Looking Toward the Sky

A B-25 Mitchell flew over, gear and flaps down. The radial engines sputtered and grumbled, throttles back as it approached the runway. It was our first glimpse of an aircraft at AirVenture 2005. John and I had driven the eleven hundred miles to witness the airshow of a lifetime.

Our second glimpse was of an ultralight aircraft in a ditch, surrounded by traffic cones. We found out later that the engine had quit, the glorified umbrella descending with all of the grace of a coal shovel. The pilot wasn't seriously injured.

Over the course of the next week a thousand airplanes came and went. So did a monster rainstorm. Therein lies a life-changing tale.

I had already written my first novel...er, manuscript. That's how the power of presumption seems to work, for me at least. I've written several million words of fiction - none of it in police reports, smart ass - but never considered anything a novel unless it was published somewhere. 

A Miracle of Zeros and Ones was written, and had been read by several friends. It wasn't very good, was grossly overweight... Most commercial novels are less than a hundred thousand words. Miracle was almost 200K. Oops. I guess I got a little carried away.

I got a lot of rejections from publishers. What did I expect? Although several returned nice comments there didn't seem to be much interest in a policewoman being stalked through the mobile data terminal in her car. I had guessed wrong, sort of.

Any number of the books I'd read for writing classes I'd taken (among them how to write romance...really) talked about providing variety as a means of getting published. I'd tried what I knew best - law enforcement from the grunt level. I felt like Sundance.

"We've gone straight," Sundance says, the effort having resulted in death and disaster. "What do we try now?"

Tuesday, I think it was, in soggy Oshkosh. Damp and overcast from the previous evening's downpour. The afternoon airshow went on as advertised, with some modifications to account for the lower cloud deck - the ceiling. Overhead were Mustangs, Spitfires, AT-6s... Lots of them. Formations, single aircraft passes. John had a receiver (he's a pilot). We listened as the airplane drivers talked to each other, coordinating a 200 mile per hour, 3D ballet.

We learned later that evening a Mustang had crashed off airport grounds. Sadly, the pilot rode it in and was killed. And, the words just started spilling forth.

What if?

Years later, I would have jumped onto my travel laptop and started typing. Heck, my daypack has several notebooks that would have come in spectacularly handy. But, this was 2005. I was a rookie. John had a pad of sticky notes. It would have to do.

Over the course of the drive back to Denver I invented Deputy Karen. Her marriage over, her life a shambles. Dispatched to an airplane crash, meets a guy...

Out of Ideas was published by a small California imprint, and then reissued through Amazon. The day it went live - I became a freelance writer. A novelist.

Every July I think about the extraordinary trip to Oshkosh with a fabulous friend. I came home with a ton of memories, and an aviation story to tell. Now I have a web site (Jamesgreer.online), many more books to sell and a dream. All from looking toward the sky one gray day in Wisconsin.