Review: When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner

Harper Muse; 1st edition (October 18, 2022)
Publication date ‏ : ‎ October 18, 2022

Set in 1941 in the Philippines, three nurses from different backgrounds (a US Army nurse, a US Navy nurse, and a Filipina nurse) become friends. Each author took a character, but honestly you can’t tell. The story is well blended with one voice.

While the circumstances were dire, each nurse ended up being imprisoned by the Japanese in different places and witnessed horrifying things not to mention starvation, there were signs of hope to hold on to. It all seemed very real. Not surprising since the fictional characters were based on real women, the first female POWs.

Each of the women experienced hurt in their previous lives that needed healing. Caring for others while still being held as prisoner delayed their ability and capacity to heal those wounds. After their releases they saw each other briefly but not the three of them together. Their ultimate reunion would have to wait. While no longer the women they were before the war due to their experiences, they still had to deal with the things they had try to avoid by becoming nurses. The way they manage to face what they’d previously avoided is inspiring, and not easily predictable. Nothing is rushed. No artificial happy conclusions, which is what I like about how these authors write their stories. But like I said, there is hope and a satisfying ending.

Historical fiction buffs will enjoy this one. Highly recommended.

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Reviewed by Cindy Thomson, www.cindyswriting.com

I was given an advanced copy by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review, although no review was required.

Introducing Julie Morgan from Drawing Outside the Lines by Susan J. Austin

I’m a little surprised you agreed to this interview, Miss Morgan. You have always been reluctant to speak about yourself in public.

That is true. I have always refused interviews. I’ve never sought the limelight. I leave that to others, with egos far greater than mine. However, I think it’s time for me to open that door, even if only a crack. I recognize that by being silent, people may have an inaccurate picture of me, and accuracy matters, don’t you agree? 

Absolutely! Speaking of accuracy, little is known about your early years before you became a legendary architect.  I know you were born in San Francisco, and as a young child your family moved across the bay to Oakland. You attended Oakland public schools before enrolling at the university in Berkeley. What were those years like, growing up in Oakland in the late 1800s’s?

 (JM smiles for the first time, leans back in her chair) Oakland was so beautiful then, and true to its name, oak trees were plentiful, growing in front of houses, on street corners, spreading their green splendor throughout our neighborhoods. Charming Victorian houses lined the streets. Travel was by horse and buggy mostly on dirt roads, as well as on a growing number of paved streets with actual sidewalks which made roller skating so much more fun. The houses in my neighborhood were surrounded by low-set iron or picket fences connecting one to the other. As a child, I preferred the pickets. The narrow wood crossbeams nailed along their backside turned into a raised sidewalk, a perfect fit for small feet. Besides the oaks, there were a few towering Monterey pines that provided another wonderful childhood diversion. A low hanging limb made an easy first step. The rest of the way was like climbing a ladder. I loved being up there, high above the ground. The higher, the better.

Your dream of becoming an architect at a time when the Victorian Era was near its end, must have been challenging? 

Oh my, yes. The expectations for young girls always created problems for me. While I never fit the mold dictated by society, I did manage to avoid drawing too much criticism by staying quiet and respectful. However, there is something you must understand. The realization that I wanted to become an architect developed slowly. I didn’t wake up one morning with a clear picture. It was a gradual unfolding, much like watching a building go up—a little at a time. 

The opportunity to watch the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was one of those pieces. After 14 long years of dangerous and stunning engineering work, it finally opened to the public in 1883. I had been watching it develop from before I could walk. My mother’s parents, my grandparents, lived within walking distance from this engineering marvel. My family made frequent trips from Oakland to the east coast on the transcontinental train. I was there shortly after the grand opening of the bridge. What a thrill! When I first stood on that bridge beside my architect cousin, Pierre LeBrun, I knew that I wanted to create something extraordinary in my life, I just did not yet know how.

And by the way, during those early years of my life in Oakland, the city was in the midst of a building boom, construction everywhere. In fact, my family built its own magnificent home. I followed that project with great enthusiasm.

Oakland High School played a significant role in your life. Can you tell us something about those years and how they influenced your path to architecture? 

My early school years were easy for me. I was always at the top of my class, but survived being teased by staying quiet, almost invisible. Everything changed in high school, mostly because I chose what was called The Science Track, filled with arrogant boys and a sprinkling of girls. That was where I met Miss Mollie Connors, the school’s memorable and influential drafting teacher. And that was also when the boys began to show their true colors. They had little patience for a girl sitting next to them, especially one who had caught Miss Connor’s eye. What a force! She inspired many future architects.

