Tag Archive for Books

Mrs. Lieutenant – Winner and Questions Answered


The winner of Mrs. Lieutenant from the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival is Jo, who asked:

Was your info on the four different wives taken from the lives of family and friends, or of strangers? Are you portraying yourself in one of the four women?

Phyllis Zimbler Miller responds to some reader questions:

Great questions! And instead of trying to answer all of them individually, I’m going to write overall replies that I hope will answer almost everything.

Background of Novel/Characters

I wrote this novel based on personal experiences I had in the spring of 1970 when I was, indeed, a new army officer’s wife at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, right after the Kent State National Guard shootings.

Of course I mashed up incidents and people’s characteristics. And I dramatized and expanded incidents and personalities.

But what’s true is that, besides me – a Jew from Elgin, Illinois, on the entertainment committee for the graduation luncheon for the wives of the AOB officers were a Southern Baptist, a black, and two Puerto Ricans, one of whom didn’t speak English. Needless to say, we all had to do some adjusting to each other.

And while Sharon Gold is the closest character to me, I was not an anti-war protester. I had my head stuck very far in the sand in order to ignore the nightly news of fighting in Vietnam because my husband had said on our third date: “I’m going to Vietnam.”

In fact, my husband served two years on active duty, although he had signed up for a third year under a voluntary indefinite program. Then the military decided to reduce the number of ROTC officers on active duty.

Coverage of Iraq War/Fictional Depiction of Combat

One of the differences between the media’s coverage of Vietnam and today of the Iraq War and the fighting in Afghanistan, I believe, is that there was a draft during the Vietnam War. This meant that many more people were affected by what was happening half-way around the world. Today, with an all-volunteer army, the war isn’t as much of a major topic, so I think the media tend to give less coverage to war news.

And as to whether any book or movie can ever completely represent what it is like in combat, I don’t think so. But sometimes there are telling moments in a fictional story that are very compelling.

There’s a moment in the movie THE DEER HUNTER before two of the protagonists escape their captors that has forever stayed with me: An unknown American soldier stands waist-high in water in a wire cage with blood dripping down his face. He’s alive, but he’s not there; he’s retreated from the reality of his surroundings. To me the hopelessness on his face feels completely real.

Various Questions Answered

What I think is most applicable from those days to these days is that it is important to show support for the troops. While showing appreciation doesn’t promise to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder, it must be helpful to have a supportive public rather than a hostile public.

Best perk of being an army wife was when we lived in Munich we could travel all over Europe (on a very limited budget). And traveling around Europe is the one thing I do miss from my army days.

Hardest thing was worrying about my husband being sent to Vietnam.

For people who have no idea what the military is like, I think the most important thing to understand is that it is a very large extended family. And soldiers have to trust their comrades to have their backs. Thus military spouses must accept this reality and be willing to play their part as to what is expected of them.

I frequently blog about Lifetime’s ARMY WIVES at mrslieutenant.blogspot.com. I’ve read the non-fiction book by Tanya Biank on which the series is based, so I know how the stories have been changed from the book. And because it has been 36 years since I was a Mrs. Lieutenant, I can’t vouch for how accurate the series is.

I also can’t say how things have changed for junior officers’ wives since that time. But I’m pretty sure the wife of a low-ranking enlisted man still can’t be good friends with the wife of a post’s commanding general as in ARMY WIVES. [Technically, spouses of service members of any rank can be friends. Fraternization rules apply only to the service member. However, the restriction on fraternization for the service member can make such spouse friendships difficult. –Ed.]

The biggest challenge in writing this novel was giving up being a journalist (I have a B.A. in Journalism from Michigan State University) and learning how to write as a novelist.

While I can’t speak personally about how to stay connected as I wasn’t separated from my husband, I can say what I think is the hardest part of being a military wife: Not having control over your own destiny. Some bureaucrat somewhere can change your life forever. (In my case an army clerk in St. Louis probably saved my husband’s life when she postponed his active duty date until he got a response on his request for a branch transfer from infantry to military intelligence.)

Helping Our Troops

Right now Operation Soldier Care is a collaborative summer project between eMail Our Military and Mary Kay sales director Nancy Sutherland to get sun care and skin care packages to the troops dealing with the desert heat in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Go to http://emailourmilitary.blogspot.com to learn about the different ways you can help this project.

In addition, on my website www.mrslieutenant.com there’s a section about organizations supporting military families and personnel. One in particular – Soldiers’ Angels (www.soldiersangels.org) – is involved in sending letters and packages to deployed troops. And be sure to send your old cell phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers (www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com).

