#NEWRELEASE FROM CHRISTOPH FISCHER

image007I’m very pleased to announce a new release from Christoph Fischer, The Body in the Snow. This new book takes a sharp turn for this prolific writer who is known for his historical fiction that often visits the dark corners of eastern Europe prior, during, and after World War II. He’s also written some outstanding works of contemporary fiction that deal with mental illness and Alzheimers.

So when he asked if I wanted to beta read this novel, I couldn’t wait to delve into something lighter–a cozy murder mystery! And I wasn’t disappointed. The Body in the Snow is a delightful romp through snow drifts, candle light, nosy neighbors, and fading singers as Bebe Bollinger drinks her way to solving a mystery and discovers her way back to her daughter and her career. I loved how he used the event of a massive snowstorm to hold neighbors captive and to keep other things from moving forward throughout the story.

While there is laughter, there’s also pathos in the characters and certain universal threads through them all. From the couple in a dysfunctional marriage filled with jealousy and rage to the lonely divorcee only wanting a friend, there’s a glimpse into the humanity of us all. The detective off her game is revived by the sometimes ridiculous yet irrepressible Bebe who may not always do the right thing, yet somehow finds a way to right her wrongs.

It’s a fun read. I almost didn’t want the mystery part solved because that would mean the characters would leave me! Here’s hoping there’s more to come from these unforgettable and all too human folks created by the talented Christoph Fischer.

Christoph and I followed parallel roads recently as we both were seeking out new places to live. I moved to the Smoky Mountains in the States, and he moved to Wales in the UK. Since our moves, both of us have set our novels in our new homes. As Christoph relates below, he did it for the same reasons that I did. Here’s Christoph on how “place” created his setting.

img_8322-xlThe Setting for The Body in the Snow

By Christoph Fischer

The Body in the Snow is set in West Wales, which has been my home for the past two years. Originally, I placed the story in England, but when I started my first re-write after moving to Wales, I was so in love with my surroundings that I brought the characters across the border with me.

West Wales is wonderfully beautiful with lush green hills, beautiful mountain tops, spectacular beaches and world-renowned coastal hiking trails. Why not more people live here is beyond me.

The setting of The Body in the Snow is a declaration of love to this beautiful and unique country and seemed a great fit, with plenty of inspiration to add to the next draft of my novel.

I came to the UK many moons ago because of a Welsh lawyer from Swansea and have been with a Welsh man for the past ten years. Although I only lived here for a short period of time, my connection to Wales has been long standing. Prior to moving there, once a week, we crossed the Severn Bridge into Wales to visit my partner’s fragile parents and each time I liked the sensation of going to Wales.

The book is particularly dedicated to the welcoming people of my adopted new hometown and the people who helped us to settle in there so quickly. After fifteen months, I now rarely go somewhere without bumping into someone I know and having a chat on the way.

In 2012, our house in England was snowed in on a hill top and the electricity was cut several times for almost entire days. My partner joked that this was the perfect setting for a murder mystery since nobody could arrive or leave. I liked the idea. We were cut off from everything, as is so often the starting point of good crime fiction such as  Agatha Christie’s Then There Were None or Murder on the Orient Express. Living in a rural location, we learned firsthand the far and unforeseen limitations of life in such a big snowfall. Where we live in Wales could easily be affected in the same way.

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Purchase links for The Body in the Snow

Kindle (Preorder – release September 24, 2016)

Paperback (Available now)

SNEAK PREVIEW FROM CHRISTMAS BOX SET – DANTE’S GIFT

I had the privilege to beta read this novella from the upcoming Christmas Pets and Kisses by Aubrey Wynne. Dante’s Gift is a lovely contemporary romance with bits of history and a trip to Italy in the mix. I loved all the characters, but really fell in love with the grandmother in this story. Sweet and romantic, Dante’s Gift crosses oceans and generations to melt even the hardest of hearts.
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?