When you enrolled at the University of California, you majored in engineering. What was behind that unusual choice? 

I had no choice. By that time, I knew I wanted to become an architect, but the program had not yet been established. Even so, both my cousin, Pierre LeBrun and Miss Connors supported my decision to major in engineering They rightly believed that it would give me a sound grounding for my future study of architecture. They were right! Many of my buildings stand today of my buildings’ ability to withstanding earthquake and fire.

What was your college experience like?

College at Berkeley was a mix of experiences. I studied hard, dealt with arrogant male students and antagonistic professors, most who believed that a woman’s place was in the home. The smartest thing I did was join the first sorority on campus, Kappa Alpha Theta, which, by the way, we still refer to as a fraternity. Without these smart, caring, energetic women in my life I probably would have spent all four years in the library buried under my pile of books.

Did your parents support you in this dream?

What an interesting question. Yes and no. The truth is, while my mother was proud of my achievements throughout my lifetime, during those high school years she was deeply worried about how my ambition could disrupt my path to happiness. Most girls and their parents in well-off families had but one dream. To ‘come out’ as a debutante, to be courted by attentive young men, to select one as a mate, and to live happily ever after as a wife and mother. By the time I became of age, I knew my dream was to become an architect. I also knew that having both marriage and a career would never be possible. But of course, I did not use that argument with my mother. Instead, I convinced her to focus her energies on my younger sister, Emma, who was known in the family as the ‘beauty’ while I was considered to be ‘the brain.’  Needless to say, although Mama was devasted, in the end she permitted me following my dream. 

Papa, on the other hand, supported me from the beginning. He and I would frequently visit the construction site of our new home, and he even escorted me to San Francisco to purchase my drafting equipment for high school. I believe he had some experience with deferring dreams. 

You succeeded in achieving the dreams of your youth. Your path was challenging as well as rewarding. As you look back to those early days, what essential elements helped you most?

Two personal attributes paved my way from the beginning—courage and persistence,. These characteristics will always play an important role in achieving one’s dreams, which has been especially true for women.  


As an educator, Susan J. Austin knows the minds of young readers. Her first novel, The Bamboo Garden, is set in Berkeley, California, 1923, and describes an unlikely friendship between two girls that is tested by a fierce fire that threatens to destroy their town. Currently, she is writing about twelve-year-old Goldie, a whiz kid in the kitchen who hopes that her culinary magic can help her family’s delicatessen out of a pickle in 1928 Hollywood. Her characters are always brave, strong willed risk-takers. Writing historical fiction offers her a way to educate and excite her readers about the past. She and her husband live in Northern California, surrounded by family, their splendid but fussy rose bushes, and a lifetime collection of books. Learn more at www.susanjaustin.com.

Meet Vivienne Mourdant from Joanna Davidson Politano’s The Lost Melody

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Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Miss Mourdant. Won’t you tell us a little about your performance background?

Of course. I’ve played classical pianoforte since I could stand, learning from my father. I wouldn’t know what it was like to have a day—an hour, even—without music. I rehearse and perform so much that when I lift my hands from the keys, I still hear music playing. I feel the tremble of a beat, I think in terms of measures and tempos. Of rising and falling melody lines.

So is it true that you hear music when none is playing?

Yes, I suppose I’d claim that. But it’s not so much a recognizable composition out of thin air, but a symphony of everyday sounds. My brain is so accustomed to measuring seconds by beats and making patterns out of notes that it naturally filters everything about me into an orderly rhythm that becomes a sort of song. The world sings, and I hear music.

But I suppose you’re talking about the song. The one I used to hear at night as a child. Quite a lovely piece, with the rhythmic calm of Mozart yet the more robust and textured style of Liszt as well. I’ve heard it off and on throughout the years, and even though no one else admits to it, I’d be willing to wager they’ve heard it too. There’s just something enchantingly spooky about the song. Its minor trills, the other-worldly cadence of it… Call it a dream. Call me crazy. I know I’ve heard it, and it has something to do with that woman.

