How I Became A Fiction Writer

I’ve been a writer for a little over 50 years, since my senior year in high school, mostly short stories. Since everything was written pre-internet, it has all thankfully disappeared forever!

My first success at fiction: as a 17-year-old, I submitted what I had thought was a really great short story to Playboy Magazine. I told all my friends I was going to be published in Playboy. Naturally, it was rejected. But, around the same time, I had sent $50 to join the Playboy Club, and received a $50 refund check from Playboy Enterprises, since I was too young to join. SO, I showed my friends the check and told them I had received an advance on the article Playboy was going to publish! I suppose that lie to my friends was my first successful fiction.

In the intervening years since college, all of my published work until recently has been nonfiction. Publication in magazines massaged my ego, but didn’t earn me much money. Then, a few years ago, I read Mark Berent’s Wings of War series and was propelled back to Vietnam. Long-buried memories percolated to the surface, and I needed to deal with painful recollections and unresolved issues.

As a form of catharsis, I decided to try my hand at fiction again and write about my experiences as a pilot in Vietnam, with names changed and stories embellished. In truth, I’ve always been terrified of dialog. All I could think of was “he said”, “she said”, etc. But I really wanted to open a vein and spill my guts. And I wanted to tell some war stories, both mine and those of my friends. In case you’re not familiar with the difference between a war story and a fairy tale, a war story begins “This is no shit”, while a fairy tale begins “Once upon a time”. After that, there’s not much difference!

A funny thing happened when I started writing the first novel. I didn’t think about dialog, or plot, or anything else. I just started writing, and my characters just started talking and doing things on their own, things I had never anticipated. They went rogue! And my Kindle novel, Hamfist Over The Trail, turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. It was a Gold Medal Winner in the Global eBook Awards, and has received over two hundred reviews in the two years since I wrote it, with an overall rating of 4.2 stars.

I’m really thrilled with the cover image, the same picture you see at the top of this page. I had seen it on the internet, and it totally captures the mood of an airstrike in Vietnam. I searched far and wide to locate the artist, but virtually all of the internet postings had omitted copyright information or attribution. I finally located the artist, Tony Stencel, and commissioned him to make a cover from his painting.A Dog’s Purpose movie

There was what some people considered a problem: the book has a cliff-hanger ending. I planned it that way, because : a) I wanted to sell a sequel and, b) I felt that it was the right place to end the book. There had been action, conflict, and conflict resolution, so it was time for the book to end. Some of my favorite movies and shows have cliff-hanger endings, like Dexter, Mad Men and Back To The Future, Part II. And I already had the sequel pretty much finished. Hamfist Down! was published in Kindle format two months later. I think it’s better, much better, than the first book. It was a Bronze Medal Winner in the Military Writers Society of America annual competition in 2013. For those who don’t like cliff-hangers, I combined both books into Hamfist At DaNang.

The next sequel, Hamfist Over Hanoi, was written as a NaNoWriMo project and was published two months later. The story is taken pretty much directly from the logbook I kept during my second tour in Vietnam. Finally, Hamfist Out was published in January 2014. And I’ve also published all four in paperback through CreateSpace. I don’t sell a lot of those, but having a dead tree version has a certain cachet.

I launched the first novella, Frag Order, in a new series in the same genre, with significant help from my talented editor, Jacqueline Nolly. The Nolly-Nolly team is currently working on the sequel, Guns Away. It’s too soon to predict a release date, but suffice it to say it will be a longer book with the same protagonist, Guns Navarone.

I really appreciate the support and Reviews I’ve received from my readers. Thank you!