Excerpt

~ Anne Landers
Chapter One
The piles of discarded clothes resembled the glorious Chicago skyline at dusk. The deep sunset colors cluttered the floor and the bed as Katie James systematically emptied out the huge walk-in closet. She shook her head in frustration each time she gazed at the mirror in a new outfit.
This was the night. The night Dominic would pull a dazzling ring from his pocket and ask her to become his wife. He had been like a kid with a big secret for the past three weeks: distracted, smiling for no apparent reason, and cracking stale jokes. All sure signs that he plotted with the “happy gods.” Several times when she’d texted or called, he told her he was Christmas shopping. Ha! No man bought holiday gifts in October. He said to dress up because he had something special planned. There could be only one explanation—a proposal.
Looking out the window from her Lake Point Tower condo, she watched the sailboats bob in Lake Michigan and played out the evening in her mind. Dominic would be dressed in a tailored suit that hugged his wide shoulders. His long fingers would betray his nervousness as they combed through his thick, dark wavy hair. She would shiver delicately when those smoky eyes caressed her face. He would reach for her hand—
Good grief, get a hold of yourself. This is real life not some sappy chick flick.
A loud buzzing announced company had arrived. She waded through the sea of outfits and pushed the intercom.
“Jazzy? Is that you?”
“No, it’s Cinderella. Hurry up and let me in. The creepy doorman is staring again.”
Katie pushed the button with a laugh. Her best friend had a love-hate relationship with Thomas. He would smile at her, she would call him a lecherous old man, and he would respond with a wink. If he didn’t smile at her, Jasmine rushed to check her make-up. He must not have flashed a grin because she made it up to the forty-fourth floor in record time and pounded on the door.
“Come in, it’s open.” She watched the slim blonde rush to the hall mirror for a quick self-inspection. “You look fine. He does it on purpose, you know.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. He’s lucky he’s not bad-looking for an older guy or I’d have slapped him by now.” Jasmine plopped onto the couch. “What are you wearing tonight? I came to give my approval. I have a better sense of romance than you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Her friend snorted. “You’re a CPA. Accountants are efficient not romantic.”
“I’m a tax consultant but I could use another opinion. My room looks like a tornado hit it. I’ll pour you a glass of Merlot and put on a fashion show.”
An hour later, both women stood in front of the full-length mirror with huge grins. Katie turned from side to side, watching the vibrant jade dress sway under the black silk jacket. A hint of cleavage peeked out from the scooped neckline. “You are brilliant. I would have never put this together.”
“That’s why I design clothes and you add numbers. See how the darker colors showcase that deep auburn hair?” Jazzy said as she arranged the mass of waves into a loose chignon, leaving long curls to frame her oval face. “I wish you would show more leg, but this is subtly sexy. Now where are the green topaz earrings and pendant your parents bought you last Christmas? They’re the exact color of your eyes.”
An hour later, after a professional make-up session, she gave her friend a hug. “Good luck tonight. I hope it’s everything you have dreamed of since we were girls.”
Katie laughed. “No, you hope it’s everything you have dreamed of since we were young. ”
“Same thing. I admit I always thought I’d find my soul mate first, though.”
She rolled her eyes. “You know I don’t believe in that. Love, yes. True love, love at first sight, fate? No. Compatibility, similar backgrounds and interests, friendship—those are the things that determine lasting love.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you can’t tell me your stomach never flips when he looks at you a certain way, or your legs get wobbly during a particularly passionate kiss.” Jazzy waggled her finger and ignored the second roll of eyes. “Now remember to get at least a little teary-eyed when he pops the question. Pinch yourself if you have to but let him know how much this means to you. We both know you’re lousy at saying what you feel.”
“You make me sound like a cold fish,” she said with frown. “I don’t ooze emotion but I can show affection. Besides, I didn’t have much practice in my family.”
“When was the last time you gave me a hug?”
“Just now.” Katie bit her lip, knowing what was next.
“No, I hugged you. There’s a difference. I’ll get off my soapbox if you promise to try to make tonight as special for Dom as he is making it for you. Throw sensibility to the wind and kiss him in public.” She headed for door. “And for god’s sake, don’t forget to tell him you love him. He should not have to take it for granted when he puts a ring on your finger.”
“Time out! I promise to wear my heart on my sleeve and follow all the rules of Miss Jasmine’s School of Romance, if you promise to leave now,” she agreed and pushed her friend toward the door. “Go pretend you hate Thomas and leave me in peace. I’ll call you first thing in the morning.”
“Call me from the bathroom afterwards. I want to know all the details.”
Katie shut the door. From the other side came a muffled, “And text me a picture of the ring.”
She chuckled as she heard the ding of the elevator and pictured her friend adjusting her hair and taking a quick peek in the mirror before the door opened. The handsome doorman would give her a sly smile. Jazzy would glide past as if she hadn’t noticed, but Thomas would know better from the exaggerated sway of her hips.
Checking her makeup for the umpteenth time, she thought about what her friend had said. Overt affection had never been part of her upbringing. It’s not that they didn’t care for one another. Her parents just didn’t talk about it or physically show it. A nanny had raised her until she turned thirteen. Katie had thrown a tantrum at the mention of a boarding school. She finally won the public education battle and met her best friend the first day of math class.
It wasn’t until her teens that she began to build a genuine relationship with her mom. Her father often absent, she began to accompany her mother to some of the local charity events and volunteer activities. Her mother’s popularity surprised her. She watched Eleanor use her gracious manner and good looks to charm the most tightfisted businessmen to open their checkbooks. Her fund-raising abilities were legendary; she gathered the most prominent guests and always met or exceeded the goal.
Her parents exposed her to the arts and entertainment provided in Chicago, adding a sophistication beyond her years. She could spot a rare painting out of a collection of copies, identify any classical piece of music, and knew an excellent wine from a mediocre vintage by the time she turned twenty-one. She also knew right from wrong, grey from black and white, and that everyone must give back in some way. Her business education began on her sixteenth birthday with extensive travel that led to internships with foreign finance companies. She would soon be ready to take her place as CEO at James’ Financial Services.
But was she ready to share her heart and her bed with a man? Dominic Lawrence checked off all the must-haves on her list. He had a thriving organic food business that provided fresh produce to the best restaurants in the city and suburbs. Successful, check. Her family approved of his background; he had a similar upbringing and the same values. Shared ethics, check. They loved the cultural activities Chicago offered: plays, opera, museums, and festivals. Both physically active, they enjoyed biking and running along the lake, hiking and skiing in the winter. Compatibility, check.
His Italian descent gave him the tall, dark good looks she’d always preferred. Handsome, check. He was devoted to a grandmother in Italy and wanted children but did not insist on having them right away. Family man, check. There would be no issues with in-laws and holidays since his parents had died in a car crash ten years earlier, and he was an only child. Not that it was a plus, but she had heard horror stories from her friends about their monster-in-laws fighting over which side had more time with the grandchildren.
On the other hand, they were complete opposites in so many ways, which she considered a plus and minus. He appreciated comedy and musicals and tolerated her docudramas and incessant reading. Adds variety, check. She liked to have a plan for everything but enjoyed his spontaneity. Flexible, check. He believed in being frugal throughout the week but letting loose on vacation. She balanced a checkbook to the penny and weighed the importance of every expenditure. Minor flaw #1. She considered punctuality a virtue, while he considered time an approximation. Minor flaw #2.
In general, they complemented one another. He softened her black and white outlook; she gave some edge to his grey areas. Katie found herself enjoying his unexpected surprises. His love of people drew her into unexpected and delightful conversations with perfect strangers. Dominic ticked each box. He wasn’t perfect but his flaws defined him as much as his strengths.
No, she didn’t throw her arms around him in a passionate hug each time he walked through the door. No, she didn’t gush, “I love you” every time he made her heart skip a beat. But he did make her heart skip a beat, and her body responded each time he wrapped his arms around her in a passionate hug. His huge heart and Italian affection had been overwhelming at first but thought she had come a long way in the past year. Dominic called her “a work in progress.”
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played on her cell phone. “Dom” appeared in bright letters and she quickly swiped the screen. “Hey there. Not cancelling on me, are you?”
“Not a chance. Finished up the week’s orders and cleared some days on next month’s calendar.” He paused then continued in a low, caressing tone, “I miss you, Kathleen James. It’s been a week since I’ve held you in my arms. No more extended business trips if you want me to remain a gentleman.”
Her pulse raced as his deep voice flowed through her like a rich cup of coffee. “Don’t threaten me, Mr. Lawrence. You’re the one working twelve-hour days. Besides,” she added, getting into the spirit of the game, “maybe I like an old-fashioned rogue once a in awhile.”
The moan on the other end made her chuckle. “Are you still picking me up at seven?”
“What time is it now?”
“Grrr. It’s six-fifty.” She tapped her foot on the hard wood floor. “You’re late again, aren’t you?”
“Is that your toe making a staccato beat? I-am-ir-ri-ta-ted. Why-can’t-he-be-on-time.” She could hear the grin in his tone. Sense of humor, check.
“You took the words right out of my—” A knock at the door. “Hang on a minute, okay?”
Not expecting anyone, she looked through the peephole. A charcoal-grey eye stared back at her. She quickly opened the door.
“Boo!” He held out a bouquet of white and pink flowers.
The aroma of white roses and star lily gazers filled the room. Thoughtful, check. Then he pulled her close, nibbling at her lips as her arms went around his neck. When the kiss deepened, the flowers fell to the floor. Katie leaned into him, allowing his strong hands to hold her up.
Strong and sexy. Check.

