Harold Lloyd versus Snarf: Old Plots in New(er) Settings

thundercats poster

“So, you know that episode of Thundercats I was finishing?” my husband asked one morning.

“Urnghuh? Um…sure,” I answered, my foggy tones conveying that no, I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet. I wrestled my hair into order with a scrunci and tried to look awake.

“It had the same plot as that Harold Lloyd movie we watched yesterday.”

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That got my attention. “What?”

“Grandma’s Boy, the Harold Lloyd movie? It was the same as the Thundercats episode.”

For those of you not familiar with these two entities, Harold Lloyd was a famous comedic actor, known for a shy persona juxtaposed against daredevil stunts.

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CGI? What’s CGI?

His career stretched from the silent films in the early 1900s all the way into the ‘talkie’ era.

IMDB sums up Grandma’s Boy:

“Always the mama’s boy, or in this case a grandma’s boy, Sonny joins a posse after a tramp accused of robbery and murder. He is unable to conquer his cowardice until Grandma tells him of his grandfather, also a coward, who overcame his fears with the help of a magic amulet. With new courage (and the charm), Sonny captures the fugitive and becomes the hero of the day.”

While I don’t imagine that the 1922 film was the first to use the idea of ‘the lucky charm that gives courage,’ it certainly wasn’t the last.

Enter a 1987 cartoon, in which a cat-lizard creature on Third Earth needs to save his more physically capable friends. He lacks courage until…you guessed it…he gains a ‘magical’ talisman. Which doesn’t end up being magical at all. Just like in Harold Lloyd’s film…

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Don’t mess with Snarf!

Of course the two stories are different. Different setting, characters, medium of presentation…but the bones of the story are the same.

The question, I think, is whether this is a failing in the stories.

I’d say, no. (Edited to: Not always.)

Is it any surprise that ideas get reused? After all, in the wisdom literature of the Bible’s Old Testament the author acknowledges,

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

This was, oh, about 2,500 years ago…

I asked my husband the obvious question. “Which was better?”

He thought for a moment. “Thundercats.” *

Huh.

Writers, I find this encouraging. If your story idea isn’t exactly original, it doesn’t mean that it is unusable. A new voice might breathe new, exciting life into an old story.

Cat-lizards don’t seem to hurt either.

 

My conclusion: If you use an old theme, make sure you do it well!

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It would’ve been better if we were the stars, Wily Kat!

What about you, readers, writers and watchers- has anyone else seen this same plot used elsewhere? I’m away from my computer for a bit this week, but I’d love to hear your thoughts when I’m reunited with it! 🙂

Many thanks for visiting.

 

*Disclaimer 1: My husband just gave me a hard time about ‘lying to my readers,’ so here is a disclaimer. All conversations are approximated. “Baby brain” ensures that I don’t actually remember things like words people say to me anymore. If I actually remember having a conversation pre-coffee, I count that as a win. 🙂

 

 

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Publishing Short Fiction: An Interview with Author Jonathon Mast

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While I’ve enjoyed sharing tales of publishing journeys from novelists I’ve gotten to know, (thanks to Lydia, Jean, Dan, Vanessa and Anita for these,) there are many other formats aside from novels for writers to share their stories and dreams. 

Today I’d like to welcome Jonathon Mast back to The Naptime Author to share his experiences in publishing short fiction!

Hello and welcome, Jon! Tell us a bit about yourself, won’t you?

Hello! I’m Jonathon Mast. I’ve done a little bit of everything; Jonathon Mast (1)I’ve been a pig farmer, a door-to-door insurance salesman, worked in a comic shop, a window factory, and group homes, taught video production and life skills, and right now I’m a pastor! My wife puts up with me, and we have an insanity of children. (A group of children is called an insanity. Currently our insanity is four strong.)

Through it all… I have written. I remember writing stories back in third grade. I remember making up stories and telling them on the bus as we rode to and from school. I remember writing stories through high school and college. It’s just part of who I am: I tell stories

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What’s your preferred genre? 

Most of what I write qualifies as science fiction or fantasy, though I’ve done some horror as well. In my “day job” as a pastor, of course, I also write a lot of religious things: Sermons and Bible studies and devotions and… well, the list goes on.

But for this interview today, I’ll be focusing on the science fiction and fantasy. 🙂

 

Sounds good! Is there a particular place where you find writing inspiration? 

The ideas for the stories usually simply materialize. The emotions and people, though – they often come from my life.

In my life as a pastor, I encounter so many emotions. I know what it is to hold the hand of someone you love as they die. I know what it is to stand between two people who are trying to literally kill each other. I know what it is to rejoice when a friend finally gets a job after four years of searching. Having that rich emotional experience means I can draw on deep wells of material that are very authentic.

I also get to meet so many people. I visit prisons and memory care units, inner city homes and the mansions of the rich. I get to witness so much.

