Friday, November 30, 2012

Arthur Murray, Commander of USS Overton

I've been busy these past months, but I continue work on the Arthur Murray story. Arthur commanded the Overton during the evacuation of Wrangel's forces and white Russian nobles from the Crimea, the largest overseas evacuation to that date (20 years later overtaken by the Dunkirk evacuation). Later, Murray was an eyewitness to atrocities of the Greek genocide. His testimony on the Greek holocaust is in the National Archives.

Arthur's service follows the changing role for the US military after WWI. His work between the wars was a humanitarian mission. Below is a letter he wrote during his command of the Overton on December 14, 1920.

Dear Effie,

We got into Constantinople this morning after two awful lively weeks. Did I write to you about going down to Gallipoli one night, staying during the day and then returning the next night? Then we laid quiet about two days. The next day – I don’t remember what day it was – we took on 175 Polish refugees (understood they were to be all men) consisting of 40 women and ten children, remainder men. The only place you can carry passengers on a destroyer is on the deck so we put up the awnings with 200 miles of open sea and 80 miles up a river to travel.

There was a heavy roll and gee but they were sick.

Before we started on this trip in fact the reason we were in Constantinople was that we had to make a fast run from Varna Bulgaria to Constantinople with a man with appendicitis, and on the way down during heavy weather another man fell and broke his knee and ankle. Our doctor or pharmacist’s mate hurt himself lifting this last man so when we arrived we sent all three to the hospital so we had to make the Gellipoli trip with no doctor. We had to leave on the second trip with no doctor and with crew and passengers over 300 people. We made out to get up the Danube River to Galatz and after a small war in French with the Romanian port officials, I finally persuaded them to let us land them which we did in a howling snow storm and the thermometer at about 22.

That was in the morning and we left at noon for down river to the Black Sea and back to Constantinople. We had just started when we found one man had developed pneumonia and had a temperature of 104.5. We anchored in a river at a small town (Tulcha) at night and sent for a doctor. The doctor said the crisis would not come for three or four days and gave him various medicine, and in the meantime as the river is very narrow we got blown on the mud banks by a sudden shift of wind. We could not do anything that night so the next morning at day break I took the motor boat and crew of three and went two miles up the river for a tug to get us off. That tug couldn't do it so we sent it after another. That sounds easy but you can imagine friend husband handling 8 ten and twelve inch lines over towing bits and running heaving lines in a cold snow storm. In all the fuss we managed to keep two officers with the sick man who was rapidly getting worse. The next morning we got the ship off with no damage and once more ran the 40 miles to the Black Sea by noon. This river in places is not as wide as the Cape Cod Canal and to make time we steamed at about 24 miles an hour. As soon as we left the river and pilots behind we opened up to about 32 miles an hour in a rather heavy sea but had only gone half way to Constanza where there was a good hospital when the man died. We sure worked with him for the last hour and a half.

We had gone about 30 miles more when one boiler blew some tubes and we had to slow down to 24 miles an hour on one boiler. We made Constanza at dark and I went with another officer (Cunningham) (he can’t speak French) for a doctor. We got him back to the ship and had him doctor up the men who were sick. We had the dead man embalmed and at 2 A.M. I turned in rather tired. The next day we oiled and left Constanza that evening just at dark – that was last night. I had the 12 to 4, mid watch and I did not get any sleep before twelve for I had actually to close the door of my state room to keep myself in the room it was rolling so.

The watch ran quietly until 3 A.M. when the wireless man came up on the bridge with S.O.S. messages from a French steamer which was sinking. It took us some time to locate where he was but finally we got him that he was the “Bor le Due” and in the Doro channel down in the Mediterranean so we had to let him go as others were nearer. His last message was “sinking fast.”

I got to bed at five and slept until 7 A.M. as in the interval we had come through the Bosphorus and were at the buoy at Constantinople. I happened to have the days duty today which will keep me up till midnight tonight and must be up at 6 A.M. as we have funeral services on board tomorrow. Outside of that I had very little to do the last two weeks.