About the Author


Award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas. Her debut story, Merry Christmas, Henry, received Best Short Romance in the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice of 2013 and her humorous shorts include Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies, also Best Short in P &E 2014 and Top 100 Laugh Out Loud List on Goodreads. Aubrey’s first love is historical romance and the medieval fantasy Rolf’s Quest, will be released in 2016.
Dante’s Gift is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read Dante’s Gift by Aubrey Wynne
Get into the Christmas spirit with CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES. Limited time offer, so grab your set today! ONLY 99c


Author Wednesday – M.C.V. Egan

BRIDGE EBOOK COVER2 NEWcropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgHello – It’s Wednesday and that means I have an author visiting. Today I welcome M.C.V. Egan (AKA Catalina) to my blog to talk about her books and her new release. Her first book, The Bridge of Deaths, is a fictional account of a real historical event that occurred in 1939 in Denmark. At the brink of World War II, an English plane crashed and sunk in Danish waters. Five deaths were reported: two Standard Oil of New Jersey employees, a German Corporate Lawyer, an English member of Parliament, and a crew member for the airline. Ms. Egan’s grandfather was one of the dead. Defined by Othersher new release, is the first in a series that touches on themes of astrology and the paranormal. Defined By Others v12 SMALL 9-8-14

Hello Catalina. Let’s talk about both of your books. I’m wondering if you have  a common theme or thread running through them.

I am fascinated by superstition, astrology, numerology, palmistry, and other subjects that at one point were referred to as occult, paranormal or New Age. So there is alwaysat least a touch of that in anything I write. However, it is not necessarily the main theme or used in In The Bridge of Deaths, which is available in two versions. The historical part of it is what strongly attracts readers, but I also added the element of past lives and a touch of astrology. In Defined by Others, main characters play an underhanded game which involves pretending to be psychic, and questioning whether there is credence to such abilities.

Defined by Others is the first in a series which will be followed by Climbing up the Family TreeDefined by Pedigree. It has a far smaller influence in that theme, well so far… it is after all a theme that is so broad and fascinates me.

Why have you chosen to write about this particular theme?

The spectrum in this theme is so large and can be incorporated in such diversity. I also find it fascinating; the possibility of fate being imprinted in our features or our stars.

It takes me back to the magic of the children’s books that fed my imagination growing. It is also a great tool to address anything; the very name occult meaning hidden immediately gives a story line a great point of departure. I include ghosts in that as well but never in a horror or fear inducing way.

Do you have a favorite character that you created?

Maggie the fun-loving young pacifist in The Bridge of Deaths is one of my favorites and one I admire tremendously. I am working with such a large variety of characters right now for my defined series that to be honest there are many I love; even the mean ones with all their flaws!

