I am a writer, if you have found your way to this page, you probably knew that, and while I write many different things, I always seem to return to the old west. I grew up watching westerns with my father. It was something we did. He was also a fan of western novels, Louis Lamour being his favorite and I read them all because he read them all. The old west is a comfortable place to me.
Saragosa was my first published book. It came out in 2005 and won the Barbarian’s Roundtable award for ‘Best New Western’. The Barbarian’s Roundtable was a group of authors, editors, and readers local to Los Angeles who handed out small, but prestigious awards. They have since disbanded and that, my friends, is a damn shame.
When my father’s health began to fail, I rushed to finish SARAGOSA so that he could read a western written for him. But publication is a long road, and by the time the book came out, his eyes were failing. So I asked an actor friend of mine to read the text into audio so finally my father could hear the book…his book. I am happy to say he enjoyed it and was proud of his oldest boy. If that had been the end of it, I would have been happy.
But that was not where the SARAGOSA journey ended. A small production company optioned my even smaller book with plans to turn it into a feature film. Finding financial backers for a western has proven to be difficult and so the movie process creeps forward at a pace even a snail could beat. If that had been the end of it, I would have been happy.
In 2012, I spoke with my old high school about doing a staged reading of the script. To my delight, they were interested. I asked the producer from the production company who’d optioned my book if he could become involved to help work with the students, giving them practical guidance and direction.
In February 2013, I was honored to be a part of SARAGOSA: The Stage Production. Nineteen students took on the daunting task of putting a performance together in only three and a half weeks. Stop and think about that for a minute. A normal play takes months of preparation and rehearsals to pull off. The students at Northview High School did it in three and a half weeks! They had a total of eight rehearsals. They’d been told that they could carry their scripts with them on stage during the performance, but on opening night, not a single one of them used the scripts, they had memorized a 62 page script!
Prior to that experience, I didn’t know any of these fine, young actors, nor did they know me. SARAGOSA wasn’t on their radar. But now I feel like they are all a part of my extended family. These days I have nearly twenty new friends, like nieces and nephews I never knew I had.
We all bonded during those crazy weeks leading up to the performance. There is a term: Brotherhood by Fire. It describes a group of people who bond over an intense shared experience. That is what we had. There were long hours and curve balls thrown at us the entire time, but in the end, these amazing kids, my new extended family, shined like the superstars they are. I am honored to have gotten to know them.
No matter where the SARAGOSA journey goes from here, no matter who may play those characters in the film version, these young actors did it first, and theirs are the faces I will see when I think of the characters from SARAGOSA.
At a book signing event held at Melody Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley of California, Kathy L’amour approached my table. I was hard at work writing a story on the spot for the Buckaroo Bookshop hosted by Bobbi Jean Bell. Kathy is western royalty. She approached my table and said softly, “I enjoyed your book. It reminded me of my husband’s.”
I stammered a stunned, “Thank you.”
She smiled and moved on and I remained stunned the rest of the day…and every day since actually.
I am an acquaintance of Best Selling author Dean Koontz. We don’t have dinner at each others’ houses, but whenever we run into each other, he recognizes me and we chat. I once sent him a copy of Saragosa after I had revised and expanded it in 2010 and received a nice note back from him saying he already had a copy of the original, which I had not sent him, and was keeping the revised one as well and was happy to be the proud owner of two copies.
If this is the end of it, I will be happy. But I hope it isn’t. I have come to love this town and the people there. I have already begun a sequel, and have a prequel planned after that. If that is the end of it, then I will probably be happy. Ask me when I get there. Available for purchase here!