By the time you get this, Effie, I will be in some Egyptian port.

I am going to number these pages so you can see what a long letter I write (16).

Love to all


[The page numbering was a joke, typical of Arthur's brand of humor – there were two typewritten pages and he numbered the second page “16”]

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Valuable Family Stuff

The other day I decided to clean out some old files. I ran across several thick envelopes with letters sent to Arlene's mother, Effie, from her husband, Arthur (more about those later), starting around 1917. I hit pay dirt with a letter from Don Murray requesting permission to marry their daughter, Arlene. After the happy dance I added it to the end of Soft Snap. Excerpt below.

26 December 1945

Dear Arthur and Effie,

Arlene’s recent, though brief, visit to Hanover gave me a long awaited opportunity to be with her once more, and most important of all, to speak to her of what has long been nearest to my heart. To my immense joy and pride she has told me that she bears me an affection and admiration equal to those which I have for her. We have discovered that we love each other and we wish to be married, sometime in the coming summer. It is my most sincere wish that we may have your unreserved permission as well as your unqualified and enthusiastic support in culminating our plans.

My mother has been told today of our desire and she is delighted. Through my many letters she has known how much I have thought of Arlene for several years and that we have written constantly since I have been in the service. While Arlene was here mother was able to come to know how fine and dear she is. Mother has said that I could not have chosen a finer girl . . .

Friday, August 24, 2012

Finding Findings

I found a site where people post brief quotes from the books they are reading. I enjoyed seeing the words that resonate with readers.

A poster named "Sasith" found the following from Unbroken Hearts to be compelling:

"Finally the blacksmith turned from his anvil and looked his question at Cal. Like every blow of his hammer, Jake made every word count. His regular customers had learned to interpret the nuances of facial expression, and just then he was wearing narrowed eyes and a frown."

"All the while Knute howled. "If I loved noise I'd hug you to death,"

"This magical evening was ending, sliding into the abyss of fond memories. Soon it would be another dried and pressed flower, lurking between the pages of her life book."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life Imitates Art Redux and Weight Update

If you've read TAKEDOWN then you might be questioning this new of a computer algorithm "glitch":

UPDATE 8/2/2012: Knight Capital lost 440 million yesterday on the algorithm glitch. A friend wrote: "Sometimes I wonder why terrorists bother with bombs. They could just take our country down using algos in a kind of synchronized economic Armageddon. I can't figure out why this isn't a national security issue."

Exactly my point in TAKEDOWN.

UPDATE 12/4/2012: More on high frequency trading at

I've lost seven pounds since I last posted on the weight loss front, for a total of twenty. Must be the heat . . .

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One of the best things about being a writer

is meeting other writers, forming new friendships, reading their books, and then liking those books so much you want the rest of the world to read them too.

One of those writers is Fred Burwell, and his debut novel is Prairie Hill.

Set in small town Wisconsin, Prairie Hill reflects the values of midwestern America in the characters and their struggles to find themselves within melancholic environs. Fred's prose is gently engaging; I read the book with nary a rest to glance out the window, but when I finished I looked into my garden with new eyes.

Prairie Hill will be offered on a free promotion tomorrow and Friday (6/21-6/22). I encourage you to pick up a copy.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Explore More: A TAKEDOWN Study Guide

Although TAKEDOWN is a fictional work its underpinnings are serious issues that impact all of us.

In the real world we’ve seen a pattern of troubling computer software failures in the equity markets this past year.

The BATS IPO was marred by “computer glitches”:

Facebook’s failed IPO was also blamed on computer software “glitches”.

Computerized high frequency trading (HFT) is whipsawing the market and is the likely culprit in “flash crash” scenarios:

The SEC’s inability to seriously investigate financial fraud due to regulatory capture by the industry they are given authority to police is another theme woven throughout TAKEDOWN.

Matt Taibbi’s investigative reporting digs in on this topic:

The SEC does occasionally catch a fish:

One reader mentioned that Dan Decker's motivations in TAKEDOWN are very similar to John Corzine's at MF Global. Both men started with the best intentions as they tried to save failing institutions, and both ended up committing fraud to achieve their ends.

