Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Born a Ramblin' Woman


It's time to renew passports and I'm reminded that I haven't met my goal of touring Europe with the children.

When my father passed away, he left some money I put aside in a travel fund, so I could give my daughters the world the same way he gave it to me. So far, I've only given them Switzerland and parts of England.

To be fair, 9/11 (which occurred two weeks after we returned from Switzerland) and the subsequent bombings in Spain and London put a damper on things, and half the fam voted to stay home the summer I'd set aside for England and Scotland. Then my brother died and I felt that some of the money needed to be used to visit my aging mother.

So I've got some good excuses.

Still, I'm getting wander lust again. It's an itch that can only be scratched by hopping on a plane to a foreign land. Staying stateside just doesn't cut it. So, where to go, where to go. I'm thinking Brussels or Prague.

Any ideas? If you could go anywhere this summer, where would it be?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Another Hero

At the same time my father was bombing Germany in a notoriously difficult aircraft, without fighter escort to protect him from enemy fire, my father-in-law was learning to arm the P-51 Mustang--a new, scrappy fighter with long-range capability that would single-handedly save countless lives and change the course of WWII.

My father-in-law was also stationed in England with the Mighty Eighth. During his tour he witnessed horrifying B-24 crashes. Heavily laden with bombs, the planes often floundered and exploded on takeoff. But he also witnessed the mass ascension of the Normandy Invasion fleet and said he'd never seen anything so magnificent.

A few years ago we took him to the WWII weekend in Reading. A beautifully restored P-51 Mustang was in attendance and he hadn't seen one in over 50 years. Although we'd been warned against touching the precious aircraft, we wanted a picture of him near it.

As we approached the Mustang, I told the owners who he was and what he had done during the war. They dropped everything they were doing, shook his hand and with a reverence that makes me cry just thinking about, honored him by asking if he'd like to stand on the wing.

They helped him onto the wing, and we took this picture. Later, my mother-in-law told us she'd never seen him so happy in his life. If his ear-to-ear grin the whole day was any indication, she was right.

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Hanging The Moon

Since it's Memorial Day weekend I've decided to go ahead and post an essay about my father that I wrote about ten years ago. I wrote it for a website devoted to the 446th Bomb Group, of which my father was a member, and it details a couple of the missions that earned him his DFCs.

HANGING THE MOON
By Ann Wesley Hardin

Editor's note: The author is the daughter of 1st Lt Frank Baker, the pilot of "Rubber Check". Lt Baker was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and 3 Oak Leaf Clusters for his service with the 446th, including one for the mission detailed here. Click here to see the extract.

Shortly after my father folded his wings in November 1996, I began a quest to find out as much information about his war record as I could. I had before me several military extracts detailing the courage that won him three oak leaf clusters and a Distinguished Flying Cross. So I knew there were wonderful stories out there. If only I could find them.

Like many who served in WWII, my father didn’t like to talk about it much. While I was growing up, he watched war movies, read war books, and commented on the technical errors he found in them. But he never discussed his own experience. One day, I asked him.

He expressed surprise that I wanted to know, could not recall anyone ever asking him before. And he proceeded to tell me about a landing outlined in one of the extracts. He was very matter-of-fact about this mission to Germany, April 22nd, 1944:

Shortly after leaving the target area, the Rubber Check (named for its propensity to come back) is attacked by enemy aircraft. Rudder control cables are frayed; radio compass is shot out; mixture control cables severed, and a propeller is frozen at minimum power.

Maintaining control on the return trip, my father is unable to land because of enemy activity around the airfield. Proceeding to a second field, my father avoids collision with a plane that cartwheels in front of him and crashes as he prepares to land. Pulling out all stops and using every trick he can think of, he regains altitude and lands on a third field. No one is hurt.

“Were you scared?” I asked.

“No time to be scared,” he answered. “I had no intention of losing that plane.”

The only time he faltered in the various tales he told me that day was when he mentioned the presumed death of his co-pilot, Foster Hinton. As a member of the 707th squadron, my dad never lost a crewmember on one of his missions, and he was distressed by the loss of Hinton, even though he wasn’t responsible for it.

Lieutenant Hinton got sick and missed a raid with my father. As a result, he had to make it up on the Black Widow – an ill-fated voyage. My father remarked on the tragedy with a pilot’s bravado, “Hinton shouldn’t have gotten the flu.” But I had already detected the sorrow in his voice.

As it turned out, Foster Hinton was not killed when the Black Widow went down. But my father didn’t live to know that. Following his death, I called Hinton’s widow and she told me he had been captured and imprisoned. I wish my father knew that, but I guess he does now.

After speaking with Mrs. Hinton, I called Franklin Calhoun, a gunner on the Rubber Check. It was a sunny afternoon, about 2:00. Mr. Calhoun lived in Florida, and I heard the TV in the background when he picked up the phone.

