Posts Tagged ‘leigh dreyer’

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Leigh Dreyer back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time with her father and co-author Paul Trockner, to celebrate the release of Came a Flight Gently, the final installment of the Pride in Flight Series, which is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice. Those of you who know me well know that I adore modern versions of Austen’s novels, and I can’t wait to finally get a chance to read these. Leigh and Paul are here today to share a bit about the research process for the book, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give them a warm welcome!

(Paul) As a pilot this was the fun part for me.  First I went to the Reno Air Race Association (RARA) website and learned about the various classes and race courses for the event.  There’s lots of linked rabbit holes there to the different class websites, the various class rules etc.  Some of the class websites also had the requirements for pilots and the presentations made to the pilots available.  So I read through those.  The racers call a pylon race “non-cooperative formation”.  So having flown formation in the Air Force that was easy to relate to.  Then on to YouTube while I was walking on the treadmill.  There’s everything from old race videos to pilots describing the modifications they made to their aircraft.  Leigh chose the Lancair after our visit to Reno. So I found a Lancair pilot Youtube and watched that. Before the second book came out we visited the Reno Air Races and talked to some of the pilots and got insight to the training required and problems they had.  Pilots generally are a gregarious bunch when talking about airplanes and flying so for me that was fun.  Finally for the racing portion, the Lancair factory is about an hour away from my home.  So I made arrangements for a visit and talked to Conrad Huffstutler, Lancair President and Reno racer.  I asked for 15 minutes and he generously gave me about 2 hours of his time.  We talked about racing, the course, some tips and how he got started.  Then he showed me his aircraft named “Breathless”.  “Breathless” because it doesn’t have a turbocharged engine.  In it, he won first place in the Silver race in 2019.  Mr. Huffstutler also talked about modifications to the aircraft that had been done or that he considered.  I am really thankful to him as he confirmed some of the things I’d already written.  There was more but as Leigh kept reminding me it’s a romance novel with flying.

Darcy’s military flying was either based on my experience or other stories from people I’d flown with in the service.  Going to an airshow and showing off your cool fighter is one of the best ways to give yourself an ego boost. 

(Leigh) The civilian transition for Elizabeth, I based on my transition after the military.  Military vs Civilian flying are really two different mindsets.  Not better or worse just different.  The difficult part there was trying to make it relatable to the target audience of romance readers.  I had to be reminded that many would skip over something too technically detailed that’s not germane to the romance of the story or the romance of flight.  Elizabeth has both in the book.  I did search and YouTube Bonanza information and spoke to Dan Perry, a coworker who owns a Bonanza.  The American Bonanza Society website had information on the various types and provides training programs that I looked over. 

So summing up.  If you have an interest there’s probably a website to search or a YouTube out there to open up the rabbit hole. 

Excerpt from Chapter Five

“Come in or go out, but shut the door. I finally got it warm enough to work,” a gruff voice called from somewhere inside. She startled but did not move. “In or out, I don’t care. I don’t have any money and the hangar door is frozen shut. Just close the door!”

Elizabeth took a step in and closed the door behind her.

“Thank you! Now, we don’t have lessons. I only work here and don’t have time for side jobs,” came the voice from below the front of the Bonanza.

“I’m not looking for lessons or help,” she said, walking to the voice.

A tool fell to the ground, and she heard some muttering under the plane. “Well, what do you want?”

“I came to see the airplanes.”

“I’d give you a tour but I’m busy. Mrs. Reynolds does all the tours at the big house down the road. Call her and I’m sure she can get you fixed up.”

Elizabeth asked, “May I help?”

“Sure,” the voice said sarcastically. “Do you know what an oil filter wrench looks like?”

“Cap or wrap around?” queried Elizabeth as she turned around, looking around the walls and seeing toolboxes, a large work bench, and various compartments for mechanical paraphernalia.

“Wrap around”—hands appeared from under the plane and pointed—“toolbox on the wall, second drawer, and bring the shallow oil pan, and put it on the bench by the nose.”

“Okay,” she said and worked her way to the toolbox and collected the items. By the time she found the wrench and turned around, the engine of the Bonanza was uncovered, and the body of the voice was back underneath, his coveralls exposed.

“Wrench,” came the command, and she slapped the wrench into his hand like an experienced surgical nurse.

A couple grunts later, the man said, “Here, take the filter to the pan but don’t dump it. Careful, it will spill, and it’s a mess to get off the floor and your clothes.”

Elizabeth took the filter to the oil pan and did as directed, though the process was awkward in her too-large coat and gloves. The mechanic crawled off the floor and followed her.

