I was born in Saginaw, Michigan in September of 1945, less than a month after the end of World War II. I grew up in Saginaw and spent many summers at a little cottage my folks had along the shores of Lake Huron, where I acquired a love of camping, hunting, fishing and all things outdoors. In 1959 we moved to Detroit, where I spent my high school years before moving to Buffalo, New York in 1964.
I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1966, in the middle of the Viet Nam war. Over the next four years I served tours at various bases in the U.S. and the Far East. I was stationed at Kunsan AB in the Republic of Korea when I met my wife-to-be in 1969. We were married in 1970 right after I finished my active duty tour. I spent the next two years in the Air Force Reserve, with an Honorable Discharge in 1972.
Settling into civilian life, I worked for several insurance companies as a Safety and Loss Control specialist. I bought a home in New Jersey and commuted to my job in New York City every day. Somewhere along the way I managed to acquire a college degree -- a bachelor's in Business Administration -- after nine years of night school. By then I'd gained enough life experience to know that half of what I'd been taught in my college courses was... well, not exactly the way things were in the real world. Probably the best thing I got out of higher education was a healthy dose of skepticism. I'll tell anyone who'll listen that I got a much better education regarding life in general in the Air Force than I did in college.
As I moved up in the world, my employer put me "on the road" -- conducting training and procedural audits in company offices across the country. At one point I was spending 20 weeks of the year away from home -- a full week at a time -- so that just about every weekend I was either coming home from somewhere or packing to go out again. I would leave on Sunday, get home on Friday, usually with two or three cities visited in between. I had more miles in the air than a lot of airline pilots.
In the early 1980s, I decided I'd had enough of that. There was this new invention out there called a "Personal Computer" that everyone was talking about. I got one, taught myself how it worked, how to program it, and how to use it in business. In 1985, I went to work for the Information Systems Division of a major New York insurance brokerage. Twelve years later, that company moved its data center to Memphis, Tennessee. They asked me if I'd be willing to move and I asked them if they could give me five minutes to get packed. I'd had enough of New York City, New Jersey, and commuting.
When I arrived in Memphis, the company hooked me up with a real estate agent to find a home. The agent assumed that, since I was coming from New York City, I must be RICH and would probably want to live in the upscale suburb of Germantown.
Wrong on both counts. I was still a Michigan country boy at heart. I convinced the agent that I wanted to be out away from the city with a few acres of land. She found me a place near Oakland, Tennessee with six acres, a barn -- previous owner had horses -- and a duck pond. I bought it, moved there in 1997, and am still there today.
At the time, I was working in the city of Memphis. Coworkers asked me why I wanted to live so far out -- having to drive 35-40 minutes each way between home and work. I laughed. Living in New Jersey, I had been driving 35-40 minutes each day to get to a train station, where I would get on a train and ride for an hour into New York City. Then I would get on a subway to ride two stops uptown, climb the stairs to the street, and walk the last two blocks to the office -- hot or cold, rain or shine, same trip every day, both ways.
That I could drive 35-40 minutes and park right next to the office for free was... well it was a welcome relief. Living out in the country an a large piece of my own land was well worth it, but the improved commute was a bonus and a financial benefit as well -- my train ticket back in New Jersey cost $100 per month, and parking at the train station was another $50 not to mention another couple of dollars per day for the subway.
I look back on those years of the daily grind and keep asking myself: What were you thinking? But there are millions of people back there who still do that every day. If you, dear reader, are one of them you have my sympathy.
Then just two years later, even my much-reduced commute went away. The company got bought out by a larger brokerage that had no use for our services -- so my boss (who still lived in New York) made a deal with a software company, set up his own business, and invited me to work for him.
He asked me if I would consider moving back to the northeast -- to Long Island, where he lived and was setting up shop. I told him I would do that -- IF he could afford to pay me enough to buy a nice house on Long Island with six acres of land, a barn, and a duck pond.
He thought about that for about three microseconds, then said "Hey... this is the computer age. You can work out of your home in Tennessee."
So I did... and for the next 15 or so years, I would get up in the morning, have breakfast, go into the spare bedroom I had converted to an office, log into the computer in New York and go to work. I finally retired in 2015. If you're keeping track of years and wondering why I didn't retire earlier, the answer is the boss begged me to stay on -- and made it worthwhile. I guess I must have been doing something right.
When I got close to retirement, I started to think about opening a business of my own, pursuing a craft I'd always enjoyed. The Air Force had trained me as an armorer, and I'd been involved with guns and the shooting sports all my life (even in New Jersey -- a TERRIBLE place to live if you are a "gun person"). So I went back to school an got certified as a gunsmith, got my Federal Firearms License, and opened up shop under the trade name of Gunsmith Jack. I still operate that business, and information can be found at www.gunsmithjack.com
But you're an AUTHOR... how did THAT happen?
I started writing in the late 1970s, just for my own enjoyment. I'd always enjoyed reading -- especially science fiction -- and was just hooked on the idea of putting stories down on paper for others to read. In the beginning, I didn't show them to anyone else -- first had to convince myself that I could actually write them.
This was during my business travel years, and “writing time” often meant evening in a hotel room in a distant city. I got myself a small portable typewriter to take on business trips. I'd been fortunate in my youth -- I went to an all-boys Catholic high school in Detroit that believed touch-typing was an appropriate skill for young men to learn. Nonetheless, with my early writing I soon became familiar with that useful product known as White Out.
As technology improved, I did my writing on a computer, working my way through most of the early word processing software before finally settling on Microsoft Word as my primary tool. These days, I do most of my writing using Scrivener though I still compile my finished work to a Word document, the format preferred by most editors.
When the 21st century arrived, I had written three complete novels but had not published any of them. My first two novels were published in late 2012 and the middle of 2013, making both eligible for the 2014 Darrell Awards. The Moon and Beyond made the finals of the competition, but it was Someday the Stars that won the 2014 Darrell Award for Best Fantasy or SF Novel by a Midsouth Author.
At the Author’s Panel for the competition, one of the Darrell Awards Jurors asked what inspired me to write the Lunar Free State series. Truth is, it actually started many years before I put the first words on paper.
In 1969, I was a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, serving in the Far East; but I stopped and watched in wonder – as did the rest of the world – when Neil Armstrong put the first footprints on the Moon.
I have always been fascinated by the concept and technology of space travel. I remember thinking at the time that we had finally made it. I'd been reading science fiction, well... since I could read. I grew up reading Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke -- and now all of those wonderful SciFi worlds I had been reading about were within reach. We would soon be exploring the solar system and beyond. I believed there would be cities on the Moon and people would soon be living on Mars. I was 24 years old at the time and could only imagine the wonderful progress that would be made in the decades to come.
Of course, none of that happened. Just three years later in 1972, Apollo 17 made the last landing on the Moon, and no one has ever gone back. Society turned away from space and got lost in the problems of Earth.
When it became obvious that we had lost the dream, I started writing. The Lunar Free State series tells the story of a group of people who didn’t lose that dream, who kept it alive into the 21st century and made it come true.
To date, I've published eight novels in the Lunar Free State series, with The Never Ever War having launched in February of 2023. The ninth one, Stand on Xanadu is now in the publishers hands, scheduled for publication in a few months.
What readers may not know is that there is another novel in the series, written over 20 years ago, that has not yet been published. When I realized I was writing a generational series it was apparent that the third novel jumped too far ahead of the first two. I needed to fill in the gap before the third one could be released. With Stand on Xanadu, we are almost there, but I think we'll need one more novel before that unpublished one can be released.
So... keep reading, because you are the reason I keep writing.