Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Historic Value of Journals

Lewis and Clark's journals

By Marilyn Turk

Many years ago after the birth of my first child, I desperately wanted to stay home with him instead of returning to my job with a Fortune 500 company. My dream was to someday become a writer, and being a loyal reader of Guideposts Magazine, I hoped my dream would be realized there.

Yes, I was naive about the real-life possibility of supporting myself as a writer as soon as I quit my day job. But one of the Guideposts writers, Marion Bond West, lived relatively close to me, so I called her and asked her how to get started writing for Guideposts. I’m sure Marion thought I was the most naive person she had ever talked to, but she very gracious and explained to me the improbability of my making the transition instantly. I was terribly disillusioned, but then she suggested I keep a journal. I remembered her wise advice that I should keep my day job for the time-being, but begin writing a journal as a starting point for my writing career. So I did, feeling like I’d taken the first step in my writing career.

Thirty years later those journals sit on a shelf in my office, and their content may never see the light of day, but they’re valuable, and this is why. They reveal to me the feelings, the angst, the worries I had as a young mother and wife. I recently read that someone who had kept journals all her life decided to burn them because she didn’t want her children to read her travails. However, for the time being, I don’t want to get rid of mine because they provide real emotions that I can put into the characters in my books.

As a writer of historical novels, I’m so thankful for those who kept journals in the past because they provide such a window into the world they lived in. I’ll never forget listening to some audio diaries of pioneer women on the wagon trains going west. What hardship they endured! Now, I have a clear picture in my mind of what it was like for a woman in those conditions.

For most historic eras, there's been at least one journal keeper whose writing we’ve used to understand the past. For my World War II novels, I’ve found wonderful journals by men and women during those years telling how their life was affected and what they did during the war. What a wealth of information they are.

Many famous people kept journals. For example, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) carried a pocket notebook at all times, noting everything from how to operate a riverboat to the politics of his time. In his lifetime, he filled over fifty notebooks with his observations. His leather-bound notebooks were custom-made from his own design. Each page had a tab, and as each page was used, he tore off the tab, making it easy for him to find his place.

Beethoven with journal
Others who kept journals were Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, Thomas Edison, Lewis and Clark, George S. Patton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Newton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Leonardo Da Vinci, to name a few.  
George S. Patton's journal

Wasn’t Dr. Luke the physician a journaler? His reports as he accompanied the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys has provided us with most of the New Testament.

How I wish my grandparents had left journals. I’d love to know more about their lives, especially since I only knew them when they were elderly. 

One thing I’ve come to realize is that what we may see as commonplace in our lives today maybe be unique and different to future generations. They may regard what was normal to us as interesting as it is for us to read pioneer diaries now.

Have you ever kept a journal?
Leonardo Da Vinci's journal

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Gift of the Carnegie Libraries

When I first learned about one of our local libraries in Howell, Michigan, being a historical Carnegie library I was intrigued. I have since learned that Andrew Carnegie funded more than 2500 libraries around the world. 

Andrew Carnegie portrait by unknown
artist, {PD}
Andrew Carnegie is remembered for having a great role in the expansion of the steel industry in the United States and as a wealthy industrialist, but also as a philanthropist. His own personal philosophy was that the rich, once providing for their own needs, should think of their excess wealth as entrusted to them for the betterment of the community. His name lives on today for his charitable work.

A Scottish immigrant who came to America at a young age and settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania with his family. He funded libraries in the two areas which had given him his start, first, one in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1880 and then in 1886, in Braddock, a town just outside of Pittsburgh. Carved into the sandstone above the entry to his first library were the words “Let there be light.” He remembered working as a bobbin boy and wanting to improve his lot in life, yet as a young teen, Carnegie couldn’t afford the two-dollar subscription to the lending library. As an older man he wanted to make them available to everyone. He would go on to fund the building of 1689 public libraries across the United States.      

The world's first Carnegie Library
in Dunfermline, Scotland, photo by
Stephen C. Dickson, 2014 [CC]
Though Carnegie didn’t insist that his libraries be racially integrated, he did build separate libraries for African Americans, in cities such as Houston, Texas and Savannah, Georgia. One bright spot was in the public library in Washington, D.C. for which he donated $300,000 to be built in 1903. The beautiful building is the city’s oldest public library and was open to all races from its start. 

