Keeping Writers Writing by Posting Reviews

As an author I know how important reviews are. Some readers won’t take a chance on a book that doesn’t have a fair amount of reviews. That’s why when I finish a book I’ve enjoyed, I try to follow up by posting a review.

Since “Voyage of the Heart” was a Christmas gift, Amazon declined to post my review because the book was not purchased by me and they couldn’t verify that I had read it. So I’m posting my review here:

The risks of loving—A Review of Voyage of the Heart

When we think about World War II, we usually think of the bravery of the men who went into battle knowing that the odds of making it through to the end of the war in one piece were pretty slim. But there is a different kind of courage that we often forget about, the courage of the war brides who risked leaving the security of their homes, their countries, their families and their friends to be with the American servicemen who swept them off their feet.

Voyage of the Heart, by Soraya M. Lane, published by Lake Union, 2014, draws us in with well-developed characters forged by love, war and a chance at a new adventurous life. I’m glad Soraya took me on this journey. I have childhood memories of soldier friends of my parents’ who married war brides. I now have a greater appreciation of what it took for those women to come here.

Soraya skillfully weaves the riveting stories of four British women who follow their hearts across the vast ocean hoping that the love they feel for their new American husbands will be enough to sustain them in this foreign land.

Will this new adventure become their happily ever after or will it end in disaster?  

We simply can’t help rooting for each of these young ladies as they face difficult challenges and surprises, some welcome, some quite unpleasant.

I highly recommend this book.

P.S. To learn more about war brides, check out “War Brides of World War II”, by Elfrieda Berthiaume Shukert and Barbara Smith Scibetta, published by Presidio Press in 1988 and Penguin Books in 1989.

Paint Like a Writer

Very few of us are so gifted we can just sit and write without the benefit of learning from others. From time to time in “Within my Writes”, I like to share what I have learned on my writing journey.

Not long ago I read “Word Painting”, the revised addition, published in 2014, by Rebecca McClanahan.

It disrupted my game—but in a good way.

It reminded me of my seventh grade English class where I had tried to get by with my usual minimal effort. My classmates were brimming with grey matter and I felt like I’d been thrown into the deep end of the pool with deflated Swimmies. I learned quickly that what had worked for me in grade school wasn’t going to cut it with Mr. K. He demanded much more.

Mr. K. compelled us to study the art of effective writing. He made us work on plotting, characters, plot twists, descriptions and poetry. He pushed us to open our minds to see that through words, writers like H. G. Wells could even make us believe that invisibility was possible.

I never fully overcame my laziness that year. I was lucky to scratch out a “C” in the class and was happy to be done with that torture.

It wasn’t until I was receiving high marks in high school and college for creative writing, that I understood how much Mr. K had positively influenced my writing. I haven’t written a single book or short story without thinking about him and what he’d taught me.

In her book “Word Painting” Rebecca McClanahan provides vivid examples and techniques. She teaches us that writing descriptions is more than just describing what we see, hear, feel, smell or taste. She shows us how to see through the eyes of our characters and use vivid descriptions to bring those characters to life. And she shows us techniques for writing prose that captivate and delight readers.

Just as I didn’t like the lessons in Mr. K’s class, I don’t like the lessons in Ms. McClanahan’s “Word Painting” because she makes me work harder on my writing.

Thank you, Rebecca McClanahan and Mr. K.

But Who Should Write It?

One night, before I wrote Night and Fog, my wife asked why I was watching a You Tube video in French when I don’t speak French. It was Dédée de Jongh modestly relating how she and her comrades simply did what had to be done to save Allied airmen during World War Two.

Though much older in the video than the young girl whose daring had become legendary, Dédée’s body language and tone still bore the essence of the courageous young girl who organized the most resilient underground line of World War Two and told me more about her character than merely reading about her could.

Continue reading “But Who Should Write It?”

History lessons tell you about it—Historical novels let you live it.

Readers aren’t drawn to historical novels simply because they’re historical. Someone who likes the Middle Ages, World War II, or Colonial America, may not be interested in a racial drama set in the American south in the 1940s. This makes for a smaller pool of potential readers than say romance, mystery, horror or suspense novels. So when historical novelists keep us reading a story set in an era we didn’t think would interest us, it’s special.

Continue reading “History lessons tell you about it—Historical novels let you live it.”


I thought it was Senioritis, but it may have been misdiagnosed.

It’s not that we vintage folks don’t possess the grey matter to learn how to use today’s electronic devices, but….

