You Never Forget Your First, Part I

Posted: December 2, 2013 in Self-publishing
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Aside from a handful of short stories (most of which have gone on to the Great Hard-Drive in the Sky), A World Gone Gray was the first lengthy work of fiction that I saw through to the bittersweet end. The mere fact that it’s my baby should be reason enough for me to hold it particularly close to my heart, but the story behind its conception and development would make any Papa proud.

The year was 2006, the state, Idaho. Although I was raised in southern California, I’d been priced out of any neighborhood not requiring a bullet-proof vest and a squadron of bodyguards. So I did what any right-minded lad would do; I moved to the Pacific Northwest and went to work for a tiny cable company. Surprisingly, climbing a rickety 28-foot ladder to disconnect some deadbeat’s ESPN while being airbrushed by sleet  soon lost its appeal. In an attempt to postpone the inevitable plunge to my death, I started writing for the first time since high school.

I started reading at an early age, which, I suppose, made me a little more proficient in the English language than the average bear. The average bear being a California elementary school student circa 1985. I wrote a story about a massive earthquake that caused Los Angeles and San Fransisco to slide up against each other, forming a gigantic city with the über-creative name “San Francisco de los Angeles.” Apparently, this story was the third-best tale in the district, and I was awarded with five bucks and polite applause at an assembly held in the contest winners’ honor.

Flash-forward 19 years later to a couch in the Idaho panhandle. I’m a thirty-something stuck in a dead-end (potentially life-ending) job, watching a documentary listing the ways the Earth might meet its own demise—black hole, comet, gamma ray burst, asteroid. At first, I’m thinking, “Meh. The planet had a good run. RIP.” Then, a kernel of an idea for a story buried itself deep in my brain. One minute, nothing. The next, 75% of a novel. Early the following morning, I began typing.

I suck at typing. I’ve tried learning to type the “right” way many a time, with un-mixed results. This won’t come as a surprise to the people who know me best. I can’t even tie my shoes the “right” way. But hey, it gets the job done. In any event, I slowly built my daily word count up from a couple hundred to five hundred to a thousand to fifteen hundred. I broke the 2,000-word barrier on a few occasions, but I spent most of my time somewhere in the vicinity of 1,500-Land. About six months later, I had myself the first 100,000 words or so of a novel. Then feces occurred, as it is wont to do, and I had to leave Idaho on short notice and return to SoCal.

To make a long story about a long story short, I ended up writing the last six chapters of AWGG by hand in a spiral notebook on the balcony of a friend’s apartment, about five feet from the couch I was temporarily sleeping on.  Three weeks later, with a semi-permanent roof over my head, I set up my computer, slapped the CD into its drive, and prepared to transcribe the handwritten final chapters. Naturally, my computer refused to read the disc. As did the other half-dozen or so computers I tried the disc in.

[Insert loud, sustained string of vile expletives here.]

Thankfully, among my few possessions was a ream of paper containing the first 49 chapters of A World Gone Gray neatly rendered in ten-point Courier font. Slow-forward about four weeks later, and chapters 50 through 55 have finally been introduced to their brethren, this time in Times New Roman. The first draft of AWGG was complete. So half the job was done.

After the writing bug struck for good on that couch in Idaho, I spent a lot of my “down” time researching the publishing industry, literary agents, and anything and everything to do with the business side of writing. Thankfully, one of the first web sites I ran into was Absolute Write, which, for the uninitiated, is a veritable goldmine of information for the newbie writer. I learned about the alarming number of scammers who prey on budding scribes, and I learned how to avoid them. I also invested some of my limited funds in the most recent editions of Writer’s Market and Jeff Herman’s guide, envelopes in various sizes, and, of course, stamps. I wrote what I felt was a compelling query letter, then prepared to send my baby out into the world…

This post is getting waaaayyyy too long. Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.


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