What makes Southwest Airlines rock? Superman-like service that’s what!

Southwest Airlines logoOn a rainy Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, MD, I was desperate to catch my flight back to Dallas.    After all, my showtime as an author over, it was back to reality.   On Monday AM, I was due back at my real job.   The one that paid the aching nursing.

 Honored to have been selected to participate, I had been in DC as a part of an amazing group.    Academy Women, a Women in Military Service leadership group had invited four authors, all book award finalists from the Military Writer’s Society of America.  I was one of them.   What an amazing event it had been.  Young, brilliantly smart women representing the multi-cultural tapestry of America.   Midshipmen, Cadets, Lt. Colonels and Generals.   Students and leaders.   Active duty and retired.   It was a mecca of honor, courage and commitment.

The two day conference, designed to mentor future women leaders of tomorrow was held at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Hallowed halls depicting the history of women’s service within our U.S. armed forces.  As featured authors, we presented on what motivated us to write about women in service.

I had timed my departure from Arlington down to the tee.   A quick dart up 295 to the Baltimore-Washington parkway and I would be on my way to BWI – and my Southwest Airlines flight back to Dallas Love Field.  Except for one small detail, somehow I missed my turn.   I was on 395 and then Highway 50, being stopped at every red light in roughtown DC!  There wasn’t a chance in heck I was going to make my 5:20 PM departure.   And that was the last series of flights back to Dallas that evening.

To make matters worse, once I got to I-95 into Baltimore, my cell phone died.  I had no way to notify Southwest I was going to miss my flight!  According to the new cancellation policy, I would lose those funds.   For a starving author, that simply wouldn’t do.  This honorary trip has alrea-dy cost me more than $400 bucks.

As I approached the terminal, I had to make a choice.  Return the rental car and surely miss the ten minute notification window or park at departures illegally, run in and try to find an agent.   I chose the second.   Rushing inside the terminal I spotted Southwest gate agent, Darlene F.   She greeted me with calm reserve. “Take a deep breath, with the rainy weather, some of our flights are about ten minutes late.

A smile and a plan - taking care of customers!

A smile and a plan – taking care of customers!

“No, you don’t understand” I protested.  “My plane to Dallas leaves in twelve -minutes.  I am going to miss it and couldn’t notify you.  I can’t afford another ticket!” my voice quivered.  The tears had started up.

“Just breathe.  Consider me Lois Lane.  See Clark Kent over there?” she joked pointing to a grey haired, pleasant gentlemen at check in. “We’re gonna work some magic for you and save the day.  Have you got your reservation?”

I nodded and handed her the copy of the electronic ticket.   –

“You go turn in your rental car, before you get a ticket.  When you come back, just find me.  We’ll have it all worked out for ya.  No need for those tears.”

I smiled then with a huge sense of relief.   Dashing back out the front door of the terminal, I managed to get to my rented VW bug just before the airport cops made it around the circle.   Off to the rental car pavilion some two miles away.  Then, back on the rental car bus to the terminal.   Total time? Fifteen minutes.  It was now just after 5:00 PM.

Running into the terminal, I spotted “Lois.”

“Here comes your problem child” I called out.

“Head over to Kent” she pointed. “He’s gotcha all sorted out.”

“Really?  Wow, you guys are awesome!”

“That’s what cha get when you fly Southwest.  Great customer service”

“Boy, no kidding!  Thank you so much” I exclaimed.

As I made my way to the counter,  My “Clark Kent” who was really gate agent Kent B. gave me a big smile.  “Got cha all taken care of.  We routed you through St. Louis, but you’ll be home before bedtime.  Your flight leaves in twenty minutes”

“Wow, you guys are just awesome.  I can’t tell you enough how great my service has been on Southwest!   Great flight attendants.  Kind, upbeat people at the counters.  It’s been great!”

“Thanks, just doing our jobs.  But it’s nice to hear.”

What surely would have been a missed flight and hassle on another airline, was made doable by people that really care about their customers.    Thanks Southwest – yet again.  I know I have a choice when I fly.  Thanks for reminding me why I love to fly Southwest!

