Paranormal Tension: An Interview with Fantasy Author Megan Elizabeth

Tags

, ,

Megan Elizabeth

Sinners Craving New CoverMegan Elizabeth is one of the most exciting authors to appear on the book scene in some time. Megan moved to her new publishing home and released a new edition of “Sinners Craving: League of the Fallen.” She has a second novel coming out early next year and will be releasing a third novel in the summer.

How do you come up with the titles of your books?

Book titles are a funny thing. At times, you can just know exactly what the title to your newest book is. At other times, you can start writing a book, have it nearly completed and not know what to call it. Usually, I’ll just keep bouncing titles around my head and write them down. When I narrow it down to a select few, I’ll bounce some of them off of my critique partner then, boom! New title!

What is your writing schedule? Do you jump out of bed with coffee in hand or are you an afternoon writer? What conditions do you like to write under?

I am a write-whenever-I-am-able-to kind of author. I’m definitely not a morning person; my brain doesn’t start functioning until I’m well into my day. So I write during the mid-afternoon or late evening. The best condition I can think of for writing is sitting alone in a room with some soft music playing.

What do you have to avoid when writing a book? Do you ever get burned out?

When writing a book, I try to avoid reading another author’s work. Though reading is my favorite pastime, I would prefer not to have any of my thoughts tainted. Of course, I get burned out, usually around chapter 13. I have this period of stalling or procrastinating until I get going again and start writing.

How do you start to write a book? What is the first step?

The first step in writing a book is actually thinking. Thinking of the story you want to tell, thinking of a plot line that would intrigue, thinking of characters an audience could connect to. Thinking, “How the hell am I going to write another book?” Then I sit down, plot out another story I can’t wait to tell, and begin writing.

Which books have most influenced your life?

I’d like to say something profound here, but in all honesty the novels that have affected my life the most are the ones that helped me in some way. One that helped me get through a rough break up or the one that inspired me to start writing. Almost all have been written by one inspiring author—Kresley Cole.

Do you see writing as a career?

I see writing as my dream career. It’s everything I love and wish to pursue well into the future. It’s addicting holding your first book in your hands, like nothing I can describe.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

At this point I think “Sinner’s Craving,” my current new release, is everything I could hope for it to be. It was a complete labor of love, and with that I will take the good with the bad.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest in writing began after I went on a reading binge that lasted years. My head was filled with different worlds and characters that will haunt me for the rest of my life. As wonderful as it all was, I wanted to share a world of my own. I wanted to make readers feel what I had felt all through that time.

I felt like I couldn’t get enough, and now I hope that I can instil that same feeling in others through my own work.

What is your overall opinion of the publishing industry?

The publishing industry, like any other entertainment industry, has its ups and downs. It is ever-changing, always evolving in some way. The publishing world is where I found my home and exactly where I belong. It can rip you to pieces with a bad review and give you the most amazing high with one word of praise. I love every minute of it.

Do you ever get tired of looking at words?

In truth, sometimes I get tired of my own words. There’s only so many times you can proofread a book before your eyes start to cross and you need to walk away for a moment. But do I ever get tired of reading? Never!

Who designed the cover?

The cover was an idea that I came up with and described to the designer. About thirty mock up covers later, I had the one that I loved.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part of the writing process for me is editing. It can be gruelling. I love getting the story out, playing with the characters and the banter between them, even changing the plot; but editing is that part I hate the most.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

That I could actually do it. I’m now working on my third novel, and every time I write it’s a learning experience.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice to other writers would be to keep writing your stories, bring people into worlds they couldn’t dream of that only you can create on paper. Always conduct yourself as a professional, and never stop writing what you love.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them. I also love to hear from you and get feedback, so please feel free to reach out to me or leave a review.

 

Check out “Sinners Craving” by Megan Elizabeth

Available Now

Sinners Craving New Cover

Advertisements

Vanessa A. Ryan: Actress & Author Releases A New Novel

Tags

, , , , ,

vr

Vanessa A. Ryan is an actress in Southern California. She was born in California and graduated from UCLA. When not writing or acting, she enjoys painting and nature walks. Her paintings and sculptures are collected worldwide. At one point, she performed stand-up comedy, so her writing often reflects her love of humor, even for serious subjects. She lives with her cat Dezi, and among feral cats she has rescued. She is the author of A BLUE MOON, an urban fantasy, HORROR AT THE LAKE, a vampire trilogy and A PALETTE FOR MURDER, a traditional cozy mystery.

How do you come up with the titles of your books?

Sometimes the title just comes to me. Other times, I ask my family, friends, the publisher, or even strangers I meet see on the street to help me choose the best wording of a preliminary title. They’ll all have different opinions, and then the hard part is making the final decision.

What is your writing schedule?

My writing schedule is to write at least a thousand words a day, seven days a week, for the first draft. Most of that happens late at night, when the phone is least likely to ring. I may stay up until two in the morning to get in those thousand words, especially when I’ve had a busy day doing something else. I know if I don’t persevere, I won’t get that first draft written. As for revisions and rewrites, I like those the best. The hard work is already done. Cutting, revising and adding is the fun part.

Do you jump out of bed with coffee in hand or are you an afternoon writer?

I never jump out of bed for anything, unless the house is on fire––which has happened to me. I like coffee and breakfast in the morning, and reading the Los Angeles Times. Three days a week I read it online, and four days a week I get it delivered. It’s an important part of my daily routine. I never turn on the TV or radio for the news in the morning. I’m the type who wakes up slowly. I like to know what’s going on in the world, but without someone barking at me. If I can, I will write in the afternoon for a while. I might finish what I started writing in the afternoon later that night, if I didn’t get enough done.

What conditions do you like to write under?

I like overcast days. In fact, I love overcast weather. I feel more creative when the sky is gray and the atmosphere is a little foggy. Sunny days are just for enjoying the warmth of the sun, smiling a lot and not thinking much.

What do you have to avoid when writing a book?

I have to avoid too many other activities, or cut the time I devote to them. And since I’ve always got ideas in my head for new stories, I have to stop thinking of them so I can write the book I’ve already started.

Do you ever get burned out?

Sure. Writing is work. It’s putting in the time. Since December, I have been taking a break. But the holidays are over, and tomorrow, I will begin looking at the edits of the last book in my trilogy, Horror At The Lake, A Vampire Tale. However, even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking of my next book or series of books.

How do you start to write a book? What is the first step?

The first step is to decide which book floating around in my head I am going to commit to writing down. I usually know who the main character is and whether I’m going to write in the first person or in the third, but I will have to rough out the secondary characters. The next most important thing is to figure out the ending. The challenge, then, is how to get from the beginning to the end. Sometimes I write plot points on three by five cards, and sometimes I just wing it and start writing. I try to write chapters that are about ten pages long, and I read over what I wrote yesterday before I begin writing again.

