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Ann Kathleen Otto


Blog posts

The Underground War: Fort Hackenberg

One of the more interesting stops on World War 2’s Western Front is the Hackenberg in Veckring, France. Hidden under wooded hilltops of the Moselle River Valley, it was part of the Maginot Line in Lorraine. After the Great War (World War 1), France worried about a future war against Germany, and wan…

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Sacrifices on the Western Front

The next stop on our World War 2 tour takes us through the Voges mountains to Lorraine’s American Cemetery in St. Avold, one of many French, German and American cemeteries on the tour. It also provides excellent historical context to this period of the war. Linden trees line the avenue leading up to…

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Back Roads to Ulm and the Black Forest

Traffic on the German autobahn is challenging today, so to get to the next stops on our World War 2 tour,  the driver chooses to take country roads, which turns out badly for him, but good for us. It’s especially helpful for me to see the type of terrain that soldiers traversed in World War 1, which…

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Salzburg and the Eagle's Nest

A main attraction for David on our World War 2 memorial tour was a visit to Adolph Hitler’s tea house atop the rocky summit of the Kehlstein peak near Berchtesgaden in the German Bavarian Alps. His father visited the bunker at the base of the mountains and possibly Hitler’s hideaway as well.

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Dachau and Munich

The next stops on our memorial tour are contrasts in setting—one for solemn reflection, the other for hedonist celebrations. Welcome to Dachau and Munich.


We enter the gate that reads Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Sets You Free”), which appeared on entrances to Auschwitz and other concentr…

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The Road to Nuremberg

Our Memorial Tour starts in Frankfurt. It’s the fifth largest city in Germany and has Europe’s busiest airport. You hear a lot about German efficiency. That isn’t our experience.

German Efficiency

Two large flights arrive at the same time, and we are in the under-staffed and uncontrolled…

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Two Wars in Perspective

“My travels taught me that there was no area of Europe free from the memories and monument of the First World War.”  Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History

I echo Gilbert’s comment. We saw these memorials in our travels, too. You can find  small monuments to military lea…

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Tracing History

Have you ever wanted to dig deeply into an ancestor’s past? I did that for some of my family members for Yours in a Hurry. Now it was my spouse’s turn. This is a first in a series of blogs reflecting on a recent World War 2 Memorial Tour. If you follow my site, you know that history is a family p…

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Character and Craft

I just finished reading Characters and Viewpoint (2010) by Orson Scott Card, one of many books on writing I’ve read the past few years while developing my writing skills. This is one of the best, not just because it deals with character building and emotions, but because Card is an author and teache…

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A Passionate Request

At the recent 109th Annual Hartle Reunion a family member presented me with a letter dated November 17, 1909. It was written by my grandfather, Thomas Purl, to a man who would soon be a relative. Unlike the one postmark used today, this letter is stamped by five postal services beginning at Fort Mo…

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Worth a Thousand Words

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Looking at a family photo can give hints as to why some things turn out the way they do. Body language and facial expression tell a lot. In this photo of my mother and her siblings circa 1926 (right), William, standing at left, looks disturbed abou…

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Hollywood's Silver Screen Beginnings

“I believe we have an acquaintance in common, David Griffith. He and his wife Linda are long time colleagues of mine," Harriet said.

"Yes, since he has started filming his motion pictures here, he's become acquainted with our neighbor Paul deLongpre," Daeida replied.

This discussion took pla…

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Historical Transitions

When you're writing a novel about a period of rapid change, it's sometimes hard to tell if you're using the right terminology. That's the case for Yours in a Hurry which takes place between 1908 and 1912. Here are some examples of choices that had to be made.

"Addison stood in line outside of …

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Memories of Great Dining

There’s no question that Americans love food. Major and minor life events, as well as lively discussions, are often remembered by where we were, and maybe what we were eating or drinking. Our Yours in a Hurry characters were no different. Here are three examples with excerpts from the book.


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Aviatrices of the Silver Screen

Actors in the silent era appeared in aeroplanes, but pioneer aviators Harriet Quimby and Blanche Stuart Scott were both actors and script writers. Once the public saw photos of them flying, it didn’t take the movie makers long to discover that they could draw crowds by appearing on film or writing…

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Titanic Survivor Dorothy Gibson

It's the 105th anniversary of the international tragedy, the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Those who have read Yours in a Hurry know that the date also had significance for Harriet Quimby. Walter Lord's  A Night to Remember may be the most popular novel about the event, but my Dorothy …

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When Miss Katherine Stinson Flew

While reading materials for an earlier blog on Frank Terrill I noticed female pioneer aviator who came after Harriet Quimby, Katherine Stinson.

The Flying Schoolgirl

Katherine was born in a small town in rural Alabama in 1891. When she became the fourth woman in the United States to obtain her…

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Reading Rooftops

Here’s a trivia question: Why did people read rooftops in the early 1900's?

I  recently asked some of my readers for stories relating to Yours in a Hurry. Shirley Riemenschneider of the Rootstown Ohio History Society replied that she recently came upon a story about New Milford, now an unincorp…

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Escape to America

In last week's blog, Steve Bauer shared some of his Hungarian roots which would eventually lead his family to America. Steve's story continues with details of the family's political problems and escape from Hungary.

Hungary 1956

By 1956 dad was a foreman at an Army Weapons Command Center. I rememb…

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Ohio Hungarian Heritage Part 1

In organizing material for my next novel, I found that many Hungarians were among the immigrants working in Ohio’s Appalachia in the early 1900’s. A friend, Steve Bauer, offered to share the story of how his Hungarian family took root in Ohio. Although they settled in the greater Cleveland area, Ste…

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20 Blog Posts