Thursday, March 31, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Gail Kittleson

Welcome to Talkshow Thursday. I'm pleased to welcome Gail Kittleson, author of In This Together, published in November, 2015. Be sure to visit the links at the bottom of the post for more information about Gail and where you can purchase her debut novel.

LM: You taught writing, when did you realize you wanted to write fiction and get published?

GK: In 2008, when I facilitated some groups through The Artist's Way. The third time through that wonderful, creative, freeing workbook, a historical fiction story spilled out of me. Amazing. I highly recommend EVERYONE taking the time to work through that very helpful gift to the artistic world!

LM: Where did you get the idea for your story?

GK: Dottie came to me in the upstairs of a big old house. I was standing in the long hallway, thinking . . .  "Hmm, this could've been a boarding house back in the day, and someone could have worked here. That would be Dottie, the heroine of my novel. And as I visualized Dottie walking to and from her job every morning and late afternoon, Al appeared, a lonely widower watching her, thinking how strong she was, and wishing he could somehow win her heart.

LM: Are any of your characters based on real people?

GK: Not consciously. But as I've been interviewed and led book discussions since the release of In This Together, I've realized that Dottie is VERY MUCH like my mom. Her forties' songs, her hard work, and her plunge-ahead-no-matter-what-happens attitude certainly live out in Dottie's story.

LM: What was your research process for the book?

GK: No real process--as the story evolved in my head/heart, I kept on reading about the incredible WWII era, considering how much those folks sacrificed. I can't get enough of the endless stories that time created. Of course, I had to do some research on trains/schedules/routes of the day, government wartime restrictions on gasoline/clothing/lights, and the history of certain foods. Everyday facts like these make a huge difference in the story, and researching is like vitamins to a story.

LM: The age old question for writers - are you a panster or a plotter?

GK: Panster, for sure and certain. Plotting challenges me, and sometimes I call my plotter friend in Arizona for help. "I need to have something happen right now that will shake the story up a little. Any ideas?" She ALWAYS comes through --thank you, Machelle!

LM: What are your passions when you are not writing?

GK: Hmm . . . I've always loved poetry, reading, our grandchildren, and I walk a lot. Also do yoga to keep this old body going and am addicted to Good Earth tea. But passions . . . I think I'm a one-passion-at-a-time-person. Writing is it for me right now.

LM: What is your next project?

GK: I have another WWII novel coming out in the next couple of months. This one begins around Pearl Harbor time, and involves a young farm wife who finds her voice and stands up for herself. But it isn't easy! And getting it published hasn't been, either. Maybe because it deals w/marital verbal abuse. 

And I just completed my first salable novella, also a WWII story. Maybe I should start an "IowaGirls" theme, because that's what all my heroines are. (So far, anyway.)
As it is, they all sail under the motto, DARE TO BLOOM.

LM: How exciting. I love reading WWII era fiction. As a debut novelist what is your advice for unpublished writers?

GK: Keep writing. Follow your heart, and put the lie to your inner attackers. 

LM: Anything else you'd like readers to know about you.

GK: I love meeting new people and encouraging writers - if you want to contact me with a question, I'd be happy to connect. And I'm always looking for new midwestern and Arizona venues to facilitate writing workshops. 

Visit Gail at:

You can purchase this wonderful book on

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: Where is Narvik?

Where is Narvik?

I think many casual students of WWII are unaware of the breadth and reach of WWII. We remember Europe, Africa, and the Pacific islands, forgetting many of the peripheral nations.

The Scandinavian countries wanted to stay out of the war. They were not interest in Europe’s bickering and had declared their neutrality. But because of the strategic importance of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, those countries were dragged into the conflict when Hitler turned his eye on them.

Hitler knew the value of the coastal waters of Norway, especially the port of Narvik. Swedish iron ore could be transported on the Norwegian Sea back to Germany, but just as important was the fact that control of the Norwegian waters would aid the Germans in breaking the Allied blockade of their homeland.

By all accounts, the British Navy should have defeated the inferior Germany Navy. In addition, the German operation did not go as planned. However, despite the odds against winning, the German attack was successful. The fighting went on for sixty-two days, but in the end the Allies had to withdraw. The Norwegian royal family and many of the politicians were able to escape prior to the retreat.

