After close to fifteen years writing in bookstore cafes, my first novel has found its way into Barnes and Nobles. During this interview, I speak about my upcoming events with Barnes and Noble. This is a bucket list moment for me, and I believe this is conveyed best through this interview.
Every piece of information in the lobby of the Queen Mary reminds passengers that the ship is haunted. There are cardboard cutouts of paranormal investigators standing at the entrance. With your room key you are offered a free haunted tour that begins at three o'clock in the morning.
I don't know if this is exciting to most people. But for horror writers arriving for a weekend horror convention, this is welcome news.
Two weekends ago I showed up on the Queen Mary with my day pack jammed with clothes, a bag of snacks from a small market in downtown Long Beach, and a satchel full of my debut novel. When you're a first time novelist, this is what you do. You travel to where the horror fans gather. You live out of a suitcase. You keep a new pen in your pocket in case an impromptu signing begins.
A friend of mine, and fellow horror writer, Tom Deady was the one who told me about StokerCon. He had been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel, and the convention was on the tip of his tongue. (I know it would have been on the tip of mine.) I happened to be heading to Los Angeles the week before the convention for the Los Angeles Times Book Festival where my publisher had a booth. So I decided to pack for two weekend and stay in California for StokerCon.
In the early 2000s half my family migrated to California. My little sister was first. She dropped out of college to become a movie star. Then my brother won season two of the Amazing Race and was swept up in the craze of mid-2000s reality TV. Every time I visit my brother in Santa Monica I understand why no one ever leaves California. I live north of Boston, and I can't understand why anyone stays.
While I was staying with my brother in law and sister, my brother in law became intrigued with the conference. The two of them began a career making horror movies and then branched out into faith based films. (That story would require its own blog post to explain.)
So the two of us arrived on the Queen Mary full of the hope and promise that comes with panel discussion about the art of '70s and '80s paperback novels, Whistling Past the Graveyard, Cooking for Ghosts. That was until the front desk clerk told us the ship was haunted.
About nine o'clock that night there was a small film festival in the main ballroom of the ship. After the movies, a small reception was to be held where you could chat with the filmmakers. There was also an awards presentation for the best film.
My brother in law had gotten drunk by dinner and fell asleep in our room. He slept through the films. I sat with my friend the nominee Tom Deady and his lovely wife Sheila. We exchanged accounts of our favorite panels just as the lights began to dim.
After the show, Tom and his wife quickly retreated to their room. The jet-lag caught up with them.
I found myself in my least favorite position. Standing in the middle of a room full of strangers sipping a cranberry and ginger ale. I scanned the crowd searching for the least threatening group to begin chatting with. My social anxiety was on full tilt, and no one seemed unthreatening. So I shuffled from one high top to the next because, like a shark, sometime motion is the only thing that keeps me alive in social situations.
That's when my phone lit up. My brother in law had awoken from his drunken slumber and heard the siren's call of an open bar. He was on his way to meet me at the reception.
With a new cocktail in hand, the two of us scoped the room. Having a wingman bolstered my confidence. A woman at a table spotted me. I had met her earlier at a small gathering of board game players. She worked for a company that created a horror RPG. I sidled over to her table and met her friend from Texas who was a short story writer. For the next half hour we argued the merits of each film we just watched.
My brother in law roamed the room interjecting into random conversation. He has that gift the gods chose not to grant me, the idea that everything he has to say is worth listening too. He became quick friends with the team that helmed my favorite of the night's films. It was about a blind boy abandoned in a cabin in the woods by his mother when he is about twelve. He is tethered to the house with a long rope that allows him to roam the land and never lose his way back. Everyday he listens to this recording left behind by his mother that establishes the rules he is supposed to live by in order to survive in this unforgiving world. It was a bleak and mesmerizing work of art.
My brother in law introduced me to the executive producer, and we became fast friends.