We’ve heard you spent time at a local asylum, possibly as a patient. Is there truth to this?
Vivienne: Very true, but it wasn’t because of hearing that song. Well, not only that. I entered Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum voluntarily—as an aid. Between you and I, though, the aid position was merely a ruse. You see, I inherited the guardianship of a mysterious woman who, as it turns out, was a patient at Hurstwell. At least, I think so. No one would give me straight answers about her, so I had to see for myself. And I did find out the truth, and I managed to find a bit of music in that creepy old place.

So being a professionally trained classic musician, why did you take work as an aid in the asylum? What good is your profession there?

More than you could imagine, actually. There’s a natural rhythm at the very core of our created bodies—a steady beat in our chest that starts before we’re even born. And music offers an irresistible invitation to engage with it—despite melancholia tugging one down, madness wrapping itself around your mind or age eating away at your memories. No medicine or treatment can reach the places a familiar song can go, sneaking life back into dying bodies and broken hearts. It’s far more than a spa for the senses, though, believe me. There’s a science to it—the way our bodies, our minds, respond to music, almost against our wills, and imagine what might happen if we allowed ourselves to explore the possibilities. A therapy of music—just imagine.


Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady
Jayne Disappears, A Rumored Fortune, Finding Lady Enderly, The
Love Note, and A Midnight Dance. She loves tales that capture the
colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear
anyone’s story. She lives with her husband and their children in a
house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her online at
http://www.jdpstories.com.

Meet Cassie Barton from Tracie Peterson’s Under the Starry Skies

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My name is Cassandra Barton, but people just call me Cassie.  I live in San Marcial, New Mexico which is on the Rio Grande River.  It’s a hub for the Santa Fe Railroad beings it’s about half way between Topeka and Los Angeles.  I work as a seamstress with the bulk of my work coming in from the railroad men.  I like this kind of work because I am my own boss and can do as much or as little work as I need to do. This turns out to be a very good thing because right off the bat, I break my wrist in a little accident and can’t sew for six weeks.

Brandon Dubarko makes sure I don’t suffer too much. He was a good friend and co-worker of my father’s. He works for the Santa Fe Railroad (just like my father). Brandon is soft-spoken and a deep thinker.  He’s got a world of sorrows to deal with, but he never talks about it. I’m not at all sure what’s weighing him down. I know he really misses my father…and so do I. 

My father died earlier this year when his train derailed. Brandon thinks there was foul play and that someone actually caused the derailment, but I’m not sure that’s the case.  Trains have accidents all the time and it doesn’t take much to derail a train. But, if someone did cause the derailment, then they murdered my father and his fireman.

My father and I were really close, especially after Mother died and my sister Melissa moved to Denver. My deepest desire is that Melissa and I can be close again. After she moved off and married, we aren’t nearly as close as we used to be.  Of course, now she’s a mother and that is bound to take up a lot of her time. 

My future, once my wrist mends, is questionable. A part of me wants to stick around San Marcial, but another part thinks about going to Denver to be closer to Melissa. Of course, at my age (32) I would like to think there was still a chance for romance, but I’m not sure that’s true. It would be a dream come true however, if someone decided I was worth loving.  There was one man…a long time ago.  We were in love and planned to marry, but then my mother died and I needed to care for Melissa.  I don’t know but that it might have been my only chance for love.

I’ve always felt I had to be strong for my family, but now that Mother and Father are dead and Melissa’s married, it’s just me and I’m not real sure what I’m going to do. I know that God has a plan for me, however.  I’ve put my trust in Him since I was little, and I’m not about to stop now. My relationship with the Lord is the thing I value most in life.  He will always see me through.


Award-winning novelist, Tracie Peterson, has been praised for
her captivating historical fiction novels. While each novel weaves
a different tale, Peterson packs her signature elements of history,
action, and romance into each work while also offering
underlying life lessons. In her newest novel, Under the Starry Skies,
Peterson crafts a story about facing your past and learning to
forgive others and yourself.

Meet Nora Fenton from Stephenia H. McGee’s The Secrets of Emberwild

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Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Hello and thank you for having me. I am Miss Nora Fenton, of Emberwild Horse Farm. 

Tell us something about where you live.

I live on the most beautiful farm in Mississippi. In the early mornings, when the sun first kisses the sky, the pastures stretch out in waves of green that beg for exploration. On those mornings, my colt Arrow and I get to be free. The pressures of life slip away as we soar, his hooves barely touching the ground. 

Do you have an occupation? 

