Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Truth of the Truce

“The Christmas Truce really happened.”

That’s the opening sentence of Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton’s book, Christmas Truce: The Western Front, December 1914, which remains, 30 years after publication, the definitive account of one of history’s more improbable events.

Twenty years after I first read it, while researching my novel Flower of Iowa (where the Truce makes a cameo appearance), the declaration takes on a different resonance. In 1984, and even in 1994, there were plenty of people, especially in America, who had never heard the saga: that on December 24 and 25, 1914, Christmas trees glowed atop some of the trenches of the Great War, and some of the soldiers, primarily German and British, strolled out to meet one another in No Man’s Land.


Since then, a veritable cottage industry has grown up around what was once considered by many to be a quaint legend. To be sure, this true story lay beneath some aspects of pre-1990s popular culture (think of what inspired the Royal Guardsmen’s unexpectedly stirring 1967 novelty song, “Snoopy’s Christmas”).

But the past two decades have seen an outpouring of accounts, including children’s books, a rather middling Oscar-nominated film (Joyeux Noël) and an opera based on its screenplay, even a very good folk song (John McCutcheon’s “Christmas in the Trenches,” released the same year as Brown and Seaton’s book, but only within the last decade a Yuletide radio staple).

This season has seen at least two new entries that immortalize the Truce. The first is an elaborate commercial (yes, a commercial!), a three minute, forty second-long fanciful re-creation of that event, replete with exquisite production values, a suspiciously well-scrubbed cast, and remarkably neat trenches. At the end there appears a sentimental phrase about the holiday and the name of the sponsor: Sainsbury’s, a British chain of supermarkets. Of particular interest to Flower of Iowa fans, the chief relationship in this mini-movie is a flat-out bromance between two young soldiers, one English and German, each of whom just happens to be the most good-looking boy in his army.


A far grittier evocation of the Truce is In Fields Where They Lay, a new play by Ricardo Pérez González. Developed and directed by Brad Raimondo, it runs through December 27 (including, in an inspired touch, a centennial Christmas Eve performance) at the New Ohio Theatre in New York’s West Village. I caught opening night, and it was clear that Raimondo has read his Brown and Seaton: the soldiers, like their trenches, are down and dirty, and filled with hatred for the unseen enemy, which makes the latter’s appearance (fairly long into the performance) all the more touching and arresting. If it is not a perfect work of theater, still everything about it, including the actors, makes it well worth seeing if you are in Gotham this Christmastime.

All of which leads us back to questions. Why has the Truce so captured our collective imagination, and why now? Why did up to 100,000 men lay down their arms for a day, or two, or a week, and go out in peace to meet their enemies face to face in No Man’s Land? And, most puzzling: why did the Truce not start a revolution that would end the war to end wars?

Books and songs, movies and plays can only give us partial answers. Ultimately we must draw comfort, even joy, from Brown and Seaton’s simple statement of fact: The Christmas Truce really happened

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Commemoration

A full house was in attendance last night for the Veterans Day dramatized reading of author Lance Ringel's Flower of Iowa at Arts Mid-Hudson in Poughkeepsie. 

During the musical interludes by Chuck Muckle, several of the audience members sang along to songs popularized during The Great War. Thanks to Linda Marston-Reid, executive director of Arts-Mid-Hudson, a longtime crusader for arts programs in the Hudson Valley, for hosting this successful event.

Here are photos of the event:







Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Performance in Poughkeepsie

Author Lance Ringel and his partner, actor Chuck Muckle, will appear in their home town next week for "Gay in the Great War," a program combining literature and music from World War I. Lance will read excerpts from his acclaimed novel and Mr. Muckle will perform songs made famous during The Great War, including "Over There" and "It’s A Long Way to Tipperary." This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

The event takes place on Monday, November 10th at Arts Mid-Hudson at 6:00 PM. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend. All attendees must RSVP in advance to events@artsmidhudson.org or call (845) 454-3222.
For more information, please call (845) 454-3222 or visit www.artsmidhudson.org.