“Grab that filter cutter.” He nodded with his nose while taking the filter. Placing the cutter over the filter, he cut around carefully and removed the bottom plate. He discarded it and poured the oil. “We’re looking for any metal chunks. There shouldn’t be any.” He took out the filter paper and unwrapped each fold. “Where’d you get that coat? Kinda big for ya. You realize you can order different sizes?”

“My husband’s,” Elizabeth answered, studying the unfolding paper. “Do you send the oil off for spectroanalysis?”

“Not this time. Only every other change,” he said. She noticed him looking at her out the corner of his eye. He pointed again.

When she returned to the table, the mechanic spoke once more. “Have to change her oil every fifty hours. The boss flew it a bunch in December, at least two trips to Texas. Built up the hours quicker than I expected. Grab that new filter. The oil is over there.”

Elizabeth dutifully grabbed the new filter and pushed the oil cart over to the aircraft. The man returned underneath and asked for the safety wire pliers. Elizabeth spotted them within his easy reach. Handing them over, she realized what he had been doing. “That was a test, wasn’t it?”

“Yep,” he answered shortly. After coming back up, the man grabbed a clean, but well-used, funnel and filled the oil.

“Good news, bad news,” he said, looking at Elizabeth. “We’ve changed the oil, but the hangar door is frozen shut so we can’t run’er up and check for leaks.” He discarded the last oil bottle and looked down at her like a professor in a university auditorium. “What do you suggest we do?”

“Frozen at the base, hinge or top?” Elizabeth asked.


“Water, de-ice, shovel, or sledgehammer?”

“Based on the temperature,” he said as he walked across the hangar to a small closet, “water will make it thicker before we can shovel. I’ve got some salt and the sun might be on it by now. We’d break the shovel, but I just so happen to have two sledgehammers.”

“Great. Salt and sledges it is.”

He handed her a bucket full of salt and they tramped outside. Elizabeth felt the oppressive cold freeze her cheeks in seconds and shuddered. The large hangar door was just beginning to come into full sunlight. The mechanic showed her how and where to apply the salt for the best melting effect. Once they got across the entire door, he led her back inside.

“The office is there. Just shut the door. It’ll be nice and toasty for you.”


He pointed with his chin back behind them. “There’s two chairs by the office. On the other side, you’ll see a Navy-style coffee maker. It’s water. Hot chocolate, coffee, creamer, and apple cider are alongside. I’ve got to see a man about a horse and will join you in a few.”

Elizabeth settled down to warm herself with some hot chocolate and was blowing the steam from the top when the mechanic returned. Now that they were out of the dimness of the hangar and he was not under an aircraft, she could size him up. He was about six feet tall, with short gray hair and about two hundred pounds. His coveralls were used but neat. He was clean shaven with glasses and a kind smile, surprising, considering the quiz she had just received.

“How’d you find this place?” he asked as he sat down with a cup of coffee.

“Mrs. Reynolds sent me down.”

 “I don’t need any help. I’m fifty-nine, not seventy-nine, for heaven’s sake. I can handle the airplane.”

Elizabeth stifled a smile with her cup. “Maybe she thought with two you’d like an assistant.”

“We’ve had two planes before. When Will and Richard were learning to fly, we had a Citabria and the Bonanza. Mr. Darcy and I taught them. Will’s become a great little pilot, though I shouldn’t let him hear me call him little.” Chuckling, the mechanic continued. “No, not Mr. F-22 fighter pilot.” He straightened himself. “Of course, it’s not an A-10. Now, I think he just got done flying ‘38s.”

“Did you fly in the service?” Elizabeth asked, taking a sip.

“Yep, F-111s, two tours, T-37s in between, A-10s and T-38A and Cs. Around forty-three hundred hours. But what I’m most proud of is over two thousand instructor hours.”

“How’d you become a mechanic?”

“Retired from the service. Got into some financial trouble with my ex-wife. Mr. Darcy, Will’s dad, hired me as an assistant mechanic. I apprenticed for a year, then took over when the other retired.” He looked at her over his glasses. “You aren’t in trouble, are you?”

“No, no.” Elizabeth laughed.

“By the way, I’m Steve Weston,” he said, reaching out his hand.

“Elizabeth Ben—I mean—Elizabeth Darcy.”

“You one of their cousins or something?”

“Or something,” answered Elizabeth, not wanting to ruin the moment.

“Well, hot chocolate’s done. The salt’s probably worked so we have no excuse.”

