Recommended Books

The CONTRACT between heaven and earth


John Howell and Gwen Plano, two wonderful human beings and talented writers, have created a new book that combines their compassion for others with their great skill in storytelling. I highly recommend it.



between heaven and earth

By John W. Howell & Gwen M. Plano

Thank you, Mary, for graciously inviting us to join you today. We are honored to be featured on your beautiful blog.

Available on Kindle and Paperback
Kindle priced at $0.99 for the introduction.

The CONTRACT is a different story for writers John W. Howell and Gwen M. Plano. For either of them, it is their first attempt at co-authorship. After a year of Hurricane Harvey and other challenges, they have created, what they have termed, an inspirational thriller that bridges heaven and earth.


Here is the blurb:
The earth is threatened with a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an intervention that involves two souls returning to earth. The chosen two sign a contract that they will work to avert the disaster.

Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien, a teacher, become heaven’s representatives on earth. The story follows them as they individually and then together face overwhelming obstacles and eventually end up on a strategic Air Force base in California. It is there that they discover a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States. The terrorists have a plan for global dominance, and they are determined to complete their mission. Although military leadership appears to have the President’s best interests at heart, it is not clear who can be trusted and who should be feared. The action is rough and tumble as Brad and Sarah try to figure out the culprits for the plot that will turn into a worldwide conflagration unless stopped.

If you enjoy thrillers, this is one with enough twists and adventure to keep you riveted and guessing. If you like your thriller along with a good romance, Brad and Sarah’s initial attraction and eventual love will sustain you as they live out their heavenly and earthly desires.

Here is an excerpt.
“Speaking of special, you said you’d tell me about your service.”

Brad clenched his jaw. Mistakenly, he’d thought he’d diverted her attention from having to discuss what he didn’t want to discuss. He didn’t like to talk about his past, but he had promised her.

“Well, there’s not much to say. My dad was Navy, and I grew up with combat stories and respect for the military. After nine-eleven, I wanted to serve. My dad insisted on college, and given his service, I got recommended for the Naval Academy. Prior to graduation, an officer talked to me about becoming a SEAL, and after I received my commission, I joined. Simple really. I went on several special ops, but the last one didn’t go as planned. We had bad intel, and within minutes of getting dropped at the site, we found ourselves ambushed, outnumbered, and surrounded. I was the lead and tried to get the men to safety, and I dragged several behind the perimeter wall. I made three trips to retrieve their bodies before I got hit then sliced. Three didn’t survive; the others of us, the insurgents left for dead.”

Sarah squeezed Brad’s hand and leaned into him as they walked.

Brad continued with the story, “The reason the airmen acknowledge me is that I received an honor for valor and the service presented me with the Navy Cross. But I did what they trained me to do. Nothing more and nothing less.”

Authors’ Biographies
John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the adventure, while the final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016. The last Circumstances of Childhood is a family life story and launched October 2017. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Port Aransas, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.
John’s other books.
Available on Amazon at

Gwen had a lengthy career in higher education, and it was there that she published her first book, Beyond Boundaries, for students interested in volunteer work in developing countries. After she retired, she wrote her award-winning memoir, Letting Go into Perfect Love.

Gwen lives in Branson, Missouri with her husband.
Gwen’s books
Available on Amazon at


Shadowed by Lies




African Americans in World War II

Allen, Robert L. The Port Chicago Mutiny: The Story of the Largest Mass Mutiny Trial in U.S. Naval History. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 1993.

Hamann, Jack. On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005.

McGuire, Phillip. Taps for a Jim Crow Army: Letters from Black Soldiers in World War II. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1993.

Moore, Christopher Paul. Fighting for America: Black Soldiers—the Unsung Heroes of World War II. New York: One World, 2005.



Lemish, Michael G. War Dogs: Canines in Combat. Dulles, VA: Brassey’s Inc., 1996.

Putney, DVM, USMC (ret.), Captain William W. Always Faithful: A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII. New York: The Free Press, 2001.

Rottman, Gordon L. Guam 1941 & 1944: Loss and Reconquest. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2004.

The History Channel: Pacific: The Lost Evidence: Guam. 2004.


Italian Americans in World War II

DiStasi, Lawrence, ed. Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during World War II. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 2001.

Fox, Stephen. UnCivil Liberties: Italian Americans Under Siege During World War II. United States: Universal Publishers, 2000. Originally published as The Unknown Internment: An Oral History of the Relocation of Italian Americans during World War II, Twayne’s Oral History Series. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

LaGumina, Salvatore J., ed. The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia. In Garland Reference Library of the Humanities. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Italian Prisoners of War

Camilla Calamandrei. Prisoners in Paradise. Documentary film, 2001.


The Bay Area, World War II

Archibald, Katherine. Wartime Shipyard: A Study in Social Disunity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1947.

Bastin, Donald. Images of America: Richmond. San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Camp, William Martin. Skip to My Lou. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1945.

Cole, Susan D. Richmond—Windows to the Past. Richmond, CA: Wildcat Canyon Books, 1980.

Fabry, Joseph. Swing Shift: Building the Liberty Ships. San Francisco: Strawberry Hill Press, 1982.

Graves, Donna. Mapping Richmond’s World War II Home Front: A Historical Report Prepared for National Park Service Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. 2004.

Johnson, Marilyn S. The Second Gold Rush: Oakland and the East Bay in World War II. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.

McLeod, Dean L. Images of America: Port Chicago. San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

Moore, Shirley Ann Wilson. To Place Our Deeds: The African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910–1963. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001.

