I love great stories, don’t you? The ones that weave magic so well you find yourself discovering a new world while having forgotten the one you left. With ease, these stories put you into another’s shoes (or moccasins, or boots, or clogs) and into experiences very different than your own. But the questions, emotions, and challenges you encounter resonate deep because they are achingly familiar. These stories stay with you. And if you’re not careful, turning the last page takes you back to the first.
In my passion for writing, I am ever seeking to improve my craft so that I too can cast stories that enchant readers. This website is the creative space for my work. A place to tinker, learn and share. May you find it of value.
If you want to learn more about me, continue reading. Also enjoy stories I have written.
My earliest memories of storytelling are of my grandfather. At bedtime, he’d make them up on the spot, peppering them with silly accents and noises he’d make, delighting me till, exhausted from giggling, I fell asleep.
Once I learned to read, I read anything at hand: picture books in milk crates, comic strips in the newspapers, random dictionary and Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia entries at my grandparents, magazines in waiting rooms. Understandably, I scored well on vocab and spelling quizzes.
A little older, I’d took to collections; I collected volumes of Garfield comic strips, Choose Your Own Adventure books, comic book series, role-playing hardcovers.
Now I devour books of all kinds. Meeting so many writers through James River Writers (more) pushed me into reading types of books I’d otherwise overlook. (I read my first romance novel for a panel I moderated at the JRW 2015 conference.)
Theodore Roosevelt was a voracious reader. It was said of him that he read a book up to the moment a visitor reached out his hand in greeting. I am not quite there, but I keep reading material at my desk, my bed, in the car, in my laptop bag. When driving, I listen to podcasts now. Some books I’ll re-read. And you know those must be especially good if they are taking the place of an unread one.
Books are treasures. They make the best gifts and I take recommendations from friends seriously. I wish I could speed read like one of my characters, Professor Malcolm Gold, but sadly I plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. I suppose the slower pace provides more time to savor what I read, but that also means less time to read the next story. In my home, I have towers of unread books, plus there are those in my virtual library on my tablet, GoodReads, and Riffle. Thankfully, though forlorn, the stories are patient callers, biding their time in my parlor.
Traditional publishers, whatever their shortcomings, still know how to dress up a book. Beyond the high quality cover graphics, the hardcovers, and in many cases the paperbacks, present beautiful dust jackets, quality paper stocks, gilt-, dyed-, and deckle-edges, embossing, and marvelous typography outside and in. I have purchased books solely because of their lovely covers. I wrote about such a case here.
Sad to say, those options aren’t available for print-on-demand books. Just glossy or matte. Going the self-publishing route, as I am, means not having the opportunity. Perhaps in time that will change.
I used to collect comic books beginning in high school through college and up till I moved to Richmond. My pulls often were X-men-related titles. X-Factor was my favorite as I enjoyed reading about Multiple Man and Strong Guy. The only titles I collected on the DC side were Batman series.
At the end, my pull list dwindled to just X-Factor and Daredevil, which at the time, benefitted from the alchemy of two great talents – the words by Brian Michael Bendis and the art by Alex Meleev. Their run was flawless, compelling storytelling.
Authors and Works
The Bible and Shakespeare cover the human condition quite well. Just about every type of character, theme, and story. Often I’ll dip into scenes and verses and find something new.
For short stories, you can’t go wrong with Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce. For longer length works, I like Miguel Cervantes and Franz Kafka.
Among contemporary authors, I enjoyed Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan witch series and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy. For the funny, I like Christopher Moore.
In comic books, for me, Peter David, Brian Michael Bendis, and Brian Azzarrello have been consistently good in their craft.
I’d love to write for a living, but until then I do what I also enjoy — programming. I’ve coded web applications since 1998. I survived framesets, table layouts, Y2K, and the Browser Wars.
In college, I majored in creative writing. I practically minored in role-playing games as often as I played, having started back in high school. We all start with the gateway drug, Dungeons & Dragons, but I also played Paranoia, Chill, Marvel, and Shadowrun. My favorite though was White Wolf’s World of Darkness, specifically, Vampire the Masquerade. The art, stories, and characters there fueled my imagination.
