Monday, September 24, 2018

Mystery Monday: Who was Leslie Ford

Mystery Monday: Who was Leslie Ford

With all of my research into the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, I'm always surprised when I unearth yet another writer I've not heard of. Leslie Ford is the pseudonym for Zenith Jones Brown who also wrote under Brenda Conrad and David Frome. In the forty years she was active, she published over sixty novels. Her series characters were Lieutenant Joseph Kelly, Grace Latham, and Colonel John Primrose, Mr. Pinkerton, and Sergeant Buck.

Zenith was born in California in 1898 and grew up in Tacoma, Washington. Her parents were both from Maryland - her father from Chestertown, and her mother from the famous Calvert family. After graduating from the the University of Washington, she worked as an assistant to the editor and circulation manager for Dial magazine, a journal published intermittently between 1840 and 1929. Little is known about her husband Ford K. Brown, but at some point they moved to London where Zenith used her first nom de plume David Frome.

By 1931, the couple was back in the U.S. and living in Annapolis, Maryland where Zenith started writing mysteries under the name Leslie Ford. Many of her books ran as serials in The Saturday Evening Post, and she had quite a few short stories published in anthologies.

During WWII, she became certified as a war correspondent for the U.S. Air Force in England and the Pacific. In addition to her reporting, she wrote novels featuring nurses as the protagonists under the name Brenda Conrad.

According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, Ms. Brown was a fast writer, racking up as many as 12,000 words in one day. Fast paced, the books contained tangled plots and evocative descriptions of the locales such as Baltimore, Charleston, Georgetown, and Savannah.

She once state that "mystery fiction is written to entertain, not to instruct. I don't regard it as "literature" or of lasting value." In a 1946 interview Ms. Brown commented that "I believe in getting the murder over quickly and proceeding to the emotional complications." Prior to beginning a story, she would visit the location as well as speak to the local police.

Another prolific author whose books have faded into obscurity. Well worth a read, check with your local library to see if they're lucky enough to carry one or two of her novels.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wartime Wednesday: FDR and his Fireside Chats

Wartime Wednesday: FDR and his Fireside Chats

Even if you are not a student of history, you have probably heard about the “fireside chats” that President Franklin Roosevelt conducted during his presidency. Until recently when I researched these radio broadcasts, I thought they were a “regular” part of his administration. By “regular” I assumed they occurred on a weekly or perhaps monthly basis. As it turns out there were only thirty-one of these chats between 1933 and 1944, all broadcast during the evening hours (after supper).

During his first term, President Roosevelt used the radio to address the American public directly about serious issues such as the banking crisis and his New Deal solutions as well as ongoing policy changes. After the attack at Pearl Harbor, he took to the airwaves on December 9, 1941 to inform and reassure U.S. citizens.

The idea behind the chats was to communicate encouragement during times of extreme uncertainty and distress. FDR’s tone and demeanor was calm as he spoke, giving facts and figures while assuring the American people, he and the government had a handle on each situation. He was the first president to use the radio industry in this way.

The term “fireside chat” was coined by CBS broadcast executive Harry Butcher in a press release before the May 7, 1933 address. It was inspired FDR’s press secretary Stephen Early who said that the president liked to think of his audience as a few people seated around his fireside. Listeners were able to picture the president in his study, in front of his fireplace and imagine themselves sitting beside him. These images and the familiar way Roosevelt spoke (referring to the audience as “my friends” and himself as “I”) made the president a “man of the people,” and his popularity soared.

June 12, 1944 is the date of his last chat during which he spoke about the invasion in Normandy, the need to continue to support the war effort through the purchase of war bonds, and the Pacific campaigns.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Traveling Tuesday: Maine During WWII

Traveling Tuesday: Maine During WWII

Originally part of Massachusetts, Maine voted to secede in 1820, and as part of the Missouri Compromise became the 23rd state. In addition to its forest and farming industries, the Pine Tree State has a long history of shipbuilding. A major portion of the state's economy during the 18th and 19th centuries was due to its construction of wooden cargo and passenger ships.

When WWII struck it was no surprise that Maine shipyards quickly converted to war craft production and contributed nearly twenty-five percent of the Navy’s big ships by the end of the war. Bath Iron Works and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery produced iron freighters, destroyers, carriers, submarines, and the famous Liberty ships. Smaller yards in Camden and Boothbay manufactured wooden minesweepers and patrol boats. As with other states, women joined the ranks of employment, and ultimately eighteen percent of the shipyards’ workers were female.

Several airfields were built as training bases, one of which is now Bangor International Airport. It is estimated that tens of thousands of soldiers and millions of pounds of cargo left from these airfields to Europe.

