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Thursday, November 21, 2013

THE TROUBLE WITH HOLLY!

The holiday’s whether we’re ready for it or not are upon us! As a special holiday treat my publisher Tirgearr is offering 5 days of holiday stories and today my holiday novella THE TROUBLE with HOLLY is available.
Here is the blurb for Holly…



Holly McIntyre has just been invited to join a group of her friends who are traveling to France for a wine tasting trip that will end in Paris. Holly has dreamed of taking a trip to France since she was a little girl. Now the only thing standing between her and her dream trip is her checking account. Well, she’s not going to miss out on this chance, even if it means getting a demeaning job as an elf for Santa Clause at Harrington’s Department Store. Holly hates Christmas, finds it too commercial and just can never seem to get into the holiday spirit. Of course the Santa she’s being an elf for has way to much holiday happiness, so this is not going to be an easy task, but Paris is on the other side. Now if she could only ignore the red hot attraction burning between Santa and herself. Oh, Santa, baby!

Christopher Harrington loves the holidays and volunteers every year as Santa at his family’s department store. This year his elf is anything but a happy little soul. And yet, he is drawn to Holly and her sassy personality and realizes she poses as a holiday challenge. He’s going to get this prickly little Scrooge to come around and see there really is magic to the Christmas season and that not everyone is interested in things bought in a store. Holly might mean trouble but Christopher is not afraid of that. Trouble can be fun.
Come and join me today over at Heart of Fiction. I love chatting with my readers!

Today I'm over at Heart of Fiction. Come on over and chat, leave a message and be entered to win a free copy of The Trouble with Holly! I love interacting with my readers.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Trouble with Holly

The holiday’s whether we’re ready for them or not are upon us! I have always been a sucker for the Christmas holiday romance. And I was thrilled to be able to add another Holiday Trouble story to my Trouble Series. This was a fun story and I think really captures the spirit of the holidays. I hope my readers truly enjoy this one! AVAILABLE 21 NOVEMBER!


Holly McIntyre has just been invited to join a group of her friends who are traveling to France for a wine tasting trip that will end in Paris. Holly has dreamed of taking a trip to France since she was a little girl. Now the only thing standing between her and her dream trip is her checking account. Well, she’s not going to miss out on this chance, even if it means getting a demeaning job as an elf for Santa Clause at Harrington’s Department Store. Holly hates Christmas, finds it too commercial and just can never seem to get into the holiday spirit. Of course the Santa she’s being an elf for has way to much holiday happiness, so this is not going to be an easy task, but Paris is on the other side. Now if she could only ignore the red hot attraction burning between Santa and herself. Oh, Santa, baby!

Christopher Harrington loves the holidays and volunteers every year as Santa at his family’s department store. This year his elf is anything but a happy little soul. And yet, he is drawn to Holly and her sassy personality and realizes she poses as a holiday challenge. He’s going to get this prickly little Scrooge to come around and see there really is magic to the Christmas season and that not everyone is interested in things bought in a store. Holly might mean trouble but Christopher is not afraid of that. Trouble can be fun.
• • •
Excerpt
Holly McIntyre blew out a breath as she frowned down at her checking account balance and worked hard to resist the urge to scream in utter frustration.

“Well, do you think you can swing it?” Dahlia asked as she continued to file her nails, smacking on her gum without a care in the world.

“I don’t think so.” Holly nibbled on the inside of her lower lip.

“You’ve got to come, Holly; we’re talking France!”

“Yeah, I know.” Holly wanted to spend Christmas in France, going on wine tasting trips and strolling the Champs-Élysées. She wanted to experience the city she’d been dreaming about since she was a little girl. And here was her chance to leave the cold and windy city of Chicago for Paris.

Dahlia set her emery board down and pinned Holly with a determined look. “You’re going to go; you deserve this trip, and I won’t take no for an answer.” She reached over for the legal pad that had Holly’s budget written on it and ran her perfectly manicured fingertip down the yellow lined paper. “Girl you’re so organized you give professional organizers like me a bad name.”

Holly laughed. It was true; although Dahlia owned her own organizing business and could organize a hoarder into a happy Zen place, she didn’t prescribe to the same thought process.

Dahlia pushed the legal pad back across the table. “Maybe you could pick up another job?”

“Yeah, because interior design jobs are just dropping out of the sky like snowflakes.” Holly was an interior designer but business had fallen off with the turn of the economy and people just weren’t redoing kitchens and other rooms. She had enough clients and projects to keep the wolf from the door as it were but not enough to buy a ticket to Paris.

“Get a second job!” Dahlia clapped her hands together in glee. “Find a part time job; the holidays are right around the corner, and you can find something that will pay well enough for a plane ticket and a week of hotels.”

“Gee, is that all?” Holly pushed her dark hair behind her right ear and continued to look at her pitiful budget. She really needed to save and put money aside, for when trip opportunities like this arose, she could go without any guilt.

