BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS!
I try to limit shameless advertising in my blogs, but the fundamental truth is that if you don’t know about my books, you aren’t likely to read them. If you don’t read them, I believe that you have missed some good books to read or to give away. I write to entertain; it’s certainly not for money.
However, I am a rabid introvert and am shy about my products, so it’s hard for me to tell you to buy anything. To compensate, I have included in my website, DonaldWillerton.com, the first two chapters of every book that I have published, including all the adult novels and all the middle-grade mysteries. That allows you to determine if the books are interesting to you to read or to buy as gifts without having to spend your hard-earned cash. It also allows you, for the books in the series, to buy one and point to the others to stir a reader’s interest.
And I get to feel a lot better about telling you to buy them. They’re all on Amazon and you can order them through my website.
I have three adult books currently available:
Smoke Dreams, which uses Western history from the late 1800s to portray life among the Comanche Indians, as well as a lot of modern-day techniques to rebuild and remodel a spirit-possessed Victorian house. It’s a thriller that is quirky enough to really enjoy.
The King of Trash, which concerns two disparate topics, ocean pollution and homelessness, until I put them together in a surprising way. It’s a thriller and crime novel that has a side of morality tale in it that will grab you in the end. There are a couple of scenes that may give you nightmares.
Teddy’s War is my most recent book. It is a historical fiction novel that centers on the journey of a young man through World War II and involves not only his experiencing the war, but deals with family betrayal when he is away. I think it’s my best work, is the most complex in terms of themes and characters, and will be interesting to history buffs, veterans of any conflict, adults whose parents were in WWII, and military readers in general, as well as young adults who want to know more about WWII.
I began writing it as a tribute to my mom and dad. Dad trained first in the US, then England, and then landed at Omaha Beach 26 days after D-Day. He was a radar operator, was always close to the front line and combat, experienced the Normandy Breakout, Paris, and was always stationed close to the changing front in the Battle of the Bulge. He was, in fact, in Bastogne when the Germans were attacking. He then served in the Third Army under Patton in Southern Germany until May 8th, when the German Army signed their surrender. It took him another six months to get back home. He was in my mother’s arms the day before Thanksgiving, 1945, three years and ten days after he left.
That was seventy-six years and two days ago, by the way.
My mother, no less important, worked her war years in the chemistry lab of Continental Oil Company.
Teddy’s War is not about my father or mother or any real person I know, but I used my dad’s detailed war itinerary for the locations, timing, pace, and progress of the novel. It gives the story the roots of an honest tale.
In addition to the adult novels, I have nine middle-grade novels currently available (the tenth is coming in 2021):
The Mogi Franklin Mystery Series is written for boys and girls from age 10 to age 14. The books are like Frank Dixon’s Hardy Boys stories but are more complex in plots, themes, and updated vocabulary. They are also Southwest oriented: each story, except for one, takes place in a setting that is within a day’s drive of Santa Fe, New Mexico; you can find each location on a highway map. They are typically authentic to the history of the location, and to the culture, which makes them fun to read and educational at the same time.
My heroes are Mogi Franklin, a fourteen-year-old boy, and his seventeen-year-old sister, Jennifer, who live in Bluff, Utah. He’s got exceptional reasoning skills and a phenomenal memory, and she’s a mature teen with a keen awareness and sensitivity of how people work and what they care about.
The first chapter of each book lays out a fictional mystery that occurred in the past that must be solved to address a present-day crisis that has embroiled Mogi and Jennifer. This structure works very well, and, with the first two chapters featured on my website, you can read the different historical mysteries that I create.
Check them out. If you have a teen, or have a relative who is a teen, or know a teen who could use a book as a Christmas present or stocking-stuffer, consider this series or any of the individual books – they’re written as stand-alone adventures.
AGAIN, THE NEED TO KNOW HISTORY
After finishing Teddy’s War, my editor recommended a follow-on book, titled Orderly and Humane, The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, written by R. M. Douglas.
Published in 2012, it describes the movement of people around the European nations during the period of 1945 and 1946. Forty million people had been displaced by the war – ex-prisoners of concentration and internment camps, non-German soldiers who had been forced to fight for the Third Reich, residents of Nazi-invaded nations that had been forced into labor camps, residents of eastern European ghettos whose homes had been destroyed, people who had fled their homes and now had no nation or family to go home to, those who were remnants of dispersed families, those who had escaped the tyranny and were returning, and a million children who had been abandoned or lost during the different invasions, relocations, and killings.
Douglas focuses on the plight of Germans who were living in countries outside of Germany.
It was Hitler’s plan to convert most of Europe (and the western part of Russia) into a homeland for the Aryan people. Invading Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria, and others, he captured, confined, or killed the residents who had no Aryan roots, and then recolonized the lands with true Aryans.
For example, when he invaded Poland in 1939, he arrested and deported scientists, intellectuals, college professors, teachers, government leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, and others to work camps in Germany. He closed the universities, schools, churches, public buildings, forbid the speaking of Polish, and took ownership of all the property. That left most of the population as women, children, and the elderly in inferior positions, while he proceeded to give the captured farms, houses, and estates to homeland Germans that he moved into the areas.
In Czechoslovakia, he pumped up the number of Germans living in the Sudetenland by moving in Aryan colonists. The Sudetenland was a wide stretch of Czechoslovakia that bordered eastern Germany. Many hundreds of thousands of German families had historically inhabited this area, not necessarily Nazis or even true Aryans, but as a natural result of two countries having a common border. Many of the German descendants considered themselves Czechs, and many did not even speak German. It totaled perhaps 6 to 10 million people.
