So there I was at thirty-thousand feet when, all of the sudden, I….”
It would be fun to share a long-winded story of my professional life that begins that way, but I really have no fighter pilot-quality tales to tell. I do, however, have some harrowing ground-level experiences which help to explain why I am the way I am.
The first experience took place in 1991 as my employer, the United States Air Force, was in the midst of downsizing after Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (a.k.a., “Gulf War One”) and offering incentives for people to leave active duty early than scheduled, effective Sept. 30, 1991. While officers holding Reserve commissions were on the receiving ends of such offers, Regular (a.k.a., “career”) officers like me were not. Still, because I had felt as if I had already experienced as much as I could as an Air Force public affair officer, I tendered my resignation, effective that final day of federal fiscal year 1991.
A few weeks later, I began to wish I had stuck it out for one more day. That’s when I learned the Air Force had begun to make cash offers to officers with Regular commissions Oct. 1, 1991. Mine would have been in the neighborhood of $60,000. That would have gone pretty far in Oklahoma, the state where I had returned with my wife and young son.
I dabbled in politics by managing back-to-back congressional campaigns in Oklahoma and spent several successful years selling high-tech presentation solutions to megachurches across the country. Then I accepted an offer to work for a large nonprofit group headquartered in Saint Louis. And that’s where my second noteworthy employment experience would take place some four years after I had moved my family to Missouri. So went most of the next nine years.
In September 2000, I went to work as associate vice president of development in charge of media relations and communications for the National Benevolent Association — or, as we liked to call it, NBA — which operated facilities in nearly one-hundred locations nationwide. It would be a tumultuous four years during which I found myself frequently at odds with the direction in which the organization was headed.
On Friday, Jan. 14, 2005, I was eating a sandwich for lunch while sitting inside my office in the Westport section of the city. My radio was tuned to KMOX, the one-hundred-thousand-watt blowtorch on the AM dial — and, at the time, the only real news station in the market — when something close to the following caught my attention during the station’s broadcast of the St. Louis Business Journal business report:
“The National Benevolent Association today rejected the employment contract of Bob McCarty, associate vice president of communication, leaving the non-profit without an employee to handle media and public relations duties.”
I had been let go — and very publicly! — on the radio.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t the content of the announcement that surprised me. After all, the organization had been in a downward spiral for most of the time I had worked there, and it was only a matter of time before I knew that chapter of my life would come to end. It was, however, the manner in which it came to an end that had bothered me. In short, I would have appreciated the courtesy of being told face to face by one of the organizations top executives instead of hearing about it at the same time as everyone else in the city. Oh well.
After packing my things, I left the single-story office building in much the same way so many other employees had before me. Unlike those who had preceded me, however, I had been asked to sign a contract with the organization’s board of directors almost two years earlier. In exchange for sticking around for the duration of a “restructuring” period, they told me, I would receive a guaranteed and sizable payout if, for any reason other than my performance, I was dismissed before the contract period ended.
After being told my radio-announced dismissal had nothing to do with my job performance, I was shocked and dismayed to be offered only half of the six-figure amount I had been guaranteed per the terms of my contract.
For several reasons, I accepted the sub-standard offer — or, in terms borrowed from the world of high finance, a “fifty-cent haircut.” Had I opted to fight for the full amount, I would have had to hire an attorney capable of taking on members of my now-former employer’s high-priced legal team from New York City-based Weil Gotshal & Manges. Not familiar with this law firm? It’s the same one General Motors leaders hired three years later to represent them as their company sought bankruptcy protection. Big guns.
Because the organization was embroiled in very-public and highly-contentious pre-bankruptcy proceedings, the likelihood of me losing a court battle was high, and the prospect of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a proposition that was iffy at best did not excite me. So I moved on.
Having already worked in government, politics, sales and the nonprofit sector, I spent much of the two years that followed trying to decide what my next great employment adventure might be.
With a wife and three growing boys, then ranging from seven to fourteen years of age, the safe and logical route would have been to find another job working for “the man.” For some reason, however, I was not inclined to want to go to work for anyone again anytime soon. So, with a journalism degree and more than 20 years of diverse and unique communications experience under my belt, I decided to be my own boss.
Because I knew I wanted to make a living as a writer, I purchased my name in the form of a domain (i.e., BobMcCarty.com), for use as the online address for the website — or, as it was more accurately described in the beginning, the blog — that would serve as my online writing home.
For several years, the site was known as “Bob McCarty Writes” — BMW for short — and featured “The Ultimate Blogging Machine” as a tagline in the site’s header artwork. By trial and error, I taught myself how to write basic computer code and use keywords and tags to optimize my site so that dozens of search engines, including Google, Yahoo and others, would find it.
Evidence of my early online errors can be found in the fact that I lost all of the work I had produced during the last two months of 2006. I suspect it happened in conjunction with my transfer from one blogging platform to another, but I remain less than certain about that to this day.
During the first eight months of 2007, I transitioned away from using most of my posts as less-than-subtle vehicles for marketing merchandise and began using them to spotlight my often-opinionated reporting on current events and politics. Within months, my efforts seemed to be paying off as I landed guest appearances on several prominent talk radio shows across the country. During the next two years, however, I grew tired of blogging, per se, and decided to focus on freelance journalism and do more reporting than opining.
As a freelance journalist, I began covering a wide variety of local, state, and national news topics and, between October 2009 and November 2011, had about five articles per month published at Breitbart.com. Two topics, in particular, intrigued me so much that I wrote my first two nonfiction books about them.
After coming across the case of a highly-decorated U.S. Army Green Beret who was prosecuted and convicted of sexual assault-related crimes based almost solely on the words of a young German woman, I spent 18 months writing my first book, Three Days In August, and it was released it in October 2011.
Stonewalled by Pentagon public affairs officers after asking them questions about how well a portable polygraph device had performed in Afghanistan and Iraq, I stumbled across irrefutable evidence of a decades-old “turf war” that’s been raging between people fiercely loyal to the polygraph and others who tout a newer technology that’s been proven more-reliable and more-effective. Following an exhaustive four-year investigation of the subject, I wrote The Clapper Memo, and it was released in May 2013.
The idea for my first fiction book, The National Bet, came to me as an idea about three years ago. After writing about 10,000 words, I lost track of where I had stored those words. Then, I found the file about six months ago and added more than 85,000 words to finish the story. It should become available for purchase Fall 2014.
I completed my first screenplay, Apply Online, in March 2015. Stay tuned for details as I work to sell this romantic comedy script to Hollywood.
What’s next? You tell me. I have a lot of ideas running through my head.