Who Was that Masked Writer?
In the grand scheme of things, I’m undoubtedly much less famous than my TV-celebrity namesake. Still, I’ve had a long and enjoyable writing career, and you might well have encountered my work through Dragon® Magazine‘s “The Role of Books” review column (may it rest in peace), read one of my short stories, or crossed my path at a science fiction convention (OryCon, for instance). Perhaps we’ve met in “real life”, during the decade or so I spend as a technical writer in Oregon’s “Silicon Forest”. And then again, perhaps you’ve just stumbled across this site via random Web-jump and you don’t have the faintest idea why you’re here.
A Writer’s Life
If you believe the book jackets, writers lead fascinating lives. We’ve held all manner of strange and wonderful (or strange and boring) jobs, we’ve been to any number of exotic places and lived to tell the tale, and we’ve acquired closets full of nifty souvenirs as mementos of our adventures.
The truth is that writers — the ones whose books you’re likely to buy, anyway — spend a lot of time in libraries, sitting in front of computers, and staring off into space (or into their latest cup of coffee, on which they likely spent $1.29 at 7-11 instead of $3.50 at Starbucks) trying to think of what to type next.
Which isn’t to say that some of us haven’t had unusual jobs or traveled around the world. But the unusual jobs probably didn’t pay a lot, a lot of the world tours involve wearing a uniform and carrying a gun, and the staring off into space happens entirely too often.
Meanwhile, Back in Suburbia….
And me? No world tours — I’ve spent nearly all my life right here in the Pacific Northwest.My parents still own, and live in, the house they bought when I was just short of three years old. There are several thousand more books in it now than there were then, but that’s another story.
Funky jobs? Not here. I did the burger-flipping thing in college, poked my nose briefly into the telephone-survey industry, counted office furniture one summer, and have been the “person Friday” in a small specialty stock brokerage. Mind, I know people with exotic careers — the lawyer living in the Middle East, or the friend who’s spent a number of years working for Walt Disney as a singing candlestick, a conniving lion, and most recently the Green Goblin.
All things considered, though, my life is probably plain enough to be a statistical anomaly. There were no soap operas in my childhood, my family only needed the white picket fence and the extra three-tenths of a child to be stereotypically average, and my relatives all, mostly, still talk to each other.
Outside the Carpool Lane
Fast forward to the present, in which I’m still a statistical anomaly. I get along with my parents and sibling, aka the Kid Brother, who lives in southern California with his wife and my niece and nephew (ages 13 and 11 at present), thus confounding those who insist that there’s no such thing as a non-dysfunctional American family. I also don’t drive, drink coffee, inhale (as distinguished from breathing), or indulge in spiritous liquors, though probably not for the reasons you think.* I just never liked the taste of any of the liquid or aromatic vices, and not driving saves fantastic amounts of $$ that don’t have to go for gas and insurance and car payments. When you’re an impoverished writer-type, this is non-trivial.
Like most English degrees, mine has failed to make me rich and famous, although it did eventually launch me on a wildly multi-faceted writing career, documented elsewhere in these (Web) pages. Bruce Wayne has stately Wayne Manor; I have a too-quiet bachelor apartment stuffed full of books, techie-toys, and empty cardboard boxes that used to have books in them. After much too long, I’ve finally started flattening and disposing of the boxes. (If I ever move — not likely in the near future, but one never knows — I’m going to need a big truck.)
*Tea also used to be on my “doesn’t drink” list, but I am gradually becoming a convert, having achieved the age wherein a Nice Hot Cup of Tea is occasionally of definite therapeutic value. (Also, the ever-widening range of pleasantly flavored herbal teas has helped.)