The vacancy of thousands of agricultural jobs by men enlisting, being drafted, or choosing to enter one of the lucrative war industries caused Congresswoman Margaret Chase Smith and U.S. Senator Ralph Owen Brewster to petition the U.S. government to place POWs within the state. Finally, in 1944, approximately 4,000 German prisoners of war were allocated to Maine. Housed at four camps (Houlton, Princeton, Seboomook, and Spencer Lake) the men were used on potato farms, logging camps, and in the paper industry.

Few people realize that dozens of German U-Boats patrolled the U.S. east coast during WWII. By June 1942, 171 ships had been torpedoed. As a result of the attacks as well as the news that several foreign agents had managed to land on U.S. soil via Maine, the government increased defenses by creating new forts or expanding existing forts. The remains of many of the batteries can still be seen today.

Minefields and indicator loops designed to magnetically detect subs were installed in the floor of Casco Bay. A mobile artillery unit was then deployed to Biddeford Pool. Observation Towers were constructed, and the coast was patrolled by sub-chaser boats and dirigibles. And, as with the rest of the country windows were covered, lights were doused, and the state shrouded in darkness at night.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Mary Ann Diorio

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Mary Ann Diorio

Linda:  Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on the recent release of your latest book, Poems for Wee Ones. Can you tell us about the journey from idea to publication?

MaryAnn: Thank you so much for having me today, Linda. It's an honor to be on your blog.

POEMS FOR WEE ONES started many years ago with poems I made up for my children at bedtime. Over the years, I wrote poems for children and accumulated many of them in this book. I trust that children will find as much delight in reading this book as I did in writing it.

LM: You write in a wide variety of genres: fiction for children and adults, non-fiction, and poetry in addition to being a Life Coach. How do you decide which writing project to work on?

I pray and ask Holy Spirit for guidance and direction as to what to write and when.

The age-old question for writers is whether they outline their books or write “by the seat of their pants.” What type of writer are you, and do you use different methods for different genres?  

MaryAnn: I would call myself primarily a writer who outlines but, at the same time, I leave myself open to Holy Spirit's leading as I write my story. After all, it is His story that I am writing. Often, He changes my outline to go in a different direction, and I simply follow. So, while I have a good idea of where I want to go with my story, I let Holy Spirit doing the leading and am open to changing course.

LM: Here are some quickies:

Favorite Season: Autumn
Favorite food: Vegetables
Favorite childhood book:  The Bobbsey Twins Series

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

MaryAnn:  Speak Hebrew. Actually, I am studying the language now.

LM: That's exciting. What is your next project?

MaryAnn: I am currently working on a novel for adults titled IN BLACK AND WHITE. It is a story about racism and the power of God's love to bring reconciliation.  Please pray for me as I write on this controversial subject.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Blog (Matters of the Heart):

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wartime Wednesday: 6888 Central Postal Battalion

Wartime Wednesday: 6888 Central Postal Battalion

Last week I posted a Facebook image about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, and quite a few people indicated they were unfamiliar with these ladies, so I thought I’d do a bit of research and share it with you.

There were 855 women in the battalion, and they were the only all-black, all female to serve overseas during WWII. Nick-named the six-triple eight, their motto was “no mail, no morale.” According to the battalion’s website, by February 1945 there were millions of pieces of mail stashed in a warehouses in Birmingham, England that should have been distributed to members of the armed forces, Red Cross workers, and U.S. government employees. Incoming letters and parcels added to the massive backlog of Christmas packages and correspondence.

In addition to vague addresses (e.g. “Junior, US Army), the constant movement of troops, and common names (there were 7,500 Robert Smiths alone), mail delivery was difficult at best. One general estimated it would take six months to wade through the mail.

Mary McLeod Bethune (a civil rights activist best known for starting a school for African-American students in Florida) contacted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to find out if there was a way Black women could serve overseas and in more meaningful roles. Mrs. Roosevelt succeeded in influencing leaders in the Women’s Air Corp to integrate their ranks, and in 1944 the war department pulled together all the African-American women from the WACs, the Army Air Force, and the Army Services Forces to create the 6888 Battalion.

The women trained at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, then traveled to Camp Shanks, New York to be deployed. They were sent over in “batches”, and the first group arrived in Glasgow, Scotland on Valentine’s Day, 1945. The trip across the ocean was dicey, and the ship was forced to dodge German U-boats as they traveled. Transported to Birmingham, they faced unheated and poorly-lit warehouses jammed to the rafters with mail. Rats had helped themselves to rotting food in the packages.

