- May 3, 2018
For Mote Ranch's Lee Moran, the first 75 years of his life were most valuable in terms of creating fodder for his new profession.
So in 2007, when he sat down in front of a computer to begin his career as an author, he had lots of ammunition. Nine years and three published books later, he is satisfied with his lot in life.
"I would describe myself as being a tumbler," said Moran, who is now 84. "I've tumbled through life."
He then launched into stories about his previous professions, which include being a quality engineer for Lockheed Aircraft, doing work as a policeman and a security guard, representing the public as a town selectman, working as a civil defense director and roaming Alaska as a pipe fitter in his 50s.
As he spun his tales of drug busts gone wrong and on-the-job training in Alaska, he would glance over at Jan Schwindt, his significant other, who sometimes would fill in the blanks if Moran's narrative took a wrong turn.
Stories? He has a million of them and at 84 he has plenty of time to talk about them, or better yet, write about them. For four hours each day, he isolates himself in an office where he churns out page after page of the next novel.
He talked about working on Sonobuoys for Lockheed before launching into another story for a reporter. At one point, Schwindt looked over at the guest, "You're never going to get out of here," she said before laughing.
The need to get away never arises, though, as Moran's passionate stories are colorful, interesting and humorous. At one moment Moran talked about a mouse in London, and then he came right back with a story about military intrigue.
He used his father, Frank, as a character in "The Unexpected Patriot." "He was a muleskinner in real life," Moran said, before providing the necessary anecdote.
He paused for a moment, and Schwindt offered her take on his writing career.
"This is the most excitement he has had," Schwindt said. "When he pulled up Mouse Mansion on Google, you should have saw him. I love to see him happy.
"And he doesn't even know I'm here when he goes (in his office) to write. If somebody hit me mover the head, he wouldn't know it."
Moran said his writing is a healthy pursuit. Because of physical limitations, he can't play golf on a regular basis as he once did.
"Writing is good for your self-esteem," he said. "And you have to dedicate yourself. I just love to write and it keeps me awake and alert ... that's enough.
"I'm never going to retire. I think I am a great writer who writes great stories. And I'm improving all the time. "
The subject matter of his books has been decidedly different, with his first book ... "The Unexpected Patriot" ... being a mix of murder and politics in which he weaves true historical facts into a fictional plot. The following "The Search for Hickory Dickery Dock’s Clock" and "John Ringling’s Mouse Mansion" both used mice as main characters to entertain and yet teach real life lessons along the way.
Sitting in an easy chair, Moran took a break from describing his books. "Samuel Clemons wrote all kinds of books," he said. "I just hope somebody picks up my books and enjoys them."
Although he proclaims to be a "great" writer, Moran isn't fortune hunting. He said he earned $1 from his first book and profits from the others are negligible. He enjoys the book signings set up by Tate Publishing, but selling 15 to 20 at one of those signings is a good day.
Like any writer, he would like to see his work be discovered and, perhaps, made into a movie. For now, though, he measures success in much simpler terms.
"I'm a word guy," he said. "My intention is to bring mothers, fathers and children together (with reading). I wanted to teach children about John Ringling, so I used a mouse to tell the story. I worked at the Ringling, for five years as the chief of security on the second shift through 1997."
Another story, not so pleasant but a touch humorous, followed.
In writing "John Ringling's Mouse Mansion," he learned a valuable lesson the hard way. He spelled Ringling's wife, Mable, wrong in his book, writing Mabel instead. No one caught the mistake and it ended up being a nasty bump in the road toward his being a successful author.
That goal might be way down the road, but that's OK, because Moran isn't worried about time.
Moran then launched into another story as he looked across at Schwindt.
"Janice really got me going, getting my books published," he said. "You know, I met her in a bowling alley about five years ago. Our first date, we talked for four hours."
Stay tuned for another book.