After the Third Reich fell, the reborn governments of the invaded countries chose to expel the German people from within their borders. They also seized the moment to carry out programs of general ethnic cleansing of any unwanted minorities. In Czechoslovakia, not only were the new German colonists forced to return to Germany, but the historical Germans residing in the Sudetenland were told to pack up their goods, abandon their homes, and go back to Germany. Along with them, any resident Jews were also told to get out of the country. The big cities, like Prague, were emptied of non-Czechs, as well.
This ethnic cleansing movement raged across every nation in Eastern Europe and resulted in the expulsion of millions of people from where they had lived for generations. Adding to the millions already homeless and jobless was devastating to the populations, the social structures, and the economy.
Huge numbers of refugees were forced to live in former concentration camps like Auschwitz until they could be moved outside the country. Consequently, they were treated as badly or worse as the previous prisoners. Typhus, other diseases, torture, and starvation were once again rampant.
The descriptions of what happened in this time period and the pervasiveness of the persecution of Germans was an eye-opener for me. I had never considered what Europe looked like after the war. It was absolute chaos, sewn throughout with hatred, revenge, and violence. It became (with more than 40 million people) the largest migration of people in history.
I recently watched a two-hour documentary on the National Geographic Channel called After Hitler. I haven’t found it available on DVD, so it may only be currently available on screen.
It tells the story of Europe after the war, 1945 through 1949, and covers not only the forced movements and persecutions of people, but tells of the methodical takeover of Eastern Europe by Stalin, the creation of NATO, the Marshall Plan, and the Berlin Airlift. The documentary was captivating and horrifying.
Many people today have no idea of what the Third Reich’s strategic plans, of the beginning of the Iron Curtain, of what Stalin wanted to accomplish, or of how the rest of the world reacted to the events during that time period. Every bit of that history is important to understand, especially with the current contest of who is most like Hitler and who is not, and our bantering about of words like “socialism”, “communism”, and “democracy”.
People need to watch this video with their eyes open and their mouths shut. Today, more than ever, we need to know our history.
THE BOOK TRAILER
I talked previously of buying a video editor and using my digital camera and my computer to produce a book trailer for Teddy’s War. It was a lot of fun putting one together, but I couldn’t share it because of having used music off the TV to imitate the video’s eventual soundtrack.
I continued to mess around with my original effort and then, in a flash of inspiration, I made another video featuring me and some WWII stuff from my dad’s trunk. I used the attic of a friend, with her son working the camera, and produced five or six minutes of raw footage of me opening my dad’s trunk and taking stuff out. Putting various scenes together, I whittled my first attempt at a new trailer down to three and a half minutes and found it considerably more interesting than my first effort.
It needed to be shorter, so I learned how to delete, rearrange, and transition between frames, got it down to less than two minutes, and was appropriately proud.
I showed it to others, asked for comments, and learned that I had made a video that didn’t relate much to the book. My brother suggested that I use photos instead the words and phrases that I had used to heighten the drama, and work for a better book connection.
Following his lead and using the National Archives (photos are free for downloading), I deleted the words and phrases, added World War II photographs, wrote a couple of book-relevant sentences to appear at the beginning of the video, and then purchased a membership in an online business that provides free music tracks and sound effects.
Putting all of these together produced something that seems surprisingly good, lasts two minutes, and has much more context related to the book. I did several iterations and am now ready to show you what I produced.
If you will place your pointer over the URL below, hold down the CTRL button and left-click your mouse, I hope that you’ll see the latest version of my book trailer for Teddy’s War. If you’re using a MAC, things may be different.
I created the book trailer in preparation for having Teddy’s War accepted by the Beastly Books bookstore in Santa Fe. I had given them a copy of the book and expected that the managers of the bookstore would read it and then judge whether it was acceptable or not. If accepted, I would then submit a book trailer and other marketing information.
I clearly misunderstood what they said. I have since learned that the bookstore was not expecting a two-minute book trailer, but an hour-long video featuring an interview with me talking about my background, my writing, my books, plus talking specifically about Teddy’s War, followed by several minutes of me reading selected passages. No book trailer was involved and how I so severely misunderstood is still a puzzle.
They also expected me to demonstrate that I had been advertising my book on social media – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Well, I doubt if mentioning the book on my blog, website, and Facebook meets their idea of advertising. Since the book wasn’t available yet on Amazon, I hadn’t even really stressed that people should run out and buy it. I guess people could pre-order, but that seemed a poor solution at the time.
Anyway, to now meet their review criteria involves a lot of work for a book that I think has an almost zero probability of being accepted in the first place.
I had a talk with myself and decided that Teddy’s War may be my best shot at Greatness and was probably worth the effort to pursue things a little farther. Even if I didn’t make it into the bookstore, surely I would learn stuff that would be valuable in the future. Besides that, I was really curious to see what happened.
Recognizing my inadequacies in Social Media Marketing and the strong likelihood that I would stink at it (I think there’s an attitude problem), I hired a professional marketer to handle the social media advertising aspects, while I worked on shooting and editing the hour-long video.
For $550 (he offers a package), the marketer will advertise Teddy’s War through each of the four platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for four weeks, starting the week before the release of the book (December 1). I am very interested in how this works, what the different ads look like, and if the analytics data show any correlation to the sales of the book. If I don’t get a return on my investment, I won’t do it again.
During the same period, I will be letting people know through Facebook that the book is now for sale. I’ll use my book trailer as a base to work from, and I hope that the book looks like a good Christmas present.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.