I don’t often feature Romance authors here, but am happy to welcome Judith McNees, because the story behind her novel touches me. She’s out to make a difference in this old world! Hope you enjoy A HEART TO CHERISH. AND Judith is offering a free e-book to one commenter here.
The first seeds for the character Julia in A Heart to Cherish began to form in my mind back in 2011 when my husband and I went through foster parent training. In one of the classes, we listened to a panel of foster parents and former foster youth talk about different aspects of the foster care system.
The thing that stuck out to me the most from that experience was hearing just how many children “age out” of foster care without being adopted. Perhaps I’d been naïve to think that, on the whole, the system was working. That day, my paradigm changed, and I realized that young people were leaving foster care by the thousands with no support system behind them.
Writing what I’m passionate about comes naturally, so when I got the stirring in my heart to write a novel last summer, having a character who was a former foster youth was an obvious choice for me. I wanted Julia to be a character who would show how heartbreaking it can be to grow up in this system but also leave my readers with a sense of hope. The love she experiences in her new “found family” helps her to grow beyond the loss and abandonment she went through many times over as an orphan and a foster child.
Just like Julia, it is very common for teens who “age out” of foster care to become homeless, and well over half of the girls become pregnant by the time they are twenty-one. Like Julia, more than half of them experience difficulties finding gainful employment by the time they are twenty-four. Though many of these teens report a desire to go on to college, as many as one quarter of them will fail to even graduate high school due to the number of times they have to switch schools as well as other problems that make it difficult to finish.
I’m very thankful for my own journey with foster care and adoption and the things I’ve learned along the way. It is my hope that, through Julia’s story, others will be encouraged to find their own ways to help as well.
Cherie Dargan will soon be sharing her soon-to-be-released DEBUT NOVEL, The Gift. This Iowa tale with some surprises from family history marks the beginning of her Grandmother’s Treasures series. Like the Mama robin in our honeysuckle bush just outside my window, Cherie awaits the BIG MOMENT! If you’ve ever anticipated the arrival of either baby or book, I think you’ll appreciate her take on this season of life.
She’s offering a signed copy of THE GIFT to a commenter here. As you’ll see, there’s a very special person at the heart of Cherie’s story.
“Every quilt has a story.” The Gift, 2022, WordCrafts Press.
So much energy goes into writing a novel–and then finding a publisher. We don’t talk enough about what happens after you sign the book contract, especially as a novice. I knew I needed to set up an author page on Facebook, create a website, order business cards, and open a new bank account. I made a list of what to do once the book arrives, but until then, I’m stuck waiting.
A photographer took photos of me with some of the family “treasures” that inspired the series, including a chest built by my grandfather, filled with a dozen vintage quilts. I liked the photos, used them online, then began wondering what the book cover would look like–and will I like it? I looked at my friend Gail’s book covers and felt reassured because we have the same publisher. So, I work on editing the next book, wondering if this will be ‘the day’ that I hear something about my book’s publication or get a preview of the cover.
Another friend’s new book, with the cover, page numbers and header formatted so nicely, stirred my emotions. I can’t wait for my book to come out! Then, it hits me. I’ve been nesting, something pregnant women do before the births of their babies. Expectant moms paint the nursery, buy a crib, clean, organize, and practice saying baby names out loud. They hope their babies will be healthy. They pat their tummies and stare at the ultrasound pictures in awe.
I don’t pat my tummy, but I worry–will people like my book? Read and review it? Will it help me launch my series? Did I pick a good title? Gail tells me I’m having Braxton Hicks contractions and I’ll be fine once the “baby” is here. But it’s hard to be patient.
After all the hard work planning, researching, drafting, and revising the book, I imagine opening the first shipment. Holding my book. Presenting a copy to my Aunt Jeanne, 97, whose real-life experiences as a Rosie Riveter building bombers during WWII inspired me to create a character based on her. Just as I placed my babies in her arms, I can’t wait to sign my book and hand it to this lovely woman who has been like a mother to me.
Together, we’ll celebrate its ‘birth.’
Learn more about Cherie and how to contact her:
Cherie Dargan reinvented herself in retirement. She’s the President of her local League of Women Voters, manages several websites, and continues to research her family history, which goes back to the 1850s in Iowa. Her grandsons are the seventh generation to live in Iowa.