They love to fly and it shows!

They love to fly and it shows!

Boomer Lit Blog Hop Features Solo Vietnam

It’s another Boomer Lit Friday!  What is #Boomerlit you say?    A new boom for us baby boomers and that boom is Boomer LIt.   Books that relate to those of us 50 and beyond.   Great stories about our times.  There are blogs about it.  Goodreads sites.  Facebook pages.   Us Babyboomers are a force to be reckoned with.

As a part of this blog hop, you are invited to a short preview of SOLO VIETNAM.   The sequel to FLYING SOLO.  Now available from AgeView Press or Amazon.

books available from jeanette vaughan flying solo and solo vietnam

Boomer Lit Books Available from Jeanette Vaughan

So here we go, your Boomer Lit Friday blog hop!  Enjoy!

Your personally chosend excerpt from 5 star rated SOLO VIETNAM!

A French cajun aviatrix.  An A-4 Skyhawk pilot.  Vietnam.

Charlene listened as she put out the large shrimp she had boiled up and then chilled for shrimp cocktail.   In true Charlene form, the table was set with china and tall parfait glasses for the shrimp.  She filled each glass with the spicy, red cocktail sauce and arranged the large shrimp all the way around.  Placing each glass over a large Romaine lettuce leaf on the plate.  Hostess with the most-est, Charlene Hebert.

“One night, after getting off at the club, I met this navy pilot,” Nora told her of her encounter.  “He had just finished his cruise in Vietnams and was on leave.  His stories.  What he had seen was horrific,”  Nora said taking a big bite of her shrimp.

“I’ve taken care of some of those Vietnam vets at Touro,” Charlene relayed.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah.  I had some trouble relating to some of their emotional tales.    My instructors told me it was because they had anxiety disorder.   It really messed some of them up bad.”

“What the heck is that?”

“Some post war thing.  They just can’t cope.  It’s bad.”

“It doesn’t help that people treat them like crap when they come home.   I just don’t understand that.”

“Some of the nurses told me it was like no other war they’d ever heard about.  Whatever’s going on over there sounds pretty wicked.”

Near the end of lunch, Nora told Charlene about her visit to the USO and the job they offered.  Charlene was a bit taken aback.

“You aren’t considering going are you?”   Again, Nora managed to shock her.

“I’m seriously thinking about it, Charlene.   I can’t shake it.   There is just something calling me.  Some force.”

“I just can’t see how you could do it.  Your kids are still at home.  Well, at least three of them.   How would they manage?”

“They are teens.  Doing their own thing.  Nellie is about to retire.    She could move in and watch over them.  It would only be for eighteen months,” Nora explained.

“That over a year!  Oh, Nora.  I dunno.  It’s so far away.  Texas was one thing.  But Vietnam?   Are you going to fly?”

“Heck no.  They don’t allow women to fly into combat zones.    In fact, it’s a big controversy at the moment.   Jackie Cochran is causing all kinds of heck about it.  Women were used in World War II all the time, as transporters and test pilots.  But the service won’t have anything to do with them now.  Which is really hacking off legions of women pilots.”

“Well, then.  As what?”

“Don’t’ laugh, but I’d be managing a USO club.  Basically I’ll be going as a den mother to a bunch of young USO girls.  But at least I’d be going.”

Hope you enjoyed the preview.  Check back each and every Friday for the Boomer Lit blog hop!

Solo Vietnam coming April 2012

Alright readers . . . you have asked for it, salivated over it. . . here is an excerpt of the upcoming release of SOLO VIETNAM, sequel to FLYING SOLO.   Coming in just days!   Release should be around the first week of April 2013.   Please enjoy!   Would love your comments, RTs, reblogs and invitations to your friends.   Already getting great advanced reviews!    Thanks so much for your readership and support.