They donned their gloves again and went back to the doors. The salt had worked and the ice on the doors only required a little persuasion with the sledgehammer. Elizabeth felt a thrill run through her with the physical labor and banging the ice off the door. It’s been too long since I’ve felt useful. After several minutes of work, the large doors creaked open, filling the warmer hangar with cold air.

“We need to work quick,” Mr. Weston called loudly to her from the other side of the hangar. “The block was heated, and it’s been in the hangar, but we need to get the runup done before it cools.”

The aircraft positioned and chocked, Mr. Weston opened the back door and started the engine to let it warm and cycle the propeller. Once shut down, he motioned over to Elizabeth and showed her where to look for leaks. When they found none, they closed the hangar doors and turned up the heater. It was six when they got all the covers put on the plane and it was ready to fly again another day.

“What can you tell me about the Lancair?” she asked, pointing to the candy apple red plane next to Darcy’s Bonanza.

“Not much,” Mr. Weston said as he filed various tools away into their places. “A friend of mine flew it in for Will a couple weeks ago on a ferry permit. The builder did a good job but didn’t fly it. I’ve got the paperwork and books on it. I’ve got to do a condition check and go through all the systems. It’ll take about two months. It has better technology than the Bonanza, well at least newer, composite fuselage, fuel injection. Updated glass cockpit inside. Comfortable, stable, fast, but you have to pay attention more than a 172. You got any time?”

She let her hand glide along the smooth painted wing as she listened. “I’ve my private license and about seventy hours in the T-6.”

“Tailwheel time, eh?”

“Uh, no. The new T-6. I was in the Air Force.”


She shifted uncomfortably as he examined at her. She could practically see the questions running through his mind, though he had not paused his work.

“Yeah, I had a mishap and was medically retired.”

“Hmm, you’ll have to tell me about it sometime. I worked as a safety for a bit, so I enjoy hearing about those things.”

After a pause, Elizabeth summoned the courage to ask: “Mr. Weston, do you still teach?”

“Flying or mechanics?”

“Flying is what I’m most interested in at the moment. I think I would like to get my commercial and become a CFI.”

“Can you afford it? The 172 down the road rents for a hundred and fifty dollars an hour.”

“I think so—my husband has a pretty good gig, and he’s a pilot, too, so I’m sure he’ll be supportive.”

“You’re young. How long have you been married?”

“Almost four months.”

“It will take some time away from him.”

“I think he’ll be okay with it.”

“Huh, let me check with the boss. I don’t think he’d be upset. He just moved back so hopefully no more random trips across the country. Though, with more consistent flying, he might need me around a little more often than in the past.”

“How much will you charge to instruct?” Mr. Weston laughed, a jolly sort of chuckle that Elizabeth found appealing, contrasting his initial porcupine-like personality. He seemed a teddy bear sort of person, one who was initially gruff, but quite warm once he welcomed you to his circle of trust.

“You live near here?”

A smile crossed her face, and she said, “Pretty close.”

“How about you come clean and sweep the hangar, help me with the aircraft, and bring me donuts once a week?”

As she reached out her hand to make the deal, an artic blast came whooshing through the door. Both of them yelled, “Come in or go out, but shut the door!” Shaking hands, they grinned at each other.

About Came a Flight Gently

In the exciting conclusion of the Pride in Flight Series (The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled), our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy have moved to Pemberley to begin their lives together. An outsider to New York society and the affluent world of Darcy, our heroine uses her characteristic drive and wit to begin her marriage and all that comes with him. Helped along by Mrs. Reynolds and a curmudgeonly airplane mechanic, Elizabeth discovers a new path to the civilian flight world. Darcy, ever the hero, supports her and learns to trust her instincts. Fast-paced and dramatic, Came a Flight Gently soars through love, adventure, and intrigue as it races through Reno to the finish.

Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.)

About the Authors

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (Goose, you big stud!) when Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who was a pink pilot for Halloween, and a one-year-old son who is so used to F-16 noise, he does not even startle to sonic booms.  

Paul Trockner was an Air Force fighter pilot for twenty-eight years. He flew the F-111, T-37, A-10, and T-38. He currently teaches fighter pilots using simulator instruction. He has been happily married for thirty-six years to his lovely wife Elizabeth. Leigh is the oldest of his five children.

Connect with Leigh Dreyer: Email: leighdreyerauthor@gmail.com | Facebook | Goodreads | Website


Leigh and Paul are generously offering an ebook of Came a Flight Gently to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, February 28, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Leigh and Paul, for being my guests today, and congratulations on your new book!