“Is this the Franklin Calhoun who was a member of the 707th squadron in WWII?” I asked.

His voice trembled in reply. “Yes,” he said. “I am”.

I told him I was Frank Baker’s daughter. Did he remember my father?

“Oh,” came his shocked reply. “Oh I can’t believe it. I never pick up the phone at this hour because it’s usually a sales person. Of course I remember your Daddy.”

We talked for a few minutes about the nature of war. He said that he didn’t know my dad very well because my dad was an officer and Franklin was not. There was little fraternization between the groups – a fact that I did not realize. Mr. Calhoun told me that the bomb crews were not buddy-buddy like in the movies. They were just a group of men out to do a job. But he had always admired my dad.

“Do you have any stories you can tell me?” I asked. “My dad told me a few, but I want more.”

“Well,” Mr. Calhoun drawled. “Did your Daddy ever tell you about the time we busted up the plane?”

“No!” I shouted. Mr. Calhoun laughed and told me the following story:

On a day in 1944, with roughly half it’s missions completed, the Rubber Check heads home. The daylight is fading, and so is her fuel level. As the crew prepares her for landing, a terrible discovery is made. The ball turret won’t retract, trapping the artillery gunner in a bubble beneath the airplane and dooming him to hit the runway before the wheels.

Frantic efforts are made to retract the turret, without success. Because of the approaching night and empty fuel tanks, a life or death decision must be rendered.

Through the headphones comes a confident declaration from the pilot. “Don’t worry Fielder, I’ll take care of you. We are going to bring this baby in.”(I suspect a more colorful term was used for “baby” but I have no proof).

As promised, my father landed that plane – and broke it in half. In the back, Sergeant Calhoun “hung on for dear life.” He said that when they carried him out, everyone was alive. Everyone stayed alive, and miraculously unhurt. Even the ball turret gunner, Roy Fielder.

Since then I have learned that Roy Fielder kept in touch with my brother in Texas all these years. He met with my dad on at least one occasion, and exchanged Christmas cards with my sister-in-law. When I called her for Mr. Fielder’s address –I wanted this story in his own words but sadly never got it – my sister-in-law said, “Oh, he thinks your dad hung the moon!”

And you know what? I do too.

Footnote: My father left behind many mementos from the Good War. Among them was a clock from the control panel of a Liberator. He swiped it from another plane and I often wonder if it was from the plane that broke in half. He never said.

My brother traced the tail number of the “new” Rubber Check to a B-24 bone yard. In the words of a fellow aviator, “It’s probably a beer can now.”


The crew of "Rubber Check". Standing L to R: Sgt John Thomas, Sgt Albert Cochran, Sgt George Blank, Sgt Franklin Calhoun, Sgt John Roberts, Sgt Roy Lee Fielder. Knealing L to R: 2Lt Adrian Perrault, 2Lt Frank Baker, 2Lt Arthur Bailey, 2Lt Foster Hinton.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

War Ride

Ya'll know I'm a shameless WWII whore. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one is that my dad flew B-24 Liberators in the Mighty Eighth Airforce. He won four Distinguished Flying Crosses for his bravery and skill in that war, and someday I'll talk about some of his hair-raising missions.

Today I want to celebrate the fact that for the first time in my life I have the chance to see, hear, smell, and maybe even ride in a B-24 Liberator!

Every year there's a WWII weekend in Reading, PA. It's one of the most phenomenal events I've ever attended. They erect a military base complete with Officer's Quarters, hospital wards, vintage vehicles and aircraft, and everyone dresses up in 40s clothing or military gear. There are travelling museums and lectures by famous airmen and officials, and, of course, an airshow. It's incredible!

Anyway, the times I've attended they haven't had a B-24 there. This year, they do. Most of these mighty planes--the long range, heavy bomber workhorses that were the unsung heroes of the war--were melted for scrap. Only a few remain.

Here's my dilemma: it costs $425 to ride in one.

I just got back from a very expensive conference!

Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I've always wanted to get a sense of what my dad saw, what he heard, what he felt, as he flew off on raids from which he might not return.

I want to touch the instruments he touched and feel the maneuvers of the aircraft he knew so well and so intuitively, he was able to make it perform under impossible conditions.

I guess, through this airplane, I want to know my father. I reckon that'd be money well spent. Don't you?


My dad


His crew and the plane he named the "Rubber Check", because they always return.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My First Booksigning!


Thank you Joy of Joyfully Reviewed for this pic. It's the only one I have!