When a town applied for the Carnegie grant for a public library, they had to establish certain criteria. Did the community demonstrate a need for a public library? Could they provide the land for it to be built on? Pay the staff? Carnegie expected each town to provide 10% of what he donated yearly to run and maintain the library. His funding wasn’t just a handout, but it was a hand up offered to those who would invest in the process and the library was to be available and open to all classes.

Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C.,
Mark Schierbecker, 2012, [CC],
Wikimedia Commons
In regards to our local Howell Carnegie District Library, once the community had outgrown library run by the Ladies’ Library Association, the postmaster wrote to Carnegie in 1901 requesting a donation for the building of a library. In January of 1902, Carnegie’s secretary sent a letter stating that $10,000 would be supplied for the library if the village could provide $1000 annually, as well as a suitable piece of land. After disagreements over building costs Carnegie gave them another $5000 and more funds were raised. The MacPherson family donated the land and an architecture firm in Ann Arbor was hired to complete the building. The library opened in 1906.

Howell Carnegie Library, by Aon25, 2012, [CC],
Wikimedia Commons

The last of the Carnegie libraries was built in 1929. Most of the beautiful brick or sandstone structures still endure today. A few have been torn down and some have been added onto. The Howell Carnegie District Library addition, while having many modern internal features, has tastefully incorporated the old-fashioned architecture and flavor of the original building. 

Carnegie Library, Guthrie, Oklahoma, by Steven C. Price,
2015, [CC], Wikimedia Commons
Andrew Carnegie has also been considered a controversial figure because of his labor practices, particularly because of the incident during the strike at Homestead Steel Works, when workers were killed under the watch of one of his supervisors, Henry Clay Frick. Yet, his legacy of generosity lives on across the United States in the form of these longstanding houses of knowledge and enrichment, known as the Carnegie libraries.

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and its sequel, Secrets and Wishes. Kathleen wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband, Jack, and the sassy tailless cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.

Friday, April 20, 2018

From Washouts to Pirates, Travel in 14th-Century England

This post is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.
A portion of the Roman Road, now a bridle path, near Slinfold, photo by Andy Potter; [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Travel in 14th-Century England depended on status and wealth. Most people were villiens, laborers who farmed land they rented from a lord. Travel for them consisted of going by foot to the nearest market town, where they could sell wares and purchase goods. Almost all towns and villages were less than 15 miles apart, which made an easy walking distance with a night’s lodging possible. People walked more in those days and had strong legs, a fact documented by forensic examination of human skeletons from that era.

Those riding on the back of horse, mules, or donkeys could travel on to the next town before needing to stop. Wagons and carriages weren’t a common means of transportation, even for the nobility. Wheeled carts were useful for short trips, but the poor roads limited their value for longer journeys.

Inns weren’t plentiful and didn’t take everyone. The cost of a bed in an inn wasn’t practical for villiens, who had to be resourceful. They could hope to spend the night in a friend’s home. Farms and cottages might offer hospitality. Sleeping conditions could be rough. Rather than finding a bed for the night, a villien would be thankful to sleep on a pallet in the corner of a kitchen. Churches maintained hostels where the poor could stay.

People didn’t usually employ maps, which meant that finding your way on a land journey called for knowledge of the route or hiring a guide. Roads were usually muddy tracks forged from need and frequent use. Those whose course took them along one of the few remaining Roman roads did a little better. Travelers often had to ford streams and rivers. Bridges might be in poor shape, missing, or washed out altogether.

Those travelling the same direction frequently banded together for safety’s sake. Dangers lurked in the form of wolves, boars, or robbers. Most travelers carried weapons for self-defense.

Sometimes people transported goods by rivers, thus avoiding the difficulties of land travel. They paid a toll for this privilege.

Sea voyages were unreliable, cramped, and filthy. Ships carried passengers into other kinds of danger. A storm might drive the vessel off course or send it, and everyone aboard, to the bottom of the sea. Pirates were a known threat.

Travel in the Middle Ages was a challenging business for the average person. It presented inconveniences and dangers and could be quite an adventure.