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Hello, my friends! I hope you’re as excited as I am about Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, the latest Austen-inspired anthology from Christina Boyd and her talented team of authors. I apologize that I didn’t finish reading the book in time to post my review, but while you wait for my complete thoughts, just know that the stories I’ve read so far are fantastic and emphasize all the reasons why Elizabeth Bennet is our favorite Obstinate, Headstrong Girl.

One of those stories is Leigh Dreyer’s “The Last Blind Date,” a modern-day story that imagines Elizabeth as a grad student/waitress and Darcy as a soon-to-be oil company CEO. It’s set in Oklahoma, where (from what I gathered from the story) football is life (my husband would agree), and takes our dear couple on a blind date to a college football game.

I’m delighted to have Leigh as my guest today to celebrate the release of Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl. Please give her a warm welcome as she shares with us her “Elizabeth” story!


Why Elizabeth? by Leigh Dreyer

Meg Ryan said it best in You’ve Got Mail when she said, “The heroine of Pride and Prejudice is Elizabeth Bennet. She is one of the greatest and most complex characters ever written, not that you would know.” Elizabeth Bennet is one of a million classic heroines alongside the likes of Jo March, Margaret Hale, Anne Shirley, Sara Crewe, Meg Murry, or Hermione Granger. All of these women are intelligent, kind, romantic, obstinate, and headstrong, but only Elizabeth Bennet is the perfect combination of all of those traits.

How did I fall in love with Elizabeth?

I first was exposed to Pride and Prejudice in high school. I started reading it, but I had a lot of trouble understanding the cultural aspects. What’s a dance card? Why are they walking around the room? Where are “the lakes” (are there only like seven in all of England)? I finished it, but I hate to say that it made little impact on my day to day. In college I watched the 2005 movie, and something clicked. I began to see Elizabeth’s intricacies. I saw how she loved fiercely, sought for intelligence, killed people (especially Caroline) with kindness, and learned from her mistakes. I re-read the book and later found JAFF and continue to delve more deeply into Elizabeth’s fierce personality on a regular basis.

How did my story come to life?

“The Last Blind Date” was sparked by the story of how my in-laws met. They were set up on a blind date to an Oregon University football game (Go Ducks!) As my father-in-law later told me, they hated each other when they first met. They were fire and ice. Like Darcy and Elizabeth, they later came to their senses and have now been married for more than forty-five years.

My mother-in-law is another obstinate, headstrong girl who has followed my father-in-law across the world and back. She raised six children while the family lived in the Philippines when President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos (famous for owning more than 3000 pairs of luxury shoes) were ousted during the People Power Revolution of 1986. They lived in housing originally constructed before World War I in Hawaii right on the canal leading into Pearl Harbor. They also lived in Ohio, Washington, Alaska, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

Just like Elizabeth, she was willing to turn down a suitor who would have provided financial security for a man who would become the love of her life. Luckily, I found her son who happens to be mine. This story is just a fun idea from that first date story, but I’m glad it was their last blind date.

LEIGH DREYER is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (‘Goose, you big stud!’), where Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane obsessed son, a “pink pilot” daughter, and a newborn boy, who at two months had already been on six flights. Connect with Leigh via Facebook / website


About Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl


“Obstinate, headstrong girl!” For over two hundred years, Elizabeth Bennet has enchanted and inspired readers by being that “obstinate, headstrong girl” willing to stand up to the arrogance and snobbery of her so-called betters. Described by Austen as having a “lively, playful disposition,” Elizabeth embodies the perfect imperfections of strong-willed women everywhere: she is spirited, witty, clever, and loyal.

In this romance anthology, ten Austenesque authors sketch Elizabeth’s character through a collection of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times. In ELIZABETH: OBSTINATE, HEADSTRONG GIRL, she bares her most intimate thoughts, all the while offering biting social commentary about life’s absurdities. Elizabeth overcomes the obstacles of others’ opinions, not to mention her own flaws, to find a love truly worthy of her—her Mr. Darcy—all with humor and her sparkling charm.

“I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, January 1813―and we think so too!

Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare.

Stories by Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, Joana Starnes, Karen M Cox, Elizabeth Adams, Leigh Dreyer, J. Marie Croft, and Christina Boyd.

Amazon | Goodreads



Christina and her team of authors are offering a very generous giveaway for the blog tour: The #OmgItsOHG (Oh-my-gosh, it’s Obstinate Headstrong Girl) Blog Tour began February 18 with announcement and cover reveal at Austenesque Reviews, and we hope you will continue to join us and connect with each author about their “Elizabeth” story. We’ve included a Grand Prize package giveaway (a book of your choosing from each of the eleven author’s backlist) as well as additional giveaway: my Silly Austen-inspired blank note cards and coordinating coffee mug. Open worldwide, so be sure to participate. 1) Enter the Rafflecopter for the Grand Prize package of books, and 2) comment on the blog stops to be counted for the additional giveaway (you need not comment everywhere to be entered in that drawing but we hope you’ll have your share of the conversation.) Ends March 31. Good luck!

