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Ten years ago today, my first novel came out.

This isn’t an April Fool’s joke, nor was it then. In fact, I’m happy to say that my less-than-entirely-auspicious debut date turned out just fine for me: ten years on, the book is still in print (though it likely won’t be for much longer). In the interim, I’ve published ten other novels, with twelfth due out on Tuesday, which ain’t a bad run for that span of time.

In celebration of that anniversary, and as a lead-up to the publication of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, we’re going to have Five Days of Fiction! Each day will feature a question, with guest answers from various authors of my acquaintance, and a chance for others to weigh in via comments or Twitter. Anybody who responds to the question will be eligible for a book giveaway: some days it will be one of my books, while others will be books that have had a big influence on me. You have until the next day’s question gets posted to answer; after that I’ll pick a winner.


To start us off, let me ask: what’s the earliest story you remember ever writing? Pretty much all of us made up stories at some point, even if we didn’t wind up pursuing it as a more serious hobby or career. How old were you? What kind of story was it? Did you ever show it to anybody?

One lucky respondent will receive a copy of Doppelganger — not Witch; I’m scouring the wilds of the internet to find the original edition, the one that came out on April 1st, 2006.

For me, the answer is a little mystery story I wrote when I was (I think) eight. The woman babysitting me and several other kids that summer taught us out to make little bound books with cardboard and cloth; mine was red, and I wrote a story about a girl named Jessica whose cat was stolen. I felt obliged to fill all the pages of the little book, so as I went along in the story, my handwriting got larger and larger . . . and then in desperation, when Jessica was going to get on a plane after rescuing her cat, I listed everything she packed, because I didn’t want any blank pages left. Yeah. Not exactly proof of future genius, that. :-P

And now for the guest responses! Find out what ~fabulous~ ideas the pros had when they were six . . . .


In second grade I wrote a story for school about a boy, his robot dog, and their space-rocket adventures. It was two pages long, and opened with a fight against a space dragon. By the middle of the second page I had run out of ideas, and so revisited the space dragon. Which they soundly defeated. — Tim Akers, author of The Pagan Night

I honestly don’t remember. I was always writing. Which one was the first, I could not tell you. I CAN tell you that my dad kept until the day he died the first POEM I ever wrote. Aged five. On the topic of a broken alarm clock. Don’t ask me, I can’t tell you what I was thinking. — Alma Alexander, author of Empress

I have a notebook from first grade (with Snoopy on the cover) and it contains the following story:

Andy rolled rocks down the hill.
Amy saw Andy roll rocks. It looked fun.
They rolled rocks together.

My first fantasy story was an Anne McCaffrey fan-fic several years later. . . — E. C. Ambrose, author of Elisha Barber

There’s a whole pile of preschool juvenilia in my parents’ basement, but the first story I actively remember working on was a medieval knights-and-princesses spy thriller very heavily based on my favourite Lego Castle set. It was early training in working out stories that had space for me even though the tools you have only give you one little yellow lady head. — Leah Bobet, author of An Inheritance of Ashes

It was a pastiche of The Six-Million-Dollar Man, but all his cyborg parts were tricked out with spikes and stuff. Even as a kid, I was all about playing with other peoples’ ideas. — Harry Connolly, author of The Great Way

‘Fritz’s Rescue’ about a dog who, well, rescued people. It was written on my father’s typewriter, and illustrated in felt tip. I was seven. — Jaine Fenn, author of the Hidden Empire series

This is where I admit that I really didn’t write much fiction—other than school assignments—until I was in my early 30s. I know I wrote stories for grammar school English classes, but I don’t remember what they were about. It wasn’t until college that I wrote something that wasn’t for a specific course. The first 4-5 pages of an SF novel, which I would describe as the very first shoots of the Jani Kilian stories. I don’t recall what I wrote, though I know my protagonist was a young—early 20s—female revolutionary. But I can’t remember the details. — Alex Gordon, author of Jericho (coming out on Tuesday!)

My parents have a ‘book’ that I wrote when I was around nine years old. It’s basically a pasteboard cover wrapped in fabric and a bunch of blank pages between, all self-constructed. It’s quite an eclectic collection illustrated in crayon. There’s an SF story about an alien that I met and helped return to Mars, a fantasy ‘retelling’ of my favorite book at the time which bears no resemblance to the actual story in the book, a few poems (one quite dark about my will to live being gone), and some family folklore. There’s even an author photo in back, which is really just a polaroid glued onto the last page.

