I have great news. TouchPoint Press is going to publish my novel Chapel Street.
Here's a short synopsis for the uninitiated:
Rick Bakos, 35, lives an isolated life. Already damaged by the death of his father when he was a young boy, Rick spent a grueling decade trying in vain to help his suicidal older brother Lenny. Nor could he maintain a relationship with his long-time girlfriend Gina Holt because of pressure from his overly possessive mother Alice, who eventually took her own life as well.
In an attempt to understand the suicidal tendencies of his family, Rick became an avid genealogist and a volunteer for a genealogical website called RestingPlace, which records graves all around the world. Sadly, competition from another volunteer, Tombstone Teri Poskocil, threatens his status as the top contributor in the Baltimore, Maryland area.
Seeing a request to photograph a grave, Rick races to Eternal Faith Cemetery to beat Teri to the punch. Instead Rick finds himself drawn to a vault decorated with a ceramic photo of the deceased Betty Kostek. Her eyes draw him forward. He photographs the grave and picture before fleeing the cemetery. After some inexplicable misgivings, Rick posts the grave and the photo to the website.
That night Rick starts dreaming of his late brother Lenny. Each visit brings him closer to madness and suicide. Teri, who was also drawn to the grave of Betty Kostek, experiences similar dreams of her late uncle Charlie, who also killed himself. Rick and Teri team up to discover their pairing wasn’t a coincidence. Their great-grandparents were next door neighbors on Chapel Street nearly a century earlier. So were Betty’s grandparents.
The two of them find themselves bearing the brunt of a multi-generational demonic curse that has decimated the families of Chapel Street. With the help of two priests, they must break Betty’s spell before they die by their own hands.This is a bucket list moment for me. I was a voracious reader as a child, and, very early in life, I felt the nascent desire to become a writer. And, to me, writers were people who wrote books. Novels, in particular. So when Chapel Street comes out, I will have finally achieved my first goal as a writer.
I am also very happy that the book is being published by TouchPoint Press. Publisher Sheri Williams took a leap of faith with me regarding my memoir The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God. It was an oddball choice. Think about it: I am mainly known as a screenwriter, but I only devoted about three paragraphs describing my movie career. Instead, I detail a very personal spiritual journey most people would find out of the ordinary. I am grateful Sheri took a chance on me.
TouchPoint Press is also a natural home for my novel since, in a very real sense, Chapel Street is a parallel narrative to my memoir.
Let me explain.
Family members and close friends who read my first book asked why I didn't talk more about my doomed brother Mark Brendan Murphy, who killed himself in a rather public manner in Flint, Michigan, in 1999. Two reasons. One, Mark wasn't as much a factor in the narrative thrust of the narrative of my first book as my late sister Laura Lee Murphy Valenti, who shot herself in 1994. Two, I was planning to discuss Mark, and my complicated relationship with him, in another nonfiction book.
|Mark Brendan Murphy|
Other Murphy family insiders asked why I didn't discuss The House in my first book.
By The House, they meant the large Victorian home my family bought in the summer of 1974. From the beginning, my sisters said the house was haunted. I was mostly oblivious or highly skeptical of their claims, aside from hearing our spooky old Church pump organ play a single note on its own once. However, after my mother and a friend of hers tried to communicate with the entity in the mid-1980s, we quickly entered full blown poltergeist territory.
Those stories were also outside of the narrative thrust of my first book. And, frankly, I never intended to write about those events for two reasons. One, we learned the hard way that talking to or about the entity seemed to empower it. For that reason, we never even discussed our own experiences in any detail among ourselves despite the fact that our family hasn't lived in the house for over a decade. Two, I didn't think I had the writing skill to articulate the terror and dread inspired by the sometimes subtle/sometimes not to so subtle actions of the entity.
I would have never written about any of this until my mother asked me this question: "Do you think the thing in the house had anything to do with Mark and Laurie's deaths?"
My answer was a firm: "Yes."
I had always considered that possibility and I wrote Chapel Street to explore my thoughts on the subject. This novel is fiction, but everything is undergirded by emotional and spiritual reality. However, in some ways, the book is less an exaggeration of the events than I thought.
After reading a draft of Chapel Street, my sister called a meeting of my surviving siblings who had lived in the house during the peak of the haunting to openly discuss the events for the first time. This was only a preliminary discussion, but it chillingly underlined my contention that the entity intended to drive us all to our deaths. My brother Mark hung himself. My sister Laura shot herself. My father drank himself to death in a manner I view as a slow-moving suicide. (I can't blame him. I would probably do the same thing if I lost two children like he did.) I discussed my own close call with suicide in my first book. However, I discovered there were other attempts as well as direct actions by the entity which would have appeared to be suicides had they been successful.
It was indeed a house of blood.
|The previous owner of The House was found dead|
on a landing beneath this stained glass window.
I will probably write again about the link between Chapel Street and the real events that inspired it, but I still have to process the information I just learned.
You can never really predict how the audience will react to the book. I believe fans of the genre will love it. And I was already able to generate interest in a film adaptation. Regardless, like my first book, the writing process itself proved beneficial to me. It helped me deal with some of my unresolved issues regarding the "haunting" and my relationship with my late brother. Psychological healing, courtesy of TouchPoint Press.
I hope you all enjoy the book when it is published. I don't have a date yet, but it will be released in hardcover, paperback and digital formats. If you enjoy it, rest assured I already have sequels and prequels in mind.
Thanks, Sheri, for taking another chance on me!
Sheri hasn't asked me to take down this sneak preview of Chapel Street yet, so take advantage of it while you can:
Prologue - My Mother
Chapter 1 - RestingPlace.com
Chapter 2 - Elisabetta
Chapter 3 - The Upload
Chapter 4 - The Kobayashi Maru
Chapter 5 - Gina
Chapter 6 - Tombstone Teri
Chapter 7 - The Holy Redeemer Lonely Hearts Club
Chapter 8 - A Mourner
Chapter 9 - War Is Declared
Chapter 10 - The Motorcycle
Chapter 11 - Suspended
Chapter 12 - The Harbor
Chapter 13 - Bad News Betty
While you're waiting on Chapel Street, be sure my true story of first faith and first love and how the two became almost fatally intertwined: