I was in the sixth grade. San Andreas school in Pacifica, California, the late 60s. Our teacher would write all of the day’s assignments on the blackboard, and each table of six students would work together to get through them. When finished, you went to the back of the room where each student had a card, green on one side, red on the other. You turned your card from red to green and spent the rest of the day working on extra credit.
One day I chose to write a short story. The next day, my teacher handed me a theme book. She said from that day forward my only extra credit was to fill that theme book with stories. How cool was that? Every day my extra credit time was spent writing in that theme book.
We moved away about halfway through the sixth grade; never saw that teacher again… or that theme book.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I started reading at a very young age. I vividly remember picking up an old paperback of War of the Worlds. My mother said I was seven, and that sounds about right. What I remember was the great cover. A Martian ship on metal tripod legs. Being that I was only seven, I didn’t get any of Wells’ religious and political philosophizing. To me it was just about a guy wandering the landscape during the alien invasion.
I was about eleven or twelve when I started buying books through Scholastic Book Services at school. A lot of them. That’s where my allowance went. I was drawn to books that took me out of the ordinary. Two that I remember distinctly were “The Ghost of Dibble Hollow” and “The Forgotten Door”.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first fully developed story I ever wrote was called “Michael”. I was twelve. It was about a kid who would sneak off to a shack in the woods every day, where he was working on some fantastical machine. Then one day he didn’t come home. After a few days, his family and his teachers began noticing something odd. Things related to Michael started disappearing. Little things at first, like clothes and belongings… then his name vanished from the class attendance book; it all grew more and more bizarre till one day his mom stepped into the hallway and his bedroom door was gone.
My writing, like my reading, has always been about taking me out of the ordinary, away from the day-to-day… I want to go out there…
What are you working on next?
I have a number of projects in development.
I’m in the middle of the Black Tower serial, a series of thirteen short novellas based on my television pilot and series bible; new episode every four or five weeks out to the end of 2014.
I’m in early development of the second book in the Prince of the Frontier Worlds series. This is the follow-up to Shipwreck on ShadowWorld. I’m developing the screenplay parallel to the young adult novella.
I’m deep into the final book in the Shylmahn trilogy, and I have two other screenplays in early stages of development, a feature and a miniseries.
Who are your favorite authors?
Growing up, there was Brian Aldiss, John Christopher, John Wyndham; I was big on the British science fiction writers back then. I really went in for those books where something bad happened to the Earth, and how do ordinary people with it. That concept has been a major influence on my own writing.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Other than my own work, the books that come to mind are all from the past: Dune, Greybeard, No Blade of Grass, Day of the Triffids, and for something completely different, Watership Down.
Dune was Frank Herbert’s epic masterpiece. None of his work before or after came close. The universe he created, the depth and diversity of the characters that populated that universe, the tightly interwoven fabric of the storylines, absolutely flawless.
Greybeard, No Blade of Grass, Day of the Triffids were three of the “end of the world” books written by the British science fiction writers that I read throughout my teenage years. You throw some disaster at our planet and see how ordinary people deal with it.
And as for Watership Down… I was completely drawn into Adams’ wonderful story, the amazing world of those rabbits. It just made me feel good. One of the few books I’ve read more than once.
Honorable Mention: half a dozen others, including “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
How do you approach cover design?
I want the cover to accomplish two things. It should 1) reflect well on what’s inside, and 2) make the potential consumer of that book take a serious look. One could argue it’s all about the second thing, but I think both are important.
I also want my covers to be absolutely unique and identifiable as mine.
Most of my covers start out life as photographs from my mountain climbing. When sitting down to design a cover, I go through hundreds of photographs and find four or five that might work. I then take those pics and use graphics software to adapt them into something suitable, run them through various image effects until I get what I'm conceptualizing in my mind. Does the modified image bring the same emotion as the story inside? When I look at the cover, does it hint at what is inside?
And of course it must accomplish those two items I first mentioned, including encourage the potential buyer to take a serious look at the book.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use Kindle, though I started out reading ebooks on my Droid using the Kindle app.
I have to admit that I’m a relatively recent convert to e-readers; was fine for others, but give me my print books. Then, a couple of years ago, I was sitting in a waiting room with only my smart phone. And I was going to be there all day…
I downloaded the Kindle app. I found and downloaded a couple of free sci-fi classics written about a hundred years ago, and then spent the day living out amazing adventures.
Moving a few months later to a Kindle e-reader was a natural transition. Love it. Yes, I still have my library, always will, but these days I’m as likely to pick up my Kindle as a printed book.
And it has a very cool black leather cover.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I founded a nonprofit community center several years ago for people with disabilities and their families. When considering ways I might fund the center, first to come to mind were the book royalties. That then led me to the idea of establishing a publishing company and then contributing 100% of the proceeds from my book sales.
So I pulled my titles together and created Greybeard Publishing. Print or ebook, it all goes through Greybeard Publishing; what proceeds come in go to the fund to open and maintain the community center.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I do a lot of hiking and mountain climbing, started after my son was injured in Afghanistan. I’m training to climb Mt. Rainier next summer, my grandson making the ascent with me. We're summiting Rainier in honor of his dad... my boy.
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