Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Look", It's a Hook for a Book!

My friend, and fellow Nebraska Writers Guild author, Brian Crouse,  invited me to post an few paragraphs of what I’m working on. The rules of this game say the word “look” has to be in the sample. 

I've been working on the novel adaptation of my script, "Modified Flight Plan," co-authored with my good friend and writing partner, triple-amputee pilot, Brian Thomas. I typed "look" into my search box, and the first section that came up is one of my favorite passages, a pivotal moment from early in the story, before Brian became an amputee.  Without further ado, here is an excerpt from "Modified Flight Plan," due out in 2013. 

Brian threw his book bag, keys, and motorcycle helmet, on the kitchen counter. Mom turned from the sink. Soapy water dripped from her hands as she reached for a towel. He knew the look on her face. Distant and sad. She knew something--and whatever it was, he most likely wouldn't like it. She picked up an envelope from the counter and handed it to him. Her voice caught. "I'm so sorry, honey."
His hands shook as he pulled the sheet of paper from the envelope. His ears rang and heat flushed into his face. "We regret to inform you that due to uncontrolled platelet counts related to your Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura, your medical certificate has been revoked. Please return any certificates to Federal Aviation Administration, Aerospace Medical Certification Division, AAM-300 , CAMI Building , 6500 S. MacArthur Blvd, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73169 "
He threw the paper on the counter, grabbed his helmet and keys, and stormed out the door. Somewhere his mind registered Mom's voice calling after him, but all he could think was he had to get out of there.
At first he just rode, not even mindful of where he was. Nothing but the growl of the engine, the vibration of the pavement beneath him, and the rhythmic swirl of wind as it whipped past him. Eventually, Brian found himself at the marina overlooking the wide sprawl of the upper Missouri river before it reached Gavin's Point Dam. He parked the bike and wandered out to sit. The cool breeze off the water brushed against his hair as he stared out over the water and surveyed the Nebraska bluffs on the other side.
The thought flashed across his mind that it wouldn't take much to let the rushing water pull him under and drown what remained of his soul. They can't take flying away from me. It was all that kept him going through the bleeding, the chemo, with all the horrible side effects. Knowing that for those precious few hours, he'd soar with the eagles. His dad was a pilot. So was his mom. His oldest brother, Dana, had left home for the Air Force when he was in second grade. It wasn't fair.
He absent-mindedly picked up a rock and tossed it a few times in his hands, then threw it as hard as he could into the river. His eyes stung with tears, but even alone, he refused to let them fall. Brian took in a deep breath. He knew where to go. The only place in the world he could go.
By the time he reached the Springfield Airport, darkness had already fallen. His headlight cut a deep cone into the moonless night. He slid the corrugated steel hangar door open and caressed the side of the plane as he approached the cockpit door. He reached inside, turned the master switch on and flipped a couple of switches on the dashboard. Behind him, the runway lights turned on, two long rows of white cutting the surrounding corn field in a swath. He walked out to the airstrip and sat in the center of the asphalt runway.
 He had no idea how long he'd been there, nothing but the gentle breeze rustling the cornstalks when something disturbed the air beside him. Dad patted his shoulder as he sat down beside him. His deep voice softened. "You can't keep a good pilot down."
Brian scoffed. "Tell that to the FAA."
Dad shook his head and laughed. "Not like I've ever known you to follow the rules."
"This time, I might have to."
Dad's big palm clapped his shoulder again. "You'll beat it. If anyone can find a way, it will be you."
"I’m cursed. We hoped one day I'd outgrow it, and I'd be normal. Now I’m older and things keep getting worse."

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from our upcoming book!  Now, head over to check out another friend, author Ron Heacock, who will share some of his upcoming book as well!  Ron is a man of many talents and artistic endeavors, and I can't wait to get a "look" at what he's working on!  If you'd like to share a "look" at your work in progress, join in, and post a link to your blog post in your comments below!  I'm "look"ing forward to seeing what you're working on, too. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

You want me to WHAT?!?!?

During November, I wrote the first draft of the book version of Modified Flight Plan, the true story of an amazing friend, triple-amputee pilot, Brian Thomas.  One thing I have learned telling his story--and just having him as a friend, is that you need to be prepared to find ways around the random road blocks life throws in your path. 

Case in point, Friday night, we were preparing for his very first television interview.  Wardrobe?  Check.  Reviewing script and book notes to prepare for interview?  Check.  Putting a spit-shine on the Cessna 205 he planned to take the reporter flying in the next morning?  Check.  Charging the hook that died while putting the spit-shine on the plane?  Check.  We had it covered...right?

Or something like that.  

Brian  mentioned he needed my help to sew the webbing on his wheelchair where it was tearing loose.  I have done some upholstery work in my time, and heck, I've sewn wedding dresses.  No problem.


I don't know what the heck they make wheelchair webbing out of, but that stuff must have some magical charm protecting it from needle penetration.  Good grief.  The material thickness should have whizzed right through my sewing machine.  HA!  Not even close.  I didn't even know my machine could lock up the way it did with the wheelchair webbing stuck with the needle buried in the bobbin channel.  Yeah, that was fun to try to get out without breaking my rather expensive embroidery-capable Brother sewing machine. 

Hand sew it.  

It's one simple straight seam, and I have heavy-duty thread, an upholstery needle, and a thimble.  What could possibly go wrong?

Uhhh huhh... I also did not know pushing a THICK needle through a magically impervious but deceptively thin sheet it fair to call it fabric?? could snap it right in half.  Well, huh. 
So here we sat, at nearly 11 pm, with a looming interview first thing in the morning, a disassembled wheelchair, and a CURSED piece of material I had no idea how to fix.  There aren't any urgent care centers for wheelchairs, I am fairly certain.
We both stared at the mess for a few minutes, and Brian grabbed the staple gun out of my (hot pink) tool bag.  "Staple it."

Say WHAT?!?

It's not like upholstering a couch, I don't have a wood frame to staple it TO. 

"Shoot the staples through the material, into the carpet, then bend the staples with your (hot pink) pliers." 

Why do I suspect this is not going to end well?  "Hey, we need to cancel the interview.  I inadvertently stapled Brian's wheelchair seat to my floor..."

Oh what the hell...  It wasn't like we had much for other options.  With great trepidation, I pulled the trigger and shot the staple through the dreaded wheelchair fabric and into the carpet.  Ka-pow.  Then I gently lifted the edges.  Low and behold, it pulled up cleanly.  I grabbed the pliers and bent the sharp ends over into a tight metal stitch.
This just might work. 

Ka-pow, ka-pow, ka-pow.  I managed to finish repairing the split seam without inflicting bodily damage to either of us, and Brian reassembled his wheelchair.  Whew.  I commented that he really should take the thing in and get a proper repair.  He reminded me of the screw he'd had in his tire since this summer (it's still in there)   and said his dad would be proud of his innovative repair idea.  I suspect the staples may be there a while.

Somehow, this is all fitting.  Brian's story is really one about finding creative ways around roadblocks--no matter what they may be.  If he wasn't truly an expert at doing this, he would be sitting at home collecting disability checks every month, and likely being miserable.  Instead, he was back at work six months to the day from his illness, and he soars with the eagles when he flies.

Besides... I was out of the good duct tape.