Arts Mid-Hudson is located at 696 Dutchess Turnpike, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Monday, October 27, 2014

An American in Paris

Lance Ringel in Paris
Lance Ringel and Chuck Muckle's 17-day odyssey spanning three countries, seven states and eight readings concluded on Saturday in Paris, where the author of Flower of Iowa and his spouse/co-presenter visited a Great War Exhibition at Les Invalides

This visit complemented a pilgrimage they had made to London to see an even more comprehensive centennial exhibit at the Imperial War Museum, and the poppy installation at that city's eponymous Tower. 

In the wake of the tour — and a tweet in praise of the book by author/actor/director/comedian Stephen Fry — Ringel's eBook has enjoyed a strong, renewed surge in sales, and currently ranks #2 on the Historical Fiction and #3 on the Gay Fiction best-seller lists on Smashwords.com.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Wading Through Seas of Red

The juxtaposition of the words “art” and “installation” usually gives me a chill, and not in a good way.  In the past, I have seen too much public art and too many art installations that have been bland, pretentious or both.  

But from the moment I read about “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the installation of 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London, I was convinced that Paul Crimmins has created something worthy of the World War I centenary. I also was convinced that I had to see it for myself. (The number of poppies corresponds to every British and Empire/Commonwealth soldier who died in The Great War.)

And this morning, Chuck and I did so. We attended as part of a huge crowd of other pilgrims, as the installation has indeed become a tremendously successful piece of public art. But as vast as the crowd was, it was overwhelmingly quiet and subdued, as befits a visit to what feels essentially like a cemetery. 


The inspiration of the artwork is even clearer when one is on-site. Poppies come flowing from the Tower in a gush of symbolic blood and fill the moat in an undulating ocean of red that surrounds the ancient structure. (Only an aerial photo could do the extent of it full justice.) I was struck in particular by the strong presence in the crowd of the very old and the very young. “Blood Swept Lands” is a work of art that speaks to all generations. Everyone who visits comes away keenly aware that each red flower in that sea represents a human life lost in a tragic conflict.  


On November 11, the date when The Great War ended in 1918, the final symbolic poppy will be planted in the installation. (All planting has been done by volunteers.) After that, “Blood Swept Lads and Seas of Red” will be dismantled, and the poppies will be sent to those who have paid 25 pounds apiece to own one, with the net proceeds benefiting service charities. I had planned to buy one when we got to London, but all 888,246 already have been sold. I don’t mind that; it means that this extraordinary artistic achievement has touched hundreds of thousands of others, too.

Praise from a Renaissance Man

My novel has a very important new champion: actor, comedian, author, journalist, activist, broadcaster and film director Stephen Fry! Here's what he Tweeted this morning, and I am honored:

Reading a truly wonderful WW1 novel. A gay romance, but not soppy or silly. So truthful and touching facebook.com/flowerofiowa @FlowerOfIowa

To view it on Twitter, please click here. And, please follow us @FlowerOfIowa

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Return to the Windy City

Lance Ringel and Chuck Muckle brought their “Gay in the Great War” dramatized reading and music program to Chicago’s famed Gerber/Hart Library on Saturday, October 18, where an appreciative crowd was in attendance. For the author, it was a true homecoming; Ringel, an Illinois native, is a former Chicago resident. He served as the editor of Windy City Times, the city's long-running LGBT newspaper.

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives was founded in 1981 to be a depository for the records of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals and organizations, and for other resources bearing upon their lives and experiences in American society. Gerber/Hart Library and Archives is now the Midwest's largest LGBT circulating library with over 14,000 volumes, 800 periodical titles, and 100 archival collections.

Below are photos from the event:






Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Great War Pilgrimage

Fresh from a Midwestern book tour that saw Lance Ringel and Chuck Muckle present seven readings of Ringel's WWI novel Flower of Iowa in seven days, the intrepid pair arrived in London where, to their amazement, they found a monument to the London Rangers — the very battalion to which David Pearson, one of the heroes of Flower of Iowa, belongs. 

