I is for Icing

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Yes, Mom. This is exactly what I’m talking about.

Today’s post is a cautionary tale, so Mom, you may want to skip this one and just pretend that “icing” refers to the pink stuff on your granddaughter’s favorite cupcakes.

Back in the days of flying freight in a small, twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft, the company would occasionally have “interns” – usually low time pilots – who would accompany the regular line pilots on their routes to gain experience. I initially welcomed one such pilot to join me on my routes because I had thought that if I could share my workload, I would have less to do.

I was wrong.

I essentially became a flight instructor all over again. My new student was a nice enough person, but he lacked initiative and on one cloudy, cold, miserable night, he tried to kill me.

We were flying from Milwaukee up to Green Bay. The clouds were thick and low, and we had no choice but to travel through them. It was his turn to fly, so I monitored the flight’s progress and communicated with Air Traffic Control.

We were perhaps halfway to our destination when I noted that we were beginning to pick up some ice on our wings. Although this isn’t a critical situation – our aircraft was equipped with rubber “boots” on the leading edge of the wings and tail for the purpose of removing ice in flight – it is certainly a situation that warrants attention. Something that he wasn’t doing in the slightest – he was reading a book.

When I mentioned that we were picking up ice, he casually flipped the switch to activate the boots and returned to his book without so much as a glance out the window.

“That’s it?” I asked, incredulous. “Shouldn’t we think about doing anything else to complete this flight safely?”

“Like what?” he asked, nose still buried in the paperback as the rate of ice accumulation increased.

This is the point where I lost my temper. I immediately asked the controller for a higher altitude where it should be colder and less conducive to icing. Then, I informed him that we would have to come back down through the icing on our approach, which meant we needed to pay attention and fly at a higher than normal speed to avoid stalling, crashing, and subsequently dying. Finally, we would have to make sure the plane was free of ice before we could depart again, which could prove to be an problem since there was no one on the field at that time of night to provide deicing services.

“Can’t we call dispatch for help?” he asked, his attitude (finally!) a little less complacent.

“What are they going to do? We’re on our own out here. You know, if you’re not paying attention and thinking about what’s going to happen next, especially in less than ideal conditions, an airplane – any airplane – will bite you in the ass in a heartbeat.”

I flew the approach, and when we landed, we had quite a bit of accumulation on our leading edges. Thankfully, the boots took care of most of it and I removed everything else by hand prior to departure. We climbed straight up through the icing layer and remained virtually ice free all the way back to Milwaukee.

I hope he learned a valuable lesson. There’s usually a whole chain of little things that lead up to an accident, and all it takes is one broken link to avoid it.

Pay attention.

B is for Banners

ImageDespite having spent a small fortune that will probably never be paid off on flight school, I was very disappointed that I did not land a job as a Boeing 747 captain immediately upon graduation from college. It seems my newly minted Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management, my Associate of Applied Science in Aviation Flight, and my few hundred hours of flight experience meant exactly jack in the real world which, in turn, meant that I needed to find another way to get by until United Airlines realized what it was missing.

Thus, my first “real job” in aviation was towing banners. It was one of the most exciting – and frightening – things I’ve ever done as a pilot, and I was young enough – and desperate enough – to do it for flight time and the price of a trenta caramel macchiato.

I received no flight training for banner towing; my boss went over the procedure with me on the ground. There was no way to do it in the air as the added weight of an instructor combined with the huge amount of drag from the banner once it was picked up would have been… unfortunate.

If you’ve ever wondered how a banner ends up flying circuits over the beach and obstructing your view, you’re in luck, because I’m about to give you the 411.

First, the banner is assembled, letter by letter, and then spread out flat on a grass runway. Two PVC poles – imagine football goal posts – are erected, and a rope which leads from the first letter of the banner is strung like a clothesline between them. The tow-plane is equipped with a pilot operated hitch or clamp on the tail. A rope ending in a grappling hook is secured to the hitch, attached temporarily to the wing strut with masking tape, and finally fed into the cabin through the window.

The pilot takes off, flies a normal traffic pattern as if returning to the runway to land, and tosses the grappling hook out the window before final approach so that it is trailing behind the aircraft. The tow-plane must then pass over the grass airstrip and try to pick up the banner by catching the rope suspended between the two PVC poles with the grappling hook. A failed attempt just meant coming back around for another go.

A successful pick up is immediately apparent. It would feel like a boat dropping anchor in the shallows. The aircraft would lose an alarming amount of airspeed and would be lucky to climb more than 100 feet per minute. Most of my gigs were in the summer, so I had the heat working against me as well, resulting in poorer performance from the plane and engine oil temperatures eking up into the red. I would fly to the designated location at an altitude of only a thousand feet or so above the ground, circle the area for 15 minutes, and then head back to my home field.

Dropping the banner was considerably less harrowing. All it required was a low pass over the grass field and a pull of a lever to open the clamp on the aircraft’s tail. If I was feeling saucy, I could drop the banner and just land straight ahead on the grass field, but that was a lot to be doing after flying around on the edge of a stall for the last hour. It was safer to simply come back around for a normal landing.