Bundled in long johns and extra layers of clothing, the women worked round-the-clock in eight-hour shifts seven days a week. In order to keep track of servicemen with identical names, over seven million information cards were created that included serial numbers. In addition, battalion members investigated insufficiently addressed items for clues as to how to deliver them. They were also responsible for returning mail to the families of those who had died.

By processing 65,000 per shift, the 6888 cleared the backlog in three months. With their project complete, they were sent to France where they arrived shortly after V-E day. Discovering another two year backlog of mail, the women got to work. Unfortunately, over 200 women were eligible for discharge in January 1946, so the workforce was reduced. The remaining members of the battalion were sent home the following month.

Watch a National Archives Video:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Mystery Monday: Murder, My Sweet

Mystery Monday: Murder, My Sweet

Murder mystery movies were quite popular during WWII; an interesting fact considering the violence associated with war. Perhaps because the audience knew the films were fiction or they wanted a "puzzle" to solve is what made them well-liked. For whatever reason, the books of Graham Greene, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and many other mystery writers were made into movies almost as quickly as they could write them.

One of the movies, which is my favorite, is "Murder, My Sweet," based on Chandler's novel "Farewell, My Lovely." The film features Dick Powell as PI Philip Marlowe, Claire Trevor, and Anne Shirley (who retired at age 26 shortly after making this movie). It's an interesting film because Marlowe is not only part of investigation, but he is also part of the story because of almost becoming a victim of the murderer, not once but twice! Then during the "take down" he is temporarily blinded by the flash from a gun. Not the best way to tie up your case.

Breaking all the rules of writing, the book and the movie start with flashback, but the scene prompts so much intrigue, the reader and viewer can't help but want to continue.

Dick Powell primarily played in light comedies and musicals during the 1930s and early 1940s, so Hollywood was surprised at his casting as Marlowe. He took to the role, and the film was a rousing success. Many critics feel that it is the "purest version of Chandler on film," successfully capturing the noir flavor of the book as well as the first person narrative.

The film went on to win the Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America in 1946.

View the trailer.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Peggy Blann Phifer

Talkshow Thursday: Peggy Blann Phifer 

Linda:  Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on the recent release of your latest novel, Whispering Hope. Your other two novels are contemporary. What made you decide to dive into writing historical fiction, and where did you find your inspiration for this story?

Peggy: That’s a good question, Linda. It started years ago in another life. There was an estate along the highway we traveled often back then that intrigued me. After I left Wisconsin, that place kept coming back too mind. It was quite old and I pictured as it might once have been. So I started doing a few ‘what-if’s’ and a story came together.

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

Peggy: I’m a pantster through and through. My favorite part of writing? Should I say ‘having written?’ I read that somewhere by another author. Writing THE END is a great feeling.

LM: Historical fiction requires an extra layer of research to ensure accuracy about the era. How did you go about researching Whispering Hope and did you have any “wow” moments when you discovered information that you knew had to go into the book?

Peggy: I loved the research part of this book. The Prohibition era is a fascinating time in our history
and the research was intensive. But I loved every minute of it, even buying a PBS DVD on the time by Ken Burns, famous for his documentaries. Bought several books. Printed out gobs of what I found on the Internet. WOW moments? Oh yeah, quite a few. Deciding what to include in the book took some discipline, they were all so good.

LM: Here are some quickies:

Favorite Season: Spring. I love the renewing after the long winter, and the scents that accompany it.

Favorite movie: That’s a tough one. I think I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between Exodus and Dr. Zhivago.

Favorite childhood book:  Another tough one. The first one that comes to mind is one called Snip, Snap, and Snur. Can’t remember much about it, though, just the title. After that would be Little Women.

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?

Peggy: Oh, my … the list would be too long to share here. Let’s make it a choice between going to the British Isles where my ancestors come from. The second would be an unlimited time in the Holy Land. Imagine walking in the footsteps of Jesus!

LM: What is your next project?

Peggy: I’m currently working on a contracted novella series (women’s contemporary) but it’s not going well … so far.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Twitter: @pegphifer
Purchase link for Whispering Hope:

About Pegggy: Peggy Blann Phifer was born in Upstate New York, but never lived there. She has lived in Connecticut, Florida, Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada, and she is now back in Wisconsin.

Peggy has three published books to her name: To See the Sun, Romantic suspense; Somehow, Christmas Will Come, women's fiction; and Whispering Hope, historical romantic suspense. She is currently working on a novella series titled Sweetwater River, also women's fiction. Peggy has been a member of American Christian Fiction writers since 2001.

When she's not writing, Peggy enjoys reading, blogging, playing challenging word games on her Kindle, adn share her home with her daughter, son-in-law, and a spoiled Border Collie mix dog named Rocky.

