Thursday, July 27, 2017

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Ruth Brown and Varis Gladstone

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Ruth Brown


Today is release day for Under Fire, the first in a trilogy about WWII war correspondent/amateur sleuth Ruth Brown. Grab a chair and get to know this spunky, tenacious gal who gets more than she bargains for when her sister, Jane, turns up missing.

LM: Hello, ladies, and welcome. Why don't you tell folks a bit about yourselves?

Ruth: Thanks for having us. After graduating from college, I got a job with my hometown newspaper as a reporter. Up until Jane's disappearance I mostly wrote for the society pages. A couple of times I managed to stumble on a real story, but I had to fight to hold onto the rights to those. I'm the oldest of three kids. My brother, Chip, is two years younger and in the Army. Jane is two years younger than Chip, and she worked in a factory that was converted to war work.

LM: We don't want to give away any spoilers, but what made you think Jane was still alive after the boating accident, even though her body was not recovered?

Ruth: As sisters, Jane and I have a special connection. Don't you feel that way about your own sister?

LM: As a matter of fact I do. We are very different in many ways, but I can't imagine my life without her. We live far apart and don't get together more than once a year or so, but when we do see each other, we take up right where we left off. Is that how it is with you and Jane?

Ruth: Exactly. Jane is artistic, flexible, and a little scatterbrained. I'm more regimented and can't draw a line with a ruler. But we're like two peas in a pod and can often finish each other's sentences. I thought I would feel it in my heart if she were gone. The police declared her dead after two weeks and closed the case. It was up to me to find out what happened.

LM: You ended up in England because of your investigation. What was that like?

Ruth: Exciting, educational, and nerve-wracking. I had never flown before, so that was an incredible experience. The propellers made lots of noise, but the seats were comfortable, and I met a very nice Englishman who was going home to pick up his grandchildren. When I arrived in London, it was difficult to find my way around because most of the street signs had been taken down in anticipation of an invasion by Germany. I had no idea it is only a little over twenty miles across the Channel at the narrowest part. The bombing was hair-raising, and I spent more than a few nights in Tube stations or air raid shelters.

LM: You had a run-in or two with the IRA. What was that all about?

Ruth: The IRA were quite active during the war. Many saw it as an opportunity to cover up their crimes, and they conducted many underhanded and evil acts. Others collaborated with the Abwehr in an effort to remove Northern Ireland from the UK and unify Ireland. They thought if Hitler won, they would be successful in their efforts. When one of my clues led me to Belfast, I was warned by one of the IRA members, a very creepy man.

LM: Some items were difficult to obtain during the war. What was that like?

Ruth: It seemed that nearly everything in England was rationed. That's probably not the case, but it felt like that. Food was especially dear in the cities. In the rural areas, everyone had gardens and grew their own vegetables. London doesn't have a lot of "green space" for that, so their food had to be brought in. There were lots of tinned foods, which frankly weren't very good. One of the other journalists told me they hadn't seen an onion in months. Can you imagine? Anyway, because things were difficult to come by, the black market was quite robust. If people had the money, they could get their hands on just about anything.

LM: What was it like being one of the few women reporters in London?

Ruth: In some ways, it was no different than at home where I was the only gal on the payroll at The Gazette. Many of the men believed women shouldn't be allowed to cover the war. Some of the men were condescending, others played pranks on us, and a few were downright hostile and tried to sabotage our work. I decided that my writing would prove my worth, and tried not to let their shenanigans get to me. In the end, it turned out okay.

LM:  Thanks for stopping by. Where can readers find Under Fire?

Ruth:
eLectio Publishing: http://www.electiopublishing.com/index.php/bookstore#!/Under-Fire-Paperback/p/88329129

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0743MS95H

Or from your independent bookstore.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Release Day!

Release Day!


Did you ever have something you were waiting for that seemed to take forever to arrive, and when it did it felt like it happened in an instant? That has been a bit what this exciting journey to publication has been like for me.

I have been writing since I was a child. It was only after my husband and I moved to New Hampshire that the idea of seeking publication began to germinate in my mind. I stumbled on some freelance opportunities and became a regular contributor to several regional and statewide travel and lifestyle magazines. I even managed to score an article in the national magazine Writer's Journal.