After graduation, the plan was to become an editor at a top publishing house. So I started a weekly paper based in suburban Detroit. There I got valuable experience in all aspects of publishing while I wrote articles and obituaries. With an offer to lead up the paper’s website as its first web producer, I took it. In all the years since, I’ve been fortunate to have rewarding, challenging work and supportive colleagues.
But the vampire novel series I had begun in college was put on hold and remained a dream only…
Until I arrived in Richmond and discovered that one of the city’s best kept secrets is that it teems with writers. And when I learned of James River Writers, a 400-member strong community of writers, I joined up and volunteered my time.
Through JRW, I met all kinds of writers, those who are just thinking about it to those who have made it their career, as well as agents, editors, and other professionals. I have found that many members cheerfully offer advice and support and I do my best to return the favor, partly through my involvement with JRW.
Early on, I had met those who would form my critique group. Though each writes in a different genre than me, with a different level of experience, they have been essential in reviving my interest in my vampire novel and have helped me turn early drafts into a complete manuscript ready for an editor and to send out query letters.
Vampires have fascinated me for much of my life. I am not one, myself. Do not wish to be one. Have never dressed for Halloween as one. Do not drink blood nor collect it. I love anatomy (as I love maps, which are the same), but I am repulsed by real-life gore.
But I have always enjoyed reading about them and playing them in table-top games. It took me a while to put my finger on why, but it is this: they are us. Vampires endure in our imagination because they are reflections of ourselves, often the darker side of ourselves. In literature, they are an excellent way to examine humanity, humanity’s desires and fears.
That’s what I want to do in my series. I use the allegory that vampires are shadows. Always with us, but often unseen. They are our dark twins, exaggerating our virtues and vices. With each character, I consider their human life first and ask how becoming a vampire changed them. And for many of my vampires, becoming one was presented as a choice. Who would choose to become a vampire? What is the price of one’s humanity?
In many vampire stories, the vampires can drink the blood of animals, or purloin blood bags from hospitals for their meals. Not mine. I believe there shouldn’t be such easy alternatives. Though vampires need not kill their prey, the blood does need to be fresh and human.
James River Writers
Here in Richmond, the writing community is large and active. An important part of that community is James River Writers, founded in 2002 and its mission is to serve writers and readers in central Virginia with great programming.
Each month, JRW hosts Writers Wednesday, a casual networking-type evening. January through September, the Writing Show invites panelists to speak on a given topic related to the craft or business of writing, and take questions from the audience.
The biggest event of the year is their annual conference held in October. The a two-day event has panel discussions for every type of writing wishing to learn and be inspired. Attendees also get to have one-on-one sessions with agents. [learn more] Registration begins in June.
I have been an active member of James River Writers since 2007. Currently, I also serve on its board as the Membership chair.
When I have a moment, I enjoy baking sweet treats that I’ll share with co-workers. Once a year I bake a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Now and again I’ll make triple bars (brownie bottom, cheesecake middle, and cookie top). For my wife, I’ll make blintzes and blueberry sauce.
Photography and Travel
I’ve never taken a photography course, and probably would benefit from one. Nonetheless, I enjoy snapping pics of places I visit. Take enough and you’re bound to get a few that are really good. That’s been my case anyway. For our 10th anniversary, I bought my first and current dSLR camera – a entry-level Nikon. It’s held up well and does a great job covering for me. I first used it when we traveled to Charleston, S.C. We had a great time there with plenty of pictures to remind us.
If I were to give a personal motto right now, it’d be “be grateful, be generous, be happy.” It’s very important for each of us to appreciate what we have, even if it doesn’t seem very much. It’s easy to look at others and see what you don’t have. Less so, to understand how much you have that others don’t.
Count your blessings, be sure to sincerely thank those who have helped you; and as I learned from my UMass professor, Julius Lester, be sure to say, “you’re welcome.” Not, “no problem” or a variation of that dismisses. Say, “you’re welcome” to acknowledge being thanked.
We can each give of our time or other resources. Do so. Be there for friends and family members, stop to help someone who needs an extra hand, give credit where it’s due, volunteer for charities, give money to worthy causes, and teach – pass on your know-how to others.
Being happy is a choice you can make every moment of every day. You determine your feelings, don’t let others do that. Even if you feel anything but, put on a smile. Soon enough, it will be genuine. Not only will you lift your own mood, you will help others do the same.
I’ve written more about this in summary of a speech I had the privilege of giving.