Category Archives: 1943

Meet Maggie

Been a while since I posted a teaser from my latest book 1943. Well, here is one. This excerpt introduces a main character to the story, Maggie. Considering that this story has an underlying romance element, it may seem strange that the second half of that romance (Maggie) doesn’t show up until almost half way through the book. Here we see her first appearance after she has had a particularly bad date that left her feeling a bit “desperate”. She is a divorcee whose husband has left her some years before. Dating, at forty-five, has proven to be something less than she had hoped for.

*****

After regaining her composure, she stood and tore off a paper towel from the dispenser under the kitchen cabinet, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose. “No use crying over it now,” she reminded herself.

Her cell phone rang, and she fished for it in the bowels of her huge purse, hoping to find it before whomever was calling was sent to voice-mail. It was Darrel, her most recent mistake. “Oh, it’s you,” she muttered when she saw the caller ID and simply tossed the phone back into the purse.

Maggie went to the refrigerator and retrieved a Diet Coke, popped the top and gulping nearly half of it down, expecting that to help. But it didn’t. She still felt like crap—useless and unloved—cheap—and now needing to belch. She let it fly, and it was a good one.

The phone rang again. “Go away!” she screamed at it. It did not. It rang for another eight rings before whoever it was gave up, probably HIM.

Then the house phone rang. She snatched it from the charging cradle. “What?” she yelled into the phone.

“My, aren’t we testy tonight,” said Scarlet. “Something wrong?”

“Nothing. Sorry. What do you want?”

“Checking on you to see how you liked your date.”

“He was an utterly useless pile of cow manure.”

“Wow! Liked him that much, huh? What did he do?”

“He was a jerk, a complete narcissist-in-love-with-himself jerk. Then he wanted me to go back to his condo for a drink and…”

“I take it you passed on that exciting offer?” quipped Scarlet.

Maggie laughed at her sarcasm. “What is it with men that everyone of them thinks just because I’m over forty I must be desperate to get laid by just any smooth-talking jerk?”

“You’re not?” Scarlet asked, trying to sound sarcastic.

Maggie sighed. “What am I going to do with you?”

“You have my sympathies. Finding a good one isn’t easy. I’m looking for husband number three now. The first two were jerks.”

“Tell me about it. I’m done with this singles and dating bit. I haven’t the time to waste on idiots who are trying to impress me with their toned bodies and clever, flattering banter.”

“Wait! Don’t do anything rash. I just opened a bottle of pinot noir, and I’m on the way over there.”

“No, no. I don’t need to get smashed over this.” But it was too late. The phone was dead and Scarlet was already out the door. Less than thirty seconds later she waltzed in Maggie’s back door.

“I’m sure glad you live across the street. Makes these midnight bitch sessions so much easier.” With that she grabbed two wine glasses from the rack and offered one to her friend. “You need to whine, and wine goes so well with whining.”

As Scarlet filled the glasses, Maggie laughed. “Scarlet, I love you. You could always make me smile when I was feeling down.”

“What are friends for but to be there when you’re hurting?” As Scarlet passed the wine to her, she paused a long moment before responding in a more serious tone, “Maggie, you are a beautiful woman with so much to offer a man. Don’t give up on life. You just need to find the right one, one who deserves you. Your ex-husband didn’t. He was a jerk, and I told you that before you married him. Ken is gone from your life, out in California chasing beach bunnies and probably catching some social disease. That’s a plus—that he’s gone from your life, that is—not the social disease part. That has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for you, but you have to give it some time.”

“Time? What about the four guys I’ve dated since Ken left me? Explain those.”

“Simple. I never got to approve any of those. You were on your own, and well, you made bad calls. You should have passed them by me for my inspection first. I have a sixth sense about these things.”

“Sixth sense? But you’re working on husband number three. How can you spot my jerks but not your own?”

Scarlet shrugged as she took a sip of wine before replying with a wave of her hand, “I donno. I get all wrapped up in the heat of the moment, if you get my meaning. I can be more objective with your jerks and see their flaws before you discover them the hard way.” She held up her hand. “OK, so you had a bad experience—check that—a few bad experiences. I know this dating thing can be a pain, especially if they are auditioning for the role of life partner instead of just a goodtime friend. I know you well enough to know you’re not someone who can get along indefinitely without a partner. Frankly, I’m surprised you’ve lasted this long. I know you’re trying, but I think you may not be giving them a chance. You’re afraid to commit.”

