Rose Seiler Scott

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September 1, 2014
by Rose Scott
6 Comments

Let it Go?

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preliminary cover

preliminary cover

Now I’ve done it. Signed a book contract with Promontory Press and completed negotiations on a title and cover. At present I am awaiting their edits.

On the one hand, I am elated that my book is finally being published. On the other hand, I am as terrified as an overprotective mother sending her child off to college. In a foreign country.

Yes, I know I referred to my novel as a baby a short time ago, but they all grow so fast. Did I teach him everything he needs to know? Can he cook? Do laundry? Is he ready? Am I ready?

Yikes! No-one told me it would be like this. Maybe I should have utilized more beta readers. Did I make any critical errors, with all the changes I made? What if I changed a character’s hair colour part way through or got some farming practice incorrect? What if I’ve missed a crucial aspect of German or Polish cultural life or language? Are my war scenes realistic? (Spoiler- I went for PG so they probably aren’t). I tried my best, but honestly, despite the stack of books I’ve been through there are some things I just don’t know.

“Write what you know” is what they said at one of the first writing workshops I took. Did I follow that advice? Nope. I had already picked what I was most compelled to write about, which happened to have numerous facets of “stuff I have never experienced” and background info that was nearly impossible to find out, so I went to great lengths, even a trip to Poland to “know” what I was writing about.

So, if my readers are only slightly less diligent than I, my story should remain realistic and its world intact for the reader. At least that is what the logical part of my brain is telling me! If it does not turn out to be so, please let me know and I will correct it for the Second Edition! Presumptuous to think there would be a second edition, but allow me a little fantasy here.

After 18 or so revisions, it is time for this one to move out. When “Threaten to Undo Us” goes to print, that’s it. My baby will fly the nest of my efforts and live or die on its own merits. In putting the story out there I will face the possibility of success or failure.

As a parent I know the bitter sweetness of barely adult children leaving home and going off to make lives of their own. But in breaking those ties, we forge new ones and relate in a different way. That is as it should be. Now, instead of just me and my book, I hand it over to you, the reader. You will have the final word.

And so I must, in the words of a popular song… Let it go!

July 7, 2014
by Rose Scott
3 Comments

So you want to be a novelist?

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By Idea SV (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 So you want to be a millionaire, I mean write a novel.

Oops, did I mention those things are mutually exclusive. Few novelists become millionaires. In fact, by the time all is said and done, I expect to be paid about 57 cents an hour for the work I did. Assuming you will be so kind as to buy my book!

I don’t usually blog about the writing process. Lots of my fellow writers are superior at that, but today I’ll take a stab at it as my experiences are unique  and may be of help.  Especially if you have steady income streams from other sources.

First of all I honestly had no idea how most novels are written when I started this project. I still don’t, except I’m pretty sure they begin with a story that the writer has in their head and wants to get out.

In my case, I can’t take much credit as the story didn’t come from my head but from real life people and situations. As time has gone by, I realize the world is full of stories. All you have to do is pay attention to people and listen.

I didn’t have to do much with the  plot, it was already present.  I know the characters personally, but since this is a novel, I gave them different names and characteristics, with generous borrowing from the real people.  It was like pre-cooked bacon. I love bacon!

But lest you think I just stuck it all into the microwave and pressed a button, you ought to know, a full historical novel requires more than plot and characters. Information and research is vitally important and my biggest fear is to make an obvious error. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, information on this aspect of history was difficult to come by and most of the real life people I talked to were children at the time, their knowledge of political and war events minimal.

Many conversations were piecemeal, jotted down as people happened to be sharing their stories of cruelty and injustice. I tried not to press too hard, letting them reveal only what they chose to reveal. I put together a “history” of sorts, a chronology of the events and the political and social happenings that shaped the time.

When I started in earnest with the novel, the first few scenes involved the main character’s childhood home. I had an old photograph to go on but my creative writing skills were rusty and you won’t find that first paragraph in its original form. It was very bad.

I also wrote a scene from a little boy’s perspective regarding bedbugs, however when I got further into the book, it became apparent that his character would not be granted a “Point Of View.” So I had to re-work the scene and share it with another character instead.

Early in the process, I took a creative writing course, helping me learn about “scene” and “point of view.” Since then I have taken other courses that have been extremely helpful.  If you want to write a novel and have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to find out. Go to a writer’s conference, take a course or read some writing blogs like these:

Here are a few helpful blogs:   http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/ http://www.writewithexcellence.com/  http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/

My story had a basic chronology, but I often didn’t know how the characters would transition from one situation to the next, so I wrote scenes in all kinds of random order as they came to me- sometimes at 4:00 AM. Honestly. Cheers all round please. I am not a morning person.

