Friday, July 29, 2016

Forensic Friday: The Mystery of DNA

Alec Jeffreys
It has been thirty years since the first use of DNA to aid in a criminal investigation. Over in the U.K. in 1984, Professor Alec Jeffreys and his colleagues developed “genetic fingerprinting” which uses DNA to identify individuals. Two years later DNA evidence determined the identity of a killer in two related cases of rape and murder. Two years after that, a man serving time for a crime he didn’t commit was exonerated through the use of DNA evidence.

Today’s television shows such as CSI, NCIS, and Law and Order use forensics and witty repartee to find their culprit in less than an hour. In reality, law enforcement officers need much more time to solve their cases. At any crime scene, evidence is painstakingly collected. And I do mean painstakingly-tweezers are often a CSI Technician’s tool of choice. The evidence is then processed through the system (identified, inventoried, and logged). But in order for evidence to be of any use, the detectives on the case must have a working theory. Otherwise the items are simply a collection of artifacts.

So what is DNA? Deoxyribonucleic acid is a self-replicating material that carries the genetic instructions used in growth, development, functioning and reproduction of ALL known living organisms. It is the main constituent of chromosomes. The key in forensics is that DNA is unique for every individual.

During an investigation the detectives must have a reasonable theory with regard to their suspect to be able to request a DNA sample. It is not feasible for the police to request samples of any and every person known to the victim. Therefore, clues and leads must be followed to build a case. Many times non-DNA evidence is sufficient to make an arrest. Other times, DNA is the lynchpin to solve the crime. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers must be patient. According to Forensic Scientist Heather Sergeant on Public Agency Training Council, it takes over fifty four hours to correctly process DNA evidence. Certainly quite a bit longer than our TV characters would have us believe.

What is your favorite TV crime show?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: HM Fort Roughs

Wartime Wednesday: HM Fort Roughs

HM Fort Roughs
During any research project, it’s easy to chase rabbits and follow trails that have little or nothing to do with the topic at hand. I recently stumbled on one such topic and thought my readers might find it as intriguing as I did.

Perhaps I should have paid more attention in my history classes, but I have never heard of micronations. Have you? According to Wikipedia, “a micronation is an entity that claims to be an independent state or nation, but is not recognized by world governments or major international organizations. Several of these nations have issued coins, flags, postage stamps, medals, and passports, which are rarely accepted outside of their own community.” Fascinating! My most pressing question is why would someone or some group of people declare themselves a nation? Perhaps, simply because they can.

Principality of Sealand
HM Fort Roughs, a former WWII fort, is now part of the Principality of Sealand, a micronation formed by Paddy Bates in 1967. In 1943, the fort was constructed of a floating pontoon base with two hollow towers joined by a deck. It was built to defend the Thames Estuary shipping lanes near the Rough Sands sandbar from German mine-laying aircraft. During the war 150-300 Royal Navy personnel were stationed there.

Diagram of HM Fort Roughs
rom the Harwich Society
Over the years, I have visited many forts (Fort McHenry, The Alamo, Fort Ticonderoga, etc.), all of which are constructed of brick, stone, or wood, and stand on dry land. HM Fort Roughs is the first facility of its kind that I’m aware of. From the photographs, I find it difficult to visualize how 300 mens could have populated the fort. Thanks to the Harwich Society, there is a diagram and explanation of the layout. Over thirty meters tall, the towers were broken into seven floors. Officers quarters, the kitchen and medical room were located in the center of the platform.

What forts have you visited during your travels?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mystery Monday: Who is F. Wills Croft?

Mystery Monday: Who is F. Wills Croft?

Thanks again to The Passing Tramp for introducing me to yet another author from the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction.” Though largely forgotten in the shadows of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, F. Wills Croft was a prolific and well-known author during his years of publication (1920 to 1957).

Freeman Wills Croft was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1879. His father passed away before he was born, and his mother married a vicar. Raised in religious home, he attended Methodist College and Campbell College. Croft was apprenticed to his uncle as an engineer in the railway system. He was quite good at his trade. By the time he left the trade to write full time, he was an Assistant Chief Engineer and had been involved in several high profile projects.

His career influenced his writing. In fact many of his stories contain a railway theme, and his focus on the apparently unbreakable alibi often centered around the intricacies of railway timetables. According to Mike Grost, Croft was a founder of the “Realist School” of detective fiction. Today those books are called police procedurals.

Crofts most famous character, who appeared in many of his books, is Inspector Joseph French. The antithesis of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, French is a middle class police officer who is serious about his job. A family man, he has a wife and two children. In a nod to Croft’s religious upbringing, French neither drinks nor smokes.

