I have been writing since the 7th grade, well actually before that. I was placed in an accelerated English program for gifted writers in the 6th grade. My grammar school teachers really excited me about reading and writing in the 6th-8th grades. Guys like Mr. Colley, Mr, Tully and Mr. O'Conner really got me fired up over the written word. But it was in high school that things really took off.
I was fortutate enough to land in Mr. Oliver K. Bascom's English class in the 9th grade. The guy was amazing. He would pick up a student's empty desk and shake it over his head, howling, if no one was paying attention in class. He would pick up a crutch and begin to pretend to snipe people with fake gunfire (you could do that in the 70's). He was awesome, and he was someone who really believed in me. Some of my stories were just awful and yet he kept on being encouraging. I took his English class again in my sophomore year, and was looking forward to my third year with him in 11th grade, but the students received bad news. He had died over the summer and would never teach again. We were crushed. In those days there were no grief counselors, not support groups, we just had to deal with it. The loss hit me hard.
Right around the same time, my parents decided to get a divorce. So instead of spending my two final years of high school getting ready for college and a career in writing, I decided to drink, and drink, and drink.... and drink. I still managed to graduate 33rd out of 250 in my graduating class, with a GPA of 3.35, which makes me wonder what I could have done if I would have been serious. For the next few years, drinking and carousing were a big part of my life, but writing was still there, in the background, speaking to me, "you can do this."
What I didn't know at that time was that writing was not speaking to me, but God was. He had blessed me with an amazing talent and didn't want to see it go to waste. He enabled me to get my head right, and even got me off the alcohol (permanently), and I was ready to hit writing hard, full blast even, but then the unexpected happened. The only woman in the world that I would have considered marrying was suddenly single. So there I was, one chance in a lifetime, and no idea what to do. I decided to throw all my eggs in one basket, and flew 2 states away to tell her how I really felt (we had been best friends for 3.5 years), and propose, figuring she would turn me down. She didn't. She accepted.
Now I was really in for it. I knew (I thought) that I couldn't ask a wife to support my crazy idea of being a full time writer (I didn't know at that time that my sweetheart was also a career quality writer), so I spent the next 10 years in futility, trying to support my family, and hating that I didn't ever have a job I enjoyed.
I decided to get serious about writing again, and took a screenplay I had written (it was designed to be shot as an indie film, in black and white) and turned in into a pretty good Young Adult novel. Now that it was finished, what next? I began the process of trying to submit it to a number of publishing houses. It took months, but I finally got a bite from a small press publisher in Ohio. She read the work and gave me her feedback. She liked it, but it had to be longer, and she didn't like the ending/resolution, If I could submit it with about 25,000 more words added to its 65,000 word length, with a new resolution, she would send me a contract. A What? A contract?!!! Are you kidding?
I actually received a contract for the book and a contract for $400 for a feature article in a popular Christian magazine in that same year. I was certainly on the way. The article for REV magazine can be found HERE. A book excerpt can be found HERE. This was amazing! I was certainly on the way to writing success.
But then the realities of the publishing world began to take hold. The editor at the magazine who loved my work, left the magazine. The new editor had their own stable of writers that they preferred to work with. Also at that time, the book publisher got into a urinating match with another author, and rather than take the financial hit of litigation (I'm not taking sides btw), she closed her doors. So yeah, I was in the small percentage of people who actually received a book contract from a publisher, however, that contract was financially worthless.
QUICK NOTE: If you cannot constructively deal with disappointment, DO NOT BECOME A WRITER.
REALITY NOTE: 90% of writing/publishing is timing. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you are producing stuff that does not fit a publishers list, you are not going anywhere. That's why, when you have finished something, you have to send out 20-25 queries. Then wait. Then find out the responses, then assess the responses, then send out 25 more, until what you have produced fits the timing of what that publisher/editor is looking for. That's the reality you won't hear at workshops or conferences.
So back to my journey. To this date "Only the Strong" needs a home, but I may have an investor who would like to see it get published. There is a sequel in the works, but it is only developmental at this point. I am really excited about some of the new projects in the quiver.
I have 12 completed works in the can: A sci-fi throwback which is also a dark satire, a supernatural western, a period piece about coming of age in the South during desegregation, 2 adaptions from source materials by a sci-fi master, a gonzo heist comedy, a quirky retelling of Trace Dickey the private detective, and a superhero thriller with no superheroes.
Finished another novel. This one is a gritty urban Christian fantasy (with no zombies, vampires, witches or magic, which may leave some of you wondering "what is left to write about then?"). And now, it's going screenplay adaption.
And of course there's lots more on the way. Remember, writers write. It's what we do.