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In the late 1980s I lived in New York City. My apartment was in Greenwich Village, in keeping with my basic philosophy of NYC. My philosphy is this; if you’re going to live in New York City, live in Manhattan. If you’re going to live in Manhattan, live in the Village. In my case, the apartment was on Bleecker St. Specifically, 177 Bleecker St. Three members of my band lived in the same small, roach-infested apartment, where our Super, a well-worn Jamaican named Johnny referred to my roommates and me collectively as, “Beeeeeaaatlessssss.” His voice was low and rough from years of smoking things he really shouldn’t have been smoking. It dragged on forever it seemed. “Beeeaaatles,” he’d say every time he saw one of us in the hall or on the street. For all I knew the Fab Four were the only band he knew. I’m not aware of him ever seeing us perform, either. But still, Johnny religiously referred to each of the three of us, individually or in a group as, “Beeeeaaatles.”

It was kind of flattering in a weird, not particularly productive kind of way. Still, flattery is almost always appreciated on some level, and we did appreciate the humor of Johnny’s perspective on who he thought we were, or who we might be in the future.

To be clear, my band never made the former Beatles sweat about their legacy. Not for a moment. Although we were pretty good. But that’s another story altogether.

The New York City memory I cling to most had nothing to do with music, or live performance, or much of what I was up to in those days. No, my favorite memory has a literary twist to it. Read More →

“Hey, look at this,” Ollie yelled. His ten year old brain swimming with excitement.

Stanz and Marshall paid no attention. They were having too much fun splashing in the creek, laughing and attacking each other the way twelve year old boys do.

“Hey,” Ollie hollered a second time. “Look what I found.”

Harold Stanz stood up straight to investigate. Ken Marshall slapped a handful of water in his direction, catching him square in the face. Marshall laughed hysterically. Stanz inhaled a small quantity of creek water and fell into a coughing fit appropriate to the physical assault.

Oblivious, Ollie was persistent if not slightly whiney, “Hey, you guys. This is really cool. Come look.”

Between his thumb and index finger Oliver Stanz held a small coin. It shone brightly in the dappled sunlight filtering through the trees. It’s luster wasn’t caused by the water covering the boys and the coin, however. It was gold in color and content. Real gold. A substance each of the boys had heard of but none of them had ever seen. Not in real life anyway.

“That’s not real,” announced Marshall after a cursory examination of the find. “It’s just a subway token, or a fake coin from one of those arcades, like Chuck E. Cheese or something.”

“Yeah,” Harold agreed. Peer pressure brought on by a companion he wanted to bond with and impress took hold of his judgement and ability to think freely. “It’s a fake.”

“Boy Ollie, do you get faked out easy,” Marshall teased.

“Yeah,” Harold chimed in, “You’re such a dweeb.”

Ollie held the coin tight, casting his eyes from the coin, to the older boys and back again. Fighting for the courage to stand his ground, he retaliated, “It’s got a date on it.”

“Lemme see,” Harold grabbed for the coin, wresting it from his younger brother’s slick, wet fingers.

“It says 1842, right there,” Ollie jabbed a pudgy finger in the direction of the coin. “It’s old I’m telling you. It’s real money.” Read More →

I’m a big believScreen shot 2012-10-10 at 3.58.36 PMer in doing what your heart tells you is the right thing to do. Not romantically, but professionally, vocationally, even avocationally. If you want to be a singer, then sing. If you want to be a carpenter, then be the best one you can be. Me? I wanted to be a pilot. So that’s what I did. Admittedly, it was hard for me. But then it’s hard for everyone. There is very little of value in the world that can be accomplished without some effort, a tad of sacrifice, a bit of discomfort. Yet, if the pot of gold at the end of your particular rainbow is truly of value to you – then it really doesn’t matter that you have to work at it, give something up to get it, or suffer a little along the way. Pursue your passion. Nobody else can do it for you. So go. Do it. Be what you want to be.

General Aviation News published a lengthier piece I wrote on the topic. You can find it here. I hope it helps, if not you, then someone you know.

