Night Bird Calling

Q & A with Cathy Gohlke

Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and husband, Dan, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren.

Cathy is giving away a hard copy of Night Bird Calling to one commenter on this blog. And here’s my review of this novel: Religion can cause great pain when it’s used to control others, and there’s a vast difference between this kind of travesty and true spirituality. The author has the courage to go behind the scenes with abuses kept hidden in other eras, but also shows how healing results through honesty and faith.

What inspired you to write Night Bird Calling?

Years ago I wrote a number of short stories based on some quirky characters in a fictional North Carolina foothills town called No Creek. I loved those characters, but in order to create a novel I needed an outside character who could see both strengths and foibles in my town folk and still care about them, still want to become part of their community, and who could tie their stories together.

For many years I’ve also wrestled with the idea of writing about the racial divide and abuse I saw growing up during years of the civil rights movement in the South, as well as domestic abuse and church oppression, things I experienced in my youth and young womanhood. Night Bird Calling is the marriage of all those experiences and stories.

Night Bird Calling involves some very challenging topics like domestic abuse, racism, and church abuse. What motivated you to write on these topics? I grew up mostly in the South during years of the civil rights movement, where I witnessed segregation, desegregation, racial oppression, and abuse but also heroic stands against injustice and some hard-won changes. I learned that attitudes do not change just because laws change. Transformation of the heart is also needed.

That is as true today as it was then. As a young woman, I ran away from an abusive marriage and an oppressive church. My journey toward emotional and spiritual healing took many years. I want women in similar situations to know that they are not alone, that God loves them so very dearly and that the condemnations of their oppressors do not come from Him.

I wrote Night Bird Calling not only for victims of abuse, but in the hope that readers might gain insight, sympathy, and empathy for those who’ve been abused or pushed down, that they might better understand and see creative ways they can help, ways they can be a voice for the voiceless or those needing someone to walk alongside them.

Visit website at cathygohlke.com and Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.


Tyndale: https://www.tyndale.com/p/night-bird-calling/9781496429728

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Bird-Calling-Cathy-Gohlke/dp/1496429729/ 
Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/night-bird-calling-9781496429728/9781496429728

ChristianBook.comhttps://www.christianbook.com/night-bird-calling-softcover/cathy-gohlke/9781496429728/pd/429729

Psychedelic Spies

The word Psychedelic doesn’t show up here very often, but that’s what Sally Carpenter has titled her series. Those of us who came of age in the 60’s either were drawn to, or stayed away from those lights! Writing about this era would be daunting for me, but below, Sally tells us how she chose it. Leave a comment to enter a giveaway for a paperback copy of “Flower Power Fatality.” (U.S. addresses only.)

The Glint of an Idea

By Sally Carpenter

How did a week at church camp lead to the creation of a cozy mystery series?

As a youth, I attended a summer church camp in Santa Claus, Indiana. Yes, that was the name of the town. At the time the Methodist Church owned a campground there. When mom picked me up from camp, I wanted to visit the town’s claim to fame: Santa Claus Land, the world’s oldest theme park that opened in 1946. The park is still in operation as Holiday World/Surfin’ Safari.

In about 2016. I was searching for a setting for a new mystery series, something different than the usual cozy towns. Santa Claus became Yuletide, Indiana, which, like its counterpart, has streets and stores with holiday names.

Santa Claus Land became the Country Christmas Family Fun Park. My protagonist, Noelle McNabb (she was born December 25), works as an actress in the park’s Candy Cane Capers musical show. 

In a radical move, I set the books in 1967. I’m not hip on modern technology; I don’t even own a cellphone. I love the culture of the 1960s: the music, media, clothes, vibes. It was a dark time too, with the generation gap, Vietnam War, civil rights movement, space race and the Cold War. 

With the popularity of the James Bond, movies and TV shows were full of spies. Television sets brought the Cold War into everyone’s living room. I created a spy agency that recruits Noelle. With her acting skills, she was a natural for undercover work. However, Noelle is a Christian; she attends Bethlehem Community Church in Yuletide. Her morals clash with the actions of the spy agency. Noelle loves her country, but what if her duty conflicts with her Christian beliefs?

Noelle also discovers she has an aunt she’s never heard of. Should she find the woman or let it be? Can Noelle bring her relative over from the dark side? 

But when Noelle is confused, she returns to the solace of her holiday-themed hometown. Christians also draw their strength from the Christmas story, the birth of the babe that brought salvation to the world.

