The Ragged Edge of Night – a review

Thursday_horizons

NaNoWriMo might be my focus for November but I am making time for this Thursday Creation Review as this book seems timely with a strong message.

RaggedEdge

The Ragged Edge of Night

by

Olivia Hawker

For fans of All the Light We Cannot See, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, and The Nightingale comes an emotionally gripping, beautifully written historical novel about extraordinary hope, redemption, and one man’s search for light during the darkest times of World War II.

Germany, 1942. Franciscan friar Anton Starzmann is stripped of his place in the world when his school is seized by the Nazis. He relocates to a small German hamlet to wed Elisabeth Herter, a widow who seeks a marriage—in name only—to a man who can help raise her three children. Anton seeks something too—atonement for failing to protect his young students from the wrath of the Nazis. But neither he nor Elisabeth expects their lives to be shaken once again by the inescapable rumble of war.

As Anton struggles to adapt to the roles of husband and father, he learns of the Red Orchestra, an underground network of resisters plotting to assassinate Hitler. Despite Elisabeth’s reservations, Anton joins this army of shadows. But when the SS discovers his schemes, Anton will embark on a final act of defiance that may cost him his life—even if it means saying goodbye to the family he has come to love more than he ever believed possible.

Review 5 stars

Although the pace was slower than many of my usual reads, the setting of a rural village in World War II Germany made for an underlying threat that drove the story forward. The pace matched the reality portrayed.

The influence of Hitler and his Nazis seeped into the story, although the main protagonist Anton Starzmann was building a new life with Elisabeth Herter, a widow with three children in rural surroundings. His past as a Franciscan friar, whose pupils have been ‘relocated’ by the SS, haunts his gradual attempt to take a stand against the Nazi evil.

Early on he hears a conversation that becomes fundamental:

“Her companion is quick to answer, quick to defend. “It’s only this: I’ve never seen God. Why should I credit Him for a blessing, or leave Him any blame? Men are quite capable of destroying the world on their own, as we can plainly see. They don’t need any help from above.”

Anton observes that he hasn’t met Hitler, but the Fuehrer’s evil exists – and he resists. The musical instruments of his condemned pupils become central to that stand, and not just in their re-use – far better than what the Nazis plan for them.

“I’ve heard the Party are paying good money for brass. The Schutzstaffel want it for casings—ammunition.”

I wondered if music could foil the savage beast and, in a way, it became a means to take a stand. I shared the fear that the resistance within Germany and the village of Unterboihingen, called the Red Orchestra would be exposed and killed.

It didn’t matter that I knew the outcome of WWII as I didn’t know whether anything about that resistance. It’s a sad fact that it became easier for others to see all Germans as evil. Having had a German girlfriend, I know that isn’t true. And this book confirms that there was a lot of good alive, and people trying to survive.

The characters from Anton to minor characters come alive as the story builds and I became invested in their lives.

The village and its surroundings are beautifully described, and the language is so evocative of the hard but special life that Anton and his new family are living. The war rages and the nightly bombing of nearby Stuttgart threaten behind the village life that attempts to continue, using lessons and practises of the past. Barter replaces money – as it did in many countries.

There are highlights to enrich the children’s lives like precious Easter eggs, chocolates and simple handmade gifts.

The end and the impending terror draws closer when a ruthless act forces a final act of defiance.

The story resonated so much with me that I was pleased to discover that it is based on real events. And that makes it relevant to today when Neo-Nazis are on the rise everywhere.

But as the author says:

“We are Widerstand—resistance—you and I. No force can silence us, unless we permit silence. I prefer to roar.”

This book was an Amazon First Reads free with my Prime membership, and even if I’d paid the proper price The Ragged Edge of Night would be a recommended must read.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

#IWSG – Creative Evolution

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I’m snatching a few precious minutes from doing NaNoWriMo to write this  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post – and hoping to resume normal service next month.

