Occupied is a new Netflix Original series that was released in the United States this past January and for which I am completely hooked. Set aside the notion that I am presently working on a novel that covers the occupation of Norway during WW II, this serial set in Norway is chock full of plausible current event scenarios that could lead to just such an occupation. Politics, geography, resources, culture and war. I just started watching the serial and while I have been doing a bit of binge watching, I am only as far as episode #6 out of I believe, 12. Half way there.

In addition to watching the serial, I am listening to an unofficial accompanying podcast which features four young souls that episode-by-episode critic and reflect on everything from the premise, setting, acting and cultural significances of each scenario and action.

Today on the podcast covering episode #4, they discuss a little about Norway’s history and they touch on the occupation, even bringing up the fact that in present day Norway, the term Quisling is an adjective reference to someone being a traitor. This comes from the actual person of Vidkun Quisling, the leader of a collaborationist regime with the Nazi party that was present in Norway during the events that led up to the country’s occupation in April of 1940. Norway was vulnerable because within its government there was a traitor regime that basically welcomed in the Nazis to take residence and utilize their shoreline for the purpose of gaining access to the Iron Ore situated in Kiruna, Sweden. Kiruna is only a short distance from a major port in Northern Norway: Narvik. This may not be the sole reason for Norway’s occupation during WW II, but it is a large part of it.

Can you imagine how excited I was in my car as I was driving to work today and this group of 4 podcaster a was talking about Quisling and his role in WW II and the notion of a country’s vulnerability as a result of traitors in the midst of order? Most people I encounter have no knowledge of the finer points of WW II and the occupation of various countries, in particular Norway. How did it happen? How did people allow their country to be suddenly over taken by the enemy? Was there not a government and military presence to help snub enemy efforts?

I know about the Fort Oscarsborg situated on an island just south of Oslo and which was thought to be closed and considered inoperable and in fact, unknown by the German military. On April 9, 1940, this fortress played an instrumental role in slowing down the military coup of Norway by the Nazi regime. Deep under the fjord waters was a torpedo battery which successed in sinking the sub: Blucher. This prevented the Nazis from taking the king prisoner and allowed enough time for the royal Family to escape Norway with their valuables including the royal gold, before a second attempt was made. Quisling’s regime had previously attempted to declare leadership over the country and announced that no one was to resist the Nazis. The soldier keeping watch at Oscarsborg disregarded those orders, and for his disobedience he ended up in jail. That man was Birger Erickson.

I just recently learned that in the last year and in particular last month, the US Troops have been in Norway on a NATO mission to load up the caves with artillery and military vehicles to arm 15,000 soldiers for 30 days, in the event of a major incident. This project has been ongoing since 2014. And, it is something that is on most major network websites. However, I being a regular news watcher, I have not seen it on any prime time media outlets. In my view this is a good thing. I speak of it here, but hope that this type of contingency military action stays under the radar.

Occupied: the Netflix Series- not so far fetched.
It’s happened before.

I am glad that perhaps we do remember history, our leaders and military higher ups keep history in mind as they watch various strategies being made by various ruling parties around the world.  Avoiding the mistake of history repeating itself is a very good thing.

Another debate… any closer? 

