Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Historical perspective of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election on the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor


It’s been 75 years since the United States entered World War II.  Spurred into action after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the men and women who made up what would become known as the ‘greatest generation’ defied the odds that favored fascism over freedom and peace.  Today, only 10% of the men who took on Hitler and the other fascist leaders of the Axis Powers still live.  I've been thinking a lot about their generation since learning Donald Trump would be our nation's 45th president. I’ve taken time to consider what my grandparents, who came from that generation, would have made of such a man; a man known to ‘say it as it is’ with little thought or care for the potential impact of his actions or words; a man prone to boisterous claims and empty promises.  In his own quest for power, Trump took political advantage of a beleaguered faction of the populace, promising easy solutions to complex issues.  In contemplating what the WWII generation would have thought of Trump had he run for president then instead of now, I come back to the thought that the men and women who came of age during that period saw several demagogues enter the world stage.  From the blood and ashes of WWI rose Spain’s Francisco Franco, Japan’s Hideki Tojo, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, and Germany’s Adolf Hitler.  Like Trump, they spoke to the disenfranchised, the angry, and the malcontent to whip up a messiah-like devotion from their followers.  As a student of history, I watched in utter disbelief as Donald Trump, a present day ‘rabble rouser’ known for insult and vitriol, rose within a breath away from holding the highest political office of a country that became the world’s premiere power following WWII. I look back on history for answers, and while I find those answers in the past, there’s little reassurance that things will work out well for the world when we fail to heed the lessons of that past.

While we give justified praise to the men and women who took on the fascist dictatorships that threatened to darken the world during WWII, it’s worth noting that, as a whole, they were only able to attain their greatness under the steady, brave leadership of men like Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  It was Churchill in particular who spoke out against the threat that was Hitler, showing an uncanny understanding of the danger Hitler posed to civilization. History has rightly sided with the Anglo-American coalition who fought against totalitarianism, but to truly gain insight, we’d need to compare the Allied populace and leaders to those of whom they fought against. We also need to consider that even “good” men like FDR were not infallible; they, too, were capable of falling prey to the ignorance and hate of their times.  Let us not forget that it was President Roosevelt who approved the rounding up of a whole race, interring all Japanese-Americans for the duration of the war with no reason except for the discrimination of their race.  This ill-advised executive decision rightly besmirches FDR’s otherwise intact presidential reputation.   In a greater sense, to fully understand the ‘greatest generation’ that saved civilization from tyranny, we’d need to also consider those of their generation whom they fought against.  

As the 1930’s made way for a new decade, Adolf Hitler was at the precipice of world domination.  He and his fascist friends had reached that point by having taken advantage of the economic depression and moral degradation that the First World War and subsequent treaty had inflicted upon Germany.  To achieve their aim, they carefully chose to scapegoat an entire race for the troubles they had endured since their defeat at the end of the First World War. They began to slowly seep the public’s collective consciousness in misinformation and lies in their effort to sway public opinion their way.  They offered over-simplified and ill-conceived solutions to the weighty economic issues that had befallen the German people as a result of the disastrous Treaty of Versailles.  While there were decent Germans who stood against Hitler, the finely-tuned, manipulative, armored Nazi machine allowed Hitler to quickly and forcibly remove any and all political threats that stood between him and ultimate power.  Once that power was achieved, a war-weary world continued to vacillate and waiver.  Great Britain’s Neville Chamberlain will forever be infamously tied to the claim that he had achieved ‘peace for our time’ after meeting with Hitler.  He had allowed his naiveté to cloud his better judgment. The choice Chamberlain and the world made to ignore the risk Hitler posed to the world would eventually lead to over 60 million people being killed between the war years of 1939-1945. Chamberlain and others like him chose to give credence to Hitler’s false promises; placing undue reliance on his word for the sake of blind belief that the world could not possibly return to the blood of the previous World War.  They chose ignorant bliss, refusing to contemplate the consequences of their own actions (or, in this case, inactions).  They rationalized and failed to see how they would be justifiably judged by future generations.  Part of what could be gleaned from the years immediately preceding the Second World War is the hazard of placing faith in a demagogue who arrives on the world’s stage willing to demonize factions of society while promising to correct the ills of the world singlehandedly.  As countries minimized Hitler’s words and actions, Winston Churchill alone warned of the dangers of ignoring the threat Hitler posed and the risk it meant to civilization; and, still, the world abandoned reason, minimized the peril, belittled Churchill’s warnings as overblown and exaggerated, and gave free reign to Hitler’s rise.  When contemplating the weight and extent of what freedom loving people of that generation needed to overcome to earn the title of the ‘greatest’, we must consider that before they had to endure the trials and tribulations that Hitler set into motion, they had to suffer through the appeasement of the less forward-minded members of their generation; those who were willing to ignore, condone, or make excuses for Hitler’s actions.
 
