21
May

Mrs. Odboddy and Life in the USA during World War II -

Mrs. Odboddy books: Hometown Patriot and Undercover Courier

While researching events during WWII for my humorous mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, and Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, I found some interesting facts about life in the USA during World War II:

Rationing: Because vital supplies were needed for the troops, ration stamp booklets were issued to American housewives. Many items including meat, sugar and fresh fruit were in short supply and could only be purchased with the appropriate ration stamp.

Due to blockades affecting Brazilian ships attempting to bring coffee and sugar to the USA during part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed to one pound per adult every six weeks. (This alone was reason to go to war.)

Eggs were in short supply and costly, resulting in many resident chickens in suburban backyards. See Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv Amazon $3.99

Tires: A citizen was allowed to purchase only five tires during the entire war. By today’s standards, that sounds sufficient, but despite a 35 mph national speed limit, bumpy roads and poor quality rubber led to multiple flat tires. Doctors and public safety professionals were allowed additional tire and gasoline stamps.

Gasoline was rationed to four gallons per week per adult. Folks relied on car pool, buses, bicycles or walking. Men working out of town often boarded away from home and came home only intermittently.
Such shortages of food and other supplies led to black market ration books or ‘arrangements’ between friends willing to sell stamps they didn’t need.

Victory Gardens: Citizens appeared unpatriotic if they didn’t plant a victory garden. Suburban front yards were soon converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Vegetables with a high yield requiring limited growing space became the main ingredient of Meatless Monday meals. Mrs. Roosevelt planted zucchini in the White House Rose Garden.

Watch Towers: Ever fearful of another Japanese air attack on the West Coast, and the limited availability of newly discovered radar technology, volunteers became the ‘early warning system’ in watch towers every several miles along the California and Oregon coastline.

Train Travel: Though trains traveled all the way across the U.S.A. there was no direct line and travelers often had to change from one train to another, with hours long layovers of hours or days between connections.

These events are highlighted in both of my novels. In Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Agnes must take the blame for the destruction of a watch tower in order to prevent a 'top secret' from going public.

In the novel Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier www.http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb Amazon $3.99 Agnes and Katherine travel from California to Washington D.C. to accompany Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour. Carrying a package to the President she believes contains secret war documents, it is no surprise to encounter a man she believes is a Nazi spy. When she is witness to his ‘committing murder,’ she is sure she will be next on his hit list.

Join Mrs. Odboddy on her hysterical romp across the USA. Filled with laugh and suspense, you will enjoy a bit of history along the way.

11
Jan

Remembering Salzburg, Austria

In 1987, my daughter and I traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I kept a diary during that two week journey. Here are the entries from Salzburg, Austria.

Walking through the streets of Salzburg is like walking back into history. One sees houses with flower boxes, painted scenes on the exterior walls of the buildings, church steeples, roofs of clay tiles and bell towers. The streets are cobbled and many of the windows are made of leaded glass.

There are vineyards up on a nearby hillside and an ancient ivy covered building with sagging tile roof across the courtyard lends a medieval flavor to the view. Church spires peak out above the red tile rooftops on nearby houses and unconsciously we scan the faces of the passersby, perhaps expecting to see Mary Poppins. Dates carved on the churches range from the year 1200-1400. One church is said to be 1000 years old.

A kitty sits atop a nearby rooftop, meowing piteously, as tourists peer up and try to decide if he is stuck, hungry, or just bored and teasing the tourists.

We drive along a river and follow a road up the side of a grape-laden hillside to the very top. Below us, a park follows the curve of the river. We can see the tiny train below and churches steeples scattered among the rooftops. A storm is brewing and the sky darkens with rain clouds as we stand atop the mountain, looking down over the city which for hundreds of years is unchanging.

Yes, as modern times came, freeways and electric wires approached the city, the merchandise sold in the stores has changed, and automobiles replaced the horse carriages, which once clip-clopped along the cobbled streets. The narrow lanes remain the same, the lovely churches, fortresses, palaces, and hillsides are unchanged. The city will tolerate progress but it will not give in to it. Our modern conveniences are an intrusion on its medieval splendor.

Visitors from the United States marvel at the unchanging and apparently timelessness of this beautiful country. The land stretches out unspoiled as we compare it to our familiar busy cities. The mountains beckon hikers upward into the cold clean air. Though there are industrial areas, much of the land is still in its wilderness state, as it was at the moment of creation, lush and green and seemingly immune to modern marvels.