Who is your favorite author of detective fiction from “The Golden Age?”

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Jerusha Agen

Meet Jerusha Agen
I'm thrilled to be sitting down with author Jerusha Agen. Join us and hear about her latest novel, her adventures in research, and her road to publication.
Author Jerusha Agen
Linda: Your bio indicates you are a life-long lover of story. When did you know you wanted to pursue publication?

Jerusha: Yes, I’ve always loved stories since before I can remember. I seem to think of everything in terms of story. The moment when I knew I wanted to pursue publication of my own stories came through tears. Not my own, but my mother’s! I wrote a short story that touched my mom enough to make her cry. That was when I realized that writing stories is powerful stuff! I decided then that I wanted to be a professional writer and spend my career telling stories that would impact others.

LM: Congratulations on publishing your latest novel. Where did you get the inspiration for the plot?

Jerusha: Thanks, Linda. As with all of my stories, I have to give credit to God for giving me the idea and the ability to write it. God led me to the plot idea through a couple of avenues. First, I needed a third installment for The Sisters Redeemed Series, but there were only two sisters in the Sanders family, introduced in the first two books. I had to figure out who the third story could be about. Secondly, God has placed on my heart a special burden for women in situations of domestic abuse and trafficking. Through the heroine in This Redeemer, I attempt to give a voice to these women, drawing on what I learned as a volunteer at a domestic abuse shelter.

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

Jerusha: For many writers, especially of romantic suspense, law enforcement research isn’t unusual. But, since this book marked my first time writing about a police officer, it was an unusual experience for me when I got to ride along with a sergeant of the local police force in my area. I loved getting first-hand experience of the life of police officers and was blessed to have a patient, willing sergeant to answer all my questions.

LM: The age old question for writers--are you a “pantster” or a plotter?

Jerusha: I’m a plotter! For my first novels, I didn’t do as much beforehand outlining. I would have a general idea of the characters and things that might happen, but I didn’t have the plot fleshed out. For me, however, that approach was much slower and more frustrating. I know some “pantsters” love being surprised by what happens as they write, but my writing becomes aimless and weak when I don’t know where I’m headed with my story. With the end goal and themes always in mind thanks to outlining first, I’m able to write a more complex story in a much shorter time than before, and, best of all, I don’t have to revise when I’m done.

I honestly dislike the outlining phase and often wish I didn’t have to spend time on it. But I dislike revising much more! I’ve learned through trial and error that plotting first is the method that fits my personality best and gets me the fastest, highest quality results. All writers need to experiment until they find the best method for them and then stick with it!

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

This Redeemer
Jerusha: Not specifically in this story. In other books, I’ve occasionally based some characters on This Redeemer was combining many traits of people I’ve met to form the unique characters in this story.
real people, but the closest I got to that in

LM: What is your next project?

Jerusha: I’m currently working on a romantic suspense short story that I’ll be offering free to all of my e-newsletter subscribers! I’m excited about this story as it takes shape. Some of my favorite themes are explored in this tale about ordinary people who have to face their fears in order to find love and hope. Anyone can receive a free copy of this story when it’s finished, click:Subscribe to Jerusha's Newsletter.

LM: What are your passions outside of writing?

Jerusha: I’ve always had a great passion for movies, which led me to a brief stint in filmmaking and screenwriting. I also love animals, especially dogs and cats. During the winter, you might find me cross-country skiing in the winter wonderland, and year-round, I love to bake.

LM: What else do you want folks to know about you?

I am first and foremost a follower of Christ, and I write to glorify Him. To your readers, I’d like to say, I’m praying for you that if you don’t know the love of Christ, you would seek Him today. Like the heroine in This Redeemer, some of you may believe that what you’ve done is too awful for forgiveness. Or maybe you know something is horribly wrong with your life, but you don’t know how to fix it.

There is hope! Christ died for you so that you can have forgiveness and the restoration of your life through the salvation of your soul. You were made for an eternity with Him. Begin that eternity of peace and hope by repenting of your sins and believing in Jesus Christ, today.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Author Bio:
Jerusha Agen is a lifelong lover of story--a passion that has led her to a B.A. in English and a highly varied career. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Jerusha is the author of the Sisters Redeemed Series, which includes the titles This Dance, This Shadow, and This Redeemer. Jerusha co-authored The Heart Seekers Series novella collection and the e-book A Ruby Christmas from Write  Integrity Press. Jerusha relishes snowy Midwest winters spent with her two large, furry dogs and two small, furry cats.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell
The Wright Museum of WWII, where I docent during the season, is hosting an exhibit of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers during the war years. As with any good exhibit it has educated me, but also left me with a desire to learn more.

