Matthew 14:6

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Matthew 24:6 KJV

Friday, December 7, 2018

I Am An American - The Cover

My story, I Am An American, is still part of the anthology, Pearl Harbor & More: Stories of WWII. However, I recently published it as a single.

One look at the cover will give the impression that it does not scream "NOVEL SET DURING WARTIME." No, except for the prologue and epilogue told from the point of view of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto which  bracketed this story, the bulk of it takes place in a San Joaquin Valley farming community in central California. At the time, the last thing on the minds of two high school seniors planning on where they would go to college the next year was war.

In the middle of the communities now known as Livingston, Cressey and Cortez (Cortez is now a street, no little town I can find.) was the Yamato Colony comprised of about 100 families who had immigrated from Japan between 1900 and 1920. They came for opportunities to obtain farmland (later Japanese immigrants were forbidden to purchase land) and to practice their Christian faith since Christianity was not overly-popular in Japan. The majority of them raised peaches, although they did farm other crops which they packed and sold to the larger cities.

Although discrimination against anyone different than themselves ran strong among the residents of the San Joaquin Valley as it did most places in the United States (and Japan--most Japanese did not like Americans.), Ellen Osaki and Flo Kaufmann had come together and become good friends due to both of them being excellent students and sharing most of the same classes in high school. They are depicted at the top of the cover.

The structure on the cover is a tank house. I have seen these scattered around the countryside where I live and originally thought they were carriage houses. However, these structures which ranged from ten feet by ten feet to larger at the base, were at least two stories high, but generally three stories high. They were designed to hold a water tank on the top level. Gravity provided the force to deliver the water to the household and land outside. The levels were reached by stairs often built on the outside.

The image of a tank house I used on the banner for this blog was taken on Yamato Street in Livingston, what had been in the heart of the Yamato Colony. The photo of the tank house with the windmill still attached from the same era I used on the book cover was taken a few miles north of the boundaries of what had been the Yamato Colony.

As told in my story, Ellen explained to Flo she could remember when she was a young child and her family still lived in the tank house. The bottom floor was used for a living and kitchen area (although in the hot San Joaquin Valley summers, the Japanese-style stove was moved outdoors), and the family slept on the second floor. If her father hired farm laborers to help during the busy times, they often slept on the third floor around the water tank.

In the summer it seldom rains in the San Joaquin Valley, so water needed to be pumped from the ground. Also, there were several irrigation districts which had been organized decades earlier to provide the farm areas of the Valley with water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains snow melt. At certain times of the year, notably in November and early December, these canals are visited by migrating white cranes. Lily, Ellen's sister, is an artist who decided that year to create a watercolor and India ink painting for her mother's Christmas present. Flo viewed the painting and declared it to be beautiful and peaceful.

The quiet of farm life and the beauty and peace of the cranes Lily painted were in stark contrast to the hateful events and comments both Ellen and Flo experienced in the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Here is an excerpt from the Osaki's reaction to President Roosevelt's declaration of war on Germany and Japan that they listened to on the radio December 8, 1941:

Hiro Osaki turned off the radio after listening to the same broadcast as the Kaufmann family. Harry, the oldest son, had quietly translated the President’s message into Japanese for the benefit of his mother and grandfather. Now the family sat around the radio in silence.

            Hiro turned to his wife Fumiko. Fumiko’s eyes met his. She spoke first. “This will mean much trouble for our family.”

            Hiro nodded in acknowledgement. The Issei were accustomed to discrimination, but this war would ratchet it up to a whole new level.

            Hiro’s father spoke up. “America has been strangling life out of Japan for years. They have tried to keep our homeland a country of backward farmers. They have their own natural resources, yet like the English and Dutch they come into Asia to take away the petroleum, metals and other natural resources Japan needs to modernize and defend its people. The only way to stop America from stealing from Asia is for Japan to drive them out.”

            Hiro bowed to his father. “That may be so. Still, it is a sad day for our adopted land. We have worked diligently to be friends with our Caucasian neighbors, but this declaration of war against Japan will mean even more challenges for us in the colony.”

            Grandfather Osaki grunted his disdain. “You have put too much faith in your Christian religion. You will find the Caucasians do not follow the teachings of this Jesus you have chosen to believe in. The Caucasian Christians will only see your Japanese faces and turn on you.”

            “We have always struggled to be accepted, Father. But we have our friends among the Caucasians. We will continue to live our Christian religion.”

            Ellen bowed and spoke respectfully to her grandfather. “Ojii-chan, I don’t understand all you say about the wrongs done by the United States to Japan. But I do have faith my Caucasian friend Flo will remain my friend.”

            “Bah! She will turn on you.”

You may still read this story as part of the anthology, Pearl Harbor & More. To find the book description and purchase link for I Am An American published as a single, please CLICK HERE.

