Thursday, December 16, 2021

Book Review: Breaking the Silence by Nancy King

Secrets. Lies. Silences. Stories told by parents and their families to protect themselves. A father who defends his wife despite her damage to their daughter’s health and welfare. A mother, shielded by her husband, who perpetuates murderous acts of violence against the daughter, and keeps secret her husband’s sexual “play” with the young girl.
And yet … Nancy King, determined to learn the truth of her childhood and the heartbreaking effects it has had on her adult life, uncovers the secrets. Sees through the lies. Breaks the silence. Empowered by the stories she told herself as a child, she learns to use stories as part of her work as a university professor teaching theater, drama, world literature, and creative expression. Gradually, with the help of body work and therapy, she finds her voice. Says no to abuse and abusers. Reclaims herself and life. Writes a memoir. She climbs mountains. Weaves tapestries. Writes books. Makes friends. Creates a meaningful life. This is her story.


Review by Carmen Otto: Breaking the Silence is a book about a woman who grew up believing she was never good enough and believed everything her mother told her. Her father never stood up for Nancy and always took her mother’s side even though he saw the abuse Nancy’s mother put her through. As Nancy grows up, she decides to learn the truth about her childhood, all the lies she was told and the abuse she got put through as a child. She goes to see a therapist to help her through the trauma she had been through as a child. She starts to hike and write stories to help her through the abuse that she suffered as a child. As she ages, she learns that she should have stood up to her mother because as a child all of the emotional and physical trauma she put Nancy through made Nancy’s grown-up life a roller coaster. 


I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it is about how a woman copes after being mentally and physically abused most of her life and as she gets older, she finds refuge in hiking and writing stories. At some parts I could really connect with Nancy because she is amazing at making new friends and is a great listener, she listens to everyone else's problems all while dealing with her own. I would recommend this book to anyone who grew up feeling like they were never good enough and want to become confident in who they truly are. I give this book 5 stars.

Carmen is a high school freshman from Wisconsin! She lives and works on her family’s dairy farm. Carmen is a reader, swimmer and horse lover who enjoys laughing and being silly with her friends!


Friday, December 10, 2021

Book Feature: The Man Who Transformed Africa: The Rebirth of a Continent

The novel opens with Vatican intrigue between liberal and conservative cardinals, which leads to the unlikely selection of an Indonesian pope. Seizing the opportunity, the new pope uses his ex-cathedra (papal infallibility) to declare poverty to be an immoral human condition. The pope decides to lead by example, taking the provocative step of selling Vatican treasures to fund a long-term plan to build a strong middle-class society in Africa. The novel follows the pope, an ex-president of the United States, and an African nationalist during the first two years of an estimated twelve-year project to build a strong African middle-class society.

After a year-and-a-half of steady progress, the ex-president and the African nationalist realize they have miscalculated the costs of irrigating the African tropical savannas, and the project stalls. A brilliant, young autistic project employee, originally hired to oversee the use of Africa’s natural resources, solves the irrigation problem, allowing the plan to continue moving forward. The autistic project employee later comes to the rescue once again when he clears the name of the ex-president, who had been falsely accused of bribery. The author believes the fictional narrative of this unique story will show the need to stabilize Africa’s social order, infrastructure, and land use, which would result in an economic rejuvenation of the continent, eventually turning Africa into an agricultural giant.

5 Things You Should Know About This Novel

1. This novel is a work of fiction that is dived in two parts. Part 1. The Vatican and Part 2. On the ground in Africa.

 2. This novel includes only the first two years of a twelve-to-fifteen-year project to build a strong middle-class African society. Attempting to include all the years of this project would result in a dictionary length book. Second, development of characters during fifteen years would be counterproductive.

 3. The Epilogue included in this novel is a snapshot of many of the characters beyond the first two years, and the increase of donations due to the surprise ending.

 4 In the Vatican part of the novel there is reference to Catholic cardinals who argue over conservative and liberal Catholic interpretation.

 5. Ever since elementary and going further in schooling the author was always confused by teachers who would on the one hand talk about the wealth that was underground in Africa, and the severe poverty of the African people.  

