Mirren Hogan is releasing her historical novel based on the Russian woman pilots who flew during World War II, defending their country from the German army. Mirren and I shared tutorial groups at Swinburne and she co-edited Tied in Pink and Like a Girl Anthologies. While Mirren’s favourite genre is fantasy, she writes great historical fiction. And as with Hidden Figures (the Afro-American ‘human computers’ instrumental to NASA’s early space program), the Night Witches are an interesting but little known part of history.
“What is Night Witches about? Witches? Well no, it’s an historical fiction based on a true story.
Nadia Valinsky is a young female pilot and university education student from Moscow. When the Germans invade the Soviet Union in 1941, she wants to fight to defend her country. In October of 1941 Marina Raskova, a famous female aviator, asks for volunteers, Nadia signs up. She is accepted for an interview and offered a place in the training regiment as a navigator.
Following rigorous training at Engles Air Force base, Nadia is assigned to the Night Bomber regiment. She and her crew fly multiple missions on the front lines and are regularly under fire from anti-aircraft guns. The Germans give them the nickname Night Witches, because of the sound their aircraft make as they sweep overhead.
The Night Witches flew in planes made from canvas and balsawood. For the majority of the war, they had no radios, or parachutes. The latter was considered to take up too much space needed to carry bombs. Of three women’s regiments, theirs was the only one who consisted entirely of women through the duration of the war.
They lived together, fought together and died together.”
In this Night Witches excerpt, Nadia and the other women learn the German name for them:
“German prisoner,” she whispered excitedly. “A flying ace, apparently. He was shot down and captured by our people. He’s being transported to a prisoner of war camp.”
I had no sympathy at all for the fate of one of our enemy, until I saw him. He had dried blood down one side of his face, from a wound in his temple. I didn’t think the wound would be a fatal one. He had one black eye and bruising around the other. He wore a dirty, torn German uniform, the front of which was caked with mud or blood. He had short blonde hair and deep blue eyes, which he kept lowered, I assumed, in humiliation. Even so, I was shocked to see how young he was. Younger than me. Younger even than the babies of my regiment. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen or sixteen.
The enemy were sending children to war, and we were sending him to a prisoner of war camp, in which he would probably die. I swallowed hard. I’d never seen a German up close before. From the air, it was easy to forget they were people as well. For a moment, I was actually sympathetic. I almost wanted to tell his captors to let him go, return him to his mama.
And then he raised his eyes. They were so cold and full of hate. They fixed on me and then swept left and right, taking in my regiment. His lip curled and he spat on the ground.
“Nachthexen,” he said derisively. “Ihr dreckigen Miststücke!”
I didn’t understand German, but I knew when I’d been insulted. It was peculiar how words could offend, even when I didn’t understand their meaning. The intent was perfectly clear.
My eyes narrowed, but opened wide again in surprise when Valentina burst out laughing.
I turned my face and stared at her. So did the prisoner, he looked at her as though she were something he’d scraped off the bottom of his boot. Considering the state of his boots, that was particularly unflattering.
“He called us Night Witches,” Valentina explained. “I think Night Beauties would be more appropriate, but oh well.” She shrugged, but her eyes shone with humour.
“Why did he say that?” I asked, frowning at her, and at him.
She spoke to him in rapid German, to which, to my surprise, he actually responded.
“Because our planes sound like broomsticks passing overhead,” she translated. “He also said there’s a special reward for anyone who shoots one of us down.”
My eyebrows rose. The German army was that scared of us girls. I somewhat liked the sound of the nickname: Night Witches. It suited us, and justified the faith people like Marina Raskova had in us. We’d made an impact on this war.
I couldn’t help but smile at the prisoner, who returned it with a scowl. Antonina gave him a finger wave and we all laughed as he was taken to a waiting truck. He might die, but he’d managed to give us all a renewed purpose. I’m quite sure that hadn’t been his plan, but that had been the outcome.
I linked arms with the rest of my crew and we started back toward our aircraft, laughing and singing “Night Witches, Night Witches,” over and over again.
Buy Night Witches at:
Barnes and Noble- http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/night-witches-mirren-hogan/1124869702
Mirren is running giveaway – open until 31st March.
The winner will get: Amazon gift card (currently at $15), a Night Witches mug from Redbuddle, and a Night Witches bookmark.
If the winner is in Australia, you’ll also get a signed copy of the paperback, and a key ring.
To be fair, if the winner is from the US, Canada or the UK, you’ll get an extra Amazon gift card valued at $5.
What do you have to do to win?
Order or download a copy of Night Witches and come back here (in the comments of pinned post) with proof of purchase. The competition will be open until March 31, when the blog tour ends.
