(The beginning of this post can be found here, chronicling my writing history and where I sort of figured out that I liked writing)
As mentioned before, I had a good time writing stories that involved my friends, putting us in various ridiculous situations, but began to stick my foot in the pool of real fiction with my fairytale "Dayton's Quest".
I began to churn out stories every few weeks from there, and my friends wanted to read them, friends that went beyond just the guys I shared paper adventures with (though I did write a story called "1967" putting myself and friends in Vietnam... only Johnny Knowles and I survived the attack by the Vietcong, according to my tale--Jason Smith died a most honorable death, as did Clay Fulford #namedrop). They would actually pass around a sheet of paper, signing up to the be the first to read whatever I wrote.
In particular, Tammy Thomas was one of my biggest fans--to the extent I actually had fans--and that which always warmed my heart... I'll never forget her coming to me, more than once, and saying "Are you finished with the new story? You know I'm on the list first, you know I get it first". It's one of those small compliments probably forgotten about by everyone but me. And she's still pretty awesome to the day (thank you Facebook!)
And just for fun, here are a few of the stories I put on paper and released:
**A story called "Tophet", which was, according to my Roget's Thesaurus, another word for "hell" or the "underworld", and it was about a man who buys a video game on Christmas Eve in a back alley from a shady dude, and then gives it to his son for Christmas the next day--and when you play the game, people die in real life, and the end of the game opens up a portal... to Hell. Boom. Maybe a little Poltergeisty, but I dug the concept.
**"Reach Out and Touch Someone", a play on the slogan of the old slogan from Bell Telephone (which in 1992 wasn't that far removed from being a real thing), was a divorcee with a young daughter trapped in a house with a crazy sociopath who has, somehow, nailed all the windows shut and boarded all the doors up. At that time, it made sense. The sequel, called "Hunted", got as far as the first chapter, but was then abandoned... and it was just as well.
**"The Long & Winding Road" was a Hallmark worthy tale of a snotty rich chick who is on a hayride while visiting her country bumpkin cousin, and after a stop, is accidentally left behind with said cousin. The two barely know each other, despite being family and live worlds-apart, but are forced to walk together, and look out for another, along the five mile long dirt road back to the church... and along the way, she learns a little of what it's like to be kind and generous. (this is one of my favorites, by the way)
**"Radio Talk", a conversation between an overnight DJ and a caller who seems to be a little off the edge. The entire story was written all in quotes, which at the time I thought was a pretty cool angle. Oh, okay, fine, I still think its a cool angle.
**And one of my favorites of all time, "Out of Time", the story of a teenager who is gravely injured in the 1930s, is given an experimental drug that puts him into a coma, and doesn't age a bit, until he wakes up in 1994 under the name John Doe. He befriends a pretty nursing student, who helps him escape the clutches of a cruel doctor who wants our John Doe (I cannot remember his name, but this was written in 1992, so forgive me) for more experimentation--thus begins a comical chase story where John Doe and Pretty Student Nurse are trying to find an antidote for the 1930s drug, a drug that is now causing him to age rapidly.
SIDEBAR: Some years later, I came across a movie called "Late for Dinner", which actually has some of the same plotlines... remember, this was a time when there was no iTunes or Netflix or any kind of streaming service. You had to rent this movie, and it wasn't all that popular, so our local video stores may have had one copy somewhere... but I say it now before the world--mine was an original idea, not borrowed from this film. I still haven't seen it, by the way.
I did a couple of more "friend" stories too, mostly as something fun to do... I wrote one called "Witness for the Prosecution" which at the time didn't sound like a lame legal cliche, about a lawyer (my friend Jennifer Lambert took that role) trying to figure out if her client is actually guilty or not (turns out Michael Creech was in fact, guilty), and another story with an equally bad cliched name I can't remember, this one a cat-and-mouse game story about two cops (my friends Stan McDuffie and Jason Smith) trying to track down a serial killer. The premise of the first one was actually pretty good, it just needed more details than my 16 year old mind could produce, while the latter was actually a little silly--but Stan's death scene was actually pretty cool.
And I even did a few stupid stories that included my friends in band, almost parodies full of inside jokes and cliches, one being a western and one being a space adventure. And no, I didn't get the girl in either, because how am I going to write about ending up with Julie Wise (or Stephanie Phillips, who I crushed on for about six months in 10th grade) and not be completely humiliated at that concept?
I even had an attempt at poetry, and I still have a yellow folder entitled "d$'s Real Dumb Poetry"--and the title isn't an attempt at humility. Not at all. It's so bad. Keep in mind that though I did some stuff on a typewriter, I couldn't afford to buy ribbon over and over, so 90% of this was done with a mechanical pencil and paper.
I loved writing. And for a kid who is 15, 16, going on 17, I was pretty good at it. That's not bragging, that's just saying that I know I had a knack for it.
ANOTHER SIDEBAR... So, to take the Senior Superlative picture, it was decided that I, who was in the band, and Christy, who was not, needed to meet in the bandroom, because we could set up a keyboard for her to use as a prop. The prop that I needed would be a typewriter. And while the keyboard was in a closet in the bandroom, the typewriter--a huge honk of a machine that was pretty dated even in 1993--was across the entire school in Mrs. Rials' classroom. Those of you from Samson will know what a haul that is. So on a warm late April midday, in the south Alabama humidity, I had to go to Mrs. Rials class, borrow a typewriter, haul that sucker across the entire school--why did I not ask for a handcart or trolley of some sort? where were you to tell me these things?--to the bandroom, wipe off the pouring sweat, take a picture, then haul it all the way back to Mrs. Rials class. Great picture, beautiful companion in the shot, terrible set up methods. And if you look in the yearbook, you can't see the keyboard, and you can only see the edge of the typewriter. Such is. Back to the story.
...and my plans were to start drafting a book soon, maybe during high school. I pulled out my electric typewriter, and began to type a story that was rolling around in my head, one with a guy named Peter and a girl named Julianne Frye, and a third wheel named Daily, and a best friend named Barrow, and a mean girl named Piper Huffin and a janitor named Ezekial and a couple named Troy and Suzy and...
...and it was going to be great. Or, at least the first few pages I typed were great. Or good. Or terrible, who knows. I started the story about four times and never got past page 5. Oh, and then I graduated and went to college, which is great, because in college, I can sit up late and write, right?
And my first night at Troy State University began what essentially was a five year long case of writer's block. More on that tomorrow.