About Janalyn Voigt

Escape into creative worlds of fiction with Janalyn Voigt. Her unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Tales of Faeraven, her medieval epic fantasy series beginning with DawnSinger, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams. Her western historical romance novels have received acclaim from Library journal and Romantic Times. 

Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. When she's not writing, Janalyn loves to discover worlds of adventure in the great outdoors.

DawnSinger (Tales of Faeraven, book 1)

The High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens.

But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing—and the salvation he offers—into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

US Army in Oklahoma--A True Tale of Cowboys and Indians Part 5

Fort Gibson, 1870's Wikipedia, public domain

By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Thank you for joining us in our fifth and final article covering the rich and diverse history of the U.S. Army and its effects on the history of the state of Oklahoma. In the last four articles, we have covered how the Army assisted in the Indian Removal Act, the assorted Trails of Tears, the War Between the States, the Southern Plains Indian Wars, and policing the territory during the time of the Land Runs. That was all during the 19th century. Obviously, it was rugged, and at different times, places were quite lawless. During the 20th Century, the Oklahoma Army National Guard assisted in World War I, the Tulsa Race Riots, World War II, and Korea.

First let us say: we wish to pay our respects to the brave men and women of our military, and let them know our thoughts and prayers are with them, particularly those currently on deployment outside our country and away from their families.

After Korea, the 45th Infantry Division, being limited to only citizens of Oklahoma, continued to assist in the recovery actions during several natural disasters, however, they did not see any action during Vietnam. In 1968, due to a paradigm shift in the Department of the Army, the 45th Infantry Division was disbanded and became the 45th Infantry Brigade.

In the intervening years, the 45th has been involved in the conflicts in Bosnia, Gulf War 1 (also known as the Iraq War), and Gulf War 2(also known as the War on Terror—9/11 to present). They have also been involved with the recovery efforts for numerous natural disasters along the home-front, including numerous tornadoes, hurricanes, and acts of terrorism (the Murrah bombing—I did a blog on it and you can find it here).

The U.S. Army has several active posts throughout the state, including but not limited to, Fort Sill, the McAlester Army Ammunitions Plant (and all surrounding facilities), and numerous Army National Guard Posts. According to there are more than 11,000 active duty Army troops that are currently serving recruited from Oklahoma. Oklahoma has the 3rd highest recruitment rate per capita in the U.S. for the military in general.

Thank you for joining us this month as we have completed our discovery of the U.S. Army and the influence they have had on the history and development of our great state. Join us next month as we delve into the Air Force and their influence on our state.

    Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Alanna loves the history of the state and relishes in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her first published story, part of a collaborative novella titled Legacy Letters, came out September 2016. Alanna lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area. She is currently working on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pickering's Harvard Computers and a Giveaway

With Nancy J. Farrier

Wikipedia Commons
Edward Charles Pickering didn’t like school as a young boy. He hated reading the classics, but devoured mathematics books in his free time. In 1865 he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard. Two years later he became an assistant professor of physics at the newly established Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT. He went on to revolutionize the teaching of physics.

In 1876, Pickering was appointed director of the Harvard Observatory. This is where his story interested me. Henry Draper, well known astrologist, had begun a project to map the stars. He died before he accomplished much in this herculean task. His widow donated money to the Harvard Observatory for Pickering to take up her husband’s project and complete the work.

Harvard Observatory
Wikimedia Commons

The story goes that Pickering had an assistant who was inept at cataloguing. Pickering told him he could hire his uneducated maid to do the same job and she would do it better. He followed through by bringing his maid, Williamina Fleming, to do the assistant’s work. She proved so adept at cataloging and doing the work that she continued to work at Harvard for thirty-four years.

For more than thirty years, Pickering employed women to assist with cataloguing the stars. Pickering’s Harem, as they were sometimes called, worked six days a week for low wages considering most of them were had a college education. They earned more than a factory worker, but less than a clerical worker. Still, they did ground-breaking work and made great strides in the field of astronomy.