November 7 question – How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

From’ Purple to Deep’ was my placeholder/headline/reminder for my writing evolution

Purple Phase – when I began scribbling with intent, in my teens, I revelled in writing long descriptive passages, resulting in long paragraphs that were meant to be ‘Tolkienesque’. My creative writing teacher, the late Roger Woddis, classed most of my writing as ‘purple prose’ without Tolkien’s mastery of language.

I still have a few of those fantasy/sci-fi attempts and I can see the dire ‘purple prose’ and where I learned to curb my excesses – I have one short on which Roger has commented that I’m learning.

roger-woddis

Over the decades, I like to believe that I kept improving. Attempting haiku and senryu helped, writing short pieces as a journalist added restraints, and eventually I was published – once. From there, I’m trying harder with online guidance and support – like IWSG.

Deep Determination – as I focus on my Snowdon Shadows series, I am learning how to use Deep POV. The voice of my MC requires tighter sentences, and Deep POV disciplines me to make every word count. Lisa Hall-Wilson’s Method Acting for Writers is now my guide.

Is my writing any better? Ask my beta-readers – or watch this space.

RC_Quetzal

**

 

The awesome co-hosts for the November 7 posting of the IWSG are Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

 

 

“Diverse” Settings For Two Reasons

My equestrian friend and fellow writer, Jane Bwye gave me the opportunity to write about the ‘Diverse Settings’ in my books, from Spiral of Hooves to the Snowdon Shadows that I’m engrossed in creating.

Read and ride on…

Jane Bwye

A warm welcome to my long-standing friend, Roland Clarke. We have much in common, and if you share a love of horses with us, you’re in for a treat! You can read my review of Roland’s Spiral of Hooves on the Amazon UK link below.

I must begin by thanking Jane for having me on her blog – or maybe I invited myself like an imposing friend.

7120_102388529776541_4135091_nSetting plays a key role in not only my writing as I met Jane wearing a different hat. Back in 2005, I was co-organiser of Borde Hill Horse Trials held at my family home which I’ve always felt was the right setting for horse events. Jane was part of our amazing team as one of the experienced dressage judges. Most eventing shows that I ever attended as a professional equestrian journalist and photographer were in glorious locations – the pinnacle being Badminton.

Nobody…

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Method Acting For Writers – a review

Thursday_horizons

I had intended to post today’s Thursday Creation Review last Thursday, but cold ravaged our household. The younger members of the family recovered within a day or so, but us old folk are still recovering ten days later. I’m forcing myself to write this as the book deserves a good review, although it will be late and briefer than usual.

MethodActingForWriters

Method Acting For Writers: Learn Deep Point Of View Using Emotional Layers

by

Lisa Hall-Wilson (Goodreads Author)

Are you struggling with writing characters readers care about? Critique partners, editors or agents saying you need to write vivid emotions? Do you want to write deep scenes and emotional arcs into your stories to keep readers engaged and turning the pages?

Writing deep point of view is like handing your reader a virtual reality headset; it’s dynamic, visceral, and immediate. This intimate and emotive style of writing resonates with contemporary readers, if you’ve got the guts to “go there” with your characters. This writing skill isn’t difficult to master, but it requires a shift in how you tell stories and sometimes those shifts don’t seem intuitive.

What Will You Learn?
• Eliminate unnecessary telling
• Create immediacy
• Effectively use internal dialogue
• Understand and use subtext
• Strategies to make words pull double duty
• Create unique character voice
• Tap into your emotive memory (just like actors do)
• Learn tips from psychology to write emotions with visceral authenticity
• Learn layering and blending techniques for writing emotions
• Identify and eliminate author intrusion
• Learn effective pacing strategies to intensify emotional impact
• Recognize POV breaks
• Know when not to use deep point of view
• Recognize areas where you’re not going deep enough
• Learn what an emotional story arc is and how to employ it

Take this deep dive and get back to writing FAST! Put Deep POV to work on your whole novel (or just key scenes) for an emotional punch readers can’t resist.

