I went to my parent’s house last week to interview my father for his biography, and I ended up rummaging through the attic again to find a real treasure, the Writer’s Market 1991. It was from my first real stab at publication. I sent four query letters for my first novella, Dynotus Adventures, the story of a Greek demigod from an alternative Earth. It went something like this: After the gods of all the world’s pantheons duke it out for supremacy, only Zeus and Thor remain. In a titanic battle, the two gods kill each other off, and a child is born from Zeus and Amaterasu Omikami (of the Japanese Shinto religion). Their offspring, Zor, inherits Thor’s hammer and becomes the supreme god of the universe. As is the tradition of all Greek heroes, Zor has his way with a mortal woman, and she gives birth to Dynotus. Did I mention I was a weird 14 year old? Needless to say, this masterpiece of literature was never accepted by the four publishers I queried. But deep down, I knew my writing wasn’t quite ready for the world, so I set my dreams aside to further hone my skills. As for the Writer’s Market, it lay forgotten until last week. In back of the cover, I found this inscription:
|“To my favorite author, whose imagination will never die and whose spirit will remain Forever Free.”|
And that brought back memories of Dean Ristich. I am almost ashamed to admit that The Secret Life of Nick Alimonos makes no mention of him, but I can honestly say that without his encouragement, I would not have kept going all these years. Dean was a pizza cook at my father’s restaurant, and he was as different from my family as could be. He was calm, maintained the innocence of youth despite being in his thirties, and he valued imagination above all else. It was easy for him to become a father figure to me when my actual father was too busy with work. At the time, I was too young to comprehend labels like hippie, which is what many people considered him, but that was for the best, because I was able to judge him without any preconceived notions. Dean always took the time to listen to me, to read my stories, to entertain my crazy ideas. While my parent’s pursued money, he taught me how to appreciate the natural world, to truly wonder at all the plants and animals in the woods behind Country Pizza Inn. Much of his world-view made an indelible impression on me, and he ultimately inspired the character of Xandr’s mentor, QuasiI, from Ages of Aenya. Together we used to read my Masters of the Universe mini-comics, discussed endlessly how to make a time machine, and spent an entire summer building a raft out of a bed frame and three oil drums. In 1980, Thanksgiving Day, when I was five years old, he took me on the back of his dirt bike to the theater to watch The Empire Strikes Back.
One day, Dean had to go back home to Illinois. He was, after all, a drifter. Everything he owned was in his van. It was one of the most devastating things to happen to me. I remember telling him that he was my life-line; after all, I was a neglected child. But he had to go. We kept in touch for years over the telephone, and when I was 13 he sent me the Writer’s Market, because he believed in my writing potential when no one else did.
I owe much to Dean Ristich. If you’re out there, Dean, this post is for you.