Thursday, June 6, 2024

NBtM Virtual Book Tour: Playing Army by Nancy Stroer

Guest Post

If I’d never heard of me, would I read my book


Toni Morrison said you must write the book you want to read, and absolutely that’s what I’ve done here. I’m writing fiction about ordinary women in the peacetime military—not women who want to fly fighter planes or make it through SEAL training, although, all hail those women, too! But I think stories about women breaking into formerly all-male spaces are already getting out there. Hollywood, and the publishing industry, are cashing in on them. But in a way those stories misshape the ideas that non-military people have about women who serve, and even skew their perspectives. I don’t think the public realize that only a tiny number of us (of all genders) are special operators, and the emphasis on women in the glamorous fields—or let’s call it high-profile instead, since all of it is hard, hard work and not glamorous at all—tends to make the rest of us think that’s the ONLY legitimate kind of military service. And more damaging still, it makes women veterans think our service was uninteresting, or unimportant. Somewhat less than.

But there are so many fascinating, aggravating, heartbreaking and hilarious stories going untold because women think no one will be interested in them. That unless we were breaking the sound barrier or single-handedly overcoming enemy machine gun nests, that we didn’t really exist in the military in quite such a worthy way that others did. And I was in! I know how cool and layered and unexpected and surprising other soldiers were, even if we weren’t skulking behind enemy lines or saving the president. The vast majority of people in the military are cooks and clerks and mechanics and medics and I am desperate to read about how things were for them, too. All this time I’ve been writing about “ordinary” soldiers I’ve been looking for other books about us and not finding much. Any time I came across a story even remotely like what I’m trying to do with my fiction, I snatched it off the shelf and inhaled it like a canteen of cool water on a long, hot road march. I was and am pretty desperate to find or create a community of other female-aligned military writers.

And absolutely yes, if I’d never heard of me I would a hundred percent read my book, and if you’re a woman writing fiction or narrative memoir about your military experiences (spouses, civilian women in military communities, veterans, active duty—all of it is interesting to me) please, please get in touch! I want to know you! There needs to be so many more of us telling our stories.

It’s 1995 and the Army units of Fort Stewart, Georgia are gearing up to deploy to Bosnia, but Lieutenant Minerva Mills has no intention of going to war-torn eastern Europe. Her father disappeared in Vietnam and, desperate for some kind of connection to him, she’s determined to go on a long-promised tour to Asia. But the Colonel will only release her on two conditions—that she reform the rag-tag Headquarters Company so they’re ready for the peacekeeping mission, and that she get her weight within Army regs, whichever comes second. Min only has one summer to kick everyone’s butts into shape but the harder she plays Army, the more the soldiers—and her body—rebel. If she can’t even get the other women on her side, much less lose those eight lousy pounds, she’ll never have another chance to stand where her father once stood in Vietnam, feeling what he felt. The Colonel may sweep her along to Bosnia or throw her out of the Army altogether. Can you fake it until you make it? Min is about to find out.


Excerpt


My heart raced, not in a good way, as a helicopter thudded overhead toward Hunter Army Airfield twenty miles away. Had my father died in a helicopter assault? The notification only said he’d gone missing in a fire fight, but he’d been assigned to the air cavalry. He hadn’t been a movie star like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, though—just another Air Cav soldier who disappeared in the Mekong Delta in April of 1969. I imagined myself crouched backward over the skids of a Huey. Terrified, with the sound of AK-47s firing below and nothing to connect me to safety but a nylon rope. Nothing but the empty black maw of my ignorance waiting to swallow me whole. You would think, if my father had been liked and respected, the soldiers from his platoon would have responded to the letters I’d written but no one ever had, leaving me only questions so corrosive my insides burned.

It was strange how the absence of a person could occupy so much mental real estate, but the Army—all of America, really—was obsessed with the bodies of the soldiers left behind. The dead were probably at peace—I had to believe that—but those who remained were not. For me, nothing but boots on the ground in Vietnam would satisfy my relentless drive to understand, and Korea was the closest place to Vietnam the Army would send me.


Nancy Stroer grew up in a very big family in a very small house in Athens, Georgia and served in the beer-soaked trenches of post-Cold War Germany. She holds degrees from Cornell and Boston University, and her work has appeared in the Stars and Stripes, Soldiers magazine, Hallaren Lit Mag, Wrath-Bearing Tree, and Things We Carry Still, an anthology of military writing from Middle West Press.


She’s a teacher and a trainer, and an adjunct faculty member of the Ellyn Satter Institute, a 503(c) not-for-profit that helps individuals and families develop a more joyful relationship to food and their bodies. Playing Army is her first novel.

Social media links:

https://twitter.com/Nancy_Stroer

https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancy-stroer-86213089


Giveaway


A randomly drawn winner will be awarded a $25 Amazon/BN gift card.




17 comments:

  1. Thank you for having me, Momma! :) I'm happy to answer any questions readers (or potential readers) might have!

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  2. "Playing Army" by Nancy Stroer! It's an emotional and thought-provoking novel about the struggles of a military family. The author does a great job of capturing the domestic war experience.

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  3. The guest post and excerpt sound good.

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    1. Thank you, Marcy! If you end up reading it, I hope you enjoy it!

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  4. Nancy, I'm really glad you wrote Playing Army. I'm not a military person, but I sure am greedy to read more fiction and memoir about the lives of 'ordinary' women in the military.

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    1. Sorry for mistakenly publishing the comment anonymously!

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    2. You're the best, Ellen, and I'm so glad that my story is making you want to know more about the experiences of the vast numbers of military people who never see combat. I think it's pretty fascinating, too!

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  5. Regardless of my status as friend and beta reader, I can wholeheartedly recommend PLAYING ARMY. Nancy captures the essence of every-day active duty military life, from the intense to the anticipatory to the mundane to the personal life beyond the uniform. Even as it is set thirty years in the past, the challenges Minerva and her troops face are just as relevant in today's military. For those of you pre-ordering the book, you are correct. For those of you who haven't yet, you have time to make it correct.

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    1. Thank you (as always) for the support/encouragement, Jay. When I was working on the book I had some women who were more recent veterans read it & give me feedback. I was curious about what had changed and what hadn't for women in the ranks. I guess I was hoping they'd tell me things were so much better now - but instead one of them told me she thought I was dialing it back! Wow! It was/is such an impossible space to occupy.

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    1. Give it a try! If you do, I'd love to hear what you think!

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  7. After reading the excerpt I really wan to read this book...

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    1. Thank you, Michele! Here's the preorder link to Bookshop (slightly less expensive than Amazon): https://bookshop.org/p/books/playing-army-nancy-stroer/21352626?ean=9798888243701

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