Roselius, Donna, et al., eds. This Point in Time: An Historic View of Point Richmond. Point Richmond, CA: Point Richmond History Association, 1980.

Veronico, Nicholas A. Images of America: World War II Shipyards by the Bay. San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing Company, 2007.

Clinard, Marshall B. The Black Market: A Study of White Collar Crime. New York: Rinehart & Company, 1952.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1994.

Lotchin, Roger W., ed. The Way We Really Were: The Golden State in the Second Great War. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

O’Brien, Kenneth Paul, and Lynn Hudson Parsons, eds. The Home-Front War: World War II and American Society. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Starr, Kevin. Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940–1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Stickney, Zephorene. “Code Breakers: The Secret Service.” Wheaton Quarterly, spring 2011.


The Mystery Novel as Coffee Table Book

At the Sebastopol Gallery Book Show



Introduction: What writer hasn’t looked around her office and wondered where all those hard copies of her drafts came from. And then wondered what to do with them. Here is one solution.

What I have written exists only if it appears on paper and I am able to hold it in my hands, read it, and make notes on it. Forget the Cloud, and Dropbox, and Mozy. I still fear that Word documents will disappear into the ether and be lost forever despite my multiple backups. So I printed version after version of my novel. When it finally left my hands to be published, I looked around my office and discovered I was surrounded by teetering piles of drafts printed on different colored papers in a variety of fonts. (I had made the happy discovery that changing the font helped make errors more visible.)

I needed to do something about the reams of paper stacked on the floor, on the shelves, and on the chairs before I started the next book, one I hoped would require many fewer ‘very last final versions.’

Salvation arrived by way of a Call for Entries from my local Center for the Arts. Its upcoming juried show had to do with the book — artists’ books, hand-bound books, and altered books. I was inspired. The surrounding stacks of drafts were nothing if not an altered book, particularly if one considered my multi-colored arrows, notes, post-its and revisions.

The original title of the novel had been “Bitter Ashes,” so it seemed most appropriate to burn the drafts, put their ashes and some artfully burned pages in a clear box, and call it, of course, “Bitter Ashes.” However, the noxious odor from burning the first few pages disabused me of that idea.

Then inspiration struck. I had been collecting quotations from writers about revising one’s work.

For example, Elmore Leonard’s advice: “When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

And Robert Cormier’s “The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”

I bundled the stacks of paper and tied them with heavy twine. Then I wrote a number of quotations about revising on tags and hung them from the knots. An artist friend knocked my precise stacks around until they looked artfully messy. (I love how artists see things.)

I heaped the stacks on a rolling cart and trundled it off to the art center. My husband warned me that the center volunteers were going to laugh at me. I said that’s okay. Laughter is a response, and in art, provoking almost any response is a good thing.

When I wheeled my masterpiece into the building, political correctness as well as common courtesy flew out the window when the folks accepting the submissions looked at my offering and burst out laughing. So far so good, I thought. I hoped the juror had a sense of humor.

Apparently she did. The piece was accepted, and to my surprise, so was the cart.

After the show closed, my artist friend was horrified that I was going to put it in the recycling bin. He rescued it and the drafts now rest proudly, but messily, on a table and the floor in his living room.

Now if I could just figure out what to do with all those backup disks.



Launch Party

Kaitlin from Copperfield’s Books in Healdsburg

It was ninety-seven degrees June 8, 2014, when we gathered at CRUX Winery to send In the Shadow of Lies: A Mystery Novel out into the world.

Friends and family mingled and sweltered. Thank goodness for Heidi’s watermelon water!


Thank you for coming. I had a wonderful time!


What I Learned About Using Lyrics While Writing “In the Shadow of Lies”

Sometimes, a song enters my mind and becomes the soundtrack for the scene I’m writing, particularly if the scene includes Oliver, who shares my love of music. Early in the book, he sits in the dark listening to Billie Holiday sing “Gloomy Sunday.” If the reader knows the song, she knows something significant about Oliver and may begin to wonder what has caused him to seek comfort in that song.


My Writing Process Blog Tour

Fellow She Writes Press author Tory McCagg invited me to join the My Writing Process Blog Tour.

First, I would like to tell you a little about her, then I will answer the four questions about my process, and then I will introduce you to the three wonderful writers who will continue the blog tour next week.

World War II

Ghostly Funeral Procession

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established Columbus Day as a national holiday in 1934. In 1942, with an eye to a planned invasion of Italy, and to the upcoming elections (for which FDR needed the Italian vote), the government chose Columbus Day to announce that Italian Americans would no longer be considered enemies of the United States.

Dogs, World War II

Always Faithful

Always Faithful, A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII, by Captain William W. Putney tells the story of the dogs that fought in Guam and the other Pacific Islands. The dogs were used for scouting, attacks, carrying messages, detecting mines, and guarding. The dogs scouted in front of more than 550 patrols on the island of Guam. Not one patrol was ambushed, but 25 dogs died in service. As Captain Putney writes in his book:

“The sacrifices of these dogs were recognized by everyone of us that served in the 2nd and 3rd War Dog Platoons. They died; we lived.”

World War II

Remember Pearl Harbor

Seventy-three years ago, Americans sat by the radio horrified by Japan’s sneak attack on the Pacific Fleet in Honolulu. They wanted to know more than the radio could tell them. Were their loved ones safe, what would the Japanese do next, would the United States be drawn into the war against the Germans and the Russians, Japan’s allies. After hearing about Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill said “he went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.