The Last Post: So Long and Thanks for Stopping By

Get It Write, the Perseverance Press blog, began in the fall of 2011. For me, that was two jobs and one retirement party ago.

The blog began when several PP authors and I emailed back and forth about the possibility of starting a blog. We got several necessary people onboard: Editor Meredith Phillips and Susan and John Daniel, the guiding lights of Perseverance Press. With the assistance of web guru Sue Trowbridge, of Interbridge, we set up a platform and drew up a blog posting schedule.

I served as administrator, which at times felt like herding cats. However, I really enjoyed working with this group of authors.

We decided we’d blog about whatever came to mind. In my case, I wrote about everything from my writing process, my research, my cats, my ongoing battle with clutter and downsizing, and my experiences serving on the jury for a murder trial. We also did a couple of Round Robin blogs where all the authors would chime in on various subjects.

It’s been interesting, over these past four years, coming up with something to write about once a month. Some months my blog posts would very nearly write themselves. Other months it was a slog to come up with something.

Now Get It Write is at an end. A consensus of the authors involved is that blogging was fun but like many things, it has a shelf life. It’s time for us to move on to other writing projects.

In military tradition, the last post is the bugle call that signifies the end of the day’s activities. It’s also used at military funerals, to honor the service member who has passed on.

This is the last post for the Perseverance Press blog, but you may see the PP authors posting in other locations, on other blogs. And this site will stay live for a time, just in case someone encounters it and enjoys reading what’s there.

Thanks for stopping by this blog. We appreciate it.

I’m Outta Here

This will be my last post on this blog because it’s being shut down. I’ve enjoyed writing these pieces over the last couple of years. They’ve given me a chance to reflect on my writing or on other facets of my life. In some cases the need to come up with a topic once a month has forced me to look around and expand my horizons.

I’ve always written on the assumption that I had an audience, but Perseverance Press’ research has shown that the only people reading this blog are other PP authors. So, a big shout-out to you guys. I’ve enjoyed reading the other blogs and I have learned some techy things from posting my own contributions to this blog—adding pictures and links—so I don’t regret the experience at all.

I wonder how many blogs get a wide readership, even if they follow Lev’s recent suggestions. I did a guest blog on another site several years ago. Right now I couldn’t tell you where, or when, or what it was about. I sent the link to members of my writers’ group and asked them to leave a comment if they were so inclined. The woman who ran the blog was ecstatic that she got eight comments on that piece. It was more than she’d ever gotten on anything on her blog. I didn’t have the heart to tell her they were all friends of mine who had never read her blog before and most likely never would again.

So, I guess this has run its course, as all things eventually do. I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite good-byes. The first is from Jack Kerouac: “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

The other is from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

The Mystery of the Right Rear Gunner–and Merry Christmas!

by Nancy Means Wright

For Christmas this year I’ve wrapped up for my book-loving son Kate Atkinson’s novel, A God in Ruins, about Teddy Todd, an elderly man thinking back on the World War 2 experiences that colored his life. His British bomber he called J-Jig was caught by flak as it approached the French coast and a shell blasted through the fuselage, almost knocking it out of the skies. Smoke was coming out, though no sign yet of flames. As pilot, Teddy did a crew check and heard from everyone but his rear-gunner, huddled at the very back “in a cold and lonely nest,” a distance from the rest. He always worried about Kenny, an usually cheerful Australian, in that “cramped, claustrophobic space.”

Because there was already a good deal of damage to the plane, it was flying lower and slower with each mile and he felt they should abandon ship. But no one wanted to ditch, especially over the sea, and they struggled on, overshooting the runway, smashing through hedges and ploughing up the field where they finally landed. The aircraft filled with smoke and Teddy urged them to be “as quick as you can, lads.”
When most of the crew got out, he saw that the rear-turret was still attached, but the rest of the plane was in pieces. “J-jig had left a trail behind her—wheels, wings, engines, fuel tanks, like a wanton woman divesting herself of clothing.” The fuselage was burning fiercely, and not a word from his rear gunner, who appeared to be trapped.