History informs that there will always be narcissistic leaders who wish to impose their will upon the world with the intention of rending silent the decency and peace in which people wish to live.  Their will is driven by their whims and for the sole purpose of satisfying their personal lust for power and control.  Too often, history has proven that when we follow such leaders, we not only fail to heed history’s lessons, we are doomed to repeat the past.  Totalitarian leaders enforce complete adherence to what they desire. They bristle at any form of criticism, demanding utter acquiesce to their ideas.  Balancing decisive leadership, cooperation, and diplomacy is not a part of their repertoire.  Freedom of speech and public dissent are squashed.  Truth is deemed only accessible through the mouth and ideas of the leader.  Information is manipulated and warped to such a degree that truth is no longer recognizable.   History does not look kindly on dictator-like personalities when they are placed in positions of power.  Their insatiable egos and need for power quickly overcome any semblance of reason in times of great decision. 

During the election process, Donald Trump’s detractors claimed their uneasiness regarding his temperament, and wondered if it was conducive to the job for which he sought.  They described their fear over his racist, xenophobic talk. Students of history have gone so far as to compare Trump to the likes of Hitler.  Conversely, those who voted for Trump have claimed indignation at their candidate (now president-elect) being compared to the notoriously evil Hitler.  They become angry at the thoughts of being compared to those who supported Hitler in his own rise to power.  No matter the degree or relevancy of such a comparison (to which history supports), those who voted for Trump must bear some responsibility and ownership, no matter how much or little they choose to accept.  By Donald Trump’s own admission, through his own recorded words and deeds, there is a blatant disregard for decency and truth that we would be remiss to ignore.  To ignore the relevance of history is for us to be as morally culpable as those who turned a blind eye on the fascist past that almost destroyed civilized humanity in the mid-twentieth century.  My hope is that we, the present generation, will hold the new President-elect to the standards that are allowed by democracy; to use our voices to rail against any outright injustice or act of degradation and  immorality that is beneath the office he will soon hold.  To fail at this task would be to be just as guilty as those who ignored the egregious actions that led the world to near cataclysmic depths during the reign of death and destruction of the Second World War. 

On this, the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor, in honor of those who risked everything to fight against the fascist bonds of totalitarianism, we need to ensure that we learn from the lessons of that time. We must continue to hold our new President-elect accountable for his decisions. By understanding our history, we hope to prevent him and the world from taking regressive steps; steps that would only serve to harken back to the dark period in history that was the Second World War.  We owe it to those who lived and fought through that war that much.  We owe it to ourselves and future generations to ensure that what they fought for and achieved will not be lost.  In doing this, we will have paid them the due diligence their sacrifice deserves.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Author's Notes from THE SANCTITY OF LOVE AND WAR


    
      It's been three years this December since THE SANCTITY OF LOVE AND WAR has been published.  Like many, I find my thoughts dwelling on Christmases past this time of year.  My own past is tied irrevocably to my grandparents who were a part of the generation that defined the Second World War; the generation that I hoped to have honored in writing the novel.  Whenever I hear Bing Crosby's White Christmas, I think of the American soldiers from that time in history, so far from home, longing for their families and happier Christmas memories.  I contemplate the men, many of whom were still boys, huddling in their foxholes for warmth and cover during a battle that began only nine days before Christmas 1944 -- The Battle of the Bulge; a battle that would continue through Christmas before the Allies would finally be able to claim victory at the end of January 1945.  Many of those boys never made it home to see another Christmas.  I think of men like Steve Peakler who died during the Bulge, never to enjoy the kind of peaceful holiday we're all free to enjoy because of his and other's sacrifice that Christmas of 1944.  For this reason, I can't help but think of the WWII generation during Christmas.  Here's what was written in the Author's Notes section of THE SANCTITY OF LOVE AND WAR:

