Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten Year Anniversary! How it all began...

Hello All,

September 2014 marks the ten year anniversary of Category Five's release.  As I look back, I remember the words of advice given to me by veteran author John Sandford, he simply said:  "hang on."  He was right, and thanks to my readers, it's been quite a ride, and I appreciate each and every one of you. 

At the time, I had no idea that Donovan Nash would still be around ten years later, let alone that Aftershock, Donovan Nash #5 would be coming out this spring, or that I would be working on the sixth Donovan Nash novel, and that somewhere on this desk, there's a slender file of notes for DN #7. 

A while back I was asked to write an article about severe weather, so I wrote about a hurricane, the one that I was in that prompted me to write Category Five.  It's how it all began, and it seems appropriate to share it with you.

I could feel it in the air, everyone could.  Something deep within the reptilian remnants of our once primitive brains responded to the dark skies and a rapidly dropping altimeter.  It was the fall of 1999, and I was undergoing my annual recurrent pilot training in Wilmington Delaware.  We all knew there was a hurricane coming, it had a name, Floyd.  I, along with everyone else expected it to drop some rain and dissipate quickly as it came ashore, especially this far north.

          Having grown up in Kansas, I’m no stranger to severe weather.  My childhood was filled with memories of being swept out of my bed by a parent and rushed into the basement as the storm sirens warbled their song of approaching tornadoes.  Black skies in Delaware, while disconcerting, certainly didn’t seem life threatening.  It was early, not yet six in the evening when I drove from the airport to the hotel.  All of the fast food restaurants were closed—everything was closed.  Then the winds came up and it began to rain.  In the Midwest, the rain and wind, while violent and torrential, would blow over within minutes.  Not Hurricane Floyd.  The rain started and then worsened.  The wind was relentless, it sounded as if both were on the verge of ripping my hotel into splinters.  For the first few hours I had electricity, and then the power went out.  A look out the window revealed sheets of water pouring from the roof, limbs were down and whitecaps blew through the flooded parking lot.  Earlier I’d gathered the few things I’d take with me if I had to flee a destroyed hotel room.  It was at that moment I knew I’d lost my fight or flight options—I was trapped.  Hour after hour of winds and rain kept coming, any momentary lull in the roar would always seem to be followed by gusts of higher intensity, the rain whipped into greater frenzy. 

         I needed to sleep, and I finally did, in a chair, fully clothed, as the structure around me creaked and groaned under the onslaught.  Whatever severe weather seasoning I thought I’d gained growing up in Kansas was tested that night in Delaware.  The next morning the flooding and destruction were bathed in bright sunlight.  I’d learn later that Floyd had taken lives.   

         Not long after that night, I started writing a book called Category Five.  The opening scene begins in Bermuda, where a hurricane is bearing down on the island.  A key scientist is racing to escape the island via private jet before the winds close the airport.  Having been to Bermuda, I’m familiar with the lay of the land. There is a single causeway that connects the main island to the airport, and I use this feature to enhance the drama.  I wrote about the waves crashing into the causeway, exploding upward, making a crossing perilous, if not suicidal.  On the ramp at the airport, out of reach, is the jet with engines running.  Time to escape the island can be measured in minutes.  My characters barely manage to cross the causeway without being swept away by the growing waves.  They board the jet and in sixty-mph wind gusts, the pilots takeoff and climb into the teeth of the storm.  Once airborne, they battle through massive turbulence and rain to get above the tempest.  Seven miles above the ocean, they burst into the calm rarefied air and turn for home.  In my novel, it’ll not be the last time they tangle with this particular storm. 


Years later, Category Five was written, agented, sold, and coming out in hardcover.  My job as a corporate pilot had me scheduled to fly to Bermuda, where, days earlier, Hurricane Fabian had hit the island.  Calls are made by both the flight department, as well as the top executives, and we discover that while there was damage to the island, the trip was still possible, so we went.  When we landed, it was obvious there was far more damage than I’d thought.  As we left the airport, there was a backup in the traffic because the causeway I’d spent so much time writing about was down to one lane.  When we finally inched out onto the structure, I could see the debris, and the sections of the concrete railings that had been washed away.  The very causeway scene I’d created in my head was suddenly very real.  As we slowly continued, our driver crossed himself, and then explained that as Fabian rolled over the island, four people were swept off the bridge and out to sea.  Once again, I was reminded of the power our planet can generate, and how helpless we as humans are in the face of such fury.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Birthdays and Wisdom..sort of, maybe?

This upcoming week marks my birthday, it's not a milestone birthday, or even a particularly eventful birthday, except for the fact that I share the date with Orville Wright.  As a result, I'm born on what is now recognized as National Aviation Day, August 19th.  I'm pretty sure my aviation exploits didn't tip the scale much, and that Orville pretty much sealed the deal after Kitty Hawk, but hey, what better day?

As with all birthdays, I look back and congratulate myself for not dying, then I try and see if I did much with the year I was given.  This year I get to say yes.  My publisher released Deadly Echoes, my fourth Donovan Nash thriller. I finished Aftershock, DN #5, which will be released next March. (cover art to be revealed soon)  and best of all, I got to spend five weeks with my son in Montana.  We had a great summer, and as he's about to graduate from College, it was probably the last time for that much unbroken father son time together for the foreseeable future.

Another thought that arises on birthdays--is the question of wisdom.  Am I getting smarter?  Is my wisdom increasing with age?  Once again, I get to answer yes to this question, as I now know where it's kept.  I even took a picture as proof I was there.  There weren't a lot of people around, certainly no teenagers, or politicians, lobbyists, no Wall Street types, and certainly no fast food outlets.  My cell phone didn't have a signal, and I got the sense that Fox News and CNN weren't being watched, perhaps Wisdom meant no television at all?  I did see an American flag, and a school, which was expected.  I left town feeling like I'd gained a little bit of wisdom, at least I'd found the source.  Time will tell.  The best part is I can always go back.

What would I like for my birthday you ask?  I'd love for everyone who has ever read one of my novels to post a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads. Or all of them! It's quick and easy, and trust me, it always puts a smile on my face.  Thanks!