I’ve been a junkie for aviation-based literature almost from the time I’d first learned to read. Through the years I would devour the works of such visionaries as Antione de Saint-Exupery, Beryl Markham, Anne Morrow Lindberg, and Ernest K. Gann. Their words never failed to keep me up nights as their intrepid, hero-pilots—real and imagined—rose from the pages to struggle alone (always alone it seemed) against whatever mankind and nature could put in his or her path. These stories were winged metaphor, a temporal elegy to the tragedies and triumphs of life itself as told through flight.
As the years went on, I turned my interest to a more contemporary master of the genre: the brilliant John Nance. Inspired by his words, I considered trying my own hand at the writing craft. However, a busy life (and lack of confidence) always stopped me cold.
But then, back in the Nineties, as a young pilot myself, whose unusual job had me crisscrossing the country in a twin-engine Beechcraft (low and slow always alone it seemed), I was often grounded by weather or scheduling glitches or mechanical issues. That meant idle time, mostly nights, spent in hangars or pilot’s lounges at small airports. It was during one of those nights, upon turning the last page of Nance’s gripping thriller FINAL APPROACH, and again finding myself unable to sleep, I began noodling with paper and pencil and wrote the prologue to what I fantasized might one day be my own aviation thriller.
But, alas, that hand-written prologue sat in my old briefcase to languish forgotten seeing neither print nor progress for decades, a victim of time and my timidity.
The years rolled on, and I cannot recall how many of John Nance’s novels I’d devoured in their interim, always seeking the next one and the one after that.
Then, a couple of years ago, came retirement. And it was at about that time a real-life aviation mystery began to dominate the news; tragically, Malaysian Airlines, Flight MH-370 had simply disappeared. The deepening mystery and global search for the missing airliner consumed me. I spent hours glued to CNN, hanging on every word and revelation emanating from the network’s team of experts. Prominent among those experts was none other than that same John Nance whose books had helped me pass many a “dark and stormy night” all those years ago. And along with Nance, there was a new face among the CNN experts, a mustachioed Boeing-777 captain named Les Abend. The aviation knowledge these two shared with the world as they analyzed and speculated on the fate of the lost airliner was galvanizing, never more so than when members of the space science organization which I, myself, had once been honored to chair, figured out a way to retrace the doomed airliner’s final flight path using satellite data and Doppler shift. For those who understood the process, it was at once humbling, humane, and brilliance upon the shoulders of brilliance. I found myself missing a world of which I was no longer part.
It was at about this time, while cleaning out a closet (as new retirees are prone to do), I came across that old briefcase mentioned earlier. There, tucked away in one of its compartments was my equally old handwritten prologue. I pulled it out and began reading: “WINDWARD PASSAGE, a novel by Nick Thomas, blah, blah, blah…” I smiled.
Reading on, I realized that the prologue was not so bad. I was heartened and took the dog-eared pages to the computer for transcription, blissfully unaware that I was, perhaps, just perhaps on the cusp of a new career.
Immediately changing the old working title from Windward Passage to THE STRAIT, I also dispensed with the nom de plume ( a contraction of my first and middle names). Replacing it with my real name, I proceeded to transcribe the prologue’s 456 words verbatim.
Then, pressing the computer’s PgDn key, I found myself staring into that featureless wilderness every writer, however jaded or experienced, must traverse: his novel’s blank first page. Girding my courage I dared type the words “Chapter-One.” I was off and, well… if not running, at least taking a critical step.
Fortunately, the next words came (all 95,000 of them), and it was suddenly 2018. THE STRAIT’s second draft was in the hands of a NYC copy editor recommended by my sister, a real novelist.
The brief respite allowed me time to actually read, rather than write, and I’d chosen John Nance’s LOCKOUT to fill the time as his words always had. Getting through it quickly, I skimmed Amazon’s fare, again searching for my next read, when whose name do I come across but that of Les Abend, the amiable 777 captain from CNN! Lo and behold, he’d written a novel, too. It was titled PAPER WINGS.
Already impressed by Captain Abend’s eloquence and knowledge, I hastily read the book’s Amazon sample and was not disappointed. I pressed the Buy Now button.
Upon finishing what was a great read, I noticed that PAPER WINGS had been published by WildBlue Press. That name seemed vaguely familiar. Turning a few more pages, I found a promo for John Nance’s LOCKOUT. It seemed both of these extraordinary talents—Nance and Abend– were with the same publisher, this WildBlue Press outfit. Dare I presume to join them?
At that same time, the editing process by my NYC freelancer was done. I had a viable manuscript. With little to lose save my confidence, self-respect, willingness to live on, etc., I sent a few sample chapters (beginning with the old prologue) of THE STRAIT to WildBlue Press. They liked it and requested the rest. To my utter surprise, WildBlue Press, the very first publisher to which I’d submitted, agreed to publish. Anyone fortunate enough to work with this indy house, knows the rest.
The handsome print and versatile e-book versions of THE STRAIT came out in summer 2019 to an, albeit modest number of (consistently five-stared), reviews. The audiobook is in production right now, and I can’t wait to listen. But beyond all that, to my unbridled delight and pride, WildBlue Press has now included THE STRAIT in their three-book Best Seller Boxed Set grouping, where, under the heading, Thrilled To Death, Volume-2, THE STRAIT shares its “box” with no-less-stellar works than Nance’s LOCKOUT and Abend’s PAPER WINGS. These are current works from the very writers by whom I’d been inspired in the first place! Ironically, I have no words… https://wildbluepress.com/boxed-or-box-sets/