My new novel, “Thespia’s Abandon,” follows an actress, screenwriter, and revolutionary in L.A. as they battle the forces of darkness, find themselves, and transform their world. It currently needs the good graces of a competent literary agent who’ll take what I believe is a story for our times under their wing, and find it a publisher who specializes in romantic thrillers with a dash of black comedy and satire.
If you would like to read it, let me know and we can correspond and I can send you a pdf file of it. It is copyrighted, and looking for constructive feedback. Please also contact me if you know of a good, trustworthy literary agent as well!
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Stavros Luka walked confidently into a production meeting at the Zion offices with Ivan Learner, Larry Savage, and Scott Levin – Zion’s ace-in-the-hole for box office pull – with Savage’s assistant Dawn Peters joining them. Upon entering Larry Savage’s office, Ms. Peters had snootily asked Luka, “And you are…?” to which Zion’s new star screenwriter answered, “Oh, me? I alchemize the mundane into art and screen magic. I’m the writer,” with a million dollar smile and burning eyes that had shook her normally preternaturally all-business manner down. “This way. Please have a seat,” she’d said, upon regaining her composure, showing him into a conference room, where he sat alone, waiting for the rest to join them and silently cursing them for making him wait on them. What are they, doctors? Leaving me in terse anticipation of some examination? thought he.
Then, soon enough, the others joined him, the meeting itself set specifically to determine a director for the project, along with some other preliminaries germane to production, such as production assistants, designers, etc. Much of the meeting dealt with assigning these tasks, with great tedium – only broken when Luka loosened the room up with a couple of jokes.
“Scott has made us over $100 million with his directorial eye,” said Larry Savage proudly, looking particularly suave and cadaverous at the same time. Luka marveled at the walking paradox.
“We think he’s perfect for Sun and Flesh – not simply for that reason alone,” Savage continued.
“May I say something?” Luka asked.
“Well, that’s why you’re here, Luka. To give us your input,” Savage said with slight derision.
“Thank you, Larry. I have no doubts that Scott’s big box office allure will likely help make this project a success, but…”
“Yes?” Ivan Learner leaned in inquisitively.
“Well…I just don’t think he’s got the right vision for this particular story,” Luka declared plainly.
“Why not?” answered a slightly-offended Scott Levin.
There was an awkward silence as Larry Savage cleared his throat.
“No offense to you and your talent, Scott, but I just don’t think your particular style fits with what this story demands,” Luka explained.
“And what style is that? I directed Shadowman A.D. and Laugh Riot, two of the last decade’s most successful films. How much style do you need? Pardon me, but who is this guy again?” Levin asked, frothing with real indignation and looking at Learner and Savage with incredulity.
“Uh, pardon me, Scott, but have you even read my script in full yet? I’m just curious.”
“I’ve read most of it, yes, and plan on finishing it in the run-up to pre-production. What’s the problem here?” Levin asked, looking intently at all the potentates at the table.
“Now hang on here. We’re getting sidetracked,” Larry Savage declared, playing school headmaster. “Luka, you’re out of line. You’re a first-time screenwriter, and Scott knows very well what he’s doing. We trust in him,” he clarified with a slinky grin. “Now, we do appreciate your input, but if you were an established, proven screenwriter, we would be taking your advice a little more seriously. Zion Studios’ films have grossed nearly a billion dollars in its decade of existence. With all due respect to you as a creative wellspring, I believe we know what’s best here, and that’s having Scott behind the lens, okay?”
“Okay, Larry. You guys call the shots, it’s true,” Luka admitted.
“And we gave you a very healthy figure for a first-time movie script, I think,” Ivan Learner added. “For us, your script is sufficient input – as well as any needed re-writes – but, we wanted you here today just to be aware of our production choices, not tell us our director was a bad pick,” he finished with a superior smile.
“Gotcha,” Luka conceded. “I didn’t mean to say he’s a bad director, just-”
“I think we got your gist, there, Luka,” Savage said. “And if we can get on to other business-”
“May I say something here? Thank you,” interjected Levin. “Honestly, Luka, I think your story is the perfect chance for me to craft a more stripped-down, Indie approach, and to do something hewn more out of a real vision of the world.”
“Really?” Luka stared at the director dumbfounded.
“Really,” Levin replied sharply.
