Interview with Eugene Ely from Ely Air Lines by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

January 18, 1911

San Francisco, California

Mike: Mr. Ely, it is a pleasure to speak with you. Congratulations—amid all this noise and celebration—on your significant contributions, not only to aviation, but to the world, as the first person to take off and land on a ship! How did events unfold to bring us to this point? 

Eugene Ely: I was traveling the air show circuit, performing what the promoters called “feats of great danger and thrill” when I met Captain Chambers of the U.S. Navy. That was last October. He was convinced it would be possible to take off and land an airplane on a ship, and he’d been appointed by Navy Secretary Meyer to look into how they could use aeroplanes for the military. So he approached me about doing it.

Linda: People have said that if there is one person in the world who would do it, you would be the one. Would you tell us what it’s like to achieve these accomplishments?

Eugene Ely: Of course. First, the takeoff. That was back in November. The 14th. I took off from the USS Birmingham, in a Curtiss Pusher. The Birmingham is a light cruiser, you see, and they built an eighty-three-foot sloping wooden platform for me. It went over the bow like a runway and was just long enough for the Pusher to get airborne (mostly). I flew off the ship and stayed barely above the waves. In fact, my wheels dipped into the water just a little bit, but I was able to pull it up. I wasn’t able to see too well though, because ocean spray splattered all over my goggles. So instead of circling the harbor and landing at the Norfolk Navy Yard as we had planned, I landed on the beach. But it all went well, and we proved what we set out to prove. 

Mike: It was amazing you kept the airplane flying!

Eugene Ely: Yes, well, thank you. Then, of course, we didn’t try to do the landing that same day. I mean, I didn’t land on a ship the same day I took off of one. You see, we wanted to really think this through, the landing part, because landing on a ship is a huge challenge. 

Linda: Yes, a moving target! And now here we are just two months later, in the San Francisco Bay, and you’ve done it! Congratulations, again!

Eugene Ely: Right. Thank you. Well, eventually we will land on a moving target, but today, since we’re just here to prove we can, they anchored the USS Pennsylvania to the bay. And the Curtiss Pusher came through again – it’s a wonderful aeroplane built by Glenn Curtiss, a great designer and builder. 

Mike: And where did you take off from today?

Eugene Ely: I took off from the horse track down in San Bruno. Tanforan. Not far, about ten miles south of here. 

Mike: And this isn’t only the first successful shipboard landing for an aeroplane, is it? There’s something else special about it, too. Would you tell us what that is?

Eugene Ely: Oh yes, we just tested out a new system that Hugh Robinson built called “tailhook.” It caught the hooks on the bottom of my aeroplane to stop me from going into the bay. It was easy enough. I think the trick could be successfully turned nine times out of ten.

Linda: Mr. Ely, even with your reputation as a daring and natural flyer, we understand that most onlookers could not fathom a successful outcome to today’s landing attempt.

Eugene Ely: That’s true. I think many people gathered here expecting to never see me fly again.

Mike: But indeed you will, and thankfully so. So what’s next for you?

Eugene Ely: Well, I’d like to go to work for the Navy, but we’ll see. They need to get organized with an aviation department, and I think I’d be the best candidate to make that happen. So far, Captain Chambers says he’ll keep me in mind, but I think he’s a little uneasy about the kind of exhibition flying I do. But you know, I love this stuff. It’s what I’m made of. I guess I will be like the rest of them, keep at it until I am killed.

Linda: Well, we’d say you’ve had a successful day and a successful career so far. Sirens and whistles are going off on all the ships in the bay. We’re celebrating the birth of Naval Aviation—delivered by a civilian. And it has all begun with a great pilot named Eugene Ely. Thank you, Mr. Ely, it’s been an honor speaking with you.

Mike and Linda Ely’s “Ely Air Lines” (Paper Airplane Publishing, LLC, January 2020) is a collection of 100 short stories selected from the first ten years of the couple’s weekly newspaper column about aviation – but written specifically for the non-flying general public – YOU! The Elys aim to put a face to the flyer’s world.  


Mike Ely has logged thousands of hours over more than forty years as a professional pilot. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate with multiple type ratings and a flight instructor certificate. Mike has taught people to fly in small single engine airplanes, gliders, turboprops, and corporate jets. As a freight pilot and an international corporate pilot, he has flown through all kinds of weather, to many places, both exotic and boring. His love for writing was instilled by his father at an early age.

Linda Street-Ely is an award-winning, multi-genre author and playwright. She also holds an airline transport pilot certificate, a commercial seaplane certificate and a tailwheel endorsement. She has air raced all over the U.S., including four times in the historic all-women’s transcontinental Air Race Classic. Besides flying, Linda has a keen appreciation for great storytelling. She loves to travel the world, meet people, and learn about other cultures because she believes great stories are everywhere.

