Melody’s Top 5 WWII Nonfiction Books

Anyone who knows me knows that I love reading about World War II, both fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes nonfiction gets a bad rap as “boring” or “too technical,” but I discovered a slew of excellent nonfiction WW II books that read more like novels than historical accounts—sometimes because they are personal accounts, but also because the authors are excellent researchers and writers. Because I love the genre so much, and because I’m such a huge fan of World War II books, I thought I’d list my Top 5 nonfiction World War II books.

1. Flags of Our Fathers (James Bradley)

About the men in the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima. As testament to its power, this book was made into a movie, directed by Clint Eastwood. This isn’t just one of my favorite WWII books. It’s one of my favorite books, period. I’ve read it several times and am looking forward to reading it again.

2. Ghost Soldiers (Hampton Sides)

Plugged as “the epic account of World War II’s greatest rescue mission,” this book tells the amazing story of how U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines to rescue the last survivors of the Bataan Death March. This is one of the most powerful and disturbing books I’ve ever read—and the fact that it’s true makes it all the more potent.


3. Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Uplifting and powerful, Unbroken tells one man’s incredible story of survival after becoming a castaway and being captured by the Japanese. This book was also made into a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, and it’s probably the most uplifting book I’ve ever read.

4. With the Old Breed (E.B. Sledge)

Incredibly disturbing, parts of Sledge’s story were used in the HBO miniseries The Pacific, in which Sledge is one of the main characters. There is one scene in particular (about digging a trench) that has stayed with me for years.

5. Helmet for My Pillow (Robert Leckie)

Leckie tells his story as a marine fighting in the Pacific. There is absolutely no romancing of war or heroism here. Leckie’s story is brutal. Like Sledge’s story (see above), Leckie’s account was used in HBO’s The Pacific, and Leckie (called “Lucky”) is one of the series’ main characters.

Teens pit Harry Potter vs. Mockingjay at library workshop

Friday Freestyle By Faran Fagen

Identifying with the main character.
These were some of the character traits listed by teens as part of a writing exercise at Thursday’s summer workshop at the Alvin Sherman Library at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.
The exercises began with the group of teens listing a character trait from their favorite fairy tale.
Then, to keep them on their toes, writers Jonathan Rosen and Faran Fagen had the teens do a short story with a twist: rewrite the fairy tale with a main character as the opposite gender.
What resulted was a male Cinderella called Cinder, a merman Ariel and a female Beast from Beauty and the Beast.
The teen series concluded with Jonathan and Faran. Four other pairs of authors and aspiring writers gave workshops through June and July in the second annual series at the library.
On Thursday, teens also read their impromptu work on several writing exercises from Jonathan.
An alphabet game had the teens pair up and write a scene, solely in dialogue, with each sentence beginning with a letter of the alphabet in succession (A-Z).
Teens munched on cookies, candy and soda. Laughter filled the room as the kids struggled with some of the difficult letters like Q.
The workshop culminated in a contest. The group was split in half, and together picked a main character to praise.
After 10 minutes, a spokesman had to prove to the judges which main character was more compelling.
It was Hermione Granger versus Katniss Everdeen. Both spokespeople used several examples from their novels, and pointed out details (Katniss’s loyalty to her sister Prim for instance) that proved the likability of the characters.
In the end, it was a tie, and both groups got prizes.
A question and answer session concluded the final workshop.
One teen asked Jonathan how long it took him to write “Night of the Cuddle Bunnies”, his debut novel which releases in August.
He responded about seven months, but added that it was his fourth time writing a book.
We ended with a discussion about the process of writing, and encouraged the group to write as much as they can. And enjoy it from start to finish.

A closing panel takes place next Thursday to wrap up the successful series.

Themed Thursday: The First Books We Wrote

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The first book I wrote was a children’s book about a fish that got lost. I did not pursue a publisher for it. I wrote it in the early 1990s, when my children were small and I read to them daily. I was also taking classes at Broward College at the time and took a class from Joyce Sweeney. Here’s what she wrote when she read it.