Author’s Note

            I am indebted to the generation of Americans who lived during World War II.  There is a reason why they’ve come to be known as “the greatest generation”.  My maternal grandmother meticulously kept letters her brothers wrote to her during the time they fought in Europe.  Their words helped set the tone and feel of the letters found throughout this book.
            While Mark Linton is a fictitious character, the deeds described which led to the honor of him receiving the Navy Cross were based, in part, on those of my father’s cousin, Anthony Francis “Frank” Gilroy.  Frank did indeed serve as a lieutenant, Navy Dive Bomber, on the USS Hancock during WWII.  For his heroism during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, he was awarded the Navy Cross.  Thankfully, Frank survived the war.  Today, he lives with his family on Long Island.  He is one of the few remaining heroes of that period in history.
            Like most of his generation, Frank expects no accolades or thanks for what he accomplished during the war.  When I contacted him to offer my appreciation and gratitude for what he had risked and achieved, he humbly brushed aside my words.  Consistent with his generation, he was more content disavowing my acknowledgement of his deeds, preferring instead to continue to live his life in a peaceful, unassuming manner.
            The character of Steve Peakler is based on a man who had the same name.  Steve hailed from Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and like many men during that time, he left a sweetheart behind.  That girl was my grandmother’s younger sister.  I found a letter Steve had written to my grandmother when he was in Europe.  In that letter, he reminded my grandmother to never take for granted the freedoms that peace afforded back in the States.  In that same letter, he shared his hopes and dreams for the future as well as his desire to make it home.  Unfortunately, that day never came.  Corporal Steve J. Peakler was killed on December 21, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.  My grandmother and great-aunt never forgot Steve.  I can still recall the loving way they always spoke of him.  Including him in this book was my small way of honoring his memory.
            This book started out as an honest attempt to make sense of the world and its history.  The decision to base it in the time period in which it’s set was no accident.  My siblings, cousins, and I grew up with a reverent-like love and appreciation for our grandparents.  Setting the book during the 1940’s was, in part, to honor them.
            After my grandparents passed away, I came across old notebooks and journals my grandmother carefully kept through the years.  She and her friends had a social club that existed and continued throughout the war years.  The minutes contained in those journals and notebooks of their monthly meetings served as a rich source of information of what life must have truly been like during the war for those who were left behind.  Included were the details of life, ranging from the mundane to the more serious.  It was from here that I could almost imagine what nightly blackouts were like as the ladies described such things as having “a leisurely discussion in the dark”.  Through their words, the past came back to life.  I was reminded again that life in America went on despite the war.
            The present generation often lacks an understanding of or curiosity for what that generation accomplished and experienced.  I hope this book serves as a reminder that we will forever be indebted to the humble men and women who made the world a better place through their deeds and actions during one of the most crucial times in world history.

Amy M. Ferguson
September 2012

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A conversation with English author David Cook

 



In the past, I've stated that one of the highlights of writing and publishing THE SANCTITY OF LOVE AND WAR has been connecting with other writers.  It's always a benefit to share with other writers the process of writing itself, for no one but a writer fully understands the courage, sacrifice, dedication, and drive needed to begin and complete a writing project.  It's been a real pleasure getting to know English writer and published author, David Cook.  Recently, he was kind enough to take the time to share some thoughts about his latest writing endeavor -- the Fire and Steel Anthology connected with the five novellas that encompass his series, The Soldiers Chronicles: Liberty or Death (#1), Heart of Oak (#2), Blood on the Snow (#3), Marksman (#4), & Death is a Duty (#5). 

Here's what he had to say to some of the questions I posed to him:

For those readers who don’t know, what is the Fire and Steel anthology?

