Author, Photographer, Researcher, Artist, Adventurer and Buccaneer Extraordinaire

“Or at least that’s the plan each morning after coffee.”

DL Tolleson.com

THIS UNNAMED GEOLOGICAL formation is the likely result of wind, rain and time eroading away surface material to expose what at one time would have lava (magma) that had cooled and solidified. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
COMING INTO OR out of the Chisos Mountains, this is the northwest view and is several miles south of Panther Junction and the headquarters for Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE CLARET CUP is covered in barbed spines and blooms a reddish, cup-shaped flower from about April to June or July in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW FROM a formation called, “The Window,” looks out from the westside of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIAN HEAD MOUNTAIN and its southern region offers this “leaning” wall of geology at the western boundary of Big Bend National Park. The rocks of the foreground are boulders ranging from man-sized on up. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
MASSIVE AND TOWERING, this wall of the geology is at least a couple of hundrend feet high and situated in the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WIDE-OPEN PANORAMAS and mountainous terrain such as this are routine along roadside in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE SOUTHWEST SIDE of the Chisos Mountains, also known as the Chisos Mountain Basin and home to the lodge in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2011 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A FALLEN TREE is an impassable barrier in an otherwise debris-free dry riverbed in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIGENOUS TO TEXAS, New Mexico and Arizona, Javelinas in Big Bend National Park genetically differ from swine. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
LOST MINE TRAIL in Big Bend National Park, looking southward over Juniper Canyon, the Chisos Mountain’s Northeast Rim and into Mexico. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A TREE SILHOUETTED against the night sky as seen from Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW EAST of a volcano is an illusion of the setting sun streaming through the Chisos Basin area behind Casa Grande Peak in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WRIGHT MOUNTAIN in background at Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A VIEW WESTWARD after sundown from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A CAMERA COMPENSATION for the limited light after sundown provides this view westward from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.
SANTA ELENA CANYON after sunset, as seen from the Chimneys in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.
Author photo, 2016
©2016 Camera One

Receiving one of the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association’s highest awards for Journalistic Excellence, DL Tolleson also garnered awards for Feature Writing and News Photography from the Texas Community College Press Association. A one-time Fine Arts Consultant/Instructor under a state grant program to ARC of Texas, he has also taught Creative Photography in the College for Kids program at Tarrant County College and writing at the elementary level in an after school program under a federal grant to the Fort Worth Independent School District.

A former member of the Texas State Bar’s Legal Assistant’s Division he spent over 14 years in litigation support. As a Paralegal Specialist in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance Office he was awarded recognition for creating a method to merge Disaster Credit Management System data with loan modification documents. For six years he was one of the four-member team overseeing compliance of Dealer Franchise cellular contracts at the RadioShack Corporation headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

As a photographer/videographer, Tolleson’s portfolio of work covers a wide spectrum: News, litigation, depositions, surveillance, evidentiary documentation, accident/incidence scenes, personal injury, property damage, postmortem evidence, modeling, portraits, events and weddings. He now primarily photographs wildlife and nature for pleasure, predominantly focusing on the Big Bend region of Texas.

In addition to authoring the atypical espionage thriller, The Gray Stopgap, Tolleson’s novella, Socials, will soon be re-published as an Amazon.com e-book and print edition. A sequel to The Gray Stopgap is also planned for publication.

He holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Texas. He also holds an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Applied Science from Tarrant County College. A freelance writer/photographer, Tolleson resides in the north central region of Texas referred to by locals as the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Contacting Tolleson

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Questions and Answers

Answers to the most often-asked questions. Read straight through or jump to Specific questions and answers.




Q. Who designed and runs your website?

A. It’s a collaborative effort of sorts. If you really want to know the boring details, here they are: Some years back, when I first signed with the publisher, The Lighthouse Press, LLC (they were an, “Inc.” back then), their web site was… Well, it sucked. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. “There, I said it,” as Mark Levine says on his radio show. (This answer isn’t about Levin so look him up if you don’t know the name.)