[There is also a post on An Army Wife’s Life about supporting our troops.

Thanks, everyone, for such good questions. I hope you’ll all read MRS. LIEUTENANT, and you can reach me through my website at www.mrslieutenant.com with more questions. And thanks to Candace at An Army Wife’s Life for hosting this giveaway. I really appreciate it.

Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section!!!

Mrs. Lieutenant Giveaway

We had a lot of fun last time with our giveaway of a signed copy of Mrs. Lieutenant, by Phyllis Zimbler Miller. Check out her guest post about an Army Wife’s First Day.

So, for the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival we’re doing it again!

Mrs. Lieutenant is a great read for anyone who enjoys Vietnam-era historical fiction, stories about the life of a military spouse, or a book that explores the relationships between a group of diverse women.

To enter to win a copy, just leave a comment here by August 1, 2008, 11:59 PM EST with a question for Phyllis Zimbler Miller.

You can visit the Mrs. Lieutenant site and/or check out her guest post from last month for ideas. You must leave A QUESTION for the author. Comments that simply say, “win” or “hello” or “nice book” will not be eligible. All readers with US, US military, and Canadian addresses are eligible.

Check back and we’ll post (and e-mail) the winner and, as a bonus, Phyllis will also answer a few select reader questions (will post on the morning of August 2). So don’t forget to bookmark An Army Wife’s Life and come back next week!

PS–A reader told me she got an error message. Not sure why Haloscan is acting up, but if you are unable to leave a comment, feel free to e-mail me your comment and your nickname and I’ll be happy to post it for you. Have fun with the contests!!!

An Army Officer Wife’s First Day

Please welcome guest blogger Phyllis Zimbler Miller, author of Mrs. Lieutenant, who has a second novel, Mrs. Lieutenant in Europe, in progress.

Sharon Gold’s First Official Day as a Mrs. Lieutenant

Robert reemerges from the bedroom in his uniform, carrying his uniform hat, and stands in front of her for inspection. She wants to say “good luck.” The words stick in her throat – don’t these words imply the opposite is feared? She says: “You look terrific.”

And he does look terrific if you like men in uniforms.

He kisses her good-bye at the front door. She stands on the balcony and watches him down the stairs to the car. He waves and mouths “I love you.” Then he’s gone.

She is without wheels and all alone.

In my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL, this is the first day that Robert Gold reports for Armor Officers Basic (AOB) training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, in May of 1970. Sharon is left in a strange new place – Muldraugh, Kentucky (not even mail delivery!) – with no friends, no car and no place to go.

Does this sound familiar to many of you? And while the book is fiction, this description is how I felt when my husband of six months reported to the first day of Armor Officers Basic.

I was unprepared to be a military spouse. Of course both my father and my husband’s father had served in World War II. But that war was different. There weren’t anti-war protesters chanting “Hell, no, we won’t go!” – or two years earlier “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” – on college campuses throughout the country. The first draft lottery had been only months before in December, and young men getting draft notices were fleeing to Canada.

Although my husband had told me on our third date that he was going to Vietnam, and although one of his best high school friends (who had volunteered for the army) had been killed in Vietnam, I had my head stuck in the sand like an ostrich. I neither watched the Vietnam casualty reports on the nightly news nor read the newspaper accounts of the combat actions.

And what’s more, here at Ft. Knox I was totally alone because the army hadn’t said whether ROTC second lieutenants reporting for AOB could bring their wives. I refused to stay home, and with great difficulty we had found decent off-base housing. Now nine weeks of isolation stretched before me.

Then my husband came home with an invitation for a function for the wives of his AOB class (see this invite at www.mrslieutenant.com in the section of original army documents). I attended the first function, where I learned that the army had a training program for AOB wives complete with a graduation luncheon. And that I needed to buy the $1 book “Mrs. Lieutenant” by Mary Preston Gross to learn how to be a proper officer’s wife.

Thus began my initiation into being a military spouse. And the plus side was that I started making friends, shared a car with another AOB wife, and had places to go – even if only (after Memorial Day) to the officers country club to work on my tan at the swimming pool!

Visit www.mrslieutenant.com to find out more about Sharon Gold’s fictional adventures as Mrs. Lieutenant.

WIN IT: Phyllis Zimbler Miller is offering a signed copy of her novel, Mrs. Lieutenant, to one reader. All readers with US, US military, and Canadian addresses are eligible.