I drew heavily from other personal accounts as well as my own imagination as to how things unfolded. Then I reworked them. Countless times.

They say you should write what you know, so in 2009, I visited Poland and the former “East” Germany.  Nothing like the real setting to bring writing to life!

Though many Christians write “Christian” novels providing clean and uplifting reads for other believers, I wanted my novel to have appeal to a broader audience. How interesting that faith, as a recurring theme in the midst of chaos, implanted itself into the story with little conscious effort on my part. That can only be a God thing. He has a role in all creative endeavours. I thank Him for that, even if I have to get up at 4:00 AM to write!

June 26, 2014
by Rose Scott
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True Fiction

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What is the point of novel writing anyway? Aren’t there enough books out there?

Fluffy romances for summer reading, thrillers and mysteries for entertainment. If I want to effect change wouldn’t it make more sense to write non-fiction, like a self-help book?

Fiction, by definition is “not true.” And yet, a good novel can tell the truth, about our human condition, the world and our place in it. A literary work takes me on a journey to some place I’ve never been and into the psyche of someone I would not otherwise understand. The writer reveals something of what he or she understands about humanity and invites me to that place of dilemma, pain or joy with a different set of choices than I am presented with. Often these choices force a re-examination of what I believe. To be challenged in this way is a good thing.

Some of the most influential books throughout history have been novels. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and George Orwell’s 1984 are two such works.  Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, though written 200 years ago, reminds us that our assumptions about other people are often wrong. George Orwell’s classic book about Big Brother’s pervasive presence, long before the advent of smart phones or even TV was a prophetic look at the world we live in today.

“The truth will set you free,” Jesus said, and though he was talking about Himself and the gospel, telling the truth in general can be freeing.

When I began writing my book, based on actual events, I felt compelled to tell the story of what happened during a period of history that has been largely hidden from view.

As I tried to find out more, I was stumped by the lack of information. In fact one author, John Sacks, who wrote about specific aspects of the post-World War Two years, was initially censored and suppressed for his efforts. Truth telling is not always popular.

Fortunately in the past twelve years or so, the internet has made information increasingly available to a diligent seeker. Glimpses of the past, previously shrouded from common knowledge are resurfacing. Truth cannot be kept concealed. Survivors are speaking out and some of the infamous camps in Poland now have monuments and plaques explaining what happened after the Holocaust. Books in the english language are emerging on the topic.

The long silence did not make pain and suffering go away. It has to be revealed because hatred is bred where ignorance and misunderstanding reigns.  That is why, through the fabric of a novel, I strive to tell the truth.

June 9, 2014
by Rose Scott
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I’m Having a Baby!

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Great news! I’m expecting. Now, that I have your attention and before you start any rumors about this biological improbability impossibility, you should know I’ve been gestating for about 12 years. Time to pop this kid, I mean novel, out.pregnant

Like many writers, I view my book as a baby. Writing page after page, editing, researching and watching it grow from an idea to a full manuscript has been a long and sometimes painful process and the labour of publishing hasn’t even begun.

If you have known me for a long time you have probably thought, she’s been talking about this book since forever. Is it really going to happen? You had every right to think that. In fact, I’ve wondered myself. My life is littered with unfinished projects- a personality flaw of mine, but when it comes to writing, I am compelled to finish, especially this particular book.

Perhaps you are curious about the particulars: Is it a boy or girl? What does it weigh? The nice thing about this kind of baby, (besides the lack of pregnancy weight gain) is I can tell you quite a bit before it is born.

My book is fiction, but based on real life events that took place during and after the Second World War.  For a brief synopsis of the little known history, it goes something like this: Large ethnic German minorities lived in nearly every state in Europe, but as the war came to an end, the decision was made by the World Leaders to send all the Germans to Germany, even though Germany was divided, in ruins and barely able to sustain its postwar population.

My version of the story goes like this:

In 1945 the Third Reich is crumbling and Liesel, a mother of four, with a fifth child on the way is at home dreaming of her husband, a prisoner of war in Russia. A voice on a bullhorn jolts her to attention.  “All German citizens are ordered to evacuate. You are no longer under the protection of the German army.” Leaving her dying mother behind she flees her home in Poland, in a race to cross the Oder River to German held territory. But it is too late, the Russian army catches up with the family and life will never be the same. Under the communist regime, Liesel is arrested, interrogated and separated from her children. For a time she does not know if her husband is dead or alive and political forces seem bound to keep them apart years after the war has ended. Will she be able to bring her family together again?

