Concrete Ships and California Beaches

Northern California Sea Cliffs along US 1.

Northern California Sea Cliffs along US 1.

While beaches, ships, and oceans fit well into the California landscape, the last thing I expected to find at Seacliff State Beach in Altos was a scuttled concrete oil tanker. Yes, you did read that correctly, the ship was made out of concrete, that heavy, friable, and not very tensile material.

The scuttled S.S. Palo Alto at Seacliff State Beach

The scuttled S.S. Palo Alto at Seacliff State Beach

So that begs the question, why would anyone build a ship out of concrete and place it in an undulating, variable environment like an ocean? The answer is timing, need, and history. World War I depleted the ready supply of steel required for shipbuilding, so the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company located in Oakland, California took a radical approach to building ships. They based their designs around the building material common on dry land…concrete.

Starboard side of ship.

Starboard side of ship. Some structural remnants and ship fittings are still visible.

Port side. You can see the rebar (metal rods that give support to the concrete) on the sides of the ship.

Port side. Rebar (metal rods that give support to the concrete) show on the sides of the ship.

On May 29, 1919 they launched the oil tanker S.S. Palo Alto, also know as “The Cement Boat.” The launch turned out to be ill timed as WWI ended and no one wanted the ship. It was docked in Oakland for ten years until the Seacliff Amusement Company purchased the ship in 1929 and sailed it (maiden voyage) to Aptos, California. At Seacliff State Beach, it was scuttled near shore and a long pier was then built out to the ship. The company then transformed the oil tanker into an entertainment mecca with arcades, a dance hall, gambling area, a dining room, and swimming pool. Again, timing doomed the ship’s active life. The depression ran the company out of business, and eventually the S.S. Palo Alto was stripped of its contents and metal.

In 1932 a fierce winter storm cracked the concrete hull. The company eventually sold the ship to the state of California for a $1. Now you can walk the pier out to the end where the S.S. Palo Alto is parked.

The Seacliff Beach entrance to the pier where people fish and sight-see.

The Seacliff Beach entrance to the pier where people fish and sight-see.

For years, people fished off the ship hull until it deteriorated so badly the state finally closed it to people.

Gate at end of dock where it connects to the S.S. Palo Alto.

Gate at end of dock where it connects to the S.S. Palo Alto.

You can see from this photo, though, that it has taken on a new life as a haven for birds. In the case of the photo below, it is covered in cormorants that dive deep into the ocean for fish.

Cormorants dry off and socialize before diving again for their meals.

Cormorants dry off and socialize before diving again for their meals.

Historic photos of the ship grounding at Seacliff can be seen at: http://bit.ly/1NIWiC1.

The S.S. Palo Alto has a sister ship, the S.S. Peralta, also an oil tanker which was launched in 1921. Over the years, it served as a sardine cannery and now acts as a floating breakwater on the Powell River. For more information on the S.S. Palo Alto or other concrete ships, these links might be of interest:

http://www.concreteships.org/ships/ww1/paloalto/

http://www.concreteships.org/ships/ww1/peralta/

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up to follow my blog for its posts on varied topics dealing with travel and aviation. I also have a newsletter that goes out infrequently to keep my reading fans up to date on new releases or specials I run on my award-winning action-adventure thrillers, with humor and touches of romance. Please sign up and look through my Sandy Parks website.

Thanks for stopping by. Here’s one last photo showing the pier, part of the beach, and the ship.

The wide beach, pier, and S.S. Palo Alto at Altos, California.

The wide beach, pier, and S.S. Palo Alto at Altos, California.

ARIA: The Unusual Aircraft Spawned by the Apollo Mission

In the 1960s, the US launched (pun intended) into a new frontier…space and the race for the moon. The US discovered that in order to achieve this lofty goal, it required a premier agency to oversee the program, thus the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created. NASA quickly noticed a need to acquire launch tracking and telemetry data in hard to reach locations around the world. Thus a military program/aircraft was built called the ARIA.

Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft The nose held a small, steerable satellite dish.

Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft
The nose held a small, steerable satellite dish. This plane is pictured at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

The ARIA (Apollo/Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft) mission collected telemetry data during launches in locations where signals would be lost by lack of ground stations (particularly over the oceans). Why does that matter? Believe it or not, space, even around measly little old Earth, is a big place. When NASA launches into space, it does so along a particular trajectory. If the craft deviates for any reason, then it will enter space on a slightly different path and could easily become “lost in space” (ie. the telemetry tells NASA what orbit the vehicle is in).

Mission requirements caused the deployment of personnel around the world. Sometimes this took the plane to a small island in the middle of an ocean with a less than nominal (read dangerous/difficult/no alternate landing site) runway. Other times, the planes landed in paradise. Below are listed a few of the sites and what led to the design of a fun logo “ARIA World Tours” seen in the photo below.

ARIA program stickers

ARIA program stickers

Deployments (a few from a long list):

  • Easter Island
  • Thule, Greenland
  • Guam
  • Tahiti
  • Recife, Brazil
  • Saipan
  • Sidney, Australia
  • Singapore
  • Capetown, South Africa
  • Cold Lake, Canada
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Ascension Island

Also lost over time is the meaning behind “AGAR,” the call sign used for the aircraft. If anyone knows when or how the name AGAR came about (it was used first at Patrick AFB and carried forth), please let me know so I can pass it along.

At a recent union for those involved in the ARIA mission, my husband and I toured the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. In a corner behind a huge rocket engine nozzle, we found this note about the mission: “A system of 14 ground stations, 5 instrumented ships, and 8 aircraft made up the Manned Spaceflight Network in 1969. The network provided data for tracking and communicating with Apollo 11. Look closely for the plane’s large round nose, which housed tracking instruments.”

Blurb about the ARIA mission at Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, DC.

Blurb about the ARIA mission at Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, DC.

The original ARIA aircraft were built on the Boeing C-135A frame and designated EC-135As. Later they were augmented by used Boeing 707 aircraft and were called EC-18s. They flew missions from 1968-2001 from the following locations.

  • Patrick Air Force Base, Florida             1968-1975
  • Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio 1975-1994
  • Edwards Air Force Base, California       1994-2001

People who lived in Melbourne, Florida or Dayton, Ohio or Lancaster, California might remember seeing these odd aircraft.

ARIA Wright-Patterson Squadron located at Dayton, Ohio

ARIA Wright-Patterson Squadron located at Dayton, Ohio 1980s

So why did their mission end after 2001? ARIA’s replacement, a new satellite named TDRS (pronounced TeeDRiS), arrived in space. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, was built by TRW corporation and is now in its fourth generation. A first generation satellite example hangs in the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. I snapped the photo below there last month. It makes me wonder if ARIA covered the launch of its replacement.

TDRS - First generation satellite in Smithsonian Steven R. Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia. Photo by Parks

For more information about the ARIA, check out the following: ARIA video and website. Please be sure to leave comments or share a story or provide further information about the ARIA. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Sirince, Turkey – Great Food in the Greek Village

Lucky are those who have Turkish friends. They are hard-working, fun-loving people who cherish family, friends, and their country, and love to discuss its history, politics, and food. When our friends heard we planned a visit to Turkey, they invited us over for some home cooking. The husband (Turkish) did the cooking, and after the fabulous meal, we couldn’t wait to go on our trip. He armed us with a long list of native foods and dishes to try (did I mention I gained weight on this trip). One warning he gave us (in jest), was that his cooking was better than anything we’d find in his country. After his delicious meal, we believed him.

Sirince shows its Greek influence. A view from where we ate lunch.

Sirince shows its Greek influence. A view from where we ate lunch.