The monument stands just around the corner from the pair's favorite bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Double-Header in Cleveland

On Monday, October 13, Lance Ringel and Chuck Muckle brought their Flower of Iowa fall book tour to the Cleveland area in a pair of readings.

The first took place at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Ringel and Muckle’s words-and-music presentation “Gay in the Great War,” program occurred in conjunction with the Center’s Senior Drop-In during the lunchtime hour. 


That evening, Lance and Chuck performed their dramatized reading with music at the private home of a longtime friend in nearby Huron, Ohio. One guest delighted those in attendance by dressing authentically as a Great War nurse.


Ringel and Muckle will give six more presentations through October and November, including a private reading date in London. The tour concludes in Ringel’s hometown of Poughkeepsie, NY, with a November 10 reading with music on the eve of Veteran’s Day.

Please visit our events page for detailed tour information. You may order an eBook download of Flower of Iowa by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Flower of Iowa Blooms in Pittsburgh

The 2014 Flower of Iowa fall book tour continued this past Sunday, October 12, with a reading and music at The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh. Here, author Lance Ringel and his spouse, actor/singer Chuck Muckle, presented excerpts from the acclaimed WW1 novel. In addition, Muckle performed several classic songs made popular during The Great War, including “Over There” and “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary.” The presentation was made in conjunction with a meeting of the Center’s Men’s Group.

This engagement was a special one for the pair; Ringel and Muckle, now together for 38 years, first met while both were attending the University of Pittsburgh.


Ringel and Muckle will give 7 more presentations through October and November, including a private reading date in London.

Please visit our Events page for detailed tour information. You may order an eBook download of Flower of Iowa by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall Book Tour Kicks Off in Brooklyn, NY

The 2014 Flower of Iowa fall book tour kicked off last night at the The Brooklyn Community Pride Center, where author Lance Ringel and his spouse, actor/singer Chuck Muckle, presented excerpts from the acclaimed WW1 novel. 

Ringel and Muckle will give 7 more presentations in 7 days on a 5-state tour that begins Oct. 12th in Pittsburgh and concludes Oct 18th in Chicago

Please visit our events page for detailed tour information.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dramatized Reading & Music in Milwaukee, WI on Oct. 15

Author Lance Ringel continues his book tour across America. Following appearances in New York, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Lance will offer a dramatized reading from his acclaimed World War I saga Flower of Iowa at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center on Wednesday, October 15 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. 

Ringel will be joined by his spouse, actor-singer Chuck Muckle, who will perform several songs made famous on the battlefields of World War I. 

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center GLCC is located at 1110 North Market Street, 2nd Floor, Milwaukee, WI 53202. Admission is free, and the program is open to all. The event is in conjunction with a meeting of the Center’s SAGE's 50+ Support Group.

Flower of Iowa was selected in May as one of the top summer reads by The Advocate magazine, and has attained the #1 spot on the gay fiction best-seller list, and #2 on the historical fiction list, at Smashwords.com.

The mission of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center is to further develop the vibrant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the greater Milwaukee area, thus improving the quality of life for everyone. The mission is supported by the Center’s leadership in community building, health promotion, advocacy, and communications.


For more information, call (414) 292-3070 or visit mkelgbt.org.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dramatized Reading & Music in Cleveland on Oct. 13

To commemorate LGBT History Month, author Lance Ringel has scheduled several events for October on his book tour across America. Following appearances in New York City, Pittsburgh, and Madison, WI, Lance will offer a dramatized reading from his acclaimed World War I saga Flower of Iowa at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland on Monday, October 13th from 11:00 AM to noon. 

Ringel will be joined by his spouse, actor-singer Chuck Muckle, who will perform several songs made famous on the battlefields of World War I. 

The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland is located at 6600 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102. Admission is free, and the program is open to all.

Flower of Iowa was selected in May as one of the top summer reads by The Advocate magazine, and has attained the #1 spot on the gay fiction best-seller list, and #2 on the historical fiction list, at Smashwords.com.