About Whispering Hope: 
1930 Chicago is no place for a Wisconsin country girl.

Virginia Hopewell visits her cousin in Chicago and gets caught up in a deadly gangster shooting at a speakeasy, barely escaping with her life. After learning of the tragic death of her father, brother, and sister-in-law, Ginny returns to Wisconsin and convince her mother to reopen he resort her father had closed after losing everything in the stock market crash in 1929.

 Ransom Blake, an agent with the Chicago Bureau of Prohibition, had been at the same speakeasy acting on a tip about the shooting. Rance is charged with finding the gangster responsible. He and his team are sent to Wisconsin where the man was reported being seen, adn to investigate how illegal liquor from Canada is making its way to Chicago.

 With the Opening of Whispering Hope Resort, Rance registers as a guest and comes face to face with the lovely redhead he'd briefly encountered at the speakeasy during the shooting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Traveling Tuesday: The Bluegrass State

Traveling Tuesday: The Bluegrass State

One of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth, Kentucky was originally part of Virginia. Bounded by the Ohio River to the north, and the Appalachian Mountains to the east, it is famous for horse racing, bourbon distilleries, coal, and blue grass music. However, during World War II the “Bluegrass State” turned its attention to other things.

Like many other states, Kentucky became the home to several thousand prisoners of war, mostly German. The POWs were absorbed into the workforce to take the place of the men who had left for the armed forces or defense jobs. Bobby True recalls his father contracting with the government to use the prisoners on his 800-acre farm. In some cases, friendships developed. One farmer stated, “I made a friend with one of them. His name was Hans and after the war I kept correspondence with him. He lived in Munich.”

An interesting change took place on some of Kentucky’s farms. Because of Japan’s attack on Asia, the major producer of rope, many farms converted from food and tobacco production to hemp-a crop used to make rope for Navy ships.

Kentucky also became the location of factories, three hundred in Louisville alone that employed nearly 75,000 workers. Production included weapons, vehicles, equipment, tools, and canned goods. The city became the world’s largest manufacturer of artificial rubber, and the Ford plant produced more than 100,000 Jeeps. Shipyards in Jeffersonville did their bit and built water craft by the hundreds.

Fort Knox also expanded to include an air base. Other air bases were created, including Fort Campbell in Hopkinsville and Bowman Field in Louisville. Of the more than 300,000 Kentuckians who served, 7,917 gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Author of Biblical Fiction: Barbara Britton

Talkshow Thursday: 
Author of Biblical Fiction-Barbara Britton

Linda:  Welcome to my blog. It’s such a pleasure to have you. I read your books and love the way you bring Old Testament stories (and lesser known characters) to life? How did you decide to write biblical fiction?

Barbara: Thanks for having me on the blog today, Linda. My first book came from a series of chapel lessons I was teaching on young people in the Bible who did great things. I included the servant girl in II Kings 5, the story of Naaman. The servant girl gave me the idea for Hannah in “Providence.”

LM: Research is an important part of writing any book. How do you go about doing research for your stories?

Barbara: Very carefully! I don’t want to mess with theology. I’m married to an ordained minister, so my basement is filled with Bible commentaries, maps, and dictionaries. I check several sources and also Google the section of Scripture I am researching for original documentation. Occasionally, new archaeological discoveries hit the newspaper.

LM: What do you do to prepare yourself to write (e.g. listen to music, set up in a certain location)?

Barbara: I love music. I have a theme song for all my books and sometimes a song for a particular character. Music helps set the tone to my story. Lounging in a chair with a hot drink, is how I write my chapters. My typing skills aren’t good, so I write in cursive on a notepad and type the scene into my computer later.

LM: You also write romantic adventures for teens. What is your favorite childhood book or author? 

Barbara: The books I read as a teen are probably tame by today’s standards. Two of my favorites were “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls (I cried at the end) and “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I hit my teen years in the late 70’s. Yikes!

LM: "The Secret Garden is one of my favorites too! What is something you have always wanted to learn how to do?

Barbara: I wish I could sew my own clothes. With my height, I have a hard time finding pants that are long enough. I also prefer skirts and dresses with a longer length.

LM: Here are some quickies:

Favorite Season: Fall
Favorite Movie: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the original).
Favorite place to visit: Hawaii

LM: What is your next project?

Barbara: My next project releases in October of 2019. I know. Traditional publishing is slow. “Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey” tells the story of the daughters of Zelophehad. I will follow the oldest sisters into the land of Canaan in subsequent books.

LM: Ooh, sounds interesting! Where can folks find you on the web?

Barbara: I have a website,, and I am on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey: When Adah bat Shallum finds the governor of Judah weeping over the crumbling wall of Jerusalem, she learns the reason for Nehemiah’s unexpected visit—God has called him to rebuild the wall around the City of David.