Together, Linda and Mike are “Team Ely,” five-time National Champions of the Sport Air Racing League, racing their Grumman Cheetah, named the “Elyminator,” and dubbed “The Fastest Cheetah in the Known Universe.” They live in Liberty, Texas.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Website: Paper Airplane Publishing

Facebook: Paper Airplane Publishing

Twitter: Paper Airplane Publishing

BOOK BLURB

Ely Air Lines: Select Stories from 10 Years of a Weekly Column

Volumes 1 and 2 (sold separately)

Delightful stories of flying adventures from around the globe. Adventurous and heartwarming. Written by pilots.

Ely Air Lines is a captivating 2-volume set of 100 short stories that inspire and educate, written by pilots Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely. Step aboard to enjoy a collection of stories that explore the vast realm of the flyer’s world.

Buckle up and fly with Mike and Linda to discover amazing people, interesting places, and the conquest of flight. 

A Chat with Geoffrey Hagan of Down to the Potter’s House by Annette Valentine

Taking us to the idyllic town of Elkton, Kentucky for a behind the scenes chat with Geoffrey Hagan of Down to the Potter’s House by Annette Valentine:

Mr. Hagan, it is certainly a pleasure to speak with you again about folks in Todd County. Last time we chatted, our conversation was mostly about your son, Simon. What can you tell us about his returning to his roots and how that might have changed him? 

Now that question brings me a smile and a mighty fine chuckle as well. You see, Simon met a young woman within days of his return to Elkton. Yessiree! Gracie Maxwell was a head-turner alright, and my son took a right-quick liking to her. It appeared they might be made for each other, but Gracie had some commitments and a pretty hard head to go with them if you know what I mean. Darned near broke Simon’s heart. I’m not saying I stepped in, playing God or getting in His way, but I did have to do what a father has to sometimes do to help matters.

It’s intriguing to see two people who have fallen in love needing to find a way to overcome or sidestep commitments. You indicated Miss Maxwell might have had to face some obstacles. Would you comment?

Of course. Elkton’s a small town. Towns don’t get any better than Elkton, Kentucky. Folks know other folks’s business and knowing about your neighbors and friends has its up side and its down side. The Maxwells are a good family. Gracie grew up on a fine stretch of tobacco land just south of town, and I’ve known her father for years—a senator and a gentleman involved in breeding Thoroughbred horses, racing, and such. But it only takes one bad seed to grow a bunch of weeds. Gracie had to make her peace with some weeds, and her commitments to outgrow them was highest priority. 

Would you say your son, Simon, made a worthwhile decision returning to Elkton?

If I were to choose the direction for my child, I’d want it to include a place where foundational strength can be nurtured. No one town or location is single-handedly gonna provide what a person requires for life’s journey, but folks around here still respect others and value decency. Simon had those qualities reinforced when he came back, and Gracie Maxwell played a mighty big role in helping him embrace a life worth living.  

I’m curious about a relationship that has such power. Was Gracie out of the ordinary in some way?

Ah! You may’ve touched on something there! That gal definitely has a power source most of her family can’t hold a candle to. Don’t misunderstand—the Senator has plenty but compromise can undermine strength in a heartbeat. It’s always interesting to see who has real strength when push comes to shove, and Gracie is out of the ordinary for sure.    

Once again, Mr. Hagan, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Annette Valentine’s novel “Down to the Potter’s House” (Morgan James, November 2020) is a 1921-1942 historical tale set on a tobacco farm turned racehorse breeding stable in rural Kentucky, and follows the tenacious Gracie Maxwell to higher ground as she climbs and never stops. A fast-moving novel of romance and redemption, intrigue and revenge, the book showcases a finely-tuned protagonist who grows from naive schoolgirl to committed missionary to loving wife and mother. Written in an exquisite style, “Down to the Potter’s House” is an astute study of the contrast between good and evil inside an extended family.