Anyway, I was able to urge The Lighthouse Press, Inc. to ditch their amateurish web site and institute changes regarding what was expected of author web sites with which they would link and work. No sites hosted on “free servers,” no cutesy animation and no hobby or “non-author” related sites are just a few of the things unacceptable. In return they will link to an author’s web site and offer about as much content and oversight as the writer desires. Since I was integral to those changes—that both the company and its writers loved—my subsequent design input still carries a lot of weight with Lighthouse. This couldn’t have happened with a monster-sized publishing company that employs hundreds of people, image consultants and design departments up the ying-yang. But Lighthouse is small—a micro-sized publishing concern—and so by rendering them web site guidance (that’s generally utilized) I constrain my own website to adhere to the Lighthouse policy. That’s why Lighthouse items will show up in the “news bytes” on my site and the Lighthouse “narrative voice” is sprinkled throughout this site. It’s a, “give and take,” you might say.

If I wanted to use this site to sell, oh, say, exotic adult toys, Lighthouse would drop me like a wet sock, de-link me at their site and instruct me to remove any Lighthouse affiliation or face prosecution. I could run the exotic adult toys site separate from this one and MAYBE be perfectly good to go (that is, aside from the weirdness of selling the toys in the first place).

And then, in early 2016, I moved DLTolleson.com to a sub-domain of my publisher’s web site, TheLighthousePress.com. Just look at the web site URL above and you’ll see what I mean.

Why? The abbreviated story involves my prior web hosting service losing their ICANN status and an adversarial relationship with a company that essentially barred my domain renewal. But I did, finally, renew the domain. Shortly thereafter, I hit upon discussing the matter with my publisher. That discussion culminated with the migration of my web site to where it is now.

As for who set-up the web site up, designed it and did the actual work...? I did all that.

So there it is—the Who, What, Where, When and How of this web site. My ultimate goal is the same as the publisher’s, which might loosely be described as the intent to make a living by entertaining, educating and informing while not besotting myself with an unprofessional or cheaply amateurish image. I am very hands-on involved with this web site.

Q. I was going to buy your book but on Amazon.com it was $500 (or $800 or $1000 or $2000). Are you crazy? Is your book really that expensive? Who the heck do you think you are: Is that for real? Etc., etc., etc.?

A. Yes, those prices are occasionally real. I don’t see a dime of it and while I can’t prove it, I suspect the sellers don’t see a dime of it either. So what’s the deal?

Well, a few years back I contacted one of the sellers, explained who I was and asked if he was insane. According to that guy, the edition was being offered at an outrageous price because it was no longer in print and signed by the author. I explained to the deluded fool that I was an absolute nobody and that a book with a cover price of around $17 was in no way worth $300 (the price at that time). The guy held his ground, saying that I would be “surprised” at how much people would pay for a book that was no longer available. Since then, every once in a while, I’ll see one of those crazy listings. The most outlandish price I saw was for the 3rd edition published by The Lighthouse Press. It was priced at $2,104.55 (in July of 2017).

Now it is true that the Lighthouse 3rd edition is no longer available new, but the 4th edition, in hardcover, is available. Thus the price of used, “collectable,” Lighthouse Press editions eventually dropped to normal. But anyway, there you have it. It isn’t my fault and I’m not getting the money (darn it).

Q. Your novel (The Gray Stopgap) touched upon Arab and Middle Eastern themes. Did you anticipate the war in Iraq? Do you have plans to address these issues further?

A. It is a generous description to say that I, “touched upon Arab and Middle Eastern themes.” One of the novel’s antagonists is a female Arabian with a decidedly evil value system (which is not exclusive to any nationality). The Middle East was (and remains) an area of political interest and in most respects, ideologically foreign to Americans. But referencing political maneuvering and the investing power of Arab leaders hardly qualifies as an indicator of things to come. That is timely in some respects, but nothing more.

I’ve not planned any further plots concerning Arab or Middle Eastern themes.

Q. Your treatment of the Vietnam War and its veterans seemed grounded in reality and yet far-fetched in some ways. (An allusion to the novel’s CIA plot to drum up interest in the war by planting weapons associated with the enemy in the hands of massacred villagers.) Surely not!

A. Outside the world of novels, I recommend reading history and not indulging the tendency to accept as fact that which is liberally seasoned with fiction (note the numerous books that seemed compelled into publication by the movie, The DaVinci Code, and which elicit the factual history from the fictional history of Dan Brown’s novel).

