Massacre at Agua Caliente – My First Novel

“As with most Worthwhile Goals, this Novel is the result of a Lifetime of Wanting and a few Months of Doing” – Craig Rainey


The quote on my dedication page in my novel, Massacre at Agua Caliente, is a Craig Rainey quote.  “As with most worthwhile goals, this novel is the result of a lifetime of wanting and a few months of doing.”  The story took more than 5 years from inception to publishing.  The time was long, but the time spent on the project was not.

Anyone who knows me also knows much about what drives me and what keeps me from being driven.  Once I take on an important task, I can think of nothing else.  Unfortunately, sometimes that preoccupation does not result in action necessary to move that task to fruition.  I admit it, I am a flawed human.  I never let that keep me down.

Like Kelly LeBrock said in a shampoo commercial, and Robin Williams finally quantified: “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.  There are many other reasons to hate me.”  My version is: “Don’t hate me because I sometimes procrastinate, look at the ill-advised things I actually do.”

This is Your Film to Make or Break

About 5 years ago I commiserated with my good friend and prolific film-maker, Brett William Mauser.  I have acted in somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 films for him.  In each I play the villain.  Don’t get me wrong, the villain is the seasoning for the soup.  Without a disagreeable, dastardly villain, the story will fall flat.

Brett is one of the few director/producers on the planet who can 1. film a 10 feature series in 12 months and 2. Do it for under a $grand$ a film.  Albeit remarkable, limited funding invariably leads to limited quality in a film.  I am no Michael Shannon, the quintessential villain, but I have been reviewed as one of the better bad guys in indie film. brettmauser1

From film to film, I wondered at the lack of skill and commitment most of the main characters, playing the protagonists in his films, invested in their roles.  I have told many actors lucky enough to star in their own film, “This is your film to make or break.”

I will never understand the “Diva Syndrome.”  We coined the phrase in the film biz describing the divisive journey stars (typically women – men fall victim to the syndrome also) take from grateful actor/actress in landing a starring role to the demanding bitch/dick after half of the film is in the can. Sorry for the rough language, but this affliction invariably complicates the production and the vibe on set.  Interestingly, I have rarely seen a great performance from the Diva in the leading role.

In our conversation, I asked Brett why he had never cast me as a lead in one of his films.  I reminded him of the many times he told me that I was reliable, skilled and the first off book for his films.  No Diva here!  He explained that there were no actors he could cast who anyone would believe posed a threat to any character I could portray.  He told me that I was too strong on screen both physically and performance-wise to be the ‘weak hero makes good’ protagonist.  We discussed this interesting caveat to writing the hero in a film for a few moments, then he brightened as he came up with his solution.  “Craig, if I wrote a villain as the main character, you would be the guy I would cast.”

The Mayor – Opera Lover and Creative Torturer

As my career progressed I met the principles of the newest production company in San Antonio, Mutt Productions.  Around Christmas of 2011 I attended a film industry mixer at Sunset Station near downtown San Antonio.  I enjoyed seeing many I knew in the biz and meeting those I had not met.  One of those I had heard much about but had never met was Andrew Saldana.  We introduced one another and admitted we had both heard of each other by reputation.  I am always flattered when a working professional film maker knows who I am.  After a few minutes of conversation, he asked me if I had heard about the newly arrived ‘Hollywood’ film company who had just started production on The Return of Johnny V,  their latest movie.  I replied that I had not.  He informed me that he was a part of the production staff and he thought they might cast me as a cop – BTW, did I still have a full police costume?  Of course I did. aaronleelopez1

A few days later I arrived at an office complex in the King William District, where I received sides for an under 5 role as a patrol officer who arrests a Ninja.  I had not met him yet, but I saw a blonde man followed by a small contingent of PA’s, producers and actors.  I later learned he was director of the film, Aaron Lee Lopez – co-owner of Mutt Productions.  After a few minutes a crewman approached me with another set of sides.  “Aaron would like for you to read for The Mayor if you are interested.”  I figured the Mayor would be a bigger role than the Police Officer if only by rank, so I agreed to test for the role.  As I read through the sides, I heard the distant auditions of at least 3 other actors reading for the role of The Mayor.

I was called into the audition room, and inside I was positioned before a long conference table, surrounded by more than a dozen people and a movie camera on a tripod.  After brief introductions, the camera rolled and I began my first cold read for the role.  Aaron cut and I waited for a reaction to my performance.  He said, “That was good.  Can you be more Texas this time?”

The answer is always yes to that question in that situation.  The irony is that I have spent years working my west Texas drawl completely out of my speech.  Matthew McConaughey has made a nice living with his Uvalde, Texas drawl.  I was not so fortunate.  Once again, the camera rolled and I delivered another version of the scene.  I heard nothing further for 3 days.  Finally, I received a call from the Unit Production Manager, Jesus Sefuentes, who offered me the role of The Mayor.

The Road to Agua Caliente

During production of the movie, I grew to know the Mutt Productions team.  They cast me in several roles after that.  Some months later,  Mario Sanchez, Executive Producer and co-Owner of Mutt Productions and I had a conversation where he told me that one of their distributors was looking for a western.  He wanted to know if I knew of any scripts in the genre.  I told him I did not but I had an idea for a screenplay that might work.  He asked if I could produce a treatment.  I told him I could try.  30 days later I had the completed treatment.  A treatment is basically an outline in summary form with some detail as to casting requirements, locations, plot and sub-plot points, etc.  He loved the concept and asked if I would allow him to send it to some screen writers he knew in L.A.?  I asked if I might take a shot at writing the script.  He was surprised at the request, but he agreed.  He had no idea that I had written since I was a kid.basscraig80

3 months later I finished the first draft of the screenplay, Massacre at Agua Caliente.  I emailed the draft to him.  He deflected my disclaimers lending to my willingness to send it off if the script was not good.  He said he loved it and that I should submit it as soon as possible.  We sent copies to several film distributors and production houses in Texas and Los Angeles.  We received many accolades and requests to make the film along with several notes on what they wanted changed.  The most common request was to make the lead character, Boyd Hutton, more likeable.  The other common criticism was that the film was too big to shoot for a reasonable budget.  The beginning of the script was a movie all on its own.  Other sources asked that one character gain time in the story or another character needed to live to the end.

I rewrote the script, shortening the story and adjusting the characters as requested.  I loved the rewrite (You will never hear a writer say that!)  The script was submitted to several film and screenwriting festivals to increase its value.  It won numerous awards.  In one festival I was chosen as “Best Breakout Writer.  Although the story was well-received, I was dissatisfied that the full story would never be told.  I decided to write the novel.

The Road to Massacre at Agua Caliente

I began writing the book in 2013.  I worked on it diligently for almost a year.  As with many things, life got in the way.  Subsequently, the novel sat untouched for months.  At the end of 2017 I made a goal to finish the novel by year’s end.  The actual finish date was February 14, 2018.  The first to read the final draft was my lovely Alexandra.  She assured me she was no book critic but she did notice a few typos and errors to the context.  I spent the remainder of February  reading the manuscript word for word.  I rewrote many passages and, of course, corrected syntax.  Finally, I self-published on March 10, 2018.

I just received 40 copies of the paperback via UPS yesterday.  I plan to book signings and appearances at book stores across the country.  I hope you attend one.  Please buy the paperback or the eBook on Amazon/Kindle at the following links:

Ebook: Free


Paperback: $14.99