Rockwell was born in 1894, and by all accounts, wanted to be an artist from a very young age. His talent was apparent early on, and when he was 14 years old, he enrolled in The New York School of Art. Two years later he received his first commission to create four Christmas cards. Shortly after that he was hired by Boy’s Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, to be their art director.

Norman Rockwell
A prolific artist, Rockwell produced over 4,000 works. In the early part of his career, he used friends, neighbors, and family as his models. They would sit for hours as he created draft after draft. With the advent of the camera, he was able to take myriad photographs from which to work. According the Norman Rockwell Museum, the 1930s and 1940s were his most fruitful period.
Rockwell served during WWI, but was too old to be drafted during WWII. Instead, he focused his talents on sharing what those who served were experiencing during the conflict. His series on Private Willie Gillis was one of his most popular, and his most well-known pieces The Four Freedoms were inspired by a speech by President Roosevelt.
So as not to violate any copyright laws, I have not included any images of his work. However, you can visit Norman Rockwell Museum to view the museum's collection.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dance and Be Glad

Dance and Be Glad Blog Tour
History, Mystery and Faith is very excited to be a stop on Melissa Wardwell's Dance and Be Glad blog tour. Pull up a chair and get to know this first time author.

Dr. Michael Emerson is on the cusp of opening his own practice when his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accident, leaving him as guardian of his ten-year-old niece, Emily. Even though he is a Christian, he struggles with why God allowed her parents to die? What does Mike know about raising little girls? Widow Jill Matthews has everything she needs: a beautiful daughter, a close circle of friends, and a successful dance studio. She doesn’t need any complications in her life, but when Mike brings Emily to dance class, he seems to be drowning in his grief and efforts to care for the little girl. Jill offers to help him as a friend, but doesn’t count on the feelings he rekindles within her.

Dance and Be Glad is a well-written love story that effectively weaves themes of forgiveness and God’s love through the story. Too many romance novels on the market are fluff pieces that offer cardboard characters and formulaic writing. This was not the case with this book. I could relate to Jill’s and Mike’s struggles with trying to figure out why God allows certain things to happen-the age old question of why do bad things happen to good people. Jill’s girl friends are fun and quirky, without being shallow. Author Melissa Wardwell does a great job of developing Mike and his friends, portraying them as decent, God-fearing men without seeming sissyish or caricatures, as often seen on television.

Giveaway: To celebrate her tour, Melissa is giving away a wonderful package that includes a hand-crafted necklace. Click Dance and Be Glad Giveaway to enter.

Purchase Dance and Be Glad

Melissa's Bio: I am an independently published author of Christian romance.  I wear many hats from one day to the next. I am a devoted wife, basketball and dance mother, teacher, taxi service, friend, caregiver, daughter, sister, and now, published author. Seeing all that is enough to make my head spin. But more importantly, I am the Daughter of the Most High King.

I was raised in and still reside in a little farm town in Mid- Michigan called Corunna. It’s quiet and simple, just the way I like it. If I can’t live out in the country among the corn fields and trees then living in this small town works for me.  My husband and I have been together since high school and have 3 children, all of whom we homeschool. It has been quite the journey, but I couldn’t ask for a better life.

I decided to give writing a try because I needed something to occupy my down time, but after reading  my first draft of my first book, What God Brings Together, I then understood that God had a much bigger plan.  God does not give His children a desire just so that it can go to waste. I never anticipated the journey God would put me on through writing, but I am excited to see what He has in mind for the future.

I have always felt a call to reach out to women and mothers, to encourage them in their lives. So naturally, all my stories revolve around women who are mothers: single mothers, widowed mothers, young mothers, married mothers, and even women who have a mother’s heart but no children of her own.

My greatest hope is that each story touches your heart, gives you hope, or just gives you a moment away from the chaos of life. Lord, knows we have earned it.

Be sure to check out the other stops on Melissa's tour:

July 14: Sue Stinnett

July 15: KarensKrayons

July 16: Chas Rays Book Nerd Corner

July 17: Splashes of Joy

July 18: Blogging with Carol

July 19: Reviewing Novels Online

July 20: Faithfully Bookish

July 21: Jeanette's Thoughts

July 22: Smiling Book Reviews

July 23: His Grace is Sufficient

July 24: Quiet Quilter

July 25: A Bakers Perspective


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: Art and the Ness Gun Battery

Art and the Ness Gun Battery

Ness Gun Battery
Periodically, stories emerge from war that transcend the hate, ugliness, and conflict. One such tale hearkens from the Northern Isles of Scotland. The Orkney Archipelago is located ten miles off the coast of Great Britain, and contains seventy islands, twenty of which are inhabited.

