On November 1, 2010, I sat down in happy anticipation to begin the first draft of a novel. I was a contestant on NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writers Month. I had this pesky idea about an Grail novel set in the far future, and I’d written bits and pieces and really loved the idea, and really loved those little pieces, and I thought, I can do this, I can bull on through and at the end of the month I’ll have a first draft!
Yeah, ah, no.
Three days in and I’m doing pretty well. I was ahead of the 1700-words-per-day schedule I set myself. I was happy.
Day four. I sat down. I put my fingers on the keyboard.
OK, that happens. But when it kept happening and Day Six rolled around I knew I was in trouble. Not bad trouble. The space-fantasy novel was still doable. IF…
If I could figure out where the mental block was coming from.
So I opened that gaping hole in the back of my head and looked down into the yawning pit, and I yelled, “W?T?F?”
OK, I yelled. OK! So you don’t want to do the sci-fi-fantasy novel about one of your favorite things of all time! What DO you want to do?
The next thing I knew I was in the New Guinea jungle, on a godforsaken airstrip with a bunch of half-trained kids trying to stay alive flying a piece-of-junk airplane, the Bell P-39, against the Emperor’s Finest in the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, at the time — mid-1942 — one of the premier fighter planes in the world, flown by some of the best pilots in the world.
When the month was over I had a first draft. Back then I called it The Sluggers and the Palookas, because I had to call it something, and that was the working title my subconscious came up with. Hey, I’m just the fingers on the keyboard around here. Someone else is calling the shots.
And that’s true, because, over the next two years as I developed the story, I realized that Sluggers, that by then was called I Wanted Wings, had not one but two prequels. For NaNo 2011 I started the novel that eventually became Everything We Had. Only, well, the first sixteen thousand words were set in Manila in 1938, while Charlie was still a cadet at West Point and Jack had yet to take his first flying lesson.
So that took a little while to sort out, but eventually Jack Davis sailed into Manila Bay with the 21st Pursuit Squadron and Charlie Davis shanghaied Al Stern to be his navigator, and set out in his B-17D to cross the Pacific alone.
So there used to be this thing called Script Frenzy, which was like NaNoWriMo except with a movie script, and I wrote a screenplay called “The Bronco Busters,” and that was a major part of A Snowball’s Chance.
And all this time those boys in New Guinea slept in my hard drive. Not with any real degree of patience, I might add. Rowdy bunch, those Air Corps pilots.
But now six and a half years of work have borne their fruit, and Boxcar Red Leader is on the market.
That seems so strange a thing to write.
I mean, it isn’t like I’m done with those guys, the ones that made it through alive. They have plenty of trials and tribulations ahead of them.
One phase ends. Another phase begins. And, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not this week, but soon, within a couple of weeks, more likely than not, I’ll be back there in New Guinea.
And soon after that Jack will be in the States, facing new challenges.
I don’t exactly know how all that will play out. But as soon as I know I’ll share.
In the meantime, Boxcar Red Leader is available on Kindle. Enjoy!