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Looking Forward with the Past

As readers of my previous post on this blog know, Boxcar Red Leader is now available on Kindle as an ebook and via KENP. It’s also available via CreateSpace as a paperback. Sales are not in the NYTBS range…yet! Many thanks to those of you who purchased and read the book, and the other two in the series so far. Please, tell all your friends, and if you feel so inclined write a review of the books on Amazon. You have no idea how much it helps!

So that’s one piece of news, and the other is about the two subsequent books in the series:  Thanks for the Memories and The New Boys. Not going to give anything away, but the survivors of the first three books will continue in those two volumes.

So, a little historical context:

Thanks for the Memories takes place in the summer and fall of 1942 in New Guinea. The Japanese, having been turned back at the Battle of the Coral Sea, and having suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Midway, are still nowhere close to being defeated. Allied forces in the South and Southwest Pacific theaters still operate on the slimmest of shoestrings. Yet with the resources at their disposal they must find a way not only to hold their ground but begin rolling back the might of the Japanese Empire.

In some ways that sounds like alternate history, doesn’t it? “The might of the Japanese Empire.” But any student of history will assure you, there was nothing “alternate” about the Japanese Army and Navy — particularly their Navy! — in 1942. Allied victory at Midway turned on the slimmest of margins; in five minutes, Dauntless dive bombers turned three Japanese carriers into blazing wrecks and salvaged victory from what was shaping up as a major defeat. Those five minutes in many ways overshadowed the valor of American airmen, mostly Navy but also Air Corps, who gave their lives and their blood in attacks foiled by flak and Zeros.

Torpedo Squadron Eight, for example, was nearly wiped out at Midway. Their commanding officer, John Waldron, was one of the first to go. Despite the death of their commanding officer, VT-8 pressed home their attack against odds that were literally, obviously, suicidal. Only a single man, Ensign George Gay, survived. His survival and rescue were flukes of pure luck.

The Japanese who witnessed the attack said that Torpedo Eight came on like samurai.

This type of courage was seen again and again in the Pacific.

That’s the war of Everything We Had, A Snowball’s Chance, Boxcar Red Leader, and Thanks for the Memories. Well, OK, so it’s a land war a long way to the south of Midway. The spirit was, is, the same.

But with The New Boys we’ll start looking across the Atlantic, to the war in Europe. That, of course, will be new ground entirely. Other books are in the research and planning stages.

While I get busy writing those two, everyone enjoy Boxcar Red Leader! Don’t feel shy about dropping me a line here to tell me what you think.

Thanks again!

— Tom Burkhalter

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Boxcar Red Leader

On November 1, 2010, I sat down in happy anticipation to begin the first draft of a novel. I was a contestant on NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writers Month. I had this pesky idea about an Grail novel set in the far future, and I’d written bits and pieces and really loved the idea, and really loved those little pieces, and I thought, I can do this, I can bull on through and at the end of the month I’ll have a first draft!

Yeah!

Yeah, ah, no.

Three days in and I’m doing pretty well. I was ahead of the 1700-words-per-day schedule I set myself. I was happy.

Day four. I sat down. I put my fingers on the keyboard.

Nothing.

Crickets.

OK, that happens. But when it kept happening and Day Six rolled around I knew I was in trouble. Not bad trouble. The space-fantasy novel was still doable. IF…

If I could figure out where the mental block was coming from.

So I opened that gaping hole in the back of my head and looked down into the yawning pit, and I yelled, “W?T?F?”

Echoes.

OK, I yelled. OK! So you don’t want to do the sci-fi-fantasy novel about one of your favorite things of all time! What DO you want to do?

The next thing I knew I was in the New Guinea jungle, on a godforsaken airstrip with a bunch of half-trained kids trying to stay alive flying a piece-of-junk airplane, the Bell P-39, against the Emperor’s Finest in the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, at the time — mid-1942 — one of the premier fighter planes in the world, flown by some of the best pilots in the world.

When the month was over I had a first draft. Back then I called it The Sluggers and the Palookas, because I had to call it something, and that was the working title my subconscious came up with. Hey, I’m just the fingers on the keyboard around here. Someone else is calling the shots.

And that’s true, because, over the next two years as I developed the story, I realized that Sluggers, that by then was called I Wanted Wings, had not one but two prequels. For NaNo 2011 I started the novel that eventually became Everything We Had. Only, well, the first sixteen thousand words were set in Manila in 1938, while Charlie was still a cadet at West Point and Jack had yet to take his first flying lesson.

So that took a little while to sort out, but eventually Jack Davis sailed into Manila Bay with the 21st Pursuit Squadron and Charlie Davis shanghaied Al Stern to be his navigator, and set out in his B-17D to cross the Pacific alone.

So there used to be this thing called Script Frenzy, which was like NaNoWriMo except with a movie script, and I wrote a screenplay called “The Bronco Busters,” and that was a major part of A Snowball’s Chance.

And all this time those boys in New Guinea slept in my hard drive. Not with any real degree of patience, I might add. Rowdy bunch, those Air Corps pilots.

But now six and a half years of work have borne their fruit, and Boxcar Red Leader is on the market.

That seems so strange a thing to write.

I mean, it isn’t like I’m done with those guys, the ones that made it through alive. They have plenty of trials and tribulations ahead of them.

Only…

One phase ends. Another phase begins. And, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not this week, but soon, within a couple of weeks, more likely than not, I’ll be back there in New Guinea.

And soon after that Jack will be in the States, facing new challenges.

I don’t exactly know how all that will play out. But as soon as I know I’ll share.

In the meantime, Boxcar Red Leader is available on Kindle. Enjoy!

