Throughout World War II, hundred of thousands of families awaited letters from their loved ones. Theirs was not a pandemic with social distancing…many of their sons, brothers, husbands, and dear friends were so much further removed.
This random sampling from a host of letters saved by a woman who eagerly kept watch on her mailbox gives an idea of the way an Iowa soldier moved around. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Olympia, Washington, and in 1945, the generic U.S. Army A.P.0. That postmark might have meant almost any location, but in ’45, possibly Japan, where fierce battles still raged.
And so, with no alternative loving hearts waited and prayed.
Letters play a significant role in my novels, not necessarily by plan or forethought. But as characters’ lives have developed, written correspondence with paper and ink were so much a part of life in those fretful days. Letters arrived and replies were sent. The process took weeks or even months, and many of the messages were censored. That’s just the way it was.
For those who have missed out on the joy of receiving a handwritten missal, the importance of letter-writing may be difficult to imagine. That’s a part of entering into the Greatest Generation’s daily lives, fears, hopes and joys.
Do you ever wonder how authors choose their settings? Ane Mulligan, author of many Southern Fried Fiction novels, shares her process for her latest story, the first book in a series. She is also offering an e-book giveaway to someone who leaves her a comment.
A Journey of Discovery
I like to set my stories in fictional towns. Once I know who my characters are, I draw a map and place the businesses and houses where I want them. That way, nobody can say there wasn’t a store on that street.
After writing five contemporary novels, my agent liked the premise of In High Cotton.She noted that it fit my brand of ensemble casts of strong Southern women, facing life’s issues together. She gave her blessing on the Georgia Magnolias series.
I wanted a rural setting for In High Cotton. I discovered an area around Uvalda in southeast Georgia. There is hardly anything near it, except two rivers (the Ocmulgee and the Oconee) converge near there to form a third (the Altamaha). The Indians called this area “Where Rivers End.” That gave me my town’s name of Rivers End.
As a kid, I spent summers at my cousins’ home in Winkelman, Arizona. I know. What kid spends summers in Arizona? It was heaven—a real-life cowboys and Indians town. My cousin owned an old Army Jeep I got to drive as a ten-year-old. What fun we had, chasing wild burros, every turn around tall Saguaros, spewing sand and dirt.
Winkelman had a population of around 600, and my cousin owned a small grocery store. He let me work in it in the afternoons, when even kids melt in the desert sun. That served as my model for Parker’s grocery.
From there, I let my imagination take over. I gathered lists of food costs, what was available, what Maggie (my heroine) would have carried in the grocery. Campbells only had twenty-one varieties at the time. Today, that number is 226.
That led me to wonder about Depression era recipes. I’ve included several in the book, ones I found interesting. One thing I noticed, Georgians use peanuts as a staple source of protein. They were in many of the recipes I unearthed.
I’ve found I love writing in the Depression era. I’m looking at WWII for a potential series, too. But whatever the era, readers can count of it being Southern-fried fiction. What’s that? It’s strong, plucky women and loyal friendships, all served up with a dash of humor and a lot of heart.
Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterestand The Write Conversation.
In High Cotton, releasing August 3rd
Southern women may look as delicate as flowers, but there’s iron in their veins.
While the rest of the world has been roaring through the 1920s, times are hardscrabble in rural South Georgia. Widow Maggie Parker is barely surviving while raising her young son alone. Then as banks begin to fail, her father-in-law threatens to take her son and sell off her livelihood—the grocery store her husband left her. Can five Southern women band together, using their wisdom and wiles to stop him and survive the Great Depression?
Available on Amazon, LPCBooks, Target, and in bookstores.
Daisies offer cheer–their bright faces touch our hearts. These gorgeous specimens greet us when we look out a certain window or spend time in our back yard. But I had no idea of the significance of daisies during World War II until today.
When Nazi forces occupied her country, Her Royal Highness Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands found refuge in England. At the time the Nazis invaded, daisies were blooming in Holland. As a reminder of Holland’s resistance to the occupation, the Queen encouraged Dutch refugees to wear daisies (margriets in Dutch) on their lapels.