Not that I ever thought about how dangerous that job was until now. No wonder my mother never wants to hear any of my flying stories. Well, hopefully you enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed sharing it.

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2013

The very first thing I did in 2010 when I started blogging is a series of A to Z posts.  I tend to write only when I’m inspired and having a plan of sorts helped keep me consistent and focused.  It also dampened my fear.  For me, writing requires that I expose a bit of my soul, and that continues to be a source of anxiety that I must overcome.

Last year, I found the A to Z Blogging Challenge and decided to re-blog all of my original alphabet posts because I had met so many new friends – other writers, bloggers, and readers from my work at BigWorldNetwork.com – that I wanted to share those posts again.  Thus, I did my own unofficial challenge and was able to concentrate on other writing projects.

This year, I am taking up the gauntlet and smacking my lazy, unprofessional, blogging habits upside the head with it.  I am officially entered in the 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge and will post once a day – with Sundays off for good behavior – beginning April 1st with letter A. 

Since I’ve been feeling especially nostalgic lately for my days as a freight pilot, I’ve decided to  present an aviation inspired theme for the Challenge.  So, please stop by again and take a flight down Memory Lane with me.  You can sit on the cargo.  It’s pretty comfy.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop – Part Two

Welcome to The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way that readers can discover new authors, because with bookstores closing and publishers not promoting new authors as much, we need to find a way to introduce readers to authors they may not see in their local bookstore.

Here you have the chance to find many new authors. You’ll find information about me, my blog, and my work. But that’s not all! Also see links below to other authors you might like to check out.

I’d like to thank fellow author Tof Eklund for tagging me to participate.  Here are links to Tof’s blog, and the sites for Autumn Harvest and The Unconventional.

http://www.tofeklund.net/

https://bigworldnetwork.com/site/series/autumnharvest/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Autumn-Harvest/2232791078005180

http://www.spectaclepmg.com/books/uncon/

In this particular hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered 10 questions where you get to learn about our current work in progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?  I’m currently working on the final season of my eSeries Darkling Drake available on BigWorldNetwork.com.  My children’s eSeries The Pirate Princess is being compiled for publication, and my short story Love Never Dies: A Zombie Love Story, originally published with Big World Network has been included in an anthology Zombies Need Love, Too now available on Amazon.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?  It was very strange, actually.  I also own a Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees & Smoothies franchise, and a scene just popped into my head while I was working a particularly slow event.  I used the back side of one of my tally sheets and wrote down, almost word for word, what turned out to be Episode 2 of Darkling Drake.  This was at a time when I didn’t even have a blog, and hadn’t written anything since college research papers.

3: What genre does your book come under? Modern Fantasy and Action, although, a bit of romance could be in the works.  It is also an adult series.  My main character, Toni Drake, never passes up a chance to flavor her speech with expletives.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? For Toni, I would like to see a woman who has played a badass before like Kate Beckinsale, Carrie-Anne Moss, or even Charlize Theron.  For Christian, Bradley Cooper certainly has the sparkling blue eyes to fit the bill, but I wouldn’t mind Chris Pine or Daniel Craig.  I’d really have to interview them… personally… in order to decide.  And even then, I may need several callbacks.  You know, to make sure I find just the right person to portray Christian.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Toni Drake is a professional thief and maybe… not quite human.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?  It is currently published with Big World Network in an episodic format.  Once the eSeries has ended, it will compiled and published as a paperpack, eBook, and audio book with them as well.  I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with the fantastic folks over at BigWorldNetwork.com, and I will continue to work with this publisher as long as they’ll have me.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  It’s actually a work in progress.  I write it an episode at a time, send it in for editing with Big World Network, review the edits, and once both my editor and I are satisfied with it, I record the audio version. Because my editor works at warp speed, an episode doesn’t usually take longer than a week from start to finish, and most of that time is taken up by my own procrastinating.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  Well, anything with dragons, I suppose.  I loved reading Anne McCaffery and anything about dragons as a child, and I’m currently reading the Eragon series by Christoper Paolini with my son.  But there isn’t any one story I could name that is quite the same.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?  I think an easier question to answer would be what didn’t inspire me.  I’ve read everything I could get my hands on ever since I could make out the words.  Fantasy, science fiction, and horror are my favorite genres, but the story is really what matters, and I love them all.  If I had to name names, I would put both Donna Hanson for talking me into starting a blog, and Jim McGovern for asking me to write for his start up, at the top of the very large list of people to whom I am most grateful.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Well, it’s got dragons in it.  And it’s also available in audio format narrated by me, so I’ll even read it to you if you want.  I’ve been told that my podcasts are capable of setting off the voice activation triggers on a Garmin, so there’s that, too.

Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog, next Thursday. Please be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates and exciting developments.  Just so you know, I may only have two bloggers joining me on this blog hop, but I guarantee that these two ladies are the cream of the crop.

Victoria Washuk, author of World War II London Blitz Diary

Jennifer Inglis, author of I Work Better With An Audience: Thoughts on Life, Love, Food and Jiggly Bits

Happy Writing and Reading!