“You suggesting I was too hasty with Darrel?”

“Not at all. He was and remains a jerk. What I’m saying is not all of them are. Don’t get discouraged. The right one will come along, and when he does, don’t let him get away. Because you’ve been hurt in the past doesn’t mean you’ll always be hurt in the future. Sometimes, you just have to trust your heart, even when logic is screaming no. I was the class clown and can be flip about this. You are the more serious member of our dynamic duo—well at least since college anyway. Back then, you were kind of wild, and now you’re a professional woman running a successful business—I’m babbling, aren’t I? You’re the kind of person who needs that happy-ever-after ending, but remember this: Every happy ending has to have a beginning.” Scarlet remained silent for a moment to allow that to sink in. “And sometimes, that beginning may look rather strange at first. Yeah, you’ve made a few bad calls, but not all men are like Ken or Darrel—or the other three. There are actually some rare gems out there that can appreciate something good when they see it. You have to give them a chance to show you that.”

*****

1943 – Road Trip! Searching for Miss Betty on a WWII Harley-Davidson is available here.

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1943 is LIVE!

PrintMy latest book “1943” is now available. This one is very different from my previous Catahoula Series, which was historical fiction with strong romantic overtones, especially in the first two books. “1943” takes place in contemporary times and is a romantic comedy, road trip, mystery, action/adventure story. The story blurb is below.

*****

Still grieving over the death of his wife, retired San Bernardino Sheriff’s detective Mac McConnell is a lost soul wasting away with life passing him by. His closest companion is his deceased wife’s little, black and tan Pug dog (named “Pug,” of course), but the two barely get along.

During restoration of an old Harley-Davidson WLA Liberator motorcycle from WWII, Mac’s friend finds a faded photo of a beautiful young woman that was taken during the war and a never completed V-Mail letter that was written to her by her fiancé, a soldier serving somewhere in Italy in 1943.

Knowing only the couple’s first names, Betty and Alvin, and with the letter, the photo, and the old motorcycle the only clues to go on, Mac and Pug set out to solve a seventy-year-old mystery. That leads them on a cross-country journey on the old Harley as they go in search of “Miss Betty.” Along the way the unlikely pair encounter some unusual new friends and find themselves in some unexpected, sometimes dangerous, and often humorous situations. In the process, Mac discovers there is indeed new life (and love) after a death.

*****

For Amazon Kindle Unlimited members, the digital version is available FREE here. Regular price is $4.99 for non-Kindle Unlimited members. The paperback is also available at the same link or at Create Space.

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1943 UPDATE (And FREE Excerpt!)

OK, I am a little behind on this—like two months! But it will be worth it. Beta readers have had their say, and I made changes accordingly—at least where I agreed, which was almost all suggestions. The manuscript has been edited and re-edited, but I’m sure something snuck through. The files have been uploaded both to Amazon and Createspace (paperback). I am waiting on a proof copy from Createspace before I hit the publish button. Most likely date now is before the end of January. So, hang in there.

1943 is very different from the Catahoula Series. It takes place in contemporary times as a retired sheriff’s detective attempts to solve a 70+ year old mystery and find two people from WWII. All he has to go on is an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a photo of the woman, and a V-Mail letter from her fiancé serving somewhere in Italy in 1943 (of course). Mac McConnell is drawn out of his grief over the death of his wife by what becomes an obsession to find Miss Betty and Alvin. This leads him and his little dog, Pug, on a cross-country road trip on the old motorcycle as they go in search of Miss Betty.

Along the way, they meet some “strange” people who become their traveling companions on this journey of discovery and recovery. The excerpt below is from when he meets the first of his new traveling companions. Also, note the redesigned cover. Enjoy.

*****

PrintWith the sun going down and a few hundred more miles behind them, Mac pulled into a gas station in Vail, Arizona and popped the cap on the gas tank while Pug ran off to relieve himself in a grassless patch of sand beside the paved area. As he stood there fueling the bike, Pug rejoined him and begged for a drink of cool water. Mac opened his last water bottle, took a long pull himself and then offered it to Pug, who eagerly drank right from the bottle.

And that’s when they showed up: four bikers, wearing their “colors,” and all riding a Harley in some form or another. One was a trike, pulling a small trailer.

