Friday, October 09, 2015

Visiting Casablanca with Linda Bennett Pennell

Everyone, please welcome today's guest blogger, Linda Bennett Pennell!

I have always been interested in World War II. When I originally started work on what is now Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn, it was entitled Wings and was set in Hialeah, Florida. It was to feature a 90-day wonder, as WWII pilots in training were known, and an army nurse. It just wasn’t working for me.

During communication with a former WWII pilot, he mentioned a friend who had been stationed in Casablanca. That sparked my interest. A bit of research into the First Allied Conference, which took place in Casablanca at the Anfa Hotel, and my pilot evolved into an OSS officer from Texas who speaks perfectly unaccented German and looks like a poster boy for Himmler’s SS. The Army nurse remains but she has transferred from Florida to Morocco.

The details of the Casablanca Conference are particularly interesting. It was at this meeting that Roosevelt prevailed upon Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Henri Giraud to formulate the policy of unconditional surrender by the Axis powers. Many in the German military and High Command hoped for very different terms of surrender if the unthinkable happened and Germany lost the war.

Spying and communications interception being what they were at the time, Hitler knew the conference was to take place and its approximate date. What he did not know was the correct location. The translator of the intercepted Allied communication made a significant error. He translated Casablanca correctly as "white house," but assumed incorrectly that the conference was to take place at the White House in Washington, D.C., not the city in Morocco. The error was eventually discovered, but not in time for the Germans to take action.

While all the above are historical facts, I am an author of historical fiction. The great fun in writing fiction is permission to play around with the facts. Let’s begin with spies, double agents, and a most unusual top-secret mission from which there is only slight chance of returning. Add two strangers sucked into a vortex of danger and intrigue who must learn to trust each other in order to survive. Next, spice the mixture with the fact that neither of them wants to fall in love. Top it all off with a question. Will seven days be enough to save the Allied war effort and the girl he loves? Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn has the answer.

Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn
By Linda Bennett Pennell

Casablanca, 1943: a viper’s nest of double agents and spies where OSS Officer Kurt Heinz finds his skill in covert operations pushed to the limit. Allied success in North Africa and the fate of the First Allied Conference—perhaps the outcome of the war—hang on Kurt’s next mission. The nature of his work makes relationships impossible. Nonetheless, he is increasingly torn between duty and the beautiful girl who desperately needs his protection and help.

Sarah Barrett, U.S. Army R.N., is finished with wartime romance. Determined to protect her recently broken heart, she throws all of her time and energy into caring for her patients, but when she is given a coded message by a mysterious dying civilian, she is sucked into a vortex of danger and intrigue that threatens her very survival. The one person who can help Sarah is Kurt, a man with too many secrets to be trusted.


“I’m Heinz. What do you want?”

“Oh. It’s you.”


“From the restaurant on New Year’s Eve.”

Kurt was silent for a moment, then it came back to him. “I remember. Sarah, right? You’re the girl who refused to dance with me.”

A red flush crawled from her throat onto the apples of her cheeks. “Yes. I’m sorry if I was rude.”

“I’ve been cut dead before. I got over it.”

The girl’s eyes glittered. “I’m sure you did. Are you going to keep me standing here on the doorstep for everyone to see?”

“Why? I’m not expecting company. Would it be a problem?”

“It certainly might if the people who tore my apartment apart followed me here.”

Kurt looked into her eyes with complete attention for the first time since opening the door. Whatever had happened to this girl, she looked terrified and angry. Not a particularly good combination for the covert activities he and Phelps were up to.

Kurt made a quick decision. He stepped back and pulled the door wide while raising his voice. “You better come inside and tell me why you think what happened to your apartment has anything to do with me.”

When they stepped into the living area, Phelps had disappeared. Kurt gestured toward the sofa and the girl sat down.

Propping himself on the sofa’s arm, he looked down into her frightened eyes.

“Now tell me how I can help you, Miss, uh…”

“Barrett, Sarah. US Army. RN.”

“Well, Nurse Barrett, what can I do for you?”

The girl stuck her hand in her coat pocket and whipped out a scrap of paper that she waved in his face. “By telling me what’s on this paper and why it’s so important that somebody took a knife to my furniture.”

