What got you into writing?
My maternal grandfather loved telling stories and had a few published in a local paper. My father always wanted to be a writer but never really pursued it. When I was a kid, my dad got me hooked on comics, then on short stories, and when he introduced me to Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars I was hooked on not only reading, but the concept of storytelling.
Should the reader grab a copy of Darkness Wired ASAP?
Of course! Horror is fun. Science fiction is fun. Dark science fiction with Lovecraftian horrors is always a good time.
What do you like about Darkness Wired?
I think it’s the concept of science horror ala a modernization of the old monster movies meeting in some cases with deities and lifeforms having dire consequences
You have brand new fiction in “Terror at 5280.” Tell us all about it!
Actually, I have four coming out over the next month. I’ll start with Terror at 5280’ and go from there.
Taste (TERROR AT 5280’) – “Taste” was a bit of a funny story in the making. I’m a media specialist by trade, and was out with a friend shooting her 40 and fabulous photoshoot for fun. Between her, my wife, and my suggestions, it turned into a vampiric crack whore photoshoot (yes, kiddies, you read that right). All the effects were added on the back end in Photoshop. We all loved the photos and they came out creepy – just like vampires should be. I’ve always hated what’s become of the monsters which scare me. Blood sucking beasts from hell are now nothing more than redirected glittery teenage angst. The next thing I knew, I had a horror story that chilled me. We’ll toss in a link, but the image, and the story, is on the south side of safe for work.
Skewed Perceptions (DARKNESS WIRED) – I had a lot of fun with this one. Ever since I read “Window” by Bob Leman (some of you may know it by the Night Visions episode “A View Through the Window”) and saw XTRO 2: The Second Encounter, I’ve been enamored with parallel worlds and alternate dimensions. Science and incompetence often go hand-in-hand. Darkness Wired allowed me the opportunity to explore another realm with the type of tech and mistakes we would probably make.
Fellowship (BLOOD & BLASPHEMY) – Fellowship is a bit of a Maine double-whammy for my wife and I. I originally wrote this couple story about making a wrong decision in an overly-religious back woods town in Maine before taking the family to the state for a vacation. We went to a little restaurant in Dover-Foxcroft for lunch. Once seated my wife gives me a death-glare and hits me with a menu. Josh, our son, and I are a bit baffled. Without a word she motions to the restaurant with her hands. As I look around, I see what she’s talking about – the tables, the chairs…hell, even the napkin dispensers (and truth be told, one or two of the patrons) appeared to be right out of the story. It’s the only religious horror story I’ve written to date.
Someone to Watch Over Me (BULLETS, BOMBS & BOOGEYMEN) – I’m a history buff. I was challenged to write a story in the 1920’s. Never one to turn away from a challenge I ended up with a story about a flapper named Elsie in 1925 who meets a British WWI veteran. I ended up modelling a few characteristics from family members I’ve heard stories about. For instance, my paternal grandfather (also my namesake – and, yes, I’m a “third”) was mustard-gassed in WWI. It ate most of the flesh off his skull, leaving him bald at a very young age. When WWII came around, he signed back up – even with his disability. He took the only job they’d give him, riding the boats over with the new recruits, explaining what to expect, and riding the same boat back, guarding the dead soldier’s bodies. He had a hard life. I touched on the key points to bring one character to life. In this story, the locations, the river island, even the Indian burial mounds are all real places. I don’t do many ghost stories, and this one focuses on the ghosts of war, but not in a metaphorical sense.
How do you feel about the need for writers’ groups?
This question is a two-edged sword. There are tons of writing groups. Let’s start by identifying the groups, most of which I can put into one of three categories – and all three serve different purposes writers need at different times. Please note, I don’t take credit for these classifications – I honestly don’t remember where I originally heard them, but they’re accurate. First is the “Fluff” group. Here you could turn in your laundry list and everyone will fall over themselves telling you how good it is, offering only positive criticism. This is amazing for your ego, but usually does squat for your prose. The second is the “Literary” group. In this group they’ll compare whatever you’re writing to similar authors and make suggestions to enhance that style. Again, this is also good for knowing who your influences are, but it really doesn’t get you, J. Doe, to writing like yourself. The third is a “Destructive” group. Sound scary? It is! In a destructive group it won’t matter if you are Stephen King, they’re still going to do their best to content edit your piece. When you’re ready for publication, this is the group you want to find.