I try to be careful to never take a real person and put them into words. I don’t want to steal someone! I will take the emotions, though, or portions of personalities and translate them. And sometimes ideas come from mashing all that together.

 

Between pastoring and family life, finding time to write must be a challenge. How do you do it? 

Honestly, at this point in my life I need to write. It’s a stress relief for me. It helps me sort out my own emotions. My youngest daughter was born about six months ago, and for the first four months of her life or so I didn’t write. And I was a wreck. I picked up writing again, and voila! Suddenly all is better!

 

What drew you to short stories?

Honestly?

The fact that they’re short.

I’ve written novels. It is such an experience to write something of that length, to hold together a cohesive story!

But now with how busy my life has become, I don’t think I can keep that attention span. I can knock out a rough draft for a short story in one or two days and then concentrate on polishing. The fact that I can do that helps immensely!

Which is why you impress me, Anne! Writing a whole novel just during nap times?

Can I write while I nap, do you think?

 

HA! With practice, Jon, I’m sure you can! Though to be honest, “The Naptime Author” is pretty much a misnomer now- they’ve given up napping and that makes writing…interesting. Ah well. Enough about that. 

The time frame of short fiction sounds amazing! Once you’ve written a piece, how do you find venues for publication?

There’s a few sites on Facebook that are very handy that gather up open calls for stories. But here is a great site that can get you started if you’re looking for some lists!

 

Of course, if you’re writing short fiction for an anthology, you likely have to work with a group of different writers. How has that been? Is there any advice you’d give people seeking this kind of publication?

Any advice I give you can probably find all over online. Here’s some basic advice, though:

When there’s a call for submissions, read what they’re asking for. It doesn’t matter how amazing your story is; if they’re asking for swashbuckling cats and you’re giving them sneaky dogs, you’re not going to find a purchase there. Match your story to the call for submissions.

Read the directions on HOW to submit. Follow them. Many publishers like their submissions in a certain format. Some are very blunt: If you don’t match our format, we’re tossing your story unread. Kinda hard to make a sale if you don’t follow the directions!

This is one I’ve learned along the way: Look, if what you’re writing is worth someone else reading, it’s worth getting paid for. If you put any work into your story, you should be paid, and not just in “valuable exposure.” You should get paid in cash. (Conversely, if you didn’t work to write it, why they heck would anyone want to read it?)

That means you submit to markets that pay you in some way. Maybe it’s not professional rates; that’s ok. But make sure you’re valued, and that your value is shown in getting a paycheck.

As far as different anthologies – well, every editor is different. Stand up for your story, but be willing to bend to an editor that shows they know their market. They’re trying to get a product that will sell so they –and you! – get a paycheck. They saw something in your story that they thought they could sell. As I said, be willing to defend your story, but also listen to your editor.

 

Thanks for all of these fantastic insights, though I’ll be dreaming about swashbuckling cats tonight I think… any closing thoughts before I share links to where folks can find your stories? 

Make sure you have a good playlist for while you write. If you need background noise that isn’t music, might I suggest Rainy Mood?  

 

I certainly will!

If you’d like to check out Jon’s writing (and I’d recommend it- he tells a great tale!) you can in the following locations: 

“A Dragon Bigger than My Stories” is in Wings of Change, an anthology of YA dragon stories. As I’ve been reading through the other entries, I’m blown away to be included in such an assemblage. It’s a really, really cool book, and if you like dragon or YA lit, you should check it out. That’s my first print release.

If you want to see what else I’ve written, some of the stories are available free online. You can find my list of published works here.

Check out my writing blog Wanted: One New Earth. I post about once a week, unless there’s specific publishing news.

If you’re curious about my ministry, feel free to check out Ordained for Growth.
Thanks for having me, Anne!

 

Thanks for coming by, Jon, and thank YOU, readers, for visiting, too! 

 

The “Forgotten War”:WW2 in the Aleutians Part 2

Aleutian Islands 1942-1943 (banner)

France. North Africa. Singapore. Burma. The bloodiest war in human history, World War 2 spread over vast stretches of our little planet. It’s unfortuante, but not surprising with the scope of the conflict, that some of the struggles and sacrifices have faded from collective memory.

For instance, as I mentioned my first article on WW2 in the Aleutians, I realized that I knew nothing about the only land battles fought on my home country’s soil.

The battles of the U.S. forces against invading Japanese in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands never made it into my history books.

To briefly recap: In the spring of 1942, Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto sent ships north to lure Admiral Nimitz’s Pacific fleet into Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. However, this was a ploy to draw American aircraft carriers away from Midway Island, so that Japan’s main force could take the U.S. stronghold and gain control of the central Pacific.

Fortunately for the U.S., they’d broken Japan’s naval codes.

I’ll write on the Battle of Midway soon, but suffice it to say, Yamamoto’s plans didn’t work out. However, craving a victory to report to his superiors, he ordered the occupation of Kiska and Attu islands by Japanese forces.

