Growing up in Orange County, CA, you would think that I would know of some places that are a little more “gothy” let’s say. I do. I do know of better places for that. But this isn’t that.
The main reason why I picked Santa Ana to start Black Market Blood Drive is because that was the first place I worked when I started bar tending.
It was around 2000 and I wasn’t even 21 yet. But, i guess I was big enough and scary enough (LOL) to get a job doing it. Oh yeah, and i lied about my age. I also started teaching “mixology” around the same time. Again, lying about my age and also my experience.
This was the first time in my life that I was working at places that late at night. A buddy of mine ended up writing a story about his late night work shift at a gas station. I think that in the late night environment, you end up meeting people that you probably shouldn’t, that immediately inspire you.
There is about 10% of real life truth in Black Market Blood Drive, the rest is completely fictional. But the true stuff, is the fun stuff, that made me want to write this book.
The location itself was truly scary to me. I would work late nights and close up by myself and then have to walk out into this dark parking lot behind the building that was up against the train tracks and near the freeway. It not only was dark, but it was loud. Anyone could have done anything to anyone, and no one would ever had seen or heard anything that happened.
There was also a mental hospital, or something to that effect, that had closed down very near there. The result of that, was a lot of patients ended up with nowhere to go and decided to stick around, wondering the streets. These poor people were nuts and would always come in to try to get a free drink or tell some wild story that they would think would get them something free.
Some of the people that I worked with were pretty out there too. They were great people and good fun, but some of them were out there. One guy in particular, the guy that is loosely based on Gregor (or vice versa) introduced himself to me by telling me that he was in fact a vampire. He would only go out at night and he always wore black and didn’t trust anyone that didn’t. Instead of blood though, he drank alcohol. He was a riot. I haven’t spoken to him in years. He called me once a few years back. He had fallen on some harder times. I think he needed money.
I miss the guy.
A lot of the people in the book are people from those days but not really. Most of the people in the book are a blend of two or three different people with fictional spice to liven things up.
Back to the bar and Santa Ana though, another thing about this period in my life that made me want to write about this, was this was the first job I had (and really, the only job that ever did this) that seemed really seedy and borderline illegal. There were somethings that my bosses would want me to do that I would do a double take on.
To make things a little more easy to understand, when I was hired, they said they liked having me around because they liked the idea of me roughing somebody up if they owed the place money. I was a bartender, but they liked having me in “collections.”
Now, what would “collections” mean at a bar? Exactly. That is my point. We didn’t run tabs for nobody, so what the hell does that even mean? That’s where I fit in. That was my first and thankfully last taste of shady work.
I worked for a lot of different places over the years in that field and the thing that stuck out to me the most, was how similar each of the places were in respects to management. I’m sure not all places are like this, but maybe it was just the places that would hire a guy like me.
Anyhow, between vampire guy and collections guy, Black Market Blood Drive kinda started writing itself back in 2000-2001. Santa Ana being a strange and scary place, once the sun would go down, really gave the story (and my nights back then) a super surreal and terrifying feel.
For those of you who don’t know off hand where Santa Ana is, here is a nice little map.
The funny thing was, it was only about 15-20 minutes from my house and it felt like a different world. We all got to grow up sometime, don’t we?
Black Market Blood Drive: Santa Ana, comes out on November 30th at Amazon.com It will be $2.99, but if you pre-order, you can get it now for only .99 cents and have delivered to your reading device on the 30th.