At Sea With Hallie McCabe by Heather Ashby

Forgive and forget“Reveille! Reveille! Reveille! All hands heave out and trice up.* Reveille!”

How do you like my alarm clock on board the aircraft carrier, USS Blanchard? My dog tags will tell you I’m McCabe, Hallie L. 023-71-7048/USN/B-NEG/PROT. I’m a Petty Officer Second-Class in the United States Navy, and hopefully will never need a blood transfusion or the services of the Protestant chaplain—unless there’s a wedding to perform.

You want to hear about a day in my life? Well, batten down the hatches, folks, because it’s not the norm for most twenty-four year old American women. When Reveille is called throughout the ship at 0600, I scramble down from my three-tiered rack, careful not to step on the hands of my best friend, Gina Marini who sleeps below me, or get crushed by Crazy Trixie who sleeps above. We vie for the head—that’s the bathroom, for you land lubbers—along with the other thirty-three females in our berthing space. (Some of the males on the lower end of the food chain share sleeping quarters with one-hundred-forty-nine roommates. Can you imagine the smell?)

After I take my two-minute Navy shower—fresh water is precious on board ship, so you turn it off while soaping up, shampooing, or shaving your legs, then turn it back on to rinse—I dress and tidy up my space in berthing. Today I’m wearing a navy blue and gray camouflage shirt and pants outfit that blouses nicely into my steel-toed combat boots. Wait. I wear this outfit every day. My sleeping space is six feet long, two feet wide, and twenty-two inches high. Adding the drawer underneath and a locker nearby, I have approximately fifty cubic feet of personal space for the next six months. Life on board a deployed Navy ship has been equated to being in prison, but with a chance of drowning. But even prisons don’t have jets being launched and recovered on the roof at all hours of the day and night, making life aboard a carrier like living under the runway of a major airport.

After morning chow on the aft mess deck, I report for duty in the Public Affairs Office. I’m a Mass Communications Specialist, which is a fancy name for a journalist. Normally I write copy for the ship’s newsletter, update the ship’s Facebook page, and serve as a liaison with civilians when we’re in port. But ever since I fell in love with an Engineering Officer from the Blanchard a month ago, I pretty much hide out on board ship, skulking through the gray passageways between work, chow, and berthing.

I met Philip Johnston at a picnic on shore before we deployed. Having dated my share of jerks in the past, I was drawn to his integrity. He was a gentleman—and an officer. And, as it turned out, stationed aboard my ship. Since fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel is forbidden in the military, I rationalized the rules until I could find a way for us to sail off into the sunset together. When I discovered that a commissioned officer could only be accused of fraternization if he knew the other party to be enlisted, I didn’t tell him I was in the Navy. I said I was a television broadcast student at the local college, which was true. I never lied to him—except by omission.

I snuck back and forth to the ship for a month prior to deploying and still didn’t figure out how to tell him the truth. You see, if he knew, he would walk away in a heartbeat, because he is a man of honor, which is one of the reasons I love him. Once the ship got underway, I knew I could no longer keep up the farce. So I’ve written him a long letter explaining everything and I pray he’ll forgive me. I sure hope he reads that letter today because the Public Affairs Officer just offered me my dream job, which is to anchor Blanchard News Tonight on the ship’s TV network. I will be broadcasting live this evening, sharing news with the entire crew, including Lieutenant Johnston.

I joined the Navy in order to do my part in the war on terror. I gave up a cushy job in Washington so I could go to sea where the real Navy stories occur. This will become more and more apparent when the ship transits the Straits of Hormuz and enters the Persian Gulf. I may not be at the tip of the spear—I mean, it’s not like I’m going to engage al-Qaeda all by myself or anything—but if I can strengthen and support those who are at the tip of the spear, then I am doing my job well.

After all, the pen is more powerful than the sword, right?

