3 Things I Love About Ghostwriting and 1 not so much

Ghostwriting is the art of taking someone else’s story and writing it up so that it reads like they are talking and engaging with the reader. And though it may seem most often that a ghostwritten book is nonfiction, as in a business book detailing a CEO’s inspirational way of taking a company from zero to fortune 500, or a biography of someone who has had a fascinatingly unique life, would it surprise you to learn there are also a fair number of fiction books that have been written with the help of a ghostwriter?

Much of my current day job requires me to ghostwrite articles for others, often on technical solutions to real-world problems industries face. I always learn something new and get to indulge my inner geek as I do extra research into the theories and the history of the technologies I write about.

Recently, it got me thinking about the nature of ghostwriting and why I enjoy it.

1.       I love hearing other people’s stories

I’ve written about this in the past. For some reason people want to tell me their stories. Their experiences, their secrets, their hopes and dreams they don’t normally tell others, they are comfortable telling me. For me, it highlights that interconnectedness of us all because I see so many similarities in the histories of individual people as well as their dreams for the future, no matter where on my travels I find these stories. Such as the time I took a train from Northern Italy to Strasbourg, France, and I shared a compartment with an elderly Italian gentleman who was traveling outside of Italy for the first time in his life to visit his banker son in England. They were going to see a soccer match, he told me with great enthusiasm. Though my Italian was very limited and his English was almost non-existent, we spent hours talking. He showed me pictures of his family and using simple words we were able to share stories.


2.       I get to share those stories with others

By writing the stories I collect into fiction or articles or a non-fiction book, I get to share what I’ve learned with others. It may sound a tad simple and maybe sentimental even, but sharing stories is in our DNA. And so many of these stories resonate with readers. Not just the biographies of war survivors, or people who’ve overcome tremendous odds to succeed, though those matter, don’t misunderstand, but I’m talking about the smaller stories of every day heroics or struggles. The, at the same time, unique yet ordinary lives. Or a simple technology solution for an industry that ordinarily wouldn’t consider using that.


3.       I get paid to write

That might seem trivial, but I assure you it isn’t. Getting paid for doing something I love validates the work I do and encourages me to do more. It encourages me to continue to hone my craft, but also allows me to share my skills and help others grow as they pursue their dreams of writing. Whether it’s guiding an intern to write blogs, or helping a new writer figure out how best to structure his book on architecture, guiding a coworker on the most impactful way to arrange information for a presentation, or writing a speech for a CEO using his notes and ideas.

The one thing I’m less fond of in ghostwriting is that sometimes you don’t get to tell the story that would appeal to readers; the one you really want to tell. Like the time a wily octogenarian hired me to write “a book, no a screenplay, no maybe it should be a book, oh let’s make it a screenplay it’ll be a thrill for the kids and grandkids to see my name in lights.”

His story idea was decent enough, if a bit old Hollywood of the Cary Grant – Rosalind Russell era, but he tried to stuff it with too many subplots that he insisted should be in there because he was paying for me to put them in there and he felt Hollywood had gotten away from good stories. It was a losing battle. All the while, though, he was also telling me about his life which would have made for a real page-turner … I tried very hard to convince him to let me write that story, but he refused. He didn’t want his kids to know all that about him. So, I filed it under “secrets”. Between you and me, it would have saved his kids hours of therapy had they known, but sometimes you just have to let it be. Chalk it up to learning.

I look forward to the next ghostwriting project as each one brings something new.    



Calling it Research, but really …

In less than a week the moving truck will have picked up all my stuff – books mostly – and my son’s computers and books, and then a few days after that we both load up the car and head out to Colorado.

A new beginning for both of us.

But, and here’s where research comes in, I will be driving along some of the roads I will have my characters in the sequel to Out in theDark (by Nicola Adams) driving on as they try to turn to tables on the rogue group, bent on doing harm to innocents, that we met in the first book.

It’s not the first time I’ve driven my character’s road and that time too it helped me get deeper into the character and what he had to deal with. The same with my WWII novella, Tales from the Fountain Pen, on site research makes a difference. 

I’m hoping this 3-day long road trip, with a cat and a teenager, will give me more sensory details to put in the second book. To make Jake’s journey seem that much more real to you, the reader. Although I’d rather not have adventures like he will, my psychic/remote viewing skills are not even close to what his are.

We also won’t be driving a super cool vintage muscle car, but that’s okay …  maybe for book 3?

I’d love to blog from the road, but I don’t think that will be practical this time around. I’ll sign off for now to finish packing and probably won’t blog again until I’m set up in Colorado.

In the meantime, please feel free to pick up a copy of Out in the Dark, leave a review and spread the word. You might be surprised how relevant this story is to today’s tumultuous world. And reviews help build an author's success.
I look forward to reading what you think of it.
Thank you!

