Progress–don’t we love it? The unfolding of my Amarylis blossom (Thank you, Karen Currie!) starts ever so slowly, but one day, voila!
Next week, I’ll be in Texas Hill Country on a book tour for LAND THAT I LOVE. Stops include the public libraries in Wimberley, New Braunfels, Boerne, Comfort, Mason, Brady, Kerrville, Bandero, and Junction.
If anyone lives in the area and would like times of the events, please contact your local library or mention this in the comments. I’m grateful for industrious library directors doing the ground work for these talks and for readers hungry for an intriguing, satisfying World War II story.
Looking forward to meeting all of you! And if any of you would be interested in a free e-copy of Land That I Love in order to post a review on Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, etc., please include your e-mail in a comment.
Thanks for your support–I hope your desires for 2022 are off to a good beginning. And here’s the same blossom about two hours after the first photo was taken. PROGRESS!!
During this quiet holiday in Arizona, I’ve been reading posts about the words friends have chosen for 2022. Although I didn’t really seek one, a word came to me the other night when sleep became difficult.
Strength. Ah, this will do. Whatever lies ahead, we’ll need various kinds of strength–energy, mental stamina, physical skill, and emotional steadiness. This, we can count on.
As usual, Lance is taking all sorts of elk and deer photos here, and this one seemed perfect for this post. This little fellow looks a bit like us right now as we await what the new year brings.
Dubious, hopeful, contemplative, puzzled . . . hesitant and frightened. Dare he trust the guy standing on our deck to snap this shot?
Nearly eighty years ago, soldiers in the horrific Battle of the Bulge surely experienced such emotions. We can’t even begin to imagine what they endured or the level of their terror–would the war ever end?
In times like the present, it behooves us to consider other times that required strength and endurance. Still, we may feel somewhat the same. Dare we trust?
Recently, a Ralph W. Emerson quote struck me as appropriate for this season.
“Be not the slave of your own past–plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old.”
Another one of his writings applies, too. “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
All that history teaches us, and all we have seen in 2021, instructs us that God’s promise to “be with us in trouble” (Psalm 91:15) stands firm. In spite of expecting more “trouble” ahead, we plunge onward, dive deep, and trust.
The Advent season of darkness and possibility pivots on hope, such a marvelous commodity. But in the darkness, hope can seem an impossibility.
Darkness reminds us of our need for light. C.S. Lewis said it well, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
This past year gave us ample situations for our inner desire for serenity, safety and sanity. We certainly realize our need for peace, protection and perspective.
During this week before New Year’s, perhaps it would be good to think back to all the “lights” that came to us this past year. The moments of intuition and calmness in the midst of raging political and cultural storms around us.
I wonder what the American GI’s stuck in the Battle of the Bulge nearly eight decades ago. Food, of course, and warmth–two essentials gravely lacking in their foxholes. But surely they also remembered family times, loved ones who held them in their hearts, perhaps recent letters that re-stated the love emanating from homes far away.
Here’s to recalling the lights in our own personal histories, reminders of good overcoming evil and hope drowning out despair. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Anne Clare visits us today with her latest novel. I’ve read WHERE SHALL I FLEE, and find this heroine especially credible because she seems rather bitter and unlikable at first. There are always reasons for this sort of veil people wear, and Anne did a great job of helping me care for this spunky WWII gal. Of course, her path holds even more difficulties, but cheering for her make-do attitude through them became a joy. Leave a comment for Anne if you’d like a chance to enter her giveaway of one paperback copy (U.S.) or e-book.
There are few times throughout the year when the longing for home and family is stronger than around the holiday season. I’ve lived more than 2,000 miles away from my hometown for nearly 16 years and I still find myself wistfully thinking of crunching across the snowy road to the little country church for the Christmas Eve children’s service, anticipating the after-church treat of a brown paper bag containing peanuts, an orange, an apple, and a bit of candy.
However, I’ve had the blessing of creating Christmas traditions with my own family in the comfort of our home. How much stronger must have been the holiday longings of the U.S. military personnel serving overseas during the long years of the Second World War—far from home with no certainty of when, or if, they’d be able to return.
There are many stories from those years of ways people tried to keep Christmas. Stories of soldiers throwing parties for local children and orphans. Stories of turkey and the trimmings served up in mess kits. Stories of POWs combining what goods they had to create some semblance of a celebration.
Today, Gail has kindly invited me over to share just a few of the stories from the United States’ four Christmases at war.
Christmas of 1941 found America still reeling after the December 7thattacks on Pearl Harbor. War had come to the United States.
