(Psst: due to traveling, this post is a bit more stream-of-consciousness. Hope it's not jarring.)
Back in the day, when I was a teenager before I had status and before I had a pager...
If I had to employ a term to elucidate how I managed to be here, with all of you great folks, writing mystery/crime and being recognized for it, I'd use Homeric. Not epic, because folks ruined that word for us, haven't they? I mean, it'd most certainly be an epic, if epic was still a noun and not a frickin' adverb to describe everything from a marathon filibuster in Congress all the way down to just meaning ecstatically enjoyable. "Bro, last night was soooo epic!"
I could go there, but let's just stick with Homeric.
I guess it all started back in Chicago, when I'm 17, and my boys are all hammering away at me to try stand-up for the first time. That decision taught me a good lesson, which is things I said were funny not because I was a particularly funny guy, but because I had a way with words. In fact, most things I say on stage aren't funny at all. My material could be considered a mix of the tragic juxtaposed with the nonsensical. Observational comedy for a person who saw everything through the lens of lack. A really dark Seinfeld routine, if Jerry had to fight the family dog for his dinner, with no help from George or Kramer. Ain't nobody bookin' a guy who thinks like that to open for The Original Kings of Comedy, now are they?
Did I always have a book in me? Yeah, I think so. Once attention spans began decreasing, and wordplay and stagecraft was supplanted by vulgarity and tendentiousness, screenwriting became my refuge. I was read in Hollywood—a lot for a guy without a literary agent—and coverage on my scripts yielded comments that ranged from the adulatory—it reads like a novel—to the cautionary, as in "Kid, no one is giving anyone a budget to shoot all that shit." Still, I did okay, especially with script doctoring. Dialogue and pace were my bread and butter.
Fast forward to the Writers' Strike of 2007, which had undone whatever chances I had of segueing into creating television according to my vision. Frustrated, I stuffed a pretty good pilot script and show bible I had written into my virtual underwear drawer and returned to IT consulting and playing golf a whole lot. One particular tournament I entered despite a bad case of the flu (no refunds on entry fees) provided extraordinary levels of embarrassment, even for a comedian. It was so bad, to balm my wounds, I actually went back through my long discarded writings. One thing in particular I really liked: that show idea I had about a detective in 1950s Chicago. The one folks always said reads like a novel. Hmm...
Golf (more specifically, that tournament ass-kickin') led me to meditation—you know, wellness, balance, unlocking potential—and meditation brought new friends, one of which was a fella whose mom needed a new golf teacher for his kid sister. I didn't wind up teaching her, but I did remain in contact with his moms via Facebook, where everyone's business is just all out there. Moms shares a link to a piece she has published in an online outlet of some note called Literary Orphans Journal. They're based in Chicago and edited by some fine folks who are graduates of Columbia College.
The place where I performed my first ever stand-up set.
Being a fan of all things Chicago, and at this point sharp enough in subtle awareness to read the synchronicities, I remained connected to Literary Orphans. Now, I don't know if I can blame it on too much coffee after my morning meditation, or too much wine after my evening session, but somehow I got the idea to message the editor Mike Joyce with a pitch about a creative non-fiction piece. One about a Chicago kid's rough beginnings. A very Chicago story. One reply later I was committed to five-thousand words of my true story, the one I hoarded my entire life. The secrets that held me back.
If you have time, it's here. (http://literaryorphans.org/ttl/forever-instant-danny-gardner/) They used up a Pushcart Prize nomination on me. I was so excited once I learned what a Pushcart Prize is.
Now, mine was the featured piece in the issue. Social media being the tool of the reclusive genius, I wound up "friended" with every other author in said issue. One of those folks was Will "The Thrill" Viharo. One day, a publisher of one of Will's novels puts out a call for submissions. I just so happen to have something else in the underwear drawer. Another Chicago story, based upon a failed pilot script and show bible I really liked. Then there's another meditation.
There's always coffee.
So, with a little luck, a lot of patience, many healthy distractions, and the splinter of self-confidence I never pulled out since I got it bombing on stage that first time, back in the day, when I was a teenager, I'm here. When things line up so mysteriously, in hindsight, black folk say, "God is good."
Yeah, She is. All the frickin' time.