I am not a gifted crossword puzzle-maker. However, I did put together a crossword puzzle of some of the key words from this story and the situation as a whole. If you are interested in working it, I suggest you right-click the image to copy and paste it to a landscape Word document set with narrow margins and then print it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: SHANGHAI STORY by Alexa Kang

Today I am featuring Alexa Kang's latest 
World War II novel, 
Shanghai Story, a World War II Drama

About Shanghai Story: 

A WWII saga in the heart of the world's most decadent city in 1936. Enter the Paris of the East, where one man and one woman strive to hold on to their dreams as the Communists rise and the shadow of Japan closes in.


         Before she could think further, Zelik said, “I have to tell you, I have doubts about hiring a woman for a reporter. You will be asked to do regular news reports on top of your weekly column. I want people who can get tough and dirty. I expect my reporters to dig into every nook and cranny and get the story. I need to see proof that you can do that. I'll give you a two-month trial period. If you can show me you can handle my assignments, the job is yours, and you can start your column.”
         What more could she ask? “Thank you, Mr. Zelik.”
         Zelik got up and open the door. “Dottie.”
         Dottie hurried into his office. “Yes, Mr. Zelik.”
         “Miss Levine here will be joining our staff.” He turned to Eden. “Dottie will get you set up and get you on payroll. Can you start next week?”
         Eden stood up. “Yes, sir.”
         “One more thing. There's someone I'd like you to meet.” He called out to the floor again, “Charlie.”
         A man, in his late twenties or early thirties, entered.
         For a moment, Charlie looks surprised, but he quickly recovered. “Welcome on board.” He winked. His slicked-back hair looked a little too perfect.
         “This is Charlie Keaton, our senior editor,” Zelik said to Eden. "He's been with us for six years. He can show you the ropes. Learn from him.”
         “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Keaton.” Eden put on her best smile.
         “Good,” Zelik said. “Just remember, this is a tough job. You're not hired to write the society page, you understand?”

My Book Review of Shanghai Story, a World War II Drama:

The book description, although enticing, does not do justice as far as describing this story. Along with the macro events that took place in China in 1936, many of which I as a Westerner did not have a good knowledge, this story covers so much more. For example, while Great Britain and the United States of America turned away Jewish refugees rather than offer them asylum from the growing Nazi threat, China allowed them to enter. The heroine in this story is Eden Levine who, along with her family, were able to escape Germany before the Nazi threat progressed to the point those with Jewish ancestry were stripped of all their wealth and denied exit visas.

Anyone who loves a good romantic suspense will enjoy this book. Miss Levine obtains a job as a reporter for a Jewish newspaper. Due to the complexities of jurisdiction between the British, American and French sectors along with the Chinese sections of the city, she ends up becoming an investigative reporter who solves a crime committed against someone close to her. The author did a magnificent job of weaving the history and customs in China in general and Shanghai in particular at that time to keep the story flowing so it made sense in the cultural context.

Municipalities Flag from the 1930's

The hero, Yuan Guo-Hui, who adopted the name of Clark while he went to school for six years in the United States, idealistically chooses to work for the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT), who was in control of the government, instead of accepting a job to prepare to take over his family’s business.  He soon learns of the level of corruption he must deal with, and the distasteful nature of some tasks required of him to support Chaing Kai-shek who was trying to keep the Communists under Mao Ze Dong from taking over the government.

Eden and Clark often met, often worked together, enjoyed socializing among family and friends, but remained aware of the cultural barriers. They used their connections to see justice was done even where the hands of the government and law enforcement were tied. It was interesting reading how the different government officials in Shanghai at the time were more concerned with the politics of a situation rather than enforcing the laws for catching criminals, especially if the victim was one of the “stateless” individuals, such as the Jewish refugees.

Along with the history of the place, I enjoyed the irony in the plot, the intensity of the action, and the blossoming of a romance in spite of cultural expectations. This book came to a satisfactory conclusion, but the author makes no secret this book is part of a trilogy. The Japanese “incidents” and Germany’s Nazi presence are alluded to in this book. I suspect the next book may include more of Japan’s and Germany’s impact on China and Shanghai. I look forward to reading it.

To purchase Shanghai Story, 
please CLICK HERE.

About the Author:

Alexa Kang’s debut series, Rose of Anzio, was first released on Amazon on January 22, 2016. Alexa grew up in New York City, and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She has traveled to more than 123 cities, and she loves to explore new places and different cultures. This September, she took a special WWII tour of Southern Italy to visit historical sites of the Allies’ Italian campaign (including the sites where scenes from Rose of Anzio occurred). You can view the albums of her tour on her Facebook Author Page.

When not at work, Alexa lives a second life as a novelist. Alexa loves writing larger-than-life romantic tales and hopes to bring you many more. 

