Tag Archives: Beginnings

Backwards Compatible – Part 4: Cave Aculem

So, there I was…with the idea for a novel burning in my brain. Unlike the dozens of other concepts I had come up with and discarded previously, this one satisfied all the conditions of the existing universe, the previous two novels, and was a story that made me excited.  The starship central to the story was the RCS Hornet, which carried the Latin motto: “Cave Aculem.” Beware the sting. Too late, I had already been bitten by the bug. I couldn’t wait to get started.

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Okay, hum the Mission Impossible theme. Ready? Go!

I had a three-day weekend coming up, so I cleared my schedule so I could concentrate on lighting the fuse on this thing. I sat down at my keyboard and let loose.  The opening scene with August Delpero and his ex-wife, Dr. Orit Takagawa, flowed from my fingers.

In it, Delpero is the former CEO of a megacorporation, imprisoned for his attempted genocide on the Reformation Coalition’s alien benefactors, the Hivers. Orit has come to visit in the hopes of sorting out her complicated feelings surrounding him. She loved him, truly loved him, but Delpero used her as an unwitting pawn in his scheme, which resulted both in their divorce and the agonizing death of her Hiver friend, Cicero.

I was almost to the point where something unexpected happens when my phone rang. It was a friend of mine who needed help moving out of her apartment.  She had until midnight the next day to be out. Even though I was on fire at the keyboard, I stopped in mid-sentence and went to help her move. Being Texas, it was boiling hot, of course, with near 100% humidity. We worked until almost 3:00 in the morning, but finally we got the last load out. Whew…

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African or European?

Even though I had lost a day, I didn’t let that deter me. During the routine of carrying boxes down two flights of stairs and up three, my mind was still chomping at the bit to get on with the story. I got up early the next day and picked up right where I had left off. Pretty soon the epilogue was done and I was on to Chapter 1. There I introduced the two main characters and gave them their marching orders. Before they can get to it, however, they receive a frantic message from Orit telling them about that unexpected turn of events at the prison.

This kicked off the first action sequence of the book, so my pace increased. I was constantly blasting the first Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, particularly “Will and Elizabeth” and “He’s a Pirate.” To this day when I look at those sections, those are the songs that go through my head.

In all, I wrote more than 20,000 words in two days, which is approaching ‘ludicrous speed’ for a slowpoke like me.  It was rough to be sure, but the emotion that I wanted was there. It just all sort of clicked.

So, just like that I had the prologue and the first two chapters on file. A naïve part of me believed that this level of speed and productivity might endure, or that it would be smooth sailing from there on out.

Silly, silly me.

Little did I know that soon after I would hit a creative brick wall.

[Check out The Backwards Mask on Kindle.]

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Iceberg, dead ahead!


My Origin Story

So, how did all start for me? What’s my origin story? Sadly it does not involve radioactive spiders or being launched from Krypton as it exploded. At least, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.

The following is a look at how I became a storyteller. Note that I use the word ‘storyteller’ instead of ‘author.’ As you’ll see, I was telling stories before I ever started writing them down. Parts of this are shamelessly cannibalized from the ‘About’ section of my website and this blog.

So, I grew up in a pretty small town rural Texas. I often describe it as being a lot like the Dukes of Hazzard, though with far fewer car chases. I was an only child. Though I had plenty of cousins who were like brothers and sisters (and still are to this day), I was often in need of ways to entertain myself. Television of the 80s played a big part of my childhood. Sure, many of the shows like The A-Team and Knight Rider really don’t hold up all that well when you watch them now (even if they have very hummable theme songs), but they were fertile soil for my young imagination. It also sowed the seeds of my eventual fanboy-dom.

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Try to be in a bad mood while humming it.
Go on, try it.

Both of my parents were big fans of Star Trek. Some of my earliest memories of watching TV include scenes of Kirk, Spock and Scotty arrayed in their bright 60s uniforms. I think the Enterprise (1701) started me on my life-long love of ships. I was pretty young when I started creating stories in my head. Sure, most kids make up stories at that age, but I found that I built up a repertoire of stories that I could recite consistently and on command. And, well, I never really stopped after that.

Many of those early forays included cartoon characters from the 80s teaming up to go on adventures together. (The tale of Optimus Prime and Rick Hunter teaming up to defeat the mechanized legions of Mumm-Ra springs to mind.)

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Mumm-Ra must be stopped…no matter the cost.

I also found my love of reading at an early age, which was the gateway drug into writing stories. In Second Grade, I wrote a story in the form of a The Twilight Zone episode entitled “Identity Crisis.” When I read it to the class I did my best impression of Rod Serling speaking the intro, complete with the intense eyebrows.

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Not bad for a total n00b.

Even back then, I knew that the fantastical side of fiction was what really called to me. It wasn’t that I found real life boring. No, it was largely the creative canvas that fiction afforded me. If I wanted the colors of the rainbow arranged in a different order than they appeared in the sky, no problem. Say I wanted the Pacific War fought with dragons launched from giant turtles instead of aircraft carriers. Done. Not even the sky was the limit. I could take reality and reshape it as I saw fit.

Since that time, the thrill I get from creating worlds and writing fiction has never left me.

Sure, I could go into my years at school, which led to college and my eventual writing career, but all of that is mundane, the kind of stuff they skip in the comics or at the beginning of a movie.

Without a doubt, those early influences put my life on its current trajectory. While I didn’t uncover a powerful alien artifact or find that I’m a latent telepath, I did discover a deep and abiding love of stories, characters and far away horizons.

That love is a big part of who I am today.

True story.