“Oh, joy,” muttered Mac under his breath as they pulled up to the island he was using. A gas station with twelve empty pumps, and they come to my little fuel island.

The rider of the trike had his “bitch” on the back, and she was on the hefty side with weather balloons for boobs. Both of them were heavily tattooed, including full “sleeves.” The other “bitch” was riding a chopper with ape-hanger handlebars. She was a tall, lanky woman in tight-fitting leather pants and snug leather vest with her shirt open just enough to reveal ample cleavage with a tattoo of a black widow spider crawling from out of the crack. A lizard tat was wrapped around her neck and looking as if he might be after the spider for lunch. She was made-up like she was auditioning for a porn movie. Except for that, she was down right good-looking.

The one who turned out to be the leader, a hard-looking stout 180 pounds on a five foot nine frame with a sparse beard, pulled it up to the remaining open pump and shut down his tricked-out Fat Boy and stepped off. Both ears were adorned with a series of rings along the edge. Another pierced his left nostril and looked like it might interfere with a good sneeze. He was also tatted and was wearing faded jeans, traditional high-top harness boots and black leather jacket over a tee shirt. His helmet, not required in Arizona, was strapped on the sissy bar above his sleeping bag. The do-rag he wore on his head sported a flame pattern.

He smiled, displaying bright white teeth, somehow not what Mac was expecting. “A WLA! Classic iron! Outstanding, man!” And he proceeded to walk around Mac’s bike, admiring it as Mac put the gas cap back on. The others shut down their bikes and while waiting their turn at the pumps joined the classic iron fan club.

“They call me Darth Trader,” said the leader. “What’s your handle?”

“My name is Mac.”

“No, man, what’s your riding handle, you know?”

“No, I don’t know. Mac has always worked, at least until now.”

“Man, you need a handle. I guess Mac will have to do. Nice ride. You restore it?”

Mac looked around at his new groupies and replied, “A friend did most of the work.”

“Beautiful bike. How’s she run?” the lone “bitch” asked as she knocked the kickstand down on her chopper. She stepped off and leaned closer for a look at the WLA’s motor. “Name’s Loco,” she added casually.

“Runs like she came off the assembly line yesterday.”

Loco noticed Pug then. “A Pug. Sweet dogs. I had one once. He yours?”

“More or less,” Mac replied.

“Where ya headed, man?” asked Darth Trader.

(REDACTED to avoid spoilers)

“Cool, you and the dog making a road trip to (REDACTED)?”

“Um, yeah. Where you headed?” Mac asked, hoping it was maybe north or south or west, anyplace but east.

Darth looked around at his friends and shrugged. Some of them shrugged, too. “Don’t know, man. Wherever the road takes us. You know, man, it’s the journey not the destination when you’re on two wheels?”

Mac nodded. “Yeah, the ride,” he replied while thinking, If he says “man” one more time, I might have to slap him. But then he thought better of that, seeing as he was outnumbered.

Darth put a reassuring hand on Mac’s shoulder. “Say, I have a great idea. We’re headed in the same direction.”

Crap! thought Mac.

“Why don’t you ride with us?”

Double crap!

*****

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“Go find, her, Mac.”

I am getting closer to publishing 1943. I was shooting for November, but it is looking more like December now. (I knew I shouldn’t have set a date…) Meanwhile, here is an excerpt to get you all excited about the book.

Our hero, Mac, has been searching for the two people mentioned earlier in the book (see a sample of that here). In the saddlebags of the old Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycle, he had found a photo of Betty and a V-Mail letter written by her fiance, Alvin, in Italy during WWII. His friend, Buster has badgered him into looking for more information on the two. At this point, he has discovered a lot about Betty, but the missing piece of information about her is where she is today, and is she even still alive over 70 years later? From clues in the photo and letter, he has deduced she once lived in New Orleans, but that is as much as he has been able to figure out.

To clear his head, he takes a ride on the old Harley on Rim of the World Drive in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California. (Been there and it is beautiful.) He stops and during the course of the stop, Mac has a conversation with his deceased wife, Jill—or at least that is what he thinks is happening. She seems to be speaking to him through her little dog, Pug. Here is the scene.

