After Francis Gwaltney died, I didn’t write another word of fiction until I was in graduate school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. I often worked very late at night in grad school, and sometimes to relax after finishing some research I’d start typing up a fictional scene, usually something with fantasy or horror elements. A couple of my colleagues read some of the stuff I was doing and seemed to find it of interest. I think that began to turn my mind back toward the possibility of writing for publication.
I was still doing a lot of reading at that time, but mostly short stories because grad school didn’t leave much energy for novels. I’d also discovered horror fiction and it was pretty influential on what I was writing. I finally completed a couple of stories that I thought were better, or at least as good, as some of the stuff I was reading, and I bought a copy of Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and started submitting.
The two decent stories I had were “Death Turned Away,” and “Haunting Place,” both of which eventually sold. At first I didn’t have any luck with them, though. A couple of places were closed to subs and didn’t even read mine. I got a couple of other rejections.
By then I was well into a novel, a fantasy entitled Swords of Talera, from a genre I typically call Sword & Planet. It was strongly influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars books, and by the Kregen books of Alan Burt Akers (aka Ken Bulmer) about Dray Prescot. I was so excited by this book that I wrote on it in all my spare time, and even wrote by hand when I was home for Thanksgiving. That was the absolutely most fun I ever had writing, and eventually that novel also sold, though I rewrote it several times first.