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Monday, March 30, 2009

An Interview with Writer Jack Woodville London

Jack Woodville London burst on the writing scene February 2009 with the first book in a trilogy – French Letters: Virginia’s War ( Using vivid word pictures, he shows how war affects a small Texas town during World War II.

Military Writers Society of America recently conducted this e-mail interview with him as he heads out to speak about and sign his book..

1. Tell us about you. What makes you tick? Conflict. I am astounded that people spend much of adulthood acting in ways that a paper boy or Girl Scout knows not to do. All of us know someone who made up stories to cover something up, figuring that they could sort it out later. Virginia Sullivan wakes one morning to find that her father has told her town and friends that she eloped, which was not true, in order for him to save face in front of the town over her pregnancy, which she should have known could be a problem, given that Will, the young man to whom her father journalistically married her, was a soldier in Europe at the time and knew nothing about it. Virginia was all set to have a clash with her father over the pregnancy, the false elopement, and Will, until later the same day she ran into Shirley, her long time rival for Will’s affection. Then, at least for a while, she enjoyed letting the lie be the truth, just to poke a stick at Shirley. Conflict.

2. Where do you get your ideas? Little known facts that I run across. For example, it is well documented that the out-of-marriage birth rate in England went through the roof when American soldiers were there between 1942 and 1945, a phenomenon known as ‘over-paid, over-sexed, and over here.’ A statistic almost no one knows is that out-of-marraige birth rates in the US went up too, to 7.3 births per thousand in white women under the age of 25 before 1946. A lot of mail went down in the North Atlantic on US ships during that time. We know that some of the letters mailed to soldiers were Dear John letters. What do you get when you combine Dear John letters that the soldier doesn’t receive because of a torpedo to the mail boat and 7.3 out-of-marriage births per thousand to the girls back home? Some soldiers got a shocking surprise when the war was over. Conflict.Another little known fact is that after the initial panic over food rationing, most Americans gained weight because the eventual allowance for meat was more than Americans had been getting before the war. Then there was a black market in rationed goods, such as tires and gasoline....

3. I’ve read that you create maps of your scenes. What made you decide to do that and how do you do it? I learned mapping and orienteering in the Army, and later as a pilot. It is very helpful to me to create and inhabit a place and let the reader live there for a while. I usually map-sketch the streets and businesses, such as Poppy’s newspaper and the town square, Doc’s clinic and Bart’s post office, the road out to the cemetery and the quarry. When I do, events that happen there always happen in the same place and people go to them or leave them or refer to them the same way. In the sequel, many of the things that happen to Will in France are in a town where his field surgery is dug in for a week. He spends much of it in a Calvados barn near a wash house on the river, and across from a gothic monastery that was abandoned after the Germans took away some of the monks for labor.

4. What first fascinated you with writing? Mind travel. I remember very clearly reading about the Italian Mille Miglia, the one thousand mile auto race through Italy for sports cars, and from the words on the page I could see red Ferraris, green Jaguars, Porsches and Alfa Romeos, all downshifting on hard corners in Tuscan villages. I was ten years old. I had a wonderful high school teacher who led me through literature that most students didn’t read. As for the writing of it, my seismometer moved when I read ‘The Eve of St. Agnes,’ then read a marked up draft in which Keats had struggled with word choices about the sound that a woman’s night clothes make on their way to the floor. I hadn’t gathered until then that writing was work, and it was rewarding to discover the many ways one could express a single idea. Then I discovered ‘Men at Arms’ by Evelyn Waugh, and I was hooked.

5. How did you conduct your research when you were writing French Letters, Book One? Source documents where possible. I looked at original ration cards, cotton gin engine specs, the shift mechanism of the 1937 Ford, brands of beer sold in Clovis, New Mexico in 1944, who trained to fly what kind of aircraft in Lubbock and Clovis and which airplanes were manufactured in Fort Worth. I tried to know what people living in a Tierra, Texas would know.

6. Who are your favorite contemporary writers and why? Donna Tartt has more skill to put you in a story than anyone I can think of. I am taken with every sentence she writes. Alain de Botton writes prose that makes me believe he was sitting behind me as I went through my day, then cracks me up. He wrote one chapter in which he meets a girl on an airplane, then falls in love with her, asking ‘what are the odds?’ He then replicates the seat layout of a Boeing 737, multiplies the number of seats by the number of passengers and applies the formula to determine what the odds were. Simon Schama writes about many of those little facts that are hidden between the big facts. Michael Chabon has the ability to make complicated stories appear disarmingly simple.

