpernel”
A new take on the public domain story, “The Scarlet Pimpernel” as a foppish, bored aristocrat from the future engages in anonymous swashbuckling adventures throughout history to save rich and wealthy people of the past from certain demise and whisk them away to safety in his future world. But one day, his wife discovers she’s one of these aristocrats from the past, but her memories had been rebuilt to hide her identity in the future. The authorities learn her secret and threaten to send her back to her primitive origins (where there’s not a single future luxury or convenience to be found) unless she works with them to unmask the Pimpernel.

This idea came to me when I was discussing public domain properties with friends, and being a fan of swashbuckling adventures as a kid, one of the first stories to come to mind was “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” This idea evolved from that as I tried to think of a way to put a twist to this classic swashbuckling hero. I even had a little short story I wrote going through what looked like a classic Scarlet Pimpernel story until the end when he tells the person he saved about how history says that person actually died… just before transporting him to the future to start his new life.

Dashing hero full of bravado and daring. Sword fights. Displays of acrobatic skill. Embarrassing the constabulary along the way. Misdirection. Deception. Defying death. And time travel. All blended up into a fun little idea.

I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in my life. I’ve been through the ringer once or twice (more like a dozen times). I’ve had a couple moments where I felt like I was at the breaking point where I’d just collapse under the crap and stress in my life. I made it through those times, and when I think back on it, I wonder… “How did I make it?”

When I was in training for military survival instructors, one of the areas that always fascinated me was the POW resistance training. Guess it’s my love of psychology and my curiosity of what makes the human mind tick that drew me to it. The goal is to prep military personnel to handle (resist) the stuff that could be thrown at them in an enemy prison. Physical torture, mental anguish, feeling like your captors are always a step ahead of you, and all the stressors pushed onto a prisoner to break their spirit and get what they want out of them whether it be vital information, propaganda material or even in some extreme cases… defection.

In some stories I’ve worked on, I’ve had to analyze characters and get a feel for where their breaking point would be. It’s generally a combination of two areas of concern that lead to a meltdown… factors that are important to a person and factors that are not important to a character but still put a drain on vital energy and mental welfare. When breaking down a POW, the captors tend to play on that second area to chip away at a prisoner’s energy and defenses and then hit them with the first area to hit them with something that might put them over the edge.

A sapling tree can only bend so far before it breaks. The weaker but steadier winds will keep bending the tree… setting it up for when a powerful gust comes along and finally snaps it. In the POW camps, it might be little things like torture, bad food, poor living conditions, lack of sleep, irritating (and repetitive) sounds, and more that slowly put a drain on energy, patience, and mental toughness. Imagine for a moment…

You’ve been stripped down and crammed into a crate not tall enough for you to stand in and not broad enough for you to actually sit. Outside the box, they have the sound of a crying baby playing over and over again on a loudspeaker. You were kept up most of the night by the guards, and they stop by your crate to make sure you don’t fall asleep. The guards also give you a small peephole and make sure they smoke, drink, and snack within your viewing range. They also use this time to gossip about how easily some of your comrades gave in, and how they could just get rid of the rest of the prisoners because they have all the info they need. Suddenly, it’s a few hours later and your crate eventually becomes a restroom as well as a bedroom. The smell starts to make you nauseous when your empty stomach isn’t rumbling. Baby screaming. Pins and needles numbness in one leg while the other begins cramping up. Eyes getting heavy. Expendable. Naked. Friends and comrades suffering the same fate.

Then they bring you into a room and hit you with stuff you care about. Factors that are important to you. They talk about your hometown. They talk about your parents discussing their current employment status and health. They talk to you about your girlfriend and what she did recently. They make you feel like they have people everywhere and everyone and everything you cared about is jeopardy. For many people who used all their energy resisting the non-essential stuff earlier, this is where they tend to find out they don’t have enough gas left in the tank to deal with matters that are actually important to them. This is where they usually break or let down their guard just enough to let their captors in.

This comes into play in the real world as well. People sweat the little things so often, they take away from the energy and time a person could devote to things more important to them and their livelihood. They put up with and tolerate too much minor crap all the time, and it bleeds them dry inside. Until something important comes along and breaks them.

So to put a character on the edge of breaking, I can toss in a variety of non-essential stressors to wear them down and then hit them with something big. And if a real person wanted to keep from breaking down, they could work through all the little stuff causing problems in their lives and eliminate them and free up energy and time to deal with bigger issues.

