Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
– Ray Bradbury
Out of Ideas wasn't my first published work. It wasn't even the first novel I finished. It, in many ways, was an accident.
My friend John and I had traveled to Wisconsin, pulling a pop-up behind his SUV. We'd been friends for almost twenty-five years. He was a pilot, in addition to being a police academy classmate - he had, more or less, taught me to fly, if one broadens the definition of that skill to someone who could keep the plane flying straight and mostly level. We were in Oshkosh to witness AirVenture 2005, the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual fly in.
One need not be a total airplane geek to appreciate field upon field of flying tin that descends on tiny Wittman Regional Airport. Row after row of new planes, old iron, warbirds and military might are crammed into every nook and cranny. We spent over a week there, and never really saw the same thing twice. Vendors, static displays and everywhere the jocks, the pilots.
One night the weather descended, the skies opened up and drenched the festivities, the airfield, the stage tent (where Harrison Ford was speaking) and us. The following day low clouds led to some changes in the program; the Mustangs flying by were at a lower altitude.
The Mustang is an amazing aircraft, flown at the show mostly by amateur pilots with enough money to pursue an explosively expensive hobby. They roared past in formation, or one after another. John's portable aviation radio picking up exhortations between the fliers as shows, or ad hoc fly-bys, took place overhead. On one occasion, several of the jocks seemed a bit miffed with a cohort whose flying was less than precise. They finally prevailed on him to land.
The next day, reading the local paper (which was hardly the New York Times) I discovered that, during one of the afternoon events an airplane had crashed off the airport property. The pilot, a dentist by profession, was killed. We had seen the aftermath of one accident the first day we'd arrived, so the tragic news was also not a surprise. With all of the activity there was no way things didn't break.
The end of the week came, unfortunately, and we headed home. Then... My mind burst into overdrive. What if?
I had written a manuscript called A Parasol in a Hurricane, urged on by my wife, and by a friend at work who offered insights into my main character I'd never thought of. The experience was energizing. I love to write, even as the ongoing business of publication gives me some trouble.
What if the pilot was an imposter. What if this was a murder? What if a tall, attractive woman was my main character and I could say, in as many words, abuse a woman and pay a price? I wanted to create a main character that was tough and tender, stand-offish and passionate... A warrior who crawled into bed with her soulmate and made him forget how to walk.
I was off. John had a little note pad that I scribble on until three AM. Yes. True story.
It became Out of Ideas, my first published novel. I had a lot of help, together we made a lot of changes (read the "Thank you" pages where I name names) and it was published.
Alas, the publisher has retreated for a while, leaving me sole owner of this property. After a short break, it's available again.
Adam and Karen. I promise they will come alive for you.
UPDATE: Out of Ideas is now available in paperback.