Thursday, March 26, 2015



We know so little about that crash in the French Alps. Yet what few details have come out suggest scenarios we can hardly bear to contemplate.  In fact, it seems that a lot of future aviation may be at stake. 

I first heard about the accident in a strange way. My granddaughter, whose husband is currently getting his MBA in Barcelona, e-mailed me Tuesday morning: “Mike’s professor’s family was on that plane that crashed today. His school is cancelled Friday.”   

            I stared at her e-mail.  What plane? I wondered. What crash? 

Only by backing up my e-mails did I find it—news that hours earlier a plane from Barcelona to Dusseldorf had gone down, with no survivors expected. Even the earliest reports were baffling: no pilot had radioed the tower; no distress call was ever received.

Years ago I wrote a book about airplane sabotage, a techno-thriller called “Scatterpath.”  What made it fascinating to me were the revelations made by the NTSB investigator with whom I worked closely for three years.  Among them was the explanation that U.S. pilots are given assertiveness training so that no co-pilot would be dominated by his superior . . . that everyone in the cockpit would feel free to speak up in case of impending disaster. In fact, the Korean plane crash in San Francisco was made worse by the fear of an Asian co-pilot (maybe two) to warn his “superior” that the plane was coming in too low.  As we all learned, the plane hit a sea wall before it crash-landed.

Today’s revelations were startling at first—then chilling.  One of the two pilots, having left the cockpit at top cruising altitude, couldn’t get back in. The voice recorder revealed that even after he knocked politely, then harder, then tried to break the door down, no answer came from inside. No voice was heard. Was the remaining pilot incapacitated?  Had he locked the door accidentally? Was he unable to admit the man on the outside? 

Was this truly an accident?   

But tonight an expert pilot interviewed on television assured the public that all pilots have a code to punch for re-entering the cockpit. Only by continuous, energetic override from the inside, he said, could the outsider be kept out. 

As of Wednesday night, this is all we know:  no pilot radioed the tower. The second pilot tried and seemingly failed to get back inside his cockpit. With a probable “code” available for readmission . . . what actually happened to keep him out?          

            As a writer, I couldn’t have dreamed up such a set of bizarre circumstances—a scenario that ended so badly.   

            Now we all want to know:  who WERE these two pilots? And what motivated one of them to refuse admittance to the other? Was the inside man really trying to bring down a plane? 

Shortly we will probably know a great deal more than we do now. Thank heavens for “black boxes.”  Which, as most of you know, are really orange.      

“Scatterpath” is available on my website:  Maralys.com

Monday, March 23, 2015



            I first heard the word on a TV program called TED. Not sure what the acronym stands for, but that night the topic was Education. Each speaker was given 7 minutes, but the one that impressed me most was a teacher-turned-psychologist. She and a few others studied schools and teachers everywhere, trying to discover the one quality in students that made them succeed.  They watched, they observed, they photographed.

            And who did best?

            She said it wasn’t the kids whose IQs were highest. It wasn’t the kids who had the greatest social skills. Or the ones who were the best looking. It was the kids with GRIT. She said it was the kids who persevered, who went for the marathon, not the sprint. The kids who just kept at it, who wouldn’t quit, who persisted no matter what the odds against them. The kids who were willing to take an hour and a half bus ride to get to a good school.

            She kept asking, How do we give our kids this quality? How do we install GRIT? 

            And I was thinking, in a way, about me, because I’m not the smartest writer out there, nor the most creative. And maybe I don’t write the best books, either. But I don’t quit. I don’t give up. Those 14 years I was trying to get HIGHER THAN EAGLES published, I just kept re-writing.  I told myself constantly, If I make this good enough, someone will HAVE to buy it. I stopped counting the rejections for that now-successful book—there were just too many.

            So this is what I’m going to tell my writing students next class. If you want to succeed in this writing game you have to push on. You don’t need to be the smartest or the wittiest or the most creative—you just have to be the most determined. You must absolutely decide that you’ll make it.  And then march ahead relentlessly--re-write your work until it sparkles, look behind walls to find publishers, decide you will never give up. In your head the operative word should never be “If.”  Only “when.”  Eventually you’ll find that you had what it took. All along you had GRIT.     