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do.” Holly stood and went into the kitchen and grabbed a glass before filling it with some water. “I need to find something that will allow me to work on the jobs I’ve got and still be able to fund a trip to Europe. I doubt seriously I’ll find that.”

Dahlia, one never to sit around and wait for things to happen, was already looking in the want ads. “Here you go! This will be perfect.”

That was just too easy, and Holly went over to the table and leaned over to look at what advertisement had her friend so excited.

“Oh no. Hell no.” Holly shook her head back and forth. “No way.” She backed away from the table and went back to the kitchen to put the glass in the sink.

“Come on, Holly. It will be fun. And you would only have to work a few hours a week.”

“Are you high? I’m not going to do that.” She pointed her finger at the offending paper. “I’d rather sling 
drinks at a bar, or ask if someone wants to supersize their fries with their order.”

Dahlia shivered. “Eww. Food service is not for you, my friend.”

“Well, that,” she pointed once again to the newspaper, “isn’t for me either.”

“What if I applied with you? Would you do it then? Just think you could go to Paris! The Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, the Louvre! And don’t get me started on the wine!”

Holly crossed her arms across her chest and sighed. She did want to go to Paris; she wanted to go badly. But the idea of dressing up as an elf for Harrington’s Department store’s Holiday Village made her want to break out in a rash. She loathed the holidays, found Christmas to be nothing but a “Hey, what are you gonna get me” grasping holiday.

The meaning and the magic was gone and had been since she was a little girl and learned Santa was really her Uncle Matthew. Still, there had been something about those country Christmas’s she missed. Perhaps it was the family or the innocence of the whole thing. Now, Christmas was all about money and what big electronic thing was going to be sitting under the tree. Her family was scattered; none of them in Illinois anymore and with lives of their own. In fact of all her brothers and sisters—there were six—she really only seemed to talk to them on Christmas Eve and on birthdays. It was sad really. This is why going to France with her girlfriends seemed like such a wonderful idea. She wouldn’t be sitting alone watching movies and eating ice cream by the ton.


“Okay, I’ll do it.” Holly uncrossed her arms and walked back to the kitchen table, dropping down into the chair. “I mean how bad could it be?”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Clan Ross Series! Off to a fine start if you ask me!

I have a new romantic paranormal series being published and I wanted to share with everyone some blurbs and excerpts. I’m currently working hard on the third and final story, so you have plenty of time to catch up and fall in love the Clan Ross! Come read a bit and tell me what you love about Scottish Romance.


HIS HEARTS DESIRE-Book 1
What’s a woman to do when faced with the man of her dreams—literally?

Catrìona MacDougall has dreamed of an ancient highland warrior for years and over the course of her life she’s fallen irretrievably in love with a man she can’t have. This won’t do and she vows it’s time to put the dream man on the shelf and find a real man who can make her melt. What should seem like a very uncomplicated plan soon proves to be anything but. Catrìona is about to get way more than she ever bargained on. Maybe dreams really can become reality.

Laird Braden Ross, once a brave warrior for his clan, was to marry Catrìona MacDougall, and what started as a marriage to solidify clan relations turns into a love match. But, when Braden leaves MacDougall land with his bride to be, they are ambushed by banished members of the Comyn clan under the direction of Morgana, a druid priestess, who has long held deep feelings for Braden. When those feelings aren’t returned, she vowed to make him pay. She attacks Catrìona and leaves her to die in Braden’s arms after cursing him into a loveless existence until his soulmate releases him.

Braden is trying to reach out to Catrìona but she's convinced he’s nothing but a dream. He needs to prove to her they are meant to be, before she banishes him to the afterlife.
• • •
Excerpt
Catrìona ran her hands down the hard back of her lover, reveling in the flexing muscles as he thrust deep into her woman’s center, becoming a part of her. This was the only time she ever felt complete.

“I love you, Catrìona. Feel me; know me.” His voice was rough, like sandpaper, and yet it drifted over her senses like velvet.

“I do; I do feel you.” Pain danced through her voice and heart as she realized her time with her knight was growing to an end. “I love you, Braden. Forever.”

She grabbed at his strong buttocks in a pitiful attempt to hold him close.
“Aye, lass, forever,” he whispered.

Catrìona sat upright in bed pushing her tangled hair out of her eyes. Tears streamed down her face, but she ignored the salty drops. Her body burned as if she actually had been making passionate love, and she tried hard to bring her breathing under control. She was tired of forever waking to the taste of her tears and the pain in her heart.

An ache between her legs reminded her she was still unsatisfied. Yet she knew in her heart she would only experience the release she desired in the arms of her dream lover.

Reaching over, she clicked on her bedside lamp. The mournful sound of a saxophone from a jazz club down the street danced on the air. The lamp cast its buttery light over the small room as she gazed with longing at the old portrait hanging over her bedroom mantel. Her Scottish knight; her dream lover. She feared he was the only man she’d ever love. 

