Yes, it’s July, not Memorial Day when we see poppies worn by the American Legion. But our neighbor’s beautiful poppy patch is abloom, and enjoying it led me to explore the significance we attach to this flower.
Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the World War I poem In Flanders Fields about red poppies blooming in the WWI battlefields of Flanders, France. Inspired by McCrae’s poem, Ms. Moina Michael published We Shall Keep the Faith and vowed to always wear a red poppy in remembrance.
This one patriotic woman’s persistent efforts led the American Legion to adopt the red poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice honoring war casualties. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand also adopted the poppy.
Lynn Dean joins us today with an encouraging story for authors about her work in progress. She’ll draw from names of readers who “Like” and follow her Facebook page and leave a comment for an ebook copy of More Precious Than Gold, the first novel in her Sangre de Cristo series set during gold rush days in New Mexico Territory.
This mountain range has intrigued me for years, so I really appreciated all the specific history and imagery in these novels. Now, here’s Lynn:
Life rarely turns out the way we think it will.
Since good stories model real life, writers probably shouldn’t be surprised when a work in progress takes on a life of its own. Sometimes a character we thought would play a minor role suddenly steals center stage and demands to be heard. Other times our manuscript changes in medias res because we discover new information or contrive a plot twist. But occasionally our story changes because of outside influences beyond our control.
When I began writing Lilacs many years ago, a friend surprised me with a research trip to Mackinac Island where the story is set. It was a magnanimous gesture. I’d always wanted to go, and she’d already bought the tickets, so what could I say but “thank you”?
It was 40 degrees and raining sideways the weekend we visited, but the island was perfect. We stayed at the Grand Hotel and enjoyed a carriage tour. Along the way I shared my story idea and some interesting history about the hotel, including a long-ago scandal. I wasn’t sure I would mention that event, explaining that it would be difficult to handle delicately so nothing would reflect poorly on the hotel or its current owners. For some reason, when we returned, my friend decided to “help” me by marching up to the concierge desk, telling the hotel representative that I was writing a book, and asking for details about the scandal. The stunned man made a terse reply and left…and I couldn’t blame him!
Mortified, I shelved the whole project—all 45,000 words of it.
But readers know that dark moments are never the end of the story.
Fast forward. I’m at a writers’ conference in an interview with a literary agent who says she loves “Downton Abbey” stories with romantic settings and characters from different backgrounds and socio-economic classes. “Do you have any stories like that?” she asks.
It so happens I do!
I pitched the story I thought was ruined. She loved the concept, so I began to rewrite Lilacs with a different focus. I’m pleased to say the new story is better in every way than the original would have been.
Moral? Never give up, even when you think your plans are ruined. The dark moment is simply the crisis that forces us to get creative, opening new possibilities we would never have imagined otherwise.
I learned today that during World War II, the British Land Girls Army sometimes had to destroy established flowerbeds on estates in order to plant much-needed vegetables to feed the populace. That would’ve been tough for blossom lovers, and even more difficult for the caretakers who had carefully nurtured those beds, sometimes for decades.
Because of rationing, it was “every hand on deck” to provide enough for all of the citizens. Here in the States, women worked in agriculture too…sometimes planting gardens on city rooftops.
Here are some pansies that so far have weathered the heat on our sheltered front porch.
Need a good summer read? Lillian Duncan shares how she came up with her latest novel. released on June 26, 2020. And she’s offering a giveaway with THREE winners…see below for how to enter. Take it away, Lillian…
JANE DOE is my latest novel and it’s a doozy!
What’s the genre you ask? It’s suspense with lots of drama and action…but also a political thriller…this story has a lot of mystery components…but there’s the romance element as well… and let’s not forget the spiritual message! No matter in what genre you classify this novel, it’s one I think you’ll enjoy!
So how did JANE DOE come about?
I’d finished all my edits on a current book and was feeling very uninspired. I had no idea for my next story, so I went on FB and asked people to send me an idea for my next suspense novel. An old high school friend sent me the suggestion to write a story where the main character struggled with memory loss.
Mmmm… but the old amnesia plot has been used many times and it’s a big no-no that writing experts warn against. Still, I took the challenge and wrote JANE DOE. It’s definitely not your typical amnesia plot, but the main character is haunted by her memories.
First, because she doesn’t have them, and then because she does!
Raven Marks survives a brutal kidnapping but just barely. Along with a broken body, her mind is broken. Even though she can’t remember the details of her kidnapping, she’s haunted by the thought that someone else is being victimized by the kidnapper she can’t remember.
Her journey to discover the truth leads her to the highest politicians in the state and then the country. Each reclaimed memory brings her closer to the truth—and to even more danger.
I’m not going to give away the plot, but there’s plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading late into the night!
I’m having a giveaway to celebrate the release of JANE DOE on my blog! So hope over to www.lillian-duncan.comand leave a comment on any of my JANE DOE blogs at www.lillian-duncan.com and you’ll be entered to win one of three $10 AMAZON GIFT CARDS! That’s right–three winners!
Lillian Duncan… turning faith into fiction.
