When I was an infant, my parents moved to an icy little town in Maine seeking a new way of life. My family arrived just in time for the legendary winter of 1970. Our unfinished house was on a treeless slope, right in the path of the wind from the lake. After a few years on what we called Chillsvile Hill, we escaped to a warmer place in a different Maine town.
The new town was an ideal place to grow up. There were two libraries and a small-town department store (toys!) within half an hour’s walk. My family’s home was hidden deep in the woods. Acquaintances saw us vanish into the trees, but only real friends learned where we went after that. Those whom we invited in discovered, not only trails through wooded hills, but the vast excavation we called the Barrow Pit, where I built fortresses among the car-sized boulders and my mother attempted to grow walnut trees.
When I was eleven, a teacher introduced me to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. That inspired my love of fantasy literature, and also crystallized my interest in writing. A few years later, a friend introduced me to role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. As a teenager, I began publishing gaming material.
Meanwhile, I traded school for a period of home education, and home education for university. One of my many amazing professors introduced me to international relations, and I ended up focusing on that subject, studying Chinese along the way. I was also active in the Table Gaming Club, where I had many imaginary adventures, not to mention a few real-life ones. After graduating, I spent a time as a full-time writer, publishing eighteen book-length gaming supplements and many shorter pieces.
This was also the point when my mother passed, and when the life my family had made entered a period of irrevocable change. After a year, I boarded a Greyhound bus and left Maine behind to pursue a PhD in international relations in California.
In graduate school, I found a true mentor. This mentor, in turn, introduced me to a distinguished British scholar named Professor Colin Gray. Gray invited me to finish my PhD with him at the UK’s University of Hull. My studies at Hull led to a lecturing job, and I spent twenty years teaching politics in Britain.
One perk of this career was the opportunity to use my background in gaming designing role-playing exercises for students. Another was the opportunity to take a comfortable civilian role in a number of military exercises, notably a simulated battle involving real tanks. A third was the opportunity to appear as an occasional speaker at the British military’s Advanced Command and Staff College. A fourth was the opportunity to host CIA veteran Tennent H. Bagley for a talk about his role in the controversial defection of KGB officer Yuri Nosenko. A fifth was the opportunity to advise the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development regarding the commercial use of outer space.
Meanwhile, I took advantage of living in Britain to travel around Europe, with three forays into Asia. Highlights included miles of prehistoric standing stones at Karnak (France), cave villages in the hollowed-out rock formations in Cappadocia (Turkey) and a January trip to Moscow. Discovered what real pizza is like on the streets of the Italian city of Prato. Narrowly escaped an unwanted body piercing while trying to communicate across a language barrier with a pharmacist in Istanbul. CG Jung tells us that nothing happens by coincidence and so it was that after a twelve-mile hike through Ireland’s Galtee Mountains, I found myself in a gaslit hostel with a traveler who happened to have studied with the same professor who served as my mentor when I was at graduate school in California.
On a sadder note, in the twenty-teens, I lost my father. This, along with other personal developments, prompted me to re-think a few things. In the aftermath, I made a decision much like the one my parents had made forty-odd years earlier. I returned to Maine, and to freelance writing. The change has been positive, and my first novel appeared in 2019.