Mirren Hogan lives in NSW Australia with her husband, two daughters, dog, cat, rabbits and countless birds. She has a Bachelor of Arts (English/ history), a Graduate Diploma of Arts (writing) and a couple of degrees in education. She writes fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction. Her debut novel —Crimson Fire— was released by The Dragon’s Rocketship Publishing in October 2016, with more to come. These include a trilogy co-authored by Erin Yoshikawa. She’s also had several short stories published and has co-edited two charity anthologies; for breast cancer research and Plan Australia.
Mirren Hogan’s author page- https://www.facebook.com/MirrenHoganAuthor/
It’s January again … the start of a new year and time for month of poetry again. In Month of Poetry, I – with a bunch of wild, talented, inspiring poets – challenge ourselves to writing a poem each day of the month.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve felt like my poems have needed more variety in form – so as an added challenge, I’m experimenting with a different form each day. I’m also in the middle of editing for publication my novel Akrad’s Children. Here’s my Day 15 poem – a List poem.
A Novel Cake
Take a modicum of talent
a cup full of dreams
and hard work in equal measure,
mix together vigorously.
Stir in two aspirations well beaten
and half a cup of constructive feedback
until reaching a smooth and creamy consistency.
Add chopped metaphors (never mixed) to taste.
and a pinch of optimism.
Bake well in the scorching oven of opinion.
When cool, sprinkle with crystallised hopes.
Allow to settle to release the flavours
and garnish with a swirl of revision.
Serve with a generous side of promotion.
Warning this cake may cause tears but has been known to be addictive.
Jeanette O’Hagan 15 January 2017
Exploring Poetry Forms
1. Free Verse – No Man’s Land
5. Diamante or Diamond poem
6. Echo poem
7. Saturday Challenge – Single Sense Poem –
8. Found Poem – Book Titles
14. Saturday Challenge – theme Kiss – a Sevenling
15. List poem
16. Mirror (or Palindrome) poem
21. Saturday challenge – poem based on photo – free verse
26. Vietnamese Sonnet
28. Saturday Challenge – non-fiction poem – a Shardorma
30. Ya Du
31. ZaniLa Rhyme
Form, theme and emotion – all play a part in poetry. Some poems are clever, some straight from the heart. So far, it’s been fun stretching myself, finding new forms, pushing the edges of where the possibilities lie.
What about you – do you love to write poetry? What are you favourite forms? Have you always wanted to give it a go?
Recently, as part of the Like a Girl blogtour, fellow author, Maree Long, interviewed me about my involvement in Like a Girl anthology. She posted the interviews with ACWF and Fibro and CMS/ME Poetry Facebook groups.
On the previous blogstop author Lynn Fowler reviewed Like A Girl anthology here. Lynn is an Australian writer who delights in sharing with readers about her writing and reviewing good inspirational books.
Maree Long is the founding curator of Café Soiree, providing events and a platform for poets, writers, playwrights, musicians, and artistic photo media to share their talent. A prolific writer of poetry herself and, being inspired by nature and her surrounds, she is well known for her lyrical unique style.
Maree has kindly allowed me to reproduce the interview here:
Like a Girl Blogtour
I would like to introduce Jeanette O’Hagan, one of the contributors to Like a Girl anthology, who has agreed to share as part of a blog tour
As you will see Jeanette has been very busy writing. I had the privilege of working on and collaborating on the anthology Let The Sea Roar with her with the inclusion of my own story ‘Catherine and the Dry Stone Wall’
Please enjoy the following interview:
1. How long have you been writing?
A long time. I started imagining my narrative world when I was nine and wrote some of the stories down soon after. In my early twenties I wrote my first novel but put it on hold for many years, only really taking writing up again seriously four years ago.
2. Do you have a particular writing process you employ?
I usually need a story idea which could be based on a character or a situation. I reflect on it a lot, allow my characters to ‘act out’ and interact with other characters to work out what happens before I start writing the story down. So in part the story comes from allowing my imagination free reign, in part from the flow of actually writing it down and in part from planning and research. I like to ask questions, to turn the scenes and plot around and look at it from different angles.
3. Who is your favourite author?
It’s always hard to pick a favourite. C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were the most influential authors, but I would say Lewis because he has influenced me both with his fantasy fiction and with his theological works.
4. What inspired you to write this book?
Like a Girl is an anthology, the ‘brain child’ of the talented Mirren Hogan who wanted to contribute toward Plan International Australia’s support of girls education around the world. When she mentioned her idea and asked for contributions, I immediately began thinking of how I could write about the theme of girls education in my narrative world and the result was my short story ‘Lakwi’s Lament.’ (I also have two poems in the anthology.)
