Tuesday, July 5, 2016

My Journey Toward Authorship--Part One

I wrote a book.  It's a novel, and my agent is calling it an "urban young adult suspense/thriller."

Well, that’s something.  Lots of people want to write a book, but I actually did it.  It took me about four years to create my first complete, novel-length story, and I’ve spent the another year trying to get it out to the world.  It’s not quite there, although it is underway and I’m learning a great deal about the process.  The purpose of this blog is to share with you about my journey toward becoming a published author—so far.  I'll catch you up, and then add detail as things change going forward.

I’ve been hearing this often:  “How’s the book coming?”

The answer is:  Too slow for my taste.  This publishing thing takes forever.

In this first installment, I’ll share with you two details.  First, I’ll tell you how the story in my novel first began, and second, I’ll tell you how I started on the path toward becoming an author.

How the story began…

It began with just the seed of an idea, really.  It sprung from an offhand comment about what happened to a missing item in our house.  The year was 1988 and I hadn’t yet had the idea to write anything—except checks to pay bills, maybe.  (Frankly, I don't think I was yet over the fact that I would never be a pro baseball player.)  My wife and I had a small group Bible study that met in our home.  There was an older couple, Bill and Jean.  Lovely people.  We were friends with them until their deaths a few years ago.  Then there was a married couple with two boys—twins.  Let me just say, those boys were a handful.  They are one factor in this sub-story.

Another factor is that my wife had braces when she was younger and she still, to this day, wears a retainer from time to time to keep her teeth in proper alignment.  Basically, if she feels her teeth getting misaligned, she wears the retainer while she sleeps at night in order to straighten them out.  It is kept in a small, hockey puck-shaped plastic container.  Well, one night in 1988, she went to put her retainer in and it was nowhere to be found.  We searched high and low.  We looked in every drawer.  Behind every piece of furniture.  In the refrigerator.  In the Freezer.  It was just the two of us living there, so there were no dogs and no kids to blame.  Or, was there?  Anyway, we were at a loss.  The thing was not in the house.  That was when I made the comment that ultimately led to my novel:  “Maybe the ‘Dimensional Bandits’ took it.”

Dimensional Bandits?
I don’t know where that came from.  It just sort of jumped out of my imagination.  Really, that’s where all great stories come from, right?—somewhere in the imagination.  From then on, I played with the concept.  Over and over.  For a couple of decades.  If one of us lost something, it was the Dimensional Bandits.  If something was found, the Dimensional Bandits brought it back.  How did they get in?  What were they like?  So on and so forth.

Back to the retainer.  It was gone for a long time.  I know it was missing for at least a month.  Then, one evening, I walked into our bedroom, and BOOM.  There it was.  It was sitting out in the open on the corner of our dresser like we’d just been overlooking it all that time.  I guessed at the time that the Dimensional Bandits were done with it.
More likely, however, is that one of those two boys that hung around our house during that small group Bible Study thought it was a toy and took it home.  That’s what we really think happened.  Probably, one of the parents found it at their house, but rather than just tell us, they slipped it back into our bedroom without saying a word.  

Thus, my novel was conceived.

Still, that would have meant nothing if I had not gotten on the path toward becoming an author—toward writing.  Keep in mind, the only things I wrote back in those days were checks at home or sales tickets at my job.  I was a simple customer service representative serving mostly walk-in traffic at Bearings, Inc. (Now, Applied Industrial) in downtown Indianapolis.  Creativity had not really been my focus up to that point.

The thing that set me on the path was a book.  The year I found it was 1992.  I had moved up to being a branch manager for the same company, and we had moved to Columbus, Indiana.  It was evening.  My wife needed to go to the store and I decided to go with her.  We all went, now that we had a toddler.  My daughter, Angela, would have been about three.  Andrea may have been in the oven.  (No, not an actual oven.  For those who are quick to jump to conclusions, she was in the womb.)

We all walked into the store, and I did what every red-blooded, American man does when he goes to the store with his wife and child.  I abandoned her with the kid and made a beeline for the magazine section.

Nothing, however, held my attention very long, so my eyes wandered over to the book rack beside the glossy journals.  It had been a very long time since I’d read a book for fun.  I think I was still a teenager when I’d last been caught up in a story--some werewolf thing that I don't recall.  Hmmm, I thought, I wonder if there’s anything interesting?
This is the book that started it all.
That’s when I found it—the book that set me on my course toward authorship.  Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz.  Wow!  It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until I’d flipped the final page.  I love Dean Koontz books.  I haven’t read them all—thank goodness.  I’d be disappointed if I had because I wouldn’t have any more to look forward to exploring.  He just has a way of creating scenarios and characters that keeps me wanting more.  If you like adventures, some with paranormal stories and some without, but all with great characters, that will keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend the Dean Koontz novels.

After that, I became a reader.  In the twenty-four some odd years since, I’ve rarely been without a book I’m reading, and probably one or two in the queue.  I’ve got two going right now.

I have heard it said that to become a writer, you first need to become a reader.  I have come to the conclusion that that is a true statement.  Reading spurs the imagination.  Eventually, you begin to realize that ANYTHING can happen in the imagination, and you start playing with it—first in your mind, and then, if you keep going, on paper.

So, there you have it.  How did it all start for me?  It started with a missing dental device and a book by Dean Koontz.  You never know from where inspiration will spring.  Just jump with it and keep going.

The next installment will cover how I actually started writing.  See you next week.  

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