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February 9, 2022

           This is a question that comes up quite often on the forums, though to tell the truth, I haven’t seen it lately. In fact, this inspiration just popped into my head as I sat down to think of something to write this Sunday morning. I know I’ve touched on it before in other articles. After all, I have 580 to choose from since I started Fred Central.

            To do this, I need to take it back to the beginning.


            Back when I first got interested in books, most of you weren’t even alive. My mom used to read me big fat baby books, the likes of my favorite at the time Willy Woo oo ooo The Fire Truck, if I remember the title correctly. It turned into many more including (which I’ve outline before), my grandpa showing me Encyclopedia Britannica and of course, that infamous photo of the Lusitania Sinking.

            I’ve always had a fascination with printed matter.


            Reading has never not been part of my life.

            It wasn’t always pleasant, as early school can attest, though it wasn’t that I couldn’t learn, or didn’t, but my report cards weren’t always the best. Part of that was thanks to my vivid imagination (which would come in handy many decades later).

            The thing is that back then, while I never had anything against reading, which I did as much out of necessity as anything else, what turned me off then was as often the tiny font rather than content.

            Yup, that’s right, the size of the font had a big influence on what I’d read for pleasure.

            Therefore, kid books, with the bigger fonts usually got my attention.

            Next came open space on the pages.

            The more solid the pages, the less I wanted to read it.

            Lazy? Or just that I didn’t like busy pages?

            I gravitated toward the more adolescent books which fit right with my age group at the time.


            One huge boost in my reading interest came when we were living in Lompoc, California. We had been living in a trailer and my parents finally got tired of that and moved into a real house. The people who owned it and rented it to us had two older kids who left us a bunch of toys and stuff they no longer wanted. For the boy in the family, I got a treasure trove of stuff including a bunch of kids books, a little older than my age at the time, but it gave me a huge boost for reading. This set of books were the original 1930’s editions of The Hardy Boys.

            While the font wasn’t quite as big as I would’ve wanted, I adapted and once I started with book #1, The Tower Treasure, I was hooked!

            Soon, I had exhausted the entire library of books I’d inherited from the kid. Then, they became an occasional buy when my parents would let me, or a Christmas gift until I had the entire series up to that point.

            Along the way, I also got into Tom Swift, Nancy Drew, The Bobsey Twins, and Danny Dunn series.

            I always loved series the best because it brought back characters I liked to see again.

            There were a few one-off books I also got into, like Life On The Mississippi, which was a very hard read for me because of the font and the writing style. I also wasn’t all that hot on either Tom Sawyer nor Huck Finn for some reason.

            I was, of course, forced to read the “classics” at school.

            I hated them. Not only were they boring, but the obscure language and writing styles turned me off. I was being force fed these tomes, told this and that, and had to write about it. That didn’t sit well with me.

            At this time, my writing consisted of the occasional letter to a friend or relative, or whatever I had to write at school. Like most others of my age, I was not a big fan of writing, though I did it, sometimes with great angst. It was also all with a pen or pencil. No typing.


            Toward the end of high school, my best friend started hanging out with this book collector who was a slightly older guy that lived on the west side of Palmdale. That was, of course, not his main interest in this guy, but I won’t go into that except it was of a party nature. Anyway, this guy got me into books and his fascination with science fiction. He had quite an extensive collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs books. By this time, a bit older, I was able to tolerate the tinier font of a paperback, and at least Burroughs got to the point. I could enjoy his Mars and Tarzan novels.

            I started a modest collection.

            In the meantime, after I graduated, I got my first taste of fantasy as I worked nights at a golf course, running sprinklers. Between runs, I sat in the maintenance shed with my feet off the ground (to avoid scorpions), and slogged through Lord Of The Rings.

            I somehow got through all three volumes, but they left me kind of flat. At that time, not being a writer myself, I had no idea what was wrong with them. I know now what the problem is. Besides the rambling is the omniscient point of view. That lesson would come back to me decades later.


            When I first joined, I wasn’t reading as much as when I first arrived in Spain in the early 70’s. Then, living single in the barracks, I was into two main things. Music/electronics and reading. I haunted the Stars and Stripes bookstore.

            It was there I got into a lot more science fiction and again, a bit of fantasy, though much less wordy stuff by Andre Norton and the like.

            I also got my first taste of some great detective and thriller and spy novels like Matt Helm and Doc Savage.

            I also read one significant book that would stick with me for a long time. I can’t remember a thing about the story, but the book was called The Metal Monster. It was science fiction. The only reason I really remember the book is because in downtown Madrid, there was a high-rise that had a big sign on it that said “METAL MAZDA” on it. Every time we went to Madrid, I’d spot that sign on the building in the distance and think of that obscure book. To this day, I still can’t recall anything about that story, but I still remember the title!

            This was when my first inspirations to write came into play.

            So, what happened?

            I had a Royal manual typewriter and in a huge but misguided inspiration, I attempted to start a Star Trek satire. I got three quarters of a page and gave up.

            I realized this crap is hard!

            I shelved it and never tried again for a long time.


            In our last year at Torrejon in Spain, Desert Storm took place.

            In a hangar two down from where I worked, they set up a deployment depot for the troops going to the bad place. My family used to volunteer to help out, doling out coffee and donuts and whatever.

            I’d go down and visit them at lunch time.

            They had an extensive exchange library of paperbacks.

            That’s where I found Raise The Titanic by Clive Cussler and a very early book by Bentley Little.

            Those two books were not only great reads, but they inspired me to think about writing again. I had just completed a writing course for my associates degree, plus a few years earlier, I had learned the Nazi way of writing from my former boss. By this time, some six years since, I’d become to go-to guy in the shop for writing stuff. Plus, my wife and I had a monthly newsletter we did for a group we were in.


            We came back stateside and were living in Oklahoma at my last assignment. I realized we were never going to do much else with our band, which we kept reforming every time we moved from base to base. I needed a creative outlet.

            Along this time, which was mid 90’s now, I’d been haunting the local Hastings bookstore in downtown Altus, Oklahoma. There I discovered Dean Koontz, but in particular, two authors who were a huge inspiration. Elizabeth Forrest (Rhondi Vilott Salsitz), and my mentor and friend, Carol Davis Luce. Their books blew me away. It was then, early 1995, that I sat down at the keyboard, and took up writing and it became a passion.


            Books/authors that inspired me to write are many.

            Hardy Boys

            Nancy Drew

            Edgar Rice Burroughs

            Danny Dunn

            Doc Savage

            Clive Cussler

            Bentley Little

            Carol Davis Luce

            Elizabeth Forrest

            Ron Goulart

            Andre Norton

            Just to name a few. Notice that I mentioned not only authors, but book series.

            The reason is that it was not just specific books, but the authors and most of what they wrote (and some were contracted out under a pen name). No one specific book did it for me as much as everything.

            Did I pick up writing because I thought I could do better than they were doing?

            Ah, duh! No way!

            I just wanted to write, tell my stories and put them out there for others to enjoy one day in the best way within my means.

            Simple as that.

            Happy writing!

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