I’m still working on plotting, haha! That was my first introduction to working with Joyce. Many years later when I started writing a novel I contacted her just as she was getting together a new critique group that came to be known as The Tuesdays.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: As a child, I started writing several books, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I finished my first novel. It was called The Inseparables and it was kind of a rip-off of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. By the time I finished high school, I had turned that standalone book into a trilogy. I know they’re bad, but, man, they were great fun to write. I haven’t felt that unfettered in my writing since.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: In seventh grade a classmate and I started writing a book in a spiral notebook we passed back and forth. It was really about this new boy in eighth grade we were both crushing on. I think the main story was all about getting a kiss from him. Oh, if the nuns had found that notebook!

Faran Fagen

Faran: When I was a freshman in high school, we read Dante´s Inferno. Our teacher, Mrs. Vincent, assigned us a project to create our own Dante´s Inferno. I wrote my own book with each canto-chapter about a baseball player I either liked or disliked. Like the book, the toils in my project got progressively more intense for the player. The final canto was about Paul O´ Neill of the Reds, known for his aggressive and sometimes dirty tactics.

When you find a Personal Flaw in your Writing

Summertime makes it more difficult for all of the Tuesdays to get together because we are all taking time to get away and relax. Yesterday we were excited to have almost all the Tuesdays back together. The only one missing was Faran who is out until mid-August.

So what did we talk about once we’re all back together? Jonathan’s book launch coming up next month, of course! When a mysterious cuddle bunny showed up on the couch, it prompted Jonathan to decide that Faran should wear a bunny suit to Barnes and Noble in Plantation on August 10th. We all agreed that since he wasn’t there to decline, it was a fabulous idea.

When it came to reading, I did the chapter before the climax of my work in progress. The tension is ramping up at this point and the Tuesdays liked the pace, except when my character stopped to make a phone call. Even though it was a phone call of desperation, they said it slowed the pace too much. It was suggested that since the phone call shows a necessary act of desperation, that it be moved to the beginning of the scene, before things start getting really wild so that the pace can continue to accelerate.

It was also pointed out that my sidekick is way to calm dealing with horrific situations involving physical and mental health. This has been mentioned before and I have deepened the reactions of my sidekick, but notably not enough. The beauty of working with a good critique group for a long time is that we have all come to know each other’s backgrounds. It was pointed out to me that my female sidekick is behaving too rationally, like a nurse would in a similar situation. It was suggested that I let go of my nurse persona and let this character freak out like a normal person would in a similar situation.

This advice was presented in a way that helped me see not only what needed to be changed but gave me a long term view into watching for my own specific flaws when writing. I am eternally grateful to the Tuesdays for helping me grow as a writer.

Tuesday Tips: Getting Published Is Hard

For anyone who’s set out to write a novel, you know that writing is hard work. It takes discipline, dedication, and focus—and that’s just to get the words down on the page. Making those words sing, however, is another matter entirely. And making someone fall in love with your story—enough that they’re willing to sink money into publishing and marketing it—that’s another feat in itself.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us who start writing books do it, in part, because somewhere in our past, people have told us we’re good writers. So let’s say that being a good writer is a given. And let’s say that you have the discipline, dedication, and focus to get the words down on the page. Now what? You’ve written a novel. But is it any good?

Your friends and family will probably tell you it is. Because, hey, it’s impressive that anyone spent so much time and energy writing a book. And they’re your friends and your family, and chances are they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.

And maybe it is good, right? Maybe it’s a bestseller waiting in the wings. If you could just get the exposure. All it takes is one person who has connections to read it and suddenly …

Okay, time for a reality check. Unless you’re incredibly gifted and lucky (and I do mean incredibly), your first attempts at writing a novel are practice. In fact, I’ll even say that your first book—maybe your first three books—are practice.

Because you don’t know what you don’t know until you start learning it. And many writers will tell you, learning to write well is a lifetime process.

So here’s my advice to all those aspiring novelists: Study the craft of writing. Read books on writing. Take writing classes or workshops. Join a critique group (one that will tell you the truth). Then revise, revise, and repeat. Ask a traditionally published author if this is what they did, and chances are, they’ll say yes, that’s exactly what they did. They’ll tell you it took years of writing, studying, and rewriting before their book was even close to being ready for submission.

