Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wartime Wednesday: Lucie Aubrac of the French Resistance

Wartime Wednesday: 
Lucie Aubrac of the French Resistance

As often mentioned, for my book research I read memoirs and autobiographies and watch interviews of oral history reports. Over and over again, I’m stunned by the stories of ordinary people performing extraordinary deeds.

One such person was Lucie Aubrac (nee Bernard), a bright woman who obtained the “aggrégation” in history, the most prestigious higher degree in France. She obtained a job teaching history at a school in Strasbourg. In 1939, she met and married Raymond Samuel, an engineer who had recently returned from a year abroad at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After the Germans occupied the northern portion of France, the couple moved south to Lyon. Recruited by journalist Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie, Lucie joined the resistance movement in Free France and with her husband was one of the four founders of Libération-Sud (Liberation-South). The following year, the group performed two sabotage attacks at train stations in Perpignan and Cannes. Shortly thereafter, they distributed 10,000 propaganda flyers, but one of the distributors was caught, leading to the arrest of d’Astier’s niece and uncle.

Libération-Sud decided to lie low, and perhaps this was when Lucie and Raymond decided to take on the nom de guerre Aubrac which they would retain after the end of the war.

It wasn’t long before the group was active again, one of their activities to create an underground newspaper, Libération. In May 1941, Lucie gave birth to her first child, and later stated that being the mother of a baby was an excellent cover to divert suspicion from the Germans. Her memoirs share an anecdote about a meeting between Samuel and de Gaulle’s envoy, Jean Moulin, in a Lyon public garden where her presence with the baby “proved particularly useful.”

Fast forward to March 1943. Samuel was arrested, so Lucie marched into the office of the local Vichy public prosecutor and managed to get him released. Two months later he was arrested again. This time, she went straight to the top and visited Klaus Barbie. She claimed to be Samuel’s fiancée, and that he had been caught as an innocent bystander. She asked to marry him because she was pregnant with their child. Barbie showed her the file of pictures he had on her, that included a photo of her with her first child, then threw her out of his office.

Days later, she made another attempt…this time with a lower level Nazi prosecutor who didn’t know about her conversation with Barbie. Later she would say, “This guy was a collaborator, and therefore, a coward. If I spoke louder than him, I was sure to win.” Whether it was her words or her bribe, he granted the request. After the ceremony, Lucie led armed Resistance members in an attack on the convoy of cars and rescued Samuel and fifteen other prisoners.

Needless to say, it was now time for Lucie and Samuel to go into hiding. It was a long eight months. They were not able to secure passage to London until February 1944. Three days later, Lucie gave birth to their daughter, Catherine.

In 1984, she published a semi-fictional version of her wartime diaries that would be made into a movie in 1997.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Mystery Monday: Who was Jean Anouilh?

Mystery Monday: Who was Jean Anouilh?

Resistance in general comes in many forms, and certainly did so during World War II. Activities ranged from sabotage and violence to clandestine publications and coded radio programs. But not all resistance was performed by members of any sort of organization.

Such was the case of Jean Anouilh (pronounced ah-noo-eej). A playwright born in 1910 in a tiny village on the outskirts of Bordeaux, he seems to have received creativity from his mother who played violin. The family eventually moved to Paris where Jean attended Lycée Chaptal, a secondary school that taught students trades. He went to law school, but was unable to afford tuition and left after eighteen months. There followed a variety of jobs from copywriter at an advertising agency to secretary a French theatre director, Louis Jouvet.

It is unclear whether he was always interested in playwriting or the desire was sparked by his work with Jouvet. Jean managed to get two of his plays into production, but they closed after just a few performances. Undeterred, he continued to write and finally found success in 1937 with Le Voyageur sans Baggage (Traveler without Luggage). After that, every theatre season featured one of his works.

Vocally apolitical, Jean continued to live and work in Paris during the German occupation. However, because he refused to take sides, had several public disagreements with Charles de Gaulle, and was one of many who signed a petition to prevent the execution of writer Robert Brasillach, some feel (then and now) that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

Completed in 1942, Anouilh’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone (pronounced Ant-ee-gōn to differentiate it from the original An-tig-on-ee), became a symbol for the underground. As one scholar put it “freedom fighters saw the heroine’s defiance as a rebel-yell to patriotism.” Others have commented that the play is purposely ambiguous about the rejection of authority by Antigone and the acceptance of it by Creon. Another claims Jean purposely adapted the play to speak out against authoritarian rule.

Whatever the truth about its inception, the Nazis saw nothing wrong with it, and while German censors regularly suppressed any new works that even hinted of anti-Fascism, Jean’s Antione slipped past as a safe retelling of this classic tale that debuted in 1944.