Two weeks into our trip and healthy doses of great food later, I think we tried most everything on his list. No meal, however, quite rose to level of our friend’s cooking…that is until we went to Sirince. This small village that was Greek up until the 1920s, is a quaint, charming town. Tile roofs, white washed houses, and rolling green hills, make it a fun place to walk the narrow streets and paths, and to enjoy a leisurely place to eat with a pleasant view.

A rooftop view, great food, and friendly company made for a nice lunch.

A rooftop view, great food, and friendly company made for a nice lunch.

I mentioned earlier that our Turkish friend cherished his family, many who still live in the area of Sirince. So we promised to look up a cousin, Ali, at the Kirkinca Evleri Boutique Hotel (I’ll put the url address at the end in case anyone reading this would like to visit it one day). We couldn’t stay overnight, but came for lunch. Since I told him I would like to blog about our meal, he fed us dishes served at their restaurant, including their special (which was to die for).

A drink made from Elder Flower juice. Refreshing.

A drink made from Elder Flower juice. Refreshing.

The meal started with a refreshing, sweet and salty tasting, ELDER FLOWER drink. A piece of green apple and mint floated on top with a green grape at the bottom of the glass. Other drink accents could be peach, plum, orange, cherry, pears, or quince (a pear like fruit).

A quince is similar to a pear in look and taste.

A quince is similar to a pear in look and taste.

The first course consisted of a cooked dish of four greens (a type mustard green, Turkish chard, the other two I wasn’t sure of the translation) with yogurt on top. I can’t guarantee the spelling and the accented letters can’t be shown, but it is called: yogurtlu ot Kavurmasi (roasted seasonable herbs and vegetables). Accompanying that was a homemade pasta/macaroni dish with walnuts and melted stager cheese called cevizli kasarli eriste. Both were incredibly tasty.

Vegetable and pasta dishes.

Vegetable and pasta dishes.

The main dish and specialty of the house, Kirkinca Kabobi, came beautifully arranged on top of yogurt. This dish was beef marinated in wine sauce with oregano and decorated with Turkish red pepper and tomatoes. The beef melted in my mouth and took the honor of the best dish I ate in Turkey. Another tasty main entre was the chicken curry with onions, tomato, and mushrooms.

Kirkinca Kabobi (marinated beef) and chicken curry

Kirkinca Kabobi (marinated beef) and chicken curry

For a relaxing lunch, great food, and a delightful town to walk off all those delicious calories, visit the sleepy little town of Sirince. Many thanks to Mark, Ali, and Ali…you know who you are.

For more information check out the website of Kirkinca Evleri Boutique Hotel and their Kirkinca Arsipel Restaurant or contact them at info@kirkinca.com

A Camera’s View of the Alamo

The iconic facade of the Alamo

The iconic facade of the Alamo

A visit to San Antonio means a must-see stop at the iconic Alamo. The rainy weather served to highlight the stone features and added to the ambiance. Overall, the famous battle location was more than the typical tourist attraction I expected.

Welcome gate at the Alamo

Welcome gate at the Alamo

Old stone and wood mixed with desert landscape and lush gardens created an intriguing space where I could quietly contemplate the long and varied history of the Catholic mission turned military fort.

Carved stone showing niches.

Carved stone showing niches.

So how did the Alamo get its name? At one time beginning in the early 1700s (possibly earlier), the Spanish opened a mission (San Antonio de Valero) and a good number of Catholic converts were housed within its walls. In the photo above, you can see the niches (those would have held statues) left over from the mission days.

Old stone and wood walls inside the mission. I believe inside this building is a small museum.

Old stone and wood walls inside the mission/Alamo. Inside this building is a small museum.

The stone work of the walls within and the wood give that old Texas feeling.

A cannon in the courtyard.

A cannon in the courtyard.

In the late 1790s and early 1800s, the population of those living within declined and the mission was left in the military’s hands.  The French (in Louisiana) and American forces posed threats to the Spanish in Mexico, so they moved troops into the mission grounds.

The Mission Bell

The Mission Bell

The Spanish troop that arrived came from Alamo de Parras. Over time the compound simply became called the Alamo. A large population of family members came with the troops. A need arose for a hospital which they placed in one of the mission buildings. It became the site of the first hospital in Texas.