She describes her writing as women’s fiction set in the Midwest, with a twist of history, mystery, faith, and love.
Grandmother’s Treasures, Book One, set in 2012, takes place in Jubilee Junction, Iowa—a frontier railroad town on the Jubilee River. Three big families—the Nelsons, O’Connors, and Carlsons—founded Jubilee Junction in the early 1850s. Each book in the series focuses on a quilt, a war, or an era in American history, and has dual timelines and narrators, starting with The Gift.
Aunt Violet—one of the main characters—is based on Aunt Jeanne’s personality, faith, and enduring love for her family.
Retired Professor of Communications Author & Advocate/President, League of Women Voters of Black Hawk-Bremer Counties
Aren’t all of our lives prodigal in some way or another? Carol McClain uses her teaching experience with recovering addicts to open our eyes to “life on the other side.” I admire her determination to make a difference in our society. Carol is offering an e-book copy of PRODIGAL LIVES to one commenter.
My husband and I had a chance to teach recovering addicts in jail. The program, proven to reduce recidivism, helped them identify behaviors that ruined their lives and how to readjust their own actions. Loaded with our workbooks and naivete, we set out to teach them how to change their lives.
Instead, these individuals opened our eyes to the fact that our penal system is structured to destroy them.
Odd as it seems, the local jail did everything they could to ruin the program. They lied to the individuals, reneged on their promises, denied them the on-the-job training already in place for them, and jettisoned any chance for us to return to the jail and help others.
Then, once these individuals got out, they had nowhere to go but to the addicted families who messed them up in the first place. Once released with huge fines, no vehicle, no work training, and no support group, they quickly fell into old patterns.
Guess what happened next?
In my latest release, Prodigal Lives, Pearl Solomon found herself, like these incarcerated people in our county jail, beyond redemption. Having sunken so low, she had to find the one source of hope. Jealousy and pride alienated her from her sisters and foster mother. Sure of herself and determined to have fun, Pearl, who has no mentor, slides into despair.
But don’t you despair. McClain can enthrall you with love, humor, and pathos in her newest release Prodigal Lives, the second volume in the Treasured Lives series. Many say Prodigal Lives is her best novel yet.
As one reviewer stated, “This book deftly continued from the excellent book Borrowed Lives … the beautiful fosterlings Meredith fell in love with in the first novel are taken from her life one by one … The story follows each of the children as well as Meredith as they deal with seemingly unsurmountable obstacles and heartaches. Love prevails in this wonderfully well written and fast-paced novel.
Were the patriarchs real people like you and me? Elizabeth Jacobson has some valuable insights concerning this question, and is offering a free ebook copy (MOBI or EPUB) of her novel NOT BY SIGHT to a commenter. (I love this cover!–Have to say so b/c Elizabeth and I share the same publisher. (:
Imagine you’re back in Sunday School, sitting down with all your friends and watching the nervous volunteer parent who teaches the class smile over the flannelgraph. “Now, friends,” (s)he says, holding up a flannel image of a teenager in what looks like a rainbow bathrobe: “This is Joseph.”
Joseph is plastered to the flannelgraph, and the parent puts a flannel group of angry men next to him. “His brothers hated him because his father gave him a beautiful coat. They threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave!”
Appreciative gasps echo from the crowd of five-year-olds – even kids know that good drama comes from torturing your characters.
“His master threw him in prison – ” (we necessarily skip why) “– but one day Pharaoh had a dream!”
Flannel Pharaoh appears, slapped on the flannelgraph, wearing a white skirt and lots of bling.
“Joseph interpreted the dream, and Pharaoh made him his second-in-command. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food during a famine, Joseph helped them. And you know what, friends?” The parent looks around with a grin. “Joseph never lost his faith in God! Isn’t that amazing?”
You and your friends nod solemnly. What a guy.
You probably hear this story at least once a year in Sunday School, but by the time you’re a worldly-wise sixth grader, you start to nod a little less and frown a little more.
You know the story like the back of your hand.
But it doesn’t make sense anymore.
The truth is that this Joseph, this icon of the Sunday-School world, isn’t a person to emulate. He can’t be emulated.
