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As We Live, We Learn, This Is What I Have Learned

I learned to read in my mother’s lap.
I was a toddler, barely old enough to talk, and she was bound and determined to share her love of the written word with me. She held me close. Her thin fingers pointed. Her voice, patient and kind, helped me sound out the words and letters as we flipped the pages. Her skin went from porcelain to jaundice, her lessons from a hushed whisper to a raspy cough, as the cancer killed her.
She was gone by the time that I turned 6.

I learned to love mysteries from dog eared paperbacks.
I was a lonely high schooler. I would spend hours curled up in bed, after a day wandering through Haslam’s Bookstore or Wilson’s Book World. I would open the yellowed pages, take a deep breath, and the scent would carry me away.
Rex Stout. Sherlock Holmes. The Shadow. They became my companions.
John Steinbeck. John Irving. Ernest Hemingway. They became my teachers.

I learned to write behind an IBM Selectric.
I was a Staff Sergeant stationed in the United Kingdom. A kind teacher from Writers Digest School named Jerry Williamson taught me the basics of story, of conflict, of dialogue.
The midnight shift began as it always did, behind guarded doors, and with a large pot of coffee. As the communications center equipment whirred in the background, I typed out each lesson, and waited for weeks to get his red-lined response.

I learned that you never quit learning.
I was accepted into the Creative Writing Program at San Francisco State University. I ran the city’s largest answering service during the day, napped on the train ride out to the campus, and spent my evenings learning how to write the novel. I won an award, was nominated for a few others, and I thought that I was on my way.

I learned that life has other plans for you.
I learned you can plan and dream all you want, sometimes life has other plans for you.
I thought I was on my way, and I was going to write The Great American Novel. That I was going to write Another Best Selling Mystery. But depression and anxiety struck after my second novel, and I spent many years living with fear. With rejection. With shame.
I dug my way out with the love of my family, friends and a wonderful woman.

I learned that a good story can change a life.
I learned that great characters can wrap you up in that story like a warm blanket on a cool fall evening. With the speed of everyday life getting faster and faster, I really yearn for the days when I could sit down, open a book (not a Kindle or iPad), relax and read and get lost in that author’s universe for a while. Discovering Perry Mason, Nero and Archie, The Joad Family or Ignatius J. Reilly were special occasions.
The closest I have been to that recently was when J.K. Rowling was still putting out Harry Potter books.  I’d run to Walmart about 5am that Saturday morning after the most recent one came out, grab one off the pallet and hurry back home. I’d be on my couch and reading before 6.  I’d read, read, read and then maybe nap, and then read some more.  The entire weekend was a blur of wizardry before I finally finished it Sunday evening.

I learned that you can go home again.
After years away from my writing desk, I’ve decided to write another mystery, to create another series, and I want to share that journey with you.  Maybe you’ve already written a few books. Maybe you’re just starting your first book.  Either of these is good.
I’m pretty scared, and I’m wondering just where this journey will take us.  I promise to try and be both entertaining, educational, enlightening and maybe even inspirational.
I truly hope that sharing my experience will give you the courage to pick up your pen and start.
Or start again, like I am.

What will you learn?
I hope you will join me on this journey.
This blog is going to document my journey toward my next mystery.
It’s also going to be your gateway into writing your first mystery.

No matter where you are now in your journey, I invite you to come with me on mine.

Thank you for finding me, thank you for being here.
Let’s go.

 


Also published on Medium.

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