What it’s really like to be an author

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My cousin, author Julie Christine Johnson, posted this graphic on her Facebook page awhile ago.

Boy, does it ever resonate with me. I’m inching my way to the finish line of my second book and have actually completed my first children’s book.

You know what that means?

Yeah. It’s time to pitch and query agents and publishers. Every writers FAVORITE thing to do. Not!

I sold War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation directly to the publisher after my  literary agent was fired from her agency. It took me a couple months to sell a manuscript she’d had a of couple years. Not exactly “spontaneous success.”

But these new books represent new opportunities to wade out into the deep water and sink or swim, instead of treading water and hoping for rescue.

Those moments of “seemingly spontaneous success” don’t happen without a lot of work and not a little bit of angst. But I truly love both of my new projects and am hopeful that they will find a home and an audience.

Wish me luck friends, I’m jumping in without my water wings 😉

Happy 2nd birthday War Bonds!

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Two years ago today, I was humbled and amazed by the turnout for the launch of my first book.

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In the five years it took to write and publish War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation, I lost so many of the couples featured. It broke my heart that some weren’t there to see their stories in print.

In the two years since publication, I’ve lost several more. Each death leaves an ache in my heart.

Yet at the front row of the book launch party many of my War Bonds couples were present as well as widows and widowers. They were in awe of the size of the crowd and watched with joy as every single copy of War Bonds sold out at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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I’ve learned a lot about publishing, publicity, book tours and public speaking over the last two years– knowledge I know will serve me well when my next book  comes out.

Today I’m still somewhat disbelieving that War Bonds is on bookshelves, in libraries and for sale in bookstores all over the world.

I’m so thankful for those who stood with me during the long journey from idea to pub party.

Thankful for readers who bought the book, read the book, reviewed the book and recommended it to others.

Thankful for bookstore owners, civic groups and organizations who invited me to share the message that true love can survive anything– even a world war.

But more than anything I’m thankful for my War Bonds family. They opened their hearts, homes and lives to me and allowed me to poke around. Then they trusted me to share their stories with the world.

What a journey.

What a blessing.

What a privilege.

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Library Friends are the Best!

I don’t know any authors who are not passionate about public libraries– and I know a lot of authors!

I’ve had a library card since I was six years old. No, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was.

When the opportunity came to serve on the newly formed Friends of the Spokane County Library District board, I jumped at the chance. For two years I’ve worked alongside some wonderful community volunteers, library lovers and fabulous library admin staff.

We drafted a mission statement: Inspiring passionate lifelong learners to invest in their community libraries, hosted two After Hours at the Library events and raised lots of $$ to supplement library programming. Here’s a few of last year’s highlights.

  • Sponsored NaNoWriMo Readiness Conference
  • Provided funds for Mica Peak High School Great Stories Book Club
  • Provided funds for small business owners/employer workshop series
  • Provided funds for Thinking Money Exhibit and related programming
  • Provided funds for Spokane Is Reading

But after two years on the board it’s time for me to move on to a new volunteer project I’m equally passionate about (more on that in another blog).

Perhaps it’s time for one of you to step up and serve? Check out the website. Become a friend. And contact Spokane County Library District at 509.893.8233 to see if serving on the board would be a fit for you.

I may be off the board for now, but I remain passionately committed to supporting our public libraries and the programming they provide.

Here are some photos of our most recent After Hours event. Long live our libraries!

 

New Reviews from Amazon

What a delightful way to end 2016 and begin 2017! Two nice reviews for War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation!

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4 out of 5 stars

Soft and gentle read

on December 29, 2016

This is a very sentimental and sweet look at love that lasts through the decades. Many of these couples met just as war was breaking out and most married before the husband was shipped overseas. It was a good read and well illustrated too with pictures of the couples both at the time they married and also as they looked today.
5 out of 5 stars
on January 1, 2017
Purchased as a gift for my mom who loves WWII era personal stories. She thoroughly enjoyed it.
So, that’s 45 reviews on Amazon and I’ve heard that something magical happens to your book’s algorithm when you reach 50 reader reviews.
I like magic!
If you’ve read War Bonds, but not reviewed it on Amazon, yet. Would you mind taking the time to do so?
Here’s hoping 2017 holds lots of magic for us all!

 

Would You Rather?

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In the latest episode of my podcast “Life, Love & Raising Sons”  my two younger sons, Sam and Zach joined me for rousing on-air game of “Would You Rather?”

It’s a simple conversational game we often play at the dinner table where we ask each other questions like, “Would you rather hug Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton– Heidi Klum or Russell Wilson? Mick Jagger or Keith Richards?”

Also featured: wet Hutts vs wet dogs, eating pencil shavings or glue and Sam tries to stump me with “Would you rather relive your first date with Dad or your wedding day?”

Click here to tune in. The show airs daily at 11 AM, noon and 5 PM at Spokane Talks Online and is available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play etc.

Listen to previous podcasts here.