I am a horse trainer. Now, before you point out that women are to keep to skirts and the kitchen, let me inform you that I am quite adept at my work. No matter what my father, uncle, or that sour stable master Roger has to say about it. 

I have been working with Arrow for his entire life, and he is the fastest colt I’ve ever seen. I’ll be training him for the harness this summer, and come time for the Neshoba County Fair, he will be ready to race. The hope of Emberwild rests on his back, but I know he won’t let us down.

You mentioned you’re training him to harness race. Can you tell us a little about that?

We raise trotting horses here at Emberwild. For a harness race, the horses are hooked up to a small cart called a sulky. The jockey sits in a single seat on the axel above two wheels with his feet propped on the rails. They are very light. The horses race at a trot. All trotters have to complete a time trial around the track in under two and a half minutes in order to make the breed registry.

I see here that there is a new trainer at Emberwild. How do you feel about that?

Mr. Silas Cavallero, yes. He is quite unneeded, I assure you. I am capable of handling Arrow on my own. Though I do have to admit, he’s quite unlike any of the other men who have tried to get Arrow under control. Arrow seems to like him. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Will you be racing Arrow at the fair this year?

For some unfathomable reason, women jockeys are frowned upon. But, we’ll just see about that, won’t we? 

Other than Arrow’s race, what other plans does Emberwild have for the future?

My father is very ill, and I’m afraid Mother and I will have to start thinking of our future without him. I’m confident that we will be able to run the farm on our own. Widows can own property, after all. I see no reason why we can’t continue on as two independent women. Once Arrow completes his runs, the buyers will flock to Emberwild to secure breeding rights and purchase our foals. 

We are so sorry to hear about your father, Miss Fenton. We wish you the best. One more question. Did you name your colt? Why Arrow?

I was there when Arrow was born. I shouldn’t have been, of course, and Mother was most displeased. Soon after he was born, he stood up on these long, spindly legs with the tiniest hooves. I told him he looked like he was trying to hold himself up on four little arrows. As he got older, I realized how perfectly the name fit. Not only does he have long, straight cannon bones, but Arrow can truly fly. You really should come watch him run. There’s nothing better.

That would be delightful. That’s all the time we have for today, Miss Fenton. Thank you for allowing us to get know you a little better!

My pleasure, truly. I must and get back inside and out of these men’s trousers before Mother sees me. Feel free to come visit Emberwild any time!


Stephenia H. McGee is the award-winning author of many stories
of faith, hope, and healing set in the Deep South. When she’s not
reading or sipping sweet tea on the front porch, she’s a writer,
dreamer, husband spoiler, and busy mom of two rambunctious boys.
Learn more at www.stepheniamcgee.com.

Interview with Julia Schultz from A Gem of Truth – by Kimberley Woodhouse

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

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Tell us something about where you live.

I just moved to the Grand Canyon, and I think it’s the most beautiful place on earth. There’s so much to explore here, I think I could spend a lifetime hiking around and not see the entire thing.

Where did you grow up?

Mostly Texas.

Texas is a large state… I’ve been through Dallas. What was your favorite part of growing up there?

There were a lot of cattle. There’s not a lot of cattle here. Some people think of the Grand Canyon as dry and desert like, but there’s so much life and beauty here. I like this much more than Texas.

I can tell you really love your new location. What brought you there?

I’ve been a Harvey Girl for a while now and have always wanted to work at the magnificent El Tovar Hotel. You could say it’s been a dream of mine. When I received word of my transfer, I was ecstatic.

Sounds like a dream come true. But isn’t it difficult to start over again in a new place?

Not as hard as you might think. I actually am enjoying this fresh start. New people, new job. I might even be up for a promotion which is very exciting.

That is very exciting. You must have a lot of experience as a Harvey Girl.

I do. I’ve met some of the most fascinating people doing what I do.

Tell us about someone fascinating that you’ve met. 

Oh, there’s so many! But I did meet the richest man in the world. 

You don’t say. You’ve met Mr. Rockefeller?

Yes! And he gave me this coin. It’s actually a wonderful story… but… I should save that for another time.

All right. Who are the special people in your life? You must miss them a lot.

My parents have been gone for a while. So it’s just me. 

Do you hope to meet someone special someday?

By the twinkle in your eye, I can see that you are quite the romantic. Like the other girls, I’m always hopeful. But I’m content to relish all the interesting people I meet until then. In fact, the other day, I met a man named Chris—he’s a jeweler by trade. I’ve also met some of the Hopi people. They are incredibly talented and showcase their skills and wares at the Hopi House. 