Fire and Steel is a compilation of the first 5 books of The Soldier Chronicles historical series. The stories; all novella's, are snap-shots of life as a different soldier in the period of long war 1793-1815. All fiction, but very much based on actual events.

What led you to revise and expand The Soldier Chronicle novellas now?

I wrote/finished Death is a Duty in April and fortune's good wheel allowed me to spend 9 days in June, Belgium, during the bicentenary anniversary of the Waterloo campaign. I was sat on the battlefield, high up where Napoleon's grande battery tried to shatter Wellingtons ridge, enjoying lunch with my good friend Adam, on the 18th - the day of the battle- and I overheard some Scotsmen (in full military redcoat campaign gear) talk and I thought I hadn't taken that into consideration with Adam Bannerman, the story's protagonist. So I made some corrections on the spot. I also had a chance to revisit the parts of the battle which I had written but not seen in the flesh. I was pleased to see I'd been miraculously good with positioning troops in my head in relation to the positions of the actual battle, who could see what, distances, that sort of thing.
With that in mind I then went back to the other four stories and re-edited them. I made corrections, re-jigged parts, expanded dialogues, and with the series now enhanced, I'm very pleased with the end result.

Fire and Steel comes from dialogue spoken in Blood on the Snow - I thought it was quite fitting to have the anthology named this way.

You’ve shared in the past that you gained your love of history, in part, thanks to the influence of your father.  How important do you think a working knowledge of the past is, especially as it pertains to younger generations?

I think it's not only extremely fascinating and wonderful to see how people lived in the past, it’s equally important that we keep their language, arts, beliefs, literature, and their knowledge alive. I honestly think we can learn from the past. And if we don't record or study it, then it will be lost to time. When the Romans left Britain sometime by the 5th century, the Britons and subsequent generations had no knowledge of how to build proper stone roads, bridges and buildings.
 
How would you describe your research & writing practices?


Research is never-ending. I enjoy it, but writing is the best part. I sketch out a rough idea what the story will be and let the characters take over. Sounds chaotic? Well, I've known authors who plot everything down the smallest detail. I've never been able to. I just let the writing flow.
 
What draws you to the time periods of which you write?
 
The Soldier Chronicles are standalone novella's. That is because they will form companion pieces to a planned series of work that I'd like to try down the traditional published route. If time, money, luck and talent have anything to do with it, that is. The novella's do touch the Revolutionary Wars period, 1793-1801, and the Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815, and it's the battles, uniforms, politics, military skill and characters that truly fascinate me.

At the core of each one of your stories is the journey of an individual soldier.  To go further, each of your novella’s heroes is forged by his experiences in war.  How do you as a writer get into the mindset of a soldier, particularly one who lived two centuries ago?

I read memoirs of combatants and try to understand what they went through. I've read letters from soldiers of the American Civil Wars, the two World Wars and as up-to-date with the conflicts of the Middle East. Uniforms, weapons and training always change, but at heart every soldier is the same, same emotions. Same human stories. I try to make the characters as human as I can. When soldiers that have survived battles and skirmishes when friends haven't and they have to carry on, it's very heart-breaking to read.

You’ve written 5 novellas to date in the Soldiers Chronicles.  Can you offer readers any glimpses of what to expect in book 6?

The 6th book is called Tempest and it's about the last invasion of Great Britain. 1797, a French force managed to slip through the wooden walls of the Royal Navy and land in Pembrokeshire, Wales. There they wanted to unite the workers, spread liberty and revolutionary zeal and burn the city of Bristol to the ground. Can they be stopped in time? Tempest will be out, Spring, 2016.

You live in Leicestershire, England – a history-rich locale, especially as it pertains to another period of history of which you’re interested…fifteenth century English Civil War known as The Wars of the Roses.  You’ve written a story about Robin Hood which has its place in that time period.  Any plans to write anything else about that tumultuous time in England’s history?