Politically correct? Political differences of opinion? Ignorance is bliss?
Saying much about nothing. That’s the reaction I have when I hear the sound bites that came out of the Republican Debate last night. Mostly, listening to a CNN news reporter trying to capture the essence of how Trump feels things went, one hears things like: “it was an elegant debate, the other candidates were elegant, I had a fun time.” No real substance take away there. Ok, I am glad he had fun? I must read the transcript of the debate before I can truly weigh in on this event.   One thing I come away with is both sides of the aisle are not quite sure what to make of Trump.  And, in my circle of friends, I have those that say they will move to another country if he’s elected, while the other says she’s voting for him.  Both women offer opinions I value and indeed, cherish.
What strikes me is that what we’re talking about here and considering here is the future president of the United States of America. Did you hear that?   The leader of the United States of America.  We’re considering who will be standing there in charge if and when we have a next 9/11. The pundits and the round tables don’t offer much more insight for me. On the left side, we have the continual repeat dialogue that Republicans are fear mongering.  Really? The Republicans are fear mongering? Have the Democrats not been paing attention to the plethora of violent acts in the name of Islam for which I must insert are coming from those bad guy  Muslims… not the good guy Muslims? Do they have such a dim view of facts that they don’t get that ISIS has been recruiting in an intelligent way – attracting disenchanted and disenfranchised Muslim youths to battle and die on their behalf and that these recruits are coming from our own back yards? What would it take for their heads to come out of the sand? Perhaps they don’t have a recollection of how things were back during the first two World Wars because they have decided to sweep those events under the carpet; screw learning from history. Who needs that crap. It’s old news. Let’s just talk smart until it goes away.
Nevertheless, I see a story that unfolded in the late 1930s that screams: open your eyes, do something now or you’ll regret an invasion that will last for years and cost the lives of millions. In that instance, there was a specific enemy that was geographically identifiable. Now, the enemy is scattered across the globe, found on most continents and is growing exponentially.

That same story includes people that I hold dear mostly on the side of being victim to Hitler’s horror; but I also know other victims, those that had family members conscripted into the Nazi army- young men who didn’t have a choice.   I think of my own brother at the age of 16- what would he have done at that young age if he was forced to fight for Hitler?  Would he have been able to stand up and say no – and face death for speaking out?

In these present times, we need to have a leader who knows how to talk nice. We need a leader who can make people feel warm and fuzzy. We need a leader who makes other countries like us better. We need a leader that will make us  diplomatically viable.  Oh, wait, we had one of those for two terms…  look where it got us!   Yay, we are popular (but are we?). Yay, we have a leader who has the speech prowess of one of the best. We can all smile at each other after one of his speeches and hug ourselves because, wow that was comforting, he is so good.
Is that what we need? Or do we need someone who can kick some royal “a double snakes”?
I am looking for a leader that will make me feel safe, or at least safer. Someone skilled in this department- not just a talker.  I don’t need lies on what you are going to do only to figure out once in office you don’t have the power to act.  Someone unafraid of being unpopular but determined to be effective. I wonder who that will be? Jury is still out.

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Cross Over!

On this day, I write from my balcony at Secrets Maroma on the Riviera Maya of Mexico. It’s a work trip that includes visits to 16 resorts and destination training at three select resorts. In my down time, I catch golden moments when I can sit down with a coffee made in my room (nespresso, anyone?) and write!

