Friday, October 19, 2018

Forensic Friday: Forensics in WWII



 Forensic Friday: Forensics in WWII

One of the challenges of writing historic fiction is keeping anachronisms out of the story. Simply put, an anachronism is the act of attributing a custom, event, or object to a period to which it doesn’t belong. When writing a historic mystery, it is especially tempting to give characters knowledge or access to technology they shouldn’t have to solve the crime.

During my research for both Under Fire and Murder of Convenience, I was surprised to discover that the field of forensics was both further ahead and behind than I thought. For example, the first FBI crime lab was not set up until 1932, and the first British forensics lab in 1935, eleven years later than the first U.S. lab was created.

Here are some of the milestones in forensics history:

1447:   Teeth are used to identify remains in Duke of Burgundy
1810:   First chemical test of ink in Germany
1835:   First bullet comparison catches murderer Scotland Yard
1830:   “Time since death” temperature experiments with dead British soldiers
1849:   Odontology, the study of teeth for the investigation of identity is used in court
1880:   First elimination of suspect by fingerprints in Scotland
1937:   Luminol invented in Germany to identify blood

Which of these surprised you as to when they were discovered?



May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit.

Set in the early days of America’s entry into WWII and featuring cameo appearances from Hollywood stars, Murder of Convenience is a tribute to individuals who served on the home front, especially those who did so in spite of personal difficulties, reminding us that service always comes as a result of sacrifice. Betrayal, blackmail, and a barrage of unanswered questions… Murder of Convenience is the first in the exciting new “Women of Courage” series.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Anne Baxter Campbell

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Anne Baxter Campbell

Linda:  Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your latest release, Blessed by Time. Where did you find your inspiration for this story?

Anne: I guess it began as a result of a long-held desire to go back to the time of Jesus and visit with Him. I just started writing, and the story unfolded.

LM: The age old question for writers – are you a planner or a “pantster,” and what is your favorite part of the writing process?

Anne: I’m definitely a panster, and you’re going to laugh, but my favorite part of the writing process is the editing. I know, you don’t have to tell me. That’s more than a little bit weird.

LM: The concept of time travel is part of the story. How did you go about researching that and what did you discover that just had to be included?

Anne: I’ve written other first-century books, and a lot of the same research went into this one. There’s a lot of information online (making sure to verify its reliability), plus I have several books―the entire works of Josephus, a book about available foods (with recipes!), Encyclopedia of the Bible―that sort of thing. And there are still two mistakes in the book regarding historical truth―maybe the most notable being that people of that time did not normally eat three meals. I’m hoping to do another edition eventually and correct those.

LM: How did you get started as a writer, and how did you decide to seek publication?

Anne: It all started with a feral kitten we adopted. He was such a live-wire I decided to give a Toastmasters speech about him. Which led to someone saying this would be a great children’s story. Which led to me writing them. Which gave me the itch.

LM: You live in a beautiful area of the world, a place many people visit. If money were no object, what is your idea of the ultimate vacation?

Anne: I would love to visit the Holy Land. Health and funds permitting and God willing, I hope to do that in 2020.

LM: You’ve written historic and contemporary fiction. Which is your favorite, and how do you decide what to work on next?

Anne: I let God decide what’s next―and I’m not really sure which is my favorite genre. Depends on the day, I guess.

LM: What is your next project?

Anne: I’m currently working on a sequel to Blessed by Time, and there’s yet another sequel to the sequel making noises in my brain.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Anne: I dropped my website because the only traffic it generated was spam, so I guess my “website” would be my blog, A Pew Perspective (https://pewperspective.blogspot.com/). In addition, they can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. They can find my books on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2QxYhl9.