But I’m not suggesting that my narrative concerning the experiences and treatment of Vietnam Veterans is inaccurate. Quite the opposite, in fact. For the most part these were men who were heroic under mind-boggling conditions and yet when back in America, were treated like gum on the bottom of shoes. That was a tragedy even exceeding our national misunderstanding of what was at stake.

As far as the CIA’s employment of mercenaries… Well, this minor part of the novel’s back-story, in one guise or another (be they mercenaries, middle men or countries) is not exclusive to American history. It also has some basis in fact. However, the key word here is, “novel.” Meaning, “fiction.” The basis of this concept will make an appearance in The Gray Stopgap sequel.

Q. What is, “bio-chemical synthetic intelligence?” Where did you hear about it?

A. When writing The Gray Stopgap, I wanted something that was a step beyond artificial intelligence and imagined a “synthetic intelligent” computer extrapolated from my research on the human brain. Admittedly I did not research the “computerized concept” and have since learned that “synthetic intelligence” is generally associated with Artificial Neural Networks, which is still within the realm of Artificial Intelligence. I like to think that I am cleverly imaginative, but obviously I was lucky in getting it just about right.

Author photo, 2009
©2009 Camera Two
Author photo, 2004
©2004 The Collegian
Feature photo.
Keith Ludwick
Author photo, 2000
©2000 Camera One
Author photo, 1999
©1999 Camera Two

Q. What do you look like? I saw some photographs of you; are those pictures really you? Did you hire a professional photographer? Are your photos airbrushed? Did you hire a makeup artists, etc., etc.?

A. The “offical” photos released in assoication with my publisher—and in relation to publication—are all here on this page. The most “recent” is near page-top and the remainder are to the left. You can also view other photos at my Facebook page. The answers to the other questions regarding these photos are, “Yes. Sort of. No. No.” It’s flattering to be considered attractive by some standards, but let’s not get carried away. We’re talking about pictures here! The truth is I didn’t even plan the oldest photo (below and to the right). In the production of a wedding brochure of a friend and photographer, I was at the end of the film roll when my friend suggested we burn-off the last four or five frames on me. This was back when cameras used something called “film.” Every now and then luck with lighting and angles produces something that normally takes an entire roll of film—that was one of those times.

The next photo was specifically for the cover of the 3rd edition of The Gray Stopgap. The third photograph (from 2004) was an off-the-cuff number shot at a local college for a feature story. The 2009 image was taken for inclusion with my novella, Socials (the publisher’s limited released e-book edition).

Q. Are you married? Have you been married? Kids? Do you plan to marry?

A. No. No. No and yes. (Hey, I’m just as surprised as some of you are). In the past, a fiction title most approximating this area of my life was Clear and Present Danger.

Q. Do you teach photography? Do you teach writing?

A. Under a government grant to the school district I once taught writing at the elementary school-age level. I've taught photography a few times. My few gigs were more like temporary appointments, assignments or seminars. The last was years ago. It was an hour or so long photojournalism session in Downtown Fort Worth, Texas, for the Texas Community College Journalism Association. Called, “Blast From The Past,” it was hosted by Tarrant County College.

Besides, the specialized knowledge I have regarding photography is of little value in this digital age. Chemical processing, push/pulling film development, F-stops, metering—all that and so much more is pretty much out the window these days. Once a person knows composition, the camera and computer pretty much take care of the rest (I’ll now get e-mail from irate photographers, no doubt).

Q. Are you writing a sequel? How long will it take for you to come out with something else? Are you working on anything else?

A. Well, first, on the Compendium page of this site (link at page-top) there is fiction and nonfiction freely available for reading online.

The Lighthouse Press tested an e-book version of a novella I wrote and we hope to turn that into a printed book. In 2016 the 4th edition of The Gray Stopgap was released and included some introductory and afterword text as well as a few tweaks throughout.

I have also been hampered by work that failed to reach publication. For example, a few years ago the publisher approached me about another “writer” and his novel that they both wanted to publish. The problem was that the novel was not anywhere near suitable for publishing. So we arranged a deal wherein I invested over a half-year of re-writing the novel. It was to be published as “co-authored” and I was to write all the “co-authored” sequals. I finished the rewrite but the writer’s ego got in the way and the book never was published by The Lighthhouse Press.

And then there was a film treatment and a screenplay for The Gray Stopgap that took chunks of time (and both of which I tossed aside before finishing).