“That’s great to hear. But, I wonder if you’re just saying that because of the big money involved, as well as the involvement of Miranda Mills, or if you really want to change up the game and do something with a real artistic vision. Because Laugh Riot to me was not artistry. It was a big budget pacifier designed to compete with Disney and Pixar for the popcorn-munching mass market,” Luka extolled honestly.
“Gentlemen, let’s not get lost in a semantic go-around here again. We’ve got a month here to finish casting, and do our pre-production checklist, so – Scott has the helm, and we’ll be lensing here at our back lots and in Belize for Palomar,” Savage mediated.
Suddenly, the sounds of shouting voices four stories below them on Wilshire became apparent to everyone in the room. A man with a bullhorn was saying something they couldn’t quite make out.
“What on earth is that? Dawn, can you see?” Savage directed his assistant, who went to the window.
“It’s a big mob. Like twenty or so people, with signs. A big, burly guy with a beard and megaphone. Here, I’ll open the window,” said Dawn, doing just that.
“This is the death of culture. And Zion the head vulture!” came the man’s megaphone shout. “Mind control and terror as entertainment. Propaganda, popcorn sales, extortionate tickets for garbage schlock! Don’t buy it! Boycott Zion, Paramount, Twentieth-Century Fox, and put them all in the stocks!” the man railed.
After a few minutes of everyone listening to the man’s amplified protest, the sound of a police siren was added to the din. Luka went to the window and saw four police units at the curb, and several uniformed cops tangling with protesters – one of whom was tasered. Other units soon arrived, and police were trying to subdue the crowd, which was made up of mostly young people, and who were in a riotous mood. Luka and Dawn – as well as other observers in the building and on the street – watched as police engaged in fisticuffs with the protesters, tasered a couple more, and seemed, though, to be increasingly outnumbered, as more and more bystanders rushed in to aid the protesters. One man in a suit rushed up and shouted, “Zion should be boycotted! The shit they peddle as entertainment! You should be arresting them!” he shouted, pointing up at the two sticking their heads out the window. The police were getting back as good or better than what they were dishing out, and began looking frantic. Luka marveled as the mob by this time had more than doubled, with more people stopping in cars and on the sidewalk to either watch the melee or join in.
“Okay, well, let’s get back to it, shall we,” said Larry Savage, finally. “Let’s close those windows and finish our meeting. Dawn, will you go down and kind of…make sure of what’s happening with police and security and everything?”
“Sure,” she said with complicity, making to leave the office.
“I’ll go with her,” said Luka. “I want to get a closer look at the chaos.”
“Okay, I guess we can meet later if we need to. We’ll call you, Luka,” said Savage with pronounced certitude.
“Right. Everyone,” he said, departing fast on Dawn’s heels, they making desultory conversation as they headed down together in the elevator.
Once down in the lobby, the scene on the street was one of a full-blown riot. They stood behind the glass lobby doors watching as the bearded man with the megaphone shouted “orders” to his “troops” like he was Alexander the Great or Napoleon. He knocked a cop down with his megaphone who was trying to bully and arrest him. The man was then tasered, although it seemed to have little effect on him. By now dozens of people had joined in the protest, and were keeping the cops at bay. As Luka and Dawn watched in amazement, the cops shortly thereupon withdrew, like they did during the L.A. riots of 1992. The leader rallied his “troops” with strong words of persuasion, saying, “The movie studios are just the beginning! Tomorrow it will be the so-called halls of justice, our modern-day Bastille, to free our imprisoned brethren across this land, and then, with our great army made of all the disillusioned and marginalized, we will take D.C. itself and put these henchmen of Moloch to rest!” Cheers went up, the crowd absolutely energized. The age of wireless communication also allowed for those in the fray to spread the word fast to theirs, and theirs, and theirs, who were all soon joining in.