How does setting play a role in your books?

Setting is very important, but I am a writer far more focused on events and story line as opposed to setting. I was just discussing this with another writer who is far more setting-oriented and does a wonderful job at it. I try to use real settings to compensate for the fact that trying too hard to create them would hurt my joy of writing. That being said if a place such as a house can be a sort of character in a story, then I do find describing it with far more ease.

What kinds of techniques do you like to use in your writing?

I love my tape recorder a great tool to brainstorm. I am a list maker, I write lists of all the topics I feel the book needs to cover, not necessarily hard and fast lists. I am flexible and open to change in my work. For my characters I resort to interviewing them, playing with them, making them fill out a job application, anything needed to get depth and make them as real to me as can

Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?

My plans for the series I am working on is to make the idea of a variety of things that define us, but each book is a stand-alone and not necessarily following a thread. As much as the theme of the occult is used it will probably be present, but I hope that I will play with a wide variety of eras and not stick strictly to contemporary fiction.

That sounds like an intriguing journey for you as a writer as well as for your readers. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

“An unusual yet much recommended read” by The Midwest Book Review. The reason is that I hope that my stories are unique. I believe that everyone has the capacity to express a unique voice and that as individuals we have different perspectives; as such I hope to be able to convey my own unique and unusual way to convey my stories.

You are so right about that. You stand out in your unique perspective so therefore does your work. We all get the occasional dreaded negative review of our work, so I wonder what advice you can give to other writers about receiving one?

It is not a nice feeling to be criticized and some reviewers can be absolutely scathing. Anyone willing to put themselves out there with any form of writing should develop a nice coat of thick skin! A great tool to learn from and balance the impact of a bad review is the following: Choose a book by a famous, successful author you consider fantastic, look up their bad reviews! A review is simply an opinion, and a bad review is an opinion you disagree with!

That being said, I strongly recommend that writers have the courage to learn and grow from others (reviewers) opinions. I try to use them as tools to become a better writer; to find the elements of constructive criticism in a review.

Very good advice. It’s important to distinguish constructive criticism from simply mean reviews. I agree about looking up famous authors and their reviews. It helped me tremendously after my first bad one. I’m so happy you stopped by today, Catalina. You are an inspiration to all of us Indies out there striving to have our individual voices heard. I hope you’ll come back when the second book in your new series is published.

MCVEganAbout the Author: M.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan the author of The Bridge of Deaths, in two versions, as well as the soon to be released Defined by Others.

Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, the sixth of eight children, in a traditional Catholic family. Communication in such a large family fueled her desire and need to find a voice and write.

She only spent her childhood in Mexico. Her father became an employee of The World Bank in Washington D.C. At the age of 12, she moved with her entire family to the United States.

Catalina was already fluent in Southern English as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There she won the English award; ironically being the only one who had English as a second language in her class. In the D.C. suburbs she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland in 1977. She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (The Swedish kind, not the football player kind), Catalina moved to Sweden where she resided for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish, and Finnish business people. She returned to the USA in the late 1980s where she has been living ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.

Maria Catalina Vergara Egan is married and has one son, who together with their five pound Chihuahua make her feel like a full time mother. Although she would not call herself an astrologer she has taken many classes and taught a few beginner classes in astrology. This is one of her many past times when she is not writing or researching.

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Author Wednesday – Christoph Fischer

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgI welcome back Christoph Fischer, who is one of my favorite Indie Authors. What I love most about Christoph is his fearlessness in tackling difficult subjects in his novels. From the Holocaust to Alzheimers and now to mental illness, Christoph provides us with fiction to make us think and talk about those things we’d rather ignore, much to the detriment of the individual and society. His new release Conditions gives voice to the shame and secretiveness surrounding mental illness. The reality of ignoring diseases of the mind ends up making victims of more than just the person suffering from it. Book_marketing2-lrg

Synopsis of Conditions

When Charles’ and Tony’s mother dies, the estranged brothers must struggle to pick up the pieces, particularly because one of them is mentally challenged and the other bitter about his place within the family.

The conflict is drawn out over materialistic issues, but there are other underlying problems which go to the heart of what it means to be part of a family which, in one way or another, has cast one aside.
Prejudice, misconceptions, and the human condition in all forms feature in this contemporary drama revolving around a group of people who attend the subsequent funeral on the British South Coast.

Meet flamboyant gardener Charles, loner Simon, selfless psychic Elaine, narcissistic body-builder Edgar, Martha and her version of unconditional love, and many others as they try to deal with the event and its aftermath.

Christoph, thank you so much for stopping by today. Let’s talk about your new book. What messages or themes did you try to convey in Conditions?

My messages are common place:

You can choose your friends but not your family.
You’re not alone with your problems.
It’s OK to be different.

These are very important. What led you to chose them?

I grew up feeling different and consequently always associated with other ‘misfits’ and have – amongst others – befriended people with mental health issues. Conditions was my first novel, but fifth published, and therefore, a selection of oddball characters was a given. The funeral, the focal point for the story, is based on a situation I encountered personally, and which stayed with me for years after. It seemed the perfect scenario on which to center the story.

I didn’t realize this was your first novel. That’s interesting. I’m glad you finally came back to it. You mention an “oddball” assortment of characters in this book, so do you have a favorite one?

