Friday, April 22, 2011

A Writer's Life - What? You Don't Own an Ejection Seat?

I often get questions about what it is like to be a writer.  I think there are a lot of illusions that we live somewhat glamorous lives.  True, I’ve been on national TV and radio programs promoting my books.  I’ve met some incredible people both doing research and promotion.  But the truth of the matter is different.  Writing is a very solitary second career for me…solitary but quite rewarding. 
I  often get a question, “how do you find time to write?”  The truth of the matter is I make time.  I try not to take is that I am somehow short-changing my daytime career.  I work at Ernst & Young LLP as an Associate Director and, quite frankly, I put in some long hours and travel from time-to-time.  I keep a pretty good separation between my day job and my night job. 
As a writer I am a bit of recluse.  It’s not that I’m anti-social.  Okay, maybe a little.  Alright, I am anti-social.  During my day job I am “on” all of the time.  I have to be very engaged during the daytime hours.  At night and the weekends though, I tend to huddle with my PC and actually get writing and research done. 
Someone told me writing  required discipline and I guess that is the best word to describe it.  I dedicate time almost every night to do some writing.  My wife works on Saturdays so often I am home alone – giving me the perfect heads-down time writing.  Saturdays are the best, especially if the weather is bad since it purges the guilt for not working in the yard.  Having kids that are grown up means that the only person that suffers is my poor wife during the week when I sneak off to my office/bunker for writing. 
Finding the time is one thing – having the right environment to do it is another.   Some guys have a man-cave – I have a well equipped bunker.  An assortment of  antique firearms – a LAW M-72 (Light Anti-Tank) rocket launcher – just in case, and a sword are necessary to set the mood.  I have a neat 1:6 scale helicopter hanging behind my desk, complete with an armed contingent of GI Joe’s ready for action.  With a network of four personal computers, printers, scanners, bookshelves and a B-52 ejection seat, it is a neat place to play RPG’s, miniatures and get some writing done.  What, you don’t have an ejection seat office-chair?  You have to have one of these.  It’s great for gaming and when I’m writing military history.  Nothing beats the face of a kid when they sit in it and pull the handle, locking their legs into place. 
The Ultimate Writer's Chair
I have a nice TV and DVD collection.  I don’t watch TV much, but I have it on as background noise.  I pop in one of my “writing movies” (yes, I will publish the list) and I’m ready to get cracking.  Music doesn’t cut it…I need plot unfolding and a kick-ass soundtrack for inspiration.   
Research work is not just reading but it is organizing.  I personally work best with hard copy material – where I can tag it with a Post-It note or notation.  The downside of this style is that paper takes up a lot of space.  I use my wargaming table often to organize my research.  Heaven help anybody that tries to make sense out of my approach on a given book.  The system only has to work for me.
Glamorous?  Naa  Exciting?  Not really.  Profitable?  Shrug…  Fun?  Oh yes. 


  1. Hmmm....So now do I have to add ejection seat to my "watch for" list? Looks like a fun piece! Your whole war cave sounds fun. Perfection combination of isolation and inspiration!

    P.S. Where does one find a B-52 ejection seat, anyway? (just curious!)

  2. While I find parts of the internet annoying, I have to admit - if you are looking for aircraft parts it's the best way to go. I ordered mine from a guy in Arizona who de-milled aircraft and salvaged parts.

    Purchasing it was one thing. Getting it shipped, that was another. Not to mention the fun of de-crating it and removing the rail and various hoses and electrical harnesses. It took several nights and weekends to strip the chair down to the parts that mattered.