Pearl Harbor was not the only location to be attacked. While thousands of Americans enlisted in the military and began looking for ways to help on the Homefront, others were facing the realities of war head-on.
Wake Island was assaulted on December 8th, but the small band of defenders—449 Marines along with some Navy personnel, radio operators, and civilians—had held off the Japanese invaders. On December 23rd, however, their resistance was crushed. The survivors would spend Christmas 1941 as prisoners of war.
On the Philippine island of Luzon, American and Filippino troops had been engaged in their own struggle against invading Japanese forces. On December 23rd, General MacArthur made the decision to have these troops pull back and move their defense down onto the Bataan peninsula.
Lieutenant Frances L. Nash, a U.S. Army Nurse who had been stationed in the Philippines, spent her Christmas Eve and Christmas Day continuing to serve in the surgery and destroying documents. On Christmas night, she and the other surgical staff were loaded on small ships and evacuated across Manilla Bay to the light of burning ships and buildings. On May 6th, the American forces in the Philippines would finally surrender, and Nash, the other nurses she served with, and thousands of troops would spend the next three Christmases as POWs.
Though the Philippines had been lost, the war in the Pacific theater raged on. By Christmas of 1942, American troops faced off against Japanese troops in New Guinea and struggled for the island of Guadalcanal.
In November the Allies had stormed North Africa in a move dubbed Operation Torch. By Christmas they’d made progress, but home was still very far away. The nurses in the Army hospital at Arzew tried to make the holiday memorable for their patients. The Red Cross helped to provide gifts which the nurses supplemented with homemade candy. They decorated the wards using ornaments cut out from old plasma cans, hand-painted holly and candles, and an evergreen tree decorated with tinfoil from the X-ray department. Worship services brought the Christmas spirit to young men and women far from home.
Not all of the troops who served were on the front lines for Christmas. According to the National WWII Museum, over 500,000 U.S. personnel celebrated their 1943 Christmas Day in England. Even without the imminent threat of an attack, Christmas away from home was difficult.
“On Christmas Day, Captain George Nabb Jr., of the 115th Infantry Regiment wrote home to his wife and young son that “it doesn’t seem like Xmas in the least. We do have the day off and have had an excellent turkey dinner.” (Bamford, 2019.)
War still raged in the Pacific, and the Allies had opened a new front in the Mediterranean, crossing over into Italy in September of 1943. The slog up and down the cold, muddy mountains was difficult for soldiers and support staff alike. However, the nurses once again worked to make the holidays festive. The 95thEvacuation hospital, serving casualties from the fighting around Monte Cassino, decorated their wards with strung up rubber gloves, colored penicillin bottles dipped in Epsom salts for “frost,” and tin stars, while “Santa” circulated, passing out gifts to the patients.
In spite of primitive cooking conditions, the nurses even managed to make homemade fudge to share. Candy making in a war zone was no easy task. Nurse Claudine “Speedy” Glidewell shared her recollections of the process in the excellent book And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in WWII.
“When there was an air raid or a shelling, she and her tentmates would jump into the foxholes they had dug under their cots. They kept a suitcase nearby and pulled it over the opening of their foxholes to stop or slow down any shrapnel that might come their way. If anyone had to get out of her foxhole for any reason during the air raid or shelling, the other nurses would holler, “Stir the fudge!”” (Monahan 228)**
After the successful “D-Day” Allied landings in Normany on 6 June 1944, hopes of a speedy end to the war ran high. Perhaps, some thought, the troops might even be home for Christmas.
However, the war in the Pacific went on, and fighting across Europe was fierce and long. Then, just before Christmas of 1944, Germany launched one last great offensive.
On December 16th, the German army pushed hard against the thin American lines spread out through the Ardennes forest. This attempt to split the Allied forces created such a dent in the American lines that it became known as “The Battle of the Bulge.”
Freezing temperatures and brutal fighting—including at least one incident of SS troops killing captured American soldiers—turned December of 1944 into a nightmarish struggle.
Once again, the staff of the hospitals were a key part in providing some Christmas cheer to the wounded who visited them. The 128thEvacuation Hospital set up in Verviers where V-1 rockets sailed overhead with the tell-tale “buzz” of their motors. Hearing the motor was a good sign—when it stopped, one knew that the bomb was about to fall.
“At 0800 Christmas Day, the 128thEvac officially opened to receive casualties. One hundred eighty-three wounded and ill soldiers were brought in that day…Patients and staff sang Christmas carols together, shared the Christmas meal, participated in a mass, and exchanged small gifts mostly created from personal items donated by the nurses.” (Monahan 421) **
The Battle of the Bulge would not end for another full month. The Allies would not declare victory in Europe until May 8th. After that, the war in the Pacific would drag on until August, with Japan signing the official surrender documents on September 2nd.
