The Writer’s Craft – And so it Begins!

(Silverdale, Washington; Sept. 21, 2020) – Proud Lion sailed into history yesterday! I am now a published novelist. Monetary success will be nice if I achieve it, but the primary goal has been reached: publication. Nothing can take that away from me, not lack of sales, not lack of critical acclaim, nothing. I am now, and forever will be, a published novelist.

This dream took me 41 years to realize. I first remember wanting to be an author when I was seven. I completed my first novel, The Night the Crystallion Died, at the age of 13 in 1985. It featured a group of college friends facing a bombing on the ocean liner Crystallion. The group was led by Michael McRany, a character I created earlier that April. The gang successfully captured the terrorist, but only after Crystallion had been sunk in the best kind of gory spectacle a 13-year-old boy can dream up.

Let me offer a trivia note on that first book, just to make this conversation even more entertaining. The ocean liner was supposed to be named Crystalline, but I horrifically misspelled Crystalline into Crystallion. I was about 50 pages into my ‘master piece’ when my older brother pointed out the error. I decided to keep the misspelling, coming up with an in-story reason for it. I was unstoppable, after all! I was doing what none of the kids were doing. I was writing a book! The final draft was a whopping 70 pages, and I just knew I was ready for the big time when I pulled it off our old dot-matrix printer!

Turns out the ‘big time’ needed about 28 more years to arrive…

Michael McRany was actually the second oldest character I ever created. Roger Wayne Johnson, the captain of a science fiction battleship, came to me when I was playing space battle games with my brother back when I was only eight. The Johnson and McRany characters both experienced long-running, complex developmental arcs which constantly percolated in the back of my mind for nearly 40 years now. McRany eventually evolved into Isaac Shepherd, the Accidental Detective. Johnson under went a similar process, and his “final incarnation” will be introduced in the reimagined Siege.

I always thought my first published novel would be Siege, the first novel in the science fiction project that grew out of the space battle games my brother and I played. Siege was the second book I ever wrote. I required more than 18 months to draft it (from 1994 – 1995), and it clocked in at over 220,000 words (pretty hefty when you consider an average novel is about 60,000 – 80,000 words). I was proud, excited, and again thought I was on the cusp of my novelist dream.

I started working on Reckonings, the sequel to Siege, shortly before I enlisted in the Navy in late 1997. I fought with that book until admitting defeat in 1998. Writer’s block settled onto me for the next 20 years. I just couldn’t do any heavy personal creative writing while I was in the Navy (the only exception being poetry). I was too busy, and I didn’t have enough energy left over to write books after working all day as an active duty sailor. At various times I was a jet airplane technician, photo lab supervisor, print shop supervisor, multimedia specialist, instructor, and operations manager. I enjoyed it all, and Siege was still there, quietly waiting in the wings…

Still, the reality was that my novelist dream faded to the “I’ll have to revisit this once I retire” list.

Cue Doctor Who.

I got hooked into the revived Doctor Who series at the same time I started working on my master’s degree in history in late 2014. I particularly enjoyed the episode The Unicorn and the Wasp, in which the Doctor and his companion meet Agatha Christie. I was so intrigued that I decided to make Agatha Christie my first foray back into fiction upon completion of my master’s.

I earned my master’s degree in May 2016, ending two solid years of reading nothing but histories, biographies, and political science tomes. I celebrated by going out and buying And Then There Were None and Mystery on the Orient Express. I was so taken by those books that I spent the next year reading nothing but Agatha Christie! (Mystery on the Orient Express remains one of my favorite novels to this day!)

I was hip-deep in the military retirement process when It Happened in March of 2017. I was sitting in my computer room one evening, having just finished some financial business and resume’ building. Basically, Isaac Shepherd “walked” into the room, slapped me upside the head, and told me to start writing. The idea of a short story that hinged on the angle of a gun shot unfolded, and I began Off Center, the first short story in the collection that became The Norfolk Murders (which will be the second book in the Accidental Detective series).

I had come full circle, and I had come full circle in a most unexpected way. Mysteries were my first ‘favorite genre,’ but were supplanted by science fiction as my favorite during my childhood. Now, in my adulthood, science fiction had led me right back to my first love: mysteries!

The Norfolk Murders was the first Isaac Shepherd book I physically wrote, but I debated for some time whether to lead off with it. I finally decided Proud Lion was a much better story with which to introduce Isaac Shepherd’s world, so I swung into writing it this past November. Proud Lion launched yesterday, but life goes on. I’ve started polishing The Norfolk Murders for release next June. Books 3 and 4 are also complete and will start undergoing the polishing process once The Norfolk Murders is out the door. I’m actively killing people and revealing murderers as I write book 5, and I’m roughing out the plot for book 6.

Now, all that only covers my current forays in the mystery / military adventure genres!

I never forgot my ‘other’ first love – science fiction. I’ve already started writing the new version of Siege, though I have no timetable for completion as yet. I’m also beginning to consider how I want to tackle my first non-fiction historical work, and I have a collection of poetry to gather up and format. I have plenty on my plate already, and more ideas coming to me. With luck and longevity, I’ll be able to leave behind a sizable library of adventures, history, and poetry for people to enjoy.

Proud Lion was just the beginning, not the ending. With Proud Lion published, I can use the same words which announced the dawn of my Navy adventure 21 years ago for this new period of my life:

And so it begins…

The adventure has begun! Proud Lion is out, and my journey as a novelist is underway!

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Nathanael Miller’s Photojournalism Archives:

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