Annette Valentine is an inspirational storyteller with a flair for the unexpected. By age eleven, she knew that writing was an integral part of her creative nature. Annette graduated with distinction from Purdue and founded an interior design firm which spanned a 34-year career in Lafayette, Indiana and Brentwood, Tennessee. Annette has used her 18-year affiliation with Toastmasters International to prepare her for her position with the Speakers’ Bureau for End Slavery Tennessee and is an advocate for victims and survivors of human trafficking and is the volunteer group leader for Brentwood, Tennessee. Annette writes through the varied lens of colorful personal experience and the absorbing reality of humanity’s search for meaning. Mother to one son and daughter, and a grandparent of six amazing kids, Annette now lives in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and their 5-year-old Boxer. To learn more about Annette’s life and work, please visit https://annettehvalentine.com

Meet Sister Mary Katherine (Kate O’Neill) from Marian O’Shea Wernicke’s Toward That Which is Beautiful

                                  

In a small town in Peru in the summer of 1964, Sister Mary Katherine, a young American nun, walks away from her convent with no money and no destination. Desperate in this foreign place and afraid of her feelings for an Irish priest, she spends eight days on the run, encountering a variety of characters and situations along the way. As Kate traverses this dangerous physical journey through Peru, she also embarks upon an interior journey of self-discovery — one that leads her somewhere she never could have expected.

What is your name and where did it come from?

My name now is Sister Mary Katherine, O.P.  This is the name I chose when I became a novice in the Dominican community of sisters outside of St. Louis, Missouri. My former name was Kate O’Neill, given to me by my proud Irish American parents, and the name I secretly still think of as my real name.  

Tell us something about where you are living now.

For the past months, I have been living in the parish convent of the small town of Juliaca in the highlands of Peru. We are near beautiful Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world at 12,000 feet. The air is thin due to the altitude, and nights are cold, but the sunshine is bright and hot during the day. Sometimes I am breathless when I try to run or climb stairs too quickly. From my bedroom window on the second floor of the convent, I can glimpse the snow-covered peaks of the Andes in the distance.

Why did you become a nun?

I grew up going to Catholic schools in St. Louis where the Sisters of St. Joseph were our teachers. One sister especially drew me to this life.  Her name was Sister Helene, and she was my favorite teacher. She was young and happy, quite pretty and lots of fun.  She made me see that a life given totally to God and others could be full of joy and fulfillment. So ever since sixth grade, I had the secret feeling that God wanted me to be a sister. I tried to fight this vocation in high school when I found myself becoming boy crazy, as we used to say, but eventually I decided to surrender to this calling. 

What do you like and dislike about your work now in Peru?

I love the children I teach and the teenagers I meet with once a week after school. These are Quechua- speaking kids who know very little Spanish, and who are just learning to read and write.  My job is to teach them Spanish and religion.  When I am teaching religion, I have a translator in the room, a young Quechua woman, who also knows Spanish.  The children are very hard working from an early age on, helping their parents in the fields and caring for the babies. In the classroom they are quiet, rarely saying anything, but their eyes light up when I tell them stories about Jesus and when they learn new words in Spanish. 

I dislike very much the fact that I do not speak Quechua. Also I do not know the culture nor the history of the people.  I should have studied these things before I came to Peru, not just Spanish. I’m having to stumble through with too little preparation.

What are you most afraid of?

Right now I am most afraid of my feelings.  You see, I find myself falling in love with one of the priests I work with here in the parish.  He’s a fine priest, and I don’t want to disturb his vocation.  I’m trying to be true to my vows. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

I want to love God above all things, but I also want a deep human love, not just a general love for all people.  How do I reconcile these two desires as a nun?

What are you learning about yourself during this time in Peru?

I’m learning that I am not as stable as I thought I was.  I’m seriously considering running way. I need time and space.  I need to figure out who I really am.  Wish me luck, please. 


Born and raised in an Irish Catholic family in St. Louis, Missouri, Marian O’Shea Wernicke is the eldest of seven children. She was a nun for eleven years and spent three years working in Lima, Peru, during that time. She is a former professor of English and creative writing at Pensacola State College and the author of a memoir about her father called Tom O’Shea: A Twentieth Century Man. She also coedited and contributed to an award-winning book of short fiction and memoir called Confessions: Fact or Fiction

Meet Lena from Amanda Tero’s A Strand of Hope

Well Lena, it’s nice to meet you at last! I just have to ask, what book is a comfort read for you? If I remember correctly you don’t have favorites. 😉 

That’s true. Books are like flowers–they’re all wonderful in their own sense. But if I were to choose a comfort read, it would be A Little Princess. It was not only the first book I read; it also accompanied me during my time grieving Aunt Melba Lynn’s death.

Oh, that’s so sad and sweet at the same time…losing loved ones is a hard thing to go through. On a happier note, as a horseback librarian, you obviously ride a horse! Do you enjoy the company of Kirby?

I love spending time with Kirby! He’s a horse I can fully trust and rely on. And, he doesn’t ask me questions.

That’s something I like about animals…they just listen and don’t judge 😉 Pastor Stuart seems like a kind, caring minister. What do you think of him? Do you enjoy his preaching?