Back in the dark ages, it required a whole semester learning FORTRAN and the step by step “if/then” procedure in order to use a computer. Once you developed the program, you had to key-punch the computer’s instructions on individual cards. Those cards were then stacked and fed into a computer the size of a banquet hall. There was always a glitch which stopped the computer so you had to go back through every one of your punch cards to find the problem. But once you got the program running, the mighty machine would crank out an answer. Imagine that! It took only three months to do a calculation that it would have taken thirty seconds to do on a slide rule!

The excitement faded quickly.

Then came the desktop computer—no punch cards required! (not to be confused with the personal computer which would come along later). You simply typed on a keyboard on one desk to program a computer as large as a refrigerator on another desk. There were no fewer glitches, but this computer spit out a code so you could find the error in a support book and fix the problem the very same day!

Early calculators, the size of a small briefcase, could add and subtract, multiply and divide faster than we could do it longhand, but we still had to use our slide rules for algebra and trig functions.

My first pocket calculator was a true marvel. I could do calculations without having to look up a nine-digit number from my two-inch thick book of trigonometric tables! And it was quicker than my slide rule. Boy was it exciting learning how to use all those functions. It actually fit inside my pocket and it only cost about a half-week’s pay!

That model was soon obsolete and the learning process began again on a new model.

Personal computers came out, so we learned how to use them. Then came windows and we relearned. Laptops came out and we did it again.

Getting on the internet required more learning. So did mobile phones, fire cubes, computer games—the list goes on and on. New strains of these products come out every year, replacing the old.

Like immunity to over-used medicines, exposure to the ever evolving variants of electronic gadgets has caused many of us seniors to develop a natural resistance to learning how to use them.

I don’t think there’s a cure.

Pearl Harbor Memories

Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?

Most of us weren’t even born yet, but this December 7 marked the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—as President Roosevelt so stirringly put it, “—a date which will live in infamy”.

Just 11 days before the bombings, Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, had sent the Japanese his suggestions for a peaceful settlement covering the entire Pacific area. The cunning raid demonstrated that the Japanese had only been talking peace to stall while they secretly set up their attack. When the Japanese envoy arrived at Hull’s office, he didn’t mince words, calling it, “The damndest pack of lies,” and telling them, “In all my fifty years of public service I have never seen a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions—infamous falsehoods and distortions on a scale so huge that I never imagined any government on this planet was capable of uttering them.”

The day after Pearl Harbor, New Jersey Congressman, William H. Sutphin wrote in a newsletter to his constituents: “I believe the nation is united in the belief that political considerations are out of the question until victory is ours.  There is now but one party—the American Party. Our people are either for America and victory, or for someone else and our defeat … This is an all-out fight. We must win it.” 

We now know the outcome, but at the time those who watched newsreels of the thick black smoke billowing from the ships at anchor, the soldiers, sailors and marines fighting back, and the crews and medical personnel desperately trying to rescue sailors and save lives, feared what might come next.

New York City’s Mayor LaGuardia issued leaflets instructing people what to do “If it begins”. Los Angeles Harbor area was put on high alert. Anti-submarine netting was spread across the entrance to the San Diego fleet base. The entire west coast was put on war footing. Taxicabs gave free rides to soldiers, sailors and marines on leave who were recalled to their posts. Military and civilians worked through the night putting emergency measures in place. Private planes were grounded in the Puget Sound Navy Yard area, private boats were ordered to remain at anchor and warnings were issued that any planes flying over the area would be shot down.

But what about the rest of the people? What did they do when they heard the news? What did the children of that generation do during those difficult war years?

I’m currently working with my local historical society to collect people’s recollections of the attack and what it was like living through the war years. People who were children might remember things their parents did like air raid warden, air watcher, Red Cross volunteer, nursing, canteen services or defense plant worker. Or they may remember practicing for air raids in school, rationing and shortages, knitting garments for hospital and refugee use, or participating in scrap drives.

If you’d like to know more about our local project or have memories to share, contact me at

Praise for Night and Fog

I’m thrilled to announce (more like shout with glee) that Night and Fog received a very favorable editorial review from Midwest Book Review.

“The attention to detail and intersecting scenarios that Rizzo takes the time to explore in his characters and settings will especially delight historical fiction readers seeking authenticity and facts from their stories.” … “Night and Fog is a vivid story of a lesser-covered aspect of World War II that brings people and their wartime dilemmas to life. It’s a novel that should be part of any World War II history reading list or collection.”

                —D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Check out the complete editorial review in ‘Recommended Reading – Donovan’s Bookshelf’

Or go straight to the review by clicking the hot link: Night and Fog.

This review will also be published in the August 2021 issue of Midwest Book Review.

Night and Fog will go on sale at Amazon on August 19, 2021.

