As one who loves to write, I enjoyed creating all my many published novels. But my comedy/sci-fi trilogy (Bicycling Through Space and Time, The Ultimate Bike Path, and The 22nd Gear, all from Ace/Berkley) provided me with the most fun I ever had—and ultimately, sad to say, some heartache.
A CASE OF THE “WHAT IFs”
I conceived of the idea for the series in the late ’80s, when I became a bicycling fanatic and rode anywhere from fifty to one hundred miles each time out. What if, I thought, my character, Jack Miller (a thinly disguised me), biked the same roads I did along the Southern California coast? And what if he encountered an alien who appeared as an Old Guy and implanted a 22nd gear on Jack’s 21-speed mountain bike? And what if that gear gave him access to a cosmic bike path along which numerous gates let him ride into Earth’s past and future, into literature, and into many other bizarre and wonderful—and scary—places? Oh, the possibilities were unlimited for someone with such a warped sense of humor!
But the publishing business being what it was—and still is—the books, released from the early to mid-’90s, received little to no promotion, and before the second book came out my editor informed me that the series was done, even though they would still publish the third one per our contract—and put it out of print a short time later.
So yeah, that’s where the heartache set in. I needed to pay bills, and child support, and buy food, and writing novels wasn’t exactly landing me in the top one percent. Thus began my self-imposed seventeen-year hiatus from writing, a financially successful period of my life, but one with a great creative void.
BACK TO THE KEYBOARD
But over the past eight or nine years, all of that changed. First in my semi-retirement, and now fully retired, I published six new books and revised/reissued nearly my entire backlist, more than a dozen titles, under my own imprint, Atoris Press. (They’re all available on Amazon.) Now, there are only three books left to put out there. Yep, the Bicycling trilogy. Subconsciously or otherwise, I saved those for last.
So I’ve just begun revisions on Bicycling Through Space and Time, and I’m guessing it should be available in early Spring, if not sooner. Because there are so many ’90s and earlier references in the three books, I thought about updating them. But for the most part I’m going to leave them as is and present each book with the subtitle, “A Retro Ride.” They should still resonate with Millennials and Gen-whatevers.
In case you can’t wait to partake of my warped sense of humor, have a taste of it in my Sword & Planet spoof, The Wizard from Harrmel. Regularly $4.99 for the Kindle edition, it will be available for $1.99 from today (1/15) through Friday, 1/19.) For now, enjoy a sample from Bicycling Through Space and Time.
CHAPTER ONE: THE OLD GUY
There was this room, this really strange white room. It was where I first saw the Old Guy.
I mean, who ever heard of everything being white? The floor and walls, a sectional sofa, an end table, a floor lamp, the whole thing! There was even a solid white framed picture hanging on one wall. (I only knew that because I bumped into it. Untitled; might have been Casper eating a powdered donut or the KKK doing the downhill at Aspen.)
What was even stranger was how I got into this white room. Because I don’t have a clue.
The last thing I remember was walking along Broadway in downtown San Diego, near Horton Plaza. Interesting area. Here’s this beautiful multilevel shopping mall with brightly colored architecture and lots of neat trendy shops—fronted by a little park filled with dozens of down-and-outers.
Anyway, it was midmorning and I’d just biked here from my place in Del Mar, about twenty-five miles up the coast. Don’t know why, on a Wednesday. I had this urge to see preoccupied men and women in proper business attire scurry in and out of office buildings, or to cross streets crammed with cars, trucks, taxis, and buses. It usually happens about as often as Qaddafi goes to a bar mitzvah.
So, after locking my bike in front of the plaza, there I was, waiting to cross Fourth Avenue, surrounded by lots of the aforementioned wage slaves, three down-and-outers, and a young male Chicano with the world’s biggest and loudest dual-speaker Sony radio superglued to the side of his head.
Now I was here, in this white room, with the Old Guy—who was coming toward me.
“You want to know what’s happening,” he said.
Surprise, the Old Guy was dressed in white, something like pajamas with enormous sleeves and no visible fasteners. His complexion was mostly white, but flecked with tiny dark spots, like his face had been carved from a block of Oreo Cookies & Cream. He didn’t seem to be crotchety-old, like Scrooge before the ghosts, or lovable-old, like Marcus Welby or Gramps on Lassie, but crotchety-lovable-old, like Uncle Charlie on My Three Sons or any character played by Wilford Brimley. Though stooped, he moved around quickly with short steps.
“Well, do you?” He was in my face now.
“Do I what?” Unlike his voice, mine sounded hollow in the room.
“Want to know what’s happening?”
“For openers, that would be good.”
He fluttered his fingers, like dismissing an irritating kid. “Don’t worry, everything’s cool.”
The Old Guy stuck a finger in his ear and twirled it around. “Didn’t I say it right?”
This was starting to annoy me. “Look, if you don’t tell—!”
“Yes, okay.” He pulled the finger out. “I didn’t think you’d be so excitable.” He looked me over carefully, like he wasn’t sure about something. “No, there can’t be a mistake. You are Jack Miller.”