Follow by Email

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mixing History and Imagination

Only a few days ago, on August 20, 2017, the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, a cruiser sunk at the end of World War Two, was located on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, 18,000 feet down.
That piece of history brings new attention to the story I wrote in my novel Too Much Left Unsaid.

History has always fascinated me, but not the dates and wars and memorization. I’m someone who wants to know about the real people whose lives were changed by events of history. Often, they have no control over their circumstances. Sometimes they do not even realize that events which will affect them are taking place in the world. But I am a fiction writer, so as I research the history, I make up the characters living the events.

I based the character of Mattie Connors in my first novel, Too Much Left Unsaid, on my husband’s mother, Madge. Madge’s father really did die when she was six in the Spanish influenza sweeping the world in 1918. Her widowed mother did take the younger of two daughters to Texas and left Madge to be raised by an aunt and uncle. Madge later eloped with her high school sweetheart, keeping the marriage secret until graduation. Anything else you read about the characters in this novel I imagined—fiction.

My other main character in Too Much Left Unsaid, Kathy Connors, is completely invented. But the circumstances I used for her life story were historically based.  Women like Kathy’s mother did die in childbirth in 1918, and often left large families to be cared for by the oldest sibling.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 precipitated numerous marriages, and often brides were taken to unfamiliar hometowns to live with their husband’s family to wait out the war. This was the circumstance I used in my novel to explain Kathy’s marriage to Josh and her subsequent life.

In the interest of my story, I chose to portray Kathy as widowed at the end of WWII. I asked a retired Navy man how Josh might have died and he told me about the USS Indianapolis, the last ship to be sunk by the Japanese at the close of the war. I did research on the USS Indianapolis, reading several books, web pages, and articles. As part of my research, I found the front page of the New York Times for August 15, 1945 declaring the end of the war. In the lower left corner of that front page, the Times reported the sinking of the Indianapolis with 1196 service men aboard and the rescue of only 316 crewmen.

As I researched, I learned that the USS Indianapolis was being repaired at Mare Island, California, in early 1945, after an earlier Japanese attack.  I wrote that Kathy made a cross-country trip by train from Ohio to spend a few days with Josh. The visit was shortened when Josh’s leave was cancelled and the Indianapolis was dispatched on its secret mission, the transfer of atomic bomb components to Guam. Kathy and Josh suspended an argument about what Kathy’s role in postwar America would be.

Soon after the Indianapolis delivered its precious cargo, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1945. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. WWII ended within six days of two atomic bombs being dropped.

But the fate of the USS Indianapolis after it dropped off its cargo was tragic. The ship continued across the Pacific and was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, the last Navel casualty of the war. There was so much going on at that moment that the U.S. Navy lost track of the ship and did not even know it was missing.  Consequently, the Navy was not looking for the ship and the wreckage was only discovered by accident five days later. Some of the crew died in the immediate impact of the torpedoes, but it has been estimated that 800 sailors escaped into the ocean. 500 of them died during those five days at sea, of dehydration, drowning or attack by sharks. Only 316 men survived.

I used the information I had found to imagine Josh Connors’ death, and his wife’s grief as she learned about it on the same day that victory over Japan was declared. In this part of the story, Mattie Connors is narrating. She was caring for Kathy’s son, Eddie, when she heard the news that the war is over and hurried to find her sister-in-law.

August 14, 1945

In Parkersville, the police and fire sirens pierced the air. Church bells rang from every steeple. The war was over. Everyone was screaming, squealing, shouting, whooping. Cheering crowds filled the downtown, waving flags, hollering, blowing horns and whistles. Factory steam whistles blew louder, then softer, then louder, for attention. Aaron and Mark [Mattie’s two boys} and their grade school friends grabbed pots, pans, lids, and wooden spoons and marched up and down the streets. They loaded Eddie, soon to turn three, into their Red Flyer wagon and handed him a flag to wave. Firecrackers and shotguns added to the din. I couldn’t wait to celebrate with Kathy, so I grabbed Eddie and hurried down the street. No use trying to drive over. The streets were crowded with tractors, cars, and revelers.

When we arrived, Kathy was collapsed on her sofa, clutching a yellow envelope. Her eyes were red with tears. Her always neat blonde hair was a complete mess. Her breath came in gasps. I took one look and swallowed hard. ‘What does it say, Kathy?’ I asked, not wanting to know. Kathy thrust the telegram in my hands without a word. She sobbed and hugged her sides.

The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your husband, Joshua Herman Connors is missing in action in the South Pacific.