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I’m thrilled to welcome Leigh Dreyer, author of the modern Pride and Prejudice variation The Best Laid Flight Plans, back to Diary of an Eccentric. This time Leigh is here to celebrate the release of the sequel, The Flight Plan Less Traveled. Leigh was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about the book and her writing in general, and she’s come with a gift for one lucky reader. Please give her a warm welcome!


What was your inspiration for the series?

My inspiration for the series starts at home. My dad is a fighter pilot (he instructs in the T-38, just like Darcy in the The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled). I met my husband when he was in pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, which is the base Meryton Air Base is inspired by.  He flies “heavies” which means he flies passenger and cargo jets. We’ve been stationed across the United States (literally from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii and all through the middle of the country. I traveled through the Finger Lakes area of New York a few years ago and fell in love with it. When I needed a place for Pemberley, that region of New York seemed like the most idyllic, beautiful place to set it.

Generally, people say “write what you know.” I know pilots and Air Force life, I’ve lived it as an Air Force brat and a spouse. Luckily, with my dad, husband, and father in law, I have more than fifty-five years of combined Air Force pilot experience to draw from when I have questions.  This second novel has been interesting research-wise because I had a lot more specific medical timelines to figure out. I needed to speak to a few doctors and was lucky enough to have a lot of assistance from my mother who is a Nurse Practitioner. Many of the medical board scenes are based on friends and family’s experiences going through the same thing.

Did you find it hard to adapt P&P into the modern day?

The Flight Path Less Traveled was inspired by P&P while The Best Laid Flight Plans is really a modern P&P retelling. For Flight Path I pulled some characters from other Austen works, you’ll find Miss Bates, Mrs. Jennings, and John Willoughby throughout the book. In my mind, I like to think that all of Jane Austen’s works take place at the same time and that the characters might have known each other. I’ve tried to bring a little of that to this series.

Bringing individual characters from Sense and Sensibility into a world of Pride and Prejudice was exhilarating. Miss Bates, for example, is Elizabeth’s physical therapist. I dream cast her as Octavia Spencer and picture her being talkative (obviously), but also a little wise, and caring. I’ve been in biweekly physical therapy for the past 7 years and have a great relationship with my therapists. I know how incredible and valuable they are to any trauma recovery. I wanted to throw a little appreciation for the amazing care my three therapists have given me over the years so I needed Miss Bates to be the best. I could just picture how Miss Bates’ personality would grate on someone so purpose-driven as Elizabeth and thought that the dynamic between the two were some of the most interesting scenes to write.

The hardest thing I’ve found about modernizing the story is the various rules of etiquette that are so prevalent and vital to propelling the story forward. In some ways, I’ve mitigated this by setting the story in the modern Air Force. Darcy and Elizabeth are literally not allowed to have a relationship because that would be a fraternization issue. As an interesting point of fact, I was nearly banned from Laughlin Air Force Base last year because my first book has a kiss at the end. I was accused of encouraging fraternization between instructors and students. Later that year, there were several people removed from command because of several problems in this area. It really is a huge issue that plays throughout the first two novels in the series.

Would you write a Regency?

Writing a Regency terrifies me, to be honest. I have a plan to write a P&P-based time travel novel next which will at least begin in the Regency period. Frankly, fans are incredibly knowledgeable and I am so afraid of making a slight etiquette mistake that gets me raked across the coals. I am still a fairly new writer, so I tried to begin with a world I was comfortable in. I practice my Regency skills as I write Mr. Bennet and I hope to write a Regency after doing a little more extensive research and feeling better prepared to make fans happy and give them a novel with the quality I have come to expect.


About The Flight Path Less Traveled

In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight. Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (‘Goose, you big stud!’), where Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who will one day be old enough to watch romantic movies with her, and another little one expected in September 2019.

Connect with Leigh: Website | Goodreads | Facebook



Leigh is generously offering one ebook copy of The Flight Path Less Traveled to a lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Friday, April 5, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Leigh, for being my guest today and for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to reading both books. Congratulations!

