The All-American Succubus

Lillith may be as fresh-faced as a homecoming queen, and yet she is one of the oldest of those who live among us.

The story of Lillith is a cautionary tale about a modern young woman living in less than modern times. Lillith was Adam’s first wife, and, like women of today, believed that she was her spouse’s equal. Unfortunately, Adam did not share this belief. He wanted a mate who was uncomplicated, uneducated and submissive. He wanted to be served. He wanted a slave. And so, in this ancient world of patriarchal theocracy, Lillith was cast forth from Paradise, and forced to wander the earth for eternity.

I think about the shock that she must have felt upon awakening from the fall. How cruel her punishment was, for her only crime was insubordination. I think about the shame, the isolation that she felt, as she navigated through a sea of mortals. I think about Paradise, the memory of it seared into her brain, how she hungered to return home. And hunger she still does, for after the fall, Lillith was transformed into a succubus.

Succubi and incubi are specialized forms of vampires. They are sexual vampires. They may or may not drink the blood of their victims. They may or may not dine on their victim’s flesh. One thing is for certain – what they do is to drain the life-force from their victims, extinguishing them in an orgasmic frenzy.

I sit in the corner of the Paradise Bar. A man walks in – Craig. He’s boyish and rumpled; discontent is settled on his shoulders like a shrug. He sits at the bar, alone, and drinks Scotch.

Across from him, a beautiful young woman. Lillith. She watches Craig; I can feel her attraction to him – it is palpable. How ripe he is. The warmth that emanates from his flesh. I hear the thoughts as they run through her head – Maybe this time it won’t happen, maybe this time I won’t kill him, tonight will be different, maybe this time everything will be alright…

She speaks to Craig; he turns… and within moments he is smitten.

Perhaps tonight will be different. Perhaps tonight, everything will be alright.

For Lillith, the hunt begins.

The Faces of They Live Among Us

You’ve been reading about the characters who live among us. Here are the wonderful actors who are giving them life (in no particular order – consider this a casting roundtable, L. to R.). Click on the pic to see them more up close and personal:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAIM: Geoffrey M. Reeves

SERAFINA: Ivet Corvea

FATHER BUER: Rolf Saxon

LUCIAN: Allen Marsh

CRAIG: James Thomas Gilbert

ALEX: Erik Kowalski

BETH: Jessica Nicole Webb

SAM: Don Shirey

JIMMY: Justin Baker

PEG: Kendra Munger

TED: David Stanford

BELIALA: Marcia French

LILLITH: Nina Rausch

ROCCO: Terence J. Rotolo

The Sins of the Father

As I prep the script for its final pass – and begin work on Episodes 4 – 6, the character of Rocco emerges.

I’ve described Rocco as brutal and ruthless, for he is… and yet he is much more than a one-dimensional stereotype.

Rocco’s mother immigrated to the States, in search of a better life. She landed in the Bronx, and it was there that Rocco’s path was formed. She met a man – Denny was his name, and, in a matter of weeks, found herself married and pregnant. Her life was far from idyllic, for Denny had a dark and terrible secret. Ruthless fathers beget ruthless sons, and Denny was a vicious man, hell-bent on pounding out his transgressions upon his wife and child.

Like so many victims of abuse, Rocco left home at an early age. He boarded a bus and rode it straight to the West Coast. Like his father, Rocco was a dreamer. Like so many dreamers, Rocco found that his dreams were, in themselves, a trap.

He was ill-prepared for the reality of life on his own. His inner demons haunted him. He turned to drugs  for solace.

One night he met a girl. Her name was Serafina. She moved him in ways that he could not define. Perhaps she touched his soul. Their relationship was not always one of abuser and victim; but Rocco’s patterns were too deeply imprinted. The black void inside him could only filled by rage. He believed, as his father did, that love was a weakness, a disease to be cured. And so, he began to strip Serafina of what he himself did not have. He tried to rob her of her soul. He abused her. He pimped her on the streets.

And yet, there once was a very different Rocco in a very different time. A time when he knew love instead of fists. A time of hope and of promise.

