Tuesday, December 31, 2013

These made me laugh--a lot.  Happy New Year. 

Being from Kansas---this one of Dorthy should be on the State Flag.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Being stubborn, my problem with authority, and a classroom full of girls.

Easily, the most popular question I get is, “How did you start writing novels?”  Like most life-changing events, it isn’t a simple question, nor is the blame easy to pin down.

I suppose it all started in high school.  I’d heard a rumor that the journalism class was always full of girls, so I signed up.  Turns out, the rumor was true, and for two years I learned a great deal.  I also discovered that I liked to write.

Still in high school, I took a creative writing class, and I think the assignment was to write a paper using symbolism.  Simple enough, I wrote that paper with enthusiasm, it was highly caustic, critical of the school administration on a wide range of issues.  In a nod to Orwell, all of the guilty were thinly veiled as various forest creatures.  Symbolism assignment completed—but instead of a graded and returned paper, I was walked to the principal’s office.  Looking back, I’m still not positive how the principal became aware of my work, obviously there was some sort of agitator trip-wire mechanism in place, and I’d set it off.  To my dismay, my teacher defended me, she told the principal that I was a writer with potential, and that she’d given me an A.  I was told that I would keep my A, but the paper would certainly not be returned.  Then the principal glared at me, leaned in, and told me to “knock it off.”  I walked out of that room with the very serious misconception that if I could cause so much trouble with a typewriter, then certainly I must be a writer.  Even more damning, was from that moment on, I believed I possessed potential.

The next act that forever sealed my fate as a novelist took place freshman year in College.  It was English 101, and the assignment was to write a magazine article.  I was already a licensed pilot, so I wrote about flying.  The instructor gave me a B.  To be blunt, as someone majoring in journalism, I was not amused.  Armed with nothing but the previously mentioned misconception of my literary abilities, I stubbornly submitted my barely above-average paper to a magazine.  Four weeks later a check arrived.  Just like that, at the age of eighteen standing at the mailbox, I turned pro...they’d published my article.  To answer the next question, no, she didn’t change my grade.  

Down the road, there came a time when I made the difficult career decision that would forever change my life.  Should I pursue my love of writing, or my love of airplanes?  I chose airplanes—with one caveat.  I promised myself that someday I would write a novel.  I mean, how hard could it be?  Write stuff down, send it in, and get a check in the mail.  For almost three decades I cruised along immersed in complete ignorance, thinking it would be a snap to churn out a novel when it was time.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Years, and a multitude of setbacks passed before I saw any success.  The reality is that writing novels and being paid for it is not easy, but it’s worth the effort.  Oh, and the part about me being stubborn.  Good thing.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Humble Beginnings:  Pilot error, blogging, and the occasional lapse of reason

And so it begins.  I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a blog for years, and I’m very excited at the prospect of finally making it happen.  Blogs can do a great many things, but what I want for this one, is for it to be for my readers.  Whatever else it might become, I want this to remain a direct link from you to me.  I’ve been the recipient of so many wonderful emails over the years, people telling me how much they enjoyed my books, asking questions, and I love that interaction.  Thank you for that privilege, you’ve truly made my efforts as a novelist worthwhile. I’ll be honest, I love talking shop.  It’s one of my favorite parts of being an author.  When I make public appearances, there is never a shortage of interesting questions about the ideas, technology, and methodology I use in my thrillers.  I’m hoping this platform allows for a broader exchange of those thoughts and questions.  That’s my goal, plain and simple.  Years ago, I wrote this autobiographical account of my very first flight as a pilot.  It happened, it really hurt, and I got into trouble for breaking my glasses.

The full force of the gale howled in from the south. It was a windy day, even by Kansas standards.  My two previous attempts to fly had been foiled as the gusty thirty-knot winds had ripped the ungainly cardboard wings from my twelve-year-old hands. My best friend had just applied the final strip of duct tape and I was now one with my hastily constructed flying machine.  Certain that the final engineering problem had been remedied, I once again steadied myself at the top of the small hill.  I took a deep breath, launched myself into the sky, and just as quickly came to a sudden, violent stop.  A smile broke out across my blood and dirt-streaked face—I knew in my heart I had flown!  It was the first time I'd ever been a pilot, and the last time I ever crashed.

As I look back, I can remember the fear of trying something new.  How I weighed the risk and the reward, and mixed in the possibility of catastrophic failure.  Then I did it anyway.  Of course I calculated everything wrong, and ended up digging a trench into the baked Kansas soil with my face. 
In hindsight, it’s obvious that the crash of flight 001 was due to pilot error.  I had never tried to fly using wind and cardboard.  I was inexperienced, undereducated, and more than a little naive in picturing myself wheeling and climbing in the sky.  Thankfully, my imagination filled in the gaps with glimpses of success which helped me make that leap.  I still possess the same occasional lapse of reason, and perhaps I’ll share some other misadventures it’s caused, but the important thing is that I survived.   So as this blog takes shape, understand that it’s far different from writing novels, and it’s every bit as daunting as cardboard wings taped to twelve-year old hands.  That’s where my imagination kicks in, hopefully.  If I fall on my face, at least I know what that feels like.

I already have some ideas churning around for the next installment, but I will always welcome your suggestions.  In the meantime, please feel free to check out and comment on the new website.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions about my books, and of course, anything and everything about aviation is on the table. Please spread the word. 
Enough theory—let’s turn this thing into the wind and fly.