My inspirations.

I was twelve years old when I read The Hobbit. In 1964. Yeah, I'm that old.

I was thirteen when I read Lord of the Rings. My brother Mike was home from college and playing in a summer stock Fantasticks, so that soundtrack was on the turntable the whole time I was reading the trilogy. Nothing is more achingly nostalgic than "Try to Remember."

I'd always read science fiction in my mix of reading, though our house was full of all kinds of books. Tons of books. (Many years later Linda and I started the Bookmark with my parent's books as the seed stock.)

I started looking for fantasy like LOTRs and damned if there was any. Hard to imagine now, but there wasn't anything like it. Oh, there were Victorian type fantasies, but they just didn't have the same feel to me.

I found Weirdstone of Brisingamen and other what would now be termed "young adult," books and of course there was Narnia. Some S.F. authors had a fantasy feel like Andre Norton and Jack Vance, but nothing that really hit the mark. Finding the Conan books was a pretty good stopgap.

I still remember being at the U of O bookstore during a debate tournament and seeing a Frazetta cover from across the room. Next thing I knew I was staring down at it in my hands with a weird frisson running down my spine.

I think it was another five years before I came across what I considered a real fantasy in a bookstore, Red Moon, Black Mountain, by Joy Chant. There might have been slightly earlier ones, but I didn't see them.

So in that five year span I conceived Star Axe. Because I had to. It was the only way I could fill the void. (I had no idea there'd be a movie called Star Wars.)

I'd always wanted to be a writer but I didn't have the first clue how to go about it. One night, as I was laying in bed, I said to myself "Tell yourself a story" and the whole thing bloomed in my mind in one sleepless night.

It took me another seven or eight years to actually complete the damn thing, with many a deadend. I really struggled trying to learn even the basics. But eventually I finished it and sent it off.

Meanwhile, lots of fantasy was coming out. All of it inspired by Lord of the Rings. I remember reading Sword of Shannara with its elves and dwarves and such and thinking, "You can DO that?!!" See, I'd tried to stay away from using those motifs thinking Tolkien had the market on those.


To my own surprise, a publisher took Star Axe. They labeled it as "sword and sorcery" but that was all right. I loved that genre after all. And I wasn't about to question a publisher. They did zero editing, they published my synopsis word for word, and it was a different experience than I expected.

But I enthusiastically started writing Snowcastles, which they also accepted. Then hit a roadblock with Icetowers, but eventually got it to where they liked it.

I ran out of steam after that. My fourth book was a disaster, my fifth book not much better, so I tried to be different with the next book, Deviltree. It almost got accepted half a dozen times. I came soooooo close. It was heartbreaking.

I wrote Sometimes a Dragon as a reaction to having to rewrite Deviltree so many times to the dictates of editors. I was very self-indulgent, so it was both a book I loved and was probably unreadable.

Then I married Linda, had an instant family, and bought Pegasus Books and that was the last time I wrote for 25 years. (Or at least, finished anything.)

Sometime during those 25 years I sort of gave up on fantasy books. Most of them were retreads. I constantly got books recommended to me as "different" but they never were. I read mostly thrillers and mysteries and the occasional S.F.

I loved George Martin's writing. Tuf Voyaging is one of my favorite SF books, so when Linda told me Game of Thrones was good, I read it. Since then I've found a couple other fantasy writers I like, Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion books and Patrick Rothfuss, but again most fantasy seems warmed over to me. I think I've tried just about everyone. Some try too hard to be different, some are just messes.

So when I came back to writing, I decided not to do fantasy this time. I'd long had the idea of the Donner Party and werewolves, so I did that. I woke up one morning with a vampire book in mind ("Oh, no!" I thought. "Not another vampire book!") I wrote the Lander books, and so on.

But other than a few novellas I wrote in the Tales of the Thirteen Principalities, I've stayed away from my first love.

One of these days I'm going to do it. I'm going to sit down and write my own trilogy. I think I'm much more prepared now to try it. I think it's been a good thing for me to learn the craft of writing and give myself plenty of time to think about what I want to do.

One of these days.