I want to write like Ernest Hemingway, tell stories like Mark Twain, and create books that grab the reader from the opening line.
When I was nine years old our teacher, Mrs. Miller, read to us after lunch every day. Her first book was Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Seated at my desk, hearing the lines from that novel,
I knew right then I wanted to be a writer one day, but I didn’t dare tell a soul. As I grew up, when people asked what I wanted to be, I told them a policeman, a race car driver, a preacher, and, much later, a lawyer. I never became a policeman but I drove a race car, preached a few sermons, and practiced law. And as time passed that childhood dream of becoming a writer receded deeper and deeper into my mind.
By the time I was a lawyer, I never thought about it at all.
Then one morning, one of the legal assistants came to the office looking groggy and tired. I needled her about how late she’d stayed up the night before and she snapped, “I have a life besides coming to this office!” I thought, “Hey, I have a life bigger than this office, too,” and with that thought that long forgotten childhood dream came alive—I had wanted to be a writer.
That evening, I went to work on my first project, a screenplay. As you might imagine, writing it was more difficult than I first thought but by the time I finished, I was hooked and started another. Doing that gave me the courage to attempt a novel and three versions later, I came very close to getting it published. Close—but not quite close enough.
By then I was no longer a lawyer writing in his spare time. I was a writer with a day job and each morning on the way to work I prayed about whether I should quit practicing law and write full time. The only answer
I heard was, “Go and I will be with you.” That should have been enough to send me on my way but I was scared—what would we do without the income. When I finally found the courage to tell my wife I wanted to quit my job and write she smiled and said, “Good. You should have done it
last year. You’re becoming a grouch.” So, I went home to write. And to liquidate assets.
When I walked out the door of the law firm for the last time I didn’t have a publishing contract, or an agent, or even an outline for a book. All I had was an idea for a character, a sketch of a story, and wife who believed in me. She was soon to show just how deep that belief ran.
Over the years, we had accumulated financial assets, but not enough to produce a livable income. To pay the bills we had to liquidate our investments. Getting published took longer than I expected but as we drew the last few dollars from the retirement account, my first book, Sober Justice, was published. It did well but not nearly well enough to solve our financial problems and we were out of money. When I told my wife about it she just smiled and said, “I’ve been praying about this. Let’s sell the furniture. We’re not stopping now.” So, we did and when that was gone, we sold the house. Then, friends helped out while we wrote more books.
When I began writing full time we lived along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, not far from Grand Bay, the town where I grew up and from which I found many of my favorite stories. A few years ago we moved to Houston, Texas, to allow our daughter to pursue her dream of becoming a ballerina. I continue to write under my own name, but I also spend much of my time writing books for other people.
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