Here’s the story…of a man named David…
Who was writing up three lovely stories of his own…
Sometime around 1993, my dad came home one day with this really cool invention you’ve all probably never heard of it. It was called…a “computer”. And it had this nifty thing called “LotusWorks” built into it.
I had never seen or used a PC before. My computer lab had Apple IIgs and most of our classwork was spent watching my teacher draw devil horns on kids in the class. Occasionally we’d get a chance to play Mathblaster or Oregon Trail…or maybe Where in the World was Carmen Sandiego.
So, when we got our computer and I couldn’t find Carmen Sandiego or shoot little green aliens to the tune of 2+2, I needed to figure out something else to do with this crazy thing. Since we couldn’t afford AOL, I missed out on the gory days of the internet’s wild west.
I found it quite by accident actually, it was one rainy day in mid-September and I sucked at Solitaire. MineSweeper was way too complicated for me. So, here comes this little window with an icon for Lotus…and being the mischievous little twerp that I was, I clicked the icon.
There was a splash screen…and then pure white. A blinking cursor made me crap my pants and I thought of a million and one excuses to tell my parents about how I broke their brand new computer.
After a mild freakout, I tried pushing buttons to make the cursor go away. Everyone knows the way to fix a broken computer is to mash as many buttons as possible. Beeps are good.
My first sentence was something like this:
It was the coolest thing ever.
Allow me a brief sidetrack for a moment here…
There was this paper mill up in Newark, NJ where my dad worked. He found out about it and started visiting the place about once a month, it was mostly a recycling center for old and unsold books, magazines, and comic books. He ended up being able to take like a box away a month. It was like a treasure chest brimming with amazing superhero stories and castoffs that nobody wanted anymore.
Anyway…back on track.
So, here I am staring at a cursor with xcufsdpofdjbklfdghs written on the screen. I hit the delete button. It vanishes. I type “See Spot run.” … over and over and over again. There’s fonts! Some look like the cool titles of the books in my room. I can change the color!
It was fascinating to me as a small child.
So, now that I learned how to do all this cool stuff, I amped it up a level. I started making sentences. Sentences turned to paragraphs, paragraphs to stories…
In the winter of 1993, I wrote my first story. It was eight pages in size 28 font. And it’s days like this where I wish I still had the printouts in my archives.
I wrote something about a superhero saving a cat. It was pure dreck, but my parents loved it.
Their encouragement led me to expand my series of Captain Superhero. My next “book” was 10 pages in size 18 font, I printed them out and stapled it together. I even drew my own cover of the stick figure superhero using Microsoft Paint, or whatever the program was called at the time.
Three books later I was in middle school and ready to really get serious about my writing. Over the course of six months, I penned my first novel and turned it into my teacher. She didn’t send me to the guidance counselor, so I guess I did okay..
I wrote 23 pages of 14 point font. It was complete with frilly medieval lettering and everything. Not just titles or first letters. The whole book. I had written something horribly derivative of the worst of the worst. All full of fantastic barbarians and damsels in distress..oh – and dragons.
There were always dragons.
I drew inspiration from the worst of the worst. If it had a pretty cover or a rousing blurb, it was in my hand and I was begging dad for it. We couldn’t go into the book store without spending $30. When books were like $5/paperback, that was a lot of money.. and a lot of books
Times changed and the market crashed, stagnated, and resurrected again. I kept writing. Never intending on publishing anything for anyone except those who wanted to read what I want to write. I’ve always stood by the fact that I write what I want to read at that particular moment in time…and as my tastes have changed, so has my style.
I never thought or expected anyone would pay for my work or download it. It was more of a personal goal that I wanted to complete before I got too old or busy to take time out.
Last week I released my first two books on Smashwords. They were submitted and published ninja-style. I dropped them into the meat grinder at midnight, they were on the website by 2am. No Facebook posts, no text messages, nothing. I just clicked publish and went to bed.
When I woke up I had a combined total of ten downloads for my two samples and one sale.
As minuscule as the numbers are, they represented a profound sense of accomplishment for me. It was an unexpected surprise to celebrate nearly twenty years of writing for the sake of writing with a single, unsolicited sale.
Someone decided to take the chance and give up a cup of coffee for my book.
And for that, I say thank you to the mystery shopper.
So, that’s my story.