5. How has this book impacted you? And who do you think will enjoy this story?
It’s been a privilege to see the enthusiasm of the contributors and editors of Like a Girl and to see how each author approached their stories in a different way. One of the stories is written by 15 year old Kathryn Hogan. I also had the opportunity to help with some editing and proofing along with our head editors Mirren Hogan and Christina Aitken.
I think the book would appeal to anyone who enjoys fiction and values girls’ education. There are a number of sci-fiction and fantasy stories, some contemporary and also historical stories – as well as a handful of poems. The book could also appeal to teens.
6. Briefly what is the story about?
My story in the anthology is about a young princess’ desire to read the books in the Royal library, but girls aren’t allowed inside. She is lonely and is flattered by the attention of her dashing cousin. Will her drive for knowledge lead her into more trouble than she can handle?
7. What other projects are you working on?
2015 has been an exciting year for me with five short stories and seven poems published in 7 anthologies. In particular I was co-editor of an inspirational anthology Glimpses of Light (with Nola Passmore) – stories and poems on the theme of light in dark places. I continue to work on my Akrad’s Legacy series and hope to have the first couple of books in this series published this year. I’m also planning on publishing a longish short story – Heart of the Mountain – which follows the adventures of three young people as the lights in the below ground kingdom begin to flicker out.
8. To write what do you need in terms of aesthetics, environment etc?
I can write just about anywhere – as long as it’s not super noisy – or I’m not being constantly interrupted. I often write at home but also love to write in cafes or libraries.
9. What other books have you written, and do you have a favourite?
Written or published? I’ve finished or am close to finishing five fantasy novels, all part of the Akrad’s Legacy series. Of the seven anthologies with my short stories and/or poems – my favourite would be Glimpses of Light. I loved writing ‘Ruhanna’s Flight’. Like a Girl would also be a favourite.
Thanks for some great questions. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.
Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing and is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy. She has stories and poems published in another anthologies, including Glimpses of Light, Like a Girl and Let the Sea Roar. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.
Jeanette’s Books: http://www.amazon.com/…/B00RBSE85C/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Like a Girl anthology
Fourteen Authors from around the world have contributed their stories to raise money for PLAN Australia.
‘Like a Girl’ is a celebration of the strength and resilience of women, told in a variety of genres and voices, the proceeds of which will help empower girls and women all over the world. It turns the derogatory term ‘like a girl’ on its head, celebrating the contribution girls and women can and have made.
Featuring stories and poems by Jeanette O’Hagan, Avril Sabine, V. Hartman Di Santo, Kathryn Hogan, Mary Grace, Coralyn Swift, Christina Aitken, Mark Taylor, D.L Richardson, Mimi Emmanuel, Erin Yoshikawa, Druscilla Morgan, Michelle John and Mirren Hogan.
The stories and poems use humour, adventure, imagination and emotion to explore themes of resilience, determination against odds, empowerment, relationships and women’s achievements.
Win a Copy
More Behind the Scenes
For more behind the scenes information about Like a Girl anthology – check out the rest of the blogtour, the coffee chats with D L Richardson and news items:
Girl power with the pen - Mirren Hogan, Kathryn Hogan and Debbie Richardson interviewed by Bay Post.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year for 2016. Praying that you find God’s blessings on your life and dreams.
2015 has been full of a number of exciting developments, particularly with respect to writing.
I attended a number of workshops, festivals, conferences and retreats in 2015 – including giving my first workshop on Writing Description, Giving a Sense of Place at the Omega Christian Writers Conference in October.
In July I finished my final subject for the Masters of Arts (Writing) through Swinburne University of Technology. I flew down to Melbourne in December to attend the graduation ceremony – and to connect with family, friends and look at Art Galleries with my daughter.
Seven of my poems have been published this year. I was particularly pleased to make the Judge’s Choice with Poetica Christi’s Inner Child anthology (with ‘Thunderstorm’) and runner-up in the FAWQ 2015 Toowoomba Poetry Prize (with ‘The Real Thing’).
A number of my short stories have also been published – starting with ‘The Herbalist’s Daughter’ (Tied in Pink anthology for Breast Cancer Research) in December 2014 – and then this year, ‘Broken Promises’ in Another Time, Another Place; ‘Sandy: Perfect Plans’ in Let the Sea Roar; ‘Ruhanna’s Flight’ in Glimpses of Light; and ‘Lakwi’s Lament’ in Like a Girl, Plan anthology.
Anthologies available on Amazon.com (and as e-books on Amazon.com.au). Check out my Amazon Central Author’s Page.