The Norway Campaign was considered to be a strategic failure for the British forces. Instead of overcoming a weaker opponent, the British Navy’s lack of radar control and high performance fighters lost them the battle. Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill was responsible for many of the mistakes of the campaign, but he came out on top. As a result of the perception of how bad the defeat was, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was given a vote of no confidence, and he resigned his position. Shortly thereafter, Churchill was selected as his replacement.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad

As I've mentioned previously, I am of German descent. My father's grandmother was in a nursing home by the time I was born, but I have heard stories of her wonderful cooking. The recipe below is for German potato salad. Whenever I make it, I picture Nanny standing in her tiny Baltimore kitchen peeling potatoes and making this yummy dish. It includes bacon which I imagine was tough to come by during the war.

3 cups diced, peeled, cooked potatoes
4 slices bacon
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the bacon until crispy. Remove from pan onto paper towel to drain. Saute the onions in the bacon grease until browned. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes and parsley. Crumble in half the bacon. Heat through, then transfer to a serving dish. Crumble the remaining bacon on top. Serve warm.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mystery Monday: German Post-War Fiction

German Post-War Fiction

With the writing of my novella Love’s Harvest I have done a tremendous amount of research into Germany, the ethnic Germans of the Volga and Sudentenland regions, and ex-pat/exiled Germans. The research which has introduced me to several German-language authors, and has added to my To Be Read stack of books.

Some of the more well-known German and German speaking writers are Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Hans Werner Richter. Heinrich Theodor Boll was an important post-WWII, German writer who most Americans are probably unfamiliar with. Winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature, Boll came from a pacifist, anti-Nazi family. Conscripted into the Wehrmacht, the author was captured by the Americans in 1945 and sent to a POW camp.

A more recently discovered German writer is Andrea Maria Schenkel. Her debut novel, The Murder Farm was published in 2006 in Germany. Picked up by Hachette, the English version was released in 2014. The book is not a traditional mystery in any sense of the word. A fictionalization of an unsolved murder case that happened in Bavaria in 1922, the book has no detective or formal investigation. Instead, the author weaves together eye-witness accounts, third-person narratives, and incomplete case files. It is up to the reader to determine who killed the victims. Ms. Schenkel has since published several more novels, some of which have been translated into English.

Americans can be an isolated people. We have everything we need and have no need to look beyond our borders. It has been an interesting journey for me to reach out into the literary field of another country.

Have you read any translated fiction or non-fiction books? If not, you might want to consider it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Selah Saturday: Not for the Faint of Heart

Not for the Faint of Heart

My college roommate was in ROTC. I was not, however, in the interest of friendship, I agreed to be her PT (physical training) partner. In those immortal words, I thought “how hard can it be?”

I’m here to tell you it was hard. Harder than anything I had ever done. The worst of it was the long distance running. Within what seemed like only a few minutes, I had sharp, needle-like pain shooting up the front of each shin. I thought if I kept running I would push through it, and everything would be fine. The longer I ran, the worst the pain became. I don’t recall the number of sessions I participated in, but it certainly wasn’t many. Looking back, I realize how totally unprepared I was and how related the experience is to our Christian walk.

  • I didn’t have the correct equipment. I was a cash-poor, college student. My sneakers were basic, “over the counter” shoes without the necessary support for my feet or body.
  • I didn’t prepare. Day one I strapped on my sneakers and hit the road to run the required five miles. I didn’t work up to the distance by running short sprints for some period of time.
  • I didn’t seek out others who might help. I didn’t ask for instruction about techniques or other useful information that would make my training easier.

One thing I did have was enthusiasm. I was gung-ho to help my friend, but within a short time my excitement waned, and she had to find another partner. I was relegated to keeping her boots and buttons polished.

Perhaps our Christian life is similar. We accept Christ as our Lord, and we’re excited to bring everyone we know into the Kingdom. Then life happens. Our Bible and prayer life begin to gather dust, and we show up on Sundays for a quick sermon. Or maybe we do read our Bible somewhat regularly and go to church. But maybe our prayers feel like they are hitting the ceiling instead of arriving at the feet of God.

What have I learned?

  • Take it one day at a time. Billy Graham didn’t become Billy Graham overnight. Start out slow. Take fifteen minutes, pick up a devotional guide (e.g. Our Daily Bread), read the scripture listed in the book and the associated devotion. Ask God to help you apply the words to your life.
  • Get an accountability partner, someone who will guide and support you and give you techniques to developing your relationship with God.

Soon you will discover you are spending more time reading and praying. Even better, you’ll soon anticipate and look forward to your time with God.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Ada Brownell

Talkshow  Thursday: Meet Ada Brownell

LM: You published several non-fiction books. When did you know you wanted to write and publish fiction?

AB: I've always been interested in fiction and took a fiction writing course years ago. The big thing that stuck in my head was "A thousand shall fall." In other words, my instructor taught that only one in a thousand books are published. I started a couple of books, but didn't complete them. However, I wrote fiction occasionally for Sunday School papers.

