Today in the Author Hot Seat my guest is Lockard Young and the first MG author to volunteer to reveal all. Lockie’s article is the story of his journey as a writer, intimately woven into his life as a family man. It’s an inspiring story. I found it touching that his experiences mirror very closely those of many women writers. So, ladies, we too can be at the giving out end when it comes to criticising writing spouses. Lockie though is blessed with an understanding partner who forgives him his little foibles.
I’m handing over to him now, to tell you about his writing and why he does it.
I started writing nearly 20 years ago as an experiment to try and learn to type on our then brand new computer. I was out of work with 2 small boys at home, so while my wife worked I would play Mr. Mom, at least for the day. While the children were down for naps, I would clickity clack away in an awkward hunt and peck method. I got bored with typing “The quick brown fox” sentence, so I started to make up my own sentences. Now I had no idea about hand placement so my awkward wooden fingers just plodded on, and the ancient word program I had that came with the PC was so very cool, it was like magic. Gone were the messy inked ribbons, carbon paper, and ‘white out’. A simple click on the backspace button and the mistake was gone. What I didn’t expect was this story pouring out of my head and onto the monitor screen. Born out of my imagination a character was taking shape, and he was telling an amazing story.
One day my wife came home from a tiring day at work to find the living room a mess with toys, our two toddlers busy with blocks and toy cars, and supper not even started, never mind cooked. I had made sure I kept an ear out for trouble in the living room (our oldest boy could somehow escape from the playpen) but they were safe and sound, and I had simply lost track of time. And so after discussing my lack of help, loudly discussing my lack of help, I admitted my addiction. That’s right, this story was now an addiction. When I didn’t have distractions like children or upset wives, like on weekends and evenings, I would climb into my story and feel it envelope me, and I would not even stop for a cigarette, my other addiction at the time. Eventually my wife’s curiosity got the best of her and so one evening I read everyone my story. It was about a young boy who discovered a real live creature beneath the ground in his back yard. This creature is known to humans only as a legend, a mythical beast, but the main character is able to communicate with this Legend through telepathy, and he learns why this species has hidden from Mankind for so many centuries. The characters in my book were named after my children, and they both listened intently as the story unfolded.
I wrote Ryan’s Legend because my boys wanted to know “What happens next Daddy?” and with nothing written I had to write more, and because the book has short chapters and is meant for young children to read,with simple sentences and cliff hanger chapter endings, I was told it was a Middle Grade Fantasy. I find it hard to nail it down to just one genre, because it also appeals to adults, as I discovered when I test drove it for a group of senior citizens, and they wouldn’t let me leave until I had read the entire book. Today, there are things called tags. Apparently this amazing entity we call the internet (it really is alive you know) knows how to search out these tags, so I would tag Ryan’s Legend with names like Fantasy, educational (because the MC learns about nature) and Nature, secrets, Legends. All of these words describe this very short story which fits somewhere between a short story and a novella. At roughly 12,000 words, I stopped because I was told it was getting to be too long for middle graders, and I continued to add to the sequel many years later, when I was offered publication of the first book. At present my publisher has shown an interest in the sequel, but we haven’t reached the contract stage as yet.
While I was and am still discovering my passion for writing I continue to try different styles and themes. After all, what is an addiction if we don’t experiment along the way? I have a detective novel that I add to now and then when I get stuck for words on something else, I have a Science fiction short story I wrote years ago called Techno Man (surprisingly some of the things I wrote in that piece have come true), and I have a few short stories, all under 5000 words, which includes a Fairy Tale. Oh, and I am also working on an auto biography, which is so much different then Fiction, about my experience with arterial disease, and living life as an amputee as a result of a clogged artery, and an operation that went sideways. As a result of my new journey on a different road, I have also written a speech, which I will give someday to inspire others, called Depression and the 80% solution. You can view that on my blog, with the link below.And Just the other day I wrote a humorous piece about the trials of coping with an artificial leg and the pitfalls of life in a wheelchair, called “My Sweaty Old Stump” (yeah…it’s a working title). I also have written numerous poems, some of which I don’t like, but I found out long ago not to trash those poems and stories you don’t like. They say the harshest critic is oneself, and I’ve discovered that some of my poems and stories that I absolutely hated, other’s like, and so I rarely trash any completed piece anymore. One of those poems I nearly threw out was my attempt at an Edgar Allen Poe type poem called Beneath my Bed. I had a lot of positive feedback on that poem, but poetry for me has always been more of a nuisance to me than anything else. Rhyming words that strike me, sometimes in the middle of the night, that I just have to write down or they haunt me. I’ve been told my poetry, at least some of it, is very good, but it is something I’ve never had much confidence in.
You asked me Which Author influenced my writing. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t read much as a very young boy, other than the Archie comics and “the Hardy Boys” mystery series. Richard Adams wrote an amazing tale called Watership Down, where animals are Characters, and since I was thinking of that book when I animated Ryan’s Legend, and brought that creature alive and able to ‘talk’ to Ryan, I suppose you could say I was influenced by that book to a certain extent. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King, but I have yet to write in his Genre, but those are impossibly big shoes to fill, so I just try to be L.F.Young, and write first for me, because if I’m not having fun writing, then it becomes work, and I already worked for 35 years as a Plumber. Once I have had my fun writing, it is then I will give it to my readers, and that is really the hardest part for me. The letting go of something that you live and breath and become for a while. I give my stories to my readers reluctantly, because I have nurtured those tales like children, and no parent likes to let go of their children.
You also asked about Amazon, Jane. You may not like what I have to say about Amazon. Is it a necessary evil? Perhaps so, but I would tell anyone reading this, not to get discouraged by the numbers on amazon. They are terribly skewed in a way, to sales. If you got 150 of your friends to all go on Amazon at the same time and buy your book you would climb in the ratings. Now there is your sign. I suppose that is the most important thing in the whole world for a new writer. To be famous and fabulously rich, but the truth is, that is just not how it is. A writer, especially a published writer, has to work hard to promote themselves, and that is especially true if you self publish. That is the part I have trouble with. Tooting my own horn. A writer can’t depend on the publisher alone to do the promoting of your book, and of you. That’s right, you are now a commodity. Nothing more than a bag of sugar in a warehouse full of bags of sugar. You have to convince the consumer (the reader) that this bag of sugar is the absolute best one in the whole building, and that is easier said then done.
One way to get your name out there is to actually promote someone else. I had no idea who Jane Dougherty was, or who Chris the story reading ape was (if you put all those words together you will find his Blog) but Chris featured me one time on his Blog, and I found Jane through Chris, and so the networking will begin. The worse thing for a writer is no self confidence. And it doesn’t take much to knock a person down. A few rejection letters will do that in no time, but remember who you ultimately write for, your audience.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you will read my book Ryan’s Legend, perhaps to your children, or with them. It’s so very important to keep our species reading, because without imagination, we are just machines.
Let me leave you with these words I wrote…
How many great Gems
Were lost to thought
And not put down to pen
We can but think of just a few
And then they’re lost again.
Lockie Young AKA L.F. Young
Thank you for your optimism, Lockie. It’s easy to let lack of sales get us down, but you remind us all that sales aren’t the be all and end all of success.
If you would like to find out more about L.F.Young you can find him here
http://morningrainpublishing.com/project/ryans-legend/ The book
https://www.facebook.com/ryanslegend Facebook Author Page