The Importance of a Good Spine

You might think I will now lecture you on the importance of good posture for a writer when sitting at her keyboard and typing away. Sure, that’s important, however, I would much rather talk about book spines.

The other day I had the extreme pleasure of spying my book on the shelf at a local bookstore; a very exciting moment, until I realized why it had taken me a while to spot it.

The spine doesn’t jump out!
There it was tucked in between a couple maroon colored spines and some black and brightly colored ones. I’d never given much thought to color or font use on a book spine, but suddenly I found it very important.

When I came home the first thing I did was browse my own many bookshelves (yes, way too many. How am I ever going to move all those books to Colorado next month?) to explore the spine issue in greater depth.

What I found is that most of the books on my shelves had clearly readable words on the spines and most made good use of font size, contrast and/or color. Some even have a small picture of the front cover on the spine. My Terry Pratchett paperbacks immediately spring to mind, or popped off the shelf if you prefer.

Even the Penguin classic paperbacks stand out with their old orange spines and more recent versions with black and yellow spines.

It’s given me something to think about as I progress on my journey as published author. In particular, what information and color options to give to the cover artist.

Getting a book on the shelf in a store and then having it get picked up by a reader requires a true synergy of talents. So I’d like to give a big ‘thank -you’ to everyone who helped make that happen for Out in theDark. 

A Car for Jake in the Sequel

Based on reader feedback and my own desire to write more books featuring Jake and Shelley, I’ve started researching and writing the next book in the Out in the Dark series. Book 2 will be an even wilder ride than the first book.

First order of business is a car for Jake. He had a lot of fun with his father’s 1965 Pontiac GTO, but now it’s time he has one of his own. Together with my muscle car loving offspring and a spreadsheet put together by a car fanatic brother, I’ve been narrowing the choices down.

Imagine my delight when I spotted a bunch of 1960s muscle cars lined up at a local gas station. Just waiting for me! Very considerate of them.

So, what would an almost 18-year old boy like to drive? The Plymouth Barracuda? The Impala? 

Or how about that sweet little black 1968 Camaro Super Sport (top picture)?
Judging by the flutter in my chest and the grin on the offspring’s face, I’m picking the Camaro.
So stay tuned for book 2 and more crazy car chases!

Full confession, which I know you all will keep a secret: I have a weakness for 1960s American muscle cars, Italian sports cars and Ford trucks. Not sure what a shrink would make of that, but it’s part of who I am.

Enjoy the ride and please leave a review of  Out in the Dark!

Book Signing Success

My first ever book signing was a great success. I met many new and interesting people and I signed and sold all but one of the books the store had.

I will admit doing this was seriously stepping outside my comfort zone, but as the sages say, only by stepping out of your comfort zone and doing new things will you learn and grow.

Requests for a sequel are already coming in so I'll keep this short and get writing!
Thank you to everyone who showed up last Saturday and everyone who bought the book and is excited about it.

For the month of April it's still on sale directly from the publisher (also available in Ebook format), otherwise it can be found at your preferred online retailer or by request at your local bookstore.

Enjoy the ride!

New Logo
Meet YA Author Nicola Adams!
Saturday, April 2nd
We are pleased to announce that Untreed Reads author Nicola Adams will be appearing at Magnolia's Bookstore in Seattle, Washington at 11am on Saturday, April 2nd.

Nicola will be presenting her new young adult adventure novel Out in the Dark.

We strongly encourage you to reserve your autographed copies ($16 each) ahead of time from Magnolia's Bookstore by contacting the store directly at 206-283-1062. Nicola will also be signing copies at the event.

This title is also available in ebook format directly from the publisher at http://bit.do/nicolaadamsbooks or wherever ebooks are sold.

About Out in the Dark 

Jake's father is one of a group of psychic warriors from a CIA/Stanford University project designed to train people in "remote viewing," but he's been taken by a rogue unit with more sinister plans for his skills. Now, seventeen-year-old Jake must set out on a journey to rescue his father. Jake doesn't know where his father is, and his only clues are the flashes of images he gets in his mind. Taking his father's vintage 1966 Pontiac GTO, Jake sets out across the Cascades from Washington, to Nevada. Along the way he picks up Shelley, a girl scarred by poverty and who has had to do some pretty unpleasant things to get together enough money to go to college. He was only going to give her a lift to Nevada, but soon they're both running for their lives.

 "A fast-paced roller coaster adventure for a daring young man, trying to save his father's life." -Lynne Kennedy, author of Pure Lies

"Following secret government psychic experiments, Jake needs all the help he can get to save his father. The psychic link helps him ... mostly! Stephen King needs to watch out!" -Richard Hardie author of the Temporal Detective Agency series.
Nicola Adams at Magnolia's Bookstore in Seattle, Washington
Magnolia's Bookstore
April 2nd, 2016
3206 W. McGraw Street
Seattle, WA 98199

Out In The Dark now available!

