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space program

The Trip

With astronaut Brian Duffy

Shortly after I completed First Report, I knew it was time for a holiday. After six months of intense research and writing, it was time for a reset! No sooner did a finish my last blog post than I found myself on Expedia booking a trip to Tampa, Florida. While I love the ocean, I’ve never been someone that can plant themselves on a beach all day looking longingly at the horizon for the answers to life. No, I need a holiday that inspires me (I also have family in the region that I was looking forward to visiting).

Suffice to say I found plenty of inspiration with my visit to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. This is a museum that I’ve been wanting to see for some time. When I visited the region last year, I simply couldn’t get tickets as they were sold out weeks in advance. But the wait was well worth it.

The surrealism around Dali’s work is nearly impossible to explain as each work yields numerous messages, meanings and emotions. They way he looked at life and transposed those thoughts to art is really something to see. While I’ve toured many museums, this is the first time that I made three trips around the galleries to take in the collection. One thing not to miss are the student artists that study surrealism at the museum. Their work is a must see and wonderfully on par with the world of Dali.

Whenever I travel to a new destination, I always look to see what museums might exist around World War II. The American Victory Ship and Museum answered that search. This was my second visit to this storied vessel that saw service in the Pacific Theater at the end of World War II along with the Korean and Vietnam war. What’s unique about the American Victory is that she is a fully operational seaworthy vessel that still sails a couple of times a year.

The Ca’d’Zan at The Ringling

We’ve all heard about the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. But while the “Greatest Show on Earth” looks like it’s being retooled for a 2023 comeback, a visit to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art “The Ringling” is a must see if you are in the region. From the history of the circus world, to the galleries of European paintings, the Ca’ d’Zan (the winter residence of John Ringling), the grounds themselves and so much more – plan for a full and exciting day.

My final destination on this trip was something I was looking forward to since my first visit last year – Kennedy Space Center.  The moment you walk onto the campus inspiration is everywhere. On arrival you’re greeted with a waterfall monument with words from President Kennedy – “For the eyes of the world look into space, to the moon and the planets beyond….” It’s fitting that such words are framed with the Space Shuttle external tank and solid rocket boosters in the distance.

Seeing the Space Shuttle Atlantis displayed as if she’s in orbit conducting a mission and then a complete Apollo/Saturn V rocket just reminds me of the wonders that NASA has brought to humanity over the decades. These are people that imagined the impossible and then made it possible. We can only imagine what wonders lie ahead.

But the highlight of my entire holiday was the add-on enhancement I purchased with my ticket – Chat with an Astronaut. This casual get-together consisted of approximately ten enthusiasts like me having a group conversation with an astronaut. It was truly an honor to meet Brian Duffy. A veteran of four space flights, he piloted STS-45 Atlantis and STS-57 Endeavour along with commanding STS-72 Endeavour and STS-92 Discovery. This opportunity to meet an astronaut that offered his insight, experience and enthusiasm for the space program, and all its benefits to Earth, is truly an experience I will never forget.

Inspiration.


The Speech

The climax in my latest story in the First World Universe involves a pivotal speech from President Colton. While it was a speech to cover a particular event in 2015 it also had to speak to certain moments in the film that reflect a bit of double messaging. These can be challenging to write as many bases need to be covered in a short period of time.  Yesterday, I finally finished a draft of this speech so I can continue, and finish, the story.

To get motivated and energized to write these types of speeches there are two American Presidents I look to – President Kennedy and President Reagan. In addition to having great speechwriters, both these Presidents knew how to deliver a speech and captivate an audience. The goal of any President is to appeal to a wide audience not a narrow one. Kennedy is perhaps best remembered for “We choose to go to the Moon,” while with Reagan I remember the “Challenger Disaster” as I watched it on TV.

Now with this section of the script written, I should have a first draft completed in a couple of weeks. I do realize, however, that I’ve written a mini-series with this latest installment or probably two scripts. Whenever I set out to write a story, I aim to have the beginning and end already in mind. I let the rest sort itself out as the characters and moments almost start to write themselves. For me, I’d rather have more story than less when I reach the end.

By example I recently watched the 1979 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that ran as a seven-part drama on BBC (315 min). I loved the depth of story. However, I also greatly enjoyed the 2011 film of the same name (127 min). For me so many contemporary films shortchange the audience in story and character development because they focus on special effects. One recent exception to this I feel was Dune. With an exceptional story that was beautifully photographed, I think it hit all the marks of a great film.

Authoring an original story is not easy. From the characters to world building, everything must be created. For me sometimes a new story just explodes on to the page (Justice Is Mind) while others take a bit of time to think out (First Signal). There’s no right or wrong process in the creation of an original story, but the craft should never be rushed; e.g. when I think of the number of times a new bit of dialogue came to mind after I let some copy sit for a couple of days. But speak to a hundred writers and you’ll get two hundred opinions on their process!

Final Scenes