Onward!

She felt good. Bright, alert, ready for the day. Yet the bathroom mirror told a different story. Puffy eyes, tangled hair, and a pink line running down her left cheek all spoke of a night gone wrong, and a morning that came far too early. The LED’s of her alarm clock burned through the gloom of the early morning. If she was in the car in half an hour, she could make it. If the traffic was light, there were no delays, and nothing out of the ordinary held her up, she’d be alright.

Breakfast was a cold granola bar she found while rummaging through the pantry. Rather than check for an expired by date, she rolled the dice and chomped down on its hard, crunchy oats. The taste of cinnamon tingled on her tongue as she raced across the lawn, pressed the unlock button on her key fob, and fumbled for the door handle in the gloom of an overcast, gray morning.

Rounding the first corner, her tires squealed. She made a mental note to slow down, but the idea didn’t transition from her brain to her right foot. She ran a stop sign at Maple Street and Forbes, then another at Oak and Main. Six miles to go. Ten minutes at this pace. She’d make it. Barely. Her hands trembled slightly on the wheel. She tried to force them to remain still,  but failed in the attempt. She cheated a look into the rearview mirror to check her makeup and found the face staring back to be unacceptable, but uncorrectable at this point. Shuddering at her own image, she averted her eyes and bore down on the task at hand. Get there, get there, get there. Tw0 miles remaining. A quick dash over the bridge, merge left toward the downtown exit, and shoot down the ramp to the parking garage one block west. Read More →

Blurred Desktop editSometimes I write off the top of my head. It’s a stream of consciousness method of storytelling, and it works. Admittedly, it’s slow. There are lots of edits, re-writes, ill-conceived plot points, and quirky characters that don’t always measure up in the end. Those characters often die an ugly death at the hands of my keyboard long before you see or hear from them. Most of them still exist in some form. After all, there are multiple drafts of a book. The original often bears only a passing resemblance to the finished product.

That’s not a bad thing, incidentally. Like a songwriter polishing the arrangement of a song, or a painter tweaking the colors and shading of an image, the writer has the artistic license to rearrange words, add or remove passages, edit at will, or delete as necessary. To get the story you want to tell in the shape it deserves to be in, sometimes you have to smear a little ink, lose a couple pages, and maybe insert a few adverbs or adjectives that were inadvertently left out of the original version.

All that is well in front of me at the moment, however. I’m in the outline phase. The new novel is taking shape. The characters are finding names, motivations, quirks of their personality, and maybe even a bit of a personal history. They have to be full fledged characters if the story is going to really work. For the reader to believe in the characters, they have to be real. Some are intended to be likable. Others are meant to be odious. And at least a few of the minor characters are little more than window dressing. Just like that guy from work who looks so familiar, but you don’t see him often so you can never really recall any specifics about him. That’s why you say, “Hey, how are you?” when you see him on Mondays. No name. No specifics are exchanged. Just a generic, “What’s up, man.” That’s safe when you’re dealing with window dressing disguised as actual people.

See! Fiction is just like real life. Some of the information matters. Some of it doesn’t. A handful of characters are central to the story, but most of them aren’t. Real life, fiction, they’re disturbingly similar. Occasionally they’re so similar it’s hard to tell them apart.

Maybe that’s why readers keep asking me if Burritos and Gasoline is based on my real life? It’s a good question. It’s a fair question. But I’ve dealt with that one enough. The better question is, Are any of the characters in the Lifeboat Augusta series based on my real life? Ah ha! Nobody has asked me that yet. Not in public anyway.

The new novel is tentatively titled, “Island Life.” And I will divulge little about it here. But I will drop these few breadcrumbs for those who have followed me this far. The story begins in New York City. It deals with finance, greed, fear, and the basic building blocks of human motivation. Then it takes a turn.

I’m not going to tell you the rest. That wouldn’t be right. You’ll just have to wait and read it for yourself when it’s done. Right now the story has taken the shape of a highly detailed outline that gives me all the motivation I need to start filling out the portraits of these poor, pitiful, comically misguided people. Their story needs to be told. And I’m going to do just that, doggone it.

