Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writing and Me

The seeds of my interest in writing were planted when I was very young. I was always a very capable reader, even before kindergarten. And as an only child, reading and making up stories was how I spent a lot of my childhood. I remember Flat Stanley being one of my favorite books, and I had a small stack of comics that I read through several times. Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web soon followed. When I was about 9 or 10, my stepdad would make me read books that were obviously meant for adults. I remember being forced to read a book called Kathy. It was about a young girl who was paralyzed, and how she and her family learned to cope with it (yeah, depressing for a 10 year old). And once, when I got in trouble, that same stepdad told me "Go to your room and read your bible." So I did. I started with Genesis 1:1, and made it to somewhere in Psalms before being called for dinner. My mom had no idea where I was. Yeah, he didn't last much longer.

Anyways, at the beginning of 6th grade, I moved from Kansas back to my hometown in California, and at school there I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. Vin Diesel, in his introduction to 30 Years of Adventure, called D&D "the training ground for the imagination." And that's exactly what it was for me. Because it lead to me seeing Conan the Barbarian, which lead me to reading the Ace editions (all 12), the first of which I had initially thought was based on the movie. I have learned a LOT about the character since then (which is a subject for a whole other post), and I was introduced to the most influential writer for me: Robert E. Howard. Now, I'm not going to go on and on about Bob, but suffice it to say, if you have any interest in well-told stories of action and adventure, and you haven't read anything of his, you should remedy that post haste.

Anyways, D&D also lead me to other genres of RPGs, which also lead me to read other genres of fiction. I can safely say that, to date, I have read at least one novel from every genre (and just about every sub-genre) one can name. Even a couple of romances. But my writing remained solidly in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Until I met Mack Bolan.

In 1984, my friend Matt and I had a healthy (or maybe unhealthy) interest in guns and other military hardware (no doubt due to his extensive collection of realistic Airsoft guns). One day, while waiting for the bus at the Air Force base I found myself living on (mom had joined up, which was what spurred my move from Kansas in the first place, and her dumping the Stepdad From Hell), I saw the cover of Crude Kill on the book rack. For a discounted price that was below $2, I entered the world of Men's Adventure, and developed a deep passion for Mack Bolan and his brand of justice (for those who don't know, Marvel Comics' The Punisher was unofficially based on/copied from Mack Bolan). Later I would try to write my own stories about an original character named Darryl Knox. I recently found the notebook I used. Horribly bad writing, to say the least.

Anyways, from backgrounds for RPG characters (particularly Tomos Elvenblood, my half-elf fighter...ok, stopping there) and the misadventures of Darryl Knox and Iroc Thompson (Matt's creation), I have spent the last 25+ years playing at writing. Many genres, many characters, many stories. Some good, some so-so, and some downright icky. What it all amounts to is about 1,000+ starts, dozens of vignettes, and a handful of complete short stories (none of which are publishable).

Do I dare call myself a writer yet? I don't know. What does that mean, exactly? I write, so technically I guess that makes me a writer. Hell, I'm writing right this minute. But without a full story told, a writer may as well be a chimp at a keyboard. True? I've always been of the opinion that publication is required to obtain that title. Then again, maybe that's the difference between a writer and an author.

My conundrum is that I am like a raccoon when it comes to writing. I get very passionate about a project, until something else shiny catches my eye, and I lose focus, drive and momentum. Of course, my problem lately has been focus to begin with. Life has handed me and my family a lot of lemons lately, so it's difficult to set aside the real world, and plunge into the fantasy realms where my stories lay.

So, there you have it. The history of Tom the Writer. Will he ever make it beyond where he is? Hmmmm...

1 comment:

Mad Mark said...

I know what you mean about the raccoon thing. It's the whole reason I'm writing movie reviews, to be honest... because I can write something quick, I can keep focused, and I can just share my thoughts on a single subject.
I'm still stuck on my own stories and get some of the way through before I lose my own focus. Good luck with it all, though.