I’ve had one or two other projects including about three years of very intense, one-on-one, editorial work with author Stuart Tower and his novel Branko (released in late 2014). I also was responsible for the novel’s physical design appearanece and layout (for which it won the Beverly Hills International Book Award for overall excellence in presentation, cover design, interior layout and aesthetic components as key to an overall outstanding printed book).

Then there has been a couple of major web site expansions and redesign, as well as another story I’m hoping will run novel length. And of course, life has had a habit of getting in the way.

As for the next Karns Gray novel... Here’s the skinny on what I can tell you: Karns Gray is indeed back, as well as most of the characters from the first go-around. And while there is very little in the way of flashback sequences as used in the first novel, reality in the sequel is somewhat multi-layered—and it is multi-layered even for those in the story who think they know their own reality.

I expect that half the fun of reading the next Karns Gray novel will be in plot development. I recall an Amazon.com customer review of The Gray Stopgap wherein a guy wrote that it was as if I caught him reading ahead and “tweaked” the story so that he had no idea as to where the novel was going. Exponentially speaking, I’m hoping that this applies to the sequel.

After so many setbacks, I cringe at speculating on an anticipated release date.

As for other new work... Ideas on which I am working (but are on hold for the time being): A novel tentatively titled Vapor, a Science Fiction piece, and La tour Eiffel, which is a potential short story or novel based upon a lithograph given to me as a gift some time ago. While I’ve considered nonfiction, it doesn’t provide the intellectual and emotional gratification (or therapy) that writing fiction provides.

Q. What writers do you read? What are you reading now? What titles do you recommend?

A. Big questions. My all-time favorites are Fitzgerald and Hemingway. I love Fitzgerald’s subtle attention to emotional nuance and I think his women have such depth that I almost know them. Hemingway, on the other hand, I love for the grit and sweat that I can practically see in his work. There is a virtual litany of current writers as well as non-fiction writers I enjoy reading. My topics of interest include archeology, science, history, religion, theology (to some degree), politics and action/espionage, of course. Here are few things that have held my attention...

Nonfiction Recommendations

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.

The Case for Faith
by Lee Strobel.

The Hollywood Standard: The Complete & Authoritative Guide to Script format And Style by Christopher Riley. The best book/guide of its kind, bar none. If the goal is to produce a screenplay, this book will plainly show the formatting that other books are too inadequate to address. Example topics: How to get into and out of POV shots, types of and ways into/out of flashbacks, what is and isn’t appropriate in scene headings, quick cuts, time cuts, hard cuts, match cuts, etc., etc., etc.

John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman. John Wayne worked his way to the top, learning during nearly 20 years of 12 to 18 hour days of filming, stunts and prop work in movies he knew were throw-aways. We always hear about what a man’s man he was (and make no mistake about it, he was that), but he was not a knuckle dragging cowboy without an ounce of brains. He learned to portray the John Wayne we wanted (which just happened to fit his idea of what a person should be). But that man, that John Wayne, was someone so well-acted that we as the viewers came to know him while not really knowing him. By nearly every account of people who knew—or interacted—with Wayne, he was thoughtful, intelligent, humble and respectful. And this was the opinion held by people who originally thought the polar opposite of the man. All this and more is in this book about the iconic John Wayne and it is and awesome read! You’ll come away with a greater appreciation for Wayne and his movies.

Once a Warrior King by David Donovan.

Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir by A. E. Hotchner.

The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss.

The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel.

The Sea Hunters by Clive Cussler. The Board of Governors from the Maritime College, State University of New York considered this first non-fiction Cussler title in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded the author a Doctor of Letters degree in May, 1997.

The Sea Hunters II by Clive Cussler.

The Secret of Atlantis (1976) by Otto Muck. Translated by Fred Bradley (1978). Introduction by Peter Tompkins. I’ve written about this book. At the Writing page, see the drop-down menu item, “The Secret of Atlantis: An Examination.”

Vindicating Lincoln by Thomas L. Krannawitter.

The Creature From Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin. Originally published in 1994, this is an eye-opener regarding, “the grand illusion called money.” I admit I've most skimmed this one.

I also recommend nearly anything political by Mark Levin.