I had a lingering idea for a book that stemmed from my fascination maternal grandparents, and I finally wrote The Lady Fugitive. The book was birthed during the American Christian Fiction Writers Novel Track where you write as fast as you can go without stopping to edit. I wrote most of the first 80,000 words of the first draft in five weeks. I'm now about ready to send The Peach Blossom Rancher to the editor and publisher.

LM: Where did you get the idea for your story?

AB: As I said, the idea came from Grandma who was an elocutionist (a well-trained public speaker) when she graduated from high school at 16, if I have my information correct. I'd guess it was about 1895. An orphan traded among relatives numerous times, she had to run from an abusive uncle. She left walking down the road carrying her suitcase. My character, Jennifer Louise Parks leaves on her horse in the early 1900s.

Grandpa went about the country showing one of the first Passion of Christ moving picture, searching for his brother. My character William O'Casey also shows the movie, but travels in a peddler's wagon selling merchandise to farmers. Grandfather's father was murdered, and so was William's.

The sequel continues with some of the same characters, and with Jenny's brother, John Lincoln Parks, as The Peach Blossom Rancher. Valerie MacDougal, who appeared in the first book, is the woman John hopes to marry, but enter Edwina Jorgenson, a feisty woman who runs a neighboring ranch. Then there is Archibald Forsythe, an attorney from Valerie's father's law office, who wants Valerie to assist him in getting a doctor released from the insane asylum. The doctor had one mild seizure after a head injury, but has been in the asylum for years.

LM: Are any of your characters based on real people?

AB: None of the main characters are based on real people. Yet, I draw extensively on my experience as a newspaper reporter. A state mental hospital was on my beat, and I learned valuable, historical information. But in The Peach Blossom Rancher I also draw from my experiences growing up in Colorado's Western Slope - peach country.

LM: What was your research process for the book?

AB: So many things need checked and rechecked. I'm in the editing/re-writing process now for The Peach Blossom Rancher, and I still find places where I can dig deeper. I have a little experience with horses, every once in a while I need to check out something about them, and there is so much other information that needs to be researched or verified.

LM: The age-old question for writers - are you a panster or a plotter?

AB: I start with a general direction I plan to go, a couple of possible complications noted, and
character and town profiles. But then I start writing, and I love to watch how things happen, characters come to life, suspense develops, and I can't wait to complete the story!

LM: What are your passions when you're not writing?

AB: I belong to a prayer and Bible study group. I've sung in trios most of my life, and played the piano or organ in church for years. But my chief passion is my family - my husband and our five children, one of them in heaven. I love people, too. We've had so many wonderful, fascinating friends over the years. I also enjoy cleaning, and decorating my house - inexpensively from bargains, garage sales, and gifts.

LM: What is your next project?

AB: Hopefully The Peach Blossom Rancher will be released June 1. I plan to write a sequel featuring my mother and ideas I gained from my parents' lives, and then go on with a sequel about my life. My husband was a telegraph operator when we married, and we've had many challenging experiences I can fictionalize.

LM: As a veteran published author, what is your advice for unpublished writers?

AB: Keep a list of ideas, choose one, and get to work creating two leading characters in conflict with something or someone, and pursuing their urgent goals. Then sit down and write.

LM: What else would you like readers to know about you?

AB: I've worked with youth most of my life, and I've poured much of what I've learned and taught into Imagine the Future You and Facts, Faith and Propaganda. Too many young people are becoming atheists, and I believe that is because of the brainwashing in our schools and not enough faith planting in our churches.

Imagine the Future You is a Bible study available in audio, as well as paperback and an e-book. Great for family worship for those with young teens, or as a gift. Read sample chapters or listen to the first chapter on Amazon.

Here are the links to my books and blog:

The Lady Fugitive: 2015 Laurel Award runner-up:
Imagine the Future You
Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult:
Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection, and the Eternal:
Facts, Faith, and Propaganda:
Confessions of a Pentacostal:
The Peach Blossom Rancher: To be released soon.

Blog: Stick-to-your-soul Encouragement:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: Life in Germany

Traveling Tuesday: 
Life In Germany During the World Wars

I am an avid reader of fiction written during or about WWII. Initially, it was difficult to find many novels set during that time. Then several newscasters published books about “The Greatest Generation,” and it suddenly became a popular era about which to write. Oral history projects popped up as universities and museums sought to capture the stories of men and women who lived during the war.

It is often said that the winners are the ones who write the history books. I think there is a lot of validity in that statement. Whether it’s something as casual as sports or as serious as war, no one wants to hear from the losers. I don’t think an interview has ever been done with the guy who came in last during an Olympic race!