Is Dan Decker different from Corzine?

How does each man co-opt his colleagues in implementing a scheme?

PBS Frontline has a good, short video about Corzine's takedown of MF Global:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Make Good Art

This past week I attended my daughter's graduation events; I have many happy memories.

While we were staying (in the dormitory) at the university we met a couple from Florida. They spoke with pride of their daughter, who wants to pursue a career in publishing. At our first meeting I mentioned my books in passing; by the second time we met the woman (Yael) had downloaded and read my first book.

I never got an email address or a last name, but I hope Yael finds this post. I ran across a great commencement address given by Neil Gaiman, and I think Yael's daughter would love it:

"No one knows what the landscape will look like two years from now let alone a decade away . . . which is on the one hand intimidating, and on the other immensely liberating."

"The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be . . . the old rules are crumbling and no one knows what the new rules are."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Once again, reality imitates TAKEDOWN

Computer glitches caused a failed IPO? Say it isn't so.

Oh, and where have we seen this before?

A reader recently mentioned that Dan Decker's motivations in TAKEDOWN are very similar to John Corzine's at MF Global. Both men started with the best intentions as they tried to save failing institutions, and both ended up committing fraud to achieve their ends. Is Dan Decker different from Corzine? How does each co-opt their colleagues in implementing their plan? In some ways Decker is more honest about his dirty dealing . . . what do you think?

PBS Frontline has a good, short video about Corzine's takedown of MF Global:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weight Update

Regulars to this blog might remember that I decided to take the slow path to weight loss back in January. I'm pleased to report that I've lost 13 pounds!

I'm experimenting with healthy meals, and just now I threw together a lunch smoothie.

Toss into blender:

3/4 C. greek no-fat yogurt
1 C. strawberries
1 Tbsp. wheat germ
1/4 C. skim milk
1/2 banana
1/4 cup rhubarb sauce
Add a pinch of stevia, if needed, to sweeten

This is about 150 calories (3 weight watchers points)

Rhubarb sauce:

3 C. rhubarb, chopped
1 C. sugar

Combine in saucepan and cook until it turns to sauce.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fossilized Email

The oldest email in my inbox is, literally, about fossils. It's a reply (1/18/2004) to a query I sent to Jack Horner when I was doing research for Untamed Hearts.

My query:

I need to learn about dinosaur digs in Montana from 1852 to 1890's. Was there much activity and who directed/funded the expeditions? What was the role of the local population (Native Americans, ranchers, miners)? Are there published dissertations/books/journals on the earliest discoveries?

Horner's response:

I'd suggest you get hold of "The Life of a Fossil Hinter" by Charles Sternberg (Indiana University Press) and "Strange Genius, The Life of Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden" by Mike Foster (Roberts Rinehart Publishers.


I obtained both books (excellent resources), and the information contained within proved valuable in creating the character of Philip Farnsworth, who appears in Untamed Hearts and Undaunted Hearts.

What is the oldest email that still resides in your inbox? Why do you keep it around? Tell me all about it in the comments section -- if it isn't too personal.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Click on sales report image to enlarge it.

TAKEDOWN's free promotion on March 26 resulted in brisk sales.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ding, ding, ding! Another real life TAKEDOWN of the market

I was recently asked, "how likely is the orchestrated market crash scenario portrayed in TAKEDOWN?" In the world of High Frequency (HFT) crack-induced market trading, the line between fiction and reality is thin: Apple and the risks of trading 29,000 times per second.

They called it a "glitch" and the HFT biz CEO said something went "haywire". Oh, the agony. He should have read TAKEDOWN . . .

UPDATE 3/26/2012: TAKEDOWN is on a free promo for one day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Release: Soft Snap

Soft Snap is now available on Amazon.

At the time he enlisted in 1942, Donald Murray was a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard, fluent in multiple languages, and an instructor at Beloit College. Little did he know he'd spend the next three and a half years as a cryptographer and counter intelligence agent, landing in far flung Pacific outposts.

