IN 1982 during graduate work on my MBA at the University of North Texas in Denton, I rode my bicycle along the flat farm roads north of the city to escape and think.
MY first year I was lonely, missing many of my friends from Vanderbilt and Bristol. During my many cycling outings, I used to think about how cool it would be to climb aboard my bicycle (an old, brown, beat-up Schwinn) and ride to see my friends in Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, Louisiana and California. Aside from being the inspiration for a bicycle that could travel fast and far, these musings were the impetus for Danny’s military background, which explained why his friends were spread far and wide.
YEARS later, in 1988, after surviving a house fire and temporarily living in an apartment in Rockwall, Texas, I was out riding on a newer, black-and-gold touring Schwinn. I cycled north on I20 along the frontage roads, exploring that long stretch of asphalt. I coasted into a small town named Fate, Texas, that didn’t much more than a post office. Mail from Fate? Hmmm. Since I was already philosophical about what was going on (having a house burn and losing lots of possessions, as well as surviving a trip back into the smoky place to save the disks that contained my first manuscript, An Amok Fantasy), I wondered what it would be like to encounter a future William Hill. What would he tell me? What should I do? What should I avoid? This inspired the time travel aspects of The Magic Bicycle. Some day Danny may face Danny, for good or ill.
DURING all this time I was reading lots of Calvin and Hobbes. I have no doubt the strip influenced the story, possibly leading to Murg (Murgitroyd was the name of my freshman year roommate’s cat. Plus, I liked Snagglepuss’ “Heavens to Murgitroyd”.
I first began writing The Magic Bicycle while staying with my future wife, Kat, in Dallas after a Christmas visit to Indianapolis in 1989. I wanted ideas for Dawn of the Vampire to percolate, so I worked on something else while Kat managed the Constellation Bookstore.
THE haunted house was inspired by a place in Avalon Hills, a residential division in Indianapolis. There was an old spooky house, called the House of Blue Lights, atop the wooded hills. It was actually the Test Estate, owned by Skiles Test, who among other things had donated monies for the elementary school I attended. The mansion was on a sprawling, hilly parcel of land, that in fall was draped in browns, golds and oranges, perfect for Halloween. The building itself was old and several stories tall. It had a strange pool with an elevator that led to the diving board. I must admit to trespassing and investigating several times. Unfortunately, my lack of bravery prevented me from ever peeking in a window or reaching a door. I always felt watched.
BEFORE setting fingers to keyboard, I’d had lots of internal debates on what powered the bicycle — technology or magic? Should it be alien technology or some sort of magical artifact, say from Arthurian or druidic times? In a sense, I came up with a hybrid: star metal mined by alien technology but powered by the mind, even wishes so to speak, which makes it seem very magical. I was partly influenced by ET, but the story is not about aliens, despite their appeal to the young.
AFTER I finished Dawn of the Vampire in mid-1990, I completed Danny’s Magic Bicycle. A few publishers were interested, but there were no takers. In 1996 I revised the manuscript, adding to the time travel chapters, then sent it to literary agents. Again, there was only limited interest. Spurned again! Most thought the story was too long; some claimed it was too complicated for young minds. It’s odd that a story designed for 12 to 16 year olds is now read and enjoyed by kids from ages 8 to 92.
IN 1997 Otter Creek Press was born. The length of the manuscript was not an issue because they liked the story. We expected California Ghosting to be published first, but due to some problems, The Magic Bicycle was released first, this time with an extra chapter that included Albert Einstein. The more I read and reread The Magic Bicycle, I couldn’t picture Murg not suggesting a visit with Albert Einstein. His inclusion helped reinforce the idea of the power of imagination.
DESPITE having aliens, government spies and magic, The Magic Bicycle is about the power of imagination, which Einstein had said is more powerful than knowledge. Imagination leads us beyond what we know to what we dream and dare to seek to more knowledge and beyond. Without imagination, daring, dreaming and luck, I would never have been published the first time.
The first copies of The Magic Bicycle were available in November 1997 at a young writers’ conference in North Carolina, where I spoke about ideas, themes and getting started.
NOW The Magic Bicyclehas received enough good reviews that a second story, Chasing Time, and possibly a third are being crafted. All in all, if the public is interested, there could be a half-dozen or more magic bicycle stories, including a trip to Camelot; encounters with ghosts; an alternate, evil Danny Chase; a trip to the stars and Cor-ror-o’lan, Murg’s origin; the Time Tribunal and more.
WHAT historical figures will appear? We shall just have to wait and see. I’ve been looking for the future William Hill, but he hasn’t shown up to offer any hints or clues about the future, let alone which storyline will be a bestseller. Maybe I should climb on my bicycle, head into the mountains and see what muse and imagination will bring.