Review 5 stars

This short but excellent book was everything that I’ve needed as a struggling advocate of deep POV. I’d attempted to go deep a few times over recent years and tried to use guidance in online articles. Sometimes my writing felt as though it was getting deeper, other times it felt like another failed attempt.

Now, at last, I have a convenient guide on my desk. And as I was reading her book, I was writing another short story, and, with Lisa Hall-Wilson’s guidance, phrases traced salt-runs on my cheeks.

Okay, that’s more purple than deep, but this gem of non-fiction was full of so much immense value that my current writing makes me feel more confident. From simple ways to eliminate unnecessary telling and ways for going deeper, to creating voice and layering emotions, there are so many simple techniques to help a writer tackle deep point of view,

I felt that I was ready to delve far more in my writing with every page I read and I wrote. For me, this was essential and invaluable. (Apologies for weird phrases pulled from a catarrh-addled brain.)

I won’t remove a star for the lack of page numbers as there is great advice on every page. And it doesn’t end there as Lisa Hall-Wilson has a Facebook page – Confident Writers – and she runs courses and offers online help.

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish – OCTOBER CHALLENGE – DEJA VU OR VOODOO

October-WEP

 

This month, I am taking part in the #WEP October Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges and my second WEP tale. I’m posting a day early to avoid the rush and be ready for reading great pieces tomorrow.

Once again, the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined in the fun.

 

WEP_IWSG

 

Beyond the seasonal theme, I will try to give some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is another incident in the career of a central character in my Snowdon Shadows series – SPOILERS ahead. The incident is set three years after my August WEP Challenge and will become a chapter within my NaNoWriMo attempt next month, entitled Fevered. There are incidents between my August contribution and this one, but I hope that this tale works on its own. Enjoy.

 

White Lady

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Silhouettes prance in the glow behind the standing stones. Night and long grass hide us from prying eyes.

Do they care what Kama and I are?

A screech arrests our embrace.

Headlights stab across the field. A car plunges off the bypass and smashes into the stonewall. Rubble splashes into the ditch.

We leap to our feet and weave through the crowd. Did anyone see the crash? Or were they engrossed in the Nos Calan Gaeaf rites?

I jump the water beside the steaming wreck. The driver and passenger are conscious but bleeding. I call the incident in as I climb through the smashed wall.

“Single car accident on A487 westbound from Porthmadog Roundabout. Visible injuries. DS Kamatchi and PC Anwyl attending. Over.”

“Will dispatch ambulance and traffic unit to assist. Control out.”

Kama helps the passenger who has dragged himself to the verge. Blood from his forehead smears his hair. He rambles in Welsh about a woman.

Is there a body in the roadway? Shivers. Sweat. Nobody other than stopped cars. My tattoos tingle. I finger my studded bracer. N for Night, S for Spirits, A for Accident.

The driver’s eyes are glazed. Drink or drugs? The traffic police will have to investigate.

I open his door and crouch.

Voodoo lady
Did I dream you up or are you for real?
Are you for real?

I point to the radio, but the driver ignores it. The music dies.

Ydych chi’n iawn, syr? Are you okay, sir?”

Mouth agape, his eyes track over me. “You aren’t her. What are you?”

From Cardiff by his accent, but Welsh is our shared language.

“An off-duty police constable. Can you remember what happened, sir?”

Blue lights flicker behind us. My traffic colleagues.

“The dream was so real. Will this ever end? She threw herself in front. I tried not to hit her. Is she alive?”

Midnight on All Hallows Eve.

A shadow shrouds me. I start.

“Sorry. I’m PC Morrow. Have you breathalysed him”

I face Morrow – shake my head. Wave him forward.

As he measures the driver’s blood alcohol, I study the accident scene.

Kama talks to the other traffic officer placing cones around the area. Paramedics treat the injuries.

Skid marks – visible in the patrol car’s lights. Did the driver swerve to avoid something – someone?

I examine the mangled bonnet of the vehicle and the remains of the dry-stone wall. No sign of a body. Under the car? No fur, no blood. Nothing.