Since yesterday was Memorial Day, this is dedicated to the memories of my military friends who have passed away and to let my military friends know I haven’t forgotten them. I even pulled out photos and clippings tonight to let my mind relive some great times. But as much fun as I had in the military, it wasn’t all fun and games. In fact, I can honestly say there were some times where I was stressed out far beyond anything I’ve ever encountered in the civilian world. Piss off the wrong person, and you could find yourself knocked down a few pay grades… or find it difficult to get promoted to the next one. Minor mistakes might be forgiven, but make a mistake at the wrong time, and your livelihood’s in danger (or in some cases, your life). Political agendas. Power trips from kids fresh out of college being put in charge of teams. Superiors that feel threatened if you’re too smart. Superiors that feel threatened if you’re not good enough and might make them look bad. All the fun stuff.

But at the end of each day, there always seemed to be good friends to help you get through it all. Friends to laugh with. Friends to party with. Friends to chat with. Friends to help out when you needed it. Heck, one of these military members became my best friend… and my wife.

Some of those friends though… they died serving in the military. It’s not all glory and “take a bullet for your country and bleed patriotism” when it comes to people dying in the service. I’ve had military friends die from things like a training accident, helicopter crash, heart attack, motorcycle wreck, and suicide. And even though I try to put it off as late as I can on Memorial Day (considering it’s the next morning already), I still take time to remember them each Memorial Day. A couple of those friends were there for me during some rough times and helped get my life back on track. I always seem to find good people like that in my life, and it always hurts when you lose a good friend like that.

They did some good in their short lives, and whenever I go out of my way to help someone, part of the reason I do it is for them. Sometimes, it’s tough to find the time and effort to help others. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the help is even appreciated. Sometimes, it feels like others are out there doing their damnedest to undermine my efforts for whatever crazy reason they might have. And sometimes, I wonder why I even bother. But every year on Memorial Day, I remember. I remember what their friendships did for me… for my life. They each could have done so much more for so many others, but they can’t. So I do what I can to pass on what was given to me… hope, confidence, laughter, happiness, friendship and so much more.

It’s my way of thanking them for what they did for me because… well, I never really took the time to thank them when I could.

Romancing the StoneSo, I have this big screen, HD TV my wife got me for Christmas one year… just before I started my new job where I travel all the time and only get to enjoy it on the weekends. But on those weekends, I try to get the most out of it as I can with my “research” watching and breaking down movies from various genres. I’ll go through rental movies, I’ll go through DVDs in my collection (I seem to buy them faster than I can find time to watch them), and I’ll get all click-happy with the remote seeing if there’s anything interesting on to watch.

Today, I did all three, and I came across a movie from my youth I hadn’t seen in a while (but since my mom loved the movie, I saw it plenty as a kid)… Romancing the Stone. As I watched it, I remember myself thinking, “Damn, I forgot how much fun this movie is.” Sure, it’s got some cheesy bits, and it’s not a champion in the realm of cinematic achievement. But it was fun to watch. Taking a machete to Joan’s expensive Italian shoes. Using the marijuana for their campfire in the wrecked plane in the jungle. The guided tour of the village during the chase scene escaping from the army vehicles with the mounted machine guns.

So, I sat there and thought about the fun movies I’ve seen over the years. Galaxy Quest, Last Boy Scout, Big Trouble in Little China, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Hawk the Slayer, Pirates of Penzance, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Goonies, Pirates of the Carribean, Kung Fu Hustle, Ice Pirates, Army of Darkness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lethal Weapon, Con Air, Grosse Pointe Blank, Better Off Dead, Karate Kid, Bulletproof Monk… well, I’m sure I could be listing out movies all night here.

Sure they aren’t what people would necessarily consider masterpieces, but they scored high in the fun category for me. And when you’re looking to be entertained, fun usually works for most people. I think the quest for that “masterpiece,” for that gleaming statue of recognition… I think it gets in the way sometimes. It’s a goal to strive for, but when I think about it, I’m more into the “fun factor” with movies. I tried writing a screenplay I thought would have a shot at recognition. Emotional. Artistic. A thinking person’s movie. But over halfway into it, I tossed it to the side and never finished it. It hit the emotions, but it just wasn’t fun. I just couldn’t picture myself sitting in a theater with that movie for a couple hours and feeling fully entertained.

As I think more and more about it, I realize I started writing for fun in the first place. It was an outlet to entertain myself. And even though I share my writing with other people now (instead of hoarding it in dozens of notebooks buried in a closet), I still write for my own entertainment. I still write to have fun.

Sure, I could probably write one of those masterpieces if I put my mind to it, but deep down, I want to write the fun stuff. I want to give back to the people that entertained me over the years.

I want to be an entertainer.