Which books have most influenced your life most?

I think the books of Carlos Castaneda, Curt Vonnegut, Jerzy Kosinsky, and the mystery writers of the twentieth century, such as Agatha Christie and Ross MacDonald. Also the noir writers, such as Cornell Woolrich, Charles Willeford and Dorothy B. Hughes. But one of the most important influences in my life was meeting Ray Bradbury after a lecture he gave. I had read Death Is A Lonely Business, and although not one of his most famous books, it is set in Venice, CA, where I once lived. It inspired me to write my paranormal novel A Blue Moon, which also takes place in Venice, CA. It was thrilling to meet the writer who inspired me to write the book.

Do you see writing as a career?

I do see writing as a career. Of course, every writer hopes to have a best seller, but regardless, I will keep at it as long as I have stories I feel impelled to write.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

No. I’ll just write another book.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I started writing in the third grade. My teacher allotted a portion of her lessons to creative writing every week. In the sixth grade, we put on a school play, and I wrote the script.

What is your overall opinion of the publishing industry?

It’s like the film industry, though maybe without so much nepotism. While it’s easy to self-publish, it’s still tough to get into the mainstream market.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am currently working on another traditional mystery, the second in the Lana Davis series, titled A Date For Murder. The first, A Palette For Murder, will be released this May by Five Star Publishing.

Do you ever get tired of looking at words?

I don’t know that I get tired of looking at words, but I do need to take time off. I love walking in a park near my house, watching my favorite TV shows, traveling and socializing with friends.

Who designed the covers?

The publishers of my books have designers and they create covers from settings in the books that I describe to them.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

That first draft is always the hardest part.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I have learned to be more forgiving. All my characters have flaws, some worse than others, but they have some redeeming or humanizing characteristics as well.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Talk less and listen more. I get many of my ideas for stories from what people say.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope you enjoy my books and the journeys they take you on.

The Legacy of Fear (Horror at the Lake (A Vampire Tale) Book 1)

Now Available

Susan Runcan is on a quest to clear the name of her grandfather Lindon Runcan, the famous archeologist whose career ended under a cloud of suspicion. Although Lindon claimed thieves stole precious artifacts from his last expedition in Egypt, depriving the Egyptian government and his backers of the spoils, Lindon stole them himself. After the death of her uncle, Susan is the last of the Runcans and inherits the artifacts, along with her grandfather’s stately home in Lake Masley. Susan comes to the lake hoping to discover the reason her grandfather risked his career for these artifacts. What she finds is a town filled with rumors and fear. And what she discovers will change her life forever.

cover

Available Now

A Land of Fantasy with Alesia and Michael Matson

Tags

, , , , ,

 

ravens tears

Tell me about how you became writers—what was the first step for you both?

A: Mrs. Bruce, my short, curvy-licious, red-headed kindergarten teacher, introduced me to the forbidden world of the literati when she held my shaking hand in its first attempts to write the letters of the alphabet. Under her sweet, seductive influence, my infamous career as a notorious writer of adult fantasy fiction became a foregone conclusion. As did my life-long attraction to curvy redheads, come to think of it.

M: You mean you can become a writer? I always figured it was a talent, like painting or drawing. You either have it, or you don’t.

A: *snorts* Everyone is a born story-teller, and you only have to raise kids to know that’s so. It’s just that the discipline, focus, and clarity of thought needed to convert a story into a well-constructed novel takes a lot of effort. It’s more than just spewing words into a document; it’s meticulous grammar and punctuation, it’s endless hours of research into topics you know nothing about, it’s an empathic understanding human (or elven, dwarven, what-have-you) nature well enough to make your characters believable and engaging… I could go on, but I’d honestly rather be writing, so…

Do you think anyone can learn to be an effective writer, or is it an unnamed spiritual gift?

A: Anyone can learn to be an effective writer. Colleges are full of Creative Writing courses turning out effective writers. A better question would be, can one learn to be an affective writer? You have to have the courage to reach deep down into your own heart and soul to be an affective writer. You have to be willing to go out on limbs that terrify you. That’s harder to teach in classrooms.

M: Or impossible. Nowadays, it’s so easy to slap a “book” together and toss up onto the internet that the reality that creative writing is art, no different than painting or sculpture, gets lost. Like Alesia said, anyone can go to school and learn to write effectively. Good story tellers, however, are about as rare as good artists — and face similar challenges.

Was there a point at which you felt that writing could be a career?

M: Yeah. When the doctors told me I couldn’t do construction work anymore. It was Make. It. Your. Career. Or. Else! time.

A: Most days, I’m still looking for that point. “Career” is such a buzz word, isn’t it? It’s supposed to make you legitimate, if you have a “career.” Yeesh, I can think of a hundred things more interesting about anyone than their “career.” I want my writing to be an adventure, an exploration, a love-fest, a giggle, an orgasm – my gift to the reader. To me, that’s so much more entertaining than considering whether this is ever going to be a “career” or not.

M: That’s the fun stuff part.

On average, how long does it take for you to write your ideas down before you start writing a book?

A: We didn’t write anything down before the first draft of Raven’s Tears, but we took a long weekend in Portland, OR to block the second book of the trilogy. Then we reblocked the second part of the second book, Dead Man’s Trigger, in a day, then we reblocked the last section of that part of that book in another day, and then decided we needed to rewrite Raven’s Tears. I guess my answer is: However long we want. I do realize that’s less than helpful.

M: What was that line from Master and Commander? Oh yeah: “Which it will be ready when it’s ready.”

What would you say is the “defining” factor in your writing? What makes it yours?

M: The fact that we wrote it, maybe? I mean seriously, every author has their own style. Kind of hard not to.

A: This was the part where we were supposed to talk about the fact that we co-wrote it, and the blending of our disparate voices and styles, and how we didn’t stab each other even once, and are even still happily married.

How do you guard your time to do what’s most important?

M: Many, many years ago, when I was starting my first business, someone told me that the most important business skill I could master was to do what was going to make me money first, and worry about the rest later. It’s a little harder to interpret as an author/indie publisher, but it still works.

A: I’m not sold on the idea that what’s most important is what’s making me money. My answer is, “Figure out what’s most important, and do that first. Life is too short for anything else.”

What are some of the more common distractions you struggle with and what ways have you found to overcome them?

M: PBS NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer had some good advice: Dive deep into one thing, then come back up, pick another one, and dive deep again.

A: Anything can be a distraction, but only if you let it be. Our species has this big, evolved forebrain that’s supposed to allow us to focus over long periods of time, but I have come to the conclusion that it’s a muscle, like any other. The more you exercise that evolutionary ability to focus down on something, the more you can focus.

Also, meditation. Seriously. It works.

