I’ve been writing stuff for money — fiction, non-fiction, direct mail, web content — for just about 40 years now. Think about that: forty years. Wait. Don’t think about that. I mean: forty years. Wow.
Over that quartet of decades, I’ve written literally more stuff than I can count, often in media that no longer exist. I have an undying love for genre fiction (horror, sf, fantasy, thrillers), pop culture, good audio, great direct marketing copy, and passionate prose (no, not that kind of passion…though, wait, that kind of passion ain’t bad either.)
Short version: I wrote my first novel, The Mad Throne, published a few decades back by CBS/Popular Library. Shortly thereafter I had my first radio feature, The Daily Review, on the long-gone KTMS-FM in Santa Barbara, California, and published my first monthly magazine, The Santa Barbara Times. The long-forgotten recession of the late Seventies (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Carter interest rates!) reconfigured everything, and I moved to L.A. around 1980. I spent the next twenty years or so writing, editing, and marketing books and magazines for a whole lot of people – at one point, it felt like every trade or consumer publisher on the West Coast, most of which are gone or evolved now.
Some of the highlights: Radio & Records, Petersen Publishing, SAGE Publishing, Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com (which is still there!) and a whole bunch of newsletter and trade publishers you’ve never heard of and no longer exist (special shout-out to Hospital Gift Shop Management. Yo!). Helped to start and then ran screaming from the ultimately unsuccessful launch of a monthly comics line for TSR, the then-owners of Dungeons & Dragons, along with Steven Grant (2 Guns, Whisper, Punisher: Circle of Blood and a ton more). Freelanced with some success while doing other important life-things for most of the last decade, then all sort of things fell apart – some economic, some personal, all my own damn fault – and then DiabetesInsight came along (see below), and here we are. More cool “lost projects” at the end of all this, but …
Let’s take it from the most recent and work our way back:
The Rain Triptych (2015) is a three-book horror “series” published by Permuted Press. I like to think of it as a “supernatural disaster” novel (get it?), and the three books exist side-by-side, three sets of stories that take place in the same horrible three-day period in the dying city of Dos Hermanos, California. You can read all about it here.
WolfCop (2014)is a horror-comedy-action novel commission by Permuted Press and CineCoup, the nice ‘n crazy folks who made the Canadian cult classic WolfCop last year. It’s not a novelization; it’s an original story set in the WolfCop universe, using some of the key characters from the movie and adding some new ‘cast’ members all our own. You can buy it – e-only at the moment – here from Permuted Press.
AmitvyilleNow.com (ongoing) is a pop-culture web site, “The best of horror, sci fi, suspense, and the supernatural” – a combination of curated news and reviews, powred by John G. Jones of Amityville Horror fame. I’ve been John’s editor and co-writer on about 10,000 projects for almost that many years; this is our place to talk about what we love in these related genres. Pretty much all the content comes from me; it’s updated multiple times a week.
Diabetes Insight (monthly) is an audio-print publication from Audio Digest Foundation and the American Diabetes Association. I admit: it started as a pay-the-bill project almost five years ago, but it’s become much more for me since then…and not just because, irony of ironies, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a year after I started editing this publication. My co-editor/host John Anderson, late of the ADA and leader of the amazing * Clinic in Nashville, is one of the most interesting guys I’ve ever worked with, and the interviews and lectures we pass along to primary care physicians about the diagnosis, mechanisms, treatment and prevent of diabetes actually kind’a matters. And yes, it also pays a bunch of bills, so there’s that. It’s an expensive sub, meant for doctors, but one o’ these days I’m going to do some kind of consumer-level content as well. You can look and listen to a bit here.