Let the Sea Roar
My association with this Let the Sea Roar began a few years ago, when the editor Madeleine accepted my story ‘Sandy: Perfect Plans’ and then asked to include the poem ‘Lighthouse’ as well. An earlier version of ‘Lighthouse’ was published on Jenny’s Thread in 2013.
There are nine authors with twenty-eight stories about women of different ages, in different circumstances and walks of life, who find themselves in difficult, even overwhelming situations. Despite the pressure to give up hope, each of the women find a way forward – with faith, determination, new understandings and new possibilities. The stories are written with differences in style, reflect different life experiences and insights.
I also had fun designing the cover (with Lynne Bickhoff’s beautiful painting – used with permission) and the book design of Let the Sea Roar.
I hope that many others will also enjoy the stories in this inspirational anthology.
Glimpses of Light
Glimpses of Light celebrates 2015 as International Year of Light. It started as an idea in late 2014 and wouldn’t have come to fruition without hours of work from my co-editor, Nola Passmore as well as our team of supporting editors, proof-readers and contributors.
The anthology has an engaging and inspiration collection of short stories, poems and creative non-fiction centred around the theme of light – especially, of finding light in dark place.
It’s been wonderful having multi-published and award winning authors contributing as well as fresh new talent. I particularly enjoyed the number of spec fic, though there is also contemporary suspense, family drama, personal reflections and allegory.
We are currently holding a Goodreads Giveaway for Glimpses of Light (running until the 10 January).
I’m looking forward to more exciting developments in 2016. More on that later.
Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
David Psalm 7: 1-2 (NIV)
My one year at boarding school was at times like living in a lion’s den. I was thirteen and my unabashed and maybe naive stand as a Christian meant that I stuck out. More than once I was in the middle of a group of sceptical girls firing questions at me. It was scary but exhilarating at the same time. What smarted was finding out at the end of the year that I had been the target of a false rumour. It was, I hope, based on a simple misunderstanding (the mishearing of a single letter, a “t” instead of a “p” in ship) but still cut deeply. There have been other times like this and I have witnessed close friends and family enduring similar experiences.
Have you ever been falsely accused? Perhaps you were blamed for the actions or mistakes of others. Maybe you were the target of prejudice or unfounded rumours. Perhaps someone maliciously spread lies about you. When this happens, our reputation and relationships can be shattered but what makes it particularly distressing is that it’s undeserved and unfair. Often we want to retaliate or to vehemently insist on our innocence. Maybe we become angry – or maybe we are crushed and even begin to doubt ourselves. We lose our trust in other people. How can our work mate or friend or trusted family member say that? Why didn’t they talk to us first before believing such lies? We may feel in a bind when speaking up for ourselves results in deepening the conflict. We may want nothing more to do with the accusers if they are going to be like that.
Three thousand years ago King David of Israel faced just this situation. He was falsely accused by an enemy and others believed the accusations. David’s response was not to directly attack his antagonist but to take his case to God because he knows God is just and will, in His own time and way, deal with the accusations and the accuser. Even more than this David trusts God to act on his behalf. A thousand years later, Jesus also faced false accusations. He didn’t retaliate because He knew who he was and was confident in His relationship with the Father. He responded with love and forgiveness.
So what can I do when falsely accused?
- I can pour out my feelings to God without reserve – the anger, the hurt, the distress. He already knows our deepest thoughts better than we do ourselves. We can’t shock him. He listens and He cares. He is our defender and advocate.
- I can acknowledge my flaws and weaknesses to God. I may have done something to contribute to the situation. Even if I haven’t, my perceptions aren’t always right, my responses may be less than ideal or I may be failing to trust God’s love and wisdom in the situation.
- I can pray – both for myself and for my antagonist.
- If at all possible, I can attempt to reconcile with my accuser. Contemporary wisdom says if someone hurts you cut them off but Jesus says if your brother or sister offends you then go and talk to her. Of course, the other person may not be willing to talk or to listen but surely I should try. To be honest, I find this the hardest step because I hate confrontation. It’s scary. Yet I know I would prefer someone speak to me – rather than to everyone else but me – about perceived faults or offenses.
- Even if the other person won’t listen, I can love and forgive her because she is precious to God despite her flaws and failures (just as I am). I don’t think this means continually putting myself in an unsafe place but it does mean dealing with my resentment and anger. It also means continuing to act in the best interest of my accuser (love).
- I can trust and persevere. No matter how pear-shaped the situation becomes, I need to trust in God for the outcomes.