On January 19, 1943, when Queen Wilhelmina’s only child, Crown Princess Juliana, delivered her third child in Ottawa, Canada, she named the infant Princess Margriet. The Canadian Government passed a law declaring the Princess’s hospital room international territory, allowing the tiny princess, the first royal child ever born in North America, to inherit her mother’s full Dutch citizenship.
This new baby became a symbol of hope and inspiration for the Dutch people, many of whom faced starvation in the long months before their liberation, accomplished through the sacrifice of Canadian troops.
I’ve always thought being a psychologist would provide a wealth of information for writing. This week, I’m happy to introduce someone who experiences this! Christina Sinisi , a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, writes stories about families, both the broken and blessed. Her works include being a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest and the American Title IV Contest in which she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine.
Her published books include The Christmas Confusion and the upcoming Sweet Summer, the first two books in the Summer Creek Series, as well as Christmas On Ocracoke, expected this December. By day, she is a psychology professor and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her husband and two children and cat Chessie.
Now, Christina is offering a free e-book copy of Christmas Confusion to one commenter–It’s Christmas in July. Welcome, Christina!
I started writing in the third grade—poetry—to be followed by a play in 5thgrade, short stories, and my first “novel” in 8thgrade. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a writer.
At the same time, I grew up poor. The idea of a job without a steady paycheck and so many uncertainties filled me with fear.
I also was an avid reader. In high school, I stumbled upon “Sybil” and Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” The women in those books, their mental illnesses and the people who tried to help them, psychologists, fascinated me.
It occurred to me that if I wanted to write about people, I needed to know about people. So, I came up with the plan of becoming a psychologist by day and writing on the side. Being a psychology professor offered me the security I craved even though, now that I think of it, business might have been a better-paying option.
I also have learned so much about people and how they tick. The heroine of my work-in-progress suffers from clinical depression, but has avoided a diagnosis because of the stigma. Every individual has quirks and flaws. It’s good to know how those might operate in a person’s life—a little OCD, a little anxiety, these things make the character more realistic to the reader.
Children are featured heavily in my stories. My area of specialization is Developmental Psychology—researcher, not therapist—and I’ve found knowledge in this area can be helpful. Yes, I’m a mother, but each child is different so it’s good to know the hallmarks of typical development. Even such a simple thing as the language development of a two year old versus a four year old can be important for authenticity. How tall, what average weight? What does a child of a certain age understand and what are some misconceptions they might have?
So, readers, expect to find characters who have human frailty when reading my books, but know they, like us if we so choose, find help and comfort in their faith in God. Plus, they also seek out the help of a therapist or other professional if needed. God gave counselors gifts so they can help, just as He endowed doctors and scientists. The stigma needs to be addressed—it is NOT in the Bible that God only helps those who help themselves or that He doesn’t give us more than we can handle. It IS in the Bible that he will help us.
Life doesn’t give you more than HE can handle.
Book Blurb: When Tiffany Marano’s high school sweetheart drove off to join the Marines and never looked back, she swore off men. Now, she’s content to teach at Summer Creek, South Carolina’s local elementary school, lead a Sunday school class, and spend weekends with her niece—until Nick Walsh suddenly reappears wearing a wedding ring and with a daughter in tow. Everything about Tiffany’s calm, quiet life is now one disordered mess.
Nick Walsh comes face to face with Tiffany after all these years, and sparks fly. But not the happy glittering kind, because each of them thinks the other responsible for their estrangement. Before they can work it out, though, Tiffany’s sister disappears. Left with custody of her niece and forced to work with new police detective Nick to find her sister, old feelings begin to resurface. As they start to unravel the truths that left them confused and apart for too long, Nick must learn to let go of his past. But can Tiffany let go of her fear and learn to trust that God isn’t the only one who won’t abandon her?
July brings so much beauty. We’ve been enjoying all the colors of the spectrum in our courtyard garden.
Hollyhocks’ velvety petals woo us to their side of the garden.
Tomatoes drip after a sudden shower.
And something we’d rather not see. Potato bugs, gnawing an incredible amount of leaves. We’ve picked them off, smashed them, and applied de-bugging powder. We’ve sprayed on some nasty stuff guaranteed to rid the poor potato plants of these varmints.
