I was born on January 2, 1961 in Kennewick, Washington. My sister was born 2 1/2 years later (July 2, 1963) in Portland Oregon.
My earliest memories revolve around flying and around space. One of the first books I ever read was a children's picture book that seems (in hindsight) to have been based on Von Braun's Colliers series. I later moved to the Tom Swift books then to things like Heinlein's juveniles. I've probably read more science fiction and fantasy than everything else in my life combined.
Since my father left when I was 3 and my mother never had much money, I never had much in the way of things. Plus we moved around a lot so I never made many friends. Still, I was mostly happy. We usually had a dog or two and maybe a cat and I've always loved pets.
My mother remarried in 1968 or 69. (I don't remember exactly.) This was, perhaps, one of the worst mistakes she ever made--not to remarry, but to marry this particular individual. It was during this time that my mother got more serious about her own religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and had me baptized in it. For a long time I believed the religion. (More on that later.)
In 1972 my stepfather decided to move back to his home of Cambridge, OH. That, of course, meant the rest of us had to go along. This, in some ways marked a downward turn for me. First, my own peers soon began to grow up physically and I was very much a late bloomer. Add to that the unusual interests that I had for that area of small-town Ohio (space flight and science fiction) and you have a recipe for misery. I was always the kid who was picked on, teased, and outright bullied.
Things didn't improve much when I entered high school. I was still far behind the curve when it came to physical maturity. My voice didn't start to change until I was 16. I was always smaller and weaker than my age group. This did not make my life a happy one. But part of it was my own fault. I simply could not keep my mouth shut about my interests that were just as unusual then as they were earlier.
The balance, however, did shift. Although smaller, weaker, and slower than others my age, I did start studying martial arts. The truth is I had maybe a dozen lessons or so and had to drop out through lack of funds. However, I could practice the basic moves and a few more "advanced" techniques that weren't very practical but could be quite impressive to look at. I took to practicing before class with a friend of mine where others could see. That had the good effect of stopping attempts at physical bullying, but did nothing for mental teasing.
It was during this time that I got more serious about writing. I had started writing almost as soon as I started reading but the first thing of any significant length that I wrote and finished was a screenplay that I wrote in 1977. Okay it was a cheap rip-off of Star Wars. It was a BAD, cheap rip-off of Star Wars. What can I say. I was in junior high at the time. However, even so it's hard to describe how really bad this story was. It was so bad, in fact, that I live in the dread that somewhere the one copy of the screenplay that I made still exists and someone may try to blackmail me with it. It was bad.
A couple of years later, I finished a short novel--written in longhand during study hall at school. This, too, was pretty bad, however there are germs within it that, even though the manuscript no longer exists (as Benjamin Franklin once said "three removes equals one fire" so I'm into a half dozen or so fires since then), I may return to that world and setting again someday. These two things taught me one thing, however. They taught me that I could finish a story in the several tens of thousands of words of length.
Finally, I graduated high school. Since I was still a practicing member of the LDS church, I intended to go to school at Brigham Young University. However, there was one thing I hadn't counted on. Part of the application was a recommendation from the prospective student's clergyman. Since I was LDS, this meant my Bishop. Unfortunately, for reasons that he never explained, he vetoed my application. That was a shock to me and may have been one of the early steps that led to my eventual disenchantment with the church.
At the time, I had no backup plan. It would be years before I got in the habit of thinking of backups. I was out of school for at least a year and jobs were hard to come by. That led to the next stage of my life.
No school. No job. But of a patriotic bent. That suggested the military. Since I was still enamored with flying and space, the logical decision was to join the Air Force. It might actually have been a good decision except:
The military was not a good time for me. My career field was "Voice Processing Specialist," which was later renamed "Cryptologic Linguist." Somehow, I had gotten talked around from my original plan (sign up with a guaranteed career field in electronics--longest school they have, parley that into a college degree, followed by commission and career as an officer) into this field. I still can't figure out how it happened.
I can't find a copy of the "official" job description at the moment, but for me it came down to sitting like a lump for eight hours a day waiting for something to happen. I was supposed to focus all my attention on the waiting so nothing that could "distract" me was allowed. No reading. No crossword puzzles. No nothing. Just waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh!!!!!!
Actually, training, after basic, was the best time in my life up to that point. I had more money than I'd ever had in my life. San Antonio was a nice city to be stationed in--lots to see and do. On the whole, I enjoyed the experience, even picked up a foreign language. (Most of that training was the Air Force teaching me how to speak, read, and write Russian.) The church was active in the area with a very active singles group so I actually started dating for the first time in my life! (Poverty, shyness, and being the guy everyone picks on doesn't do much for a young man's social life.) It was when I went to my first duty station that things went downhill. The combination of job ennui and the feeling of always having a full committee looking over my shoulder exacerbated my natural tendency to depression. In the end, the Air Force and I mutually decided that it would be best if we parted company.