Yes, I've been very lucky to live in Leicestershire. Not only did I move here in time for Richard III to be discovered, but the correct site of the Battle of Bosworth was found. The county also saw action from the later English Civil Wars between King Charles and Parliament. And just across the border the Robin Hood legend stretches from Nottinghamshire to Derbyshire. The Midlands are rich in history. I love it! I've written about all of them, but when they'll see the light of day, I'm not sure. I will say that my Robin Hood tale, The Wolfshead, has been revisited in the Summer as the material on my tumblr blog and wattpad gets very high views and comments. So perhaps, watch this space...

As a whole, Americans have sometimes been accused of lacking a curiosity for or about anything historical.  What can you share with American readers that might entice them to turn to the historical fiction genre as a potential source of reading material?

I think it boils down to education. Not only from school teachers, but from parents. It's about educating and there's a fabulous site called www. gratefulamericanfoundation.com for adults and children. Someone wrote on there that ''reading history is not boring, it can enrich your life, open your eyes, improve skills and engage''. I agree. There are some brilliant works by authors who you are missing out on. For me it's like music; that feeling when you discover a new song or band and go ''I wish I had discovered you earlier in my life''. Yes, that happens to me a lot. Like I thought late 50's/60's music was terrible, then I listened to Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Stones, Pink Floyd and suddenly there was all this great music I could have never known.
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For any lover of well-researched and written historical fiction or for anyone interested in learning more about the period of which David writes, I highly recommend the FIRE AND STEEL ANTHOLOGY.  I promise, it would be worth your time.
I want to thank David for taking the time to share his thoughts and for continuing to write worthy historical fiction.  I know I speak for many when I wish him the best in all his future writing endeavors!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Memory of Corporal Steve J. Peakler on the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge



This month marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, that famous WWII Allied victory that proved to be the final blow to Hitler’s efforts towards world domination.  By in large, since the Allies’ successful landing on the Normandy shores of France six months earlier, the Allies had pushed Hitler and his forces to the brink of defeat.  The Bulge was Hitler’s last great chance to stem that tide.  It was during the Battle of the Bulge that Corporal Steve J. Peakler of Dunmore, Pennsylvania was killed in action on Dec. 21, 1944 at Elsenborn Ridge in the Ardennes forest of Belgium.  He was 28 years old.  Steve was one of the 19,000 Americans who was killed during the battle that lasted from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945.
 
History often credits the fight for the hub town of Bastogne as the key turning point in the battle, but it is important to note that Elsenborn Ridge was just as central, if not more crucial to the Allies’ victory.  Like Bastogne, the Elsenborn Ridge was a hub from which key roads sprung; roads that led to the essential Meuse River and the tactical port city of Antwerp.  The Americans stationed there were burdened with the task of preventing the most elite of Hitler’s troops from reaching the nearby towns, towns that held large amounts of supplies – supplies the Germans would need if they were to advance the battle.

Steve was attached to the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd U.S. Army Division present at the battle that December.  At Elsenborn Ridge, Steve and his fellow Americans successfully stopped the strongest armored units the Germans had in play during the battle – renowned Panzer tank units esteemed so highly by Hitler himself.  It's worth noting that the only American sector of the front line that wasn’t pushed back by the German advance during the Battle of the Bulge was at Elsenborn Ridge.  Corporal Peakler was one of 5,000 Americans who gave his life to defend that essential, defensive, Allied position.

In an address to the House of Commons in London following the Battle of the Bulge, Winston Churchill said, “This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever famous American victory.”  Seventy years after that battle, we should remember all those like Steve Peakler who gave their own lives and futures to ensure that we might enjoy ours in the peace that this victory and others like it secured for us.

Corporal Peakler is buried at the Henri-Chapelle American War Cemetery in Liege, Belgium.  He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.  He entered service on Jan. 24, 1941 as a Private in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  He rests with 7,992 other American soldiers who were killed during WWII and buried at Henri-Chapelle Cemetery in Belgium.  On the seventieth anniversary of that famous battle and Steve’s passing, we owe Steve and all those who gave so unselfishly of themselves to remember and honor their sacrifice with the respect and dignity it so rightly deserves.