Because you know what? Getting published is hard.

So let’s say you put the work in, and you have a novel that you think is good enough for people to spend their money on. Now you’re ready for the first acid test. Can you get an agent to represent you? They don’t get paid unless they sell your work, so an agent won’t represent you unless they think it’s good enough to sell.

And even when your book is good enough, it can still be hard to find an agent. I spent five months querying agents—I had several near misses—and I was ready to put my novel in a drawer and chalk it up as a learning experience. But then I followed up on some of the agents I hadn’t heard from, and lo and behold, one of those agents (the wonderful Tina P. Schwartz, of the Purcell Agency) wanted to see the first three chapters and then the whole thing and then she offered representation.

Of course I was elated, but in the back of my mind, I knew there was probably still a long road ahead to publication. I’d known at least a half-dozen agented authors who had yet to find a publisher. Because sometimes even if you find an agent, it’s not the right agent.

Sometimes selling your book (or not selling it) has to do with timing. Sometimes it’s luck. Sometimes it’s serendipity. And sometimes it doesn’t happen… But it still can, and if you work hard enough at it, I’ll even say it probably can.

Have I mentioned perseverance yet? And developing a thick skin? And learning to bounce back from crushing disappointments? Because most authors I know—whether published or trying to get published—have experienced all of those things.

So yeah, did I mention that getting published is hard?

What’s it Mean to Go for Your Dreams?

www.tuesdaywriters.comOur guest today is Allison Ford. I met Allison when we taught at the same high school. In fact, Allison visited the Tuesdays critique group once to see how we do what we do! During the past few years, Allison has moved out of the classroom and into a career of her own design. She’s going for it, people, and she’s getting there! She is a writer, speaker, and yoga instructor and has recently accepted a speaking engagement at a Tedx event in Wilmington. I asked Allison to share some words of inspiration since writing is all about going for your dreams. Here’s Allison!


When I was a little, my favorite thing to do was daydream. Not to brag, but I was a champion daydreamer. I could escape into my little world as often as I wanted to—there was no cap on it. In class I would zone out, enter into a space where I was dancing, on adventures, or just thinking about my place in the big, big world. In this space, I confronted fears, I felt emotions, and I pictured being on stage (I wanted to be an actress at that time).

And then, it happened.

I started getting into trouble for dreaming. My teachers told me to pay attention, the adults around called me things. Here are just a few of the gems…Space Cadet, Flake, and even Strange. They yelled things out of frustration; they needed my attention on their terms. This became clear as they ever so gently, ever so condescendingly offered, “Thank you for joining reality or, “You’re back, we were worried.” My teacher would always say this one line about me, to other teachers, or adults, as if I wasn’t there…

That one. She lives in her own world. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live like that?” Then they—and the they varied—would laugh at the Daydream Girl.

It’s really no wonder why we exit these worlds created in our heads, in our wondering hearts, or in the worlds and ecosystems created, formed, and romanticized within our evening bath each night. Our toys spoke for us, resolving things down to a simple interaction between Barbie and Rubber Duckie.

For dreaming and creativity are not mutually exclusive, and it seems everyone at some point learns that the hard way.

People are always advising against dreams—and its usually people who you love, who are older than you, and who should have a solid say about how the world works. This is why following dreams, taking an emotional risk, and being truly seen can present some real problems.

Our greatest gift, snatched away before we even understood its’ true power…

But today is a new day, and this gal, she’s back that world. Full force, and dreaming like a champion, once more. Yes. It’s true. It feels good to be home, but man did I have to fight to get here. I’ll give you the short version…

I had to give up dreaming, play it safe, point the trajectory in the wrong direction, dishonor my inner candle flame, stay stagnant, drink resentment with all meals, blame those who stole it, feel totally disconnected, lose everything, and get on my knees…not because I wanted to, but because I was forced into the humble state.

It was then, after all of that, I reconnected with her…the Space Cadet, the Flake, the Strange One, the Daydream Girl.

The irony? She wasn’t even mad. She was relieved, so relieved that I had finally come back for her. What I found out was that no one had stolen it at all. I discovered that I had given it away. That I was the one who needed to resolve it–and it was going to be a little more complicated than the whole Barbie and Duckie situation.