Author Peter Cimini was born in New York City, in the borough of the Bronx. He attended both a Catholic elementary and high school. Mr. Cimini holds bachelor and masters degrees from New York University. He was a teacher both in New York and Connecticut, and served students twenty years as a curriculum specialist, overseeing and writing curricula. He is also the author of The Secret Sin of Opi, on the topic of missing and exploited children. His favorite novel is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Author Cimini admires the works of writers Kristin Hannah and Nicolas Sparks. He lives in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Author JT Maicke on Research for Historical Fiction


I believe most fans of historical fiction would agree that thorough research and detailed knowledge of the location and period of the story is of utmost importance. This is key to developing a solid and believable plot line as well as interesting and convincing characters who speak and act in a manner appropriate to the culture of that time and place. The Humble Courier takes place in Germany during the interwar period and I put a great deal of effort into researching German history from the end of the Great War to the beginning of World War II. The study of German history, politics, culture, customs, geography, and cuisine has been one of my lifelong passions. As you can imagine, I have amassed a rather sizeable library on all things German. While researching and writing this story, I consulted a score of textbooks on German history and culture during the period 1914 through 1939, including books on the role and activities of the Catholic Church in Germany.

I also am a German speaker who had lived and worked in Germany and Austria for roughly five years of my life. These years allowed me to experience German culture firsthand along with the opportunity to visit over 100 cities, towns, and villages throughout Germany and Austria, including many of the locations depicted in The Humble Courier. In addition, while drafting the story, I had the opportunity to revisit Trier, Germany—location of about one third of the action in the novel—to refamiliarize myself with many of that city’s landmarks, including St. Matthias’ Abbey, the Electoral Palace, the Kastilport, the Episcopal Seminary, and the High Cathedral of St. Peter. This proved invaluable and led me to redraft a few chapters to modify the plot and to improve the richness and accuracy of my descriptions. I realize that overseas travel is expensive, not to mention difficult during this pandemic period, but it is vitally important in helping to create a believable portrayal of the scenes for your story.

Many friends and colleagues have asked me whether I relied on the Internet and whether I believed that this is an appropriate research medium. I did indeed use Internet websites to research several aspects of my story. Why not? There is a wealth of information available on the web. That said, I was careful to substantiate this data by examining multiple sources—both electronic and hard copy—to ensure accuracy.

I had a wonderful time creating the characters in The Humble Courier. Several characters were not part of the original plan for the story but came into being as my writing progressed. Several characters are introduced early in the story only to reappear later to play key roles in the plot line and to move the action forward. A handful of true historical figures also appear in The Humble Courier. The actual fates of several of these individuals, however, differ from their outcomes in the novel. I consulted biographies on these historical figures in an effort to ensure that their words and actions were commensurate with their personalities, positions, and circumstances.

The Humble Courier also contains several paragraphs of historical information designed to provide readers unfamiliar with Germany’s interwar period the necessary background to understand the environment in which the story is taking place. These passages were designed to avoid bogging down the action or converting the novel into a history textbook. I also included an Author’s Note at the end of the novel informs the reader which characters in the story are fictional and which were historic persons. This is a device used by some of my favorite historical fiction novelists, including Bernard Cornwell and Robert Harris.

I believe readers will enjoy The Humble Courier. The story contains a new and compelling plot line, heroes the reader will care about and root for, as well as villains they will love to hate. One doesn’t need to be a historian, or even a fan of historical fiction, to enjoy this tale of a brave and caring Catholic priest, living in an extraordinary and brutal time and place, who decides that passive resistance against evil is simply not enough.

About the book: Father Hartmann Bottger, a Benedictine monk and priest, has confronted bullies his entire life, including pompous clerics, local thugs, and callous and corrupt French Army occupation authorities in the German Rhineland. But Father Hartmann faces his greatest challenges with the rise to power of the Nazi Party and the brutality of the dreaded Gestapo, which threaten the rights of the Church as well as the lives and spiritual beliefs of Father Harti and the members of his small village parish.

The Humble Courier takes place in Germany during the turbulent years from the end of the Great War to the beginning of World War II. It is the story of a German soldier who believes he has been called to the Roman Catholic priesthood and tasked with fighting evil and protecting the weak from the strong. Although Father Hartmann initially employs passive resistance to fulfill what he perceives to be his mission, he comes to the conclusion that more aggressive—even violent—means are necessary to confront the awesome power of the SS and the Gestapo. Employing unlikely allies and extraordinary methods, Father Hartmann sets out to take the fight to his enemies, justifying his actions with St. Augustine’s proverb “Punishment is justice for the unjust.”

