Features Week June 2019: Dustin Schyler Yoak

Dustin is an incredible human that does a LOT of stuff. He’s been a good friend of mine since the beginning and recently, I was even a guest on his podcast Geek Men and the Masters of the Thundernerds! Find the episode here.


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing a really long time. When I was younger and it was nighttime, raining, or bad weather, I would write “mission plans” for my childhood friend and I to act out the next time we got together. We could create our own superheroes, secret agents, and/or Power Rangers along with their backstories, Zords, special powers, abilities etc. It was a lot of fun but that is definitely one of my earliest memories of sitting down to write out a story.

 

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always loved stories. From watching Return of the Jedi to countless nights listening to my mom read to me. Over the years I’ve danced around what career I wanted. Since I live in Ohio, they always felt out of reach but I ALWAYS saw myself in a career that involved telling stories. I got a hair-brained idea for an animated TV show and I started writing in earnest. Around that same time my oldest daughter was born and I felt like a complete failure. My dad always told me to go to college, follow my dreams, and not be like him in a hard labor job. Here I was, nearly 30 (at the time) and I would have to tell my kid the same thing. Instead, I decided I wanted to tell my daughter a different story. So I went back to college to study creative writing for entertainment. Two and half years later, I graduated Salutatorian with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Full Sail.

I’ve discovered, that being a good parent to my girls will be the best thing that I’ll ever do. The only way to accomplish that, starts with me being the best version of myself, and I’m at my best when I’m telling stories.

 

Are you published anywhere?

I’ve been published various places both fiction and non fiction, some of which no longer exists unfortunately. You can still find a few of my articles that I wrote for Comic Book Resources here.

I have at least one or two non-fiction pieces in every issue of Aphotic Realm—usually in the form of an interview. However, my fiction can be found among its pages recently in issue 5, ELDRITCH, titled The Mountains That Whisper.

My story, Dead Falls, can be found in Bo Chappell’s By Year’s End Anthology.

For Kendall Reviews, the Geek-Men (Bo Chappell and I) teamed up to provide everyone with a Threat Assessment for the Universal Movie Monsters. It was great fun!

 

In what genre do you write?

I’m all over the place to be honest. Predominantly, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. But I’m digging westerns. Dead Falls was probably my first official dabbling with the western/horror genre and it felt good. My family was big on westerns and in a way Star Wars is a lot like a space western, Firefly even more so. In other words, I can see why I’m falling into it with such ease.

 

What is the most challenging part about being a writer in the genre you’ve chosen?

What’s the most challenging part? Well this is kind of a loaded answer. Originally, my primary area of study and passion was creative writing for entertainment—which means writing screenplays for movies, TV, comics, video games etc. While not impossible to obtain work, it’s really, really difficult. Most folks won’t take you serious unless you physically live there—“there” predominately being L.A. or really wherever your particular interest resides. There are very few businesses and/or individuals in Northeast Ohio working on something with the entertainment industry. Where did that leave me? I wasn’t in a position to move my family—not right at this moment anyway—but the NEED to write still remained. I figured, at least for now, I’d shift my focus to writing prose because I can write a story anywhere. The idea of moving to the wooded hills of West Virginia with nothing but trees and fresh air to breathe as I pounded away on the keys of my MacBook sounded like perfection.

As for the most challenging part of the genre—first of all, while I enjoy writing in many different genres, whatever I write will always have that horror twist to it (horror/sci-fi, western/horror, dark fantasy, etc.) because life is horrific. However, while life is horrific, it’s also beautiful—in my experience at least. Therefore, I would say finding balance is the most challenging part in the horror genre. The balance between “all is lost/no escape” and “over the top cheesy happy ending/hope.” I’ve read many a tale that ends where there is no light at the end of the tunnel and it was still fantastic but I’ve also read many stories, so well written they remove all hope, leaving me feeling depressed in real life. It speaks volumes for the author but I know from experience, no situation is too dark to not have that spark of humor or faint glimmer of hope.

 

What do you do in your free time?

Free time? I’m not sure what you mean.

I wish I was kidding. Anytime not spent studying my craft or working on one of my projects (and naturally isn’t my full time day job) is spent with family probably. I’m married (11 years) with two girls (5 and 2). We watch TV, movies, play games, there’s a lot of singing, running, laughing, dancing, screaming, jumping, and crying that takes place in my house. It’s pretty great. Also during my free time, I’m always looking for new projects to start up! LOL. Recently, thanks in part to the Geek-Men podcast, I started unpacking/displaying some of my vintage toys like He-Man, ThunderCats and things like that… which may have also led me to buy a few new ones? I can’t confirm or deny that…but it totally happened. Again, the whole toy/figure thing turned back into fuel for my writing—my brain…it doesn’t stop I guess.

 

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

I always have projects on my desk that I’m more than happy to talk about! Just recently finished up Geek-Men season 2 and at the time of me writing this very sentence, I haven’t given much thought or discussion to season 3 yet.

Aphotic Realm however, has kicked things into high gear! In May we announced three new contributors to the website, our Patreon with tons of awesome features, and we’re producing Leo X. Robertson’s Losing the Plot Podcast! We’ve had big things planned since the get-go and it’s exciting to see some of our long term goals start to unfold.

