Iím a writer. Among others, Iíve written books, articles, television shows and movies. This is about that writing, a little behind-the-scenes on my career that you wonít find on Google. Writing is a solitary business. Despite much meaningful instruction about it, you basically have to write a lot to become good. But maybe something you read here will help.
?>I started my career as a cub reporter for The Miami News, a great newspaper that eventually folded. In those days, you learned from hardened rewrite guys yelling at you. "How many shooters! Where was he born! Go back and get it!Ē It was intimidating. These guys were gods - word magicians who made sense and drama out of anything.They didnít tolerate fools or errors. I covered crime, general assignment, whatever the editors dictated. One day after giving them enough information to write three front page stories, they invited me to lunch. I was accepted. Eventually, I began to write my own stories - floaters, jumpers, organized crime - I wrote about it all. We were an afternoon daily sold on the streets. You needed a headline to entice passersby.
After awhile however you want to write something needing more thought. Our little-old-lady religion editor died and I shocked some by asking for her job. I felt history and religion were great sweeping subjects not just bulletin-board items as the newspaper was treating them. A year into the job - and to my surprise because my editor entered my writing - I was judged the best religion editor in the nation by my peers. Believe me, I didnít have a clue. But I wrote with passion and I think thatís what tipped it.FIRST BOOK
The Supple Memorial Award gave me a big head. I
decided real writers write books. I'd looked for a
story that might be my
Iíd run into one
about the Shroud of Turin. You
might know of it
back then - in the 1970s - few outside of
this time Iíd become a stringer for the New
Times, which gave me some
clout. I went to
I was a book writer!
After the high, comes the low. Whatís next? Itís the
writerís dilemma. Wishes donít pay bills. Fittingly,
newspapers gave me my
book. There, blaring out
from all of them that
summer of 1975 was a
about perhaps 100 patients being murdered in the
When I arrived in
didnít happen. Shroud did well, but
Mysterious Deaths died
mysteriously. One day,
Popular Library had the big tout on my book.
The next day it was dumping
it. I never knew what
happened. Nobody had the
courtesy to tell me. It got
good reviews but something went wrong. Like
movies, if it doesnít
click quickly, its see you later kid. I always
What are you going to do next?
I always wanted to write a novel. That was the true test! Because of Shroud, I had some money in the bank. I could afford a risk. Iíd been writing for Tropic Magazine, the Sunday supplement of The Miami Herald. Iíd done a story for Tropic about a psychic who saw crimes. He was a commercial artist. While drawing, heíd occasionally have debilitating visions of a murder taking place. He didnít know who it was but he could see the violence in his mindís eye. His impulse was to tell the police, but theyíd invariably decide that he knew so much that he must be the killer. He was never arrested but often suspected.
Now thereís a novel. I changed him into a her, gave
her a background of coming from
Donít worry. Iím going to lose it.
wife is a Basque. They are the people of the
But back to reality.
After the Basque excursion, I was nearly out of
money. What next Ė and fast! Iím a World War II
buff. I happened to read a
story in the New York
1983, we made a big decision. My wife and I
two children moved
See you later Charlie.
few weeks later, I was offered a script assignment
by Simon and
really great detective
show. From there, it got
assignments, I became a story editor on The Famous Teddy
Z and The New WKRP in
But Iím getting ahead of myself.
WAR AND FIGHTER PILOTS
I tried to make it in
Now thereís a story.
Scream of Eagles was launched on Good Morning America. It did quite well. It was a main selection of the Military Book Club and Pocket Books bought the paperback rights. It got some terrific reviews. I was proud of it. I still am. Several producers tried to make it into a movie but they couldnít. Someday someone will. Iím ready with the scenario.
With the success of Scream, I sold another
fighter book. In this one, I would find the nationís
best fighter pilots
of Fury basically picks
up after the
follows certain fighter pilots through the 1980s and into
the First Gulf War. I had a great time writing this
one too. I went to
bases, like Nellis
After Wings, I had a drought. Things got so bad I had to take a second job which Iíve done from time to time. Mostly, Iíve been a salesman. I do well at sales but itís always just to pay the bills and keep the family together until Iíve got the next writing project. When the Kosovo War started, I had my next ticket. Iíd always wanted to do a book about a fighter squadron at war. Lots of drama there. And I wanted it to be on a carrier. Iíd heard that the navy liked Scream of Eagles. I asked them if I could go on a carrier during the Kosovo festivities. They let me do it. I was lucky to get to spend some time with the VF-41 Black Aces, an F-14 Tomcat squadron, while they fought. Black Aces High was published in 2002 and is still selling.
My fighter experience won me the privilege of writing my next book, First Blue, a biography of Butch Voris, who started the Blue Angels. Butch was a man amongst men, a big, strong, dedicated World War II ace who was in his 80s when I met him. What a guy! Imagine flying upside down at 600 miles per hour barely 100 feet from the asphalt. Even breathe too hard and youíre history. Butch did that in starting the Blues. Or imagine being a young man right out of flight school, shipped to the South Pacific and knowing youíve got to shoot down experienced Japanese pilots or your carrier will be sunk. Forget the fear and death. Itís your duty to stop the hordes and he and others like him did Ė three thousand miles from home, nobody else to help them. Win or die. Butch is an example of the Greatest Generation and it was wonderful interviewing him, a perfect gentleman with a steel-trap mind that remembered almost everything. First Blue is still selling and should be an inspiration to anyone who strives to be the best.
My latest book Ė number nine - is Target Patton, an investigation into the mysterious death of Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., our greatest fighting general. I believe he was assassinated. You be the judge.
In the meantime, Iím looking for my next book. Let me know if you have a suggestion.
P.S. I rewrote this three times.
Writing isnít easy. You can always do