How do you decide what you want to write about?

M: Hah! Already done. We have the 3rd Raven & Iris book to write.

A: LOL – what he said. Start a series. Takes those angsty decisions off your chest for at least another couple of books.

I guess, and perhaps a little more seriously: I sometimes do suspect that the stories choose me, not the other way around. I can’t think of any other reason I’d have stuck with Raven & Iris for this long, and through this much trouble and heartache. There’s something about this story that’s telling itself through me, not the other way around.

As a writer, however, you have the opportunity to self-reflect, to revisit experiences. How does that feel?

M: Is that a trick question?

A: “It’s a trap!” Michael and I are self-reflective by nature, so I hope you’ll pardon our levity. Speaking for myself, after looking at and living with my own foibles for so long, I find I have to laugh at them, lest I give up in despair at the long list of my own personal inadequacies. As for revisiting experiences, I hope they feel the same as they did when they originally occurred, so I can draw from that in order to describe them properly. How else does one answer that?

M: This, I think, is one reason good authors are a bit like wine: they get better with age. They have more life experience to draw on in their work.

What motivates you to tackle the issues others may avoid, such as nature and spirituality?

M: Or sex? Look, it’s LIFE. Shouldn’t we be telling stories about all of life, not just the transient, socially/politically correct parts?

A: The question assumes I have a motivation to tackle those issues in my stories. I’m not sure I do. “Tackling issues” might presume I have a soapbox to preach from, or a point of view to advance. I don’t. This is fantasy. Escapism. It’s a place to go when you’re tired of your own life stresses and want to immerse yourself in the fictional struggles – and triumphs – set in another world. Any “issues” that get raised are with the reader alone, and that is exactly as it should be.

M: I like that answer, too.

When you start a new book, do you know how a book will end as you’re writing it? Or does its direction unfold during the writing, research and/or creative process?

M: Depends on the story, the characters, the setting… It helps to have a trajectory, but too much structure can stifle the characters (of which the setting is one).

A: It’s a little of both, I find. It works best, for me, if I set up a sturdy structure, think through as many plot holes as I can find, patch them, then start writing. I’ve usually left acres and acres of open space to play in, and that always causes changes to the way plots flow, and in how characters develop. Those changes in turn modify how the story is told, but I don’t think I’ve ever completely revised a planned ending because of anything that happened during the writing process. Not in a very long time, anyway. I’d have to “rethink my ability to pre-think,” if that happened.

How do your books speak to people, both inside and outside the reading world?

M: That’s for the readers to tell us, isn’t it?

A: One could have eliminated that last clause and not lost one bit of the meaning, of course. “How do your books speak to people?” Unfortunately, I have no bloody idea. I (co)wrote them. That skews everything. Maybe you’ll tell me, someday.

Do you look at yourself as an “envelope pusher” with your writing?

A: Only insofar as I no longer let “traditional publishing industry” wisdom govern what I write, and that I’m actively encouraging others to embrace the same willful disregard. “Adult Fantasy Fiction” isn’t even an entry in most book category lists, but I’m not letting that stop me. I’d be grateful to learn of, and read, other writers in the genre, too.

M: Not much I can add to that.Young writers often make foolish mistakes. What is a mistake to avoid?

A: Oh, this is the place where I’m supposed to talk about good proofreaders and passive voice and all that, isn’t it.

M: Okay… Once you’ve finished all your “language arts” classes, go take a real English class. That work?

A: There are no more “real” English classes, not in the US, anyway.

M: Which is why we’re supposed to talk about proofreaders and passive voice and sentence and paragraph construction. Got it.

What obstacles and opportunities do you see for writers in the years ahead?

A: I’ll let Reverend Michael of the Evangelical Church of Indie Publishing tackle that one for us.

M: (I’m wondering if that is a promotion or a demotion.)

A: It is what it is. You have defined ideas and opinions about those subjects. I don’t – but when has that ever stopped me from poking fun at you, when I got the chance?

M: Hmm… So I’m not going to get out of this, I see. Caveat emptor, and all that. This is probably worth less than you’re paying for it, just so you know. So, I’m going to ignore the disintermediation debate. For the average Joe out there just trying to pay their bills with their pen, it’s irelevent. The big publishers are doing what they’re doing, Amazon is doing what its doing, and we peons can do no more than navigate the ever changing terrain they hand us.

Above, I referred to writing as a business because, if you’re trying to make a living at it, that’s exactly what it’s become. Publishing houses now troll Amazon for their next best seller more than their own mail rooms. So whether the goal is to get picked up by a major house, or to make it as an indie, the challenge is exactly the same: you’ve got to sell your book; you’ve got to prove it can make money. The good news is, for those who are willing to dig in and work at it, even relatively poor writers are making a living in the niche markets. The bad news is, the way things stand now, if you’re not the entrepreneurial type, your chance of making it as a writer are approximately zero, even if you’re the next Mark Twain.

Could you talk about one work of creative art that has powerfully impacted you as a person?

M: I only get to talk about one?

A: This time, honey. This time.

I have two in mind, but I’m going to choose The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie. It’s the later of the two by about thirty years. I was in a “writing hiatus” when I read it, and I was glad of it because after I finished that book, I was blocked for months, afterward. The act of reading it was like throwing an evolutionary catalyst into an ocean of creative proto-DNA. It was the lightning flash that illuminated something for me so starkly, and so briefly, that I couldn’t rest easy with my writing until I figured out how to invoke it – or rather, how it might be invoked. Rushdie’s Enchantress is prose poetry. It is like getting drunk and high on words, and on how rapturously words could be strung together. Even though I was somewhat ambivalent about the ending Mr. Rushdie chose, I was riveted to every page I turned on the way, lost in the magic and majesty of the story, in the liquid beauty of the prose. I resolved that I would never write another thing in my life unless I was striving for something of that, in my work, in my writing.

M: I like that.

What relationship do you see between imagination and creativity, and the real world?

M: You can’t have one without the other. Put another way, you could say that fantasy fiction is a vehicle for looking at the collective mythology of our past through the lens of the present. Science fiction is a vehicle for looking at how we see our collective future through the lens of the present. Interpretation starts with the author and ends with the reader — every reader, and no one interpretation is more or less valid than any other.

A: Um. Not sure I understood all that, if I’m honest. I would say that the relationship is inseparable, if it’s not setting up a false dialectic altogether. Imagination spurs the creative impulse. The act of creation brings a thing into the “real world,” whatever that is. Living in that world prompts me to imagine how it might be better, and I want to create that better world, etc. You don’t get a “real world” without someone having imagined it, and then taken steps to create it, at some point. When I was born, space flight was imagination. Moon shots were imagination. Missions to Mars by smart robots? Wow, you were really pushing the edges of the speculative! And yet they’re part of our “real world,” today – demonstrative of my point, I think.