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Today I’m delighted to welcome Leigh Dreyer to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her modern Pride and Prejudice variation, The Best Laid Flight Plans. Leigh is here to talk about her inspiration for the novel, and she’s brought an excerpt and a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hello and special thanks to Anna from Diary of an Eccentric for inviting me to the blog today! I am so excited to get a chance to talk about my debut novel, The Best Laid Flight Plans. The Best Laid Flight Plans is a modern Pride and Prejudice variation that is set in the United States Air Force. I am lucky enough to be the daughter, wife, and daughter-in-law of three amazing Air Force pilots and have lived my entire life around the Air Force, so the setting was familiar territory for me and a joy to spend time with my favorite characters in a place I know and love so well.

The novel was born one day while chatting with my sister-in-law (who coincidentally shares my first name) after a book club about how fun it would be if Darcy was a pilot. Fitzwilliam is obviously not a very modern name, but most pilots have a nickname, so I toyed with “Fitz” being this great pilot nickname. I brainstormed how someone would get such a name and eventually I realized I had a story. She encouraged me to write it and so, a year later, we have the finished product.

One of the things that makes this story so unique is the authenticity of the flying scenes. I had a lot of help from my husband (who I met in pilot training when he was a student pilot like Elizabeth Bennet) and my father (who was an instructor pilot like Darcy) to ensure that the verbiage, wording, and feelings were as authentic as possible. Many of the radio calls, nicknames, numbers, landmarks, and vocabulary are taken directly from real life checklists and operating procedures and all of the flight elements are based on real flights.  Several of the student pilots and instructors sprinkled through the book are based on real people that I know. Lastly Meryton Air Force Base is based on the real life Laughlin Air Force Base where I met my husband—and where the most of the Air Force student pilots graduate every year—and Longbourn City is based on the town nearest Laughlin, Del Rio, Texas, where I went to high school.

Something that was incredibly important for me as an author and JAFF lover was that Elizabeth be a strong woman. Jane Austen was a master of portraying strong, independent women in her time and I wanted to translate that to modern times. Even in the new millennium, flying is still a male dominated field where women must routinely prove their worth in a man’s world. The women I know in the field are amazing not only because they must navigate the difficult curriculum of pilot training, but they must also rise above blatant sexism and work harder and smarter than the men they work with. Elizabeth Bennet has the qualities I strive for in my personal life: intelligence, passion, persistence, and the ability to rise above her mistakes and change her viewpoints. In my story, I wanted to see these qualities as they tackled a challenge that very few officers undertake successfully.

In that vein, the excerpt I’ve pulled to share is from Elizabeth’s first flight in pilot training, called her Dollar Ride.


Excerpt from Chapter Eleven of The Best Laid Flight Plans

Instructors varied like the colors of the rainbow. Some were incredibly strict, asking for perfection. Others were loose and practical, asking that they not wreck but not much beyond. Many preached different techniques and each had their own peculiar quirks as they flew. Captain Dashwood was a fair instructor who was praised by his students for his ability to explain procedures. Typically, the only complaint lodged against him was his propensity to hum during flights.

The briefing went well. As it was Elizabeth’s first flight, Captain Dashwood would be flying the majority of the mission. Other than a few NOTAMS and procedural discussions, the most important thing he imparted was how to pass the stick back and forth. The T-6 was a small propeller plane that had enough power to do acrobatics and was equipped with two seats, one behind the other. The instructor sat in the back while the student took the front seat. The sticks of the aircraft were connected so when the student flew, the instructor could feel what they were doing and vice versa. Captain Dashwood spoke confidently during the brief and ended it quickly.

“Bennet, you look well prepared. It’s your dollar ride. Let’s just go out and have fun.”

“Yes, sir.” Elizabeth sat up a little straighter, her seriousness attempting to dampen her obvious excitement for the flight.

“Bennet, relax. Look. If you take nothing else from me today, here’s what I want you to remember. When I shake the stick, I want you to take control, okay? I’ll shake the stick and say, ‘You have the aircraft’ over the comms. In response, I want you to shake the stick and say, ‘I have the aircraft.’ That way I know you understand. Just have fun. Have a blast. There are so many people who would kill to fly one of these and you are one of the lucky ones. Enjoy it.”

Elizabeth smiled widely and took a deep breath. He was right, of course. She was the envy of half of her ROTC group when she received her pilot slot. She had worked her whole life to fly and this would be it. Her stomach churned in a ball of anxiety and excitement as she briefly pictured diving in and out of clouds, the sun shining through the cockpit. She released her breath and suddenly, she was calm. Ready. She looked at the grinning Captain Dashwood, motioned to the door, and said, “Let’s get out of here.”

