The question of why do I write is especially significant to me as I am still astonished even today that I do write. If someone had told me only five years ago that I would regularly be writing and publishing novels, I would have been incredulous. Not only would I have been amazed that I was writing, but that I was now actually enjoying it.

Other than for one short story I wrote back when I was fourteen, I had written absolutely nothing creative in sixty-two years. I guess some of my old colleagues could argue that some of my business writings, while I worked for IBM, were creative, but I am sure they would only be referring to my deft manipulation of the numbers, and not the text.

So, I have to ask myself, how did it all get started?

I have been retired since 1992, and until I moved from Genesee to Fort Collins, I had managed to keep busy building motorcycles, working in hardware stores, working locally as a handyman, and lastly, for ten years as a residential real estate agent.

Also, both my wife and I were very engaged in community activities. We organized and ran a hiking club, a cross-country ski group, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle club. We were also highly involved in the local theater group, and we acted in and directed several plays. If that wasn’t enough to keep busy for several years, I served on the local and county fireboard. 

So, when I moved to Fort Collins in 2013, I had no idea how I could keep busy. Being a handyman, naturally, I started making improvements to my new home. Of course, I had made a detailed list of all the upgrades and changes I planned to make. Originally that list had 36 items, but before long, it had ended up growing to 51 items.

Additionally, shortly after the move, we joined the Fort Collins Newcomers Club and quickly grew to become chairmen of the dinner and the travel groups. My wife also became highly involved in playing duplicate bridge, and that managed to fill up her time. I, however, still had a lot of time on my hands, so initially, I spent some of it at the pistol and archery ranges fighting a losing battle trying to maintain my previous level of proficiency.

Another way I attempted to keep busy was by volunteering at Preston Middle School, teaching basic electricity. Unfortunately, I had to give that up after I screwed up my hearing as even with hearing aids, I could no longer understand the questions from many of the students.

In 2015 at one of our dinner group dinner meetings, there were two other couples who I learned from them had backgrounds in the intelligence community. I mentioned to them a bit about my activities in the Marine Corps, and they suggested I should write a book about my exploits. And that was it, the germination of my new writing career. I was bored, and they presented me with a significant challenge.

After my heart bypass surgery in 2001, while in the ICU, I finally divulged to my wife and daughter a bit about my Marine Corps experiences. They said I should write down all the parts I could remember for historical purposes. After I came home, I did what they suggested, so I had an outline of sorts.

One big problem I had to deal with was how to legally publish the information as I had signed secrecy agreements on two occasions, swearing that I would never divulge what I had been doing in North Vietnam or anything about Operation Phoenix. To get around that, I decided to publish whatever I came up with under a pen name, but after an in-depth talk with a law professor in the newcomer’s book club, I learned that was not enough. He suggested I should fictionalize it enough so I could legally say it was fiction based on fact. I told those previous friends his suggestion, and they agreed with the idea and said it would probably be best if I tried to make more than half of it fiction.

Now I was indeed stymied, how do I do that? Do I just pad my exploits with a bunch of imaginary bullshit or what? Fortunately, my dilemma was resolved with a dinner meeting I was able to arrange with the author Michael Lion. When I told him about my concern, he wisely suggested that I break the book up into two parts, the first being almost entirely fiction and the second part, my actual memoirs. So, that is what I basically  did.

To write the second part, my memoirs was relatively easy as I had my outline. That took initially only about two months. The hard portion for me was coming up with a fictional first part that would smoothly lead into my memoirs. That was the real challenge for me, and it took almost a year before I was ready to publish it. Fortunately, during the same time, while at loggerhead with my writings, I had researched and learned the intricacies of publishing on Amazon.

The bad part was from my initial reviewers. I learned that my writing truly stunk. I had barely passed English Composition in high school, and it obviously showed. So, after a few more painstaking re-writes, and more reviews, I republished my novel “ORDERS are ORDERS” on Amazon.

By that time, I had joined the writer’s group at the Fort Collins Senior Center, where I subjected many of the attendees to the reading of parts of my novel. Of course, after the sage critiques and feedback I received, I knew I had to go back and do at least one more iteration.

One of the things that truly surprised me was I started to enjoy writing on our bi-weekly topics. Initially, I would avoid doing on them as I was convinced I was only a storyteller and could not write well enough, but finally, I decided I needed to try. I’m sure everything I wrote during my first year in our group was pretty crappy, however, although I would always procrastinate to the last day, it amazingly became fun, and I found I could usually complete the first draft in a single sitting. 

During that first year in our group, I had an idea for a fictional thriller, and I showed the outline to Rich Guest, one of the more skillful members of the writing group. When he told me he liked the premise of the story, I tried to convince him to co-write it with me as some of the parts required a good understanding of the human psyche, which he had, and I did not. He wisely declined my offer and told me to take the first pass at it, and he would help me clean it up.

Well, the rest is history. Rich ended up helping me by re-writing five of the early chapters in my new novel “The Forgotten Bomb”.  Of course, I had to dumb his writing down, so it more closely matched my more simplistic style, like removing the many instances where he used the phrase “cognitive dissonance”.

One year after I published that novel on Amazon, I went on to write the follow-on novel “DESPOT”, this time all on my own with fortunately an early review by Rich and the help of a professional editor.

I am now almost done on a new novel, and I find I am no longer bored as I spend an inordinate amount of my time on my computer doing research and writing, and I thoroughly enjoy it and especially reading the results to our writer’s group.

So, why do I write? I was bored, it was a challenge, and amazingly I learned to enjoy it.

Elliot Actor is a retired IBM marketing executive and did not take up creative writing until very late in life. Almost all his previously published writings were limited solely to articles and reports that were technical, marketing, or business-related. His first book published in 2015 on Amazon was based primarily on a fictionalized accounting of his memoirs while serving in Marine Corps Recon as a sniper in Vietnam. That novel for personal and legal reasons he published anonymously under a pen name. Although no advertising was done this novel has sold quite well, and Elliot learned he enjoyed writing, especially fiction, and had a talent for storytelling. To improve his writing skills Elliot took several online fiction writing classes and joined weekly writer’s groups. The Forgotten Bomb published on Amazon in 2018, and the follow on novel DESPOT, published in 2019 are a direct result of those efforts. His latest action/adventure thriller The Exiles published in 2020 is a further culmination of the development of his fiction writing skills.

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