I’ve wanted to visit the Hopi House, I hear it’s very unique.

It was designed by a woman. Did you know that? Ms. Mary Colter. Another amazing story.

You do have so many interesting stories, don’t you? For my last question, I’m sure our readers would like to know if you have any dreams for the future?

There are so many! But I really want to find people who care about me for me. People have always been fascinated with my stories, but I wish they would find me fascinating. I long to be somebody. I don’t know how I’ll accomplish that, but I can always dream. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!


Kimberley Woodhouse has won multiple awards for her
historical novels, which are filled with adventure and romance.
In A Gem of Truth, book two in the SECRETS OF THE CANYON
series, Woodhouse plunges readers deep into the recesses of the
Grand Canyon in search of a legendary treasure. Themes of
honesty, love, and one’s worth regardless of their past are
intricately woven together in this captivating historical narrative.

Book Review: The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

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The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

Pub Date 06 Sep 2022  SOURCEBOOKS Landmark

The Ways We Hide features the protagonist Ida Vos, a woman we first meet as a magician, having designed and created illusions for the stage in the early 1940s. This alone is interesting but as we get to know her we learn that she carries with her a sense of loneliness and independence due to bringing raised in an orphanage after her alcoholic father dies. Prior to his death she experienced a trauma that only the young boy, Arie, who suffered it with her understands. She ends up living with his family. As she grows up Arie is her stability and the two of them practice magic tricks together.

Without giving away too much, I’ll tell you that they are separated and then during the war their paths cross again in London. He is in intelligence, and she’s been recruited to help develop tools that can be hidden to help Allied Forces, maps, knives, and all sorts of things a soldier behind enemy lines might need.

Ida ends up pushing herself into a mission that she thinks will help save Arie in Nazi occupied Holland. Nothing ends up as she imagined. Ida is confronted with the horrors of war and she and Arie must save a young girl who lives with a Nazi officer but who has Jewish roots that may soon be discovered. How Ida manages to overcome the trauma from her childhood that still haunts her, danger from being discovered by the Nazis, her natural distrust of strangers that she now must depend upon (the Dutch resistance during WWII was incredible and deserves attention), grief that continues to find her, together make for a thrilling tale that once I got halfway through the book kept me intrigued as though I watched it unfold on a screen.

The author does a superb job with descriptions and characterizations. Her notes at the end are not to be missed as so much is explained and examined. An incredible amount of research was put into this novel and it shines because of that effort. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and recommend it to all who enjoy historical fiction.

I received an advance complimentary copy of the novel from the publisher through NetGalley without obligation of any review.

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson, http://www.cindyswriting.com

Sally Carpenter Interviews Noelle McNabb of the Psychedelic Spy Mystery Series

Welcome to Novel PASTimes. We’re glad you dropped by. What’s special about your name?

Hi, I’m Noelle McNabb, 25 years old. My parents named me Noelle—the feminine version of Noel—because I was born on Christmas Day. Rather appropriate, because my town is Christmas-crazy.

What’s unique about where you live?

I reside on Ornament Lane in the small rural town of Yuletide, in the southwest corner of Indiana. The biggest industry in town, besides the electronics plant, is the Christmas Cozy Family Fun theme park, which draws visitors from across the country. Our town mayor plays Santa Claus because he looks the part, with his white beard and chubby belly.

The school kids work at the park as well, loading the rides and singing in the shows. The park has rides, carnival games, a petting zoo, music, fun house and naturally, tykes can talk with Santa all year round. Artists and craftsmen sell their wares. Of course, all of the merchandise is Christmas-related.

What’s special about the time you live in?

It’s 1967, and the times, they are a changin’. I love rock music, new movies, pop art, hair styles, the big shopping mall and the groovy miniskirts. But my parents are a drag, ‘cause they’re stuck in the 1950s. Mom wants me to get married and raise kids like she did. Maybe someday, but not now—I have big career plans. My parents and I have what they call the “generation gap.” My parents also frown when I hang out with the hippies, Rambler and Moonbaby, who are pretty far out once you look past the tie-dye and their counterculture lifestyle.

But beneath our quiet, small-town life, it’s a volatile era: war protests, draft dodgers, women’s liberation, space race, Cold War and the civil rights movement.

