Alex Rath, Author

Military Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

Almost 10k words down in With Your Shield this weekend, and I may not be done. I was thinking today about my inspirations for writing. Not books I’ve read, but authors I’ve met and talked to.

The first brush I had with authors was probably back in about 1994 or so. I was a volunteer for TSR Online on AOL. For the younger folks, TSR was the company that published Dungeons & Dragons before Wizards of the Coast bought them out. During my time there, I handled setting up Q&A sessions between authors and game developers, and the fans on AOL. Among the folks I got to work with were Ed Greenwood, Colin McComb, and Elaine Cunningham. Working with Colin was great (not least because I got an early copy of Birthright and was playing it months before it released). The best though, was Elaine Cunningham, most well-known for her work in the Forgotten Realms setting. I was pretty cash-poor at the time, and we ended up talking on the phone about her upcoming Q&A. She asked if I’d read all of her work, and modules, and I indicated that I hadn’t, and couldn’t really afford to buy much. So, what did she do? She mailed me a big box with a copy of everything she’d produced up to that point for D&D. We also talked a little about writing, and she encouraged me to do it. Unfortunately. I didn’t follow her advice at the time.

The second was David Drake. I met David at a small bookshop in Columbia, South Carolina, which no longer exists, called the Happy Bookseller. It closed in 2008 unfortunately, unable to compete with the big name bookstores that were opening up. Anyway, my wife and I went there to have our copies of, I think it was Queen of Demons, signed. I’d only read his fantasy work. Only us and one other person showed up, but he actually enjoyed it. We sat with David for an hour and he told us about being a writer, getting cover art done, and about how his time in Vietnam inspired much of his writing with the Hammer’s Slammers, which I’d never heard of, but devoured after that. Again, I talked to David about my own desire to eventually write, and his advice, like Elaine’s, was to do it!

David also referred me to another author I’d never heard of, named David Weber. I started reading David’s Honorverse, and haven’t stopped yet. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to spend a decent amount of time with David (who only let me call him Mr. Weber once) and talk to him and his wife, Sharon. They’re amazing people. I even found out that David and I went to the same high school, years apart of course. Again, David encouraged me to pursue my desire to write, but I wasn’t quite in the right head-space yet.

The last, of course, was Chris Kennedy. I’ve already talked a bit about that, so I won’t belabor the point. Suffice to say if it weren’t for Chris’ encouragement and dedication to helping first-time authors get published, you still wouldn’t have heard of me.

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