In 1978, after coauthoring two books with Michael Pardee, I was ready to take the plunge to go solo as a writer. My skill set had grown; I’d learned to program the elegant 6502 microprocessor in the Apple One. I discovered Woz BASIC, built into the Apple, and fell in love. BASIC’s simplicity was outstanding; you could write a program using simple English statements like GOTO and POKE/PEEK. Any program errors were displayed as you typed.
I started writing the manuscript for BASIC Programming Primer using an electric typewriter (there were no word processors yet).
While writing the book, an attractive young lady visited my houseboat and introduced me to a white powder that offered extraordinary stamina. I could hammer away at the typewriter in the morning, watch the sun go down, and typing like a banshee; I’d see the sunrise the following day. Yet I was not the least bit tired. For weeks I hardly ate or slept. I had reached Nirvana; my writing became far more creative than in the past, and with so much energy and devotion, it took only three months to finish. It didn’t matter that I’d lost 20 pounds; my output was worth it. I mailed the manuscript to Howard W. Sams with great anticipation, particularly proud that if you took the first letter of every sentence on a page, it spelled out the answer to an exercise in the back of the book. How cool was that?
There was only one problem.
A week later, the publisher returned the manuscript with a note that said, “we can’t figure out what you are doing with this book. Could you submit a new outline and simplify the contents?”
I was devastated. At that moment, I realized I had an addiction and had nothing to show for the massive effort of the last months. At that moment, I had dug myself a hole and had to climb out of it.
How did I find my way out? The key was Tony Clementino, an incredible therapist who helped me climb out of the hole I’d dug, get me through the withdrawal and provide insights that are still with me today.
Yet I still needed to finish the BASIC book, so I turned to my dear friend Michael Pardee again. Besides being a great guitar player, programmer, and elegant writer, Michael knew how to make an outline we could finish. Like our prior Microcomputer Primer, he taught me how to organize the subject and rewrote my chapters until they sounded beautiful.
This time Howard W. Sams was satisfied with the manuscript, and BASIC Programming Primer became another best seller. Two years later, the second Edition with the spiral-bound cover sold more copies and established my writing career. I would be in debt to Michael for the rest of my life.