The story of my life has always been about stories.
Old ones, new ones, picture books and extemporaneous
narratives. I learned to tell stories before I learned how
to read, sitting next to my father on the couch as he told
my sister and me bedtime stories about the Moose and the
Goose and Lake Okee-Frozee, where they had an ice cream
parlor at the South Pole and all the villagers called them
fools. Every night they would encounter a new peril--the
Abominable Snowman, or the Loch Ness monster--but would
always save the day thanks to cleverness, ingenuity, and a
liberal dose of Black Licorice Voodoo ice cream (the
I learned to deconstruct plot elements very quickly and suggested new villains, such as the Silver Monster, when my dad ran short, then continued on telling other stories on my own to my friends and classmates. I was the storyteller of the playground, and learned a great bit as I did about the bardic tradition.
Teachers also taught me a bit about the writer's craft, though sometimes inadvertently. I vividly remember the wildly divergent grades on the stories about the cute little bush baby living in the grass, and the much more imaginative (and overall superior) tale of the King who had his ass stolen by an alligator while he slept. Miss Oftedahl, my second grade teacher, much preferred the bush baby story, even though it had no plot to speak of. I was unable to accept that the story of "The King Who Lost His Ass" was inferior, and after checking with my mother, my sister, and a few other readers, I learned the important writer's lesson of how to write to your market, and not to take rejection personally.
I decided I was going to be a writer, and that's all there was to it. Teachers who found this out then did their best to discourage me, or at least inject some false sense of realism. The worst was when I was told that writers had to do research, which is perfectly true, except that research as it was taught to us consisted of writing endless facts on 3 by 5 index cards. Since I have a semi-eidetic memory, this sort of research was like some ancient Greek torture, and while I hadn't yet learned of Sisyphus, I know that the index cards would have been just as bad.
Luckily I decided that Mrs. Guidings didn't know what she was talking about, and the visit of a real writer affirmed me in my resolve. Sid Fleischman came on a promotional tour to our local library, did magic tricks, then read a chapter from his upcoming novel, which he wanted to call The Man on the Moon-Eyed Horse, though the publisher wanted it to be The Day Elephants Walked Down Main Street. He asked for a vote as for which title was better, and I was one of the few who sided with him, though I also told that I honestly thought that the publisher's title would sell more copies.
Life proceeded apace. At seventeen, I decided to write a novel, and completed a trilogy just before my twentieth birthday. I also did things rather backwards, since I went in to college and got an independent study first thing, completing my senior thesis for the Creative Writing program while I was a freshman, and before I was formally accepted, since you couldn't apply until you were junior.
To take up the rest of my time for my years as an upper-class-person (to use the PC terms of the University of California, Santa Cruz), I got a double-major in anthropology, rolling dice for my thesis as I did an intensive study of Dungeons and Dragons as an example of modern folklore and mythic structure. My friends wanted to kill me, since I was the only person they knew who was playing games and going to conventions as his thesis research.
I wrote and sold my first non-fiction article to Dragon Magazine when I was twenty-one. Roger Moore wanted expansions, covering other games, and so I copied his letter and sent it to every company in the field. I got boxes of games, along with a job offer from Bard Games, who needed someone to design the Citystate of Marduk for their Talislanta line.
I worked on Talislanta while at the same time doing revisions on A Formula For Chaos, the first novel of my trilogy which I'd gotten a nibble of interest (but no contract) from a publisher. The real world outside of college didn't agree with me much, so I applied to Masters in Professional Writing Program at USC, where I went and continued my writing.
The network of authors who worked on the Talislanta project brought me to the attention of Steve Jackson, who was looking for someone to write the second Wild Cards game book, based on the series edited by George R.R. Martin. Naive as I was, I decided that writing the game book would be a good way to break into the shared world anthology, not realizing that George kept the list very exclusive and invitation-only. I didn't care and wrote the book as my Baby June number, which did the trick--George read the manuscript to check for continuity, fell in love with the characters, then asked if I'd like to be jumped into the Wild Cards gang since that was the only way that he and John Miller (who'd also read the game book) could legally play with my characters.
George also made it clear that I'd pretty much be bench-warming for a while, but I didn't care. I signed the Wild Cards Master Agreement, Herne galloped across the cover of Dealer's Choice (which I wasn't even in), then the next year I made the pitch for the Card Sharks volume. George said he'd have to look at my work before formally accepting it, but after I sent in the first draft of my novelette, "Cursum Perficio," I was given the thumbs up, told what to revise, and things proceeded from there.
Meanwhile, of course, many things had taken place. I wrote another novel with another publisher interested (but still not biting until I had "an adult novel in print"), I graduated from USC, won a Phi Kappa Phi for A Formula For Chaos, sold short stories to a couple anthologies, then sent out a copy of Card Sharks to Stewart Wieck, who was now publisher of White Wolf (of Vampire fame), asking if he'd like me to edit a Vampire anthology for him. Strange thing, he said, but they were already planning to do it themselves, and would I like to submit a story? "Masquerade" then appeared in The Beast Within, with a string of tales in the anthologies to follow, Jim Moore and I did an intertwined narrative for the Mage anthology, then we pitched Stewart a novel proposal.
Stewart liked it, accepted it, then in all of one weekend had to put it on hold because of complications with the upcoming TV show. However, what he really needed even more desperately than our proposed book was a novel to tie in with the Vampire: The Eternal Struggle card game, which also tied in with the rest of the World of Darkness. Aside from a request to involve the characters from the cards, we were given free reign, and thus House of Secrets was born.
My short story sales worked out through some equally tortuous convolutions. I'd known Katharine Kerr since my days of DunDraCon, and was at World Fantasy for the genesis of the Weird Tales from Shakespeare anthology. Two sales followed that, then a chance mention to Sage Walker, the latest of the Wild Cards crew, that I was writing an "Elvis is Stolen by the Elves" story led her to ask if I was writing it for Paul Sammon's anthology, which she'd found out about from Ellen Datlow. A sale to Paul Sammon led to another for Splatterpunks II, and a copy that story--"Headturner"-- dropped with an editor at the San Diego Comicon made its way to Glenn Danzig, leading to my first professional comic script (and adaptation) in Verotika. A bit of pontificating at a Westercon led to Jean Stine's invite into the I, Vampire anthology, for which I wrote "The Croquet Mallet Murders." This then led to the reacquaintance and friendship of Lillian Csernica, as well as the coauthoring of a couple short-shorts for the upcoming Horror Story a Day anthology. And so it goes.
As of this writing, I'm now finishing work on my second (and first solo) novel for White Wolf, Penny Dreadful, which chronicles the picaresque adventures of Penny, my perky-goth from Truth Until Paradox, the Mage anthology. Once done, I have a number of other projects, both on and off contract, to take up my time, and will doubtless have more soon enough.
If you want to check out my work, I have stories in Wild Cards: Card Sharks edited by George R.R. Martin; Splatterpunks II and The King is Dead: Tales of Elvis Post Mortem edited by Paul M. Sammon; Weird Tales from Shakespeare, Enchanted Forests, and upcoming The Shimmering Door, edited by Katharine Kerr & Martin H. Greenberg; I, Vampire edited by Jean Stine & Forest J. Ackerman; and most of White Wolf's World of Darkness anthologies. Magazine- wise, I've had stories in Worlds of Fantasy & Horror, as well as the latest and the upcoming issues of Permission. Plus my first novel, House of Secrets, with coauthor James A. Moore, is available from White Wolf, Penny Dreadful should be out soon enough, and a comic book adaptation of my and Thomas Roche's Splat II story will be coming out in Verotika, Glenn Danzig's dark erotica comic.