Wendell Speer is a prolific note-taker.
Paper and pen are ready at hand.
“You’ll get a million ideas wherever you go. If you don’t write them down, you’ll never remember them all,” he said.
Notes on slips of paper, written down in quiet moments on walks in the woods or in the hushed quiet of the local library, laid the trail that led to “Simon Peppercorn, Log in to Magic Space.”
Speer published his fantasy tale of the young wizard apprentice, Simon Peppercorn, more than eight years ago on his own. A Polish publisher translated the story and introduced it to a young reading audience in that country about three years ago.
About 2,000 copies sold in Poland, Speer said.
The American version is available at Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. Copies also are available at the Hugh Embry Branch Library in Dade City.
Speer is at work currently on a series of “first-chapter” books including one about a magic pencil box and a young girl who brings it to life. He hopes to find an agent and publisher for his newest creations.
But Speer said he is realistic about his chances.
“I know I’m the underdog,” he said. “I don’t have the contacts. I don’t know people who know people.”
What he does have, Speer said, is a passion for writing that began with a sixth grade classroom assignment and a mystery story. By age 18, he knew that he wanted to write a book.
He followed his heart to the fantasy world and found Simon Peppercorn.
The book follows 12-year-old Simon on his journey into “Magic Space” in quest of adventure and a special crystal with powers to save him from being transformed into a werewolf. His journey begins in a typical small town in the real world, known as “Hardspace.”
Once he enters an alternate realm, Simon learns he is a novice wizard who must confront dragons, werewolves, wicked witches, goblins and trolls.
The target audience is children ages 9 and older. As film, it would be a visual treat and even has theme park potential, Speer said.
Except for the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Speer said there were few other books about wizardry. It seemed a natural to find his own niche with young readers.
“I read all the Harry Potter books,” he said. “I was enthralled by them.”
But Simon Peppercorn is different, said Speer who cites other influences such as the King Arthur tales, Polish folklore and Mark Twain.
“Harry Potter is very much a mystery book,” Speer said. “Simon Peppercorn is an adventure story. It’s like Huck Finn with magic.”
Speer has had his own adventures and a bit of wanderlust.
He grew up in Dade City and graduated from Pasco High School.
A scholarship took him to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where he earned a degree in mass communications. That wasn’t his first choice as a major.
“I had always had an interest in film,” he said. But the university didn’t have a film program, so he settled for classes in film theory.
He also landed a nine-week film production internship. He helped out when actor Paul Newman taped a public service announcement and again when Newman taped a special segment for a television show honoring actor and director John Huston.
One summer, in the midst of his college studies, Speer took a trip to Europe where he met his future wife. She was a native of Poland and for the next 20 years or so, Speer lived much of the time in his wife’s country.
At the time, Poland was a Communist state under martial law. Later, the Solidarity uprising brought a revolution and the end of Communism.
“The people had a special spirit about them at that time,” he said. “That was truly amazing.”
His son was born in Warsaw in 1984.
Speer learned Polish and got work in film production, largely hired by foreign film companies that chose Poland as a backdrop for their movies.
When his book was published in Poland, Speer appeared on television shows to promote sales. He also visited local Polish libraries.
“I was a big hit with the 10-year-old Polish kids,” he said.
In the early 2000s, Speer returned to Dade City and worked as a substitute teacher, and also for two years as a child protective investigator for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
He works part-time now at a local home improvement store.
In his spare time, Speer keeps dreaming up new stories and maybe imagining more Simon Peppercorn adventures.
“I plan eventually to do a real series,” he said. “There are possibilities for many spin-offs, with many characters. I have the same dreams as every creative person.”
Published June 17, 2015