Around 2005, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel. I used NaNoWriMo as the impetus to get started. National Novel Writing Month is held during November, and participants commit to getting 50,000 words down on paper, on a project they begin on the first of the month. Despite being a rookie, I managed to meet the goal. By early the following year, I had finished the remaining 30,000 words and deemed my story ready for a publisher. Needless to say, it was not, and received numerous resounding rejections.

Fast forward to 2016. By then I had attended ten Crimebake conferences, several NH Writer's Project workshops, graduated from Jerry Jenkins' Christian Writers' Guild, and revised my story countless times. In between there, I had self-published some novellas. Then I was signed by not one, but two publishing companies! I had been waiting eleven years to be traditionally published, and my dream had come true. In many ways I felt every one of those years, and in other way, it felt like overnight success.

Sandra Barela of CelebrateLit Publishing contacted me and asked me to write a novelette that was included in their collection Let Love Spring. She was so pleased with my work, she asked me to write another that will be included in a Christmas collection releasing in November, 2017.

In early December of last year, Under Fire was accepted by eLectio Publishing, and a release date of July 25th was selected. The last six months have been a combination of waiting and work. Thanks to my beta readers, Jessica Baker, Rebecca Peterson, Mary Rowlette, Natalee Stotz, and Connie Tillman for taking time to read the manuscript and give me feedback. Thanks to the design team at eLectio who did such a creative job on the cover. The most common response I've had to it is "striking," and I must say I agree. Thanks to Jesse Greever and Christopher Dixon, who believed in me and my story, and have been such an encouragement during the process.

Please consider picking up your copy of Under Fire. (Hint: books make wonderful Christmas gifts too!)

I am visiting Donna Schlacter's blog History thru the Ages and Peg Bann Phifer's blog Whispers in Purple today. I hope you'll stop by.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mystery Monday: W. Somerset Maugham-Playwright, Novelist and Spy

W. Somerset Maugham-Playwright, Novelist and Spy

W. Somerset Maugham
Every August, the local hospital conducts a street fair of enormous proportions. It has been held for decades and is greatly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. The book tent, which is of course my favorite, holds thousands of books. I have found countless treasures in the past and am looking forward to this year’s fair.

One of last year’s finds was W. Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden, or the British Agent. A collection of loosely related stories, it follows the career of writer-turned-spy Ashenden who decides his new career is not nearly as exciting as he expected. At one point he complains that his life “is orderly and monotonous as a city clerks.” Despite being surrounded by murder, intrigue, and betrayal, his job is to watch and report back to the “powers that be.”

Set during WWI and the subsequent Russian Revolution, Ashenden is partly based on Maugham’s own experiences. By 1914, he had published ten plays and ten novels. His eleventh book, Of Human Bondage, was released in 1915 while he was serving in France in the British Red Cross’s Ambulance Corp.

During his return to England to promote the book, he was recruited by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. His first assignment was in Geneva where he set himself up as a French playwright and acted as liaison between field agents and headquarters in London. The reports were coded into his manuscripts and escaped notice of the Swiss. In 1917, Maugham was sent to Russia to gather intelligence on the German spy network.

Too old to enlist during WWII, Maugham spent the war in the United States, where he was asked by the British government to make speeches to encourage the US to send aid to the UK.

Most consider him to be the first author of spy stories who was actually a spy. He considered his exploits useful for his writing career, but not much else. In Ashenden’s forward Maugham writes, “The work of an agent in the Intelligence Department is on the whole monotonous. A lot of it is uncommonly useless.”


I wonder what today’s spies would think about his words.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Sandra Merville Hart

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Sandra Merville Hart


Linda:  Your latest book is the second in your Civil War Romance series. Where did you get the idea for your story?

Sandra: I had a feeling that there was a story waiting for me in Gettysburg. My husband and I went there to find it. We started at the battlefield where I found Tennessee regiments that fought the initial battle on the first day and were part of Pickett’s Charge. We attended ranger talks and tours. An idea began to form.

Gettysburg has many wonderful museums—we visited them. We took evening walking tours and walked the town’s streets around the “Diamond” where women and children lived through a nightmare. Then we returned to the battlefield.

Standing on Cemetery Ridge at dusk, I stared at the open field crossed by Pickett’s Charge. Though the land is peaceful now, it still tells a story. I also wanted to show what the townspeople endured. The idea for A Rebel in My House was born.

LM: You are an editor for DevoKids.com. How does that affect you as a writer?