Pastor Stuart is very kind. Sometimes with his sermons, I wonder if he really does know all about everyone in his congregation. So often it’s just what I need to hear.

Pastors do seem to know all at times! Do you ever see your fellow librarians at church?

Yes; even though I don’t always speak to them, Lilian, Ivory, and Edna Sue all attend church (we only have one church in Willow Hollow).

That’s wonderful! Do you ever bump into them at the library? I know you don’t often talk to strangers, but Who do you think you would get along with the best?

I prefer to be on my own and leave for my route before the others, but there are library meetings and such when we are all together. I probably get along best with Lilian; she’s not as reclusive and opinionated as Edna Sue yet not as bubbly and energetic as Ivory.

They all sound intriguing in their own way! Okay, now a more serious question. Do you ever wish you knew your grandparents?

I sometimes wonder… I wonder if they’re at all like Mom, or if maybe she changed after she left them. But then I think, maybe they are kind of like her. After all, they didn’t want her after she became pregnant. So, maybe it’s just better that I don’t know them and have Homer and Nora as my surrogate grandparents.

Yeah, I can understand that. Homer and Nora! They are such a sweet couple! If you could put them in one of your many favorite books, 😉 which would you put them in?

I think I would put them in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. They seem like they’d fit well in Milton.

Oh, great choice! Now a fun question! What is one book you have heard of but never read?

There is a new publication out there: Nancy Drew. I’m very curious what her story is about.

Oh! I love Nancy Drew! I think you will enjoy them when you get the chance! Lena, thank you so much for chatting with me! I really enjoyed it and I hope you did too! Happy reading and horsebacking!

Thank you. Maybe I’ll see you along my route sometime.

About the Book

Lena Davis is the daughter her mom never wanted.

But she survived. Through stories. Because books didn’t judge. Books weren’t angry she was alive. Books never expected her to be anything but who she was.

As she grows up, her beloved library becomes her true home.

So when the library is designated part of President Roosevelt’s Packhorse Library Project, Lena is determined to get the job of bringing books to highlanders, believing she’ll finally be free of her mom forever.

But earning the trust of highlanders is harder than she imagined, and her passion for books might not be enough to free her from her chains.  
Readers can get a free short story prequel, “Finding Hope,” by signing up to Amanda’s newsletter: amandatero.com/newsletter


Amanda Tero grew up attending a one room school with her eleven siblings—and loved it! She also fell in love with reading to the point her mom withheld her books to get her to do her chores. That love of reading turned into a love of writing YA fiction. Amanda is a music teacher by day and a literary guide by night, creating stories that whisk readers off to new eras and introduce them to heroic but flawed characters that live out their faith in astonishing ways.

An Interview with Carl Schenfield from W.D. McIntyre’s Bluebell

Today’s interview complements of the author’s son Scott.

As the character I’m interviewing today for Novel PASTimes, is featured in one of my dad’s, as yet, unpublished novels, let me set the stage for our discussion.

Part One of “Bluebell” opens in 1939, with Willis Jefferson approaching the town of Drewsport.  An adult black man, Willis was saved, as a child, by Rowena Kramer, a kindly white woman, just 12 years earlier during a violent storm on the plains of Kansas. Miss Rowena introduced Willis to education, and instilled in him, a love for all.

As he nears the town’s first house, a woman’s scream startles him.  Realizing it would be suicide to go to her aid, he tries to ignore the sounds of the beating, but is stopped by the memory of Miss Rowena’s teachings.  He rushes to the house where he finds a viciously beaten white woman.  Though his actions are heroic, he doesn’t become the beloved of Drewsport and pays the ultimate price for his actions. 

The subject of my interview, Carl Schenfield, is an investigative reporter and novelist who kicked off Part Two of “Bluebell”, by going to Drewsport intent on seeing it pay for its crimes.  As we spoke, we took much delight commenting, when possible, with excerpts from the novel, which I’ve set aside in quotation marks.


Scott: Thanks for meeting with me Carl.  My research shows you were a correspondent in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and it was there you met someone that greatly impacted you.  Can you tell me about that meeting?

Carl: He was a “young man, a gunner’s mate from a PT squadron, at an airstrip on Leyte.  They were there waiting for transportation north.  The boy was being reassigned after having been hospitalized for injuries incurred when his boat was blown from beneath him.”

Scott:  And you talked with him for a long time?

Carl:  No, it was “a brief encounter…war rarely leaves time for proper introductions.  Such meetings might be no more than sharing a slit trench, a life raft, foxhole, or being slung over the shoulder of some guy who’s risking his life to save your butt.”

Scott:  That doesn’t sound like ideal circumstances for investigative reporting.