The Ness Gun Battery was constructed on Orkney for use during WWI, and outfitted with guns manufactured in the United States. The Battery was used to defend the western entrance of the Scapa Flow, one of the “great nature harbors/anchorages of the world, with sufficient space to hold a number of navies.” (Wikipedia). After the war, the batteries were dismantled and the guns removed. With the commencement of WWII, the area once again needed defending, so the batteries were rebuilt. Used until 2001 as a training location, the site was sold to the Orkney Islands Council.
Ness Gun Battery Hut

The Council diligently began conservation efforts with special focus on the murals found on the batteries’ walls. You read correctly. Hidden inside these elements of war, are beautiful depictions of rural life in England, painted in muted earth tones. They are signed by A.R. Woods. In 2011, the Council indicated they found an A.R. Woods, and were able to secure a photograph, but they are unsure if he is the artist. A Navy man with a penchant for painting, he is a strong possibility. However, no documentation has yet been found to confirm his being stationed on Orkney. The trail may have grown cold-I have been unable to find any further references to the search for Mr. Woods.

Ness Gun Battery Mural
Other questions come to my mind. Where did the paint supplies come from? Orkney is a remote island. Did the man bring his own paints and brushes? The country was at war. When did he have time to paint? Did he use all of his off-shift hours to create the art? What town or village are depicted in the murals? Was A.R Woods the artist’s real name? Did he go on to have a career in art?

Has too much time passed for this mystery to be solved? What do you think?






Monday, July 11, 2016

Mystery Monday: From This Moment

Book Review: From This Moment

"From this Moment"
Today’s Mystery Monday book is From This Moment, Elizabeth Camden’s latest release. Written about the 19th Century, it is a departure from the books I usually discuss. I was so touched by the story and characters, I wanted to share it with you.

Stella West is an accomplished artist who takes London by storm. When her sister dies under suspicious circumstances, Stella rushes back to Boston to solve the mystery. Romulus White publishes the world-famous magazine, Scientific World. The well-connected, “most eligible bachelor” rubs elbows with Boston’s elite. He’s just the sort of person who can open doors for Stella as she investigates her sister’s death.
Author Elizabeth Camden

I have read all of Elizabeth Camden’s books, and by far, this is my favorite. Meticulously researched, the story blends fact with fiction during Boston’s project to install a subway system beneath their streets. I feel in love with Stella and Romulus immediately. Stella is highly intelligent, articulate, strong-willed, and a bit overbearing, but because she is so grief-stricken her behavior is understandable. Romulus is a charming mixture of fashion guru, roguishness, and insecurities. He’s the perfect foil for Stella. As always when I read one of Ms. Camden’s books, I was disappointed with it ended, and her characters have stayed with me long after I turned the last page. A must read.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Rebecca DeMarino

Meet Rebecca DeMarino
I’m pleased to sit down with Rebecca DeMarino to discuss her latest book To Follow Her Heart. Join us and get to know this delightful author.

Linda: Your bio talks about the impact of stories on your life. When did you know you wanted to pursue publication?

Rebecca: When I was in high school I loved to read novels, and I always was intrigued with the idea of writing one myself. At my ten year high school reunion I was still harboring that idea because I submitted to the questionnaire “five-year plan: become a published author.” Well, I didn’t make the five years by a long shot—mostly because I really didn’t know what I wanted to write. But God knew my heart and He is faithful. His timing was not my own. And I discovered what I wanted to write on a trip with my mother, many years later.

LM: Congratulations on publishing your latest novel. I love that the inspiration came from your family history. Do you have lots of family documents? Tell us about your research.

Rebecca: I have documentation through birth and death certificates of my family line on my mother’s side through the Revolutionary War, but my story is based on my ninth great-grandparents, Barnabas and Mary Horton, and the stories from the 1600’s were passed down through oral tradition. What was very exciting was to find documents that supported those stories at the historical society and courthouses on Long Island and Connecticut. The house that Barnabas built in Southold, L.I., remained standing through the mid-eighteen hundreds.

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

Rebecca: I made numerous trips back to Southold while researching the Southold Chronicles series. On one trip, I walked from the site of the Horton home near the south side of the north fork to the bluff that overlooks Long Island Sound on the north shore. Barnabas owned that land and it is now the location of the lighthouse named after him. I wanted to walk in the footsteps of my ancestors. Another trip was to the Alice Ross Hearth Studio in Smithtown, L.I., where I had an all-day cooking lesson in 17th century hearth cooking and baking by Alice. It actually started the night before, illustrating how women in those days literally worked from sun up to sun down.

