Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What's Coming in Two Weeks

After eight years of thinking, breathing, researching B-17s, I was ready to disembark and concentrate on something else. But what? I had a vague idea of three friends who joined the WAC, the WAVES, and the WASPs, but nothing crystalized. Except for the WAC.
I didn’t want to completely turn away from flying, and I prefer topics that aren’t commonly known. How about a grasshopper pilot? My second character was on board.
I had toyed with the idea of a family generational series. A World War II story paired with a World War I story. But no, too unwieldy.
The WAC could have a sister, though, who stayed on the home front and did factory work. Oh, dear. I couldn’t completely stay away from B-17s. She’s building them.
She also needs a husband. He’ll be in the navy, and not on an aircraft carrier. A destroyer! (This was in the works before Sarah Sundin signed a contract for her just-concluded series about destroyer men. I checked with her: She was writing about the Atlantic war; my guy’s in the Pacific. No problem.) I studied the list of Pacific destroyers and, oooh, the Spence. All kinds of possibilities there.

So there I had it: a sailor, his Rosie-the-Riveter wife, her WAC sister, and a grasshopper pilot. They’re all doing their part to help win the war, but sometimes the enemy isn’t obvious.


In two weeks, the new book is available!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Under Fire

When I first read Linda Matchett's new novel Under Fire, the setting of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire resonated with me. I've been there. Also the mention of the classic boats, which during World War II were not classic, but contemporary.
     Set in World War II, it ranges from New Hampshire to England to Ireland, and back to England. Questions often come to mind while reading and this time, I had the opportunity to ask Linda about Under Fire.

Lake Winnipesaukee


I recognized Lake Winnipesaukee right away, but it’s not named. Why? Too big a mouthful?
LOL! Most people do stumble over the name the first few times they try to say it (BTW, it’s pronounced win-eh-peh-sock-ee). I decided that writing about a fictional location would be easier. With all the WWII research I had to do to ensure historical accuracy, I didn’t want to have to research the town’s history too.

When I attended a classic boat show on Lake Winnipesaukee in the 80s, it rained.


Since my family’s business is publishing Classic Boating magazine, I was right at home reading about Chris-Craft and Lyman boats. (Yes, those wartime boats are classics now.) Have they been part of your life?
Not at all. I grew up boating on the Potomac River with my dad in his twelve-foot Jon boat. I was unfamiliar with wooden lake boats until we moved to New Hampshire. I’ve had several opportunities to ride in Lymans and Chris-Crafts, and there’s nothing like the experience. The gorgeous wooden hull, cushy interior, throaty snarl of the engine, the speed across open water.

Ruth lives a very adventurous life, traipsing of to London on her own in wartime, sneaking into places and spying on bad guys. Do you live vicariously through your characters? Is this the way you’d like to see yourself?
I have definitely lived vicariously through Ruth. She is much braver than I am in many ways. I have a fear of heights and am claustrophobic, so I admired her ability to scale walls and fences and squeeze into tiny hiding places. I also get lost easily, so I can’t imagine having to navigate a city where the signs have been removed.



Under Fire is full of twists and turns. Did you plot the novel before writing or did ideas come as you wrote?
I did plot the novel before I began. The first full length story I wrote as an adult was done free form, and it lagged and sagged in the middle, and I often got writer’s block. Since then I’ve always outlined my books. I also write extensive biographies for my characters. I allow my characters to wander “off script,” and sometimes an idea will come to me and I’ll change what I had planned, but for the most part I know generally how the story is going to go.
  
Where did the inspiration for Under Fire come from? 
As a former HR professional, I am intrigued about women’s employment experiences in the early 20th Century. I love reading about women who were trailblazers in their field, and I’ve got a background in journalism.  When I learned that only 127 of the 1,600 certified war correspondents were women, I knew what I wanted my protagonist to do for a living. Once I had nailed that down, I decided to explore how the WWII impacted people’s faith in God (e.g. how could a loving God allow Hitler to succeed, etc.), and I wanted Ruth to experience a personal crisis of faith as well. That’s when I decided to make her sister disappear.

I’ve just read your novella A Love Not Forgotten. Parts seemed familiar and sure enough, it’s a companion to your Love’s Harvest. Do you anticipate Ruth showing up in a future project?
I’ve got two more Ruth Brown mysteries written with several story ideas percolating.