For a writer, it is easy to become an elitist. Have you ever, or do you still, struggle with pride as an author?

A: I have a flip answer to this, but there’s another one that works just as well: I try to write stuff in which I can take legitimate pride, and I strive hard to do that, every time I sit down at my workstation. We rewrote Raven’s Tears when we finally realized that the version already in print wasn’t up to our 2014 standards. If that makes me “elitist,” I’ll wear the badge with pride, but that’s about as far as I go.

M: Taking pride in one’s work doesn’t make one an elitist. In fact, in my experience, elitism is often used as a cover for incompetence (and/or insecurity! – A). People who really are good at what they do rarely run around with chips on their shoulders. Their work speaks for them.

A: Also… also. If to be an “elitist” is to have high standards, not only for what one writes, but also for what one reads, then yes, I am also an unapologetic elitist, in that very narrow regard.

Have you ever considered writing fiction full time?

A: I consider it every day, as I sit down to do it.

M: Can’t add much to that.

And you can’t get much better than this interview… Check out “Raven’s Tears” today on Amazon.

Prowling Tiger, Leaping Author: An Interview with Susannah Cord

Tags

, , ,

 

TW Banner1

Who do you have in mind when you write?

This is going to sound really corny, but I don’t really have anyone in mind unless of course I am describing a certain person, but even then, what I really have in mind is not a who but a what – a feeling, a reaching inside for the right words to describe the truth of how a person or thing or situation makes me feel. A desire to tell this in a way that will reach out and grab someone in a beneficial manner. I have said before that I write from the heart first and foremost, and this applies to everything. I write from how something or someone makes me feel, and I want to pass that on as best I can.

Have you always aspired to be a writer?

Not with any real intention, no. I was a prolific dabbler in writing for most of my life. But it was something I did because it helped me, made me feel better, find clarity when I was hurting and confused, and because whatever was bottled up inside came out and became a creative rather than a destructive exercise.

Tell me about how you became a writer—what was the first step for you?

It was a very slow process. It started when I was four and tried to copy my mother’s grocery list which looked like an orderly line of intriguing hieroglyphics. My earnest attempt to reproduce that effect looked like worms tripping on LSD in a puddle of milk, so it was disappointing to say the least, not to mention frustrating, but, to my credit, I persevered.

In time, the worms metamorphosed into words and the words carried meaning and my repertoire expanded as it came to include a lot of essays, poetry and prose, lyrics to songs no one would ever sing, a column for an equestrian magazine, a blog and ultimately, my first book, a fairytale I wrote for my niece Zoe and published to honour the memory of my mother. When I first held that real book in my hands, that was the moment I felt that desire to do more, the moment I thought “Wait a minute. I can do this. I WANT to do this. I have a lot more to say and write.” Then the safari to Kenya came along and the rest, as they say, will one day be history…

Do you have a distinctive “voice” as a writer?

Of course, I like to think I do, and this is where I get to say that several editors have told me I do, but ultimately, like beauty, I think that will be in the mind of the reader. One musician told me once that I phrase musically, and I don’t even know what that means, but apparently he thought it was pretty cool, so there you go. That’s my answer- but of course, I phrase musically, don’t you know?

Do you think anyone can learn to be an effective writer or is it an unnamed spiritual gift?

What an interesting question. It immediately makes me think of horses and riders. Because in the equestrian world we talk about people that are gifted with ‘feel’ and how it simply cannot be taught. You can teach technique, you can teach someone how to ride and how to master exercises and how to be an effective and capable rider, but you cannot teach them how to feel, how to intuit just the right thing to do in that split second moment of decision. You can teach them an approximation of that feel, but to actually have feel, no. You just can’t. And that is what separates a great rider from a good one.

Some will say you can teach it using technology, but I say you can’t – because feel comes from the inside, from spirit. Feel is an intuiting of the information carried in pure energy and we and the horse read this with a sixth sense that you will not find in machines. You are riding the horse and you are both riding a wave of energy between you. I was gifted with a lot of this ‘feel’ as a rider and I cannot tell someone how I knew to do just that in that moment, I did it because it felt right, not because that was a technique I learned. More often than not, I am not even sure what I did, it might have been as simple as relaxing one body part while tensing another, sending the horse a subtle message only he felt and understood. And it might not work tomorrow but then my ‘feel’ will tell me what to do then.

So I would think the same applies to writing. You can teach good grammar, techniques, rules etc etc and just like riding horses, these are necessary. You have to know the rules in order to break them well, and you have to have good technique to bend them. But knowing just how to build a sentence for maximum effect and beauty, how to bend the rules just so in order to sway the sentence with a touch of magic – that is something that comes from the heart and spirit, woven independently of and yet within the confines of rules and technique. And either you access that or you don’t.

Was there a point at which you felt this would be a career?

Yes and no. First it was just a slow awakening to the idea that this was something I could do and do full time and be effective – that yes, I did have a voice. It had me thinking. Then I had an offer out of the blue to write a book for one of the world’s premier equestrian publishers with one of our most interesting, out of the box, horsemen and that was the moment I realized this could be for real.

Ultimately, I had to put that project on the back burner because the riding safari project came along, but it’s still there in the back of my mind, and it was the trigger that made me consider taking myself seriously as a writer.

Is there a book you’re most proud of?

Not yet. I am on my third book and so far all three have been so different – Fenella is an illustrated fairytale, Seeds of Change is a book of essays and photography and my new book, Each Wind That Blows is a memoir – so I am proud of each, each in their own way. They all challenged me in different ways, taught me different things.

Writing is so internal, in the head, how do you release the pressure before you begin writing?

Exercise, yoga and meditation. Either my morning workout and/or working with my horses which can be like a meditation in movement. I attend yoga classes twice a week and practice at home along with rebounding and using a ski machine. It clears my mind and grounds me for the task ahead. Being with the horses is being in Nature and it connects me with that indefinable sense of spirit that I always try to write from. I often say a little prayer before I write, asking for guidance to find the right words and to be guided to the stories that need to be written.

On average, how long does it take for you to write your ideas down before you start writing a book?

A few seconds and minutes here and there, mostly it is all in my head and in the mental fog, waiting to be revealed. So far my writing, except Fenella, has been heavily based upon personal experience so mostly I just open that vault and go. If – and it is a dream of mine – I one day attempt to write a full blown fiction or fantasy saga, then I am sure that will change and some serious planning will have to go into it as well as my usual ‘go with the flow’ rule.

What would you say is the “defining” factor in your writing? What makes it yours?