Nehemiah challenges the men of Jerusalem to labor on the wall and in return, the names of their fathers will be written in the annals for future generations to cherish. But Adah has one sister and no brothers. Should her father who rules a half-district of Jerusalem be forgotten forever?

Adah bravely vows to rebuild her city’s wall, though she soon discovers that Jerusalem not only has enemies outside of the city, but also within. Can Adah, her sister, and the men they love, honor God’s call? Or will their mission be crushed by the same rocks they hope to raise.

Barb’s bio: Barbara M. Britton lives in Wisconsin and writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barbara brings little-known Bible characters to light in her Tribes of Israel series. She is a member of RWA, WisRWA, SCBWI and ACFW.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wartime Wednesday: Miss Fury

Wartime Wednesday: Miss Fury

As with many industries in the 1930s and 1940s, women struggled to be considered serious contenders. In the magazine and newspaper business, if it was difficult to get articles published, it was even harder to have illustrations and photographs accepted. The Saturday Evening Post seems to be the front-runner in using female illustrators, many of whom created covers as far back as the early 1900s. Over the next several months, I’ll be spotlighting the various women who managed to successfully break into the field by creating many of the well-remembered covers during WWII.

June Tarpé Mills was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 25, 1918. Her childhood was challenging in that her mother was widowed early and her sister died, leaving several children to care for. As a way to help support the family and save money for art school tuition, June worked as a model, but her first love was painting. She initially worked as a fashion illustrator (where most women were stuck), but moved on to the fast-growing comic book industry in 1938.

In an effort to hide her gender, June used the pseudonym Tarpé Mills and worked with titles such as Catman and the Purple Zombie. In 1941, she created a strip called The Black Fury (later changed to Miss Fury). Described as equal parts high-fashion and high-adventure, the strip introduced readers to socialite Marla Drake who when she discovered her masquerade party costume was the same as a rival’s, changed to a witch doctor’s ceremonial cat suit. On the way to the event, Marla runs into to a couple of bad guys who she handles with panache, flair, and stylish kicks.

A star was born!

At its height, the strip was published in over 100 newspapers. Miss Fury ran for ten years, and during the war, Marla/Miss Fury comes into contact with criminals, spies, and Nazis. She had romantic entanglements and an on-again/off-again fiancé. In addition, she rescues and adopts a toddler as a single woman – unheard of in the day. The image of the super-feminine hero, Miss Fury was painted on the nose of three B17 and B24 bombers. In addition, her cat Perri-Purr became the unofficial mascot of the Allied troops.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Mystery Monday with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard

Mystery Monday with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard

As most of you know, I love movies from the 1930s and 1940s. Fortunately, many of them are available so I can watch to my heart's content. I did a significant amount of research about the USO for my upcoming release, Murder of Convenience and found quite a bit of information about Bob Hope and his association with this wonderful organization. As a result, I decided to binge-watch some of Bob's earlier/lesser-known films.

Teaming Bob with actress Paulette Goddard, The Ghost Breakers was released in 1940. The movie is an adaptation of a 1909 play called The Ghost Breaker. The film was remade in 1953 as Scared Stiff starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Hope made a cameo appearance. Despite being billed as a horror-comedy and featuring voodoo, zombies, and lots of fog, the 1940 movie comes off as a cozy mystery sprinkled with one-liners.

The plot is simple: Mary Carter (Goddard) inherits a castle in Cuba, but is warned to get rid of it because "the ghost will kill her" if she visits. Lawrence Lawrence (Hope), whose name is an opportunity for more than one jibe ("My folks had no imagination"), ends up linked to Mary through a series of mishaps including the murder of Ramon Maderos. Lawrence wonders "if a man can go to jail for accidentally killing a stranger." As anticipated, Mary travels to Havana and Lawrence tags along to keep from being arrested. Twists and turns abound as the pair try to determine if the ghost is real and who is trying to keep Mary from staying and claiming the castle.

As it turns out, The Ghost Breakers has more than one villain, and the ending arrives with a bang. I had a great time trying to solve the mystery and only got it half right.

Sound intriguing? Watch it here.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Appalachian Strength by Sheila Ingle

Appalachian Strength by Sheila Ingle

“I’m glad there’s some folks getting’ interested in the old ways. This new generation don’t know such things, but when they find the old songs and the tales, they’ll delight in them.” Granny in Grandfather Tales by Richard Chase

The women of Appalachia stood tall beside their husbands. Whether it was felling trees to build cabins or defending their homeplaces from marauding Indians, their everyday lives were severe. In the 1700’s, survival was one of endurance. For these mountain women, it was endless toil-that sun up to sun down kind.