About an hour later, renewed with drunkenness, my brother in law came running up to me. We got to go, he said.
He had become friendly with a group from a panel we listened to earlier in the day. Apparently, in their room they had been playing with a Ouija board, and the board told them there was a little girl trapped in one of the lower deck rooms. The presence had given them a number. Four people plus my brother in law and now myself were on trail of this missing girl.
Strangely, when we came to the place where the room should have been the room numbers ended. There was a wall. You had to take a set of stairs that led to another hallway. Down a second flight of stairs. Then the room numbers began again. The room number divined by the Ouija board was missing.
We searched high and low for a way around the walls that seemed to enclose the room where the little girl was trapped. After several minutes in futility, we all ventured up onto the top deck of the ship. We paused to take in the beauty of Long Beach harbor at night. It was getting on two o'clock in the morning. An ocean breeze had picked up.
The three who had used the Ouija board earlier weren't satisfied by not being able to access the room and save the little girl trapped inside. So they took some paper and a pen and began sketching a makeshift Ouija board on the fore deck of the ship.
When I was in college I worked night security for Parker Brothers the game company. I worked the overnight shift on the weekends. These hours were strangely perfect for a college student who needed a job. Few people ever came by from midnight until seven in the morning. So I had several hours between patrols where I could get my homework done.
However, one night, a woman called. Her voice betrayed she was late-thirties or early-forties. She was hysterical. She had bought an Ouija board from Toys R Us. And she read the name of Parker Brothers on the side of the box. She was desperate for help. She told me her daughters were playing with it in their room and strange things were beginning to happen in the house. Pictures were falling off the walls. The house was trembling on the foundation. Somebody was staring at her inside the mirror. She begged for me to help her.
I tried to explain: I was a nineteen year old college student working the overnight desk. I didn't even officially work for the company. I worked for a security company that had a contract with the company.
Nothing I said mattered to her. She had someone on the phone from the company and she wasn't going to let me go.
The woman began to scream. She said, My daughter is floating. She's flying around the room and I can't get her down.
The hairs on my neck began to rise. I could feel sticky sweat gather under my arms.
The woman began to cry. Something's talking to us from under the floor. What do I do? What do I do?
(I'm sure I could be sued today for saying what I said back then. But this was twenty years ago, and I'm sure the statute of limitation has run out.)
I told the woman that I believed in satan. I believe he is real. And I think you have let him into your house. He has come in through your Ouija board, and he is coming for you.
I could hear her hyperventilating through the phone. I can't get her down... I can't get my daughter down...
That was when the phone went dead.
There was no caller ID. I had no way to contact her back. I know nothing of what happened to her daughter.
Perhaps she vanished and reappeared trapped in that missing room on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I have no idea.
What I do know is that from that moment forward I have been deathly afraid of Ouija boards. I never touch them.
So when these three people I had just met began drawing one on the back of their conference flier with sharpie I had to walk away. I returned to the port side where I could watch the twinkling lights of Long Beach as the silence of dead night fell over the city. In the distance I could make out a giant ferris wheel lit with red and white bulbs.
This morning I had the pleasure of chatting with Win Damon drive time host of WNBP. We spoke about Sacrifice, my new movie At Your Own Risk, and writing in New England. As always it was a lot of fun. A big thanks to Win for always being a big supporter of my work.
My first encounter with Stephen King wasn’t one of his books. For Christmas 1984 my dad gave the family a VCR. I was raised in a strict Evangelical home, and my brother and I were very limited in what we were allowed to watch. During school vacation between Christmas and New Years, dad packed us all into the car and drove downtown to the new video rental shop that opened beside the small grocery store. We watched him with eager anticipation as he filled out the single white sheet of paper that made up the enrollment form. He didn’t believe in credit cards so he handed the girl behind the counter a twenty dollar bill as deposit against loss or damage.
Once he finished, my brother and I turned on our heels and sprinted for the Action/Adventure section. Bright gaudy boxes assaulted us with phrases promising: “thrill ride,” “non-stop actin,” and “pulse-pounding terror.” The shelf that buffered the Action/Adventure section was the horror section, and we couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of the terrifying images. At that moment we were focused on our objective. Like so many eighties kids we were obsessed with Karate. Never had a single lessen, but we improved moves we picked up from commercials, half glimpsed T.V. shows past our bedtime, and posters you could win by puncturing balloons with darts at the county fair. We snatched titles off the shelves as quick as we could: Enter the Dragon, American Ninja 2, and The Last Dragon.
At eight and ten, my brother shared a bedroom. This combined space compressed our rage into an endless round of fights. We fought over everything, not least of which was the first ultra violent, Karate movie we would rent.
Within moments my dad was standing over us. He could hear us fighting clear across the store. By this point, my dad was so desensitized to our argument he barely heard them. He wasn’t even embarrassed by them. He was upset about something entirely different. “What is this trash?” He couldn’t put the movie back on the shelf fast enough. My father was a conservative, Evangelical pastor, and he wouldn’t be caught dead renting a movie like that in the town where he preached. He pointed across the tops of the shelves. We had to slip around the isle to see where his finger aimed. Sure enough, a sign hanging from the ceiling read: “Children.” With heads hung low, disappoint in our steps, we trudged across the room to sift through Disney films, Warner Brother classics, and Hannah Barbara cartoons.
I have no idea what we rented that day, but I can still see all the covers of the movies we wanted to see in those days but were never allowed: “Police Academy 2,” “House,” “Jaws 3-D,” “Enemy Mines,” “Red Dawn,” and “Remo Williams: The Adventure Continues.”
Very little deterred my brother and I from what we wanted. We did not give up easy. So, the video store was a bust, but we quickly found a new plan.
There was a UHF channel out of Boston that ran horror movies late at night. My brother and I hatched a plan. After school every day we rode our bikes to the country club in the neighboring town. There we sifted through the trash searching for aluminum can we could exchange for a nickel at the redemption center. We collected bags and bags of cans. I can’t remember how long it took. It felt like forever. Finally we saved enough money to buy a set of three blank videotapes from the rental shop.
Late at night, when the house was silent, my brother and I snuck downstairs. Thank God my parents decided to install wall-to-wall carpeting when the house was built. This made sneaking around that much easier. We turned the volume on the TV all the way down. Set the station. Pushed record on the new video. We left it to record through the night. We had no idea what movie was coming. It would be a surprise. Sometime during that meridian between endless night and break of day the tape would run out of space, stop, and rewind. Our mission was to be sure we woke up before anyone else, steal downstairs, switch off the T.V., and hide the evidence.
We had no way to find out what was on that tape until the weekend. One advantage to having a preacher father was that most weekends there was a wedding or some church event that would take our parent’s attention. Since the church was across the street from our house my parents could save money on a babysitter. If the house burned down they could see from the church.
That first horror movie we recorded from that late night, UHF channel was the story of a car with a murderous mind of its own. We watched that tape until it practically disintegrated.
I had no idea who this Stephen King was but I knew I needed more.
As a young child I was diagnosed with learning disabilities. The doctors told my parents I would never read a book. Reading for me was slow, painstaking, and I rarely finished anything I started.
Then one day I stumbled upon a book about vampires in Maine. This book transformed my reading life. Yes it was still difficult to read. However, whenever I opened a King book I was pulled into a world I never wanted to leave.
If it wasn’t for Stephen King I would never have become a lifelong reader, and I certainly wouldn’t have become a professional writer.
Over the years I have amassed a tremendous amount of early, hardback editions. I thought it would be fun to create a newsletter where I give them away. Who knows maybe someone will come across one of these books, someone like me, and the spell King casts with his words will transform their life too.
Cosmopolitan called it "The Newsroom meets Gone Girl." They are wrong. It is better.
The Cutaway is far and away the best book I have read in 2017. Compulsively readable. Told with a breakneck pace that keeps you glued to the page in order to find out how the threads weave together.
Finally a sympathetic heroin. After so many books with anti-heroes it's nice to root for someone once in a while.
I worked for Dan Rather Reports for several years and I was gripped by the authenticity of the contemporary, television news setting.
I hope this turns out to be one of the big hits of the season. Christina Kovac deserves it! She has written a masterful work!
On February 22, 2017 Win Damon, the voice of WNBP, invited me to sit in on his morning show and talk Sacrifice, the Penitente, and writing. Listen below!
This blog post is a great example of the crossroads between horror and Christian writing. Like this author, I believe the evangelical church has done the Bible a disservice by turning the biblical stories into precious moments figures to sit on a dresser and be admired. The cross is the most horrifying story in the history of the world. Not only because it was done to an innocent man, but because in its purest sense, the cross was one of the worst modes of death ever conceived by a human. You can not remove the body horror from the scripture.
In my opinion, the most devious horror writer is no match for the Gospel of Mark. Every sub-genre of horror was lifted from Mark's story of a Jesus spoke to demons, tore evil spirits from men's bodies, tortured, murdered, and resurrected.
Horror as a genre doesn't have to be void of meaning, and full of senseless acts of blood-letting. It can be a dark prism with which to view the temporal world and the eternal world and discover their meet-point.
Getting published was a long and arduous journey for me. I started writing fifteen years ago when I came out of college. Writing was something I wanted to do from a reasonably young age. I would read Stephen King Books late into the night in my basement bedroom. Then spend the rest of the night cowering under my covers. The next day I would get up before everyone in the house and sneak upstairs to where my mother kept her old Smith Corona typewriter from the days when she taught first grade. In the pre-dawn hours as the milky light of day leaked through the grey clouds I would attempt to replicate the fear I encountered the night before on clean white paper snatched from her desk drawer.
By the time high school rolled around I was able to get a job washing dishes after school. With my own money in hand I bought a used Royal Touch Control Typewriter from an antique store half-a-mile from school. I began transforming my experiences hiking in the New England forest into Hawthornian trials of apocalyptic terror.
For my eighteen birthday, my father bought me a Chrysler Lebaron then proceeded to total it at a four way stop on a rain-slick afternoon at the end of summer before college. So I took the insurance money and bought an early Apple MacBook back when they still used the name MacIntosh in their branding. That laptop followed me through college, backpacking across Europe, and the best job writing job I ever had—working the night security shift at Parker Brother, the game company. The long overnight hours with no one around to distract me was prime fodder for clicking away at stories. Also terrifying things were known to happen deep in the night. For instance, a mother called once. I could hear her trembling through the phone. She was on the verge of tears. She told me she was calling from Mississippi. She had been playing with a Parker Brother’s Ouija Board with her two daughters. Strange things began happening in the house. The floor shook. Paintings fell off the wall. They swore they heard the sound of growling coming from the cellar. I could offer no comfort, because I also believed in the devil.
Over the years I had a hundred reasons for writing stories. Most of them were born from vanity. A way to prove I was more than the sum of my middling scholarly exploits proved. What I never expected before I was published was the opportunities that arise once you have a book. The opportunities to speak, to sit on panel discussions, even a weekly radio show in Boston. These were not things I expected.
Another thing I never anticipated was the number of people who would flock to you with questions about how to get published. Suddenly, once you have a book, people think you have sagely advise. Which is absolutely not true. After years of “No” every time I mailed out a short story or query letter, when the “Yes” finally came it was like a lightening bolt. I had no idea why somebody wanted to say “Yes.” I had begun to believe the “No’s.” In fact, in the months preceding the “Yes” I was seriously considering throwing in the towel. All those “No’s” finally got inside my head. I believed I had no talent.