The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland seeks to create a community that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every person regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and inclusive of class, race and ability. They work collaboratively with other LGBT and ally groups to address community needs and issues. More info: lgbtcleveland.org.

For more information, call (216) 651-5428 or visit lgbtcleveland.org.

Friday, September 26, 2014

One War, Two Camps

Discussion of the American role in World War I can fall into two, sharply divergent camps: those (mostly Americans) who think the U.S. was chiefly responsible for the Allies winning the war, and those (mostly Europeans) who think the American contribution to victory was negligible.

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. The pro-American camp conveniently chooses to overlook years of gallant fighting by the British, the French, the Russians and their assorted allies, not to mention the fact that the opening salvo of the Allies’ Grand Offensive — that eventually won the war in 1918 — began with the Battle of Amiens on August 8. On that date, armies composed primarily of British and Empire troops dealt the enemy such a blow that General Ludendorff himself called it “the black day of the German Army.”


As for the opposing school of thought, that the Yanks contributed but little to the Allied effort, I offer this historical evidence: On September 26, 1918, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a combined Franco-American effort that involved more than a million Doughboys, kicked off near Verdun, site of the war’s worst bloodletting two years earlier. In coordination with British and French gains further to the north and west, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (which plays a pivotal role in my Great War novel Flower of Iowa) cemented Allied victory in the war, ending only with the Armistice of November 11.  


But not unlike their Allies, the eager yet inexperienced Doughboys paid a deadly price. More than 26,000 American soldiers died in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and nearly half of them are buried in the American Cemetery and Memorial near Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. This burial place contains the largest number of American military dead in Europe from any war — more than 14,000. A beautiful and sadly under-visited place today, the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery serves as a reminder that the sacrifices of Americans in the First World War are indeed worth recounting, and remembering.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dramatized Reading & Music in Madison, WI on Oct. 16

Author Lance Ringel continues his book tour across America. Following appearances in Provincetown, Brooklyn, New York, and Pittsburgh, Lance will offer a dramatized reading from his acclaimed World War I saga Flower of Iowa at OutReach, The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Central Wisconsin, on Thursday, October 16 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM. 

Ringel will be joined by his spouse, actor-singer Chuck Muckle, who will perform several songs made famous on the battlefields of World War I. 

OutReach is located at Gateway Mall, 600 Williamson St., Madison, WI 53703-3588. Admission is free, and the program is open to all.

Flower of Iowa was selected in May as one of the top summer reads by The Advocate magazine, and has attained the #1 spot on the gay fiction best-seller list, and #2 on the historical fiction list, at Smashwords.com.

OutReach’s mission is to promote equality and quality of life for LGBT people. The organization and its predecessors have offered the Madison-area LGBT community continuous service for 35 years.

For more information, call (608) 255-8582 or visit www.lgbtoutreach.org.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dramatized Reading in Pittsburgh on Oct. 12th

Lance Ringel and Chuck Muckle return to the city where they first met — Pittsburgh — to offer a dramatized reading from Ringel's acclaimed World War I saga Flower of Iowa. The pair will present their event at The Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) of Pittsburgh on Sunday, October 12 from noon to 1:30 PM, in conjunction with a meeting of the Center’s Men’s Group. 

The GLCC is located at 210 Grant Street, Pittsburgh. Admission is free, and the program is open to all.

Muckle, a Pittsburgh native, and 
Ringel, were both students at The University of Pittsburgh when they met nearly four decades ago.

Flower of Iowa was selected in May as one of the top summer reads by The Advocate magazine, and has attained the #1 spot on the gay fiction best-seller list, and #2 on the historical fiction list, at Smashwords.com.

The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh (GLCC) provides gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, their families and supporters in Western Pennsylvania with resources and opportunities to promote visibility, understanding, and equality within the LGBT communities and the community at large. The GLCC works toward these goals through education, social support, networking, and advocacy.