When the Scots-Irish emigrated to our country, they settled in the Appalachian hills and hollers. The mountainous landscape reminded them of home, and many gravitated to those small valleys between two mountains or hills.  Since most families traveled with their kin, they also planted crops together, raised cabins, barns, and children together, sewed in quilting bees together, and even worked stills together. “Feelin’ poorly” was not an excuse for not getting the work done, even if a woman was “wore slap dab out,” and there was always work. “Lollygagging” (dawdling) was not tolerated either.

Since neighbors weren’t within hollering distance, it was a solitary life. Music was a solace, as the sounds of a dulcimer, fiddle, or dobro pushed the wilderness walls away. From Germany, Scotland, and Ireland, 18th century immigrants brought their ballads with them. This oral tradition finally was written down, though some songs were lost. Both the lyrics and tunes were plaintive, and mostly told of sadness and loss. “Barbara Allen” was a popular one.

In Scarlet town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling
And every youth cried well away
For her name was Barbara Allen

'Twas in the merry month of May
The green buds were a swelling
Sweet William on his deathbed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen

He sent a servant unto her
To the place she was dwelling
Saying you must come to his deathbed now
If your name be Barbara Allen

Slowly, slowly she got up
Slowly, slowly she came nigh him
And the only words to him she said
Young man I think you're dying

As she was walking o'er the fields
She heard the death bell knelling
And every stroke it seemed to say
Hardhearted Barbara Allen

Oh, mother mother make my bed
Make it long and make it narrow
Sweet William died for me today
I'll die for him tomorrow

They buried her in the old churchyard
They buried him in the choire
And from his grave grew a red red rose
From her grave a green briar

They grew and grew to the steeple top
'Till they could grow no higher
And there they twined in a true love's knot
Red rose around green briar

In Scarlet town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling
And every youth cried well away
For her name was Barbara Allen.

Radio programs in the 1930’s, like the Grand Ole’ Opry, helped to keep this music alive.

Being independent was important, and children were taught the skills needed for this rural life. All family members had their chores to help the family survive. As President Eisenhower said about America’s fight in WW II, “Our pleasures were simple-they included survival.”

Have you read Christy by Catherine Marshall? 

This is an honest portrayal of Appalachian life in Cutter Gap, Tennessee in the 1900’s. During this early 20th century, there had been little change from the 1700’s, especially when it came to faith, family values, and mountain traditions. This primitive life in the holler was not very different from when Mary Ingles lived in the neighboring state of Virginia.

During the French and Indian War, the Shawnee Indians attacked and captured families at a settlement called Drapers Meadows in Virginia. Mary Ingles and her two sons, four-year-old Tommy and George, age two were captured, along with others. It was July, 1731, and all three survived a forced March to Ohio. Her sons were adopted into the tribe, and she was given to a French trader. In October, she and another woman planned their escape, taking two blankets and a tomahawk. Living off the land, Mary traveled 800 miles in forty days to reach home. Naked, skeletal, and white-haired, she arrived with the will to start life again.

Here is a map of the trail she followed.

The Appalachian women of Mary’s time had indescribable strength. I believe it was a life more than can be born. The more I read about the Appalachian hill life, see the photos of it, and remember the stories of privation and doing with what they had, there was a factor of impossibility there. It was a “can do” attitude based on faith, and it was bigger than they were. She literally fought with all her being to get home; hope pushed her.

Cabin Mary lived in with husband William after
she returned home. Nearby today is the
Virginia Tech campus.
Minnie Ethelene Hefner Justus stood a mere 5 feet 3 inches, but she was a tall as a tree in my eyes. Here skin was weathered by years of working; her eyes were water-blue, and her hands tough. Her back was hunched from constant work. Whatever the task was, Granny did the next thing. I remember her remonstrating my cousin with a "I'm going to snatch you bald-headed."

Born October 14, 1877, my great grandmother was a dear. Her smile lit up her face, and her just-because hugs were coveted by her grands and great grands. She was the one who gave me slices of lemon to rid my stomach of the upheavals caused by mountain curves on the way to her house.

She could wring the neck of a chicken in the back yard and have it fried and on the table an hour later. Her wringer washing machine sat on her back porch, leaning toward the yard, and in the living room her pump organ greeted her guests. Until she was ninety, she tended her own garden, put up the vegetables, and baked biscuits that would melt in the mouth. Living through the Depression, she and Pop lost all they had, so she opened a boarding house in Laurel Cliff. Seeing to her eight children and as many boarders, Granny had busy days.
She was a woman of the mountains who made her way on Sundays to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church to worship each week until she moved into a nursing home. Her Bible was well worn, and her actions to family and friends proved it lived deep in her heart. No one left her home empty-handed or without knowing they were important to her.