The next day Kathy and Mattie see the front page of the New York Times, the one I had read and copied. The main headlines are screaming that the war is over, but in the lower right corner is the news of the Indianapolis:

Cruiser Sunk, 1196 Causalities

Took Atom Bomb Cargo to Guam

In a later chapter of my novel, I imagine that a buddy of Josh’s who survived the disaster comes to visit Kathy in Ohio. As they talk, more of the grim story of the torpedo strike and the stranded sailors is revealed.
You can read the story of Kathy and Mattie in Too Much Left Unsaid available from B & N, Amazon, and other bookstores, in paperback or online editions.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

AnkenyAuthorsFairWhat a wonderful
                              for book lovers.

hosted by
Kirkendall Public Library will host 56 Iowa authors on
                           Saturday, April 8, 2007  from 9 a.m. until Noon.   
I will be there with both my books
                                  TOO MUCH LEFT UNSAID


Pinnacle Club          4100 NE Otter Creek Drive       Ankeny, IA 50023

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The family I grew up in.   February 23, 2017--

This time of year always brings to my special attention my parents, Ben and Bert Marcus.

Ben Coleman Marcus married Bertha Ida Pfeiffer on this date in 1929. The next day was Bert's birthday. As a child I was always amused by the fact that their wedding was before Mom's birth.

Their first child, Bruce, is shown with mom and with little Lee Joanne in this picture, taken sometime in 1934, I imagine.

My little sister, Elizabeth Jane didn't come along until 1945. This is a picture of three-year old Janie.

I have outlived both parents and my brother,
Mother, Dad and Bruce are all gone now. I am the family matriarch, but I do miss them greatly.

Friday, February 17, 2017

I post every year

So here I am back.
When you only post once a year it is hard to remember how to get access and make a new post.

I am re-opening my blog so that I can tell everyone that my second novel


is soon to be published by The Write Place.

Below is the first preview/review of the book,

“Lee Collins lays bare the painful complexities of family relationships in her character-rich second novel, “Who Cares About You?” Teen angst, adult discord and privileged ambition are juxtaposed with the simple goodness and strength of a young, destitute mother and her two sons. As secrets are revealed, we are drawn into a conflicted world where the actions of well-meaning people result in unintended consequences. A must read.”

                    --Robin Martin, former Iowa Center for the Book Coordinator

Maybe this year will be the year that I get serious.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: The Yoga of Max's Discontent

I must admit, I haven't been a faithful blogger, but it is ASH Wednesday, 2016, and being more faithful to my loyal fans is part of my "repenting" this year.

I'm starting with a review of a wonderful book by Karen Bajaj called


     When I finished reading this excellent book,
I wanted to start reading it all over again.

Max's story,
Karen's writing,
my being caught up in the path that leads to fulfilment--
   all of these are reasons I both wanted and did not want the book to end.

Each setback,
   and each determined effort to continue seeking
added to my involvement.

   "How will this all end?" I asked myself as I read on and on.
   "Would I consider undertaking such a journey for myself?"

And as a writer, I tried to analyze how Ms. Bajaj wove such an engaging and realistic story.

Max, born and raised in the projects in the Bronx by a dedicated single mother, works his way out of the ghetto by studying hard and dedicating himself to success. At age 29, his mother dies of cancer and he is drawn to give up a promising career and seek the way of the yogi in India. Karen tells this story so  well, I felt present in the cold and the heat, the fatigue and hunger, that Max endures.

I will reread this story and I anticipate I will learn more about Max, Karen, and myself as I do so.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How to help your friends' books succeed

I have been thinking about reaching more people with my novel.  Then it dawned on me that my question is more universal than I had thought. The information below is from Richard Ridley, an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor who gave permission for authors to share this with our personal networks.

Call this an open letter to friends and family members of indie authors (authors, you can share this with your personal networks if you agree).

"This is an answer to the question I hear most often from the people in my life who want to support my career as an indie author: "What can I do to help you sell more books?" The answer is simple, and believe it or not, it has nothing to do with you buying a book from the indie author in your life. All that is required is that you help spread the word. I don't mean in an organized manner or by using some grand gesture full of fanfare and hype. I simply mean that you mention the book in conversation or include a link to the book in a status update on Facebook and/or Twitter. That's it. If you've read the book, you could go that extra mile and share your review online, but that is your call. Your real value is as a personal advocate, an active supporter of the indie author in your life.

"Your word carries a lot of weight. Statistics show that the number-one reason people choose to read a book is because of recommendations from a friend or family member. Do you see the power you have? Now, it isn't your responsibility to support an indie author's dream, and I don't want you to feel like it is an obligation. I just want you to be aware of how easily your support can be expressed.

"Thanks for reading, and may you all find your way to achieving your own hopes and dreams with a little help from family and friends.

-Richard" Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
I certainly endorse what Richard has to say here. Some of you have told me that you read and enjoyed my book. Have you told your other friends?

Peace,  Lee
Hello, again.
It has been quite a while since I posted on my blog, but I am here again.
For about six months this past year I had a "job" writing history for the century blog that Jennifer Rosenberg publishes.
When Jennifer asked if anyone wanted to write pieces for her, I applied and she accepted my application. From April through August, I researched famous men of the century and wrote up their lives for her to put on her blog.

Now I am working on my second novel. It is tentatively called NOTHING CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG, GO WRONG.

I hope to visit you more often from now on.