I heard that you have an avocation along with your regular job

I work as an actress at the theme park, which means I play the Winter Witch—complete with long black robe and green makeup—in a silly musical revue. During the school year when the park is only open weekends, I supplement my income with a few weekday shifts at the Groovy Vinyl record shop.

I have another job, if you can call it that, but I can’t talk about it because it’s a secret. I can’t even tell my family and friends, which drives me crazy because I share everything with mom. All right, I’ll tell if you promise not to spread it around: I do occasional undercover work with a super-secret spy agency. Not even the CIA knows about SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Enemy Surveillance and Espionage). They have a fantastic underground headquarters, but don’t ask me where it is because whenever I go there, I’m driven in a car with tinted windows.

Who are the people you work with at SIAMESE?

Dash Hanover is the senior control operative in charge of everything. He knows his stuff, but he’s demanding and unyielding. I was shocked to discover he and I are related, although I’m not supposed to know that. His mother is an aunt I’ve never met and never knew existed. I want to find her, but Dash doesn’t—he feels my aunt’s safety would be compromised if the enemies of SIAMESE find her.

My spy partner is Destiny King, a fab gear black operative. She grew up in a rough neighborhood of Chicago. She’s had some hard knocks, but she’s super to work with. I’m still getting to know her, as she refuses to open up and share her feelings.

Can you tell us about your missions?

Sorry, that’s classified information. All I can say is my first mission concerned missing microdots and the second was tracking down an enemy spy. I can say no more.

I’ve heard you’ve also solved a couple of murders

That’s right. My friends at SIAMESE helped as well, but I was the one who put the clues together. Yuletide is a sleepy town, and we usually don’t get crimes like murder, so the (overweight and lazy) police chief was out of his league and needed all the help he could get. 

Did anyone aid you in your crime solving?

Trevor Spellman is a reporter with the Yuletide Herald, the local newspaper. He’s great at finding information and just being there for support. We’ve known each other since high school, but we’re just good friends.

Since you’re unmarried and childless, do you have any siblings? Pets?

Yeah, a brother and a sister. They’re twins. They’re much younger than I am (they were an unexpected “oops!”). I babysit them when mom and dad go out, which can be a bummer when I’m needed on a spy mission. Dolly and Donny are 8 years old, so I can’t pal around with them, and they can be bratty.

I have a big fat black cat, Ceebee, which is short for car burglar. He likes to steal things and hide them under my sofa. I have to clean out his “treasures” periodically. I have a little cottage in the country, and Ceebee is good at keeping the mice cleaned out of the woods.

Ceebee helped out on my second mission. SIAMESE fitted him with an ear implant and a microphone in a collar. He slipped up on some spies, and Destiny and I could hear the conversation transmitted through the collar from a safe distance away.

What’s the religious life like in your town?

People go to church. It’s what we do, along with going to work or to school. You’d have to go to Riverbend, the big town a few miles away, to find a synagogue. My family and I attend Bethlehem Community Church, the largest Protestant church in town. Holy Nativity is the Catholic parish, and they hold folk Masses.

On Sunday morning I go to Sunday School and the service along with my friends. On Wednesday nights, the church hosts a potluck dinner followed by different activities. The kids have crafts and games. The teens sing the new “Jesus music” and rap. My parents attend the couples class, and I go to the social issues discussion. 

My faith sometimes clashes with my spy work. I refuse to carry a gun. I won’t kill. It’s wrong. My spy partner, however, had killed and feels no remorse. She said it was either the other guy’s life or hers.

Spies also lie a lot. I have trouble with that, as I was raised to always speak the truth. Destiny has the moral line that “the means justify the end.” I’m not comfortable with that if it conflicts with my ethics.

What are your dreams for the future?

I want to move to Hollywood and star in movies or TV, although working with SIAMESE has given me plenty of real-life drama. Do I want to work in spy craft full time? I couldn’t handle the endless danger, secrecy and deception. But sometimes, performing in a TV sitcom seems trivial compared to the life and death stakes in spy work. I can make a difference in the world whenever I stop evil men and bring murderers to justice.

Thanks for letting us get to know you better, Noelle. Good luck with your future missions!