From a week at church camp to the Psychedelic Spy series is quite a jump. One never knows which experiences God uses to inspire a writer.

Sally Carpenter is a native Hoosier now living in Southern California. She works full time at a family-owned community newspaper, including penning the Roots of Faith column. She serves as a lector (scripture reader) at her parish. Sally writes two mystery series for Cozy Cat Press. 

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Power-Fatality-Psychedelic-mysteries-ebook/dp/B07DLJS6FF/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=flower+power+fatality&qid=1620143869&s=books&sr=1-1
Online links: My website: http://sandyfairfaxauthor.comFacebook.com.SallyCarpenter.54
Sally Carpenter
Psychedelic Spy mysteries

Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mysterie

Connecting Generations

Becky Van Vleet preserves family memories in her picture book series–she tells us how she got started and is offering a free hardback copy of Harvey, The Traveling Harmonica to one commenter this week.

Let me add a short review: A Harmonica can find a way into your heart–I discovered this while reading Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica. The generations come together in Harvey’s delightful travels from a father to his son. And surprise! Our hero experiences great danger, rescue, and newfound friendship in the process of family life. I highly recommend this colorful, exciting children’s book, and plan to share my copy with our eight-year-old grandson.

I love creating and preserving family traditions and passing down stories to the next generation. That’s who I am! Sharing family stories with my children, journaling, preserving family traditions from my own childhood came naturally for me as a new wife and mother in the 1970s.

In my current season of life with adult children and my lovely Grands, more than ever I pass down our family stories, and I constantly fan the embers for past and new family traditions. After all, I’m a baby boomer. Shouldn’t we be sharing our stories with the next generations? We have firsthand knowledge of our parents enduring the depression and our fathers fighting in World War II. It is more important than ever before to share our stories.

As a sixty-something retiree, I decided to try my hand at writing a children’s picture book about a true family story. With a little plaid skirt that had been traveling in our family more than seventy years, I couldn’t let this story fade away. I wanted my book to capture this story and preserve the family memories. Thus, Talitha, the Traveling Skirtcame to be.

With the publication success of my first book, I asked myself, why not try another one? What family memory did I want to capture? In my growing up years, my father played the harmonica and I came to love that sweet music from a little instrument that could fit inside his pocket. When my keyboard met up with my memory of my father, Harvey, the Traveling Harmonicawas published soon thereafter. 

As I held my second children’s book for the first time, I asked myself, why not create a series of traveling books? All kinds of family stories swirled through my mind for preserving memories in the form of future children’s books. And I’m excited to say that Rosie, the Traveling Rockeris slated for publication later this year.

We all have stories to share along with family traditions. Our stories make our world. And what better way to preserve our stories, memories, and traditions than through books to connect us all together? I would love for you to check out my website which is devoted to family stories and traditions:  https://www.beckyvanvleet.comIf you have a story to share, let me know and I’ll feature it on my website for others to enjoy!

https://www.amazon.com/Becky-Van-Vleet/e/B07WPFZ98X?ref_=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000     Amazon author page

https://www.facebook.com/authorbeckyvanvleet     FB author page

https://www.pinterest.com/beckyvanvleet/_saved/

https://www.instagram.com/becky_van_vleet_author/

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/becky-van-vleethttps://www.goads.com/author/show/19507194.

I love creating and preserving family traditions and passing down stories to the next generation. That’s who I am! Sharing family stories with my children, journaling, preserving family traditions from my own childhood came naturally for me as a new wife and mother in the 1970s.

In my current season of life with adult children and my lovely Grands, more than ever I pass down our family stories, and constantly fan the embers for past and new family traditions. After all, I’m a baby boomer. Shouldn’t we be sharing our stories with the next generations? We have firsthand knowledge of our parents enduring the depression and our fathers fighting in World War II. It is more important than ever before to share our stories.

As a sixty-something retiree, I decided to try my hand at writing a children’s picture book about a true family story. With a little plaid skirt that had been traveling in our family more than seventy years, I couldn’t let this story fade away. I wanted my book to capture this story and preserve the family memories. Thus, Talitha, the Traveling Skirt came to be.

With the publication success of my first book, I asked myself, why not try another one? What family memory did I want to capture? In my growing up years, my father played the harmonica and I came to love that sweet music from a little instrument that could fit inside his pocket. When my keyboard met up with my memory of my father, Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica resulted, and was published soon thereafter. 