Fiction Recommendations

The Adventures of Vin Fiz by Clive Cussler. I don’t even recall how I learned of this book, but it was a gift and a surprisingly fun read. Why do I say “surprisingly?” Because this particular Clive Cussler novel is a children’s book. Yeah, really!

The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner. One of the very best Trek novels I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a boatload of them and there’s been some excellent novels. The follow-ups to Shatner’s novel were good, but this one was something else. A friend of mine described it as one of the best Star Trek movies he had ever read. But don’t go looking for the movie—it was never made.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This is a fictional portrayal of the author’s political philosophy, carried out to its natural conclusion. It is an imposing tome but rings as true today as when it was first published in 1957. The only drawback to the novel comes near the end when one of the main characters delivers a radio speech that runs a solid, uninterrupted, 56 pages. I would have broken it up with a chapter break or with a few character reactions. Nonetheless, it is still a fantastically more engaging novel than I would have thought—I’ve read it twice.

The Chronicles of Narnia (including The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe) by C.S. Lewis. This refers to the 2004 Harper Collins edition that contains the C. S. Lewis essay, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” and all seven novels, arranged in the order that Lewis said that they should be read.

Cyborg by Martin Caidin. This novel shaped my desire to be a writer and I’ve read it numerous times. You will more readily recognize it by its television name, The Six Million Dollar Man. Author Martin Caidin wrote fiction and non-fiction, both scientifically detailed and accurate while dealing with aviation/aeronautics, space travel, war and, of course, cybernetics (bionics). He was an active pilot and considered an aerospace expert who actively participated in the race into space. And the kicker is, he was unschooled and self-educated.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. An all-time great work of fiction and personal favorite. Buy the “Authorized Text” as it is restored to Fitzgerald’s original version—em dashes and all. It is a masterpiece beautifully worded. Fitzgerald’s short stories are great to read, especially those coming on the back half of his career. One that particularly stands out to me is “Babylon Revisited.” Like Hemingway, Fitzgerald’s eye for detail is spectacular. And whereas I can almost feel the dirt and grit in a Hemingway narrative, in a Fitzgerald story I can almost see the colors and feel the alienation of people from their wealth.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I’ve re-read this novel about 5 times and watched the 6-hour miniseries at least a couple of times. It is a Pulitzer Prize winner that moves me to appreciate life’s simple things—as does the French film Amélie. The Fort Worth Star Telegram quoted UCLA Professor of English Carolyn See as saying, “If anybody had any sense they’d throw out Moby Dick and put Lonesome Dove in the center as the great American epic novel. No question about it. His heroes in that book are just terrific. His women are just terrific. And he sustains it for 800 pages.” —Star Telegram, 01/08/2003, p. 6F.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. This short novel was a Nobel Prize winner and exemplifies the kind of work Hemingway was known for. He claims to have never set out to write a novel, but rather short stories. His short stories, like those of F. Scott Fitzgerald, are just fabulous to read—in particularly, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

Raise the Titanic, Vixen 03, Iceberg and other Dirk Pitt adventure novels by Clive Cussler. As any entertaining author, Cussler mixes fact and fiction to create a rip-roaring read. He differs from typical authors in that he actually discovers many of the shipwrecks and items of historical significance featured in his novels. Raise the Titanic, written before the ship was found, was a bestseller and an enormously entertaining read. With the publication of Black Wind, Cussler began co-authoring the Dirk Pitt series along with his son, Dirk Cussler. I’ve re-read some of these up to two or three times each.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Great descriptions of school life during the period of the novel and so well done you can almost see it. Excellent story that is open to some esoteric interpretation.

Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler. Another in the Dirk Pitt series, separately mentioned here because it includes as part of the plot the unusual (and actual) theory that the battle for Troy, as set forth in Homer’s Odyssey, was not about Greeks and the Mediterranean but about Celts in England. See Iman Wilken’s Where Troy Once Stood for more about this.

The World According to Garp by John Irving. The movie was really good, but nowhere near as involving as the novel.

Other books would include nearly anything written by Tom Clancy (as long as it isn’t co-authored). It isn’t that Clancy is excellent insofar as the well-written word, but rather that he knows how to capture the moment and put you in a particular time in history. He writes about military tech and men who aren’t gushing with emotions, so don’t go looking for a subtlety that isn’t inherent to his subject matter.