In researching Appalachia and its families for my latest book, Tales of a Cosmic Possum, I was fascinated by the sayings. Since I chose to write it in dialect, many are included. Memories of Granny using so many of them made me smile, and I reckon that I might as well admit, my speech is sprinkled with them, too!

Connect with me!

Twitter: @sheilaingle1

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Traveling Tuesday: New Mexico and WWII

Traveling Tuesday: New Mexico During WWII

Most students of WWII know that New Mexico was home to the famous (infamous?) Manhattan Project, the government project centered around developing nuclear weapons. However, the forty-seventh state made other contributions to the war effort.

With nearly 50,000 men in the armed forces, New Mexico had both the highest volunteer rate and the highest casualty rate of the forty-eight states that were then in the Union. In addition, hundreds of men from the New Mexico National Guard were in the Philippines at Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg manning anti-aircraft guns when the area was bombed by the Japanese only ten hours after the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Many of the famed Navajo code-talkers came from New Mexico. Philip Johnston, a WWI veteran who was fluent in the Navajo language, helped recruit the “original twenty-nine,” as they were called, who developed the code that was modified as the war progressed. About 540 Navajos served in the Marine Corps, of whom 400 served as code-talkers.

New Mexico was home to nearly sixty military installations from Airbases and Gunnery Ranges to Army Hospitals and Camps. The most prominent airbase was Kirtland Field in Albuquerque. Originally an advanced flight school for Air Corps pilot, the base was converted to a major base used to train B-24 crewmen, B-29 pilots, A-11 pilots, glider pilots, mechanics, navigators, and other air personnel.

Like many western and southwestern states, New Mexico was home to internment camps, mostly holding individuals of Japanese descent. Unfortunately, there was a shooting death in 1942 at Camp Lordsburg and a riot at Camp Santa Fe in 1945 that marred the otherwise peaceful existence within the camps. There were also POW camps in the state that imprisoned German and Italian soldiers. An escape from Camp Stanton occurred in November 1942, but the four prisoners were quickly caught and returned.

Have you ever visited the beautiful state of New Mexico?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Mystery Monday: The Elusive Francis Vivian

Mystery Monday: The Elusive Francis Vivian

Because writing is my second career, I appreciate learning about other authors who came to writing later in life. Enter Englishman Ernest Ashley, who was born in 1906 and until 1932, worked as a sign painter. Having dabbled in writing while working his “day job,” he became a successful short fiction writer for newspapers and magazines. Five years later, he created his pseudonym Francis Vivian, and a crime fiction novelist hit the streets.

His first book, a detective story, was Death at the Salutation. Five more books quickly came out, and in 1941 he wrote his first Inspector Gordon Knollis novel, The Death of Mr. Lomas. Ten more Knollis books would follow. All Vivian’s books were well-received although his work is largely forgotten today.

Apparently he was a research geek like me and enjoyed learning about any number of different fields.  Much of what he learned ended up in his books. According to one colleague, “But what plots. He couldn’t write a straightforward tale of A killing B for complex motives and call it a day. A and B would also be involved in archery or black magic, or some subject which Ernest had researched to the nth degree, and you could be sure the denouement would depend on some fine point of archery or black magic.” Sounds like a fun read to me!

Vivian’s books are difficult to find (as his any photo of him), but the good news is that Dean Street Press has plans to publish the Knollis books (and with any luck some of the author’s other writings!)

Have you ever heard of this member of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Michael Ackerman

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Michael Ackerman

Michael Ackerman is one of the protagonist's in Jennifer Slattery's novel Dancing in the Rain. Pull up a chair and get to know this fascinating character:

Michael looks around nervously, adjusts his Stetson. Wonders if he should take it off, for manner’s sake. Though his mugshot had been filled the local news years ago, he’d never willingly embraced the media.

But to grant a one-on-one interview, an exclusive? Maybe this was a bad idea.

The green room door crashes open and Tressa, the talk show host, enters wearing a peachy summer dress with teal jewelry and heals. “Michael!” She approaches him with an outstretched hand. “So glad to have you on the set. We’ll start in …” She checks her watch then glanced around the green room. “Exactly two minutes and thirty-five seconds. You ready to wow the ladies with that dashing smile of yours?”

“I … uh …” How had he allowed Reba to talk him into this?

“Relax.” Tressa looped her arm through his. “You’ll do great.” She tugged him out the door and onto the set. “Just answer the questions. And remember, be real. Don’t stifle your emotions. The more drama, the better. Viewers eat it up.”