Oh my! The story brought me back to a memoir by my older brother Donald who was a 19-year-old flight navigator in that war. I was too young at the time to know much about his life, flying B-29s over the India “hump” to bomb the Japanese. But I recall the story he told and retold through the years about Sgt Oren, the rear gunner in the aircraft they’d named “Bachelors’ Quarters.” In 1944 they were flying over China when they lost #3 engine, fell behind their formation (like Teddy’s fictional plane), but carried on, dropped their bombs, made a 180 degree turn toward “home”– when #1 engine quit. They were still flying through flak, over Jap-held territory. Flight engineer Shoales had been desperately transferring fuel from one engine to another (today was his December birthday). To conserve fuel, they threw everything they could out of the plane: a chopped up radar set, a bomb sight, an empty bomb bay gas tank. It became obvious that they’d have to abandon ship by bailing out of the bomb bay in the rear.

It was a tight squeeze, according to my brother, because they were wearing parachutes with jungle kits, shoulder-holsters with a 45 pistol filled with ammunition, and leather flying jacket. On the back of the jacket was a silk flag with words in Chinese noting they were friends helping with the fight against the Japanese. Pilot Malone gave the order to bail out, and my brother had the gunners and others standing on opposite sides of the bomb bay. Through an open bulkhead door he saw Sgt Oren at his gunner’s position, head set on. Looking down, Donald, who would be the last to jump, saw bodies floating in the air and chutes opening. He signalled to Oren in his rear turret, but no response. The plane was already in flames–and no time or way to yank him forcibly out of his hole. So Don jumped,too, with a last shout to Oren, hoping he’d follow.

Don landed on a grave marker in a peasant farmer’s field, coming up with a fractured ankle and leg. Greeted by a group of suspicious men, he gave a thumb’s-up, saying the only Chinese he knew: ‘Ding how.” And they fed him soup and chicken. The next day he discovered the plane had crashed into a tea house, killing several people. And the rear gunner went down with it.

Why didn’t Sgt Oren bail, the only married man with a wife and young children? Or was it because of that family—afraid he’d be captured on the ground and leave them abandoned? Or was he frozen with fear, a panic attack that kept his legs from moving, his voice from calling out on his intercom? Perhaps he’d swallowed poison to avoid what he felt “the very worst”? Or was it a moment of acrophobia, a desperate fear of heights that wouldn’t let him even look at the far-off ground? No one will ever know the truth. Later his fellow crew members held a funeral service in Kunming where they buried his remains, and after the war, they met with his grieving family.

As for the rear gunner in Atkinson’s novel, I won’t be a spoiler. Except to say that he got out alive–but only after a crazy, explosive escape. I wrote a “Sgt Oren flight situation” into my new historical novel, Queens Never Make Bargains—based on reality, but nevertheless fiction. For young Oren, though, it was one more tragedy of a real war, and the sick minds that had started it.

May this be a Christmas of peace across the world, and may the new year be one of brotherhood for all–with no need for gunners, wherever they may be seated in a war plane. Wishful thinking perhaps, but we’re all fiction writers here. And so, farewell to the old year.

Christmas At My House

DSC02465Lea Wait, here, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday! In my house, it’s a Merry Christmas. And it’s celebrated, first and foremost, by my unpacking some of my collection of Santas, hand-crafted, antique, or just fun, that I’ve collected over the years. The small Christmas tree (actually, the top of an artificial tree I used in a Christmas safety movie I made decades ago) decorated with small ornaments. The “jingle bells” on the front door. My grandfather’s velvet-covered copy of “The Night Before Christmas.” Wreaths. Candles. And ..DSCN0614. but, come on in. See for yourself!DSC02463 DSC02459DSC02462DSC02461DSC02460DSC02457DSC02464DSC02468 DSC02466 DSC02467DSC02454DSC02469DSC02470DSC02472DSC02471 DSC02475 DSC02474

Another Year, Pffht!

By Wendy Hornsby

How can it be that another year is finished so soon? I was hardly used to writing 2015, and now it has slipped away, like butter off a hot ear of corn. A good year, a terrible year.