It has to be Elaine. A selfless psychic hairdresser with a Mother Earth caring nature and a relentless amount of time and energy for others. I know several people just like her, and I’m always amazed at how much these people get out of their lives by giving. These people inspire me greatly, and I feel Elaine has come together very well in this book. I have plans for a sequel in which she will feature even more.

She sounds like someone I’d love to meet. I know you also write historical fiction, but are you going to continue with contemporary works?

Although I love writing historical novels and my next book will be another one of those, it’s liberating to write contemporary fiction without restraints of historic facts and peculiarities of the times. My last book, Time To Let Go, was my first contemporary novel and was a bit of a surprise hit, so I’m definitely going to continue with both genres.

How did you choose the title? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

It came to me intuitively quite early. I’d been searching for a title once I was past the forty-page mark and realized it would be a complete novel. When the word Conditions came to my mind it felt right, and I saw how well it fit.

What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

That it has interesting and relatable characters and a positive message despite some moments of sadness and thoughtfulness.

Who is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

There are a few antagonists in the book, a money grabbing sister-in-law for one. I hate arguments and disliked writing those scenes. I was asked by my beta readers and editors to tone them down since I painted the “baddies” too harshly. I prefer to write balanced characters but that does not always work.

Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

There is a party scene after the funeral. I went to my fair share of funerals in my youth and found them often oddly comforting and cheerful. Once the hard part is over people console each other and you are left with hope and acceptance. That often leads to laughter and in my book there is some of that.

If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose and why.

Christos Tsiolkas and Henning Mankell. They both are involved in a lot of projects and seem to have a perpetual drive of creativity and community.

What are you working on these days?

My next book is a historical novel about Finland, starting with its Civil War in 1918 and ending post World War II in 1950. It is about two Danish friends whose relationship is tested by war, politics, and love interests.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, Christoph. It’s always a pleasure when you visit.

922159_10151345337037132_1303709604_oAbout Christoph Fischer: Christoph was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers, he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years, he moved on to the UK where he now lives in a small hamlet, not far from Bath. He and his partner have three Labradoodles to complete their family.

Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries, Museums and for an airline. The Luck of The Weissensteiners was published in November 2012; Sebastian in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013. In May 2014, he published his first contemporary novel Time To Let Go. Conditions was released in September 2014.

Website: http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/

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Book Review Friday – The Aviator’s Wife

Last week, I reviewed Underground Angel by Dr. Sheryl White, which is an historical novel about the very real and heroic figure Laura Smith Haviland.  I recently read another historical novel about a real person, which again brought someone who seemed fictional into focus as an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin takes the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and brings us right into the living room and heart of this woman who married the world’s hero, Charles Lindbergh. They married in the heady years right after Lindbergh completed the first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927.

From the start, this couple became the darling of the media, until it turned ugly. The Lindberghs were hounded by the press and the public. We think of the paparazzi and their ugly pursuit of the rich and famous as a modern evil. Through the fictionalized personal relationships of Anne and Charles and the use of very real factual accounts of their life, Melanie Benjamin creates a horrific tale of the dangers of turning people into icons.

Charles A. Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Charles A. Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh – Courtesy of SDAM

Benjamin paints a sympathetic portrait of Anne Morrow Lindbergh as she delves into her personal life using biographies, Anne’s own books, and her letters. The novel shows Anne struggling to keep her family together and to keep her restless and self-absorbed husband happy. It’s an impossible job, particularly after she becomes a mother. Even in the first months of baby Charlie’s life, the couple knew they needed to shield their son from media exposure. Charles even limited the number of photographs taken of him for fear of someone in the household or their employ of selling them to the media. When Charlie is abducted, the worst side of humanity is exposed, as the Lindberghs deal very publicly with their very private death.

This time in Anne’s life is heartbreaking in its telling. This happened long before I was born, but still I knew of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. It remains a well known story in the archives of American history. But to actually go inside the home and heart of Anne to feel her grieve and anguish at the loss of her son, is something else. Benjamin’s portrayal of the months of mourning cut through the black and white photographs of newsreels to the full on color of pain at the loss of a child. The outside world beyond the kidnapper himself was as scary as the actual event. People tried to give their own babies to Anne to make up for it. Even forty years after the event, people showed up on her doorstep to tell her they were her son, Charlie.

The personal story of this very public family gave me insight into the reasons we turn people into heroes. Many times it’s because of one thing they’ve done. Just because Charles Lindbergh could fly a plane and advise governments about air routes and airplane construction, doesn’t mean he was a good person in other areas of his life. Yet, we seek our heroes in those who hit home runs, throw touchdown passes, and sink three-pointers and seem surprised when they turn out to be only human.

Melanie Benjamin shows in her personal glimpse into a very public family, that the real heroes are the ordinary folks, such as Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who stay and take care of the family and tend to small, yet more important, elements of living a life of integrity and compassion. Mrs. Lindbergh had no idea what her life would be like married to someone whose fame made the world bow down in front of him. She soon found out, it required her to bow down as well.

Anne’s strength and wisdom soon brought her up to a standing position. I felt as if I was snooping behind the curtain in reading this book that exposes both Anne and Charles as very real human beings with all the foibles and eccentricities that implies.

I was slightly disappointed in the ending. Without giving a spoiler, I’ll simply say, the author was so detailed throughout the novel, until the end.

I recommend reading this book for a greater understanding of human nature and for a lesson in where we place our adoration and for what reasons. It’s also another view of an important piece of U.S. and World history as the novel takes place from 1927-1974, with a great emphasis on the pre-World War II years. Charles Lindbergh lost some of his stature in his loyalties, and it’s also a turning point in the marriage because of his beliefs.