*****

Print

Mac had always found riding a motorcycle therapeutic, and maybe it would work this time? If nothing else, a ride would allow him to get his mind off his failure to solve a case. Thirty minutes later, he and Pug were up on Rim of the World Drive and leaning into the curves and feeling the wind in his face. There, on the bike, he was in another world, one unencumbered with the cares of this world, but one that felt an awful lot like pure freedom. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

But as he continued along, dragging the footboards in the tight turns and pushing the old Harley harder than he should in his attempt to forget—Betty came back to him. Giving into her, he pulled over on a lookout, the same place he had that long conversation with Jill only a few days before, and shut the bike down. With the kickstand down, he stepped off and away from the bike, pausing to look at it for a long moment. What had started out to be a fun project a few years before, that blasted bike and everything related to it had become a nagging obsession, one he could get no rest from. He loved it and hated it at the same time.

He slipped the backpack off his back and let Pug out to run free. The little dog promptly relieved himself on a nearby guardrail post. Mac turned away from the Harley and stepped over the guardrail and sat on the rail under the shade of a scrub pine. He looked out at the vast expanse of southern California spread out before him in the valley below, staring out into the distance, looking but seeing nothing. Pug went under the guardrail and took a seat beside him. The two sat there quietly, each in his own world.

“What am I going to do, Jill? I can’t find the answers I need. Betty remains hidden from me.”

“Then go find her,” she replied.

He came to his feet. Pug jumped up and stepped away, his eyes focused on Mac.

“Find her? How am I supposed to do that?” he said pacing and waving his hands in the air to give emphasis to his words.

A car passed, and the two kids in the back saw him doing that. They looked at each other, and the older girl made circular motions with her index finger beside her temple.

“You’re a detective, aren’t you?” Jill replied.

Mac threw up his hands in surrender. “What? I’m out of clues. I can’t find her.”

“Of course you can. You’re my husband, the same man who claimed to be the world’s greatest detective who can solve any mystery.”

“Jill, give me a break here. I have nothing to work with. I’m at a dead end,” he said as he continued his pacing and wild gesturing with his hands, once stopping to kick a rock over the edge of the lookout to express his frustration.

Pug backed away.

“You may not be able to find her here, but what about there?”

“There? New Orleans? Don’t you understand? I have nothing left to work with. Nothing.”

“Buster is right, you are a stubborn man—but that’s one thing I loved about you—you never gave up. Why are you quitting now?”

Mac sat heavily on a guardrail and put his head in his hands. “I’m lonely, Jill. I want you back.”

“You can have me but only in your heart. The time has come for you to go find someone else, someone who can give you the peace and happiness you need and deserve—and you can give her the peace and happiness she needs and deserves.”

He spun and looked at Pug. “Betty?” But Jill didn’t answer the question. Long moments of silence ticked by. “Jill,” he called out, but she didn’t answer. “Jill, are you there? Speak to me!”

“Go find her, Mac,” whispered the voice.

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1943 – Road Trip!

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While working on The Avenging Angel, I am also working on another book titled 1943. This one takes place in modern times and is thus a departure from the Catahoula Chronicles series. The story is about a retired San Bernardino Sheriff’s detective, Mac McConnell, who is struggling with the death of his beloved wife of 35 years.

A short while before she was killed in an accident, she had encouraged him to purchase a “barn-find,” Harley-Davidson WLA Liberator, military motorcycle from WWII and restore it. With her death, he lost interest in the project, but his old codger of a friend did not and finished the restoration. The excerpt below is when Mac has been called by Buster (his friend) to come pick up the bike.

After a brief ride on the restored antique, Mac is bitten by the riding bug again, and for a few minutes, is drawn out of his depressed state. Buster was friends with Mac and his wife for all of their married life and is using the bike to get the ponytailed, bearded, and withdrawn Mac to rejoin the human race again. While restoring the bike, Buster found something he hoped would do just that to the retired detective. The scene below is Buster laying out his “bait” for Mac.

*****

Buster hobbled back into the kitchen holding a re-purposed manila envelope some junk mail had come in at one time and he had labeled “Harley Stuff” with a Sharpie marker. He dumped the contents out on the table. “Wait’ll ya see this.” He fished around in the mess of papers, bills, invoices and new parts warranties relating to the WLA and came up with two items. He passed them to Mac. “Check this out.”