For more information, call (412) 422-0114 or visit visit www.glccpgh.org

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dramatized reading and music at Brooklyn Community Pride Center

Lance Ringel, author of the acclaimed World War I saga Flower of Iowa, will read excerpts from his eBook, joined by his spouse, actor-singer Chuck Muckle. Mr. Muckle will also perform several songs made famous during The Great War. 

This summer marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. October is also LGBT History Month.

Gay in the Great War, a dramatized reading from 
Flower of Iowa
Presented by author Lance Ringel with period music by Chuck Muckle 
Monday, October 6, from 6:00 PM until 7:30 PM. Free admission.
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
4 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

The Brooklyn Community Pride Center was incorporated in 2008 and founded both to celebrate the diverse lives and experiences of the LGBTQ community of Brooklyn, and to address profound community need. 

For more information, call  Info (347) 889-7719 or visit www.lgbtbrooklyn.org.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reading and music at the Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago on Oct. 18

Please join us for an afternoon reading and music from the Great War at the Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago on Saturday, October 18:

Gay in the Great War, a reading from Flower of Iowa by Lance Ringel with period music by Chuck Muckle
Saturday, October 18, from 3:00 PM until 4:30 PM
Gerber/Hart Library
6500 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60626

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives was founded in 1981 to be a depository for the records of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals and organizations, and for other resources bearing upon their lives and experiences in American society. Gerber/Hart Library and Archives has since grown into being the Midwest's largest LGBT circulating library with over 14,000 volumes, 800 periodical titles, and 100 archival collections.

For more information, call (773) 381-8030 or visit www.gerberhart.org

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the road with Lance and Chuck. Author Lance Ringel, accompanied by spouse Chuck Muckle, whistle-stopped into gay summer mecca Provincetown, Massachusetts, to present a dramatized reading with period music from Flower of Iowa

The event happened Thursday evening, August 14, at Provincetown Public Library in the Marc Jacobs Reading Room. The pair performed the scene where American soldier Tommy Flowers and British soldier Davey Pearson share their first, tentative kiss. 

Muckle performed several songs made popular during the war, including "Over There."


Monday, August 11, 2014

Reminder: Lance Ringel Reads this Thursday at the Provincetown Public Library

To commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of World War I in August, author Lance Ringel will read from his acclaimed novel Flower Of Iowa at the Provincetown Library this Thursday, August 14. The event is titled “Gay in the Great War.”

Ringel will be joined by his spouse, veteran singer-actor Chuck Muckle, who will perform songs made popular during World War I. 

The evening of reading and song will be followed by a Q&A with the author. The event will take place from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM in the Provincetown Library’s Marc Jacobs Reading Room. The library is located at 356 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657. Admission is free.

For more information about this event, please click here.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flower Of Iowa eBook Giveaway!

To commemorate the centenary of The Great War that begins this month, author-historian Lance Ringel will give away an eBook download of his acclaimed novel Flower of Iowa to the contestant who provides the best statement (in 50 words or less) on this topic: "A century later, this is why World War I still matters to me."

Your answer may be framed in personal or historic terms. Mr. Ringel will evaluate all submissions and choose the most powerful one. Entries should be submitted by Friday, August 15. The winner will be selected before month’s end. 

Please send your submission to us by clicking here.

Pauline Park Welcomes Authors to Book Fest 2014

Pauline Park, acting executive director of Queens Pride House, the borough's LGBT community center, welcomes participants to Book Fest 2014 on August 5th.


Pauline Park and Book Fest 2014 Authors at Queens Pride House

From left: Pauline Park; photographer Mariette Pathy Allen who introduced her book TransCuba which focuses on Cuba's transgender community; Laura Erickson-Schroth, M.D., editor of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, a resource guide for transgendered and gender-variant people; Lance Ringel, who gave a dramatic reading from his WWI novel, Flower of Iowa; Leslie L. Smith, author of Sally Field Can Play the Transsexual, the first novel about PEP and PrEP; and Nancy Agabian, whose memoir Me as Her Again, discusses being bisexual in an Armenian family.