Writer Tom Sylvester is the kind of guy who will take his family to the Grand Canyon for the weekend, play an afternoon of golf in Arkansas, attend a book-signing in Northern California - all at the drop of a hat - never mind that he lives in North Carolina.
Since he's a commercial pilot, his work week takes him to faraway places, too.
He's a 1982 graduate of the Air Force Academy who was initially prevented from flying due to concern with a heart murmur (the rules have since been changed). His career as a pilot was put on hold for several years while he worked as rocket scientist in Los Angeles (true) and later as a staff officer in Washington.
Sylvester said: "One day, I ran into the FAA's No. 2 doctor in an elevator and asked, 'When will you guys let people with mitral valve prolapse fly?'
"He said, 'You must be in the Air Force. We never thought it was a problem.'
"I got a physical the next morning, and put in my papers to get out of the Air Force by lunchtime. When I got out, I worked for an engineering company that built airports all over the world. Fun, but not flying. After getting all of the required flight certificates, I decided to take the hit and quit my day job. Actually, I made a deal with my wife: 'I'll put you through the Wharton School of Business if you'll let me fly for a living.' "
So Sylvester started flying charter and corporate flights and later found another job flying for the commuter airlines. He realized that he could earn a living at it provided he had a higher paying job on the side. So he wrote aviation software programs, too.
Last year he was hired by a major airline and presumably he is now a happy man.
He came to a book-signing in Sacramento two years ago to talk about his first novel, a techno-mystery about a commuter airplane crash called "The Descent," which is now out of print.
"I wrote 'The Descent' for entertainment," he said.
However, his second novel is written about what he wished he had been: an astronaut. This book is in the hands of agent and Sylvester is confident that it will be published soon.
This book, "The Hohmann Transfer," is certain to grab anyone interested in the space program, the military, sabotage in space, or competition between the former Soviet Union and the United States. He throws in colorful characters and the novel unfolds at breakneck speed. Plus, the main character, the astronaut, is a talented, beautiful woman who has her own near-crippling doubts about whether she has the right stuff for a risky assignment. It helps that she's a brainy math whiz.
An early "Transfer" manuscript was filled with technical jargon that made the novel seem absolutely believable but the average reader might have some difficulty following it all. Sylvester says much of that "techno-babble" has been eliminated but enough remains to lend the story and the characters credibility.
"I wrote the first book because my wife said I couldn't. I wrote the second one to make sure the first wasn't a fluke," he said. "I've always had a vivid imagination and I'm never at a loss for words," he added.
Sylvester sent out 10 queries to agents when "The Hohmann Transfer" was ready to go. He got back two definites, one probable and one maybe and has since selected an agent. Now he's chewing his nails as he waits to hear from a publisher. He's convinced this is a good time to launch his book - while the Mir space station is in the news, and while publishers are discovering the salability of techno-thrillers.
"This book has the necessary zing; I felt it when I plotted it, I knew it when I wrote it, and I heard it when the first reports started coming back on it," he said.
So even though "The Hohmann Transfer" is not available yet, here's betting it will be soon. Mark down Tom Sylvester's name and the title and prepare to wait a bit - but only a bit - for a hot new techno-thriller.
Tom Sylvester is the author of