Pathetic. He was nothing more than canvas, paint, shadows and color. But he looked so lifelike. On more than one occasion she had reached out to touch him, yet it was always in vain.
Catrìona padded over to the portrait and stared. “I wish I knew who you were and why you haunt me so.”

The man in the portrait didn’t answer her, but she didn’t expect him to. Still, something compelled her to speak her thoughts aloud. Somehow, she knew he heard her. He had always heard her. He stood in a commanding position with his broadsword in hand, ready to do battle for his lady-love or clan. Regardless of the reason, this man was willing to fight for what was important to him. 

His long dark hair fell in sensual waves down his back, and his well-developed chest was bare, with the exception of a swath of plaid across the tawny skin. A Celtic armband encircled his left bicep, drawing Catrìona’s eye to the sinewy strength there. This strength would never be used against her but rather to protect her. A shiver of longing danced across her skin at the thought. Those dark eyes of his stared out, tempting and promising so much. She often wondered if her ancestor had taken artistic license when she created him.

Catrìona knew deep in her heart she had not. The artist had faithfully captured the sensual gaze in his beautiful, dark brown eyes. The promise of fulfillment burned there, beckoning the unsuspecting.

Catrìona called the painting Her Highlander, not knowing who he was or if he even hailed from the Highlands. “Why do I dream about you with such detail? I can feel your hot breath on my skin. Your rough and callused fingers are like magic on my flesh.”

She continued to stare. Tonight the dreams had been different. Tonight she had almost reached orgasm. This time the slight clenching of her womb had rippled through her—she’d tottered on the sweet, delicious precipice and ached to crash over the edge to total oblivion.

No answer came from the painting, so she turned away from him and padded back to her bed. After taking a moment to straighten the sheets, she climbed into the cool linen. A quick glance at her alarm clock confirmed it was still too early to get up. It was two a.m. 

Catrìona hadn’t even been asleep for three hours before the dream had wakened her. Her sensual dreams were not uncommon, but it had been different this time. This time she had felt more than her phantom lover’s touch. This time she’d smelled him; a combination of spice and male musk—a potent elixir. She was supremely aware of the rough texture of the sheeting beneath her naked body. The scent of heather and wood smoke hung in the air. 

Her feelings for the portrait were odd, and she was the first to admit it. Her grandmother had accepted Catrìona’s preoccupation with the knight right from the beginning. That had been the summer she’d turned thirteen. Catrìona had always loved visiting her Grammy. It meant seeing him. Her mother would drop Catrìona off with a kiss on the cheek and promise to call—a promise she never managed to keep, no matter how hard Catrìona prayed she would. Grammy would dry her eyes and set her up in her special bedroom with the portrait of the knight hanging across the room on the wall. When she finally asked about him, when she was around eleven, her grandmother’s answer had been vague but offered with a smile. Catrìona now knew it had been a knowing smile.

“See, lass, you have your very own guardian knight. He will ease your loneliness.” 

And he had. He came to her, teasing her with his kind words, making her feel like a princess of old. There had been magic at Grammy’s house.

Well, her grandmother was dead now. She had passed on to the next realm three weeks ago, leaving Catrìona bereft. Frustrated at her physical and emotional condition, Catrìona growled aloud. Why was she being so unreasonable? And what did it say about her that she was so taken with a painting? It was as pathetic as the women who went gaga over Brad Pitt, convinced that if they were able to get his attention he’d leave Angelina Jolie. Yeah, sure, that happened all the time in the real world. The same could be said about her. Her Highlander was not going to step out of his frame and into her arms.

She turned away from the picture and stared at the opposite wall. She had a very important client appointment tomorrow, and needed to get her act together. Catrìona designed wedding dresses, and this next commission could win her the success she’d been working towards for years. She had to land this account.

Staying up into the early hours of the morning, lamenting over her pathetic hang-up with a man who did not exist, was not going to help her situation. The sounds of the French Quarter drifted on the air. No matter the time of day, the Quarter hummed with activity. Voices rose in laughter and good cheer, reminding her of how alone she was at that moment. Punching the pillow in a pitiable attempt to make herself comfortable, Catrìona closed her eyes and allowed the sandman to work his magic once again.



HER HIGHLAND ROGUE-Book 2
Kady, Muse Extraordinaire has ticked off Cupid and in order to get back into the good graces of her friend and the rest of the Gods, she has to do the seemingly impossible. She has to match her favorite lady human, Meagan Wentworth with her one true love. Kady thinks she’s struck the mother lode of luck when Meagan falls for Alec Ross but there is just one tiny little problem with the hearts and flower ending she envisions. Alec is from the past, Scotland, in the year 1295 to be exact and his little sojourn in the future is about to come to an end thanks to the selfish and evil priestess, Morgana. But everything goes wrong when Alec and Meagan get caught up in the a spell Morgana has cast and sends them back in time. Kady doesn’t have enough power to send them back to the twenty-first century so she hopes they can make things work until she can figure a way to get Meagan home where she belongs.

