It hit me today while reading a Facebook thread featuring comments from one of the responsible parties: I’ve been doing this writing thing….well, the “paid for my writing” thing…for twenty years, now.
Okay, okay. In truth, I’d been writing for a few years at that point, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1997 that somebody actually decided for the first time – after reading a story I’d submitted to their writing contest, of their own free will and without the assistance of mood altering substances – to pay me for my writing. That someone was editor John Ordover at Pocket Books, and the story was “Reflections,” which I’d sent to be considered for inclusion in the very first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology.
Most of you know what happened after that. Secret origin story. Never-ending battles. Truth, justice, and the American Way and so on and so forth. Blah blah bah.
Of course, the anthology which was the result of that first contest wouldn’t be published until the following summer, but I mark the letter I received from John as the starting point for what has become my “writing career.” He, along with editor Dean Wesley Smith and Paula Block (who at the time was working for Star Trek‘s licensing department), put me on the path I continue to walk to this day.
(Oddly, the letter is undated, and I find myself unable to recall the date the first contest’s winners were announced. All I remember for sure is “fall 1997,” so I guess a ballpark guess will just have to do. Sucks getting old(er), amirite?)
This is something of a retcon on my part, as back then I had no real aspirations of being “a writer.” It wasn’t a path I’d remotely considered, as at the time I was neck deep in my career as a software developer, having made the transition from military service to the private sector just a year previously. That feeling didn’t change during the next two years, as I submitted stories to the next two SNW contests (and earned a place in the table of contents for the resulting anthologies). Only when John called me and asked if I wanted to write a full-blown Star Trek novel for him did start to wonder – just a bit – if there was something to this whole writing thing.
To be honest, I still wonder that, pretty much all the time, all these years later. And yet, here we are, twenty years later, and I think there’s a chance I might stick with it.
So, yeah: Twenty years. I’m not a “big name” or anything. I’m not one of those writers who will ever be recognized or remembered in passing. There won’t be any big movie or TV deals waiting in the wings for anything I write, but none of that really matters. I’m having fun, and I have a readership who makes up for their modest numbers with their unrelenting enthusiasm and support. I’m totally good with that.
The biggest thing to come out of that first contest was my meeting Kevin Dilmore. What began with him interviewing me as one of the contest’s eighteen winners has become an enduring friendship that I treasure. Indeed, he’s ‘ohana; a member of my family. There a many, many other people I’ve met and befriended since then; people I’d never know if not for this rather odd adventure, which began with that first short story.
I’ve benefitted from several opportunities which I’d otherwise never have received, including a handful of genuine, “Are you kidding me? That that just happen?” moments. There have been a bunch of novels and other short stories during these past twenty years, and there are countless people to thank for this journey I’ve undertaken, so many of whom have expended time, energy, and money in some manner on my behalf. Most important among that group: the readers who’ve accepted the invitation to travel with me every time there’s a new story with my name on the by-line. To anyone who at some point took a chance on me, you have my heartfelt thanks.
Then there’s my wife, Michi, of course. She’s been with me every step of the way, my biggest supporter and loudest, most enthusiastic cheerleader. I literally couldn’t have done any of this without her in my corner.
What will the next twenty years bring? Damifino. Guess we’ll just have to see what we see.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish reviewing this latest novel manuscript.