In the town of Salzburg, there is a town square where a street musician plays Ave Maria on a violin. Above us pigeons fly from rooftop to rooftop and the music echoes around the courtyard. I let my mind wander and it is easy to imagine the town filled with people coming and going up and down the tiny cobbled streets in horse drawn carts. Over here would be a peddler selling vegetables, and over there a princess is escorted by her ladies-in-waiting. Over here a group of soldiers march down the street, straight and tall, tired from slaying dragons on the hillsides.

Another day and music might have filled this same courtyard, not from the church but from the house down the street where a thin young boy named Mozart plays the harpsichord and writes melodies that will one day make him famous, even several hundred years later.
Over there a beggar sits by the church wall and begs for alms. Many pass him by, even as today, so many hungry people walk our streets and though we call ourselves “more civilized,” how many of us are guilty of turning away?

A horse cart clip-clops by, bringing me back to today as the last beautiful strains of Ave Maria fade into the sky. We give the musician money and move off down the street where we buy a watercolor painting of the church from a local street artist.

25
Dec

Kitty's Blessing - A Christmas Story

Once, in a faraway land, on a crisp winter afternoon, Kitty strode across a hillside, a contented pussy cat, her tummy full and her breath pungent with the after-flavor of this morning’s breakfast mouse. She settled on a warm rock for a snooze in the sunshine near a group of shepherds tending their sheep. As the flock moved down the hillside, the bleating of lambs faded into silence. With her tail curled around her nose, Kitty fell asleep.

The twittering of a bird interrupted her catnap. Kitty’s eye peeked open. The tip of her tail drifted from side to side. What’s this?

She slipped off the rock and inched toward the unsuspecting after-breakfast snack. Kitty’s whiskers snapped to attention. Every hair on her head stood upright. She was a silent warrior armed with experience, girded with strength, clad with skill. The bird was within striking range; distance calculated (ten feet, six and a half inches); wind velocity (twenty-one and a half mph from the south-southeast); thrust computed; muscles poised. She leaped.

The striped instrument of death hurtled toward the beautiful white bird. At the last moment, she fluttered off the bush. Kitty seized her wing and pulled her to the ground.

The white bird shrieked. “Wait! Don’t eat me I’ll make it worth your while if you spare my life.”

Much impressed by the bird’s bravery, as misguided as it was under the circumstances, Kitty paused, curiosity being a trait of her breed, often quoted as being the method of her kind’s demise. “What can possibly change my mind, my pretty?” She tilted her left ear as she licked her lips and tightened her grip on the bird’s wing.

The white bird lifted her elegant head, and folded her one free wing against her quivering body. “If you set me free, I promise, ere the night is over, you will receive a great blessing that will bring honor to you and all your descendants.”

Kitty loosened her grip and pondered the bird’s message. If true, a blessing would be a fine legacy to leave her descendents. Much more likely, the blessing was a ploy to escape. But, what did she have to lose? Intrigued, and frankly, still burping this morning’s mouse, she agreed. “I’ll let you go this time, but if you’re fooling me, next time we meet, I’ll show no mercy.” She lifted her paw.

The grateful captive fluttered from her grasp. She circled, dipping low over Kitty’s head. “Remember! Ere the night is over! I promise,” she cried and disappeared behind a puffy white cloud.

“A blessing! Indeed!” Kitty shook her body from nose to tail, dispelling the idea that she had been foolish to believe such a story.

As the stars blinked across the night sky, Kitty returned to town. She came upon a cave where cows and a donkey nodded, warming the area with their breath. In the corner, a lamb curled next to its mother.

Kitty jumped into the box of straw near the cow, turned around three times and then curled herself into a ball. Gentle snuffles from the lamb combined with the cows’ warm breath created the perfect ambiance for a long winter nap. Kitty was soon fast asleep and dreaming. Dots of white sheep ambled down the dark hillside. Overhead, the white bird darted across a yellow moon as shepherds moved their flock toward town.

Gentle hands lifted Kitty from the straw. She opened her eyes and saw a young bearded man who set her gently on the ground. “Here, Kitty, will you give up your warm bed? It’s just the right size for the baby.” He laid the swaddled infant in the straw where Kitty’s body had molded and warmed a circle of straw.

Kitty lay down beneath the manger, curled her toes into a semi-circle, fascinated by the sudden activity in the stable.

The father heaped up a soft bed of straw for the mother. He hovered nearby, brought her water and covered her with his cloak.

Shepherds from the hillside entered the stable and knelt at the feet of the Babe.