Most Obeyed Their German Conquerors—One Woman Fought Back

On a hot August night in 1941, a twenty-four year old Belgian girl silently crouched in the darkness along the River Somme scarcely breathing as a German patrol officer bicycled by little more than a footfall away from the weeds that concealed her. If caught, she would be put to death—punishment for her seditious act of leading eleven fugitives fleeing from the Gestapo.

This would be her closest brush with the German conquerors so far. The dangers would increase as the German secret police honed their hunting skills. Her odds of surviving would continually decrease. But she brazenly defied the Nazis, rescuing Allied airmen while the German Gestapo, Abwehr, Secret Police of the Luftwaffe, collaborating French gendarmes and others bore down to catch, torture and eliminate all who participated, to demonstrate that such defiance would not be tolerated. Dozens of underground organizations were formed during WWII to aid airmen. Two, the Pat O’Leary Line and Comète are recognized as being the most successful against the Germans. But of the two, only Comète, the underground conceived by twenty-four-year-old Andrée (Dédée) de Jongh, would survive the war. August 19, 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of that first fateful night when Dédée struck her first blow against her country’s conquerors.

That’s why I chose August 19, 2021 as the date publish to my novel Night and Fog about the Comète underground. Look for it on Amazon.


“I won’t read that historical fiction garbage,” hissed a lady at the assisted living facility where a panel consisting of myself and other writers were describing our writing process. “History should be facts, not made up crap,”

Interesting question. Why would anybody want to read a fictionalized version when they can read a history book and get the real facts? What is historical fiction anyway?

Some books under the historical fiction umbrella may have other-worldly or supernatural themes. Some may pose what if questions, such as what if Hitler had won World War II. Others could be more historically accurate than the word fiction implies. The general criteria is that they be set at least 50 years in the past.

Historical novels may use fictional characters to transport us to a particular place and time so we may experience the protagonist’s world as someone living during that time might.  We could pursue a German saboteur through New York City during WWI with the police detectives in James Hockenberry’s Over Here ( Soraya M. Lane lets us feel the joys, the fears and the heartbreaks of British war brides, as they follow their American G.I. sweethearts to the United States in Voyage of the Heart ( Or we can experience World War I through the eyes of the early women battlefield nurses, complements of Lizzy Page’s novels War Nurses and Daughters of War (

In another type of historical novel, the author imagines how an historic figure or a real-life person lived through an historic event. Through extensive research, physical retracing of the route and the woman’s written account, James Alexander Thom in Follow the River (, takes us along with Mary Ingles, a white woman abducted by American Indians, as she escapes her captors and undertakes a treacherous journey through a thousand miles of hostile, uncharted wilderness to find her way back to her home.

But does an author using his/her imagination to fill in gaps or flesh out a real event make it less accurate? From TV detective shows, courtroom dramas and our own experience, we know that eyewitness accounts differ. People’s recollections of an incident are affected by their perspective. So we may never know the absolute truth. But the more corroborating information we obtain, the more we can trust that our conclusion is reasonably accurate.

In Little Cyclone, author Airey Neave tells us that in July 1942, Dédée, the real life leader of the Cométe underground, is ambushed by German soldiers. Neave writes: The party of airmen were scattered till Dédée, coolly collecting them, took them back to Urrugne, whence they crossed two days later. Neave’s book is nonfiction. His statement is true and accurate, but it doesn’t go into much detail.

Digging through evader reports, I found the same incident. So for my novel Night and Fog, in addition to Neave’s account, I had the perspective of the airmen evaders who were actually there. I knew where they were from, when and where the narrow escape took place, who the guides were, what the weather was like, who was shot at, who was captured and how others got away. I used this information to recreate the scene as I imagined it. I had to fill in minor details and dialog—which makes it historical fiction—but it lets readers experience the incident as if they were there.

There will always be people who turn up their noses at historical fiction just as there are people who say they hate cauliflower without ever tasting it. But there are writers like the ones mentioned above who are publishing some truly wonderful historical fiction that should be sampled before the genre is dismissed out of hand.

Night and Fog cover

Well I’m delighted to announce that it’s finally here—the cover for my new novel.

I love the way this cover hints at so many intrigues of the novel, especially the dangers faced by women partisans who had to throw themselves into the perilous task of saving Allied airmen because the men of their country between the ages of 18 to 50 had been conscripted to work in Germany factories.

I know it’s been a long time coming since my last book. Actually, I was afraid to take this story on because I knew it would be very difficult to write. But the more I researched the subject, the more I knew that no one else could tell the story the way I felt it needed to be told.

Look for Night and Fog coming soon.