Book Blurb: Sarah Johnson is a woman deep in grief over the loss of her only child, three-year-old Tamara. Six months' time hasn't lessened the pain. She leaves for work early one morning and hasn't been seen since. Her husband Paul, professor of languages and counselor at Arizona State University, also grieves, but is moving on. How far on? When Sarah disappears, he's suspected of getting rid of her in favor of a luscious redhead. How can he convince the police he's innocent? And where-or when-on God's green earth did Sarah go?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wartime Wednesday: Troop Morale and the USO


Wartime Wednesday: Troop Morale and the USO 

What do you think of when you hear “USO?” For most people, the United Service Organization is synonymous with Bob Hope, the Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, and other big-name stars of the 1930s. But did you know the USO had a huge contingent of volunteers and staff who performed myriad tasks and activities to boost Armed Forces morale.

With over 3,000 clubs worldwide, the USO provided locations where outgoing and incoming soldiers, sailors, and airmen could “let down their hair.” Staffed by junior hostesses who would dance with the men, write letters for them, sew on their buttons and/or insignia, or simply converse with the guys, the clubs were a popular destination for service members. Guests of the New York City and Hollywood clubs were sometimes lucky enough to be served by a celebrity, as many of the day’s stars volunteered.

Some of the clubs offered the opportunity to record messages on a cardboard disc that was sent home. Others had boxing rings. Activities included barn dances, ping pong tournaments, crafts, fishing,  shuffleboard, just to name a few. When things “got serious,” senior hostesses, who were married women age 35 or older, would intervene with the men. Snacks and cigarettes were available, but the clubs were liquor-free. The other item not allowed was slacks. The hostesses all wore semi-formal attire (thought to be important to boost morale).

In 1942, mobile clubs were put into service in the lower 48 states. Trucks equipped with projectors, screens, PA system, turntables (record players for you young people!) and records, sports equipment, board games, books, and snacks.

More than thirty-three million dollars was raised during the war for the USO, equating to over $433 million today. Traveling overseas with the USO was dangerous, and thirty-seven entertainers were killed, with Glenn Miller being the most famous when his plane disappeared over the English Channel on its way to France.

With over 7,000 entertainers and tens of thousands of volunteers, the USO was one of the major service organizations during WWII.


May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit.

Set in the early days of America’s entry into WWII and featuring cameo appearances from Hollywood stars, Murder of Convenience is a tribute to individuals who served on the home front, especially those who did so in spite of personal difficulties, reminding us that service always comes as a result of sacrifice. Betrayal, blackmail, and a barrage of unanswered questions… Murder of Convenience is the first in the exciting new “Women of Courage” series.



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Traveling Tuesday: Maryland

Traveling Tuesday: Maryland

from www.getadrawing.com
Yesterday’s release, Murder of Convenience is set in Baltimore, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to focus on the state of Maryland and how they “did their bit” for the war effort.

As with all states, Maryland sent its citizens off to war, and even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the state was preparing its National Guard units for combat. The 29th Infantry Division comprised of members from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia compiled one of the most distinguished records in the war with two Medals of Honor, forty-one Distinguished Service Crosses, 816 Silver Stars, 5,151 Bronze Stars, and countless Air Medals. In addition, the division received a Presidential Unit Citation.

Production of war materiel commenced as over 900 factories were converted from manufacturing peacetime commodities, such as Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point who produced nearly twenty tons of steel. The Bethlehem Fairfield shipyard build 374 Liberty ships, and shipyards around the state repaired over 10,000 vessels. Between them the George L. Martin Company and Fairfield Aircraft Division assembled over 16,000 planes.

Aberdeen Proving Grounds (a military installation where weapons or technology are tested or experimented with, or where military tactics are tested) and Andrews Air Force Base are perhaps the state’s most famous locations, but numerous airfields were created for training pilots and air crew. Many of these airports were converted to municipal airports, while others were returned to agricultural use. Hundreds of “temporary” buildings survive today and used for other purposes.

In 1940, University of Maryland was tapped by the U.S. Surgeon General to help form a Medical Reserve Corps. Two years later, two dozen graduates were activated for duty with the 42nd and 142nd General Hospitals and served in Australia, the Philippines, and Fuji. Eventually, more than 150 graduates went on to serve in all branches of the military.