Michael stiffens. “Like I told you when I accepted this interview, my goal’s to defuse drama, Ms. Reynolds. Not feed it.”

She flashes a smile, motions to one of two plush leather chairs then sits in the other one. She hands him a steaming mug of coffee with the show’s logo printed on it. “In case you need something to do with your hands. Plus, it’ll make our conversation appear more relaxed.”

He sat and shot a glance toward the live audience. Had to be at least two hundred folks, mostly women. Probably half of which were waiting to hear him flub things. God willing, some of them were longtime camp supporters who came to hear his side.

He wanted to give them that, but knowing his luck, he’d get his words all twisted, make things worse. Camp Hope couldn’t afford that. If they lost their donors, the ministry would go under. Staff would be laid off.

Life changing ministry halted, maybe for good.

“Four, three, two …” A large, bearded cameraman began counting down.

Before Michael could catch his breath or gather his thoughts, they were on.

“What do you say we cut to the chase, Michael?” Tressa scooted to the edge of her seat and shifted so that she partially faced him and the camera. “You’ve seen the pictures that have surfaced, and I’m sure you’ve heard what people are saying.”

“About my dad?”

“And your past. Did Camp Hope’s board of directors know about your record—your struggles with alcohol—when they hired you?”

“I didn’t hide anything. Not then or now. And I don’t drink.”

“But you did.”

He swallowed. “That one night.”

“A temporary laps of judgment, then?”

“I guess you could call it that.” Stupidity born in a burst of rage at watching his dad beat his mom one too many times.

“Let’s talk about Martha. She came in on scholarship, correct?”

He nodded and rubbed his thumb knuckle.

“You checked out her family history?”

“Of course.”

“Were any of your staff trained in dealing with kids with trauma?”

“Our staff are well trained. But more than that, they’ve got a heart for those kids. They love them like Jesus would.”

“Love is enough, then?”

“It’s got to be. It’s the driving force for everything we do.” Everything he was. Had become. He wasn’t that enraged felon anymore. Christ had grabbed a hold of him, made him new. Whether this talk show host and all her scandal-loving viewers cared to see that or not.

“Tell me about Loni.”

He frowned. “What about her?”

“She’s blind, correct?”

This wasn’t about her. It was one thing for the media to hound him. He could take it. Probably even deserved it. But he wouldn’t let them turn on Loni or make this about her blindness.

“Have you ever attended a church camp, Ms. Reynolds?” If he threw questions at her, kept her talking, maybe he could direct the conversation onto all the good Camp Hope had done over the years, all the lives transformed.

And away from Martha and Loni.

“I can’t say that I have. Your counselors—how do you select them?” She glanced at the cameraman then straightened with a beauty pageant smile. “We’re going to take a short break to hear from our sponsors. We’ll pick up this conversation when we get back.”

No, they wouldn’t. Obviously Tressa was looking to profit from a scandal, regardless of whose life and ministry she destroyed. Had he really expected any different?

He stood. “Listen, I’d love to—” No sense lying to the woman. “If you need anything else, I suggest you connect with our public relations department.”

Murmurs rippled through the audience, and Tressa immediately started back peddling.

Michael quickened his step, and with a quick nod to the cameraman, Michael left.

Whoever said all publicity was good publicity had clearly never been to prison nor had anyone try to entangle their story with the death of a troubled teen.

Dancing in the Rain:
On the verge of college graduation, Loni Parker seeks employment as a music teacher, but no one will hire her since she's blind. Or so she thinks. To take her mind off her troubles, her roommate invites her to spring retreat at Camp Hope in the gorgeous North Carolina mountains.

Unbeknownst to Loni, Michael Ackerman, the director, is an ex-con responsible for the accident that caused her blindness. When Loni warms up to camp and wants to return as a summer counselor, Michael opposes the idea, which only makes Loni want to prove herself all the more. Though she doesn't expect to fall for the guy. Still, her need for independence and dream of teaching win out, taking her far away from her beloved Camp Hope...and a certain director.

Camp director Michael Ackerman recognizes Loni instatnly and wants to avoid her at all costs. Yet, despite the guilt pushing him from her, a growing attraction draws him to the determined woman. She sees more with her heart than the average person does with his eyes. But her presence also dredges up a long-buried anger toward his alcoholic father that he'd just as soon keep hidden. When circumstances spin out of control, Michael is forced to face a past that may destroy his present.

Jennifer Slattery Bio: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who's addressed She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the found of Wholly Loved Ministries ( she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Connect with her on Facebook ( or Instagram (
women's groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She's the author of six contemporary novels, maintains a devotional blog found at