Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Wonderful Review For "Love In A Cafe"

I do admit patience is not a virtue of mine. But many months ago, I discovered a blog, written by Alain Gomez, called "Book Brouhaha" which actually reviews short stories. I sent an email to Alain at the time, asking her if she would review one or more of my short stories in the "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" Collection. After a while I truly forgot about it or let us say it was way in the back of my mind. Then a few days ago an email suddenly appeared in my inbox from Alain, that she would be posting a review on "Love In A Cafe". 

So being me, and always assuming the worst, I knew Alain had a rating system of 1-5 stars (or maybe 0-5 stars). So I was hoping for maybe a 2 or 2.5 star rating as she does not give them out easily. 

I was pleasantly surprised (actually shocked would be a better term) to see she had given "Love In A Cafe" 4/5 stars and a wonderful review. I am quoting the review below but you are welcome to click here and visit "Book Brouhaha" review of "Love In A Cafe". 

Much like a good cup of coffee, this is the type of story that makes you sit and savor the moment.  At first I was a little thrown off by the structure of "Love in a Cafe."  The author divides it up into chapters which is unusual for a story this length. 

But nothing about the plot feels rushed or "wannabe-novel" (i.e. didn't feel like writing a whole novel so everything is crammed into low word count).  Yes, there are large gaps of elapsed time between chapters but Gross does an excellent job adding just enough details to make you feel like you're in the now.

The result was a beautiful love story with a perfectly bittersweet ending.  As with many short stories, this tale doesn't fall clearly into any one genre.  It's a romance but really it's more of a reading experience.  Highly recommended.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez
If you write short stories check out "Book Brouhaha". And Good Luck with the Stars!

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Interview: Cyndee Schaffer and Mollie Weinstein Schaffer, co-authors of “Mollie’s War: The letters of a WWII WAC in Europe”

“Mollie’s War,” is a memoir weaved around the collection of letters that Mollie wrote home to her family during WWII along with historical commentary concurrent with the letters.  Published by McFarland Publishers in August 2010, Mollie’s War documents the human side of life during the war – a life that alternates between fear and romance, exhaustion and leisure.

Genre: Non Fiction, memoir

Published by McFarland Publishers

Why did an average Jewish-American woman become a WAC (Women’s Army Corps) during World War II and place herself in peril?
“Mollie’s War,” answers this question and more.  It is a memoir weaved around the collection of letters that Mollie wrote home to her family during WWII along with historical commentary concurrent with the letters.  Published by McFarland Publishers in August 2010, Mollie’s War documents the human side of life during the war – a life that alternates between fear and romance, exhaustion and leisure.
It took many letters home, sharing everything from daily challenges to exciting experiences (when the censors allowed) for my mother’s story to emerge.  What was it like to be in England while the country was under constant bombardment by unmanned German missiles? Imagine being among the first WACs to enter Normandy after the D-Day invasion. Consider using your French foreign language skills from high school, as my mother did in Normandy, and when she was transferred to Paris serving as informal interpreter in both work and social situations.  Envision a young Jewish woman in Frankfurt, Germany, on Rosh Hashanah, 1945, and walking with other soldiers and officers to the rededication of the only standing synagogue.
The collection of letters vividly depicts my mother’s experiences from her first train trip to Daytona Beach, Florida, for basic training in October, 1943, to the dramatic image of her seeing the illuminated Statue of Liberty in the midst of darkness as her ship approached the U.S. shores when she returned home in November, 1945.  This book may be the first collection of letters published by a Jewish American WAC.
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to work with your mother and learn about her life; and in doing so discover a completely different person?   My mother, Mollie Weinstein Schaffer was a WAC during WWII stationed in Europe.  Like most of her generation, she did not talk about her service. 
In October 2007, my mother received a letter from the daughter of her last surviving WAC buddy that her mother, Mary Grace Loddo Kirby, had passed away.  This unfortunate event gave me the impetuous to begin this project and see it through to the end while my mother was still alive.  I knew I was living on borrowed time……after all my mother was 91 at the time.  My job contract ended in December 2007; so I had the time to collaborate with my mother.   Timing is everything in life.
This project began in earnest in January 2008.  I had a suitcase of letters that my mother wrote home as a WAC stationed in Europe during WWII.  For some reason her family did not throw out her stuff.  Included in that suitcase were lots of memorabilia—over 350 letters, photos, and newspaper clippings.   My mother had labeled all of the pictures with names, dates and location which helped to make my task easier. 
Writing a book based on letters from the 1940’s is a formidable task.  In order to actually be able to use these letters in a book, I needed to read them and to transcribe them---about 1000 pages typed. Some of the original letters were typed, some hand written and some V-mail—reduced in size and very difficult to read.   I also needed to be familiar with the content for the book so I would have a general idea of what I could cut out since no one would read a 1000 page book of letters.  It became a family project as my husband, sister, daughter and son all helped in the transcribing of letters. 
My mother was always cognizant of her being Jewish and this is a theme throughout the book.   She grew up in a Kosher home but being in the army changed her dietary habits.  Eating bacon for breakfast became a staple for her.  On a lighter note, she was aware of the men that she dated and was most pleased when she could describe the young soldier as a M.O.T., member of our tribe.   When she arrived in the newly liberated Paris in September 1944, she used some Nazi stationery to write to her family.
“Yep, we are finally in Paris and you can see that the Americans took over the situation. Can you imagine—ME—with the “handle” that I’ve got using Hitler’s stationery?” 
And then she sent another letter home describing how she was spending her first Yom Kippur away from home
“This is the eve of Yom Kippur and I somehow felt that you would want to know how I am spending Yom Kippur. I am spending it just like any other day in the army—work day. I really could have gotten time off—but I felt that I would rather work. It’s the first time you know for me, but I feel right about it.  I also decided not to fast—which is also unusual for me—but there is no sense in attempting to work on an empty stomach.—So there you are, and I feel right about the whole thing. Even this moment at the office I feel just as if I were home—there is a soft reflection of a light against my window with the grayness of a September day—and it’s almost as if I were home and Mom had lit the candles on the living room table. I don’t think I will go to the synagogue as it would make me homesick—and I don’t want that to happen.…”
In sharp contrast, she was in Frankfurt, Germany on Rosh Hashanah 1945 and witnessed the rededication of its only standing synagogue.   The only reason this synagogue was not destroyed during Kristallnacht was because of it close proximity to Nazi buildings and the Germans did not want to risk destroying their buildings.
“The services were certainly well attended by our Army and Navy personnel. There were a lot of high ranking officers there, too. As for the civilian Jews, there were very few left to attend from this once large community of 34,000 Jews. Beck, these Jews were not dramatic, nor did they carry-on, but one could discern readily the untold suffering they had experienced these many years. They held their heads high—and we were all proud to be a part of them. Yes, the Germans watched us walking in the synagogue and out—they were hanging out of their windows eyeing us carefully. Not one remark was passed; nor did they even speak amongst themselves, that is, while we stared back at them. This was a great day and one I shall never forget. Although I really didn’t want to come to Germany, it was worth it just to see all this. …”
Collaborating with my mother on this project was a very strange experience.  It is impossible to know what your parents were like before they married and became parents, but using my mother’s actual letters and photos felt like being transported by time machine to another era.  Reading and seeing my mother as a young carefree woman who made decisions for herself and traveled the world during this most treacherous time made me realize the full life that she had before she had a family.  My mother was so excited that we were actually working on the book and writing her story because she always wanted people to know about the role that women played in the military in WWII.   We were offered a contract in 2009 with a traditional publisher, McFarland Publishers, who were planning on launching a series about women in the military.  Our book was published but they never added additional books to their series. Using the actual wording from my mother’s letters made “Mollie’s War” a first person account of World War Two in Europe. Seeing the smile on my mother’s face when she held her book, “Mollie’s War,” in her hand was priceless.  Peppered throughout her letters was the fact that she wanted to write a book… and it happened—only 65 years later!
Mollie’s War” won first place in biography/memoir at the 2012 Royal Dragonfly Book Contest, a bronze medal in autobiography at the 2011 Stars and Flags Book Awards and was a finalist in the 2011 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year contest.

My mother passed away on April 8, 2012 during Passover.  We remember and are thankful for the courageous "call to duty" that the Mollies and others of her generation felt so that we could all be free.

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

An Apology On Delays

I know it has been a long time since I have posted on this blog, though this was due to other matters which required 100% of my time and concentration. I was astounded by the amount of kind and concerned emails that have piled up in the Cobwebs email in-box and I want all to know they are greatly appreciated.

I do hope to be able to return to a more normal publishing schedule, and get my feet wet, yet again, in the world of words and publishing and learn and see just what has been going on during the time of my forced absence. Reviews will start to be published again, (I even hope to get to one later today), and you can once again start by sending in your request for reviews as well.

To all the authors out there, I wish you only success and great achievements. To all those who follow my musings on writing and publishing, I hope to make you smile and laugh again. And of course to all those who have never bought a short story or book of mine "BUY MY BOOKS!". (See I told you - I am back!)

Seriously, thank you for your concern and wonderful emails, and now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.