Currently, he leads a quiet, unassuming life as an IT professional in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. After a lifetime of experience, and writing for 15 years, he feels ready to share some of his milder perceptions with others, wrapped in digestible (?), bite-size tidbits of prose. His goal is to show that the "ordinary" world around us is actually highly extraordinary, and that our perceptions of it are malleable and unique.
"If I've made you look at one thing around you in a new way, I'm satisfied."
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About the Book
A collection of 17 completely original, strange short stories which range from fantasy to science fiction to humor to horror. The one tying factor is they were all written in 2012. Also included is the novella, Inclemency.
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Keep reading for an interview with the author:
Why did you decide to be a writer?
I never decided to be a writer. I have always been a writer. I think everyone is a writer, or they should be.
Now, I did decide to try sharing my work with others at one point. In 2012, I was in a readers group. We decided to share any manuscripts or stories we had. I ended up being the only one contributing. The others were too shy. One of the other readers was Joyce Holt, a published author, who spent some time after reading my work convincing me to seek publication. Since then, I've been on a mission to learn about marketing and the industry, to spread my "message" to as many willing readers as possible.
When I was just a writer, I was OK just handing manuscripts to friends. Now, I have become a "marketer," who is someone who publishes or self-publishes.
What genres do you write?
I write very strange cross-genre literary stuff that I call urban fantasy, for want of a better word. Some of my short stories read like essays, and some are like classic science fiction. I use humor and elements of horror. My novels - currently unpublished - shift genres, from fantasy to science fiction to horror.
What inspires you to write?
75% of my ideas come from dreams. I jot them down and develop them into short stories. My novels also use dream imagery. My characters are drawn from everyday experiences and people I meet, often twisted and combined.
What is most important to me is the message of a work, what that work teaches you about the world or yourself. I don't write escapist literature. Rather, I write philosophical diatribes and social discussions wrapped in an entertaining story. The story becomes the spoonful of sugar to help you with the lesson.
I have a personal disdain for works without some content, and especially for fantasy which coordinates some huge structure for no other purpose than to titillate readers.
What authors/books have most influenced you?
I cite Rod Serling as my most endearing influence. He understood content over all. I also emulate a little-known genre-bending author, R.A. Lafferty. I wish I had the skill to write as well as he did. But any author who seeks the strange and unusual in the ordinary attracts me. Greg Bear once handed me a list of authors who enjoy the same strange stuff I love, and Haruki Murakami was at the top of the list.
Most of my current work is influenced in a secondary fashion by the work on perception by Roger Penrose. Mine is not scientific work, but I formulate a vague basis of "strange goings on" from perceptive relativism and plurality of perspective. Trust me, the details would bore you, so I omit them from my work and only deal with the consequences: Once you take the cap off the tube of perception, literally anything becomes possible.
If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be?
I have approached Terry Bisson for advice, and he read one of my stories. Unfortunately, he told me considers himself as a one-way ticket to obscurity, so perhaps I should consider another choice.
What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?
Reaching my readers and standing out from a crowd of 5 million+ Indie authors is proving daunting. It is a curious milieu where you need to establish yourself as "different" - never a problem for me - but be close enough to established works that you are marketable.
I've really only started marketing myself now. Twitter has been a real help, getting me in touch with other authors and a lot of support people. But my immediate goal is to land a literary agent. My approach here is slow & tenacious. I do not feel like landing "any" agent, but I would like a "people" agency: Someone who presents themselves as a real help to authors, who recognizes new authors as a valuable resource. Basically, these are agents who will respond to questions and comments from authors on Twitter and other media. I realize this responsiveness means less time for them to work with me once I'm signed, but I am willing to accept that trade-off. Honesty and connecting with people trumps market chops in my opinion. The industry should be about connecting people and fostering relationships.
If I do land representation it should help jump-start my market. I feel my books are unusual enough that I should find a niche market. I envision myself becoming a cult classic author.
What is the worst writing advice you've ever received?
One of my Beta readers for Twenty Twelve advised me to not market my book, ever: "You are like a Stradivarius! You are like Jimmy Hendrix. If no one ever hears the music you play, then it becomes even more true!" He advised writing my books and then (I suppose) just keeping them in a drawer, like the notebooks of Hieronymus Bosch. This was in spite of the fact he left a review (for Twenty Twelve) stating that all seven billion people on the planet MUST read the book.
We are still good friends.
What do you enjoy doing aside from writing?
I am an officer in the China Stamp Society, and I am president of the Pacific Northwest chapter of the society. So, I'm heavily into stamp collecting.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, and you could only have five books with you, what would they be?
Excuse me for being self-serving, but I would want "Hero of Dreams" by Tracy Shew, "The Book of Prime One" by Tracy Shew, "The Mask and the Mirror" by Tracy Shew, "Alizarin Crimson" by Tracy Shew, and "The Fallen Angel of Perception," by Tracy Shew, all of them works in progress. I would of course demand a suitable electronic device and a charger supplied by the Professor from Gilligan's Island, which runs on coconuts and bicycle power. I would write and revise for months until rescued. My books would become popular because of coverage of my rescue on CNN. "Hero of Dreams" would be runner-up (but not win) a Hugo award.
How many books do you have on your "to read" list? What are some of them?
I especially enjoy reading Indie books that I get exposed to on Twitter, from author promos. Right now I am ready to tackle a fantasy series by Serban V.C. Enache. I just finished Pete Alex Harris's The Silk Mind, which I found quite excellent. In there somewhere are most of the writing advice books by Rayne Hall.
How do you come up with the titles for your books? Do you find it difficult?
I try to come up with a working title, which is some plot detail from the book. I usually have Beta readers suggest other titles. Also, I am now working with illustrator Lawrence Mann, who has suggested a title for me. His advice is to have a title which gives the context or flavor of the book, so it becomes an additional selling point: a two- or three-word blurb of why you should buy this book.
What are you working on now?
I have a hard science fiction novel underway, "Hero of Dreams, or the Making of Sammy Lemkin." I'm also writing a nonfiction work about philately, "The District Overprints on Mexico's Revenue Stamps." And I have 2 or 3 short stories going, and another science fiction novel, "Alizarin Crimson." I usually write 4 or 5 things at once.