1913 Pickering and Computers
Wikimedia Commons

Pickering’s Harem may have been a derogatory term, but in that time period many objected to women being educated. Women were thought to be better suited for breeding and maintaining a household. In 1873, Harvard Professor, Edward Clark, wrote a book, Sex in Education.He included this quote, “A woman’s body could only handle a limited number of developmental tasks at one time—that girls who spent to much energy developing their minds during puberty would end up with undeveloped or diseased reproductive systems.”

With all the opposition, Pickering still went on to photograph the stars. He had telescopic cameras in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The women he hired poured over the photographs, deciding the location and magnitude of the stars. Through this work, Pickering is credited as having discovered the first binary stars, or double stars. He made many more discoveries, many due to the tireless and detailed work of the women he employed. In 1903, Pickering was able to publish a Photographic Map of the Sky, a first of its kind.

Annie Jump Cannon
By Schlesinger Library

Among the most famous of the women referred to as the Harvard Computers, was Annie Jump Cannon. She came up with a system for classifying stars that is still in use today. Her coworker, Antonia Maury, also developed a classification system. In 1938, two years before she retired Cannon received the honor of being named William C. Bond Astronomer from Harvard.

Of the 80 women who worked for Pickering and were known as the Harvard Computers, only two or three are remembered by name. They did incredible work in a time when such efforts by women were strongly discouraged. And, it all started with an uneducated maid challenged to do a job and being exemplary in that position. 

Harvard Computers 1890
Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever heard of Pickering’s Harem or the Harvard Computers? I wanted to write so much more about them because their story is fascinating. I wonder if about their eyesight after spending days studying photographs and mappings stars. Such intense work. I will think of these women and the work they accomplished when I look at the night sky and the array of stars.

I am doing a giveaway of a print or eBook copy of Bandolero. Please leave a comment below and your email address to be entered in the drawing. Comments must be left before midnight PST. Let me know what you think of these women and their story. I love to hear from you.

Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The "Lost Crews" of the Doolittle Raid: After Infamy, Forgiveness Wins (With GIVEAWAY!)

Tomorrow marks the Doolittle Raid's seventy-sixth anniversary. Cindy K. Stewart is doing a marvelous job of filling you in on the exciting adventures of the Doolittle Raiders. But I have a special claim on Plane Sixteen, since it inspired my upcoming debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter. In honor of the occasion, Cara Grandle was kind enough to swap slots with me so I could tell you its story. (Thank you, Cara!)

Here's the background in a nutshell. Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, eighty volunteers took flight on a bold and unprecedented mission. Sixteen medium-weight B-25 bombers left the deck of the carrier U.S.S. Hornet
a feat never attempted before or since. They deployed their payloads on Tokyo and other key targets on the Japanese main island. 

The bombers were too big to land on the carrier, so the plan called for them to fly on to China. But while the mission achieved its military objective, due to unforeseen circumstances the sortie left most of the airmen stranded in enemy-occupied China. 


Detail from a wartime poster featuring a photo of
Lieutenant Robert Hite, copilot of the Bat Out of Hell. Tokyo, April 1942.
Eight men—the crew of Plane #16, the Bat Out of Hell, and the three survivors of the crash of Plane #6, the Green Hornet—were captured by the Japanese. Anyone who saw the movie or read the book Unbroken will have a general picture of what these men endured. But where Louis Zamperini was a prisoner for a little more than two years, Doolittle’s “lost crews” remained in Japanese prison camps

… for forty long months, 34 of them in solitary confinement. We were imprisoned and beaten, half-starved, terribly tortured, and denied by solitary confinement even the comfort of association with one another. Three of my buddies were executed by a firing squad about six months after our capture and fourteen months later, another one of them died of slow starvation.… The bitterness of my heart against my captors seemed more than I could bear. 

- Corporal Jacob DeShazer in his tract I Was a Prisoner of Japan 

Of the eight Raiders captured, only four survived that ordeal. George Barr, Jacob DeShazer, Robert Hite and Chase Nielson returned to the U.S. different men. Here’s how they expressed it in a joint statement:

We were not what you would call religious men before we were captured. We went to Sunday school and church when we were kids… We memorized Bible verses and listened to sermons and said grace at meals…. But we never really understood the meaning behind those words and the source of strength they represented in our lives.…

We were given the Bible to read. We found in its ripped and faded pages a source of courage and faith we never realized existed. The verses we memorized as children suddenly came alive and became as vital to us as food.