My novella Love’s Harvest is about a German man who was injured by mustard gas during WWI. In addition, I am in the outline stages of a novel in which the protagonist goes into German occupied territory during WWII. Therefore, I needed to research what life was like during the world wars.

Youtube has been a great tool for me to find interviews about nearly every topic. I also discovered a website devoted to the German homefront during WWII.

The most often asked interview question of Germans is “How could Germans have not known about the death camps?” One man’s answer: “The word used to describe what was happening to the Jews was ‘relocation.’ Where were they? People simply didn’t ask, because ‘relocation’ had an ominous ring, and they were scared to find out. When the Allies began seriously bombing Germany, Germans forgot about the Jews altogether.”

The same question could be posed to Americans: “How could Americans not have known about the Japanese ‘internment’ camps?”

Something to think about.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Forensic Friday: Forensic Archaeology

Forensic Friday: Forensic Archaeology

Photo from Smithsonian Institute
The internet is littered with stories of people stumbling over clandestine burial sites. Farmers unearth skeletons when they plow up long fallow land. Home owners discover bodies when they renovate centuries-old houses. Hikers find victims buried deep in the woods. When that happens the police contact Forensic archaeologists for assistance in identifying the victim. 

Forensic archaeology is the application of archaeological digging techniques to crime scenes. A knowledge of osteology (the study of bones) is used to determine age, gender and height of the deceased. The work is performed with great precision so that no damage is done to the skeleton or possible evidence. During the excavation, the archaeologist will record and preserve anything found at each stage and depth of soil.
Photo from

A variety of methods are used to date items found at the site. Carbon dating is one of the methods used to indicate whether the grave is ancient or recent. In addition, a scientist’s understanding of how materials degrade or decompose over time when buried in certain soil can be helpful in dating a site. In recent years, Forensic archaeologists have also be involved in the excavation of mass graves such as those found in Europe since WWII. Their work has been invaluable at bringing closure to families who have grieved for years wondering what happened to their loved one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: Britain's Land Army

Wartime Wednesday: Britain's Land Army

Photo from Imperial
War Museum
Britain is an island with an area of more than 50,500 square miles. For those of you like me who need a comparison to understand what that means in terms of size that is roughly the same size as the state of Alabama. Before WWII, Britain produced only 30% of the food necessary to feed their population, Approximately 55 million tons of food per year was imported. During the war imports dropped nearly 80% to 12 million tons per year.

It’s no wonder the county implemented rationing!

Another response to the food shortage was to create the Women’s Land Army. Or more accurately, re-found the organization that was originally established during WWI. Initially the government asked women to volunteer to fill the many jobs vacated by men who were serving in the military, but by December, 1941, Britain had passed the National Service Act which allowed for the conscription of women in to the armed forces or vital war work.

Photo from Imperial
War Museum
The WLA attracted women from all over England, with more than one third coming from London and other large cities. Work was varied, and the hours were long, especially during the summer months. Tasks included milking cows, lambing, managing chickens, plowing, planting, harvesting, and farm maintenance. The women often worked alongside POWs who were also used as farm helpers. A subgroup of the Land Army was the Timber Corps, responsible for chopping down trees and running sawmills.

Run by Lady Denman, who by all reports was a formidable force, the WLA boasted more than 80,000 “land girls” by 1943. Despite the word “Army” in its name, it was a civilian organization, but run with no less precision. Many of the workers lived on the farms where they worked. Others boarded at hostels that popped up all over the country. Minimum wage for the women was 28 shillings per week, nearly 25% less than the men were paid.

Food shortages and rationing continued long after the war. The WLA was disbanded in 1950, but many of the women remained life-long friends.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of the L-8's Crew

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of the L-8's Crew

When the U.S. entered WWII, the Navy took over the operation of Goodyear’s five commercial blimps to use them in patrolling for submarines and delivering goods. They were also equipped with two 350 pound bombs.

Blimps (or air ships) are nothing more than inflated bags. The East coast base for these unusual flight craft was located in Lakehurst, NJ (the site of the Hindenburg crash), and the West coast base was located on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. With one exception, the blimps were used successfully throughout the war; most notably in conjunction with Doolittle’s Raiders.

At 6:03 AM on August 16, 1942, the L-8 lifted off from Treasure Island with a two man crew.
Normally, flights use three men, but at the last minute the mechanic was ordered to stand down because the craft was too heavy having been coated in moisture from the day’s cool fog. By all accounts, pilot Lt. Ernest DeWitt Cody, and co-pilot Ensign Charles E. Adams were both highly skilled flying airships, so the flight should have gone off without a hitch.