Two white birds fluttered through the open door, circled and came to rest on the edge of the manger. Wasn’t that the same bird she had freed that afternoon? Wonder of wonders, a brilliant light shone above the manger. Where the birds had rested, angels now hovered on each side of the Baby.

In the later hours, three men dressed in fine colored garments came to worship the Baby and presented him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

When the worshipers had gone, in the stillness of the stable, the family slept, while the angels kept watch.

Kitty approached the angels and addressed the angel from earlier in the day. “Angel, I know this is the Promised One the world has waited for. I feel unworthy. The others brought gifts. I have no gift to give.”

“Kitty, Christ Child wants only the gift of our reverence and obedience. Tonight, you willingly gave up your warm bed for the Christ Child. In return you receive a great blessing you and your descendants can treasure for generations to come.”

Kitty curled her tail around her nose and began to dream of cat-things, naps in the sunshine, chasing mice, catching birdsperhaps she would forgo that pleasure in the future. One never knew when the bird might be an angelor when a good deed might turn into a blessing, but none as great as the blessing she had received this night. The chance to warm the bed of the Christ Child.

27
Apr

All Aboard the Friendship Train

FriendshipTrain

While doing research for the WWII novel I’m currently writing, I often find information of little remembered history from WWII. I recently learned of the Friendship Train sent to France and Italy following the war.

Much of Europe was devastated during WWII and following the war, the people continued to suffer years of deprivation, limited food supplies and a slow reconstruction of their towns.

While Drew Pearson, a popular journalist of the time, visited Europe during 1947, he heard that the Communists were being thanked for sending a few carloads of grain to the Europeans. Feeling that the United States could do more to help our European neighbors; he conceived the vision of the Friendship Train. His suggestions appeared in his newscast columns on October 11, 1947. He asked our citizens to donate food and clothing to help the people of France and Italy. I’m sure he must have been amazed at the response to his request.

Immediately, towns, cities, and the citizens of every state in the USA collected food for the Friendship Train. The plan was met with such enthusiasm that competition among the communities, counties, and states began for collecting and sending the largest contribution.

Five weeks later, on November 7, 1947, the Friendship Train began its trek beginning in Los Angeles and ending in New York City. Although the train traveled through only eleven states, every state sent boxcars or trucks filled with goods to meet the Friendship Train at a junction. When it arrived in New York, we had collected and shipped $40 million in food and supplies to Europe aboard the 700-car American Friendship Train.

No money was ever spent in the process. The transportation by rail and truck, the loading of the boxcars and trucks, the loading and the use of the ships was all provided by volunteers and donations. The train's mission was an incredible display of goodwill from the people of the United States to France and Italy.

Every package had this label: "All races and creeds make up the vast melting pot of America, and in a democratic and Christian spirit of good will toward men, we, the American people, have worked together to bring this food to your doorsteps, hoping that it will tide you over until your own fields are again rich and abundant with crops." Also on every label were these words, "This gift is sent to you by: 'first and last name and address of donor.’” This message was written in Italian and French and printed beside the American flag.

In 1949, France reciprocated by collecting 49 boxcars full of gifts donated by the French citizens and returned to the USA in their Merci Train as a thank-you for our generosity. One boxcar went to each state. Upon arrival, the gifts were distributed in various ways. Some freely given, others auctioned off and many items placed in local museums. The boxcars, called 40 and 8 boxcars were vintage, having been used to transport troops during WWI and then again during WWII. Many veterans remembered being transported across Europe in these boxcars. The Merci Train cars were restored and kept in museums across the country as memorials to those who had fought and died. Most of these boxcars have survived, many now over 100 years old, and are on display in museums in 43 states.

More information about the Friendship Train and the Merci Train can be found on the internet.

25
May

Romance-Mystery Writer, Karen Rose Smith

meandzoiekaren

Today we have a guest post from a prolific romance and cozy mystery writer, Karen Rose Smith. Karen is also an animal lover.

Caprice De Luca, home-stager extraordinaire, loves her big Italian family--parents, two sisters, brother and Nana. She likes to cook, wears vintage fashion and is a retro music fan. But most of all, she is an animal lover.

There's a lot of me in Caprice. But never more so than when she's taking care of stray animals and finding them homes. Thirteen years ago, I brought home a very sick black kitten from a friend's family farm. Ebbie and I bonded those first nights when I stayed up with her, applying acupressure to her sinuses so she could breathe. She's been my constant companion ever since, more like a sister than a pet. When we brought her half-sister London home to live with us a few months later, my husband and I thought two cats were enough!