For now, I would say the fact that it is drawn from personal experience to a great degree. But also that I simultaneously consciously invite Spirit in to form my words and tell the story in the best possible way, that will mean something to the reader. It isn’t just about me needing to figure this out on paper, or wanting to share my experiences, thoughts and ideas, it is about what is my experience worth to someone else. I don’t know that, only Spirit has the big picture and I consciously turn it over and surrender my ideas to Spirit, God, Source, call it what you will. And I am often very, very surprised at what comes out.

How do you guard your time to do what’s most important?

I am absolutely terrible at that. If you know how to do that, do let me know. I get so caught up in what I am doing, be it horses, writing or photography that I lose track of time and I have a hell of time switching gears once I get comfortable in one. It is one of the great challenges of my day to day life to balance these many passions of mine. So basically, it’s an exercise in self-discipline that I have yet to master.

What are some of the more common distractions you struggle with and what ways have you found to overcome them?

I don’t have many real distractions because they are all my passions and they fill up my day but there is one that qualifies as outright distraction although it’s also part of where I keep up with conservation efforts worldwide as part of my project, The Katika Nuru Project. It’s embarrassing, but Facebook can be a major distraction. I have liked so many Nature pages, photographers, conservation organizations and so on, and this is mostly what shows up in my feed so it’s great for keeping up with what’s happening. But if I am not careful, an hour goes by with me watching what they caught on camera and the latest, cutest elephant video or rare snow leopard footage or I am signing petitions for conservation and animals all over the world….

What kind of review do you take to heart?

A good one! I try to take any review, the good and the bad, with a grain of salt. Every review will still be through the filter of that human being’s perspective and he/she and I may not be on the same page never mind the same planet at all. If something still sticks with me after a few days, I will take that to heart as a sign of a grain of truth to be considered, something I maybe kind of knew but wasn’t ready to face on my own. Even a compliment can be hard to accept, that is how twisted the human mind can be.

How do you decide what your next book will be about?

I don’t. I am told by my manager upstairs and when I understand those are the marching orders, I go where I’m led. Of course, I make some kind of decision to comply with this and that is when I get that feeling that no matter now frightening the concept is to me, how vulnerable it might make me feel, how overwhelming or not what I thought I’d be doing, I can’t not do it. That is when I decide to do as I am told, so to speak, that is when I say yes, I will follow my nose, my heart.

Was there a link between your childhood and your vocation as a writer?

Only in so far as I have always enjoyed writing, from the time I could only make psychedelic worms appear on paper to the time I wrote my first story at six or seven. But our family was very science oriented, I come from a family of engineers so it was ‘nice’ that I wrote well, but it was never encouraged as a vocation. I was going to be an engineer, or a doctor or a vet or an archaeologist, but a writer was never on the menu. Well, now we know how that turned out.

As a writer, however, you have the opportunity to self-reflect, to revisit experiences. How does that feel?

Mostly, cathartic. Sometimes, disturbing, confusing, challenging. I have spent sleepless nights wondering what really happened, why did I do what I did, say what I said, what was really going on, what was the lesson. That is when I turn it over to Spirit and say, OK, show me, what the hell was that really all about? And Spirit always does. I start writing and understanding begins to dawn as the words pour out.

What motivates you to tackle the issues others may avoid, such as nature and spirituality?

Just an inner drive and conviction, that is my world, it is where I live and am the most content, it is what I am the best equipped to write about. Write what you know. Well, that is what I know. And it seems there is a corresponding need for readers to have that to read about. Fortunately!

When you start a new book do you know how a book will end as you’re writing it? Or does its direction unfold during the writing, research and/or creative process?

I usually think I know, and I am usually wrong. I am always happy to be wrong. It is very much an unfolding, creative process, as you say, and that to me is part of the fun of writing, not being entirely in control, it being a collaborative process between me and Spirit, because as I said before, Spirit sees the big picture where I get mired in details and can’t see the forest for the trees. So to say, OK, here is what I think I am inspired to write, and how I think I should write it, but what do you think? And then just let it flow and see where it goes, it is just a fantastic ride.

That has never been more true than with Each Wind That Blows. When I started that book, I had no idea it would be about so much more than a riding safari in Kenya. It’s been full of surprises. Several of my first test readers said it needs more about your childhood and mother, and I sat there going, oh shoot. That’s really personal and do I want to go there and where do I start? But I also kind of knew they were right. So before every writing session I’d ask “What do I tell?” and boom, it would pop into my head. It was rarely what I expected but I’d write it and lo and behold, it made beautiful sense in the end.

How do your books speak to people, both inside and outside the reading world?

I think, emphasis on think, because I don’t actually know, I think my writing speaks to people because I write from my place of truth, to be as authentic as I know how, and do my very best to remain absolutely true to that. What I often heard from my readers of my equestrian column was “Thank you for saying that. I always knew that, but didn’t know how to express it.” So me writing from my place of truth excites that truth in them, and off we go.

How do you see your role in impacting and influencing society?

Oh, this is a dangerous question, it invites all kinds of self-aggrandizement! Really, I guess history will tell. But! It’s very tempting to speculate, of course. If I were to be bold, I would say simply I am a messenger. I ask Spirit to help me write in a way that reaches people, and thereby I become a messenger. I don’t have to know what the message is for each individual person, because every person will have their own interpretation of my story and what it means to them, I only have to write in such a way that Spirit gets to speak through me and let’s a little magic loose on the world. If that were to be true in the rear view window of history, I would be very content.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to do?

There are many careers that could fascinate me. Archaeologist, marine biologist, conservationist, astronomer, nature photographer, host of a wildlife show, explorer, that kind of thing.

Do you look at yourself as an “envelope pusher” with your writing?

Not really. I just write what comes to me. It can be pushing some personal boundaries, in fact, it should be, but I don’t see myself as that on a larger scale. I wouldn’t mind if others thought that, though! It sounds kind of cool. I’ve never been cool before, that I know of.

What are some pieces of advice that you would give someone on writing well?

Oh, there are so many, but most of all, just start. Just freaking start writing. Like anything, it improves with practice. And don’t cuss. It looks bloody awful on paper and can’t frigging be erased once the crap’s been published.

Young writers often make foolish mistakes. What is a mistake to avoid?

Trying to be something you’re not, falling in love with a writer and trying to be like them. Trying to be Hemingway or Steinbeck or any number of famed authors. Read them, be inspired, be informed, be educated, soak it all up like a sponge and then go distil and be who you are. Write as you, and write your truth as best you can. And don’t believe your own press, good or bad. If they don’t like what you write, let them write their own damn book. If they love you, be grateful, stay humble. Pretentiousness always stinks. Stay honest, especially with yourself and you will have no regrets when you reread your work years later.

What obstacles and opportunities do you see for writers in the years ahead?