Sandra: Besides editing the few submissions we receive, I write a lot of historical articles for DevoKids.com. The three main areas I write for on the site are Adventures in History, God’s World, and Holiday Traditions. This task has honed my skills for writing articles. Even a 200-300 word article requires research; I’ve become a better researcher. Learning where to find free images to enhance the post helped me for my own Historical Nibbles blog.

LM: Your website is full of fascinating historical information. Have you always enjoyed history or did something in your past spark an interest?

Sandra: Thank you! I’m thrilled that you like my blog. I had a great history teacher in high school. She brought history to life. It was the first time I thought of historical figures as people who struggled and triumphed as we all do. Then I took an elective in college for World War I. The teacher grabbed my attention the first night and held me spellbound with fascinating, behind-the-scenes, glimpses of the history.

My fascination with the Civil War began as a child with stories of brother against brother and father against son. I wanted to know more, even when in elementary school.

LM: Do you have an intriguing research story to share?

Sandra: When I went to research in Gettysburg for this novel, I decided to pay for a private ranger tour. I asked our Battlefield Guide, Clay Rebert, if there were any Tennessee regiments in the battle. I told him I was researching for a novel and didn’t have a clear idea of the story line yet. I study the history first and then the story solidifies. Our guide tailored the tour for my research and even missed part of his lunch hour. I had offered him my homemade chocolate chip cookies during the tour. He declined. My husband assured him that my cookies receive lots of compliments. He was very gracious and knowledgeable, answering all the questions I had at the time. When he missed part of lunch because of our tour, he accepted a couple of cookies and a bottled water. I hope that tided him over! 

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

Sandra: I write in my office. I turn on a box fan to mask background noise. That helps me focus.

LM: You seemed to have done a lot of traveling. If money were no object, what is your idea of the
ultimate vacation?

Sandra: Most of the traveling I’ve done has been for family vacations, conferences, and research. Often I don’t look for inspiration—it finds me. People and places with a history inspire me. Many stories fester for months and years before they enter my conscious thoughts. I’d love to tour Revolutionary War cities like Boston and Philadelphia. I’d also love to travel Route 66 at some point to see some of the family businesses that survived all these years. There’s a story idea there …

LM: What is your next project?

Sandra: Thanks for asking! I am writing a Civil War novel set primarily in Tennessee. A friend told me that a husband and wife served in the Confederate Army together. That sparked lots of research! An idea was born for a very different story. My working title for the new novel is A Lady in My Regiment.

LM: That sounds intriguing! Where can folks find you on the web?

Sandra: Thanks for hosting me, Linda! I’d love for folks to visit me on my blog, Historical Nibbles. I'd love to connect on Social Media too:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sandra.m.hart.7
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sandra_M_Hart
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sandramhart7
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8445068.Sandra_Merville_Hart
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100329215443000389705/posts
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Merville-Hart/e/B00OBSJ3PU/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Watch the trailer here

Buy the book! https://www.amazon.com/Rebel-House-Sandra-Merville-Hart/dp/1941103383/ 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Traveling Tuesday: A bit of inspiration

Traveling Tuesday: A bit of inspiration

Thanks to the internet I was able to visit England without leaving my chair, a necessity if I was going to get locations and other details correct in my novel, Under Fire, that releases a week from today. Because the story is set during WWII, facts such as which Tube stops were unusable due to bombing raids were important. I couldn't have my protagonist Ruth catching the train in the wrong place. When I was able to finally visit London and Hastings in 2015, it was thrilling to walk and stand where Ruth had been.

Ruth's story begins in a small, fictional town on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, a town very similar to my own.


A view of the mountains from Lake Winnipesaukee


A waterfall on one of the islands


A summer cottage Ruth might have
seen while canoeing with Lill





Then she follows clues to London...

Hyde Park: One of the place's Ruth loved to visit.

The Tower of London

Tower Bridge from outside the Tower.
Ruth would have seen this when she followed Roger
to the docks on the River Thames



Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell
inside Elizabeth Tower) that Ruth would have
seen while prowling the streets for stories

Victoria Memorial that Ruth would
have seen as she walked past
Buckingham Palace


I hope you've enjoyed your virtual tour of London. Be sure to read about Ruth's adventures in Under Fire, available from eLectio Publishing.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Mary Ellis

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Mary Ellis


Author Mary Ellis
Today, I am welcoming author Mary Ellis, writer of mysteries, romance, and Amish fiction. Draw up a chair and get to know this busy lady!