Oops, time to get to work. Bye, bye, for now.

Editors note: This post was written in haste and has not benefited from an editorial review. If you find an error, congratulations. Unfortunately there is no prize other than the rich knowledge that you found an error on the Internet. Alert the media. They’ll be fascinated, no doubt. 

 

Thankfully the complaints have been few, but regular readers of this blog have no doubt noticed that a certain someone hasn’t been here for quite some time. And that certain someone is me.

Sorry about that.

For several months now I’ve been wrapped up, engaged, excited, distracted, and almost totally focused on one of the three main passions in my life. No, not writing. Flying. As it happens I’ve stumbled into an amazing opportunity to do one of the things I truly, honestly, absolutely love to do – fly around the glorious Sunshine State in a cute little two-seat airplane, talking to people about aviation as a career or a hobby, and generally having a fantastic time of it all day every day.

Seriously, when your real life approximates your fondest dreams, you can’t complain. It’s not like I’m buried under three feet of snow. That’s not me. That’s Boston. One of the many, many places I would prefer to visit only during warm weather months.

Of course the downside of all this is that I haven’t had much time for writing fiction lately. Non-fiction, sure. I put out one or two non-fiction pieces every week. But fiction is where my heart is, even when my fingertips aren’t actively engaged in writing it.

Have no fear. Don’t lose hope. There’s another installment of the Abiaka County storyline coming along. It’s untitled at this point, but I’m liking it quite a bit. I hope you will too. It’s a bit dark, as the Abiaka County stories are. This one, like Deep in the Grove, is loosely based on real events that have actually happened. As with the previous release, the storyline alludes to an event that occurred in a rural corner of American’s vacation capital. That incident is not the central focus of the story, but it is the scenario that led my imagination to a story that incorporates my own reality into the fictional realm of Abiaka County, Florida – a place that doesn’t really exist, even if the events that occur there have indeed occurred here in the real world.

You can count on me continuing to whittle away at that story, perfecting it bit by bit until I have something I feel good about putting out into the public marketplace. Until then you might look skyward when you hear an engine overhead. It just might be me headed off on another adventure. If everything works out, I may even write about it. Maybe in General Aviation News, or perhaps in an AOPA Membership Publication, or possibly for a more regional non-aviation oriented publication like 863 Magazine. One way or another, you can be sure I’m doing something. It just may not be immediately identifiable as something the average person would consider to be, work.

Now if you’ll be so good as to excuse me, I’ve got to plan my next flight. I’m off to Titusville next, in the shadow of the space center on Florida’s east coast.

This ought to be fun. It might even become a story. You can just never tell.

There is an old and respected adage that says writers should write every day. Certainly, there are writers who do just that. Stephen King famously writes all but two days each year. Oddly perhaps, neither of those two days is Halloween. But that’s beside the point.

Let me pose a simple question. What would you think the point of writing every day is, if you don’t have something to say? Writing is after all a form of story-telling. There has to be a purpose to what you write. The end result may be intended to educate, or entertain, but there has to be a reason the writer sits down, or stands up, or jogs in place to put words on the page. If there’s no reason, no point, no moral, no lesson to be shared – well in that case you’re not a writer, you’re a typist (or a scribbler, as the case may be), and what is the point of that? Read More →

Jamie_05_3DTransparentAfter two years of sporadic but sincere effort, the Lifeboat Augusta series is finally concluded. With the release of installment 5, Survival of the Fittest, the story comes to an end…of sorts. There are no spoilers here. Only heartfelt appreciation for the readers who have been following along with the series and the support they’ve given me. Thank you. Truly.

Rather than leave it at that, brief as it is, I will share a bit of inside baseball with you. The literary edition.

One of the lesser known tasks undertaken when publishing a book, or an ebook, is the gathering of blurbs. These usually short, often flattering quips are written by other authors who have a thing or two to say about the story being presented. Fortunately, I have been on the receiving end of some high praise as I’ve put this series together. Authors I read and enjoy like John Blumenthal, Kevin Garrison, and C.G. Blake have been good enough to share their enthusiasm for the story in print. I very much appreciate the kindness.