Inside Men In Black II. One of the recurring themes in my “career” has been to jump on to various media-trends just as they’re about to breathe their last. I worked for the company behind the one-and-only successful Laserdick (hey, remember laserdiscs?) arcade game, DragonQuest, before that industry collapsed. I wrote the one (and only) Star Trek CD-ROM game (hey, remember CD-ROM games?) for Paramount just before Sumner Redstone bought the company and put all gams into turnaround. And I wrote one of the very last big ol’ “Making of” books that used to be a mini-industry in itself – for the big guys, Random House and Sony – just before DVDs, with all that bonus material, really took off and everybody stopped making and buying big ol’ “Making of” books. You can still get used copies on amazon, here, but neither I nor Random House make a dollar on that anymore. So…support your local used bookseller. Yay.
You want more? Don’t be ridiculous!
Okay: a few highlights and weird detours, and then we’re done
SeFja! Online. This English-language website about Latino entertainment has been going on for years now, with almost daily content that’s unique and great fun. I wrote pretty much all its content for the first few years, until I could finally convince Angie Ortiz, the publisher, to start writing herself, in her own wonderfully unique voice. I still do an occasional piece there, but go check it out anyway. Pure joy.
Cinefex. Wrote some very detailed, very difficult-to-produce pieces for the premiere journal of special effects, co-founded by my high school friend – no, seriously, high school friend – Jody Duncan, absolutely the most stand-up woman ever. Cinefex is still in there swingin’, producing an awesomely comprehensive piece of work four times a year. Subscribe/buy it here. I just wish I had copies from back in the day; they’re selling for fifty bucks on eBay now.
Marketing copywriting and consultation. This paid most of the bills for most of the last thirty years. Back in the days of filing cabinets, I had two three-drawer, full-height hunks of sheet steel crammed with direct mail copy, press releases, media kits, sales presentations that I produced as a stagger or freelancer. Ultimately, I’ve thrown most of them away: they’re format for companies that simply no longer exist, but covered the nut for many years. I still do it occasionally, mostly for friends or old clients, but really…nobody cares. Not even me.
Ghostwriting and editing. The other consistent source of income and enjoyment (sometimes) was ghost-writing and editing fiction and non-fiction for something like fifty different clients over the years. Most of it is uncredited, some of it I can’t talk about, but it’s actually, often, kind of fun, from a technical standpoint, to study and assume someone else’s voice, and to ‘fix’ the troubled work of a new or aspiring writer (isn’t that just like a man). If you’re interested, ask. If you’re not, move along, move along.
Screenplays. Hard to believe, but over the years I’ve written and actually been paid for more than a dozen screenplays, and two were actually made back in the Eighties. Check out my totally awesome IMDB.com listing. And good luck on finding a copy of Dirty Laundry. Even I don’t have one. There are still two screenplays “in development,” which is fancy Hollywood language for “not dead yet.” These also fall into the “I can’t talk about this” category. Screenplays can be great fun or total hell to write, but ultimately, for me, they’re not terribly satisfying; they are an intermediate form that isn’t fully complete until someone else finishes it for you, and seeing 80% of that work going unfinished for reasons completely unrelated to the work is…hard. Occasionally lucrative, but hard.
WAP! (Words And Pictures) was the single coolest thing I ever stumbled into. Back in the Eighties, I literally ran into comics legends Frank Miller, Steven Grant, and Steve Gerber, and we ended up co-publishing a print newsletters (ahh, those were the days) especially for comics creators – mostly, frankly, about how they big publishers were screwing them. Only lasted a couple of years, but wow, what an entre into that community. And what a logo by the equally legendary Bill Siencewicz. It has quite literally been forgotten. Not even on the internet.
Firsts: Collecting Modern First Editions. I co-founded a bi-monthly (now quarterly, I believe) print publication on collecting books, but split with the co-founded many many moons ago. It’s still around out there. Somewhere.
GAMER Magazine. I founded a bi-monthly magazine on table-top, card, and RPG games, after my time with TSR and before Magic: The Gathering and computer gaming really took off. Great fun, no money, and bad management – entirely my fault. Another pre-digital venture lost to antiquity.