Blood Red Vines

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is why did you start writing at your advanced years? Well, it all began back in 1938. While I was a kid in Palo Alto, I entered a contest for California 9th grade students to write a short story about California history. The Grand Prize was a passbook to the upcoming 1939 SF World’s Fair on Treasure Island. To the amazement of my teachers, I won. Later, during my senior year of high school, when I was living in Washington, D.C., I took a semester elective course in Creative Writing from a wonderful teacher, Miss. Ophelia Oppenheimer—and I was hooked.

But there was a war. In 1942 I joined the Navy. What followed was an abbreviated pre-medical career at Pomona and Occidental colleges in Southern California—at the Navy’s expense. No literature, no writing, no history, no art or music … just math, chemistry, physics, and biology. Then it was on to Johns Hopkins Medical School and learning to be a doctor. There was no time to think about writing for the next 60 years.

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The author reacts to his first rejection slip.

When did I start writing again? Thirteen years ago my wife and I moved from Los Altos, California to Carmel Valley. First, I found myself writing stories for our local newsletter. Several knock-off’s on Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories,” plus a series, “Place Names in Carmel Valley,” and a few feature articles. I even wrote poetry of a not so serious nature such as, “An Ode to the Dental Hygienist.” (I was the editor—I could print anything I pleased).

In 2005, I retired once and for all. It was time to get busy writing our family story … I set a deadline and went to work. Not a genealogy—just the history of our family as I knew it: “The Saga of Dick and Mickey Wheat.” Writing proved to be fun, it was a challenge, and I caught the bug. I thought, why not try writing a novel? You may remember Sir Edmund Hillary of Mt. Everest fame. When he was asked why he’d climbed the world’s tallest mountain, he scratched his head and responded, “Because it was there!” I thought a novel might just be the “there” for me, and so I began to write.

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Signing the finished product.

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