“He’s Ellis Pryce. His documents check.” Morrow shows me the licence. “He’s been drinking – not enough to explain his ramblings. Are you the pale person Mr Pryce wants? My Welsh is too basic to make sense—”

Intriguing. The mystery teases me.

Morrow falters. “Don’t think he means DS Kamatchi as she’s – dark-skinned. Anyway, why’s a detective here?” He judges me and Kama. “You’re friends and—”

Juggle the truth.

“Flatmates. We’re off-duty – a girlie night out. But as my tad says, crime never even observes the Sabbath. I’ll see what Mr Pryce wants.”

Morrow scratches his head. “Wise man, Sergeant Anwyl. The best.”

Lean back inside the car. Does my tad suspect my affair with another woman? Do any of our colleagues?

Pryce drowns out my concerns.

“The dream was so vivid. I’d never driven a carriage. Even at our farm in Ogmore. Horses, yes. Not a coach. The hooves killed her.” He stares through me, reliving his nightmare. “The blood? Where is she now?”

Shivers. That South Wales accent. Different like their legends. A troubled soul?

Or something more realistic? Clouds-, a reflection, a seagull. I can ask Kama – my Tamil girlfriend is shrewd.

First, reassure the man.

“You hit no one, sir. The woman has left. My uniform colleagues will make sure that you and your friend stay safe—”

“Never stole her gold. I’m not a thief. I’m a coachman earning an honest living.” His eyes are closed. “Let me check my horses before I leave.”

I signal to Morrow. “This car won’t move. Is roadside assistance coming? Do you need us to interview witnesses?”

“Breakdown lorry’s on its way. If you and Detective Kamatchi want us to finish here, type up a report – tomorrow. Good to work with you both. Nos da.

I echo his farewell. Kama lures me across the road and back into the shadows. Arms around each other, the footpath away from Port draws us.

My brain probes. “Did the passenger see someone too?”

Kama stops. “A woman dressed in a white dress.”

My fingers trace her tears forming. She shivers.

“You too, cariad. Y Ladi Wen – the White Lady. The bogeyman from our myths.”

“As a child in the Valleys, I heard the legend.”

“Here, it’s the frightening Hwch Ddu gwta, a tail-less black sow that terrorises people.”

She nods, then kisses me, stroking my hair.

“My parents told similar tales from Tamil Nadu. About creatures with different fangs. What do you believe?”

I delve into my upbringing – my faith.

“My blood is Celtic. Chapel will never rule this soul-night – nor our bond. Spirits journey among us. Maybe the driver experienced that—”

She brushes my lips with a damp finger.

“Enough. You needn’t solve this, nor should traffic. Call this a cold case – a ghostly one.”

Does Y Ladi Wen want this unresolved? Is she leading us further?

The path branches off to the right, through a gate into the darkness of ivy-clad trees.
Hidden, we settle on the ground. No need to pretend.

Roots are our pillow. Night sounds echo. Bats flit above us.

Earth scents banish sweat and shivers. Bodies and hearts entwine again.

But my tattoos are tingling. More letters. D for Dream, C for Coach, L for Lady, and E for Eerie. My mnemonic guide. CALENDS? November First?

We will dig more.

 

***

Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 993: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

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Visit other participants at https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/10/welcome-to-wepff-writeeditpublish.html

 

POSTSCRIPT:

If you have enjoyed this tale, I am looking for beta-riders willing to read some other episodes in Sparkle Anwyl’s career.

Yn ddelfrydol siaradwr Cymraeg.

 

Where Did My Kindle Files Go?

Thursday_horizons

Apologies for today’s Thursday Creation Review not being about anything creative as such. Well, it is about Kindle files and those are books so that counts. Doesn’t it?

Last week, I wrote that my Kindle had died a few weeks ago, so I had to revert to ‘my pile of reconstituted trees’.