By the way, have I mention a novel called The Gray Stopgap?

Q. Do you make personal appearances or attend book signings?

A. “Personal appearances...?” My goodness, exactly whose press notices have you been reading?

I attended the 2002 Los Angeles Book Festival in California, where the occasion called for me to sign a book or two, but nothing really beyond that.

I’m not opposed to signing books, mind you—I’m honored to do so. But due to my “non-public profile” it just usually doesn’t come up all that often.

I suppose the oddest incident occurred during a commercial airline flight I took. Thrilled by a pre-flight tour of the cockpit I gave the pilot and copilot copies of my novel. About an hour later the flight attendant casually mentioned the pilot was enjoying the book. “That’ll sound interesting on the black box,” I responded, “especially when we plow into the ground.” She then assured me that the pilot wasn’t actually reading the novel, but looking forward to doing so. However, after reaching our destination the pilot waved me into the cockpit to autograph their books. The pilot then reported having enjoyed what he had read thus far. I signed the books while remarking: “Well that explains the turbulence...”

At any rate, that’s about it as far as, “signing books” and, “personal appearances” are concerned.

Q. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

A. Another big question. I don’t know that I ever decided it that way. I wanted to write a book and enjoyed making up stories almost—but not quite—as much as reading them. I learned the value of creative writing while in high school and “dispassionate” editing from my college reporting instructor (who was also Director over me on the college paper). Somewhere along the way I realized that this was my thing, such as it is.

All that being said, my initial foray into writing was the effort eventually culmi-nating with my novel, The Gray Stopgap. I was 12 or 13 years-of-age and enamored with the novel Cyborg (as well as its television incarna-tion, The Six Million Dollar Man). My idea was simple enough: I wanted to create a story about someone similar to that of Cyborg. I began the effort on a Delta flight while accompanying my father to Las Vegas. Many-many years, four titles and 8 drafts later Karns Gray was born. Along the way life, ed-ucation and repetition provided the experience and learning necessary to bring the task to fruition—a task with goals that had expanded and intensified. So, while I affirmatively wanted to write a novel, my intention wasn’t to become a novelist or writer, per se. It just sort happened.

On a related note; my mother often told the story from my childhood that I rarely wanted to go out or play with others. She said that at one point I had memorized human anatomy from our encyclopedias and that — along with medical testing—reassured her of my mental capacity. But her concern over my introverted nature prompted her to question the doctor about it. She reported that the doctor responded, “Don’t worry about. Kids like that usually become doctors and writers.”

Q. Is writing the only thing you do, or are you employed elsewhere?

A. No, and sometimes. Take your pick for an answer. My first lengthy employment was being one of a two-person team in the Engineering Film Division of the Universal Blueprint Paper Company—a company now long gone.

My longest employment was about two months shy of a 14-year stint in litigation support. In looking back, I did enjoy the versatility of my duties and the fact that I often worked outside the office. The job I think was equally meaningful and fulfilling—if not more so—was my Special Excepted Service Appointment as a Paralegal Specialist to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance Office.

I’ve done and do some website support work, freelance litigation support, teaching and government work (see the bio above). I’ve not reached the level of unabashed fame and filthy riches (I’d settle for moderate success and mere unwashed wealth) necessary to remain out of the workforce. I know it might be a “bubble buster” for some people, but the books you see in bookstores are not all written by writers who are sustained by writing. It’s a tough business (during and after the actual writing effort).

Q. Some of the passages in The Gray Stopgap seem very emotionally driven. Are there personal experiences in there? How much is fact-based?

A. What we’re talking here is a bildungsroman (a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character) and/or a roman à clef (a novel in which real people or actual events are disguised as fiction). Like most authors, singer/songwriters and artist, I often draw from experience. Toward most people I am by nature an emotionally reserved individual and the book served as an outlet for some of what contributed to my nature. So to that extent, yes I—and others—are sprinkled throughout my work. But it is fiction, which when done well enhances the underlying foundation of reality.

I am reminded of what Earnest Hemingway reportedly said to A.E. Hotcher (and who later wrote of it in his biography Papa Hemingway (Random House, 1966 and previewed in The Saturday Evening Post of the same year): “It’s all so beautiful in this misty light. Mr. Degas could have painted it and gotten the light so that it would be truer on his canvas what we now see. That is what the artist must do. On canvas or on printed page he must capture the thing so truly that its magnification will endure. That is the difference between journalism and literature. There is very little literature. Much less than we think.”