As promised, information on my just released latest novel.

OUT IN THE DARK, written under the pen name, Nicola Adams, is now available in both Ebook and paperback format.

Straight from the back cover:
Jake’s father is one of a group of psychic warriors from a CIA/Stanford University project designed to train people in “remote viewing,” but he's been taken by a rogue unit with more sinister plans for his skills. Now, seventeen-year-old Jake must set out on a journey to rescue his father. Jake doesn't know where his father is, and his only clues are the flashes of images he gets in his mind. Taking his father's vintage 1966 Pontiac GTO, Jake sets out across the Cascades from Washington, to Nevada. Along the way he picks up Shelley, a girl scarred by poverty and who has had to do some pretty unpleasant things to get together enough money to go to college. He was only going to give her a lift to Nevada, but soon they're both running for their lives.
 “A fast-paced roller coaster adventure for a daring young man, trying to save his father’s life.” Lynne Kennedy, author of Pure Lies
“Following secret government psychic experiments, Jake needs all the help he can get to save his father. The psychic link helps him … mostly! Stephen King needs to watch out!” Richard Hardie author of the Temporal Detective Agency series.
The book can be purchased directly from the publisher, Untreed Reads, or other fine retailers and online sources. 
Please consider leaving a review!
Buckle up and enjoy the ride!!

A break from blogging

On this first day of a brand new year, I'd like to wish everyone all that is wonderful, joyful and peaceful.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to let you all know I'll be taking a break from blogging and social media for a while. The muses have come and sat me down. There is much writing to do and I am on the cusp of reaching the next level in my career as a writer.

So, I've let the muses chain me to my desk as I research new paranormal forms of communications for an exciting new book, "Supersense", I'm working on.

I will also continue to research Morocco during WWII where book 2 in the "Coming Storm" trilogy will take place, and I will be preparing for author visits/book signings and readings for when "Out in the Dark" hits the shelves later this month or early next month through publisher Untreed Reads.

I will update you all on important news when it comes. In the meantime, if you need to contact me, please do so through my website: www.elynnhwriting.com.
There you will also find a great short story for only a dollar. Yes, I'd love to give it away, just for you, but a little coffee money keeps an author happily writing.

Do Stories Matter?

For the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to make sense of our world. The horrors inflicted on nations, people and children. The streams of refugees that are paraded across my screen, and then the horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut. 

Not only does it make me question where we as human race are headed but it also makes me question my own path. Here I am sitting behind my computer happily making up stories. Sure some are stories of people struggling, or people living in war time, or teens using psychic powers to find missing parents, but still, I’m just here making up stories. 

What value does that bring to the world? Shouldn’t I be out there physically helping those in need? Nursing the sick, or building bridges, or raising money?

By chance I came across this quote from Stan Lee, comicbook (he prefers it as one word) writer that put it in perspective for me.

I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain people, you're doing a good thing.
STAN LEE, The Washington Post, July 23, 2010”

Perhaps writing stories is not such a bad thing. Perhaps that is helping others in some small way. I know books were alway a place where I found solace as a child, and even now, a good book can change my mood. So … maybe I am helping, just a little. 

The Doldrums

Aside from it being an interesting word, Doldrums, and a nautical phenomenon. “A colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage, in which it refers to those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm.” According to Wikipedia. 

It is also a real state of being and one many writers and artists can probably relate to. 

That sense of listlessness after completing a project before you start that next one. It also indicates a time of recharging, even if you don’t feel like it. You wonder if you’ll ever start that next project. Or which one to start next. 

You could say I’m in those doldrums right now. “The Coming Storm” is out there actively working to bring me an agent + book deal and I’m debating starting on book 2 in the trilogy or finish up an action-adventure book I started writing six months ago. 

Sometimes it’s good to do something completely different, but then again, I do want to know what happens next with the Detweiler kids who I kind of left off the coast of Morocco in the first book. But I also want to know if my FBI team catches the bad guy. 

I think what this kind of situation calls for is just to relax and let the right answer come. I’ll do more research into WWII Morocco and write my daily quota on the action-adventure, unless I feel inspired to start chapter one of the sequel to "The Coming Storm". The stories are all there and in time I’ll write them, no need to rush and trip over myself to get them all done one after the other. 

Life runs more smoothly if we accept the cycles of ups and downs, activity and rest. I’ll admit it took me many years to learn that valuable lesson. 

Stay tuned for two interviews with me coming up this month! 


A clock tower in Amsterdam
Have you ever noticed that a good portion of life consists of waiting? That’s in addition to the time you spend sleeping where very little gets done either. 