About the Author:
Linda Bennett Pennell has been in love with the past for as long as she can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws her in. She supposes it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on her grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into Linda's work.

As for her venture in writing, it has allowed her to reinvent herself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. Linda encourages you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend."

Linda resides in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl. Favorite quote regarding her professional passion: "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up."

Friday, September 18, 2015

I'd Like to Punt-Kick Mercury Out of the Galaxy

Mercury, courtesy of NASA
I have a fairly moderate perspective on things that are non-scientific. Like astrology, numerology, tarot, etc. I find them interesting, and I believe there are plenty of influences we can't measure or truly understand. But I'm not a "believer" in the sense that I give such things much thought in my day-to-day life.

Except for Mercury.

Specifically, Mercury retrograde.

Once someone brought the phenomenon to my attention, it became very clear that this is A Thing. Did you have a misunderstanding with someone, and then you car broke down, followed by your dishwasher, and your e-mail is acting weird and the printer won't stop jamming for no reason? Check the dates. It's probably Mercury.

It amazes me how many people know what I'm talking about when I mention this, and believe in it. My husband thinks I'm insane, and my business colleague has been poking at me about it, but seriously. Every day this week has had multiple mechanical, electronic, and communication problems. People arguing about what a sentence means, when it's interpreted differently by different people. An e-mail in my inbox that made all the other e-mails unreadable until I deleted it. E-mails not sending. Malwarebytes warning me every other day that Facebook has been blocked as a malicious website, alternating with Chrome and Skype. Projects being done by committee (via e-mail, no less) where nothing can be completed because every time we get close to done, someone has a new idea that completely contradicts everyone else's ideas.

It's enough of A Thing that International Business Times did an article on it this week.

I'm sure kicking Mercury out of the galaxy would just make things worse, but ugh. How is Mercury affecting your life this week?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It's Always TV That Brings Me Back Here

Gah, I've been gone so long!

I don't know why TV is usually the thing that brings me back to blogging. Maybe because it's easy to talk about, and more universal than most topics.

Here's the thing. TV is vital to me. It's the biggest thing that makes me relax and turn off my brain.

Reading does it, of course, and I never stop reading. I read in snippets all day long (during meals, mostly), and every night before I go to bed. On very rare occasions, I'll take a big chunk of time to read, but I usually feel guilty because then I'm not writing.

But TV time is different. TV is a signal that I am DONE. No work, no pressures, no household stuff. Me time (though it's better when I'm watching shows with the family).

This summer, we didn't have much TV to watch. Like, 6 shows total, and they didn't always overlap. Royal Pains started and ended early, and The Last Ship finished way before the fall season started. So we had biiiiig gaps of time when we had nothing to watch. And you know what I do then?

I work. Really late. Until 10 a lot of nights. And then I go right to bed because I'm so brain-dead, which is actually a plus because I'm getting more sleep than I got when I had to be up at 5 to go to the day job. Now it's all freelance, which means I'm supposed to be more flexible but it really means I'm working all. the. time.

So! TV is my savior! I binged-watched Jane the Virgin while the rest of the family was off on a trip for a week, and I'm looking forward to that coming back. I'm looking forward to some of the new fall shows, such as Blindspot and Quantico, though I'm more excited about mid-season ones like Legends of Tomorrow and Lucifer. Since we upgraded our TV and DVR system back in May, we have fewer restrictions on recording, so we're giving a whole bunch of things a try. We have the luxury of deleting unwatched if something gets canceled or sucks, and it's easier than trying to catch up if something clicks.

So, Monday is the day things really launch! What are you most excited about, new or returning?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hearts Under SIEGE is only 99 cents!

Hearts Under Siege coverThat's right, for just a limited time, Hearts Under SIEGE is only 99 cents!

Hearts Under SIEGE is about Molly and Brady, who have been friends since they were little.

It's about Brady and Jessica, the woman who struck him with love-at-first-sight but turned out to be his brother's fiancée. The woman he just couldn't get over.

It's about Brady and Christopher, his brother, and what Brady is willing to do to find out what happened to him when he's reported killed in an "accident."