The two gathered up their things and headed to the equipment room where they both picked up their helmets, G-suits, and a coat for the November chill. Stopping briefly at the step desk, they received the go-no-go procedures and the tail and row number of the plane they would be flying. Much more swiftly than Elizabeth expected, the duo stepped out to the brilliant, morning sunshine and the white, concrete runways.

They boarded the bus to take themselves and the other pilot pairs to their planes and chatted briefly about the perfect weather and the day’s flying conditions. Elizabeth glanced around her as they passed silver-grey T-38s, shiny white T-1s, and finally to the blue and white row of T-6s. She had not flown since finishing Fundamentals in Colorado, but the feeling remained the same: nothing is more thrilling than the sight of a plane shooting through the sky, except for the sight of a plane that one is about to fly. The most beautiful plane in the world right now was this small, propeller plane with a black painted tail number of MT-9805.

Elizabeth began her walk around looking for damage, maintenance issues, and safety concerns, following the checklists provided her during training. Captain Dashwood spoke to the maintenance crew chief and examined and signed various maintenance forms.

“All right, Bennet? Ready to get this show on the road?”

“Yes, sir!” Elizabeth responded, overjoyed at the first step to her life’s goal.

“Ladies first,” Dashwood said as he motioned to the ladder up to the cockpit. Elizabeth climbed quickly and began nesting in her seat, placing her bag and other items where she liked them, and began her flow: checking instruments, settings, dials, and switches while checking her work against her printed air force checklists. Captain Dashwood checked her work and her harness straps and then climbed into his own seat.

Before she knew it, Dashwood was starting the engines. She could feel the deep rumble beneath her as the propeller in front began its dizzying spin. The air marshaller in front of her pointed at the plane and spun his hand near his head, fingers pointed to the sky, and the flight operations check began. The flaps were moved up and down, spoilers checked, and the speed break examined. Soon, she could hear Captain Dashwood’s baritone over the radio:

“All right, Bennet. Take us out.”

“Uh… Okay.”

“Bennet, that radio is a push to talk, not a push to think! You are holding everyone up.”

Elizabeth glanced to the planes around her and saw other pilots chuckling at her mistake. Embarrassed, she tried again.

Radio static.

“Yes, sir.”

“Try again!”

“I said, ‘Yes, sir.’” Elizabeth thought through her next words before pushing the button to speak to the Tower. “Tower, this is Dollar-05,  row B, Tail MT-9805. Requesting taxi to inside runway.”

A static, scratchy voice responded, “Dollar-05, this is Tower. You are approved for taxi to inside runway.”

Dashwood signaled to maintenance to pull the chocks from the front and back of each wheel. Elizabeth, her helmet feeling heavy and awkward on her head, watched as everyone did their jobs. This was all a dance. Each move choreographed to perfection with every dancer making up a small part of the whole, only visible if one looked at the bigger picture on the stage. It would be easy to say that, as a pilot, she was the most important, the most vital part of flying a plane, but it would be patently untrue. Each maintenance worker, each marshaller, air traffic controller, and even every factory worker that built the plane was a backstage worker who made this flight possible.

Chocks removed, the plane pushed forward toward the runway like the smoothest car ride she had ever experienced. On the taxi way, Captain Dashwood led the instrument checks until the Tower broke through on the radio. “Dollar-05, hold short.”

The plane’s progress stopped, and Elizabeth took this last opportunity to calm her stomach and nerves. She took a deep breath and straightened, her hands sweating with nervousness inside her green flight gloves despite the cool air.

The tower burst through her musings: “Dollar-05, line up and wait.”

The plane crawled into line at the end of the runway. Time seemed to stop and then accelerate as the tower said, “Dollar-05, cleared for takeoff.” The plane sped up, throwing her back into the seat and pressing her as they rolled faster and faster. The world blurred by in blots of green and black and blue, and then, they were slicing through the air as they climbed.

Captain Dashwood began speaking on the radio, explaining procedures and demonstrating the nuances of the aircraft, but Elizabeth was unable to focus. Instead, she exhilarated in flight. She watched as the thin, wispy clouds came closer, then covered them like a blanket, before they burst through and into the blue of the sky. She squinted as the sun burned through the cockpit and felt her stomach sink and rise with minor turbulence.

When they arrived at their Military Operating Area, the imaginary box she was to stay in while practicing her maneuvers, Elizabeth was given her first go on the stick. She hit the stick and travelled a full three hundred and sixty degrees, pressed hard against the seat as she gritted her teeth and strained at the pressure of the Gs. Though she had only had the stick for her pressured circle, Captain Dashwood put the plane through its paces, demonstrating all sorts of acrobatics and showing them both a good time. They looped and rolled, sped up and stalled. Elizabeth was in heaven, even if she was a bit queasy.

