Friday, March 14, 2014

Germany's Beauty and Horror in the Escape from Plauen

     In front of me, on my desk hutch, is a picture my nephew sent me from Europe. It is a candid shot of an East German soldier fleeing to West Berlin prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall. It is stunning in its simplicity and in the danger it hides with that simplicity.  It certainly is an appropriate picture given the basis of the memoir I am reviewing today, a memoir which begins with a young German child a few years before the beginning of World War II.
Available at Amazon
     Here, in America, we rarely see a first hand account of the citizens who lived in Germany during World War II. This beautifully written text brings home, in vivid scenes and deliberate word choice, what this young child experienced in those days. From chapter one, the deft hand of Stoever takes us to the place only great writers can take us, a land of emotions instead of the written word with text like this:

It was the beginning of a terrible time for the girl wearing the heart necklace. During the darkness of that terrible war, when the little girl sat trembling in basements, as exploding bombs tore the air and death hunted for victims, the necklace felt her terror, and did its best to absorb her fright. When the girl’s fear became unbearable, she would take the necklace’s little gold heart in her mouth and bite down on it to stifle the screams surging in her throat. Patiently bearing the marks of her teeth, the heart soothed her hunger pangs when she was starving, and there was nothing to eat. After the war, during the country’s occupation by foreign troops, the little gold heart trembled with her when Russian soldiers prowled their icebound house, and she was so afraid that she almost stopped breathing. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gargoyles of Smoke, Wings and Stone

     Writing unique stories with interesting and different characters is not an easy task for most aspiring writers. Take the children's storybook for instance. How do we find a character that the child will love, indeed treasure, so much that it ends up being the captain of its own fate? And how do we find one that has never been used before? It can't be a mouse because Mickey has that role, along with some of his lesser cousins. Mrs. Potter took rabbit off the table. Spiders? Charlotte will occupy that space in the hearts of children for a long time to come. Babe took the pig, though there are others. Ducks? Hens? Horses? Dogs? Coming in with a unique character is hard especially when it has been done before.
      The world of paranormal writing is barren with little for a new writer to glean, particularly when trying to find a new but familiar face. As writers search for that one special character or species, they have gone farther and farther afield, harvesting not just vampires, werewolves, and the succubus but also the gods of mythology and the terrors of our nightmares. While each story is unique in its setup, character details, and world rules, there is little out there that hasn't been done in one way or another. Yet have you ever seen a story about gargoyles, one where the focus was not only on the gargoyles but gargoyles as the good guys? Somehow Marijon Braden has managed to be unique in a field stocked full of 'already been done' characters with her book Smoke, Wings, and Stone, bringing to life a new breed of heroes.