My military experience wasn't all bad. While I was in the Air Force I started writing more seriously.
Many people who go through bad times describe a period where they "hit bottom" before beginning their climb back upward. That's what happened to me. For several years I alternated between unemployment and temporary or menial work. In that time I went from Cambridge, OH, to Zanesville, OH, to Luray, VA, to Akron, OH. During this period I applied for college again and was accepted but I had elected to sign up for the dorm and they wanted payment up front--before my student loan approval had come through. No loan, no money to pay for the dorm, and thus not able to go to school.
Through all this I continued writing. In fact, it was during this time that I made my first sales--"The Future is Now" to Analog Science Fiction Science Fact (now called Analog Science Fiction and Fact), "Jilka and the Evil Wizard" to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, and "The Lunar Base: Permanent Life on the Moon" a non-fiction piece to High Tech Careers magazine. Other pieces were to follow, slowly.
About this time I finally made my break with the church. I was continuing to read science and other things. I was also looking around at the world and what I saw just wasn't consistent with what I had been taught in the church. Something had to give and, in my case, it was the religion.
In Akron, it finally hit bottom. No job, my right knee getting so bad that I can't walk or stand more than 10 minutes without a cane, and my landlord deciding he wasn't going to carry me any more. Out on the street.
Fortunately, I had two good things going for me. I had a friend who was willing to let me sleep on her couch and my mother had convinced me to make another attempt at getting into school. While the stress of living on that couch for one summer nearly destroyed the friendship (but the damage was later mended, so all is well) it did keep a roof over my head until I could get into school. This time, I made it.
Finally, at long last, I get into college, the University of Akron. In all my previous attempts to get into school, the problem had never been academic, it had been logistic.
When I went back to school, my financial situation improved dramatically. I was still poor, but thanks to student financial aid, I had a roof over my head, food to eat, and could pay for tuition, books, and supplies. Once I got comfortable with my studies, I started working on campus and that gave me a little bit of pocket money.
Being older than most of my classmates turned out to be a major advantage. I'd been living on my own for years and, so, there was no novelty to that. Thus, I was not tempted by late nights "partying" (a strange euphemism for drinking until you throw up). I could actually concentrate on my studies. Plus, by being an inveterate bookworm I started with a major head start. The result was that I sailed through my first two years of classes. Okay, I didn't take heavy course loads, staying mostly in the 12-13 semester hour range, but that was largely because of financial reasons rather than academic difficulty. My third year, however, I hit what I call "the wall." It was a difficult and painful time for me. For the first time in my life, I was taking classes that I thought were hard. Since I had sailed through stuff in earlier years, I was seriously concerned about my ability to complete the work. However, thanks to some wonderful professors, chiefly Dr. Peter Henriksen and Dr. Ernst vonMeerwall, I was encouraged to stick with it and soon made it through.
The school of arts and sciences at the University of Akron requires two years of a foreign language for a degree. I chose Japanese my fourth year. I had already taken a year of Russian and, decided that I could either slip through a class that was almost entirely review for me or I could spend the time learning something new. I made my choice, chopped the Russian short, and started with Japanese. I actually did fairly well in Japanese. I was helped by the interest I acquired in Japanese Animation at that time (which I soon came to prefer watching in the original Japanese with English subtitles) and by acquiring several pen pals in Japan. The extra practice and exposure certainly helped with the class. However, the important part of that was that when a miss Sumie Tsuboi came from Japan to the United States to study first English and then computers I chanced to meet her. We had a whirlwind romance during my last semester of school and married shortly after graduation.
Graduation, marriage, and my first (and only to date) really good job all at once.
Boy did my life turn around after graduation from college. During my last semester, Dr. Henriksen passed on a message to me about a former student of his who was leaving a job at the Indianapolis company Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc. Seems the former student was leaving the company to pursue a law degree and, so, there would be an opening there. I called the company and got an interview.
In the meantime, my relationship with Ms. Tsuboi was heating up. On May 12, we married in a no-frills civil ceremony, followed almost immediately by our honeymoon trip (a present from her parents) to the Bahamas.
On returning from the Bahamas we found an offer from ASM for employment. After considering several other possibilities, my new wife and I decided to take it and move to Indianapolis.
Since then, there've been ups and downs. We've had our difficulties and our good times. Yet on the whole, it's been good. Less than two years after moving to Indianapolis, we bought a house. In the course of time, we've accumulated four dogs and a few friends. My wife is in school studying computers and I've returned part time looking for my graduate degree in physics.
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