Like most writers, I have a job. Something I do to keep the wolf from the door, financially speaking. Frank McCourt was a high school teacher. Jack Kerouac washed dishes, pumped gas, and worked a farm. Kurt Vonnegut managed a Saab dealership in Massachusetts. Tom Clancy was an insurance broker. Me? I’m a pilot.

Writing fiction is something I truly love to do. It allows me the luxury of ruling the universe while freed of the constraints of time, space, and the laws of physics. Anything can happen. As long as the people and events I depict remain consistent within the confines of the story being told, I’m good. The reader is entertained. All is well.

Of course in real life that’s not at all true. Reality is very important to me on a day to day basis. The weather, the condition of the airplane, my own physical state, and even the mood of the person I’m flying with all come into play and affect my decision making process.

That may all seem ominous, but believe me, it’s not. It’s joyous. It’s something to celebrate. At some point in my day I’ll find myself well above the surface of the earth, motoring past flocks of birds, puffy white clouds, and maybe, someday, an actual UFO.

It could happen.  Read More →

Survival_FacebookWhew, that was a long intermission. I’m up early this morning thanks to a daughter with a penchant for hitting the snooze button, but with no particular interest in actually getting out of bed. That being the case, I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up readers of this blog on what’s been happening and what’s coming up.

I know you can hardly wait to get the lowdown on my own personal hoedown of activity.

First and foremost I should come clean on the issue that seems to bug people most. I don’t write every day. There, I said it. To be more accurate I think it might be better to say, I don’t write for publication every day. Weekly, yes. Daily, not a chance. Just like you, I’ve got other fish to fry, other chores to attend to, and maybe even a nap to take in the afternoon.

That nap sounds particularly good right now. Yikes, it’s not even 7AM yet. What’s that say about my lifestyle? Nothing good, I think.

Since I last posted in this space, I’ve been hard at work converting The Lifeboat Augusta series to audiobooks. That work is almost complete. The fifth and final installment, Survival of the Fittest, will be on the market in just a matter of days. That will feel good. A completed project leaves me with a sense of accomplishment. Getting things done is my purpose in life. At least I think it is. So far, anyway.

Of course when I say, “I’ve been hard at work,” what I actually mean is, Elizabeth Phillips has been hard at work. It’s Elizabeth who reads, records, edits, fusses, and fixes every syllable of the five novellas that make up the full series. I simply click a button and listen to her elegant, alluring, oh so feminine voice put life to my words. Read More →

In the final analysis, writing fiction is nothing more exotic than storytelling. It’s proud lineage goes back to prehistoric times before the Roman Empire came into being. It includes Norsemen gathered around a fire, share-croppers clustered on the porch of a tumbledown shack, and 20th Century nuclear families crowded into the living room to listen to radio programs of the 1940s. Writers tell stories. It’s what they do.

Originally, some guy just shared a narrative about his day. Someone else built on that by adding nuance, intrigue, adventure, and drama. Maybe even some humor. Over time storytelling became an art form which transitioned from being exclusively the domain of the spoken work, to one that included print as well. Thank you, Johannes Gutenberg.

Audiences large and small appreciate the effort.

Somewhere in there someone got the great idea to record audio books. This takes the art form back to basics. It’s storytelling, plain and simple. Or is it? In truth, there’s nothing simple about telling a story. Some people can do it well, and others…well, others can’t. Just as Amy Schumer can utter a few words in a certain way that causes you to fall on the floor laughing, even through your aunt Cecilia gets only groans and looks of pity when she tells the same damn joke.

The question now becomes one of production quality. Should the author read their own work, or should they hire a professional narrator? Or should it be an actor reading the story? There is a difference between narrating and acting. One simply tells the story, the other attempts to bring the characters to life.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this puzzle. Sometimes narration works best. In other cases an actor can bring new life to a story. Ultimately, it’s not about what the author thinks, or the narrator, the actor, or even the producer. It all comes down to what the consumer thinks. If they like it, it’s good. If they don’t, it’s not.

 

And the beat goes on.

WhiskeySitting down at a desk to write is a gentlemanly act. Even if you’re gifted with an X chromosome in place of the Y version I carry, sitting down to write is still an elegant experience. To plant your posterior in a chair, poise your fingertips over the keys, and open your mind to the possibilities – it’s adventurous and brave. It just is.

Of course there are staples of the writing trade. Pens and pencils come to mind, as do pads of paper, keyboards, Macintosh computers, Michael Dell, the fine people who created NeoOffice, Word, Wordperfect, Scrivener, and a slew of other useful software products. And alcohol.

Of all the alcohol laden options available to a writer, I will state unequivocally that whiskey is the most noble and productive of libations. This, after an exhaustive scientific study that ranged from my desk to the other side of my desk and back again. There, over near the calculator I picked up at Staples on a whim, is a glass of chilled golden liquid that will almost certainly result in this evening being more enjoyable than it might have otherwise been.