Step One to following your dreams…Do your work. Heal what needs to be healed, re-write the story, trade it in, and make peace with yourself. This may seem obvious, but it’s not.

Often we get really excited about a new idea. A new possibility, a new love, a new adventure etc. These are dreams, seeds if you will. Seeds have such possibility, but it’s not so much the dream we must address, it’s the soil.

Step Two to following your dreams…Create your ecosystem. Now that you’re healed, and totally, utterly, accountable for your stuff, your mess, and what you gave away, you can proceed. You may be like, “I need to re-visit step one,” which is cool, and actually shows you’re on the right track. Step One is complete when you are always in the habit of asking, “What did I do to create this shit storm?” No matter who’s shit it might be, how the storm was started, and why you find yourself standing in it, yet again.

Moving on. Our ecosystem will really make our break that Golden Ticket landing in the chocolate bar. Check your people. If they have not tended to their mess, they will not understand. They will not know how to support you, and you will need to make some choices.

Some people can’t afford to hear about your dream. It’s an emotional price that gets into their stuff, and you need to know that. If it is someone whom you cannot just cut off, like your partner, your mother, or someone who holds a serious title in your bio pic, just proceed accordingly.

Don’t keep secrets, but don’t share in spaces the both of you cannot handle. It is up to you to find this very delicate balance. It’s emotional fitness—dream chasing takes a lot of emotional fitness. You have to remember that you go first. No excuses, you go first. This is why I stress Step One! If step one is done correctly, you can shut your ego on and off, no problem.

Now, if you do have a solid ecosystem, use it as fuel. Tap into how the world, the peeps, and the energy can be a valuable resource. For example, when I decided to peruse my dream to write a book, and become a Professional Speaker, I tapped into the resources my partner could offer.

He was in sales. I needed to sell myself, my brand, my authentic voice. I knew about being me, and I even knew what it meant to be a healed me, but not so much about selling. He did. So I used his brain, his ability to motivate me when I was in doubt, and his ability to listen to presentations I was working on. BUT…I made sure to set some boundaries, first. To explain to him how difficult this would be in the area of being vulnerable, in the area of changing careers, in the area of balancing my duties as a Mother.

This is what I mean about ecosystem, and fitness, and finding that delicate balance. You have to create it—all of it. You have to explain that to those supporting you, and you have to do this with a sense of clarity, and grace—which again—is why Step One is fricken vital.

So we fall on Step Three to following your dreams. Make sure to have a plan. If planning is hard to do, as you are fully tapped into your creative, dreaming, you have no clue how mixed up my brain is, side, then you need to get quiet. Be patient. Don’t expect the Planning Fairy to just show up now that you addressed your mess, and created a flourishing ecosystem, which fuels your confidence. The work begins with actionyou were just covering the prep with steps one and two.

This may seem like a lot of work. It is. Living at a level of fulfillment is a campaign. There are a lot of moving parts, but you can do it. Take small steps that will lead to big results. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true.

If you want to write, commit to writing for thirty minutes a day, and add on a few minutes each day until you are writing for a few hours per day.

If you want to get into shape, commit to walking for fifteen minutes for a week, then adding five minutes each week, for the next three weeks.

If you want to have a better relationship, commit to one kind act a day that is just for your love. Or if things aren’t great, maybe one act a month? Again…refer to Step One, clean mess before step two.

Start the small habit of execution, then find someone who is killing the game you wish to play. This is a great plan. Study the master, while finding a way to also be you. And do not make excuses. Excuses should have been tended to in Step One.

If you don’t have time, make it.

Point is, wanting it isn’t enough. It’s just not. Desire feels great, but inaction will break it, being negative and unhealed will break it, and living in a space that leaves you empty will break it.

Stop giving it away.

When we were kids, we knew no better. This is why we listened. This is why we stopped dreaming.

But now? Now we have a definite say in the matter. So go out there and dream. Dream with intelligence, and you’ll get some serious results. That I can promise you.

And just in case you didn’t get the message—Step One is everything—get your mind right, heal what needs to be healed, clean the mess that belongs to you, and only you.