Writing for an increasingly technological age, an age of instant gratification, Youtube Videos, high tech games, and I am very afraid, generations of children who are increasingly out of touch with the wonderful fun in the reality of a bucket of dirt and a few earthworms, growing up to be people who need more than words on a page to catch their imagination. Worms are a recurring theme, notice that?

Which is more exciting for you, writing or riding?

Oh no, you don’t! There is no comparison, I won’t even try. Each is a thrilling and fabulous journey in its own way, each is a ton of work, an exercise in self-discipline, self-mastery, a day by day spiritual endeavour, an invitation to collaborate creatively with spirit while just showing up, day after day, good days, bad days, in between days. I will say this, after a day of working horses I look forward to plonking into my chair and resting my body on something that does not move while still being gainfully employed writing something. That is very exciting after twenty years as a professional horse trainer, to ride for fun and write for a living.

Could you talk about one work of creative art that has powerfully impacted you as a person?

Hmm, tough question, as there have been many. Chronicles of Narnia taught me early on about right and wrong, difficult moral choices, the virtues of loyalty and honesty and my love for fantasy and animal. Illusions by Richard Bach reawakened my spiritual self when I was seventeen and had lost touch with that part of myself for a few years. Illusions got me searching for what I had lost.

And at twelve, seeing a photo of a masterful horseman of the twentieth century named Nuno Oliviera imprinted me directly and immediately with what kind of horsewoman I wanted to be, there was some kind of magic in that photo, in the expression of horse and rider, the synergy that flowed between them that told me this was horsemanship as an artform and I knew it was where I belonged. I knew I had to know what he knew, that my ‘feel’ mirrored if not equalled, his. I spent the next thirty years searching until miraculously, I came across one of his long time students who is my beloved teacher today. I will never be as good as Oliveira, but I will die trying. It is a quest of sorts.

What relationship do you see between imagination and creativity, and the real world?

They are all inter-changeable. My real world is someone else’s fantasy, there are those who would find me delusional and I would find them lacking in faith and imagination. Our imagination creates and colours our reality and our creativity defines the how and when and how far, how to. None would exist without the other, they are completely symbiotic. All are inter-related and beholden to the reality we have created as a mass of consciousness. That is the mass reality, but our own, day to day, personal reality is very much affected by our imagination and willingness to give ourselves over to our power of creativity. It’s our secret super powers, creativity and imagination. And ‘the real world’ is our playground.

For a writer, it is easy to become an elitist. Have you ever, or do you still, struggle with pride as an author?

I struggle with pride as a human, period. I am deeply passionate about whatever I take on, be it training horses, writing something, gardening, photography, being a good friend or pursuing spiritual understanding and growth, and with such passion comes positive pride as an expression of integrity and virtue, knowing you are giving it your all. But pride, like anything else can have a dark side when it becomes controlling and domineering and self-congratulatory and I do have to keep an eye on that.

With all your success, how do you stay humble?

I remember that I am a child of God, Source, the Universe, but then, so is everyone else. My gifts are not my own really, but a blessed synergy between me and Spirit, an agreement that I entered into to put this gifted brain and body to good use, take good care of myself so I can be available to play my part such as it is. I am here as a cog in a great divine machine, I am not the machine nor do I run the machine alone. And I still muck stalls, do my own laundry, take out the trash and do the dishes. So just how special can I be?

Have you ever considered writing fiction full time?

No. Variety is the spice of life so I think I will always go from one end of the spectrum to another and visit some places in between. I can’t imagine saying I will just write one thing from now on. As for full time, writing will always be just one of the things I do. I also cannot imagine giving up training horses and it is just as demanding and fulfilling an endeavour for me as writing. And better exercise! I have to get out and move every day or I get very grumpy. And that’s bad. Ask anybody.

Now “Take a Walk on The Wild Side” with Susannah in her new book….

EWTB Final Front Cover Only

In the autobiographical Each Wind That Blows, author and horsewoman Susannah Cord returns to Kenya after a thirty year absence. A horseback safari across the famed game reserve, Maasai Mara, draws her back to the land that gave birth to her most cherished childhood memories. Susannah soon finds there is much more in store for her than just an exciting holiday.

An adventure of mind, body and spirit, Each Wind That Blows gallops across the savannah in the company of lions, leopards and elephants, a journey underlined by the joys and sorrows inherently found in the African wilderness. Finding her inner struggles reflected in the life of the savannah, Susannah seeks to come to terms with the eviscerating grief and regret following the loss of a loved one, and the struggle to discover and define a sense of purpose. The echoes of childhood still heard by the adult and the yearning for a connection to the greater mystery that underlies all life, will hold the key to her future.

Get your copy today!

Dennis Gager Writes For The Kids

Dennis Gager is one of the best new children’s authors around. I managed to catch him for an interview…

Who do you have in mind when you write?

My characters. I like to imagine them in their settings and what they would be doing. It helps me to get my creative flow going when I write.

Have you always aspired to be a writer?

Yes, I have; but I thought it was just a dream for a long time until my wife kicked me in the butt, so to speak, to get my work out there.

Tell me about how you became a writer—what was the first step for you?

Tough one! Well, I guess it all happened when I used to write short stories for my nephew. I started to actually enjoy writing and creating fantasy worlds and having fun with it. Seeing the smile it brought to my nephew really made my day, so I guess that was my first step.

Do you think anyone can learn to be an effective writer or is it an unnamed spiritual gift?

I believe everyone has the ability to become a writer if they just take time to see the world around them, not as we’re told it’s like, but look at it through the eyes of a child. See it all new, and take time to enjoy the little things. If you can do that, I believe anyone can write.

Was there a point at which you felt this would be a career?

Not until my publisher told me they loved my book and wanted to make a series. Now I believe I can make a career out of it.

Is there a book you’re most proud of?

Actually, I’m very proud of my second book. It has been nominated for two awards, and kids have responded very well to it.

Writing is so internal, in the head, how did you release the pressure before you began writing?

To be honest, I find writing very relaxing. I feel no pressure. I enjoy writing and love to see the final product when I’m done.

On average, how long does it take for you to write your ideas down before you start writing a book?

Not long at all. Actually, I write an outline first. I map out what my story is about, which characters I want in it, and then once I have that done, I sit down and go to work.

What would you say is the “defining” factor in your writing? What makes it yours?

Having fun and enjoying the characters I’m writing about.

How do you guard your time to do what’s most important?

I spend my time with my family and dedicate myself to my writing in my free time. I have an even balance. Both are very important to me.

What are some of the more common distractions you struggle with, and what ways have you found to overcome them?

Life gets in the way at times, but I never give up. I find ways around distractions and keep on plugging.

What kind of review do you take to heart?

Ones that involve children’s opinions about my book.

How do you decide what your next book will be about?

I actually just go with the flow. Whatever catches my eye, I go with it, and that’s my next project.

Was there a link between your childhood and your vocation as a writer?