As the due date gets closer I’ll be keeping you informed!

 

 

June 3, 2014
by Rose Scott
2 Comments

Daily post Writing Challenge: A lost Art

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Contemplation is a lost art.

I was never really good at it to begin with, that kind of sitting around watching the grass grow, but I think it is necessary for children and grown-ups too. A few minutes of boredom, especially boredom surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature feeds the imagination. I find this is true every time I weed the garden- a mundane and boring task with no flashing lights, music or facebook notifications. Yet when I weed my mind goes off into some creative space and I come away inspired with new writing material.

Today’s children have no room for boredom. Every spare minute is filled- if not with activities then computers, tablets and smartphones incessantly demanding not only their time but their whole conscious mind.

Could it be why depression is so prevalent?

Our minds need to wander:  observing the minutae of an insect or a flower or doing a repetitious task allows reflection.  Our spirits need to meditate without distraction; to think on the grace and mercy of God for instance, which will take forever. Even our bodies need a break from cramped muscles and our vision rest from flickering images.

Time to go stare at the clouds and trees……Ahhhh.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/a-lost-art/

May 13, 2014
by Rose Scott
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Education for girls? Version 2

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Note: this is an updated post with corrected information regarding Boko Haram. In my previous post (now deleted) I referred to Haram as an individual, rather than an entity.

Brightly dressed women waving placards contrast with somberly clad kidnap victims in a tableau of fear and coercion. The news and social media are buzzing with demands to return the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Once again, to right to education for girls all over the world is a hot topic.

But I see a fundamental problem here in our western emphasis of trying to correct the problem. Absolutely girls need to be educated, but I think the focus need to be re-directed, at least for the time being.

In societies where women are not treated humanely and in circles where kidnapping young women is acceptable, it is the MEN who need to be educated and taught why having an educated wife is a good thing for a household, for society and the economy.

Why wouldn’t a man want an intelligent life partner? Even if, in his mind, a woman’s sole destiny was to be a wife and mother, wouldn’t he want a woman at his side who can read instructions, who knows how to get the best yield from a garden and how to look after a sick child? How about someone who can count, add and subtract enough to get the best deal at the market or run a business enterprise to help feed the family? Even better, how about someone who can carry on an intelligent conversation and use their knowledge to help others?

A woman is more than just an object to warm a bed and bear offspring. She is more than a slave to man’s needs and desires. She is not just property, she is a human being, created in the image of God and worthy of love and honour. She was created to live freely and give her love to one whom she chooses.  Societies that recognize this reap the rewards. Men, you will benefit when women are educated and given choices.

Either the men in Boko Haram are incorrigible, or they just don’t know any better. While there are verses in the Quran which seem to indicate a number of disturbing ideas about the status of females, even it states that men should be kind to women and not inherit them by compulsion. (Surat An-Nisa 4:19). That would rule out kidnapping.

Could it be that it’s the gun-slinging kidnappers that need education? Young boys need to be taught humane treatment of their mothers, sisters and future wives, before they are exposed to terrorist ideology and machine-guns. Only when men in power use their influence to extend rights and show kindness to women will things really change.

May 6, 2014
by Rose Scott
6 Comments

Weekly writing challenge: Student, Teacher- Keeping the 88 straight

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Over almost 30 years I have taught over a hundred piano students. All of them were unique. Many made me smile with their diligent efforts, if not their music. And there were a few that made me conclude that it would have been much easier to stick with bookkeeping as a career.  Making students laugh was great, making them cry, not so much. I am proud to say, at least one former student I know of became a piano teacher, and others have accomplished impressive things, both musically and otherwise.

My students mostly complied with my program, advancing their way methodically through their books with my guidance, rarely questioning my ability or knowledge. I adjusted to learning styles and abilities as needed, or so I thought, skipping a piece here, re-inforcing with extra material there. Along with reminders to practice more, I have tried to make it fun- games, masterclasses, supplemental Christmas music.

But by far, the biggest challenge has been trying to teach my own children to play the piano. To those who say I shouldn’t have tried, I have to answer perhaps they are right.

Due to the unique personalities and learning styles of my offspring they wouldn’t or couldn’t bend to my instruction, at least not the way I taught. Learn these scales, I would repeat week after week. Do this study, then you will have a good foundation for other music. Read these notes, I instruct, pointing slowly with a popsicle stick.

