Last week, Yang and I finally got the opportunity to do something we’ve been promising ourselves for years: visit Battleship Cove. As someone who is fascinated by the WWII years and who had a father who served in the Navy, this was a special treat for me. I’ve long heard of my Dad’s various adventures, both in the Armed Guard doing convoy duty in the North and South Atlantic and on the U.S.S, Hudson in the Pacific Theatre. Here’s a picture of the Hudson (DD475) from the USS Hudson Homepage.
We first checked out a landing vehicle, then moved on to two different PT Boats. These guys were supposed to be small, but the one we photographed looks awfully intimidating. Maybe its the big shark’s maw painted on it? Small, though they may have been considered, they were pretty darned effective with their wooden construction giving them speed and agility and their firepower allowing them to take some nasty bites out of the enemy tonnage.
I was especially interested in USS Jospeh P. Kennedy, because, as it was a destroyer built during WWII, I thought it might give me a good idea of the type of vessel on which my Dad served. The Kennedy wouldn’t be an exact match, as a Gearing-class destroyer, where the Hudson was a Fletcher-class. The Gearing class is somewhat bigger, and this ship was in its 1970s update state; however, I thought I might still get something of an idea. I can’t get over how you can pack so many people in this space, though it is a big ship. When I was in the rooms where the men slept, I pitied the 60 or so guys my Dad must have tortured with his snoring. They must have thought they were under attack! I was also struck with how athletic you have to be to get around and stay on your feet with the steep climbs and the narrow corridors – and I didn’t have to contend with roaring seas or battle conditions! I was stiff for days afterwards! Still, the space was luxurious compared to what we saw on the submarine Lionfish – more about that later.
My Dad was a gunner on the Hudson, Sfc, but I don’t think he said he was on one of these monsters. If you look at the second picture, you see the red circle warning you to stay outside the guns’ turn radius. You wouldn’t want to get hit by this monster – unless you’d always had a hankering to turn into a pancake. You’ll notice that I was going down the stairs here. Too steep to descend facing down! I think guys used to almost slide down with both hands on the rails. But I could be wrong.
I found this picture online of the Hudson’s crew in 1945, and I think I can pick out my Dad. He’s the one with the beard and the cocky expression on the right, in the second row, behind the last seated guy on the right with his cap on. I know that expression well! You better click on the picture and enlarge! My Dad had a wonderful album from his Navy days, but either my brother or one of my nephews has it now. I really want to get my hands on it so that I can scan the pictures! If you click here, you can see the crew list with my Dad’s name! This is also from the Hudson Homepage. For more history of the Hudson, you can also click here.
Finally, we went on the WWII sub, the Lionfish. this was my second visit to a WWII-era sub, as Yang and I had also scrambled through the Tigershark in Baltimore Harbor many years back. All I can say is, tall or wide people don’t bother! It’s amazing how much equipment and machinery you can cram into such a narrow passage. What killed me was moving from compartment to compartment, because the hatches require you to step up and pull your legs up and along to get through. Now you know why you see guys grab the hatchways on either side and swing their legs straight through. It’s only for the young! I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy bunking over a torpedo, either. Maybe that’s just me!
By the time we finished the destroyer and the sub, we didn’t have it in us to explore the battleship, the biggest of the lot! So, another day, another visit! This display of ships was a cool experience. Oh, and we did see that the sailors weren’t the only ones in dress whites that day.
Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to participate with two other mystery writers in a Sisters in Crime New England panel, “We’re Not Making This Up” at the Plainfield Library in New Hampshire. Nancy Norwalk is the wonderful lady at the library who set up our panel, and advertised and arranged for event. I was the newbie and the two veterans were Kevin Symmons, who does romantic thrillers, sometimes with a gothic twist, and Ellen Perry Berkeley, who does gritty mysteries with a historical basis – as well as some interesting nonfiction, Maverick Cats and At Grandmother’s Table: Women Write about Food. Kevin’s latest is Chrysalis and Ellen’s is Keith’s People.
The Library is a beautiful little brick buidling that, like the Tardis, is much bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. Just to make sure we knew where we were going, Nancy’s signs pointed out our way into the charming, old New England building. Once there, I shared a table for displaying my books with Kevin Symmons, and the three of us got started talking about our writing and answering questions from a nice turn out of about 15 people. Kevin was our adept moderator.
We had some interesting discussion of the merits of small, independent publishers over the big-ticket conglomerates. You may not get huge advances or get as much promotion (though the latter advantage is not always available), but you also aren’t under pressure to sell 10 to 100s of thousands of books – and you don’t have to pay back an advance that low sales don’t erase. Just as good, your books tend to stay in print longer – and you tend to have more control over content. We also had some fun and funny discussions over sex vs. romance (in the novels), how do we carve out the time to write, and do the characters spring direct from the unconscious or do we base them on people we know. I ended up talking about how I like to cast my novels like a movie full of classic actors, with a few more modern folk sprinkled in. But we all agreed that characters have a way of taking the reins and telling us what they intend to do, no matter what our original intention was – and we love it!
It was also fun to discover how we all did our research through talking to people in different fields, drawing on our own personal and professional experiences, reading and immersing ourselves in the environments that would become our characters’ worlds: whether it was WWII New York, show- horse farms, or post Viet Nam America.
I did “shock” my two panel members by admitting that I have to write my first draft with pen (no pencil- too soft!) and paper. Otherwise, the muse just won’t flow. She needs to travel from my mind to the paper via that sharp pen point. Computers are for editing as far as she is concerned. What can I say!
We writers made some nice connections with one another and with our audience – and I hope that we inspired some of them to keep on with their own writing and perhaps be published, themselves! And, of course, it’s always nice to sell some books! We writers even ended up getting some reading material from each other.
I can’t tell everyone how excited I am that Bait and Switch is now going to be available. If you want the Kindle edition, it’s now available for pre-order through Amazon (click here), and the official release for all versions (paperback and electronic is December 15th – next week. As a little preview, I’d like to share the cover art with you here.
My husband Yang and I designed it and executed it. I love that it captures a ’40s noir/pulp-novel ambiance. Would you believe that Yang used me as the model for the figure? Well the body/clothes/ hair. The face is, um, a somewhat younger.
Just for fun, note that the lamp is actually based on the WWII blackout street lamps that directed light downward, keeping submarines or potential bombers from seeing the city. My husband is the tops, working away over the weekend to put my initial design into such an elegant form. I owe him a lot.
I thank my publisher and Jacqueline of all trades Sheri Williams for skillfully transferring our mock up to a finished product, slaving away into the wee hours to get things done – and done right! I appreciate it! I hope the this cover sets a mood that the novel will carry through for your enjoyment. In these times of holiday stress, a little tale of murder, espionage, and wise aleck cats always provides a pleasant distraction. I’ll have additional info for you after I finish grading some more papers! I have a day job, too! If I’ve piques your curiosity about Bait and Switch, click here for a sneak peek.