I joined the Air Force in 1971. After enlisting, they made me a small arms instructor. Anyway, I enjoyed the job immensely. I got to shoot with some of the finest pistol shooters in the world at that time on the Air Force Pistol Team at Lackland, and later as an instructor at the Air Force Academy. I got to shoot guns and ammunition I didn’t have to personally pay for! How could it get any better? Because I enjoyed the job, my interest in firearms and shooting has continued to this day. I now collect antique guns and swords, and have some modern examples to shoot. I bring this up, because one of my pet annoyances are authors who’s ‘highly trained operatives’ put ‘clips’ into their guns instead of magazines, and who ‘pull’ a trigger rather than squeeze or press. So you won’t find any of that in my stories. And, since I write in a fantasy and Steampunk world, I try to be very careful that a firearm used in my story, is the same gun as it exists in this world. So my Maxim machineguns feed from right to left, and double barrel shotguns can only fire two rounds rather than three…or four.
“So,” I’ve been asked, “Where did the ‘Black City of the West’ come from?” The simple answer is, ‘listening to music.’ And it started with the music of The Doors way back in 1967. I should really say 1971, because that was when I had my first ‘revelation.’ I was listening to the extended version of ‘Light My Fire,’ and when the long instrumental began, I thought to myself, this music is modern—but it’s also ancient, and dangerous. Maybe a year after that, I began doing visualizations, or if you like, meditations, using their music. One of the very first images I saw was of a black city. Buildings built of basalt and granite, windows barred to the 70th floor. In the street, I saw steam-powered autos, and men on horseback wearing leather and metal armor, carrying shields and swords. Strapped across their backs were rifles. I saw the jousting arena where armored knights engaged in duels—from the backs of steam-powered motorcycles. In the sky, I saw a black zeppelin, back-lit by the Aurora Borealis. I had my Steampunk/Fantasy city, but it lay fallow for years to come.