"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane
Despite a year and a half of working after I graduated high school, my social skills and attitude did not belong to the era in which I was living. My word choices belonged in 1940s and earlier, acquired mainly from Mama and Papa or books. I had survived my final three semesters of high school by making the rest of the students afraid of me. Texas had refused to accept all of my credits from California, and made me do an extra semester, so I graduated at mid-term, January of 72.
In 1974, I started college in California. I had a few friends in college. There was Gwen and Sherri, who I had met in karate classes, and there was the big black guy, Rain, who I had met in karate and dated until Mickey put a stop to it (my mother was a bigot), and more and more there were three people who became a centerpiece to a lot of what would come later, John, Arturo, and Stephanie.
John, Arturo, and Stephanie were Bahais. Mama liked them. (Mama was not a bigot)
It seemed like a good fit.
Because Papa was a weekend alcoholic while I was growing up, I had sworn I would never drink so much as a beer. I didn’t do drugs. And I had sworn I would not have sex until marriage (although hormones were kicking in and got harder and harder to deal with). And I was determined never to smoke.
Well, the road to hell is lined with good intentions.
Oddly, what offended Micky most was my studying karate. Mickey encouraged my half-brother, Don, to try and beat me up, put me in my place, prove to me that my years in karate (as physical therapy more than anything else) were worthless. By late 1975, the constant ‘fight me’ from Don, the sexual overtures from my step-father, and other matters drove me back to Texas.
A family consultation led to Mama, Papa, and me returning to the Lone Star State. I had decided not to contact the local Bahais, as I was finding out things that I did not like. My main mistake was in maintaining a correspondence with Stephanie. So eventually the Bahais showed up on my doorstep.
In early 76, while taking classes at Tarrant County Junior College, I came across a flyer for a New York women’s college, called Briarcliff. I had written my first novel, and I enclosed that with my application. The result of that was a phone call from the Dean of Admissions. Naturally, I went.
They set me up with two one-on-one classes to complete and polish the novel. One of those was with Josiah Bunting III, who had three novels published; and the other was with Paul Kane. I benefited more from Paul than I did Josiah, who was determined that I try my hand at mainstream. Paul had no difficulties with fantasy. Pace University purchased Briarcliff in 77, and I was encouraged to put my application in at other New York colleges.
However, my year in New York had made me very homesick. So I did not return the next year. I had acceptances at Marymount, Sarah Lawrence, and Vassar, yet even that was not enough to lure me back to New York.
Paul continued to critique my stories, and we stayed in touch for many years. In 1978, I sold my first two short stories, and my novel had finally started making the rounds of NY publishers at Paul’s urging and that of Jessica Amanda Salmonson. Daw rejected it, and I sent it to Jim Frenkel at Dell. Jim expressed a desire to buy it, but before he could issue a contract, Dell canceled their sf/f line. So i sent it next to a small Virginia Beach company called Donning/Starblaze.
The editor-in-chief at Donning/Starblaze was H. That’s how I met him. He bought my trilogy.
Three things happened in early 1980 that forever changed the course of my life.
Stephanie called me. She was having trouble with a man and wanted to come stay with me in Texas. I discussed with Mama and Papa. I had sole use of two of the three bedrooms in the house, one I used as a study and the other as a bedroom. I agreed to give up one of them so that she could stay with us.
i moved one of my twin beds into the study and Stephanie arrived. I was still very socially naive.
I also learned that Stephanie, whom I had idolized, was far different than I had realized. She tossed out my scrapbooks and all the the as yet, unmounted materials, and that hurt. She also took to sitting on the end of my bed as I slept. I would wake up in the night and there she would be, staring down at me. There were another few things that I’m not going into yet.
The Bahais had once more become the center of my limited social life, and when i tried to get some help dealing with Stephanie (as I had been informed was the right way to proceed by the community), I was accused of being jealous of her. I told them to fuck off, and tossed Stephanie out.
It hurt. i was an odd fish, because I believed that reason would prevail.
Guess what? it doesn’t.
Then my mother, Mickey, phoned to tell us they were on their way to Texas. They had sold their home.
I had gone to Texas to get away from them, and now three weeks later i had Don sitting and brooding on the living room couch of my home. He was fresh out of the Marine Corp and had reached the rank of Sergeant.
Day in and day out, there he sat. He went out of his way to make me miserable. One day I lost it and dashed a glass of water (just the water, not the glass) in his face. He knocked me across the room, I hit the piano with stunning force and cracked three ribs. He charged across the room, clamped both hands on my throat and started choking me. I was wedged into a corner with my back against the upright piano.
I reached behind me. There was a heavy flashlight standing on the end of the piano. I played havoc with his face, broke his jaw, and generally made a mess of him. His hold on my throat loosened, and I was able to step, throwing my weight forward and break his hold with my forearms. ironically that probably saved his life because Papa had come up behind him with a large hammer intending to break his head open.
I wore Don’s fingerprints on my neck for several weeks before they finally faded. My mother was enraged with me for winning.
I could not stop feeling sick.
I wanted to run and keep running.
H, upon hearing this, suggested that I move in with him. I agreed. Anything to get away from my family, and in August of 1980, i flew to Virginia.