I feel like I need to start this year by talking about a friend of mine. But first a look back. When I was younger, I’d tried to write many many times, all through grade school to high school. Every so often I’d think I want to write a story. It was always longhand, and that was the first stumbling block. But also I just didn’t have the tools, mentally, to do it. But the desire never left.
Then one day in 1990 or 1991 I started working at a fast-food restaurant where I met a man named Mike Swope. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mike was a writer. He came to work one day with copies of a book he had self-published, a chapbook really, of poetry and short fiction, called OR.
Fascinated by the idea that this guy I knew, this fellow fast-food employee might also be a writer … I had to buy a copy of his book. Naturally I read it, and was floored, not just at how much I enjoyed it, but also how effortless he made the words, and the work, seem.
More chapbooks followed, one was called Passed Through the Hands—which, now that I think about it might have been an earlier book, but I didn’t discover it until after OR—and then I found out he edited and published a small literary magazine at the college he attended in town. The zine was called Soundings.
To my then 18-year-old self, this was all just the wildest, most insane thing, all literary and arty and so far over my head. But I wanted in.
Soon after meeting Swope, I took the plunge once again and started writing a story. I didn’t know how long it would be or even if I would finish it, but it was the first time I’d ever tried to write something where the story was so complete in my head. I didn’t know every detail when I started, but I knew a lot of them, and I was determined to finish, AT LEAST, this one story. If I ever wrote another, I’d worry about that later, but for that moment, I had that one story in my head.
And then I had another story, and another, and another followed after that, and pretty soon I had all kinds of story ideas in my head, and then one day I showed something I’d written to Swope.
My heart was in my throat, I think is a saying for when people are incredibly nervous, and that about sums it up as he read what I had written. And then he said he liked it and I should keep going.
So I did.
Over the years, Swope’s guidance gave me a greater education, in a much shorter time, than I ever could have gained on my own. He taught me so much about editing, word choice, scene construction, and just, well, everything about writing that would have taken me forever to learn without him. Would I have gotten there eventually? Maybe. But with Swope’s mentorship, I don’t have to wonder. He got me there.
And then he went one step further.
Back in 2003 when an author website was more of a novelty, something we all wanted, but probably wouldn’t know how to use if we had one, and most of them were from other sites like geocities—there weren’t many dedicated domains back then—he gifted me with my very own domain, cdennismoore.com.
Why did he do it? I have no idea other than maybe he had more faith in my writing than I did. Whatever the reason, for the next 20 years, I had my own site. Every year for Christmas, Swope renewed the domain name and offered me free hosting.
I haven’t always taken full advantage of having the site, I’ve often neglected to update it as regularly as I should or could with my new works, but it was always there, and the address has always been in every one of my books if people wanted to check it out.
Then a fucking TERRIBLE thing happened in October 2023. Mike was in a motorcycle accident that took his life.
My friend was gone. My mentor. The guy who still, over 30 years into my writing life, I wanted to impress more than anyone else, wasn’t there anymore.
And then I realized soon after, oh shit, with Swope gone, what happens to the website? I was going to have to make sure I secured the domain when it expired, and then I’d have to find alternate hosting, but after contacting his son who put me in touch with the guy who was taking over the other sites Swope ran—he had a lot of sites under his care—the site was only down for a few days. Now it’s back up, it’s January 1st 2024, and I wanted the first thing I said here to be about Mike Swope and how grateful I am, and always will be, for everything he ever did for me, things he didn’t have to do, but things he did anyway, either because he believed in me, or because he was just that fucking awesome of a guy. I like to think it’s a bit of both.
Most of Swope’s writings are now lost to time, but he did appear in a volume of L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, and last year, I finally talked him into self publishing one of his old stories—the one from that Hubbard anthology, in fact—called “Timepieces”.
Swope’s gone, so I don’t know what happens to any money his story makes now, but if you’re so inclined to check out the guy who made me a better writer—and I encourage to do so, it’s a great story—click HERE.
Meanwhile, again, I just wanted to start the year with a testament to Mike Swope, the man without whom I probably wouldn’t have had even half the successes I have. Thanks, man. I truly couldn’t have done it without you.