As I held my second children’s book for the first time, I asked myself, why not make a series of traveling books? All kinds of family stories swirled through my mind for preserving memories in the form of future children’s books. And I’m excited to say that Rosie, the Traveling Rocke ris slated for publication later this year.

We all have stories to share, along with family traditions. Our stories make our world. And what better way to preserve our stories, memories, and traditions than through books to connect us all together? I would love for you to check out my website devoted to family stories and traditions:  https://www.beckyvanvleet.com If you have a story to share, let me know and I’ll feature it on my website for others to enjoy!

Connect with Becky at these sites:

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/becky-van-vleethttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19507194.Becky_Van_Vleethttps://www.facebook.com/authorbeckyvanvleet/https://www.pinterest.com/beckyvanvleet/https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-van-vleet-806055181/https://www.instagram.com/becky_van_vleet/

Research on a Musical Note

I’ve been having fun listening to CDs of World War II broadcasts to the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces Radio Services was formally established on May 26, 1942.

Initially AFRS programming included transcribed commercial network radio shows such as the Kraft Music Hour without the commercials.

Soon numerous original AFRS programs such as Mail Call were added. Famous crooners (mostly Bing Crosby) and musicians (Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington) regaled their audiences with songs, dialogue, and jokes.

So much to learn about the “trivia” of the era . . . what new products were being advertised, and even how many ration points they would cost the buyer.

Delightful stuff! I may just keep on and on. (:

Borrowed Lives

Carol McClain is with us again this week, with a novel that delves into the darker side of our society, yet with hope and humor. Knowing goats, an eccentric family, and recovery are involved in this story tweaks my curiosity. Carol’s giveaway to one commenter is a kindle version of BORROWED LIVES. Also love this title! Tell us about your book, Carol.

One of my most frequently asked questions is, “How do you get your ideas?”

The answer is simple. From people.

I love people—their quirks, their heroism, their frailties. All of us have the capacity for greatness or great cruelty.

When I moved to Tennessee, I became involved in helping addicts overcome their addictions and the issues those addictions caused. The stories I heard appalled me—what people had to endure would not be believable.

In our church, we have one family devoted to foster care. The work they do astounds me. I tried my hand at foster care many years ago and discovered how totally inept I was with the process.

From these factors, Borrowed Lives was born.

Borrowed Lives

After her own tragedy, Meredith Jaynes finds three abandoned children. If she turns them over to DCS, the sisters will be separated. But healing them isn’t possible in her broken world.

Borrowed Lives is a novel about loss, hope, love, and faith from beginning to end.

God Only Lends Us Those We Love for a Season 

Distraught from recent tragedy, Meredith Jaynes takes pity on a young girl who steals from her. Meredith discovers “Bean” lives in a hovel mothering her two younger sisters. The three appear to have been abandoned. With no other homes available, Social Services will separate the siblings. To keep them together, Meredith agrees to foster them on a temporary basis.

Balancing life as a soap maker raising goats in rural Tennessee proved difficult enough before the siblings came into her care. Without Bean’s help, she’d never be able to nurture these children warped by drugs and neglect—let alone manage her goats that possess the talents of Houdini. Harder still is keeping her eccentric family at bay. 

Social worker Parker Snow struggles to overcome the breakup with his fiancée. Burdened by his inability to find stable homes for so many children who need love, he believes placing the abandoned girls with Meredith Jaynes is the right decision. Though his world doesn’t promise tomorrow, he hopes Meredith’s does.

But she knows she’s too broken.

https://www.amazon.com/Borrowed-Lives-Carol-McClain-ebook/dp/B08Z3HL2FZ/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Borrowed+Lives&qid=1617991853&sr=8-1

Carol McClain My times are in His hands.

Sign up for Carol’s newsletter and blog.http://www.carolmcclain.com/

Carol McClain is the award-winning author of four novels dealing with real people facing real problems. She is a consummate encourager, and no matter what your faith might look like, you will find compassion, humor and wisdom in her complexly layered, but ultimately readable work.

Aside from writing, she’s a skilled stained-glass artist, an avid hiker and photographer. She lives in East Tennessee. Her most recent interests are her two baby does Peanut & Buttercup. Like all babies, they love sitting on our laps and being bottle fed.

You can connect with her at carolmcclain.com.

On Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/author.Carol.McClain

On twitter and Instagram: @carol_mcclain

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14030286.Carol_McClain

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/carol-mcclain

Heroes of The Tundra

A warm welcome to Laurie Wood, who lives in Central Canada and writes inspirational romantic suspense with an edge of danger. She’s also a military wife who’s raised two wonderful special needs children to adulthood. They’ve lived all over Canada and are still on that journey. When she’s not writing she can be found at her spinning wheel, knitting, or hanging out with her dogs in the garden.

AND… Laurie has served as a police officer. This hooked me immediately–in her series about PTSD and police officers, she knows what she’s talking about! She’s giving away an e-copy of Northern Protector to a commenter. Thanks for visiting!

If He’s Not a Cop, He’s Nobody

Constable Ben Koper is still healing from the polar bear attack that almost killed him. Nine months after it happened, he returns to Churchill, Manitoba, a changed man—scarred more than just physically. PTSD is his new shadow, haunting his every step, and he can’t seem to kick the pain meds he shouldn’t need anymore. He’s determined to prove, to himself and his colleagues, that he’s still up to his job. Failure isn’t an option.

ER nurse Joy Gallagher spent the entire last winter texting with a healing Constable Koper. What started as friendly concern from this single mother has grown into full-fledged romantic feelings, and she’s eager to level up their friendship and introduce him to the idyllic comfort of small-town life. Until a teenager is murdered at a summer party. The crime is strikingly similar to the cold case murder of Joy’s foster sister, stirring old trauma Joy has never fully dealt with.

When another victim is snatched in town, Ben and Joy must confront their own demons, and join forces to track down an elusive killer. The race to rescue the next victim before it’s too late will test Ben and Joy to their limits. Can they survive their encounter with this heinous killer, or will the past destroy them.?

NORTHERN PROTECTOR is the second book in my Heroes of the Tundra series. (NORTHERN HEARTS is a Christmas novella set in the same town of Churchill, Manitoba) The hero, Ben Koper, is the best friend of the hero from the first book. He’s actually mauled by the polar bear in book 1, and this book is the story of his recovery from PTSD from that traumatic experience and injury, as well as how he grapples with addiction to painkillers.

I wanted to write about PTSD because it’s more common in the life of police officers than we like to think. Not every officer will face down a polar bear, but police work isn’t like it’s shown in TV or the movies. When I was a police officer, I faced off against a man with a gun one-on-one, several who wanted to use a knife on me, a hostage situation outside a liquor store, and was in many, many physical fights trying to arrest someone.

I’ve arrested rapists, drunk drivers, men who’d just beaten their wives or children, women who’d beaten other women, women who’d beaten up their children, and people in bar fights. And while I was never shot or knifed, I had my wrist broken once by a biker who refused to give up his booze when I said he couldn’t take it back. I won that fight but ended up with a broken wrist and the rest of the summer off because I was in a cast. I also got a permanent back injury from being thrown against the concrete wall in our prisoner’s cell block by a guy on some kind of drugs who mistook me for someone else.

Back in the mid-1980’s when I was a police officer, no one called the after-effects of situations like these PTSD. We just had to “shake it off”. However, I can tell you that being in a hostage situation isn’t like it is on shows like “The Rookie” or “Law and Order.”

Nor was going one on one with a biker who outweighed me by about a hundred pounds like anything I’d ever seen on TV. The “bad guys” don’t conveniently fall to the ground with one punch to the jaw. It’s more like a Mixed Martial Arts battle, heavy on the face punches.

When police officers take off their uniforms after their shift, they’re just regular people. They have to make split-second decisions about their safety and that of others around them. A situation can change in an instant. On a tv show, the police might be out of breath after a foot chase, but they don’t have nightmares, or feel like their skin is crawling the next day when they go to pick up their start-of-shift coffee. 

This book is my favourite of the ones I’ve written so far. It takes courage to go back to work after a traumatic experience on the job. I hope I’ve done our police officers proud with this story.

NORTHERN PROTECTOR:

Constable Ben Koper is still healing from the polar bear attack that almost killed him. Nine months after it happened, he returns to Churchill, Manitoba, a changed man—scarred more than just physically. PTSD is his new shadow, haunting his every step, and he can’t seem to kick the pain meds he shouldn’t need anymore. He’s determined to prove, to himself and his colleagues, that he’s still up to his job. Failure isn’t an option.