However, though there would still be struggles ahead and terrible losses, by Christmas of 1945, America, though still rebuilding, and though still waiting for some of its men and women to come home, could say that at last it was celebrating a Christmas at peace.
****Monahan, Evelyn and Neidel-Greenlee, Rosemary. And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in WWII. New York. Alfred A. Knof, 2003. Print.
New Book Blurb:
When she had signed up, she’d thought she was ready. Ready for a combat zone. Ready to prove that she could be brave. The sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, stronger and longer lasting than any bout of seasickness, foreboded that maybe she had been wrong.
Lieutenant Jean Hoff of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and infantryman Corporal George Novak have never met, but they have three things in common.
They are both driven by a past they’d rather leave behind.
They have both been sent to the embattled beachhead of Anzio, Italy.
And when they both wind up on the wrong side of the German lines, they must choose whether to resign themselves to captivity or risk a dangerous escape.
Where Shall I Flee? follows their journey through the dangers of World War II Italy, where faith vies with fear and forgiveness may be necessary for survival.
Johnnie Alexander’s The Cryptographer’s Dilemmajoins Saving Mrs. Roosevelt in the Heroines of WWII series, and I’m delighted to share both of these novels with you. Imho, they’d make perfect Christmas gifts for anyone who enjoys this era.
The Cryptographer’s Dilemma took me right back to World War II, into the life of a young Navy cryptographer nabbed from her secret decoding work to aid a government investigation. It’s a hush-hush operation, of course, which doesn’t faze Eloise at all. But the specifics of the situation do bother her. She’s being assigned to travel across the U.S. with a male agent. Together they’ll be interviewing several folks in various parts of the country, and traveling mostly by train. In addition, this agent fails to impress Eloise when they first meet.
I’ve read some of Johnnie’s other novels, so I expected this story to keep me on my toes. It certainly did, with some twists and turns from Eloise’s family background that heightened the tension. (: I hope you make this book a part of your winter reading cache. AND Johnnie is giving one print copy to a fortunate commenter!
A talented codebreaker. A seasoned FBI agent. And a doll collector who sold naval secrets to the enemy.
These characters confront one another in my latest World War II novel, The Cryptographer’s Dilemma.
The talented codebreaker is Eloise Marshall who is recruited by the FBI to determine whether seemingly innocent letters about dolls aren’t so innocent after all. Eloise, who is mourning the death of her brother who was at Pearl Harbor, wants to do all she can to bring an end to the war.
After studying the letters, she realizes they are written in jargon code. For example, one letter mentioned an old fisherman doll with a net over his back. This most likely referred to an aircraft carrier since safety nets draped this type of ship.
The seasoned FBI agent is Phillip Clayton. When his hope of becoming a bomber pilot is dashed because of his color-blindness, he makes a Plan B. But that plan is also interrupted when he’s given one last assignment before he enlists in the Army or the Navy—find out who wrote the forged letters to a Japanese contact in Argentina.
Eloise and Phillip travel from the east coast to the west coast and back again to interview the women whose names were forged on the letters. These letters, which included the women’s return addresses, had either shown up in their mailboxes as “Addressee Unknown” or been flagged by postal censors and handed over to the FBI.
They discover that the forger and traitor is an unremarkable woman who owns a doll shop on Madison Avenue in New York City and has an obsession with Japanese culture.
A woman who actually lived. Who actually forged such letters. Who actually betrayed the United States.
Her name is Velvalee Dickinson, a traitor the FBI nicknamed “The Doll Woman” and designated as the “War’s Number One Woman Spy.”
She was arrested in January 1944 and is the only person known to have provided the Japanese with naval secrets during the war. It’s suspected she also had advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Velvalee pled guilty to breaking postal censorship laws to avoid facing charges of espionage. She served seven years of a ten-year sentence, changed her name, and eventually returned to her home state of California to live out the rest of her life in anonymity.
The Cryptographer’s Dilemma is the first novel in Barbour’s new Heroines of World War II Series. Full of intrigue, adventure, and romance, this new series celebrates the unsung heroes—the heroines of WWII.
Back Cover Copy
A Code Developer Uncovers a Japanese Spy Ring
FBI cryptographer Eloise Marshall is grieving the death of her brother, who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, when she is assigned to investigate a seemingly innocent letter about dolls. Agent Phillip Clayton is ready to enlist and head oversees when asked to work one more FBI job. A case of coded defense coordinates related to dolls should be easy, but not so when the Japanese Consulate gets involved, hearts get entangled, and Phillip goes missing. Can Eloise risk loving and losing again?