Close up of a frieze from 1936 showing the story of the Alamo.

Close up of a frieze from 1936 showing the famed men from the battle at Alamo.

The rest of the story, of course is history, and thus came the slogan “Remember the Alamo.”

The colors of a desert garden.

The colors of a desert garden.

I visited in late spring and found many things blooming in the gardens.

A single bloom. Pretty to look at, but not so wise to eat.

A single bloom. Pretty to look at, but not so wise to eat.

An agave and cactus (prickly pear) garden.

An agave and cactus (prickly pear) garden.

Texas and the Alamo are located in hot and usually dry country. The cactus garden appeared quite happy in its Alamo environment.

A tree in the middle of the grounds.

A tree in the middle of the grounds.

A sculpted tree with trunk darken by rain.

A last glimpse at the historic Alamo.

A last glimpse at the historic Alamo.

Plan a visit and don’t forget your camera. You never know what might intrigue you.

Also don’t forget about other close-by missions around San Antonio, all easy to see in a day visit. Check out my blog Stone and Weathered Wood- Mission San Jose for a few photos from those missions.

If you’re a history buff, this city link offers more information on the history of the Alamo.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

Keep Your Eyes to the Florida Skies

Welcome to the Florida Mystery Writers Blog Hop and Sandy Parks‘ True Airspeed.

“Florida is a giant bug light for crazy people.” ~Phyllis Smallman, Sleuthfest 2014

It’s no surprise to any author living in Florida that some of the craziest stories we write are actually inspired by true events in our Sunshine State. Join us in exploring a different side of Florida than the travel bureau promotes with our first Blog Hop sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. READ Sandy’s blog about flying in Florida, comment, share your favorite stories, ENTER the contest to WIN a Kindle Paperwhite, and CLICK the links below to read another member’s view of crazy Florida.

Since I write stories full of action-adventure, mystery, and a quirky band of characters who legally steal big airplanes for a living, I chose to write about Florida from the perspective of people who fly in our skies. What do pilots and their passengers encounter living in this swampy, beach-lined, and lightning capital of the US, that they might not in other states? I asked that very question of two pilots at the Sun-N-Fun airshow last week.

T-6 Warbird

T-6 Warbird

Thom Richard, who races P-51 Precious Metal in the Reno Air Races and lives in Kissimmee, had a definitely unique Florida tale. He was flying his T-6 Warbird (similar to the one pictured above) to Marco Island at night. When he approached the airport, he was asked to do a low flyby down the runway. For anyone who flies a unique aircraft, this is not an unusual request. Aviation fans love to watch and hear the powerful (and loud) warbird aircraft. But this was at night, in the dark, when no one would be able to see much. He did as directed and executed a low flyby and came back and landed. After he taxied in, he was curious as to why they requested the flyby. Simple. It was the best way to get the twelve-foot saltwater crocodile off the runway! We have more than gators in Florida.

Thom Richard, Reno Air Race pilot of P-51 Precious Metal.

Thom Richard, Reno Air Race pilot of P-51 Precious Metal, at Sun-N-Fun 2014.

Florida Crocs and Gators can be found in the most unexpected places...like runways.

Florida Crocs and Gators can be found in the most unexpected places…like runways. (Nile croc photo from Wiki Commons/Leigh Bedford. Gator photo by Will Parks.)

Chuck Gardner works at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Texas, but has many hours in the Florida skies. He flies warbirds like the Stearman biplane (shown below), the T-6, or the famous P-51 Mustang. His favorite time for flying in Florida is March in an open cockpit. That time of year a low level flight over central Florida orchards brings the sweet sweet smell of orange blossoms wafting (rather blowing) into the cockpit. Sure hope he doesn’t have allergies.

Orangeblossomcollage

Stearman Biplane with the open cockpit makes a great way to smell the orange blossoms in Florida.

