I first met Robbie Cox through the social media Twitter. His warm, generous manner online translated easily into smart, open conversations which made me curious what kind of writer he might be. I was delighted to discover that he was living in Florida, not far from my own stomping grounds. He’s the author of Circle of Justice and his latest novella, Reaping the Harvest, (both available now on Smashwords) plus Robbie has been published in numerous religious, parenting, and retirement magazines. What I like is there’s nothing pretentious about Mr. Cox. When he’s not writing, he’s on the back porch chatting with the squirrels, enjoying a cigar with his scotch. Kick back with him now as I present to you my newest Guest Blogger, Mr. Robbie Cox.
Please add your comments after the post and feel free to ask questions! Robbie will respond to everyone who posts.
The Lesson Is In the Words
It was in ninth grade when I first started scribbling words across my wide ruled notebook paper. Up until then all of my story lines were fantasies played out in the privacy of my bedroom with the aid of my Star Wars action figures. During Miss Galbraith’s Algebra class, a friend handed me a copy of Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson, which I hid behind my math book to read while Miss Galbraith droned on about letters and divisions. I devoured the book. I hadn’t been much of a reader until right then and that book made me one for life.
However, it was the next novel, Terry Brook’s Sword of Shannara that drove me to write. It resembled the scenes I acted out with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo from my bedroom shelves. “I can do this,” I said to myself, and so while others were working out algebra equations, I was creating a world with dwarves, elves, and a magical sword called Zymarilas.
In eleventh grade, I took a Creating Writing class and had the good fortune of having Mr. Woertendyke for a teacher. At the same time, I had Miss Waseleski for American Literature and both pushed and encouraged me to keep writing. Miss Waseleski entered me into every writing contest that came across her desk. Furthermore, with Mr. Woertendyke’s vision, we created Spindrift, our high school’s very first literary magazine. By the time I graduated, I had won the Florida State Pride Award for both short stories and poetry and Spindrift was a continuing success. It gave me that itch and writing was what I knew I wanted to do with my life. My action figures went into a storage tub as my fantasies now went down on paper that I constantly carried with me.
Computers were kicking into high gear in the eighties and programming was the career path of choice for many of my friends. Sadly, I followed that trail, but technical speak was never my forte. I didn’t want to create games or build rockets. I wanted to create worlds and fill them with colorful people. Soon, I switched majors and went for a degree in literature while I continued to fill notebooks with stories.
My tales weren’t always fantasy, however. I also created mini dramas where I would reenact some pass scene in my life, making me out to be the hero. I corrected all of my memories where I had been the bullied kid and gave myself a backbone standing tall and proud. I fought back in my stories and created my own parallel universe where I had no regrets.
I began to send out my manuscripts and received dozens of rejections in return. Imagination was not enough. I needed craft and at that period of time I had none. Will and drive are great, but a writer also needs skill.
As I was studying everything I could to improve my chances at acceptance, I came across several articles about freelance writing. To be honest, at the time it just seemed to me like doing a school report. I hated doing those and rarely turned in a non-fiction report. Mine were always pure fiction. How I ever passed those classes, I will never know, but I did. Still, I decided to give freelance a chance. It wasn’t the writing I really wanted to do, but perhaps it was a start.
I sat down and typed up an incident that happened to me when I was younger that involved an uncle talking in his sleep and a nightmare I was having, an event which ended with the door slammed in my father’s face. My story, The Court Jester, sold to Fate Magazine and the rush to see my writing and my photo in a glossy magazine spurred me back to the typewriter. At the time, I was teaching Sunday school, so I figured why not convert a lesson into an article. I crafted a devotional piece on prayer called The Nagging Child and Decision Magazine bought it the first time I sent it out. I was hooked.
One of my greatest pleasures in life has always been teaching. I’ve led groups for couples, singles, and even assisted expecting fathers prepare for their new parenting role. Writing, to me, became an extension of that desire. The articles I sold were meant to inform and inspire. The goal was to help people in this journey we share. I was able to do that through parenting and religious magazines as well as a few newsletters. I continued to write my stories, but for fifteen years my focus shifted to writing lessons and encouragement, words that I had wished I had discovered when I was younger.
Three years ago that focus changed again to a stronger center. I wanted to break the stereotype of men because, well, I never fit into that category. I hate sports and I don’t get excited about cars. The Mess that Is Me was born to reveal that you don’t have to live your life like everyone else. You have to be true to you and sometimes that means breaking the mold that society wishes to cram us into for its own comfort. The blog pokes fun at me and a politically correct world while strengthening the importance of family. The life lessons I wanted to share took a deeper root and found a wider audience.
This mindset changed my fiction writing. The stories I tell have lessons. I don’t merely desire to entertain. I still want to teach and the reader, hopefully, gains both from reading my work. I believe art should change us, grow us into better and stronger human beings that force us to create a better world. That is my goal with everything I write and I find people absorb life lessons easier with a story they can recall. Even in fiction there should be truth, whether it’s a drama, fantasy, or erotic novel. How a writer tells a story is simply their way of teaching a lesson.
My writing journey has taken several forks, but the destination has remained the same. Not only do I hope the reader has laughed and cried, but even more so, I hope they pause to contemplate what’s before them and know they are not alone. We are all different and in that difference we are the same.
Yours Between the Lines,
Blog: The Mess that is Me