Let’s Talk Big Arcs

I seem to be on a reading jag of what I’m calling Big Cultural Arcs, and I’d love suggestions of what else to read. My base criteria is that they had a significant impact upon our culture/society, enough to become part of our cultural narrative. I’m mostly not looking for stand-alone titles. I’m reading Big Series that make me think about ourselves and our world. I’m aware this is a very Western list, and would love to see some non-Western suggestions as well.

I’m also aware that below I’ve left out a lot of amazing series, but I’m not looking for merely great stories: Reacher, Nora, Stephanie Plum, Sherlock, Bond, Outlander, etc. I’m looking for those big, impactful arcs.

The list I have so far seems to fall into 3 main categories.

There have been some very impactful ones of these. Even though they’re mostly single book, I felt I needed to include them, though most are epically long, which counts, I suppose.
Roots, Lonesome Dove, The Thorn Birds, Clan of the Cave Bear, (please never mention Follet’s Pillars of Earth in my presence, just a cautionary warning)

Narnia, Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Twilight
Not as impactful, but too significant to ignore?
Planet Trilogy (CS Lewis), Dark Materials, Dark Tower, Wheel of Time, Earthsea Trilogy

Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, Dune, McCaffrey’s dragons, Ender series (maybe)

(could only think of one…which I hated almost as much as Pillars of Earth)
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least a few in other media, but this isn’t the focus of what I’m after:
Star Wars, Star Trek, Downton Abbey, Upstairs/Downstairs, Firefly, The Expanse(?), MCU (Marvel), Jane Austen, Avatar the Last Airbender (doubt this one? just ask your kids), Friends & Big Bang,…

I’d love to hear your suggestions in the Comments below of what favorite Big Cultural Arc I should be reading next and why you loved it! Also feel free to message me directly if you prefer to not share publicly.

Thanks so much for playing along.

Note: 100% of comments on my website are moderated (they won’t post until I approve them). This makes sure that: a) I see everything, and b) no spammers  or trolls get through. So, I probably got your comment and just haven’t seen it to release it yet. Thanks.

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Free Fiction on the 14th: Fat City, Daddy-o!

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New Release Today: HAVOC

Brand-new Today! In: e, print, & audio



Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

More info →

Here’s a third exciting excerpt:

The landing of the Airbus A330-900neo unfolded with a movie-like slow motion feel—even more painfully drawn out than watching Engine One destroy itself and the wing.

At least that’s how it appeared to Holly as the adrenaline surge slowed her perception of time.

It began with Captain Dani Evers’ landing, so perfectly smooth that it didn’t seem real. Only the screech of the tires accelerating from zero to a hundred and forty knots indicated they were in contact with the runway.

Keeping an eye out the left window, Holly could just see the left-side wingtip continue down, spark against the pavement, then flop onto the ground. Not breaking free, it dragged at that side of the plane.

“Reversers on Engine Two full!” Dani and Quint shouted out in near perfect harmony, trying to slow the right side with the engine enough to match the drag from the broken left wing.

The roar was so loud that Holly’s ears popped.



Holly braced as hard as she could. For once, she truly didn’t appreciate Miranda’s assessment of a plane’s airworthiness. Her eighty-two-point-five percent chance of wing failure on landing had just paid out.


Of course! In flight, the wing was flexing upward with lift. The undamaged bottom skin of the wing had remained under tension. But as soon as that lift was lost on landing, the damaged upper surface couldn’t hold the wing’s weight aloft.

Gods, but Miranda was so good. Holly should have figured that out, but Miranda simply knew it.

But even though she probably knew, Miranda hadn’t said what might happen next.

Holly had seen enough accidents to have a very vivid imagination at this particular instant.

At one hundred knots, the left landing gear let go. The left wing and landing gear broke away and skidded to a halt. The left side of the jet’s fuselage lurched sickeningly down onto the runway. The sudden drag of two hundred and nine feet of aircraft hitting the runway twisted it sideways on the pavement.

However, the momentum of two hundred tons of plane and fuel, twenty-five tons of passengers and baggage, and twenty-five more tons of cargo—all still moving at ninety-three knots, a hundred and seven miles an hour—was not to be denied.

If the landing gear had held, they might have been sent careening sideways across the rough side field into the ocean, but the struts weren’t designed to withstand a force at ninety degrees—to the side—as the plane twisted.

Both the nose gear and the remaining right-side main gear buckled, then tore away at the lateral force.

The aircraft, now sliding fully sideways to the direction of travel, began to roll.

When the right wing slapped down onto the runway, the fuselage’s momentum was still far too great to be stopped so easily.

The wing acted as a lever of resistance.

It didn’t give.

Yet the fuselage had to roll.

It initially sheared in two places.

Immediately ahead of Row 20, at the slight weak spot due to the emergency exits directly in front of the wing, the hull’s structure gave way. At the center of the destroyed cross section, the forward economy-class galley shattered, spraying meal containers and soda cans in every direction.

The occupants of Row 20, Seats D, E, and F, were severely burned by the spray from the shattered coffee machine. They didn’t survive long enough to care when a fully loaded drinks cart slammed into them and caved in their chests.

