Courtney Williamson Milford is back with her Historical Fantasy novel, Graced 1943.
Check out Courtney’s previous visit with Dot & the Nutrition Club
When I decided to write The Grace Family Chronicles, I knew the series would be historical fiction with a touch of fantasy. I have been told that “historical fantasy” is not a true genre, but it is the best way I can describe Graced 1943, and the rest of the series. The history is real, but the characters are fictional, and most of them have special powers called “Graces.”
I majored in American lit at the University of Florida, and have read many books about World War II, so I believed I could write about this era with confidence. I am constantly doing research, learning about topics pertinent to the books, ranging from the history of Irish Travelers in the U. S. to early 20th century Hungarian politics.
Graced 1943 starts out with Annelisa Grace-Betterman, a young mother weakened from recent childbirth, searching for her kidnapped infant son. She is Graced as a Locator, meaning that she can Locate a person by listening for his or her heartbeat. The sound of her son’s heartbeat draws her to him successfully.
I began with this scenario to show that Graced people are often targets of those who want to exploit their powers. In this case, the kidnappers mistakenly believe the baby to be Graced as a Midasian Multiplyer, which would give him the ability to Multiply wealth. Throughout much of the first book, Annelisa and a few other characters work on ways to protect her son, and the other Graced children, from kidnapping and other dangers.
Graced 1943 introduces most of the major characters who will appear throughout the series, which is heavy on adventure and drama. Rescue missions abound, and the characters, like most Americans at the time, contribute to the war effort, often making personal sacrifices. For example, Annelisa writes detective novels to entertain the troops, and raises her family alone while her husband, an astrophysicist, works in the atomic weaponry lab in Los Alamos, NM.
The Grace family is fabulously wealthy, due both to inherited citrus wealth, and to Annelisa’s father’s Grace as a Midasian Multiplyer. They live in a Miami Beach luxury compound called Gracestone, and they also have a secret private island off the south Florida coast called Cinq Terras. Habitually, they keep to themselves and solve their own problems, as many outsiders don’t understand Graces, and find Graced people peculiar.
The action sometimes borders on slapstick, and I stay away from sites like Auschwitz out of respect, although the characters do venture into miserable places, such as besieged Leningrad. Suspense is a key ingredient of the various storylines, many of which continue into the series’ next book. Graced 1943 climaxes in a cliffhanger, as do all the books in the series, other than the last one. I make sure to put this in the book descriptions so readers will be aware of it. I also keep the books priced low, and available on Kindle Unlimited, so readers will not feel like I am trying to force them to spend a lot just to find out what happens next.
The most important lesson I learned while writing Graced 1943 was to write to please myself. If I found myself bored with a passage or character, I eliminated it. This way, writing and revising was a treat, not a chore.
I also invented a tagline, which is NSR: Never Stop Reading. To me, the most important pastime for a writer, other than writing, is reading.
Set against a backdrop of World War II, the Grace family and friends live in, and operate out of, Gracestone, a Miami Beach luxury estate. Most of them are “Graced,” meaning they have special powers: Navigators can get anywhere without a map, and are never lost; Incapacitators are never bested in a fight, and can turn any item into a weapon; Knowers can learn all there is to Know about any topic, just by concentrating on it for a few moments. There is no finite number of Graces, and a person can be Graced in more than one way,
In Graced 1943, the first book in The Grace Family Chronicles, the characters are focused on protecting the children of Gracestone. Kidnapping is always an issue, mainly because its patriarch, Henri Grace, is a Midasian Multiplyer, meaning her can Multiply wealth, and he has passed this rare Grace onto one of his grandsons. Greedy people, and even the U. S. government, target Midasian Multiplyers, hoping to exploit their ability to make money.
Like most Americans in the mid-1940s, the Grace family and friends are enmeshed in World War II, and the action moves to the atomic weaponry lab in Los Alamos, NM, and to Europe and South America, and then back again to Gracestone for Henri’s wife’s ill-advised Christmas Ball in December of 1943. Be warned: the ending is a cliffhanger, and it leads into the second book in the series, The Atherlings 1944.
