As an early avid reader, long-time Manassas resident Dan Verner dreamed of writing a novel like the ones that engaged him so fully. Through the years, he wrote a number of short pieces, including poetry, reviews, essays, songs, articles, editorials and columns for local groups, newsletters, newspapers and magazines. After he retired from a 32-year stint as a high school English teacher, Verner had more time to write, but a novel proved elusive. “I just couldn’t sustain anything past 2000 words,” he recalled. “And I needed at least 40,000 for a novelette.”
In late 2011, he visited a local book signing and talked to a couple of local novelists who had just produced their first works. Encouraged by their advice and example, Dan drew on two continuing interests, World War II and aviation, to produce On Wings of the Morning, the story of Otto Kerchner, a Wisconsin farm boy in the 1930s who fulfills his dream of learning to fly and becomes a B-17 pilot in World War II. Kerchner is badly burned in a crash landing, but overcomes this tragedy and other heartaches to find acceptance and love in the post-war world.
“I have been very pleased and encouraged by readers’ reactions to the book. And I was especially pleased that several people wanted to know if I planned to write a sequel. I asked them to contact my publisher, eLectio Publishing of Texas, and ask them about a second book. They did, and eLectio not only agreed to a second book but also moved up the release date from November to late May.”
The second book, originally titled, On Eagle’s Wings Upborne, will be available as On the Wings of Eagles on Amazon. com starting May 26 and include a special free short story bonus, “A Christmas for Mata.” (Mata is Otto’s sister.)
“eLectio asked its novelists to come up with a short story based on a character or characters in their novel. Several readers had noted that I skipped Christmas of 1942 when Otto would have come home on leave. I did write a section about his visit home but didn’t like it. Christmas is hard to write about to begin with, but I thought this promotional work would be the perfect opportunity to fill in the gap. I originally planned to continue using Otto’s point of view, but had thought of rewriting the whole book and maybe the whole series from Mata’s point of view. So, ‘A Christmas for Mata’ is narrated by Mata as she waits on a cold train platform for Otto to come home. I hope readers will enjoy it.”
On the Wings of Eagles continues Otto’s saga as he, his sister Mata and the community of Pioneer Lake make their way in the brave new world of post-World War II America. The story harkens back to a simpler world in which family and community played a vital role. In the space of a couple of years Otto starts up an airline, experiences a wedding, witnesses another fiery crash, commands a bomber squadron in the Korean War, runs an air circus and tries to come to terms with someone from his past. Verner uses fifteen “beta readers” to evaluate manuscripts, and they agreed that On the Wings of Eagles featured the warmth and rich characterization readers of all ages enjoyed in the first book.
Creative Brush Studios in Manassas will host a release party and book signing by Verner on June 6 from 5 to 9 PM as part of the start of their continuing exhibition, “Canvasing the Forties.” Mary and Kristine Reily have enlisted artists from the area to interpret the war abroad and on the homefront, including a portrait by Kristine Reily of the Library of Congress picture of a young bomber pilot that gave Verner the specific inspiration for the book.
Verner plans a nine- to twelve-book series about Otto’s life called Beyond the Blue Horizon: The Story of an American Hero. Verner has finished Book Three, On the Wings of Angels and almost completed Book Four, On the Wings of Grace, and expects to release a new book about every six months.