Friday, September 12, 2014

A review of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

     Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, is the remarkable true story of Army Air Force Lieutenant Louis Zamperini. An Olympian from the 1936 Berlin games, Zamperini’s life as a world-class runner would be turned upside down as he found himself pulled into WWII with the rest of his generation. Zamperini would become a bombardier in the Army Air Force, finding himself stranded on a raft for weeks with two other survivors after their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. From here his story becomes an incomparable study on the nature of one man’s endurance to survive the harsh truths of war.

     After the Japanese pulled Louie and pilot Russell Allen Phillips from the ocean, the unspeakable cruelty at the hands of the American airmen's captors becomes beyond what is considered acceptable among civilized people. With a total disregard for the Geneva Conventions' rules that were put in place after WWI to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners of war, the Japanese embarked on a torturous & unjustifiable rampage against their prisoners.

     Unbroken is certainly not an easy read, but it demands to be read as it speaks to the greatness of Louis Zamperini’s generation and what they achieved for the world through their courage. His story does not end with the conclusion of the war nor with his liberation from the prisoner of war camp, but continued through to his redemption. His post-war story is a stark reminder of what the survivors of war must have endured to reclaim their lives (if they were so lucky to do so). Fortunately for Louis Zamperini and those whom he touched and loved, he was able to find a place of forgiveness, peace, and joy again in his life. Author Laura Hillenbrand’s telling of how he achieved this conclusion for himself is well thought-out and delivered.

     I wanted to read this book before the premiere of the movie about Mr. Zamperini’s life due in theatres in December of 2014. Mr. Zamperini passed away recently, before his story was projected onto the screen for the world to see. Before he did, Louis Zamperini showed the world what it meant to survive with dignity and grace, and showed how he was able to transform the struggle and strife he experienced during the war into forgiveness and hope.

     Great books are transformative. Unbroken is one of those -- it stays with you long after the final page has been read. With what Louis Zamperini and those like him endured, we should expect no less.         

