Friday, May 18, 2018

The Best Laid Flight Plans...Leigh Dreyer

Available on Amazon
Hello everyone! It has been awhile since I last posted. I've been taking a bit of a spring break from blogging. Well, I'm back today with a first time guest to my blog! Leigh Dreyer is here to talk about her book, The Best Laid Flight Plans. She shares a chapter with us and some lovely photos. I have to say that I think this story sounds quite fascinating, as does Leigh's life. I hope you all enjoy her post as much as I did! I'm sure you will love reading Chapter One of her book, ! Welcome, Leigh Dreyer, to More Agreeably Engaged. I'm happy to have you visit.

Hello!  I am so pleased to be here and speaking (typing?) about my new novel The Best Laid Flight Plans. Before I start off, here’s the blurb:

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?

In the novel, our Mr. Darcy is a flight instructor and the novel begins (and ends) with him reciting from the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie McGee Jr. Today, I wanted to share a little bit about the poem and why it finds a special place in the novel and in my heart.

John Gillespie McGee had received a scholarship from Yale University, but in September of 1940 he signed on to become an American pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He travelled to Britain for combat duty flying the Spitfire in July 1941. In August or September of that year, he penned the poem “High Flight” and sent it in a letter to his parents in a letter home. His mother was able to get it published in a Pennsylvania newspaper where it enjoyed limited readership. On December 11, 1941, only four days after the US was attacked on Pearl Harbor and entered World War II, after colliding with an Airspeed Oxford (another plane) over England, McGee’s Spitfire crashed and he and the other pilot was killed. McGee was only nineteen. After McGee’s death, “High Flight” was published across the country and now graces memorials around the world.

For me, as the wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law of pilots, this little sonnet is the embodiment of something that they love and a life that I have come to love.

Here is the poem in it’s entirety:

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

"Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God."

For me, a novel about the grace of flight simply could not do without at least a passing mention of this poem and the beauty it encompasses.

Here is an excerpt of Chapter One of The Best Laid Flight Plans and the first mention of “High Flight” in the book. Enjoy!
Chapter One
The clouds burst below and wispy peaks spiraled out as the plane surged through the sky. Captain William Darcy gazed at the horizon, crimson ribbons blazing across the sunrise. These peaceful moments were the only time he participated in anything resembling prayer. He checked his altitude and trimmed up.
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings...”
Darcy recited these lines from “High Flight” to himself as he scanned his surroundings and instruments again, his situational awareness high. 
This mission was bittersweet. His last in the F-22. He would miss the deep alien whistle from the engines as it flew over the base, close enough to wave at families walking near the harbor. This sortie was an easy ride, nothing but practice and war games, but he took it seriously. He knew a few meters off perfection meant life and death. A slight left bank and the deep green mountains were to the east as he approached the runway for a quick touch and go.
            Those jade Hawaiian mountains rising from the blackness of the earth were what he loved most about this base. Oddly, they were quite alien to his upbringing in Central New York. The woods surrounding Pemberley were green but never quite this other-worldly, tropical color. Somehow Pemberley’s hills and forests were more real, and he missed seeing the horizon curve over the gentle hills of his land. Here, that prospect was only available in the sky and he ached for it. He loved that feeling of being alone in the world and watching it go on forever.
            Pushing forward on the stick, he felt the quick descent in a tactical approach before touching the runway for a split second—up on the thrust and away again, off to his place in the clouds and his head. He ran through the memorized checklist he needed to complete on this ride... Touch and goes: check. Ship car: incomplete. Go to the TMO office: incomplete. Schedule movers: incomplete. He blinked, staring unseeingly at his controls. Damn moving checklist! He halted the intruding checklist and reoriented to task. Tactical approach: check. One more turn and then in for landing.
            He could not allow himself to think about moving again as he had spent enough energy on it already. He would have a quick Pilot Instructor Training in San Antonio and then the three-hour drive to the Mexican border to Longbourn City and Meryton Air Force Base to train America’s best and brightest student pilots. He loved flying more than anything in the world but wondered if that love extended to the staleness of helping brand new pilots grasp the basics of the T-38 Talon.
Darcy hated moving; it was the worst aspect about the Air Force. Having grown up at Pemberley, near the Finger Lakes, Darcy always knew his place in that perfect, idyllic world. He did not understand how anyone would ever want to leave where they had grown up. Pemberley was the place his soul lived. He looked again at the green around him as he flew, but it was not the right shade—nothing like the bright emerald leaves at home. Pemberley had the best views the world had to offer: brilliant green trees in the summer, vibrant fall colors in autumn, winters full of snow and sledding, and fields of wildflowers to rival any florist shop in spring. There were lakes for swimming, canoeing, or fishing. There were large rocks and mountains to hike. Darcy had never known a bored moment in his childhood.
His father had taught him to fly at twelve, first in a small Cessna and then later in the Bonanza. Together with his father, Darcy had grown up looking down on the prospect of his family’s holdings and missed them every time he was in the air. Flying was the only thing that kept him connected to his father and, thus far, the only reason he continued to tolerate moving by whim of the Air Force.
Meanwhile, Meryton, Texas was stuck in the middle of a desert. When he looked up information about the base, the pictures only showed brown dirt, brown grass, brown sage bushes, and brown mesquite trees. The only positive was that there were ranches nearby. Bingley had even talked about leasing a little working farm and maybe living together when he arrived. Perhaps this move would be fun if he could put himself back in wide, open spaces where he belonged. He might even mentor Bingley in the business of agriculture along the way. William Darcy and Charles Bingley had become best friends at Cornell despite Bingley being a couple years junior. Both had been business majors and in the challenging program, Darcy’s reticence had balanced Bingley’s natural exuberance; it was a relationship that worked well for them both and followed into their military careers.
            Darcy shook his head brusquely. He could feel his precision lagging as he pulled back from his daydreaming. Bank left, roll right. He held the stick just a little tighter and felt the metal, hot and slippery in his hand. It was hot. The cockpit was always hot, regardless of the external temperature, and as he pulled his damp flight suit away from his sticky chest, he smelled the musk of his sweat. It would be even hotter at Meryton. Hotter than Pemberley, to be sure. Possibly hotter than Hell itself, if his friends were to be believed.
On the upside, at Meryton, he would be able to go home to Pemberley occasionally as Meryton was near an airport and the ops tempo was significantly lower. As an instructor, he would be able to enjoy holidays, a luxury he had not experienced in the last four years; he might even be able to get other leave approved for once. Hawaii was too far to go home often and when he did go, he just depressed himself. Georgiana deserved more than a brother who moped around the house, seeing ghosts around every bend, and hearing voices that could no longer be heard. Besides, he missed Mrs. Reynolds’ meals. He added “Enjoy a glass of Pemberley cabernet franc” to his moving checklist.
            “Tower, this is Fitz 27. Request five-mile initial for the overhead.”
            “Fitz 27, this is Tower…” Darcy listened and noted the vectors to begin his landing. After breaking, he threw down his landing gear and banked right, watching his speedometer and began to slow to two hundred and fifty knots after breaking over the numbers.
            “Fitz 27 in the Break.” Darcy spoke clearly into the mic, adjusting the mask slightly closer to his lips in an effort to maintain clarity for the air traffic controllers watching the field.
“Fitz 27 Clear to Land,” the tower replied through the scratchy radio.
“Roger. Clear to Land.”
Darcy snapped the aircraft right again and applied the slightest of back pressures to the stick continuing his turn through the perch. He crossed the runway at fifty feet and grimaced as he felt the thud of a harder than usual landing. He pushed on the brakes and began his taxi to park. The runway was smooth, and he felt the long muscles of his legs flex as he steered toward the hangar.