With Love,

The Daydream Girl


Here’s more info on Allison and how you can contact her.

Allison Ford has been working with children of all ages for the past seventeen years. She began this journey as a teen mentor, coach, and tutor, volunteering five days a week throughout her high school and college years. Naturally, she became an Educator, teaching Advanced Placement Language and Composition and English Honors at the high school level. She also filled her time with coaching both competitive cheerleading, dance, and girls flag-football. After being in the classroom for eight years, and having two children of her own, she decided to speak on a message near and dear to her heart.

How to motivate, support, and explore this world with our children…and having that commitment becoming our own form of parental personal-development.

She is a writer, speaker, and yoga instructor. She brings all that she has learned inside of the classroom to each and every platform she can. Her latest projects include the completion of a book, which deals in creating effective communication within our home, in which she conducted a full year of research to complete—speaking with hundreds of teens and parents. She is also spreading this message through movement, with a workshop series called Yance—a combination of yoga, dance, and personal development and healing.

She has been featured in Healthy Intent Magazine, MINT: Media Impact and Navigation for Teens, The Women’s Empower Expo, Checking-In Conference Series, Top Ten Percent Banquet and Recognition, Pivot and Pitch Event for Youth Entrepreneurs, and more.

And will be hitting the TEDx Stage this fall to speak on finding fulfillment.

For more information on the book and Yance Workshops, you can visit her site at

And join the movement here:

You can also follow her on her on:

Facebook page @Allisonford

Instagram @Allisonfordspeaks

Where do you go to get ideas for a novel?

Some people I know have ten plots for novels buried in the back of their brain waiting to be hatched. I have a couple of ideas of in the wings, but they’re floating around without any concrete development. Truth is that a magnificent fully formed book doesn’t just pop into your head. Where do ideas for novels come from?

The news is always full of bizarre stories that make me wonder about the lives of the characters portrayed in the incidents that end up being broadcast. Take the latest news about O.J. Simpson. With all of the things that have occurred in his lifetime, I could find myself mentally working in a character arc. Mystery Writers are always keeping an eye out for a juicy crime story or headline to flesh out and expand into a good book.

Experience can often lead to ideas for a novel. An epic failure or huge success can be fodder for your next work in progress. Many people start by journaling and expand on the components from there. Or you can eavesdrop on a conversation in the park and expound on someone else’s experiences. People watching in the park can give you some great ideas for characters too.

Reading can lead to ideas of what you might want to write. Perhaps you want to expand on a theory someone else proposed, or you feel they got it wrong and you want to tell the story a different way. Reading across many genres can attune you to new ideas.

Google whatever your heart desires, and see what comes up. Strange accounts, love stories, happy tales and bizarre capers are all waiting to be expanded. You can plot them out inserting your wonderful hero and dastardly villain while at the gym or driving your car.

Whatever your method, writing is a process. Even the most extreme plotters end up changing things as they go along. So pick a nugget of something you’ve heard or seen and get started on your next tale.

Themed Thursday: What’s the movie you’ve seen the most times?

Faran Fagen

Faran: This is a tie for me because I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Shawshank Redemption and The Princess Bride. Both are very different, but have the same message of hope. They both have epic scenes–the final sword fight and final prison break. I will leave you with this combined quote: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to hope.”

