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Inspirational Reads

Where do we go from here?

May 19, 2006

A lot of times, I credit reading the Lord of the Rings with being the starting point for my desire to write. In a lot of ways, it is the event that caused me to start writing, fantasy literature, at least. When I think back on it, I think about a lot of things I wrote well before I ever heard of The Lord of the Rings, before I knew who J.R.R. Tolkien was, or even that there was an entire genre of books out there centered on medivalism, magic, knights and dragons and magic and whatnot. I can credit none other than Tolkien and his masterpiece for putting me on my current path. However, I was churning out stories long before I ever immersed myself deep in the heroics of Frodo and Sam, Aragon and Gandalf, Gimli and Legolas and a host of others (let's not forget Eowyn, who was so, so hot long before Miranda Otto brought her to the big screen...).

Sometimes, I like to think that I started writing a whole year before I came upon Hobbits and the Shire. I wrote a sort of second-person story about a starfighter stranded on a deserted planet far out in the reaches of space. The main character was you, and you apparently was only going to be read by males, because you were eventually saved by your girlfriend, who was really this blonde girl I knew named Sarah Cline. Sarah, being the good little starfighter she was, whisked you away into the depths of space back to the homebase where you rejoined your friends and continued the fight against the imperial forces ruling the galaxy. Not necessarily original work, but for a fifth grader, I remember the story being intensely complex.

It wasn't that sort of Star Wars-cum-choose your own adventure that kicked it off. I always told a good story. I remember one of my very first in-class assignments in the first grade was to retell the tale of the three billy goats gruff. We also got to illustrate it. I remember making a particularly putrid troll. And I needed two sheets of the giant paper to tell all of my tale. I even named the goats. One of the them was "Horny". It was a much more innocent time. I would have needed a third, but Mrs. Hubbard stopped me at two. As it was, I was the only student to not only fill the paper but also require a second sheet. I often think of THAT as the seminal event in my life that pushed me down the path of wanting to be a writer. I told a good tale, and people listened. Success! I had found my happy place.

I entered these "Young Author Contests" a few times, writing some very intense, very involved plots. I once wrote a poem, sort of, that was more like an epic poem. It told of a band of friends who wandered across this land to slay a dragon and bring the crown back to the king. I think I entered it and didn't even go to the contest. As far as epics go, it did miss a few things, and Doctor Egan would have been very disappointed in it. I notice that it never made his litany of epics during core 3 and 4 lectures. *sigh*

My crowning youthful achievement was called "Aristar the Ranger". It is the story I began writing the moment I closed the Lord of the Rings. I remember the day in study hall well, and I began drawing a map which turned out to be the cover for the book. My friend Asa helped me. And then I began writing and writing. Clearly, Aristar is a mixture of Aragorn, Strider and Ellesar. His brother was also a Ranger, named Dragistar. There was also a guy named Bitumini (whose name was derived from bituminous coal) and a fellow named Uplander who died early in the book fighting goblins. Anyway, we were doing this reading competition in my sixth grade English class, where you had to read a certain number of books a month to get a free pizza or something. Whatever. I only got it done like once or twice, and we never went to get the pizza. Pity. I do love pizza. Anyway, the only restriction was that we had to read a book that was 75 pages or more, so that it was at least a "real" book. I then took it a step further and said "If I write a book that's 75 pages, shouldn't that count as reading one, too?" Soleil Lehman agreed, and so I set about to make the 75 page limit (I think I made 77). I then took the book, reviewed it for the class, and decided to get something more than a free pizza out of it. So, I entered it in the Young Author's Contest (conveniently enough, I was in my final year of eligibility for the contest). I was a run-away winner. I got a nice plaque and a trophy, both of which are gone. I believe I also got a free pizza, or some food prize. I, of course, never got the pizza, either.

However, I was hooked. Writing was in my blood, and thousands of stories became reality in my mind. I have probably started and subsequently shit-canned about fifty stories. Half of the fun in those early days was the drawing of maps and deciding which of my friends would be my main characters. And, of course, how would I end up with the avatar of my current pre-dating crushes? Always quite fun.

The stories came and went, but sometimes the characters would continue on. Aristar and Dragistar are surely dead, buried with the fond memories of my youth. They continue to ride across the northern planes, hunting down goblins and treating with Elves and fighting giant plants in my dreams, but I doubt they will ever see pixelated computer screens. They're very tired. They deserve some rest.

But I am still afflicted by the Too-Many-Stories Syndrome. In case you couldn't tell (don't mind me while I sit down and start a whole NEW book before even trying to get the one/two that I've finished published). But it's fun. Oh, God, it's fun to world build and character create. I know, it's very megalomaniacal of me, but it's a thrill like none other. It's one I wish to continue well into my ancient days, when my grandchildren will come into the den and see a dozen stories by me in oversized, dog-eared paperbacks and hardbound versions. That's what I want. Surely, I'll be a labrat for quite some days. This is, naturally, just a hobby, but one that I do plan to turn into my own bit of fame.

One recent trend I've seen is authors of novels suddenly turning to authors of comic books. My God! How wonderful would that be? To write my own stories and then work on comic book arcs. It would be yet another dream come true, one almost realized when I tried to work for Hall of Heroes, a fledgeling independent comic book company I tried to get involved with during high school. I'm not certain whatever happened to them. I should look them up, I suppose. As any start-up company in its infancy, Hall of Heroes was chaos, madness, and disorganization incarnate. However, they had some good artists (Wally Stepnowski was one of them, who drew this picture of a minotaur-like character named Bull that was effing sweet) and a couple of really good ideas. I pitched a team book toward them, wrote out an episode or two, and the head of the company said he loved my writing. I went home feeling very good. Very, very good. I sat waiting for that phone call. I never got it. Six months later, while I was in a comic book shop on the southwest side of Fort Wayne, I got to talking to some guy about HoH. I told him about how I was going to write for them. He said, "Yeah? Me, too. Bastards never called. How 'bout you?" I suddenly didn't feel so bad, so kicked-to-the-curb. I still wish I had been a little more assiduous and tenacious. However, that ship has sailed. Perhaps, some day, I'll get another chance. We can only see.

Ah, but to get there. My plan had been to start off with my own series, a multi-volume fantasy series from which "King of Thistles" arose. Well, now King of Thistles lays split in half, ready to be pieced together fully. It's time will come. The Boar War will be my first book. Once I finish this in a month to six weeks, I will be more assiduous and tenacious. I won't let the world get me down. Failure is not an ending, it's a hesitation. With The Boar War on bookshelves, that will open the gate for King of Thistles (now King of Shadows) and those books. With them out there, I can work on my other stories (the ones involving the angels and the war against the magicians) and the follow-up stories to the Hundred Kings Saga (tentatively called Alexander's Ragtime Band...well, not really, but my mind is blank this moment). Sometime in there, I'll squeeze in a comic arc or two. Even if I have to start with a start-up independent company.

Well, that's my plans. That's how I want it all to happen. From the beginning, now the end is in place, in sight. I just have miles to go before I sleep. And it all starts with the Boar War. I need to get back to it.

Right after I figure out what happened to Hall of Heroes...

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