An Open Letter to Dennis L. McKiernan

Dear Mr. McKiernan,

mithgarI first encountered your books when I was in 4th grade. At the time, I was tired of looking through the kids section of the library. I wanted to find a book as exciting to me as Star Wars and The Chronicles of Narnia. So I went in the adult books area.

Most of the books that adults read looked boring to me. Then I spied one of your books, which happened to be Tales of Mithgar. I especially like the tale (The Vulgmaster) where Tomlin, Urus, and Riatha go on a quest to rescue Tomlin’s love Petal from the evil necromancer Baron Stoke.

That tale had a big impact on my life. I wanted to write stories like that. Tales of good, but far from perfect people finding the courage, to take on the forces of evil head on. Most of all, I wanted to be brave in my own life, facing my Muscular Dystrophy head on.

I then started writing. But somewhere along the way I hit writers block. I would start stories but never finished, and I was convinced I was doing something wrong. So, like many aspiring writers, I decided to write to an author and ask for advice.

You were the first author I thought of emailing. Your wisdom taught me much about how to write, even more so than the local writing workshops. You were never a literary snob, and I appreciate your patience in response to my questions.

The one question I remember asking was along the lines of “What is your secret?”. And you said that there are “no silver bullets” when it came to writing; one just needs to write. And write I did. I joined the newspaper staff at my High School. I learned a lot about how to write well, how to outline, and how to edit my work. I even made the rank of editor.

And where did this drive come from? It came from all those emails I exchanged with you, and the courage to follow a dream.

After I graduated High School in 2011, I started planning a novel. A novel I would actually finish. One that had the elements I loved reading in your novels, and other writers.

Three months later, in August, I hit another roadblock in my writing; I got sepsis. I remember waking up, with a tube down my throat, a feeding tube in my nose, and IVs all over me. I wanted to scream. It was like a scene out of a horror movie. I felt fear that I’ve never felt before.

I thought I was going to die, or be put in a home, isolated from the world for the rest of my existence. In the hospital, all I did was think. I thought of killing myself, and end my life before my disease progressed. But that was evil Dark Lord called Despair talking. I realized I had more things to do. I still had dreams I needed to fulfill; a quest I needed to complete.

I wanted to write books. Tell tales of heroes. I then started the long road of recovery.

Six weeks later I made it back home. I got a tracheotomy. I had to learn how to speak again, eat, drink, and breathe without having a ventilator all the time. And I eventually made it to a computer, and started outlining my novel.

I finished draft 1 in November. It was pretty horrible. But I wasn’t ready to give up. I kept rewriting. A few months back, I had written seven drafts. I now have an editor, and she is going to start editing it this month. And between drafts, I got a short story published. And when I got the rights back I extended the story, and self-published it.

My career is looking very bright, thanks to you.

I will always be grateful for what you told that aspiring author many years ago. I salute you sir.


Jake Scholl


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