Carl:  Actually, “these situations, and the myriad of others created by war, make room for an openness that is seldom achieved in more refinedcircumstances.  Maybe there’s an attraction, maybe there isn’t; it’s of little consequence.  In the next minute either, or both of you, could be dead.  It had been that way with…Jeremy.”

Scott: Other than what he told you, what stands out about your time together?

Carl:  We “were together less than an hour” but even in that short time, I “learned a great deal about the boy, his family, friends…and his hometown.”

Scott: Being a reporter during the war, you probably “had seen more death than a hundred men would see in a lifetime. In the midst of such wholesale slaughter, why would hearing about the death of one man make such a lasting impression?

Carl: During my time in the Pacific, “there had been atrocities enough on both sides to foster grave misgivings concerning the state of the ‘civilized’ world.” Then the kid told me what his town had done, and “I was forced to acknowledge the truth: Ignorance, and the fear it breeds, will always combine with hate to produce the same crop.”

Scott:  According to my dad’s synopsis of the book, your role in the story covers approximately two weeks and you learned as much about yourself as you did about the town, but very little of either offered much hope for humanity.  

Carl:  Well, if I may be allowed to quote the same synop, “Bluebell, however, is not a tale of gloom and doom.  There are more than enough moments of tenderness, love and actual brotherhood to give the reader reason to search, expectantly, for the tunnel’s light.  It is there, and Bluebell points to it, but not in a way that all will see.”

Scott:  Wow…thanks Carl.  That makes me want to get this book published even more.

Author Bio

W.D. McIntyre has been writing since the 1950’s and is still working on new novels or performing rewrites of old ones.  His publishing dream though, died many years ago and now, any hope that this 94 year-old WWII Navy veteran’s writing will get published rests almost entirely with me, his son.

In earlier years, Dad worked hard to get his writing published.  I have documentation showing over 115 submissions of his work to multiple publishing sources.  But that effort only produced one short story being printed in a 1981 issue of Virtue magazine.

This lack of achievement could explain why submitting work stopped years ago and, to some, serve as evidence that the writing wasn’t good enough to make it to the public.  I disagree. I’ve learned, from studying TV talent competitions, that ‘Lack of Success isn’t necessarily tied to Talent’. 

For instance, consider Kelly Clarkson, the first season winner of American Idol.  My research showed this incredibly talented and successful singer had nearly given up on her dream of making it in music, until a friend talked her into trying out for American Idol.  Her victory proves she was gifted but it was the exposure on national TV that propelled her to fame.  

With that thought in mind, my goal has been to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of who his dad is and what he has written.  In essence, I’m trying to duplicate the success experienced by Kelly Clarkson through getting my dad’s talent well known.

More About My Project

Find out how to get 3 FREE short storiesby dad

Read an excerpt from Bluebell

Check out Read My Dad’s Stuff’s blogor Facebook page

Learn All About Bluebell

Follow Rowena Kramer-Carlsonon Twitter

Peruse interviews with other Bluebell characters

Meet Betty Sweet from Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

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

Thank you. I’m honored that you thought to invite me.

Tell us something about where you live.

I live in the home my husband Norman and I purchased shortly after he returned home from the war in his hometown of LaFontaine, Michigan. It’s a nice place to live. Not too big, not too small. It’s just right. 

If ever I need something that only a city could provide, I’m just a forty-five minute drive to Lansing in one direction and Detroit in the other.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

I’m not sure that there really is anything special about the name Betty. I’m not an Elizabeth or a Bethany. Just plain old Betty. All my life, though, I’d longed for something a little more elegant or sophisticated. But no such luck. 

At least when I married Norman I gained the last name Sweet, which I like very much. 

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

Well, I’ve mostly just been a little housewife since I married Norm. Between you and me, I’m not especially good at it. That’s not to say that I keep a messy home. But I’d rather spend my time reading or writing or even sitting outside in the yard, enjoying the sunshine on my face. 

Who are the special people in your life?

Oh, I am such a fortunate woman to have a family who loves me. Of course, it’s a family I married into, but as far as I’m concerned it still counts. I don’t know that I’d have anything close to this kind of joy without my darling Norman. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved and he has given me more in this life than I could have ever dreamed. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

The deep desires of my heart have changed as I’ve grown older. I suppose that’s normal. When I was a young girl I wanted nothing more than the love of my parents. Then, as I teetered on the ledge between childhood and womanhood, I longed for the love of a husband. After I got married, I wanted so badly to have the love a child all my own. 

It seems that my deepest desire — to be loved — has also grown in me a yearning to love others deeply. 

What are you most afraid of?