Five years later, it premiered at the Old Vic Theatre in London and starred Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Simon Harlow

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Simon Harlow

Available for pre-order through the links at the end of this post, my next release, Love's Rescue, is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Rahab, a prostitute who hid two Hebrew spies and diverted the attention of the authorities so the men could slip out of the city upon completion of their reconnaissance. After lots of research, I chose the liberation of Paris during WWII as my setting to redo the story. It was a part of the war about which I knew very little.

I introduced Rolande, the female protagonist here. Now, I'd like you to meet Simon, the male protagonist.

LM: Welcome, Simon. You come from a well-to-family in Boston, Massachusetts. What was it like to turn in your hand-tailored suits and silk ties for life in the trenches?

I’d like to think that I adjusted fairly well, although my best friend, Eddie, might rebut that.
Even though my family had servants, my parents expected us to be somewhat self-sufficient. Although the day I helped in the laundry tent gave me an appreciation of how much I don’t know! Life in the trenches is definitely different than on Beacon Hill. In winter, we were constantly chilled, and during summer couldn’t get cool enough. The uniforms are ill-fitting, and I can’t wait not to have to wear boots. I’ve seen some terrible things, and suffered an injury, but what we’re doing is important. The Axis powers must be defeated.

 You came ashore at Normandy, then made your way south to Paris. Can you tell us about that?

 Normandy was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. The massive number of troops, ships, planes, and weapons was overwhelming, but when I saw everything it made me feel like we could do this—overtake the Germans and run them out of France. The fighting was intense, and more than once I thought I was going to die. I did lose many good friends on the beaches, and I will never forget them.

LM: You visited Paris before the war. How did it feel to return under the occupation?

 I was saddened by the change in Paris. Always called the City of Light, it was anything but that when we arrived to perform reconnaissance. People trudged down sidewalks, studiously avoiding eye contact with other. Many people were dressed in rags and looked malnourished. There were very few children on the streets. I’m sure parents didn’t feel it was safe to allow them outside to play. It broke my heart to see the Swastika flag flapping in the wind everywhere I looked.

 How did you feel when you had to hide out with the help of a prostitute to avoid detection?

Simon: To be honest, I wasn’t too happy about it. It was bad enough we had managed to be discovered, but then to have to depend on someone we barely knew and of that profession…well, it was difficult. I couldn’t be sure that she wouldn’t turn us in.

Tell us about the liberation.

Simon:  Everyone knew we were coming, even the Germans, which made me wonder what kind of fighting we’d face. They did give some resistance as they left, but they retreated and once we made it to Paris there were very few troops left. The French Interior Forces had engaged them, and we did as well, but only for short bursts. Even though the Germans were retreating, they didn’t go quietly. We ran into our fair share of snipers. The crazy part occurred when we were about ten miles outside the city. We were inundated with French citizens. They were celebrating our arrival. They offered food and drink and tried to kiss many of us. There was dancing and singing, too. They definitely slowed our progress. It was very unexpected.

 What is next for you?

Simon: The war is winding down, but far from over, so I will continue with my unit, praying God sees fit for me to survive. Then it’s back to Boston!

A prostitute, a spy, and the liberation of Paris.

Sold by her parents to settle a debt, Simon Bisset is forced into prostitution. Years later, shunned by her family and most of society, it’s the only way she knows how to subsist. When the Germans overrun Paris, she decides she’s had enough of evil men controlling her life and uses her wiles to obtain information for the Allied forces. Branded a collaborator, her life hangs in the balance. Then a British spy stumbles onto her doorstep. Is redemption within her grasp?

Simon Harlow is one of an elite corps of American soldiers. Regularly chosen for dangerous covert missions, he is tasked with infiltrating Paris to ascertain the Axis’s defenses. Nearly caught by German forces moments after arriving, he owes his life to the beautiful prostitute who claims she’s been waiting for the Allies to arrive. Her lifestyle goes against everything he believes in, but will she steal his heart during his quest to liberate her city?

Inspired by the biblical story of Rahab, Love’s Rescue is a tale of faith and hope during one of history’s darkest periods.

Pre-order links:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Traveling Tuesday: Paris

Traveling Tuesday: Paris

One of the most important aspects in writing a story is accuracy. If authors include something in their books that is incorrect, they lose credibility with readers. In this day of accessibility, more people travel outside their country than ever before, so many will have visited locations being written about. During the research phase of Love’s Rescue, I used many eyewitness account and memoirs to ensure accuracy about my “visit” to Paris.

Here are some of the places Rolande and Simon would have seen:

Eiffel Tower: Built in 1887, this iconic structure was used by the German occupying forces to promote propaganda by hanging a banner that said “Germany is victorious on all fronts.” The French resistance had something to say about that and changed the letters so the banner said, “Germans lie on every frontline.” After the occupation began, the French cut the cables in the tower, so Hitler would have to walk up the stairs to the top.