Because they work for SIEGE, a private spy agency, and things are rarely taken at face value. When Brady and Molly start working together, he sees EVERYTHING differently. And things heat up in more ways than one. :)

The book is at 99 cents at all venues, links found here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Welcome Guest Blogger Jody Wallace and Her Latest Release, Traitor

Natalie: Welcome, please, creative genius writer and amigurumist Jody Wallace to the blog today. This is such an honor!

Jody: Thank you for having me! Would you like me to tell you about the amigurumi I'm working on right now or the book I just published?

Natalie: Oh, Jody, whatever you utter is a pearl of wisdom. Basically, talk about whatever you like and I swear I'll publish it JUST THE WAY YOU SENT IT TO ME.

Jody: Can I get that in writing?

Natalie: Duh, I just wrote it. In my question. That I totally wrote. That's completely in my personal writing voice.

Jody: Ok, that works. I guess I'd like to talk about Traitor first. It's awesome. The science fiction-based during-apocalypse world it's set in is also awesome, like Falling Skies crossed with Dominion crossed with Defiance, except a lot better and I am not going to kill off any of your favorite characters; include babies who grow from infancy to psychic supermodel in a season; or force Anthony Stewart Head to attempt an American accent.

Once upon a time, Earth was invaded by these horrible black blobs that ate people and couldn't be destroyed by conventional science. They were accompanied by flying red bat daemons that could sort of be destroyed by a lot of missiles. Luckily a squad of powerful angels turned up to save Earth, and they trained a native Chosen One to confront the evil in a final battle.

Except the Chosen One turned out to be a loser, the angels turned out to be aliens pretending to be angels so the Terrans would cooperate (they hoped), and the Earth didn't quite get saved.


Natalie: I don't think I've ever heard an idea so awesome.

Jody: I know, right? It's pretty awesome.

Natalie: It's awesome that you came to my blog today and wrote this for me. I mean, you wrote the answers. I totally and awesomely wrote these questions.

Jody: You're awesomely welcome.

Natalie: Jody, now that we know about your world, tell me how you came up with the specific idea for Traitor, which I believe is probably the most awesome book in the universe?

Jody: Oh, Natalie, you flatter me so much, but don't be silly. It's probably only the third best book in the universe. I mean, I've written over twenty books now, and at least two of them are longer than Traitor—and longer is always better, if you know what I mean.

Natalie: You're so witty. I'm laughing so hard right now.

Jody: I get that a lot.

Natalie: I wish I could be just like you.

Jody: For starters you'll need to learn to crochet penises. It's an essential component of my personality. And then you need to get very good at lying.

Natalie: Oh, dear, I don't think I can ever live up to that ideal! *sobs* I'm heartbroken now. My soul feels like a dead mouse in a hot car, shriveled, smelly and gross.

Jody: You're simply too honest to be like me, Natalie. And quite frankly—get it? Frankly? Because you're honest?—I don't think you should...


FAKE NATALIE: Jody, what the hell is this? You said you were writing me a guest post, not this crap. I didn't say those things.

Jody: But you promised!

FAKE NATALIE: Send me something else. That's stupid.

Jody: Quit being so damn honest. Do you know how hard I worked on that awesome interview?

FAKE NATALIE: About 10 minutes?

Jody: Shut up.

FAKE NATALIE: I did like your book, though.

Jody: Thanks! Tell everyone to go buy it. Here's the links:

Maelstrom Chronicles
Book Two
Jody Wallace

Release Date: July 28, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Publisher: Entangled

Captain Nikolas EstherVorn is a traitor. Or so it was decreed after Niko disobeyed protocol while trying to save Earth from other-dimensional creatures. Stuck in a prison cell, the last thing he needs is to be in close proximity to clever, sexy Dr. Sarah CallenJoseph. Not when he's damn near ready to break out just to get to her.

Niko's desire isn't quite his own…and Sarah can prove it. He—along with the other soldiers on the disastrous mission—were drugged with some kind of toxin. Niko has no clue how the drug got into his body or why, but Sarah suspects there’s a link between the toxin and the fertility crisis of Shipborn humans.

To investigate is forbidden. But as lust becomes something deeper, binding them together in a way neither expected, Niko and Sarah must battle time—and their superiors—to uncover the secret that could save humanity...or destroy it.