Elizabeth had been flying in a small Cessna available for lessons at the local airport since she started working and was able to pay for private lessons. She had been to IFS before pilot training and was used to the feel of a stick in her hand and watching her instruments. But this was different. Elizabeth felt as if she had never truly flown before this moment. Giddy, she could feel the pressure of the plane from her eyelids to her smallest toe as it dipped and dived. The clouds slipped in and out of sight and the sound of the propeller hummed in her ears and chest. She had been on roller coasters, but nothing compared to climbing softly up and shooting straight down, hurtling toward Earth and then climbing again in safety. Grinning, she took a thousand mental pictures to recall for years to come.

Dashwood continued circling, scooping, and twirling around until Elizabeth was finally downright sick.

“Bennet, getting sick?”

The stick shook in response, Elizabeth not trusting herself to open her mouth without vomiting.

“You have the controls, just keep your mind off being sick, okay?”

The stick rocked, and she took control, keeping the plane level and matching the nose to the horizon. She searched her mind for something else to think about other than the nearest airsick bag when a tall, dark, and overconfident man presented himself to her mind’s eye. Why was she thinking about Darcy at a time like this?

“Bennet, you all better? You about ready to head home?”

“Not at all,” she answered sarcastically, still trying to rid herself of thoughts about Darcy’s dark, piercing stare.

“It is pretty great, huh? The only time Meryton ever looks pretty in my opinion.”

The tower burst through the radio waves. “All flights, we have a weather recall. Clouds moving into airfield. Return to base immediately.”

“Well, that was good timing. Let’s get out of here. We can do some cloud surfing on the way since they’re moving in.”

“Cloud surfing?”

“Haven’t you ever seen a movie where the hero flies through the skies and they touch the clouds as they slip past them?”

“Yeah, but those are just movies.”

“Oh, Bennet. Just you wait.”

The plane streaked through the sky on their way back to the base. Large marshmallow clouds began moving in and around the plane. Large columns of cloud shot up into the sky. The plane banked and rolled through the pillars causing waves of white to surge around them. Elizabeth could not stop her burst of laughter as the plane continued its ballet through the blue.

When there was a ceiling of white above them and a floor of white below them, Dashwood got back on the radio.

“All right, Bennet, I want to show you something. Just down and to your left directly below the clouds is a red farmhouse. It is an important sight to remember because it is typically when we begin our initial for our approach back to base.”

They dipped below and banked thirty degrees so that Elizabeth could see it well.

“Got it.” Elizabeth spotted the red tin roof surrounded by a barn and outbuildings. The clouds rose up again and she sat back enjoying the ride.

“Bennet, I want you to do something for me really quickly. Just point up if you can hear me.”

Elizabeth pointed directly above her head at the canopy.

“Now, look down at your instrumentation.”

Elizabeth did as instructed and was shocked. She had pointed to what she felt was up, but they were still in the thirty-degree bank, doing circles above the farmhouse that was now invisible below the clouds.

“I’m glad these clouds moved in; I can make an important point. You have vertigo, when your ears and your eyes are telling you two different things. Especially when flying in clouds or where you can’t see the horizon, like at night, it’s important to check what you’re feeling with what your instruments are saying. They call what just happened the ‘death spiral’ if it happens too long and you don’t check yourself. You just keep turning, losing altitude slowly until there is nothing you can do, no amount of pulling up on the stick or pushing up on the throttles will help.”

Elizabeth nodded in response and said, “Noted. Consider this one lesson learned.”

The plane circled about and with the turn, Elizabeth refocused herself to the tasks at hand. She fought the whole world as it seemed to scream to her that she was turning, despite heading straight and level at the horizon. Despite her concentration, Darcy strolled arrogantly back into her thoughts during her vertigo. She maintained her concentration as best as she could under his dark level gaze until the wheels touched down and she found herself posing for pictures, helmet in hand, on the ladder of the plane as she stepped out of the cockpit.

Elizabeth was heady with the thrill of flying, briefly distracted by Captain Darcy who had strolled in. She walked past the step desk, oblivious to most everything else in her post flight bliss.


About The Best Laid Flight Plans

In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?


About the Author

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way, “You know the Great Balls of Fire scene in Top Gun (“Goose you big stud!!!”), where Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son and a daughter who is almost walking.

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Leigh is generously offering a giveaway of an ebook copy of The Best Laid Flight Plans and Darcy and Elizabeth squadron patches as part of the blog tour. You must use this Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

Thank you, Leigh, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book. I loved reading the story behind it, and I’m even more eager to read it now!

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