Johnnie Alexander creates characters you want to meet and imagines stories you won’t forget in a variety of genres. An award-winning, best-selling novelist, she serves on the executive boards of Serious Writer, Inc. and the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, co-hosts an online show called Writers Chat, and teaches at writers’ conferences and for Serious Writer Academy.
A fan of classic movies, stacks of books, and road trips, Johnnie shares a life of quiet adventure with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Connect with her at www.johnnie-alexander.com.
Lately I’ve wondered if we’re born with the tendency to organize, to put things in straight rows when given a task. Watching our granddaughter making cookies a couple of weeks ago started me off on this quest. Here she is, arranging peanut butter cookies in the straightest rows imaginable.
Would my rows have been this perfect? Nope, and what’s more, she accomplished this feat in about the same amount of time it would have taken me.
Though this type of natural order attracts me and I make it my goal, my results rarely (I was going to say never, but am practicing positive thinking) reach the mark.
I’ve done a little more reading on this topic, and have written heroes and heroines with and without the tendency to act in an orderly fashion. Can’t say I like one type of personality better–other aspects of their character carry far more weight.
But I’m curious . . . how has orderliness (or lack of this quality) affected you or your writing?
What a treat to welcome Candice Sue Patterson, with her Romantic Suspense novel set in 1942. She’s giving a signed paperback copy (US residents only.) Enjoy being taken back in time!
Semper Paratus, Always Ready—that was the motto for the SPARs, the first female-only reserve of the Coast Guard commissioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt in November 1942. The SPARs were created to train women to work military jobs on the home front to free able-bodied men to fight. Women enlisting had to be at least twenty-two years of age, healthy, able to pass an aptitude test, and willing to serve her country.
The SPARs were both named and directed by Dorothy C. Stratton, Dean of Women at Purdue University. She was director in the WAVES—the female-only reserve of the Navy—when she was asked to head up the Coast Guard reserve. She named the reserve SPARs after the Coast Guard’s motto “Semper Paratus, Always Ready.”
Dorothy, the daughter of a Baptist minister, believed that as a woman, a member in the military, and an American citizen, one should be “always ready” whether during war time or in a time of peace. Ready to teach, serve, encourage, and pray for those around us. I Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
In researching and writing Saving Mrs. Roosevelt, a romantic suspense novel centered around the SPARs, I’ve challenged myself to be a SPAR. To always be ready with a kind word, a way to help and serve, to teach and to be taught, and to answer to “the hope” that is within me. You, too, can be a SPAR, and together we can serve our country by sharing the light.
Saving Mrs. Roosevelt is book three in Barbour Publishing Inc.’s Heroines of WWIIseries. Publishers Weekly says, “This intriguing installment in the Heroines of WWII series will appeal to both romantics and history buffs. It’s a fun little escape.” For more, visit www.candicesuepatterson.com.
The Safety of the First Lady Rests in Shirley’s Hands
Shirley Davenport is as much a patriot as her four brothers. She, too, wants to aid her country in the war efforts, but opportunities for women are limited. When her best friend Joan informs her that the Coast Guard has opened a new branch for single women, they both enlist in the SPARs, ready to help protect the home front.
Training is rigorous, and Shirley is disappointed that she and Joan are sent to separate training camps. At the end of basic training, Captain Webber commends her efforts and commissions her home to Maine under the ruse of a dishonorable discharge to help uncover a plot against the First Lady.
Shirley soon discovers nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust? Why do the people she loves want to harm the First Lady? With the help of Captain Webber, it’s a race against time to save Mrs. Roosevelt and remain alive.
A unique novel written by four authors. Sometimes war’s effects are passed down through the generations. The modern-day Lang family traces their roots and discovers a treasure worth fighting for. One of the authors, A.L. Sowards, offers us a peek into this complicated story today, so get set for a trip back into a chaotic chapter of World War II.
In the early days of World War II, the Lang family lost everything. Eighty years later, it’s time to take it back.
The Nazis have taken control of Austria, and wealthy widower Leopold Lang faces a difficult decision: join the ranks of the foreign power that has taken over his homeland or flee with his children to safety. Leopold makes his choice—but too late. His family is ripped apart, never to be reunited. But decades later, fate brings together the descendants of this broken dynasty in the place where it all began—Falcon Point.Anna, Cole, and Tess have never met, each relying on fractured pieces of information to understand their Austrian heritage. But when unforeseen opportunities draw these Lang cousins to Falcon Point, they soon discover they are not alone in their quest to claim the coveted property and the fabled treasure hidden within. Unfortunately, another claimant, one with a much darker heritage, is determined to eliminate the Lang family once and for all.