LM: The age old question for writers—are you a pantster or a plotter?

Rebecca: I am a pantster. But in the case of my debut novel, A Place in His Heart, I knew from the start how the story would begin and end—the Hortons left England on The Swallow in the 1630’s and after arriving in Massachusetts, made their way to Long Island by the 1640’s. I also knew from my research that Barnabas was a very recent widower with two little boys when he married my ninth great-grandmother, Mary. That gave me important information in forming the plot. But with the next two books in the series it was all pantster from the get-go. With To Capture Her Heart (book #2) and To Follow Her Heart (releasing this month!), I didn’t know how they would end until I wrote it—that’s how much they were completely pantster! (Can’t help smiling here—it is so much fun letting a story unfold!)

LM: You have traveled extensively. Where is your favorite place?

Rebecca: Well, Long Island and England are two of my very favorite places. I’ve been thrilled to make many research trips to places that have so much history and are quite lovely to visit. And I love the family connection—I’ve never lived in either place, but feel my roots there nonetheless. A place I have lived and love is Virginia. The beauty of the countryside and the history found there overwhelms me whenever I go back. I recently had the opportunity to spend a week at James Madison’s Montpelier participating in an archaeological dig. It reminded me once again how beautiful Virginia is! There is a 200-acre landmark forest on the plantation that has been pretty much untouched is the 1790’s!

LM: What is your next project?

Rebecca: I’ve just completed a manuscript—it is a departure from the Hortons and the 17th century, though it is still a historical romance which I love!

LM: What are your passions outside of writing?

Rebecca: I love to travel and I’m retired from United Airlines, so I have the opportunity! I enjoy gardening and baking—which my mother enjoyed as well and I like to think it came down through those Horton genes :o) And family and genealogy remain a passion of mine!

LM: What else do you want folks to know about you?

Rebecca: My faith in God and my relationship with Christ are important to me. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to write my stories and have them published in a way that reaches thousands of readers. I also feel blessed by my connection to my heritage. This past year, through my genealogy research on my father’s side of the family, I was amazed to discover that the Worley family came over from England in the 1600’s too. The Hortons were Puritans and the Worleys were of the Quaker faith and came over the pond about the same time as William Penn! I haven’t seen the documentation yet, but there are those who suggest it was on the same ship. I have visited the Pusey-Worley stone house in Chester, PA, built by my eighth great-grandfather’s stepfather and now a museum. And yes, I see a good novel there—fiction is how history comes alive for me!

Thank you so much—it’s been fun spending time with you!
Rebecca's Bio:
When Rebecca DeMarino traveled in 1999 to Horton Point Lighthouse on Long Island with her mother, Helen Horton Worley, to discover their heritage, passions collided: her love of faith, family, travel, history, and writing. To Follow Her Heart, book three of The Southhold Chronicles, releases July 19th is a historical romance based on the Hortons, the author's ninth great-grandparents.  Rebecca is the author of A Place in His Heart (Revell, 2014) and To Capture Her Heart (Revell, 2015). For more information please visit 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: M&Ms and WWII

M&Ms and WWII
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hand!”

Most of us are old enough to remember that advertising slogan for the M&Ms, but few people know the origins of the hard-shell candy.

Franklin Mars started producing chocolates in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen in the early 1900s, then founded the Mars Candy Factory in 1911. By 1920, the company failed, and Frank returned to Minnesota where he tried his hand at candy production again. Success came slowly until the creation of the Milky Way bar in 1923, inspired by popular milkshakes of the time. The bar quickly became the best-selling bar on the market.

Frank’s son, Forrest, joined his father in the company, but by 1932 a disagreement about whether to take the company overseas caused a rift between the two men. Forrest allowed his father to buy him out, and he moved to England where he worked for Nestle and the Tobler Company.

In the days before refrigeration, the chocolate business slumped during the hot months of summer. Legend has it that Forrest encountered soldiers during the Spanish Civil War who were eating bits of chocolate covered in a sugar shell. Realizing he had found a solution to the heat issue, he returned to the U.S. and partnered with Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey executive William Murrie. The two quickly went to work and devised a manufacturing process for which they received a patent in 1941.

The candies, named M&M in honor of the two founders, were sold exclusively to the military during WWII as an item included in the troop’s ration packs. The candy was heat-resistant and easy to transport. No matter where the men were stationed, they could count on their chocolate being in factory fresh condition. By war’s end, the men were hooked and anxious to purchase the item on the civilian market. Needless to say, the Mars Company complied.

Today, Mars produced over 400 million M&Ms each day. The colors have changed, and variations offered (peanut, crispy, etc.), but M&Ms remain one of the most popular candy treats in the world.