Instead of practicing, my children would noodle around on the piano, composing their own music or attempting pieces that were far too advanced for their technique and fingering ability. They played by ear or learned by rote, things I am not gifted in. With steel traps for memory, they only utilized the notes only once or twice before they had it, at least to their satisfaction. If I played it for them, there was little need for notes at all, so mostly I refused and so did they, at least to complete what I assigned them. Sometimes they would even improvise on the classics before properly learning them. Eeek. That was the sound of Beethoven rolling over in his grave.

Finally… true confessions.. . I regret to say, I had to give up. Too many fights, too many gray hairs.  Two of them went on for a while to other teachers in my efforts to ensure the musical part of their education. Yes, I rank it right up there with learning to read and do math.

In spite of my abortive efforts they all play something- the oldest the drums, the second oldest classical guitar and piano, but almost exclusively Bach inventions and fugues, which I labour over and he delights in. The third plays saxophone and forayed briefly into jazz piano.

The fact is they were just too smart for me and my Piano Teacher Degree.

After a few years break, I am still working on teaching my daughter- trying to strike a balance between what she wants to learn- Legend of Zelda music, and how she wants to learn- by ear, and the foundational stuff I want her to know- note reading, correct technique. “I don’t want to play from lifeless notes,” she says. What success will eventually look like and how we will get there, I don’t know, but I hope she will love music as her brothers do.

If I am forced to give up for the sake of the music, I will have to face it. Or maybe just change my ideals.

The failure of this teacher may well be the road to success for the student.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/student-teacher/

 

March 25, 2014
by Rose Scott
3 Comments

Why I Love Downton Abbey

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I am not a fan of most of today’s TV shows. Reality programs insult my intelligence. I am disgusted by cheap sex and excessive violence on other prime time fare.  And supposed heroes, who rarely think in terms of the morality of their choices or writing that doesn’t reveal the consequences of those choices make me angry. Oops, there I go criticizing other writers. My apologies to the good ones, but really, I am quite fed up and only watch a handful of TV offerings.

Highclere Castle aka Downton Image by Mike Searle

Downton Abbey, I have recently discovered, is a show worth watching. In fact I haven’t enjoyed a TV series so much since… Road to Avonlea or Little House on the Prairie. Now my secret is out, I’m a sentimentalist, in love with the imaginings of a distant past, but that is not the whole story.

If you have never seen this popular British drama set in the earlier part of the 20th century, here is the synopsis. Downton Abbey is an estate home peopled with Lords and Ladies and at least as many servants. Their ongoing struggle is about whether or not they will be able to maintain their way of life, within the rapidly changing paradigm of the 20th century.

Visually the series is a feast for the eyes. The costumes are gorgeous, the interior of the house fascinating. And I just love the English, Scottish and Irish accents. But none of that would be enough to hook me past the first episode or two. What is the rest of the appeal?

Is it the romance of the era my English grandmother came of age in? The love story of Bates and Anna? The zinging wit of the Dowager Countess?  The transparency of Matthew’s eyes and personality juxtaposed against Mary’s opaque and contrasting visage? Is it the constant conflict between new ways and old or perhaps the clever storyline?

All that and more.

Though Jane Austen’s books were written in a previous era, the way the people of Downton Abbey relate remind me of her writing. Communication was different.

First of all, conversation was constrained to some extent by station. Even among the servants there was a hierarchy. Everyone knew where they stood in this complex social strata and it was only by the most unusual circumstance, that one would ever move up from a “servant” to a “Lord.” But even within within this rigid social system there was honour.

Acting with honour was crucial in order to maintain the respect of the “house” and your peers, be they staff or aristocracy. To act dishonourably, was to risk your station in life, your job and your good name. Scandal was, well, scandalous. Good was good, bad was bad and it was terribly important to at least maintain a façade of goodness.

Would I want to go back to this society? This romanticized version of it probably never existed, so no. A lack of choices for women, fixed social classes, and harsh, lasting judgement on those who had fallen do not fully recommend Victorian and Edwardian sensibilities. Fortunately at Downton there are forgiving souls like Mrs. Crawley and Mrs. Hughes, willing to extend grace and kindness.

Yet, even within this discriminatory system, there was a modicum of respect which seemed to surpass everyone’s station in life. One could say what one had to say and still be polite. You had to eat dinner with these people every day so civility was required.

What is also refreshing is that, in the case of dilemmas and moral failings, the consequences of one’s actions are clearly set out from the first season.

A visiting Turkish diplomat dies in Mary’s bed and the potential repercussions of this disaster are enormous. Covering her tracks becomes necessary for Mary but it turns out dishonesty is not the best policy either.