Then two summers ago, we found Zoie Joy in a bush in our backyard. The temperature was 100 degrees. She was dehydrated, starved and needed love and care. She weighed 1½ pounds. She's the baby of the house and lives up to her middle name every day. Because I worried about her mom in that big world without care, we> began leaving food in feral feeders. That brought a sweet yellow tabby to our door who needed love, care, and medical assistance. Lance was only with us a short while, but he wrapped himself around our hearts and gave us an appreciation for living each day to its fullest.

Animals are part of what I write because they're a huge part of my life. I care for them, but they care for me too. Their unconditional love and affection brightens my days and brings comfort when arthritis pain keeps me awake at night.

After writing romance for over twenty years, I'm enjoying branching out into mystery where I can delve into everyone's relationships as well as create an intriguing puzzle. Including my love of animals into my storylines invests my heart in an integral way that I believe brings a core honesty to my novels. In STAGED TO DEATH, the first Caprice De Luca mystery, you will meet her long haired calico cat Sophia and Dylan--a stray part Shiztu and part Pomeranian who is adopted by Caprice's best friend. Two yellow tabby kittens also make an appearance. In DEADLY DECOR—book 2, Caprice takes in a pregnant stray cocker spaniel. In book 3, GILT BY ASSOCIATION—February 2015—you'll meet Lady, a cocker who becomes Caprice's sidekick, as well as Valentine—a gray tabby kitten she finds on a cold winter night in her backyard.

I love to hear about animal rescue stories. You can share them with me anytime on my Facebook page KarenRoseSmithBooks, on Twitter @karenrosesmith or through email at my websites www.karenrosesmithmysteries.com and www.karenrosesmith.com.

STAGED TO DEATH is available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble

DEADLY DECOR will be released on June 3. You can pre-order a copy on Amazon or on Barnes and Noble

16
Sep

AN INTERVIEW WITH ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Ernest Hemingway and CATS
Through the wonders of time-travel and internet technology, today I’m interviewing American author, Ernest Hemingway.

Elaine: “What is the most memorable thing you recall about your childhood?”

Ernest: “My parents had a summer home near Walloon Lake, Michigan when I was four years old. My father taught me to hunt, fish and camp in the woods. This experience instilled in me a passion for outdoor adventure and living in remote places. I guess it set the tone for my need to live an adventurous life.”

Elaine: “What was the first job you ever held?”

Ernest: “I worked as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star for six months right out of high school. They gave me a Style Guide which became the foundation of my writing. ‘Use short sentences and short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.’ See the entire Kansas City Style guide here:

http://www.lostgeneration.com/includes/Hemingwaystylesheet.pdf
Elaine: “Tell us about your first publication.”

Ernest: “After returning from WWI in 1919, I took a fishing trip with high school friends into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The trip inspired the short story, Big Two-Hearted River, where Nick Adams takes to the country to find solitude after returning from war.”

Elaine: “I understand you were influenced by a number of famous people. Can you tell us about them?”

Ernest: “My first wife, Hadley and I moved to Paris in 1921 and I worked as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. While there, I became friends with Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gertrude became my mentor and introduced me to a number of artists and writers - Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro’ and Juan Gris. We collaborated on a book called In Our Times.”

Elaine: “I understand many of your books were inspired by your travels and adventures.”

Ernest: “A safari in East Africa in 1933 inspired Green Hills of Africa and several short stories. To Have and Have Not was published in 1937 while we lived in Spain.”

Elaine: “You love cats, right? You’re a man after my own heart.”

Ernest: “LOL. I learned to love cats when I lived in Cuba with my second wife, Pauline. My first cat was a gray Angora named Princessa (middle cat in photo). Two addition males were purchased and I wrote extensively about one of the kittens named Boise. At that time I was writing For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) based on my experiences during The Spanish Civil War.”

Elaine: “Wasn’t that was your most famous book?”

Ernest: “It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and sold half a million copies within months. That makes it one of my favorites.”

Elaine: “And then in 1954, you won the Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘mastery of the art of narrative and the influence exerted on contemporary style’ as demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea. That’s pretty impressive, too.”

Ernest: “I felt that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen or Bernard Berenson deserved the prize more than me, but the prize money was welcome.”

Elaine: “You’re too modest. Here is what you wrote in a speech to be read in Stockholm, as you were not able to attend to receive your prize. “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

Elaine: “You have led an exciting life. Can you leave us with any words of wisdom for writers and to regular folks?”

AUTHOR CORNER: “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes, like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
E. Hemingway.

EVERYDAY FOLKS: “I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” E. Hemingway

*Source: Ernest Hemingway - Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway

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