In the blink of the eye I went from believing I had no chance at publishing, no chance at seeing my writing amount to anything to having people ask for genuine advice. This is what happened.
The other night an old friend emailed me. She was someone I worked with for a brief time in New Mexico. But we had bonded. We kept in touch on Facebook after I left. She wrote asking if I would correspond with her friend who had written a book and wanted to attempt to publish it.
The only thing I know for sure about publishing is that it takes persistence, hard work, luck, and timing—that is all.
As I was writing the email however I learned something. I realized over the years of submitting material I had actually devised a system without even realizing it. Looking at it on paper I thought, this is better than a lot of the systems I’ve read over the years. So I decided I would print it on my blog.
1. Write the manuscript three times
Don’t just finish the book. Finish the book three times. Revising comes in many different forms. There is reading with a red pen. There is re-writing in the margins. There is tweaking sentences, words, and punctuation. “No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place,” wrote Isaac Babel. These are all important parts of the revision process. However you should also physically type the book three times. Don’t just move sentences, paragraphs, and chapters around on a document. Put in the hard work.
2. Share it with friends.
Find one of two good friends and have them read it. If you have more than a couple good friends willing to slog through your unpublished manuscript than golf clap for you. As a screenwriter turned novelist, I always found it easier to get people to read a screenplay than a novel manuscript. All that white space is less daunting.
3. What’s your demographic?
Who are you writing the book for? Are they girls, boys, men, women? Are they tweens, teens, out of school but still sleeping on mom’s couch, early middle age but one missed paycheck from moving back home with dad, do they put on a suit or do they wear cowboy boots at their job? Somebody is going to ask these questions so you might as well ask them first. It will save you a lot of time when you get to the next step.
4. Do you want to publish with a big five (Penguin/Random House, Knopf, Scribner, Etc.?) Maybe a well respected boutique press (Two Dollar Radio, Unnamed Press, A Strange Object, etc.)?
If you decide a big five is in your future then it’s time to get to know the agents of the world. There are agents everywhere. New York and LA of course. But also they hang out in Wichita, Kansas, Louisville, Kentucky, Boise, Idaho (find any excuse to hang out in that town, it’s just great fun), and Columbus, Ohio. As for boutique presses, you will need to get familiar with publishing databases like Submittable. Set up an account. It’s super easy. Find the press that is interested in the demographics you outlined above.
5. Create an Excel Spreadsheet
If you are like me and the only program you use in your Office Suite is Word than glance at your tool bar, two to the left of the big blue “W” is a big green “X”. Hit it. That is Excel. That is a spreadsheet. They are complicated. But I just type in the little boxes. They are actually called “cells” and you can do all sorts of fancy things with them. When I was a bartender I was supposed to use them to track my above and below the line sales and purchases. But—wink, wink—I never learned. I gather all the names of the companies I want to submit to. I rank them by interest level. Will they like me? Do I like them? Then I research each one individually. I read everything I can on the agencies and the publishers. I find interviews, I read the website bios, I read their sales over a given period, I read about latest acquisitions. Yes, it’s a long process. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass. Yes, I would rather be writing. But it is the reality of the game, so buck up Johnny, and keep your eye on the ball.
6. Create a file dedicated to just your pitch
I write a short bio and a long bio. That goes into my file. Then I write the one-sheet or query letter. Invariably I end up at a Barnes and Nobles or my favorite indie bookstore Jabberwacky in Newburyport, MA (gratuitous plug). I sift through every book even remotely in my category. Reading the inside sleeve of hardcovers, the back jackets of paperbacks, I look at the nuance of every turn of phrase. I try to filter my story through the mind of an expert copywriter. You can’t tell your story on the back of a book. You have to sell the potential of your book on the jacket. The best query letters read like the back jacket on the shelf of your local bookstore. Read them all! Then add it to the file. Develop an opening sentence that hooks with the essence of your story while providing genre, word count, and title. I like to think of this opening sentence as the logline of my story. This is the elevator pitch. (Let’s take a second and talk about the elevator pitch. In my opinion, the worst thing an elevator pitch can do is hold-up someone late for a meeting. If you are in an elevator, you are going someone. Usually that somewhere is important, because you are in an elevator. Buildings that can afford elevators are full of people that need to get stuff done so the company can afford the building that can afford the elevator. You can’t sap someone’s attention for even three minutes with your pitch. You need one sentence. And that one sentence needs to both grab their attention and sow a seed of interest that will grow long after they walk away. That’s an elevator pitch. It isn’t your story. Your story is by necessity a million other things. Your pitch is that thing you want your story to be.)
