Most authors have someone they credit for encouraging them to pursue their writing. For me, this came at a very early age. I was 9 years old and an avid reader. I'd just finished reading a book I enjoyed so much, I couldn't let it go. I thought, what if I re-wrote it my own way? I sat down at the electric typewriter (I'm really dating myself here...) in my dad's home office and pounded out an eight page "book." I remember making a cover out of red construction paper and securing the pages with pink yarn tied into bows.
After it was finished, I gave it to my dad to read. He was forever writing poetry, so he seemed the logical choice. I'll never forget the way his eyes lit and the wide smile on his face as he praised my work. He further validated it by suggesting we submit the story to a magazine. I loved writing it and knew it was something I wanted to do again, but my dad's approval cemented it for me. I was only 9, but I was a writer. Someday, I would be a real one.
It took a long time for that day to come. As I grew, so did my self-doubt. I told myself I wasn't good enough and that I needed to focus on something I could make a living doing. Still, the urge to write burned inside of me, popping up in the form of daydreams of what I'd rather be doing, compared to whatever occupied me at the time. I became good at burying what had once been a hugely important goal...and even better at chalking it up to a silly dream.
Worse, the one person who encouraged me and believed in me from so early on was no longer with me. I was just 23 years old when my dad died. He had been in the process of pursuing publication of his own work, but never got to see it in print. I couldn't let that happen to me. Equally important, I couldn't let that happen to me for him. One way or another, I was going to make it happen. And I finally did.
Throw the Key is as close to my heart as stories come. Though it's been altered for ease of reading and to fit the storyline, the conversation in the book between the character, Eric, and air traffic control is very real. It was taken from a transcript of the plane crash that killed my dad.
It's fair to wonder why I would write about such a thing. It was definitely heart-wrenching and at times, I questioned myself. The accident happened over twenty years ago and not a day has passed that I haven't thought about it in some capacity. It's a huge part of my memory of him - he loved flying that plane, regardless of how it ended - and I chose this way to honor him, his much grieved absence, his influence, and his connection to my writing.
My dad never got the chance to read anything I've written as an adult. He wasn't there to walk me down the aisle when I got married. He never got to know his grandchildren. If he could come back now, I'd probably seem like a stranger to him, so much has changed since I last saw him.
Still, he very much lives on in my memory and my heart. If he hadn't encouraged me when I was a very young, aspiring writer, I may never have pursued my passion - our shared passion. I can think of no better way to thank him than the dedication of this book.
Date Published: 10/06/18
"Lock the doors and windows...don't talk to anyone...keep the kids with you."
Jenna Bradley knows she needs to be afraid, she just doesn't know what she should be afraid of. An evening phone call from her husband, Eric, rattles her to the core. "I'm coming to get you and the kids. We have to go away for a while."
No explanation, just a few orders laced in panic.
Jenna can only assume that as a reporter, Eric has exposed the wrong people. It’s only a guess. The distance between them grows every day, Eric living his life, Jenna living hers. She doesn’t know what he’s been working on any more than she knows where he went that morning. If only the gunmen holding her and her children hostage believed that.
Eric has the answers Jenna seeks, but when the engine of his private plane stalls over Lake Michigan, his desperation to get home and whisk his family to safety takes a back seat to a seemingly futile struggle to survive.
Federal inmate, Kurt McElroy has answers too, but heavy prison monitoring prevents him from sending a clear warning, not to mention getting the help he needs. The private prison he’s been contracted to is as corrupt as they come, but that corruption reaches beyond the prison walls to officials with everything to lose.
Jenna fears it's her family that will lose, namely their lives. The clock is ticking. The gunmen are growing restless. Can she find an escape before it's too late?
A shake of the aircraft jerked Eric from his thoughts.
The engine sputtered.
He glanced at the gages. His RPM was dropping.
His seat rattled before the engine silenced.
Eric reached for the overhead panel, flipped the ignition knob to its original position and then back to start. Nothing happened.
He flipped on his auxiliary power, watched the gauges, and tried to start the engine again. His fuel level had dropped dangerously low. It didn't make sense. Despite his rush, he had topped off both fuel tanks before leaving Traverse City.
He pulled up on the yoke to maintain altitude, switched fuel tanks and tried to start the plane again. The engine stammered and slowly came to life.
But only for a moment, not long enough to feel the relief.
Eric drifted through the air in eerie silence, thousands of feet above the water. Now what? His threw his hand to the overhead panel and desperately cranked on the knob, but no matter how many times he tried, he couldn’t restart the engine.
He hit the yoke with his fist.
Sweat beaded on his forehead. He couldn’t think about that, had to focus on the plane. He knew what to do. He’d logged thousands of flight hours. A lifeless engine didn’t have to be a death sentence. He could travel a long distance just by gliding.
Eric searched the instrument panel for his altitude. Eight thousand feet. Rule of thumb, multiply altitude by five to determine minimum gliding distance.
He’d make it at least 40,000 feet before the plane came down. About eight miles.
Eric gawked at the horizon, the moisture sucked from his mouth as if a dental vacuum lay inside. A flash of lightening streaked in the distance.
He was at least twelve miles from shore.
About the Author
Christine Barfknecht has a passion or weaving the darkest bits of the human psyche into page-turning fiction. She is the author of Apple of My Eye and the upcoming The Man I Knew. She lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, children, and pets.