Unwilling to leave any U.S. soil in the hands of the enemy, American officials built up their Alaskan forces, preparing to take the Aleutians back.

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U.S. poster, circa 1942-43

Kiska Island, occupied by an estimated 9,000 Japanese, had an operational airfield and a better harbor than Attu, as well as being closer to U.S.-held Amchitka Island. Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, the man in charge, hoped to reclaim it first.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough shipping available to transport the 25,000 men he wanted to do the job.

However, word was that Attu island held only 500 Japanese troops.

Kinkaid adjusted his plans. If they could take Attu, Kiska would be cut off, and (hopefully) easier to reclaim.

Attu came with its own challenges. Following is a description of the terrain from an online brochure provided by the U.S. Center of Military History.

“Attu is 35 miles long and 15 miles wide, with snow-capped peaks that reach upward to 3,000 feet. Steep slopes extend down from the peaks to treeless valleys below, carpeted with muskeg, a “black muck” covered with a dense growth of lichens and moss…barely firm enough for a man to cross on foot…The same current accounts for the pea-soup fogs, the constant pervading wetness, and the frequent storms that make the outer Aleutians so forbidding. ” (Aleutian Islands pg. 12)

As preparations went forward, more intelligence reports came in. Attu’s force was larger than the original estimate- perhaps three times as large.

Kinkaid didn’t have enough men to combat a force that large, but the 7th Division, currently in California could be sent up.

Of course, the weren’t exactly prepared for battle in Alaska, having  been trained for motorized combat in North Africa.

The change in plans also meant that the men didn’t have any cold-weather gear. However, the leadership figured that they’d be fine. Attu was bound to fall in three days at most. Following training in amphibious landings, they were sent north.

The U.S. forces began preparatory bombing campaigns against Attu and Kiska, but they were mainly limited to Kiska due to poor weather.

Weather also delayed the landings, pushing the departure from May 3, to May 4…to May 11 when they finally set out despite the continuing fog.

13 May, 1943 U.S. Landing craft approach Massacre Bay on Attu (Uf- what a name for a landing site…)

The U.S. landings on Attu were successful. However, slowed by the weather, the slippery ground, communication problems, and the determined Japanese holding the heights, the “quick” fight for Attu lasted until May 29th, with “mopping-up” operations lasting even longer.

Attu

Two and a half weeks of fighting on this tiny island in the cold took its toll. More than 2,300 Japanese and 549 U.S. troops were killed, and 1,148 U.S. troops were wounded. Around 2,100 U.S. troops were incapacitated by non-battle injuries, including trenchfoot.

When the time came to retake Kiska, Kincaid learned from the experience of Attu. He made plans to send 34,000 better equipped and trained troops. (They even got parkas.)

File:KiskaIslandWW2.gif

American and Canadian forces landed unopposed on Kiska on the 15th and 16th of August in unusually clear, calm weather. As the fog rolled back in, they waited for the inevitable attack from the heights.

It never came.

The Japanese had quietly evacuated their forces nearly three weeks earlier.

 

Thanks so  much for visiting!

If you’d like to learn more about this era, I found some excellent sources, including an interview with one of Attu’s naval veterans, listed below!

The 75th anniversary of The Battle of Attu was in 2018. If you’re on facebook, their page includes an interview with Aleutian veteran Bob Hinsdale, sharing his experiences. (Note: Mr. Hinsdale doesn’t appear onscreen until 4 and a half minutes into the linked video.)

Link to Aleutian WWII National Historic Area

Link to more info via Travel Alaska

Link to U.S. Army history brochure – Put together by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, there is a whole series of these available online covering the U.S. involvement in WWII. I’ve found them very helpful research tools.

The same site also has the book Guarding the United States and Its Outposts by Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engleman and Byron Fairchild available to read online. THIS chapter details the struggle in the Aleutians.

Anne Who? Three Reasons For Using a Pen Name

It’s confession time. I’ve been leading a double life.

spies David Sinclare

It’s true. I go about my daily jobs- feeding my family, teaching classes and planning and preparing church music- in one persona.

But when I can steal away from the day-to-day, I slip on the name “Anne Clare” and disappear for a while into the world of writing.

Ok, maybe this isn’t exactly a shocking revelation. Many writers use pen names. Samuel Clemens and Theodore Geisel became famous as Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss. The talented Bronte sisters all chose male names under which to sell their novels. More recently, authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have given up their familiar monikers for pseudonyms.

Perhaps you use a pseudonym online, or you’ve considered writing under one, or perhaps you just wonder why anyone would bother.

I did a bit of research before deciding to become Anne Clare, and found that fellow writers have a variety of reasons for rechristening themselves.

Time For A Change

boston terrier wearing unicorn pet costume
Dog? What Dog?  Photo by mark glancy on Pexels.com

If you’ve been writing with publication in mind, you’ve probably encountered the term “branding.” Part of an author’s brand is the genre they choose to write in.

But, what if an author wants to switch genres?

