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 →

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1963 Cessna 150C

For years I wanted an airplane of my own. Not as a status symbol. I’m far to cheap to buy anything that would be impressive to others in that sense. No, I simply wanted an airplane that I could go out and fly without having to make prior arrangements. When the sky is clear and the sun is low and the evening is inviting – I want to go fly. And so I wanted an airplane.

This goal went unfulfilled for more than twenty years, until I found this little beauty. It’s a 1963 Cessna 150C, a two seat trainer and recreational aircraft that is inexpensive to buy, inexpensive to own, and a lot of fun to fly. It’s slow by aviation standards, cruising along at only 90 knots or so (103 mph). But the view is fantastic, the simplicity is appealing, and the longevity of the airplane has been well proven. So I bought it. I was happy. A bit nervous perhaps, since this is the first airplane I’ve actually owned. But happy. Read More →

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 11.15.47 AMTo this point in my life and my work, I remain a stalwart of the printed page. That is true, even while I publish ebooks, utilizing the Internet to cut cost and widen the availability of the work I do. I like print. I enjoy the hard-copy product that has been with us for hundreds of years. Although the digital version may be more durable in the long run, the print copy feels traditional and at least a little comforting at times. So I continue to write for print each week, and I like it.

One of the publications I contribute to is a local print publication. The 863 Magazine is an invention of Sergio and Andrea Cruz. Passionate promoters of a lifestyle many aspire to, these two never fail to make me smile when we meet, and always remind me why it is better to live a life you love than it is to covet material wealth above all else. I’m proud to write for 863. The title itself establishes the focus of the magazine – on the people, products, events, and points of interest contained within the 863 area code. Central Florida never looked so authentic.

Like so many local publications, 863 works with some talented writers. I know and like several of them, both personally and professionally. And like a growing number of print publications, 863 is also available digitally. At the very least that means snowbirds who spend the summers up north and the winters down south, can keep up with the goings on in the region via their PC, Mac, tablet, phone, or other device.

My latest contribution to 863 has to do with getting older. I am doing that, for certain. So far I kind of like the journey. But I reserve the right to change my mind. I just hope the trip is as entertaining for you as it has been for me.  Read More →

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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 →