My Writing Life: David P. Cantrell

My Writing LifeToday indie author and blogger, David P. Cantrell, has consented to answer a few questions for us. Dave is a fellow staff-member at Edgewise Words Inn, a reader-oriented blog where Dave Cantrell, Lee French, and I post a variety of short articles, human interest stories, some short stories, memes, and generally have a great time just writing. At the end of this post, I will be reblogging Dave’s most recent post on Edgewise Words Inn, a little thing called “Ten Things I’ve learned as a Quadriplegic.” I think you’ll find that post as interesting and inspiring as I did.

But first, my virtual interview with Dave:

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:
DPC: I grew up in Southern California after immigrating from Indiana at age five. I was a mediocre student in grade school, sports were much more interesting, but sadly, I was a mediocre athlete too. I wasn’t horrible at either of them, mind you—I got by.

I’ve often wondered where I’d be today if my family hadn’t moved to a new school district. I had completed one semester of eighth grade before the summer of the move. The new district couldn’t accommodate split semesters and required me to restart the grade. I became very bored in math and petitioned to join an experimental math class (eighth grade algebra—it sounds quaint now.)

The math teacher let me in for a semester with the proviso that I earn a Cee or better, otherwise it was back to regular math. I struggled, but the teacher worked with me, and I didn’t want to be put back. I think she took pity on me when she wrote a Cee on my report card. Whether she did or not, I’ll never know, but that Cee changed my life. Ultimately, I got a Bee in the subject, and took Geometry during the summer following middle school—No I wasn’t that nerdy, my girlfriend wanted company. I started high school taking a junior level math class.

I learned to enjoy reading in eighth grade. It’s difficult to remember which book lit the flame, but I think it was I Robot by Isaac Asimov. At any rate, reading eventually ignited the writing flame.

CJJ: You are right–the love of reading is the jumping-off-point to attempting to write. I happen to know what you are working on, but my readers don’t, so let’s talk about your current work in progress. 

Disturbance - the VettingDPC: My one and only book is a work in progress. I published part one, Disturbance: The Vetting, in July 2014 and took it off the market in January 2015. The initial publishing was a mistake, but I’m glad I made it. I’ve learned a good deal about the process of writing, formatting and editing because of the mistake. I’ve met wonderful, supportive authors from around the globe as a result of it too.

CJJ: How did you come to write this novel?
DPC: Well-meaning idiots made me do it. That’s mean, but true in a sense. I started posting short “Slice-of-Life” stories on Facebook, items like “The Chicken Parmesan Saga.” I was encouraged to create a blog and gave it a go. I beta read Sci-Fi novels for a talented author, Jasper T. Scott. His comments gave me the idea that I might be able to write. I jumped into the deep-end.

CJJ: I’m mostly an outliner, myself. Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?
DPC: Please define creative process. I tried to outline, but got hung-up on the order of things. What comes first, character or story? Can they exist independently? I’m a wing-it writer that prays for an outline to magically appear, and in it does sometimes.

CJJ: This is the question I hate to be asked, but here I am asking you: how does your work differ from others of its genre?
DPC: I want to write stories that make the reader think or learn something new. I love action oriented stories as much as the next person, but I want to write page turner’s that make the reader stop and think about what they’ve just read every once in a while. I get frustrated by the mantra to keep the story moving forward, if the words don’t keep it moving they are useless, not necessary.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?
DPC: I write for the joy of research (I love an excuse to learn new things) and the hope to touch a stranger with my words.  Touching strangers is why I smile and say hello to them as they walk their dog down my block. Their response makes me feel good.

I recall a day my wife asked me to pick up something from our local grocer on my way home from work. It must have been summer because daylight abounded. I was a middle aged over-weight man walking across a parking lot and saw a stunning mid-twenties women dressed to the nines walking to her own car with a bottle of wine.  I worried if I said anything she’d think I was perverted. As I passed her we made brief eye contact and I said, “You look beautiful the evening.”  The smile on her face brings tears to my eyes as I write this.

CJJ: I like that little vignette you just painted for us, and feel somewhat the same myself when it comes to making people smile. So, when it comes to publishing, I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.
DPC: Is there a better way for an unknown to get their work before a world audience? I don’t care if I make a lot of money selling books. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do it, but it isn’t why I’m writing. I want to touch others, and honestly, I want the ego stroke that comes with it.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?
DPC: If money is your goal, try the traditional path. No one can promise better odds of making money on that path, but if you don’t give it a go you’ll always think you should have.

Dave Cantrell Author pictureDavid P. Cantrell lives with his wife of nearly four decades in the beautiful coastal community of Arroyo Grande< California. He is a retired CPA, enthusiastic (but not particularly good) home cook and avid reader. He enjoys history, historical novels, science fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, crime, thrillers, contemporary fiction and even a western now and again.

Before a spinal cord injury in 2009, he spent his creative efforts writing IRS defenses for his clients and on woodworking; building a variety of items, from chessboards to a Murphy Bed. The spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the neck down, but with the help and love of his wife and caring therapists, he was able to recover significant function. Woodworking was behind him, and he accepted that.

Thank you Dave—you are a joy to know and to have as a friend, and you are an integral part of my personal writing life.

And now, “Ten Things I’ve learned as a Quadriplegic” By David P. Cantrell

(Reblogged from Edgewise Words Inn)

Being a quadriplegic (aka tetraplegic) is a learning opportunity. I found my opportunity when a confluence of events left me prostrate. Actually, I don’t remember being on the floor, I learned it later from my wife. She also told me I repeatedly asked if I’d had a heart attack while in the local ER. I don’t remember that either, but I’m not surprised. After all, I was an overweight, hypertensive, diabetic, chain-smoking CPA working on a deadline.

The first thing I clearly remember is the voice of an EMT talking to his ambulance driver as we arrived at a bigger hospital. I wasn’t sure why I was in the ambulance, but I knew something very strange was happening. I learned a good deal about myself over the following months.

  1. Paralyzed means: Crap, I can’t move and I don’t mean immobile.
    There’s a big difference between the two. Immobile means I can’t move right now because I’m drugged, strapped down or really-really sleepy, perhaps all three. Paralysis means so much more.
  1. Disrespect or abuse of a good woman’s love and support deserves retribution.
    If I’ve done either, shame on me. The memory of ICU, day one, is vague, but real. My teary-eyed wife held my hand, which I could not feel, and said, ‘I have your heart and your mind, that’s all I need.’ To this day, it’s our motto ….(To read the rest, click here to be transferred to Edgewise Words Inn and the rest of Ten Things I’ve Learned as a Quadriplegic)
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