7. What made you choose this particular topic? My wife and I were in Belgium reading the morning paper. I learned that a farmer was tending to his barn one morning when a cow exploded in his pasture. The cow had stepped on an unexploded shell from World War I. I believe we are all still walking on, and occasionally being exploded by, shells from World War II. Sometimes those shells are in the form of people who were born to parents we don’t know as well as we think we do, and for reasons we would never dream of (talk about a baby boom...). Much is made of what our fathers and grandfathers did in the war. No one seems to have asked our mothers and grandmothers what they did while they waited or even if they waited.

8. Did you model Tierra, Texas after a particular place? If so, where? I grew up in a small town in the Texas Panhandle but went on to do military service in small towns in Kansas, Kentucky, and Virginia. As a lawyer I have worked in hundreds of small towns all over the United States. I have learned that people are much the same everywhere. Each town has its gossips, its bankers, a lawman with a second set of rules, someone with his thumb on the town’s scales, somebody with a perpetual belief that a bigger town has a lot more to offer but no one would want to live there, and a lot of very nice people who get caught up in their whirlwinds and conflicts.9. This is the first in a trilogy. Tell us about the next two books in the series and when they will be released. I have alluded to Will. The second book is what happens in his life during his military service as a field surgeon in France at the exact same time as the events in Virginia’s War are unfolding in a small town in Texas. The publisher says sales have to drive publishing but, subject to that Draconian caveat, the editor and I hope to have Will (tentative title) in your hands before the summer of 2010. It is well along now.Book Three is "Children of the Good War." The prologue to Book One sets the stage for that novel about Virginia’s and Will’s children, if they are Virginia’s and Will’s children.

10. Where will you be speaking next and signing your book? Maple Street Book Store, New Orleans, on April 1.Lakeway, Texas Activity Center May 13Steve’s Sundries in Tulsa the morning of June 6, D-DayFull Circle Books in Oklahoma City the afternoon of June 6Still pending in November are Silent Wings Museum, Lubbock, on Veteran’s Day andPanhandle Professional Writers in Amarillo on November 26.
To see if I'm coming to your town, please view my complete tour schedule at
I also invite your readers to blog with me from the link on my website,

If you are in the vicinity of any of these places, go by and meet the author.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ever Wonder About Those Split Infinitives?

Oh, to split infinitives or not!!

Learn when it's OK, when you shouldn't do it, and when it is OK. Go to today's Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Anyone for a Trek Down Memory Lane?

My writing and photography friend May Lattanzio sent me this link of Oscar Brand singing his Marine song and others. Those of you who are too young to remember Oscar and his blatantly Un-PC songs, must check it out! Others will get a good laugh and be glad for how far we've come in terms of tolerance while keeping a sense of humor for the way we were.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
MWSA blogger and author of Tracings, an MWSA award winner

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mrs. Lieutenant Author Reviews "Brothers at War"

MWSA member Phyllis Zimbler Miller reviewed Brotthers at War on her blog. I thought because we at MWSA are interested in both the military and writing, it would make a perfect place to visit. So, mosey on over and see what you think.
Posted by your MWSA blogger, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the foreword for Support Our Troops (Andrews McMeel), and Tracings, a chapbook of poetry informed my memories--some of them of wars remembered. It is an MWSA award winner. To learn more visit

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Helping Families Share Military Tradition

I have attended my share of military graduations. My husband's OCS graduation in Utah. My grandson's boot camp in North Carolina, my cousin's graduation from the Seals in San Diego.

I am one of the lucky ones. Many families can't afford to travel to do that. But someone is trying to help with that so I thought I'd pass this information to the MWSA membership.

These graduations are one of life's proud moments. Parents, wives, and other loved ones should be there to share the joy no matter what the financial circumstances. Please take a minute to click here for information on the program from the author of Mrs. Lieutenant. Or copy and paste:


Carolyn Howard-Johnson blos for MWSA Member Talk. She wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting Your Publishing Options Straight


Publishing Possibilities
Subtitle: Eight Steps to Understanding Your Options and Choosing the Best Path for Your Book
By Cheryl Pickett
Brighter Day Publishing, 2009
ISBN: 9780615260808
Contact Reviewer:
Publisher's Site:

The days when authors were at the mercy of others is gone. Any writer in any genre now has choices; those who rely on the old, traditional mode of publishing may be doing themselves a disservice. Equally so of those who plunge headlong into the world of partner, subsidy and self publishing without considering what that will entail.

Publishing Possibilities, by Cheryl Picket gives a new author the essentials they need to choose a publishing process that is best for his or her books and experienced writers options they may never have considered.

Authors who have been around publishing for a while may have picked up shreds of publishing wisdom that are not rooted in fact, even terms that are misused. Picket clarifies. She also offers these more experienced authors new possibilities, especially if their work has taken a new direction. A publishing plan for one genre may work fine but not work as well for another.

