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SKYBIRD:
Dale Brown’s Ops Report
August 2003
Copyright © 2003, TDPI

POST-STRIKE ANALYSIS:

Replies to Reader Mail ( readermail@megafortress.com)

In the last newsletter I answered a lot of reader mail and made comments along the way. I enjoyed doing that--and judging by the sudden jump in the number of e-mails I receive each day (almost two dozen per day) I think maybe you like that too.

I enjoy doing commentary on the issues of the day, and I'll continue to do that too, but you readers seem to be demanding replies, so here goes:

28 July 2003

Hello Dale Brown,

a lot of greetings from Germany to you. Five Minutes age i finished Wings of Fire. One of your best books I think. Be sure, I know them all....

Your biggest fan from Germany

Danke!

28 July 2003

Mr. Brown; First allow me to say a few things about me. I am former Navy ex-sub, I have worked with various specops persons as well. I have worked with various other branches of the service as well. As much as I enjoy Tom Clancey and his books (especially the parts that no one out side the service is supposed to know). I have to admit yours are right on par with every other writter that write about the military. However the feelings you give to your charecters the way the think, the reasons they do what they do. I know them all by sight, be it diffrent names, Mac, the commanding officer I had in Lebonon. Harold Briggs, the Security watch dog we had, You have given all of these people so much of the people I have served with in many places overseas that not only can I see there faces I can hear there voices. In the places of where Clancey scares the hell out of me, You Bring me home to the friends I have not seen in many years and some of the ones I will never see again. Thanks for the ride. Thanks for the memories PLEASE KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK.

Respectfully

Letters like this really make my day! Thanks!

28 July 2003

G’day from Sydney Australia Dale,

Love your books, read every one of them except for your latest and I am about to buy that one. I just found your website and listened to the audio of your interview at the Writers Round Table and heard your comments on the feedback you were getting about the killing off of Wendy. Unfortunately, I agree with them; I thought killing off Bradley was bad enough-but that won’t stop me from buying your books (WHILEVER PATRICK IS IN THEM). No, not true. I understand you need to juice this up and characters need to come and go to keep the interest going. Anyway, I thought I was the only one to miss Wendy.

Keep up the good work and the Mega Fortress.

Regards,

The death of Wendy Tork McLanahan and to a somewhat lesser extent Paul McLanahan really set off a s**t storm, if I may be so crude. As the reader above suggests, it surpassed the letters and e-mails after the death of Brad Elliott.

I certainly understand that readers get comfortable with good characters, especially heroic ones. But I subscribe to the saying attributed to Ernest Hemingway: "A courageous writer kills all his darlings." The story (and future stories) takes precedence over any character.

There will be other Brads and Wendys, I guarantee it.

24 July 2003

Now Hear This. A lot of us old SAC weenies are counting on you, Capt. brown, to insure that the movie makers don't turn your books into drivel.

Amen! I think one reason you haven't seen any of my stories on the big screen is that I'm insisting on a certain level of creative control that is probably turning a lot of directors and writers off.

I fully understand that selling the movie rights to a novel means relinquishing the shape and tone of the story to a very large extent; I also realize that acquiring the rights gives creative license to a lot of other very creative persons.

But the one common denominator between author, editor, publisher, screenwriter, producer, actor, and director is "The Story." The Story takes precedence over everything. We are slaves to The Story--at least, we're supposed to be so.

When a producer buys the visual media rights to a novel, he or she is buying the right to produce The Story in another medium, such as film or TV. Theoretically, The Story should stay the same. But that's not often the case. Why?

The medium always shapes The Story, so everyone must accept some change to make The Story fit within the constraints of the medium. Motion pictures are visual, not cerebral; motion pictures exist in a finite time span; motion pictures usually structure The Story in a very specific, deliberate, predictable manner--the structure is classical, dating back to ancient Greek tragedies. Novels have the luxury of almost unlimited time, space, imagery, and structure. Therefore, a motion picture of The Story will by its nature be different than a novel version of The Story.

But the main reason for change is that the filmmaker's vision is different. No two people see The Story in the same way. Obviously everyone wants their own perspective and vision to be the one that gets portrayed, so whoever acquires or retains ultimate creative control is the one who gets to decide.

It comes down to the "Golden Rule:" whoever has the gold, rules.

I like working in Hollywood. Yes, it can be frustrating: sometimes it seems that the person making all the decisions is a kid who hasn't written anything except maybe a twenty-page term paper in college; and sometimes the person calling the shots doesn't care about The Story, but cares more about making a profit.

But Hollywood has plenty of two ingredients that make it exciting: creativity and money. Give The Story to a couple guys who have the right vision, and they look at it from an entirely new perspective and give The Story a whole new life. That's exciting. Create a character that ignites the imagination of an actor or director, and watch them transform your image of a character into a real-live breathing walking person--that's exciting.

And I hate to be so ordinary, so human--but the money is pretty darn good in Hollywood. They pay a lot of money for good ideas. They pay even more for absolute creative control. Producers will also pay a lot for a "franchise," a series of stories, characters, and plots that already have lots of readers attached. Risk is greatly reduced if a producer can show that an author has many millions of readers over several years--and risk reduction (theoretically) equals profits.