What if, say, a successful middle grade fantasy writer who’s created a beloved magical universe wants to try writing an adult crime fiction? Her old group of fans isn’t likely to be interested in her new work, and her fame in her old genre might actually work against her. However, if she writes the new story under a new name, she can reinvent herself and have a fresh start. (Unless, of course, everyone finds out about the pen name, as happened to J.K. Rowling…)

Or, what if an author has had a less than successful debut? A new persona offers a clean slate. (And, hopefully, experience will allow for a better Round 2!)

Having never published before, neither of these applied to me, but they were far from the only reasons for utilizing a pen name.

What’s In A Name?

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They named him Killer…

“What’s in a name?” Romeo asked.

Quite a bit, I’m afraid, if you’re a gentleman named Brutus Slabfist who just wants to write sweet, tear-jerking stories about a boy and his hedgehog, Mr. Snuffles. Poor Luscious Huneelips may be out of luck too, as she just wants to write action-packed thrillers.

Does the author’s name really have anything to do with their writing talent? Of course not. Would some names just look a little…odd on certain covers? Afraid so.

There’s also the possibility of confusion for those who share a name with someone famous- or infamous. Author Theodore E. Kaczynski might have a different middle name and no other similarities to the Unabomber than a first and last name, but…well…moving into a public forum, a change might be a good idea.

Some authors take the opportunity to chose pen names that fit their distinct genre. A couple of my favorites are “Daisy Meadows,” a pseudonym used by four authors who write a series of books about fairies that my eldest enjoys, and “Lemony Snicket,” the name taken by the author of the popular A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

Fortunately, neither my maiden name nor my married name are particularly dreadful, or (to my knowledge) shared by any infamous criminals. However, there was one other major reason for using a pseudonym that caught my attention.

Privacy In a Public World

Can they see me?

Maybe it’s just me being from the generation that remembers a time before the internet. (Yeah, you youngins, and it wasn’t that long ago either!) But when I realized that pursuing publication of my writing almost certainly required internet visibility, I hesitated.

Sure, I’d used Facebook- and then someone hacked our account and started commenting on the pictures of our baby that we had put up for family to see. Creepy.

Now I was considering venturing onto new sites online, not only to share interesting history tidbits but also opening up about my writing, my personal life, and interacting with people I didn’t know. People I couldn’t even see face to face to tell if they were who they said they were.

This was not a comfortable prospect.

However, once I settled on taking a pen name, some of my concerns eased. Having a buffer between my private life and the things I chose to share publicly has allowed me to be more honest in my writing than I’d be comfortable doing otherwise.

So Far, So Good

I’ve been Anne Clare online for nearly two years, and so far I’ve been pleased with the choice. Pen names are so common in the writing industry that using one hasn’t been an inconvenience at all to date. We’ll see if that changes once I have a book in print!

What about you? Are you using or considering using a pen name, or are you using your own? What drove your choice?

 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

Publishing Paths: An Interview With Author A.M. Heath

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The road to publication looks different depending on who’s walking it. I’ve been pleased to interview a number of authors who have been kind enough to visit this site and share their unique publishing experiences: Vanessa Rasanen, Dan Alatorre, Jean Lee and Lydia Eberhardt. All of them shared different perspectives and different lessons they learned along the way.

Today, I’m very pleased to welcome author A.M. Heath, who has graciously agreed to come and take us on a little tour of her personal writing journey!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Anita Heath but I publish under A.M. Heath. I’m a mother of four and AMHeathwife of one. 😉

I actively serve in my church, and I’ve been “seriously” writing since 2012. I’ve published 5 novels and 1 novella so far, and am working on several more.

While I’m still learning and growing, especially in the marketing field, I love writing stories that honor my Lord and will edify the reader. And I’m looking forward to sharing a little more of my personal journey.

I’m looking forward to hearing about it!

So. What drives your writing? Do you have a particular place where you find inspiration?

Inspiration? That’s a loaded question. Having a creative mindset, ideas just come to me sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.

I write both historical and contemporary fiction, although historical is my first love. This may sound strange, but I think it’s the atmosphere and/or clothing that first pulls at me. That was certainly the case with my love for the Civil War. I’ve been smitten with the big bell-gowns since I was a child. The fashion of the era was something that pulled me in until I was in love with the era.

But as an author, I recognize the complex environment surrounding the Civil War. With any war fiction, you find an abundance of story possibilities. There is so much at stake and it’s an emotionally high season. You can tell stories from either side of the argument, enemies fall in love, traitors, spies, etc. War fiction, in particular, is so rich and often studied in depth so an author wouldn’t have to go far to find inspiration for their stories.

Yes, there’s plenty of inspiration to be had in those turbulent times!

Another love of mine are those “vintage” American years: 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. I was quickly drawn to the 1950s. It carries that iconic American image: greasers, soda shops, rock in roll music, drive-ins, etc. It appears to be such a fun, carefree time in American history. Of course, we know there were some harsh realities as well, but I’ve had a lot of fun researching and writing for the 1950s.