With this last installment I asked another author whose work I enjoy to read and consider writing a blurb for the inside cover of, Survival of the Fittest. Sam Torode is a good man. I read his novel, The Dirty Parts of the Bible on a whim. Man, am I glad I did. Funny, quirky, totally believable and absolutely entertaining, Sam’s style of writing and his ability to weave a yarn through the dusty depression era midwest caught my imagination and held it.

We’re very different writers, Sam and I. Yet like cabinet makers, luthiers, potters, or tailors, we have an appreciation for each other’s work. Our work may take different forms and focus on different aspects of the human experience, but we each see something of value when we crack the pages of something the other wrote. That’s comforting, frankly. It’s satisfying too.

When I saw the blurb Sam submitted for inclusion in this final installment of the series, I was very pleased with the sentiment he shared. He said this, “Fans of apocalyptic fiction should check out Jamie Beckett’s Lifeboat Augusta series. This could be the next indie publishing sensation.”

How can I not be tremendously flattered by the appearance of those two sentences. You can see them for yourself, in context, inside the pages of, Survival of the Fittest. They’re right there beneath the blurbs of the other authors I mentioned previously.

If I ever succumb to the idea of starting each morning with a daily affirmation, I think Sam’s might be the message I would choose. It’s positive without being gushy. It’s supportive without bombast or hyperbole. Yet it made my day when I first read it, and it continues to brighten my mood each time I come across it.

With great appreciation to Sam, John, Kevin, and C.G. I must say, this has been an interesting journey. Shepherding Randy and Keisha and their peer group into orbit where they suffer one catastrophe after another, it’s been fun. On one level I wish it would never end. Then again, I’m enjoying the freedom I now have to move on to the next thing. The next story. The next book. Adventure awaits.

Oooo, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Jamie_05_3DTransparentThe fifth and final installment of the Lifeboat Augusta series is nearing its release date. While it is in the final editing stage, this seems like the perfect time to let readers of the series know the end is near (or is it), and to say goodbye to a project that I’ve been working on for more than two years.

What a pleasure it has been.

This all started as a casual conversation about science fiction in its various forms. That led to a novella called, To the Lifeboats. Originally intended to be a stand-alone piece, it became apparent in the writing that a second and third installment would be necessary to flesh out the story and follow the main characters on a unique and occasionally terrifying  journey. That led to the creation of, Just About Armageddon and Isle of Safety. Yet before Armageddon was a complete first draft it was apparent even to me that Randy Tagget and Keisha Miller had more life in them than three novellas could contain.

In the end the Lifeboat Augusta series lived up to its promise of taking me on a fascinating adventure from earth to space and back again. Yet this adventure was somewhat more fraught with danger, intrigue, and yes even sexual tension than the Mercury 7 ever dreamed of.  Well, they might have dreamed it, but they were professional and tight lipped enough to keep it to themselves.

Watch Amazon for the release of the final installment of the series in October. It’s sure to grab you, throw you for a loop, and maybe even include a twist or two you weren’t expecting. But don’t dive in to installment five without getting a solid footing with installment one first. Start with To the Lifeboats, segue into Just About Armageddon, continue with Isle of Safety, go boldly into Binary Choices, then wrap the whole thing up with Survival of the Fittest.

Thanks for following along with the story as it unfolds. I’ve had fun. I sincerely hope you have too.

 

Somewhere along the line it seems folks have lost the thread that makes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so remarkable. It’s not really about dumping ice-water on your head or shaming your friends into doing the same. It’s about raising awareness and funding to battle a horrific disease. So when I was challenged to participate, I accepted – but I threw in a twist I wish more of us would include in our videos.

Enjoy it or hate it, watch if you will. Then consider how you might do something a bit more beneficial than just dumping water on your head. The concept is timeless, so if you feel a need to help someone, do it. You’ll be glad in the long run.