Though I aspired to become a novelist as a child and my adolescence was spent in the study of writing, my undergraduate degree is in business administration, and my present career is that of a lead programmer and system architect designing and writing business software. Nonetheless, my dream of becoming a published author is still alive and well. Over the past few years I've written a science fantasy novel called THE GUARDIAN, for which I'm presently seeking representation. I'm also currently writing another (unrelated) novel, a supernatural thriller called ALDEN RIDGE. For the latest updates on my progress, please visit my blog.
I've been writing novels since 1997, when I was in eighth grade. My goal was to become a published writer before graduating high school, and in the interest of that I took twice the required number of writing/literature courses in high school. I didn't meet my ambitious goal, but I did finish my first novel, CAYENNE, in the summer of 2001--just before my senior year. It was a 115,000 word science fiction about war and artificial intelligence in the distant future. That manuscript exhibited just about every common amateur-author flaw, unfortunately, and so it was ultimately unpublishable, but I did learn a lot about the craft it takes to be a real writer and storyteller. You can read more about my experiences with CAYENNE here and here.
CAYENNE was the only book that I completed until 2006, when I finished THE GUARDIAN after two years of writing and prewriting. Between 1997 and 2004, I began some twenty-odd novels that I abandoned for various reasons. All of them taught me a lot about craft (and discipline). Several of my failed novels made it into the 20,000-30,000 word range. The most significant of these was probably RED EAGLE, my very first attempt at a novel. Like most of my work, it was a blend of science fiction and fantasy, featuring self-styled "knights" in the modern world, and a global cataclysm brought on by genetically-engineered dragons, orcs, etc. Like all of my other incomplete works, I simply dropped it and moved on once it became clear that I had outgrown the material.
After CAYENNE met with silent rejection from a couple of publishers, I worked on a few other projects but never spent all that much time on any individual work until I had the founding ideas for THE GUARDIAN. I was in college at that point, and also working 30+ hour weeks as a computer programmer and systems administrator. That didn't leave a whole lot of time for writing, and so I had a slow period of about two years. I was still in college when I had the ideas for THE GUARDIAN, and yet the ideas were so strong that I had to work on that novel anyway. My numerous other time commitments were what led to it taking me two years to complete the book.
Since its completion, THE GUARDIAN has met with mixed success. The consensus among professional readers seems to be that it is paced too slowly for a modern debut novel, but that it has many merits otherwise. You can read author Beverly Swerling's reactions to it here. I also received nice comments (but ultimately a pass) from uber agent Matt Bialer. At present, I still have some outstanding queries to agents regarding THE GUARDIAN, but I've largely resigned myself to the fact that this will most likely not be my first published book. The story is a strong one, and is intended to be part of a larger series, but a book with a faster opening will be required for my debut.
With this knowledge in mind, along with everything else that I learned during the process of writing, revising, and submitting THE GUARDIAN, I am now working on a novel called ALDEN RIDGE. I'm making excellent progress on this book, but I only started writing it in February 2007, so there is still a good ways to go. I often post about my progress on it at my blog, so you can get the latest updates there.
I've always been a writer at heart, and from the mid-90's on I always thought that would be my career. I almost went to UNC Chapel Hill for creative writing. I was accepted and everything. But I was lucky enough to meet the woman who is now my wife earlier than most people do, and we decided to get engaged when we were still in high school (that story is a book in itself). In order for us to be able to create the kind of life we wanted, I needed to have a "real" job, at least until I established myself as a novelist. To that end, while my wife did go to UNC to study comparative literature and French, I decided to go to NC State University for computer science.
Computers are another skill of mine, and I had become a Certified Novell Administrator in high school, so before I even started at NCSU I was looking for a job as a systems administrator. It turns out that it is unbelievably hard to find a position of that sort if you are eighteen years old, whether or not you have your CNA or any other certifications. Most businesses that I applied to wouldn't even give me an interview--I wound up taking a data entry position at a small company called Starta Development in May of 2001.
Six years later, I'm still there--but now I'm the lead developer and primary software architect for all of Starta's products. My stint as a data entry intern lasted less than a week. Gordon Blackwell, Jr., the founder of the company, knew that I had some skills in server administration, and he thought it would be a good learning opportunity to help out with things like that at Starta. He's one of those incredible, unusual people who like to help others just for their sake. But I knew a lot more about server administration than he expected, and so I wound up officially becoming Starta's systems admin within two weeks.
I did full-time systems admin work that first summer, but I had to majorly cut back my hours when I started college in the fall. The business was growing, and so we hired another systems administrator to be there full time, while I continued to provide part-time support. Once I was in school again, I gradually got into programming. I had a lot of great programming mentors at Starta, including Gordon himself. Though my title was still officially Systems Administrator, I started working on a number of side programming projects as the systems admin work died down. By the middle of 2002, I was doing programming work pretty full time at Starta, and reading voraciously on the subject at home.
In late 2002, I officially became a part of the development team at Starta. We were looking to completely reinvent our software products, and I got to be really involved in that. The company was going through a hard time at this point, however, and so in February of 2003 there was a big layoff. I was the only programmer to survive the cuts. This was largely because of my role in the designs for the software overhaul. Even so drastically short on staff, I was able to complete the redesign and recoding of all our products in an unheard-of six months (with the help of Gordon and our sole remaining web designer, the fabulous Lee Cherry).
If you're interested in this sort of thing, you can read a lot more about the technology platform that I developed here. There are also special notes on how we provide flexibility and extensibility here, and other notes on our business-level concept innovations here.
I've never been a professional artist, and I don't have any intentions of becoming one, but art has been a hobby since I was in elementary school. When I was younger, most of my work was in color pencils, oil pastels, and so forth, but I never fully developed those skills. Back in 1998, when I had my first Pentium computer, I discovered 3D rendering and that pretty much took over my artistic impulse from there on out.
I started out working in little no-name free 3D programs, and then moved up to the demo versions of programs like Bryce 2, Bryce 3D, and Cinema 4D. I learned a lot from these, and eventually moved up to the full versions of other programs like Bryce 4 and 5, and TrueSpace 4. I also did some work in Blender 2.0, which is free but bloody complicated. A few years ago I discovered Terragen (also free for personal use), and a lot of my more recent renderings have been in that. I've tried out their public Technology Preview version of Terragen 2, but unfortunately I don't have enough of a background in the various theories of 3D (shaders in particular) to really be able to do much with that yet. But their Terragen 2 galleries look amazing (and really put to shame any renderings I've ever done), so I look forward to the "streamlined interface" that they have promised will accompany the full release of that program.
In 2001 I started getting into Photoshop, as well. You can do a surprising amount with that program, and there's a fair number of pieces that I've done in recent years just using Photoshop. You can see all of my best work online at my Picassa art gallery. Aside from that, I've been involved in two small art shows. The first was on November 17, 2001, at Enloe High School, where I was a student at the time. A computer lab was set up for the day with each of 20 computers showing a single one of my images. Teachers and students stopped by all day long, and I sold a number of prints and gave away an even larger number of bookmarks. That was all made possible by Julia Williams, the amazing teacher (now retired) who was also instrumental in helping me get my CNA certification and my job at Starta (it was through her that I found Gordon). In February 2004, I also took part in an art show at NCSU. This one showed three of my works, printed and framed, among the works of many other students. There were no actual promotion events associated with this one.
These days I occasionally do a rendering in Bryce 5 or Terragen, or some freeform work in Photoshop Elements or Photoshop 8, but generally such activity comes in waves. Often I don't do any art for months or even a year at a time, and then I'll have a flurry of activity for a few weeks or months.
Last Updated: April 14, 2007
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