#Book Review Friday – Sebastian by Christoph Fischer

@PCZick

Sebastian_Cover_for_KindleIt took me some time to understand why the title of this book is Sebastian. The title character doesn’t appear very often, but his presence is felt in the stories of those–mostly women–around him.

Sebastian, Christoph Fischer’s second novel in the Three Nations Trilogy, is set in Vienna and Galicia in Central Europe. His first book in the trilogy, The Luck of the Weissensteiners, is set in Eastern Europe prior, during, and after World War II. Once again, he’s written a historical account of life as lived by Jews who hide or abandon their cultural and religious heritage because of fear of prosecution, and it also explores the lives of gentiles who are closely aligned with the Jewish community. The lives of the characters, including Sebastian, create a personal view as the war plays out in the backdrop. The war and all its residual effects are felt in the lives of Sebastian’s immediate family and by those that circle him peripherally. No one is particularly religious in both of the books, so it comes as a shock to the characters to be divided along those lines. It forces them to do things they aren’t proud of, such as shunning someone because of their heritage or their association with someone of a particular background.

Not only is war’s turmoil shown through the individuals, but the popular culture is recounted as well. The Glueck family draws Sebastian’s mother, Vera, into experiments with psychoanalysis, which is the “in” thing as Freud emerges on the scene with some outlandish notions about the mind. The occult and seances make an appearance, too. Vera and others seek out meduims to attempt to learn the fate of their husbands and sons sent off to war. Fischer explores these topics and presents both sides as represented by the characters. He doesn’t take a side on these issues, but rather provides the reader with provocative thought to ponder the beliefs presented, which are generally disdained by the scientists of the day.

World War I goes on around and outside of the lives of Sebatian’s extended group, but Vienna remains relatively safe from the war raging just outside its borders.

I’m still thinking of the characters and their inability to communicate with one another, which leads to some unnecessary suffering and missed cues. The novel speaks volumes about this issue as lovers are star-crossed until they finally open up and tell the truth. While the communication doesn’t bring the couple together, it does provide a resolution to the mixed up wires. T

As with his first book in this trilogy, I was shaken out of my ethnocentric self. This time I witnessed the war and its impact by those living through it. The entry of the United States into the fray is nothing more than a blimp on the overall  map of the war fought on the soil of Fischer’s setting. The history of the Jews prior to World War I shows that for centuries they feared and suffered at the hands of those in power, particularly in Eastern Europe. Fischer sets the stage for what will happen in the next two decades. Borders and cultures are crossed, bisected, and in some cases, obliterated.

Fischer’s attention to the real life problems caused by war is impeccable. I love that he can relate history without resorting to boring textbook discourse. The individuals’ stories show the harsh reality of what happens to the people actually put at risk during war. We’re not privvy to the high-level meetings of the political puppets holding all the strings, but the impact of those decisions are felt through lack of food and resources to survive.

If you are a lover of history brought to life through characters, I recommend reading Fischer’s novel from the Three Nations Trilogy. You’ll learn as well as become compelled to follow the characters to the final resolution, at least for that small portion of history.

Fischer has now released the final book in the trilogy, The Black Eagle Inn, which I hope to read soon. The third book explores post-World War II life in Eastern Europe.

Author Wednesday – Christoph Fischer

@PCZick

typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. I’m pleased to welcome back Christoph Fischer to my blog. Christoph writes historical fiction and recently published the third book in his Three Nations Trilogy, The Black Eagle Inn. The Luck of the Weissensteiners, Sebastian, and The Black Eagle Inn are set in Europe during either World War I, World War II, or the post-war period. They offer a unique view of wars that pulled apart countries, cultures, and religions. Christoph uses the individual stories to narrate his historical perspective.542568_135806279903679_1569303214_nSebastian_Cover_for_Kindleb3-front-sm

Welcome to Author Wednesday, Christoph. It’s always a pleasure to have you drop by for a chat. You’ve written a trilogy so I wonder about the similar messages and themes you used in all three books. What message are you trying to convey to your readers?

I try to write about new historical aspects, but also the human factor and how people deal with the trials of their lives. I hope that the importance of families, love, and tolerance shine through my pages. My motivation to write stories derives from a fascination with my chosen subjects, such as a particular era of history, Alzheimer’s, or mental health. I want to pass on what I have learned in the process, and I hope that what was new or intriguing to me will also be that to my readers.

Those are very important themes to express. To get to this point, who or what has the most influence on your writing?

The influences on my writing are more or less in this order: The reviewers and their invaluable feedback; my editors whose critiques can never be tough enough to help me improve; literature teachers in my past whose encouraging words saw me through waves of self-doubt; and great writers whose amazing books make me both jealous and ambitious.

You’ve stated you do have common themes throughout all of your books. What motivated you to write about those things?

I lost both of my parents when I was fairly young, and I guess that is why I am so prone to write about large families rather than about lovers. I had a huge support network at the time and that shows in the set-up of my stories.

Losing your parents at a young age is certainly something that left a mark on your life. You’ve chosen to use that in a positive way through your writing, which is admirable. Is there a broader message you’re expressing since the plots of all three books are in the context of the larger world that have created the individual angst and triumph.