We first see him, as Caim first sees him, beating Serafina into unconsciousness in a darkened alley. His rage is untethered; he is like a wild animal.

For Rocco, the sins of the father have now become the sins of the son.

Night Shifts

The story of Peg Entwistle is a Tinseltown tragedy.

Peg was born in the U.K.; her mother died when she was young, and at the age of eight she found herself accompanying her father to America.

Through family connections, Peg found herself thrust into the life of theatre at an early age. By the time she had grown into adulthood, she was earning critical praise for her work on the boards. Some biographies have her traveling back to England to work; others keep her here. Whatever the facts are, what I do know is this – that by May of 1932, at the age of 24, Peg was living in Los Angeles, and, while she was still receiving acclaim for her work on the stage, she could not get a job in film to save her life.

Literally.

For on the night of September 16, 1932, Peg left her friends, walked to the Hollywoodland sign, climbed the workmen’s ladder to the top of the letter “H,” and deliberately plummeted off the sign into the canyon below. Her body was found two days later. Nearby was a carefully folded coat and purse.

It’s sad to me that so few people today know of Peg’s tragic cautionary tale. She began a precedent for young, failed actresses seeking a way out of their degradation and pain.

I knew that she had to be part of my story.

In the world of “They Live Among Us,” Peg, as a suicide, is forced to live the final moments of her life over and over again, each night since her death. I imagine her up there, in the dark, in the cold, so alone. Perhaps people are hiking Mulholland, as they often do. Perhaps she calls to them; perhaps she reaches out for help – only to be passed by again and again, for they do not see her.

Enter Ted, a Griffith Park ranger, who patrols the night. Ted, like so many who work night shifts, spends his life in solitude. I’ve described him as “terminally shy” – and, I believe that he is. I think that the world for Ted, like Peg, has been a somewhat cruel place. I imagine Ted in his truck, night after night, reading the works of Shakespeare, great poets and other food for the soul – for Ted is, at heart, a romantic.

And so we have a shift in Peg’s torment, and Ted’s isolation on one particular night. Ted, on patrol, hears the sound of a someone crying. He looks up – and sees a beautiful woman, atop the Hollywood sign. He goes to her; he soothes her. He talks her down – and he falls in love. Only to discover that she is a ghost.

Thus, another story thread begins.

The Saint and the Sinner

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. – John Milton, Paradise Lost

The world of demonology has been a fascinating one to explore. Fallen angels. Grace. Redemption. Madness. Despair.

When angels fall from grace, they become demons. Not only in Judeo-Christian mythos, but ancient Babylonian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Greco-Roman, Hindu and even ancient Arabic tales all embrace the concept of the fallen one as demon. It is universal.

One of the elements that led to the birth of TLAU was the desire to explore the aftermath of a fall from grace. This concept led to the creation of two characters: Father Buer – and Caim.

Father Buer  spends his days tending to the homeless in the streets of Los Angeles. In this world, however, his flock is cut, shall we say, from another cloth. Father Buer ministers to those who have fallen. He gives comfort and aid to demons.

…and this is where Caim, the fallen angel, comes in.

Falling from grace is both tragic and traumatic. Imagine the suffering of the fallen one, when s/he realizes what they have done – and at what cost. Life as an immortal, but on earth instead of heaven. Surrounded by mortals. Outliving them all one by one.

Surviving those you love is a particular form of torment, and for Caim, life as he now knows it is an eternity of anguish. It is enough to drive even the most stoic being mad – and that is precisely what happened to Caim. He wandered the streets, living in the hellish abyss that is Skid Row, amongst the socially untouchables, the insane. Until Father Buer found him.

For hundreds of years, the Church has had one in their midst who gives of self to tend to the fallen ones. A priest who helps to ease their suffering, and, for a few, helps them find their way back to grace. In the City of Angels, this priest is Father Buer. His mission is to restore Caim to grace. For, as he says, “We are all of us God’s creatures. All of us. Even you.”

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Poverty and Creative Thinking

Poverty can be a good thing.

I have been reviewing the episodes. Placing them under various microscopes. Story. Character. Dialogue. Budget.