Lillian lives in a small town in Ohio with her husband. She writes the types of books she loves to read. Even though her books cross genres, they have one thing in common, faith-based stories that demonstrate God’s love—and lots of action. OK, that’s two things.
She was a school speech pathologist for over 30 years but retired in 2012 after being diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors due to Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2), a rare genetic disease.
Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word. To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: www.lillian–duncan.com.
Because of my World War II research, I’ve learned a lot about scones, and have been exploring their origins. Our daughter has recently devised a fabulous recipe for luscious, mouth-watering scones to serve fresh in her cafe. Her father and I buy them frozen to bake one at a time in the morning. Ah…the savory aroma!
Today’s flavor is white chocolate raspberry. Oh my! Compared to the ones I’ve made over the years, well, let’s just say there’s no comparison. (:
Scones are believed to have originated in Scotland, and resemble the griddle-baked flatbread known as bannock. Made with oats and shaped into a large round, scored into four to six triangles, and cooked on a griddle either over an open fire or on top of the stove. But some say this occurred in other locations besides Scotland.
Throughout the centuries, we can only imagine the hoards that scones nurtured to adulthood.
The origin of the name ‘scone’ is just as nebulous as its first locale.
“Some say the word comes from the Stone of Destiny where the Kings of Scotland were crowned, while pthers believe the name derives from the Dutch ‘schoonbrot,’ meaning fine white bread, or the German word ‘sconbrot,’ meaning ‘fine or beautiful bread.’
“Others propose the Gaelic ‘sgonn,’ a shapeless mass — or large mouthful–as the source of the term scone. Whatever its origin, I can say without doubt that scones produce a smile for my husband after he takes a bite!
Yesterday Lance gave me these flowers for my birthday.
Notice the message on the mug: CHOOSE JOY. What a perfect instruction for one of those big DECADE birthdays that makes you consider how quickly time passes.
Tonight we watched the Queen’s Royal Marine’s at the Guards’ parade ground just behind Whitehall and next to #10 Downing Street. How fun to watch them perform again, as we did in person two years ago when we celebrated our fortieth anniversary in England.
We’d been walking in St. James Park and happened to notice someone selling tickets to some event. When we realized it was the Royal Marines, we were hooked, and so enjoyed the performance that evening in the stands with Londoners who’d come out for the show. Watching them again tonight is a way to cherish the memory…to choose JOY.
Someday, we might return to England, and I have quite a few other items on my bucket list. I’d like to viisit another American air field we couldn’t get to on our first trip and many other places.
It would be so meaningful to be in Portsmouth again, right on a D-Day anniversary…or across the Channel the Allied troopsD-Day crossed on June 6, 1944. We’ll see.
But whatever memories I make as the years come and go, I hope to make the MOST of them!
Joy Neal Kidney joins us today with her new book called Leora’s Letters. This story of love and loss during WWII features Joy’s mother, a young woman with dreams disrupted by huge loss. Yet she continued on to live a meaningful life–lessons for us as we face our own challenges.
Joy will give away one signed paperback copy of Leora’s Letters to a commenter. I’m finding treasures within–there’s nothing like letters straight out of the World War II era. Thank you, Joy!
An Iowa Waitress Became an Officer’s Wife–in Texas, by Joy Neal Kidney
It was the only formal gown my mother ever owned. She bought it for the opening of the officers’ club at the Marfa Army Air Base in Texas. Doris had just become an officer’s wife by marrying Warren Neal, an Iowa farmer who’d earned his pilot’s wings.
Doris Wilson had been a waitress in Perry, Iowa, at the McDonald Drug Store, which had a soda fountain and a restaurant area. In fact, she was serving Sunday dinner there when the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted the background music playing on WHO-Radio.
She remembered thinking that all her brothers were liable to be drafted. One by one the five Wilson brothers left to serve – two in the Navy, three in the Army Air Force.
Dale Wilson and Warren Neal, both Iowa farmers, had enlisted as air cadets in 1942. They were awarded their silver “wings” and became officers on the same day a year later – Dale at Roswell, New Mexico. Warren at Marfa, Texas.
Warren was retained at Marfa as an instructor for advanced cadets. With calls for women to enlist to help with “the cause,” Doris had begun the process to apply for the WAVES. Warren was afraid they’d get separated forever so he asked her to get married instead.
Doris, wearing an aqua suit, and Warren in uniform were married in May 1943 in Dexter, Iowa, then headed for Marfa, Texas.
They’d just gotten settled when they were to attend the formal opening of the new officers’ club. Doris’s first formal gown for the dance was nearly the color of the suit she’d been married in a few months earlier – aqua, short-sleeved, accented with lots of small ruffles.
She wrote home that she had fun at the dance and felt like Cinderella.
That fall, she wrote her brother Dale, then in combat in New Guinea, “I’m going to let you in on a secret. We haven’t told anyone yet, but we are going to have a boy (we hope) next May.” Dale never got her message. The V-Mail letter was returned, still sealed, marked “Missing in Action.”
Decades later, I – the boy she’d hoped for – was the first person to open the little V-Letter and read it.
There’s no photo of her wearing the aqua gown. I remember seeing it as a child only a couple of times among her keepsakes in the storeroom of our old farmhouse.