About the Author: 
Jody Wallace grew up in the South in a very rural area. She went to school a long time and ended up with a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. Her resume includes college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and general all around pain in the butt. She currently lives in Tennessee with her family: one husband, two kids, two cats. One of her many alter egos is “The Grammar Wench,” which should give you an indication of her character. She is a terrible packrat and likes to amass vintage clothing, books, Asian-inspired kitchenware, gnomes, yarn, and other items that threaten to force her family out of the house. She also likes cats. A lot.

Jody publishes the Maelstrom Chronicles with Entangled Publishing, an Earth-based science fiction romance series. You can find other science fiction, paranormal, and contemporary romances by Jody at, including her horrible science fiction romance spoofs, The Adventures of Mari Shu, which make fun of the Maelstrom Chronicles, among other science fiction concepts and stories.

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Our Squirrel Does Wicked

My husband put up a bird feeder outside our dining room window recently. We've had the usual sparrows and finches, and this week we got a pair of tufted titmice and a chickadee. (I love the less common birds, no surprise. :) )

My office window looks out at ground level right below the feeder. So I've a bunch of companions every day. A squirrel, a cardinal (sometimes his mate, too), a chipmunk or two, and three mourning doves. They forage around and under the rose bush. Oh, and I usually have at least one of the cats, too.

So yesterday morning I hear Number Two let out some kind of cry. I called to her, and she didn't respond. She made some other unintelligible exclamation, so I went into the hall. Number One then cried "Oh my God." I asked WTH and got shushed. So I went down to the dining room. And saw this:

This shouldn't be a surprise, right? Squirrels are notorious for getting into bird feeders. But this one was an astonishing feat.

We watched him hang out for a while. We called my husband out of the bedroom. He grumbled, but then also did the whole "Oh my God thing." While Squirrel stared placidly at us through the window and kept chewing.

But here's the thing. Here's where the feeder hangs. The bay window is the dining room window. The feeder (which you can barely see, because of the angle and background) is FIFTEEN FEET OFF THE GROUND.

This is the closest tree:

I'm thinking this little bastard went up the telephone pole in the front of the house, ran along the wires to the side of the roof, and then went over the roof to shimmy down the wire holding the feeder. There really isn't another way to do it. That takes intelligence and determination, right? Especially since there's tons of seed all over the ground all the time.

So after a while my husband said, "okay, tell him to get down." Number Two slapped the window with the flat of her hand. Squirrel JUMPED TO THE GROUND. Fifteen friggin' feet. Defying gravity indeed. 

He was back up there this morning. You almost have to let him take the reward for his effort, you know?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's No Fun When They Don't Play Along

Ref. last post, about needing something fun to watch? I have Part 1 of Dragon Riders of Berk that my friend Gail sent me! I keep forgetting to ask Number One if she wants to watch it with me. I think I'll just do it, starting tonight. If I'm not working until midnight again.

My husband has a lot of fun with telemarketers and wrong numbers and stuff like that. Our number is only 1 digit different from the local Domino's number, and people used to always call and ask if we were Pizza Hut, or would immediately launch into their order or request for delivery, even though we hadn't answered "properly." He'd say we were out of pizza or that we were Little Cesar's or something like that. They moved across town, out of our area, and now a) they won't deliver to us and b) we don't get calls for them anymore. That's NOT a good trade.

You know those people who call you and say they're from Geek Support and there's something really wrong with your computer and they want to help you? I kept one of those guys on the phone for 20 minutes. At one point he told me his company's address in Connecticut and I went on about how I used to live up there and asking if he'd seen certain sites. I told him I didn't want to go downstairs and boot up my computer. He passed judgment on my being in bed at that time of the morning, even though I hadn't said I was in bed, I said I was in my bedroom. That was a fun conversation. He tried so hard!

Anyway, today I got a friend request on Facebook. I always say yes. This person immediately messaged me privately. Red flag, right? It went like this:

Her:  hello
Me:  Hi. :)
Her: how you doing
Me:  Not too bad. How about you?
Her: i am good
Me:  Good. :)
Her: well i saw your name among the 20 lucky people who won $500,000,00 from the smartphone lottery i am among the lucky winners too
i have gotten my own check and i just cash my own check yesterday why havent you get your check
Me:  Oh, I did! I got my check three days ago.

She hasn't responded. So boring. *sigh*

How have YOU tried to play with someone lately? Did they play along?