From the comics page to the comics rack:
I guess my fascination with the printed page began with newspapers. My father read the Boston Globe every day. Seeing him do that and watching him wash the grime off his hands under steaming water at the kitchen sink were highlights of my young day.
When the paper was set aside I checked it out. My father always finished up at the comics section. Grids of drawings, bubbles of words, and captions. I wondered what hidden messages were buried in those hieroglyphics. Why wasn’t I able to decipher them?
In time, I learned how to read. It seemed like a painful process of trial and error. Was it worth the effort? Reading for me didn’t come close to the what seemed like involuntary responses to family and relatives.
The learning phase passed. By the time I was in second grade I’d reached the stage of being able to cull mental imagery from the printed word. I became a comic book addict. Marvel Comics being my drug of choice. Stan Lee spun the yarns. Jack Kirby drew the pictures.
Can I write a book:
All through elementary school, once the comic book phase passed, I became interested in biographical stories of historical figures—from Alexander the Great to Sam Houston, Genghis Khan to Erwin Rommel. I lived for history.
My first venture into fiction was inspired when I was standing in a bookstore, waiting for my mother to make a purchase. My eyes were drawn to the Edgar Rice Burroughs section. It must’ve been the wild cover art by Frank Frazetta. Fiction was out of my element at the time. A friend had recommended the John Carter of Mars series. I gave it a shot.
I was hooked. Mowing lawns and doing chores around the house paid for the entire Mars collection. This launched me on a Science fiction jag lasting decades.
After the suspension of reality wore thin, I began to take an analytical approach. How did authors write books? Can I do this?
Eventually the question became a statement: “I can do this.”
Should I reach out for help:
I’m an old man now. I’ve reached my goal of writing a book. Independent publishing to the e book format has given me an outlet for my stories.
With the Covid pandemic of 2020 came a milestone for me: retirement. Six months prior to the official date I made a promise to myself. I would become a touch typist by March 1st. I worked hard at it, setting aside the current writing project to concentrate on the keyboard. I never got past the first practical test of 45 words per minute and when I tried to write this way my mind went blank. Not too far to go at age 67. I gave up.
I finally got religion. Not in the traditional sense. I do have a Bible: Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. The book is a detailed description of the process of crafting a manuscript that literary agents may read all the way to the end. That’s an oversimplification of an exacting operation requiring all the right elements taking place at all the right times.
After three reads of the book and three attempts to build my own stories based on the techniques in the chapters, I hit the bricks. A writer’s block larger taller than the Empire State Building and wider than the Great Wall of China.
I turned to the Internet.
There were plenty of companies interested in helping me get published. They are called Vanity presses and they’ll guide you through the process for a free. External motivation with a price tag attached. Not what I had in mind.
Finding internal motivation:
On that same search results page, I came across a non-profit site dedicated to independent authors. Every week, Indies Unlimited runs a flash fiction contest. I’ve written two flash bits so far and this is my third blog post this week. The current book is back on track. The desire to write has returned.