We put our trust in the God we had not really accepted before and discovered that faith in His Word could carry us through the greatest peril of our lives. 

—Four Came Home (Carroll V. Glines, 1995) 

The crew of the Bat Out of Hell, captive.
Back row, l-r: William Farrow, George Barr, Robert Hite.
Front row, l-r: Jacob DeShazer, Harold Spatz.
Lieutenant Farrow and Sergeant Spatz were executed.

Forgiveness Wins: The Raider Returns

Corporal DeShazer, the former bombardier of the Bat Out of Hell, was transformed by what he read in the Bible. The Lord revealed to him during those miserable hours alone in his cell that He wanted to give the Japanese people an illustration of the meaning of forgiveness. Jake was to become that walking object lesson.

Upon his release, Jake rushed home to earn a Bible degree from Seattle Pacific College. In 1948, he returned to Japan with his new bride, Florence, as a Free Methodist missionary.

This time I was not going as a bombardier, but I was going as a missionary. How much better it is to go out to conquer evil with the gospel of peace! 

—Jacob DeShazer on his return to Japan 

Japanese people flocked to hear him and peppered him with questions. The idea that one could hold anything other than implacable hatred for one’s enemies was foreign to the Confucianist ideas that drove their culture at that time. 

Sergeant Jacob DeShazer after the war.

From Hatred to Love

There are a number of remarkable stories from Jake and Florence’s sojourn in Japan. My favorite is the one that inspired my novel. At an evangelistic meeting, Jake noticed an attractive young woman who “watched me so constantly that she began to make me self-conscious.” He asked if he could help her. She didn't reply, but the open hostility in her eyes was unmistakable.

She returned for the next meeting, and the next. Eventually, she made her confession. A bomb DeShazer deployed during the raid had snuffed out the life of a young man she loved. She attended the first meetings with a knife in her purse, determined to exact her revenge--even if it cost her everything. 

But she was so moved by Jake's example of forgiveness that she decided to follow Jesus instead. As one of Jake’s fellow missionaries wrote, “She confessed that she had first come to the meetings with the avowed purpose of killing DeShazer... But that night DeShazer had spoken of his own hatred having been changed to love. That message of God’s love worked the same change inside her...”

When I read that account, it haunted me. The young woman's name and the rest of her story are lost to history
. Which was a gift, in a way. I was left to research the time periodfascinating and harrowing—and create the fictional tale of a heroine I see as deeply wounded, but committed and courageous. 

From Enemies to Fellow Evangelists

The most famous episode from DeShazer's ministry is that of Mitsuo Fuchida, who commanded the air attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war, a tract DeShazer authored was instrumental in bringing Fuchida to Christ. A few months later, the two were preaching to crowds together—the Doolittle Raider and the Japanese captain who gave the infamous “Tora-tora-tora” signal that launched the Pearl Harbor attack. They brought to thousands the message of God’s sacrificial love for all people and the power of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. (I covered Fuchida's story in more detail in my December post.)

Jake and Flo ultimately settled in Nagoya, the very city Jake had bombed. Their thirty-year ministry in Japan bore fruit in twenty-three church plants and in many changed hearts.

I'm hosting a drawing for a copy of Sarah Sundin's latest WWII novel, The Sea Before Us, for new subscribers to my newsletter. You'll also receive updates on my novel, including an opportunity to gain pre-launch access. To enter, please REGISTER HERE by Thursday, April 19. 

I stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what I love: stories of reckless faith that showcase God's hand in history. I'm so excited to work with the all-star team at Mountain Brook Ink to launch my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, this October! Inspired by a remarkable true story from World War II's pivotal Doolittle Raid, The Plum Blooms in Winter is an American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest winner. The novel follows a captured American pilot and a bereaved Japanese prostitute who targets him for ritual revenge. Please also feel free to check out my blog, Five Stones and a Sling, which hovers in the region where history meets Bible prophecy meets current events. It's rich ground--we live in a day when prophecies are leaping from the Bible's pages into the headlines!

I live outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with two mostly-grown-up kids and a small platoon of housecats.