But now it’s been passed on tome, Doris’s firstborn, who eventually became the keeper of poignant family stories and letters and terrible telegrams.
Treasures, like the aqua gown, to wonder about. Did she ever get to wear it again?
Just sharing a few photos from our blossoming world today, and letting you know what I learned about the origin of the WWII grenade box in our side yard. My friend bought the chair/box already painted red. The antiques dealer she purchased it from has no idea where she found it, so that might be the end of this research.
But it was fun while it lasted. Meanwhile, here are some great Iowa backyard pics–Lance takes so many, it’s hard to keep up.
These pictures make me think of a quote I read just this week.
“If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” Steven Pressfield (used by permission)
SO MUCH POTENTIAL HERE…and in each one of us. Have a great week using yours to the utmost!
Don’t you love it? You’re in need of something–you don’t how exactly what, but someone comes alone who’s experienced what you’re going through and gives you a suggestion. That happened this week when Ada, an author/visitor on my blog, suggested a liniment she’s used for years for an ailing hip.
Sure enough, my hip is ailing. I obtained some of the liniment and am noticing improvement. Networking helps us find information. And the old-fashioned word-of-mouth still works.
Last year, my good friend moved away from our town, leaving me her cute little red chair and flower box. Right now it’s full of kale and spinach, and as cute as ever near the path on the south side of our house.
In the process of planting seeds in this box, I discovered some synchronicity. On one side underneath peeling red paint, an imprint labels the wooden box as a WWII grenade box!
I had that “Wow! moment when I could barely believe my eyes. This happens to all of us, right? And these moments are the frosting on the cake of life.
Here’s to each of us having many synchronicities, especially during this time of distancing.
I’m so excited to welcome Ada Brownell, who tells the story she and her husband lived for sixty-six years in Following The Tracks. What a testimony to enduring love! Ada is giving away a copy of this book to one commenter, either e-book or print. So give us a taste, Ada.
By Ada Brownell
I thought I was going to retire. After all, I’d been writing for publication since my teens.
I was bored with retirement in a hurry, and still had things I wanted to do. When I told people about some of the adventures we had working for the Rio Grande Western Railroad, they asked, “Why haven’t you written that story?”
So, I made my way back to my desk.
Les asked me out when I was barely 15 and he was 19, already working as an agent–telegrapher for the railroad. Daddy would have chased him off, but he was my brother-in-law’s brother.
I wasn’t any ordinary 15-year-old kid. I’d been cleaning houses and taking care of children since I was in the sixth grade. Then I helped my aunt manage her small motel, even painting and updating rooms and the exterior.
When Les asked me for a date, he had about a half dozen girls chasing him because our church didn’t have many guys. I was the youth leader. Sometimes I sang solos during regular services, so I was noticed for more than my red hair and freckles.
I kept being surprised at Les’s determination to make me his wife. My older sister had been engaged at least three times, so when Les asked me to marry him, I thought, “That’s once.”
He sent me telegrams (he could send them free) that I picked up at Fruita’s railroad depot every week when he worked out of town. He wrote letters too.
We dated about a year and had a beautiful wedding in October, 1953. Then we began living all over Colorado’s majestic mountains, and even ventured into Utah, into the places where the D&RGW needed a telegrapher.
We spent our first anniversary at Pando, near the top of Tennessee Pass, and lived in a log cabin across from the depot.
In Avon we moved into agent’s quarters in the railroad station, but within reaching distance of the dispatcher’s phone, and could hear the click of the telegraph key’s sounder from the living room. The bay window where Les worked sat only about ten feet from the tracks.
In Malta, we lived in a railroad boxcar, with a lean-to mud-room and living room built on.
When we arrived in Thompson, Utah, only one house was up for rent—a dilapidated shack covered with wind-blown tar paper on one section, and rusty corrugated metal on the remainder. No bathroom. An ancient wood-burning cook stove sat in one end of the two-bedroom building. We used old stove for heat and cooked on our gas range.
My rich Uncle Bill, a builder, dropped by to see us there. I was mortified.
He looked around and grinned. “I could build a house like this for about fifty bucks. But when your kids grow up and want to borrow money, show them a picture of this and say, “We started out the hard way.”
We eventually bought a beautiful 50 X 10 mobile home and parked it on railroad land.
I started a Sunday school in Thompson—population 98, four bars, a uranium mill, an acid plant, a school, and no church. We had sixteen faithful kids, and on Easter, some parents.
We drove 38 miles to Moab to church on Sunday nights. Les worked on Sunday morning.
Later, we lived in two-mile-high Leadville, Colo., and one night our water froze. Les was bumped and working somewhere else, so I rushed out with a fake fur coat over my nightgown to thaw the pipes and got stuck out there because the door froze shut. I found out the next day the temperature had been 30-some degrees below zero.
We had many other “near disasters,” but when you’re following the tracks of Jesus, He’s always beside you.
Les worked for the railroad more than forty years. We moved twelve times the first three years, and since then chalked up more. God sent amazing people into our lives everywhere, and Jesus walked with us every step.