Sally Carpenter writes two clean read, cozy mystery series: Sandy Fairfax (five books) and the Psychedelic Spy (two books). She also pens the Roots of Faith column for a community newspaper. Her first book, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” was a finalist for the 2012 Eureka! Award for best first mystery novel. She also has short stories published in three anthologies. She holds a master’s degree in theater and a Master of Divinity. She’s previously worked as an actress, movie studio tour guide and college composition instructor. Sally grew up in Indiana but now lives in California. Her website is sandyfairfaxauthor.com.  

A Chat with Olive Alexander from Come Down Somewhere by Jennifer L. Wright

Welcome to NovelPASTimes! Today we’re joined by Miss Olive Alexander of Alamogordo, New Mexico—

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Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo.

I’m sorry?

Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo. I’m living there with my grandma—for now—but I’m not from there. I’m from my family’s ranch on the Jornada, near the Chupadera Mesa.

I beg your pardon. Sorry about that.

Olive: It’s alright.

Well, how about we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

Olive: Okay. Well, I’m fifteen years old. Lived in New Mexico all my life on the ranch built by my grandfather after he emigrated from Russia. My dad died a few years ago, so my uncle Hershel—his brother—moved in to help out. Not that I’d call what he does “help.” He mainly drinks and sulks, complaining about how the world is going to pot. My mom and I ignore him for the most part, and so did my brother, Avery. But now . . . I don’t know . . . Avery follows him around like some kind of puppy.

Why do you think that is?

Olive: I don’t know. Maybe it’s got something to do with the war? Avery tried to enlist but couldn’t on account of color blindness. I think that put a chip on his shoulder. Made him feel like less of a man somehow or like he didn’t matter. Maybe joining in on Hershel’s blustering and ranting makes Avery feel important again.

You say “the war” like it puts a bad taste in your mouth. Why is that?

Olive: Now look, I’m not anti-war. I think Hitler’s evil, and there weren’t no excuse for what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. I’m behind our troops 110 percent. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m just . . . well, I guess frustrated is the right word. Everyone keeps telling us that we need to do our part for the war effort but what is my part? Seems like nobody nowhere had need of me. Not even here at home.

What do you mean?

Olive: You said it yourself right there at the beginning of the interview. Sayin’ I was from Alamogordo and all. Why did you believe I was from Alamogordo?

Because that’s what your information sheet said. Your address was listed as a house on Delaware Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Olive: Exactly. I’m not from Alamogordo but I’m living there now because my mom shipped me off. Wouldn’t let me live on the ranch anymore, even though Avery’s leaving and they need the help. They don’t need my help anymore. 

What do you mean she wouldn’t let you live on the ranch anymore?

Olive: Well, on accounts of the Army moving in.

The Army?

Olive: Yeah, the Army. They enacted something called “eminent domain,” which gave them the right to take over our ranch for the war effort. There’s some sort of project they’re working on nearby, and they need the space to house construction workers. It’s top secret. Hush-hush. 

The Army is working on a top secret military project here? In the middle of nowhere?

Olive: Why you gotta say it like that? Is there something wrong with southern New Mexico?

Not at all. It’s just so . . . isolated. And desolate.

Olive: I know. I like it that way. But I sure don’t understand why the Army picked this place out of the entire United States to do . . . well, whatever it is they’re doing. Especially since it means I’ve been kicked out of my home. And with it being so top secret, no one can even really tell me why.

Well, can’t you just view this as your part of the war effort? Everyone is sacrificing, right? This is just your particular brand of sacrificing.

Olive: I don’t mind sacrificing for the war effort. We’ve been rationing and going without plenty of things, just like everyone else. What’s hard about sacrificing my home is that, out of my entire family, I’m the only one doing it. Avery’s leaving—finally got accepted into the Army after all—but both Ma and Uncle Hershel get to stay on the ranch. I’m the only one who has to leave. Why is that?

I . . . I don’t know.

Olive: Exactly.

Well, even if it’s not your preferred location, surely there must be something good about living in Alamogordo. Something that perhaps eases your burden a little bit?

Olive: Well, my grandma’s here. Out on the ranch, I don’t get to see her much, so it’s nice to be able to get to know her a little better, even with all her silly notions about God and church and all. And I like the soda fountains downtown. Can’t get that out in the country. But the best thing?

Go on.

Olive: *smiles sheepishly* I don’t want to talk about it.

You’re smiling though. It must be something really good if you’re smiling. It’s the first one I’ve seen all day.

Olive: Oh, it is good. A tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed kind of good. But I still don’t want to talk about it.

