Many authors will tell you it’s important to work from the proper environment. A cat is essential to the creative process, and the sound of the ocean can get the creative juices flowing. I can’t exactly hear the ocean from my balcony, but I can imagine it, and imagination is the next best thing to reality. Sometimes, it’s better. If you don’t believe me, ask my cat. He won’t answer you, but cats are independent that way.
But then, I digress. (How many times has an author used that particular phrase in transitioning from one tangent to the next?) So, there I was on California’s beautiful Central Coast, editing my own weekly newspaper, writing my own books and living my own life the way I’d always dreamed.
Well, I did dream I’d have a little more cash in my pocket, and the newspaper wasn’t exactly mine: I was the editor, but it belonged to the company that employed me. The books weren’t all mine, either: Some of them were issued by my publisher. But the point is I had a publisher. Plus, a brilliant and beautiful wife who also happened to be an author, and, of course, the aforementioned cat. Who could ask for anything more?
That was at the beginning of 2018. Since then, staff cutbacks eliminated my position at the newspaper and forced a big change in my life. I moved away from California to another beautiful place, southern Virginia, and decided to devote myself to writing full time. I still produce books for my publisher (with two in the pipeline for publication), but I have my own imprint, too: Dragon Crown Books. I still have the same brilliant and beautiful wife, and, somehow, there are now four cats. So, life is good.
You're WHAT KIND OF WRITER?
Hey, even Stephen King wrote an epic fantasy. And J.K. Rowling finally stopped after seven Harry Potters to write a totally different sort of book under a nom de plume. So I figure I’m in good company being eclectic. I grew up in Fresno, California, so I wrote a book called Fresno Growing Up. My parents shuttled between our home and Southern California, where I spent six largely forgettable years of my childhood, on the Golden State Highway. So, I wrote a book about that, too: Highway 99: The History of California’s Main Street. Almost as much fun as the writing was the process of going on the road to take photos for both those books. I took photos for the newspaper, too, which didn’t make me Ansel Adams but it did make me, technically speaking, a professional.
I’ve written a novel for teens and anyone else who likes a good adventure, Identity Break. I’ve written a collection of short stories with a Twilight Zone-type twist (Nightmare’s Eve) and a fantasy about The Only Dragon. Then there’s that children’s story called Feathercap, my response to a request by my wife that I write her something for Christmas. I sat down at the keyboard, and eight hours later, there it was. Wouldn’t it be nice if all my books poured out so quickly? The Phoenix Principle, in two volumes, took me a decade to write and wound up being about 1,000 pages long.
I’ve published independently, and I’ve also published traditionally with Fresno Growing Up and Highway 99, along with the first two volumes of my planned fantasy adventure trilogy, The Memortality Saga. Next up: the history of another highway, U.S. 101, and a look at the evolution of department stores and shopping malls.
I’ve worked as a reporter, editor and columnists for daily newspapers, run a weekly publication, and I’ve even written copy for TV and radio back in my college days. My hairline may have receded all the way since then, but imagine a perm-frizzed greenhorn delivering sports scores via community access television in the early 1980s. Then again, you might not want to imagine that. The image was probably pretty frightening.
I became a reporter because I wanted to be a sportswriter, and I was fortunate enough to spend a decade doing that before moving on to run the news desk The Fresno Bee. This year, I’ve come full circle, producing a book called A Whole Different League that examines the history of innovative leagues that didn’t quite make it. During my research, I contacted Molly Bolin Kazmer, the leading scorer and a three-time all-star for the first women’s pro basketball league, with whom I worked extensively on my first biography, The Legend of Molly Bolin.
Go ahead, pigeonhole me - I dare ya
I love deadlines because I consider them a challenge, but I don’t care for outlines, even though my stories can be … complex. My typical nonfiction book draws on several hundred sources, and when it comes to fiction, I enjoy story lines that twist and turn in unexpected places. I have yet to write an epic fantasy, the likes of which I grew up reading, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
I’m tall to most people at 6-foot-5, but no, I didn’t play basketball in high school. And I didn’t look particularly tall when I interviewed Mark Eaton, then the center for the NBA’s Utah Jazz, who checked in at a full 11 inches taller than I was - and am (unless I’ve shrunk in middle age, which is entirely possible).
Philosophy’s a "thing" for me, and you might call me a fringe nerd. Turn the TV to any incarnation of Star Trek, and I’m there. But please don’t ask me to speak Klingon or tell you what happened - or will happen? - on which stardate. I’ve got other things to memorize, such as miscellaneous arcane rules of grammar, usage (lay vs. lie, further vs. farther) and so forth, which the general populace seems to have forgotten. I spent two decades as an editor, and it helps when you’re writing your own material. You won’t make a fortune as an author - unless you’re King or Rowling - so you’re well advised to get the most you can out of pride in your craftsmanship.
My inspiration? There’s a reason for the "muse" in music. When it comes to tunes, I’ll listen to everything from Billy Joel to Nightwish to George Strait to P!nk. It’s all good. I even went back to school for voice lessons and sing karaoke from time to time in an effort to soothe my frustrated wannabe Freddie Mercury alter ego. When you work night shifts on the copy desk, you don’t get the chance to try out for a rock band. Not that I’ve got the chops to actually sing with professional musicians.
I root for underdogs because I identify with them. There’s something American about that. Besides, the rewards are sweeter when they win, and I enjoy living vicariously through the achievements of others when mine aren’t coming fast and furious. Lately, though, I seem to be in a good groove, and I plan to stay there for the foreseeable future. If you keep your eyes open, chances are you’ll see something I’ve written, whether it be a book, a column, a blog or a newspaper article. I write. That’s what I do. And I’m privileged that enough of you folks out there enjoy it that I can actually make a modest living from it.
Books. Cats. Inspiration. Life is good.
Author - Craven Street Books
Author - Black Raven Books
Author - Pace Press
Author - Dragon Crown Books
The Tribune (San Luis Obispo)
The Fresno Bee
The Visalia Times-Delta
The Tulare Advance-Register
Fresno Unified School District
Assistant News Editor
News Editor, Assistant News Editor
Sports Editor, News Editor
Sports Editor, News Editor