Monday, December 5, 2011

I remember the moment like it was yesterday.

I’d ordered the book after stumbling across the sequel in my college library. The sequel was titled THE MIKO and I loved it, but I found that there was a first book, THE NINJA, and I knew I had to read it. So I ordered it from a local bookstore and it arrived. I opened it and the first line stared back at me.

In darkness there is death.

I remember reading the book and when I was done, I spent days thinking about what I’d read. Martial arts, sex, a murder mystery–everything that captivated a geeky college kid. I searched for more titles by the author and came across BLACK HEART. A different protagonist but still deadly and some of the best scenes of unarmed combat that I had ever read sent me into fits of sheer amazement. But it had started with that one sentence.

In darkness there is death.

I began to think a lot. This character had been in my head. Orphaned at six, raised in Japan by his uncle, taught the ways of the Japanese. Special Forces trained, John Logan had been rattling around in my head for months before I picked up Eric Van Lustbader’s books. And those books got me thinking.

Oh, I had found other books years before that had inspired me. Don Pendleton’s THE EXECUTIONER series had caused me to spend a lot of money in my early teens reading about Mack Bolan, the soldier who declares a one man war against the Mafia for the murder of his family. I can still recall the opening chapter of Book #13 Washington IOU as some of the best paperback prose I’d ever read. It caused me to begin my writing as a kid, although at that time it was just a hobby. Pendleton caused me to fall in love with words and writing, but Lustbader–well, THE NINJA and BLACK HEART caused me to start looking at John Logan and thinking a crazy thought: That I wanted to write a novel, a novel with John Logan.

That began a journey of learning, of writing scenes. The dream was still there in my military days, using a spiral notebook to jot down scenes and short stories. My first attempts at trying something serious was amateurish, awkward, and just plain bad.

Then came the day when I picked up THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO WRITING FICTION by Barnaby Conrad. I devoured the book in one sitting and it changed my life (I still have the book on my desk). One day, after being challenged by my daughter (“Are you ever gonna write that stupid novel?”) I sat down and began for the hundreth time, an attempt to get John Logan on paper.

And I knew I had it. In three months the first hideously rough draft of what would become SURVIVOR’S AFFAIR was done. Ten years later and countless drafts later, it got published. My first book.

You never know what path your career will take. All those scenes, all of that work–do I consider it wasted? Not at all. It was practice, learning the craft. Remember that no writing you do is ever wasted. All of it–the good and bad–is part of the process of learning the craft.

In darkness there is death.

Such a good line. Wish I had thought of it.

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