How I ended up writing my first novel: Fulcrum

When I was a kid I loved writing stories. I remember being in 3rd grade or so and losing my damn mind because the writing prompt in the standardized test du jour was for creative writing and not one of those horrible compare and contrast essays.  I can still see the picture:  a cat wearing an eye patch on a pirate ship.   Unfortunately I can't tell you anything about the story I ended up writing, but I like to think that it brightened the day of the poor soul whose job it was to read and rate those things.

I also remember my mom buying  spiral notebooks, though they were less than pleasant to write on for a lefty.  You can't ever get comfortable because your hand sits on the spiral part.  Eventually I graduated to yellow legal pads, probably because I read somewhere that Stephen King liked to write on yellow legal pads.  At least there were no spirals to dig little grooves in that tender, meaty part of my palm.

I wrote stories about clown vampires called Killjoy (did I mention that I read a lot of Stephen King?).  I wrote a story about an Antichrist figure that got the whole world addicted to a drug that was mined directly from the poison glands of scorpions from hell.  And it was a bright glowing blue.  That part was cool to me.  

I made my poor mother read them all, who would probably say that she loved each story.  But come on, how much can a mom really love a story about an evil vampire clown?  

In school I was given the impression that creative writing was a pastime, a risky endeavor that would not lead to employment.  It was the same with the other thing I was good at:  drawing (I also wanted to be a comic book artist).  No teacher or counselor ever said this to me directly, but it was in the career day pamphlets, the papers that the counselor gave us to help us decide what job we would have some day.  There were never selections for creative writer or comic artist.  

I put my stories and spandex clad superhero creations on the back-burner, focusing on a slightly less insecure job path: classical music.  I played upright bass all through intermediate and high school and got a pretty decent scholarship to an esteemed university on said instrument.  I made a lot of friends and learned a lot about music, which ultimately but in a round about way led to my current "day job", which is teaching public school orchestra.  

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Harry Potter.  Harry Potter rocked my world.  I am not a huge Harry Potter fan (my dad is, go figure), but I loved  the books and movies (Hagrid is my favorite character, bless his big hairy heart).  JK Rowling changed everything when she sat down and wrote her story in a coffee shop, or whatever the specifics were that I can't be bothered to look up on wikipedia right now.  She hit that sweet spot where the books were intended for young people but also appealed to adults.  Crazy.  How did she do that?   

So I thought, "Hey if she can do that, why can't I?"   

On June 1, 2001 I sat down at my computer and started writing the adventures of Dizug.  Dizug was a guy who lived in the Millennial Fulcrum  and made friends with green and gold bears called the slave bears, who were also once great rulers of the cosmos.  I wrote up to the part where the space pirates attack and kidnap a bunch of people, and then I stopped for ten or eleven years.   

Incredible life changing events diverted my path.  I found a job, a wife, and had a baby.  Wives, babies, and jobs (order of importance) fill your life with wonderful time-sucking memories that you wouldn't trade for anything.  A digital version of The Adventures of Dizug sat on a hard drive in an old computer, and my wife had secreted a printed version in one of the various cabinets and drawers that have a right place for everything.  

Hugh Howey.  The Wool series.  If you haven't read them, get on amazon and order them now.  Hugh Howey and the appearance of Kindle direct publishing galvanized me again.  One of the biggest reasons I  never sat down and wrote a novel was the submission process.  Could I really write a novel that a publisher would ever accept?  Did I have the time, will and diligence to keep up with the submission process?  Ultimately the answer was no.  Then I heard about Hugh Howey and how his self-published novel series was topping the charts in Amazon ebook sales.  The guy went on to sell millions of copies and even got an unprecedented publishing deal with Simon and Schuster where he was able to retain the digital publishing rights to his books.  

I bought myself a copy of microsoft word, and a nice mechanical keyboard, because it just didn't seem right writing a novel in google docs, and I like the clickety-clack sound of mechanical keys (das keyboard ftw).  With my trusty new keyboard and a vast itunes library as my companions I set out into the unknown.  

It took me about a year to finish and polish my novel.  Dizug became Deacon Ferron.  Then he was Bian Ferron.  At last he became Letho Ferron.  During this development phase I was also advised that Millenial Fulcrum was a tip of the hat large enough to make the hat actually fall off, so it became the Centennial Fulcrum.  I kept the slave bears but gave their race a true name, and toned down the space pirate imagery a little bit.  It was a scary, lonely journey, sitting at my computer typing away for hours while the rest of my family did other things.  I worried constantly that my story was just a little too silly to exist outside my own mind.   I cringed at the thought of sharing it with anyone other than my close personal friends.

I kept telling myself that George Lucas probably felt a little embarrassed explaining chewbacca to people.  It was kind of my mantra.   

With the help of friends and family I honed and re-tooled the story.  Sometimes they told me that parts that I thought were pretty cool were actually dumb.  It was sometimes hard to hear, but necessary.  Glasses of scotch and cigars were exchanged alongside new ideas.  Slowly the rough draft became something more polished.  It became my first novel.  

I am proud of the end result.  Now I just have to get people to read it.