In the widest sense, I am writing about the concept of Nations in my three books. Being a German from the Sudetenland made my father a bit of a foreigner in the eyes of some, and with my odd accent in Bavaria, I felt like that, too. After twenty years of living in the UK, I am branded a German there, but I don’t feel as if I belong to either of the Nations completely. In the first two books, it is the drawing of new borders, establishment of new governments, and blatant racism that help create new and bigger or smaller nations—multi-ethnic or not. In the third book, The Black Eagle Inn, I focus on the personal and how people choose to draw their own borders, and the foundations for all policies that exclude. Above all, it is about how a Nation can and must change.

I was very curious to learn more about post-war Germany, something not covered in our history lessons, yet a most important lesson for a country with such shame and guilt to deal with. I was trying to put into context the many contradictory experiences and comments (racist, chauvinist, or humble and riddled with guilt) which I had picked up in my childhood. By putting myself and my characters through the research and the writing experience, I hope I have come up with something that has interest and relevance for others, too.

What I love about the two books I’ve read is the knowledge I gained about the wars and the individual stories that you created. We don’t understand the impact of the global actions until we look at the individuals who live it. Do you have a favourite character that you created?

I love almost all of my characters, and all for different and valid reasons. Right now, I am thinking of Markus in The Black Eagle Inn. Initially, he is a misguided and selfish gay man who gradually becomes more aware. I was often asked if he is me, and I always rejected the idea because I never did what he does in the book. On longer reflection however, he served as a great tool of reflection on my life. I left a small town because I could not see myself living a gay life in a small and potentially judgmental environment. Like him I chose the safety of a big city instead of fighting in my corner, and like him, I too had irresponsible phases in my life. I thought that Markus was not a character I had put my heart in when I wrote him, but the longer I am reading him, the more he is growing on me.

I’m sure Markus came through your subconsicious in some ways. I always say that a little bit of me exists in all of my characters. What is the best thing said about any of your books by a reviewer?

“I loved Sebastian. A truly inspiring read for anyone!”

The best reviews are short and sweet. What is the one sentence pitch for The Black Eagle Inn?

A great family saga set in post war Germany about political and religious division, revenge, reformation, and redemption.

Those are some of my favorite themes in my books, too. What is the best thing that someone could say about The Black Eagle Inn?

A gripping family saga with an interesting setting of post-war Germany with great characters and some fascinating historical facts and insight.

How was the book conceived in your imagination?

A scene in the Oscar-nominated German film, The Bader Meinhoff Complex, stuck to my mind. It showed the hate of some of these post-war born terrorists towards their parents. I started to imagine life in post-war Germany:  the guilty and the innocent living together, the bystanders, the blind witnesses and their offspring. Since much has been written about the Nuremberg Trials, I focused on the people not directly involved but were not totally innocent either. Then the first few characters came to life and soon the story followed.

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Ewan McGregor, please.

Good choice. What are you reading right now?

The Changeling by Christopher Shields, a fantasy story about Fae.

How did you come up with the title The Black Eagle Inn?

The Black Eagle Inn is a restaurant and hotel business in my book. When I remembered that there is a Black Eagle emblem on the official German Flag and also an Eagle on the speaker’s desk in the German parliament, this “accidental symbolism” seemed the perfect choice for a title. The bird theme began on the cover of Book 1(The Luck of the Weissensteiners) and continues in this saga of a blackened bird rising from the ashes.

I’m looking forward to reading it. Is there a book or an author that acts as standard bearer for your writing?

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is one of my all-time favorite books with great multifaceted and developing characters. I wonder with all of my characters if they could be part of his books. Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) has a bite and raw honesty that I also aspire too in my books.

Christoph, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you for writing such important historical pieces.

922159_10151345337037132_1303709604_oAbout Christoph Fischer: Christoph was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers, he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years, he moved on to the UK where he still resides today. Besides the Three Nations Trilogy, he has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalization.

 

 

Links

http://www.facebook.com/WriterChristophFischer?ref=hl

http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/

http://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/

New Release from Christoph Fischer

@PCZick

Today I am pleased to announce the publication of Christoph Fischer‘s book, The Black Eagle Inn, the third book in his Three Nations Trilogy. b3-full bookI reviewed the first book in the series, The Luck of the Weissensteiners, earlier this year. I’m currently reading the second book, Sebastian and plan to review it soon. He writes historical novels and provides a perspective unique to me and what I was taught in my history classes in the United States. I love stepping out of the box and discovering how other nations, religions, cultures, and individuals viewed the two World Wars of the Twentieth Century. His books provide a history lesson, but before the dip into simply a world history textbook, he adds the characters who lived through those wars.

Watch for another interview with Christoph on Author Wednesday, October 30.

Here’s what Christoph Fischer has to say about his new release, The Black Eagle Inn.

Why I wrote The Black Eagle Inn

Early feedback to my third book in the Three Nations Trilogy stated that it would probably be of most interest for people with a German heritage. As author I had to ask myself: Could this novel hold relevance and interest for other people and non-German readers?  The answer is yes.

I was born in Germany twenty-five years after the end of the war. Our history lessons at school ended with the year 1945. One of the most urgent and important questions remained unanswered for me: How did a country with so much shame and horror in its past recover and move forward? How could it? I don’t think anything can ever make up for what has happened, and nobody can forgive or atone for the collective guilt. But can the new generation ever deservedly rid itself of the stigma the previous generation has brought to the country?