Author Bio

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.


US link

UK link

Contact Information

Author Name: Leigh Dreyer
Phone Number: 830-422-0583
Facebook: Leigh Dreyer
Facebook Page: @leighdreyerauthor

Social Media Information



Thank you for visiting today, Leigh. It has been great having you stop by. I'm honored to be part of your blog tour. Your history and living this life, has to make your novel more realistic. 

The poem you quoted was extremely touching. I appreciate that you shared the poem and the story of its author with me and my readers. Beautiful!

I love your pictures. It was neat that you had the patches for Lizzy and Darcy! Nice touch! 

Leigh Dreyer is offering a giveaway for you, Dear Readers. Isn't that great! She will be giving away one eBook and the giveaway is international. Thank you, Ms. Dreyer! The giveaway will end at 11:59 P.M. on the 23rd of May. Good luck to everyone.


  1. Congratulations on your release. Thank you for the chance to win your book. :) Does this also come with a chance to win those nifty squadron patches?

    1. Hi Virgina. Thanks for stopping by. I like your idea! Would't that be a neat giveaway!

    2. It does! Please enter! The patches are completely amazing!

    3. How wonderful! I am so excited for a chance to win the book and the patches :)

  2. Thanks for sharing the poem and excerpt. Love the personal connection the author has with her book. :)

    1. Hi Sophia Rose. Thanks for stopping by. Wasn't the poem lovely! I love her personal connection too.

  3. First off,I must say that the poem was quite touching and very apt. Such beautiful descriptions and all from a man who tragically died so young.

    First chapter sounds interesting...Darcy's reluctance to be stuck in a desert is clear,wishing instead,to be at home.Looking forward to seeing how he and Lizzy meet and hearing their first words!!!
    No doubt,sparks will fly!!!

    Best of luck with your book,Leigh.

    1. The poem was lovely. It does hurt that the author died so young.

      As always, Mary, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  4. Love the poem and how you have incorporated it into the book is only fitting. So looking forward to reading this book and I love the idea of the patches as a giveaway too! I have always wanted to go up in a glider plane...maybe one day! Thank you for a chance at the giveaway!

    1. Hi Carol. Weren't the patches a neat touch! I love them. I think the poem touched all of us.

  5. Such a great post Janet, and a lovely poem. I enjoyed the first chapter and the photos. Congratulations on the release of your book and thanks for the giveaway.

    1. Hi Kate! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and the poem. It made an impression on all of us. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. This is a very interesting premise for P&P. To know that the author writes of a world familiar and dear to her is also promising. I look forward to learn more about the world of pilots and how the experience of flying features into Darcy and Elizabeth's love story!

  7. The basis of this book in truly incredible and fascinating. I like that you used your experiences and transferred them to our beloved P&P story. Thank you for the giveaway.

  8. Congratulations on publishing your first book, Leigh, and many thanks for making your giveaway international. I've come across the poem before from time to time but never knew its origins. Those opening lines are simply wonderful! How tragic that the author died at such a young age. Thanks for sharing the information about it.

    I've always wanted to learn to fly but have always said that I wouldn't even want a "taster" session, in case I fell in love with it. The wallet has never been deep enough for it to have become a hobby, assuming I'd had any aptitude. Even if I'd joined the military at the appropriate age (many years ago), flying opportunities for women were almost zero in those days.

    Looking forward to seeing how this familiar story transfers to a totally new setting.

    Welcome back from your break, Janet!

  9. Congrats on your 1st publication! Love the idea of Darcy & Elizabeth as pilots. Can't wait to read it!

  10. I have previously read the excerpt on another tour stop but the poem put the opening lines of The Best Laid Flight Plan into context. Thank you for sharing it, Leigh. And congrats on the launch of your debut novel!