What are you working on next?
I am working on a mystery about a young woman who joins the USO to escape an arranged marriage. When her fiancé is found dead, she must prove her innocence.

Stay tuned!

Under Fire Blurb: Journalist Ruth Brown’s sister Jane is pronounced dead after a boating accident in April 1942. Because Jane’s body is missing, Ruth is convinced her sister is still alive. During her investigation, Ruth becomes suspicious about Jane’s job. Eventually Ruth follows clues to war-torn London. By the time she uncovers the truth about Jane’s disappearance, she has stumbled on black marketers, resistance fighters and the IRA – all of whom may want her dead.




Bio: Linda Shenton Matchett is a journalist, blogger, and author. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and as a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. Active in her church Linda serves as treasurer, usher, choir member, and Bible study leader. She is author of several romance novellas. Under Fire, the first in her trilogy about amateur sleuth/war correspondent Ruth Brown has just been released by eLectio Publishing (electiopublishing.com). Click here (eepurl.com/cp_SRL) to receive Linda’s monthly newsletter that includes book reviews, links to free book sites, historical tidbits, and more.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Inspiration Point

When my family began publishing Classic Boating magazine in 1984, the inside back cover was reserved for Inspiration Point, a benediction at the end of each issue. My dad felt led by God to start the magazine when we were going through a rough patch. Inspiration Point is our acknowledgement that God is in control. Eventually, the task of writing the brief missive fell to me, which I do with a pseudonym. Here is one of them.

Photo by Jim Wangard

             Pussy Cat spent his days lounging on the top of the fence separating his yard from the rest of the neighborhood complex. He never deigned to socialize. If anyone approached with the hope of petting him, he leaped down inside his yard.

            The day came when his people moved away. Either they didn’t care to take him along or he hid and they gave up on him. Either way, he was now alone in the world.

            The new residents apparently didn’t want a cat. They didn’t feed him. No longer was he king atop his fence.

            He began to roam the complex. At first, he avoided contact with anyone. As the days went by, however, he grew thin. His glossy coat became dull and matted.

            Starvation prevented him from running away anymore. When a tin of sardine scraps was placed before him, he gratefully licked it clean.

            More days passed and he disappeared. No doubt he had crawled off to die alone, as he had lived alone.

            Two are better than one... If they fall down, they can help each other up. But pity those who fall and have no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bright, Shining Moments

I found a yellowed newspaper clipping tucked away in a seldom-disturbed file. The partial editorial was written August 1, 1976, after the Montreal Olympics. The unknown writer’s comments can still bring tears to my eyes.


Olga Korbut of the USSR had been the darling of the 1972 Olympics. Now younger girls outshone her, and she looked lost and lonely. Then she won a silver medal in her final event, and “the crowd stood up and screamed its acclaim.… They were there for Olga Korbut when she needed it most ― and it was good to see.”


One other incident stood out for the writer. A young black American, Edwin Moses, won the hurdles and set a world record. “But there were records everywhere. It would have passed and nobody would have really cared very much.” But an unknown American named Mike Shine, who won the silver second, could not contain his joy. He raced over to Moses and hugged him. Moses hugged him back.
“And the crowd saw it, too. And they went slightly insane.
“And when the two young men ― one black, one white ― circled that track grinning and waving and swept up in the incredible wonder of the moment ― that mob from a score of countries stood and screamed for minutes.”

There may be a lot wrong in the world, but there is also a lot right.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Treasure Hunt

During World War I, England was desperate to buy supplies from the United States, and money ran low. The Laurentic was loaded with a secret consignment: small plain 12x12x6 wooden boxes weighing 140 pounds each. These boxes were stowed in a second-class passenger baggage room with tight security.

The White Star's Laurentic was a miniature Titanic, one third in size. Because of its speed,
it was refitted as an armed merchant cruiser during World War I.

The Laurentic left Liverpool on January 23, 1914. Rounding the northern coast of Ireland, it struck a pair of mines laid by a German submarine. The ship sank within an hour in bitter cold. Of the 479 souls on board, only 121 survived. Many others had gotten into lifeboats but froze to death. Also lost was the secret cargo: 3,211 gold ingots, worth more than £5,000,000.

An artist's impression of the sunken Laurentic.

