After several delays, Theo’s Diary has been released. It is available at Amazon, B & N, Goodreads, Kobo, and several other online outlets. Also, if you would like a signed copy, let me know and I can mail you a copy. Exciting times.
In my new book, Theo’s Diary launched in July of 2016, I write of the wonder of Erste Mai, the First of May, which is celebrated just as we celebrate our Labour Day in September.
In the village of Oberwienhausen, the residents dress up in period costumes and the excitement and delight of festival fills the air. The band plays in the Plaza as the Maibaum, the Maypole, is raised.
The children have been practicing for months at school. They dance and sing before the whole town marches out of the walled village to the park where there is dancing and eating and of course, the local beer and wine fill the day. Ever responsible, before dark, everyone marches back again.
This is the Friedhof, the beautiful cemetery just outside the main arched Tur, that leads into the village where Rick Dahlman will come to know more about his heritage. It is a peaceful place. I have sat here as I sought to gain an in-depth knowledge of the people who are buried here. People who lived and claimed a place in my story.
And this is my home in Oberweinhausen, also Anna’s home.
My vivid imagination coupled with the words written in Theo’s diary became the foundation for this novel. And although writing this book was not easy, it was a labour of love. I cannot count the number of times I stumbled, the nights I locked the diary away in a safe place as I pondered my ability to tell this tale, to mix fact and fiction, yet honour those I came to know and love so well.
Theo was the great-uncle of my late husband, Frederick Karl Duell, and Theo did write his diary, which he started in 1959.
We received the diary, hidden away for years, from a cousin still living in Germany. Of course, we had to translate it into English, but when we read the journal, we realized we would need to read it again and again. Theo’s words drew us back to another time, vividly, to a place in history that usually only rises to public awareness on anniversaries, or during PBS specials.
I had first thought to gather Theo words, what he experienced, and write a biography, but Fred thought otherwise. He wanted to preserve the facts, just wrap them securely with fiction.
Fred’s parents had immigrated to America from this same small town in Germany. He wanted to connect the two countries and several generations, a story not really that far-fetched. He felt that by adding fiction, it would strengthen the total impact of what Theo was trying to say.
We both hated war, as did Theo. Could we possibly use the diary as a starting point to bring the horrors of war to an audience? How could we know? But that was our goal.
Fred was a pilot, first in the United States Air Force, and then as a commercial airline captain, and he died… flew west, way too soon. I was lost without this wonderful man and each time I re-read the diary, it begged to be written.
After Fred’s passing, I returned the original handwritten diary to Germany, to the medieval walled town where Theo was born. I strolled the cobblestone streets, visited the Friedhof, the cemetery where Theo is buried…sat by the river Main. I wandered among the vines and up to the hilltop as others had done for centuries.
Later I walked the battlefield in Belgium and France… Ypres, the Somme, and Verdun, then on to the eastern front, Masuria, and the Carpathians, trying to imagine the additional horror of what happened there, what turned into a deadly fiasco, orchestrated by the silent warrior called winter.
I stood with head bowed at Langermarck and Passchendaele; at the Canadian and British cemeteries and watched the sunset beside those who rested there… those who had given their all. Then I came home and wrote this book.
Every battle described here happened. I read and reread Theo’s descriptions, which were raw and heartwrenching. I memorize his anguish, but what is written here are my words. If there is an error, it is entirely my own doing, and other than the battles, the rest is pure fiction, well, almost.