Meagan can’t believe she’s back in time, with no plumbing, no electricity and the hottie she’d been falling for, doesn’t remember her. Meagan is going to do what she can to get back to her time period, she doesn’t need this…and yet, she has never backed down from a challenge. She’s going to remind Alec who she is and what they had together in the future. Hopefully, she’ll be able to survive the late 1200’s and not be accused of witchcraft or die. And of course get the guy and write there happy ending.
• • •
Excerpt
Kady, Muse Extraordinaire was without a doubt, a success at what she did if she did say so herself. That wasn’t bragging, it was a simple fact.

The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists were peppered with her accomplishments. There were Golden Globes, a few Oscars sitting on shelves and to her disgust, one in a closet, attesting she had it going on. However, the Oscar in the closet was not her problem. No. This distinction belonged to her favorite lady human, Meagan Wentworth.

In addition to owning a haunted tour in New Orleans, Meagan happened to be a huge success in the romance writing industry. What Meagan didn’t have was her happy ending. Enter Kady’s new and temporary occupation as matchmaker thanks to her own stupidity. Mental note, never taunt Cupid. And never do it while he’s hosting the annual Valentine’s Day Ball. That was like cutting the cotton ball tail off the Easter Bunny, or telling Santa the elves were more popular than he was.

Yeah, lesson learned there.

Kady hated to fail and if she didn’t find Meagan true love within six weeks she was looking at the big F straight in the eye. What did she know of matchmaking? She inspired people and sat back and accepted the kudos. Okay, so she didn’t do the hard work, like sketching the dress design, or writing the book or screenplay. Still, it wasn’t easy helping the uninspired find inspiration and she was dumbfounded as to how to help Meagan find true love. She knew bupkis about matters of the heart.

Thankfully, Meagan had already found a Scottish hottie named Alec Ross and they seemed to get along just fine thank you very much. All Kady had to do is make sure nothing or rather no one parted the two lovers.
“So, whatcha gonna do now?” Tiffany said with a snide laugh.

Kady narrowed her eyes. Tiffany, an obnoxious muse, perched beside Kady on the magnolia tree. She really wasn’t in the mood for Tiffany’s snipping. Kady had things to do…and trading barbs with Tiffany was not on the list.

“Well, since she’s already found Alec I’m going to make sure this ends happily,” Kady announced as she watched Meagan and Alec whispering between each other.

“Hmm.”

Kady turned to face her nemesis head on. “What pray tell is ‘hmmm’ supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t you, nothing, me, Tiffany. What’s your point?” Kady said.

Tiffany fussed with her skirt before she said, “Has it escaped your notice that Alec is from the thirteenth century and Morgana is getting ready to send him back to where he came from?”

“Don’t you have an artist to torment? Maybe today you can find another one willing to part with his ear again. And in answer to your question, the answer is no. I’m very aware of what Morgana is up to.”

“For the last time, Picasso had his own issues. That had nothing to do with me.” Tiffany frowned.

Kady smiled. “Hmm.” she mocked pleased she’d managed to fluster Tiffany. She hated to be reminded of Picasso’s strange behavior.


“Am I too late?” A new voice asked.

You can find my backlist all all books published here...leave a comment with email addy and be entered to win a free copy of Her Highland Rogue.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer



The summer is here! Warm lazy days, picnic's, trips to the beach, camping under the stars and vacations to amazing places. I've always loved summer. Although I'm not a fan of the heat (I actually get ill if I get too warm) there is just something about long summer warm summer nights that I just love. Maybe it's the firefly's, or maybe it the smell of BBQ and sunscreen. I don't know, just thinking about these things takes me back to my childhood. Nights spent playing hide-and-go-seek, swimming, hanging out with my friends. Great times.

Summer also meant reading. I was a voracious reader as a kid, my mom and grandmother serious encouraged my love for reading. Each year for my birthday, my grandmother would buy me three Nancy Drew books, and my mom would take me to our local bookseller (long before B&N, Amazon, BAM, or even Borders) and I would walk along the old wooden floors of this store that would squeak and groan, between the wire book shelves finding any treasure I could to take home and read. The scent of ink and dust and books comforted me like nothing else. I'd leave that store with a bag of book happiness and I'd go home, find a comfortable place and lose myself in the make believe worlds of writers.

I'm still like a kid in a candy store as an adult when it comes to my summer reading list. Now, I'm much more organized and I read magazines, follow my favorite authors and make a list of summer reads that I either pre-order or run down to the bookstore and scoop up the titles I just HAVE TO READ!