1940s and WWII bring another host of elements. And the fashion! Sigh. So beautifully feminine.

But when I think 1930s, I think of an era that was more rustic and simplistic. And being a Tennessean, this can be such a natural setting for me.

These are all fantastic settings for storytelling- have you used all of them?

I’ve published books on the Civil War, 1885, 1954, 1985, and contemporary. And I have some works coming up that are set in the 1950s, 40s, and 30s.

I just love history, so as I’m indulging in that love, I brush up against experiences and can’t help delving into it and telling my version.

Do you have any particular tips for those of us who share your love for writing historical fiction?

Here’s my research tip: Go to the source as much as you possibly can. With the Civil War, there are countless published journals and letters out there. I’ve read and collected so many of these. They offer their personal account, so it’s important not to judge them for mindsets we don’t agree with, but to sit and listen and learn what people of their day thought and felt. They’re not to teach us how to live today, but rather how they lived during that day.

As for the more modern eras from the 30s up to now, I reach for film. We often create replicas of those eras (Happy Days, Brother Where Art Thou, That 70’s Show, etc.) but the details can be flawed. Instead, I like to seek out shows and movies that were filmed during the desired decade. This is the best way to pick up on the speech patterns, style, and common lifestyle of the day. They couldn’t add in what wasn’t already created, unlike trying to recreate it decades later when we often slip in a little slang that wasn’t really present during the time. I actually keep journals where I collect phrases for different periods in history. I’ve found that there are a lot of phrases that we think are modern that actually are not at all which is easily proven by films shot and set during those years.

Oh, that’s a great tip!

Once you decided to publish, what type of publishing path did you choose?

I chose to self-publish. For me, self-publishing wasn’t a second choice or a backup plan. When I weighed my options and the pros and cons of each, there were some deciding factors that carried more weight for me. I’ve always said that I would never say never to traditional publishing, but I’m convinced this is the Lord’s will for me during this season.

What have been some pros of your publishing path?

For me, one of the biggest pros for self-publishing is having complete control. I am allowed to write the stories that I want to write without having someone encouraging changes in my writing that I’m uncomfortable with. I don’t have to worry about selling my story to a publisher who may not be interested. And, most importantly, I have complete control of my deadlines. When other commitments demand my attention and I’m forced set my writing on the back burner for a season, I don’t have someone else’s deadline hanging over my head. This has allowed me to put my family first and better maintain the balance in my life. Not that I do it perfectly.

The freedom of control is certainly a compelling pro! Have you encountered any challenges you’ve had to overcome as a self-published author?

YES! The biggest challenge is marketing. While most publishers leave a large portion of the marketing to their authors, there’s still a measure of credibility and outreach that goes along with having a publisher behind your book.
Thankfully there are experienced self-published authors who are more than willing to share their tips.

Do you have any advice you’d offer those who are seeking publication?

Don’t rush it. This is especially true for self-published authors who are in charge of publishing the moment they feel the story is ready.

I would strongly recommend not publishing until you’ve had at least 1 published author read over your work. You can have 10 close friends and relatives read it and offer their feedback but nothing will compare with the knowledge and insight that a fellow author has to offer. And that doesn’t mean that every published author has the best advice. When working with an author, read their work first and make sure you like their style before you let their style influence yours.

Also remember, the thrill of a new release is short-lived, but bad reviews live on forever. So be sure you slow down and spend time learning the trade before you hit the publish button.

Thanks for this excellent advice, and for sharing your journey with us today, Anita!

AMHeath1

If you are interested in checking out Anita’s books, she can be found at the following locations:

Social Media Links: Whether you’re on social media or not, you can ensure that you never miss one of my sales, giveaways, or new releases by signing up for my newsletter. I’ll send you a direct link to your email anytime something big happens. http://eepurl.com/dDbVNz

Blog: https://amheathblog.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AMHeathfanpage/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8302606.A_M_Heath

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/aheath2257/?eq=a.m.&etslf=5672

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorAMHeath

Following is information on the first of her series of historical fiction novels, set during the American Civil War.

War is on the horizon during the spring of 1861. It will be an event that will change the lives of everyone in its path. The Harper family included.

Frank Harper is a young man full of dreams and ambitions. Even when the country is split and war breaks out, Frank will do whatever is necessary to see his dreams come true, even when that means putting on a uniform and leaving home.

For the first time, Claire Harper is forced to consider the reasons behind such a conflict. Should slavery be abolished? Which side should she be on, and what does God have to say about this? Claire is torn between her own opinions and those of her family. The struggle within her only increases when she repeatedly runs into a kind and handsome Union soldier. She longs to see her brother turn to Christ before it is too late. Desperate to reach her brother with the gospel, Claire pens a series of inspiring letters. Will she be able to handle all the obstacles of war and continue to be a witness to those around her?