Unfortunately that is not the case.

When the blimp crashed onto the golf court on Belleview Avenue in Daly City shortly before noon, both men were missing, and the door to the gondola was latched open. The Navy conducted an extensive search followed by an inquest that raised more questions than answers.

  • The radio was in working order and set to the proper frequency at the time of the crash. If the men were in trouble why didn’t they call for help?
  • The engines were also operating at the time of the crash. The men could have made it back to Treasure Island.
  • Weather was shown not to be a factor, and evidence indicated the blimp had not come in contact with the ocean.
  • There was plenty of weight, including fuel, which could have been jettisoned if there was a problem.
  • The briefcase containing the codes was still locked in place. Procedures called for the men to dump the case into the ocean if they were in trouble.
  • Two of the five water-activated smoke bombs were missing. Had the men found a submarine they somehow fell prey to?
  • The door was latched open, but this could only be done from the outside and certainly not while flying.

The Navy’s final determination was that the men had simply fallen out of the gondola. They were listed as missing, and a year later declared dead.

My heart goes out to the men’s wives who never learned what really happened to their husbands.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Selah Saturday: Are you on a journey?

I’m a doer. I love to make a list of tasks to complete for the day, and then check the items off one by one. If I’m persistent, I manage to get everything done on the list. But more often than not, I have to carry over some chores to the following day.

Recently, I have had a couple of situations occur in my life over which I have no control. Absolutely none. No matter how many lists I create or plans I devise, the situations remain. That fact has caused more than a little frustration and anxiety.

During a particularly trying day recently, I texted my sister to ask for prayer. She immediately responded that she would pray, but she was available to talk if needed. I was still at work, so the conversation had to wait giving me extra time to fret.

Turns out I should have availed myself of my sister’s wisdom long before I did. She let me talk and talk. And talk. And. Talk. When I finally ran out of words, she said she understood where I was coming from. She had experienced similar seasons in her own life. Then she reminded me that sometimes God uses the journey to teach us and that the resolution (destination) may be a long time (or never) in coming. That perhaps that’s what was happening to me. She suggested I consider what God was trying to teach me, and to pray for understanding rather than resolution.

I love how God uses others to draw along side us, to share our struggles and offer insights. Who
knows how long I would have gone before I figured out what God was trying to tell me.

Am I totally at peace? Not yet. Do I understand how God is using the journey to teach me? No yet. But I am resting in the fact that he is in control. Which means I don’t have to be.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart 
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: Russia's Volga Region

Traveling Tuesday: Russia's Volga Region

March 1st begins the thirty day countdown to the release of my ebook entitled “Love’s Harvest.” Based on the Biblical book of Ruth, part of the story takes place in the Volga Region of Russia.

Flowing through central Russia and draining into the Caspian Sea, at nearly 3,600 km, the Volga River is Europe’s longest river. Eleven of the twenty largest cities in Russia are in the Volga’s watershed. Often referred to as Mother Volga, the river has significant symbolic meaning in Russian culture.

“Love’s Harvest” involves a German man and his English wife who move to the region shortly after WWI. The couple join the myriad Germans and immigrants from other countries who had been recruited to Russia in the 18th Century under Catherine the Great. Over one hundred colonies were established between 1764 and 1772, where all populations were allowed to maintain their culture, language, traditions, and churches. Many of the immigrants made the decision to move to Russia to get away from war-torn Central Europe that had suffered under the Seven Years’ War. By 1798, there were nearly 40,000 German speaking residents in the colonies along the Vola River.

Immigrants had been promised they could go where they wanted to in Russia and many wanted to pursue their trades near St. Petersburg where a large German community had formed under Peter the Great. The promise was broken, and settlers were told where they would reside. Despite their disappointment, most decided to stay, most of them young families. The German state of Hesse-Darmstadt (where my ancestors came from) had the most representation.

The Volga colonies prospered, and by the late 1800s the number of communities had nearly doubled. The population had increased to several hundred thousand people. Settlements located on the west side of the river were referred to as being on the Bergseite or hilly side, and settlements on the east side were referred to being on the Wiesenseite or meadow side.

In 1874, emigration out of Russia began in response to the compulsory military duty for young men. Canada and the United States were the destinations of choice, with Lincoln, Nebraska being the most popular. 
Photo courtesy of

After Nazi troops invaded Russia in June 1941, the Soviet government considered the Volga Germans potential collaborators, and transported many of them eastwards to such locations as Siberia and Kazakhstan. At the war’s end, many of the remaining Volga Germans left the area, and by the 1980s the region had been emptied of ethnic Germans.