Oh goodness. This is the kind of question that makes me feel a bit antsy. There are so many things in this life to fear. Aren’t there? 

I suppose that my greatest fear is that something bad will happen to someone I love dearly. Even more than that, I fear that I wouldn’t be able to do anything for them. It’s the helplessness that frightens me.

Do you have a cherished possession?

Would you think me terribly superficial if I said that my pink and gunmetal gray Chevy Bel Air is my favorite possession? It’s pretty and shiny and I feel so sophisticated when I drive it around town. Does it help if I tell you that it was a gift from my Norman?

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

Isn’t it fun to daydream? That’s when I let myself wonder about what might happen in the future. Sometimes I imagine that the little stories I tell my nephews will end up in a book. Other days I picture myself working more and more at the family bakery. Still other times I dream of growing old in the house Norm and I have always loved, watching the sunset from my porch. 

I don’t have big dreams. Not really. I guess that’s because the life I have is as much — if not better — than what I’d imagined as a child.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

I never considered myself a particularly strong person. That was always the part my sister Clara played. She was the determined one, the fighter. Clara the Conqueror, I like to call her.

But there are times when even a weak person is called on to show great strength. And in those moments, she does well to remember that her might isn’t her own. It comes from the Lord who is glad to have our burdens cast upon him. 

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I am strong, but only through the power of my Father in heaven.

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

How very kind of you to have me! 

Betty Sweet is a pleasantly plump forty-year-old, but when this 1960s suburban woman loses her husband unexpectantly, she struggles to find her purpose in life. She can’t imagine what God has in mind when she finds herself the soul caretaker of a five-year-old nephew she never knew she had. 

Betty and her nephew make an odd pair. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. As Betty and Hugo struggle through their grief and the difficulties that life can bring, they slowly learn to trust one another as they discover hope and commonality through the magic of storytelling. 

Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, as well as A Cup of DustA Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women’s events across the country. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.

A Chat With Peyton Cabot from Valerie Fraser Luesse's The Key to Everything

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

Thank y’all for having me. I ’preciate your time.

Tell us something about where you live.

I guess that oughta be an easy question to answer, but for me it’s kinda complicated. I grew up in Savannah, Georgia—that’s where my daddy’s whole family lives, and they pretty much decide what’s what—or at least they used to. But ever since I spent a summer with Mama’s Aunt Gert down in St. Augustine, that feels more like home to me than Savannah. I really loved it there. Aunt Gert has a little bungalow on the San Sebastian, and she taught me how to drive her boat, the Madame Queen. Her best friend, a fisherman named Finn, showed me how to handle myself out on the Atlantic. Flying’s my favorite thing, but a boat on open water comes mighty close to being in the sky.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

Yes. And I hope you’ll forgive me—I don’t mean to be rude—but . . . well, I just can’t talk about that. I guess it’s a little too soon.

Who are the special people in your life?

My parents, of course. Both of ’em are heroes of mine—for different reasons. Lisa. She’s everything. If we can get married one day—well—the rest would take care of itself, but nothing I ever do will matter much without her. Then there’s Aunt Gert and Finn. They made me feel welcome and taught me what I needed to know when I was in a real bad place. I never woulda made it to Key West and back without the two o’ them. Bonnie and Jasper showed me how much kids need to be put first and how awful it is for ’em when they’re not. Gina and Mama Eva at Cubano’s fish camp showed me what a real family looks like; Will became my friend on a Daytona race track and came through for me just like he promised; Aunt Jack got me well when I was hurting so bad I thought I’d die; Ginger, the best nurse in the U.S. Navy, helped me recover from something you woulda had to see to believe; Millie showed me what’s what on the islands and helped me find work—they’re all friends I made trying to get to Lisa—all the people who got me through.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To marry Lisa and fly airplanes—and be a good man like my dad—a good husband and a good father.

What are you most afraid of?

Anything that would take Lisa away from me.

Do you have a cherished possession?

I have two. One is the map my dad took with him when he rode his bicycle from Georgia to Key West—he was fifteen like me. I musta studied that map a million times before I finally figured out that I needed to find my own way. It’s hard to get where you wanna go if you’re following somebody else’s directions—you know what I mean? The other is a pair of aviator sunglasses that a pilot gave me. I can see everything a whole lot clearer through the aviators.

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

After everything I’ve been through, I don’t think it’s smart to expect anything. You can hope for it, and you can work for it, but you can’t really expect it. I hope to marry Lisa and have a family like Gina’s—honest and loving—not like Daddy’s clan. And I hope to become a good pilot.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

That we all have a “true us,” if that makes any sense. We have to find it and hold onto it if we ever wanna be happy. Nobody else—not even the people we love—can tell us who we are.