I was recently cast in C.C. Anderson’s, The Ether Project! I’m not sure what all I can share but I can say is that its about the thing that holds the multiverse together. At least that’s how he’s described it on Twitter 😉

On the writer front, I have a short story that I wrote a while back, Oh Unholy Rite, that I started shopping around but I kept having to cut and cut to meet the word count guidelines. Each cut was harder and harder and several of my friends in the writing community were actually encouraging me to do the opposite and expand it to a novella. So that is my ultimate goal this year but I do have a few stories I’m working towards releasing this year, possibly another podcast that may or may not get off the ground this and that’s about all I can share at this time. 😀

 

Do you have any funny stories about your writing adventures?

Writing Adventures? Well, I have an adventure—something that happened to me and some friends back in high school that changed my life. An experience that sticks with me to this day and keeps popping up in my writing. In fact, I’ve written about it several times—all good fiction is based in reality, right?

Long story short, my friends and I snuck out of my house from my second story bedroom window, and under cover of darkness, crept across town from bush to bush, tree to tree, until we reached this girl’s house that invited us over to her party. Unfortunately, nothing came from our trek and we didn’t meet up with the girls. Fearing capture by the police (our town had a strict curfew for minors) we crept back to my house. On the way back we took a different route because the night shift must have gotten off work and traffic along the roads was picking up. Cutting through some trees we unknowingly found ourselves in a marsh. It stank like death and putrescence. It was pitch black. A guttural snort and groan split the silence of the night. We fumbled for the only flashlight between us and switched it on. The MagLite bathed the surrounding area in blinding brilliant white light. There, staring right back at us was a ram with curved horns. It had a simple braided rope around its neck tied to what looked to be a giant stone altar with strange carvings all over it. Screaming in unison, the three of us fled in the opposite direction, we eventually made it home but that was not the last of the scares.

 

Do you have any encouraging words for those that want to write?

Encouraging words? I could use some encouraging words! HAHA. I never feel like I’m doing enough and I never feel like I can truly be considered a writer in my own right. But herein lies the advice. This isn’t a race and don’t compare yourself to others. Always remember why you’re writing in the first place. You’re never too old to achieve your goals and chase your dreams. When I set out on this endeavor, I was told that this wasn’t practical, I’d never do it, and it was a waste of time money and resources that my family needs. I am in a much better place mentally and in life by pursing my dreams. Do what makes you happy.

 

Is there anyone you’d like to promote?

I love to promote. I have so many friends doing great things. For example, A.A. Medina, my partner in crime over at Aphotic Realm. In addition to the things he does around the Realm, his debut novella, SIPHON, was fantastic and he’s already at work on his next. He also is working on a dark fantasy/horror comic book with Aphotic Realm’s Art Director, Gunnar Larsen, called Void & Valor.

 

What inspired you to start Aphotic Realm?

In short, A. A. Medina and I started Aphotic Realm because our love of the craft but there is a lot more than that. Medina and I met in college and became fast friends, swapping stories for critiques, commiserating about lack of sleep, work load, or other obnoxious goings on in life, as well as our love of horror, sci-fi, and dark fantasy. We made it to graduation and I think part of us didn’t want it to end. We got a taste of what the industry was like thanks to our curriculum and we didn’t want to revert back to a sedentary creative work ethic. Plus we wanted to put our shiny new knowledge and skills to use. All that aside, we noticed that a lot of lit mags and websites require publishing credits before stories will be considered or they only offer form rejections. We wanted to provide a haven, a realm (if you will), in a very competitive market that could help grow, and cultivate young talent that struggled to find a home. That’s where the idea started. From there we just started nailing out details and really studying the market—the lit mags that went under verses the ones that do well and we tried to compromise a solution with rough ideas for big goals for the future. Two years later, we’re still focused on the here and now of 2019 but we’re starting to be able to build see some of those goals we talked about back then, come to fruition. We’ve had many discussions for far into the future but we’re waiting and working to put ourselves in a position to get to those goals.

 

What made you decide to start making content without labels?

I guess it boils down to two things— desire and opportunity. My creativity is quite expansive. I’ve dabbled in so many different forms. I started drawing and coloring as soon as I could pickup and hold anything to write with. I’ve made custom figures, costumes, and lightsabers (even had a Sabersmith business for a little bit). I’ve done a bit of theater and stand up comedy and voice acting from school projects to most recently C.C. Anderson’s The Ether Project. Desire and opportunity. When it comes to podcasting, I ultimately wanted to bring positivity to the geek table. Demonstrate there is another way to go about things instead of yelling angrily all the time or bullying media professionals to quit and lose the love that they have for their craft. Desire and opportunity.

 

Where can we find you on social media?

I can be found all over social media. I probably still have a myspace account!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Website

 

Aphotic Realm Website

Aphotic Realm Facebook

Aphotic Realm Twitter

 

Masters of the Thundernerds Podcast

Podcast Facebook

Podcast Twitter

Podcast Instagram


Dustin also asked me to include his YouTube channel where he posts movie reviews and weird videos that make me snort laugh. I subscribed, now it’s your turn!

There’s a lot here for you to explore, so poke around and see what cool stuff you can find in the world of Dustin!

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