To say the least, my background is very diverse. I have worked many interesting jobs in my life thus far. Regardless of which job I may have worked in the past, one thing that I've always had was a deep desire to create or tinker. Whether it be to make an existing product better or create a totally new product. This inclination to create has been with me for as long as I can remember. As a small boy I was very fond of the seemingly endless amount of structures and mechanisms I could build with either my tinker toys or my erector set that had a small motor that ran off a D-cell battery. This desire to create and develop new ideas was the genesis for desire to make art forms out of metal. To check out some of the art creations by Bazil Riley you can click on the tab "Metal Art" and you can see some the artwork the he used to create. Although he does not spend as much time in the metal art studio as he used to, you can always contact him if you are interested in having a piece created.
By far the most exciting job that I held was when I served as an officer in the army. I literally enjoyed every aspect of the special training that I received and the duty that I was charged with completing. But after exchanging countless bullets with people that were shooting back I eventually traded in my AR-15 and Colt .45 for an ink pen and returned to graduate school. I quickly found out that the pen is, indeed, more powerful than either of the aforementioned guns.
I have served honorably as an airman in the US Air Force, being discharged at the rank of Sargent. And served honorably as a commissioned officer in the US Army, being discharged at the rank of Captain. I've had the displeasure of shooting real bullets at real people and being shot at many times in return. Needless to say, I've got blood on my hands and at times the thought of it tends to haunt me. To put it another way, my chickens have come home to roost, sometimes it seems as though my sins are too much to bear. The counselor says that its classic PTSD. It was suggested that I take a little white pill three times a day and then talk to her a couple of times a week. I gave the pill a try, but found it difficult to see how a person that has never worn a uniform, much less been in combat, could really help with talk therapy. In the end, I went for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). For me, CBT worked. It simply taught me how to kick my own tires. Or put another way, I now pay better attention to my own mind. Basically I ask myself if my reaction to any stimulus that comes along is appropriate or not. In essence, think before you speak and measure twice and use caution so you won't fly off the handle and over react. Truth be told, if it were not for the steadfast love and countenance of my wife, Marty, and the mercy and forgiveness of our Lord and Savior, otherwise I would be adrift without any hope.
I have been licensed as a private pilot. I've worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist. Served as the general manager of a large cemetery; worked as a hospice chaplain. I've worked as a loss prevention officer detecting and apprehending shoplifters and employees at such stores as Neiman Marcus, Marshall Fields, K-Mart, Montgomery Ward, Eckerd Drug Store, and many other stores as well. In all, I have apprehended just over three-thousand shoplifters; everybody from HIV drug users, housewives, kids on a dare, civic leaders, those that were stealing because they were three days since their last meal and Washington, DC officials that were kleptomaniacs.
In effect, the list of my vocational and avocational experiences is vast. At this point in my life I have no bucket list. I have pretty much done all a man could ever hope to do, from parachuting, hang gliding, swimming in the Mississippi river, I've cut and bailed hay in west Texas, ridden a horse in the Arizona mountains.
Iv'e both swam and fished in the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean, as well as many other countless rivers and lakes across this great nation.
I've hunted pheasant in northern California and ring neck doves in southwest Texas. I've worked as a volunteer food server at the men's homeless shelter in Durham, North Carolina; and served as a volunteer NA and AA group leader at the Durham County Detention Center. I completed a chaplaincy internship at Duke University Medical Center. I've preached the gospel at many different churches and chapels and performed last rights and funerals.
All of my life's experiences and the myriad of people that I have met along the way are a pool for me to draw from as I write poems and short stories with plausible plots and ensuing characters that are believable.
I have a bachelors degree in sociology, with a minor in both philosophy and military history, from Francis Marion College. I have a masters degree in Religious Education, from The Divinity School, Duke University, and my doctoral program was in Sociology of Aging and Adult Education, at North Carolina State University. I also hold an additional doctoral degree in Religious Education.
I come from a long line of consummate storytellers. As a child I would sit in awe and listen to my uncles and great uncles swap stories about everything under the sun. All the while camped out in the living room of my grandma Laura's small three room farm house, just outside of Holly Bluff, Mississippi, in the wilds of the river delta.
My ancestors were farmers, trappers, riverboat pilots and riverboat gamblers. I can claim direct lineage to both Mark Twain, a true wordsmith to say the least, and Jim Bowie, the maker of the Bowie knife, who was a renowned statesman that ultimately lost his life at the battle of the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas.
I read a lot of books and articles. If you were to view my library at home you would see that I have books by John Steinbeck, John Grisham to Archibald Rutledge. I have books from Francis Bacon to Edgar Allen Poe, Pablo Neruda as well as John Keats and Henry Wadsworth. Whether books of old or books of new, some have been read more than once--others barely once. Three contemporary poets that I really like are Billy Collins, Thomas Lynch and Jon Jorgenson; each for different reasons. Of course I would be remiss if I were to leave out my all time favorite poet Lord Byron. One of his best known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan, written in 1824; the same same year that he died at age 36.
Granted, it is true, that reading must be good for the mind and good for the heart, but I would also say that reading is especially good for writing. The things that you think about will be the things, quite simply, that you think about. If you read a lot then you will think about stories, sentence structure, character development, plot, constructing good dialogue, and most importantly how to find the appropriate ending for your poem or story.
If instead, you fill your mind with video games and other fodder then that will be all you really think about. And I doubt that it will have too positive of an impact on your writing.
To best describe my personal approach to writing I would have to say that I write en plein air. Much like the master painters of old, which would make a smaller sketch or draft painting on location to capture the essence of the image. Later returning to their studio to complete the piece on a larger more detailed scale. I on the other hand, write where the opportunity presents it's self; en plein air. That is, I may be at an airport terminal waiting on a boarding call, in a cafe or at church for that matter and see or hear something that sparks a poem, short story, or lyrics for a song. I've been known to miss a plane or train so as to finish the piece that had sprung up before me. I've written poems and song lyrics on scraps of paper, bar napkins, matchbook covers and even my arm and hand.
I enjoy writing very much. Whether it's a poem, short story or song lyrics I enjoy them all just the same. The joy and enlightenment that I see in peoples faces as I read a poem or story aloud is immeasurable. After all, bringing a spark of joy to another person's life or encouraging someone to think beyond themselves is really what its all about.
I recently won first place for the Best Love Poem from a competition held by the California State Poetry Society, and the Peter Pan Prize for one of my children's poems, "The Little Duckling." Although children's poems are only a small part of what I write, I must admit there is nothing more satisfying than reading a poem aloud to a group of children; watching their eyes light up as the narrative pulls them in is a splendid thing. The wonderment and innocence of a child's mind is a beautiful thing.
I have three books published that are for sale on Amazon: