From my earliest memories, I remember being awe-struck with my Grampa’s ability to spin a tall tale. Even though he never wrote a word of his stories down, I thought it was such a powerful thing for a person to make an audience laugh – and even cry – with words. I didn’t realize the title, but from a young age I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Some years went by, and I chose the path of law enforcement (trust me, there are smoother roads to take). At 18, I was working part-time as a police officer. By 19, I’d landed the job as a correction officer and was working full-time behind a prison wall.
Then, on Christmas night in 1990, my National Guard Military Police unit was activated. For the next month, we trained for desert warfare in two feet of snow until we were deployed into the Middle East. As a squad leader, my job was easy enough – provide armed convoy escorts, patrol main supply routes, and collect POWs. It was anything but easy. Although the experience was absolutely terrifying, it was also life changing. At 23 years old, I was forced to question the truly important things in life – given that I had survived the war.
I returned home from Operation Desert Storm and was promoted to prison investigator. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time, so I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. Every week was the same – police, police, police. I finally raised my hand and said, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole…what about corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it – and would have to take the class again the next semester. In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?”
Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue (written under a pen name) on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.