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Kiss of Death

So you know I went to the RWA National Conference last week and met fabulous writers, both published and unpublished. I arrived a couple days early to participate in activities with my online romantic suspense/mystery chapter: Kiss of Death (KOD).

Yes, it's a bunch of ladies (and a few men) trying to figure out interesting ways to kill people…uh, I mean characters. On Tuesday (7/27), we took a tour of MacDill AFB near Tampa, and started the day with an inside/outside tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker (a refueling plane), complete with two pilots and a boom operator to answer questions.

The KC-135 Stratotanker, ready for 45 romance writers to board


It was awesome. The guys had great stories, and the KC-135 has an incredibly important mission. For one example of how they support other aircraft, check out this article.

After baking in the heat and humidity, we had lunch with airmen who had volunteered to eat with us and answer questions. Laura Griffin, Lexi Connor, and I sat with a Senior Airman who worked in satellite communications. He was shy but happy to talk about his career and future goals.

We left the group with thank you bags (which I diligently stuffed the night before along with many new KOD friends) with free books and goodies from our published authors, several of whom were in the room, though most of the men and women who joined us had no idea.

After lunch we went over to NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), which has a hangar on the base. These are the crazy folks that fly into hurricanes and other storms to monitor and study them. Among other things. The pilot we talked to was a former Navy flier. NOAA is actually a uniformed service (though not an armed service), so he gets to retain his rank, pay, and retirement. NOAA falls under the Department of Commerce.

Cool fact: Jim Henson created muppet mascots for three of NOAA's planes. Uncool fact: Disney will not give NOAA the license to use any other muppets for the newer planes in the fleet.

NOAA plane with original Beaker and Super Gonzo art by Jim Henson


We ended our day with the parachute riggers (the guys who pack the chutes). I thought this would be boring, but it might have been the most fun part of the whole day. We got a static-line chute packing demonstration, a simulator demo, and a talk from the free-fall riggers who were also jump masters.

And yes, the free-fall guys were under the special forces umbrella. I saw that maroon beret peeking out from a pants pocket…

Static-line jumps are for low altitude jumps, and the chute is triggered by the line to which the jumper is attached. You see these on TV and movies all the time where the guys are hooked to a cable and they jump one after another while somebody yells “Go, go, go”, and their chutes open almost immediately after they clear the plane. The person yelling is the jump master, by the way.

Static-line chute rigger


Free fall chutes are used for high altitude jumps where there's a need to go in quiet. They are shaped differently from the static-line chutes, and are made of more durable material. You may have heard of HALO (high altitude low opening) or HAHO (high altitude high opening) jumps. These are often used by special forces. The men can be dropped miles away from their target (often at night) and avoid detection by the bad guys.

Free-fall rigging

We grilled the guys on how to kill someone by messing with their parachute and determined it was near impossible without involving an entire group of people. Ah, well. Another method then.

The day wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without all of the new friends I made. It was great being surrounded not only by writers, but by a whole group of people mainly focused on romantic suspense.

The Kiss of Death has breathed new life into my writing, and I can't wait to do it all again next year!

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  1. Curtis


    Thanks for the tour. Sounds like a great day. I’m sorry they couldn’t help you with killing “characters.” Somehow though I bet you figure it out. 🙂

  2. Reply

    Wow, Gwen. Sounds like you really had a productive and fun conference. I wonder what KOD will plan next year for NYC.


    • Reply

      It was great, Mary, and the tour is where I ended up meeting a lot of the new writer friends I picked up at conference.

      NYC is ripe with possibilities. I’m sure they’ll find something great!

  3. Tony


    “These are the crazy folks that fly into hurricanes and other storms to monitor and study them.” My exs husband was one of these guys!!

    Sadly, a health care facility infected him with MRSA doing a routine medical procedure (Colonoscopy) . After spending some months and millions of dollars in drugs. they managed to kill him off….

    Flying into hurricanes is apparently far, far safe than taking a trip to your local medical facility……

    • Reply

      Is that your ex-husband, or your ex’s husband? Kind of makes a difference. 😉 Oh my gosh, though, either way, how sad.

      I have to say, though, you kind of made it sound like the plot for a book…

  4. Curtis



    Do you happen to know or know of Marjorie Dobbin?
    I just read in our local paper that she has just published her 4th Novel for Harlequin; with more on the way. She lives in a neighboring community.

    First three. The Pickle Peak Secret An Alabaster Jar and In The Shadow of Pickle Peak . Windows of Stained Glass is out the 15th of this month.

    She has a Phd in Medieval English Lit.

    Anyway, thought you might have heard of her.

    • Reply

      I’m afraid I don’t know her, Curtis, but there are quite a few Harlequin authors and I only know a handful. I’m glad to hear she’s doing so well!

  5. Pingback: LAPD field trip « The Edited Life

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