As a kid my mom and dad would bust me night after night for reading in bed well past my curfew. I’d be under the covers with a flashlight, caught up in whatever fictional protagonist was my hero that week.
This obsession with reading continued through high school and into college, where a textbook would knock me out faster than a hammer to my temple, yet I could read one of “my” books well into the wee hours.
Ohio University is where I first dabbled with putting my ideas to paper, literally. This was before word processors or computers. I owned a blue and white Smith-Corona electric typewriter with manual return (ding!), and went through countless reams of that horrible, crinkly, easily smeared
erasable paper. I tried my hand at short stories first, mainly in the sci-fi genre. There were few outlets for these back then, and in retrospect I can objectively see why they weren’t picked up – they were good, but not great. The desire and ideas were there, but I wasn't yet able to translate that to paper. However, at the same time I was honing my skills by proofing and typing term papers for friends and roommates for a buck a page. I corrected their grammar, spelling, and syntax, plus earned beer money for the weekend. Everybody came out a winner.
At that time I also met a friend named Neil O’Donnell, whose brother was Kevin O’Donnell, Jr., noted science fiction writer. I had recently read Kevin’s second novel, Mayflies. I contacted Kevin and he and I swapped a number of emails, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
College is also where I first discovered my love of the people and culture south of the border. My sophomore year I was an exchange student in Xalapa, Mexico, where I lived with my Mexican family for nearly six months. Much of Straw Man's environment and ambiance are culled from that and subsequent visits. I have no doubt that I'll be back there again.
Life often interferes with good intentions, and little in the way of writing happened for some time after college. However, a number of years ago my wife Lisa and I went on a vacation with our good friends Gerry and Leslie Smith. It was a cold, nasty winter and we wisely headed down to Sanibel Island, off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida. At that time I was on a Randy Wayne White kick, enjoying the exploits of a certain Doc Ford. It was quite a surprise then that at dinner one evening there sat Mr. White at the table next to us, just as pretty as you please, an ordinary looking guy with a rather affable manner, drinking something amber on the rocks. I thanked him for Doc Ford as we left, and he grinned warmly at us.
About that same time, Leslie was reading my daughter’s travel blog and was impressed with her writing ability. Shortly thereafter Leslie commented on a lengthy post I had composed on, believe it or not, Facebook. She simply said, “Now I know where Nikki gets her writing talent.” Shortly after that I began Straw Man.
Then, in March of 2014, I attended a book-signing with Mr. White and gave him a paperback copy of Straw Man as a gesture of thanks for his inspiration - and he asked me to sign it for him. Check out the picture above. He's a super guy.
I never forgot my close encounter with Kevin O’Donnell, Jr., or my real encounters with Randy Wayne White, two very approachable, nice guys that made their writing dreams come true. But it was that simple observation of my writing abilities from Leslie that proved to be the real impetus for me to fire up Word (no typewriter this time) and try again.
My thanks to the beta-readers for Straw Man and Fever, and for their opinions and assistance. Thanks also to my lovely wife Lisa for her patience as I banged away on the laptop on the back deck night after night.
I hope you enjoy reading Straw Man and Fever as much as I enjoyed writing them.