During the heart of COVID lock down a new book project forced its way beyond a planned longish short story. With competition in the fiction market so difficult, my 2020 and 2021 work goals did not include a novel length work. But after months of keeping control within a tightly defined setting, one character began disintegrating. Old pain leaked into the new life she was learning and speckled soft-color sunny days with deep splotches of rusty and black stains. A short story about resiliency faced a wall of resistance.
My nice character abused all my plans and won the upper hand as the original plot imploded. Someone had to suffer, maybe even die, to let character, plot, and setting strings roll into a ball worth throwing from one hand to another. Loss, betrayal, discovery, and forgiveness don’t develop over autumn days differentiated by the nothing more significant that the choice of jam on tomorrow’s sandwich. There must be days when the cupboard is empty, or the bread is moldy, or someone has switched raspberry jam with despised jalapeno jelly that must be eaten. Because this is life.
My tormented character may be demanding to create her fictional life with a streak of realism in this interim pandemic world where historic fires, floods and power players’ disregard for regular people deny the magic of rainbows and predictable endings. Perhaps spending years in the world of 40 Thieves on Saipan, I’m more open to a character who chooses to walk the world carrying pain, fresh socks, blank notebooks, and a sandwich with any jam in a backpack instead of watching the world through others’ windows.
Releasing a new book is an incredibly thrilling professional achievement in the life of a writer. A combination of personal excitement and contractual obligation lead us to dropping the name of our new book (40 Thieves on Saipan) on social media for months.
40 Thieves on Saipan, the story of an elite WWII Marine Scout-Sniper platoon in one of the Pacific Theater’s bloodiest battles, released June 2. In the midst of a pandemic and deep racial protests, the book launch may be one drop of water in the thousands of gallons going over my home area’s Minnehaha Falls. But that drop is important to co-author Joseph Tachovsky, me and the families and friends of the 40 Thieves platoon.
U.S. citizens within the armed forces sacrifice their lives each year in the name of freedom. In WWII young men were required to serve with limited ability to choose a branch of the services.
Eleanor Roosevelt said “The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps.”
Few women authors write war battle books. Before I became a novelist, I was a journalist. From reading transcripts of the surviving Thieves platoon. to digging into Marine leaders’ diaries. to researching battle details, this book was a deep lesson in war and its most disposable asset, those who wear uniforms. In its stark truth, 40 Thieves on Saipan becomes an anti-war message. For any prospective military recruit, their parent, sweetheart or spouse, child, or friend, this book cuts through the advertising to the reality of carrying a weapon in war and adjusting to life back in the states later.
I’ll head back to other blog topics in the near future, but now my pride in 40 Thieves on Saipan is like any new parent. The book is available through Amazon, B&N online, BAM, and in bookstores. Joseph and I will be contributing part of our net royalties to specific nonprofit groups serving US vets.
This was the summer we were going to explore the Brabant Walloon Province of Belgium where the majority of my ancestors once lived. Our son and daughter-in-law proposed the trip and a second planning meeting was about to be held when COVID-19 erupted outside China.
As plans fell apart in February for a special Easter vacation with my husband’s family and I cancelled a flight to Wisconsin a few weeks later, we wondered how summer travel might be impacted. Italy’s struggle with the immensity of COVID-19 gave the Western world a dose of reality.
We are fortunate to have a second home close to the Wisconsin Belgian community where both my maternal and paternal ancestors settled. Spring through fall planning for visits of family, friends, and fellow writers is usually complete by now. Changes happen, but certain events are written in permanent marker on our calendars before Easter. Until this year. A rough schedule is on my desk with April and May crossed off. The calendar remains blank.
May and June would already be different because the release of 40 Thieves on Saipanowns that time. The regular events to launch a book won’t happen in a shelter in place nation. No launch parties. No bookstore signings. Joseph Tachovsky, my co-author, and I are offering signed bookplates to those who are interested and pre-order the book. We’ll be virtual guests at book club meetings if invited. We’ll be visible on social media and he will be interviewed remotely on radio and television stations. Our publisher is confident and so are we.
Kids and young people are missing irreplaceable milestones like graduations, proms, new jobs, gathering for weddings. The dates circled with permanent marker during normal times. We mourn our lost isolated in quiet homes or viewing small screens. We celebrate births with no idea of when we’ll hold the newborn or hug the parents. We cannot fly to be with those needing physical care. It is what we do so that more of us will be here when this fight is over.