When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend most of my free time trying to destroy it. I have several hobbies and ventures that include teaching and studying martial arts (mostly Chinese and Southeast Asian systems) for over 25 years, working full-time as a police officer and crime scene investigator, making a cable access and YouTube show called Weird-O-Rama, attending minor and major league baseball games, working on house projects, trying new recipes, watching B-movies and cult films, and flirting with my wife.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Mainly from other authors. I'm blessed to have many author and artist friends who either turn me on to their own work or to the work of someone they work with or admire. I also meet many authors at comic book and horror movie conventions around the country.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I can remember the first story I wrote that was published. It was called something like "A Weird Day at the Zoo" and was about a kid who goes to the zoo and discovers he can hear all the animals talking. Each animal had a different story. I wrote it in fifth grade and it was published as part of a literary magazine put together by high school students. Seeing my story in print is probably what gave me the writing bug.
What is your writing process?
I write down the idea as soon as possible to avoid forgetting it. It might sit in a journal for years, but at least its there. I knock out the basic plot (the three acts) in about a half-hour and start to flesh it out from there. I start with backstories for the main characters (if I'm writing a serial or anything the size of a novella or larger) and their motivation. I plot it out a lot like a screenplay, often seeing the scenes in my head like a film. I'm a "pantser," as the saying goes, in that the first draft is mostly written by the seat of my pants from scribbled notes. I then go back and polish it multiple times. I show it to my wife and a few others once it's done to get their opinions. I look for anything that can be cut and slash it without mercy. I work hard to only provide the stuff the story needs, or as Elmore Leonard said, "Leave out the parts readers tend to skip."
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My favorite book as a kid was "Harold and the Purple Crayon." I loved how his imagination could create monsters, boats, and entire worlds. I'm a bit surprised that book didn't lead me to becoming an artist. Writing is my strong suit, so I create worlds with my mind and pen instead of a crayon or paint and an artboard.
The first stories that made me want to become a writer were comic books I was reading in the early 1980's. Alan Moore's "Watchmen," Howard Chaykin's "Black Kiss" and "The Shadow," Keith Giffen's "Justice League International," Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns," and John Ostrander's "Suicide Squad" showed me that comics could be literature, so I wanted to write them.
The first short story I read that made me want to write was Harlan Ellison's "Shatterday." It was a simple premise (man accidentally calls own number and hears himself answer the phone) that he spun into a fantastic story. I loved that - a simple thing turned into a complex thing.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm lucky enough to know many great comic book artists and graphic designers. I put out a call to many of them with the project I have at the time (i.e., "I need a cover for an erotic spy novel.") and figure out who would be best for the project among those who reply. Everyone has a different style and approach and some are better suited for certain types of stories than others.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This list will probably change every few years, but here goes:
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey - This is still my favorite book of all time. It was the first book I read that made me feel I was on a journey with the characters. I felt like I'd made the trip through space with them.
2. Siddhartha - I read this in high school just as I was beginning in the martial arts systems I've been studying for so long. It was perfect timing. This book affected my personal beliefs and philosophies forever.
3. Night Shift - This collection of Stephen King short stories showed me that you could write great stuff without writing a massive novel. You could write many stories and they'd add up to the size of a novel. The stories were fun reads as well and shaped some of my earliest works.
4. Watchmen - I read the collected mini-series one summer and was blown away by it. Alan Moore upended the superhero genre and showed that characters in Spandex and who had atomic powers could be just as flawed and tragic as Shakespearean characters.
5. Step Right Up! - This autobiography of B-movie director William Castle makes the list so I can include at least one non-fiction title, because it's best book I've read this year so far, and because it's such a fun read. It's chock-full of great stories from Castle about what he went through making his classic horror films.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read a lot of old comics (from about the 1980's and back), some music magazines now and then, books on cult films and B-movies, "fun" fiction (nothing serious or depressing), fitness books, books on eastern philosophy, and I'm working my way through the entire Catholic Bible.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
We own both a Kindle and a Nook. I also read stuff on my Mac Air now and then. I have no preference.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Personal interactions. I make most of my sales at conventions and by meeting fans and potential readers. Cross-promotion also works well. I make comic books for many models and actresses. They promote me at one show or on their website and social media outlets while I promote them at another show and on my social media outlets and site. It's a win-win if we're at the same show.
Describe your desk
It's simple corner desk with one drawer that has scrap paper, a ruler, a tape measure, and some iPod cords in it. The only things on my desk are a printer, my laptop computer, router, an external hard drive, and a metal can cozy full of pens, pencils, and markers. I have a corkboard on the wall nearby with various notes on it, a scanner to my right, and the entire office is full of comic book art.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Rome City, Indiana in a modest house across the street from Sylvan Lake and on the edge of a woods. I was a classic "middle kid," so I had a lot of time alone to let my imagination go wild in the woods or lake. My father was a former comic book collector so he got me interested in them. That lead to me collecting my own and creating my own superheroes. That lead to writing short stories, and the rest is history. There wasn't much to do in our small town, especially since I lived across the lake from it, except swim, play in the woods, watch late night monster movies, and write. It was about perfect, really.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I met a comic book editor once who told me to try self-publishing as a means to get my foot in the door of the comic book business. I published my first comic, "Rocket Girl" #1, and fell in love with the freedom of self-publishing. I also took inspiration from bad material. There's plenty of it out there, and I knew I could write better stories.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Bringing pleasure to others by putting words on paper (or in an electronic file, as it were). Knowing I've entertained someone, even for just a few minutes, and helped them forget their sorrows, struggles, and stress is a great pleasure and honor.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. They keep me going. There have been plenty of times I was ready to walk away from self-publishing, but fans kept asking for new comics and new stories.
Who are your favorite authors?
Arthur C. Clarke, Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Moore, Keith Giffen, John Ostrander, Frank Miller, Howard Chaykin.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.