Because the story of a man who faced every unthinkable hardship thrown his way with a smile on his face and praise on his lips and forgiveness in his heart is. Not. A. Story. Of. Real. Faith.
You want real faith? Look at the guy who talked to Jesus in Mark Chapter 9. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Humans aren’t perfect. Why then are we shown a perfect Joseph?
The Bible is not written as a novel. Most narratives in the Bible go over the events needed to comprehend the message in rapid-fire succession. No discussion of motives, internal conflict, or thought processes. It’s easy, then, to step back from the humanity of Joseph and place near-perfection on him.
In writing Not by Sight, my goal was to come up with consistent personality traits and motivations – and logical, human reactions to events, that would lead Joseph to become the person of true, unwavering faith that he ultimately was.
It was a wild ride, but I had a blast. I’m excited to share it with you!
Back Cover of NOT BY SIGHT
Beloved. Betrayed. Despised. Exalted. Joseph, the eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob, had his father’s favor, and that was his downfall. Sold into Egypt by his enraged and jealous brothers, Joseph is left with nothing to cling to except the stories of his father’s God, a seemingly remote and unreachable figure. Faith may prove futile, but Joseph is desperate – for the very hate that enslaved his brothers has begun to overtake him.
Not by Sight is a retelling of the story of Joseph, his brothers, and his coat from the Biblical book of Genesis. Focusing on both Biblical and historical accuracy, the novel examines his extraordinary journey of faith.
Really, what could make a man turn to God when every event in his life screams that God has turned his back on him?
A grateful welcome to Dr. MaryAnn Diorio this week. She will be giving away a free copy of her novel to a commenter, in whatever format the winner chooses. In these times with so many attacks on our youth, we need books like this!
My foray into children’s fiction began many years ago while I was browsing in my local bookstore. I was delighted to discover a book about Jesus in a secular bookstore. But my delight soon turned into sorrow as I scanned the book. The author had presented Jesus as merely a teacher a prophet, like Mohammed or Buddha. Worst of all, readers were encouraged to choose to worship the one they preferred.
I literally left that bookstore in tears, determined to write a book that told children the truth about Jesus. That book became Who is Jesus?, published in 2014.
From there, I went on to write a series of chapter books for six-to-ten-year-old reluctant readers whose main character is an adventurous eight-year-old named Penelope Pumpernickel.
Dixie Randolph and the Secret of Seabury Beach is my first middle-grade novel. I love this age group and believe it to be an impressionable age during which children face choices that will impact the rest of their lives.
About Dixie Randolph and the Secret of Seabury Beach
A 200-year-old family feud, a hidden pirate’s treasure, and a theft launch 12-year-old Dixie Randolph and her BFF, Tilly Mendoza, on an adventurous journey to discover the thief, to reconcile the feuding families, and to solve what has become known as the “secret of Seabury Beach.” Along the way, Dixie faces her own personal family feud when her younger sister Heather refuses to acknowledge Dixie as her sister because Dixie was adopted. Despite Dixie’s repeated attempts to befriend Heather, their relationship worsens. But when Dixie comes face-to-face with the wrath of the thief’s direct descendant, she risks her life not only to save the feuding families but her sister Heather as well.
In this first book of the Dixie Randolph Series of Middle-Grade Novels, Dr. MaryAnn Diorio offers 8-to-12-year-old children an exciting and entertaining story that will keep them turning pages as they explore the themes of sibling rivalry, forgiveness, friendship, and adoption. Set on beautiful Cape Cod, Dixie Randolph and the Secret of Seabury Beach will be sure to delight your middle-grade child with timeless truths about family, forgiveness, and love.
MaryAnn will giving away a free copy of her novel, in whatever format the winner chooses.
