I wrote my first story at the age of eighteen. I had a work/study job at the college computer lab, and, after completing all of my tasks of refilling the printer paper and testing the mice, I sat down and slipped a five-and-a-quarter inch disk into the drive. The Word Perfect screen greeted me with a blinking cursor. Each day I would type out a few more paragraphs, maybe a scene. I'd been reading R.A. Salvatore at the time, and, not surprisingly, wove a tale of elves, wars, and magic swords. The three hundred page manuscript was printed out on a dot matrix printer, three hole punched, and slid into a black binder. The story rode along with me and five friends in a sixteen-hour road trip to St. Louis, giving me the perfect captive audience for reading my first draft. I remember awaking abruptly at a midnight gas stop, a pop, and firelight flickering from the seams of the car hood. The Monte Carlo's doors opened and I tumbled out onto the asphalt with my friends. Flames shot behind us from the engine. The more courageous fetched extinguishers from the mini-mart and sprayed the car fire. Fire trucks wheeled in and firefighters began laying down streams of water, finally ramming and pushing the car clear of the gas pumps. The remote station road was a cavalcade of red and white flashing lights. When it was all finished, a metal skeleton was all that remained of our car, and we blinked in disbelief, stranded three hundred miles from home. No one was hurt, but there was one casualty. My story was sitting in the backseat.
I tried not to think of this as a sign.
But there was still the computer lab, and the blinking white cursor, and stories to be written. They weren't very good, but I had fun writing them. I submitted a few to magazines, and like most starting writers, got the polite rejection notes. I completed my degree in mechanical engineering and went on to become an engineer, a husband, a father. The stories took a back seat as life churned on.
One of the perks of being a dad is that you get to tell many stories. Not just stories that you read, but stories you create. Each night when I tuck my daughter in to bed, I say, "What should our story be tonight?". She gives me the setting, "A little girl and a cupcake factory that's gone crazy." It's a little like a Whose Line is it Anyway sketch, creating the scene on the spot.
And it makes me think of that blinking cursor, and all of those stories I wanted to tell.
So, I opened up my laptop and started pecking away. Technology has changed since those five-and-a-quarter inch disk days, and now I can independently publish. I'm stepping up to the plate and taking a swing at the ball, and seeing how far I can run.