This month has seen its fair share of waiting for me:

Waiting for the school strike to be over so my offspring can start his senior year of High School.
Waiting for agents to get back to me after submitting my manuscript to them.
Waiting for my publisher to get back to me with edits on my novel which comes out Dec. 15th.
Waiting for my new passport - not that I’m planning any big trips, but I like to be ready just in case. 
Waiting for friends to be free for a coffee date.
Waiting for the cat to finally come in off the front mat.
Waiting for Netflix to get season 10 of Supernatural.
Waiting for the delicious cake I just baked to cooled off enough to slice.
Waiting for my elbow to heal up after spraining it so I can write at full speed again.
Waiting for Mercury to go direct again … those retrogrades can really mess you up…. 

As frustrating as waiting can be, it does give me time to reflect, to think through the next step. To get some much-needed rest and plan. 

While I wait, stories develop and play, like movies, in the back of my mind. Characters come to the forefront and fade away again if they don’t fit the story. All in preparation of the next books. 

So I will reluctantly admit that waiting isn’t all bad because it gives me time to step back and prepare for the next big thing ... which hopefully doesn't keep me waiting too long. 

What's In A Name?

Well, a lot actually. Especially when it comes to book titles. 
I’ve just finished the final edits and proofreading of my latest novel (not the one coming out Dec. 15th) and I find the title is completely wrong. 

Initially I called the book (the first in a trilogy) “In one Night” because I was absolutely certain the event it refers back to would take place at night. Well, the muses thought differently. That particular event took place during the day, but many other events took place under cover of dark. 

Dilemma: what to name the book? So much happened in the gathering storm of WWII in Strasbourg, France, and at night. 

Brainstorming with trusted readers led the following different options:
- The Gathering Storm
- Out of Darkness
- Before the Dawn
- A Way Out
- The Tempest of War
- Torn Apart
- A Family at War
- Under Cover of Night
- Seeking Safe

Not sure yet which one to choose, but please feel free to let me know which one you like. I’ve included Chapter 1 below so you can get a feel for the book. (Don’t worry Jay, I won’t give any more of the book out)

