Proceeds from book sales benefit Indiana Youth Group (see below for novel excerpt: “Chapter 1”)
By Karl J. Niemiec
The trick to being creative in LA for me, was in the “how to get paid” part.
I’ve wanted to write since I was in fourth grade, so I didn’t let life or wanting to eat get in the way of finding enough time to tell a story. Living, going to school and working in Detroit, being robbed, beaten with two-by-fours, stabbed, shot at, beaten up, and finding dead bodies was something a wild kid like me just had to deal with on my journey to live a life worth writing about.
But none of that compared to my struggles with the basic writing skills in both spelling and grammar. For some reason, I wasn’t retaining any of it. My bad handwriting was only saved by being able to type well. Causing me later in life to have problems letting my work go and be read by others who might judge me. The first time I showed my work to an agent, he told me to go home, that I would never be a writer. Those kinds of comments tended to stick with me and make me feel like an outsider. Getting my first computer in ‘84 helped, but did not end those feelings.
It was those outsider feelings I infused into Jozeph Picasso. My middle name being Joseph.
Despite my lack of natural talent for an adult writing life, my kid sense of adventure and romance was running wild from the moment I realized I was free to do whatever I wanted to do, as long as I didn’t get caught and/or in trouble. So I hold no regrets, knowing my goal in moving to LA was to continue to live a life worth writing about. Even though I’m still that self-imposed outsider, and most likely will always be a loner, though I now have four kids and a wife.
Being the grandson of Polish gangsters – documented in my first book The Polish Gang – at three- years-old, my family violently fell apart on Christmas Eve with guns and beatings. When the court-ordered dust settled, I suddenly found myself sitting on the toilet that Spring, un-potty-trained, at our new home in Farmington, Mich., listening to my now single mother, two older brothers, and sister searching – in what looked like to me, endless woods and streams just beyond our dead end street – for our two runaway poodles. I knew from that moment on, I was on my own. So I cleaned my bottom and joined the domesticated world of being a big boy for evermore.
Growing up with Mother’s two yappy poodles and having Bubba, also a poodle, the greatest dog I ever lived with, left behind by an ex-girlfriend, is why I enshrined Bubba in Alien Trilogy. He is Picasso’s best friend, since both of mine had already passed on – one in my arms in the very building I lived in. I was able to revive him in a pool of his blood, but he only lived for another six months.
While making my first book cover in fourth grade, with the feel of the fabric and smell of the wax, I knew from that moment on, I would someday be a writer and print my adventures in my very own books, even if no one ever read them or liked them. I didn’t care about that. I just wanted to be able to design my own covers and hold them in my hands when finished. To me, that was enough, that feeling of personal accomplishment. My favorite time of year.
Shortsighted perhaps. What I also noticed about that time was I had a profound shortcoming in memorizing numbers and letters. Something I thought was from a brutal blow on the head at 10 from falling headfirst off a bike, without a helmet, into a pile of cement, and waking up hours later, all alone, on my living room couch, where four complete strangers left me to die. The result is a genius bump a quarter inch high. This too, I’ve given to Picasso. Something he finds out eventually was given to him by unearthly creatures that mean to turn him into an Alien Mobster.
Fortunately, while growing up, I was smart enough to engage in the classroom, by asking questions, to at least get C’s and B’s throughout my school years. Even during my senior year, my mother having passed on by then, when I paid rent for my share of an apartment in Dearborn, Mich., while working nights in a bread factory.
When I entered college at The University of Detroit, I ran their TV Master Control and took journalism courses. I was actually doing pretty well, but after a couple of years, I found my need for adventure wanting me to hit the open road.
So at 20, after a few local trips of sticking my thumb out during semester breaks under my belt, I chose in the Fall of 1976 to stick my thumb out and explore the rest of America, to write a travel journal. A dangerous adventure, but an exciting, and near deadly one I am lucky to have survived – after waking up with a gun to my head held by Buck, who planned to leave my body scattered all over Texas like he had done to other kids. If it weren’t for a set of headlights coming over the ridge in the fog, and a deep dark ditch, he might have.
Three months later, I was living in Hollywood, driving a motorcycle, attending communication and film classes at UCLA Extension, and working at Double Day Bookstore in Beverly Hills. While at UCLA, I wrote my first play, “Potential Killers,” with the help of Danny Simon, and the first draft of “The Polish Gang” as a screenplay, and later created Prolific Screenwriter, my screenwriting course. At 21, while standing in line to hear Lucile Ball speak, I was invited to work at ABC in the mailroom, only to be discovered, trained as an unwilling actor, who had problems memorizing things, but who agreed to become Mike the Orderly on General hospital. I later learned after having children that my memory issues were hereditary. However, I now teach what I learned from ABC at KjN Studios On-Camera Workshop that includes an image memorization technique I’ve developed because of it.
It was at ABC where my desire to write a novel series about my adventures in Hollywood began. But the struggles to just live beyond the level of poverty kept getting in the way. Until one day, the opportunity to become an apartment manager arose, and I suddenly realized I could actually get paid to sit home and write every day. And that was the moment I became a working writer. Paid in the rent, I didn’t have to pay. Little did I know, 30 screenplays later, managing property would eventfully grow the tormenting experience that evolved into “Jozeph Picasso Alien Trilogy – Filmmaking Adventures (Act One).”
If you choose to read on, just know these adventures have been twisted tightly into a Sci-Fi Trilogy so those who have threatened me about repeating what I know to be true will leave me and my family alone. I don’t claim any of these people are real, alien or otherwise. And if I did, like Jozeph Picasso, I am not at liberty to admit it. Because of the danger that underscores letting these stories go, I have held on to them for many years.