I sat with Kristen Hardy of Harlequin Blaze and had a ton of fun with her. We talked about back cover blurbs and whether or not they can make a book tank. She had me read one she was concerned about and I thought it sounded great. However, I told her I'd never been quite satisfied with one of my blurbs, and sure enough, the sales on that book weren't nearly as skippy as the others. It's funny how we both felt uncomfortable with the blurbs on the books that didn't sell well. Interestingly enough, the big HQ marketing machine wrote hers, and I wrote mine myself. Did we both screw up?

What do you think? Can back cover copy make or break a book?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Feelin' Bluesy

One of the after effects of being at a conference, besides alcohol poisoning, is feeling so lonely once you get home.

I'm the type that can only take so much stimulation before I have to scurry back into my quiet cave and recover. But still, I want the activity to be there when I'm ready for it again. And it's not.

Boo hoo.

I miss youse guys!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

C-C-C-Cavemen!


Brooks, better known as my ride for the night, is on the far left.


A room with a view!

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Couple of Hot Shots


Me, Ashleigh Raine and Arianna Hart. Note: Ashleigh wore the same necklace as me. Bitch.


Me and Jaci Burton. Trust me, her ass is really, really nice--as evidenced by the blissful smile on my face.


There's Nurse Ari in the background.

Powered Down

So aside from a two hour delay at the airport last night, the trip home went smoothly. Luckily, my ex-friend Kathy Love had a delayed flight too, so we hung out at the teensy, quiet Daytona airport and chatted.

The book fair on Saturday went very well! I sold half my books and talked to many readers who enjoyed my stories and were anxious to read the new one. I also talked to alot of authors who wanted to know all about my experience with EC. There's no question that the company is sizzling and the buzz surrounding it has attained jet engine decibels. With its huge author/reader base at RT and the tasty cover models strolling about, I felt so proud to be part of it all!

Also, one of our very own cavemen won the Mr. Romance 2006 title! I had the pleasure of hanging out with this classy gentleman one night. He totally deserved his victory. Go Rodney!

So, what am I gonna do after RT? Sleep!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Sneaking in For Some Downtime

This convention totally rocks! But man am I tired. A bone deep emotional kind of tired.

Last night at Heather Graham's fabu Vampires of The Caribbean bash an author friend who shall remain nameless (Kathy Love) goaded me into dancing inbetween a cover model and his groupie du jour. Good move or bad move? You decide.

I bumped his ass with mine, he bumped back, I bumped harder and then he charged. I don't remember everything that happened next, but all of a sudden I was slung over his shoulder like I weighed two ounces. He then proceeded to keep dancing with me hanging on for dear life. Kathy and my other so-called friends were peeing all over themselves and also trying to make sure I didn't slide off on my head. No one needed to worry, though, cuz this guy was solid.

It was like riding a freakin' bull.

So then he kinda flipped me around and I ended up taking a piggy back ride on his back. Heck. His hat was sitting right there on top of his head and in front of my face, so of course I'm gonna take it and swing it over my head and scream yeeeehaaaaaaaaaw! Wouldn't you?

So that was the highlight of my conference. Tonight I'm hiding in my room and reading Sylvia Day's awesome Bad Boys Ahoy. That woman can write! Tomorrow is the big booksigning and I know for a fact I've got at least two fans at this conference. I'm really looking forward to it!

Ack! 1130 already. I need my beauty rest!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

AI LIVE from RT

You know, I dislike McPhee. She's my whipping post for all the wrongs done to me in the girl's room in high school. Hey, unfair or not it is what it is! But her version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow made me cry from the first note. And I kept crying through Taylor's You Are So Beautiful To Me.

So, was it Kat-scratch Pheever or Taylor?

Man. They both brought in the performances of their lives.

Now, song three...

Elliot: he's kicking ass here, but is it enough? Simon says no and I agree. Still, he made his momma proud and went further faster than anyone else in this world who looks like that will ever go in Hollywood. Except maybe Steve Buscemi. Buh bye, Elliot, my personal fav.

Kat: desperate. But no one's gonna forget Oz. That was truly and totally awesome.

Taylor: Vintage Taylor and very well sung. Also very smart. It's what his fans want.

Oh man, I hate to say it, but I think Elliot has come to the end of the line.

Hey, is that a cover model walking down the hall?? I gotta go.....

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Romantic Times Booklovers Convention!



I'll be there May 16th through May 21st! See you in sunny Daytona!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Releasing May 17th!!!!



I *heart* this cover! Arnie is perfect and the manga-ish look is so hip I could squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!

Here's the blurb:

The minute Arnie Simpson lays eyes on Ava Ward, he decides the MD after her name stands for Major Deviant. Her slender figure, white hair and unearthly intelligence make him want to lock limbs with her. Badly. If only he could be sure she wouldn’t eat him in the morning.

A seriously sexy rocket scientist is just what Ava wants for a lover. Unfortunately, Arnie doesn’t use his immense brilliance. He tinkers with airplanes by day, and her body by night. She’d let him tie her up and play with her forever, if she could figure out what’s tying down his mind.