ER nurse Joy Gallagher spent the entire last winter texting with a healing Constable Koper. What started as friendly concern from this single mother has grown into full-fledged romantic feelings, and she’s eager to level up their friendship and introduce him to the idyllic comfort of small-town life. Until a teenager is murdered at a summer party. The crime is strikingly similar to the cold case murder of Joy’s foster sister, stirring old trauma Joy has never fully dealt with.

When another victim is snatched in town, Ben and Joy must confront their own demons, and join forces to track down an elusive killer. The race to rescue the next victim before it’s too late will test Ben and Joy to their limits. Can they survive their encounter with this heinous killer, or will the past destroy them.?

Buy Links:

Amazon.com:https://amzn.to/3femV6Y

Amazon.ca:    https://amzn.to/2KfyoYq

Anaiah Press: https://bit.ly/3pGPrD6(Print copies)

Bio & Social Media Links:

Laurie loves to hear from readers and always replies, so feel free to get in touch with her:

Please visit her at https://www.lauriewoodauthor.com

Facebook:             https://www.facebook.com/lauriewoodauthor

Twitter:                 https://twitter.com/LaurieJeanWood

The Sower and The Seer

Cherie Dargan, an author friend from the Cedar Falls area, is celebrating an IOWA book to which she contributed. She’s going to tell us more about it, and is offering a signed paperback copy to a commenter.

IT ALL STARTED WITH A DATE….AND RUTH SUCKOW

First, a joke I used to tell my Literature students: Ruth Suckow is the most famous Iowa writer you never heard of. But she was hot stuff during the 1920s through 1960. And the famous editor H. L. Mencken praised her work in the 1930s, calling her the “most important female writer in America.”

Over 20 years ago, my then boyfriend, Mike, thought that taking me to the Annual Meeting of the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association in Earlville, Iowa sounded like a great date. So, we piled into a van driven by his former UNI Professor, Barbara Lounsberry, and another Suckow scholar, Harvey Hess. 

We were in the back seat, and seemed to be hurtling down the road, and Mike handed me the book with the collection of short stories we were going to discuss. I had never heard of this woman, and I was an English teacher, had been an English major, had taken numerous literature courses at two universities. I had no idea that there was an early feminist writer who captured the Iowa of yesterday that my mother and grandmother knew. It was love at first read. I read many of the stories and was able to join the discussion. 

I enjoyed the meeting and made some new friends. I devoured her books and was struck by her strong female characters, her description of what we have dubbed the generation gap, and her fierce determination to transcend categories and labels.

I added one of her stories (A Rural Community) to my Intro to Lit class, and found my students understood Suckow, and loved her descriptions. I added an essay that Ferner wrote about forced farm sales during the great depression. One of my students asked me, “Cherie, you don’t have a crush on a dead guy, do you?” Apparently, I talked about Ferner, her handsome, much younger husband, more than I thought. (Want to read her short stories? Go to the Suckow website, www.ruthsuckow.organd you can find out more about her life.) Here is an essay by Barbara Lounsberry, the President of the RSMA, introducing the group of short stories on the Iowa Digital Heritage site. www.ruthsuckow.org/home/iowa-digital-heritage-collection

There are now 21 items on the Iowa Digital Heritage Site, including 18 short stories, a novella, “A Part of the Institution,” .and two books, The Kramer Girls and The Odyssey of a Nice Girl.

www.iowaheritage.org/items/browse?collection=127&sort_field=Dublin+Core%2CTitle

Mike and I married and became active in the RSMA. He created the first website, which I now maintain. He wrote the Suckow Wikipedia article; I wrote the Wikipedia article about her handsome younger husband, Ferner Nuhn. 

Jon Lauck, a professor from South Dakota, visited one of our Annual Meetings, and announced he was writing a book about the Midwest, and invited me to submit a proposal. The results were  a chapter about Ruth Suckow. (The Midwestern Moment: The Forgotten World of Early Twentieth Century Midwestern Regionalism, 1880-1940. Edited by Jon Lauck. Hastings College Press, Hastings, Nebraska. 2017. My chapter was “The Realistic Regionalism of Iowa’s Ruth Suckow.”)