The last word has had my stomach turning cartwheels. Budget. Night shoots. VFX. SPFX. Can I do this – and do it well – for five grand?

In a word – no.

Granted, I will have some nifty effects… however, I realized that I needed to tone things down. Pull it back. Write it with what resources I have.

This decision has been a good one. Why? It’s forced me to write for character.

Character is what drives They Live Among Us. You’ve met Beth (now Lillith, her name, like her story, evolved), and, you’ll begin to meet the others. An angel in love with a prostitute. A youthful pop icon, who is thousands of years old. A park ranger in love with a ghost. A writer who yearns for adventure. A priest who tends to demons.

When you return to character, you return to what is essential. You cut out the fat that having money can bring. You can’t hide poor storytelling with eye-popping visuals, because you cannot afford them.

I’ve had to limit locations, because each set-up costs. By doing so, I’ve created a common ground for my characters – a shared space between them. They are strangers to one another, as are many in L.A., the countless tapestry of people weaving in and out of each others lives… connected yet apart.

These budget imposed limitations have opened up yet another portal into my gothic urban tale of the dark side of the City of Angels. I’ve been able to tap into the vast and rich history of Los Angeles. Present and past collide in startling twists and turns… and the result (I hope) is rich.

If I had ten or twenty or thirty thousand dollars to spend, I am not certain that these discoveries would have been made. For that I am most grateful

We are just over 20% of our funding for They Live Among Us. I am thrilled and eternally grateful to my beautiful backers… and am still seeking more. Consider joining our Kickstarter campaign. It will be the journey of a lifetime. I promise you.

 

Meet the Team – Gavin Hernandez

I’ve been working hard to create different supernatural characters than the roster of vampires, werewolves and zombies. The three form a magnificent triumvirate, that goes without saying; however, I felt that there were enough of these creatures in pop culture to generate an entire planet of the lupine and the undead. One of the three will wander its way into TLAU; however, I wanted a more unique addition to my roster.

I turned back to the readings of my youth, and thought of the creations of one particular master of the genre – H.P. Lovecraft.

It’s been years since I was terrified by the presence of Cthulu and others. My books are buried in storage. I needed some guidance.

I thought of a person that I knew who was well acquainted with the Lovecraftian tales, and contacted someone near and dear to him with a question. Gavin Hernandez is his name, and within hours, I was forwarded this reply:

“Well, a shoggoth (big tentacley thing with extra mouths and eyes and such) could probably dwell in one of the deeper tunnels, but the most likely would be a ghoul, which is a sort of canine humanoid monster that eats corpses that usually live in crypts and cemeteries. As far as ones that could pass as human…one of the Elder Gods, Nyarlathotep, the embodiment of chaos, usually takes the form of a pharaoh-like man, then the Mi-go, alien creatures with absurdly advanced tech, can masquerade with some success as rather sickly humans, but not so well in public. The best bet for that would be a Deep One-human hybrid, a la The Shadow Over Innsmouth. They are half-human half-fish humanoids, and for the first few years of their lives they appear human with a few off characteristics, only becoming full monster after several decades. They can speak fluently in whatever native tongue is nearest, and can easily pass for full human. My personal favorite would probably have to be the Mi-Go, as they aren’t hostile or evil, just very different-but they manage to still be chilling. They bear us no ill will, and have actually shown much interest in humanity. They can speak human languages, but can’t be photographed, as they are composed of rapidly vibrating particles. Also, they’re fungi. So that’s nice. Also, if she’s wondering if there are any ones that could both live in a subway and pass for human…Well, one of the characters in a story was a human painter who befriended a pack of ghouls and eventually became one. Also, cats in his stories (admittedly in a dream-land) are able to fly to and from the moon in a single bound. They’re magic.”

I laughed in wonder and delight. I knew that I had found the ultimate researcher and consultant. I asked him if I might add him to the team; he graciously agreed.

So, please welcome Gavin Hernandez. Wonderful human, compassionate soul, and master of all things Lovecraft.

Oh. Yes. Did I mention that Gavin is 15?