Oops, gotta run. It’s time to change into my dress blues and get ready to go on the air. Wish me luck—that the show goes well and that Lieutenant Johnston reads that letter before the news tonight. And please keep your fingers crossed that he can forgive me for deceiving him. I only did it so we could be together because I loved him so much. I still do. And I always will.

Anchors aweigh!


Heather is giving away one (1) copy of FORGIVE & FORGET. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends July 27 and US entries only.

As a bonus, when the winner is announced, Heather will send another copy of the book to any service member designated by the winner.


You can read more about Hallie in Forgive & Forget, the first book in the “Love in the Fleet” military romance series.

Meet the author
Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for their Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romantic suspense novels, donating half her royalties to support wounded warriors and their families. The recipient for Forgive & Forget will be Fisher House Foundation – Helping Military Families. (fisherhouse.org.) Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her retired Naval Engineer husband.

*To learn the meaning of “heave out and trice up” and other Navy terms, sign up for Heather Ashby’s newsletter, The Scuttlebutt, at heatherashby.com.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

59 responses to “At Sea With Hallie McCabe by Heather Ashby

  1. Thanks for inviting me today, Dru. I love the idea of telling about a character’s typical day. What a great way to get to know them! And I love being able to share a few details of the living conditions for our Navy women at sea. *blows a kiss and says, “Thank you! for your service.”* I look forward to chatting with readers today.

    P.S. It’s Blanchard News Tonight, not “Blanchard New Tonight.”

  2. What a fun-filled day, sharing a closet living space with two women, and a two-minute shower, then dodging the man you love? Sounds like a great read, lots of action, including the perils of sailing into an undeclared war zone.

  3. LynDee Walker

    Excellent post, Heather! I really enjoyed the glimpse into Hallie’s life. Wow, those bunks are small! 🙂

  4. Thanks for stopping by, LynDee. Yup, things are pretty tight aboard ships. God bless our men and women at sea!

  5. Hallie sounds like the kind of ballsy sailor our Navy needs! What a great heroine!

  6. Great blog, Heather. I’m an 8-yr Navy vet but only toured a couple of ships and a sub in that time (which, considering I’m claustrophobic, is a good thing, because I’d never have gotten accustomed to sleeping in those, IMO, coffin-like racks), so it’s great to get an idea of life on board a carrier from the ladies’ POV.
    Best of luck on sales.

  7. Thanks, Molli, Maria, & Mairi. Yes, Hallie IS a ballsy sailor – and there are plenty more like her in our fleet! I agree with you, Mairi. I, too, had plenty of tours, but was never stationed on board ship – and now sure if I could have handled the living conditions. I loved being able to share some of the sacrifices our sailors make in my book. It’s one of my purposes in writing the series; to acknowledge our troops. And yes, Molli, having to dodge the man she loves makes for plenty more excitement!

  8. Love it! Great post, Heather, and what a great introduction to Navy life for us land lubbers. I’ve two uncles were in the Navy, but I think life on a ship has changed a lot since their time! Wishing you the best of luck on your debut launch!

    • Thanks for your good wishes, Larissa, and thanks for stopping by. It’s been fun sharing the Navy life with civilians. (and, yes, I’m sure it’s changed a bit since your uncles’ time – and mine too 🙂 One reviewer wrote, “All I knew about navy before reading this book was that it was a dark blue color.”

  9. And to think I wanted to join the navy. I had more room in Army basic! LOL, great post Heather. I tweeted.

    • I had more room in NAVY basic! I think the thing that would have gotten to me the most would be the noise. There are few places on a Navy ship that are quiet – and that includes sleeping quarters. Thanks for stopping by, Ella.

  10. I’d love to win!

  11. Wow, Heather–just, wow. Great post. I’m so eager to read Hallie’s story. This made me want to hop right into her fascinating world.(But don’t enter me in the drawing because you know it’s at the top of my TBT pile.)

    Wishing you huge success with your launch!

    • Thanks, Susan! I hope you enjoy the ride. (that would be “your first 6-month cruise. But with LOTS of action – both on and off the ship.) I’m flattered that it’s on your TBR pile. And I’m looking forward to time to read LOWCOUNTRY BOMBSHELL on my TBR pile. Don’t you wish Amazon sold TIME TO READ along with books?

  12. Interesting story. My older brother Bill served on what was then the world’s largest floating nuclear powered crap game. The BIG E (Enterprise). This was during the Viet Nam era. He was an electrician’s mate who was actually on shore with a backpack full of C-4, a roll of wire, and a detonator. That along with a .38 S&W handgun he was in charge of either salvaging the radio gear out of downed choppers or just blowing them up.
    I’m really interested in how life on board this carrier reads for a female officer.

    • Oooh, I love this description of the Enterprise: “the world’s largest floating nuclear powered crap game.” And his job sounded fascinating. (Hmmm. I think there’s a book in there somewhere.) BTW Book #2 in “Love in the Fleet” is about a Navy helicopter pilot. FORGET ME NOT comes out in December, and there just might- maybe-could-be a downed helo or two in it. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Having been in a family of servicemen in my family with a few of them having served in the Navy, I was so interested in your book, Heather. My daughter’s good friend and her husband are military folks living in Florida as I write this, and so I know exactly who will get the second book if I were to win. And I think it is so admirable that you are donating half of the money from the sale of this book to such a great charity. How wonderful.
    I loved the this interview and always find out something extra when I read Dru’s blogs. I am thrilled that you are following this book with a second novel too. Much success and a “boat load” of good luck and happiness in your future.

    Sincerely,
    Cynthia

    • Thanks so much for all your kind words, Cynthia. And thanks to your friends and family for serving in our military. I, too, love Dru’s blogs, especially “A Day in the Life.” It was FUN to become my character (even though I do it every day when writing them 🙂 and describe her day. Thanks for the “boat load” of good luck and happiness, and yes, this book has 3 siblings coming along behind it. Full speed ahead!

  14. Great post, I can’t wait to read this!! Some of the ‘lingo’ brings back tons of Navy brat memories!!
    Hoping for big sales, Heather!

    • Thanks, honorary shipmate! I’m sure some of the lingo in the book will ring some more bells. (And surely there’s a Navy pun in there somewhere. Four bells???:-) Thanks for your good wishes, Tammy. GREAT to see you last week at RWA!

  15. It was a pleasure meeting you, Hallie. Fair winds and following seas.

  16. Great post, Heather. I don’t think I’d be cut out for a life at sea. Too little space and I need more than two minutes to shower! Congrats on FORGIVE AND FORGET. Many happy sales!

  17. You and me both, honey! Not sure I could have done it even in the good, old days. (You know, when I wasn’t good and I wasn’t old?) I have even more respect for our troops at sea after researching this book. Thanks for your good wishes and thanks for stopping by!

  18. My grandfather, father and brother were all Navy, but my grandson is a Marine in Afghanistan just now. I even tried out for the Navy way back when. All the best with the book and hope to win a couple. Thanks. judydee22002@yahoo dot com

    • God bless you and your family, Judy – especially your Marine grandson in Afghanistan. My son joined the Army before 9/11 so combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq was a surprise – and heralded some of the scariest years of my life. I felt so blessed he returned safely, that I was called to retire early and write these books as my gift back to the military. I send prayers and blessings to you and your family and have requested an army of angels to watch over your grandson. God bless.

  19. What a wonderful story line. I want to find this book.

  20. What a suspenseful teaser! Congrats on having the book out in the world! No need to enter me in the contest — I already bought the eBook 🙂

  21. Thanks for stopping by, Annette! I hope you’ll enjoy “the cruise.”

  22. My brother was on the U.S.S. Independence. He was so proud of his time served aboard that aircraft carrier (he was one of the team of guys who guided the planes in). And oh, the shore leave stories he had to tell…that blond, blue-eyed rapscallion. He was a cutie so I know why the Latin ladies loved him and his dimples and fast footwork on the dance floor. You really brought Hallie to life today and gave me many memories of my brother’s time served. Can hardly wait to read your sequels!

    • I’ll have to chat with you later about the time frame. Seems like Indy was home ported everywhere we got stationed. Like I was following it around the world or something. Glad you enjoyed your brother’s sea stories. We all do have fun sharing them. Thanks so much for enjoying Forgive & Forget. I hope you like Forget Me Not too.

  23. Great post! I am looking forward to reading this book.

  24. A captivating premise, and you want to know what happens! Please put my name down, I’d love to read this book!

  25. Great teaser blog, Heather! I’m a Navy brat so lots of terminology is stuck in my head somewhere. My burning questions are…As big as those ships are, do you feel the wave movement? And the landing of a jet on an aircraft carrier has to be loud with sound and the thump as they hit. Is it?
    Best of luck, my Firebird sister! This one will soar.

    • I forgot you were a Navy Junior, Jean. I think you would enjoy the lingo in this book 🙂 I understand one does not particularly feel the wave action – but tell that to a sailor who is chronically seasick. And yes, the landing – and launches (the catapults are pretty loud too) – are deafening. Cannot imagine trying to sleep several decks underneath. I tried to work all of this into the story so that the reader could feel and hear just how challenging life aboard a carrier must be – in addition to being star-crossed lovers. Thanks for your good wishes!

  26. Wow, Heather. You’re the only author I know who knows her characters’ blood types! More amazement from yours truly!

    • Oh, you do make me laugh, Colette! Thanks for appreciating the details! And I am not one of those writers who knows details about my characters before writing them. They just kind of happen. But I had to know her blood type and religion for page 1. (I just looked it up in her service record 🙂

  27. Great post, Heather. My husband served on an aircraft carrier and I’ve always loved his stories about that time in his life. Looking forward to reading Forgive & Forget.

    • I hope you’ll enjoy it – and your husband just might enjoy it too. I’ve written it with both male and female readers in mind – especially those males held as a captive audience for six months at a time at sea. 🙂

  28. Love the post Heather. The details of a life at sea were so great ..and made me feel more in love with my unlimited shower time!:) Hallie sounds like a great character.

  29. I’d love to read this book and learn more about life at sea while I’m being entertained with your story.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

    • Thanks for your comments, Sue. I worked over time to try to blend in details of the ship and life on board with the character descriptions, dialogue, and action. It was tempting to simply dump information, but my awesome editor twists my arm behind my back and makes me keep the shipboard “stuff” in the background and the love story center stage. My goal IS for the reader to be entertained by the story, but to learn about life at sea subliminally. (BTW, I love my editor because she is able to get me to do things I didn’t know I could do.)

  30. Enjoy reading military types books, authors really do their research, in order to make the plot seems so real. I be adding this, to my read list.

  31. I don’t appreciate being reminded of those cramp quarters, Heather! LOL 😉
    I understand the liberties we writers need and you done did good.
    I don’t think I could ever write a book dealing with the Navy because I wouldn’t know where to draw the line on how much information is TOO much – but you did a fantabulous (is too a word!) job!
    BZ!

    • WOW. I take that as the highest compliment coming from a writer who spent countless hours, days, weeks, and months aboard an aircraft carrier. BZ back atcha’ for your service, Jennifer. Write ON!!!

  32. Thanks Heather for giving us a glimpse into Hallie’s day.

  33. contest is closed.

  34. Heather, your book is waiting for me at home. I can’t wait to read it. Great blog I loved it. Congratulations. 🙂 Was so great to meet you in Atlanta.

  35. Great to finally meet you too, Kathy. I hope you had a good conference. I hope you enjoy Forgive & Forget! (Even though you’re not a squid, like me 🙂