Whisky, or as it is referred to it in America, Canada, and Ireland, whiskey, is also a preferred drink of lawyers. Or it should be. Because the rules that distinguish whisky (Scotch) from whiskey (Irish) from Bourbon (American) from Rye (American or Canadian) are a legalistic jumble that no enhanced level of sobriety could possible decrypt. For instance, while American Rye Whiskey must be derived from a concoction of no less than 51 percent rye, Canadian Rye Whiskey may or may not have seen even a single grain of rye involved in the distillation process.  Read More →

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 10.11.59 AMSome months ago I was on a train, headed from Washington D.C. to central Florida. I like traveling by train. Or at least, I find I am more likely to enjoy a train ride than I am to enjoy the cattle call cluster of a mess that commercial air travel has become. What I never expected however was an evening of thoroughly satisfying conversation that included an excellent book recommendation. I guess sometimes, you get more than you pay for.

My table mates at dinner were an older couple on their way to catch a cruise ship in south Florida.  As we rolled through Virginia, the husband, a large, jovial man with a gift for conversation and a zest for life, matched me story for story. Retired now, he related that when he was a working stiff, he’d been a doctor. An anesthesiologist in fact. I found this ironic. How was it possible such an excellent conversationalist could have made his living by putting people to sleep?

The world is full of oddities. Thank goodness we stumble upon them from time to time.

During dinner, when the subject of books came up, as it invariably does, his smile brightened up to an even higher wattage than he’d shown to that point, exclaiming that his niece had just published a book that he was quite proud of. He said it was good. Funny, perceptive, and well worth reading. Yet he admitted with some slight embarrassment that he wouldn’t say the title out loud. Instead, he fumbled for his phone, tapped away for several seconds, then showed me the screen. On that little Chinese built glass panel was the cover of Amy Alkon’s masterwork, Good Manners for Nice People who Sometimes Say F*CK. Read More →

As you may know, I do not spend the bulk of my time in an office, head down, fingers poised over the keys, waiting for inspiration to strike. Rather, I prefer to get out and do things. Actual experiences make for better imagining when writing time rolls around.

This week I’m off seeking those experiences. You might even call this an adventure, but that would be an incorrect term. I’m seeking a little AirVenture in my life this week. That’s why I’m headed for Cheese-ville, just north of the Harley-Davidson factory in Madison, where cows roam free and wind turbines line the bean fields. If you’re looking for me this week, you’ll have to book a trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. That’s where I’ll be hanging out.

AirVenture is the largest aviation-oriented gathering in North America. If you’re into aviation at all, this is a must-see event. You’ve got to go at least once in your life. Maybe twice. Or more. It’s that good.  Read More →

Rural houseAs we roll into Independence Day 2015, America is divided. Of course astute students of history will note America is always divided. And not just in two parts. This country is populated by an almost unimaginably diverse citizenry hailing from every corner of the world. And yes, I am aware the world is round and has not corners. 

This year is unique, however. At least it’s unique in terms of the last half century. The Supreme Court has handed down an important ruling on the issue of what is allowable as a marriage in our nation. Secondarily, yet of no less importance is the sudden virulent backlash against a historic symbol of the south – the Confederate Stars and Bars. 

As Bob Dylan noted in such timeless fashion, the time’s they are a’changin’. Of course, they always are. They always have been. Change is the natural order, no matter how hard we might try to stop it – change will come. Change always  comes. Read More →

cropped-Browns-2.jpgThe plan was simple. I would get up early, grab a cup of coffee, then motor out to the local airport to meet my buddy, Earle. The two of us would then fly in Earle’s Cessna to the exotic sub-tropical city of Venice, Florida.

My mission was one of mercy. I’d committed to take an older gentleman flying. To give him an aerial tour of the Gulf Coast of Florida and the surrounding area. Although I’ve never met this fellow, I understand he has a real fondness for this big ‘ol sandbar where I, and he, make our home. And he is leaving soon, never to return. That’s weighty stuff.

Making this flight mattered to me. It meant something to Earle, too. Following through with the commitment to get both of them airborne was very nearly a sacred trust. I made a promise. A promise I was highly motivated to fulfill. Read More →

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Jane Waters Thomas? There are very few occurrences in my workday that are more enjoyable than spending time with Jane. She’s creative, adorable, curious, dedicated, and apparently indefatigable. Throw in a a few cameras, a production facility, and enough free to time really stretch out and talk about whatever crosses her mind, and you’re in for a good time. At least I was. I submit this video clip as evidence. Her interview in the Writers Den at PGTV is one of the more enjoyable interactions I’ve had while promoting my work. I only hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

On with the show!

by Jamie Beckett

Sci fi is a literary genre that’s long been unappreciated amongst serious readers, and occasionally maligned as unfit for consumption by serious human beings. I’ll make the argument that sci fi is as valid and compelling a form of storytelling as any other. In fact, I’ll go one further than that. I’ll actually give you five great reasons you should be reading sci fi now, and in the future.

And those reasons are…

1: You might learn something. A considerable percentage of sci fi stories are based, at least loosely, on real scientific principles. Sci fi writers tend to be forward thinking, creative types who have actually contributed to your real life as well as to their literary output. Think Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Michael Crichton .

2: Escapism. Real life is stressful enough. A good sci fi story can transport you to a place where the IRS doesn’t exist, mortgage payments are unheard of, and the kid’s orthodontist bill never comes. Plus, how often do you get to be a bystander who watches in total safety while an entire plantary system is overrun by invading hordes of extra-terrestrial super-soldiers? Read More →