It’s been a little over two years since I started this blog, and with some of the changes I’ve been making recently to my social media activities, I thought this would be a good time to give my fans a little taste of who I am and what makes me tick as a writer.
Stop me if you’ve heard this: I’ve had an artistic drive for as long as I can remember, but the moment that sticks out the most as it pertains to the desire to become a writer is when my class was asked to write a one-page ending to the short story “The Lady or the Tiger?”, for which I wrote seven pages. Mind you, this was long before personal computers became a thing (well, maybe not lo-ong before… but it was the eighties!) so everything I wrote was hand-written. And not on elementary-lined paper, either; you know where the space is so big, you might have a hard time getting a hundred words on a page. No, sir. This was college-ruled paper and just as I do today, I write extremely small. So you can imagine the amount of text I wrote, but the ideas that came to me (which I still remember, though what happened to the actual document, I’m not sure… sad face, sniffle) were just so ravenous, I couldn’t help myself.
Writing stories was just something that came extremely natural to me. Growing up I would write fascinating sequels to movies I loved (well, fascinating in my mind), such as Beetlejuice and Clue. Sometimes, I’d bail on Sunday School class to go sit in the parking lot and write. You can imagine how excited I was when I got my first Brother word processor! In fact, I still have that very word processor stored away in a closet, as well as all of the original three and a half inch disks that stored all of my wonderful ideas! (I do believe all of those files are now safely stored on my iMac, but man, those make for some great nostalgia points). I spent hours writing short stories and novels on that work horse. I added screenplays to my repertoire around the time I entered high school, and even completed my first two full-length screenplays on the word processor before my family bought the cow (that is, a Gateway computer). More stories, more “attempted” novels and more screenplays flushed from my fingertips throughout high school.
This is where the story gets a bit rocky. Believing my passion was more movies than writing, I headed off to film school right out of high school. That lasted about three months (or one semester). It was during an editing class at the start of my second semester when the professor said something I’ll never forget: “When you’re watching a film, and all you can think about is how you would have edited the film, then you’re an editor.” Bam. It struck me right then and there. When I watch a movie, especially a bad movie, I don’t edit the film in my head — I write the film. I pick out all of the flaws in character development, dialogue, plot… that was it. Making films was not my true calling. And yet, even with this realization, I was too stupid to walk my true path, choosing to go to art school instead. If I recall correctly, I couldn’t find a decent school with a writing major (again, this is when the internet was in its infancy; you know, back in the days of dial-up and AOL — “You’ve got mail”), so I opted for one where I could get a writing minor, choosing art as my major, since that was also a passion of mine growing up. It was during my final semester there that I took a creative writing class that once again slapped me upside the head.
One of our assigned books was written by an author named Dwight Yates, who also taught writing at the University of Riverside. I immediately looked into UC Riverside and learned they had a really good writing program. The decision to transfer was a no-brainer. Along with learning the ins and outs of metafiction from Mr. Yates (those were some terrific classes! Reading some of those stories, like The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and the works of Aimee Bender influenced me a lot. He even sent one of my stories to Ms. Bender, who wrote back with a very kind letter of appreciation), I became close to two other professors: screenwriter Judy Burns, who helped me hone my screenwriting skills, and award-winning author Susan Straight, who was also my thesis instructor. All three of them were very integral in my growth as a writer, and I can’t thank them enough for there talent, their dedication and their commitment to their students and their craft.
After failing to earn my way into an MFA program, a couple of years went by before I realized my degree in writing wasn’t taking me anywhere. I had written a couple of new novels (one of which, Jaxxa Rakala: The Search, actually started as my college thesis!), a couple of new screenplays, and I wasn’t going anywhere. I don’t like to talk about it, but I hit a pretty serious bout of depression for some time. When I finally understood what was happening, I was able to come out of it and find a new path — graphic design. Doing that helped me pay the bills while doing something I loved and gave me time to write on the side. Getting my degree in design, coincidentally, helped reopen the door into film making. After working for a short time at a film school, I quickly scrounged up some money to produce my very first feature film (which, looking back on it, has major issues, but I learned quite a bit from the experience, and that’s what counts), which then led me to the Fallbrook Film Factory, where I met my next mentor, Ronald Shattuck, who, along with some of the industry veterans that he knew, like screenwriter Adrienne Armstrong and Rich MInga (who you’ll see were production coordinator and stunt coordinator, respectively, on my film, My Necklace, Myself) helped me grow as both a filmmaker and a writer.
Fast forward a few years, add in a boom in the self-publishing world, and here I am today. Four published novels with a fifth on the way, two produced feature films, a few produced short films, commercials and music videos, and my very own business. It’s been an extremely rocky road to get where I am today, and there is still plenty I would like to accomplish in the future, but I know that I am exactly where God needs me to be, and every one of those bumps and bruises was a lesson to help shape me as a writer, a designer, a filmmaker, and a person, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it — okay, maybe one thing, but that’s for a different post altogether!
What about you? When did you know you wanted to write (or do what it is you love doing)? What kinds of obstacles did you have to fight through to get to where you are today? Who were some of your mentors? Do you remember the days before computers?