Chapter 28

∞ Tonkin Gulf ∞

 Steve packed his B-4 bag in silence.  He expected that like the rest of the crew on board the Coral Sea, that he had only a few weeks before they set sail toward home.   He wasn’t the only A-4 pilot being reassigned to the USS Bon Homme Richard.  Because of a fire on the Bonnie Dick back in the fall, they were short of pilots. There were several others scheduled to serve in the Tonkin Gulf until October.  Once on deck to await his COD helo, Steve ran into Pete Watterman, the helo pilot he had met before.

“Lt. Commander,”  Pete saluted.

“Lt.” Steve saluted back.  “At ease.”

“Hey man, how’s it going?”  Pete asked.

“Being relo’d.   To the Bonnie Dick,” Steve replied.

“Yep, I’m taking some of the pilots over now.  COD.”

“Aren’t I included on that manifest?”

“No, man.  You’re orders must have changed again.  Sorry.”

“What?” For a moment, Steve was confused.

Before Pete turned to make his way to his helo he offered, “Hey Lt. Commander Novak.   You’re an alright guy.  Nice to have met another man from Dixie land.  Good luck out there.”

“Same to you,” Steve responded.

About three other pilots and their bags were loaded.   Pete geared up his propellers, kicking up some salty mist. About that time, Steve was approached by Commander Woolcock, the skipper from his squadron.

“Sir,” Steve saluted.

“Sorry to jerk you around, buddy.  But there’s been a change in plans.  You’re to bingo off to Chu Lai, taking one of our scooters for hand-off to VMA-311.    She’s seen her days on the decks of the Coral Sea.   Commander Nelson from Air Ops is fazing her out.”

“Gotcha,” Steve acknowledged.  Chu Lai?  How lucky could he get?

“But that’s not all.  Your recent service bought you some R and R.  After you hand off the plane,  you’ve got three days before you report to the Bon Homme.  Here’s your pay advance.”

Steve was handed an envelope containing the customary $200 given to pilots for spending money during their brief time off.   He couldn’t believe his luck.   Chu Lai, Nora and R and R.  It couldn’t possibly get better.

Often, when the navy felt an A-4 had seen its days on the carrier, they would send the plane to one of the marine VMA stations for repair and refit.   The marines would patch it up, repaint their own VMA call signs and the plane would be used for another hundred missions or so.   Second hand.

After pre-flighting the Skyhawk, Steve was given signal from the LSO to cat.  One last look at the deck of the Coral Sea.  She had been good to him.  As he gained altitude, he saw the lights on the deck become a small line of white, amidst a black sea.

He would be flying under night cover to transport the plane.   Another chance to see the war in action at night, from 10,000 feet.   By now, he knew the coast well.  He could see stars out everywhere on this clear night.

Despite flying over a war zone, it was relaxing in a way, to be flying a plane for delivery instead of a mission.  On shore, he intermittently caught site of flares being dropped.  There were white hot lights of anti-aircraft fire launched skyward.   It was a short flight from the deck of the carrier to Chu Lai, a mere ninety miles.  Before long, he saw the lights at Danang.  The moonlight was shining on the pristine, yellow-white sands of China Beach.

Soon, he visualized the river at Chu Lai.  As he descended, he saw the sampans out in the water.  No attacks for tonight.  He radioed Chu Lai ground and got clearance to land.

“Chu Lai tower, this is Blue Tail NL-317 requesting to land, over.”

“Bingo in, NL-317.  Keep your eye on the meatball.  Clear to ground.”

The runway at Chu Lai was fairly short.  He positioned the plane such that his slope would contact the arresting gear.  Lowering his speed and putting down his landing gear, with a small bump and scrape, Steve touched down at Chu Lai at 1930 hours.

There was no one to meet him on the tarmac.  For a moment, he wasn’t sure where to go.  But then, a marine flight crew approached.  Haggard and cover in dust in grease, they were a site.  One of them radioed for a jeep.   Steve took a moment to take the flight line in.  It was sure a far cry from the organized symmetry of the Coral Sea.    There were bunkers and razor-edged barbed wire everywhere.  It looked like the tarmac as well as the flight line had taken some substantial mortar attacks. Airplane parts, partially burned out made it a metallic graveyard.

