The Journey Home: A Retrospective on the Making of What Once Was Home
Part One: My First Book
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in 5th grade in 1989. I had a “Homeroom” class that was essentially flex time. We could do whatever we wanted if it was one of three things: homework, reading in a textbook, or reading from a set of specific books provided by the teacher. I read the books. I went through several that year, more than I can remember. A few stand out. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is one of them. A collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s work is another. I don’t remember the specific title, edition, or publisher; but the book I ended up really falling in love with was a collection of Greek mythology. It didn’t have the Illiad and the Odyssey in it (although I would eagerly pour through these in depth in a high school English class), but it had a ton of shorter pieces.
The story of Perseus, especially, has always been my favorite. Given a variety of items (a sack, sword, helm, shield, and winged sandals) from a variety of characters—some of them gods—Perseus set out to slay Medusa.
I had to have more. I ran home and told my mom I wanted “books with swords” (I was eleven years old, so excuse me for latching on to the flashy bits), and on her next trip to the bookstore she brought back The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I devoured it. I wanted more. I branched out and read science fiction. Swords, spaceships, lasers, and monsters; if it had it, I read it.
And soon, I was writing it too. Short stories for class assignments grew to short stories for my own amusement. This grew to a desire to be an author. But, in 1997 when I was about to graduate from high school, there was only one route to get published. The “grown-ups” basically told me I had a snowball’s chance in hell at making a living on writing. There were statistics on how many authors got published, and what the average income was even for those who did. The numbers didn’t look good.
So, I did what was expected of me. I graduated, joined the army, worked through college, then kept working. I worked one job and then another. I did very well, got promoted, got into management, and learned everything there was to know about whatever I was doing. I gave it the 110% I was always told I should. And businesses went under, and I moved, and I moved again; and no matter how may times I started over, I always gave it 110%.
I kept writing, but I never imagined any of it would ever see the light of day. I started writing novels, and threw them away before they were half-way done because I thought they were trash and belonged there. I finished a few novels, but they too ended up in the trash. I finished one novel I really liked, but the hard drive died and I lost it. It was a hobby, so it wasn’t a huge loss. I kept working, but I also kept writing.
Fast forward twenty-eight years from reading that book of Greek Mythology. It’s October of 2017 and I find myself having to retire from the “day job” for medical reasons. I needed to do something, but on my own terms. It wasn’t long before I decided to do what I had always dreamt of. In the new age of indie-publishing, I could write a book and I was guaranteed it would see the light of day one way or the other.
So, the only thing left to do was to decide what I was going to write. Remember that finished book that died on a hard drive? It was military science fiction. I didn’t want to re-write that book, but I figured the genre was at least a good place to start. I had to narrow that down some. Maybe I had just watched Independence Day (when you’re “retired,” you burn through that old DVD collection pretty fast), but I knew I wanted to do an alien invasion of Earth. I didn’t have a title yet for What Once Was Home; but I sat down at the computer, fired up the word processor, and sent Jace off into the woods to experience the event that would change his life; and mine.