  1. To enter, just leave a comment here by 9pm EST June 30, either about this post (for example, tell us about your own “first day” as a spouse or soldier) or about something you saw on www.mrslieutenant.com. Comments that simply say, “win” or “hello” will not be eligible.
  2. Click HERE to find out about another way to win from YourMilitary.com.

The Homefront Club Military Wife Advice Book (Review and Contest)

The Homefront Club: The Hardheaded Woman’s Guide to Raising a Military Family is essentially a much needed pep talk for Military Wives.

Author Jacey Eckhardt provides a way of looking at the life, not as a burden, not as a paradise, but simply as it is. Military Life, just like any other, has its ups and downs and its pros and cons, although the service does seem to heighten the highs and the lows.

The key to a happy life, military or otherwise, is how you view it. There are plenty of guides out there that will tell you what to do as a military spouse, but The Homefront Club shares some ideas about why.

Another guide book may tell you all about TRICARE and teas and coffees, which is useful information, but quirky variations between branches and posts and sudden changes of policy can quickly render any authoritative statement obsolete. So, instead of trying to take the place of a good Family Readiness Group, Eckhardt helps the reader put herself in the right frame of mind to make the most of her husband’s military career.

Don’t worry, though, this isn’t a rah, rah, Stepford Wife, rose-colored glasses kind of book. The book acknowledges all of the sacrifices inherent in military life. Assuming your husband is worth those sacrifices (and Eckhardt says he absolutely has to be for things to work), how can you accept and even embrace these challenges?

You don’t have to fall in love with the military, but if you are in love with your husband, isn’t it better to celebrate your life, rather than to wallow in misery?

After providing this food for thought, Eckhardt gets down to advice for military wives about finding a job, moving, and raising a family. She provides some excellent resources and ideas. The strength of the book lies in helping the reader be open to these suggestions.

We’ve all met the person who just wants to complain. You try to offer some help, but for every idea, she has a reason why it just won’t work. Eckhardt first tries to adjust that perception, then provides the strategies.

In addition to a philosophy of Military living and lots of tips, the book also has plenty of laugh out loud anecdotes about our warriors, our children, and ourselves.

Like many first editions, the book could use a little more editing–there are some minor errors and sometimes the train of thought gets a bit muddled.

Overall, though, The Homefront Club is an excellent read for a military wife at any stage of her “career.” Newcomers will get a helpful introduction that could save them years of bitterness. Wives a few years in will find a friendly voice to guide them in redirecting their thoughts towards happiness. And old timers will get a friendly reminder about why they continue to choose this life.

WANT IT: BUY The Homefront Club ($13.57)

WIN IT: I have a gently used copy (I read it once for the purposes of the review and the back cover has a crease from our latest move) up for grabs for anyone who would like this book for themselves or someone they know. Just leave a comment here with a helpful tip or a few words of encouragement for military spouses by February 1, 2008, 8PM EST. I’ll choose the winner at random and will ship to any US (including US Military addresses that count as US shipping) or Canadian address. This contest is part of the fabulous Bloggy Giveaways. Check out the other contests, but be sure to first leave your comment on this post if you want to be eligible to win this book. Good luck!

Best Military Spouse Advice Book (Poll Results)

A very nice military mom (and future military mother in law) asked for some advice about a good book for a new military spouse. I responded and also asked my readers for their suggestions, too. On Monday, I’ll have a review and giveaway of The Homefront Club: The Hardheaded Woman’s Guide to Raising a Military Family.

Here are the results of the reader poll (with 22 votes):

Books for Military Spouses and Wives (Ask Molly)

Hello Molly,

My son is a marine. He is recently engaged and going on his second deployment but the first for his new fiance. Do you have any book recommendations? I would like to get her a book to help from a girlfriend/spouse perspective and a journal for Christmas. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank your husband for his service and Thank you for serving all the important support lines.

Hello! What a thoughtful gift and a great question.

I’m assuming (a poor thing to do, I know) that you want some sort of advice guide, rather than a fictional work or a book of real-life anecdotes. If you were looking for something else, just drop me another line.

When my husband first joined the military, he bought me a copy of The Army Wife Handbook: A Complete Social Guide. I eagerly devoured the information about proper receiving line etiquette and calling card layouts. I can hear the other spouses snickering already. Needless to say, interesting as this was for the traditionalist and historian in me the advice didn’t have much practical application in today’s military.