How long can Claire last when her heart is torn in half and she is burdened for her brother’s soul? How long can Frank resist his sister’s urgent pleas or the gentle tugging from within? Can a man outrun a holy God?

 

The Discovery of the USS Hornet

The USS Hornet CV-8

Hello history-lovers! I came across an interesting story in my newsfeed this week (how often does that happen?) and had to share.

The USS Hornet CV-8, the WW2 aircraft carrier that transported the bombers for the Doolittle Raid and served in the Pacific Theater until she was sunk in the Battle of Santa Cruz Island on October 27, 1942 has been found.

Here is a link to the CBS news story on the discovery- it’s only about five minutes, but pretty fascinating, especially as they interviewed one of the Hornet’s surviving veterans.

I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

 

Something for your Sweetheart?

silver-colored necklace with pendant

So, are you exchanging gifts with anyone today?

My husband and I have never really “done” Valentines day.

Oh, the kids have their cards to hand out at school. We even baked cookies to go along with them since we were snowed in, and sending the leftover lollipops that are still sitting around from Halloween seemed a little tacky. (Hmm, those might actually be from two Halloweens ago…)

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Nothing says “Love” like cookies, glow-in-the-dark bugs, and 3-D pets!

Of course, we can’t deliver them because the roads aren’t clear yet. This is our fourth snow day this week.

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“Snowmageddon 2019”

We were also going to babysit for another couple so they could go out tonight. That’s snowed out as well.

At this point, I’m just hoping that the roads are clear enough by tomorrow that I can celebrate the day after Valentine’s, or, as I like to call it “50% off Chocolate Day!”

No, we are generally Valentine’s spoilsports- though I have to admit, DID run into something this week that might tempt even me to drop a hint my husband’s way.

I was exploring the wilds of e-bay, hunting for History. More accurately, I was hunting for some little vintage items that had historical ties to the book I’m launching early this summer to use in giveaways. (I found some, but I’ll write more on that later.)

The term “WW2 Sweetheart Jewelry” popped up in one of my searches. Naturally, I had to check it out.

From what I’ve found, the term “Sweetheart Jewelry” dates back to the trenches of WWI where the troops, far from home, desperately craved a way to reconnect with loved ones they’d left behind. To do so, they’d fashion or purchase items of jewelry to send home to sweethearts, mothers, or other loved ones.

Sweetheart jewelry became even more popular in the Second World War. It was often patriotic, and might include emblems from one of the branches of the military.

Wearing a piece gave a mother or wife or sister a chance to silently show how her loved one was serving.

See the source image

From a few sites I visited, it sounds as if interest in this vintage jewelry has been growing, with pieces popping up for sale on sites like e-bay and reproductions available in places like the National WWII Museum. So, if you’re looking for something unique for your sweetheart who happens to also appreciate history, you may be able to find just the thing!

If you’d like more information on Sweetheart Jewelry, the Smithsonian Institute’s page had an interesting article: http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2014/02/the-fashion-patriotism-and-romance-of-world-war-ii-sweetheart-jewelry.html

As for me, I’m off to figure out what to do with my three little sweethearts on another day off of school, and to try to resist eating all of those Valentine’s cookies!

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

The Power of Historical Fiction and Connie Willis’ BLACKOUT

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In a part of the U.S. that shuts down when we get an inch or two of snow, we now have about six inches on the ground. You know what that means- TIME! Time to work on my books, time to read, time to clean house….well, at least the first two.

In case you’re in the same boat, or just looking for something to read, here’s an older post of mine- I hope you enjoy it!

-Anne

I’ve never found history a dull subject.

Walking into the highschool classroom, all geared up to begin my student teaching, it was apparent that I was in the minority.

Some freshmen and sophomores slumped in their seats, eyes glazing over in preparation for a lecture-induced coma. Others gripped pencils, grimly determined to make the grade, however painful the process might be.

No problem. After all, I was twenty-two, in my fifth year of college, and therefore knew everything I needed to motivate and excite them with THE WONDER OF LEARNING!!!

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Sigh. Young Anne. You have so much to learn…

 

Why is that highschool reaction so common? Why does it seem that so many people expect history to be dull?

Maybe it has something to do with the way it’s traditionally presented.

After all, history teachers have a great deal of information to impart in a brief period of time. Great world events are, by necessity, boiled down to bullet points, lists of dates, and a few ageing photos.

While I don’t intend to debate teaching styles, I think it’s fair to say that oftentimes the people who lived history get buried in minutia, and with them is buried a chance for the modern learner to connect and empathize with the past.

Tales of heroism and cowardice, of kindness and cruelty, can engage even the most skeptical learner.

Of course, anyone who perceives history as dull and dry is unlikely to seek out non-fiction books to find these tales.

Therein lies the power of excellent historical fiction.

I was recently introduced to Connie Willis’ novel Blackout and the sequel All Clear. (Many thanks to Sarah Higbee and her Brainfluff blog.)