Now you have a query letter:
Logline/opening sentence (word count, genre, title)
Two paragraph synopsis or pitch (reads like a back jacket)
Short Bio (one or two sentences that say this is who I am as a writer)
7. Don’t send to your top editors or agents first
You have made some mistake in your super well-crafted query letter. I promise that you will not score an A on your first query letter unless perhaps you have worked ten years in marketing and you decided to write a novel at night, after you clocked out. Although I doubt any marketer with ten years experience is clocking in and out. But that’s beside the point. The reality is this kind of writing is on another planet than the kind of writing you have been doing on your short stories or novels or poems. Copywriting is a world away from telling stories. Don’t expect to jump right in and score big. So I always recommend sending to the people at the bottom of your list first. Sure, they might actually like your story. Who knows that person you thought was the bottom of the list might be the best person possible for your first novel. You can decide that later. The reality is this is a blog post about strategies to get published not what do I do once an agent digs your book. That’s another set of problems to be dealt with in a separate post. What is going to happen as you send out your first few queries is you will learn everything you are doing wrong. Even in silence—and there will be a lot of silence—you will learn something. So don’t make all your mistakes in front of the closing night audience. Make your mistakes in previews for the people in the cheap seats. Also don’t SPAM! Don’t just send out one query letter to 100 agents or publishers. Be calculating. Send five or ten to begin. Spell everybody’s name right. Pay attention to details. Don’t cut and paste. If you have followed step five then you have done your research. Tailor your letters to the individual agent. You want to be seen as a unique and special snowflake. Well they do too. So follow the golden rule—do unto others. Because it can’t be stated enough: DON’T SPAM!
Good luck with your endeavors to get published. Be prepared before you begin, it will be a long road. It takes time to get the query letter written, then the research, then the submission. It takes time for agents to read your letter. It takes time before you hear back. The process is lumbering and slow. So don’t rush it at the beginning. It will actually save you time in the long run.
Publishing isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. Start training now.
My friend called from inside the theater. He whispered into the phone: “I’m so scared.”
I could barely hear him.
He said, “It’s not fair. They’re breaking the rules. They’re breaking the rules. You’re supposed to give the audience a break.”
He believed in the rules of cinema. He believed there was an honor code amongst good directors. You relent.
We all buy the ticket to the horror movie, the house of terror, the haunted hayride fully invested in being scared. But we also expect the creator of the scares to follow an unwritten rule that you give the audience a break. You terrorize them for a period of time, and then you chill out, you give the audience a chance to breathe. Then you frighten them again. It’s a give and take. A good horror movie is like a good symphony. You don’t go to listen to an orchestra only to hear the crescendo.
That’s why my friend called me from inside the theater. He couldn’t take it any more. The movie refused to let him off the hook.
There was more. We had both begun to work on Sacrifice together by this point. We took the two-page treatment and we were trying to create a screenplay. I had just returned from Los Angeles after securing representation. I pitched the treatment to a company called Bohemian, and they jumped all over it. The problem was now the two of us had to figure out how to write a screenplay. And we had to learn fast. We didn’t want the company to forget about us. They were excited, and we wanted to strike while the iron was hot.
So the first thing we did was watch every horror movie we could get our hands on.