In 2016 Barbara Lounsberry and Rosemary Beach partnered to create the Cedar Falls Authors Festival and invited me to join the planning committee. I had just retired and quickly became busy with volunteer work. I became the webmaster and learned a great deal about the five best selling, nationally known writers with ties to Cedar Falls: Ruth Suckow, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Robert James Waller, James Hearst, and Nancy Price. We went on to plan 60 programs for the year of 2017/2018 and it was wonderful. It also prepared me to write this chapter.

The Sower and the Seer: Perspectives on the Intellectual History of the American Midwest. March 2021. Wisconsin Historical Press.

For this book, I focused on Cedar Falls, Iowa. My friend Barbara Lounsberry, the President of the RSMA, dubbed it the “City of Writers.”

Here is the summary of my chapter. 

“Mind & Soil: An Iowa Town that Grows Writers.” Cedar Falls, Iowa predates

the Civil war by a decade: this frontier town became a railroad town, provided

a home for Civil War orphans, established a college to train teachers,

supported a newspaper, created a library, and built a number of churches. Along

the way, it became an important hub for readers and writers: five best-selling

authors have ties to Cedar Falls, including Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow,

James Hearst, Robert James Waller, and Nancy Price. 

The secret of this town’s success? A persistent focus by a succession of civic leaders on the fertile blend of literature and the land. Many towns had literary societies, but early Cedar Falls had Peter Melendy, founder of the Cedar Falls Horticultural and Literary Society in 1859. His motto,“the mind and the soil,” bore fruit in the creation of a city with beautiful parks, gardens, and trees complemented by a vibrant literary culture with a modern public library. This chapter explores the city’s early history, examines several community organizations that fostered reading and discussing ideas, and explains how the community has honored its five best-selling authors.

What did I learn by researching and writing this chapter?

I discovered the three reasons that Cedar Falls became such a literary powerhouse:

First, the town valued literacy. Peter Melendy organized the Cedar Falls Horticultural and Literary Society and gathered 500 books for the first lending library in 1859-1860.

Second, it valued its history:both Peter Melendy and Roger Leavitt served as early historians.

Finally, the college brought educated people to the community to serve on the faculty, giving the townsfolk opportunities to interact with them.

Without these men and women, and their vision for Cedar Falls as the “Garden City” and the city of a bustling modern library and university, Cedar Falls would be a very different community today.

Five Things I learned from writing my chapter

  1. The importance of the river and the railroad to the growth of Cedar Falls, established eleven years before the Civil War. During the war, the expansion of the railroad stopped, but it transported troops and supplies east, and brought people and news to Cedar Falls.
  2. The influence of the college in the community’s intellectual and literary growth, evidenced by several teachers joining local discussion groups
  3. The influence of early leaders like Peter Melendy, founder of the Cedar Falls Horticultural and Literary Society in 1859. His motto, “Mind and Soil” led to a city that had beautiful parks, gardens and the first lending library.
  4. The role of the local newspaper–and two brothers, who brought their printing press with them
  5. The group of authors with ties to Cedar Falls: Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Robert James Waller, and Nancy Price. 

You may contact Cherie here:

cheriedargan@gmail.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cherie.dargan/

Author page: https://www.facebook.com/Cherie-Dargan-Writer-106756544789778

Website– www.geekygrandma.org

Blog — https://bloggingbasicswithcherie.blogspot.com/

Cherie is a retired Community College teacher who reinvented herself in retirement: she is an active volunteer, a writer, blogger, and family historian working on a trilogy about a midwestern family named Grandmother’s Treasures.

Cherie earned her B. A. from Buena Vista University, an M. A. from Iowa State, and another M. A. from the University of Northern Iowa. She is a member of the Cedar Falls Supper Club, served on the Planning Committee for the Cedar Falls Authors Festival, and continues to do research on Iowa writer Ruth Suckow. She’s webmaster for the Ruth Suckow website as well as the Cedar Falls Authors Festival. She is also the President of the League of Women Voters of Black Hawk and Bremer Counties, and the webmaster of their website.

 Ruth Suckow Webmaster —www.ruthsuckow.org

Cedar Falls Authors Festival Webmaster —www.cfauthorsfestival.org/

The Six Triple Eight to the Rescue

When the Mail Stops During War

By Cleo Lampos

 “The Post Office, War and Navy departments realize fully that frequent and rapid communication with parents, associates and other loved ones strengthens fortitude, enlivens patriotism, makes loneliness endurable and inspires to even greater devotion the men and women who are carrying on our fight far from home and friends.”

