Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Looking back, it seems strange the paths we take in life…or the paths I have taken, anyway. I went to college to be a professional pilot, taking all the flying courses and ground schools and everything aviation related. I didn’t aspire to be an airline pilot; no, I was interested in corporate aviation. You know, flying those CEOs around in that big corporate jet from town to town. That the life, right? I knew what I had to do to get there…build flying time doing the mundane things like flight instructing (not really mundane…sometimes scary as hell) and flying charter until that other job opened up.
Well, it didn’t. What opened up instead, thanks to President Ronald Reagan, was a job as an air traffic controller. (August 3, 1981, air traffic controllers go on strike, Reagans fires 11,000) 27 years’ worth of a job. Okay, some might call that a career…it’s a matter of point of view. Along with that job, a mandatory retirement age that is much younger that the general public might imagine.
What does this have to do with how I got started writing? Not much of anything, yet. Except that during that 27-year period, I started reading thrillers. I, like many others, started reading Tom Clancy. I started with Red Storm Rising and never looked back. I loved thrillers so much that I read every thriller author’s books I could get my hands on. Then comes mid-life…we’ll call it early forties and my life takes a hard turn as the result of a divorce.
Not to go into those sordid details, but things changed drastically in my life, but I still kept on reading those thrillers. So, here I am, thrust into life as a single man with three young kids and joint custody. Literally joint custody…3 days one week, four days the next. Oh yeah, and a full time job with an employer that didn’t give a crap about your child care issues as long as you showed up for work.
Again, you ask, what does this have to do with how I got started writing? I’m getting to it, just in my own sweet time. So, one day, a friend asked me, “Is there something you have always wanted to do and never could before?” I thought about it for a while, and finally decided that one thing about reading thrillers that had always happened was that I would always question ‘what if?’ What if this had happened or that had happened, how would the storyline be changed and the ending affected? I relayed this to my friend and received this reply: “Then why don’t you write a book yourself?”
Sure, I thought. Why not? I mean, I know so much about writing.
Needless to say, I gave it a whirl. After much searching to find a storyline I liked, I started writing. I wrote about 30,000 words when something else happened. Being the apparent lonely, single dad in the neighborhood, a neighbor fixed me up with a blind date. That blind date ended up preoccupying most of my time for the next several years and I completely forgot about that book. And you understand, right? A beautiful woman comes along, captures my heart and my attention. I mean, being thrust into the dating scene in your forties ain’t easy!
After a few years, though…and I mean nearly 7 years, I felt like there was this unfinished thing that needed my attention. So, I dusted off that original 30,000 words and reread them. It was horrid. I realized then that I knew nothing about writing and should either learn the craft of writing or give up for good. Being the obstinate man that I am, I started learning everything I could about writing. Writing conferences, writers groups, study courses…whatever it took… because I wasn’t giving up.
I tossed 30k words in the trash bin and started over. I did that 5 more times for a total trashed word count of around 80-90k words. Finally, on the 6th draft, I got very close. Close enough, anyway, to put this one out for others to read. That book is The Savannah Project, the first Jake Pendleton series thriller, and, after 2 editors, it was finally published in 2010.
Fast-forward to today. November 8, 2016—Election day—two weeks ago today my fourth Jake Pendleton series thriller, DISRUPTION, was released. It is my fifth thriller published. In 2015, the first book in a spinoff series, BLOWN, was released.
I have long since passed that mandatory retirement age and write full-time now. The woman I met on that blind date is now my wife and we’re coming up on our 17th anniversary. She has become my first and most critical editor. She has also written her own thriller, which will be released in 2017. She will be writing under the pen name, DJ Steele. She claims to be an idea person, and came to me with her idea for a spy thriller (with the mindset that I would write it). I told her, “Your idea, you write it.” And so she did.
As Paul Harvey used to say—”Now you know the rest of the story.”
Many thanks to Chuck Barrett for this Guest Post and to iRead Book Tours for liaising to provide it and for organising the tour for Disruption in which I am also participating.