Britain had to get that gold back. Naval Commander Guybon Damant, an experienced salvage diver, was given the job. His task was dangerous with the possibility of encounters with submarines and mines, the harsh northern weather, and a depth of 40 meters (43.7 yards).
Damant’s success didn’t come easily. Strong currents and storms quickly destroyed the ship. From season to season, the divers had to clear out their work areas that had been filled in with silt and debris. The gold compartment had been quickly located during the first season, but when the team returned after a storm, the upper decks had caved in. When the baggage room was finally reached, they found holes in the floor. The heavy gold had fallen through to the bottom of the ship. Most of the wooden boxes had disintegrated and the ingots were loose.

Luxurious with ornate, high-ceilinged public rooms, the Laurentic was popular on
White Star's Liverpool to Montreal or Quebec City route.

Success came slowly. 542 bars were salvaged in 1917; 31 in 1919; only 7 in 1920, 43 in 1921; 895 in 1922; 1,255 in 1923, a banner year; 129 in 1924.
In seven salvage seasons over eight years (none in 1918), Damant’s team recovered 3,186 bars of the original 3,211. The total cost of the operation was £128,000, or 2.5% of the £5 million. The government was thrilled. No deaths or serious injuries resulted despite the limits of diving technology and the highly hazardous conditions.

Divers prepare to search for the Laurentic's lost gold.


In the intervening years, others searched for the missing gold, and found five bars. Twenty bars remain unaccounted for. Anyone interested in taking up diving?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Formidable Lady

Eleanor Roosevelt is known for her public activism and passion for human rights, championing the poor and oppressed. In Eleanor, A Spiritual Biography, the author traces how she came by her religious faith and how it prompted her actions.


She was a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church and her understanding reflected the thinking of many who attend mainline churches. She believed in preparing for eternity by building a just world for all God’s children. This she did through her travel, columns, articles, interviews, and lectures, focusing attention on injustice and inhumane conditions.

A young Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt with James and Anna.

Her outspokenness made her a target of hatred and criticism. She believed it did little good to believe something unless she told her friends and associates her beliefs. She was more concerned with how one lived one’s faith than with the particularities of one’s beliefs. Her personal mantra was “The way your personal religion makes you live your life is the only thing that matters.”


What religion one belonged to didn’t matter as long as one practiced that religion. One of her great-grandsons became a Reconstructionist rabbi, and the author believes that would have pleased her. During World War II, she harbored prejudice against Jews, writing to a friend in Germany, “I realized quite well that there may be a need for curtailing the ascendency of the Jewish people.” Many close friends were Jewish.

After FDR's death, Eleanor served as a UN ambassador.

Jesus’ commands to care for “the least of these” spurred her activism. Yet she did not believe in hell or the virgin birth. She believed the story of Adam and Eve to be allegorical. On the basis of science, it couldn’t be true. For her, there was only one fundamental law: love one another. Everything else, including the Ten Commandments, was all interpretation.

There is no denying the good she did in a time of social upheaval. Her personal feelings may have been contradictory, but she pressed on because she took to heart and practiced the command to love one another.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Remembering The Professor

While clearing out a stack running over with old magazines and books, I found a newspaper clipping from January, 2014. The headline reads, “Russell Johnson, “Gilligan’s Island” professor, has died.”

The Professor and Gilligan: they're both gone now.

What’s the first thing you thought of when reading that name?
High school science teacher Roy Hinkley could rig up a four-bicycle-powered generator, create a glow-in-the-dark substance, and program a robot to walk to Hawaii. At times, he seemed the only level-headed castaway among the cast of seven.

The Professor with one of his gadgets.

The comedy ran for three years in the mid-60s, but remains beloved in syndication. Johnson described the show’s enduring appeal because, “No one gets hurt. No murders. No car crashes. Just good, plain, silly fun – that’s the charm.”
The primitive island setting makes it ageless. That includes the actors. We always see them at the age they were during filming. Johnson was about 40.
His obituary details his World War II service. Like Vinny Zamperini, he was a B-24 bombardier flying missions in the Pacific theater. His plane was shot down over the Philippines and he broke both ankles.

Before Gilligan's Island, Russell Johnson acted in many westerns, often as the villian.


The GI Bill enabled him to enroll in the Actors Lab in Hollywood after his discharge. If not for that, we may not have had The Professor.