                                    -1942 Annual Report to Postmaster General

By 1945, 2.5 billion pieces went through the Army Postal Service and eight million pieces through Navy post offices. The men counted on getting their letters of encouragement from home. Their loved ones needed to know that their military man remained safe. As long as the system worked, morale remained high.

But what if a glitch in the transmission of mail existed and mail call disappointed the men?

What then?

In February 1945, the unthinkable happened. Warehouses in Birmingham, England, piled high with millions of pieces of mail. Undelivered Christmas packages and an endless tsunami of incoming envelopes increasing the chaotic paper mess. Servicemen, U.S. Government personnel, and Red Cross workers languished from the lack of letters from home. The system was in chaos. 

Who could make sense of such a mess?

Within the U.S. Army was a battalion of 817 African-American enlisted personnel and 31 officers formed from the WAC, the Army Service Forces and the Army Air Forces.  Their unit was created and designated as the 6888thCentral Postal Directory Battalion, nicknamed the SixTriple Eight. They trained for their duty as any other soldier.

On February 3rd, these recruits sailed for Britain, surviving close encounters with Nazi U-boats and German V-1 rockets. When the women of the Six Triple Eight arrived in Birmingham, they set to work in warehouses stacked to the ceiling with letters and packages. Working conditions in the unheated, dimly-lit buildings with blackout curtains prompted them to wear long johns and extra clothing under their coats. They tried to fight off the rats seeking out packages of spoiled cakes and cookies. The unit members worked three separate eight-hour shifts around the clock, seven days a week.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22Somewhere_in_England,_Maj._Charity_E._Adams,…and_Capt._Abbie_N._Campbell,…inspect_the_first_contingent_of_Negro_members_of_the_Women%27s_Army_Corps_assigned_to_overseas_service.%22_-_NARA_-_531249.gif

The difficulty of the job did not overwhelm them. They tracked individual service members by maintaining about seven million information cards including serial numbers to track different individuals with the same name. 7,500 men named “Robert Smith” needed to be differentiated. The postal workers investigated insufficiently addressed mail for clues to determine the intended recipient.  They handled the solemn duty of returning mail of deceased servicemen. The unit worked diligently, knowing that the motto was true: “No mail, low morale”.

The Six Triple Eight resided in quarters, mess halls and military recreational facilities that were segregated by the US government and the Red Cross. However, the English local people welcomed them into their homes for tea and into the British public spaces with prim and proper friendship.

Under these conditions, the 6888thCentral Postal Directory Battalion created a new tracking system that processed an average of 65,000 pieces of mail per shift and cleared the six-month backlog of mail in three months. They linked the servicemen with their loved ones back home. Until the end of the war, these African-American women continued to astound the government with their success and efficiency in solving the military’s postal problems.

In writing the book, A World War II Holiday Scrapbook, Gail Kittleson and I researched the importance of mail to the men and women overseas. Reading the accounts from those of the Greatest Generation who received packages and letters brought tears to my eyes and gratitude for those who gave so much for freedom. The stories in this book highlight the mail sent during holidays for deployed loved ones until ’46.  Undoubtedly, some of this postal material was handled by the Six Triple Eight.

As Hallmark Cards reminded the homefront: “Keep ‘em happy with mail.”

“Christmas Greetings!  May the New Year hold for you the best of everything that peace and freedom bring.” – Message on WWII Navy Christmas card

Landscape

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Members_of_the_6888th_Central_Postal_Directory_Battalion_take_part_in_a_parade_ceremony_in_honor_of_Joan_d%27Arc.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22The_first_Negro_WACs_to_arrive_(on)_the_continent_of_Europe_were_800_girls_of_the_6888th_Central_Postal_Directory_Bn,_w_-_NARA_-_531333.jpg

***https://history.army.mil/html/topics/afam/6888thPBn/index.html

Four members of the 6888th. Source: United States Department of Defense.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/20/us/6888th-battalion-african-american-women-world-war-ii/index.html

Looking Back . . . and Ahead

We’ve been re-re-remodeling our old house. Again. Yep.

It’s good to look back to when we first purchased this property. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but in a town of 1,000 or so, you don’t always have a wide choice. I wanted a big old square house with a front porch, but none were on the market when we moved here. So . . .

We found a home with history. Guess that fits us both, although at the time, I hadn’t begun writing WWII novels. I did look into the history of this structure, though, and discovered it was one of the first built in St. Ansgar. 1873.