“We will finally put this Satan into the ground and begin building the new society!” shouted the leader. Luka went out at this point and approached him, though the man was too worked up to take notice of (or care about) the haut-couture dressed man trying to get his attention. He went on rallying his small army, as Luka was absorbed into the tumult. Eventually, there was a tense standoff between the growing angry mob and SWAT team police reinforcements, who were doing their best not to further agitate the mob, but defuse the situation as best they could. The leader of the mob, who Luka identified as “Buck,” due to multiple people calling his name, was targeted by the police as the instigator. Their own bullhorns pleaded with him to give up, but he was defiant, shouting back his own demands for himself, his people, and his country. Given one final ultimatum that if he did not disperse his mob, they would begin firing rubber bullets and tear gas, the crazed – inspired might be a better word – crowd began breaking up in separate directions, without the reaction the police may have imagined. The broken-off factions each found new neighborhoods nearby to stir up, resulting in many parts of West Hollywood and L.A. becoming hotbeds of vociferous protest, though with relatively little structural or property damage done, compared with the ’92 riots. Mostly graffiti art and strategic “flash mob” infiltrations of certain places and types of businesses. Buck’s message of a new society doing away with the corporate lie was spreading – fast – and all the cops could (mostly) do was “babysit the revolution,” as Buck put it to his followers.
Luka finally found an audience with the hulking poet-prophet revolutionary, who, when finally up close, he recognized from his performance at the Kimera Club.
“Hey, I saw you perform at the Kimera Club the other night. Great stuff,” Luka said. “But, why are you doing this?” Luka asked him.
“Who are you?” Buck retorted, suspicious, looking him up and down.
“Oh, no, I’m sympathetic to your cause. I think corporate fascism should die, too. I’m just curious as to what your special motivation may be.”
“My special motivation? Because this is who I am, and what we all must become, my friend,” Buck answered, looking very Christ and Buddha-like together, a beatific grin sprouting upon his broad face.
“I agree. We must become as laughing children, with innocent hearts, as someone said recently,” Luka responded.
“Who said that? That’s exactly what we-” Buck replied, but at that exact moment he was hit in the head with a rubber bullet, sending him to the tarmac.
“Goddammit!” yelled Luka, as several of Buck’s associates scrambled to pull him to safety. Luka helped them drag Buck to a nearby alleyway, where one of them ran and brought his van over in a flash. They loaded him in, the rest of the mob tangling with the now attacking police, giving him time to escape.
“Where are you taking him?” Luka shouted. The driver gave him a suspicious look.
“Who are you?” he interrogated, as he eyed the now-violent melee unraveling before him.
“I’m…a writer. I want to do a story about him,” Luka answered, as the man searched his eyes for honesty.
“Okay, come with us,” the driver said, as he backed down the alleyway, and out onto the adjoining street. “We’re going back to the safe house. I’m Danny.”
“How far is it?” Luka inquired.
“Several miles,” Danny replied.
“Can you get me back to my car later?”
Buck made a groaning sound and everyone in the truck heaved a sigh of relief, calling out to him all at once.
“Ouch. Goddamn, that hurt,” he stated, sitting up. Rubbing his left forehead, he said, “This is war, I guess. It’s on.”
Back at the “safe house,” Buck resurrected his and Luka’s conversation from the street.
“Who said that? Where did you hear that? It sounds so…” Buck began.
“Familiar? That’s probably because it’s part of the star guardians’ message. The UFO message given in New York and-” Luka replied.
“And Mexico City and Jerusalem. Yeah, that’s right!”
“Yeah, my girlfriend and I were actually there in Central Park a couple of weeks ago when it happened. We heard the message first-hand,” Luka explained.
“Is that so?” Buck answered, putting an ice pack someone handed him to his head. “It’s happening. Our star friends are finally intervening.”
“About damn time,” said Luka. “And perfect timing for your crusade.”
“He wants to do an article on you, Buck,” said the driver.
“Yeah? Are you a reporter?” inquired Buck.
“Not exactly. I’m a screenwriter,” replied Luka.
“Screenwriter?” he asked incredulously, with a pause. “Really? What’s your name? Who have you written for?”
“Really. Name’s Luka. Stavros Luka. But, just Luka. I was meeting with Zion Studios heads today when your protest started. I was in the window watching when that guy in the suit shouted us down, so to speak,” he recounted, laughing. Buck let out deep guffaw, coughing as he did so.
“Yeah, that was classic. He wasn’t even with us,” Buck recalled, amused.
“But then he was. It was great. You really have an uncanny knack for stirring people up, man,” Luka observed.
“So, you’re a screenwriter, eh? Working with Zion? On some new video game movie, or jingoistic recruitment film, or something?” Buck asked, derisively.
“No, not at all, actually. I’m changing the game on them with this one. And, I’m right with you about the state of Hollywood movies, brother. Absolute shit,” Luka replied in a pointed but understanding manner.