Chapter 1
Strasbourg, occupied France
August 1940

The train sped through the gathering twilight. In the distance, lightning forked over the Vosges Mountains; a summer storm would break soon. The heat of the day was already blowing away as Thérèse rocked back and forth to the train’s rhythm, staring out at the darkening landscape and wondering what they might find. Her seventeenth birthday last week seemed a long time ago.
Mme Colliers, their housekeeper, had returned a month or so earlier. She had not been sent far, just to one of the small villages near the city, whereas the Detweiler family had been ordered to Bordeaux, to Uncle George’s goat farm. Well behind the Maginot line, to safety. But now they had been told to go back home. 
A few days before they headed back they had received a long letter from Mme Colliers. She said things weren’t so bad under the occupation, or the ‘annexation’ as she referred to it. She told of how most of the pipes that had burst over the winter were now repaired, though when she’d first gotten back to the city she had to fetch water at the fountain twice a day. The chamomile stood waist-high in the streets, growing between the cobblestones, and feral cats roamed everywhere, left behind by their owners when they’d been told to evacuate. 
The letter had been cheerful, carefree. Only toward the end did Mme Colliers add a warning to Professor Detweiler. 
“Dear Professor, I urge you to simply follow orders given at the station. And remember to speak German now.” 
What orders Thérèse could not imagine. Surely her father would not be expected to become a German soldier, would he? He was a well-respected economics professor, not a soldier. That last line had kept her up for most of last night. She worried. As the middle child she somehow had taken it upon her shoulders to assume responsibility for her family’s well being after her mother had died two years before. 
“Papa?” Thérèse turned away from the window and looked at her father on the bench opposite her. Her little sister, Amélie, was curled up on his lap, asleep. “Papa, what will it really be like?”
Professor Detweiler sighed. He could still remember when Strasbourg and Alsace were returned to France in 1919. He’d only been a young student then, but he could still recall the acrimony expressed by many of his parents’ generation who wished to remain German. He forced a smile before answering in as reassuring a tone as possible, “I’m sure it won’t be all that bad. They got the water back on and the chamomile trimmed.” 
Thérèse nodded and turned back to the window. She didn’t believe him. Only a few nights ago she had overheard her father arguing with Uncle George about returning. George had said the Germans could have it back as far as he was concerned and he couldn’t understand why Jacques Detweiler, professor of economics, who could have his pick of university positions all over Europe, would want to go back and live under an oppressive regime. 
“You don’t know it will be oppressive and if I leave what sort of example does that set for my children, my fellow Alsatians?” Professor Detweiler had argued. 
“What are you talking about, you fool? You’ve already lost your wife and now you’ll expose your children to these German … Well, you’ll expose them to danger. They’ll take one look at Sophia and want to marry her off to some German officer,” George had said.
“That’s absurd. Marshal Pétain has assured everyone that this is a peaceful handover and that he’s received guarantees that the citizens of Alsace will not be harmed.”
“Oh, how naive you are! After all those years at the university you still don’t know how the world works. You should take these children to London or Marseille at the very least. Or leave them with me!” With that uncle George had left the house, seeking solace in his pipe and with his goats. 
What, truly, had been the point of leaving if they were expected to return anyway? Who cared if Marshal Pétain had urged Alsatians to go home and not make trouble? As the premier of the Vichy government he had ordered them to just go along with the situation. Thérèse didn’t think the French gave in to a foreign military that easily. It made no sense to her. 
“You worry too much,” Bertrand, her oldest brother said, he’d been watching her and enjoyed pointing out that once again she took too dim a view of things. To him everything was an adventure. 
He gently nudged her to see if he could get a smile out of her, but she ignored him and kept staring out of the window with a worried frown on her forehead.  
The floodlit spire of Strasbourg Cathedral loomed up ahead like a beacon and Thérèse felt her heart quicken. She pushed back her long, dark, wavy hair and moved closer to the window. How she loved her city. Perhaps that was how Papa felt too and why he had decided to come back.
Through the open window she could smell the unique perfume of the city in summer; a faint scent of musk, mixed with dusty summer heat before rain. Like the pelt of an animal resting after a successful hunt. There was something of an old lion about the medieval city at the crossroads, her mother had always said. Some days Thérèse really missed her mother. 
It was not raining yet when the train pulled into the station. Thérèse caught a brief look of  concern on her father’s face, which he quickly hid behind a smile. He kissed the sleeping Amélie on her head and gently woke her up.
“Come along, my little ones,” he said, far too cheerfully.
“Papa …” Bertrand sighed. 
“You will always be my little one, Bertrand, even when you’re old and gnarled like those trees in the Orangerie you’re so fond of climbing,” Papa teased him. 
Amélie giggled and Thérèse couldn’t help smiling at the image of Bertrand with his wavy blond hair as a gnarled old tree.
It lightened the mood and for a moment Thérèse thought perhaps things might not be so bad after all. At least she’d be home with all the familiar things: the books in Papa’s study, the piano in the front room and the lilacs, linden and elderberry trees in the walled-in back garden. Marianne, her best friend, would be back, too, in the house across the street. She looked forward to afternoons reading or talking with Marianne in the shade of the trees. Yes, she thought, things would be all right. 
“Thérèse, can you help me?” her older sister, Sophia, asked sweetly. “My leg hurts from the long journey and I can’t carry all my bundles.” 
“I’ll help,”Claude offered. He was a year younger than Thérèse. Claude was the family peacemaker and very aware that Sophia would take any opportunity to be unpleasant to Thérèse. Why, he couldn’t tell, but his mother had once said that Sophia would grow out of her meanness. That was a few years ago and Sophia was nineteen now, so when would she grow out of it?
Thérèse was glad of Claude’s help; this way she could hold Amélie’s hand so Papa had his hands free to carry his suitcases. 
Once off the train they were, for the first time, confronted with soldiers in grey woolen uniforms. There were so many of them. Where had they all come from? Just a few months ago Germany had marched into Alsace; surely they didn’t have that many soldiers stationed in Strasbourg? Did they?
The first strains of heavy German music could be heard coming from outside the station. 
“Music, Papa?” Thérèse asked.
“It would seem so,” Professor Detweiler said.
“To indoctrinate us,” a young man standing in front of Thérèse said. He’d half turned around and almost whispered his answer. 
The closer the crowd descending from the train came to the doors leading out of the station, the closer together everyone walked. It was as if the soldiers methodically moved in to create a tight knot of people, forcing them ever closer together. It made people visibly uncomfortable. Faces became flushed from the heat of bodies packed close together, eyes darted from side to side in near panic and small children needed to be picked up so they wouldn’t get crushed. 
Thérèse had the impression that the number of soldiers had doubled since they’d stepped off the train. They stood so close together now that you could barely see between them, their gleaming rifles almost touching; all along the line every other one would urge calm and obedience in a loud, German voice. 
“Pupett!” Amélie cried. “Papa, ma pupett!” the frightened little girl, squeezed against unknown legs, unable to see, cried out in panic. Somehow she’d become separated from her most prized possession, her doll. 
“Papa!” she shrieked in panic, her voice echoing through the cavernous train station. Somewhere in the crowd another child started wailing, scared by Amélie’s distress. 
“Here, Thérèse,” Professor Detweiler handed her one of his suitcases and with one arm scooped up the distraught little girl. 
“There, there, little one,” he said soothingly, pressing her to him. 
“Hey you, what do you think you’re doing? Shut that child up. Now!” one of the soldiers barked. A beefy, red-faced young man, no older than Thérèse, and clearly someone with no patience with children. 