How many writer groups, and what types, have you co-founded and run?
I’ve co-founded two. The first, the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group was founded in 1996 by my wife – Hollie Snider, John Irwin, and myself. The CSFWG’s mission statement was “To make good writers better.” I was president and webmaster for 13 years to-the-month before retiring in 2009, but continued as an officer for a while longer before becoming part of the chorus of members. In 2012 several writers and I formed Fiction Foundry , focusing on publication prep. Since 2012 over 30 member novels have gone into print through various avenues. I’m proud to be a part of this. While still offering critique groups, the focus is more on publication and sharing skills to attain that goal. In Fiction Foundry I’m still the web-designer, clunky as it may be.
You’re married to a loving, in-house editor who’s not going anywhere, can you tell us about that?
Not for fear of reprisal! Seriously, though, it’s a bit of a fairy tale. I met Hollie in a college writing class. I transferred in on March 30, 1995 (don’t worry, you’ll understand the dates in a minute). We hit it off arguing about horses. I knew she had a boyfriend and stayed respectful. Once I found out she also loved The Dark Crystal I offered to buy a copy and we could watch it at her parent’s place. We spent the afternoon pausing the movie every few minutes to chat. Then she excused herself for a bit (don’t get your hormones up, it’s not “that” kind of story). She came back and we watched another ten minutes or so of the movie. Then, out of nowhere she said, “That’s long enough,” and kissed me. I was baffled and started to ask about her boyfriend. Hollie stopped me, saying, “I left to call him and break up.” This was on April 1st, 1995 – April Fools Day. We were attached at the hip since then. On April 8th I proposed. Yes, after only knowing each other 10 days. She said yes before the entire proposal was out. Then came the twenty-minute lecture about why didn’t I propose the day we met because, “She just knew.” I’d love to give her flack about it, but we’re 24 years in and she’s either the best prankster ever, or she was/is right. We married three months to the day after our first kiss, had our son the following summer, and haven’t looked back since. Our passions match enough to fit together like cogs in a machine, but have enough that are different to keep the relationship fresh. Advice…keep dating the one you love!
And you also write with your son, I believe. What’s the experience of co-writing like for you two?
Josh is actually the current president of Fiction Foundry. We don’t write together, though. We’d kill each other…and he’s bigger than me. He first published poetry at 15 and is now actively pursuing genre fiction.
You had your own publishing house, can you expand on that experience?
Strigidae Publishing. Yes. We created a small publishing house much the same way we created the writing groups. First thing, we went to the writers and asked them what they wanted in a house. After compiling everything we put it together in such a way that we went from opening to being in the black in less than 90 days. We stayed that way until a Wednesday afternoon in 2016 when I went in for my middle-age checkup and was scheduled for a heart-cath on Thursday. 4:30PM that day I was informed I’d be getting a double bypass (we’re talking a full on crab-cracked chest) at 5AM the next morning. While I was lucky not to have any heart damage, they said I couldn’t run three businesses anymore and had to cut back at least for a while. I had to choose the business that paid the bills best, so the house closed. In early 2019 we started to revive it, only to have me yet again struck with another health issue. We closed again before even officially opening and have stayed that way. The health issue is resolved, but I think we’re both taking this as a sign to focus on writing and not the business of publishing.
Can you tell us more about your work with high schools and teens in prisons?
Over the years I’ve pursued, both on my own and through our writing groups, educating and encouraging teens. We started with giving basic lectures and contests to local high schools, then branched out into the juvenile detention centers offering full creative writing classes. Realistically, 95% of the kids are there to fill time, but the other 5%…just to watch their excitement, participation, and growth is more than worth it. I feel like it’s coming on time to do it again.
Supposedly you have a cat name Fizzwig…But there are no pictures of you two together? Does he really exist?
It’s Fizzgig – like the toothy pet from The Dark Crystal. She’s a half Ragdoll / half Himalayan beast, almost 17 and cranky enough to keep our three rescue dogs (a Husky – Kira, a Pit-mix – Mina Harker, and an Aussie mix – Elvis – see the photo of them I took in frustration while “trying” to edit) in terror of her wrath.