I had hoped that the 500+ Kindle titles on my Amazon UK account would transfer to my Amazon US account and be accessible with my US-bought Fire 7 when I updated my address. That was not the case – my UK-bought titles remained behind. I can access them via Kindle Cloud – great news as most of the research books I access from my PC are UK-acquired ones. (The Cloud is no use when I want to read away from my desk.)

Amazon stopped me buying a new device from their UK site to send to my US address – hence the new Fire. I am presuming that my wife’s UK-bought Kindle has the UK books on it – we just need to find it’s ‘safe place’.

Ringing Amazon Customer Services seemed to be the best solution. Maybe they could make the transfer or amalgamate the accounts.

I spoke with two helpful people in Bangalore, India who explained exactly why my UK-bought content cannot be accessed with US-bought devices – ever. Basically, bought Kindle content is tied to the account of the device – and to the ‘household/family’. Therefore, my UK-bought Kindle was acquired from the Amazon UK site which is tied to my AOL UK email address. Accessing that device here in the US was no problem so I could read any of the 500+ books over here in the US – when my old Kindle was working.

I use a different email for my Amazon US account and all content bought via that account appears on any device bought on that account. My Fire 7 is linked to my US account, where it was bought, and this device contains nineteen US-bought titles. However, that means US-bought reference books aren’t on the Cloud.

Seeing the pattern?

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

Not exactly what Rudyard Kipling meant, so maybe I’ll try this apocryphal quote by George Bernard Shaw:

“England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”

Or create a new amalgamated version:

“Oh, Amazon UK and Amazon US are two monoliths separated by the same rules so never the twain shall meet.”

George Bernard Shaw Painting; George Bernard Shaw Art Print for sale

 

After that light entertainment, back to the programme.

There are some solutions.

Number 1: if I had just a single Amazon account, then I could change that into an Amazon account in another country. If I’m right, my problem is having two active accounts with two separate emails. Two different emails make me two different people.

Bottom line: if you are planning to move to another country, talk to Amazon first about taking your content with you. DON’T CREATE A SECOND ACCOUNT BLINDLY.

Rhif 2: follows on from that email observation – and it’s my cray-thinking so not based on fact. If different members of a family with different emails can be a ‘Household’ and share books, why can’t my two email personalities? Question to Amazon Customer Services.

Numéro 3: I can purchase a new device with my US account as a gift. The recipient then links it to their own Amazon account – my wife just gifted her grand-daughter in that way. So, Roland US can gift Roland UK a Kindle/Fire? Question 2 to Amazon Customer Services – once we find my wife’s Kindle and see if it still has the 500+ books on it.

My fear is that by updating my address, I dismantled our ‘Household’ so there will be no content. No content = No Household for Roland UK to join. I have also noted that every time I now want to buy a Kindle title on my UK account, it won’t let me and says to go to the US store. That means any gift cards from my UK family are worthless for now.

Número 4: Amazon Customer Services did throw out one solution, although it was one that they were unable to implement. The technical guy in India said that my ISP might be able to set up a network that would give my US device access to my UK content. A solution I’ll be pursuing once others have been investigated.

For now, I have e-books on my Fire and at least eight paperbacks lined up to be read and reviewed. Hopefully, that means that the Thursday Creation Review will be back to normal next week.

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POSTSCRIPTS

First postscript: One of the comments on Amazon raised the question of whether a writer faced similar restrictions selling books. I believe that there are no restrictions of this kind. For writers, Amazon allows one to sell almost worldwide. However, I am reading that the market beyond Amazon is far greater. So, don’t go the Amazon exclusive route. I did and I’m rethinking my strategy for my Snowdon Shadows series.

Second postscript, or Ail bostysgrif: I am intending to submit an entry for the 2018 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest. However, I’ve strayed outside my comfort zone as the Genre is Young Adult Romance with the Theme of Masquerade. I have one beta-reader perusing my attempt, but it would help to have input from at least one other person.

Any beta-reader volunteers, please? Yn ddelfrydol siaradwr Cymraeg.

EveMyles-Sparkle