“Shhh, ma petite,” Papa said softly into Amélie’s ear. 
“Do not speak French, mein Herr! This is now German land,” another barked order shot over the crowd. 
Professor Detweiler hadn’t realized how his voice had carried. Everyone was now quiet, stunned by the order. Even the other child had quieted down. Why could he not soothe a frightened child in the only language she knew? It was absurd and the professor was getting ready to argue that point when a ripple of movement through the crowd caught his eye. Beside him Thérèse was all but holding her breath, her eyes wide in fear. 
Quickly and quietly a doll was handed forward until it was in Bertrand’s hands and he handed it up to Amélie. 
“Ah, merci, Bertrand,” the professor said without thinking of the language he was using. He was just immensely relieved the doll had been found and Amélie was happy again. 
“I warn you, mein Herr. No more French!”
Professor Detweiler turned to face the young soldier, fully intending to give him a piece of his mind, but when he noticed the frightened faces around him and the raised weapons pointing in his direction, he understood he was no longer a man who could speak out in public. In that instant he understood how things would be from now on and the look on Thérèse’s face when he looked down at her, told him she knew too. So, instead of speaking, he merely nodded his head meekly. After another breathless moment of tension the rifles were finally lowered. 
Thérèse had no doubt these young men would have shot her father, simply to make an example of him. It proved that the information she’d read in the letters a student smuggled out of Krakow, Poland, for a colleague of her father’s was all true. 
Amélie was clutching her doll, secure in her father’s arms. But the fright was far from over for everyone else. To be told they could no longer speak French, not even to soothe a child, had stunned many in the group. Particularly those of the younger generation. A young mother clutching her baby had tears in her eyes. 
A cold breeze blew into the station and a loud crack of thunder rattled the rafters. It made people hurry out of the building; though nobody wanted to be out on the square in a thunderstorm, they had no choice. The soldiers closed ranks behind them and herded them into what Thérèse could only refer to later as a holding pen. The frightened citizens were pushed toward a stage set up at the far end of the square.  Outside the holding area, they could see the waiting buses that would take everyone home. 
“Marshall Pétain said nothing about this,” a voice near the professor said in a whisper. It was the same young man who had spoken to Thérèse earlier. 
“Silence!” several of the soldiers ordered as more and more murmurs of surprise and disgust rippled through the crowd. People were tired and weary after their travels and eager to get home, but they were held captive in the holding area. The stage filled with officials and the band played, until a medal-bedecked officer stood and signaled for the band to stop.
As the man moved forward to the microphone, the first drops of rain came down. For a moment the scent of summer rain suffused the square, but soon the heavens opened up with another loud crack of thunder. The gathering, shivering in their thin summer clothes, huddled close and waited. 
“I am Herr Robert Wagner, leader, your Gauleiter of all Alsace-Lorraine, the new Gau. I will be instructing you in the plans of our Führer. You are now once again citizens of the glorious German Reich. From now on you will salute, like so.” The man paused to make the Nazi salute and waited for the crowd to copy him. 
“You there!” a soldier barked at the professor. “Sieg heil!” he ordered. “You must.”
“I cannot. If I do, I shall drop my child,” Professor Detweiler said, in French, clutching Amélie who burrowed against his chest to try and stay dry.
“Speak German!”
Reluctantly the professor repeated what he had said in German. 
On stage Herr Wagner began a long-winded explanation of the coming glories, of the new rules and decrees for the city and the region now that it was finally back where it belonged with the German fatherland. 
The rain came down in a steady stream and a lowly soldier stood on the stage holding a large umbrella over the speaker and the microphone which amplified the bombastic voice as it droned on, ever louder to be heard over the weather. 
“We will now all joyfully return to the German ways. We will do away with all public displays of offensive and decadent French propaganda. Stores will carry only German products as we return the city to German glory. A pearl in its crown.
“From now on you will all speak German. You will be punished if we catch you speaking French.” He tried to sound like a kindly school teacher as he waggled his finger at the crowd as if giving a warning to mischievous children. 
“Schools will now teach only in German. Children, you will all receive beautiful new textbooks,” he went on. “We will bring you new teachers. You won’t have to listen to the lies of your French teachers anymore.” The voice droned on as the crowd stood shivering, waiting for the time they could go home. This was not what they had expected. 
“Papa?” Thérèse said, leaning against her father’s tall frame. She was scared and the realization was sinking in that this was not something her father could make go away with just a few words of comfort. He could not go up to Herr Wagner and argue with him. He would have to accept the new status quo along with everyone else. 
The professor managed to shift Amélie after putting down his suitcase, and with his free arm, he embraced Thérèse and pulled her close. This was not what he had wanted for her, or any of his children, and he regretted his impulsive decision to return. It was always like that when arguing with his brother, George. He would do the opposite of what George suggested. 
“We’ll be home soon. Mme Colliers will have something hot to warm us up and take the bad taste out of our mouths,” he whispered in French. 
He noticed the young soldier watching him, glaring at him to make sure he complied with the new rules. The soldier, just a boy, seemed very eager to pull the trigger on his shiny new rifle. It was unsettling, especially now that it was made clear that his two sons would be expected to show up for military training without delay. They were to be trained as German soldiers and expected to go where the German army sent them. 
Perhaps he could find a way to get a dispensation for Bertrand so that he could continue his medical studies, but what about Claude? He would be sixteen in only two short months and there was no reason the professor could think of that might keep him out of the German army. 
After what felt like an eternity the list of rules was done. Herr Wagner thanked the crowd for their loyalty and promised glorious times ahead. They were finally allowed to leave. Though it soon became clear not everyone would be going home. There were more lists with names of who would go where. A number of families were sent to the villages in the country, or back out to Vichy France. 
Not since Napoleonic times had Strasbourg seen such an efficient and detailed bureaucracy. But which criteria were applied to determine who went where? No information was given. The professor overheard someone asking why they were being sent back to the country to live with a dreaded uncle, and was dismayed by the answer: “You are not to question the wisdom of the Führer.”
To move things along smoothly the band now played a selection of German folk songs. Many were well known in the Alsace region as they far predated any kind of empire. Some were centuries old. Thérèse didn’t like them. Sophia, on the other hand, would have gladly broken into song. She loved nothing so much as singing, especially before an audience. She did have one of the clearest sopranos, but her clubfoot, a common problem in the region, would keep her off the world stages. At least that is what her mother had decided and had told her from early on. 
The professor still remembered the tears, but his wife had explained to him the necessity of that lie. Given Sophia’s love of adulation and praise, along with her beauty, the world stage would have turned her into a monster. She already used her siblings as it suited her and none, except Thérèse, stood up to her. 
Thérèse looked around as they stood in line to leave. From the shop window of the pharmacy across the square she caught the pharmacist’s daughter watching. She had seen the girl at her school, a shy, petite girl who often helped behind the counter after school. Now the girl spied on the proceedings from behind a poster welcoming the Germans. 
What was happening to her city, Thérèse wondered? Had the pharmacist put up the poster because he was glad the Germans were here or had he been ordered to put it up? 
Thérèse knew what she would write in her diary that night. 