About the authors: Traci Hunter Abramson was born in Arizona, where she lived until moving to Venezuela for a study-abroad program. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years, eventually resigning in order to raise her family. She credits the CIA with giving her a wealth of ideas as well as the skills needed to survive her children’s teenage years. She loves to travel and enjoys coaching her local high school swim team. She has written more than thirty bestselling novels and is a seven-time Whitney Award winner, including 2017 and 2019 Best Novel of the Year.
Sian Ann Bessey was born in Cambridge, England, but grew up on the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales. She left her homeland to attend Brigham Young University in Utah, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in English.
She began her writing career as a college student, publishing several articles in the New Era, Ensign, and Liahona magazines. Since then she has published historical romance and romantic suspense novels, along with a variety of children’s books. She is a USA Today best-selling author, a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year finalist, and a Whitney Award finalist.
Sian and her husband, Kent, are the parents of five children and the grandparents of three beautiful girls and two handsome boys. They currently live in Idaho, and although Sian doesn’t have the opportunity to speak Welsh very often anymore, she can still wrap her tongue around, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch still rolls off her tongue.
Traveling, reading, cooking, and being with her grandchildren are some of her favorite activities.
Paige Edwards is an award-winning author of contemporary Regency romances with a side-order of suspense. Her stories have debuted in the number-one Amazon spot for Christian fiction and have received national five-star reviews by Reader’s Favorite and InD’Tale Magazine. Her novels appeal to a wide range of readers from Historical Romance to Mystery/Suspense. She holds a degree in interior design and has worked professionally in that field. Due to her strong British roots, Paige’s books are often set in the UK, and she hops the pond whenever she gets the chance. She Is the Lady Paige Edwards when in Scotland, but her favorite title is Grandma. When she needs a break from writing, she serves as president of her area’s Interfaith Community Council, she is fond of digging in the dirt (what some might call gardening), she bikes the battlefields, and she kayaks on the lake.
A. L. Sowards has always been fascinated by the 1940s, but she’s grateful she didn’t live back then. She doesn’t think she could have written a novel on a typewriter, and no one would be able to read her handwriting if she wrote her books out longhand. She does, however, think they had the right idea when they rationed nylon and women went barelegged.
Sowards is the author of multiple historical fiction novels, with settings spanning the globe from the fourteenth to twentieth centuries. Her stories have earned a Whitney Award, several Whitney Finalists positions, and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal. She lives with her husband and three children and has called Washington State, Utah, and Alaska home. She enjoys hiking and swimming, usually manages to keep up with the laundry, and loves it when someone else cooks dinner. She doesn’t own a typewriter, but she does own a pair or two of nylons.
A friend of mine from Cedar Falls, Iowa sent me this photo today, and won my heart.
What has she captured? Beauty, purpose, and comfort. A flower, a symbol of the world of writing, and a lovely cup of tea.
Last night, I sipped from my cup as a Texas writers’ group and I explored the process of memoir writing. Even by ZOOM, we formed a connection, and I hope to meet these sincere writers in person one day.
Writing is all about sharing one’s thoughts, one’s heart.
And then there’s tea…ahh….during World War II, Winston Churchill ordered LOTS of tea . . . made it a priority for the troops. In the midst of war’s horrors, he took thought for this sort of tangible comfort.
No wonder that iin Land That I Love, Everett and William cling to the joys of teatime and pass this treasure on to little Donnie. No matter how far you go from home, a cup of tea can take you back.
Today, several friends and authors offered me support at a book signing in a nifty Cedar Falls Iowa bookstore. Without readers and bookstores, (this was TJ’s in Cedar Falls—thank you, TJ!) where would authors be?
Since I lived in Cedar Falls back in graduate school days, I have some friends from there, and today, they encouraged me by attending this book signing. It’s just plain fun to re-connect, and so kind of others to acknowledge our growth and accomplishments.
I’m not at all sure I can put into words what it means to me, but I guess these photo show rather than TELL…right?
So good to see my old roomie from days of long ago, and her sis-in-law who helped us with everyday needs in our rather sparse apartment.
An author friend caught me unawares in the picture below. Thank you CHERIE, for taking this initiative today–it’s great to have some tangible evidence of a special gathering. Soon, we’ll be celebrating YOUR debut novel’s release!
We often hear about the need to honor and encourage others in pursuing their passions and dreams. That’s exactly what my friends did for me today, and yesterday at the Wellsburg Library too (although I didn’t remember to get any photos there, unfortunately.)
So may these stand for both, and for the gifts that come to us through others throughout out journeys.