On the other hand, Chuck had a number of things were not so great about flying in Florida. There are the afternoon thunderstorms that are accompanied by lightning…lots of lightning. A few years ago a small tornado blew through the Sun-N-Fun airshow at Lakeland, overturning aircraft and tents. No injuries, but a lot of damage and shook-up fans. Mother nature has other very small, very annoying ways to cause problems flying in Florida that every driver here will understand…Love Bugs. Those two little black bugs that are stuck together and airborne. The front end of a car can turn black with bugs stuck to them, and so can the propellors and leading edges of an aircraft. Yuck. BIG, beautiful birds are another claim to fame for the state of Florida. Contact with one in the air or on the ground can cause quite a bit of damage to an aircraft. Chuck said frequently when taxiing out to fly, he has to rev his engines to clear stubborn Sandhill Cranes who refuse to move off the runway.

The Sandhill Crane can be curious and rather fearless, when it comes to cars and planes.

The Sandhill Crane can be curious and rather fearless, when it comes to cars and planes.

Last but not least, since I write about extreme characters who steal/repossess airplanes for a living (REPOSSESSED and coming soon OUTFOXED), I thought I’d mention that there are several people in Florida who have recently become well-known for a reality TV show on Discovery Channel called Airplane Repo. One of the stars is Mike Kennedy who lives in Orlando. He’d make a great character in a novel. Another is Ken Cage of IRG, who has part of his business, International Recovery & Remarketing Group, at the Orlando Executive Airport. It’s a strange world out there, folks, so pay your bills and they won’t take your airplane back.

Airplane Repo star Mike Kennedy and wife (center), Sandy (rt), Test pilot hubby Scott on left.

At 2014 Reno Air Races we ran into Airplane Repo star Mike Kennedy and wife (center), Sandy (rt), Test pilot hubby Scott (lt).

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll come back sometime to read other blog posts on aviation, travel locations, or simply to check out some of the fun photography and crazy stories.

Enter Now to Win a Kindle Paperwhite

Now for the good stuff. As part of this blog hop with other mystery/thriller/suspense writers, we are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Just click on the following link and follow the directions to sign up.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

No purchase is necessary. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. By submitting your entry, you agree to be entered into the participating authors’ email newsletter list. Your information will not be shared with anyone else, and you may unsubscribe at any time. Winner will be notified by email. Authors are not responsible for transmission failures, computer glitches or lost, late, damaged or returned email. Winner agrees for their name to be used in conjunction with the contest on FMWA and authors’ social media sites. U.S. Residents only due to postage constraints.

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To continue on this BLOG HOP, VISIT other Florida Mystery Writers, read they Florida stories, and WIN more prizes:

Victoria Allman, Gator Bites, http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog <http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog>
Miriam Auerbach, Bonkers in Boca, http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca <http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca>
Gregg E. Brickman, Crazy South Florida—How it got to be home, http://www.GreggEBrickman.com/blog.html
Diane Capri, Fishnado!, http://www.dianecapri.com/blog
Nancy J. Cohen, Characters Too Weird to Be True, http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
Joan Lipinsky Cochran, The Million Dollar Squatter: Crazy in the Land of Coconuts and Bagels, http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677 <http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677>
jd daniels He Did What? http://www.live-from-jd.com <http://www.live-from-jd.com/>
Joy Wallace Dickinson, “In Florida, It’s Great to Be a Cracker”, http://www.FindingJoyinFlorida.com
Dallas Gorhman, http://www.DallasGorham.com
Linda Gordon Hengerer Crazy Treasure on the Treasure Coast, http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/ <http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/>
Vicki Landis, Eavesdropping 101, http://www.victorialandis.com <http://www.victorialandis.com/>
Sandy Parks, Keep your eyes to the Florida skies, http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com <http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com>
Neil Plakcy, Moscow on the Intracoastal http://www.mahubooks.blogspot.com/
Johnny Ray Utilizing Google Plus Air to Facilitate Author Interviews, http://www.sirjohn.us
Joanna Campbell Slan, Honey, You’ll Never Guess What Rolled Up in the Surf http://www.joannaslan.blogspot.com <http://joannaslan.blogspot.com/