I must insert a disclaimer here. After reading Publishing Possibilities, I asked Cheryl to contribute a column to my newsletter, Sharing with Writers. That does not diminish my belief that this book serves authors. In fact, it confirms that I found it a useful resource for writers.

Publishing Possibilities is short and clearly written so it does not soak up unnecessary valuable time an author could use doing other things to further their careers. It gives them the essential on publishing as well as resources for finding more information from seasoned and trusted publishers, writer’s Web sites and consultants.

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor. Learn more about the reviewer's own how-to books for writers at

Monday, March 9, 2009

Contest for Military Writers

A writing and speaking and consulting friend, Pam Kelly, send this to me to pass on to you writing military. Pam is author of Speak with Power! Speak with Passion!


Are you an active or veteran woman in the military?
Share your stories!

Are you a family member--or friend--of a woman in the military?
Daughter, sister, mother, aunt, cousin... Write a TRIBUTE to her.


Heart of a Military Woman

Stories and Tributes to Those Who Serve Their Country

This book honors all those who are currently serving their country,
veterans who have served, and those are considering enlisting.

Inspiration and experiences from deployments, military exercises, basic training, special missions, motherhood, friendship, marriage and relationships, day to day duty and life, promotion, professional military education, temporary duty and any other topics of interest.

We are looking for real stories, from real people, about real life.
What got you INTO the military.
What were your experiences like?
Relationships? Boot camp? Officer school?
What did you learn about OTHERS as a result?
What did you learn about YOURSELF as a result?
How are you different as a result of your service.
Why did you re-enlist? Honorably discharge? Retire?
What advice might you offer to anyone considering enlisting?


DEADLINE: March 31, 2009.
Up to 1,200 words per submission. More than one submission welcome.
Email in a text message or Word.doc file to:
Indicate “Book Submission” in the subject line.

• Your suggested submission title.
• Your name, and position/title/rank/branch to be printed with your contribution.
• Your contact name, email, phone. Website (optional).
• Name of publication, if your submission has been previously published.
• Indicate that you have permission to reprint if your work is previously published.

August, 2009--in celebration of Labor Day, September 7th

Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez is passionate about touching the lives of female veterans. Being a retired veteran with 23 years of honorable service in the United States Air Force, Eldonna is teaching women how to take more RISK in their lives for maximum results. When she enlisted in October 1980, women made up only 8% of the military and today although more than doubled still only 20%. Professionally, Eldonna is a contract specialist in purchasing, negotiation and administration of government contracts. She is the President of Dynamic Vision International, based in Redondo Beach, California.

Sheryl Roush is an inspirational conference speaker, and creator of the Heart Book Series. As a former Navy wife, she recognizes the dedication, unique lifestyle (an understatement) and challenges of military life. She was only the third woman in the world (in 93 countries and out of 4 million people served) to be honored by Toastmasters International with their elite “Accredited Speaker” designation for outstanding platform professional speaking skills. She is the President of Sparkle Presentations, Inc., based in San Diego, California.

Original stories, quotations and poems remain the property and copyright of the contributor.
NO FEE to participate in this publication. NO OBLIGATION to purchase printed books.
NO royalties are given for selections accepted. Books are published through: Sparkle Press.

Heart of a Woman, Heart of a Mother, Heart of the Holidays,
Heart of a Woman in Business, and Corazon de Mujer (Heart of a Woman in Spanish). • • • Borders Bookstores
From your MWSA blogger, Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Also blogging at Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites pick,

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Participate in the LA Times Festival of Books Without Being There!

Let Your Book Be Seen in the LA Times/UCLA Festival of Books

Many of the authors I know have been disappointed that we no longer display books unless the author is signing. Truly,there is no ulterior motive. We have just found that a display without the author present to chat up the book and to sign is not the best way for an author to spend his/her promotion dollars. That goes not only for our booth but most booths.

But here's a way you can participate if you'd like. As part of the service to participating authors and to readers who stop by and purchase a book from our booth, we give a free book from a pretty little basket. Yours could be among them. Who knows who might get a free one. An editor? A director? A Screenwriter?

So, if you have returned books or slightly damaged books and can send in lots of six or more, please contact Christine at She'll give you an address to send them. When you send them please mark on the outside of the box GIFT WITH PURCHASE BOOKS. That will help her lots!

Thanks to all authors who have done this in the past, especially to Leora Skolkin, author of EDGES. She sent a huge box last year and I am always proud to suggest it to people who want a literary novel. BTW, her book is now being made into a movie!

PS: Don’t forget to sign your books. Many readers get VERY excited about a signed book. (-:

Left over gift-with-purchase books will be held over for giveaways the following year or donated to libraries of literacy groups.

Learn more about the fair booth at

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
MWSA blogger and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers,


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