I was attracted to the books by the WW2 photos on the covers, but what sold me was the twist in their storytelling- a change from my diet of nonfiction to historical science fiction.

Oxford in the year 2060 sends historians to study history first-hand, via time travel. The process has been perfected, and all (well, nearly all) of the experts are convinced that the historians are unable to affect history’s outcome. However, when Polly, Mike and Eileen are stranded in World War 2, it appears that this philosophy may be entirely wrong.

Now, I like my historical fiction with an emphasis on the ‘historical.’ (Am I the only one nerdy enough to be wee bit disappointed that I didn’t learn anything new about World War I while watching the otherwise entertaining Wonder Woman? No one else? Sigh.)

 

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“Now, let me explain some of the inciting incidents for this particular war…” (Hm. Ok, that probably wouldn’t have worked.)

 

Ms. Willis packs in a tremendous amount of early World War 2 historical detail. I’ll confess, I suspected at one point during the first book that a few of the POV changes existed for the sole purpose of including some of her research.

Hmmm. This story is primarily set during The Blitz Ambulance drivers and Operation Fortitude fit in…where? 

I’m pleased to announce that my suspicions were unfounded. By the end of book two (in which I felt the pacing moved along a bit better) all plot threads were accounted for in a most satisfying way.

Of course, incorporating a great deal of factual detail risks pulling the reader out of the narrative. Long info-dumps can weaken the most fascinating story.

I felt that Ms. Willis avoided this pitfall. Her main characters were visitors in the past, so conversations and observations about the period made sense. She didn’t lean on this ‘free pass to lecture’ overmuch; information was woven into the story as the characters lived the Blitz, the Dunkirk evacuation, and caring for evacuees.

A history lecture on these events might fail to excite skeptics.

I enjoy learning about history, and I still find the facts and figures blending together at times.

Books like Ms. Willis’ give an opportunity to experience history in a different way.

We readers can briefly slip on the shoes of her characters and walk the rubble-strewn streets of London, struggle through crowded tube stations as threatening cacophony fills the skies overhead, and meet the everyday heroes who survived the struggle, one day at a time…

…and it’s all hidden in a time travel sci-fi novel.

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Side notes: Teaching history ended up being great fun. Every time I did something besides lecture, it was like I was a teaching ROCK STAR! 🙂

I enjoyed the stories and the fresh look at history that these books provided. Due to the harrowing nature of the Blitz and some language used in response to the dangers, this one’s not for the little ‘uns. 🙂

Thanks for visiting!

 

 

 

Musical Interlude: “Onward Christian Soldiers”

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Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

It’s amazing what strong associations music can forge in memory.

I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” always reminds me of my grandma. The third verse of “Away in a Manger” will always be the bed-time prayer Dad sang with me, which I now sing with my children.

And the thumping, march-y beat of “Onward Christian Soldiers” will, likely, always be a funeral hymn in my mind.

Of course, musical associations are different from person to person. “Onward Christian Soldiers” certainly wasn’t written as a funerary piece.

Anglican priest, Sabine Baring-Gould penned the hymn in 1865. He wrote it to be a marching tune, sung during a procession of the children of his Sunday school.

The strong rhythm and the rousing wording of the hymn helped make it a marching song for a much different purpose nearly 80 years later, during World War 2.

My grandpa’s Second World War divisional history (as well as other memoirs I’ve come across) describes marching and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” as a common occurence. The hymn was also popular at worship. Below is a video clip including FDR and Winston Churchill singing the hymn on HMS Prince of Wales in August of 1941.

(The song is at 4:07. The rest of the video-including some details of this secret meeting between Churchill and FDR- is worth a watch, too. 🙂 )

The adaptation of “Onward Christian Soldiers” as a military hymn was, perhaps not quite as fitting as it seems.

After all, although lines like Onward Christian soldiers/ Marching as to war sound martial, the hymn doesn’t really refer to traditional warfare.

Rather, it’s a hymn of the “Church militant.”*

No, this isn’t a reference to Crusades, or any physical body of Christians charging off into battle. Rather, it refers to the Christian life on earth, locked in a struggle against spiritual forces of sin and evil. (This is in contrast to the “Church triumphant” in heaven, free from all of those struggles and sorrows.)

Of course, whether the hymn had to do with literal marching or not, perhaps for the infantry men who were Christian, just singing these words was a comfort: Crowns and thrones may perish/ kingdoms rise and wane/ But the Church of Jesus/ Constant will remain.

Even many years later, it was one of Grandpa’s favorites.

Below are a couple of options for listening to “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The first is a full choral and orchestral version, the second is instrumental piano with the text written on the screen.

While each has its merits, neither of these quite captures my memories of this hymn.

When I think of “Onward Christian Soldiers,” I can only hear the untrained voices of a little congregation of friends and family, gathered in mourning and hope, singing it for Grandpa’s last march Home.

Many thanks for visiting.