 

Meet the Military – Women in Aviation International Conference 2014

Women and men crowded into the 2014 Women in Aviation International 25th Conference. This international event gives pilots and aviation specialists the opportunity to interface with industry and meet those with similar careers and interests. Daughters of members also had their own day to visit and be introduced to the aviation field. Did you know only 6% of the pilots flying for airlines are women? Why? That’s a good question and one seriously being considered on many levels, but I can happily answer it is not for lack of talented, adventurous, intelligent women who want to fly, and the men I encountered at the convention were more than encouraging.  A Washington Times article mentions that the percentage of women flying in the military are 2% Air Force, 1% Marine Corps, 4% Navy, and there are 513 Army female helicopter pilots.

With a camera and limited time to meet, chat, and photograph attendees, I focused on pilots wearing a distinguishable type uniform…a military flight suit. While these Nomex (flame resistant) suits can look the same, they vary by the attached nametags and patches indicating the pilot’s service, command, and squadron.

Barely outside the registration door, I noticed a friendly United States Coast Guard group. They had white nametags with the familiar Coast Guard orange stripe across them. For more information on the aircraft they fly, check out these links about the MH-65 Dolphin Rescue helicopter, the T-6 Texan II, and the USCG C-130 “Hercules”. The Coast Guard pilots below come from Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii; Hitron-Jacksonville, Florida, and NAS Whiting Field Milton, Florida.

Left: LCDR Breanna Knutson USCG, MH-65 Dolphin pilot, LT Becki Fosha USCG, T-6 Instructor pilot, LTJG Staci Kronberg USCG, C-130 pilot, LCDR Ernie Gameng USCG, C-130 pilot & Avionics Upgrade Transition Team

Left: LCDR Breanna Knutson USCG, MH-65 Dolphin pilot;  LTJG Staci Kronberg USCG, C-130 pilot; LT Becki Fosha USCG, T-6 Instructor pilot; LCDR Ernie Gameng USCG, C-130 pilot & Avionics Upgrade Transition Team

The two pilots below, LTs Giuliano and Melick, were manning the Whirly Girls booth. LT Andrea Giuliano works in the United States Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron TWO FIVE, nick-named the “Island Knights.”  She flies the MH-60s and is transitioning to TH-57 (Bell 206) at the Heltraron Eight Squadron. LT Sarah Melic flew MH-60s at HSC-25 squadron based at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and now flies TH-57 Sea Ranger in the “Eightballers” squadron at NAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL.  LT Giuliano passed along this photo taken in Guam of the MH-60 and fellow females in the squadron.

LCDR Andrea Giuliano and LCDR Sarah Melick

LT Andrea Giuliano and LT Sarah Melick

Pilots from the Guam Squadron

Pilots from the Guam “Island Knights” Squadron

The Whirly Girls are “a support network for pilots and provide a variety of scholarships to women for helicopter training.” If Sarah and Andrea are an example of the members, then they are a supportive and friendly group. If interested in flying helicopters or making contacts, check the organization out at Whirly Girls.

MAJ Laura Nealon, U2 pilot/ T-38 Evaluator/U2 Instructor and MAJ Sarah Eccles, U2 pilot

MAJ Laura Nealon, U2 pilot/ T-38 Evaluator/U2 Instructor and MAJ Sarah Eccles, U2 pilot

The next stop was by the 99s booth (an organization of women pilots which promotes the advancement of aviation) where I met 99s and Air Force MAJs Sarah Eccles and Laura Nealon (pictured above). They fly the U2 Dragon Lady, a high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Both said they love their job and the unique aircraft. The U2 is the only current aircraft in the Air Force inventory that requires the wearing of a pressure suit when flying. For pilots who like a challenge, the U2 has “bicycle” gear and a support vehicle to assist in landings. Check out this Photo Gallery that shows many aspects related to flying the U2. Below is a closer look at their unit patch.