A six by six jeep transport pulled up with three other pilots in it.   “Where to, Lt. Commander?” beckoned the driver.

“The USO club.  I hear they’ve got a great singer there,” Steve said.

“Yeah.  Righto.  Tonight’s a Mardi Gras party.   But you’ve only got about twenty minutes to curfew.”

“Then step on it,” Steve chided as he threw his bag in the back.

“Right on, Sir,” the jeep took off and sped toward the beach and the club.  As it neared, Steve could hear the sounds of jazz emanating from inside.  He could hardly contain himself and nearly jumped out of the jeep before it pulled adjacent to the make-shift arched bridge over a trench to the entrance.

Homesick for New Orleans, Nora arranged through her black market connections with Woody, to get the adornments for a Mardi Gras celebration.  Doubloons, beads, and plenty of seafood.   She booked a Vietnamese band that could play some jazz.  One more way to bring a little bit of the U.S. to Vietnam.

They place was packed.   Bar and restaurant were almost standing room only.   GIs were bedecked in vibrant Mardi Gras beads.  Some had on colorful masks.  The distinctive spicy smell of Zartaran’s filled the air from boiled shrimp and “bugs,” a crustacean native to the South China Sea.  Steve traced the sounds of jazz to the porch along the backside.   Sure enough, Nora was crooning out one of her favorites, Moon River.   He stood in the breezeway out of her sight.

She looked amazing, as always.   Radiant smile.  Bright pink lipstick.   Long, sensuous legs and high heels.  Her skirt had to be at least eight inches above her knees.  Damn, she was hot.

The crowd cheered as Nora wrapped up her song.  “Thank you all for coming tonight.  Les bon temp roulles.”  The GIs hooted and hollered.   As she finished replacing the mike in its stand, Steve came up from behind her.

“Say gorgeous, I’d know that voice anywhere,” he whispered in her ear.  Nora felt her knees grow weak hearing his voice.

Whipping around, she exclaimed, “What the heck?  Steve, where the devil did you come from?”

“About a hundred miles north of here.  Just to see my gal,” he couldn’t resist and in front of everyone grabbed her and planted a big kiss on her lips.   Catcalls erupted from every corner of the bar.

Nora was a mass of emotion.  Joy, tears, and pent up libido just  hearing his voice.  Taken aback at first, she quickly recovered.   “I can’t.  Not here.  Let me wrap things up and make sure everyone clears curfew.  Then,” she pulled him close and whispered in her sultry voice, “I’m all yours.”

Directing her cook, dishwasher and one of her girls running the bar, she quickly wrapped things up for the evening.  The books and tabs could wait till the morning.  She thanked everyone for the great job they did.  Within a few minutes, due to curfew, it was just Steve and herself left in the bar.

“What on earth are you doing in Chu Lai?”

“Had to deliver a Skyhawk for refurb to VMA-311.  How’s that for luck?”

“Brilliant,” she said throwing her arms around him.  “I’m just tickled pink you are here.”

“Nice place you got going,” he said referring to the club.

“The girls and I have really worked it over.  It was a dump.  But I’ve learned to make, uh, well, let’s just say connections.”

“That’s the navy way.  Way to go girl,” he could hardly keep his hands off of her.  “I’m about as randy as ever.  But where can we go?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” she had a gleam in her eye.

“Certainly not to your hooch,”

“Nope.  The girls are there and curfew’s on.  But we might be able to sneak out back under the decks.  There’s a small, unused, elevated tent.  It was the original officer’s mess, near the beach.”

“Sounds great, doll.  Let’s go,” he said taking her hand.   Nora locked the place up and they quietly snuck out down the back steps of the club.  They walked close to the jungle line of trees, so as not to be seen by the sentry guards.  Clearing through some brush, they came to a clearing with the tent.  It was dank, dark, and sandy, but they didn’t care.  They were finally alone.