About the Author: A self-described Germanophile, J.T. Maicke writes historical novels that take place in Germany or among German American communities in the Midwest. The study of German history, geography, language, culture, and cuisine has been one of his life-long passions. He has spent several years living and working in Central Europe and has explored many of the locations mentioned in his stories. Maicke is a great fan of historical fiction, and his favorite authors include Ken Follett, Bernard Cornwell, George MacDonald Fraser, Umberto Eco, Robert Harris, and Morris West. He was educated by Benedictine monks and nuns in the Midwest and several of his stories have a Roman Catholic theme.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

On Writing a Memoir in a Child’s Voice but with Present-day Adult Reflections

Neill McKee takes readers on a journey through his childhood, adolescence, and teenage years from the mid-40s to the mid-60s, in the small, then industrially-polluted town of Elmira, Ontario, Canada—one of the centers of production for Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. McKee’s vivid descriptions, dialog, and self-drawn illustrations are a study of how a young boy learned to play and work, fish and hunt, avoid dangers, cope with death, deal with bullies, and to build or restore “escape” vehicles. You may laugh out loud as the author recalls his exploding hormones, attraction to girls, rebellion against authority, and survival of 1960s’ “rock & roll” culture—emerging on the other side as a youth leader. After leaving Elmira, McKee describes his intensely searching university years, trying to decide which career path to follow. Except for a revealing postscript, the story ends when he accepts a volunteer teaching position on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia.

In writing Kid on the Go!, I learned that it is possible to write in a child’s voice with the descriptions, perceptions, thoughts, and dreams of a child, accompanied by dialog between me as a child and other children, as well as adults, while also adding a present-day, historical perspective or reflection in a more mature voice. I did this by simply putting the latter in brackets. For instance, I was born less than a year after my brother—what we called “Irish twins”—a lack of birth spacing. We were not Catholics but then again, birth control was haphazard in those days. At any rate, right after I was born, I was all withered and wrinkled, looking like a little old man. When my mother brought me home and showed me to the Mennonite lady who lived downstairs, the lady said, “I’m sorry Alma, but you won’t raise him.” I added a possible explanation in brackets, using a mature voice on why I looked so malnourished: [Years later, I concluded my mother was breastfeeding my brother and robbed me of a lot of nutrients while I was in her womb—a major problem one can encounter when entering the world as an Irish twin.] Although the story of what the Mennonite lady said was an oft-repeated tale by my mother, the part in brackets is clearly something that I would not have known about as a child. Possibly my mother did not know it either. To give another example, starting in the 1940s, the chemical factory in our town made an insecticide called DDT and two herbicides, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, which were sprayed on lawns, gardens, and parks. The town council aimed to make Elmira “the first weed-free town in Canada.” I introduce this in Chapter 1 in brackets because I never knew the exact chemicals when I was a child and knew nothing about the town council. I only knew that on many days the town stank! Then in Chapter 14, when I am in high school, I reveal that our chemical factory was one of seven North American facilities that made the infamous Agent Orange used as a defoliant by the US Army in Vietnam. Agent Orange was produced by mixing 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T in equal and high concentrations. It caused thousands of innocent civilians to die or become severely ill and crippled, deformed fetuses in wombs, and produced much long-lasting environmental damage that continues to have effects on humans and animals today. I didn’t know this was taking place in the early 1960s (as was the case with most residents of Elmira). So, I put this information into a kind of “flash forward” and put it in brackets. In the book, I also changed my writer’s voice as I mature and included a postscript from a present-day point of view to tie up some unresolved issues. For instance, I briefly include the findings of my research on my hometown’s involvement in making Agent Orange and other chemicals, such as DDT, and their long-lasting effects. Many reviewers and readers seem to appreciate that I did not leave this hanging.

About the Author: Neill McKee is a creative nonfiction writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has written and published three books in this genre since 2015. His latest work is Kid on the Go! Memoir of My Childhood and Youth, a humorous and poignant account of his growing up in an industrially polluted town in Ontario, Canada, and his university years. This memoir is a stand-alone prequel to his first travel memoir Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah (2019) on his first overseas adventures in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo), where he served as a Canadian volunteer teacher and program administrator during 1968-70 and 1973-74.

Author’s website:

Kid on the Go! book page: