My Cold War mystery has a new cover:
Writers get their ideas from many sources and I am no exception. The idea for my novel “Shiloh Valley” came from an article in my hometown German newspaper around 1979/80. The article covered a local figure, Heinrich Didier, who was a member of the State Defense Council during the revolution of 1849, an event I had never heard of before. His role in the short-lived uprising was not very flattering since he botched a weapons transport that deprived the rebels of much needed weapons. All in all, the revolution often resembled one big party and was crushed by Prussian troops after six weeks.
Most interesting for me, though, was the fact that Didier’s youngest son, 19-year-old Martin, immigrated to Belleville, Illinois, in 1849. Why would the son of a wealthy man immigrate to America, I wondered. I concluded that he was perhaps involved in the revolution and therefore feared for his life when it failed. Belleville was significant to me because I had just visited this town on a trip to the U.S. with my folk dance group.
The idea for a novel was born but it would take decades to its publication. After a research trip to St. Clair County, I spent several years writing and typing the first draft in German. My attempts at finding a publisher failed miserably (I was very naïve back then). Life intervened and I did not write again for many years.
Several years after moving to the U.S. I decided to translate my novel into English and revise it. The Civil War section of the novel required extensive research. Thankfully, by then the Internet allowed me to research regimental histories and even letters from soldiers. Still, I could not interest any literary agents in my work. In the meantime, I had written another novel, “Oktober Heat”, which covered the early years of the Cold War in my home county. I published this cozy mystery in 2015 and turned my attention to picture books next.
But in the back of my head I could not let go of “Shiloh Valley.” I had fallen in love with the characters and wanted to share them with the world. I hired a content editor and spent the next year revising the story again. Now I am ready to present it to the world.
Since I immigrated to the U.S. 22 years ago I have visited the Old Country 12 times. With one exception, I always traveled during the summer months. Now, we all know that flying overseas during the summer is very expensive. Why then don’t I, a very frugal person, take advantage of cheaper fares in the off months? The answer is:
- Weather: Germany is not famous for great weather. In the summer I have at least a fighting chance to catch some beautiful days during a three-week stay. This year was no exception. I encountered blazing heat, mid-70s sunny temps, cool and rainy days, heat again, and rainy days. I needed everything from shorts to a windbreaker. And, while many cars now have air conditioning, houses do not.
- Daylight savings time: I don’t like driving in the dark anymore. During the summer it does not get dark in Germany until around 10 o’clock in the evening. That enables me to go out with my friends in the evening and still return to my ‘home away from home’ before darkness sets in. It is much more enjoyable to sit in a beer garden or an ice café on a mild evening than facing long darkness and the prospect of black ice or other inclement weather.
- Attractions: Many attractions are only open between April and October or at the very least, have longer opening hours during the warmer season.
The downside of traveling in the summer, of course, is increased traffic. Germany is situated in the center of Europe. That means that travelers from other countries who vacation in southern Europe must drive through Germany to get there. You better learn the meaning of the word Stau!