Arc de Triomphe: Constructed to honor the fallen from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the Arc stands over a vault that houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI. Hitler marched up to and around the Arc in June 1940 in order to respect the tomb. When the Germans were retreating in 1944, Hitler ordered that Paris be destroyed, but the General in charge refused to carry out the order. There is much speculation as to why the order was disobeyed.

Champs Éysées is one of the most famous streets in the world. Completed in the 17th century, some of Paris’s most important monuments and moments in history are marked by this legendary street. It is the site of one of the largest military parades in Europe which is held every year on Bastille Day. Hitler and German troops marched down the street at the beginning of occupation, and de Gaulle marched down it the day after Paris was liberated in 1944.

Jardin des champs-élysées: Laid out in 1667, this was one of the first parks in the city and takes up nearly thirty-five acres. Filled with statues and monuments, there was concern by many that the Germans would take the items or destroy the Garden, however that did not come to pass.

Seine River: As with many country capitals, such as Washington, DC and London, England, Paris developed around the Seine River. Nearly five hundred miles long, it is navigable by ocean-going vessels all the way to Rouen. Spanned by thirty-seven bridges within Paris, there are dozens more along its length. Reaching the river at or before ninety days after the landings at Normandy was a main objective of Operation Overlord, and the goal was met.

Have you had the opportunity to visit Paris?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Debut Author Laurie Wood

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Author Laurie Wood

Linda:  Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your recent release Northern Deception. It is the first in a series which is exciting news. Where did you find your inspiration for this story?

Laurie: Thanks for having me, Linda. I started writing Northern Deception for a contest that stipulated they wanted stories about Canadian heroes. I immediately thought of making him a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer—or a “Mountie”—as they’re more commonly known but thought that would be too overdone by others entering the contest. So, I thought, “what’s more iconic than our Mountie’s? Our Arctic, and polar bears, and snow. 

Our Winnipeg Zoo has a polar bear exhibit that takes in orphaned polar bears from Churchill, Manitoba area which lies on the 58th parallel which is our sub-arctic boundary. It is level with Juneau, Alaska and Inverness, Scotland. Once I visited our Zoo and started researching Churchill and the bears, I knew I could make a great story out of the place. And so, my hero, Lukas Tanner, wilderness tour guide, was developed from there.

LM: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Laurie: Doing the research for the book! I love deep diving in to all the bits and pieces to make the story come alive and give it authenticity. I’m a bit of a nerd that way. And then I can start fleshing out my outline once I knew I’ve got enough facts to put the pieces together. When I first entered the contest, I’d written the first chapter and a short synopsis which was all that was required. However, I hadn’t done a spec of research. Then when they requested the full manuscript, and I started researching what I’d written, I discovered to my horror that I’d written a ton of things that couldn’t take place in that environment. I’ll never make that mistake again! And while I was able to change things around without any ill effects, it was a major lesson to learn.

LM: Lots of research goes into writing a book. Did you unearth a particularly interesting tidbit you just knew had to be included in the story?

Laurie: Everything I learned about polar bears was fascinating. I really knew nothing about them before I started this book, other than they live in the northern arctic and not in Antarctica. They have eyesight comparable to humans and hearing that’s superior to humans. They can run at an easy speed of 25 miles per hour. They’ve been clocked via satellite collars swimming for 100 miles without stopping. They can pull a 150-pound seal out of a hole in the ice with one paw and they can tear the door off a truck or its windshield off if they want to get inside, although that is rare. And unlike a black bear or a grizzly bear, if they get you down on the ground, don’t play dead. You need to fight back because they will kill you.

LM: What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?

Laurie: I wish I knew how to ballroom dance. I’ve pestered my husband for years (we’ve been married thirty-years) to take lessons but he finds reasons every year not to do it. I’d settle for learning how to do a simple two-step at this point!

LM: Some quickies:

Favorite color: Purple

Favorite food:  Chinese Dim Sum

Favorite time of year:  Fall. I love it when the really hot weather is over, and you can go out without sweating and carrying a jug of water with you everywhere. We get extreme cold and extreme heat where I live. So, that period when you can enjoy the sun and still wear summer clothes before the snow hits is my favourite time of year.

LM: You live in a beautiful area of Canada, an area many people visit. If money were no object where would you vacation?

Laurie:  I’ve been briefly to Scotland when my husband graduated with his MBA from Heriot-Watt University, so I’d like to go back to Scotland and do a full tour of it. My grandparents were from there, so I want to see Edinburgh again, and Inverness and the Highlands. I spin wool into yarn and knit so I’d love to travel around and buy up some wool to bring home.

LM: What is your next project?