So, I searched for another book and narrowed it down to Today’s Military Wife: Meeting the Challenges of Service Life and Married to the Military: A Survival Guide for Military Wives, Girlfriends, and Women in Uniform (the one I chose). Based on other’s opinions, I felt that Married to the Military would be the more practical of the two. Amazon now has search inside features for both books, however, so you can check them out.

The reviewers on Amazon seem to have a love-hate relationship with Married to the Military, which I think stems from their feelings towards the author’s online community bulletin board, CinChouse. I’ve never been a part of that board, so I don’t quite understand the drama.

I found Married to the Military to be a helpful, if very basic and exclusively female-oriented, guide to life as a Military Spouse. It is an easy-to-browse, clear, and helpful primer for new spouses. If I weren’t in the middle of a move, I’d pull it out and be more specific, but I do recall that there were lots of bullet points and call-out boxes for quick reference.

Two new(er) books on the market that look promising are Homefront Club: The Hardheaded Woman’s Guide to Raising a Military Family (I’ll be reviewing this and giving away a copy in the New Year) and Help! I’m a Military Spouse–I Get a Life Too!: How to Craft a Life for You As You Move With the Military, Second Edition (I hope to be reviewing this one, as well).

The Homefront Club certainly has an appealing title–what? me? hardheaded? And, I’ve read some columns by Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer, authors of Help! I’m a Military Spouse and based on those I have high hopes for the book.

In the meantime, since I won’t be able to review these before you need to purchase the book, perhaps readers can chime in with their thoughts and suggestions.

Finally, although I’m not personally a huge fan of the series, those who enjoy homespun wisdom, tear-jerking life affirmations, and inspiring anecdotes will get pretty much exactly what they expect from Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul: Stories to Touch the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit. They gave these out at one of our deployment briefings and I know a lot of the spouses appreciated it. So, that’s a good option if you know you like this series.

The challenge with these books is that each service, post or base, and even each family is different. In trying to apply to all, the risk is that you are relevant to none. Being a military spouse is really on the job training and she’ll hopefully get lots of help from other spouses in her community–or from online communities. However, I do think a book can be a great peak into this lifestyle she is about to enter and a wonderful gift. She’s lucky to be gaining such a sweet mother-in-law.


let us know which one you pick and your thoughts once you browse it, too!

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

PS: The links above are for the books at Amazon. Also, if you plan to buy online, I have a coupon code for Barnes and Noble: Click HERE to save 25% on one item at Barnes&Noble.com. Use coupon code N6R7C4J. (expires 12/18/07)

And by the way, I know you already have experience, but many parents have found AUSA’s Guide for Parents of Deployed Soldiers helpful, and it may have some information that is useful for a Marine Mom as well: Your Soldier, Your Army ( you can download for free as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file; available in Spanish, too!)

Sammy’s Soldier Helps Children Cope With Deployment: Review & Contest

Sammy’s Soldier is sweet picture book, written to help young children feel more comfortable with the deployment process. You can have a chance to win a signed copy at the end of this post.

As both a trained family counselor and the wife of a former Marine, Ms. White understands how confusing and trying deployments can be for our littlest patriots.

Her book follows Sammy through the preparations leading up to his father’s deployment, some of the activities Sammy and his mother do during the deployment, and then finally the homecoming. Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing a few more pages identifying ways Sammy and his mother pass the deployment.

The naturalistic illustrations and simple text make for an easy and enjoyable read for children, ages 3-8. At the end of the book is a page for the child to draw a picture of his or her own hero.

This picture book is a wonderful starting point for children to discuss deployment with their families, including their feelings about the deployment and also ways they can cope with their emotions positively.

Military life is certainly different from civilian life (in fact, this review was delayed as our final military move ended up taking up more time and energy than I had planned) and Ms. White understands that. Sammy’s Soldier goes a long towards normalizing the deployment experience, making it less threatening and stressful for military children.

This is a great book and I’m hoping to pass it along to someone who can use it. Whether you have a young child who loves a soldier, or you know of a friend who would like the book, or you are a soldier’s angel, it is simple to enter this contest.

As part of the Rocks in My Dryer Fall, Y’all Bloggy Giveaway, I’m hosting a giveaway of a copy of this book, which has been signed by the author.

All you have to do is leave a comment by November 2 and make sure to include an e-mail or website where I can reach you. Your e-mail does not appear publicly but I will be able to view it. I hate spam and will only e-mail you if you win!

Contest Ends: 11:59, November 2 and the winner will be announced on Nov. 3

While you are here, don’t forget to check out my upcoming Military Family Blog Carnivals (with a prize) and the opportunities to Guest Blog.