I am gazing out my office window at the Pacific. It’s four o’clock and the sun finally has burned through. Whitecaps glisten about five miles offshore. The wind has yet to reach the beach, a normal occurrence along the southern Oregon coast. It’s a pleasant Sunday; the nip of fall is in the air, to be expected. It’s Labor Day weekend.
Quiet times like this I thoroughly enjoy life. It is a time to relax, to put worrisome thoughts out of my mind. Tomorrow, although a holiday, will start a new week and bring new challenges, hopefully easily surmountable.
My Sundays have not always been so idyllic. For too many years, actually decades, I dreaded this hour on Sunday afternoons, because it meant being taken away from my mother’s arms and being delivered to a foster home over the hills, far away.
Being a working, single parent, Mother had little choice but to have me cared for on weekdays. I never fully understood being “farmed out” until I became a dad.
In my novels, Mike Montego shares that difficult part of my life. Some of what I experienced in those days is revealed in my fiction. Still, Mike is not Jess Waid.
As a young boy, like so many kids, I read a lot of books suitable for my age: Bambi, Call of the Wild, Robinson Crusoe, Smokey, White Fang, Zane Grey’s many westerns, any story that would take me away from reality. As a result, I dreamed about being a writer who told stories that transported the reader away from his or her current circumstances, especially if they felt lonely and/or unhappy.
When I took up writing, rather late in life, it was as a hobby. I soon found it gave me a means to fantasize and reshape earlier parts of my life to my liking; not my police career, even though I write police procedurals, but other experiences where I had either screwed up, or had not taken full advantage of whatever life threw at me.
Writing allows me to recapture those fleeting moments. For me, writing is a discrete form of daydreaming . . . something I did way too much in my pre-college days, mostly because I was bored in school.
Three years in the armed forces, however, changed that. I had to perform
After boot camp I was sent east to the Army Information School on an island in the Sound just off New Rochelle, New York. Then I shipped out to West Germany, where I was sent to the Seventh Army’s NCO Academy in Munich. The training in both schools was academically intense, with very little physical exertion.
The best part of the NCO Academy was the three-day weekend break we got. It occurred during the Oktoberfest. Munich had turned 800 years old that year. That’s a story in itself. As is the marriage that ensued.
Mike shares a bit of that time in my life in that he, too, gets married, but literary license allows me to modify what I experienced and have fun reshaping the scenarios Mike Montego lives.
At writing seminars one constantly hears, “Write about what you know.” I can’t disagree, but for young people with a desire to become authors, I suggest this: do not wait to write. Take notes. Write about what you’ve encountered in your young life, it might bring about an appreciation you otherwise might miss. Everything that happens to you is a memory, sometimes a pleasant one, sometimes not. Write about them.
It’s those events that often make great stories. Besides, it’s fun to fantasize about them.