Linda:  Mary, thanks for joining me today. Your latest book is the fourth in your Secrets of the South mystery series. Did you set out to write a series or did that just happen?

Mary: I did set out to write a series, because I find the South infinitely more “mysterious” than the beautiful Ohio countryside where I live. But I didn’t figure it would stretch into six books. I started with three favorite cities: New Orleans, Memphis, and Natchez. Then I added Savannah, Charleston, and Pensacola. I’m in the process of choosing a seventh city.

LM: You have published lots of books. What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Mary: Typing the words “The End” at the end of the manuscript. Seriously, I love the creative part, in other words, making up the story. I am definitely not fond of the editing process. But every author must check over his/her work before they send the book to their editor. Lest our publishers discover what bad spellers/grammarians we are.

LM: Most of your novels are contemporary. What made you decide to write the series set during the Civil War?

Mary: All my life I’ve been a history buff, the American Civil War in particular. As a Christian, I’m flummoxed by the fact that officers on both sides were devout Christians and believed God was on their side of the conflict. I’m so glad my publisher allowed me to write three books set during this tumultuous and paradoxical period.

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

Mary: I always have a candle burning and romantic music playing. I have a playlist of my favorite romantic songs like Evergreen, The Way We Were, The Rose, I Will Always Love You, etc. Love is the basis for almost every story ever written—love for a spouse, love for our children, or the greatest (true) story ever told, The Bible, love for our Lord.

LM: Research plays a huge part in preparing to write any book. Do you have an unusual research incident to share?

Mary:  Around a year ago, while doing a final fact check for Sunset in Old Savannah, my husband and I got separated by dozens of blocks while walking around a crowded city. Armed with bad maps, we had to find each other on foot in a sea of tourists. This might not have been difficult, but I have bad knees and hubby has a horrible sense of direction.

LM: LOL! What skill would you like to master? (e.g. learning a different language, carpentry, etc.)

Mary: I would love to speak French since I plan to go to Paris someday.

LM: Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car?

Mary: I love riding all three, so I guess my answer depends on the distance. Going around the lake in my town? Horse! Taking the scenic path in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area? My twelve-speed! (however, I only use 3…) Going on a research trip down south? I’ll take my car every time!

LM: What is your next project?

Mary: I just finished book five in the series, Night Falls on Charleston. I am about to start the mystery set in Pensacola, tentatively titled Sweet Taste of Revenge.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?


Mary:

Thanks again for stopping by! It was such a pleasure getting to know you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wartime Wednesday: Those Who Have Gone Before

Wartime Wednesday: Those Who Have Gone Before

As men headed overseas or moved into the defense jobs during WWII, a void was created in every industry from agriculture to manufacturing. Initially, employers were reluctant to hire women, instead using prisoners of war, interned Japanese-Americans, and males too old or too young to go into the armed forces. Eventually, companies realized that without using women, production goals would never be met.

However, there was one industry that seemed to have no shortage of men: journalism. Nearly every newspaper and magazine in the U.S. from tiny weekly periodicals to national publications employed a man who covered the conflict on location. In order to be allowed in a war zone, a reporter had to be accredited. Accreditation was a long, tedious process, but by the end of the war over 1,473 men and 127 women had achieved that coveted status.

Martha Gellhorn and
then husband Hemingway
Despite their approval, many female correspondents faced scorn, derision, and opposition in the form of refusal to transport them to the front, as was part of the “deal” of being accredited. Instead, they had to coerce, bribe, or charm their way onto jeeps, trucks, or ships. Collier’s journalist Martha Gellhorn wrote in a letter to military authorities, “I have too frequently received the impression that women war correspondents were an irritating nuisance. I wish to point out that none of us would have our jobs unless we knew how to do them, and this curious condescending treatment is as ridiculous as it is undignified.”

Dickey Chappelle
Unable to get to Normandy on D-Day any other way, Gellhorn stowed away on a hospital ship. When told by one hard-nosed general that he didn’t want his Marines to have to pull up their pants because she was around Dickey Chappelle responded, “That won’t bother me one bit. My object is to cover the war.” And ex-fashion photographer Lee Miller managed to make her way to Dachau where she captured pictures of the camp’s liberation. These women the other 124 correspondents exhibited grit and grace to get the job done.


My forthcoming release, Under Fire, features War Correspondent/Amateur Sleuth Ruth Brown. It is my hope that her story will honor those correspondents who forged the trail for future generations of women who can now choose to do or be anything they want.