I still remember it. It was like an epiphany moment. I said to myself, "You mean I can actually learn how to write better?" I'd never thought about it before, but this book was the first of many writing how-to books after that. Guide to Good Writing, a compilation of Writer's Digest articles was another eye-opening book for me. I picked that one up for $1.00.
These two books were the ones that got me started, but they certainly weren't the last. I've read countless books on the writing craft, but I've come to realize I've probably learned the most from reading other novels. You pick up what works and what doesn't by immersion, really. Read enough, and you'll learn more than you might imagine.
As the years progressed, I kept plugging away on that first novel (its working title is Thicker Than Blood). Sometimes I'd put it down for a couple weeks or months, but I always ended up going back.
Then I saw the ad in Writer's Digest magazine . . .