Seat 20F gave way under the massive blow, and its seatback crushed the occupant in Seat 21F.

Aft of the wing—in the wide gap between rows 41 and 42—the fuselage sheared again, utterly destroying the four mid-cabin lavatories. Passengers for five rows both fore and aft were sprayed with ten gallons of high-pressure toilet disinfectant, staining them bright blue.

With the shearing of the fore and aft sections of the fuselage, the wing pinned the middle section of the fuselage in place. But the plane’s momentum was far from spent.

As of this moment, only the four unfortunates killed by the errant drinks cart had died.

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Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

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About the Book

When one of their own is threatened—the nation’s #1 air-crash investigation team enters a race to survive.

An airliner downed on a Pacific atoll. A CIA covert strike team sent in to “clean it up.” An old enemy seeks revenge. This time, the NTSB’s autistic air-crash investigator, Miranda Chase, and her team are in the crosshairs. The action races around the globe as US military airbases become shooting galleries and their lives are placed on the line.

And hidden from sight? A treacherous plan to grab political power and start a new war with Russia in the Middle East. Only Miranda’s team stands in their way, if they can survive.

(print & more audio on release day)

Other Books in "Miranda Chase novels"
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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NerdGuy Friday #29: Wreaking Havoc: Part II-gunships

First: a brief return to last week’s NerdGuy

A fan noted that I missed a chance to compare spacecraft evolution and sent me this combined image:

And just to make it a little clearer, here is a wider view of the space shuttle  Endeavour console in 2012 at its retirement:

And a slightly wider view of the Dragon command console. There, um, isn’t anything outside the picture (looking over both astronaut’s shoulders):

Thank you, Kim! (If I got something right about helicopters over the years, it was often with her help. Many, many thanks!)

Now, on to Gunships!

Observant fans of Miranda Chase will have noticed that while the first four books in the series focus on airplanes, the second quartet focuses on rotorcraft.

Miranda Chase political technothriller seriesAnd for a little more clarity, they are all different types of rotorcraft:

There are surprisingly few pure attack helicopters. Even The Night Stalkers of the US Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment don’t actually use a pure attack helicopter. They have an MH-6M Little Bird that can be configured for transport or attack (the AH-6M [attack] is nicknamed the Killer Egg for its egg shape and incredible ability to lay down fire), and the same with the MH-60M Black Hawk. I’m not saying these aren’t incredibly lethal aircraft when configured as gunships, the MH-60M in its DAP (Direct Action Penetrator) configuration may well be the most dangerous rotorcraft in any military today.

But pure attack rotorcraft are actually exceedingly rare:

  • US Army: AH-64 Apache Longbow
  • US Marine Corps: AH-1 Cobras which are rapidly becoming AH-1Z Vipers with upgrades
  • Airbus: EC665 Tiger used by several European countries
  • Italy: Agusta A129 Mongoose
  • China: CIAC Z-10 (they have 2 others but like the MH-6M, they’re multi-role)
  • Russia: Kamov Ka-52 Alligator
  • Russia: Mil Mi-24 Hind (a monstrous and very formidable gunship)
  • Russia: Mil Mi-28 Havoc (a very nasty machine)
  • I might have missed a few minor ones, but otherwise that’s it.

Not for Everybody

Most aircraft are so expensive to design that it is necessary to spread the cost over as many sales as possible. Manufacturers are always seeking and lobbying for access to foreign markets.

Conventional helicopters of every type are easily found in multiple military arsenals…except the gunships. Despite manufacturer’s best efforts, these are rarely exported. The ones that are go only to very, very friendly nations.

For example, Sikorsky Black Hawks are in use by at least twenty-eight countries. The AH-1 has only ever been used in four. Perhaps that fact that the US sold 202 of them to Iran under the Shah in 1971 and they’ve been in use continuously since his 1979 overthrow has something to do with it. And how badly does America wish it could take back the 42 sold to Turkey in the 1990s. Will we soon be regretting the 62 we sold to Taiwan?

UH-60 Black Hawk & AH-1Z Viper

Choosing Your Weapon

I named the book before I wrote the story. I really wanted to use the Ka-52 Alligator, it’s such an interesting aircraft. It sports: coaxial counter-rotating rotors and, in the single-pilot Ka-50 Black Shark version, it has one of the only ejection seats in any rotorcraft [the first blast blows off the rotor blades, the second jettisons the canopy, and the third ejects the pilot]). As I said, fascinating.

So Havoc was almost named Alligator but I couldn’t quite justify that as a title. I seriously considered Black Shark as a title but it only has one pilot, not a pilot and a gunner. I knew that I had would have to get my villain and my hero in the helicopter together before the book was over. And while I could have had great fun with the big Hind (which can also carry eight troops in a small emergency evacuation bay–perhaps able to lift Miranda’s entire team to safety in a crisis moment?), I didn’t think that was quite the title I was after either.

Mi-24 Hind and Mi-52 Havoc

In the End…

I was left with a deep, and slightly terrified, understanding of these lethal machines. As to how they flew in the book, you’ll have to read it to find out.

And since the book was focusing on Holly Harper… What title could better describe my favorite chaos demon than:



Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

More info →
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