Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong a true American Hero

For those who know me, the space program has always been a big part of my life. Today, Neil Armstrong has died. I have been surprised at how that has affected me.

You can say what you want about NASA, but that organization has done more for this country than most governmental organizations.

As a child, I watched Neil step on the moon, the first heavenly body that Americans had ever touched. To this day, that memory has stuck with me. As you can probably tell, writing this is difficult. We have lost, not only an American Hero, but a World Hero.

I want to reprint a portion of what the Armstrong family said in their statement ...

“The next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

Tonight has been an emotional night for me, and I am reposting a previous post as I witnessed the final Space Shuttle launch.

Enjoy ... or reflect ...

Apollo Son reflects on the end of the Shuttle Program

Growing up as the son of an engineer working on the Saturn V, I came to love the space program and everything that it represented. The risk, exploration, innovation and country pride during the early days of the Apollo program is unmatched in our history.

On Friday, July 8th, I took my family up to the Cape for the final shuttle launch. Regardless of only a 30% chance of a launch, we arrived to crawling traffic and cars parking wherever there was a sliver of land to view the launch.

This brought me back to the days of the Apollo missions. The throngs of launch watchers took to the shores of the rivers, lagoons, and the beaches. Sometimes we would arrive hours before the launch and spend what seemed like all day and sometimes into the night. Back in the early days, the launch windows were not of the ten-minute variety that we see today.

The sense of pride and accomplishment that made the Apollo program special infiltrated all who watched in awe at the spectacle. Thousands would gather with their picnics, battery powered televisions and radios. All around, the echoing of the launch sequence reverberated from the tinny sounds of transistor radios at each outpost. A chorus of voices joined the countdown adding to the excitement of the moment. At liftoff, the crackling of the five engines producing 7,650,000 pounds-force shattered the calm. The massive percussion assaulted our senses and the crowd would cheer the Saturn V as it climbed higher into the sky. 

Waiting for the final Atlantis launch, the crowd reminded me of the early days. It was good to see. I had witnessed other shuttle launches and the crowds were not impressive. People had grown complacent with the Shuttle program. Faceless astronauts, not the rock star explorers of the early years, piloted the Shuttle. The country had become an “event” crowd and the routine shuttle launches were not an event. Sure, they came back, after a tragedy. That always made the next launch an event.

I’d like to say that the Apollo program was not subjected to the same apathy, but that is not the case. In the waning years, the fervor of launches and the routine of going to the moon brought smaller and smaller crowds to the beaches. The Apollo program ended due to budget cuts and the lack of support to keep sending Americans to the moon. 

As we waited for the final firing of the main engines, the feeling of nostalgia and pride rippled through those that had gathered on the shores. However, it was eerily different. In this modern day of iPhones and technology, there were no radio’s belting out the launch sequence. Many people looked around wondering what was happening, was it going to go off on time. Thousands of launch fans stared at their web accessed phones, trying to get an update. There was an almost church-like hush amongst the crowd.

Suddenly and quietly, the liftoff occurred. The flash of the solid rocket boosters lit up the sky and the Atlantis climbed quietly into the sky. With the wind at our backs, it was as if a silent rocket had just shot toward space. The crowd started to point at the fireball climbing higher. The cheers and applause escalated and a chill went down my spine. Although much quieter, this Apollo Son felt the excitement and pride of the old days.

The man standing next to me looked up and shouted, “Godspeed.” The term used back in the early days of manned space flight, a Middle English expression, a wish for success and fortune for one setting out on a voyage, adventure, or travels. The Atlantis disappeared behind the clouds for a brief moment. As it broke out into the blue, the sounds of the its thrust finally reached the ground around us and provided a brief feeling of the power involved in sending humans to space.

Forty some years ago, I was a wide-eyed kid, watching us send astronauts to space with awe. It is my hope that my three-year old son will have a glimmer of memory about this historic launch. He knows his grandfather helped build the Saturn V and he loves everything “space.” He gets excited when he sees the moon and I can’t help but think that he might one day be able to venture back there. 