Don's use of language is at a time precise, eloquent, witty, bitingly sarcastic, and subtle. His letters weave story threads into a fabric rich with hope, frustration, satire, and romance. What starts as long distance friendship and admiration grows to become the love of his life through words amidst the uncertain timeline of war.

Grab the sample or use the "look inside" feature to preview the book. It is not the usual two-fork WWII letters fare.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

(E) Pluribus Unum

The editors are now putting the finishing touches on Soft Snap: The WWII Letters of Don Murray, so it will be available in ebook format within the next week.

This project has been a delightful ride in so many ways. I never knew my quirky father-in-law (he died when my husband was 19), but he left a trail of breadcrumbs that provided endless amusement as I pored over these letters.

In the image below -- a letter he wrote on the standard Army issue (free) stationery -- Don's inner Latin scholar has "fixed" the insignia at the top of the paper. If you look closely (squint) you'll see his penned "E" in front of the "Pluribus Unum" on the printed banner, to correct the printer's omission.

E Pluribus Unum = "Out of Many, One"

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Recent Reads

Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America (Shawn Otto)

Hartland to Capitol Hill (Mary Gunderson/Ernie Gunderson)

I received a copy from the Gunderson family. Once I started reading I couldn't put it down. This book will soon be available on Amazon.

Victory (Joseph Conrad)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Courtship and Counter Intelligence, WWII Style

This book will be available as an ebook sometime in the next two weeks. It's the real life romance of my in-laws, told through wartime letters. Don Murray enlisted and served as a cryptographer for the first two years of the war. He was then recruited to work in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) as a Special Agent in the Pacific theatre.

Shortly after Don enlisted he wrote his lovely cousin, Arlene, because he hadn't received his Army paychecks. He asked if her father, a navy commander, could use his connections to expedite the government payments. It was an innocent query . . . or was it? Perhaps he had something else in mind? The "between the lines" is what kept me turning the pages. Once I started reading them I couldn't put these letters down.

Meet Arlene and Don:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Honoring a real-life hero . . .

My father-in-law, Donald Murray, was a linguist who took a hiatus from his career to serve as a cryptographer during WWII. Fluent in several languages and a prolific writer, Don penned over 400 pages of letters to his cousin during his service (1942-1945). I'm transcribing those letters and adding historical research notes to produce a book that adds Don's voice to the chorus of the "Greatest Generation".

My plan is to make this book available within the next month.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Healing Hearts is now Available

I loaded it up to Amazon last night, and this morning I already had sales!

The books should be read in this order: Unbroken Hearts, Healing Hearts, Untamed Hearts, Undaunted Hearts.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Cover Art

Kimberly Killion has created beautiful new covers for the Easton Hearts series. The original covers were beautiful landscapes, but they didn't convey the genre (western romance) the way these clutch covers do. I love the use of live models, and the colors really pop!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Joe Konrath and Me

The intersection of my Anna Murray-Joe Konrath Venn diagram just got a bit larger.

There's always been the fact that we both live between the coasts. Joe and I also like to read and write books, and we sell them on Amazon, mostly for $2.99.

And now, we're both trying to lose weight.

Joe is going with a 30-day beer diet.

I don't have the cojones (or the beer cellar) for such an endeavor, but today I did something I'm rather proud of, given the fact I'm an engineer by osmosis only (husband has the skills).

Today I made a desk for my stationary bike, out of a clear acrylic 12" x 18" panel I found in the basement and an old Mac Unix guide (any 1-2 inch thick book will work). I wedged the flat acrylic slice between the handlebar and the display panel of the machine. Wedging a book between the display panel and the desk, I was able to adjust for proper height/ergonomics.

Because the desk is tipped at a slight angle (toward the user), I recommend using 3M Safety Walk (TM) tape or other non-slip interface on the panel, so that your laptop doesn't slide forward.

Total cost: $0. I made this with materials we had around the house.

I"m posting from my bike right now.