Thursday, May 22, 2014

Helicopters, novels, and the real world.

If you read my books, then you know my main character, Donovan Nash, who is a high-time jet pilot, doesn't think much of helicopters.  Don't get me wrong, he'll get in them when he has to, and often times it's necessary for him to strap in and go, but he's never thrilled with the process, maybe even a bit uneasy.  Arriving at this particular character trait for Nash was simple--it's exactly how this high-time jet pilot/author feels about the subject.

So, I can't really explain what happened.  With a simple swipe of my credit card, my son and I were ushered out to a Bell 206, and within minutes, the rotor blades were spinning and everything I know and trust about aviation was swept away in the rotor wash.

I last flew in a helicopter in 1982, and not much has changed.  The damned things takeoff straight up!  A serious violation of aerodynamics to a fixed-wing pilot.  From that point on, all of the senses I accumulated in 30 years of flying airplanes become null and void.  The sounds are different, the feel in the seat of the pants is different.  The whole machine vibrates and shakes.  I remember clearly why Donovan is always a reluctant passenger. What was I thinking...and then we climbed above the trees and banked toward the snow capped mountains of Glacier National Park.  

We climbed to 9,000 feet and danced with the mountaintops, pivoted over glaciers, raced through valleys hugging rocky spires that soared above us into the perfect blue sky.  Waterfalls, lakes, even an eagle passed beneath us as we flew through the park.  Long before I wanted it to end, we lightly touched down on the helipad, spent, happy, humbled by the aerial sights I'd been privileged enough to witness.  What an amazing flight.

Donovan Nash may still have his reservations, but I'm well on my way to changing mine.

Oh, and one more thing.  In real life, as in my novels, helicopter pilots have mad skills.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Muses, music, and magic

                                                       Kristin Hoffman from

Whenever writers get together, the conversation inevitably rolls around to the subject of craft.  How do you write, when, how much each day, do you outline?  The answers are as varied as the writers   These exchanges are one my favorite parts about being a novelist--they're very cathartic.  I know for a fact that  I'm not the only one with some crazy ritual. (perhaps one day this will be the topic of another blog)

For me, the process has changed somewhat over the years, but still, one of the hardest aspects to control is how to get from left-brained analytical pilot, over the threshold, to the right-brained creative novelist.  It's always a challenge, but I've refined the process and the single most import element is music.  Music is my muse.

After a recent exchange of thoughts with one of my muses, I began to ponder this mechanism, and how important it is to me, and then I thought about the requirements to be my muse.  It's completely subjective, and all mine, but this is what I discovered.

*  The song must have remarkable lyrics.  It's hard for crummy lyrics to inspire an author.

*  The song must contain some haunting refrain, or the artist herself must possess a voice with this    
    quality.  Yes, a muse must be female...I don't make the rules.  Look it up.

*  The song must feel as if it's being sung fearlessly.  This solitary element somehow seems to
     push me into a mindset to write fearlessly.

*   The song must perform the magic while I write, which means it must be subtle, not
     demanding, yet still powerful enough to feed the creativity and stay in the background.  How
     musicians create this is beyond me.  It's magic.

*   I owe all of my muses a deep debt of gratitude.  You're one of the reasons the words appear, the
     private soundtrack to my novels.  I could never in a million years do what you do, but I'm glad
     you have the skills you have.

These days, I listen to music on my computer, and it shows me who I listen to the most.  Calculating the age of the computer, the following five artists have been listened to the most while I muddled through writing my last three novels.  Most go back further than that.  Thanks ladies.  (Loreena McKennitt)

I would recommend that everyone check out this music--today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hopping on one foot, swearing, and a grand slam. least favorite thing.  I waited in the doctor's office, then I waited as the doctor went through my x-rays and MRI images.  I waited as he explained that due to some blood thinners I take, we need to wait two weeks before doing any surgery.  Crap.

So, I'm in the cabin, crutches are hard work, and a deterrent to moving around, so I hop and swear.  I can drive, so I've taken a few scenic trips and then I decided I should teach myself to drive a stick  using only my right foot.  It's difficult, requires a little concentration, but it's not impossible..or very smooth for that matter.

My son finishes finals this week and is headed my way to help me through the eventual surgery, which is good.  He'll also be in a postion to help me while I work on that new novel I'm suppossed to be writing.

There was a question I threw out there on my last blog.  Without the distraction of fishing, would I write more, or start happy hour earlier?  The early reports are in--book six has a working title, and I've begun, and as usual, with a bang.

I was sifting through some camera uploads and I found one of my favorites from the book signing in Anacortes.  Jeff brought in the first three of my books and bought Deadly Echoes!  In my world it's a  literary grand slam!  Thanks Jeff, I'll see you next year.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The one hour vacation

My plan was perfect.  The moment my last book signing for the Deadly Echoes release tour was over, I was headed to Montana.  I'd rented a rustic cabin on the bank of Rock Creek, with Internet and satellite TV of course, and the rule of the day was write in the morning, fly fish in the afternoon, with all activities drawing to a close around happy hour.  Repeat as necessary.  Following this recipe, at some point later in the summer I'd end up with a rough draft for novel number six and have caught a bunch of fish.

What happened instead was my first morning in Montana, I was leaving the hotel to drive to the cabin.  While loading the car I stepped off a curb I didn't see.  It took a while for the injury to really hurt, so I did actually get all my fishing stuff unpacked before I was forced to seek medical attention.  The end result is a swollen knee with fragments floating around inside, and some guys with knives who are hopefully going to fix everything.  Maybe as early as next week.  I can see the river from the window.  Of course, it's impossible to fish with crutches, and I've been told I'll be on them for four to six weeks after the surgery.  Thinking back, I sure was excited that entire hour before I stepped off into space. 

With fishing out of the equation, the question looms.  Will I write more, or simply start happy hour earlier?  Stay tuned.