Welcome to Sheila Roe, an Arizona author. Sheila and I met several years ago, and since then, She’s been busy writing! She shares with us about her story for Chicken Soup For The Soul this week, and is offering TWO signed paperback copies to two of you who leave a comment.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving, Loss & Healing
It’s not a question of “if”, but “when” grief will intrude on your life. While it’s true there are many aspects to grief, they may rear their ugly heads in random patterns, look like something unexpected and even ambush you in a quiet moment when everything seems to be fine.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving, Loss & Healing is a collection of 101 true stories of grief. Each story is unique, yet there are commonalities across the spectrum. Thankfully, as our society has become more open about sharing difficult times, the way in which we approach grief as individuals and families has evolved. Chapter 7: “The Monty Dinner” is the story of a first-grief experience for children. As related in this chapter, that experience is often the death of a beloved family pet. What was a crushing blow to our children provided our family an opportunity to lay the groundwork for grief experiences to come later in life.
“The silence in the car is oppressive as we drive home on Thursday night. Just the four of us and an empty collar. The weight of a tiny dog is crushing all of us with his absence. Glancing at my husband behind the wheel, his eyes fixed on the road ahead, I turn to Max and Emma in the back seat. “Okay, tomorrow night we’re having dinner in the dining room. Your job is to find your favorite picture of Monty and bring it, and a story that goes with it.” They stare vacantly ahead. I’m not even sure they have heard me.
As parents, we do the best we can, often crafting plans on the fly, hoping they will yield the results we need and expect. In the end, we must have faith that the journey is what was intended. Perhaps it will heal us, certainly it will test us, but ultimately, it will strengthen us if we choose to share it with those we love and He who loves us through moments of darkness and light.
How has a loss affected you and your family?
Arizona author Sheila Roe has worked with those in grief since 2003. She served as a Group Facilitator for and was the lead Facilitator Trainer and Director of Development for Walking the Mourner’s Path and acted as aconsultant to the Journey to Joy grief recovery program. She has written extensively about grief, including its annual cost to American business and has presented grief training programs across the country. Sheila is a public speaker and freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona whose work has been published in newspapers, magazines and books in the U.S. and Europe.
She is an award-winning author who co-wrote and co-edited the Arizona Centennial anthology Skirting Traditions: Arizona Women Writers and Journalists 1912 – 2012, the co-author of New Beginnings, Daily Christian Studies to Begin Your Grief Recovery, the author of Surviving the Holidays with a Grieving Heart and an author included in the 2022 Chicken Soup for the Soul book entitled Grieving, Loss and Healing.
Peggy Ellis join us today with the second edition of her book of stories written by World War II women. So much to learn here! Peggy’s giving away a signed paperback to one commenter (U.S. only). Thanks so much for honoring these women, Peggy!
From 1939 through the end of World War II in 1945, we learned war is not only bombs and battleships, firearms and foxholes. War demands support from people on the home front. That is the basis for Challenges on the Home Front, World War II.
Throughout history, women have held pivotal positions but too often without acknowledgement. This generation of women, through sheer determination, held the family together during the Great Depression and immediately accepted and conquered the challenge to hold their nation together during a devastating world war.
These women refused to revert to their subordinate role at the end of the war. With the support of President Harry Truman, they led the charge for gender equality which led to the equality movement of the 1970s and still affects us today.
From the time Germany and Japan declared war on Europe and the United States until total surrender in 1945, people who had dealt with the difficulties of the worldwide Great Depression now faced more deprivation and uncertainty. Women carried a major burden: the need to maintain their homes and families while taking the places men had formerly occupied in the workforce.
To do this, they had to overcome the centuries-old belief that a woman’s place was only in the home. The term ‘Rosie the Riveter’ originally applied to women working in airplane factories but came to represent various previously all-male workforces.
Challenges offers stories from eight home fronts: Belgium, England, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, The United States, Wales, and The West Indies. These first-person stories were written by individuals, not based on interviews.
Fifteen-year-old Miss Junior Red Cross Marie cared for wounded soldiers in a veterans’ hospital; at sixteen, Lucy earned silver wings as an official plane spotter; Ann was the first female to join the boilermakers’ union; Ardis taught sailors how to bake. Billie gives us unforgettable poetry. Challenges contains many more stories of women whose efforts still affect our lives today.
I have tremendous respect for a generation of women, my writers’ group helped me meet my dream of giving voice them. We contacted people we knew who had lived in other countries during the war. I emphasize that these individuals wrote their own stories.