I defer to the filmmaker to determine how he interprets and presents The Story--but I don't have to allow The Story to change. That's my job as The Story's creator. But every child must leave the house, strike out on his or her own, and become something else, sometimes very different than what the parent envisioned. Sometimes the child hooks up to a loser and his or her future suffers for it. With luck, your child is taught or inspired by a genius, and his or her future is magically changed for the better. Sometimes the transformation is good, sometimes it's bad. But the transformation will happen.

Will a movie version of my books ever be made? I'm plugging away at making it happen every day.

Will a movie version be better than the book itself? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what the filmmakers see as the story in The Story.

I'll keep everyone informed on the progress of the motion picture or TV projects. But writing novels is my first and highest priority.

What do you think? I have my own ideas on who should produce, direct, write, and star. What are some of your choices? What are some of your favorite movies that you think did the book proud? Which of my books do you think should be the first to be produced? Do you like motion pictures, straight-to-video, a TV series, a mini-series, or a made-for-TV movie?

22 July 2003

I just finished reading Wings Of Fire and I wanted to say that I enjoyed it completly. I do have a suggestion, it seems that for the first time I was lost in too much info. I like the technical info but It seems that they run on and on. I like to take a breath and see some emotion and action. Sometimes the techy stuff drones on and slows down the movie going on in one's imagination. I'am picturing an amazing fight scene and then some weapon description is too long and I must recapture the scene in my mind.

With all due respect, I am generally unapologetic about how much technical information goes into my novels. I personally like the techie stuff; I think it's an important part of each book; and I do a lot of research to make sure I have the latest information. I'll probably always have lots of it in there.

But my goal is to make sure the description of the technology doesn't interfere with the story. I'm being lazy and doing my readers a disservice if I have to stop the story to describe some piece of hardware.

The second thing is the proofing. In some books it is ok since you are just reading info and not establishing a scene in your mind. Your books take so much of one's mind, letting it work to its fullest potential, typos screw it up. It stops the readers dead in thier track and they must press pause on their imagination and figure it out. One mis placed number, symbol, or designation can quickly alter the movie going on in one's imagination.

Typo control is an ongoing battle. It seems no matter how high-tech we go in creating and editing documents, typos slip through. Between me, my editor Henry Ferris, and his staff of copy editors at Morrow, we're on the lookout.

Please point them out for us and we'll be sure the corrections are made in future editions...

Once again thank you for writing such good books and looking into the future and giving a glimpse into what could be. I do not mean to criticize just to suggest. Critics are people who can not do the things they criticize well enough so they try to tear down those who can.

Book-buyers have earned the right to criticize, and I consider it a good thing when readers write in with their comments--if you didn't care, you probably wouldn't bother to write. Thanks!

21 July 2003

i was recently reading the book sky masters. I assume that mr. brown strives for realism but in the end of the book he describes a crew ejecting from a B-1. How he described the pilot ejecting could not happen if the oso/dso were to climb out of there seat and try to eject the Plt/Coplt he would have been burned to death or knocked out. I work on the ejection seats at ***** AFB on the B-1 thats how i know this. i could provide more detail if needed.

My reply:

I would very much like you to provide more detail. I want to be sure I get it right the next time.

FYI, I'm forwarding this request to your public affairs folks. I want to get the information, but I want to be sure they know about my request. Your detailed response about the ejection seat stuff should be cleared through them before you send it on to me.

Thanks very much for bringing this to my attention.

GBA, Dale Brown

The reply from Wing Public Affairs:

Mr. Brown,

Thanks for your integrity and for helping to keep our young troops out of trouble. It's always nice to work with someone who knows the rules and plays by them. We'll contact ***** and make sure he gives you cleared info.

Believe me, the LAST thing I want to do is discourage ANYONE from passing along interesting, factual, real-life, personal, or important information from the field. I welcome it. I live for it. It enhances a story like nothing else.

However…

Getting information from the military involves a lot of respect and trust. Win the military's trust, and they are more than happy to share information (nobody loves talking about the job, the hardware, and their experiences--good or bad--more than soldiers). Lose their trust, and you can be shut out forever--or at least until a new public affairs officer takes charge.

After years of asking for information, I've learned the simple procedure of getting the Public Affairs offices (from the Pentagon all the way down to the unit level) involved early and closely on any information request. It doesn't matter from whom the request originates, either from myself or from the field: the request and the information MUST go through Public Affairs or else it's unauthorized dissemination of information.

A lot of new soldiers don't know this. Be sure you go through your unit's public affairs office or your unit commander or first sergeant before sending any information, even if it's innocent-sounding information via e-mail that you are positive is not classified in any way. They'll clear it and make sure you're not accidentally sending classified or restricted data.

As I said, I don't want to discourage anyone from sending or providing information, and I hope you don't think that it's not worth the hassle or the visibility to go to your first shirt and ask if it's OK to straighten out an author on his knowledge of the B-1B Lancer's crew emergency escape system. I appreciate the information very much, and I'm more than happy to give credit in the book to anyone who helps me on a project.

