January 27th marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – the Nazi concentration camp in Poland.
On the 27th January 1945, the Russian soldiers arrived at the camp. They were the liberators; saviours. The scene that greeted them was unbelievable. As well as people who resembled living human skeletons, there were also piles of dead bodies. Many of the prisoners had been marched away by the Germans, retreating from the advancing Russian armies. Among those left behind were some of the twin children who had been the subject of medical experimentation by Dr Joseph Mengele. Josef Mengele was the former assistant to a researcher who studied twins at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt.
Survivors from the camp stated that if one twin died, then the other would be killed. Other survivor accounts were that he removed organs without anaesthetic and that he killed some by injection to the heart before dissecting them. These children were dehumanised, just as all such prisoners in these camps were. Such experimentation was worse than barbaric – there are no words to truly account for the horrors.
And the adults and the older children certainly knew that there were gas chambers and ovens. They knew what was happening when they arrived at the camp and were split up into two groups. Some went to the left, the others to the right. One personal account from a male survivor describes how they arrived at the camp and his brother was selected for the opposite side to him. He threw over the remaining bread that he had in his pocket saying, ‘Take it, I don’t need it anymore.’
There are so many heartbreaking accounts of the horrors of the camps. There are so many horrors and war crimes that occurred in WW2. It is unimaginable and quite unbelievable but make no mistake – the holocaust did happen. And I emphasise this because today there are still a few who claim it did not. There is a great deal of evidence that it did, including personal testimonies of former German guards from the camps. It can’t be denied.
Roll forward to the nineties and another atrocity when over 8000 Muslim men and boys were found in mass graves, having been murdered in woods in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia. The massacre took place on July 11th, 1995. This was Europe’s worst atrocity since WW2.
The message is clear. It is vital that we do not forget and that we acknowledge the horrific war crimes that took place. It is vital that our children understand because it is with them that we place our humanity; they are the future and they will grow with such understanding, such empathy. It is with hope that we continue to remember, to talk and to educate because without hope we are lost.
The remaining survivors of the camps continue to this day to give talks in schools and other places. They continue to educate and inform and their voices are beginning to reach more people; beginning to touch hearts and minds and leave an imprint. Their work is a legacy and one that must carry on with the help of younger generations. It might be our best and only hope of eradicating such atrocities from the world. As one survivor, Roman Kent said yesterday, ‘We survivors do not want our past to be our children’s future.’
So many writers say not to talk about the book you’re currently writing. This is to avoid awkward questions and perhaps also to avoid losing interest in your own work. The other problem is that so many people assume it only takes a few weeks or months to write a novel. That can be true but for many writing historical fiction, as I do, it’s generally not the case. Even Hilary Mantel has confessed to researching for a book for a few years plus before beginning to write. Leaving it as an enigma (except to the writer) makes it all the more mysterious, new, special and awaiting its explosion into the literary world. It is a chrysalis.
But once the writing is done, drafts complete, then what? Do we remain silent? Perhaps if we have a publisher. What if you don’t? What if you have not decided which way you’re going? Traditional or self publishing route? Maybe you can utter the odd word, line – give a hint at the plot.
Well, I feel as if I might be almost ready. I’m completing the final edits now and my novel is being viewed, chapter by chapter, at my fortnightly novel group meetings. Is it painful? Not really. Obvious mistakes/repetitions are rooted out and that doesn’t bother me. I’m glad to have the extra eyes on board. But the best part is the bits that don’t work are immediately spotted. It’s a little embarrassing at times if I’m honest but it’s also hilarious. We laugh and have fun but more importantly, we all support one another.
So, my novel group is finally giving my manuscript an airing and a voice. I might begin to talk about my writing in a little more detail. This is the year I complete my novel and this is the year I attempt to attract a publisher. I would love a traditional publishing deal but I’m also looking forward to the support of the Romantic Novelists Association, having just recently become a new member of their New Writers Scheme. All of a sudden, 2015 is beginning to look rather busy.
My free promotion for THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS is still going on. Today is the last day, (download the book for free here: http://ow.ly/HlJF4 )
In the meantime I want to share the results thus far. They are truly humbling and beyond my wildest expectations. Credit to my cover designer, the advert in BookBub and to many, many kind souls who have spread to word for me.
LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS reached
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I’m weird about the books I read. If something has become popular, a fad, an explosion, I’m reluctant to read or purchase. I don’t know what it is. I’ve never wanted to follow popular trends because I want to be the trend that is being followed. That’s a big confession for me to make. But in the past few months, I’ve finally caved on two books that everyone was telling me “You must read” or my favorite, “You’re a writer; you’ll love these.” The first was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (click here for my review), which I loved in a strange sort of way. But those who urged me to read it were right. It’s an excellent book even though the subject matter made me feel squeamish. That’s a good thing from my perspective.
The second time it happened was with the nonfiction book Wild by…
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Last year I made myself a pact – 2015 is to be the year that my debut novel will finally be complete, edited and polished and ready for release. My second novel is currently sitting in a drawer and it’s beginning to make some noise so I think it’s time to get cracking.
My current novel was finally written last year and I left it for a few months before beginning the serious work of editing and re-writes. Whilst some writers love this stage, I remain neutral. It all seems very muddly at times to me and I hate being or feeling disorganised. The fact that I type my work means I spend days copying, cutting and pasting whilst deleting and adding fresh words. But every word must count. It must deserve to be on the page.
This brings me to dialogue. My male protagonist is a B-17 bomber pilot. A handsome, young American who hails from Texas where his family own a cattle ranch (That’s just a wee glimpse for now). I’m busy researching dialogue and trying to ensure that I have the accent just right. But it’s one of those slightly ‘grey’ areas. Whilst some authors go all out and write distinctive, real dialogue for a character, others tone it down. Perhaps it’s more about getting the balance right. And if you’re wondering, English RAF pilots/officers really did say such things as ‘Tally ho, Skipper’ and ‘Gone for a Burton,’ (killed in action).
My novel group is fantastic. They have provided some excellent feedback so far and that has been extremely beneficial. A fresh perspective always helps. But this year I’m proud to say that I managed to become a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, joining their New Writers Scheme. This is rather a coup and it means that once my novel is edited I can send it in for a read and an appraisal. Apparently you get a rather comprehensive report and I can’t wait. This will help with crafting my story into shape because until it’s looking its best, it can’t go out into the big wide yonder. And I’m determined that it will shine one day.
So, I have a few months before I’m required to send this in so for now I’m manically cutting and adding words and living in a literary cave with books piled high around me and notes loitering upon the table whilst everything else is put on hold. I hate to admit it, but having once been the girl who could not settle at home unless all was spick and span, I’ve become used to general untidiness and dust and I can safely state that I couldn’t care less. If anyone else is in the midst of editing, please do send in your comments and any tips are always welcomed. Happy writing.