U2 Dragon Lady Patch

U2 Dragon Lady Patch

Also at the 99s booth, I met the current president Martha Phillips from the Ventura County chapter. She convinced me to join the 99s at last years convention by promising me members could use the 99s hut at the Sun-N-Fun fly-in to cool off and use the restroom. Needless to say, it was an easy sell. For more information on the Ninety-Nines formed back in 1929, check out their website.

MarthaSandyWAI2014-2

Sandy Parks, Spaceport 99s and President Martha Phillips, Ventura County 99s

Nagin Cox, an engineer at NASA JPL Propulsion Lab, gave several presentations at WAI. This one called “Hitting the Road on Mars” talked about the Curiosity rover. The vehicle, about the size of a Mini-Cooper, is two times larger than Mars rovers Opportunity or Spirit. A few interesting things from her talk were; she has her watch set to Mars time, we go to Mars every 26 months (closest window), and the biggest challenge we’ve had with Mars is how to look for life? The search helped to create the new field of Astrobiology.

Curiosity1

Nagin Cox – Presentation “Hitting the Road on Mars”

Dr. Kate Landdeck, a historian who has researched women pilots in the military, gave a presentation about the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). These women took over ferrying aircraft during World War II, when there was a shortage of male pilots in the US. Many believed women weren’t up to the task, but their numbers that made it through pilot training were equivalent to those of the males, and their accomplishments confirmed their success. After the war, the government played down their involvement (pretended they had never existed). Finally in the 1970s, they began to get attention and in 2010 they received Congressional Gold Medals. They had a float dedicated to them in the 2014 Rose Bowl Parade.

WASP signing books and booklets about their history.

WASP Bee, Millie, and Dawn signing books and booklets about their history for a younger generation of pilots.

WASP signing after history presentation.

WASP signing after history presentation with four of the attending WASP.

The old guard with the new.

The old guard with the new. Maj Ruth Meloeny, USAF Reserves C-17 Airdrop Instructor Pilot with WASP Dawn.

WASP Florence

WASP Florence

Hat with pins from WASP events.

Hat with pins from WASP events.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about the 99s, WAI, WASP, or flying opportunities for women in the military, make sure to click some of the links in this blog.

Blue skies,

Sandy

Baton Blog Hop

Book 1 in Hawker Inc Series. Winner of Daphne du Maurier Award, Maggie Suspense w/ Romantic Elements, HOLT Award of Merit.

Book 1 in Hawker Inc Series. Winner of Daphne du Maurier Award, Maggie Suspense w/ Romantic Elements, HOLT Award of Merit.

Delightful author JB Lynn of the Killer Chicks invited me to participate in the Baton Blog Hop. This “hop” is of interest to readers who enjoy mystery, thrillers, suspense, or romance, and works this way: I answer a few questions about my work in progress, and then pass the baton along to three other authors. Hopefully that will introduce you to new writers you might have never read before.

Before we start, I’d like to say a few things about JB Lynn who writes the humorous series about a neurotic Hitwoman. If you love to laugh and enjoy quirky characters, this is a series you should enjoy. I’ve also heard she has a dark thriller in her past published with Carina Press. I just added another of her books to my TBR pile.

Now to the questions about my current project. I’ve been working on a series called HAWKER, INC about a team who repossess high-end aircraft. When the rich don’t pay, someone has to take their toys away. What happens when you put an ex-military pilot who grew up in the family casino together with a conman on the run, a mechanic who paints her nails to match the country of operation, and a sexy Greek lawyer who has his own secret agenda? Then, of course, there is the mysterious boss that hides his identity from his crew. The first book in the series, REPOSSESSED, won two major national contests last year.

