Is there anyone who has helped or mentored you in your writing career? If so, who?

Now this is a fertile field for study.   I would lump these folks into three categories.

First, I would like to comment on those folks who helped me by virtue of how I fell in love with their work.  I have mentioned in other places that my love of SF started in childhood.  I suspect that is one reason my approach to it is a very visual one.  I shivered as I watched Johnny Quest evade the howling invisible monster, or Tobor the Eigthman, Astroboy and Marineboy battle futuristic enemies.  I watched Fireball 5 hurtle down the skids to her missions in space.  Anime inspired me because where the American SF material was simplistic and exterior driven, the Japanese anime characters had family conflicts, personal tragedy and emotional turmoil.  The young officer might not worship his “Captain Kirk” but rather as Derek Wildstar did, might reject Captain Argo’s authority.  A whole emotional level of loss, longing and love existed as subtext largely, if not entirely, absent from the American material.

As I became a reader, I fell under the spell of Andre Norton with such works as the Stars are Ours, Last Planet, the Zero Stone and many others.  Telzey Amberdon, Danestar Gems and Trigger Argee locked my interest (even at an early age I found the female characters of SF fascinating.)  Later Larry Niven’s depictions of aliens inspired me.  Finally I came to my more adult love of the works of CJ Cherryh, dense, complicated and detailed stories of life under the stars.

Many other writers’ works inspired me and if I even listed merely the in-genre ones I would exceed the allotted word length so I must omit so many fine writers.

Second came the friends I joined the writing world with or found on my own.  First and foremost of those is my friend of many years, Tim McLoughlin, companion in many adventures and more than a few misadventures in the real world.  Tim sallied into writing with his noir stories of foot soldiers and victims in the world of crime as best exemplified by “Heart of the Old Country”, which was made into the movie “The Narrows” and his later work as author and editor in the “Brooklyn Noir “series (Akashic books)  Before Tim, writers were some strange species descending from some overworld armed with powers beyond the ken of mortal men and gifting us with their stories.  Now there was one I knew, a real person.  Someone who looked at me and said, “If I can do it….” as he had on many of those (mis) adventures before.  It gave me the courage to try.

Writing can be a lonely game, but it is sometimes you can travel together in a good writing group.  Few things are as good as a good writing group and few things as destructive as a bad one.  My writing group is called the Brinker’s Group, after a deceased member.  It has existed for over 20 years in various incarnations and more people have been through it than through the average infantry company.  Some folded under the demands of writing, others passed out of the writing world and some out of this world.  But in that group I met the core cadre of writers who became my friends and have helped me elevate my game: Kim Wright, who wrote “Love in Mid Air,” and a Victorian crime series, Laura Jean Stroupe, writer and editor and an actual character in my Jeremy Leclerc Knight Templar Series, Paul Barrett, who talent I recognized when I recruited him for the Sha’Daa anthologies (that I edit) and now the “Not to Yield” Space Opera shared world ,we are presently working on.

Mike Hanson develops special mention if for nothing else than his ability to talk people into assaulting great heights under impossible odds.  About ten years ago Mike recruited me for an unsold shared world anthology called the Sha’Daa, a near term apocalyptic battle between good and evil.  He recruited may promising new authors (as there was no money in this 😉 and off we went.  Entirely orchestrated by email and bulletin boards, the Sha’Daa began to take shape.  We quickly realized that if Mike was the visionary, he needed a nut and bolts guy to get stuff done.  I became the editor on the series and hammered the original effort into two anthologies and then found a publisher for them with Altered Dimension’s Kelly Christiansen.

Our partnership continued in that we wanted to do a third and fourth Sha’Daa and some other work together.  Meanwhile, I had struck up a Facebook  acquaintance with Janet Morris, fantasy author and creator of the famed “Heroes in Hell” series that ran so well through the 1990s.  I joked with her that she needed to resurrect the series as there was clearly a missing volume.  “Lawyers in Hell.”  Damn if she didn’t take me seriously and next thing I knew Lawyers in Hell was taking off around me like a Coast Guard Helicopter heading out into a hurricane.  I found myself in an anthology with my idol C J Cherryh and many other fine authors, heady stuff.   I was able to pitch out a line and drag Mike Hanson into the chopper.

Not only did Mike and I do Lawyers in Hell, Rogues in Hell and stand ready for still more Hellish duty, we impressed Janet Morris enough for her to agree to take on (in her Persied Publishing) the newest Sha’Daa effort “Pawns” and to reissue Sha’Daa 1 and 2 and sign on for Sha’Daa 4 “Facets.”

Janet crowned this by lending her name to the Fenaday series by writing an introduction to Was Once a Hero for which she has my unending thanks.

Did I mention that Mike Hanson and I have never met?  We have never laid eyes on each other in all the years of our partnership, and spoken by phone twice.  Otherwise ours is a relationship of letters, weird but it works.

The third category must of necessity envelope the first two in some measure.   These are people who I met professionally, even if it later yielded friendships.  First among these must be my publisher Dawn Binkley (alias Keira Kroft) of Hellfire Publications.  I am not even entirely sure quite how we stumbled over each other save that it was through Facebook.  Dawn was interested in my humorous noir detective series, “Lair of the Lesbian Love Goddess.”  We began publishing those for Kindle and then I raised the prospect of publishing Was Once a Hero.  This took off like a rocket, for all I am the only SF writer in her stable of authors.  Was Once a Hero hit the air to great reviews and better sales for a small press.  Dawn decided to press forward with “Regrets and Requiems” and now the sequels “Fearful Symmetry” 2012 and “Points of Departure” 2013.  From there who know where we go (but I have some ideas.)

Other folks I must thank include that great gentleman of SF & F, Mike Resnick , who did the foreword to “Sha’Daa Tales of the Apocalypse” which elevated us out of the ghetto of small anthologies.   Catherine Asaro who did the same for “Sha’Daa Last Call.” Then there is Orson Scott Card, whose bootcamp beat some skills into me.  Finally and with pride of place, Claudia Christian, who played Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5 who has graced my second Fenaday/Shasti book “Fearful Symmetry” with a foreword.  For those of you who have the pleasure to meet her, Claudia is one of the nicest and most approachable celebrities.  Hint, she loves northern Italian food.

I hope I have adequately thanked and mentioned everyone who gave me a leg up, I needed every one of their helping hands to get this far.

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