How many of us, whether by necessity or circumstance, have walked a career path that didn’t match up with our passions? Well, me for one. The things that engaged me as a tyke were the arts . . . painting, cartooning, crude house plans, . . . and story telling . . . activities that took root in my right brain. Yet when a handy engineering scholarship to UK opened up, off I charged into a stable 45-year career as a civil engineer, general contractor, home builder, and land developer, mixing in stints as a drill sergeant, magazine editor, public relations copywriter, R&B guitarist, designer of 30+ custom homes, carpenter, and stone mason.
Then I retired. And I realized it wasn’t too late to make a long-overdue correction.
I bought a brand new kit of acrylic colors and brushes. I built my cozy cottage on the Kentucky River. Then, armed with no fear of failure, I decided to write the Great American Novel. Now, after six years of self-generated study, dozens of books on craft, numerous writing conferences, pouring over long-established ‘rules’ for how to tell a good story, and drafting countless trial and error manuscripts that moved slowly from amateurish, to better, to ‘not bad’ . . . I finally reached a point where my readers (and my peers) convinced me I had attained a respectable level of professional accomplishment.
With two literary suspense novels published, a growing and enthusiastic fan base, and three nominations so far for awards in judged competitions, I’ve at least made a mark. I’ve indulged my passion and I’m proud of my art. I’ve become more accomplished as a writer than I ever was as an engineer of contractor. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to entertain readers, keeping them on the edge of their recliner, scratching their heads wondering where the heck the story was going, turning pages late into the night, unable to resist reading just ‘one more chapter’. And the joy of hearing back, over and over, from satisfied readers whom I didn’t know is like applause from a sea of nameless faces, an audience of readers who have never met me nor may ever know what makes me tick. And that’s plenty.
By finding and fitting good works into a craft about which I’m passionate . . . that’s something many never get to do. It makes a fitting bookend for a satisfying life and it’s far from over. After three ex-wives, three amazing daughters, four grandchildren and counting, I marvel at this final career, the thrill-a-minute life as a novelist, counting bodies, conspiracies, and emotional conflicts while I sip bourbon and watch the Kentucky River roll by.