Soon to be Frequently Asked Questions
Warning! May contain spoilers!
Did you name your character after San Francisco musician Christopher Ford?
I didn't. I didn't even know about him until a couple stories into working on the series. Another Christopher Ford contacted me after he'd compiled a list of Christopher Fords on the internet, that's when I discovered the musician.
Christopher Ford is actually named after Harrison Ford's dad.
What happened to your AuthorsDen and WritingTree submissions?
Some of you may know that, for a brief while, I was heavily involved with WritingTree.com and AuthorsDen.com. I am no longer active on either, although I still maintain a page on AuthorsDen.
WritingTree was a great site, and did much to promote online writers. Unfortunately, the business model didn't support their existence, and they folded.
AuthorsDen, on the other hand, has thrived. Unfortunately, they thrived at the cost of their original purpose. When they started, they were an outlet for writers, both professional and amateur, to gain the attention of readers. Now, however, they've shifted their focus to assisting authors with making money with online publications.
I don't disagree with authors who want to make money online, but that's not the way I work; my online publications are free to anyone who wants to read them. I will not give away free teasers and then charge for the rest; it is my personal belief that doing so is a dishonest tact best left to drug dealers.
What's a "Borogove?"
Uh, well, that's a good question. You'll probably have to eat some shrooms and read the "Wonderland" books to figure it out. The quote referenced by the band's name comes from the poem "Jabberwocky," which I believe is in the "Through the Looking Glass."
All mimsy were the borogoves
Long ago, when I was a young, idealistic artist (before my spirit was crushed and broken by Todd McFarlane), I had thoughts of becoming a comic book artist. One of my primary influences was a comic called "Love and Rockets." Anyway, I kinda plagiarized that, and worked on a comic called "Kafka's," about a struggling band with a lead singer named Mim, and band members Banana, Danny, and Karen. "Kafka's" was also the name of the club they played at. I pretty much plagiarized myself by taking ideas from a project I was no longer working on and using them in Ford. It worked out well, I think.
Is Jake related to Sancho?
Yes, possibly, maybe. Almost definitely. I think. In the possible sequel to "McCain," Sancho strikes it rich by finding gold in Alaska and retires to Chicago. For anyone interested, here's Jake's possible lineage:
Sancho Cisneros: 1842-1927
Edgar Cisneros: 1884-1923
Louis Cisneros: 1919-1974
John Cisneros: 1947-?
Jake Cisneros: 1971-?
I figured that out because I had planned on having Jake talk about his family at one point, but I haven't found just the right place for it yet. A little more information about Jake and John is provided in Jake's character bio.
Is Ford related to McCain?
No. I... no. Good God no. What's wrong with you? What would make you ask such a silly question? Peter McCain would be rolling over in his grave if Ford were a descendant of his. No, the truth is that McCain's last surviving descendant is an insurance salesman in Seattle. (And you thought I was going to say he became a senator, didn't you?)
Why do you refer to Queyen Omi as "Phuong?"
Typical stupid English-speaking kinnigit that you are. Shows how much you know. The Queen's full name is Queyen Omi Phuong. It's proper Vietnamese custom to put the family name first, then a meaningful middle name (which is rare for females), and then the given name.
Consequently, her name to English speakers is Phuong Omi Queyen. There's more in her bio about her name.
What kind of research into the supernatural have you done for this story?
I drove around San Fran aimlessly, read goofy books about paranormal stuff, and drank coffee at 2 A.M. at the local Village Inn. Actually, ever since reading "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" when I was little, I've been interested in ghosts and ghost stories. I've got quite a collection now of books on the subject. My favorites, so far, are "Mysteries of the Unexplained," (which is *not* the Time-life version. If anyone knows where I can find the Time-Life version, let me know), the "Oxford Book of English Ghost Tales," and "The Everyman's Book of English Folk Tales."
How's the food at "Skai Hai Thai?"
Imaginary. There's no such place. There is, however, a restaurant on O'Farrell, right down the street from the O'Farrell Theater (Mitchell Brothers, "Behind the Green Door"), called "Sai Hai Thai," on which the "Skai Hai" pun is based. But I thought a "Say Hey" reference was lost on non-Friscans. And besides, I didn't want to get sued.
Carffee sounds absolutely disgusting. Where can I buy it?
We're negotiating with StarBucks.
What happened to the Japanese sword at the end of Golden Gate?
Ford was found clutching onto it for dear life. Since he wasn't aware of that fact when the last chapter began, I didn't put it in.
You said in "Golden Gate" that Ford lives down the street from the hospital. Which Hospital? UC Med? Does that mean he lives in the Haight?
I couldn't resist. Ford lives in the Twin Peaks area. I know, I know, referential material unused, c'est la vie. Eventually I'll make some David Lynch jokes. For now, just be happy in the knowledge that that's where Ford lives. That means, of course, that he's "down the street" from Laguna Honda, not UC Med.
Where do you get your ideas / How do you write your stories / Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The first time I got asked something along these lines, I was amused, and chalked it up to a naive letter writer. The second time, I was intrigued, and wondered why people would ask me. I figured it was time to put an answer down.
See, I don't consider myself a "writer," I consider myself a storyteller. The difference being that I can't sit down and craft a story from scratch the way a writer would. The best I can do is arrange my over-active imagination into a cohesive story.
Everything I write comes from some funny or odd idea that I've had. That's precisely why "Bad Boy McCain" is on hiatus, I literally have to be in a frame of mind to write a particular story.
That's why I'm confused when people consider me a serious writer.
That having been said, I'd like to add that nobody can teach you how to write. You can sift through books and advice from published authors and pick out the kernels that work for you, but you have to remember that those are techniques that only work for you. Nobody can explain how to write in a step-by-step outline because no two people write exactly the same way.
But I still haven't answered the question. The way I write my stories is by merging two halves of an idea. The first half is my version of the "write what you know" cliche. I get interested in things, and I learn about them. I'm interested in the paranormal, and I'm constantly reading information about dead alchemists or ghost hunters in Kansas or angel lore. These things interest me. But I also find new things that catch my attention by reading, be it a book or magazine. Lately I've gotten interested in quantum cryptography, so I've been reading about quantum states and polar theory. Without a doubt, the things I've learned will appear in a later Ford story.
But even with these hobbies, I still don't have "stories." That's where my overactive imagination comes in handy. My brain is always coming at me with things like, "wouldn't it be really cool if you had two ninjas fighting on the top of a skyscraper constuction site and one of them grabbed a bucket on a rope and swung all the way around an I-beam and kicked the other?"
I spend a lot of time ignoring my brain.
But once in a while, an idea I really like comes along and I'll play with it. Why are those ninjas fighting? Who are they? Why are they on top of a skyscraper? By asking these questions, I can reverse engineer a plot to get to that point and then resolve it.
Once I have a plot, I try to throw in something that interests me, thus merging my hobbies with these weird ideas.
A good example of this is "Stars on the Water." First I came up with the idea of tying Ford to a chair and having him wiggle his way out. Then I worked backwards to figure out how he got there. Then I threw in the idea of past-life regression and viola, I had a story. The "Hammer and Nale" trilogy was built entirely around the scene where Ford's talking to Nale on the boat, I just threw in some voodoo, alchemy, and vampires for fun.
One thing to keep in mind as you read this, however, is that Ford is a series. I don't have to come up with new characters for each story, I don't have to come up with new scenarios either; I already have a setting and a cast. And, while I do pull ideas for current stories from past ones, I don't necessarily bury clues to later stories in my chapters. More often than not, I get ideas by re-reading older stories and noticing patterns, or bits of information that were dropped into the story, then forgotten.