For decades I tried to grow avocado trees from the seed, always with no luck. I finally succeeded in my autumn years when I bought and planted a sapling from the nursery, and two years later it produced a crop of seventeen avocados.

            I didn’t start writing until middle age either. I co-wrote and self-published a memoir about a famous surfer and followed up with a self-help marketing book. Writing both books came with rich histories, through my co-authors’ life experiences and expertise.

            Fiction is different. You must imagine a unique idea that’s never been published. That’s where the avocado tree comes into play. The idea for my first novel, Orphans of the Sahara, came semi-grown, a sapling, if you will. A friend was six years old in 1960 when her mother left her and two younger siblings overnight in the parking lot of a Las Vegas casino. I thought, “Were other kids also left out in the parking lot that night?”

             The sapling was planted. Now all I had to do was create a plot, characters, and dialogue.

            Ideas for a story are the flowers on an avocado tree that produce fruit. Authors like Dan Brown probably have ideas coming at them from all directions, like the plethora of blackberries I harvest each Spring from my backyard bushes. My daily walks also produce ideas occasionally. Eventually they accumulate and fall into place organically, a jigsaw puzzle of sorts.

            Other ideas for my book came from different sources. One from my son’s new job at the SLS Vegas, formerly the Sahara Hotel & Casino. Another came working at the Boys & Girls Club when five-year-old Reilly walked in wearing one zori and one rainboot. When asked why two different shoes, she gleefully replied, “Because I couldn’t find my other zori, silly!” That one incident led to the creation of a main character and my foray into writing dialogue.

            I spent several years writing, rewriting, second-guessing myself, editing, and revising, then I got smart and hired a professional editor who gave me the confidence to put myself out there and look for an agent.

            I now had a unique story bursting with ideas or “avocados,” validated by an industry professional. I was ready to look for an agent, but when I looked around, to my dismay I found myself deep in the middle of a dense avocado grove full of fellow authors’ great ideas.

Reality hit. Creating a story from my unique idea or sapling was the easy part.