The flap of the tent barely went down before he had his hands all over her.  The fact that there was dust everywhere and cob webs didn’t bother them. They finally had a secluded, stolen moment alone.  He kissed her passionately, relinquishing the pent up sexual tension between them.  She darted her tongue in around his mouth, long, slow and ardent.

Pulling her close into him, she felt his desire for her.  He was rock hard.  He stopped kissing her for a moment and looked deeply into her eyes.   Without saying a word, he unzipped the back of dress, exposing her shoulders.    He lowered his head and began kissing along her collar bone, starting on her left.

And. . . . you will have to just purchase the upcoming copy to see the rest!!!!!

How to get tagged, tweeted, and most of all read!

Hawk on perch

Hawk your book in the right places!

Many authors will tell you . . . “writing isn’t the hard part.  It’s the marketing.”    As the market continues to get flooded by everyone under the sun who has had a book in their head, it becomes evermore important for a writer to create their presence, their brand, their own way on social media.   The recommendation from the pros in the book industry is to find your niche.   It will be the perfect niche that will hook your writers.

Initially, it will be easy for you to find other authors.   In following them, and they in turn following you,  your presence will expand on social media.  However, it will quickly become apparent from the frequented #hashtags out there, that gaining a following of only other authors will not sell your books.   Your numbers will go up to be sure.   But unfortunately, not your sales.  Only your mates that are fellow authors might buy your book.   For you see, other authors are trying to sell their own books.  You must find readers.   But a good start is to build your brand by promotion of fellow authors.

In building up a colleagial relationship with fellow authors, you must promote their books.   Tweet them, blog them, facebook them.   Extol your fellow author’s talents.  In turn, if they are savvy about book marketing, they will return the favor and promote yours.   One such writers conference that encourages such efforts is Lexicon.   According to the philosophy here, readers would much rather hear another author promoting a strong book, as opposed to an author screeching “Buy my book.”  As such, it is important that you promote brands that match your own caliber of writing and style.   Promoting every wanna-be writer out there, one whose material isn’t quality will water down your brand.   Preview their work, surf their blog and webpage, then if you like what you see, promote away!

Here are two examples of successful Indie marketing journeys:

The first is a pair of writers, Buck Steinke and Ken Farmer.    Both have presence on social media.   Their niche?  #historicalfiction and #militaryfiction.  As such, in developing their marketing plan, they booked themselves into events which characterized the themes of their writing.   Some of their most successful sales have been gun shows, military gatherings and cowboy events.  In these events, they dress the part in character.   Set up a display with objects related to the theme.  They visit.  Greet.  And yes, even flirt.   The results?  Sales.  Sales.  Sales out the wazoo!    One of their books, The Nations is now in the top 50 books on Amazon in historical fiction.    Wow! The Nations - a historical fiction in Amazon's top 100 - Ken Farmer and Buck Steinke

A second example is even more grassroots.    Brinda Carey is a survivor of incest and domestic abuse.   Her book tells of that story.   Brinda who initially found it hard to talk about the subject, must less write about it, found comfort in sharing her story to help other women.  As such, she speaks at women’s shelters, public health forums, groups which attempt to prevent domestic violence.  Her tweets and blogs are directed at helping other women break free of the imprisonment of domestic violence and abuse.    She provides them comfort and strength.   It is through her public speaking appearances that she has sold over 1000 ebooks in the first year of publication for her debut memoir, Don’t Cry Daddy’sHere.

Don't Cry Daddy's Here book on Amazon

A must read for anyone dealing with abuse!

Finding a niche isn’t easy.    Sometimes it is hit or miss.   From what I have learned in seeing a work of my own, Flying Solo published this year, I can already see the mistakes I made initially, that could have boosted sales.    But no need to cry over spilt milk.   A historical fiction, well written has no expiration date.    One advantage of the genre to be sure.    Take your time, do your research.   Explore and experiment with several multi-tiered layers of marketing.    Be a hawk!   But most of all, don’t give up and keep on writing!   The world is waiting to read your words.