My father always pushed me to try hard, never give up and don’t take no for a answer. That’s the way I live my life, and I think that helps me to be a writer today.

When you start a new book, do you know how a book will end as you’re writing it? Or does its direction unfold during the writing, research and/or creative process?

When I start writing a story, I have a ending in mind; but sometimes while I’m writing it, I may decide to go in another direction. It really depends on me and how the story unfolding as I’m envisioning it in my mind as I write it.

How do your books speak to people, both inside and outside the reading world?

People tell me they find them cute, they like how I write, and like the lessons their kids get out of them.

How do you see your role in impacting and influencing society?

I hope my writings can help parents and kids to bond together and do more together as a family.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to do?

I actually work as a producer for my wife’s radio network, and I enjoy that very much. If I wasn’t a writer, I would do that full time. I really enjoy working with people and enjoy all the challenges that comes with being a producer.

What are some pieces of advice that you would give someone on writing well?

Young writers often make foolish mistakes. What is a mistake to avoid? There’s never any mistakes. Just write from the heart, and if it fails, don’t give up. Try again.

Could you talk about one work of creative art that has powerfully impacted you as a person?

The Hobbit is one of my most favorite books. I love how the author draws you into the fantasy world and opens your eyes, and you just walk away with such insight into that amazing world.

What relationship do you see between imagination and creativity, and the real world?

I draw my ideas from the real world then use my imagination to turn them into something more. I put it all together and write my story.

For a writer, it is easy to become an elitist. Have you ever, or do you still, struggle with pride as an author?

No, I enjoy writing, and I don’t let it go to my head. I enjoy what I do, and I keep my pride in check. Plus, I have my wife who will keep me in line.

Get Your Copy of Dennis Gager’s Big Hit

Billy Rabbit Saves Christmas

billy rabbit

Being Frank with Author Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others. His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first in what will hopefully be a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files. Prior to finishing this book, his published work was comprised of short stories that will be merged into a collection in the near future. He now resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife, children, and two dogs.

let me

How did you come up with the title of your book?

For the Frank Rozzani series, I wanted to start with a main character who’s name I could use to link all of the books in the series together. Thus, Frankly Speaking was the first book. For the second book, I ran a contest from my newsletter and Let Me Be Frank emerged. The titles for the next two “Frank” books are set based on the story lines.

Can you tell me about your latest book? What is it about?

Let Me Be Frank, the second in the Frank Rozzani Detective Series, follows the characters into the investigation of the murder of a young girl. Frank and his team trace her path to Jacksonville Beach, the site of the murder, and gather clues along the way. The answers to the mystery have big implications for characters within the Frank universe.

How much of the book is realistic?

Interestingly enough, I had an author that is a retired New Orleans police officer read the book and he said that it was very realistic. In addition, others with areas of expertise touched on in the story were consulted.

How do you start to write a book? What is the first step?

I like to create a mind map. This is a technique that I took from business where I pictorially map out the outline of the book chapter by chapter. It has been a huge help in completing my last two novels.

What books have most influenced your life most?

To Kill a Mockingbird is at the top. Also, The Stand by Stephen King, the writing of John D. MacDonald, Harlan Coben, early James Patterson, John Grisham, and Elmore Leonard.

Do you see writing as a career?

It is a dream. The financial aspect needs to equal reality to make the dream happen.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

No. I think it is a snapshot of where my writing was at that time. I wouldn’t go back and Photoshop old family photos (much as I would like to). I learn from my previous efforts and move on.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It came from my love of reading. I think, for any art form, if you enthusiastically enjoy it, you aspire to do it.

What is your overall opinion of the publishing industry?

It is evolving. There is a certain degree of snobbery toward self and independent publishers. Authors like Hugh Howey, however, have helped to debunk this. I do think, however, there is a lot of room for improvement in much of the product and, apart from my writing, it is my mission to help self-published authors improve. As for the snobbery in traditional publishing, I think it will diminish over time. The music industry has adapted. I think publishing will as well.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am currently working on three main projects; the next book in the Frank Rozzani series (due out in March or April of 2015), a collaboration with a military friend of mine on a terrorist thriller novel, and a non-fiction writing tips book for independently published authors.

Do you ever get tired of looking at words?

It depends on the words. I write for a living in the business world and those words can be dry and boring. Luckily, my writing and reading outside or work counters this.

Who designed the covers?

I have a cover art artist that did a great job on my first book and I keep going back to him. He gets it.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The middle. I think many authors struggle with this. You have exciting events at the beginning to set up the story. There is, hopefully, an anticipated conclusion as well. It’s getting from the beginning to end that makes the journey tricky.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I did a great deal of research for my book and learned a lot about some of the areas that were included in the story that I have never visited.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I have tons of advice (that’s why I’m writing a non-fiction book to help them). Short of that effort, I would say, keep writing, keep reading, keep perfecting.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love getting feedback from you. I have several ways you can get in touch with me through my newsletter, my web site (www.donmassenzio.com) and my blog. I want to please readers and, of course, find new ones. Your feedback is always welcome!

Catch the latest Don Massenzio release “Let Me Be Frank” from Amazon

let me

Vietnam Pilot Steve Taylor Flies High with Success

Tags

, , , , ,

Steve Taylor was raised on a farm in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. He is a 1960 graduate of The Citadel with a degree in civil engineering, and he served six years as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force with service in Vietnam. Following a long flying career, he retired as an international airline captain. Taylor has been a solo ocean sailor and holds a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license. He has owned and operated a commercial construction company and is a Coastal Master Naturalist. In addition to flying over most of the world, Taylor has lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Okinawa. He has five grown children. With his wife, Nancy, he currently splits his time between Atlanta and Charleston.

What inspired you to write your first book?

This book evolved out of the insistence of pilot friends to put my stories down on paper so they would not be lost. At first I wrote just to preserve the information, but once the tales were written, I was encouraged by these same people to have them published.

How did you come up with the title?

My publisher and I went through a series of brainstorms to find the right combination. We wanted a short catchy title along with a subtitle that described the book content. We then tested several combinations with different groups and settled on: WHEELS UP: Sky Jinks in the Jet Age.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Of course since it’s been printed I have thought of several things that I could have added or done slightly differently, but other than an error on page 77, I am pleased with the results. Incidentally, I have corrected the error in the e-book.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I have a technical bent both in education and aptitude and never considered myself a wordsmith. I have been an avid reader, and at times, wrote long letters, but other than that most of my life I have avoided verbal gymnastics. I only started writing late in life when I had something I wanted to preserve on paper.

What was the first book you read?

I first developed a strong interest in reading, believe it or not, from Compton’s Encyclopedia. It spoke to me about foreign lands, strange animals and inventions that changed the world. The first novel that left a strong impression was Robinson Crusoe.

