(originally posted on 9/22/2018)
The epic I’ve been semi-jokingly calling my #FreeAwfulNovel is not my first book. That distinction belongs to another work that, as far as I know, I no longer have a copy of. My gut tells me that we should all be thankful for that.
In junior high and high school, we were a Commodore house. My dad and I both had 128 models. The summer I turned 16, I got my second job, and it was a dream come true for a teenage geek–I was working at Software City, a smaller chain that (surprise!) mainly sold software rather than hardware. There was a strong business focus. I would pitch in and help out in the shipping department from time to time, and I remember moving a lot of copies of Microsoft Bob for some reason.
Even with all of the focus on business and productivity software, the plethora of choices were amazing, to me. Most of the computers we used at school were Mac-based, and limited to the software we had on hand. And honestly, other than writing papers for school and playing AD&D Gold Box games, there wasn’t a whole lot my Commodore could do. The ability to use add-on cards to expand the capabilities of your system struck me as revolutionary. Our Commodores had accessory ports, but they were very much all-in-one machines.
Dad, alas, would have none of it, even after I waved a copy of Compute! magazine under his nose with a cover story about building your own PC clone from a kit.
As they say, good things come to those who wait. I moved out on my own, started my career, and opportunity knocked. One of the men who mentored me when I started out, Kent Willis, was one of my first beta-readers. Kent had a side gig reconditioning off-lease business PCs. He must have gotten sick of reading typewritten pages, because he hooked me up with my first official PC.
It was a Digital Equipment Company system. The form factor and motherboard were proprietary, but it still had plenty of upgrade options. We bumped the CPU up to a blazing 486 DX/2 66Mhz, installed 4MB of RAM, and added a Creative Labs SoundBlaster card with a CD-ROM kit.
I played a lot of games on that box, but I also wrote like my life depended on it. Warhawks weighs in at a whopping 900 pages. Spectre (or Nemesis, depending on which draft I’m looking at), the book I wrote next, was a much-tighter followup that came in at a lean and mean 600.
In our lives, there are pivotal people that have such an impact that you can’t help but think about them in certain contexts. Writing and my friend Kent go pretty much hand in hand. I stopped writing for a long time after Spectre (which is a story for another day) and Kent passed away long before I took it up again. If you’ve read the Paxton Locke books, you know that Pax has a Kent of his own, and while there are a few artistic differences, I like to think that they’re just alternate universe reflections of each other. Even though that would probably make the real Kent roll his eyes.
Looking back, Warhawks is not as bad as I thought it was, considering it was written by a snot-nosed 20-year old. There are some clunky parts, and yeah, it’s way too long. The gaps between actual action scenes are too big, and I tried to shovel in so many main characters that they all turn into secondary characters to some extent. 40-year old me would do it differently, but there are good bones there. Will I ever make use of them? I’ve learned never to say never, but if I do, it’ll be a while.
Until then, enjoy the awful!