This series has the feel of an old-fashioned radio soap opera crossed with a comic book and a war drama. The cast is large, and their lives intermingle, sometimes in surprising ways. Graced 1943 is a book for anyone who enjoys actions tinged with humor in a setting that features real history, and larger than life characters.
Back story: Cy, an Incapacitator who can never be bested in a fight, and Boris, a Russian Protector, are looking for Cy’s dead wife’s younger brother, Niko, in besieged Leningrad. They live in Miami, but are undercover, dressed as Soviet soldiers. Romnel is a triple agent sent by the U. S to see to their safe passage in and out of the beleaguered city, as long as they do not stay for more than 24 hours.
The two men arrived at the building within minutes. Cy pushed open the apartment door that bore the number the doctor had given them.
“Nikolay Greys!” Boris shouted. The two women and men were home. They were unwashed, with open sores around their mouths that, fleetingly, gave Cy the impression that they had been eating something bloody. They were bundled up in winter coats, although it was not much under 60 degrees Farenheit in the apartment. They sat on the floor with their backs against the wall.
“Otvali,” snarled one of the men, telling them to get out. Boris raised a hand to cuff him, but Cy signalled for him to desist.
“On mertv,” the woman muttered, indicating that Nikolay had died. Seeing something sly in her eyes, Cy walked into the next room.
“Nikolay?” He knelt next to a skeletal boy, who lay on the floor. The boy gave a feeble nod.
Boris stood over Nikolay’s roommates, demanding to see their ration cards. Weak as they were, the men tried to fight, obviously believing he meant to steal them. When Boris raised his boot to stomp on one of the men’s hands, the woman called out for him to stop, and showed Boris what he wanted to see. There were five ration cards, including Kristiana’s and Nikolay’s.
Cy and Boris helped themselves to a blanket, Cy hoping that the insects he saw were fleas, rather than lice. They carried the boy, using the blanket as a stretcher.
Walking down the street in this manner, they did not attract much attention. One or two people glanced at them quizzically, then quickly looked away, as though they wondered why the soldiers would be bothering with the corpse.
“On dolzhen byt’ synom,” Cy heard one of them say. “It must be a son.”
Cy and Boris were not optimistic about their chances of getting out of Leningrad while carrying the near-comatose boy. The longer they walked through the city, the more they realized how much they probably stood out, with their well-fed bodies and Florida suntans. Cy wished they had thought to get their hair buzzed short. The citizens of Leningrad were too starved and beaten down to take an interest in them, but Cy thought the soldiers at the mouth of the corridor leading out of Leningrad would be more alert.
As an Incapacitator, Cy knew if he could somehow turn the boy into a weapon, he could use him to overcome anyone. Devising a last-minute plan, the two men moved swiftly toward the barricade that stood at the mouth of the corridor.
“Chuma!” Boris called out. “Dvigat’sya v storonu!” He was announcing that the boy carried plague. There had been rumors of bubonic plague in the city, although Cy did not think any actual cases had been reported.
The guards jumped back.
“On zarazhen chumoy?” one guard exclaimed with alarm. “Zapisat’ yego!” He gestured toward a large furnace that was used for burning refuse, and to keep the guard area warm. He wanted them to toss in the boy’s body, or at least Cy hoped the guard thought the boy was dead.
“Excuse me, but I’ll take care of this.” Romnel spoke through the open driver’s side window of the large black military Jeep in which he had just pulled up. He urged the men to hurry inside the car with the boy. The confused guards did not react.
I live in Windermere, Florida with my husband and three children. I have owned and operated a wholesale automotive fleet leasing company called Courtney Leasing, Inc. since 1991. I just started writing in January 2016.
I have a degree in English and a master’s in secondary education, both from the University of Florida.
I am writing a series called The Grace Family Chronicles. it is historical fantasy in that the history is accurate, but the characters have special powers called “Graces.”
I also write a children’s picture book series called Tales of Bark Story Land.
My other books include two additional children’s picture books, and two middle grade books. I am working on converting a book I wrote blog-style into a middle grade novel.
Thanks for your interest. NSR (Never Stop Reading.)