NICE TO MEET YA
People always ask: “RJ, how did you learn to write?” My answer is almost always… I don’t know. That’s the God’s honest truth, too. I wanted to be a fireman when I was a young boy… in fact, when asked of the top three things I wanted to become when I grew up, I always said… (1) Fireman, (2) Major League Baseball Player – Yankees, thank you very much and (3) A United States Army Soldier. At 16 years of age, my favorite houseparent at The McQuade Foundation for Boys, Clifford Webb, an employee at the orphanage where I grew up took me to the U.S. Army recruiting center in Newburgh, NY. I wanted in bad, as my mother had once told (lied) me dad was an Army colonel who died in Vietnam. But… I didn’t become a soldier, fireman or baseball player. Boy, did I get it all wrong! The fact is, everyone has something they’re good at… something that drives who they are deep down inside, it gnaws at our heart until we wake up and give in to the DESTINY that is laid out before us. My secret thing has always been writing – like in the past, when I wrote real life stories about people and places. Since 2011 I’ve focused on Horror and Suspense, but I wrote a lot of poetry as a kid. A shy boy, I liked to sit and watch everything and everyone. From the ages of six, seven & eight, I’d sit on the banks of New York’s Hudson River and write in an old battered leather journal mother had given me. Growing into my lanky teenage body, I became pretty darn good at putting together concise tight sentences that led to exciting flowing paragraphs. I was good at it… one letter at a time, nicely constructed words and phrases can evoke an emotional response from the reader. Looking back now to childhood, it dawns on me now that my roots in writing lie in the alphabet blocks I played with in kindergarten. That’s not surprising as I was always good with language, writing and speaking… but I never much cared for math. In High School, when my teacher chalked out an algebra or trigonometry equation on theblackboard, I remember cringing. I’d roll my eyes down to an open book and hope Mrs. Wilson didn’t pick me. Although I tried desperately to be invisible, my best efforts were always thwarted and somehow I’d be summoned to the head of the class to answer a question. Yes, I hated mathematics, but there was always something special for me about writing. For as far back as I can recall, I preferred engrossing myself in literature. From the wholesome tales of Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer to the complete madness of Stephen King, and the genius of Harold Robbins, Elmore Leonard and Sidney Sheldon, I always knew I wanted to write stories professionally. Of course, I didn’t have the foggiest clue as to what commercial writing entailed. I just knew I had to write. It wasn’t a choice for me… there was only one thing I was really good at… writing! When I was twenty-two I typed-out my first 10,000 word short story in New York’s Sing-Sing penitentiary. Most kids I knew back there in Ossining, New York, where I grew up with an alcoholic, child abusing mother, were concerned with sports… but my path split and I took the wrong road through hell. For years I struggled with drug addiction, crime and long sentences in the penitentiary. The only good that came from my decades inside was I had nothing else to do other than focus on writing my very first story about a witch who cursed my fictitious town of Rell Ridge. I remember scribbling it out in longhand. One word led to a paragraph and those built numerous pages of content. Then, I recieved a Smith-Carona Word Processor from my attorney, Terry R. Woodard. Learning how to type, I pounded out the first copy of Storyteller that was later published twenty five years later. That came after I was convinced by close friends to scoop it out of my antique wooden trunk where I keep all my private, unpublished works. Years ago, Storyteller was the foundation for my Hollywood SPEC screenplay by the same name that I wrote for JS Integrity Management of Los Angeles. I suppose that short and the articles and columns I wrote for magazines was the beginning of my professional writing career. I loved writing screenplays, because they were easy. Scripts are the skeleton of a story… the who, where, what, when and why of a tale. As for me, I learned by studying Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting. There were no teachers or classes… it was my eyes on the written page, digesting everything I could learn about writing in pictures instead of hefty, wordy blocks of text. Screenwriters aren’t descriptive… we can’t describe the paint on the wall, or the color of things… scripts are intrinsically bare bones. It contains well defined characters moving through an environment without setting too much of the scene. That is left up to producers and set directors. Writing a screenplay is like building a house. You build the structure but leave the inside empty for others to furnish. Even now, looking back at the roots of my career, putting my finger on the genesis of where it all began is next to impossible. I didn’t wake up one morning and make a decision to write for profit. What I did do… was write a lot of different things for dozens of years to perfect my own elements of style. I’ve been writing now for close to forty years… I’ve written news articles and columns in magazines, but I didn’t “make it” bigtime for a long time. Having been in most of the final rounds of the best writing competitions across America, I loved getting involved.
Not long after The Santa Claus Killer brought the EMMY Swag, and soon after, I signed a representation agreement with Manhattan/Los Angeles Screenplay Manager Julie Stern… and off my stories went to Hollywood. Right around this time, Joyce Keating, of JRK Literary Agency of Manhattan asked if I’d consider writing novels. I loved the thought of it, especially since I had a dozen manuscripts written from behind the walls. Remembering my idols, HAROLD ROBBINS, SIDNEY SHELDON and ELMORE LEONARD. For many years in the penitentiary I listened religiously to ART BELL on the famed radio show Coast to Coast AM and I was intrigued by the 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM show highlighting the unexplained. Remembering those giants, between 2011-2012, and without much thought, I pounded out digital copies of The Santa Claus Killer and Cataclysm. I was so excited to turn my Hollywood scripts into books.
I was also pleased to see the world’s largest book retailer, Barnes and Noble, advertise my debut novel The Santa Claus Killer beside Stephen King and Patricia Cornwell. Instantly, the literary world had placed my skills with the best of them. Not many keep that type of company… that said I was special, and the publishing world considered me on the same level as those big shot authors.
Then, just as I was about to embark on my 2013 debut international book tour and speak at live events in support of SANTA, tragedy struck when I was seriously injured after falling into an unmarked/unlighted hole excavated in a sidewalk by Ajax Paving Corporation. Supervised by the City of Belleair Bluffs, and the Town of Belleair, Florida, it was their reckless abandon that led to my life altering injuries. After 10 surgeries and nearly five years of physical therapy, the pain left me in agony. Thankfully, I am recovering with the help of Titanium Screws, Total Disc Replacement, Titanium Plates and Rods that repaired my cervical and lumbar spine along with the Fractured Shoulder and a Torn Biceps tendon. Nine months after my last back surgery, and just into the Spring of 2018, I have gingerly gotten back to the work I love, wiring books for my dearest friends and fans.
I’m not happy about my past crimes, it is what it is. I have no other excuse so I simply ask for forgiveness. In fact, I am embarrased and angry when I recall my idiocy. The past is but a whisper unto the trials of the future!
An old man serving a life sentence in the penitentiary once told me, “the definition of insanity is repeating something over and over that doesn’t work.” Truth be told, that is exactly the course I am avoiding as we move through 2018.
Updated by the author: April 17th, 2018
Meet the Team
Joyce is RJ’s New York City Literary Agent.
She is focused on pitching RJ’s manuscripts to top publishing companies throughout the United States for a publication deal.