I also have to share that the first actual story I wrote was when I was twelve. It was an original fairy tale about a spoiled princess named Oriana and the dangerous robber Bad Bart who rescued her from other dangerous robbers and turned out to be her long-lost childhood peasant friend. It was TEN WHOLE PAGES typed! I was so proud. I would also like to point out that I wrote this a few years before The Princess Bride came out, so astonishingly, that wasn’t an influence. — Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven

I cannot recall the title I gave it but it was a thinly veiled rip-off (I was nine years old and didn’t know the word ‘homage’) of the Bill Badger stories by a classic English children’s author Denys Watkins-Pitchford, aka ‘BB’. I was always making up stories before that but I’m pretty sure this was my first attempt at writing a book-length one down. By book length I mean school exercise book! — Juliet McKenna, author of The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass

I was six. I remember clearly because I was in love with my first grade teacher, Mrs. Pace and she said I was very creative. The story was about a young orphaned girl who had to go live with a giant called “Monster Mouth” who was actually very kindly, but chewed with his mouth open. Turns out the young girl taught Monster Mouth to chew with his mouth closed and he was able to go out in public. I really wish I still had this story. I’m sure my memory of it is far too polished for what I actually wrote. — John Pitts, author of Night Terrors (due out on April 11th!)

I was eight years old and it was a tiny tale about meeting a ghost, so my tendency to write the fantastic was already established. The stories that followed were about meeting a giant ant and what would happen if gravity was turned off. — Sean Williams, author of Hollowgirl

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Date: 2016-04-01 07:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marycatelli.livejournal.com
A Lord of the Rings pastiche when I was in middle school -- Mary Catelli (author of Madeleine and the Mists and A Diabolical Bargain 0:)

Date: 2016-04-01 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] diatryma.livejournal.com
It was about a tree and my mother wrote it on the cardboard from a legal pad. I think there was an illustration of some type, possibly a big circle of legal paper to be the tree, maybe a rectangle, I don't know, near the lower right corner. It may have been sort of a Giving Tree kind of story, who knows. I was quite young.

Date: 2016-04-01 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] diatryma.livejournal.com
First story I can remember writing, like first story that was a whole story, was titled 'The Deer at the Door' and was in first grade or so. Got me to a Young Authors event of some sort.

Date: 2016-04-01 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com

I began making books out of paper towels when I was six. The parents promptly threw them away, because they were full of flying children. So I wrote one for them, with proper kids (the girls even with short hair, which I loathed) playing proper games on the playground. Guess which one made it into my scrapbook? I look at that thing and think: market research.

But the other ones still call to my heart.

Date: 2016-04-01 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marycatelli.livejournal.com
Parents have no taste.

Date: 2016-04-01 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com
That's what I thought!

Date: 2016-04-01 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kurayami-hime.livejournal.com
Third grade, "The Adventures of Liz and Mary," a story about two mice that won some ribbon or another in the Cultural Day Festival. I'd actually come up with the story in second grade when I was still in Montessori school - and probably wrote it down then - but what I really remember was making mice out of pears and licorice and then building a house for them. There was also the "opera" in first grade about the school guinea pig turning into a monster and the class having to come together to save the town, but while it was performed, I don't know if it was ever written down.

And I officially remove myself from the competition for any variety of reasons, not the least of which is I have the first edition Doppelganger. :P

Date: 2016-04-01 11:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alessandriana.livejournal.com
I honestly don't remember what came first-- I know I had terrible self-insert X-Files fic during middle school, though, in which me and my best friend were FBI agents who met Mulder and Scully. :)

Date: 2016-04-02 03:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cgbookcat1.livejournal.com
In elementary school (maybe 4th grade?) I wrote a story for a Young Authors competition. It was about a girl whose fingernails never stopped growing. Mom still has it somewhere.

Date: 2016-04-02 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] colleen o'rourke (from livejournal.com)
I was about 7 or 8 and wrote what was basically fanfiction of a kids series about horses I was reading at the time and though I was creating this grand sweeping epic but when I looked at the page after I had finished I actually only had about two paragraphs.

Also I thought I made up the name Carson City because I wanted to name it after my favorite character in the books but lol, no.


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