Want two free books? Sign up for my newsletter and get Your Free Books!Pick your free books!

Breaking My Sound Barrier

I do miss the wonder and excitement, that sense of finding out our limitations—then trying to push past them. 

Earthrise from the moon, 1965

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been writing instead of reading (with much pausing for Christmas shopping). I set a goal to get 35,000 words written by the 15th. Half a book is, for me, kind of like breaking the sound barrier. If I can to that, then I can usually tell where it’s going and if I think I can finish it. Or if it needs more simmering and basting. At this point, the jury—and the muse—are still out. 

This particular project is requiring a lot of research and consultation with experts. I think I’ve got it figured out and then I realize I don’t. The facts keep messing with my fiction more than usual. Let’s face it, I’m much better at making up science than actually knowing it.

But the side benefit from my “faced with facts” moments is all the interesting things I’m learning. Okay, I think I’m learning. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the late ’40s and early ’50s and ending up in the early ’60s accidentally. Lol

As always, this adventure in research started with a tiny little flicker of an idea. A “what if?” And I started following a winding trail. And discovering how truly clueless I was when I was 13. Lol

Without giving too much away, because I need more facts AND words, my journey began in the late ’40s when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. No, I wasn’t born then. My cluelessness comes later. I followed some crumbs to the early to middle ’50s and then got sucked into the early space program. Yeah, that’s where I was clueless.

I have memories of the space program. I remember them hauling televisions into our classroom so we could watch launches. I was 13 when Apollo 8 happened! I mean, I should know more about that, shouldn’t I? 

But I didn’t! Thirteen is a tough age for a girl, but still…so my sister recommended I get Rocket Men by Robert Kurson, I caught a cold and was trapped at home, and thought, I should read it now, while I’m stuck.

I had no idea. Seriously, I had no clue what a big deal the Apollo 8 flight was. I knew about Jim Lovell because of Apollo 13, but that’s all I knew.

So embarrassing!

So I read the book and watched First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8. And then I did some reading into test pilots during that time and other flights. I’ve also watched The Right Stuff, and I have some other programs on my watch list, just because not because it is helping me with my writing project but because it is all so dang interesting.  

Another interesting sidestep in my research was The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Pancho Barnes was one of the most colorful female pilots in history. Just the story of how she got the nickname Pancho is worth watching the documentary. She was a socialite, a minister’s wife, pilot, test pilot, stunt pilot, and so much more. Her story is tied in with Muroc/Edwards Air Force Base because she ran a guest ranch where the test pilots came to destress. It burned down in 1952, but wow, it must have been an interesting place. (I have to say, the way it is depicted in The Right Stuff is different from the documentary, but she did offer a free steak to the first man to break the sound barrier.)

And speaking of the actual sound barrier, it’s hard to imagine now, but back then they didn’t know breaking it would cause a boom. As a little kid, I can remember looking up when a plane would pass over with that boom. Now I’m trying to remember the last time I heard a boom in the sky. 

It feels like we spend more time looking down at our phones than at the sky or the distant moon. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders were the first men to circumvent the moon, to see it up close. While I was watching First to the Moon, they played real footage and radio transmissions from their first moments and and showed the images they took. They talked about how it changed their perspective to see the whole world from space. 

There are a lot of things about that time that I wouldn’t want to go back and experience again (13 being one of them), but I do miss the…wonder and excitement. That sense of finding out our limitations—then trying to push past them. 

I’m going to try to hang on to that feeling as I work on this book, because it is pushing back hard. Lol 

Do you have a sound barrier you need to break and what do you plan to do about it in 2020? (Still can’t believe I’m writing that date!)

Perilously yours,

Pauline

cover art

Speaking of breaking barriers, how about some time travel?

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close