1. What am I working on? I’m editing OUTFOXED, book 2 in the Hawker, Inc series. This book is unique because it has become relevant because of the missing Malaysian airliner. OUTFOXED deals with the loss of a team member over a botched B737 airliner repossession and the team’s attempt to even the score. What could happen when a B737 goes missing and how is it possible? While the theme may revolve around aviation, I write for the characters (they make me do it). This book deals with a team that has been demoralized by the loss of one of their own. Each sees the death as failure on their part. Come along for a ride to four continents and find out if Jet, Gregori, Lenny and Roxy can pull off this caper and bring their team back together.

2. How does my work differ from others in this genre.

My characters are a bit quirkier than most in the action-adventure, thriller genre. I take suspense and action-adventure, and combine it with touches of humor and personal relationships. Jet is a loner who moves at her own fast pace. Her mother runs a fly-in casino with a dirt strip near Vegas. Gregori, is a legal eagle from an uber wealthy Greek family. He has missing years in his background that reveal he does a lot more than sit behind a desk. Roxy is a female mechanic who believes in only being the best. She is following in her dad’s footsteps. Lenny, a conman, is a displaced New Yorker not able to go home because he stepped on the “boys” toes while extracting Roxy from the midst of trouble. He does the teams groundwork and snooping for the repo team and can usually be counted on to get them into trouble.

3. Why do I write what I do?

First, I love to tell stories and to share them with others. That means putting the story on paper (or digital these days). Take that and mix it with a family who eats, sleeps, and breathes aviation. Visit my website if you’d like to see more details on my dad, hubby, brother, niece, son, and me who are involved in aviation. I flew as a kid with my dad in light airplanes and later learned to fly at Edwards AFB while my husband was going through test pilot school. Yeah,  I only fly puddle jumpers, but I get to live vicariously through the other “s@#t-hot” pilots in the family.

4. How does your writing process work?

My best answer to this is it changes with time, topic, and genre. The one overall process I try to stick with is a relatively thorough plot and character arc. I don’t consider myself a “seat of the pants” writer because my topics necessitate research for topic and locations. There are times, though, when I think I should have done a better job plotting details, and others when it seems I plotted things too tightly and had to loosen up to let my characters breathe. One thing I’ve learned over many years of writing, is that the process is fluid. As a writer, you’ll get better at some things and see where you need to improve on others. That means a tweaking of how you write. My biggest wish…I had more of the journalism touch and could write faster.

More great authors to check out: These authors will be posting next Monday on March 24th.

Enjoy romantic suspense and some inspiration with author Connie Mann. As the blogger at Busy Women~ Big Dreams and a boat captain (sounds wonderfully adventurous), Mann’s Angel Falls is currently #5 on Amazon’s Christian Suspense Romance Bestseller list. Join Regina and Brooks as they protect a young orphan from killers, while struggling to overcome problems from their own troubled pasts. Connie is a serious writer who has been honing her craft to great results. She’s an enjoyable, gracious lady, and a fellow Floridian.

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Hold on for a ride with romantic thrillers from Vanessa Kier and her Surgical Strike Unit. Vanessa is writer friend from the Kiss of Death Chapter. This chapter of writers goes on yearly trips to killer locations all over the US. We’ve been to the CIA, FBI, military installations, the State Department, FEMA underground shelters, fire and police departments, bomb squads (blowing up things was fun!), and have even met the LA mounted police. She has lots of great background to have written the six books in this series about a private special ops group. Visit Vanessa next week at her Facebook page or website.

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Public health nurse, Beverley Bateman, writes murder, mystery, medical thrillers, and romantic suspense. Imagine finding yourself along on a Caribbean cruise with no memory and someone trying to kill you. That’s the premise of Beverley’s latest book “A Cruise to Remember.” Another of my Kiss of Death Chapter mates, Beverley works as hard for the chapter as she does on her writing. Check out her blogspot next Monday to learn more about her books and writing.

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That’s it for the Baton Blog Hop. Please stop by and check out these authors and I welcome any suggestions of authors you love to read.

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