“Well, you don’t look like the kind of guy who’d write that shit, anyway. I always picture narrow-skulled simians in tiny rooms with old typewriters, scuttling along like claws on the floors of lost oceans. Living in total fear of writing anything challenging; anything that doesn’t smell of box office lucre,” Buck rhapsodized, taking the ice pack from his head and swooning a bit.
“Are you alright? Hope it’s not a concussion,” Luka remarked.
“I don’t think so. They can’t kill me. If life on the streets of L.A. for twelve years hasn’t killed me, these baby Hitlers certainly won’t be able to get up that early in the morning. Too busy jacking their guns off,” retorted the hirsute muckraker with the knotty forehead. Everyone in the room laughed.
“This is my latest manuscript, by the way. It includes my latest poems, such as Tech Holocaust and Blanched Opus,” Buck declared.
“Oh, yeah, I heard you read Blanched Opus at the Kimera Club the other night,” Luka replied. “Very…stunning. Amazing stuff there.”
“Yeah, that was a raucous evening,” Buck said with a chortle of amazed recall. “It was a beautiful, hedonistic, positive anarchism, and a joyful romp.”
“Definitely. Can I see it? Your manuscript, I mean?” Luka asked. Buck complied immediately, passing him the sheaf of poems. Luka flipped through them, reading a page and a half or so of the seventeen-page Tech Holocaust, which by his reckoning was a sword of fire through the heart of the technocracy.
“It’s funny, I allude to some of the points you’re making in your poetry, like the salvation of man lying strictly with himself, and altering his consciousness and priorities on this planet. Eschewing technology for acts of humanity; the importance of the plant and animal kingdoms in our salvation, et cetera. I couldn’t agree more with your weltanschaaung,” Luka complimented and opined.
Others in the house were soon drawing Buck’s attention away from their conversation. Talk of protest planning and strategic moves like sabotaging media outlets and other of what Buck’s group saw as the “evil apparatus of the cabal” ensued. As this group-gab happened, Luka checked his cell phone, which had a couple of text messages from Miranda and one voice mail from his father, asking if he would be coming home for the holidays. The texts were short and sweet: “Hope u r doing well and meeting went okay. Kisses, M :-)” and “Thinking of you as sunset paints the horizon beautiful, strange colors and I feel all alone”.
Soon, Buck and his entourage ended their deliberations.
“Well, I think I need to lie down for a while, Luka. Let’s meet somewhere soon, I’m interested to talk with you more about films and aliens and the like. I want to hear about your Zion flick. But, for now…” Buck bellowed grandly as he stood up, aiming for a bedroom, “I must confer with Morpheus. Let’s make it Renaissance Books. Friday at 8, I have a poetry reading there. Au revoir,” he finished, smiling, and going into the bedroom and closing the door.
They all stood looking at one another, Buck’s sudden absence causing a pronounced vacuum in the room.
“He’s uh…very persuasive, isn’t he?” Luka asked no one in particular.
“He’s a new messiah, is what he is,” replied a thin young man, looking admiringly at Buck’s closed bedroom door, decorated with .
“That’s very possible. I wouldn’t be surprised,” Luka replied. “Can I get a ride back to Zion?”
“Probably still too early for that at this stage,” declared another young man, switching on a TV and finding a live newscast about the riots. “There’s still a lot of activity going on down there.”
“Well, then to my place out in Westwood?”
“They’re saying not to even go out if you can help it. The protests have spread all over the city,” remarked the one who’d turned on the TV.
“Wow,” Luka marveled, his eyes glued to the TV set.
“Maybe you’d better just crash here. There’s plenty of room,” said Danny.
“Nah. Thanks, though. I think I’ll grab a cab,” Luka replied. When the fourth cab company he called said they weren’t running any cars due to the riots, he exhaled in frustration and disbelief. “I guess I’ll have to take you up on your offer,” he said, flopping down on the couch. He wondered if his car would even still be intact, as he was only parked a half block away from where the SWAT teams had set up. He noticed that it was the day before Halloween, thinking that the media would likely paint out Buck’s brilliant “viral protest” as merely Devil’s Night mayhem. He also noted that tomorrow Malachi DeGrassi would be performing at the Greek Theater. Would he even be able to make it there? The whole world was turned upside down now. It was only mid-afternoon but he was inexplicably tired. He closed his eyes and followed Buck into the arms of Morpheus.