Well, now I'm a writer and I'm hoping some of my titles make it on to the must read summer book list of readers this year. My latest The Trouble with Beaches is now available as is my full length print novel Gabrielle. Check out my back list and let me know what you think of my stories. I love hearing from my readers!

http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Ahlers_Kristi/index.htm
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Kristi+Ahlers&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3AKristi+Ahlers

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lady Almina




I’m a total fan of Downton Abbey and the Edwardian time period. For years I’ve been fascinated with the Edwardian era. So much was changing and so much was happening. The world was getting ready face it’s First World War. The Titanic was going to sink and society as we know it was getting ready to change.

I’ve started doing research for my latest historical novel set in England right before the outbreak of WWI. Over the course of the past few weeks I’ve consumed some really interesting books and one of my favorite is Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey written by The Countess of Carnarvon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Downton Abbey the television series, the story is set in Highclere Castle which is also family seat for decades for the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.


Within this book we get to know Lady Almina a very spirited woman who lived her life by her rules and societies and managed to put her mark on the war effort and how hospitals were formed and the various ways wounds were treated and how wounded soldiers were treated. It’s really an eye opening read and one I encourage readers to pick up. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Kiss

I realize that Memorial Day has come and gone but I wanted to share with you one of my favorite stories from WWII. War no matter what decade, no matter what reason is behind the confrontation, war is a sad and heartbreaking thing. There are always losses on each side, heartbreak, struggle and frustration. But, in times of great struggle and frustration wonderful things can also happen. This iconic photo has always inspired me and for the longest time I wanted to know what the story was behind this picture. I've found it and I want to share it with you today...

Tuesday, August 14, 1945, started off for Greta Zimmer in the same manner as did most weekdays during that year. Hurrying to get ready for work, she showered, dressed, and pinned her hair up tightly to keep her long locks from covering her ears and neck. Before leaving her Manhattan apartment she grabbed a quick bite to eat, reached for her multicolored, small purse, and rushed out the door. When running late, Greta walked briskly toward the subway station to catch a train that could get her to work on time.
Her destination was the 33rd and Lexington subway stop, approximately three blocks from Dr. J. L. Berke’s dentist office. Greta had worked as a dental assistant at the Manhattan office for several months. While she hoped to someday design theater sets and pursue other vocations in the arts, work as a dental assistant bought her some independence and took her mind off a prolonged war.
When Greta arrived at the office on the morning of August 14, she changed into her working uniform. If it were not for her place of employment, she could have been easily mistaken for a nurse. Her white dress, white stockings, white shoes, and white cap did not distinguish her from thousands of other caregivers in New York.
While Greta performed her dental assistant duties that Tuesday morning, many patients burst into the office short of breath and beaming. Excitedly, they informed the staff and patients that the war with Japan had ended. Most patients and workers believed them. Greta wasn’t so sure. She wanted to trust their reports, but the war had rained more than a fair share of misery upon Greta. Her defenses remained high. She opted to delay a celebratory mindset that could prove painfully premature.
During the later morning hours, patients continued to enter the dentists’ office with more optimistic news. While Greta tried to ignore the positive developments, the temptation to flow with the prevailing winds challenged her reserve. As the reports became more definitive and promising, Greta found herself listening, contemplating, and growing eager.
When the two dentists returned from their lunches after 1:00 pm, Greta quickly finished the business before her. Soon after, she grabbed her small hand purse with the colorful pattern, took off her white dental assistant cap (as was customary before going out in public), and set out during her lunch break for Times Square. There the Times news zipper utilized lit and moving type to report the latest news. She wanted to know for herself if the claims that had been tossed about over the past several hours were misleading hearsay, or if, on this day, the reports would finally be true.

When Greta arrived at Times Square, a holiday atmosphere was taking hold. While the celebration was subdued compared to what would follow later that day, Greta sensed a vibrant energy in the air. Suited businessmen, well-dressed women, and uniformed soldiers and sailors entered the pandemonium from all directions. Some ran with no determined direction. Others walked with purpose. Some remained stationary, as if waiting for something big to happen. Greta paid no one particular person much attention.
As she proceeded into the square she moved by several recognizable landmarks: the 42nd Street subway stairwell, a replica of the Statue of Liberty, and a large statue of Joe Rosenthal’s famous picture from a few months earlier. After walking a few paces beyond the 25-foot model of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, Greta spun around and looked in the direction of the Times Building. She focused her sight just above the third-floor windows where the scrolling lighted letters spelled out the latest headlines. Greta read the racing and succinctly worded message quickly. Now she knew the truth.
On the last day of his leave, Petty Officer First Class George Mendonsa paid no attention to the day’s newspaper headlines and worried little about his Japanese enemy. After almost two years in World War II’s Pacific theater, his mindset was that the war would unfold independent of his blessing or curse. On the morning of August 14, 1945, his thoughts focused primarily on Rita Petry, an attractive Long Island girl he’d met a few weeks earlier in Rhode Island.
George woke up that Tuesday morning alone in a bedroom at the Petry family’s Long Island home. After breakfast with Rita’s family, he leafed through The New York Times looking for show times in New York’s theaters. He and his new girlfriend decided to take in a matinee at Radio City Music Hall. They thought the 1:05 pm showing of A Bell for Adanowould give them plenty of time to make it back to Long Island by early evening. George was scheduled to depart for San Francisco that night. In a few days he expected to board The Sullivans and prepare for what he hoped would be the last battles of World War II. He knew an invasion of the Japanese mainland was imminent. While he did not welcome the looming chain of events, he thought finishing off the Japanese in their homeland would be a fitting bookend to a war that had commenced almost four years earlier with the empire’s surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor. But all that was in the future. He still had one day left to enjoy in New York.

