My story as a writer actually has a good deal to do with my relationship with God.
For as long as I remember, religious principles have always been a strong component of my life. Raised in the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I had a reasonably traditional Christian upbringing in the way of values and morals. From a very young age, I strove to put the feelings and thoughts of my upbringing into the written word, typically with disastrous effects. Like a good kid, I wanted help from God, so I prayed for it. I wanted to be a writer and one that God could be proud of.
I suppose I became a little pragmatic over time. As I grew into my teenage years, I set two goals for myself:
I tried to write for ages, but things were not coming very well. If you want an example of that, here is one of my first short stories, Happiness, which I wrote in my first college years. It is not particularly good, but was a prelude to my main themes in the future.
Not long after I got married to Lisa in 1988, we began to put together newsletters to keep the family abreast of our happenings. Our first newsletter "News o' the Nemrows," actually was put out a number of times in 1989, but the frequency of it was killing us. We finally settled on a yearly format and renamed our family chronicle "The Nemrow Family Guide to Prairie Survival." The Guide, as we call it, has continued until this day, the last issue (#19) created at the end of 2002. An always-anticipated part of this regular newsletter is the Christmas story. Each one of the stories here have, at one time or another, been included in the Guide. Actually, if they had not been included in the Guide, they would have probably been lost in computer breakdowns and the odd cleaning out of "junk." The Valley and Thank You For Coming were actually written specifically for the Guide, the only stories included here that have that distinction. Someday, I will perhaps put up others, when I have time to retype them from the printed Guides.
My first really viable short story was The Miracle Of The Quilt, which first came into my mind as a story while sitting in church in Farmington, New Mexico in early 1995. I tried and tried to write it down, but I just couldn't seem to get it done. I finally wrote the story, in almost exactly the form that you find it here, in about three hours on a Sunday morning in late 1996. The Miracle Of The Quilt has been the story that has made the rounds of publishers the most and received the most publicity. I self-published it in 1997 and it was considered for publication by Barbour Publishing in early 1998 if I would make it a part of a collection. Actually, my big writing push during 1998, which is described later, was a result of this one request. The Miracle Of The Quilt was included in an anthology called El Portal in 2001, which was the first time it has passed an editorial board and been published by anyone besides myself, the fulfillment of my second goal as a writer.
1998 was a watershed year for my writing, probably because I was under the gun with a publisher and I had a job that gave me a LOT of free time to concentrate. I had actually pursued my job at PGS Exploration at the insistence of a friend who knew of my computer skills. Of course, the chance to travel the world and go to sea was kind of alluring as well! One of the selling points to my wife was that I would finally have some time to write while also providing a very good income for our family. So, I went to sea and while there, Barbour Publishing responded to my Quilt manuscript and my hopes of becoming a writer soared. They said that my story was too small to stand alone and suggested that I submit a collection of my stories. When I pulled all of my stuff together, it seemed too thin for me, so I decided that I needed a few more stories. The Storms Of October and The Tale Of Rachel And Her Knight In Shining Armor were the result.
Regular Guide readers had told me for ages that I seemed to have a thing for making women the main characters of my stories. When I want back through my stuff, I realized that was very true! Perhaps this comes from my notion that women are more spiritual and more given to having the kinds of experiences that my stories describe. Probably as an antidote to this, I wrote the The Storms Of October over the course of about three weeks. I think this was the first time that I really began to notice that these stories were actually coming into my mind as if I was sitting down with God and writing down what he told me, like dictation. I mean, I filled in some gaps in the background, but the basic story was presented to me much like a television movie, in sequential order, just as I needed it. It was like I would write the picture in my head, a commercial would come (which was my sleep and work time), then I would pick up the picture right where it left off! I was as surprised at how the story was going as anyone who read it for the first time! After I went through this process for The Storms Of October, I was able to use the method again immediately to produce The Tale Of Rachel And Her Knight In Shining Armor. Actually, The Tale Of Rachel And Her Knight In Shining Armor was a far quicker process for a much larger work (about novella size). In the process of writing it, I found out something else about my method of writing: I typically write the first bit and them must throw it out in favor of the second effort. I can see it in my composition books of the time. The Tale Of Rachel And Her Knight In Shining Armor was written out, for the most part, in longhand, without serious revisions, over two weeks, with about three hours of time each day. I suppose once I realized that this was dictation from God, the process could run much faster. To date, I consider The Tale Of Rachel And Her Knight In Shining Armor to be my best work. All of my previous stories and these two new ones were put into a volume called "A Penny Theatre" and submitted to Barbour, which decided against publication. Perhaps my terrible need to pontificate during the first few paragraphs of each story was off-putting (it is to me).
My schedule at PGS was on a five-week rotation, with five weeks on the boat and five weeks of "off-time" at home. The writing of The Storms Of October and The Tale Of Rachel And Her Knight In Shining Armor took place during one of those five-week periods on the boat. The actual setting down of the first rough copy of my novel Godsend occupied the next five weeks, utilizing all that I had learned before of how I needed to write.
The making of Godsend is actually the story of a good deal of my life. I think the actual basis of the story found its genesis in a study hall in high school in 1983. Inspired by Tolkien, I wanted to write an epic tale. It was originally envisioned as a mystical fantasy with the types of creatures and plots that excited that decade and was multi-volume. In the winter of 1985-86, I worked a great deal on it and my wife still has many of my notes from that time and kept its original style and focus. To be honest, after my mission in Utah and for a majority of the next ten years, it was put on a shelf and ignored. After the success in writing The Storms Of October and The Tale Of Rachel And Her Knight In Shining Armor, I took the next five-week period on the boat to resurrect my long-dormant novel.
Godsend was finished during that one tour on the boat, in much the same manner as my two previous works. If you were to compare it to my decade-old notes, it would only bear a passing resemblance. Like I have described, the progress of Godsend came to me much like a TV movie and I could no more tell you what would happen next in the story as well as anyone watching the story unfold on their living room screen. What you have here is essentially exactly what was typed in that five weeks, except for the cleaning up of the worst spelling and grammar errors. As far as I am concerned, it is a joint work between myself and God, with Deity getting most of the credit. This is how my first goal was finally accomplished.
I am sorry to say that I have really taken very little time to write fiction since 1998. Most of my efforts since can be found on this website and are typically of a more practical nature and typically non-fiction. I still get notices fro my creativity, but most people who know me don't have a clue that I once wrote fiction and was thought of well for it. In getting Godsend ready for inclusion on this site, I noticed many things I wanted to change about it, like the horrible prelude (my first draft which I never threw out), and this might be my way to get back into fiction-writing: through the editing of my decades-old novel! Only the future and some significant free time will see if I ever get beyond my early accomplishment of my two writing goals.