I originally prepared this for Women’s History Month, but some entries come from men—I only specified no battle stories. This second edition contains the original, including era photographs and additional stories. On a 2019 cruise, one of the speakers was a British authority on WWII, and my conversations with him enhances this edition.
Perhaps these stories will encourage you to research your family’s experiences during the years when women took on new challenges and proved themselves, indeed, to be “The Greatest Generation” as newsman Tom Brokaw labeled them.
This year, Peggy Lovelace Ellis celebrates fifty years as a writer and freelance editor. She continues both professions. She has published in many nationally-distributed magazines, had a regular column in the RPG Digest, ezine and print for 15 years, and published in the Divine Moments series, Merry Christmas Moments (2017), Christmas Stories (2020), and Broken Moments (2021). For four years, she produced and edited a 15-page monthly periodical for local readership. She compiled and edited three anthologies for her writers’ group: Challenges on the Home Front World War II (Chapel Hill Press, 2004; Second Edition, 2020), Lest the Colors Fade (Righter Books, 2008), and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories (Righter Books, 2010). Each contains her short fiction, memoirs, and research. She also published a book of her own short stories, Silver Shadows, Stories of Life in a Small Town (2021).
Welcome to Laura DeNooyer-Moore, whose novel about Appalachia comes out of her own experience in Appalachia. Laura is offering an e-book giveaway to one fortunate commenter.
Throw 22 Midwestern education students in a bus and drive them to western North Carolina to help in the mountain schools, and you’ve got a culture clash. Turns out the teacher aids have the most to learn.
Such was my first introduction to southern Appalachia.
Enter Mr. Woody. He lived forty percent of his life covered in sawdust. He spent half the week in the forest seeking the right wood—the way his family did for generations. His chairs were so solid he could balance each on one leg with all of his weight on it. No doubt he could make a fortune with his chair-building skills.
Yet he couldn’t tell you how long it took to make one.
Meet the blacksmith who never advertised. Though he was booked solid with orders, he took his time with 22 college kids. He demonstrated how to forge a fanciful leaf from a hunk of iron, then preached a sermon from Revelation 2 about how the attributes of iron compared to Christ.
Though blacksmithing provided a livelihood, his lifeblood wasn’t from any exchange of money. It came from the instruments of his trade, and the personal exchanges between him and anybody who entered his shop.
To put it in mountain terms, Mr. Woody and the blacksmith cared no more for money than a crow cared for a holiday.
We students also learned mountain clogging, hiked the Appalachian trail, and were captivated by the storytelling magic of Richard Chase, resident folklorist. I was struck by the number of people who created meaningful lives by a route much different than those seeking the prosperity of the American Dream.
With little money, few possessions, and no races up the ladder of success, these folks still enjoyed rich lives—a foreign concept to me then. No fancy homes, expensive cars, or Caribbean cruises. But they were wealthy with things they could never lose: a richness in spirit, a deep contentment, a joy in daily life, work, and family.
That primed the creative juices: “What would happen with a clash between big-city northern values and southern Appalachian culture?” I wrote a prize-winning short story about it when I got home.
I tucked the tale away but it wouldn’t rest in peace. Over the years, those characters beckoned me back to their hills until I succumbed and wrote their story in novel form.
Are secrets worth the price they cost to keep? Ten-year-old Tina Hamilton finds out the hard way.
She always knew her father had a secret. But all of God’s earth to Tina are the streams for fishing, the fields for romping, a world snugly enclosed by the blue-misted Smokies. Nothing ever changed.
Until the summer of 1968. Trouble erupts when northern exploitation threatens her tiny southern Appalachian town. Some folks blame the trouble on progress, some blame the space race and men meddling with the moon’s cycles, and some blame Tina’s father.
A past he has hidden catches up to him as his secret settles in like an unwelcome guest. The clash of progressive ideas and small town values escalates the collision of a father’s past and present.
Laura DeNooyer, a Calvin College alumni, thrives on creativity and encouraging it in others. She teaches writing in SE Wisconsin. She and her husband raised four children as she penned her first novel, All That Is Hidden. An award-winning author of heart-warming historical and contemporary fiction, she is president of her American Christian Fiction Writers chapter. Her new Standout Stories blog features novel reviews and author interviews. https://lauradenooyer-author.com
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.