When their supercharged lovemaking attracts supernatural attention, and when uncanny revelations come to light, they begin to wonder if their magical passion is totally insane, or if it’s simply out of this world.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Busted: a TMI moment

At The Bamboozle the other day, I happened to point out some Groupies to the children. We watched them for a few minutes, snickering over their breast jiggling and hair tossing. The guards were basically ignoring them and I don't know whether they ever made it backstage.

Today child number two comes into my room. She's brushing her teeth. Through the foam she says, "Do you remember those Groupies?"

I said, "Yes."

She said, "What exactly would they do to get backstage?"

I said, "Anything."

She said, "Sex?"

I said, "Yes."

She looked at me with that expression that begs for more. So I said, "Blow jobs."

She said, "Even to old men?"

I said, "To anyone."

She said, "What is that again?"

I said, "Sucking on a penis."

*horrified look*

She said, "Sorry, but I don't think I'd ever want to do that."

I said, "That's ok. You don't have to."

She said (drumroll please) "Have you ever done that?"

*silence*

"Have you?"

*helpless smirk*

From downstairs comes the shrill voice of child number one: "Folks, we all know the answer to that!"

I am sooooooo busted.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

The Aftermath

So immediately after child number one got hit in the eye with the biological weapon at Bamboozle, she complained of a black spot in her field of vision. It seemed to go away quickly enough, however, and yesterday passed without any complaint or even a mention of it on her part.

Until 10 o'clock last night.

Like the good mother I can be when I'm in the mood, I got on the 'net and researched black spots in the eye. By this time, the whole house was asleep and I'm sitting there by myself reading that this could be a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and that you should CALL 911 immediately. Time is IMPERATIVE. She could go BLIND. Or, it could be nothing.

I start thinking over all the facts: no swelling, no pain, the spot comes and goes. And I weigh this against: ten hours in the ER and a humongous bill.

I've never felt so alone, or more like a bad mother in my whole life.

This morning I kept her home until the eye doctor opened and all the while she's complaining about not getting to go to school (Yes. I have strange children). And for two hours the conversation went like this:

Me: Is the spot there?
Her: No
Me: Is the spot there?
Her: Yes
Me: Is the spot there?
Her: A little
Me: Is the spot there?
Her: Yes
Me: Is the spot there?
Her: No

But I didn't tell her the bad parts--only that it could be serious and she should be checked out. I think I hid my anxiety well, don't you?

So we went and stood outside the office and waited for them to unlock the doors. The doc immediately ushered her inside the examining room while telling the other patients they'd have to wait. Did I mention how much I love this guy?

He entertained her while he mapped out the interior of her eyeball, and reassured me as he finished each step. Of course it all turned out ok.

Did I wait too long? He didn't seem to think so given her lack of other symptoms, but the moral of this story is: the sudden appearance of black spots in the eye are indeed a medical emergency. I had no idea. Maybe you didn't either so I figured I'd pass the word along.

Oh, and watch out for flying water bottles. Oy.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bamboozled

I know. I know. I haven't been around much. Before yesterday I had this urge to get my blurb for Out Of This World finished because I knew I'd be worthless today. Why did I know I'd be worthless today? Because yesterday I spent twelve hours guarding three young teenage girls at The Bamboozle--an annual punk rock music festival.

Oy.

Have you ever been a lab rat stuffed inside a powered up jet engine with 30,000 other rats, in an active landfill, with no place to sit down? No? Well you've certainly missed out.

By the time we needed to eat dinner, we didn't have to buy it. Every foodstuff imaginable was coating the ground. Every kind of drink bottle, too, many with liquid still inside. Drink bottles were also flying through the air like biological weapons, spraying unsuspecting festival goers and bashing them in the head. Child number one got hit in the eyeball.

It was all worth it in the end, though, because we got to hear countless boys in bands call us a bunch of motherfuckers and watch Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy spit water all over the audience.

So, all in all, a good time.

How was your Saturday?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

It's My Blurbday and I'll Cry if I Want To

Weeeeeeeeell it's blurb creation day here at the homestead. Yes, folks! One, full day devoted to blurbs. Nothing but blurbs.

Nothing.

But.

Blurbs.

*blurbber*

Waaaaaaah!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pant, Sputter, Faint

Edits have gone in. Now I can come out to play for a spell. As soon as I rest.

Hey, did ya'll know that Friday is not only Cinco de Mayo, it's also No Pants Day!

Bottoms up!

Monday, May 01, 2006

An Internet Tour de Force!

Karen Scott jabs Daisy Dexter Dobbs' Just Like a Dame, and Daisy ripostes in grand, inimitable style.

Take a bow, Chica! You are just, like, one hysterical dame!