I lived in Gaithersburg, Maryland for ten years and had no idea it was one of the twenty POW camps located in the state. Fort Meade received the first POWs in 1942 and ultimately housed more than 2,000 prisoners. POWs worked on local farms as well as at Bethesda’s Stonyhurst Quarry where they broke and loaded flagstone. Others cut pulp wood at Smith Point.

Victory gardens were a part of everyday life of course, but Henry Irr, president of Baltimore Federal Savings and Loan raised the production bar by sponsoring a statewide competition that included bonds as prizes. Not to be outdone, Constance Black, wife of Baltimore Sun executive Harry Black, converted the hill behind her mansion to a Victory Garden and then opened a neighborhood farm stand.

These are just a few of the way, the tiny state of Maryland pulled her weight during WWII.


May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit.

Set in the early days of America’s entry into WWII and featuring cameo appearances from Hollywood stars, Murder of Convenience is a tribute to individuals who served on the home front, especially those who did so in spite of personal difficulties, reminding us that service always comes as a result of sacrifice. Betrayal, blackmail, and a barrage of unanswered questions… Murder of Convenience is the first in the exciting new “Women of Courage” series.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Mystery Monday: Murder of Convenience


Mystery Monday: Murder of Convenience

For an author, the road to publication, whether it be for that first book or the tenth, release day is a cause for celebration. That manuscript that is dreamed up then put to paper, then revised and rewritten, perhaps countless times, is finally “birthed.” It is “out there” for everyone to see—the most nerve-wracking part of the process.

Let me give you a little story behind the story of my “book baby.”

My employment background is primarily in Human Resources (referred to Personnel by some folks), and even though I’m no longer in the field, I am intrigued my women who work in jobs traditionally held by men. I’m especially fascinated by the women during WWII who left their homemaking roles to take up jobs or volunteer positions that were unlike anything they had ever done. I admire these women who went out of their comfort zone to answer their country’s call, sometimes overcoming great difficulties to do so.

About eighteen months ago, I was considering my next project and decided to create a series of books about a group of women friends who “do their bit” for the war effort through some of the organizations. For the first book, I chose the USO and you’ll hear more about that organization this week on Wartime Wednesday.

Next, I had to figure out how to get my character to the USO. I didn’t want it to be just because she wanted to volunteer, but rather more of a “running away to join the circus” scenario, so I had to create a reason for her to run away.

Having read several fiction books about mail order brides and arranged marriages, I decided to subject Geneva to a marriage of convenience, but because they were no longer the norm, I had to come up with a reason for her parents to choose this route for her. At that point, I knew she needed some sort of physical challenge that was incurable during the 1940s.  

After quite a bit of research I discovered a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Still incurable, this condition causes tunnel vision and eventual blindness. In order to understand the disease from a character’s point of view I read quite a few articles, memoirs, and autobiographies by individuals who suffered from this and similar diseases. Each one of the people who wrote these works focused on the solutions they found to live with their condition and prepare for eventual blindness. One women even wrote a “how to” book. I also put myself in several disconcerting situations where my vision was blocked or limited.

I hope in some small way, my book honors those folks who served on the Home Front during WWII.

For a limited time, Murder of Convenience is available for $0.99: www.amazon.com/dp/ B07JVT42FW



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Author Lynn Tagawa

Talkshow Thursday: Author Lynn Tagawa


Linda:  Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your most recent release, The Shenandoah Road. I love that your story is wrapped around the Great Awakening which was a fascinating point in our country’s history. What was your inspiration for the story?

Lynne: Another author. My friend Douglas Bond wrote something in the time period for teens. I thought, “Wow, it can be done well. He does a great job at including scriptural truth without overwhelming the story with it, and it inspired me to tackle the same time period—for adults. My unique tweak was to choose protagonists with different backgrounds. I had no idea how different Bostonians were from those in Williamsburg and so forth. My young lady from Boston meets a Scots Irish backwoodsman, and things happen from there.

LM: You are an author and an editor. How difficult is it to turn off your internal editor while you are drafting a story?

Lynne: Good question. Typically I write a scene, come back and do a basic revision the next day, and then leave it alone for a bit. Or try to.

