Twenty years ago last Saturday I started writing fiction.
Yes, it may seem odd to know it to the day, but here's why I do. Oh, sometime before that I'd taken the apparently obligatory one-day extension class short story workshop, with appropriately miserable results. I think I'd written three totally useless short stories in my first 35 years totaling less than 5,000 words.
Then in July of 1993 I was on a Quantas jet traveling from Korea, through Singapore (to get an Australian visa), and on to Darwin, Australia. I was about to, as the Aussies say, "Ride a pushie down the Alice." It was the next leg of my mid-life crisis on wheels, to ride my bicycle the 1,500 kilometers across the Outback from Darwin to Alice Springs. While in the air, I started writing a little vignette in my journal. It was about a freshman roommate who killed alarm clocks...literally. I used to lie in my dorm bed and watch yet another poor, hapless clock go flying out to the end of its electrical-cord tether, then smack into a wall and slide down behind my bed with a shiver of tiny fragments.
When he awoke in my story, he wasn't in his dorm bed, but rather sitting across the conference table from St. Peter, who was asking for his help with the broken gates of Heaven. Where that came from I still don't know to this day. While the roommate didn't survive the first draft, St. Peter did and through Australia, Indonesia, India, Israel, and Greece, I wrote of his journey and others. This went on to become my first professional sale, The Cookbook from Hell. It's ultimately about the Devil's mid-life crisis, because she's sick of cleaning up after God for 14 billion years. He may be a creative genius, but his follow-through is lousy and she's always picking up the pieces.
Years later, I wrote the sequel, but I never published it. Why? Well, Cookbook suffered from two things. One, a severe case of first-book-itis and two, the tiny publisher collapsed after book 2 of my 3-book contract... I try not to take it personally.
So, as part of my 20-year celebration as a writer, I redrafted the first book so that I could finally release the second, a dual launch. I was surprised at the emotional baggage, both good and bad that came up. That's part of the writer's journey though, digging down deep, seeing what we find, and doing our best to turn it into entertainment. And I have to admit, I find this world immensely entertaining. While they are not romances, they are definitely stories from my heart.
And that's sort of the whole point, isn't it?