Sit - Stand - Walk

Since my dog passed away I’ve found myself sitting more and walking less. This is not good for anyone, and certainly not for a writer. We have a tendency toward recluse already, however we need the stimulation the natural world brings to inform and enhance our writing. 

So I started walking again, but it’s not as much fun by myself. I noticed things and puzzled out plot points and let my brain expand, but something was definitely missing. A dog! 
Trying to walk one of my cats on a leash was never going to be an option. 

At this time I’m not able to adopt another one just yet - but believe me, the temptation is tremendous - so I did the next best thing: Got hired on as a part time dog-walker through a pet care service. Now I walk a dog every day, meet different dogs who each have their own personalities, and I get away from my desk for a couple hours to stretch my legs and think through stories I’m working on. 

Problem solved. Recluse no more. 

And speaking of stories, the one I put up for sale on my website is selling quite well all over the world. Initial feedback I’m getting from readers is that they like it a lot. 

Next month I’ll add another story, in a different genre. That’s the beauty of short stories, you get to play with different ideas on a smaller canvas. 

Head over to: www.elynnhwriting.com click shop and get your own copy of “Tulip Craze”.

A Short Story Experiment

I recently had an email conversation with my publisher, Jay Hartman at Untreed Reads, and learned that the short story market is suffering.

Jay told me that the stand-alone short story market is mostly dead, outside of those few that are published in magazines, but we don’t all fit on the pages of the New Yorker, or the Atlantic Monthly.  For Untreed Reads short stories were their bread and butter for many years, but with more and more people self-publishing books and pricing them at or below the price of a short story, people tend to buy a book over a story. As if 200 pages is always better than 20 pages?

Untreed Reads first picked me up based on a short story, which was later rolled into a novella “Tales from the Fountain Pen”, which is one reason I continue to have a love for short stories. 

The truly sad part about this trend is the loss of short stories as a form of writing all its own. A short story requires a different approach because the writer is constrained by a size limit, or a desire to try something different, to experiment, on a smaller canvas. Short stories are a medium used by many authors to explore different genres and voices. A place to play with characters different from ones we normally put in our books. 

For instance, I can’t quite see myself writing a full-on 300 page murder mystery - just yet - but I have had the opportunity to explore the genre in short story form. The first one was published in an anthology: Moon Shot; murder and mayhem at the edge of space

The second one is “Tulip Craze” which I am offering for sale on my website. 
It’s an experiment to see if people are willing to step outside of the big online retailer(s) where it can be hard to find something, or to see if people are interested in short stories by an emerging author. 