When you read the introduction for the 4th edition of The Gray Stopgap, you’ll have a little deeper insight with regard to what went into the story behind the plot.

With regard to “fact-based” material in The Gray Stopgap, there are four categories to address: Hardware, people, politics and places. The “Note From The Author” section at the back of the book addresses hardware and only four clarifications come to mind: The Dodge Dart was based upon a car I had purchased to refurbish, the red MGB was written into the story before I even owned a white one, Gray’s yacht existed insofar as Elco actually built a model of that design and Gray’s .22 caliber pistol was one belonging to my dad. With those caveats in mind, any hardware not listed in that “Note” section is either fiction or a fictionalized extrapolation of existing hardware.

With regard to “people” I utilized a few “real world” names to varying degrees, but the characterizations portrayed are, of course, fictional.

The “Note” section also addresses politics and I’ve nothing to add about that.

The places—or settings—in The Gray Stopgap are most nearly always fictionalized buildings occupying actual locations. Specifically, the Professional Building is a generalization of an area containing several similar buildings; the OSCTO airplane hangar is a fictionalized building on an actual site, as is the Nova Complex, Sam’s Boat Yard and all the private residences. However, I actually took a trip into Mexico that VERY closely approximates Blake and Gray’s road trip—right down to the pig, the water, the “unexpected government agent,” the route and destination. And lastly, Aysien Island is completely fictional, its name derived from someone I photographed while taking high school senior portraits somewhere in Texas (Houston, I seem to recall it being).

Q. Do you have any pointers or advice for the would-be writer?

A. I have come to understand this: Whatever a writer must do to keep the wolf away from the door, it is like an ancillary function of being a writer. At the moment you step back to examine your work’s veracity, you are anticipating an audience and you should then approach writing like a job. Whether it materialistically compensates you for the effort expended is relevant only in so far as if it doesn’t (and it most frequently does not) you’ll need the ancillary function of a job that does.

However, from a practical point of view, a job or occupation outside of writing is not something that should be viewed as merely “ancillary” to writing. In other words, don’t give up your day (or night) job just to write: And don’t treat your “real world” employment as though it exist only as a layover. You may actually be a writer—meaning that is what defines who and what you are—but this doesn’t preclude being a fine employee for an employer. Write like nothing else is important, but work like writing is unimportant.

I think it is very important to not fall prey to the idea that writers are inspired by some Muse, or are “born” rather than “made.” I am not (yet) a Pulitzer (and by the way, that’s pronounced like the bird) or Nobel Prize winning author, but I am qualified to say that writing is a skill. Whether you have a propensity toward writing, it is best learned through doing and even better learned under the tutelage of journalism (if possible). Inspiration—or the Muse—is nothing more than the second wind or “groove” a writer falls into after being at it awhile. If you want to know what writing is and how to “get going at it,” I suggest reading Thinking on Paper by V. A. Howard Ph.D. and J. H. Barton, M. A. (the 1st edition was published by William Morrow and Company in 1986). It’s a great “myth” breaker and had I encountered it sooner would have realized why I wrote my scholastic papers in ways not recommended by the instructors.

The admonishment that, “Pride cometh before a downfall,” is nowhere more true than for the person who wants to be perceived as a writer. Nearly everyone has a preconceived notion of what a writer is, what a writer does, what a writer should be doing and how a writer should live. Those notions usually involve details that are glossier than reality.

The truth is that writing is a lonely, labor-intensive, detail-oriented life that non-writers do not appreciate. You spend months of your life immersed in hundreds of details that, if fictional, must mesh without plot contradiction. And all of this is for naught if, in the end, readers become aware of you or your morality instead of each character and his or her morality. What’s more, the details of any accomplishment about which you feel pride may not be understood by people with whom you may wish to share your joy. Just like the details of photography, or the code when writing html or even the repair of a car, sharing with people who do not understand the work involved is usually a letdown.

Writing is an effort in making yourself invisible through your work. Subsequent to that any self-characterization in contradiction to perception is a reality falling upon ears made deaf in proportion to the success of your effort.

—DL Tolleson