Years ago, when I was a starving, young newspaper reporter, I decided to write a story on parachuting — so that I could get my editor to foot the bill for the experience. The first sign that this might not have been the smartest move came during our pre-jump training class, when I felt an itch on my head and scratched it.(Turns out I had inadvertently fondled a yellow jacket, and it responded by peppering my right pinky and its adjoining digit with multiple stings.) As the redness and swelling rapidly advanced toward my wrist, we finished the class and suited up for the flight.
The parachuting school provided each of us with a spiffy looking white jump suit and a pair of black army boots. We wore these over our clothes, and I thought they made us look quite sharp. So, I thought, did the photographer who had tagged along to document my bravery, because he suddenly began snapping pictures at a furious pace. Later, I learned he had been memorializing a group of devil-may-care co-eds, whose jumpsuits fit far more invitingly than mine.
Within no time, we were packed, like sardines, into a little prop plane which quickly rose to about 3,500 feet and began flying in a fixed pattern above our designated drop zone. Below, a patchwork of green, brown and gold postage stamps showed fields in various stages of pre-harvest splendor. As we crouched in the belly of the beast, awaiting our turn to jump, I learned an important fact about army boots: they hurt, especially when bent in a single position for a prolonged period. This fact became increasingly obvious with each passing moment, as the eleven other skydivers on board all got the nod. I waited for nearly an hour, groaning silently to myself, while the photographer trained his camera on me, capturing every grimace and bead of sweat to cross my face.
When my turn finally came, I eagerly stepped up to the open door and latched my jump cord to the static line. I was giddy to jump and escape any more foot pain. By now, the sun was setting and long shadows stretched across the jump zone. As I pushed away from the plane, curiosity got the better of me. Instead of keeping my arms spread wide and looking up at the departing vehicle, thereby remaining steady and ‘belly down,’ I glanced downward to see where I was going. I also pulled in my right arm. Those two actions caused me to spin like a top just before the parachute deployed. (I had just executed a perfect ‘dangling telephone’ maneuver, one of the many parachuting mistakes our instructor had warned us about.)
I was now the parachuting equivalent of a phone receiver dangling at the end of a tightly twisted cord. Once the chute had fully deployed, the unwinding began. When it ended, I had no idea where the jump zone, and its giant bull’s eye had gone. Fortunately, the trainer began shouting instructions to me over a megaphone, and I was able to successfully turn the chute in his direction. My chute had continued its descent all the while, and I no longer had enough altitude left to make it safely back. At the last moment, I realized this and pulled down on directional cords, stopping the parachute dead in its tracks. That’s how everything but me ended up foisted on the line of trees bordering the jump zone. (It made a great picture, me standing there with the chute draped over the tree behind me. Had I waited a bit longer, I would have been impaled on that tree, like a giant, white marshmallow.) The experience, however fraught with danger, proved exhilarating beyond my wildest hopes.
I share this story with you now, because of how closely it approximates the experience of being a self-published author in this digital age. We authors assemble our own planes, ride them up to 3,500 feet, suffer in uncomfortable, hawker’s shoes, and eventually, take a mighty leap of faith. We learn as we go, fumbling along as we strive to avoid ending up impaled on the branches of obscurity. Take pity on us, dear reader, and remember, we do it all in an effort to reach, and connect, with you.
I am a single, Baltimore, MD – based writer, marketer, former journalist, and father of one, who has eclectic interests, a passion for social justice and an insatiable thirst for good science fiction. After you read my books, please drop me a line and let me know what you think of them. I look forward to it.