It may sound a little selfish, but my advice is: don't be afraid to ask. Part of your commander, first sergeant, or Public Affairs office's job is to provide guidance on important issues like this. You are demonstrating that you are being heads-up and aware by asking first before volunteering information, and it also shows that you are reading good stuff and that you care enough about your specialty and the service by wanting to correct the author. If I was your boss, I would consider is a favorable and professional thing, and I would be happy to help get you clearance to provide factual information.

You shouldn't receive any negative attention by simply asking the question--if you do, your boss is probably a butthead and you should be watching your six.

21 July 2003

G'Day Dale,

Intrigued at the robot planes as I work in an area where such devices are used and find that the failure rate can be very high. the idea of two robots doing a re-arm in flight is not a pretty sight!

Also lead time in projects like a deformable structure is far longer than anything you have allowed even with "John Masters" in command, usually these people once outside the lab need guide rails to wipe ther own Butts!!

Lead time in my world is MUCH shorter, and failure rates are much lower!

20 July 2003

MR Brown

I have been privelidged to have read all your books. some of them even a couple times! Utterly fantastic readding! the ole brown dawg just gotta be my favorite! thank you for writing these books as they have given me countless pleasure readding hours! I have just Finished the lasest one Air Battle Force...... excellent!!! I started it and just couldn't put it down till i finished , which brings me to my complaint....... Ya gonna hafta just start writing them books faster!!! Man your last one just came out in Feb and we readers are gonna hafta wait for a year till the next one comes out! Not Fair!! In closing just wanna say i enjoy all your books. thank you again. Also could you give me some authors of books like yours? I just love readding high tech stuff. Thanks again....Quit readdin this email and pick up the pen!

A reader from Canada

If there is a downside to being an author--other than sitting in the office on a beautiful morning, hearing the boats out on Lake Tahoe, and wishing I was out there too--is that I don't get to read as often as I once did. So what did I used to read and what would I recommend others to read?

The original techno-thriller author was, of course, H.G. Wells. Aside from the commentaries on class and society, his scientific and technical thinking was brilliant, and his works, especially "The Island of Dr. Moreau" and "War of the Worlds," are among my favorites to this day. In the same way, Arthur C. Clarke is still one of my favorites--again, get past his screeching social cynicism and enjoy the stories.

For pure adventure, nothing compares to Robert Louis Stevenson. "Treasure Island" and "Kidnapped" are still two of my favorites, ever since I first read them as a kid.

For more modern military techno-thrillers, I recommend Stephen Coonts' classic (and the book that got me off my duff to publish my first novel) "Flight of the Intruder" and, for a surprising and enjoyable change of pace, "Saucer;" Richard Herman Jr.'s "Power Curve" and his classic "The Warbirds;" James H. Cobb's "Choosers of the Slain" and "Sea Strike;" and the earlier works of Tom Clancy, especially "Red Storm Rising."

If I was going to emulate one artist, it would definitely be author/producer Michael Crichton. His first novel "The Andromeda Strain" is still a classic and is an incredibly chilling read despite the loads of unabashed jargon and medical-technical detail. Name any science/technology-based thriller in recent years in print or in movie theaters and Crichton's name is probably on it, from "Jurassic Park" to "Disclosure" and even TV shows like "ER."

16 July 2003

I just finished Fatal Terrain in paperback. What a great book! I especially like the humanizing of the Chinese Admiral Sun and the quotes from The Art of War. They were very apt. I read all your books that I can find but I am a late comer, so some of them I find rummage sales, library sales and garage sales. I really enjoy your work.

I am a 73 year old, female and avid fan of your books. I read a lot of books about war and about aviation. I like keeping up with the new planes, weapons, etc. When I read a newspaper I then know exactly what they are talking about.

I hope you continue to write for many more years. Maybe I'll be around to read all of your books.

Here's to many, many more years of life, love, happiness, and health to both of us! Thanks!

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Air Battle Force (MAY 2003)

Maverick Pilot Patrick McLanahan Takes aerial warfare into unknown territory in a heart racing new adventure.

Still smarting from recent losses, the brilliant but unpredictable former USAF Major General is accepted back into the fold and assigned a simple task: devise and build the air combat unit of the future. McLanahan's answer: the Air Battle Force - a rapid-response team of elite commandos protected by state-of-the-art body armour and supported by an armada of anmanned planes.

His idea is soon put to the test when the oil rich Republic of Turkmenistan becomes a battleground between Taliban insurgents, former Soviet overlords, Iranian opportunists and American oil companies and politicians. But can a handful of commandos half a world away, aided by an unproven force of robot warplanes, fight and win a war in which semingly everyone - even 'friendly' forces at home - want them to fail?

'Whe a former pilot turns his hand to thrillers you can take their authenticity for granted. His writing is exceptional and the dialogue, plots and characters are first-class... far too good to be missed.'
--Sunday Mirror

‘Dale Brown is a superb storyteller’
--WASHINGTON POST

‘Dale Brown is the best military adventure writer in the country’
--CLIVE CUSSLER

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