Continue reading

A Song for her Enemies

Sherri Stewart brings a wealth of research to her novels, and I’m especially excited to read about the Netherlands in World War II. She’s offering an e-book giveaway to one commenter this week. Here are some pics of the country she loves–and now, sit back and enjoy more about her book and the Netherlands.

What I love and hate about the setting of my book, A Song for Her Enemies

By Sherri Stewart

My book mostly takes place in Haarlem in the Netherlands—the original Haarlem—not the one near Manhattan. The story develops between the fall of 1943 and the end of 1948, but most of it occurs over the span of one year. 

Here is a bit about the plot: After Nazi soldiers close the opera and destroy Tamar Kaplan’s dream of becoming a professional singer, she joins the Dutch Resistance, her fair coloring concealing her Jewish heritage. Tamar partners with Dr. Daniel Feldman, and they risk their lives to help escaping refugees. When they are forced to flee themselves, violinist Neelie Visser takes them into hiding.

Tamar’s love for Daniel flowers in hardship, but she struggles with the paradox that a loving God would allow the atrocities around her. When Tamar resists the advances of a Third Reich officer, he exacts his revenge by betraying the secrets hidden behind the walls of Neelie’s house. From a prison hospital to a Nazi celebration to a concentration camp, will the three of them survive to tell the world the secrets behind barbed wire?  

A Song for Her Enemies is the story of a talented young opera singer and the bittersweet love that grows amid the tyranny and fear of World War II. Set against the backdrop of neighbors willing to risk their lives in the German-occupied, war-torn Netherlands, A Song for Her Enemiesis an inspiring and beautiful novel celebrating the resilience of the human spirit and the determination of Christians in the face of persecution. It is a novel for everyone seeking to understand the pain of the past and be inspired to embrace hope. 

My son Joshua and I visited the Netherlands in September 2019, just a few months before COVID-19 kept us isolated in our house. And we fell in love with the country. Haarlem is a short train trip from Amsterdam and a perfect place to set up camp. We stayed a block from the center market place, in the shadow of St. Bavo’s cathedral.

I love the ways Nederlanders embrace life. During the day, the sidewalks are full of people—shoppers stopping to browse and sit in outdoor cafés. This is true for nighttime cafés as well. Weather doesn’t stop them. Nederlanders love to sit and talk with their friends. Yet they are very fit. A plethora of bicyclists zoom by to the point that it is dangerous to step out in the street for fear of being run over by a bike! Age doesn’t matter. Quantity of bodies on a single bike doesn’t matter. Weather or lack of light doesn’t matter. Be careful stepping over the red line!

Another blessing in the Netherlands is the fact that everyone seems to speak English. In fact, it was rare to see Dutch menus. I asked the owner of creperie why there wasn’t a word of Dutch in the restaurant. He said that most of their customers hailed from England, so there was no need for the native language. Really? Can you imagine that ever happening in our fair country?

Having counted the many blessings of the Netherlands, there is something about the country that breaks my heart—in a word, it is tolerance. This is also true for most of Europe. Now tolerance is a mighty important value—do not get me wrong. I value tolerance, but I do not worship it. 

This is what I see in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe and creeping into the US. People have extended tolerance to the point that there are absolutely no absolutes. Everything is right, whether it was considered wrong at one time. In the process of creating a tolerant society, they’ve wiped out faith in God because God has set up standards that some would deem intolerant. So God has to go. In other words, God is not tolerated. Ironic, huh? And the beautiful old cathedrals sit empty.

There are so many wonderful things about this beautiful post card of a country with its canals and tall houses, its gouda cheese and pancakes, its windmills and tulips. Pray for the Netherlands that its people will find a balance between tolerance and the absolutes that God has set. There is a balance between the two. 

Sherri Stewart loves a clean novel, sprinkled with romance and a strong message that challenges her faith. She spends her working hours with books—either editing others’ manuscripts or writing her own. Her passion is traveling to the settings of her books, sampling the food, and visiting the sites. She loves the Netherlands, and she’s still learning Dutch, although she doesn’t need to since everyone seems to speak perfect English. A recent widow, Sherri lives in the Orlando area with her lazy dog, Lily, and her son, Joshua, who can fix anything. She shares recipes, tidbits of the book’s locations, and pix in her newsletter. Subscribe at http://eepurl.com/gZ-mv9

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https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/758893.Sherri_Stewart