To all my new friends, I hope you enjoy this video as much as I do. Happy Holidays!

Tawn Krakowski

When I first watched this video by Jj Guerra, it brought back a flood of memories from a cherished time in my life.  It offers a glimpse into a world rarely seen and in my case, greatly missed, not only for the fantastic people with whom I was privileged to work but also for the fleeting opportunity to truly fly.

Watch it here!

Author’s Note:  I apologize that this link is not embedded directly into my blog, but I’m not yet in a position to shell out the mad cheddar to buy a video upgrade from WordPress.  Maybe Santa can hook me up next week.

UPDATE!  Santa didn’t need to hook me up so much as buy me a clue – you can now click on the “Watch it here” link to enjoy the video.  Happy Holidays!

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I know I’ve been away for far too long, but in my defense, I have been writing for http://www.BigWorldNetwork.com and dealing with my distinct lack of holiday cheer in the face of insurmountable Christmasitude. Please enjoy this rehashing of a holiday rant until I have the energy to overcome my slacking. Much love! Tawn

Tawn Krakowski

Much to the chagrin of Juan Ponce de León, it seems that the Fountain of Youth not only exists, but it has been here in America all along, quietly seeping into the drinking water of the population like toxic KoolAid.  That’s my only plausible explanation for how we’ve become a nation of 5-year-olds without parental supervision.  “Are not!” you may say, to which I would reply, “Are too!” and provide the following evidence of the frightening regression of our collective behavior:

1.  We have no manners.  One example of our descent into childish behavior is the annual Black Friday free-for-all in which we have no qualms about shoving a little old lady out of the way in order to save $10 on a Christmas sweater so ugly that it’s possible to severely damage one’s retinas if viewed directly for more than half a second.  Our complete lack of common…

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The Sunshine Award!

I am honored to have been nominated by Emily of Emily’s Tea Leaves for the Sunshine Award!

You are my Sunshine…

What is the Sunshine Award, you may ask? Well, it is a blog award in which I answer eight questions about myself and then nominate ten other bloggers to do the same.  So, first, the questions:

1. What is your favorite Christmas/festive movie?

I’m really not a big fan of Christmas. I don’t like the cold, I’m not a big shopper, and since my birthday is in November, my parents used to give me (arguably bigger and more expensive, but that doesn’t matter to a kid) “Birthday/Christmas” gifts which meant that I didn’t have anything to unwrap Christmas morning. Oh, and the jokers were not above putting a prank gift in the stocking, so I got no love in that arena either. However, Halloween is another story. I love that I can be whatever I want and get chocolate at the same time. For that reason, I’m going to have to go with “Nightmare Before Christmas” on this one.

2. What is your favorite flower? 

Whatever my husband – or children – get for me. Once, my wonderful man sent me two dozen roses for my birthday…sigh…but that was before we had children. Now, I’m ecstatic to get a half-wilted, dandelion stub from the front yard.

3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic beverage?

Non-alcoholic? I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.

4. What is your passion?

Ohhh! That’s a good one! I love flying, writing, my family (usually), reading, the ocean, and bubble baths. But I don’t really think any of those qualify as a passion. In my mind, a passion would be something I absolutely couldn’t live without, like air. Maybe “oxygen” is my passion…

5. What is your favorite time of year?

Summer would be if I didn’t have school-age children. So, Summer is disqualified in favor of Fall because it’s still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors, but the children have to go to school and my sanity is preserved.  Mostly.

6. What is your favorite time of day?

Without question, I am a night owl. Unfortunately, I have been forced to live the life of a (gasp!) morning person which means, of course, that I never really sleep anymore. Therefore, my favorite time of day is naptime.

7. What is your favorite physical activity?

Um…sex. That’s about the only physical thing in which I willingly participate (sorry Mom!).  I don’t even like Frisbee golf. Going for a walk can be fun sometimes, but I don’t really consider that physical activity.  It’s more of a way to escape my children.

8. What is your favorite vacation?

Hawai’i. There is no place that I would rather be. I was fortunate enough to visit the Big Island of Hawai’i, Maui, Oahu, and Kaua’i on four separate occasions, and I’m still kicking myself for getting back on the plane to the Mainland.

Now, on to the nominations! I have to nominate ten other bloggers for this award.  These are a few of my favorite writers, in no particular order, and I hope that you will visit them and see for yourself why I feel they deserve this award.  I’ll admit, some of them may not be the most prolific, but I was hoping to spur a few into writing more often so that I have some quality reading material.  After all, it’s really all about me.

Patty of Patty Down – That’s Life

Jean of Snoring Dog Studios

Gary of Manofewords

Bee of Snark and Cookies

Larry of Woodgate’s View

Gigi of Pajama Mama

Julia of A Song in the Desert

El of Runningfromhellwithel

Heretherebespiders

Honoré of Of Glass and Paper

Thanks again to Emily for the nomination, and happy reading to everyone else!  Oh, and happy writing to the nominees.  Now get a move on!  I’ve whittled down my reading material to 50 Shades of Grey or the back of my cereal box.