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In writing Wounded Angels, I used the novel to explore a number of important literary and life themes, including abandonment, love, prejudice, war, forgiveness and others. I cover how the book addresses these and other themes in my January / February 2019 issue of Up and Coming. You can click HERE to read a copy of that blog. After reading, feel free to come back here to comment or to use the buttons provided to share the article on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for visiting.
When you read a novel, do you ever wonder how much of what you are reading is based on actual people and events? In my December "Up and Coming" I start giving the "Story Behind the Story" of Wounded Angels. Click HERE to go to the December 2018 issue of Up and Coming. Feel free to come back her to comment on the article or press one of the buttons to share it on Facebook or Twitter.
Up and Coming
The Story Behind the Story
Those of you who have been following the development of my upcoming novel,Wounded Angels, will recall that while it is fiction, much of what happens to my main character, Maureen, is based upon the real-life experience of my mother-in-law, Charlotte.
"Part 2 - Frank," in the book chronicles how Maureen meets her future husband, Frank, at the roller skating rink where Frank works. In actuality, that is how Charlotte did meet and fall in love with my father-in-law, Fred. Similar to how the novel flows, Fred did, in fact, teach Charlotte how to skate dance.
This is Fred and Charlotte in their roller skates.
We still have the roller skates from when they
were dating prior to WW II.
The novel continues to follow Maureen and Frank through their courtship, to their marriage and honeymoon in Atlantic City only to return to their railroad apartment in Brooklyn to discover that Frank has been drafted into WW II, is shipped off to the Pacific and is gone for the first three years of their married life. As with the skating, these elements are also based upon Charlotte and Fred's actual experience.
Charlotte and Fred on their Honeymoon in Atlantic City.
Fred in his WW II uniform in front of their railroad apartment in Brooklyn.
Frank's war time experience in the Pacific is a fictionalized account but is based upon three real-life factors. The first is that, when the subject of the war came up in discussions, my father-in-law, like so many other WW II veterans, would fall silent and not discuss his experiences. The second is that the accounts in Okinawa are based upon reports of others who did serve in that theater. The final is my research into the real-life "Lilly Corps" members; actual Japanese high school girls who served with the Japanese on Okinawa during the war.
True to life, following his military service, the novel chronicles Frank's love of photography and his obsession to capture everything he could on film. Following his death, we discovered thousands of my father-in-law's photos in his basement and garage. As Maureen does in the book, Charlotte found the pictures too painful to look at and wanted to throw them away. Fortunately, we held onto them and they have become a treasured memory of their story.
Charlotte and Fred with one of Fred's many camera's.
In Wounded Angels, following Frank's return from the war, he and Maureen set out to make up for their lost time together by doing everything as a couple. So too, in real life, except for Fred's annual church retreat, he and Charlotte were inseparable. They did everything together and their trademark became holding hands in public.
Even after fifty years of marriage, Fred and Charlotte remained inseparable.
Unfortunately, Maureen's sentiments expressed in the novel also proved true for Charlotte in real life.
"I relished the closeness I shared with Frank for so many, many years and thought that I had to be the luckiest woman alive. I had no idea that before the year ended, the very same closeness we shared would become the instrument of my undoing."
As with Maureen and Frank, the real-life Fred's death devastated Charlotte and shattered her sense of security. It was during this long, dark period of Charlotte's depression that she met another woman who was as damaged in her own way as was Charlotte. The product of an abusive childhood, failed marriage and estrangement from her daughter, this woman, whom I call Doris in the book, became the instrument of Charlotte's healing and, in the process, received healing in return: hence the title, Wounded Angels. While eccentric, the real-life Doris was no where as extreme as I painted her in the novel and I have to admit I got a great deal of pleasure at her character's expense.
Also out of context was the tag saleing episodes. Charlotte did spend a great deal of time going to tag sales and breakfasts during the period between Fred's death and her eventual remarriage. In the book, she does this with Doris. In real life, it was with me and it was during our after-tag-sale-breakfasts that I learned of the real-life Doris and marveled at the way in which these two dysfunctional women mutually supported and healed one another, not despite their disabilities, but because of them. But that is a story for another time. For this update, I would like to close with this extraordinary real-life experience.
Charlotte passed away on June 21, 2017 following the devastating loss of her second husband, Tony, and her own difficult and painful struggle with Alzheimer's disease.Two days after I finished the last edits of Wounded Angels and sent the manuscript off to a potential agent, I was looking through some storage containers in the basement of our new home that have been there for the six years since we moved. In one of those containers I came across a card from Charlotte congratulating me on my retirement. It was shortly after my retirement that I started on the first draft of Wounded Angels. This is the actual note I found from Charlotte two days after I sent the finished manuscript off to an agent. I'd like to think that she was giving her approval from heaven.
That's All For Now. Thank You For Spending This Time With Me. Feel free to jot me a note telling me what you think of these updates.
Until Next Time,
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I have just completed Dan Blanchard’s excellent brief novel, The Storm. The Storm is definitely not on my normal reading list. It is geared toward young adult readers and, at 69, I certainly don’t match that demographic, but I found myself captivated by both the content and the delivery. Regarding the content, I was familiar with most of it from my own professional career. As a public employee and private consultant I implemented Total Quality Management in government and criminal justice organizations. I also served on the management team for the Connecticut Award for Excellence. In those capacities, I studied under TQM experts from organizations like GE Capital, United Technologies and the Juran Institute, (Headed by Joseph Juran, Edward Deming’s partner in implementing TQM in post-WWII Japan) where I practiced concepts like Kaizen, Pareto Analysis, Strategic Planning, Goal Setting, Mission Statements and Continuous Quality Improvement. A remarkable achievement of Blanchard’s book is that he manages to cover these topics and many more in the span of about 180 pages.
In addition to the management concepts, Blanchard delves deeply into the social and emotional requirements of being a leader. He generously cites many of those who provided inspiration for the lessons learned including: Socrates, Gandhi, Edward Deming, Douglas MacArthur, Anthony Robbins, Vince Lombardi and even Adolf Hitler. An equally impressive accomplishment is Blanchard’s method of delivering this content. These topics might be abstract and dry, even for seasoned professionals, but could be deathly boring for teenagers. Blanchard avoids this trap by couching his lessons in a highly entertaining story about a conversation between a teenage boy and the “secrets” his grandfather wants to share with him on a stormy afternoon. Each concept presented is subsequently grounded in the young boy’s personal experiences. Blanchard doesn’t flinch away from uncomfortable topics in the process. We discover that the teenager’s life is far from perfect as we learn about his abusive father and emotionally damaged brother. As the conversation continues the young man’s grandfather imparts additional lessons about gratitude, teamwork, service and delayed gratification.
If there is anything I take exception with in Blanchard’s exposition, it’s that he sometime seems to overreach in his description of a leader. The reality is that in many of life’s endeavors, there can be only one top performer and the book, at times, doesn’t seem to provide enough credit for doing one’s “personal best.” Still, he does allow some wiggle room. Granddaddy suggests “shooting for the stars” so that if you do fall short, you still land on the moon.
This is a book filled with useful information and much wisdom. Blanchard is correct when his “granddaddy” character laments that schools fail to incorporate many of these principles in their curriculum and even many adults don’t learn them until late in life, if at all. Until that situation changes, the best we can hope for is that our young adults have alternative ways to access and appreciate these essential life lessons and Dan Blanchard’s, The Storm, is certainly an excellent place to start.