Preparing for that day, George wore a formal blue Navy uniform that he’d had tailor-made while on leave in Newport. Rita liked how well fitted the new uniform appeared, but she’d also noticed that “he didn’t look like a usual sailor. He didn’t have those things [rates] on his shoulder.” She’d offered to sew on the chevron, but George had insisted he would take care of the matter with a crossbow hand-stitch he had perfected affixing rates on uniforms on board The Sullivans . He never got around to it, so, in the event the shore patrol inquired as to the whereabouts of his rating badge, George made sure to carry the chevron on his person when he and Rita set out for the city.

When they arrived in Manhattan at approximately noon, the city already buzzed with rumors of Japan’s anticipated surrender. However, neither Rita nor George listened much to people’s conversations. Intent on getting to the theater for the 1:05 movie, they made their way from the subway directly to Radio City Music Hall.
For all their rushing, George and Rita never saw the climax of A Bell for Adano , the movie they had come to see. After a few scenes of the film had played on the large screen, a theater employee interrupted the show by pounding on the entrance door and announcing loudly that World War II had ended. Radio City Music Hall patrons simultaneously leaped to their feet with a thunderous applause. Though President Truman had not yet received Japan’s official surrender, and the White House’s official announcement of Japan’s capitulation was still hours away, few raised the slightest objection to the premature declaration.

Seconds after the theater attendant’s announcement, George, Rita, and most other moviegoers poured out of Radio City Music Hall into a bustling 50th Street and 6th Avenue. As they merged into the frenzied scene, they fed off the contagious excitement that surrounded them. People yelled out news of victory and peace. They smiled and laughed. They jumped up and down with no thought of proper decorum. As if caught in a magnetic field, the historic celebration moved toward Times Square. People from other sections of the city were funneled to the same crossroads where they had gathered for celebrations in the past.
At the corner of 7th Avenue and 49th Street, George and Rita dropped into Childs restaurant for celebratory libations. As in other watering holes in New York, people walked, skipped and ran up to the jam-packed counter to tip a glass or two (or significantly more) to the war that they thought had finally ended. The scene at Childs looked much like that on 7th Avenue. Order and etiquette had been cast away. Rather than placing orders for a specific mug of beer or a favorite glass of wine, patrons forced their way toward the bar and reached out an arm to grab one of the shot glasses of liquor that lined the counter. A generous bartender continuously poured the contents of hard liquor bottles into waiting glasses. George grabbed whatever the server dispensed and did not ask what it was he drank. He knew the desired result would be the same whether the contributor was Jack Daniel’s, Jameson, or Old Grand-Dad. Even Rita gave over to the reckless abandon. After several minutes and the consumption of too many drinks, George and his date made their way out of the packed bar.
Emotions and alcohol-based fuel propelled them out into Times Square where victorious World War II celebrants continued to mass. George thought, My God, Times Square is going wild. And at that point, so was George. He felt uncharacteristically blissful and jubilant. As George moved briskly toward the 42nd Street subway station, the sailor fromThe Sullivans outpaced his girlfriend. For the moment, no one could corral George. And no one tried—not even Rita. The realization of a triumphant war created more vigor than his large frame could hold. He needed to release the energy. Rita did her best to keep up. At most points she trailed him by only a few feet. Although she enjoyed the folic through Times Square, she wondered if George would ever stop for a breather.

As the spirited celebration of Japan’s surrender grew, reporters from the Associated Press, The New York Times , the New York Daily News , and other well-known publications descended on Times Square to record the spontaneous merriment that was enveloping the world’s most important crossroads. Photographers added more bodies to a burgeoning impromptu gala. One of them represented Life magazine.

On August 14, 1945, the magazine sought pictures that differed from most others printed earlier in the war. On this day, Lifewanted its viewers to know what the end of the war felt like. The editors didn’t know with any degree of certainty what incarnation that feeling might take, but they left it to their photographers to show them—just like they had with other events over the publication’s nine-year history. Those unsupervised approaches had rarely led to disappointment in the past, andLife ’s editors trusted their photographers to deliver again today.