Keeping my promise: A personal Pearl Harbor reflection

This week The Spokesman Review published a special keepsake section commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the past nine years, I’ve been interviewing Pearl Harbor survivors for newspaper and was pleased to have many of those stories included.

In addition I wrote the following piece describing what it meant for me to visit the place I’d written about so often.

Never forget.

Cindy Hval, who wrote “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation,” visited Pearl Harbor in March. She explored places she had learned about in nine years of interviewing Pearl Harbor survivors.

Stretching out, I pressed my cheek into the hot sand, its gritty heat almost too much to bear. Closing my eyes, I imagined the shriek of airplane engines and the spitting sound of machine gun fire hitting the beach, while the air around me burned.

I covered my head with my arms, and could almost hear the whistling sound of bullets whizzing past my ear.

A shadow loomed. “Are you okay?” my husband asked.

Slowly, I sat up and scooted back onto my brightly-colored beach towel.

“Just thinking about Nick,” I said, while I slipped on my sunglasses.

The beauty of being married 30 years is I didn’t have to explain what I meant.

Derek and I visited Oahu in March to celebrate our anniversary, but the trip was part pilgrimage for me. After nine years of interviewing Pearl Harbor survivors, I was at last visiting the place I’d written about so often.

Here on Waikiki, I was just 12 miles away from Hickham Field where Nick Gaynos almost lost his life on Dec. 7, 1941.

Nick Gaynos holding the piece of shrapnel that landed near him while under fire during the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. Gaynos died 20 days after this March 11, 2015, photograph. (Courtesy Cindy Hval)
Nick Gaynos holding the piece of shrapnel that landed near him while under fire during the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. Gaynos died 20 days after this March 11, 2015, photograph. (Courtesy Cindy Hval)

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nick had been running toward his duty station when a Japanese pilot targeted him. He’d told me of looking up as he ran and seeing the grin on the pilot’s face as he fired at him.

Nick hit the beach and covered his head with his arms as the bullets flew. When he got up he discovered a large piece of shrapnel next to him.

“I grabbed it,” he said. “It was still hot from the explosion.”

When my book “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation” was released, Nick attended a reading at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library in March 2015. He brought that piece of shrapnel with him. It was jagged and more than 2 feet long. He died a few weeks later.

Now, on the island that had been so devastated by the horrific attack, I carried his memories with me as well as those of Warren and Betty Schott. The Schotts had quarters on Ford Island and were eyewitnesses to the attack.

When Derek and I walked through the entrance of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, I wanted nothing more than to talk to Betty, to tell her I was here. But Betty passed away in July 2015.

At the center, we watched a short film featuring actual footage of the attack. A scene of sailors and soldiers pulling the wounded and dead from the harbor made me gasp. That’s what Warren had done in the aftermath – it was the one thing he didn’t want to discuss with me over the course of many interviews. It was the only thing he refused to speak of with his wife of 76 years. Now, watching the footage through tear-filled eyes, I finally understood why he was loath to speak of it.

That horror was also all too real for my friend Ray Daves. During the attack, he hustled to a rooftop and handed ammo to two sailors who were manning a .30-caliber machine gun. He had his own brush with death when a Japanese plane exploded 20 feet from that rooftop before crashing into the sea below. His left hand was lacerated by shrapnel.

Like Warren Schott, Ray spent time pulling wounded men from the harbor, his blood mingling with the red splashes in the water around him. In his biography, “Radioman,” he described the bodies and body parts floating in the harbor. “We had to push them aside to get to the wounded,” he said.

Despite those gruesome memories, what really choked him up was recalling the bombing of the USS Arizona.

“My friend George Maybee was on the Arizona,” Ray said. “We’d gone through radio school together. Sat beside each other every day and were bunkmates at night.”

Ray Daves

“My friend George Maybee was on the Arizona,” Ray said. “We’d gone through radio school together. Sat beside each other every day and were bunkmates at night.”

He watched as the Arizona burst into a huge fireball. He knew his friend was gone.

Over the years, Ray and I grew close. He reminded me so much of my dad. They were both from Arkansas and had joined the military seeking a way out of the poverty of the rural south. Both had tender hearts and shared a wickedly funny sense of humor.

The last time I spoke to Ray before his June 2011 death, I told him I longed to visit Pearl Harbor.

“George is there,” he said, his eyes filling.

“I’ll look for his name,” I said. “I’ll say a prayer.”

Ray took my hand. “You do that, sweetheart.”

Five years later, I boarded the boat that took us to the USS Arizona. As we stepped from the boat onto the memorial, the throng of tourists quieted. The only sound was the snapping of the flag in the wind and the clicking of cameras.

We were somber with the knowledge that we were standing on the final resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the Arizona.

1913753_1047614618610498_5611130893995793483_n[1]A rainbow of undulating color in the water below caught my eye. Some 500,000 gallons of oil are still slowly seeping out of the ship’s submerged wreckage, and it continues to spill up to nine quarts into the harbor each day.

