My life's ambition, part one
In just a few days my novel The Prophet and the Dove will get its worldwide release. It marks a career milestone… and a very personal tale.
All my life I wanted to be a published author. I think that ambition started with my dad, a lover of pulp westerns. Many a time I watched him relax at nights with a worn Louis L’Amour or Max Brand paperback in his hands. He did this as often as he watched Hollywood cattle drives on the tube or caught a cinemascope gunfight. My dad devoured these books at work, lunch, in the bathroom… just about any time he drew a moment to himself. You could see his pleasure as he drifted within those colorful Marlboro Man covers... it transcended his love of Gunsmoke and John Wayne, fueling a mammoth collection of ragged titles that would have lined our garage had dad not built cabinets to hold them.
Soon my brother got into the act. A quick, ambitious learner, he dived into reading at an early age. It wasn’t long before he tackled The Lord of the Rings, which turned him into something of an entertainer. Those noble exploits so thrilled my brother, each night he strove to tell me just what he’d read, with all the flash and spark he could muster.
He must have spun them well, for those enchanting installments charmed me as much as The Adventures of Robin Hood, Jonny Quest, and the Punt, Pass, and Kick Library (another series my brother introduced me to). The experiences also brewed something beyond my imagination, gelling with my love of Dr. Seuss, Bugs Bunny, Turok, the Bible, and many other mental treasures. I soon realized I wanted to do more than read engaging sagas... I wanted to create them. My first came in a simple Crayola picture book drawn in my mon's Spiral notepad. It told how a man dared raise a skyscraper, only to see a mad bomber take it down... and in the process, it showed just how far my mind could wander with a set of plastic figures and wood building blocks.
All this points to my biggest inspiration: mom. She read to all her kids in those early years and encouraged vigorous library explorations. Mom and dad also raised us in the church, which immersed us in the Bible. Then came the cool inducement: as elementary school introduced me to monthly Scholastic Books offerings, my mother promised to buy me a title each time I finished one. I jumped on that, starting a beloved library with many small paperbacks I still retain (after all, they read as well now as then). Mom maintained that program as long as our schools kept ties with Scholastic, which lasted until we moved to Oklahoma. By then my reading habit found its own funding.
From my own emersion into J.R.R. Tolkien, I discovered Frank Herbert’s Dune, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and robot titles, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and many, many other science fiction classics. These visions gripped me, fed by our nation’s conquest of sea and space, afternoon repeats of Star Trek, and late-night Twilight Zone ventures. Such twists and turns blended with the genius of Groucho Marx, the Beatles, Archie Bunker, and Jesus Christ, laying the foundation for my own fantasy series that carried me through high school to the University of Football in Norman, Oklahoma. Four novels flowed out of my manual typewriter, each more than 700 pages, along with outlined plots for several others.
In hindsight, these tomes lacked originality at almost every level but one – my desire to tell the history of a planet from its inception to its demise. I lacked nothing in ambition, you see. But one unexpected result came from this: to help maintain continuity, I developed a role-playing game of increasing complexity and interest. It adopted the moniker of my ficticious planet, becoming known worldwide as The Spawn of Fashan.
Having peeked down that rabbit hole, let's go no farther, or further. Whatever. The game deserves its own blog, which I don't have time or space for now. But Spawn played a critical role in my fiction, for as I watched players dive into the game with gusto, they rarely applied virtues I appreciated. The game should have inspired that, but did not. That drew my concerns about the messages within my texts. It spurred evaluation and re-evaluation... and in the process, I recognized just how unoriginal my tales were, and how few values they embraced. That I could not abide. I wanted readers to see Christ in my books. I prayed for it. But I didn't know how to pull it off.
That, my friends, sets the stage for The Prophet and the Dove. Its backstory remains one of my best – as you will learn in my next blog! See you then! Same bat-time, same bat-channel!