There is no question that the Shuttle fleet is old and very costly. I don’t disagree with the ending of the program. It just hurts that as resourceful and innovative we are as Americans, that we don’t have an alternative in place.

Life sends you down roads that you never thought would happen. I’m a author now. Writing stories about a teenager named Van Stone. He doesn’t have any magical powers or isn’t a vampire. He’s a real kid that uses science and determination to solve mysteries. Since I build his world, maybe one day he’ll get into space. The only problem is, we no longer have a manned space program. 

Let’s hope I don’t have to build an imaginary world for him to accomplish that task.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Letter from a Librarian ...

Charles Reed Bishop Learning Center
Wow, I just received an email from a librarian at the Charles Reed Bishop Learning Center at the Kamehameha Schools in Hawai`i. I was so thrilled about the email, that I have to share it here.

Aloha Mr. ,

I am the middle school librarian at a private school for Hawaiian children on the island of Hawai`i.  I first purchased your book TheCard at the recommendation of one of our students who told me it was a great book.  It has been constantly checked out by boys who love baseball.  In fact, I haven’t had a chance to read it myself!  Today, one of our students, who had been placed in remedial reading class, came up to me with your book in hand and asked me if I had the next book in the series!   I told him that if there is another in the series, I would get it for him right away.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find any information about any other book in the Van Stone series.  Therefore, I’m writing to you directly to get an answer so I can let him know.  Hope your answer will be, “It’ll be out next month!”


Crystella Kauka
Charles Reed Bishop Learning Center
Kamehameha Schools Hawai`i
16-714 Volcano Road
Kea`au, HI 96749

Thanks a ton to Crystella and her students for making my day!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Character Arc and Stories That Stay With You

Great characters can make or break a novel. That is why authors work hard to develop these players. Big time authors get a lot of mileage out of one good character. Rowling certainly did that with Harry Potter, Nelson DeMille created John Corey and has had long string of bestselling books. One of my favorites is Doc Ford in the Randy Wayne White series set in Sanibel Island, Florida.  

Back in April, JD Mader posted an article in Indies Unlimited on character development and descriptions. He did a great job of breaking down character development of both physical and psychological traits. Today, I want to take his post a step further and discuss character arc. Character arc is essential to story success.

So what is character arc?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Five Start Review of The Card

Exciting news, just the other day, a new five start review showed up on Amazon and Goodreads. The reader and apparently fan of The Card, had this to say ...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Little Help for a Great Place

It was a hot one on Saturday as we set up shop at the Gold Coast RR Museum. In the shade of the world's largest blimp base, the decent sized crowd enjoyed the exhibits and entertainment on the Free First Saturday event. 

The GCRM is an unique place housing a collection of trains and other memorabilia. In addition, they offer train rides and even has a giant room with train tables for the kids. 

The museum sits on the old Richmond Naval Air Station, where in 1942, Blimp Patrol Squadron ZP-21 arrived to provide anti-submarine patrol, rescue and escort over the waters off Florida. 

Ferdinand Magellan Presidential Car
One of the greatest treasures of the museum is the Presidential Pullman "Ferdinand Magellan" that was used by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. This armored train was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Great conversation and some books were sold throughout the day, with one dollar out of the sale of each book donated to the GCRM.

A big thank you to Michael Hall, Executive Director, for helping us make this event happen.

is the #1 Kindle Bestselling Author of The Card

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Signing at the Gold Coast RR Museum

I'll be out at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum on Saturday, August 4th, for a book signing. 

Every first Saturday of the month the Gold Coast Railroad Museum is offering free admission from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Once again the popular Food Truck Rodeo will return offering a variety of food choices.

Come out to pick up your copy of THE CARD and ride some trains! Kids will love the bounce houses and mini golf as well.

is the #1 bestselling author of the Van Stone series, THE CARD and contributing author for Indies Unlimited.