The first Zeppelin air raid on London took place on June 1, 1915, and despite months of rumor and speculation about a possible German threat from the air, nobody was really prepared. The warning system consisted of policemen blowing whistles in the streets; there were no effective air defenses. Still, after the enemy dropped about 90 bombs on east London in this first raid, there were only 5 persons killed, 35 injured and three small fires which were immediately contained.
The lighter-than-airships that the Germans developed were gigantic machines by the standards of the day, and the first ever capable of reaching England and its capital carrying several tons of bombs.
But there was good news mixed with the bad.
While the bad news was that these ships attacked in the dark of the night, creeping silent and unseen upon a vulnerable population (they were so huge and slow moving, they needed the cover of darkness to have any chance of success), the good news was that THEY COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING EITHER. While they did manage to inflict some damage and casualties, they often dropped their bombs harmlessly in the wrong places, the sea for instance.
Still, the Germans had complete faith that the bombing campaign carried out by these awe-inspiring behemoths would destroy both England’s morale and industrial base. Shooting holes in the “balloons” had almost no deterrent effect on such a large ship, and it never once occurred to the Germans that the British would find a way to stop them.
But, of course, they did.
By the summer of 1916, the British developed not only strategic air defenses to combat the Zeppelins, but began using a phosphorus incendiary bullet, called “Buckingham,” that when used in conjunction with explosive bullets named “Pomeroy” and “Brock” (all after their inventors) spelled the ultimate end of the use of Zeppelins for air raids. The explosive bullets ripped holes in the Zeppelin, releasing the hydrogen inside the balloon to mix with the oxygen outside and form an explosive mixture that the Buckingham bullet then, quite impressively and gratifyingly, ignited.
After the fall of 1916, Zeppelins were relegated mostly to reconnaissance missions. But unfortunately, another scourge from the air would rise to take its place in the Gotha bomber.
Stephen King noted in his book, On Writing, that there is a mystical sort of loop that is completed when a reader reads an author’s words, almost like inhabiting the same moment of time created by the story, bringing it fully to life. I’m probably not getting that completely right, but I know that when I read a book, I willingly submerge myself into a completely alternate reality, one that has been imagined by an author.
And that is why I have always especially loved historical fiction, because when done well, it is time traveling at its finest, without the need for complicated time machines or Faustian bargains. For the simple price of admission, I can open the cover of a book and enter a world lost to time as the characters on the page live and breathe and navigate the currents of their world.
In Historical Romance, where the goal is to connect the reader intimately to the emotions of the characters, this reality takes on even richer, more complex dimensions. As a reader, I not only experience, say, life in a medieval castle, but how it feels to move through that space as a person with the same kinds of hopes, dreams and struggles that we all share as human beings. It is dizzying and thrilling, and whenever I stop reading, there is always a brief moment of disorientation as I return from my travels and the details of my humdrum everyday world fall into place around me.
Over the years, I learned to make this transition smoothly as a reader.
As a writer, however, I am finding it a much trickier proposition. My characters simply refuse to abandon me when I stop working on the story for that session and shut my laptop. They haunt my dreams, reveal little surprises about their motivations while I am driving on the freeway, and sometimes become very uncooperative when I try to push the story in a direction that is not true to their natures. Like a statue revealed by the sculptor’s chisel to have resided in a featureless block of stone, the reality that I am compelled to record in my novels appear to exist completely independently of my imagination, even while it relies on the poor tools of that imagination to chip away at the stone and reveal the story onto the page.
In the end, it is a little scarier, but incredibly more exhilarating, to drive the time machine than to simply ride in it.
I love Romance novels.
And I don’t think I am crazy for saying so.
I felt more crazy when all I read was a steady diet of books
about great tragedies, and how easily the most seemingly perfect
life can unravel with the fall of the smallest domino.
Honestly, they gave me nightmares after a while.
I needed something positive to feed my psyche, something
refreshing rather than draining.
I found Romance.
And I love it because it gathers up all the most important things
we care about in life- faith in a better future, faith in our
ability to change, hope of redemption for our mistakes, the power
of love to heal what is broken in our lives and relationships- and wraps
them all up in the beautiful package that is a romance novel.
I am swept up into stories peopled with characters who are
human and imperfect, yet admirable for their determination to
succeed against the odds. Characters who make mistakes and struggle and
overcome their fears. Characters who earn the happy ending
that will always come- because these are romance novels, and happy
endings are in the contract.
And along the way, I learn that everyone struggles, that fears can
be overcome, and that love can make it worthwhile if I am willing to
work for it. I learn that happy endings aren’t just for novels.
And so I aspire to write and publish in this wonderful genre.
If I can encourage, comfort, and maybe even inspire just one other
person with my books the way so many other wonderful romance authors
encouraged, comforted and inspired me, I will count myself a success.