Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Way Back Then...

Tell us about the first story/stories you ever wrote. First book, published or no.

From Frank

I've known I was a writer from a very young age. As a result, I honestly couldn't tell you the first story I ever wrote... although to be fair, they were more vignettes than stories, and all terribly derivative. 

Hopefully someone doesn't cut and paste that into a review for my latest book!

I can say that the first (paid) story that was ever published was called "Bill's Son." Wide Open Magazine published it in Spring of 1990 and paid me $15 for it... a check, which as you can see, I never cashed.

I wrote "Bill's Son" when I was eighteen or nineteen. Ironically, it is not crime fiction (I didn't really start pegging away at that until about 2004). The story is about Ralph, a grocer who is very risk averse. He lives vicariously through the exploits of Bill and mostly through Bill's son. Bill is the produce manager, and a few years older than Ralph. Ralph is there when Bill announces his impending fatherhood, and then through all of the many milestones that follow - birth, growing up, being an athletic stud and a prom king, to graduating and going out into the world. 

Bill's son took risks, some of which worked out and others that didn't, but he never gave up. He graduated high in his class, became a lawyer, tried to open his own firm, things like that.

Ralph, meanwhile, lived a life that was very much the same. He worked at the grocery store, day in and day out. He rarely put himself out there or took a chance on anything.

And so it goes until Bill's son is in his mid-thirties and Ralph in his early fifties. Bill himself is nearing retirement when tragedy strikes. Bill's son dies suddenly. (I re-read the story again as I wrote this piece, and found it interesting that I never said how the guy died. But I guess that wasn't the focus, so...). Bill and his wife, Jeni, are understandably devastated, but so it Ralph.

This untimely death ends up being the catalyst that gives Ralph the courage to stretch, and to start to truly live himself. Bill's son is dead, he thinks, but I'm still alive.

It's nothing too impressive - basically a 'life is short, so live like it' story. But 52-year-old me is mildly impressed that 18-year-old me even understood that sentiment, much less wrote about it. Especially since I'm now basically the same age that Ralph is at the end of the story. It's evokes a curious mixture of "Wow, I know so much more now than I did then" and "Wow, I'm basically still eighteen" (or fifteen).

Anyway, that was my first published-for-pay story. Anyone who wants to actually read it (about a five minute read), message me and I'll send you the PDF. Of course, it's spoiled now, so don't expect to be bowled over...

My first published novel was Under a Raging Moon, and it is most definitely crime fiction. But the first novel I wrote was a dark coming of age story called Not Without Saying Goodbye. I wrote that when I was eighteen, too. I haven't looked at it in many years - I don't even have a digital version - but I'm sure it's horrible and embarrasing.

Which is, of course, the perfect first novel.

My thirieth (or so) novel is less embarrassing... at least, that's my take on things. 

Badge Heavy, which I wrote with Colin Conway, came out in September. It's the third book in the Charlie-316 series, which will conclude next month in Code Four. No waiting around to find out what happens in this quadrilogy!


James W. Ziskin said...

Great post, Frank. I’d love to read the story.


Catriona McPherson said...

I'm extremely impressed with 18-yr-old you too! Current you doesn't suck either, I should hasten to add.

Frank Zafiro said...

@JIM - sent, as I promised.

@CATRIONA - thanks! Coming from someone as impressive as you...

Susan C Shea said...

Published and paid for it at eighteen. No late bloomer, then! Impressive.