Can you share a story from your latest book with us?

From the first paragraph in WHEELS UP:

Delta was taxiing out for take off. United had just landed and was on her way in. As they passed on the taxiway, Delta captain McSwine shot the United captain the bird and, at the same time, picked up the phone and addressed the passengers. “Ladies and Gentlemen, off to your left you will see the friendly skies of United.” They all looked in time to see the United airplane slowly taxi by while it’s captain, in plain view, returned Captain McSwine’s insult.

What is the big deal about flying for you?

Almost all pilots that have reached the pinnacle of aviation have one thing in common. They think it is a big deal.
Once again a quote from my book: “…there is a surge of adrenaline as you push the throttles forward and feel the power of the giant engines. As you accelerate through 150 mph you gently pull half a million pounds of precision machinery and passengers off the ground, and, as always, you are slightly awed that it flies.”

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I have several favorites: Winston Churchill, Jack Higgins, Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, and my son Brad Taylor. What they all have in common is accuracy of detail.

Who designed that striking cover?

The cover is my design although a graphic artist improved the technical quality. The picture is from my retirement flight with Delta Air Lines. Pulling into the gate I saw my retirement crowd waiting in the terminal and waving. I realized due to the windshield glare they could not see me waving back so I climbed the back of my seat and popped the overhead escape hatch. A friend inside the terminal took the picture.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part was solving how to put down on paper the picture I wanted to present and retain the humor in an audible story.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Yes, I learned that I had a reason to shy away from writing all my life. It’s hard work.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Writing is a form of communication. When you write you should have something you want to communicate to your readers. A fascinating story communicated well makes you a good writer.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope most of you enjoy my stories. In fact, I hope all of you enjoy my stories, but whatever you think, it was fun for me to go through the learning process of writing this book. So much so that I have another book ready for publication at this time.

Wheels Up: Sky Jinks in the Jet Age

wheels up cover

“…Readers have a front-row seat during harrowing landings in Vietnam, close calls flying for Delta, and other misadventures…(Taylor holds a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license and, alone and becalmed at sea, gives his inner poet free rein.)…Readers will overlook the frat-boy quality of the early high jinks….They will come to like Capt. Taylor very much, which is more than half the charm of a good memoir and a sign of a good memoirist….A good read, of special interest to those who love flying.” –Kirkus Reviews

***

Get your copy today

My War – Helicopter Pilot John Dean

Tags

,

I had three wrestling scholarship offers but I didn’t want to go to school anymore, so after high school I went out and got a job. A low draft number, however, encouraged me to enlist. I wanted to be in Special Forces or, at a minimum, be a paratrooper. I did well on the tests, and the recruiter asked me if I wanted to fly. “Oh yeah, I’d like to fly,” I said. Except for climbing a tree, I’d never been in the air in my life. I took more tests and did well, and asked about going to Officer Candidate School. The recruiter said I could go to OCS but that it wouldn’t guarantee I’d go to flight school. He said if I went to Warrant Officer Candidate School, however, I’d fly for sure. After basic, I was off to WOCS; by the end of June 1967, I was off to Vietnam.

When you first get there, you’re loaded onto a bus that has wire windows, and you ride through these slums and you’re thinking, “I’m glad I’m here to help these people.” But after you’ve seen friends wounded or killed, you become hard. You’re not there for the Vietnamese, you’re there for your buddies.

One day, I was No. 1 or 2 in the 2nd Platoon, and we had just landed in staggered trail. There wasn’t any firefight going on; it was a cold LZ. Up front there were kids around, but they were staying away because they knew they weren’t supposed to get close. Then this one kid ran out toward the helicopter in the 1st Platoon, which was about five ahead of us, tossed a grenade and ran. As it exploded, a gunner in another ship shot the kid. The grenade killed the crew chief and gunner, and wounded both pilots. After you see that, what do you say?

As an aircraft commander flying slicks with the 121st Assault Helicopter Company, I got assigned to support different units. In late ’67, what turned out to be my most memorable day in Vietnam started off pretty good. We were assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, bivouacked north of the Dong Nai River about 20 or 30 klicks from us at Long Binh. We started off resupplying guys engaged in a firefight who were in a 500-pound bomb crater. We couldn’t get down in it because of the trees, so we dropped ammo to them, then headed back. It was a normal day.

As we were eating a hot lunch (a rarity for us), a guy ran in. “We need you to medevac, do you mind?” The medevac they had called refused to go in without gunship support. “Hell no, we don’t mind,” I said. It didn’t make any difference to us, we were going in.

Two armored personnel carriers were blown up by Claymores and there was a firefight going on. Everybody in the first APC were dead. They loaded one guy from the other one after we landed. The poor guy was pulverized from the waist down. The crew asked, “Should we give him some morphine?” We were trained not to give morphine if a guy has a chest wound. “Does he have a chest wound?” I asked. The crew yelled, “Oh yeah, he’s got wounds all over him.” So I said, “No, don’t give him any morphine.” He was hurt so bad he was trying to crawl out of the helicopter as we were flying. I think he died just after we got to Long Binh hospital. Well, that was stupid as shit. I’ve always regretted not giving the guy the morphine.

Then we got called back to the crater where we’d been earlier. These guys were hurting and in a heavy firefight. Of the five guys left, three were wounded. We had to get to the ground, but our blades wouldn’t fit inside the encircling tree branches. I told the crew: “Look, I don’t think we’re going to get back out. If anybody says no, we won’t do it.” Everybody was mum. I could have said we just can’t go in, but I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. We were all thinking the same way, you got somebody hurt, wouldn’t you want them to do the same for you? Hovering, we were starting to take rounds. I asked my crew chief, “How big are the branches on your side?” He said, about an inch. I asked my gunner, “How big on your side?” He said about a half-inch. The tail rotor was clear, so I moved over to the side with the half-inch size branches as much as I could, then I started to descend and just cut our way down through the trees.

There was shit flying everywhere, but we got down to the crater and got everybody on board. Tracers were coming from everywhere, and we were taking a lot of hits. It was a tough climb with five on board because we had to shoot straight up about 45 feet to clear the trees.

We took the wounded to the hospital and dropped the others at their base. Then we went back to my helicopter company to turn in our ship for a new one, because the blades were screwed up from cutting down the trees. Our maintenance major gave me all kinds of hell for tearing up “his” helicopter. He was pissed because it was full of holes, too. I gave him the bird and walked out to get another ship.

We went back, and for the rest of the day we hauled out wounded and moved guys from one place to another as they were getting overrun at different positions. We were the only ship out there.

By nightfall, we’d made about 15 trips to take out about 36 wounded. I think there was a pretty good chance all but the first guy lived. Hence, the 199th’s general wrote us up for the Distinguished Flying Cross.