 

 

*To clarify a little theology: the capital “C” in church describes not a building or particular denomination or group, but rather all Christians of all time- it’s also sometimes called the “invisible Church” since membership is a matter of the heart and something that only God can see.

The “Forgotten War”: WW2 in the Aleutians

Aleutian Islands 1942-1943 (banner)

Back in my school days, if you had asked me to sum up American involvement in the Second World War I’d have mentioned Pearl Harbor, the Normandy invasions, possibly a bit about rationing and Rosie the Riveter, and the dropping of the atomic bombs.

It took a rekindled interest in history as an adult to show me just how little I knew or understood about this tumultuous period of history.

For instance, I was a little shocked when I started researching today’s article to realize that I knew nothing about the only World War 2 land battles to take place in the United States.*

Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain was an inhospitable place, foggy and windswept, but it had one major selling point. It was only 650 miles from Japan’s northern islands.

Neither the U.S. nor Japan could ignore the island chain’s strategic position. Japan’s eyes were especially turned in that direction after the Doolittle Raid’s successful bombing of Tokyo. Unsure of where the bombers came from, they suspected that there was a secret American base somewhere in the Aleutians.

Whether this base existed or not, Admiral Yamamoto saw the Aleutians’ usefulness. If he could draw U.S. naval forces towards the Aleutian islands, he could attack Midway Island. When the U.S. Navy turned back to defend Midway, he would be waiting to annihilate them.  Japan would gain undisputed control of the central Pacific, and be within bombing range of Hawaii.

Of course, Yamamoto didn’t know that the U.S. had broken his Naval codes.

Admiral Nimitz, Commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet, knew the Japanese plan. He decided to keep his three available aircraft carriers for the clash at Midway, but sent Rear Admiral Theobold, along with a third of his surface fleet, north.

Theobold’s orders were to defend Dutch Harbor, in the Aleutian chain, at all costs.

U.S. planes spotted the Japanese fleet in the afternoon of June 2, but thick fog rolled in and concealed their movements. Despite these inhospitable conditions, the Japanese fleet under Vice Adm. Hosogaya launched bombers against Dutch Harbor on June 3.

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Dutch Harbor, AK

Only half of Hosogaya’s planes reached their objective, and those were greeted by U.S. antiaircraft fire and fighter planes from Fort Glenn. They quickly left.

June 4th brought the Japanese better weather and a better-organized attack. Dutch Harbor lost part of its hospital, a barracks ship, an oil storage tank, and 43 lives. Theobold’s fleet lingered south of Kodiak Island, uninvolved.

These raids might have been the end of Hosogaya’s attacks on the Aleutians, if it weren’t for events down at Midway Island (which I’ll write about soon!)

Limping away from his defeat and looking for a victory to report, Yamamoto sent Hosogaya back to the Aleutians.

The Japanese occupied Kiska Island on June 6th and Attu Island on June 7.

They captured native villagers on Attu, who were deported to Japan as prisoners of war, as well as the personnel of a U.S. Navy weather station.

Naturally, U.S. military leadership was concerned. Could these landings lead to attacks on Russia, or on the North American mainland via Alaska? They evacuated the native Unangax̂ people from nine villages- unfortunately they were poorly prepared for this step. These families, caught in the middle of the conflict, were sent to poorly prepared and overcrowded camps on the Alaskan mainland.

As concerns grew to fears, the U.S. initiated its first ever mass airlift, rushing nearly 2,300 troops along with tons of materiel to Nome.

Troops hauling supplies forward to units fighting the Japanese in the Chichagof area, May 1943.
Troops hauling supplies forward.

By 1943, the U.S. force in Alaska had been built up to 94,000 men who struggled against the elements- freezing temperatures, violent seas, and week-long blizzards to take island after island in the Aleutian chain until, at last, they were within striking distance of the Japanese -held islands.

On the 26th of March, a U.S. blockade lead by Rear Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid engaged Hosogaya in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, remembered as the last, and longest, daylight battle of a surface naval fleet.

Defeated and removed from command, Hosogaya had to leave his two garrisons on Kiska and Attu reliant on meager supplies brought in by submarine.

However, they were not yet defeated.

 

And so, what I had looked at as a “quick” history article, covering just a few events, is turning into two articles. Isn’t it amazing just how much “forgotten” history you can find with a little digging?

Really, that’s why I share these articles- so that I can learn, and remember, and share the remembrances with all of you. Thank you so much for stopping by.

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What about you? Have you found any “forgotten” stories of late that you’d like to share?

 

If you’d like to learn more about this era, I found some excellent sources, listed below!

Link to Aleutian WWII National Historic Area

Link to more info via Travel Alaska

Link to U.S. Army history brochure – Put together by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, there is a whole series of these available online covering the U.S. involvement in WWII. I’ve found them very helpful research tools!

The same site also has the book Guarding the United States and Its Outposts by Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engleman and Byron Fairchild available to read online. THIS chapter details the struggle in the Aleutians.