The magazine’s trust in its photographers was especially complete when Alfred Eisenstaedt was on assignment. He had photographed the people and personalities of World War II, some prior to the declaration of war and others even before Lifeexisted. As a German Jew in the 1930s, he had chronicled the developing storm, including a picture of Benito Mussolini’s first meeting with Adolf Hitler in Venice, on June 13, 1934. In another shoot he’d photographed an Ethiopian soldier’s bare cracked feet on the eve of Fascist Italy’s attack in 1935.

After the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States, Eisenstaedt focused on the American home front. In 1942 he photographed a six-member Missouri draft board classifying a young farmer as 2-C, indicating draft deferment because of his occupation’s importance to the nation. For another series in 1945, he visited Washington and photographed freshman senators performing comical monologues and musical numbers to entertain Capitol reporters. During World War II, Eisenstaedt showed the world what war looked like on the U.S. mainland.
On the day World War II ended, Eisenstaedt entered Times Square dressed in a tan suit, a white shirt with a lined tie, tan saddle shoes, and a Leica camera hanging from his neck. Despite his distinctive ensemble, he traveled stealthily amongst the kaleidoscope of moving parts looking for the picture. He made sure not to call attention to himself. He was on the hunt. He knew there was a picture in the making. Kinetic energy filled the square. Eisenstaedt wished for others to feel it, too. To create that sense, Eisenstaedt’s photo needed a tactile element. It was a tall order for the five-foot, four-inch photographer. He relished the challenge.

At some point after 1:00 pm, Eisenstaedt took a picture of several women celebrating in front of a theater across the street from the 42nd Street subway station stairwell. The picture showed ladies throwing pieces of paper into the air, creating a mini-ticker-tape parade. While the photo had its charm, it was not the defining picture Eisenstaedt was searching for that day.
Shortly after closing the shutter on that scene, he turned to his left and looked up Broadway and 7th Avenue to where 43rd Street connected to Times Square’s main artery. As Eisenstaedt continued to search for a photograph that would forever define the moment at hand, he peered around and beneath, but probably not over, the sea of humanity. News of the war’s end had primed America’s meeting place for a one-in-a-million kind of picture. A prospect would present itself soon. Eisenstaedt knew that. So he looked and waited.
Greta Zimmer stood motionless in Times Square near a replica of the Statue of Liberty and a model of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. To Greta’s left was Childs restaurant, one of several in New York, including this establishment at 7th Avenue and 49th Street. But Greta did not come to Times Square to stare at statues or belly up to bars. She wanted to read the Times zipper and learn if Japan really had surrendered to the United States.

With the 44th Street sign and the Astor Hotel to her back, she looked up at the tall triangular building that divided one street into two. The lit message running around the Times Building read, “VJ, VJ, VJ, VJ . . .” Greta gazed at the moving type without blinking. A faint smile widened her lips and narrowed her eyes. She took in the moment fully and thought, The war is over. It’s really over.

Though Greta had arrived in Times Square by herself, she was not alone. While she continued to watch the motioning “VJ” message, hundreds of people moved around her. Greta paid little attention to the swelling mass of humanity. But they were about to take notice of her, and never forget what they saw. Within a few seconds she became Times Square’s nucleus. Everybody orbited around her, with one exception. He was drawn to her.
Fresh from the revelry at a Childs on 49th, George Mendonsa and his new girlfriend, Rita Petry, made their way down Times Square toward the 42nd Street subway station. Rita fell behind George by a few steps. Meanwhile, Eisenstaedt persisted in his hunt for the photo. After traveling a block or so up Times Square, he took notice of a fast moving sailor who he thought he saw grabbing a woman and kissing her. That sailor was heading quickly south down Broadway and 7th Avenue. Wondering what he might do next, Eisenstaedt changed direction and raced ahead of the darting sailor. To avoid bumping into people in the crowded street, he had to look away from the sailor he was trying to track. He struggled to regain his focus on the Navy man wearing the formal Navy blue uniform. As he did so, Greta looked away from the Timeszipper and started to turn to her right. George crossed the intersection of 44th and 7th Avenue, lengthening the space between him and Rita. The photographer, the sailor, and the dental assistant were on a collision course.