“Higher Than Eagles” available, autographed, at Maralys.com

Or e-book and paperback at Amazon. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015



            The baby appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, (February 3), with the caption: “This baby could live to be 142 years old.”  Since they picked the world’s cutest little guy, most of us would vote to let him live indefinitely.    

     The article is pages and pages long, but what came through like a mantra from on high was the value of exercise.  Second, perhaps, was attitude. Time says, “’You’re only as old as you feel’” may merely be part of the equation. Perhaps, within reason, you’re only as old as you bloody well choose to be.”  The article adds, “Research is mounting that your outlook, your personality and, frankly, how upbeat you are have a profound impact not just on how you feel but also on how your cells age.”

            I started this blog intent on a different aspect of health.  Food.  It was the baby who got me off track.

As some of you know, I’m working on a book with surgeon John West. Titled, “WHAT I'D TELL MY DAUGHTER: A Breast Care Surgeon’s Advice to the Women in His Life,” Dr. West chose an early chapter to discuss the importance of lifestyle in preventing breast cancer. He too, stresses exercise.  And rejects sugar.  

But then he quotes an astonishing 30-year study of 200,000 people . . . an attempt to link certain foods to longevity. Now Dr. West asks his patients, “What food do you think is most important to help you live longer?”  

So here I’m asking all of you. What food to you think it is?

Like Dr. West’s patients, I would have said broccoli.  Also like his patients, I would have been wrong.

The answer is nuts.

Apparently, the more nuts we eat the better—and any kind will do. Furthermore, the nut eaters tended to be slimmer than everyone else.   Meaning nuts are not as fattening as we think.

The minute I typed that chapter, I began starting my days with a handful of nuts and seeds. (A neat little trail mix package from Vons).  I also give them to Rob.  Is it my imagination that various aches and pains have subsided?

The nuts are easy.  Harder for me is giving up sugar.  But I’m trying. I’m trying.

I’ll let you know in a few months how this all works out. 

"The Tail on my Mother's Kite" -- available autographed at Maralys.com

or Amazon, e-book or paper copy.

Monday, March 2, 2015


            The high school boys in Texas’ Gainesville Correctional Facility, The Tornados, didn’t get out much.  In fact, it was only as a reward for good behavior that the boys were allowed to leave at all, and then only to play basketball against some private Texas schools.

            It was Steve Hartman who found them “On The Road.”  The Gainesville boys told him, “Our fan base was close to zero. Nobody was allowed out to see us play. Nobody saw us, really, and nobody cared.” 

            But far away, something else was happening. Two young players from Vanguard Prep school in Waco, knew the Gainesville boys would soon be coming. Together, they grasped what seemed an unfair situation. “We aren’t going to play a team,” one of them said, “that has no fans and no supporters. It doesn’t seem right.”

            With their special brand of magic, before the arrival of the Gainesville team, the two Waco players organized their own fans, asking that half the audience cheer for the Gainesville boys. Taking it a step further, they found five girls and outfitted them in “Gainesville” uniforms, preparing them to organize cheers for the other team.

            As Hartman says, “That night the real game wasn’t on the court: it was in the stands.”

            To the astonishment of the Gainesville boys, who hadn’t seen it coming,
every basket they made was accompanied by enthusiastic whoops and yells. At times their fans leaped to their feet to urge them on. The five girls led special cheers. The Gainesville boys were likely playing to sounds they’d never heard  before.  

Amazed and overwhelmed, the Gainesville guys played their hearts out. Afterwards one told Steve Hartman, “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.” Another said, “It’s something I won’t forget.” And another, If I live to be 70, I’ll never forget this.”

As Hartman summed up the night, “Nobody cared who won. So we don’t care, either.”

Later, the two Vanguard boys voiced their own thoughts. “This is how sports should be.”

My memoir,  "The Tail on My Mother's Kite," available, autographed, at Maralys.com. Also available, e-book or paperback, on Amazon.