*Grins* Fair enough. Well, thank you for talking to me, Olive. I wish you the best of luck in Alamogordo and pray this war ends quickly so you can get back home as soon as possible.

Olive: You sound like my grandma. You can keep your prayers, but I thank you all the same.


Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home.

She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup.

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Introducing Mollie Sheehan Ronan from Jane Kirkpatrick’s Beneath the Bending Skies

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Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your talents and what you love to do? 

Thank you for the invitation to tell you about myself, Mollie Sheehan Ronan. I’m a shy person though some would dispute that because I do love to recite moving pieces like Chief Black Hawk’s 1832 surrender speech or a Shakespeare sonnet. When a piano is around, I can play it – and the organ too – and I love to sing. But recitation is my favorite. I’d do that after supper at our establishment that my step-mother ran while my dear father worked as a freighter in the Montana mines and was sometimes gone for a year at a time. I suppose I enjoyed the praise and the compliments about my very long auburn hair, so long I could sit on it. Best was getting to see stage performances that my father would take me to. Such plays were a great pastime in the mining camps when winter snows kept miners from panning or sluicing for gold. I loved reading fairy tales from Ireland especially and dreamed of falling in love with my own prince charming. And I did!  

You mentioned that you met your prince charming. What happened?

Sadly, my father didn’t approve even though my fiancé had been my father’s best friend! My father was so adamant that we break off our engagement, that he moved our entire family (step-mother, sister Kate and brother Jimmy) out of Montana to San Juan Capistrano in California. Quite a different landscape, I can tell you. Beautiful, bougainvillea blooming, eternal summer, but I did miss the mountains. I thought my life with Peter would be no more. I considered joining the convent in Los Angeles but one of the Sisters counseled me that service to God was not to be an escape from the world but a way to enter more deeply into service to all God’s children. Well, God had other things in store and through a series of twists and turns, Peter and I found each other again. I think you’ll like that story, but I won’t go into it here. My life then did become a kind of fairy tale, living happily ever after with my husband who was involved in the newspaper industry, mining, politics and, of course, he was very active with our growing family.

You mentioned that “Family is everything” to you. But going against your father’s will led to some conflicts within your own family. 

Family is indeed everything to me and I hated hurting my father, who still didn’t approve of my husband despite his being a fine provider and loving husband and father, one who encouraged rather than controlled his children. He felt Peter being 10 years older than me was too old but I don’t think my father would ever have approved of anyone who might fall in love with his “little girl.”

How did your language skills and your desire to make everyone feel welcome aid you in being the wife of the Indian Agent among the Flathead People? 

Peter and I had some disappointments but then when we were the most discouraged, a new door opened and I entered a world of the Flathead People, — the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend D’Oreille tribes in Montana. We lived among them for the next seventeen years. Every day I learned that the way I saw the world was not the only way to see it. My best friend after Peter is a Salish woman, Shows No Anger. How I love her! I learned so much from her about the land and family and that honoring one’s father meant listening to my heart and focusing on my own family. I do love words and kept a journal and wrote my memoir. One word I especially love is hearth. It comes from the second century and can be translated as focus.The hearth was the center of the home. It’s where people were fed, stories told, comfort offered. It was where the heat was. The farther one moves from the heat, the more easily one can lose focus. I focused on the hearth of my family and always had an open door to strangers too. Imagine a table that could seat sixteen. My husband sat across from me in the middle, never at the ends. We always wanted to keep the focus on our guests and family to be sure they were well fed. And thus, we were well fed too, with family, friends and faith. 

I hope you like my story of living Beneath the Bending Skies.  


About the Book:

Bestselling and award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick has brought
the West to life in her inspiring novels based upon true events. Each
tale looks at the hidden lives of women whose universal struggles,
bravery, indominable spirit, and ingenuity helped form the American
West. In Beneath the Bending Skies, Kirkpatrick uses her signature style
to delve into the life of Mollie Sheehan, who had to forgo her father’s
blessing in order to seek her happily ever after. Her life-altering
decision became the catalyst for her movement to aid the Nez Perce
tribe during the mid-1800s.


Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-
winning author of 40 books, including The Healing of Natalie Curtis,

Something Worth Doing, One More River to Cross, Everything She Didn’t Say,
All Together in One Place, A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver,
This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the
prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her
works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for
Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award.
Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her
husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar. Learn more
at www.jkbooks.com.