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One-Week Promotional Deal

Beginning tomorrow, April 17, 2017, Everything We Had and A Snowball’s Chance will be available at Amazon Kindle at discount pricing for one week! Sales for both books start at $0.99 US, so it doesn’t get much cheaper than that. Buy early, because the longer you wait, the more the price rises until at the end of the week I’ll be back to sales at the original cost.

Enjoy the books!

Note: Boxcar Red Leader is in final draft review form. I won’t say when it will be available, but it won’t be long. Read the first two books now so you’ll be ready when it comes out!

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J’ai un ami en France

I have a friend in France, and I don’t know their name. If they should happen to read this, I want to say, merci, merci beaucoups mon cher ami!

This person is my friend because last year they bought my first book, Everything We Had, and some time this last week, they bought my second book, A Snowball’s Chance.

It is wonderful to me that I have even a handful of people willing to follow my work. Now I see there is also someone in Italy who bought Everything We Had, and a few people in England who are repeat customers.

Thank you, all of you! And remember, there’s a third novel, Boxcar Red Leader, coming this spring. Two other novels, Thanks for the Memories and The New Boys, are in preparation.

I hope you’ll enjoy them!

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Finally – A Snowball’s Chance

Yesterday, January 16, 2017, I finally sent A Snowball’s Chance to Kindle as an ebook. My very first sale of the book followed — to some wonderfully perspicacious reader in the United Kingdom! Say, partner, stay tuned, ’cause the Davis boys are coming to England soon, courtesy of the 8th Air Force!

Today I noticed five copies of Snowball sold. It’s a good start. Further, I finished formatting and reviewing the paperback version of Snowball, which will be available from CreateSpace and Kindle within the next two weeks.

So, now, I’m dusting off Boxcar Red Leader, which needs a few tweaks and revisions, and prepping that one for sale as well. The spoiler-free teaser for Boxcar is that it portrays the pilots flying P-39 Airacobras against the Japanese during May and June, 1942. Charlie Davis and his crew will make an appearance, and so will the 22nd Bomb Group, at that time flying B-26 Marauders.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

 

 

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Slogging on with A Snowball’s Chance

Folks, under the “no kidding” category, I’ve missed my own deadline (last summer!) for publishing the second novel in the series. I’m working hard on A Snowball’s Chance, but it has proven to be far more of a challenge than I anticipated.

To cap it all off, before I realized that Snowball would be so tough to write, I agreed to help a friend during NaNoWriMo this year, and that’s coming up in two days. Truth is that I’m looking forward to doing something completely different for a month during November. I’ve been fighting World War II in my mind since November of 2010, when I wrote the first draft of Boxcar Red Leader (I called it The Sluggers and the Palookas back then, and if you ask nicely, I’ll explain why!) and kicked off this whole adventure.

Some of you know this story, but for those of you who don’t, Boxcar Red Leader was originally written for NaNoWriMo 2010. It was not, however, the story I began writing that year. My original idea was to write a story I still (someday!) want to finish, a sci-fi-fantasy novel set in the far future titled The Once and Future Grail. I wrote 7000 words or so in the first three days…and something sort of unprecedented for me happened.

The words dried up. Whatever pipeline I had into that story, it was gone, and when it didn’t come back by that weekend, I was worried. To be a NaNo finalist, you have to write 1667 words per day, and I usually shoot for 1700. So by that Saturday I was six days into the contest with 7000 words written when I should have been over 10,000.

Not insoluble, but worrisome, definitely. So I asked my subconscious, what’s going on? I know you don’t want to write the Grail story, so what DO you want to write?

Turns out what I really wanted to write was the story of our pilots in the SW Pacific in early World War Two. Never mind that I hadn’t done a tenth of the research I thought necessary, never mind that I didn’t have a clear idea in my head of the plot or the characters, evidently on some level I made the decision to just start the damn story already!

So I did. By then I had 24 days instead of 30 to write 50,000 words on a story I had neither plan nor intention of writing. That, my friends, is perhaps the epitome of “pantsing.” I finished by November 30 — a day or two before, actually, with over 50,000 words — and after going through several revisions, changed the title twice (from The Sluggers and the Palookas to I Wanted Wings and finally to Boxcar Red Leader) and finally came up with what I think of as a finished product.

However, somewhere during that process I realized that, in Boxcar, Jack Davis alludes to previous service in the Philippines and Java.

Meaning there were two books existing prior to Boxcar.

They just weren’t written yet. Oh, dear.

And, as the members of my writers’ group pointed out with a certain sadistic glee, since I’m not George Lucas I can’t release books out of order.

So Boxcar Red Leader has languished on the shelf while I wrote Everything We Had (finally!) and finished A Snowball’s Chance.

The good news is that Boxcar Red Leader will only require relatively minor tweaks and updates to reflect the narrative in the two preceding novels.

But I won’t sacrifice quality just to get something out there. These novels, at least in part, are in homage to the people who were there and lived through it.

I owe them, and you, gentle reader, my best effort, and that is what you shall have.

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New Review of Everything We Had

Mark Lardas, writing in the Daily News of Galveston County, has posted a new review of Everything We Had. Mark’s byline notes that he is “…an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.”

Mark writes, among other things, that Everything We Had “…feels like a book which could have been written in the 1950s or 1960s by a veteran of the Pacific War.” That is one of the things I aimed for in writing the story, and something I’ll continue to do in the rest of the series.

You may read the full review here:

http://www.galvnews.com/books/article_ac3ceb49-398a-5670-82ff-2973e003c961.html

I noted with interest that the Daily News of Galveston County is the oldest newspaper in Texas, publishing since 1842.

Thanks, Mark!

 

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