before I wrote my first book, I adored telling tales. As a child,
the only thing I liked more than daydreaming was an audience. But
instead of writing down stories, I drew pictures. I was a bit of
an art prodigy, and even had a drawing put in a museum in NY when
I was three, but the moment I glimpsed the Apollo space launches
on TV, I tossed aside my budding art career to pursue flying. Not
only did this break my art teachers' hearts, it sparked a life-long
war for dominance between my left-brain (the side said to control
logic) and my right-brain (the artistic, thinky-feely lobe). It's
the only way I can explain how I somehow ended up as a 747 pilot
who writes romantic fiction.
eighteen, I set out to live the stories I'd only imagined, and entered
the United States Air Force Academy as a member of the third class
in history to include women. Looking back on it, it was much nicer
being in the third wave of women pioneers at the service academies
rather than the first of the female graduates -- without having
to suffer the media attention, I still got to see all the excitement,
such as the last all-male class graduating in 1979 and then the
first women graduating in 1980. By the time, I graduated from the
"Blue Zoo" in 1982, women were such a staple of the place
that they'd even finally gotten rid of the urinals in the women's
bathrooms! (On the downside, we had to find new flowerpots for our
After coming to terms with the grim discovery
that I lacked the gene necessary to comprehend advanced calculus,
I graduated USAFA as a second lieutenant and went on to USAF jet
pilot training at Laughlin AFB on the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas,
where the only math required could be done with my gloved fingers.
(Ask any pilot -- the necessity to be good in math is a myth.) I
did well enough in pilot training to earn a Fighter-Attack-Reconnaissance
rating (FAR) but due to body parts beyond my control, I was not
allowed to fly fighter craft. Thus, I ended up as one of the few
women handed a flying instructor assignment after pilot training.
I taught students from many different countries, including Jordan
and Ecuador, who went on to fly the fighter jets I wasn't allowed
to fly, but it was a great experience and lots of responsibility
for a young lieutenant.
years later, I wangled my way into an awesome assignment at Mather
AFB, Sacramento, Ca, flying T-43s, which are Boeing 737s. It turned
out that the USAF had contracted United Airlines to give us our
annual emergency procedures training in their simulators at the
UAL training center in Denver, Colorado. One night, the instructor
on loan from UAL handed me an application and asked me to fill it
out, as I was due to get out of the Air Force that year.
The timing was perfect! United was hiring
like mad, and this time I did get to pioneer, as one of the very
first female B747 flight engineers flying overseas. Yeesh, was that
ever interesting! You'd think women were new to aviation the way
some people acted, particularly those in foreign countries. I remember
doing a walk-around inspection of the aircraft one day in Manila
and having a fascinated, machine-gun-toting guard follow me all
around the plane, while I prayed he didn't pull the trigger in his
utter shock at seeing a woman pilot on the tarmac. After a couple
of years of flying as an engineer, I went on to pilot B-737s and
eventually B-747-400 jumbos, the aircraft I fly currently. Which
of course meant even more pioneering...in an unexpected way: flying
pregnant! Both of my children have at least seventy hours flying
experience in-utero. (And, yes, they kicked the hardest when I was
landing -- the prenatal version of, "Are we there yet?")
my years with United, I've landed in typhoons at 4 am body-clock
time in Taipei; I've flown over Iceland and Greenland, the Aleutians,
Russia, landed in Fiji when we didn't have enough gas to make it
to Sydney, and flew during the tense times in the wake of 9-11.
I've done a lot, seen a lot, and now I put those experiences into
the books I write, thanks to my right brain finally kicking my left
brain into submission after all those years in a technical profession.
I began writing in 1997, and sold my first
two books in 1999. My debut novel, the historical time travel
ONCE A PIRATE sold in a bidding war and went back to press within
days of its official release. My second book, THE STAR KING, a 2001
RITA finalist (the "Oscar" of romantic fiction), blew apart age and species
barriers when it paired a 43-year-old heroine with a very sexy alien.
In 2000, I was featured on the TV show Extra! along with Nora Roberts.
Of all the things I've done in my life, the most surreal moment
was seeing Leeza Gibbons holding my book in her hands.
Since then, my books have made bestseller lists and have won many awards, including the RITA (for my novel CONTACT). When not traveling, I'm happy being a homebody in my house amongst the towering oaks in the eastern suburbs of Sacramento, California with my family: two teenagers, our Border Collie, a Maine Coon cat and her three offspring, two snakes, a twelve-foot python (loose in the house), several bad-tempered attack dogs, Manfred our 6 foot 8, 345 pound body guard and former Albanian prison guard fired for using excessive force, and his wife Frieda, our housekeeper, a retired circus performer/knife thrower prone to acute bouts of PMS. (Okay, kidding about the python and the attack dogs, the body guard, and the housekeeper, but the rest is true!)
So, whether it's writing, flying, or mom-ing, I'm grateful for the diversity of my life, and the
adventures I've had, and continue to have, because I love weaving
those experiences into my stories. And whether it's a swashbuckling
time travel, an adventure to the farthest reaches of the galaxy,
or a humorous contemporary, I promise that my books will steal you
away from the chaos of everyday life.
See more photos, including one
from the cockpit.