LM: You have written contemporary and historical fiction which require different types of research. Can you describe a time you had an “aha” moment?

Lynne: Halfway through writing The Shenandoah Road, I stumbled across more information about a (real-life) character, the minister in the valley. Turns out he was highly skeptical of the “enthusiasm” generated by the Great Awakening! Another plot twist!

LM: What do you do to prepare yourself for writing? For example do you listen to music or set up in a specific place?

Lynne: No, I’ve rejected the “muse” theory. I simply tell myself, “Need to write a bit today,” and I open up the file. I find that once I’m writing, things start flowing. The biggest obstacle is leaving off too long. The story starts to fade in my head.

LM: What is the quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

Lynne: Color my hair red. That is SO not happening again.

LM: LOL! Here are some quickies:

Lynne:
Favorite Color: blue
Favorite Food: is coffee a food? Like espresso?
Favorite Actor/Actress: Tom Hanks / Sandra Bullock

LM: What is your next project?

Lynne: A sequel! I am already working on what (Lord willing) may become a trilogy.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Lynne:
Author and Editor website: http://www.lynnetagawa.com
Devotional blog:  http://gracetrails.blogspot.com

Book blurb: 
John Russell’s heart aches from the loss of his wife, but the Shenandoah Valley frontiersman needs to marry again for his daughter’s sake. At first he believes he has found the right young woman, despite their differences in background, but his faith falters when time reveals she isn’t quite what she seemed. Can he truly love her? And what about his own failings?

Unlike her disgraced sister, Abigail Williams obeys the Commandments. At least, she thinks herself a Christian until a buckskin-clad newcomer courts her. He treats her kindly but also introduces her to a sermon by the controversial preacher, George Whitefield. Her self-righteousness is shattered, and she wonders about their relationship. If she confesses her lack of faith, will John continue to love her?


Monday, October 8, 2018

Mystery Monday: Dame Margaret Cole


 Mystery Monday: Dame Margaret Cole

British mystery writer Margaret Cole who co-wrote over thirty detective stories with her husband G.D.H. Cole was a prolific author. Part of the Postgate family from the North York moors, Margaret also penned poetry and several nonfiction books. She later went into politics and was awarded a DBE. Her ancestor’s land grant was awarded in the year 1200, and through the centuries the family was notable in many fields including science, music, education, journalism, and entertainment. Film and stage actress Dame Angela Lansbury is Margaret’s cousin.

Margaret attended the Roedean School where she was very unhappy, later saying, “Roedean was, emphatically, the wrong sort of school for me. But I would go further and say it was not a good sort of school at all. It was very expensive; I only got in as the winner of the single annual scholarship.” She later attended Girton College (part of Cambridge), and finished all the requirements for a degree. (At that time most universities did not grant degrees to women.)

She and her family were staunch socialists and became pacifists during WWII. Her brother was jailed after his exemption as a conscientious objector was denied and he refused military orders. Her poem “The Falling Leaves” is one of her most famous works and is one of the first anti-war poems from a woman’s perspective. When Hitler began to overrun Europe, Margaret abandoned her pacifism, however she continued to be active in the socialist cause.

During a campaign against conscription, she met and married G.D.H. Cole. They joined the Fabian Society, an organization whose purpose is to advance the principles of democratic socialist via reformist efforts rather than revolutionary overthrow. The couple eventually moved to Oxford where they taught and wrote. Their first mystery novel “The Death of a Millionaire” was published in 1925. Published in 1948, their final novel was “The Toys of Death.” Series characters were Superintendent Henry Wilson, Everad Blatchington, and Dr. Tancred.

Their book “Murder at the Munition Works” was published in 1940, and the story is woven around wartime production, shop stewards, and walk-outs. Because of its topic, one scholar theorizes that Margaret’s husband wrote the book in its entirety rather than as a collaboration with her, however, there is no proof. Most readers agree that the Cole’s early works are their better novels with ingenious ideas, complex characterizations, and sharp satire.

And despite being considered as good as Agatha Christie’s stories, the Coles and their books have faded into obscurity.