If you do a search on soholingo, you will find that I was where you were just a few years ago. I flew all manner of toys initially, crashed a lot of planes, then I saw hotliner flying, and KNEW that was the way to go. What you need when starting out is stick time. The single best way I have seen to get stick time is to go with an EPP wing. They are durable, and can fly fast and slow, they can thermal, they can slope, and you spend MORE time flying than building.
Prior to getting into the field spend some time with FMS flying simulator.
I just used a two stick joy stick and helped with getting orientation, understanding how to line up for landing, etc...
That said nothing is better than getting with people who fly the types of planes you fly. For me that was whizwaz and tic, and good vendors like Shredair and NES (I mention these two because the owners have spent hours on the phone with me, describing how to fly).
oh, and post your questions to ezone...