Another peek

Want another peek? This is Frederick, a Nazi soldier stationed in Kiev in World War II. He is a torn character who is ugly and horrifying and completely and totally sympathetic. I have really loved writing his story.

I was ten years old the first time my father took us all to Berlin. The year was 1934 and the memory dances through my mind in moving pictures, every emotion joined together in fluid motion. I remember the sights and sounds of the bustling city as we exited our train at Berlin’s Lehrter Bahnhof and moved to the Nazi provided car. The officer appointed to transport us was solemn and stern and I shrunk back in fear when he looked at me prompting my Father to pinch the back of my neck in annoyance.

He always hated when I showed any semblance of fear and I felt his disappointment as we slid into the plush car.

That trip to Berlin was the first time that I remember being in awe of my father’s status. He was so revered that as we exited the car, hotel staff hurried to us, picking up bags and rushing to our room to set it up in a fashion that was worthy of someone with such great importance.

We stood in our expansive room on the top floor of the Esplanade and looked out over the beautiful city. Talia and I pressed our noses to the cool glass and pointed out the cars and people walking far below us. I was awestruck at the bustle and energy that buzzed through the city.

“The cars look like small toys,” I cooed just before my father stepped up behind us.

“Stand up children,” he snapped, his words sharp and clipped. Talia and I stood and faced our father, my heart beating like a drum. “Good. Now, who can tell me what we worked on earlier this week.”

Because I was always so frightened of my father, it seemed to take me a long time to register any question he asked. Panic that I would produce an unacceptable answer left me mute. Talia thrust her hand in the air.


“We learned to remain quiet and calm and to not speak unless asked a direct question,” she said with a smile, her bright red hair cascading over slender shoulders. Father smiled and ran his hand down her cheek.

“Very good, my darling,” he said. “Now, Frederick,” he said turning to me. “How are you to greet any official that walks your way?”

My heart raced as I searched for the words to answer my father. I couldn’t find them, so I merely thrust my arm in the air, straight up above my head. Father sighed and shook his head.

“Yes, Frederick,” he said with a heaping portion of annoyance, “but what do you say when you greet them?”

My hand, still high above my head, shook as I searched for the greeting that I knew so well. Why did I always feel so incompetent in his presence?

Talia snapped her heels together and threw her arm up next to me. “Hile Hitler!” she said, throwing me a sideways glance.

“Hile Hitler!” I repeated after her and Father nodded at us both.

“Very good,” he said. “Now go prepare yourselves for dinner.”

©Kelli Stuart, October 2012

The Novel

I’m not going to finish my novel by June 1st. This writing a book thing is hard. Really, really hard. Like child birth kinda hard, complete with back pain from all the hunching over the keyboard.

Today I laid down to take a nap and I was flooded with ideas. My characters began swimming and talking and I decided to listen. I fed my family, packed up my computer and headed out where I promptly grew totally overwhelmed because my fingers cannot type fast enough.

I know where the characters are going, but getting them there takes time and I’m impatient and frustrated and wish I could just get it all out at once. Instead, I type a few pages, my heart starts beating really fast, my pulse quickens and I literally feel like I’m falling – like I’m leaning into the finish line and my feet can’t keep up.

So I have to step away, take a break, then dive back in. Do you know how slow this is going?

I’m almost to 200 pages and their stories are just ramping up. This is the longest labor ever in the history of all time.

Would you like to read one more sneak peek? Okay, good. Because this girl’s story is my favorite and it is the story I simply can’t get out fast enough. So here you have it – this is a bit more of Luda’s story. I first introduced you to Luda in Sneak peek #1. Her story is complex and full of beauty and pain and grief and joy. Isn’t that how life goes?

Beauty and ashes all mixed together.

(Disclaimer – This is the unedited, first rough draft. It’s not perfect, but it is coming out and that is a step in the right direction.)

Leaning back, I turn my face up to the ceiling and take in a long, deep breath. The pieces all began to fall into place. “So my mother was not a whore,” I say, less to him and more to myself. Every single image of my mother that I’d conjured up as a youth came flooding back. Her laugh that sounded like a thousand bells. The sound of her voice singing softly over me. The way her hair swung loosely over her shoulders. Could these be real memories? Could it be that the very few moments I had with my mother had been stored inside of me all along?

