I started writing in the summer that I graduated high school. I had just turned 18 years old and my mom bought me a TYPEWRITER for college … because she thought I would need it 😊 Mom is great. However, my writing? It was not great. Not at all. I was 18! What did I know about writing or life? I certainly hadn’t lived enough to learn sorrow, heartbreak, falling in love and all that comes with maturing, but I sure wanted to write.
It was around that time when the Blackridge series was created. Like a white-hot blade that needs to be hammered into shape over and over, I worked on it. I went through pages of copy paper and typewriter ribbon, let me tell you. Believe it or not, it was even a dark and stormy night (in August) when I first sat down at the kitchen table and started writing. LOL Dark and stormy night … that cliché opening for a novel that invokes laughter and a bit of cringing when heard, but it’s very true in my case. It tends to rain a lot in Florida during the summers.
In those days, there was one person who had a lot of free time to read and that was my Aunt Betty, older sister of my grandmother. Betty was recently widowed and even though she still worked, she had free time to read and so she read the first drafts of Blackridge. It was awful but she never told me that. She encouraged me to keep writing and that I would get it right. It just needed a little polishing, she would say. I was 18 so I thought I was a genius mastermind novelist. My writing sucked, but I tried. I really did. I had created all these fantastic characters that captivated her and that is what kept her reading.
After a while, I stopped writing … as some novelists do. We tend to go back and forth sometimes to a project, but I stopped for years. I put Blackridge away, but I never forgot about it. I lived my life. I grew up. I learned about heartbreak. I learned about life. I matured. Then, one day, I went back to working on Blackridge … but now, oh boy, I could WRITE. I had read the works of Robert E. Howard and Agatha Christie, my favorite authors. I read the original Dragonlance Saga by Weis and Hickman back in high school with one of my best friends. I could feel that I was ready to write.
And I did. I had an old word processor that I used and stored Blackridge on disks, but it conked out on me and I lost everything. I had to start all over again, but that was okay. I had turned Blackridge into something amazing, my Aunt Betty told me. She was thrilled because she read Blackridge when it was crap and now she read it again and couldn’t believe it. She was honest. She was genuine. She loved it. Since she was now retired and living alone, she had PLENTY of free time to read and she loved reading. I entrusted her with the Saga because I knew she would never reveal the secrets and she didn’t. She never told anyone I think it kinda drove the family crazy because they knew she had all the secrets to Blackridge and kept them in her heart.
I visited her regularly in those days. I had time to just sit and talk about my work with her and they were good times. I asked questions and got answers. She told me everything was perfect now. I couldn’t believe it. She looked me right in the eyes when she said it and if anyone ever knew my Aunt Betty, when she looked at you with purpose, you’d better listen. She wasn’t fooling around. I was so happy.
Then, one day, I went back to see her after I had been away for a while and I noticed her hair was a lot whiter than it had been. She looked older and a bit more frail, but she still had that soul fire that I loved about her. Her spirit was the same. I knew she was old, well into her eighties by then, but something told me I didn’t have much time left with her. She got to finish Blackridge to the point she needed to. She found out the truth of it all and loved it. Everything was good.
It wasn’t long after that when she passed away. I was there in the days leading up to it. She was at peace, sleeping a lot and resting. She was clean and well-cared for. When she died, a part of Blackridge died with her. I felt it. It was like … I would say to myself that I had to share something with her about it, but she was gone. It was a strange feeling. I quit working on Blackridge again after that, but in time … I went back to it. I knew I had to keep going. She would want me to.
You know how they always say that? Oh, you need to keep going, it’s what she would want … Well, it’s true. It’s all true. It’s done now. Blackridge is ready and I’ve started releasing it my way, the way I needed to. She was there for me through it all and I just wish she could see it again, but … I’ve dreamed about her, so I know she’s still with me and with us all. It’s just how it works. They can say it’s just your subconscious working in dreams, but my Aunt Betty will always be a part of the Blackridge Saga because she always was … and that’s the way I will always remember her.