Remember dial up internet? America Online? Those NetZero disks conveniently located at every store you went to? Ok, how about this: Gateway computers.

That’s what arrived on my porch one fine morning in the year of 1999. Gateway was a booming business, a leader in PC sales until that “Dude, you got a Dell” phenomenon took over. The cow-spotted box held my future within its styrofoam padded insides. I received a tower, printer, monitor, and even (gasp) a scanner.

I was ready to conquer the world. At least when I figured out how it all worked, anyway.

Keep in mind, youngsters, that at this point certain things that you take for granted didn’t even exist at that time. No Facebook. No Wikipedia. Not even Google. Amazon existed, but it wasn’t exactly a household name. The internet was a wild frontier with different companies, search engines, and fledgling social networks rising and falling with equal swiftness. I’d seen the Yahoo commercials on TV and made that my home page. (It remains so to this day despite my constant vows to rid myself of that stockpile of annoying articles. Blame it on nostalgia –or sheer laziness.)

I told myself that the sole purchase of buying a computer (an expensive investment in those days, I had to finance that bundle) was to further my nonexistent writing career. I would type to my heart’s content, save my work on floppy disks (Remember those? No? Man, I’m old.) and print my stories and crappy poetry right there at my own house.

But there was so much stuff online…

And so I learned early on that the internet is both the blessing and bane of a writer. Research is suddenly ridiculously easy –any subject on earth at the click of a mouse; all the history, definitions, synonyms, and name suggestions that you could possibly want. Pictures and illustrations to inspire your imagination at your fingertips. Copy and paste. Easy formatting. Spell check. You name it, you can do it with the utmost ease.

If you can ignore the endless, streaming, glittering distractions. Needless to say, the fight for balance is one that continues to this day. But back then it was all brand new. I wasted countless hours fooling around, browsing sites, and playing silly games while I acquainted myself with internet use. I even did a little research for stories that played out in my head.

And boy, did I have stories. But the main tale was a fantasy novel, one that had been forming in my head as I read Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and gazed admiringly at the fantasy art of artists like Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell and Brom among others. I wanted to incorporate those ideas into an epic series, a sweeping story that would be a nod to all the fantasy authors who inspired me.

It played around in my head for years. I’d start writing bits and pieces, but never got a good start. There was something I lacked, some elusive quality that kept me from pouring out that passion onto the waiting pages. You know what it was.