“I’m sorry, Luda,” Alexei says quietly, breaking the silence. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. I’m sorry that I failed you…and your mother.”

I nod, then ask one last question that has been pressing against my heart like a vice. “What is my mother’s name?”

Alexei’s eyes widen. “He never even spoke her name?” he whispers.

I shake my head no. “He only spoke of her when he was drunk and he always referred to her as ‘My darling,’ in those rare moments. I have never heard my mother’s name.”

“Marianna,” Alexei said and a gentle smile spread across his face. “Your mother’s name is Marianna.”

I nod and my eyes fill with tears. “Thank you,” I whisper. “Thank you for giving my mother back to me.”

Alexei reaches across the table and grasps my hand. “You are just like her, Luda. You are going to be an excellent mother just like she was.”

I nod slowly and allow a smile to form. The first genuine smile I’ve given in months. I look at my stomach and breathe in deep.

Like your mother.

For the first time in all my life, I feel peace.

©Kelli Stuart, May 2012

My new goal is to hit 200 pages by June 27 when I head to California for a writer’s retreat. I’m going to finish this thing, you guys. It’s actually going to happen!!!!

If it kills me…

And it just might…

But let’s hope not because I really need to finish this before I die…

The End.

Why writing a book is a lot like life

I don’t know if I’ve told you, but I’m writing a book.  I might have mentioned it once or twice…or a hundred times.


The thing is, I really believe in this book.  I’ve been working on it a long time…and by long time I mean more than a decade.  Oy. I have started and stopped, re-written and tossed.  I have had two characters remain at the core of the novel this entire time.  They are my friends…at least I think they are.  They may hate me since I’ve taken so long to tell their story.

How’s that for deflection?  I’ll blame my ficticious characters for my unfinished novel.

This latest draft, however, is The One.  You know how people always say you’ll “just know” when you meet the person you’re going to marry?  Well, I just knew the second I wrote the first sentence of this version that I had finally tapped into the core of who my characters are.

I found them.

Now, the challenge is to keep them moving and flowing forward in a cohesive manner.

Stephen King, my writing guru, says that when writing a novel you need to get it out as fast as you can.  Don’t stop to make edits, don’t get hung up on the details – just write.  You can go back later and fill in the holes.

I am finding this very difficult, Mr. King.  I see the validity of this and want to follow this advice, but the temptation to edit is powerful.  Because, you see, there are some moments in the book that are wonderful.  I love how they read and the imagery is powerful and I was obviously in the zone when writing.

There are other moments in the book, however, that are worthy of no more than kindling for a chilly night.  The rest of the book falls somewhere in between brilliant and suckalicious.

The problem with having worked on a book this long is I know exactly where I want my characters to go.  For the most part.  Some of them have already surprised me a bit.  But it’s the getting there that is slowing me down.  I’m so impatient to get to the exciting part – the part of the story that I know  – that I’m frustrated with the journey the characters are taking to get there.  I am bogged down in the details.

Life in general is full ofsimilar  ups and downs, isn’t it?  We have moments of excitement – first day of school, graduation, college, wedding day, birth of a child and so on…We live for these moments and anticipate them never really realizing the journey we take to get to those moments is every bit as important.  Those important moments are the peaks and after every peak we must descend for a bit before we reach another milestone.

But don’t we so often find ourselves impatient in the valleys and plateaus of life?  We get bored and frustrated.  We lose sight of the good of right now and only long and hope for the joy of the next big moment.  But we need the valleys and the plateaus.  They are, in fact, what builds…character.

It’s the same with writing a book.  The journey to the peak of each character’s story is so important, but in the anticipation of the big moment, I am impatient.  I’m bogged down in the details and the climb to the big moment feels endless and frustrating.

I just want to get to the good part.

But if I’m willing to relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the process of each step these characters take toward their individual peaks, I may actually learn a little something along the way.  And in the end, the story of their lives will reveal so much more beauty through the toil of their climb to the top.

And yes, as I wrote that sentence I totally started singing this song.

*sigh* I’ll bet Stephen King never busts out with Mily Cirus while he’s writing…