September 20. The novel is finished! - Douglas Playa
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September 20. The novel is finished!

I began writing during the years that Denise and I operated the Double D Ranch in Arizona. Our guest ranch was not one of those sprawling resorts near Phoenix and Tucson with tennis courts, waterslides, and free-form swimming pools, but an intimate ranch with only a few guests in attendance at a time. The kind of ranch where horseback riding was the singular attraction.

The novel formed in my mind while guiding visitors on horseback through the rugged terrain of the Black Mesa country. I wondered who might have ridden these same trails and also imagined what might have drawn them to the high desert of central Arizona.

One snowy winter day, I commandeered one of the guest rooms for my writing studio and began to write. I soon found that I did not know much about the craft required to write a novel. This realization fell upon me like a pile of bricks. I had thought that writing might be like telling a story around a campfire, a skill I had quickly acquired as part of my ranch duties. My desire to learn to write led me to seek advice from established authors offering mentoring services to beginners like me. I traveled to seminars in Qu├ębec, Albuquerque, and Tucson and enrolled via Internet in the Gotham Writing School in New York City.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to find my way. My mentors wisely junked my idea of beginning my writing education by trying to fill the vast canvas of a novel, and instead, they started me on short stories, a craft I mastered by drawing on my campfire tales. A number of my short stories appeared in Arizona publications, national literary magazines, and Internet e-zines, and eventually I got lucky and won Third Place in a Barnes and Noble short story fiction contest and actually got paid. Oh, happy day!

This event gave me the confidence to pull my manuscript from the drawer where it had resided since my foray into short story writing, and I doggedly began anew.

Then catastrophe struck.

In January 2010, I was diagnosed with brain cancer. I lay in a hospital for three months and fretted. “Would I ... could I ... write again? Was my novel a lost cause?”

Many times I thought to destroy the manuscript with the self-aggrandizing flourish of 1930s authors Fitzgerald and Hemingway, but lucky for me, Denise counseled caution. “You will write again,” she said. “Be patient. Look at it this way. We are returning to Mexico soon. What will you do once we get there?”

“Fly fish,” I said.

“That might not happen,” she said, “at least not until your paralyzed left side improves. So why not refocus?” She tossed my dog-eared manuscript onto the hospital bed. That was eight months ago.

I finished my novel, Greed, A Love Story last week. It now sits on my publisher’s desk. We hope for a release date sometime this winter.

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