Today, we’re speaking with Judy Nickles, author of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mysteries. She’s here to tell us about the second book in the series, The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit…
After narrowly escaping disaster a few times in The Bogus Biker, she thinks life will settle down again. Unfortunately, she can’t stop thinking about Sam and wondering when–if–he’ll turn up again. For all she knows, he may be doing hard time somewhere.
Meanwhile, life must go on, so when her best friend, Mary Lynn Hargrove (the mayor’s wife) proposes to turn the town’s first school, now an empty shell, into a community center, Penelope says she’ll pitch in. That brings Sam out of the woodwork. He advises (warns?) her to back off, but he won’t tell her why, so she digs in her heels.
After all, it’s only an empty building. Or is it? Where are the voices coming from? And what’s in the basement at the bottom of–you’ve got to be kidding me!–thirteen steps? Her father Jake says when he went to school there, whenever the boiler acted up, everyone joked it was the town’s founder and builder of the school, Jeremiah Bowden, making trouble.
But Penelope blessed doesn’t believe in ghosts.
Tricia: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Judy: I’m a retired teacher who has been writing since she could hold a #2 pencil. When I packed in the lesson plan book in 2007, I decided it was publish now or never. I’ve had my share of rejections, but I also have five traditionally published books, four with The Wild Rose Press, and one with Champagne Books.
I love history, traveling, genealogical research, meeting new people, and learning new things. I’m blessed with three beautiful grandchildren, two girls and a boy. I like to say I’m having my adolescent rebellion 50+ years late, but the bottom line is—I’ll never grow up, so I’ll never grow old.
Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Judy: The Bogus Biker and The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit, Books 1 and 2 in the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series are available for Kindle as I write this. Books 3 – 6 will release, hopefully, at 10-day intervals: The Feed Store Floozy, The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo, The Larcenous Legacy, and Sam’s Last Stand.
Tricia: How did you get your idea for the books?
Judy: I have a good friend who also writes and who, as a Catholic, has faced opposition to Catholic characters and viewpoints from various writing groups/publishers. One night we were talking about this online, and I just dug in my heels about anyone opposing a character based on religion. I believe my words were, “Well, I’ll write one,” and my friend said, “I’ll help you.” Being a Protestant, I knew very little about the Catholic Church, but I had a deep respect for it.
Before we said goodnight, we’d named some of the characters and had a basic plot line. The series just spun off from there.
Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Judy: Staying with the series, I think my favorite character is Penelope’s father, Jake Kelley. He’s 75, went into France on D-Day, married and brought home a British war bride, and lived life to the fullest. He’s still enjoying every new day. I based him on someone I knew, my “adopted dad” from college days. (A couple from the church I attended basically ‘adopted’ me for four years of college and, indeed, for the rest of their lives.) So I’m attached to Jake for many reasons. When I write him, I see Mr. C. smiling and think of Mammasan sitting close by, and I feel happy.
Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your books?
Judy: Being a Protestant, I had a great deal to learn about Catholic belief and translating that into living as a Catholic. I did a lot of research and attended some classes at the Catholic Church near me. As I wrote, I bounced ideas off my online friend who provided much guidance. She read every book and let me know if I strayed from conventional Catholic belief/action in any instance. I was most anxious to get it right and not offend anyone.
Tricia: What is your primary goal as an author?
Judy: Well, at my age, it’s certainly not being rich and famous! I think it’s just feeling I’ve created the best story I possibly can and provided enjoyment for readers, however few or many they might be. I’m having fun, and if it stops being fun, it’s time to stop altogether.
Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?
Judy: I hope to follow Penelope with a another cozy mystery series called The Dreamland Series. I wrote Book #1 as a series of 30 blog posts. (They are still at The Word Place.) Two more books will follow. Then, I have probably 50 stories known in some circles as The Kate Chronicles, spanning 100 years in the life of a doctor who began life (1880) as a foundling in a line shack on a ranch in the Panhandle of Texas. I’d like to put those out in several volumes of about 10 stories each. After that…well, who knows? By then I’ll have lived out my allotted ‘fourscore and ten’—so we’ll just have to see. Hopefully, I won’t run out of time before I run out of ideas.
Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Judy: Just write. Get it down. Understand first drafts stink, but you can’t make it better if you don’t write it to begin with. Research the business of publishing, both traditional and indie, and decide which route you want to go. Learn how to do it. Don’t take rejections personally. Shred them with one hand and send out the book/story with the other.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Don’t quit your day job. (But don’t wait until you retire either!)
The Bogus Biker
The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit
Amazon author page for Gwyneth Greer
Amazon author page for Judy Nickles
Penelope couldn’t look at her son without seeing his father: six feet of handsome with curly black hair and dark eyes that crinkled at the corners the way Travis’s had done, melting her resolve to be a virginal bride. Sometimes she wondered about Brad. He’d dated a lot of girls, even Shana Bayliss who’d taken up with Travis not long before the fire at Pembroke Point.
Now he was seeing Abigail Talbot, the librarian hired to replace Shana. Even her name sounded prim to Penelope. As far as she knew, her son’s bachelor pad in the new Primrose Apartments on Magnolia Street was just that, and she couldn’t help but hope nothing in skirts had ever seen inside of it.
Brad, still sporting his badge, cuffs, and nine-millimeter Glock on his belt, stepped through the door. “Hey, Pawpaw. Hello, Mother.”
“Hey, Brad.” Jake slapped his grandson’s muscular shoulder inside the tan suede sport coat. “Nice threads.”
“You should get one yourself,” the younger man said. “Forty-nine-ninety-five on sale at Blass’s.”
“Maybe I’ll just do that.”
“Don’t go in and blessed ask for threads, Daddy,” Penelope said. “You just don’t look like a hipster.”
Jake’s bottom lip came out briefly. Then he grinned. “Guess you think I’d be more at home singing Young at Heart with Jimmy Durante.”
“He’s dead, Pawpaw.”
Jake pouted again. “I know that, Brad.”
Brad winked at his grandfather. “What’s to eat around here?”
Penelope pushed back from the table. “I’ll warm up the macaroni and cheese and smoked sausage, but Daddy finished up the apple crisp.”
Brad shrugged out of his jacket and dropped it over the back of a chair. “Sounds good.”
“So what’s new in town?” Jake asked and sat down again.
“You should know. I saw you having coffee at the Daisy Café with the Toney Twins this afternoon.”
“I mean underground. Picked up anybody recently?”
“Only Mrs. Lawson’s cat Chester. Charged him with loitering in front of the Garden Market and released him the custody of his owner.”
“That cat is going to get blessed run over if he doesn’t stop wandering around town,” Penelope said, setting a plate in front of her son. The word ‘cat’ brought Abijah, the massive orange tabby, down from his perch in the bay window. He curled around against Bradley’s ankles.
“Don’t do that.” Brad toed the cat away. “Chester’s got a few lives left, I guess, but I’ve warned Mrs. Lawson half a dozen times about getting a city license for him. It smells good, Mother.”
“It is good. Don’t let it get cold.” She went to the pantry and dug out a box of graham crackers and a bag of marshmallows. “I’ll make you some smores for dessert. You want one, Daddy?”
Jake shook his head. “It’s almost time for Law and Order. If Brad doesn’t have anything more interesting to talk about that Lucille Lawson’s cat, I’m going on.”
Brad held his napkin in front of his half-full mouth. “I was teasing, Pawpaw. I have something you’ll get a big kick out of. The Sit-n-Swill is going to reopen.”
“Hot dog!” Jake swung back his chair and plopped himself down. “The Sitton boy finally sold it, did he?”
“The Sitton boy is older than your grandson, Daddy,” Penelope said. “So who bought it, Bradley?”
Brad drained his glass of milk and held it out for a refill. “A couple from Fayetteville. Marion and Millie Dancer.”
“What kind of name is that—Dancer?” Jake asked.
“Marion and Millie?” Penelope asked without finishing her thought.
Brad scowled. “They’re a married couple about your age.”
“From Fayetteville, you say? Why’d they come here?” Jake leaned toward his grandson.
“Not sure,” Brad said, digging into the generous helping of macaroni and cheese. “But I did hear he used to design women’s clothes, and his specialty was lingerie.”