A few seasons later, Edith has one night with the man she expects to marry. This indiscretion results in pregnancy, but when her lover goes missing her choices are dismal. She contemplates abortion, but then realizes she won’t be able to visit the nursery to see her niece and nephew.

I have often complained that I don’t like shows where there aren’t good guys and bad guys. I can’t know who to root for.  But Downton Abbey has made me rethink this, because the characters make choices and weigh their behaviour not only to what course of action is of the most immediate benefit to everyone in the house, but also according to the virtues of right and wrong, honour and dishonour, kindness or cruelty.  It makes me identify with all of them.  When a character takes a wrong turn, the likely path of that choice ensues, something like real life.

Of course, Thomas, who thinks only of himself, appears to be the exception to this rule. We just know he probably has some deep insecurity rendering him incapable of anything else. But who knows? Maybe someday his character will make the connection between his actions and his unhappiness and redeem himself.

Characters who weigh moral choices.  Episodes that reveal consequences.  In today’s television offerings Downton Abbey is unique.

 

March 12, 2014
by Rose Scott
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Book Review: Inside the Parrot Cage

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During the past few weeks my dining room table has been covered with stacks of print-outs and books. I have been highlighting information and taking notes in order to add detail and fill in gaps in my novel.
Reading about mankind’s various cruelty on all sides of the conflict of World War Two can be disturbing and I can only take so much at a time, but my goal is to insert any relevant stuff into my book, pack away everything into a box and be done with that aspect of my book! Partay!

As I wrote in an early blog, pertinent sources have been scarce and when I come across a relevant personal account I dig through it as if looking treasure.

The following is a review on a book by Dr. Gerda Wever-Rabehl. (I posted a similar review  on Amazon).

Inside the Parrot Cage

Inside the Parrot Cage

Inside the Parrot Cage is a fascinating discussion of memory and loss. Gerda Wever-Rabehl skillfully weaves her multiple interviews with a Second World War Two soldier into a story. But this is not the typical Allied Soldier war story. A man named Joachim fought in the German army towards the end of World War Two. Though only a teenager and conscripted into the Wehrmacht, he suffered terribly, not only at the hands of his Russian captors, but afterward. As a returning prisoner of war, he could not even come home, as his family’s beautiful estate in Prussia was taken when all the Germans were expelled from that territory after the war. Wever-Rabehl, as the fictional narrator “Jean,” focuses largely on the difficulties Joachim had in sharing his memories, both in Post-War Germany and Canada. His version of war time events did not  fit in with popular history, especially as understood in the West. It became so difficult for Joachim to tell his story that he stopped really trying. Even his children had trouble believing him. The result for Joachim was a life of emotional torment. As he reveals his story,  Weber-Rabehl gently exposes his pain and shame. At the same time, his human dignity is preserved and Joachim’s story becomes representative of a much larger group of people.

February 24, 2014
by Rose Scott
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A Disturbing Post

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My sons suggested I go on reddit, a trending social media site. I signed up a few days ago and posted one of my blogs.  I was noodling around on Saturday, reading different posts and trying to figure out how to NOT have my post flagged as “NSFW.” Don’t be embarrassed, I didn’t know either. NSFW stands for “not suitable for work,” a kind of a 14 A rating. http://roseseilerscott.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/white-lace-and-promises/ was definitely not that.

As I looked around the site a new post came up, “I am a suicidal teenager with a noose around his neck…”

Wow. Most of my social media time on is on Facebook, with people who post pictures of  trips to Mexico and their bright-eyed grandbabies. Of course I know life isn’t non-stop birthday cakes and fluffy kittens who pretend to say funny things, but I am rattled when someone I don’t even know invites me to peer into the darkest closet of their soul.

Was it real or just a teenager saying stuff? I don’t know.  My apple cart was upset. I know families who lost a child in this way. That kind of pain doesn’t go away.

My Mom instinct told me to stop it if I could, so I posted to him not to do this, he was loved more than he could know. People wiser than myself put up crisis line phone numbers. Others, thoughtless jerks, (name-calling justified here), told him to go ahead and do it.

A few minutes later, the moderator removed the post. Disturbed, I contacted my sons to see if they had come across this before and asked my husband for his thoughts. Finally, I realized I could message Deadlord_Zelguis through the reddit site. I did so, praying that he would hold on, but it may have been too late. I will probably never know if this young man took his life or if he took good advice and called someone.

Afterward I looked up what to do. Here is a helpful blog, should you ever come across someone threatening suicide on social media.  http://natashatracy.com/mental-illness-issues/suicide/person-threatens-suicide-facebook/

Next time I will know what to do.