From Glory to Guts, to Hopefully Glory Again
I may be one of a select few whose ambition to play professional major league baseball segued, quite cleanly, in fact, to a desire to become a fiction author. Though I played baseball until I was 14 -- and still love it -- the decision around age 8 to become a writer was irrevocable. It changed faces on occasion, in the form of designing videogames or writing films, but the selfsame undercurrent of storytelling remained unbreakable.
So let me back up. I was a sports fiend as a little kid, and would read those Matt Christopher novels about triumphs in baseball, basketball, football, etcetera. When putting those books down, I was taken not with a desire to run outside to play said sport, as might be the expected inclination, but to sprint to my desk (actually the living room table, where, to my parents’ annoyance, I would spread like Caesar my kingdom of papers and toys) and carve out my own sports stories, stories like “Bases Loaded”, my baseball epic, and “The Tournament of Golf”. As you can tell -- especially from the former, ripped as it is straight from the videogame of the same name -- titles were not my strong suit.
Well, to make a semi-long story semi-short, my program of reading and writing became more omnivorous, chewing its way out of the sphere of sports into that of Bruce Coville (My Teacher is an Alien), Gary Paulsen (Hatchet), Mark Twain (Really necessary?), Lynn Reid Banks (The Indian in the Cupboard) and Lois Lowry (The Giver). And, yes, I read all those R.L. Stine Goosebumps books. And, around 9 or 10, I got my first feed of Stephen King.
My brain, it seemed, became fixed in “speculative fiction” mode, only secreting dopamine, or one of those happy chemicals, at ideas containing some element of the fantastic. Beginning with “Aliens In My Backyard!”, the tradition continues to this day, whether in outright science fiction or horror, or in the exploration of more subtle phenomena like synchronicity, psychic intuition or near-death experiences -- literary stories with a cream-center of the inexplicable, let’s say.
So, at 19, I sold my first short story, “The Hand of Spudd”, about a pimply-faced God crafting the Earth for a science fair project. This inaugurated a stream of income throughout my twenties that, left alone, would have allowed me a meal every eight or nine months. Needless to say, I did have day jobs, from construction to assistant teaching, as I sold stories to scattered publications, including the journal of the college I was kicked out of, and scribed novel after novel, one a year for my twenties.
Finally, at 28, I released with Solstice Publishing my novel Skunk Ape Semester, about an American road trip to places of strange repute, with a focus on Bigfoot haunts. Loosely based on my own similar travels, it met with a warm reception from readers who enjoyed reading between the genre lines, as well as those in the paranormal community who appreciated its method of initiating, through fiction, those people who may not read the nonfiction paranormal books, and so might not appreciate some of the truly incredible and weird things of which our universe is capable.
Much of my writing, and all the interests, questions and fascinations that come tumbling out through it, feel inborn, sprung from some restless, unsatisfied center of my mind. However, I’m not Truman Capote, who, in all pomposity, claimed no influences. Not only is that arrogant, it’s impossible. My influences, my motivations, have been myriad, from a whole slew of authors -- let’s see, real quick: Dante, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Twain, Whitman, Poe, Jules Verne, Sinclair Lewis, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Lovecraft, Steinbeck, Jack London, Nathanael West, Jack Kerouac, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Yann Martel, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Neale Donald Walsch, Doris Lessing -- to some remarkable people I’ve been infinitely fortunate to encounter, befriend, and sometimes, be intimate with. Their support, their stimulation, whether intellectual or otherwise, has been invaluable.
I have noticed, as I grow in years as well as in craft, that what you gain in pursuing your calling you lose in simple illusions, and simple doing-ness. When I wrote as a kid, it was more or less a bodily function. I did it because I did. It had to come out. Now, I’m so aware of “the art”, of “the audience”, and so have to consciously relinquish, if possible, some of that awareness every time I plunge into the page. Thankfully, barring much distraction, I’m able to lose myself in the text. Writing is still the only effective form of timeless meditation I know. You are anyone but you when you write, so dissolved, assimilated, bled into the story are you. Well, at least that’s me. On my best days.
And that’s the enrapture I hope to impart to readers. Beyond food and water, I think the greatest need for nourishment comes in the form of understanding, and empathy. Loneliness is a quiet epidemic. If I can make one or two people less lonely with their thoughts or ruminations, and hopefully tell a damn good story in the process, I’ll have fulfilled my duty.
Skunk Ape Semester Official Site: www.skunkapesemester.com
Cryptopia Blog: www.cryptopia-blog.com
Negative Space Trailer #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WrH9s_7f34A
Negative Space Trailer #2:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LoY58y-z378
The Prince of Earth Trailer:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVkCjU0lVQs