But underneath some leaves, there’s another color: orange. It’s potato bug eggs. ARGH!
Masses of them, and out of focus, but you get the idea. Will we ever win this war? This one is nothing at all compared to the war I research, fought back in the forties. Women working in the Women’s Land Army, though, may have battled insects like these.
At this point, I have my doubts we’ll win our little battle. But that’s July…not everything is roses. Still, the world is definitely full of color!
Ann Gabhart’s research of health care in Kentucky during the 1920’s intrigues me. I can only imagine how tough this must have been for nurse midwives who came to the area. I had never heard of Mary Breckinridge, a real-life heroine full of compassionate ideas and the courage to realize them for the sake of others.
Ann is offering a free print copy of what sounds like a powerful read! Just leave her a comment.
Finding Stories in the Appalachian Mountainsby Ann H. Gabhart
When I am searching for a new idea for a novel, I like exploring Kentucky history to get inspiration. A few years ago I came across a story about the Frontier Nursing Service established in the 1920’s by Mary Breckinridge in the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. After Breckinridge lost her two children, a cherished son at age four from appendicitis and a baby daughter who only lived a few hours, she wanted to find a way to help mothers and children in poverty areas. In France, after World War I, she witnessed how nurse midwives did so much for the French people devastated by the war.
Breckinridge attended midwifery school in England since America had no such schools at that time. Then she started her midwifery service in the Eastern Kentucky Mountains where the people had little or no access to professional healthcare. A charismatic woman, she was able to get others to share in her vision and come to the mountains to ride up into the hills on horseback to take care of patients in their cabins. When she recruited midwives, she promised them their own horse, their own dog and the opportunity to save children’s lives.
I used that history as the background for my novel, These Healing Hills. In it, my main character is a nurse midwife who “catches babies.” That was how the mountain people described what the midwives did, but the women did more than that. They treated any and all health needs. As you can imagine, that kept them very busy.
Breckinridge came up with a unique way to free up some of their time by recruiting young women as volunteers called couriers to do some of the mundane chores of caring for the horses, delivering messages, escorting visitors around, and all sorts of other tasks. They also sometimes accompanied the nurse midwives on their patient calls which might include helping a baby come into the world.
These young women were usually from well to do families that Mrs. Breckinridge depended on for monetary contributions to keep her service going. The couriers would come to the mountains to rough it with no electricity and nothing easy, but they loved their experiences in the mountains.
Since I wanted to share more Frontier Nursing history and more about Mary Breckinridge, An Appalachian Summer features one of those young couriers as the main character. Piper has had a sheltered life, but she wants to do something different before she settles into a woman’s expected role in the 1930’s of wife and mother. She volunteers for a summer in the Appalachian Mountains where she discovers the truth in the Frontier Nursing Service saying, “No one comes here by accident.”
Piper’s summer in the mountains changes her forever. It was no accident that I had the pleasure of exploring more Kentucky history for my mountain story.
An Appalachian Summer
In 1933 Louisville, Kentucky, even the ongoing economic depression cannot keep Piper Danson’s parents from insisting on a debut party. After all, their fortune came through the market crash intact, and they’ve picked out the perfect suitor for their daughter. Braxton Crandall can give her the kind of life she’s used to. The only problem? This is not the man–or the life–she really wants.
When Piper gets the opportunity to volunteer as a horseback Frontier Nursing courier in the Appalachian Mountains for the summer, she jumps at the chance to be something other than a dutiful daughter or a kept wife in a loveless marriage. The work is taxing, the scenery jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the people she meets along the way open up a whole new world to her. The longer she stays, the more an advantageous marriage slips from her grasp. But something much more precious–true love–is drawing ever closer.
Ann H. Gabhart bio
ANN H. GABHART has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who grew up dreaming of being a writer. Ann has published thirty-five books for both adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on her Kentucky farm where she likes walking with her dogs or discovering the wonders of nature with her nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann and her books or to read her blog posts visit www.annhgabhart.com. You can follow her on Facebook. www.facebook.com/anngabhart, Twittter https://twitter.com/AnnHGabhart, or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/annhgabhart/.
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.