Thursday, December 1, 2016

Those blue blue eyes. . .

Who is Drew Mallory, the superintendent of Camden Schools? Unimposing stature, greying hair, casual dress, a quiet voice that commands the attention of the restless faculty at the end of a long morning of teachers’ meetings that September day in 1945. Ruthann’s heard he takes care of his teachers. But she isn’t prepared for the jolt of electricity is handshake sends through her--nor the feeling that she’s drowning in his blue, blue eyes. 

He’s not like any man she’s ever met--certainly not the dashing young pilot to whom she was engaged briefly before his B-17 spiraled down in flames over Germany. Drew’s war--the war to end all wars--is behind him. He’s raised a daughter almost exactly Ruthann’s age, restructured the Camden Schools into an enviable entity, fostered a tightly-knit faculty who work together and protect each other, and taken refuge from everyday life in poetry and painting. 

But who is he? Where did he come from? Where is he going with a leg he almost left behind in the trenches of France? And why does he seek out Ruthann beyond the confines of the school?
He’s lived half a lifetime before she was born. . .but this is now. . .and forever is a word she’s not sure she can trust.

    Ruthann Cooper can barely remember the fiancĂ© whose plane went down in flames over Nazi Germany. He faded as she did her bit for the war effort in the munitions factory. Now, the war over, she meets the faculty on her first day as a schoolteacher. From that moment on it’s impossible to forget the piercing blue eyes and gentle, artistic ways of the superintendent of schools, who welcomes her both to the school and to his life.
   WWI veteran Drew Mallory still battles a debilitating injury from that earlier conflict. With complications of the injury, plus a grown daughter, the widower feels his life is all but over…until he meets the new third grade teacher. His renewed spirit rejoices, yet he must consider the effect he may have on her life.
   Their deepening relationship spawns a series of increasingly vicious attacks on Ruthann, and she finds herself on the brink of another, more personal war simply because of Drew’s interest in her. Should she retreat, as he wants her to for her own safety? Or can she do battle for the man she finds herself loving more than life?
Are you interested in receiving a pre-publication copy of this book for a review?  Contact me: judy at judynickles dot com

Imprint: Vintage
Length: Rose
Rating: Sweet (PG)
Keywords: romance, suspense, post-war forties, 
small town, second chance love, historical
Page Count: 288
Word Count: 68390
Digital Price: 4.99
Print Price (if applicable): 15.99
Release Date: 2017-01-04

Monday, November 28, 2016

Return of the Prodigal. . .

Travel--getting ready to go, actually traveling, and recovering from same--has taken most of my time for the past two months. But I haven’t been idle--no, I brought home tons of story ideas!
Whenever I’m in my hometown, I try to set aside time to visit the West Texas Collection at Angelo State University. It is research paradise-genealogically and historically speaking. Staffed by knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful folks, it’s the place to be if you’re looking for information, no matter how insignificant.

Sometime soon I’ll be posting a couple of blogs on a man I knew as “Uncle Dutch”. A friend of my father’s despite some age difference, he’s a shining memory of my post-war childhood in an old country cow town. He lived and died in the house where he was born, and from its treasures, he culled items once belonging to his mother and shared them with me. I knew his broad smile, his gravelly voice, the smell of the cigar clamped in his teeth, and the warm hugs I never grew too old to appreciate.
What I didn’t know was his family’s immigrant/pioneering history. Thanks to and the West Texas Collection, I’ve gathered fascinating facts just waiting to be spun into a series of blogs.
So stay tuned.
I also spent some time in the faltering downtown area, once the commercial and social center of the community I knew as a child. One building, no longer standing, has piqued my curiosity, so I’m working on digging out its story. And of course it has a story! All old buildings do!
The County Poor Farm/County Home has been a less pleasant memory. It was a stop on charitable tours for Sunday School classes and scout groups. I’m making some progress uncovering its origins/history, too.
Then last week I spent in the Ft. Worth Stockyards with side trips into the cultural district to re-visit the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum, two of my favorite spots when I lived in the city. Prowling Exchange Street, browsing the shops along the enclosed (and uneven!) brick walks, watching the longhorns run twice a day. . .all sparked story ideas. Unfortunately, I missed the ghost tour which happens only on weekends, but there’ll be another trip. . .

So while I’ve neglected this blog (mea maxima culpa), I have weeks worth of stories waiting to be told.
Any ideas which one should come first?

And just for fun--here I am with Maverick the Longhorn! I decided the step was a better place for my backside rather than the saddle on his back. Patient he may be, but limber I am not! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Starring the B-17 Flying Fortress

Continuing to focus on the B-17 Flying Fortress, here’s a list of books, movies, and a song you may find entertaining:


Ghosts of the Skies:  Aviation in the Second World War
Phillip Makanna

B-17 Fortress at War
Roger A. Freeman

One Last Look: A Sentimental Journal to the Eighth Air Force Heavy Bomber Bases of WW II in England
Philip Kaplan and Rex Alan Smith


Twelve O’Clock High (Gregory Peck, Dean Jagger
 Command Decision (Clark Gable)

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (Spencer Tracy)

A Song You Won’t Forget

"Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer"

