Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
While we moved around a lot when I was a kid, I spent most of my formative school years in Door County, Wisconsin. Don’t know it? It’s just outside of Green Bay, a picturesque, farm-filled peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. There weren’t many neighbors, and winters in Wisconsin can last a lifetime. So, books became an early escape for me. We didn’t have much access to libraries, so my parents’ books were all I had. As a kid I read The Hobbit, Shogun, The Thorn Birds, and Youngblood Hawke—huge, sprawling novels that in paperback were three or four inches thick. I still love an epic story.
And, in an era lacking instant streaming, I had unusual access to movies. My mom managed a video store, so I saw just about every movie made in the 1970s and 1980s. For free. Yeah, the other kids were pretty jealous of me. These cultural touchstones, the characters and their seminal lines have stayed with me—and infuse and flow through my writing today.
I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career
I have done a bit of everything job-wise that you can do without a college degree. Picked fruit, baled hay, drive-up coffee stand, sold vacuums door-to-door. Mostly I worked in restaurants, from washing dishes to managing multiple locations. Beverage manager was the most fun…for about a year. But I had become an alcoholic, never-married, middle management slob, with hundreds of nights I couldn’t remember and not much in the way of prospects. I decided right then and there to change that. I quit my career to write a novel.
The first thing I ever wrote was at age 17, a rhyming poem dedicated to a fifth-year senior in college. She told me poems didn’t need to rhyme. And dumped me. So, I wrote a couple sad short stories of love lost. Two decades later, I quit my job to write a novel, and realized I knew nothing about writing novels. But I’d read thousands of books. So, really, how hard could it be? You probably know what happened: it took me a year to write 170,000 words of crap. It took me another five years to figure out how to turn that crap into a real book. During those five years, I met the woman of my dreams, hit rock bottom, went to rehab, got married, lost my mother, and became a father. Through it all, this novel was with me. And almost as much as my wife, this novel saved me.
The Neverending Story
I like stories that move and focus on the characters and the story that drives them, without a lot of telling me what they look like or what furniture is in a room. As a reader I want to use my imagination for that. I have so many favorite authors: Tolkien, Clavell, Herman Wolk, and Pat Conroy (remember those epics I raised myself on). I love Martha Wells, Lee Child, Joe Halderman, John Scalzi, Hugh Howley, K.B. Wagers, and Claire North. Authors are my rockstars and I cry hysterically when I meet them.
…and knowing is half the battle.
I’m extremely thankful to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, the most excellent writer’s organization a novice writer could join, and my writer’s group that includes two of the best writers I know: Jackie Kang and Heidi Jenkins.
To the beautiful city of Milwaukee, WI, and its wonderful citizens, I apologize for changing the geography to suit my needs in writing Falling onto Cotton. Also, I’m sorry I was mostly drunk when I lived there.
And, thank you for reading my novels and this bio. I hope that in reading my books, for a few hours, you’ve felt that you are amongst friends. Seriously, I am sending you an elbow bump or faux-hug. Or just call me. My number is (555) 867-5309.