Laurie:  I’m working on Book 2 in the series which carries on a few months after the ending of Northern Deception. It’s the story of Ben Koper, who is the RCMP officer in Book 1, who’s mauled by the polar bear but saved by the female Natural Resources officer who tranquilizes the bear with a heavy dose of Tramadol. We’ll get to see Churchill, Manitoba in the summer months this time around. And I also have an historical book in the works.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Website: and you can sign up for my newsletter there.

Book Blurb:

Reunions can be deadly.

After a savage attack in university, Kira Summers fled to the safety of northern Canada and her work as a polar bear scientist. But when her whistleblower brother dies in a mysterious car crash, she must return home to bury him and pack his belongings. Unaware she’s carrying explosive evidence someone’s willing to kill for, she has no choice but to rely on the one person she never thought she’d see again.

Lukas Tanner, a widowed single father of a special needs toddler, moved to Churchill five years ago. As the proud owner of Guiding Star Enterprises, a wilderness tour company, he and his daughter lead a simple life. But when Kira comes crashing back into his world, he realizes God has other plans. Now, Lukas and Kira must confront a merciless killer as their past and present collide in a deadly race—a race they must win if they have any hope of a future together.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wartime Wednesday: Inventions Birthed during WWII

Wartime Wednesday: Inventions Birthed during WWII

As the saying goes: “necessity is the mother of invention,” and war often brings the necessity to create. Most would not be surprised to learn of the development of new technologies in weapons, computers, planes, and ships, but did you know the Slinky™ came about during WWII?

In 1943, Naval engineer Richard James was tasked with figuring out how springs could be used to keep important (and expensive) equipment safe at sea. During part of his research, he dropped a torsion spring and watched it “walk” across the floor. (A torsion spring works by twisting and storing mechanical energy. Take a peek at a mousetrap for an example.) A few changes were made and by the end of the 20th century over 250 million Slinkies were sold.

What about your hairspray or that non-stick cooking spray you use? Yep, the aerosol can was invented during the war by Americans Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan. It was created as a “bug bomb” to help thousands of British and American soldiers from malaria-carrying mosquitos during a campaign in the Philippines.

Do you ladies still wear panty-hose (also known as nylons)? You can thank the Du Pont Company who invented this stronger-than-silk material. Devised before the war, it didn’t come into heavy usage until silk was rationed so air crew could have their parachutes. Nylon became so popular it became the “go-to” alternative to silk stockings and undergarments.

I love ballpoint pens. They write smoothly and don’t “gunk up.” Apparently that’s why they journalist and artist Laszlo Biro created the first commercially successful ballpoint pen. He was fed up by the fountain pen’s tendency to smudge and grabbed his scientist-brother George to work out the kinks of an alternative. By 1938, they had a patent and managed to sell 30,000 to the RAF for pilots to use at high altitudes where reservoir pens tended to leak.

These are just a few of the household items that came into being as a result of WWII. Some of the others? Superglue, freeze-dried coffee, photocopying, and ATM machines.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mystery Monday: Agatha Christie and Her Poisons

Mystery Monday: Agatha Christie and Her Poisons

Dame Agatha Christie is perhaps one of the most well-known mystery writers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. With a career spanning over fifty years, she wrote sixty-six novels and fourteen short story collections. She is the best-selling novelist of all time, and according to her website, has only been outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare.

Poison is the most common murder weapon of choice in nearly half of her books. Over thirty victims die from one of fourteen different poisons from belladonna to ricin. Many Christie scholars have attested that her use of poisons stems from her service as a nurse and then dispenser (of medicine) first during The Great War and then again during WWII.

Born in 1890 in Torquay, England, she served at the Torquay hospital from October 1914 through September 1918. When WWII broke out, she renewed her training at University College Hospital in London and volunteered again. According to Christie herself it was her work in the dispensary that birthed the thought of writing a mystery novel:

“It was while I was working in the dispensary that I first conceived the idea of writing a detective story…and my present work seemed to offer a favourable opportunity. I began considering what kind of detective story I could write. Since I was surrounded by poisons, perhaps it was natural that death by poisoning should be the method I selected.”

Often the poisons she used were common to the time such as cyanide (a favorite of hers) that was available in the form of a pesticide and thallium which was used in rat poison. In addition arsenic and strychnine were still available in medical uses. Like any good writer, her research library was extensive, and she built up a large medico-legal library over her career. According to one website, Martindale: The Extra Pharmacopoeia was the most “well-thumbed” book in her collection.

Reviews mean a lot to writers, and Christie cherished the following review about The Mysterious Affair at Styles above all others: “This novel has the rare merit of being correctly written.” Coming from the Pharmaceutical Journal this was high praise indeed to this pharmacist’s assistant turn mystery writer.