If this experiment is successful, then I will add more short stories to my line-up at www.elynnhwriting.com

Payment is handled through a respected and safe 3rd party, SquareSpace made it easy to set up a web store on my site.  
All personal information will remain confidential.
All sales are final. 
I ask that you please respect copyright laws. Writing is my bread and butter.

Reviews are welcome in the comment section. Enjoy!

Books, but no review

I know it’s been a while since my last book review and you might think I haven’t been reading, but that is not true. Reading still happens daily, except that I’ve been reading only old favorite books at night before going to sleep to decompress from all the research reading.

My novel “In one Night” (working title) is now done and in the final editing stages. My friend with the sharp red pencil has very kindly marked where I’ve missed commas, skipped a word - it’s those little ones like ‘at’, ‘on’ and ‘the’ that sometimes the fingers and eyes skip over - and I’m making the corrections in the manuscript. 

This book, a family drama set mostly in WWII Strasbourg, blossomed into a far greater story than I initially imagined it would and now I find I need to write a sequel! 

Great news, you might say. Well, yes, it is, but I’m having trouble finding good sources of information - books - on what life might have been like in WWII Morocco. I have the basics, and I have found a few books that might give me information I can use, but there aren’t many. 

And what about information on Operation Torch? The first Allied attack on Northern Africa that was to signal the beginning of the US entering the European theatre of war, taking back Algeria and Morocco? 

I could tell you in great detail why I want this information, but then I’d be giving away too much of the book. 

I’ll keep digging, but if any of you knows of a good resource, not just on wartime Morocco in broad strokes, but also the simple details of daily life - the food, the drink, the culture - please let me know in the comment section or email: elynnh2write (at) gmail (dot) com. 

In the meantime maybe I’ll watch Casablanca again …

The writer’s toolkit, or the messy desk

And now for something a little lighter.

I thought I’d list the essentials found in a writer’s toolkit, or on and around her desk. 

* Pens, fountain pens preferred and a few jars of ink in different shades of blue
* Notebooks: I prefer the Moleskine ruled notebook 13 x 21 cm
* Curiosity
* Empathy
* Quiet time and space
* Functioning technology; I recommend having tech-savvy offspring in the house
* Friends who will pull you away for a much needed coffee break
* People to talk to/email with/write to in different parts of the country and the world - it helps broaden the perspective
* Books!! Lots and lots of books. Different genres, subjects, even comic books
* Truly good coffee or tea
* Spell checker, but NO autocorrect! A proofreader with a sharp red pencil helps a lot too
* Life experience
* A love of travel
* Child-like wonder (see ‘Curiosity’)
* Imagination
* Only a loose grip on reality (see ‘Imagination’)
* Sense of humor, especially in handling rejections
* Good snacks, for the purpose of this blog we’ll pretend they’re healthy
* A daily walk, preferably with a dog
* A good cat to warm up the keyboard or your chair for you on cold mornings
* A candle
* A chunk of raw amethyst
* Small vase with a white rose
* Sharp red pencils to give to your editors and proofreaders
* Patience, lots of patience
* Lots of bits of paper (including paper napkins, envelopes and post-its) with notes, story ideas, snippets of dialogue, and reminders to schedule mundane things that are part of ‘real’ life

If I’ve missed anything, please feel free to add it in the comment section!

This blog can now also be found on my website: elynnhwriting.com


Writing about diversity turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. I gave the subject considerable thought, which is why this blog post is many weeks later than I promised. 

Much has been said and written in the past couple of years about the need for diversity in books, children’s books in particular, in order to reflect our diverse society in a more realistic way. However, it’s not just a matter of tossing in a few ‘diversity candidates’  and calling it good. It requires far more than that.

Each character an author places in their story comes with its own background which is - or should be - known to the author who created that character. 

By adding characters of different colors, religion, sexual or gender orientation, the author needs to understand the culture this character might have grown up in, not just the meta culture of say, the United States or Europe, but the subculture. What was home like? What are the nuances of the character’s subculture that inform that character’s decisions, drives and motivations? What has formed the character’s psychological make up?

If all that is missing in the author’s creation of characters then you end up simply putting a few more stereotypes on the page. 

Characters need to be woven into your story, yet retain their individuality and come across as authentic. This is why life-experience and travel is a valuable tool in any writer’s toolkit. But that’s for a discussion on what makes a writer. 

All this brings me back to the superhero comic books (from the previous post) - and now TV shows - where I first noticed a more diverse cast. The young artists at DC and Marvel in the 1960s didn’t shy away from including characters of color. In some ways they were the first to bring diversity, along with Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, to the mainstream during a tumultuous time of redefining a culture. A process that continues as more and more people gain recognition and acceptance, even if at times that process feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace. 

As I grow and learn as a writer and as a human being on this spinning, blue ball hurtling through space, I will strive to make the characters in my books more diverse, to mirror the world around me.