One was an old photograph of a beautiful young woman on a city street somewhere. She was holding onto a street pole of some kind by one arm and leaning away from it. Her other arm was extended, and she looked deliriously happy. From the way she was dressed and the cars in the picture, it looked like it might have been taken in the forties. She looked to be in her late teens or maybe early twenties and was truly lovely. The photo was black and white, but it was obvious she had black hair and ruby red lips, a slender figure and “nice gams” as they referred to shapely women’s legs back then. “Who is this?”

“It’s signed on the back.”

Mac flipped the photo over and read the inscription. “All my love, Betty. October 1943.”

“Now read the letter.”

The letter was V-Mail from World War II written by a soldier to his sweetheart. It was dated 23 December 1943 and began “Somewhere in Italy. My dearest Betty…” He stopped reading there and asked, “And where did this come from. Same place as the photo, I assume?”

WLA

Buster nodded after a swig of beer. “Yep, both of them came out of that Harley out there.”

A questioning expression spread over Mac’s face. “The old saddlebags?”

He nodded again. “If you remember, the leather was so dry, we were afraid to even try to open it. Well, curiosity got the best of me, and I did open it. Ruined the bag in the process, but that didn’t matter since we bought reproductions to replace them. But I found these down in the bottom.”

“They’ve been there since—what, 1943?”

Buster shrugged. “Looks like it.”

Mac resumed reading the letter. Neither the sender’s address nor the recipient’s address had been filled in at the top of the V-Mail. The letter was closed, “With love, Alvin.” He looked up at Buster. “So, this letter is to Betty somebody from Alvin somebody who was serving in Italy in 1943?”

“That’s about it.”

“What do you know about these V-Mail letters?”

“Not much, except the name stands for ‘Victory Mail,’ and they were created to save valuable space and weight during wartime. They copied the letters to microfilm, sent that on, and printed them out at the receiving end. That’s why everything is on one side and why there’s space at the top for the sender’s and the recipient’s addresses. Alvin never got to fill that in for some reason, which I don’t even want to think about.”

Mac did think about what it all might mean. He saw that they had a genuine piece of history in the Harley itself, but they also had historical documents associated with it. That was interesting.

“Well, Detective McConnell, is your curiosity up yet?”

“Yeah, I’d like to know more about them. What do you know?”

“Nothing more than is revealed in that letter and picture. If you had read the letter, you would know that Betty was pregnant with Alvin’s child.”

Mac looked back at the body of the letter. Alvin did indeed mention how excited he was to know he was going to be a father. He also mentioned being promoted to corporal. “Corporal Alvin. Not much information here: no last names, no addresses, not even hometowns. It would be hard, if not impossible, to discover any more about these two.”

Buster shook his head in disgust. “How many years were you a detective with the San Berdoo Sheriff’s Office? Was that just a figurehead position, and did you actually solve some crimes?”

“Of course I did.”

“Clues, man. You have all kinds of clues here. The letter has details buried in it, and the photo can likely tell you something. Look at it. Think about it, Mac. Usually you’re solving mysteries to put someone in jail. This is a chance to solve one with a happy ending. Doesn’t that get you just a little excited about figuring out who these two are?”

“So, you want me to find these two, assuming they’re still alive, which isn’t very likely, and do what? Give them the letter and the picture? You don’t really think they are still above ground, do you? Or that they care about all this that happened over seventy years ago?”

“Aren’t you just a little curious to find out? And even if they are deceased, don’t you think they might have some kin somewhere who just might want these items?”

“What? An old V-Mail letter and a fading picture from an old Kodak box camera?” Mac tossed them back in the pile of papers on the table. “All this happened long ago, and those involved are probably dead by now. Besides, we don’t have enough information to find Alvin whoever, or Betty what’s-her-name, or their kids. It would be waste of time.”

“Like you have other more pressing business to attend to now?”

*****

And Mac is drawn into solving a seventy-year-old mystery to discover what happened to Corporal Alvin and Miss Betty. Did Alvin come home and marry Betty, and they raised their child together? Is either still alive? What about their children?

What Mac discovers about Alvin and Betty leads him on a cross-country road trip on the old Harley. Along the way, he meets some very strange and interesting people and ends up in some unusual, sometimes dangerous, and often humorous situations. In the end, Mac finds something he did not expect to find, his own future, the one he thought he did not have.

I am shooting to get 1943 published by November 2016.

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