Apart from the actual family story in my book, I hope a great point of interest will be the way different characters carry on with their life and develop their philosophies, outlooks, and politics. De-nazification, restructuring of a political landscape, and implementation of new state leaders are issues the book touches upon. Only ten years after the end of the war, a wave of Italian and Turkish Immigrants filled the hole in the German employment market, but how did the nation respond to those foreigners (named Gastarbeiter)? Ten years after that, a new right wing party formed and threatened to tip the political balance and bring new shame to the nation.

The sixties brought the Bader Meinhoff Complex, student revolts, and many family conflicts instigated by the generation born after World War II. Many of them were disillusioned with politics and turned violent. It took a new generation of politicians to instigate a modernization of German society.

The year of my birth, Chancellor Willy Brand famously fell on his knees in Warsaw, humbly honouring a monument for the victims of Warsaw Uprising, an important symbolic gesture after previous governments tried too hastily to move on from the dark past.  My book, The Black Eagle Inn, covers a lot of ground about post war Germany and should be interesting for those whose knowledge of Germany also ends with 1945. We know about the Nuremberg Trials and the Nazis on the run in South America, but what about the little man, guilty or not? What does he do with this broken country?

I grew up with the first generation of children of mixed marriages and Gastarbeiter families, and I experienced them being treated badly by some but also very welcoming by others. I grew up in times of a United Europe, exchange students, and pop music from Italy, France, Britain, and America. For me, other nations and cultures were never anything but an exciting cultural enrichment, and I adored the people in my generation who had a similar vision and worked hard to make such a mentality part of a modern Germany.

Of the three books in the Three Nations Trilogy, The Black Eagle Inn is the one that is closest to my own life experience, although I was born around the time the story ends. While all three books deal with family sagas vaguely similar to some of my ancestors, this story takes place in an environment and times that I know almost first hand. Yet, there were an awful lot of facts that I only learned about while researching the foundations for the book. I hope it helps to understand more about the path of the German people from its past to the current state.

The book is by no means a glorification of the German nation. As much as I love my place of origin I am happy where I live now. By having written a somewhat political book about post-war Germany, I hope to paint a more balanced and more complex picture about its past and its people. Like every country in the world Germany should remain a work in progress of continuous development and improvement.

Christoph and Molly

Christoph and Molly

 

Christoph’s Background: Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers, he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years, he moved on to the UK where he is still a resident today. The Luck of The Weissensteiners was published in November 2012; Sebastian in May 2013. The final book in the Three Nations Trilogy, The Black Eagle Inn was published in October 2013. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalization.

Book Review Friday – The Luck of the Weissensteiners (Book 1 of The Three Nations Trilogy)

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I interviewed Christoph Fischer in June on Author Wednesday. Today I review his novel The Luck of the Weissensteiners.542568_135806279903679_1569303214_n

 

History of the twentieth century was one of my major areas of study in college. However, the history I studied presented an ethnocentric view of World War II. Of course, I know about Hitler’s rise to power, and the major steps he took in Europe prior to our entry into the war. I understood the political and social ramifications. I understood the uneasy alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan. But I only knew of these histories from the perspective of the first, isolationist United States, and then, as the full-speed ahead entry into the war heroes who saved the world from the evil Axis powers.

Reading Christoph Fischer’s The Luck of the Weissensteiners presented another view of that period through the camera lens of people living in Eastern Europe. The book shows people from all the different perspectives before, during, and after the war. It’s an eye-opening read to learn that the United States wasn’t the center of this war. In the lives of these ordinary folks, the United States played an almost peripheral role.

The Luck of the Weissensteiners exposes how the Eastern Europeans reacted with a wide range of attitudes and actions as the war tore apart families and friends and allowed no trust to exist in all the varied relationships. There may have been a world war taking place on the larger stage, but for the characters in Fischer’s novel, it is a civil war being fought, and the lines are blurred and often changing, depending on who’s in charge.

Jews and Gentiles fall in love and marry, which creates a problem when Hitler’s master plan begins to take effect, even in countries where he’s not invaded. . .yet. The propaganda used to smear the very genes of Jews causes one husband to question the moral integrity of his wife. He buys the line of inherently weak genes so much he even takes their son away – a son who is Aryan in looks, leaving behind his Jewish wife and their unborn child. The atmosphere of fear changes people, oftentimes not for the better.

Through it, all one family stands strong.

This book’s retelling of the history of this period in Europe is personalized through the characters that represent a cross section of the lives impacted by the atrocities of war. Jews, Gentiles, Germans, Slovakians, lesbians, and traitors all point to one direction. War never makes much sense when the individual lives of its victims are examined. Neither side wins when people are persecuted for their religion, political beliefs, nationality, or sexual orientations.

It’s a sad commentary on the human condition when a people are forced to hide their identities behind forged passports, and then forced to throw away the forgeries to appease the winning side. When it comes down to it in the aftermath of the war and the liberation of Europe, all individuals are suspect, and mankind is taken down a notch.

Christoph Fischer has written an important book for its historical perspective. He personified the vagaries of war through the fictional characters. At times, it reads like a history book, but before it bogs down into a lesson in civics, he comes back to the individuals experiencing the actual effects of the persecution.

As always, we study and examine the past so we don’t forget it. As long as genocide exists in the world, we must do as Fischer has done in his novel – remind us, and remind us again, that our faith, our color, our language, and our life choices should matter not a wit. In the end, it’s our integrity and how we treat others that matters the most.

Thank you, Christoph, for writing this important book to remind us never to repeat the mistakes of the past.