At the time, the two of us were bartending at a nice inn on the corner of the Santa Fe Plaza. (We were desperate to quit our job. So we didn’t want to waste any time.) We also had a plethora of time during the days before we had to show up for work. So we would get together at my apartment and crank though one or two movies a day. I can’t remember why I didn’t go to the movies with him the night he called from inside the theater. Hearing his voice over the phone, I was glad I didn’t go. I still haven’t seen that movie.
But we decided something that night after he left the theater. We decided that was the kind of movie we needed to make. We needed to make a movie that broke the rules. We wanted to make a horror movie that changed the way people thought about horror movies. Coming out of the gate we had an advantage. We had an idea nobody was doing. The story of the Los Hermanos de Penitente was untapped. A western, horror, neo-noir was a newish category.
What we didn’t anticipate: A new kind of horror movie was about to explode into theaters. The entire landscape of horror was about to be upended in 2005. And we didn’t even know it.
The truth is Sacrifice began in the Santa Fe Public Library. At a table piled high with books. Last light of evening faded outside the window.
All books begin with other books. Cormac McCarthy takes the idea a few steps further: “The ugly fact is books are made out of books. The novel depends for its life on the novels that have been written.” So any book that doesn’t actually being in a library begins under the shadow of a bookshelf. If not, it begins in some person’s memory of some book they once read. Books do not spring forth fully formed. They are the bastard child of someone else’s scribbling.
It took me a long time to understand that ideas don’t belong to us. Stories are living things with free will. Even our own stories don’t belong to us. They are born out of stories that happened long before we stumbled down the dirt path. They are the property of the people who carry them with us once we are gone. The longer they carry our stories the longer our shadows darken this world. They are transient. They move through the daylight and the darkness like itinerant preachers—always searching for a new congregant. They stop in random towns to share their woes. Sometimes they pick up some new something on their way out the door and bring it with them to the next town.
At this point I had no idea Sacrifice would ever be a book. Sitting in the Santa Fe Public Library the story I conceived was for a movie.
I spent three weeks hunched over a stack of books, folios, and artist renderings of Los Hermanos Penitente. During those three weeks of research I produced a two-page treatment for a movie. That’s when everything changed for the first time.
I had no intention of ever writing a horror story the first time the idea for Sacrifice was presented to me.
At the time I dedicated myself to the lofty pursuit of writing literary fiction. I wrote short stories--the noble calling.
I had completed a semi-autobiographical novel about a minister's son struggling with his faith. I was halfway through a second, desk-drawer novel about a woman who has to escape an abusive husband who has her trapped in a house in Maine.
I was invited to Los Angeles to pitch some of my short stories to a producer who wanted to develop a film. He was interested in funny short stories that he could develop for Vince Vaugn and several other people on the up-swing of their careers. This was a long time ago.
I met the producer at a sandwich joint in the valley. We took our lunch onto the large back patio shaded by robust balsa wood trees. We chatted about the stories. He told me his concept. We finished our sandwiches. And like a zillion other lunch meetings with producers it ended amicably, but with no plan for the future.
The next day I flew back to Santa Fe and my real job and my laptop where I would sit and write more stories.
A week or so later he called. He said the money fell through for the comedy he envisioned. However, he wanted to know, did I have any ideas for a horror movie?
But being a good writer, I lied. I told him I had an idea. He said he had some money and if I could get a script together he might be able to put the package together.
So I left my apartment and did what I do any time I run out of ideas. I went to have lunch. I met my friend at a breakfast burrito place we ate at about twice weekly during those years I lived in Santa Fe.
I told my friend someone in Los Angeles was interested in me writing a script for a horror movie. But I had no ideas.
That's when my friend introduced me to Los Hermanos de Penitente...
That was the day I jumped into the rabbit hole. And for a decade I have been falling...
SACRIFICE begin at a burrito joint in Santa Fe, New Mexico.