This will be my last post on the Getitwrite blog, so I want to tell you about a couple of things coming up in the new year. The big one is, DISTURBING THE DARK, the tenth Maggie MacGowen mystery, will be released by Perseverance Press in April. For the second time, Maggie is in Normandy, discovering skeletons in the family closet when an actual skeleton is unearthed. Seventeen skeletons, in fact. Who were they, and who planted them in her grandmother’s carrot field? This was a fun book to write. There’s adventure, suspense, some mayhem, a soupcon of history, a dash of romance, and some fine French meals. While I’m looking forward to the release of number ten, the big question is, what’s next?

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The next thing in the offing is a new book in progress. It isn’t a Maggie MacGowen, and it’s the first book I’ve written since the very first one that wasn’t under contract before I wrote it. Where it will end up is a mystery at the moment. But who doesn’t love a mystery?

So, bye for now. Enjoy the holidays, all of them. And do your best to have a very happy 2016.

How to Get Your Blog Noticed

The best way? Write something that will really stir people up.

One approach is to be super negative.

For instance, Adele’s new album has been breaking sales records and she has zillions of adoring fans. Imagine writing a blog that says 25 is crap, she’s over-rated, and not remotely as good as Lana del Ray or any other singer of your choice.

You’d be sure to get lots of hits and people would RT like crazy in their rage. But then among the crowd would also be lots of people who actually agreed with you–so you’d get those readers, too.

Another approach: Defend a common target of ridicule.

Example? Blog that the Kardashians have been misunderstood. Say they represent the best in family values. Say they stand for everything that makes America great. Given their high profile, one way of another, anything about them is likely to generate hits, and that’s what you’re after: click bait.  A sexy title and photo or two helps.  And some funny gifs.

Now, what do you do in either case about the badly spelled emails from people who think you’re a total moron and should be put down like a rapid dog? And the tweets that vilify you in worse terms? And the comments pointing out the smallest typo and trash everything from your writing skills to your sanity?

Ignore them.

You’re not blogging to start a conversation or prove you’re God’s Gift to Blogging. Your aim is publicity, and the best way to generate that is by posting a controversial blog.  But beware, this can happen even by accident.

So.  Are you tough enough to handle it?

Lev Raphael is the author of The Edith Wharton Murders and 24 other books in genres from mystery to memoir.

Where Research Leads Me

I write fiction – to date eleven novels in the Jeri Howard series, two in the California Zephyr series, and one standalone. I have two works-in-progress.

I make this stuff up. But when it comes to details, I like to sound as though I know what I’m talking about. So I research a variety of subjects, depending on the plot, setting and characters that feature in my books. Sometimes this involves a lot of reading but other times it involves getting out of my office. The research takes me down twisty paths and I find out things I didn’t know, information that makes its way into my writing.

As a longtime fan of Dick Francis, I always wanted to write a horseracing novel, but when I started A Killing at the Track, the ninth Jeri Howard novel, it quickly became clear how much I didn’t know about the Sport of Kings. Watching the Kentucky Derby on TV is one thing. So is watching live racing from the grandstand. Writing about the day-to-day life on the backside of a racetrack is another.

How to solve my research dilemma? A friend of a friend knew someone who trained racehorses. Which is how I found myself at Bay Meadows racetrack in the early hours one morning, for a day of following a trainer around the backside. I met jockeys, a vet, a jockey’s agent, and the Clerk of the Scales, who gave me a tour of the jockeys’ locker room. The last was unexpected, and it made its way into the book.

When I was researching Death Rides the Zephyr, the first book in the California Zephyr series, I took a special excursion train up the Feather River Canyon, the route of the old California Zephyr, not the Amtrak version. That gave me the experience of traveling on a Pullman car. I also rode Amtrak’s Zephyr several times back and forth to Colorado, during the winter, seeing the frozen and isolated landscape of the Colorado Rockies, and getting a sense for what my characters would see out the window of the train, because that’s where much of the action takes place.

I visited the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, where I drove a locomotive under the watchful and patient tutelage of one of the museum volunteers. My main character in the Zephyr books is a train employee called a Zephyrette. I was fortunate to interview two women who had worked as Zephyrettes and the information they gave me was invaluable in writing the books.

Right now I’m working on the twelfth installment of Jeri Howard’s adventures, a book titled Water Signs. Jeri’s back on her familiar Oakland, California turf and the research involves looking at the city’s waterfront and the development that’s going on now. Who knows where it will lead me? Maybe out on the estuary, in a boat!

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