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

Thank y’all. It was real nice to meet you.

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. When a tragic accident separates Peyton from his parents and the girl of his dreams seems out of reach, he struggles to cope with a young life upended. 

Pushed to his limit, Peyton makes a daring decision: he will retrace a slice of the journey his father took at fifteen by riding his bicycle all the way from St. Augustine to Key West, Florida. Part loving tribute, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will unlock more than he ever could have imagined, including the key to his distant father, a calling that will shape the rest of his life, and the realization that he’s willing to risk absolutely everything for the girl he loves. 

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and Almost Home, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave.

Book Review: Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

There has never been a better time to go back and read novels that were released a few years ago. I recently did this by listening to the audiobook from the library of Into the Free by Julie Cantrell.

I’ve never read a book by this author before. I’ve been missing out. These characters will stay with me for a long time. Millie is a young girl at the beginning of the story so in that sense it’s a coming of age novel, but it’s so much more.

Set during the Depression and the pre-WWII years in Mississippi, Millie grows up with a father who beats her mother. She wants to help her mother and even once tries to stand up to her father, but it’s obvious there is nothing she can do. There are secrets Millie’s mother kept that are slowly revealed. Details about farms, horses, and rodeos bring the story to life. I have to add that narrator of this audiobook did a fabulous job. I can still hear her voice in my head!

Life doesn’t get easier for Millie, not even later when after tragedy hits her family and she goes to live with another family that seems like an answer to prayer. I love plots that are not predictable and that do not suggest the existence of a trouble-free life. There is always hope and this novel delivers hope so skillfully. The struggle to believe in God, characters who are shown to be false believers, and the sense of being supernaturally cared for that Millie experiences in many different ways throughout the story give this novel great spiritual depth along with some great lessons. I can see this as a great book club novel, and what’s wrong with going back to something older?

I recommend this novel if you haven’t already read it. I gave it 5 stars!

Known for the inspirational Celtic theme employed in most of her books, Cindy Thomson is the author of six novels and four non-fiction books, including her newest, Finding Your Irish Roots. A genealogy enthusiast, she writes from her home in Ohio where she lives with her husband Tom near their three grown sons and their families. Visit her online at CindysWriting.com, on Facebook: Facebook.com/Cindyswriting, Twitter: @cindyswriting, Pinterest: @cindyswriting and Book Bub: @cindyswriting.

Meet Jackie Kennedy as seen in the novel And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Thank you for doing this.  I must say that it is an honor since you are respected and admired, someone who became an American historical icon.  Throughout your life there have been such tribulations and triumphs. From the time you married John Fitzgerald Kennedy, your life seemed to be a roller coaster ride from becoming First Lady, to having to endure the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, to making a life for yourself.

Elise Cooper: Can you excuse me that I referred to you as Jackie Kennedy, not Jackie Onassis?

Jackie Kennedy: I think that’s perfectly acceptable, given that many people continue to address me as Jackie Kennedy, even after my marriage to Aristotle Onassis. The Kennedys are American royalty, after all, and I will always be a Kennedy.

EC: How would you describe yourself?

JK: I hope the best way to describe me would be that I was a dedicated and loving mother and wife, but also that I maintained my pose and dignity in the face of adversity and great tragedy. 

EC: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as First Lady?

JK: While I’m proudest of the way I safeguarded my children’s childhoods—the media seemed especially intent on turning my daughter Caroline into a ghastly Shirley Temple—my restoration of the White House has probably been my most enduring accomplishment. I’m proud that I was able to return many of the original antiques to our country’s Maison Blanche, to make our country’s greatest house something every American could be proud of. 

EC: Your proficiency in languages became a valuable asset. Please explain.

JK:My fluency in both French and Spanish became valuable assets while Jack was campaigning for the White House. The Cajuns in Louisiana especially appreciated my ability to speak French—all these people contributed so much to our country’s history so it seemed a proper courtesy to address them in their own language. 

EC: How would you describe JFK?

JK:Jack had the ability to make anyone—any woman especially—feel like she was the only person in the room. I was engaged before him, you know, but only Jack ever had the ability to make me dream of what could be. He was my daring trapeze artist, willing to hurtle his way through life for a chance at glory. 

EC: Is it fair to say your relationship with JFK can be broken up into three parts:

Early marriage, Formidable to him in that you did not look the other way, and partners where he recognized how necessary and important you were to him? 

