As a teen, I had completed my first novel-length manuscript. It remained on my shelf as the freshman initiation to the novelist world, but the fires burned for a new novel.
I endeavored to once again write a sea story. At a loss what to call the latest project, I had a dream in which my sister handed me a book with the title Winds of the Deep on it in bold black on yellow letters. There I pursued the draft, drawing out all the elements that I’d known before and hammering out totally new ones. The work was a little more haunting than my previous effort with the juvenile “Fathoms,” but it found itself strengthened from my experiences with the earlier attempts at a long novel Depths and Galleon and a lifetime of reading stronger works.
During it, also, I had discovered some works by Stephen King (particularly Salem’s Lot), and found a deep fascination for that writer’s prose. WotD was far deeper in scope than any previous work, and played heavily on the fantasy edge more than horror. The ending of the novel, after young, lost protagonist Nate Jacobs, comes to having a surreal love affair with the ghost of Jackie Bartholomew, a cursed young girl from a shipwreck, culminating in the appearance of a fire-breathing sea serpent. Nate is washed up on shore alone and all but dead.
The novel I completed at 269 pages (or thereabouts), and felt it was now time to try my hand at the publishing game of books. My mother found some wayward article from a shady vanity publisher and persuaded me to send it to them. After a couple of weeks, a fellow called me and offered to publish the work if I paid them $3000. I, of course, refused, knowing how limited my own talent was and that it was not right. My mother was confused. How come I had to pay them?
By 1983, I had come into two new heavy influences on my writing. The first was JRR Tolkien, of course, who introduced me to the high fantasy genre, and the other was playing Dungeons and Dragons. I ate, breathed, and slept these two mediums, and, inspired, began writing a new fantasy novel called Tales of the Silver Ring. This sword and sorcery fantasy story concerned a young man named Gaelin who was to overthrow an evil lord named Stratton with the help of a wise wizard. Somehow, young Gaelin had come into a magical silver ring which contained the essence of a female pixie who needed to be freed at the climax. In the meanwhile, Gaelin was to face a host of magical adventures and dark manipulations of the evil lord, until he was able to overcome him and place himself upon the throne of the land.
Sound like a familiar tale? You’re right, of course.
There were some elements of an earlier fantasy story, Dragons of Eden, but all-in-all, this new ambitious work was highly influenced by Tolkien. I wrote on it for over a year, until I packaged it up (at an unfinished 200 pages) and shipped it off to Ballantine Books. After a few weeks, an editor shipped it back and told me directly that it was too much like Tolkien and that the Tolkien estate would be very angry if they published it. Disheartened (and believing them), I shelved the work and it was lost to time.
It would not be my last foray, however into the fantasy S&S genre.