 I finished NaNoWriMo 2015 with 51650 words. And in that run to the finish, the result is: I have finished a first draft, and it is truly a draft, of my first novel… my first official novel. Just writing that fills me with a wave of inspiration. Allowing my fingers to venture out into the world of my true calling means that what I just did is more than just write a first draft. I crossed the line from dreamer to doer. And this cross-over into novel writing brings me to a place of peace. A peace that I have been questing after for years, which in big part I find within my faith in God. But now, I find that has now moved me into my passion. And in many ways, I feel this is my calling. What God intended all along. He is bringing me into my passion. Others may balk at this expression and throw jabs in an effort to squelch any gratitude that I feel is owed to the Great Almighty. But I know better. Because it is peace I have prayed for and he has nudged me, ever so gently, into the path that otherwise would not be there- or better still, for which my eyes may have been blinded. He has offered some doors and windows for me to seriously consider. He has placed opportunities in my path and He has urged me to take hold of a future He has for me. And now, having barely pushed that window open, for the first time, I can actually see the view unobstructed. No more serious barriers, no more blockage. Thank you God… for never leaving me, nor forsaking me. And thank you for the caws and the whistles I am hearing above my head coming from the gracklings and the crows that have decided that this paradise place I occupy at this moment, is their paradise as well.
My novel started one way then it took an interesting turn. It started as romance and then ended up being more in line with historical fiction. The premise is a love story set in Norway during World War II… it starts with the lead up to the Nazi occupation and lasts through and beyond it. The time line spans 1938 to around 1948. The characters all come from my imagination, you know- any resemblance to real persons is merely a coincidence. The love story is dosed in reality rather than lathered in romance. Doubts, disappointment and events of real life alter my heroin’s trajectory from home and family life to an arena of murder, espionage, and involvement in efforts of a group focused primarily on sabotage of the Reich’s efforts. This leads to deception within families, and a journey for Nina from farm girl to an underground courier for a movement that would help thwart Quisling’s reach.
It’s amazing to me how developed the piece already is… even as I look at this early draft. There is so much to edit and rewrite but this NaNoWriMo 2015 contest helped me to get words on a page, to have a starting point. I have great source in the country of Norway who was old enough to witness it all first hand. Ration cards, having to wear mandatory dog tags for identity, curfews, air raids and receiving donation boxes from Sweden while Sweden was sourcing the Nazi’s iron ore from Kiruna. So many details that the average person is unaware of – there has been so little focus on the Scandinvian countries realities during the war, both the neutral countries like Sweden, and the occupied ones like Norway and Denmark. My mother’s best friend is married to a man in Norway whose mother hid people, and had the forbidden radio that now sits in a museum in Oslo.  He offers lectures and material for cultural museums in Norway who are seeking to fill out their exhibits in preparation for the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Norway as a result of the victory over the Third Reich. All of this provides fodder for a marvelous passion. Thank you God for helping me tell their stories and it is my hope that I honor the experiences of the many who lived through occupation. While Norway faired so much better than many countries which had harsh and barbaric circumstances; still, Norway suffered in their own way. So I now pray for God’s help in allowing me to write this different layer of the war experience.