JK:Jack and I had a rough road during the early days of our marriage, especially with his indiscretions and then my miscarriage and the stillbirth of our daughter, Arabella. However, we managed to weather those storms, together, and that made us stronger. Once he was president, I understood that I was different from Jack’s girls du jour, and while I wasn’t willing to look the other way, I also recognized that only I could be his wife and the mother of his children. After the Cuban Missile Crisis and the death of our son Patrick, we leaned on each other and became full partners. 

EC: The nicknames you came up with are very interesting. Please explain. 

JK:They are interesting, aren’t they? Well, I did call Jack’s father Poppy Doodle. Joseph Kennedy was the patriarch of the entire Kennedy clan and the two of us got along swimmingly. Jack and his father always called me kidor kiddo, and I called Jack Bunny. It was a silly nickname, really, referring to his boundless sort of energy. 

EC: What kind of mother do you think you are and compare that to your own mother?

JK:My mother did the best she could, but she divorced my father, Black Jack Bouvier, and that was very difficult, especially in those times. Once I had Caroline and John Jr., I knew they came first in everything. 

EC: How would you describe Bobby?

JK: I once remarked that I wished Bobby was an amoeba so he could multiply and there would be two or more of him. He was the Kennedy brother most like me and we became very close, especially after Jack’s death. I think he was America’s shining hope, and that hope was extinguished with his assassination in 1968. 

EC: Do you think you were an advisor and confidant to Bobby?

JK:I like to think that I helped encourage Bobby to fulfill his dreams and his family’s legacy. He helped pull me out of my darkest times and I hope I was there for him when he needed me. 

EC: Is it true you made the decision to take Bobby Kennedy off life support? What was that like?

JK:It is true and it was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. 

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Joe Kennedy-was he a father figure?

JK:While I was very close with my own father, I was also very attached to Mr. Kennedy. He was the patriarch of the Kennedy clan and after Jack’s terrible back surgeries, I think Mr. Kennedy realized that I wasn’t just some empty-headed debutante. I believe that I reminded him of his eldest daughter, Kick, who died shortly after World War II. 

EC: What are your interests?

JK:I always loved books—as a girl I hoped to perhaps pen a great American novel—and after my marriage to Aristotle Onassis, I became a book editor and was able to help shepherd many wonderful books to publication. I also enjoyed poetry, travel, and horseback riding. 

EC: Do you have any regrets?

JK:I think it’s difficult to live a life without harboring any regrets, but I hope I did the best that I could to be a good mother and wife, and also to leave a lasting impact on my country. That’s all any woman, much less any First Lady, can hope to accomplish. 

THANK YOU!!

Stephanie Thornton is a USA Today bestselling author who has been obsessed with the stories of history’s women since she was twelve. Her latest novel, And They Called It Camelot, is a lightly fictionalized account of the life of iconic First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and her prior novel, American Princess, reimagines the life of Theodore Roosevelt’s wild child daughter Alice. Thornton is also the critically acclaimed author of four novels set in the ancient world: The Secret HistoryDaughter of the GodsThe Tiger Queens, and The Conqueror’s Wife. She is a high school history teacher by day and lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter.

Meet Violet Channing in Beside Still Waters by AnnaLee Conti

My name is Violet Channing.  Orphaned at a young age, I found myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me died. 

I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, at his death my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors. 

In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire was my greatest fear. 

My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor. 

“It’s just a cold,” she said. 

But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee. “Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.”

Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”

Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her. 

Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory. At the corner grocery, I bought a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. On the Classifieds page, an ad caught my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”

I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Could this be the answer?

Before I could grow fainthearted, I penned an application and mailed it off to the address.

A week later, I received a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulsed through me as I withdrew the note which requested that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dressed carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invited me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson described the job.

Her granddaughter, Jenny, was recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother had died, and the girl’s father needed a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.

The job offer sounded too good to be true until she told me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!

Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I knew about the Yukon was that it is wild and frigid. Did I have the courage to go there?

I thought of my shabby apartment. I had nothing to keep me here, but would I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox?

I decided to take the leap. Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fell in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.

About the Author 

ANNALEE CONTI’s experiences growing up in a missionary family in Alaska in the fifties and sixties provide inspiration for her writing. She has published numerous short stories, devotionals, articles, and church school curriculum on assignment for Gospel Publishing House, as well as four books. Beside Still Waters is the third novel in her Alaskan Waters Trilogy that tells the life and death saga of a Norwegian immigrant family who battles the beautiful but often treacherous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska to find love and happiness in the midst of tragedies.

AnnaLee is also a teacher and ordained minister, who resides with her husband in the Mid-Hudson River Valley. Together, they have pastored churches in New York State for more than 35 years and are now retired. Learn more about AnnaLee and her books at www.annaleeconti.comand sign up for her inspirational blog at http://annaleeconti.blogspot.com/.