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  • Writer's pictureElaine Marie Carnegie


Please welcome our Guest Author this week on the Writer's Journey Blog, Jack Mulcahy with endearing moments and good advice from his Writer's Journey.

I can’t remember a time before I could read. That’s age talking; reading has been so ingrained in me that I simply can’t fathom a time when I couldn’t make sense of the symbols on the page. When I was a toddler, my parents read stories to me every night. Since I was the third of four children, my father knew the stories by heart, so he would fall asleep in mid-story, but keep on reciting.

My mother told me I would say, “Open your eyes, Dad.” And Dad would open his eyes and continue as if nothing had happened. That event means so much to me that I used it years later in the backstory of one of my characters.

From age six or seven, I read everything, comic books, the Oz books, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Tom Swift Junior. I’ve been known to read the toilet paper wrapper in the bathroom if there’s nothing else. That’s probably why I’m a writer.

I’ve heard that writers are people who like to tell things to strangers. That’s me. In grade school, I told my teachers tales my family had related to me, facts I’d read, even jokes. To this day, I tell stories, sometimes more than once to the same audience. Family and friends just nod and smile, and bear with me, even when they’ve heard it before.

In the sixties, in high school, I started writing my own stories, imitating the Twilight Zone stories by Rod Serling and others. Not very good ones, but we all have to start somewhere, right? I’ve heard it said, “‘Influenced by’ usually means ‘outright theft from.’” That was me, in those days.

I mainly wrote science fiction and fantasy. Even tried submitting to magazines with names like Fantastic and Amazing, all met with polite rejections. The only hint I ever received about submitting fiction was an early editor who wrote on my manuscript, “Don’t staple. Use a paper clip.” Still largely clueless, Our Hero continued, either too persistent or too stupid to quit.

In my twenties, I even took a day off from work to drive five hours to Connecticut, without an appointment, to inquire about becoming an artist at what was then the worst comic book publisher in the world. The editor there looked at my art samples and told me I had no art talent. But he read a few pages of a story I’d brought and told me I was a very “visual” writer and should attempt that.

In my thirties, I read about a then-famous porn star (now deceased) who painted a picture of being physically coerced into sex acts to fill a man’s pockets. The sheer wrongness of her being forced to be something against her will, having all her rights taken away, rang a loud bell with me. So, I combined the sword and sorcery form with my passion for writing, to begin a sword and sorcery opus that is still, 30-some years later, at the center of my writing life.

In the early nineties, with my wife’s encouragement, I took an adult education class with a working writer, Bill Kent (Hi, Bill!), who showed me manuscript format. “This is like wearing a suit to a job interview,” was how he put it. That changed my life. I think I also realized I would never fit into the nine-to-five world, and I’d better get serious about this writing thing.

I began sending stories to non-paying markets, at first. My first paid story appeared in 1997, in a magazine called Lesbian Short Fiction. Being a guy, I worried that the editor might reject me because I wasn’t the “right” gender, but the call for submissions indicated that being a lesbian was not a requirement. So, when I opened her letter and saw that I’d somehow “gotten it right” I was over the moon. I have no experience with being a woman or a lesbian. But I know how it is to be a human being. That’s how I approached that story and everything else. And I got it right.

I wish I could tell you my life has improved by leaps and bounds, that I’m on my way to wealth and fame, all the things we writers secretly wish for, even as we tell ourselves money doesn’t matter. In truth, I still wish for those things. And I still want to be published in a big-market publication. But that’s my ego talking. If I never get into the big money and the big publications, I’ll still be who I am. So, I urge you to keep on writing, despite the rejections. Keep pursuing your dream. Never give up. Even if you never make a dime, you’re a successful writer.

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