In 1985, I was working in the corporate world for Northern Telecom, now Nortel, in Richardson, Texas. This was also my first serious experience with computers, using Lotus and Wordstar. I had just finished reading TSR’s DragonLance series, and being a Dungeon and Dragon’s Dungeon Master, I was struck by the thought that I could do this. I CAN WRITE THIS STORY — or, a story like it. Still, that wasn’t enough to prompt me to begin crafting.
An interesting combination of events convinced me to try writing, this after years of thinking I’d just waste my time. My cousin gave me her option to buy tickets to the NBA All-star game to see Dr. J, Bird, Kareem and all the other greats-a dream come true. My good graduate school buddy Ron Smith came back from California to attend the game with me. My car, a 1968 Camaro, was being repaired, so I drove my sister’s Pinto. The door was not closing, so we drove Ron’s rent-a-car. The radio was tuned to some talk station, and the subject was happiness in life. A big part of finding happiness is “burning” everyday to work-to be productive-in your chosen field, that your vocation must be thrilling, almost obsessive. Even though I had never written for any consistent amount of time, day after day, I realized that writing could be like that for me.
So I started messing around with ideas. For quite a while, I’d had the idea for a coming of age “hero’s tale”–a staple of fantasy. Demons would pursue a wizard into a college student’s room. The dying wizard would give him a magical sword to save a damsel in distress, and by saving her, he would save a nation called Illand.
My influences at the time were many. The biggest of all was the Marvel Comics I’d read throughout the year, plus Star Wars, Roger Zelazney’s Amber Series, and Michael Moorcock’s Elric, my first true fantasy series, not including Conan and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Even now, with the addition of Robert Jordan’s influence, you can still see aspects of the aforementioned stories.
I left Nortel for a job at Vistawall Architectural Products in Terrell, Texas. I moved in February, house-sitting for a friend on Cedar Creek Lake. To celebrate, I purchased my first computer, an Amstrad. I began right away, learning to write and to use the computer. Both came slowly. Early on, my writing didn’t impress anyone, and most people told me I’d never get published, that the odds were against me. My sister Lynne, a close friend Dr. Steve Sikora, and college buddies Jon Thatcher and Lewis Adler said to go for it.
There was no TV or telephone at the lake house, so I had plenty of time to write. I found I truly enjoyed it, got lost in it for hours upon hours. After getting home from work, I’d write until late. I’d write most of the weekends, getting exercise around my writing. I even purchased a micro-cassette recorder so I could outline chapters while I drove for an hour to work. I plotted and mentally edited constantly, when I was riding my bike, driving, out boating . . . anywhere.
The story had the hero rescue the damsel in distress, then, as he tried to escape the realm of the Dark Lord, he would figure out the secret of the sword, which had its own agenda. Like most beginning writers, I used myself as the main character. I added abilities, skills and talents that I wished I had. I named him Brin Williams. Brin was the name of Timberwolf in the Legion of Superheroes. Later, I discovered that in Welsh, Bryn means Hill, so the character was named Hill Williams. Hmmm. That’s truly getting into your work!
My first draft took two years to write and was painstakingly linear, detailed and overly descriptive. So I rewrote, using a bit more flashback and better transitions, dropping it from about 800 pages to about 650. Although I had no luck peddling this manuscript I called “An Amok Fantasy,” it lead to an editor who liked my work, ultimately resulting in my first published work, Dawn of the Vampire.
After the publishing Dawn of the Vampire, I worked on my fantasy again. Then after Vampire’s Kiss, I worked on it again. I’m a fantasy writer, not a horror writer, though I’ve learned a lot from the latter. Okay, so maybe I can write supernatural thrillers. At this point, four of my five published works fit into that genre.
Over the years, now over a decade, I still have friends who read the early drafts waiting for An Amok Fantasy. I think they are just waiting for Durgie the dragonnette, who is most people’s favorite character. Now is the time to put together all I’ve learned from reading and reading about writing (especially Provost’s Making Words Work) and to recreate my first manuscript, my first work of fantasy. (I’ve worked on “Ghosts of Camelot” and “The Dragon’s Counsel/Dragon Guise.”)
Going back to work again on the manuscript, I wanted to add more mystery, more suspense and more humor. This time, to make it even less linear, I gave the character amnesia (okay, so I loved Nine Princes in Amber) so he’d have to learn about himself. I put even more doubt into the sword’s means and ends. I fleshed out the celestial madonna (the damsel in distress), added a ‘soundtrack,’ and filled out the villains (the one who devours souls, the vampiric mage, and the winged cleric, as well as the Dark Lord). To all this, I tried to further flesh out the world and it’s history, adding a Jordanesque touch.
Okay, so what’s the story about? Wishes and dreams. Being careful what you wish for. You may get it. So you want to be a hero? Do you want to pay the price? Are heroes born? Or are heroes made?