For as far back as I can remember, I was going to be a teacher not a writer. That was it. Decision made. It was final … until I met my future wife and something called the Viet Nam Conflict.
When we married, I needed two more years to graduate, but Uncle Sam said he wanted those two years, maybe more. If I gave them four years, the Air Force said they would pay for the rest of my college. But first, they wanted me to be an intelligence analyst working with NSA. I took their offer.
When the USAF got around to sending me to college, they wanted to make me a Texas Aggie, a Meteorologist, and a Weather Officer, in that order … said they needed a lot of Weather Officers. I became all three and found, as a brand new 2nd lieutenant, that busting forecasts for the general and his staff can be stressful. But my skin grew thick. I learned the rope-a-dope. I could bust a forecast, grounding all of the general’s bombers, tankers, fighters and choppers, take the abuse in his staff meeting the next morning, stare him down, and convince him my next forecast was right as rain, or snow, or ... you get the picture. Meteorology isn't an exact science.
Two years after becoming a Weather Officer, Uncle Sam decided he had too many, so he gave me an ultimatum. I could return to civilian life or sit in a deep hole beside a missile in North Dakota for 72 hours at a whack. We had already spent three winters in North Dakota, and my wife was screaming, “Get me out of here!” So I took a position as a Research Scientist in Atmospheric Physics at a national lab. Great job, but computers were the wave of the future. I still claimed to be a Texas Aggie (once and Aggie, always an Aggie), but I became a WSU Cougar too, because they gave me a quick path to an MS in Computer Science. I got the degree, then I jumped ship.
That’s the story of how I became a writer. I wrote in several different languages: FORTRAN, Pascal, Basic, C, C++, Perl, and some really arcane, tribal languages like CMS-2/M. My fans, mostly Boeing computers, loved me, because I didn't feed them bugs. As a computer geek I was prolific … over a million lines of code in a 20-year time span. Had a couple of best sellers.
My wife and I retired a couple of years ago, after my 4th or 5th bout with programmer’s burnout, and I decided to write in English. What I wrote wouldn’t run on a computer, but I learned how to cram it down the computer’s throat … Dragon Naturally Speaking. So I wrote a book about all the stupid things I did growing up: playing with old, wet dynamite, making rocket fuel, and some other things I won’t put here, because FBI scrutiny can be unpleasant.
In hindsight, it’s amazing that I survived to write anything. You can read my survival story in the book, Colby and Me. I should warn you, the grammar and dialogue are atrocious. The book was written mostly for family and friends to enjoy, but as it turned out, I enjoyed the writing so much I wrote my first novel, a romantic-suspense story. Wrote that masterpiece in about 30 days. My wife laughed when she heard I was writing romance. To show her how good I was, I had the novel critiqued in Writer’s Digest University’s Advanced Novel Writing Workshop. I remember vividly my reply to the instructor’s critique, “You mean writing fiction is a craft, and I have to learn it? Get real! It’s not even real! You just make it up.”
Well, that’s how I got started. What a circuitous path some of us take to become writers. Now I have several writing classes under my belt, and I’ve attended some conferences, workshops, and joined a critique group. I’m learning the craft. My first four novels are a contracted, high-action, romantic-suspense series, and I’m completing my seventh novel. My wife reluctantly agreed that I am good at romance … if it’s fictional. Anyway, that seventh book is actually pretty good. If you like espionage thrillers with a little romance, I think you’d enjoy it. I’ll tell you about it sometime soon.
I should mention that my wife, Babe, and I—yes, that’s her name, and after all these years it still fits—we’re both baby boomers who grew up in the '50s and '60s in sunny, warm, Southern Oregon. We live near Seattle now, where we pop Vitamin D pills, drink gallons of espresso, and pray for sun. We’re involved in church ministries, spending time with our grand kids, and snorkeling Maui about once a year (more often if I could land a big book contract).
I plan to write as long as the Lord leaves me with words and wits. Just a sec—Babe … please toss me that ginkgo bottle. Where was I? Oh yes, I’m a member of the ACFW, OCW and the NCWA.
If any of you author’s out there have a weather-related writing question, or a question related to Christian Apologetics, you can contact me via my blog, The Weather Scribe. I’ll be posting some articles for writers on both subjects. I’ve even been known to give my friends a custom, vacation forecast, if they’re nice to me. And when they get back, I can look them right in the eyes and tell them my next forecast will be right as rain.
H L Wegley