The Box

I have now launched myself into the full depths of commitment to a specific theme and focus for the November Novel Writing Challenge within the NaNoWriMo 2015 writing contest. When the contest first made itself known to me through the Writer’s Digest Magazine only a few days ago, I didn’t have any ideas of what my novel might be about. This of course made me a little nervous, but somehow I knew it would not be an issue for me. Lately, having taken up the daily writing task once again, there are many threads flowing through me.. ideas that I want to explore and delve into.
Many weeks back, Mom and I had been talking about her aunt and the affair and this aunt’s family alliances and interests in communism. This brief discussion ended up being a jumping off point, an entree point into, the romance novel. I’ve never been a fan of the genre… so it was almost on a lark that I continued typing and bringing the characters together with the tension and conflict of their current condition. In one daily writing session,out flowed this story with twists and turns and character development that I tucked away for later. Again, I am not planning to be a romance novelist. But the story came back to me a few times during later days nudging me to pay attention to it.  Then one day, sitting at the kitchen table with my parents, I ask Mom if she remembers our discussion about her aunt. She nods, her eyes squint and she cocks her head slightly “Yes” she says tentatively “why”? “Well, you see, I sat down and wrote a piece after our talk, and I wondered if you would like to hear it”.   Dad beats her to it “yes”, he says.   She nods in agreement “Sure”.   Shoot, I think did I really want her to hear this.   I wonder how she will react and my brain scrambles back into my memory bank for a moment in an attempt to quickly recall what I might have written that could be awkward when read to parents. I can’t think of anything, it was pretty clean. I leave the kitchen to retrieve my iPad from my bag tht is sitting out on the chair in the hallway. I return powering it up.
I read the story to them. Through it, I hear their sighs and gasps and a small giggle here and there.   At the end, a long pause. Silence. They are both looking off into space – facing each other but each one’s vision is focused on a different point, high up on the kitchen walls just beyond one another. “You should really submit that to True Confessions” says Dad. “Thanks, but I don’t think I am ready for that just yet, I just wanted to share it with you to show you what I am up to lately”.   Mom is in deep thought. This is when she mentions that she has a picture of her- of her aunt.
So this kitchen exchange has been covered in previous posts- but what’s different now is that I pulled out that story again a couple of days ago. In my reread I see something different. I see possibility- a historical fiction piece with layers of various other themes. World War II, what led up to Norway’s occupation, what life was like during those years – for families and couples and lovers.  The aftermath.  The pulse of politics of the day in Norway. The various sides of the equation. An adult’s point of view as well as that of a child. I have a ready source right there under my roof. Mom’s memories of what life was like could be the start. My own childhood in Norway – visiting frequently with our cabin there and time spent in Oslo, this gives me a strong knowledge base for place and culture. My interest in history and politics will take me on an historic research adventure to a time and place that lends itself to intrigue, espionage, resistance movement, passion and fear.
Last night, I asked Mom: “What was it like really to be a child living during the war and the occupation in Norway?”. “Well, I was just a small child really. Unlike other places, Norway didn’t have any outward appearances of upset, we just quietly went about our business- we were quiet when we walked the streets. There weren’t any visible fights or conflicts between the german soldiers and the people of Norway. I remember the soldiers walking quietly down our streets with their german shepherds.” And I nod as this part of her story  that I recall from many earlier tellings over the years. It’s not that she didn’t share, but now I am wondering about the detail of it all. I am looking for a deeper reach into her memory. And then it comes, something new. “I do remember that we used to get a box once in awhile. These boxes came from Sweden..  You know, they were neutral and at times, we would get these donations boxes from over there. I remember Dad opening up the box and how disappointed we were sometimes – because really, the contents were just people’s throw aways. You know, stuff they didn’t want any longer. That’s why when I donate now, I only put things in that I feel the person would enjoy, something they truly need- you know, for a job interview or something like that. I don’t put things in that are worn out or dirty or just ugly. I put things in that I would want to find if I opened up a bag or a box llike that- give people not just what they need but dignity too.”  The box affected her – lasting her whole life.
Listening to her, I imagine a family and a young girl of around five years old, eager to open a box which would contain basic things that they might need because of shortages due to war. Maybe a clean fresh pair of tights and some shoes. Socks for everyone. Maybe a shirt for Dad. Sweaters, mittens, a hat and a scarf. Pants. Needing winter garments. And, even toys to keep the children occupied and content and mostly distracted, during the blackouts and air raids. A doll for a little girl that she could hold on to and craddle during those times of stress and fear. I hear Mom echo her recollections of years gone by: “I used to ask my father all the time: do you think there will be another war?” She was so afraid of another war.. and never really trusted that it was truly over. When the war ended, and Norway was once again free, Mom remembers the parades in the street – with music being played at full blast. She remembers the other parade as well- the one with the women who had been having affairs with the Nazi soldiers during the war. Any woman who had been involved with a Nazi was brought in, head shaved and she would have been paraded on a flat bed truck through the streets. The truck’s flat bed had been outfitted with a wall of wood as a backdrop and these women were now exposed for their war crime- for everyone to see. This was a stigma for these women that lasted for years to come. Some women fled to other countries, in the hopes of starting over.
So many impressions to explore. So, I use my Nina story from weeks gone by as a starting point and my mother’s memories and my history as a treasure trove of possibility. My travels to Norway, my understanding of language, religious perspective, political slant and relational backdrops to flavor and feed this novel. This NaNoWriMo 2015 is a challenge to finish a first draft. This opportunity is perfectly timed. So now, I work on the outline, the research and preparation of the basics for the official start date: November 1, 2015. My prep time is fairly short, but my background and my daily pages practice over the years (off and on I know- but nevertheless, I have been writing for most of my life- it’s just never been focused before). Now, I feel a focus and a wave of excitement that I have never experienced before… I am poised for lift off.