Its been about a month since I posted anything new and I was thinking I should rectify that, but until a little bit ago I wasn't sure what I should talk about. Then I got it. I'll tell you about the first story I ever wrote, which also happens to be the first attempt at a novel I ever worked on.
Now I've mentioned "The Last Lonely Christmas" a couple of times in author interviews in the past, that it was my first story and that it got my 6th teacher invested in getting me to write more, but I never really go into either the story or the novel I attempted to make of it a year or two later. I think a lot of authors have that one story that got them going but didn't really amount to much after that, in a lot of ways TLLC is one of those and I can be a bit self-conscious about it. The thing is its also a little chunk of me that nobody really saw because I was still very uncertain about whether or not I could really write anything, but trying very hard to prove to myself that I could.
"The Last Lonely Christmas" came easily enough, it was an assignment for my 6th grade teacher Mr. Flener, one of my my very first favorite teachers who did quite a lot to get us motivated, Flener bucks and a morning ritual of listening to "Eye of the Tiger" among them. He captivated me by being himself, a diminutive guy with curly dark hair, corduroy pants, and a mustache who had come out of retirement to teach my class. He also showed me many things that came to captivate me like Ladyhawke, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and last but not least my own ability to write stories. He asked us to write a story around Christmas time, I can't remember if it was before break or after, but I thought it would be fun as I'd enjoyed writing the shorter little themed essays and almost stories we did in 3rd grade and missed doing that. I set out to do something that might be interesting and pull off the Christmasy tone he was asking for and thought of A Christmas Carol which set me off.
"The Last Lonely Christmas" tells the story of a little boy and his family at Christmas, they are homeless and have nowhere to go, worst of all, not long after the story began, one of the kids (its been long enough I can't remember if it was the boy or the girl) break their leg falling from a shopowner's doorstep, from which they'd been thrown by the shopkeeper himself. No one is around and with only the parents and their sibling to help they stumble down the street knocking on doors and looking for someone who can help. It looks bad for our little family, the weather is getting worse and their injured child isn't looking so good, they're beginning to give up a little and hope is about all they have. Then they come upon the right house and the right people, who not only welcome them into their home and get them the help they need, but give them a full Christmas dinner and feast as well. Heartwarming silly stuff when you get down to it, and this version is probably a lot better written than that story was, but my teacher loved it and I was proud of it 'cold that went through the holes in his shoes and froze the soles of his feet" (or something like that, again memory isn't perfect) and all. I had an audience and they were quite captive whenever I made something up and read it out loud to them at the talent shows we had in class every so often (of course, it had to be interesting hearing stories about teachers being massacred at a hotel and some crazy apocalyptic cult taking over the gym and such).
Then Jr high hit and, oh man, did it eat me alive. I hardly had friends in elementary school, and as I soon found out, most of those were either eaten alive by their own troubles or were outright fakes who made a point of breaking that news to me in the most direct way possible. I didn't have much besides reading and then, when I got it in mind to try, writing. Beats warbling along to pop music, lets just say that. I'd recently read my first couple of Stephen King novels and owned the first of them I would ever get, Insomnia. I had also found my dad's college level writing course book and was working with the exercises in that as well as absorbing all of the info I could on writing and submission. I had decided at the young age of 13 I was going to be an author because it was the only thing I had any really talent for, if I had nothing else, I had a vivid imagination from birth.
With that in mind, I set out to make the first big story into a real book. It wasn't easy to go from story to novel and there were growing pains involved just getting to anything like a chapter or a while, but I was doing it. Instead of some nameless homeless family I had a guy named Ben Towner and his little down on their luck family and the guy that eventually gets them off of the street was actually an old college friend of Ben's who recognized him. They went to law school together and he lost track of Ben a while back, but wanted to do all he could to help once he saw what happened. So he did, trouble was not everyone agreed with him helping the guy out and taking them into his home, trying to get the word out about the homeless. A bomb goes off in the kitchen one day when they're making cookies and some of the kids and the wife of the lawyer got killed in the explosion, leaving the two men to handle the loss and sort out what to do after.
I never got much further than the morgue scene, which was a scene I was pretty proud of, and another scene where the lawyer was dealing with his own loss. It had gotten pretty dark and I wasn't sure where to go from there. I also lost some of the pages and, in a fit of adolescent frustration, I threw the rest of the pages into the trash fire one evening, sending it to an early grave. I went on to write other stories, a lot of them odd little things influenced by my loneliness as much as my reading material at the time, gory little horror stories and historical romances, some of which I still have, but most of which are only memories at best.
Sometimes I think about going back and rewriting the story that once was, tackling it with my better writing skills now that I'm an adult and I can hack it a little better than that 13 year old. Some of those old stories have merit and I just might, but "The Last Lonely Christmas" and the novel it had become seem like the stuff you leave as memories and maybe cannibalize for other work. It sure made for a hell of a start though and I'll always appreciate that.