Questions Frequently Asked
Are you really a zoo doc? Or is that something you made up?
For the answer, you’ll have to read my sequel, Curse of the Black Jaguar.
Do you visit zoos or contribute to their organizations?
I have always had a love for and fascination with animals. In the past, I regularly took my kids to zoos, wild animal parks and aquariums. I like to think that that is why my son is also an animal lover. At one time, he toyed with the idea of becoming a veterinarian. That was before he graduated from college and entered the work force as a pharmaceutical scientist.
Yes, I still visit zoos and wild animal parks, etc. I am a Diamond Member of San Diego Zoological Society, and my wife and I just recently visited the San Diego Zoo. I’ve had annual passes to California’s Marine World/Africa U.S.A. I’m also a contributing member of the BOS (Borneo Orangutan Survival Society), and the WCO (The Wilderness Classroom Organization). I believe animals—whether avian, aquatic or terrestrial—are God's gift to man as non-human companions and silent teachers, and they definitely serve an important function in earth’s global ecology and economy. But these beautiful creatures should NEVER be exploited greedily for commercial gain!
What motivates you to write?
A love to communicate ideas and ideals, and a compulsion to tell stories that can change lives.
How might a young person start out in writing?
Try to write well in school. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Don’t just answer the questions on tests (unless they’re “true or false” questions) but elaborate with interesting facts and details, as time and paper permits. Book reports and term papers are excellent opportunities to develop your creative writing skills. In high school my teacher once asked the class to do a report on “mercy killing.” I put my heart into that because of my strong feelings against the practice. I did research, and included some quotes from “expert” sources. My report got an A+, and the teacher read it to the whole class. That was probably when I first got the writing bug. There are literary contests at schools and in local and national newspapers, magazines and on-line. Each published work (whether for free or for pay) helps to build on your literary “platform” of credits. Also there are college courses (journalism and general creative writing) and books and magazines that teach techniques of being a good writer. Then, there’s always that famous pithy quote: “A writer writes.”
Is your family supportive of your writing?
Absolutely. And they’re excited to see me finally getting published after all these years of procrastination.
Do you have any favorite writers that inspired you while growing up?
Although he didn’t write his stories down, I’d have to say my dad first, because he would sit us kids down in the living room and his fanciful tales would just flow out of his imaginative mind. Then, as a young adult, I loved Walt Disney, and Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind,” and most everything from John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Beatrix Potter, Jack London (especially “The Sea Wolf”)—and the list goes on.
What was your inspiration for writing War Star Rising!
When my daughter Iris Marie became suicidal in 1993 due to her terminal illness, I wanted to renew in her the will to live and to accomplish good in her life with whatever time remaining she might have. So I wrote a short story for her that I called Legend of Toucan Moon. It was about a Maya princess who develops a terminal illness (like a brain tumor in today’s terminology), and how she has to travel alone through the dangerous jungle to find “the cave” of the Wise One in order “to discern the remaining number of [her] days,” and the things she experiences along the way. This story uplifted Iris and gave her the strength she needed to go on and do many good deeds before her death in April of 1998. In memory of Iris, and to honor her courageous, self-sacrificing deeds of mercy toward others, I determined that I should enlarge the short story to a novel, and I changed the title to War Star Rising! Additionally, I wrote a screenplay based on the novel, and was delighted to receive an international award. It would be my ultimate dream to have War Star Rising! developed into a feature film someday.
Where do the characters in your books come from? Family and friends?
Not usually, although the name for Toucan Moon’s aunt T’xamara in War Star Rising! (pronounced: T’ [as in the “T” sound for “it”] EESH-a-MA-ra) is a play on my wife’s name, Tamara. Otherwise, they just come to me from the thin air between my ears.
Do you ever write poetry?
Yes. Not a lot. I seem to go in stages. When I feel a special need or inspiration, then I write poetry, like for my wife. Sometimes I write lyrics, as well. Turns out, my mom was a songwriter. She wrote several songs especially for singer Al Martino in the 1960s. At least two of her songs became number one hits, but she requested that her name not be publicized, and refused money for her work. So it would be hard to prove. But her lyrics were beautiful love songs that she wrote for my step-dad when they were first married. After Mom died, my step-dad revealed this “secret” to me, and he showed me the LP albums that featured her songs. One of those songs was an album title.
Your byline is “Sculptor of words.” How is writing like sculpting in clay?
Sculpting in clay: You can make any shape you want and change the shape. Then you can shave off here a little, there a little, and add back clay. Then smooth out what needs to be smooth. All to make the perfect image that’s in your head. Sculpting in words: I keep reshaping a story and adding a word or phrase, subtracting here and there, until I think it’s “perfect.” Then the editor gets his/her hands on it, which always means more reshaping and smoothing until the story flows like glass, or polished bronze.
Have you written any screenplays?
Several. But my biggest hope is that War Star Rising! will someday be made into a feature film. That screenplay, based on my novel, won an international award in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition recently. There’s a lot of interest in Mayan culture and history these days, especially after Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, and with all the hype over the year 2012. The message is clear: There needs to be an end to wars if mankind is ever going to survive on this small planet!
Does your belief system/religion have a bearing on what you write?
Definitely. Christianity (and Judaism) were originally opposed to “paganism.” And, as much as I respect the ancient Mayans in other ways, their conduct of bloody warfare for empirical domination and enrichment, and to increase slaves for forced labor and for sacrifices to the gods is appalling. I believe such practices should still be viewed as appalling and barbaric, as it was viewed in the past by the more “civilized” societies, but without the violent resistance exercised by the greedy Conquistadors and misguided clergy
Is there any news about an upcoming sequel?
Yes, I'm happy to announce that I’m now working on a modern sequel to War Star Rising! that will be titled Curse of the Black Jaguar. It turns out that in ancient times Toucan Moon put a curse on Black Jaguar, and only her great-great-great-great-granddaughter, the beautiful Xiuhsana Zamora, can release the big cat from Toucan Moon’s curse. If Xiuhsana fails, the ghostly animal will haunt her forever. But more is involved than just Xiuhsana’s being haunted. Time travel, mysticism, a race against time, and the survival of all life on earth are the gripping elements of this story that just may turn out to be the “truth” that is, as the saying goes, “stranger than fiction.”
What would you like to be remembered for most?
First, as a loving, God-fearing husband, father and grandfather (and, hopefully, a great-great-great-great-grandfather). Second, as a peacemaker. And third, as a good communicator, with a great sense of humor.