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: Wow, I gotta tell you, Tuesday Readers, this is a tough one for me. You see, when I love a movie….I loooooove a movie. And at different times in my life I’ve watched the same movie over and over again. Usually day after day. I’ve done this with Hitchcock movies. With silly movies. With sad movies. Definitely when I write, I like to have a movie on in the background. One that I’ve seen before and loved. But I guess The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner would win, simply because I watched it every year with Mom when she was still alive. She loved Charlton Heston. I loved Yul Brynner. We both loved John Derek. But mostly I loved watching this movie with her.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The movies I’ve seen the most are children’s movies because my kids wanted to watch them over and over again. I’ve seen The Sound of Music and the Disney movies from the early 90s time and time again. The one that sticks in my mind the most is Clifford the Big Red Dog and the songs associated with it. You know when you get a phrase from a song stuck in your head and it replays non-stop? The song B-I-N-G-O from Clifford was one of those things that really stuck in my brain. I found myself singing the song around the house and in the car. When my children grew older, I gave it to a friend who was a heart-lung perfusionist. He said the song stuck in his head so much he found himself singing it in the middle of an open heart surgery. The surgeon and the operating room staff laughed and teased him for months afterward.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: I really and honestly don’t know what movie I’ve seen the most. Some of my favorites, I’ve seen so many times, I’ve lost count. It always depends what mood I’m in. If I had to guess, I’d say Back to the Future. It’s funny to me, because when I first saw it, you got to feel the fond nostalgia that the filmmakers had for the 50s and their childhoods. But, watching it now gives me that same feeling for the 80s. A couple of years ago, on the 30th anniversary, I took my kids to see the trilogy in the theaters, and I had that same sense of wonder that I had back when I originally saw it.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I’d have to say it’s Jaws (my favorite movie), or Ladyhawke (starring Rutger Hauer, who I once had a major crush on). Ladyhawke is fantasy at its best, and if you haven’t seen it, get thee to a streaming service. (Bonus: Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer are in it too.)

When is a wrap-it-up-Wednesday not a wrap?

Hello Tuesday readers, don’t you look lovely today. I am always so so thrilled to see you all here. And I hate to disappoint you loyal Tuesday Writers followers. It’s the last thing I’d want to do. But, you see, the thing is…..we did not have critique group yesterday. Yeah. No. Oops.

I don’t like to point fingers, you know how affable I am, after-all. Jonathan, affable means good natured. (Sometimes big words upset him). But….someone had to be out of town, actually a few someones were. And that left the rest of us to deal with our unwieldy manuscripts at home, by ourselves.

So what’s a girl with an entire afternoon free, with not just one, but two books that need to be finished, with tons of MFA work to be done, what does she do when the boss gives us a day off? Can you all guess? I bet you can’t. What, you in the back, you think I did all of my work? Awww, aren’t you cute. Nope. Anyone else? Ok you think I did some work and then had some fun? Well, I’ll tell you. I did not work. At all. I should be ashamed to admit this, but I’m not.

You see, with the work world always invading my personal headspace, with the house usually full of people, with deadlines (thankfully) always looming, I found myself needing a tiny little break. I ended up calling in sick– to myself.

To be fair, I did go to sleep very early last night feeling under the weather. And I woke up feeling pretty darn puny. So I actually was sick. But I probably could have done some writing. I probably could have done some revising. But instead I just sat on the couch and watched Downton Abbey. I’m one of those fortunate people that never have time for television series. I can’t be expected to record them because our DVR is full most time or nearly full or I forget to take that record five most recent episodes thingy off. And then we’ve got only part of the episodes of Magician season two recorded. Sorry, JKR.

That’s why I love series binging. I love not having to wait for the next episode. I hate waiting for the next season. Which brings me to Downton. Right now I am all in for my binge watching. All in. But when it’s time to move on to the next show or series or movie, I’ll be just as bought in.

That’s the true power of story.

And with Netflix and Prime and Hulu and all now we can all be all in. Whenever we like. As many episodes as we can cram into a sick day. Hooray!!!

You might ask me what I do in the evening directly following a sick day of series binging?

Movie time!

Tonight’s feature, Kong: Skull Island

Bring on the super species. Bring on the the cool 1970’s music and vibe. Bring on the cool camera with the film you have to load and have catch on the reel in order to take pictures, the way I learned to. I am all the way in. All the freakin way.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s the real Beauty and the Beast. (sorry, Emma).

And until the movie ends, I’m going to be there with those people on the island. (hopefully not with the big spider thingys) but definitely with Kong. One of my fave monsters (which may explain my dogs…) And his struggle to survive a world gone mad. I’m betting on it being nail-biter. I’m hoping Kong is huge and over the top. Most of all I want to be entertained.

Which, by the way, is what we are supposed to do as writers. So count this as homework.

See you all next week when, hopefully, we have a class to wrap up. In the meantime I’m going to keep doing this #authorlife the way I know how.


And that’s what I call a wrap!