I owe it all to Franklin W. Dixon. Or maybe James Fenimore Cooper; unimpressed by the novelists of his day, he set about to write something better, ending up with the Leather-Stocking Tales, five novels set in pioneer America with unforgettable characters like Hawkeye and Chingachgook. As for Mr. Dixon, "he" wrote The Hardy Boys series, books I devoured as a lad. Frank and Joe were my heroes with their quick wits and fists; and Chet, the husky lad with the jalopy, always provided the comic relief. I couldn’t get enough of their adventures.

But after the first fifty volumes or so, the mysteries started to get a little predictable. The characters seemed a bit flat, like soda left in the fridge without the cap. Nothing really there to get excited about. So, following Mr. Cooper’s example, I decided, “I can write something better!” It wasn’t about getting published; at the time, it was just about creating stories. So that’s what I did.

I remember my first tale was science fiction (in the mind of a twelve-year old), a cross between Buck Rogers and Star Wars. Of course, right? I mean, I wouldn’t have been inspired much by 2001: A Space Odyssey at the time. I had two space travelers, a man and woman, and their ship crash-landed onto an alien planet. Oxygen tanks were running low, the woman had a broken leg, the man had a bad attitude, and gargling monsters were coming their way, shooting at them with ray guns. Good stuff? Maybe.

Sometimes I wish I’d kept my earliest stories, just for inspiration. I could look at them now and think, “I can write something better!” And it would be true. The scary thing is looking ahead twenty years—what will I think of my current work?
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