“Lord (God), you are my judge and my shield. I pray that you might plead my case. I ask for forgiveness for my failures. I pray for wisdom and a calm spirit in my responses. I pray that you will give me the resources to cope with the issues I deal with at the moment. Thank you for listening to me even though you know my faults and misconceptions. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being there for me when I haven’t always been there for you. Amen.”
Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. You can find her at JennysThread.com , JeanetteOHagan.com and http://www.facebook.com/JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker
This article was originally published in The Golden Pen October 2013
I wrote this poem about a month ago – when some politicians in Europe were calling for a ’stop the boats’ policy like Australia’s of huge numbers refugees dying at sea after fleeing among other things the ravages of ISIS. Thankfully, Europe rejected the idea of turning refugees back to the killing fields. Now, it seems that countries in southeast Asia have decided to actually do it – so that refugees fleeing terror are left to starve at sea.
Stop the Boats
So now they cry
‘Stop the boats’
as hundreds die
and sink beneath choppy waves
crowding Italian graves
desperate souls seeking hope
flooding the sea lanes
fearing for their lives.
As blood stained fanatics
spread out their nets
and murder with intent
to incite disorder and terror
and corporate giants
reap rich profits
off the backs of men and women
gleaning a scant living
in their strife torn lands.
We stir the pot
and skim the profits
content to swallow
and wear slave-tended fads
consuming cheap luxuries
while slamming the door
on those who dare
transgress our borders.
Let’s open our eyes
and open our hearts
give welcome and aid
but better yet
fair reward for honest labour
so people no longer
feel constrained to flee
their mother lands.
Jeanette O’Hagan 22 April 2015
Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year. It is a time to remember our family, even when they can’t always be with us; of giving as well as receiving; of hope for peace and goodwill in midst of the turmoil and heartbreak of this world.
It is also a time to remember the birth of a baby in humble circumstances who changed the world, when eternal God became flesh and blood and walked among us. As Max Lucado says in “It Began in a Manager” ‘The magical dust of Christmas glittered on the cheeks of humanity ever so briefly, reminding us of what is worth having and what we were intended to be.’
Other posts on Christmas
Reflecting on recent events (as reported) in Iraq and the this week’s reading in my course on postmodernism as a reaction to WW2:
The death of Truth
Some men kill for honour
families scattered and
blood seeps into the ground
As once again labels
become more important
than our common humanity
and an ancient faith is
driven out by the sword.
So the horror repeats
Hate and war
based on wrong ideals
Ideas that kill
False god/s of mayhem
and the light of reason
and of compassion
How can this happen?
How can there be a God
when those made in His Image
obey the Father of Lies?
Does the darkness mean
there is no Light?
Does a lie prove
that Truth doesn’t exist
beyond shadow of doubt?
If there is no Truth
how can there be a lie?
Only because we can
see light’s glimmer
do we know
that darkness abounds.
Jeanette O’Hagan © 12 July 2014
Last week I had to the opportunity to reflect on friendship as a guest on Michelle Denis Evans’ blog. Michelle is the author of Spiralling Out of Control, Spiralling Out of the Shadow and Life Reflections.
Friendship Across the Years
I didn’t come easily to making friends.
This verse in my poem ‘A Long Time Ago’ captures something of how I felt in the primary school playground.
the closed games
and head shakes
acid that etched
as yet again
I trembled “Can I play?”
leaving me to wander
overtures of friendship
adrift in solitary pursuits
until at the end of the day
I could return to riotous play
and daring adventures with
Verse 4 A Long Time Ago by Jeanette O’Hagan 29 January 2014
Books were my friends. And, yes, as the years passed I did get better at making school friends as well but we moved often – over eight different schools. So every year or two I would have to start all over again.I spent much of my school years finding friends between the pages of a book and in my own fertile imagination. Yet as I read Anne Shirley’s adventures and especially her enduring friendship with Dianna Barry, I felt a sense of discontent. “Mum, why can’t I find a special bosom friend like Anne?” I’d ask.
By Jeanette O’Hagan
The fires of countless galaxies
wheel against the dark expanse
in clotted coloured whirls
like Catherine wheels’ mad dance.
And in the deep soundless space
sun roars with warmth and light
As nine planets circle round,
alone the blue-green one, just right.
This marbled ball cradles prolific life
Towering mountains, heaving seas,
verdant forests and grass filled plains;
habitats shaped and honed to please.
And from the smallest microbe
to the grandeur of the blue whale,
life’s complex detail spins
as Great Artificer weaves time’s tale.
Vast space and wild energies
mutely obedient to natural laws
our small minds’ grasp emerging pattern
‘til immense timeless mind gives us pause.
Jeanette O’Hagan c April 2014
First published in Omega Writers Words With Wings April 2014