Additional Documentary

B-17 YouTube Documentary

Addendum to Monday's Blog
Statistics can vary, depending on the source. Monday I used the number 46,000+ as the tragic death toll of daylight bombing. I’ve stumbled on another number arrived at by the statistic that over 5000 bombers were lost. With a crew of 10 each, the number rises to 50-55,000.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Mighty Eighth

Ruthann’s War (awaiting release from The Wild Rose Press) unfolds in a small town’s school community in 1945-46. Though World War II has officially ended, most people still feel the effects of the four-year conflict in one way or another.
Ruthann Cooper, the new third-grade teacher in Camden, brings with her conflicting emotions about her fiancĂ© Jack, a pilot whose B-17 didn’t return from it’s ninth mission over Hitler’s Europe. She doesn’t want to admit it was a whirlwind wartime romance--the young college student and the handsome 1st Lieutenant with his wings shining from the lapel of his uniform. She mourned him as long as she could and hid her shameful guilt for forgetting him and moving on. 

But this blog--while it stems from the novel--isn’t about the novel. It’s about all the Jacks who climbed into the Flying Fortresses and soared into the skies on their daylight bombing missions, early deemed the only way to win the war. It’s about all the men who died to ensure the right too many of this sad world to show contempt for the country which has given them everything.
Long before the United States entered the war, the stubborn RAF flew doggedly onward to repel Hitler’s destruction of England. They deserve mention here because, as Winston Churchill once said, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”

The United States Eighth Air Force sprang to life in 1942. Known as the United States Army Air Corps/Force, its task was to take the war to the skies. Though many kinds of planes--fighters as well as bombers--flew the missions, the focus today is on the B-17 or Flying Fortress. With a wing span of just over 103 feet, it could fly at speeds up to 287 mph and as high as 35,600 feet with a range of 3,400 miles.

Ten men formed the crew of each plane:  pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, navigator, flight engineer (who usually manned the top turret), radio operator, two waist gunners, tail gunner and a ball turret gunner. The bombardier assigned to the “lead” plane bore the heavy responsibility of using the top-secret Norden bomb site to toggle his bombs exactly on target because the the other planes bombed at his command.

Five men commanded the Eighth Air Force, including Lt. General James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle of the 1942 Tokyo raid. Some 46,456 combat crews and fighter pilots (in all theatres), became casualties in this massive endeavor launched from airfields all over England and the Pacific. Ground crews often worked through the night and worked miracles to keep the big birds flying--and sweated out each mission from below though part of each one had gone with the crews.

The average age of a pilot was 21. Men of 25 were often referred to as “old men”. Conditions aboard the plane were uncomfortable with heavy clothing, oxygen masks, parachutes, and the real probability of death as the plane approached the flak fields of the enemy coast. Twenty-five missions could earn a flier a trip home--but it wasn’t certain or even probable. 

Fourteen medals of honor and thousands of other decorations were awarded to the crews who risked it all. Wednesday I’ll tell you about one young man who received his MOH posthumously. His picture--and that of his brother who also died on a mission over Europe--hangs in the airport of my hometown.
Also on Wednesday, I’ll recommend some books and films for anyone interested in learning more about the men and planes which gave up all their tomorrows for our todays.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"You lived for today. . .there might not be a tomorrow."

Back in the day…
Though I never lived through the Depression, its effects shaped my childhood because those lean years affected my parents’ impressionable adolescence. I was born during World War II but don’t remember it. What I do remember is growing up in the late forties and early fifties when the war wasn’t history but rather something which affected our everyday lives. The rationing had disappeared--and so had fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands. 
The Cold War had replaced the “hot” ones in Europe and the Pacific, and fear of “the bomb” manifested itself in regular “air raid drills” during which we crawled under our school desks and covered our heads, as well as in the proliferation of bomb/aka storm shelters which sprang up in various backyards.

The end result…
So it’s not surprising I write “vintage” fiction about people, places, and events which are all but forgotten today. Ruthann’s War, set in the immediate aftermath of the war, is pending release by The Wild Rose Press. Knowing what can’t be remembered often can’t be identified with, I’ll be doing a series of posts on that shadowy era in American history which my mother described as “We lived for the day, because we didn’t know if there would be a tomorrow.”

How another generation views World War II…
During the war, as today, movies were an escape from fear and loneliness on both the front lines and the home front. Most younger people today are familiar with the cinematic blockbusters “Pearl Harbor”, “Midway”, “The Enola Gay”, “The Longest Day”, and “Saving Private Ryan”. While they were staged for reality, the movies actually filmed from 1941 - 1945 provide a more touching--if dramatic--glimpse of what it was like for everyday folks living in those times. And it’s from those fleeting scenes I’ve gathered information and inspiration to craft my vintage characters and plot lines.

Recommended WW II Movies
These film will give you the feel of the era and the people who had no choice but to endure until it was over.

“Casablanca” (1942, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid)
“Mrs. Miniver” (1942) Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright
“This Is the Army” (1943) George Murphy, Ronald Regan, special appearance by Irving Berlin
“Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944) Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, Robert Walker
“The Fighting Sullivans” (1944) Thomas Mitchel, Anne Baxter, Selena Royle
“Since You Went Away” (1944) Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton
“The White Cliffs of Dover” (1944) Irene Dunne, Alan Marshall, Roddy McDowell
“Tomorrow Is Forever” (1946) Claudette Colbert, Orson Welles, George Brent

Watch for Ruthann’s War coming soon!