Below is “Alien Made: Chapter One.” If you decide to jump ahead and read the whole trilogy, you can buy copies on Amazon either in paperback or Kindle Books at: http://amzn.to/karlniemiec. Portions of the proceeds from those sales will be donated to Indiana Youth Group, which supports LGBTQ youth from 12 to 20 years of age.
Karl J. Niemiec is Executive Producer of Programming, LapTopPublishing.com and KjN On-Camera Studios; contact KjN@LapTopPublishing.com.
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By Karl J. Niemiec
THREE DAYS EARLIER
Living in Los Angles, I was beginning to understand how Moses could spend forty years traversing the same desert. When, three years ago, at the ripe old age of twenty-seven, I finally sold my first screenplay. It will probably never get made unless I direct it myself. Which I prefer to do, but nobody is offering. So, just before the taxes were due, I bought spooky Mystery Towers in Sherman Oaks, California. Suddenly, I was no longer drifting through sand, a nomad pitching my tent on endless land. I had roots, responsibility, and what might turn out to be the longest running nightmare in modern real estate.
My name is Jozeph Picasso, six foot even, not counting my genius bump, resting at one-eighty-five after two months of nonsmoking and counting. Please, no applause, just throw food.
After running out of money and basically getting kicked out of UCLA Film School because of it, I’ve bounced around LA the past six years trying to make a living as a beloved filmmaker. So far, it hasn’t quite worked out. It’s fair to say I live a financially induced reclusive life while directing a string of unheralded short films.
My backup plan, Mystery Towers, is rumored to be the first building in the Sherman Oaks area. It was built by an eccentric German oil baron in the late 1800s and early 1900s for his American mistress, who for some reason never lived in it. The original legal title, blueprints and photos for the building have been lost, so I’m speculating by what I found in the LA Times archives. When asking real estate agents about Mystery Towers, most of their replies were, “Are you nuts?” I guess so, but the place seemed to call out to me. I stopped telling people that, because when looking at the spooky place, people get the wrong idea.
Sometime in the early twenties it was turned into Mystery Towers Inn by one of the previous owners. It sat vacant for nearly thirty years while surviving family members fought over it after lightning took down an old clock tower above the double front steps. This left just the two towers on the corners of the front street units. The south tower I turned into my apartment and office.
After a lot of money the building is a working twenty-four-unit apartment building. There are eight on each floor above ground, and one garden studio out back by the pool.
Forget about the outside. Sitting at the corner of Graystone and Mystery, it was an overgrown, tangled mess when I bought it. But once I cleared brush and sandblasted off the road soot, it proved to be a three-story grayish sandstone structure hidden from the street by massive pines. Without the clock tower, it gives me the sense that it’s meant to be the corner of something bigger. Maybe only a small part of the original design was built. Or the rest of it is hidden in another dimension and we just can’t see it. Another topic I don’t bring up to prospective tenants, unless I don’t want to rent to them.
It has very large rooms inside that were once just guest bedroom suites. Some people think the building’s stone stairwells appear spooky because the sconces are too dark, but I think they’re energy efficient, despite the frequent spider webs.
Luckily enough, the building began to fill up after almost two years of new permits and renovations. Six months after I moved in, my actress girlfriend came off a successful Equity Theater tour and moved into my apartment with her white poodle, Bubba. Six months later she moved out to go back on the road. Leaving Bubba and a pile of dirty clothing. Eight months after she left us with me pushing twenty-nine, I finally started writing a script called Crazy Kind Of Love. Now that I’m pushing thirty I’ve finally found time to finish the first draft and I can’t wait to print it out and sit down with a nice six pack of cold Rolling Rock, and read it nonstop. Fade In to Fade Out, with pencil in hand, my favorite time of year.
I’m technically broke with zilch to sell this town but rental space. The script I sold to buy into this nightmare, Violent Behavior, is stuck in development at Paramount Pictures. The agent who sold it for me got busted smoking pot in the backseat of a taxi in the Bahamas with two Goth lesbians and a monkey and left the biz. She was nice, but like many people in this crazy town, she had personal issues. Hers was an obsession with human death. Thus, I’ve gotten zero new writing assignments out of my first studio deal because nobody with the marketing power is clamoring to eat from my creative efforts. And that’s the basic food chain in this town. You eat if you help feed the bigger fish above you.
Unfortunately, none of that past life really matters anymore because presently I have a real life threatening annoyance that started in my building three nights ago. It’s a very unhappy and unnerving dog. But every time I drag out of bed to get close to the terrifying howling, it stops. I’m not crazy. Bubba and all my tenants hear it as well. None of us can tell where it’s coming from. Then some nitwit visitor started a vicious rumor that it’s probably coming from within the walls themselves. She claims she saw a rabid cocker spaniel with monstrous eyes pass through the wall of the first floor hall. So, we’re all on edge. And it’s been an unbearable, mind numbing howling, echoing through the already spooky stone hallways and stairwells for three nights running.
Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs. I’m still looking after my ex- girlfriend’s white poodle, Bubba. I love this dog. He’s the best friend I never had growing up. I loved my ex as well, but Bubba turned out to be better apartment trained. So we encouraged her to go back on the road where her messy lifestyle belongs to stagehands. She quickly fell in love with a lighting technician. So we haven’t gotten a card or phone call from her since. Not that I mind all that much. But leaving Bubba without a word because she was upset with us is wrong. She’s gone, and we’re getting along just fine without her. I keep telling us.
Honestly though, now that I own property, I righteously believe some people shouldn’t own dogs. And I will avoid renting to someone who has just befriended a canine or feline if I can without being sued. But what good does that rule do me now? Absolutely none until I find this damn howling dog.
See future editions of The Word for more, or purchase the full book on Amazon.