Slowly, I entered the shrine. A marble wall bearing the names of those entombed beneath us stretched out behind a velvet rope.

So. Many. Names.

Overwhelmed, I looked at Derek. “I’ll never find him,” I whispered.

The day had been overcast, but suddenly a shaft of sunlight illuminated the marble.

“There,” Derek said. “There he is – G.F. Maybee.”

George Frederick Maybee was a radioman, second class, aboard the USS Arizona when the battleship was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Habor. Maybee, whose name is etched in a marble wall at the Arizona memorial, had been a friend of Ray Daves, a Pearl Harbor survivor from Deer Park who died in 2011. (Courtesy Cindy Hval)

Bowing my head, I wept for the sailor I’d never met and for my friend who knew and loved him.

I hope that somehow Ray knows I kept my promise.

George Maybee hasn’t been forgotten. Neither has Ray Daves.

 

Indies First a boon to authors and booksellers

 

This weekend during Small Business Saturday, I got to spend a few hours as an honorary bookseller at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane. Saturday was a designated Indies First event.

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Indies First is a collaboration between authors, publishers, retailers, and readers, and it celebrates independent bookstores and local communities. Speaking of local, this national movement was launched by author Sherman Alexie, who was born and raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Authors/honorary booksellers signed copies of their books, visited with shoppers and offered book recommendations. I was thrilled to see scores of shoppers buying stacks of books!

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Plus I got to hang out with brilliant authors like Jess Walter.

My shift also overlapped with Bruce Holbert and Shawn Vestal.

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Bottom line? When you support your local bookstores, everyone wins.

Thankful for 70 years of devotion

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I got a call last week from Barbara Anderson. She wanted to let me know that her husband of 70 years had suffered a stroke and that they were now in an assisted living facility. She also told me that her grandson-in-law, Col. David Banholzer had passed away on November 4 at age 47. She wanted to send some copies of War Bonds to his family.

Banholzer was the commander of Air Force One until cancer forced his early retirement. He and Louis loved to talk about flying. As told in chapter 28 of War Bonds, Louis was a B-17 pilot during WWll.

 

.War Bonds Louie AndersonI was so happy to visit with this dear couple. Louis’ speech has been somewhat affected by the stroke and his vision is poor. But he knew me and gave me his characteristic grin. His blue eyes still sparkle and he kept my hand firmly tucked in his.

As I prepared to leave, Barbara insisted on giving me some mementos from Banholzer’s time on Air Force One.

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But for me the true gift was more time and one more visit with these shining examples from the Greatest Generation.

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Taking home a memory: Jack Rogers’ last exhibition

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In 1943, at 19, Jack Rogers joined the Army. He was assigned to the amphibious engineers unit and spent 3 years on active duty, most of it in the Philippines.

“Our whole company was made up of kids– dressed up as soldiers,” he said. “At 19 I was in charge of 55 men.” He shrugged. “You grew into the job.”

After the war he became a commercial artist and a founding member of the Spokane Watercolor Society. He started the art department at Spokane Falls Community College in 1963 and taught there for 26 years.

On Saturday, Rogers, 93, had what will likely be his final art show/sale.

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People had lined up before the doors even opened. Anxious to take home a signed painting. Anxious to thank Rogers for his service to our country. Anxious to thank him for his devotion to teaching and to art.

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He and Fran, his wife of 70 years, greeted the crowd. When asked the reason for the show Rogers said. “I was given a gift and I want to share it,” he said. “Why put it all back in the drawers? I’m hoping people will take home a memory.”

My memories of Jack Rogers exist in more than just watercolors. They exist in hours spent interviewing him. They exist in War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation. Time spent with he and Fran is precious to me, now and I was glad to see the community turn out to shake his hand and to tell him thank you.

My Veterans

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That’s my dad in his airman’s uniform just hanging around in the mid 1950’s, long before I was born.

He joined the Air Force in the waning days of WWll and shook the dust of Luxora, Arkansas, off his feet, returning only briefly before being summoned back to duty by the advent of the Korean War.

I was born at Fairchild Air Force Base and by the time I was 5 had lived on Guam and in California before Dad decided to retire back in Spokane, Washington. I learned to stand at attention and salute the flag before I could walk.

Dad was proud of his two-plus decades of Air Force service. His love of God and country anchored our family and his passing in 1994 left a void in my heart that cannot be filled.

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So, of course I fell in love with a man in uniform!

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I met my husband just after he graduated from flight school. He served in the Washington Army National Guard for 23 years– most of our married life. He’s duties took him to Panama and to Honduras, but he loved flying and mentoring other young pilots.

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My love for my father and for my husband gave me deep empathy and added insight when I begin to tell the stories of WWll soldiers, sailors, pilots and corpsmen.

I understood duty, courage, leadership and self-sacrifice because I’ve lived with it all my life.

Today I honor my father, Tom Burnett and my husband, Derek Hval.

Of all the veterans I’ve met, these are the two I love the most and their stories have made my own story so much richer.

Happy Veteran’s Day.