With a quickening pace that matched the surrounding scene’s rising pulse, the sailor who served his country aboard The Sullivans zeroed in on a woman whom he assumed to be a nurse. The liquor running through his veins transfixed his glassy stare. He remembered a war scene when he had rescued maimed sailors from a burning ship in a vast ocean of water. Afterward, gentle nurses, angels in white, tended to the injured men. From the bridge of The Sullivans he watched them perform miracles. Their selfless service reassured him that one day the war would end. Peace would reign, again. That day had arrived
.
George steamed forward several more feet. His girlfriend was now farther behind. He focused on Greta, the “nurse.” She remained unaware of his advance. That served his purpose well. He sought no permission for what he was about to do. He just knew that she looked like those nurses who saved lives during the war. Their care and nurturing had provided a short and precious reprieve from kamikaze-filled skies. But that nightmare had ended. And there she stood. Before him. With background noises barely registering, he rushed toward her as if in a vacuum.
Though George halted his steps just before running into Greta, his upper torso’s momentum swept over her. The motion’s force bent Greta backward and to her right. As he overtook Greta’s slender frame, his right hand cupped her slim waist. He pulled her inward toward his lean and muscular body. Her initial attempt to physically separate her person from the intruder proved a futile exertion against the dark-uniformed man’s strong hold. With her right arm pinned between their two bodies, she instinctively brought her left arm and clenched fist upward in defense. The effort was unnecessary. He never intended to hurt her.
As their lips locked, his left arm supported her neck. His left hand, turned backward and away from her face, offered the singular gesture of restraint, caution or doubt. The struck pose created an oddly appealing mixture of brutish force, caring embrace, and awkward hesitation. He didn’t let go. As he continued to lean forward, she lowered her right arm and gave over to her pursuer—but only for three or four seconds. He tried to hold her closer, wanting the moment to last longer. And longer still. But they parted, the space between them and the moment shared ever widening, releasing the heat born from their embrace into the New York summer afternoon.
The encounter, brief and impromptu, transpired beyond the participants’ governance. Even George, the initiator, commanded little more resolve than a floating twig in a rushing river of fate. He just had to kiss her. He didn’t know why.
For that moment, George had thought Times Square’s streets belonged to him. They did not. Alfred Eisenstaedt owned them. When he was on assignment, nothing worth capturing on film escaped his purview. Before George and Greta parted, Eisenstaedt spun around, aimed his Leica and clicked the camera’s shutter release closed four times. One of those clicks produced V-J Day, 1945, Times Square . That photograph became his career’s most famous, Life magazine’s most reproduced, and one of history’s most popular. The image of a sailor kissing a nurse on the day World War II ended kept company with Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima. That photo proudly exemplified what a hard-fought victory looks like. This photo savored what a long-sought peace feels like.

Alfred Eisenstaedt was not the only photographer to take notice of George and Greta. Navy Lieutenant Victor Jorgensen, standing to Eisenstaedt’s right, fired off one shot of the entwined couple at the precise moment the Life photographer took his second picture of four. Though Jorgensen’s photo did not captivate audiences to the same degree that Eisenstaedt’s second photograph did, Kissing the War Goodbye drew many admirers as well.

And then it was over. Shortly after the taking of V-J Day, 1945, Times Square , Greta returned to the dental office and told everyone what was happening on the streets. Dr. Berke had her cancel the rest of the day’s appointments and closed the office. Afterward, as Greta made her way home, another sailor kissed her, this time politely on the cheek. For this kiss Greta no longer wore her dental assistant uniform and no photographers took her picture. And as far she could tell, she had not been photographed at any point in time during that day. She did not learn otherwise until years later, when she saw Eisenstaedt’s photograph of a Times Square couple kissing in a book entitled The Eyes of Eisenstaedt .

George did not realize that he had been photographed, either. When George turned from the act he’d instigated, he smiled at Rita and offered little explanation for what had transpired. As hard as it is to believe, she made no serious objection. George’s actions fell within the acceptable norms of August 14, 1945, but not any other day. Actually, neither George nor Rita thought much of the episode and proceeded to Rita’s parents’ home via the 42nd Street subway train. Later that evening, the Petrys transported George to LaGuardia Airport for a flight to San Francisco that left at approximately midnight. Neither he nor Rita discovered Eisenstaedt’s V-J Day, 1945, Times Square until 1980.

Excerpt reprinted, by permission, from Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi, The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2012).


Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

I just want to take a moment and wish everyone a very happy Memorial Day! This is a day we should all stop and pause to give thanks to those that have served this great nation past and present. It takes an incredibly amazing person to put something so great ahead of themselves. A military lifestyle is not an easy one. It's full of demands, and long hours, sometimes in conditions most of us wouldn't be able to stand an hour let along days, weeks, months and at years at a time. They leave behind loved ones, families, friends, children, wives, husbands, lovers...they leave it all in order to put on that uniform and stand a watch, drive a convoy, protect those that can't protect themselves. And most do it with a smile on their face knowing this is what they signed up for. They don't require thanks, they don't seek recognition, they don't seek fame. More often then not, they prefer no attention, they're just doing what they do. These are who are truly hero's.

So while you're having a fun today at picnic's, or BBQ's, while you're camping, or spending time at the beach, or just relaxing at home, please be safe and take a moment to thank those that have served, are currently serving and who are willing to serve in the military, protecting this amazing country, it's laws, it's history and it's beliefs.