Connect with Alexa Kang:

Monday, April 2, 2018

Book Review: MEDALLION by Richard Whitten Barnes

Today it is my pleasure to feature the World War II novel, 
by Richard Whitten Barnes

About Medallion:

In April 1940 Nazi Germany makes a surprise attack on the major ports and airfields of Norway for control of the North Sea and the precious ore deposits of northern Sweden.

The attack is a stunning success, except for the Capitol city. The defense of Oslo stalls the Germans for 24 hours--enough time for the Royal Family, members of the cabinet, and the entire treasury to escape, ultimately to England.

Subsequently, Nazi aggression overruns most of Europe, looting its treasuries and treasures.

Karin Hansen, a young American fresh from a summer of barnstorming and air shows in her uncle’s biplane, has joined the British Air Transport Auxiliary--a civilian service organized to free up pilots for the war effort.

She advances from single-engine trainers to sophisticated warplanes, delivering them from factories to strategic RAF airfields.

By chance, her path crosses with that of Arne Solberg, a young Norwegian commando in the employ of the Royal Family-in-exile, who has been charged with rescuing one of Norway’s most cherished treasures from being stolen back to Nazi Germany.

MEDALLION is the story of two young lovers, and the treachery of occupied Norway. A story you won’t forget.


    Since last July air battles were being waged in British skies as the Germans attempted to create permanent air superiority. The RAF responded splendidly. While the air battles were largely held to a draw, the British resolve surprised the Luftwaffe. By autumn there seemed to be a turning point. The bombings had diminished and the raids were mostly held at night. 
    “Anyone can do what we do!” Arne was saying in his accented English. “I can’t sit here in England while the Nazi boot is on the neck of our country!” 
    “These are the words of youth,” An older man said, not bothering to use his nascent English. “Du er naiv, min unge venn!”
    “Idealistic, perhaps, but not naïve!” Arne replied in Norwegian. “Somehow, I’m going back to Norway.” 
    “Nils is right,” the other man said, “You’re doing enough by serving the King.” He rose. “Jegmå pisse”
    The man named Nils said, “Der er en god ide,” and followed to the loo.  
    Arne sat staring into his glass as if an answer might lurk beneath the foam.
    “Har du gjort dine venner sint?” The words came from the next table; a woman’s voice asking if he’d angered his friends. Three women in blue uniforms were laughing among themselves, glancing his way.
    “I didn’t make them mad. It was the other way. Besides they only had to go to the…you know….” He studied the threesome. “You are Norsk?
    More laughter. “Just that one!” A red-headed woman pointed to a pretty girl with short-cropped brunette hair, unusual for the current styles of the day. There was something about the impudent smirk she wore that Arne liked.
    “Du snakker norsk!” he said.
    “Only when I must.” Karin said. “I couldn’t resist. You seemed so earnest. Where are you from?”
    “A village near Bergen, and you?”
    “A village in Iowa,” Again, laughter.
    “Iowa? I don’t…”
    “In the U.S.A. My parents were from Halden.”
    Arne brightened “I know it; it is near Frederickstad, south of Oslo.” 
    He saw Nils returning, so he walked over to the table where the women sat drinking wine. “Are you Navy or Airforce ladies?”
    The redhead pointed to the wings on each of their tunics. “ATA pilots, darlin’, and what are healthy boys like you doing in mufti?” 
    Arne didn’t know the word, and showed it.
    “Civilian clothes,” Jan Towles clarified.
    “I…uh, work at Foliejon Park”
    It was well known that the Norwegian government had been established at the large estate just a few miles from White Waltham Field. 
    “Tell your friends to pull your table over,” Jan said.

My Book Review:

I found this book interesting, and the plot riveting. The point of view switched between Karin Hansen, an American pilot of Norwegian descent, who in 1940 signed up as a pilot in Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary, Arnie Solberg, a security guard for Norwegian’s exiled royal family turned spy, and Oberleutnant Horst von Prohn, an ambitious German officer assigned to Norway with more of a conscience than his superiors. Eventually, all three story lines intersect as the challenge for Karin and Arnie protecting the gold coins that form a large part of the Norwegian nation’s treasury and transporting them to safety in Britain before they can be stolen by others for their own gain.

Amidst a love story between Karin and Arnie, there are a multitude of tense moments. A key proves to be the key, and makes up a suspenseful element of the story that reads like it could end either way.

Medallion is well written, exciting, and highlights the aims of Nazi Germany in capturing Norway and the role that nation played in World War II. I also enjoyed learning more about the role of the Air Transport Auxiliary. I can highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys novels about this era.

To purchase Medallion, please CLICK HERE.

About the Author:

Richard Whitten Barnes is a native Chicagoan, graduating as a chemist from Michigan State University. He is now retired from a career in international chemical sales and marketing, which has taken him all over the world. Barnes is a veteran of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division and an avid sailor. He lives in Lake Wylie, S.C., but spends summers with his wife Marg and dog Sparty at their cottage on St. Joseph Island, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron.

Author Links: