Research time. Again.

I finished writing a fully fleshed second draft of my year 2013 story strand. Yay. The last ten chapters are much stronger and I'm so excited that his part is ready for beta reading.

Now I need to work on my 1930s and 40s strand, (not as many chapters as 2013).  So with that in mind, I've a few books to read.

  • Farewell to East Prussia: A German Boy's Experiences before and during World War II  by Erhard Schulz, 2003, the 2015 English edition Ortrun Schulz
  • Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia by Max Egremont, 2011
  • Vanished Kingdom: Travels through the History of Prussia by James Charles Roy, 1999 

I'm particularly intrigued to read Farewell to East Prussia as it was originally written by a man who grew up in Elk Valley County,  East Prussia until he was 11 years old, when they fled.  

In my story, the 1930s is told from the point-of-view of a woman from Konigsberg, East Prussia, just on the eve of World War Two.

I have already read some non-fiction books about East Prussia, trying to get a sense of place and time. These are the other books, although the first book, I only read the chapter pertaining to East Prussia:  

  • Vanished Kingdoms: The rise and fall of states and nations by Norman Davies, 2012
  • The Fall of Hitler’s Fortress City: The Battle for Konigsberg, 1945 by Isabel Denny, 2007
  • Before the Storm: Memories of my Youth in Old Prussia by Marion Donhoff, 1990

And I've also been scouting for novels that take place in East Prussia. 

Searching for the unsearchable

Have you ever skimmed a writers blog, got caught by a book description, and attempted to find the book online at Indie Bound bookstores or search your local library digitally so you could put a hold on it?

Then discover it's not out yet?

Ha! I did that just yesterday while reading the Kill Zone, a blog for suspense writers.

Judith Newton guest blogged and her new book, Oink: A Food for Thought Mystery, comes out April 17. As its title proclaims, Oink is a mystery; specifically, it's a cozy. 

comes out April 17

comes out April 17

I'm intrigued. 


More books....

When it gets hot and muggy outside, I enjoy reading. Here are my most recent reads.

I enjoyed Me and Mr. Darcy. Yes, The Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is a light-hearted romance about a woman who yearns to find her own Mr. Darcy and the interesting events that happen when she takes a Jane Austen tour in England. 

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter

 Family Tree has 2 timelines: Now and Then. After reading the first set of Then chapters, I chose to skip the rest of them, reading only the Now chapters. The plot reminded me of a combination of two of Barbara Delinsky's books; Lake News and Coast Road. It is a heartwarming story of a woman who suffers traumatic head injuries and her eventual recovery at her childhood home in Vermont. 


Writer Unboxed

Another writing blog I follow daily is Writer Unboxed.  Their first book is coming out, which has essays from many of the regular columnists and more. Their focus is on the craft of writing. Scroll down the table of contents listed on the August 2, 2016 Writer Unboxed column. There are seven sections to the book: Prepare, Write, Invite, Improve, Rewrite, Persevere, and Release.  

I am excited! To have all of those excellent voices about craft in one place is a huge bonus. The soft-release date is November 1st. 

book recommendation

I have not taken a creative writing course or workshop for many years and am thoroughly enjoying Spellbinding Sentences even though I've only just started reading it.

Since I started writing fiction, there's been a huge learning curve. For the past 2-3 years, I satiated my curiosity about structuring story effectively. Not to say I've perfected this on my Work in Progress, but I've gained confidence in being a storyteller as far as characters and setting and conflict and tension. So now it's time to tackle my insecurity about my grasp of the English language.

Baig makes a distinction between content skill and craft skill. One focuses on our imagination, the storytelling itself while the other focuses on words.

Content and craft skills are the yin and the yang of writing: You have to have both.

She compares creative writing with the disciplines required of musical instruments and sports. There's a need to practice and there's a need to have a mentor or coach to help us break complex skills into smaller bits to become better skilled with each piece.

This book contains exercises, the first of which is free writing. Free writing feels very similar to journal writing except the focus is on the words themselves rather than the experiences or thoughts or feelings we may write in a journal. And I did skip ahead to Chapter 8, where she details the definitions of nouns and verbs. Maybe pointing out the obvious to skilled writers and I retained some memory of the basics. But I love the details of the four types of nouns and the four types of verbs. I'm in writerly geek heaven.   

Memories of a Czech Dissident: 1939-2008


new book from Iona Community associate Tomas Bisek from Handsel Press

This book tells the story of Tomas’ life in what was then Czechoslovakia: his early childhood during the Second World War, his youth and army service under the Soviet Communist regime, his life as a minister in Church of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren, his signing, along with his wife, Daniela, of Charter 77 and their subsequent persecution by the regime, leading to their exile in 1985. Tomas relates how they then came to Scotland with their young family and, struggling with the pain of exile, he worked as a minister in Cumbernauld and in Glasgow until they were able to return in 1996, after the collapse of the Communist regime, to a Prague that was much changed.

Tomas and Daniela will be in Edinburgh to attend a launch event for the book during the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly:Wednesday, 25th May at 1pm in the Augustine Centre on George IV Bridge.

To order Finding My

Context of Love

I grew up reading the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer, the romance suspense stories of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis Whitney, and the Harlequin romances of the 70's.  I loved escaping into the worlds these authors created, the search for trust, and the happily ever after endings.

But today, we live within a more aware sensibility. The romances listed above were about middle or upper class white women and men. I did not imagine, even undescribed secondary characters, as people of color. 

Today, novels are available that take into account the complex reality of our culture. More and more stories describe protagonists or supporting characters as people of color, and how skin color affects the lives, not only the individual, but also of other people caught in the web of relationships within the community itself. 

This year, I have read two novels by Barbara O'Neal. She is a new author for me and I'm delighted to find her. I just finished her book, The Lost Recipe for Happiness. Not only does she write about romance and a particular woman's growth, she also taps into an immigration raid and how that effects the restaurant community in her story. She builds in the nuances that exists within the Spanish speaking community--Mexican, Spanish, Indian--just as she makes distinctions between Jewish, Russian, and Irish.

Within this last year, I have also enjoyed stories by Celeste Ng, Bernadine Evaristo, Heidi Durrow, and Jacqueline Woodson as well as Roxane Gay's non-fiction book. They are not all americana happily ever after like the books I read in the 70's.  But I am a curious person and I want to learn about the world around me, through non-fiction, and through novels.