I posted the first story I ever wrote not too long ago, but I’ve had reason to reflect lately on what my first published work was. My bio says it was my story “Soul Food” (1999) in the now-defunct magazine Hoodz, but I recently dug up my true first foray into print: a fanboy letter in the comic book Starman. April 1997, Issue #29, Starman was one of my favorite comic books at the time and made me a fan of writer James Robinson. So much so, that I wrote him a letter:

Dear Starman, Before I read part three of “Hell and Back,” I felt the need to go back and re-read issues #0-25, including the letter columns. I came across your work rather late, so I’ve had to go back-issue hunting (always the best part of collecting, so I’m not complaining) and only recently finished my set of Starman. I just wanted to let you know a few thoughts of mine. I have found that in my comics shop buying, your biggest, most fervent fans seem to be frustrated, unpublished (or both) writers. I guess I am in that category. Be that as it may, I wanted to cast another vote for you to give advice to struggling writers. I myself an going through the rejection phase of my career–that bold step where a writer sends his material out into a hostile world so that editors who have had bad days can crush your dreams with a form letter (Again, I’m not complaining: a) this is considered paying one’s dues; and b) short of a comic-book career, the market for short horror fiction is somewhat limited). Now to a topic I wish for you to address in your letter column (allow another digressions: don’t let people pressure you all into regular columns. I enjoy the Shade Journals even more than the letter columns). At some point can you go into a list of your top five favorite movie directors? You seem to be a person who enjoys his movies. Other than comics, rare horror movies are the only other thing I collect (although The Wicker Man still eludes me). My top four directors are 1) Spike Lee, 2) Alfred Hitchcock, 3) Akira Kurusawa, and 4) Martin Scorsese. John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, and the Hughes Brothers all have honorable mentions. I was just curious who your favorites included. Maurice G. Broaddus
To which the editor replied:

Maurice, I’ll try to get James to do a special “advice column” one of these days for potential new writers. Sorry the writing gig has been tough so far. Hang in there, but. Also, I called James to get a short list on your question. In no particular order, his top six directors are: Hitchcock, John Ford, Scorsese, Signey Pollack, Sam Fuller, and Orson Welles. This led into a frighteningly “Starman”-like conversation in which he corrected me on how it was Roman Polanski, not John Huston, who directed Chinatown.

Never let it be said that I’m above very public whining. Or nerd-boy behavior. At any rate, I can’t remember if Mr. Robinson ever got around to his advice column, but the letter was read by my fellow horror writer, Wayne Allen Sallee, also a fan of the book. He took it upon himself to write me an encouraging letter and we struck up a friendship. He convinced me to attend the World Horror Convention in 2002 where he introduced me around. I entered their short story contest, and my story, “In the Shadows of Meido”, received an honorable mention. Admittedly, the true highlight of the con was hanging out with Neil Gaiman. I went to the World Horror Convention the following year and won their short story contest. That story, “Family Business”, is now out in the latest issue of Weird Tales Magazine.

Wow, this was a long way to go for an ad for myself.