Friday, May 2, 2014

Reflections


It’s been almost 1 ½ years since The Sanctity Of Love And War was first published.  Since that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken part in many book club discussions, book signings, and a book reading.  I’ve also had the pleasure to be interviewed about the experience of writing the novel.  Each experience has led to a greater awareness of myself in relationship to the book that I’ve written.  Since this was the time of year when I first handed-in my original manuscript to an editor, I thought it was an appropriate time to reflect upon the process of arriving at the final draft of the book.
It was April of 2012 when I first made the decision to publish the novel I’d been working on for almost two years.  When I had first begun to write, it was with the belief that no one but I would ever read the words I had committed to the page.  The act of writing was and remains to be a very unique and personal experience for me.   Allowing the public access to my inner thoughts, even if they were in the form of fiction, was a daunting prospect.  Once I let go of those fears, I decided that I wanted to incorporate my own internal questioning with what I had come to know of the world around me.  This included my past relationships as well as what I had learned spiritually from those who were more evolved than I. 
My sense of grounding was rooted in my upbringing, particularly as it pertained to the influence my maternal grandparents had in my life.  My siblings, cousins, and I all benefited from their strong sense of family.  To this day, we don’t take for granted those lessons that were handed down to us by our grandparents -- first generation Americans who had the right set of values and priorities in life.  In many ways, I felt more connected to their generation than I’ve ever really felt to my own.  As a child I would sit with them, soaking in their stories and influence, knowing even then how fortunate I was to have their presence in my life.  As a result of this truth, the character of Piper was born.
To a large extent, the decision to plunge Piper and the character of Bo into an internal struggle for acceptance derived from my experiences as a drug and alcohol counselor.  The years in that field have never left me, and despite the fact that I have been out of that line of work for almost twelve years, I still identify with it, and, in many ways, still consider myself an addictions therapist.  I was always intrigued by the sense of acceptance when the world doesn’t bend to one’s whims, the possibility that someone could surrender to the idea of powerlessness, and the human capacity to let go in the face of doubt and fear.  I’ve had mentors, friends, and clients who successfully made these things a part of their personal creed.  Their own struggles with addiction as well as their ultimate ability to transcend them brought them to a deeper understanding and appreciation of life.  It made me wonder how someone without the hurdle of addiction but who’s still plagued with doubts and struggles might arrive at the same place of spiritual peace.  In place of addiction, I chose the circumstances of war in which to place my heroine.  Piper, already predisposed to being a thoughtful, deep soul based on the influence of her grandfather, was ripe for the internal struggle that a war would bring to her life.
When I think back on the beginnings of The Sanctity Of Love And War, it was a forgone conclusion that it would be set during one of the most pivotal times during my grandparents’ lives – World War II.  My memories of my grandparents coupled with my experiences as a drug and alcohol counselor were the foundation for the book.  From the day the original manuscript was sent to my editor, I’ve been able to connect with so many wonderful people from that generation – my grandparents’ generation.  There are very few left in my family who were alive during that time, and each day, as a nation, we lose more and more from that generation.  It’s out of the deepest regard for them that the characters from the novel were created. 
I recommend to everyone to seek out those still living from that time.  Whether it’s a visit to a local veterans’ home, a talk with a family member, neighbor, or friend who was living during the time of that war, or a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the WWII Memorial, the small effort you make to connect to the past would be rewarded tenfold.  If you allow yourself to be open to the past, you can hear the voices and lessons clearly drifting through the years.  It’s a lesson I learned as a little girl listening to and spending time with my grandparents. 
The idea of being a present and willing listener was only heightened when I became a drug & alcohol counselor.  It was here that I learned to see the power of humble transcendence.  The recovery concepts of acceptance and surrender are living symbols of survival and humanity, two key points I hoped to cover in the book.  Hopefully, the lessons learned from the generation that survived World War II as well as those gained from working with those who have survived their ordeals with addiction have been thoughtfully laid out in The Sanctity Of Love And War.
Writing remains for me a self-exploratory way to try to understand the world.  As a licensed therapist, I appreciate the importance of self-exploration in context with one’s past, present, and potential.  What started out as an honest effort at self-discovery and insight into the world around me provided me with so much more than I could have ever dreamed.  The insights, connections, experiences, and relationships that have arisen from the publication of The Sanctity Of Love And War have been humbly gratifying – something for which I will forever remain thankful.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Honoring the Generation that inspired THE SANCTITY OF LOVE AND WAR



    THE SANCTITY OF LOVE AND WAR is set during one of the most tumultuous times in our nation's (and the world's) history.  Almost 70 years have passed since the end of World War II, but the legacy of that generation is one that I think is important for present and future generations to revere.  It's no secret that my respect for the generation of WWII was one of the main reasons why I chose that time period for my novel.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from that time, and ongoing respect to be paid to those who lived through it. 
     Recently, my nieces and nephew joined me in delivering cookies to the veterans of WWII who reside at the Gino Merli Center in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I felt this would provide a positive lesson for the younger set of this present generation so they might understand the gift that the WWII generation has given to them through their sacrifices.  My nephew in particular was interested in speaking with the veterans.  We spoke at length to a gentleman who was present and who vividly recalled the events of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  He told my nephew his memory of playing sports with his friends when the surprise attack began.  It was wonderful to see the interest in my nephew's eyes as this elderly man held his attention through his compelling storytelling.  My nephew was in awe to be speaking to a living war hero, someone who went on to fight in the war and come through to live and tell the tale.  What was perhaps the most compelling part of the story was the fact that there was no bravado or ego involved in its telling -- something quite typical of the generation who lived that war.
     I'm a firm believer that history shouldn't and need not merely be words written on some dusty pages.  It should be a living, breathing reminder of what has happened in the past.  Our history teachers have a challenge to invite interest on the part of their young students; to seek out the living remnants of the past; to inform in such a way as to ignite passionate curiosity in the young minds of the present generation.  This isn't an easy challenge, but it's one I think we owe to those who sacrificed what they did so that we might be free to have open discussions about our past.  It's a challenge, but it is possible.  All one needs to do to understand this possibility is to imagine the face of a young boy who reverently listened as an old man spoke of the past.   This elderly man, a living history in and of himself, held a young boy's interest in his hands as he relived for him an infamous day in history over 70 years ago.