Thursday, July 17, 2014

Operation North Wind in World War II


I always thought the Battle of the Bulge was the last major offensive by the Germans on the western front in World War II. In writing the biography of my friend, Ed, a World War II infantryman during Operation North Wind, I learned something new.

For Operation North Wind (Unternehmen Nordwind), Hitler gave orders to destroy the American forces in the Vosges Mountains.

As the German advance in the Battle of the Bulge stalled, Hitler went back to one of the rejected earlier plans. The fighting in the north had pulled Patton’s army to the Ardennes, so the new attempt at attacking the allies occurred in the Alsace region on December 31, 1944, one hour before midnight.

With the movement of Patton’s troops to fight in the Battle of the Bulge to the north, the lines of the Seventh Army were spread thin.

For the second time within the month of December, allied command was surprised by a ferocious German attack, this time on New Year’s Eve. Earlier, the British had been able to intercept and break the code of radio communications from the Germans. This worked very well when the Germans were in French territory. But after the German forces withdrew into Germany, they relied on wire communications rather than wireless that could be intercepted.  The allies had lost surveillance of a number of German units but did pick up hints of a buildup opposite the American Seventh Army. Other evidence included increased refugee movement toward the west and a break in German radio silence on New Year’s Eve.

Dissent also existed within allied command. With some of the initial signs of a buildup of enemy troops, Eisenhower had given orders to General Devers of the Sixth Army Group to retreat if attacked. He wanted to avoid another situation as in the Battle of the Bulge where the Germans had surrounded allied troops in Bastogne. The Sixth Army Group consisted of the US Seventh Army under General Patch and the French First Army under General Lattre de Tassigny. Patch had the unenviable position of defending a front of over 125 miles with six infantry divisions. Within the Seventh Army, General Haislip’s XV Corps made up of the 44th, 100th and 103rd Divisions had thirty-five miles along the Vosges to defend.

De Gaulle became aware of Eisenhower’s direction to Devers to be prepared to fall back and strenuously objected, since he did not want to give up Strasbourg, which had been recaptured by the Allies. Strasbourg lay on the French side of the border, but had been a contested city for years between France and Germany. De Gaulle knew that if the Germans retook the city, numerous French citizens would be slaughtered for defying the Nazis. Strasbourg remained second only to Paris as a symbol of the rebirth of France after German domination. De Gaulle threatened to pull the French troops out of the alliance if Strasbourg were not defended. This led to a meeting between Churchill, Eisenhower and De Gaulle. Churchill sided with De Gaulle that Strasbourg should not be given up. A repercussion was that de Gaulle lost his trust in American command, which played out years later in his independent attitude, refusal to join NATO and hostility toward the United States.

The initial advances made by the Germans early in January, 1945, in Operation North Wind were stopped, and from then on, the Allies made the advances.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trying to Fix Something and It Gets Worse


When you try to fix something, do you run into the problem that it gets worse?

This used to happen to me often with plumbing projects. I did them so infrequent6ly that I had to learn all over again when I fixed something. On numerous occasions, I ended up breaking something along the way and had to recoup from that as well as the original problem.

I’m now facing the same thing with slow Internet speed. I called, and the technician speeded up my connection a small amount but recommended I get a new modem, so I purchased a new modem and now the speed is lower than with the old modem. After some dinking, the technician gained me back a little speed, but I’m still worse off than when I started. Now I have to wait for a repair person to come to my house to take a look.

Sigh. The wonders of the modern world.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Short Versus Long Chapters in Books

Do you prefer reading books with short or long chapters?

One answer could be: it depends on the genre. Personally, I like reading books with short chapters. You might think that long chapters lead to readers deciding to stay with the story longer at a time and finish the chapter. I’m the other way. If I’m reading a book with short chapters, I’m more apt to read another chapter because it’s short anyway versus getting sleepy and stopping in the middle of a long chapter. And if there is a cliff hanger or an unanswered question at the end of a short chapter, I’ll continue reading rather than feeling I’m going to be trapped in a long chapter.

As a writer, I tend to write short chapters as well, typically five to ten pages. My usual mystery scene is approximately five pages, and I typically have one scene per chapter. If I combine scenes in a chapter, then chapters are closer to ten pages.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Different Types of Book Editions


I’ve been fortunate to have as many as  five different types of book editions for some of my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series. This includes hardcover, large print, paperback book club edition, audio book and e-book.

As an example for the second book in my series, Living with Your Kids Is Murder, this is the cover for the hardcover and large print editions from Five Star, an imprint of Gale/Cengage Learning:

 


The paperback direct to book club through Worldwide Mystery, an imprint of Harlequin, looks like this:

 


The audio book from Books in Motion has this cover:

 


And finally, the e-book edition has this appearance:



I love that readers have so many different choices when reading my books.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rejection in the World of Writing


One thing is given in the world of writing—rejection. We face a plethora of rejection opportunities from agents, editors, reviewers, readers, and people who posts opinions about books. So I’ve learned to suck it up and accept this as an unpleasant reality.

Even one of the best writers of all time faced the following rotten reviews:  “Pure melodrama. There is not a touch of characterization that goes below the skin.,” “It is a play of the worst that ever I heard.” “The most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.”, and “It is a vulgar and barbarous drama. One would imagine this piece to be the work of a drunken savage.” These were reviews of Othello, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

I have eight published books and two more in the publishing queue, and I still receive rejections from editors and agents as I’m trying to sell my first non-fiction book. Rejection just comes with the territory.

Here’s my advice on rejection. You get a rejection, keep writing. You get another rejection, keep writing, You get another rejection, you keep writing. You get the picture.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Nursing Homes Are Murder


The sixth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Nursing Homes Are Murder, has been published. This book takes place in Honolulu right after Paul Jacobson has a winter break vacation with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
Don’t worry that Paul has degraded to the point where he needs to go in a nursing home. On the contrary, he’s asked to go in undercover by the police to help solve a case of sexual assault in a nursing home. When the assault turns into a murder investigation, Paul must muster all his geezer resources to escape from the killer. Along the way Paul makes friends with a member of the 442nd , the Japanese-American regiment that was most decorated in World War II; a woman with synesthesia, a condition where numbers and letters are seen as colors; a soap eater; and a wheelchair racing resident.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Words, Words and More Words


Continuing with my last post, I’ve become fascinated with when words first appeared in the English language and have been using as a source, English Through the Ages, which records when specific words came into common usage. Since I write mystery novels here are a few words that I find interesting.

I have a historical mystery set in 1919 that uses fingerprinting as a clue. Fingerprint was first used as a noun in 1860 and as a verb in 1905. DNA made its appearance in 1935 with DNA fingerprinting in 1985.

The word police came into usage in 1720. Detective and police station appeared in 1845 and private investigator and private eye in 1940.

A few other random words: prisoner of war in 1680 and autism and autistic in 1915.

I could go on forever, but this is today’s sampling.