Cover Reveal “Common Backyard Birds”

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I have been busy working on the content for my latest project, a 32-page picture book that highlights my passion for bird photography. It will be published in the spring of 2018. Stay tuned for updates!

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Fall of the Berlin Wall

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Time flies! It has now been 28 years since the Berlin Wall opened, changing German and European history forever. That means that a generation of Germans has not lived in a divided Germany.

I have always been a lover of history until it occurred to me that I was living history. After all, the Cold War had shaped life in our village (I grew up next to the largest ammunition depot in the world) as well as my employment because I worked on a U.S. air base for many years.

During the early 1980s I took several trips to West Berlin and East Germany. They were very educational and satisfied my curiosity. How could I ever forget the fortified borders and the uneasy feeling of being watched around the clock? Would I get in trouble for photographing an empty shop window? How could I spend my pocket money when there was nothing worthwhile to buy, but I was not allowed to take it back home?

Fast forward to 1989, the most eventful year in my life. November 1989 was an especially busy time for me. I had just gotten married and was clearing out my bachelor apartment while also searching for a larger apartment. The sudden opening of the Berlin Wall therefore caught me by surprise.

My first reaction was disbelief, followed by unease. The 1980s had seen lots of tension and economic insecurity. East Germany, on the other hand, had enjoyed full employment. How could all those people be absorbed into the West German economy? It turned out that my fears were not unfounded. But first there was euphoria. Friends and families could visit each other after all those years. And East Germans were finally able to travel abroad.

I have never returned to Berlin after the fall of the wall. I doubt that I would recognize it anymore.

 

Image: SSgt F. Lee Corkran, DoD photo, USA

Why I Named My Novel “Oktober Heat”

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When I decided to write a novel set during the 1950s, the first problem I had to tackle was the exact year. The building of air bases and army posts provided plenty of material, to be sure. But the decisive factor for setting my book in 1958 was the arrival of Elvis Presley in Germany on October 1, 1958, when he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg.

 

That explains the word “Oktober” with its German spelling. Oktober not only conjures up images of beer and harvest festivals, but also Cold War novels and movies.  Heat, on the other hand, is not only a slang word for police, but also a term for excitement, thrill, enthusiasm, stress, passion – all of which occur in the book.

 

Once I settled on a month and year I was ready to research in earnest. During my next visits to Germany I scoured newspaper and photo archives to get an idea of current events, weather, fashion, lifestyle, and the availability of consumer goods. I found old photos particularly helpful in bringing my characters to life. Research was so much fun that I am now considering a sequel to my novel. It will take years to finish it, I am sure, because I will publish a picture book about birds next spring. Stay tuned for updates!

 

Doris Dumrauf is the author of “Oktober Heat” and “Create Your Own Backyard Wildlife Habitat

 

Travel Tips for Germany

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Since I immigrated to the U.S. 22 years ago I have visited the Old Country 12 times. With one exception, I always traveled during the summer months. Now, we all know that flying overseas during the summer is very expensive. Why then don’t I, a very frugal person, take advantage of cheaper fares in the off months? The answer is:

 

  1. Weather: Germany is not famous for great weather. In the summer I have at least a fighting chance to catch some beautiful days during a three-week stay. This year was no exception. I encountered blazing heat, mid-70s sunny temps, cool and rainy days, heat again, and rainy days. I needed everything from shorts to a windbreaker. And, while many cars now have air conditioning, houses do not.

 

  1. Daylight savings time: I don’t like driving in the dark anymore. During the summer it does not get dark in Germany until around 10 o’clock in the evening. That enables me to go out with my friends in the evening and still return to my ‘home away from home’ before darkness sets in. It is much more enjoyable to sit in a beer garden or an ice café on a mild evening than facing long darkness and the prospect of black ice or other inclement weather.

 

  1. Attractions: Many attractions are only open between April and October or at the very least, have longer opening hours during the warmer season.

 

The downside of traveling in the summer, of course, is increased traffic. Germany is situated in the center of Europe. That means that travelers from other countries who vacation in southern Europe must drive through Germany to get there. You better learn the meaning of the word Stau!

My Trip to Germany

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It had been three years since my last trip to Germany, so it was time to visit again. This time I was able to fly directly from Pittsburgh to Frankfurt, which made for a much shorter journey.

Highlights of my vacation were, in no particular order:

The pretty town of Idstein/Taunus

A tour through a precious gem mine near Idar-Oberstein

An interview with my hometown newspaper, Die Rheinpfalz

A class reunion

And numerous meetings with family and friends at restaurants and cafes to taste Spaghetti Eis, Flammkuchen, pizza, and generous portions of breakfast platters. Needless to say, I did  not lose weight!

 

 

Vom Lesen zum Schreiben

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Ich war zwei Jahre alt, als mein Bruder in die Schule kam. Wie alle jüngeren Geschwister wollte ich ihm nacheifern. Wenn er Hausaufgaben machte, bestand ich auf meiner eigenen Schiefertafel, um darauf herumzukritzeln. Als ich des Lesens mächtig war, besuchte ich jeden Freitag nachmittag die Dorfbücherei. Ablenkungen gab es ohnehin nicht viele in meinem Dorf, besonders während der kälteren Jahreszeit. Die Bücherei wurde von meinem Lehrer der dritten und vierten Klasse, Herrn Kloß, geleitet. Er las uns Geschichten vor und meine Freunde und ich liebten diese Stunden über alles. Natürlich las ich auch unzählige Bücher, obwohl man damals eine kleine Gebühr dafür zahlen musste.

Ich war etwas 12 Jahre alt, als ich mich an meinem ersten Kurzroman versuchte. Er war natürlich schlecht. Doch das Fundament war gelegt. Ich wollte Autorin werden. Aber wie wird man eigentlich Autor, besonders in Deutschland, wo keine Kurse in kreativem Schreiben angeboten werden? Ich hatte keine Ahnung,wie ich das bewerkstelligen sollte. Also beschloss ich, zu reisen und meinen Horizont zu erweitern – kurz, Erfahrungen zu sammeln, die irgendwann in mein Schreiben einfließen würden.

Meine Reisen führten mich in 21 Länder, viele davon mehr als einmal. In Frankreich war ich beispielsweise mehr als zwei dutzendmal. Ich war sogar in Ländern, die nicht mehr existieren. Von Irland bis zur Türkei, vom Polarkreis bis zu Spanien´s Alhambra, von Ungarn bis zu den USA war nichts vor meiner Reiselust sicher. Die Erinnerungen an diese Reisen werden mein Leben lang in mir wachbleiben. Die Menschen, die ich dabei kennenlernte und die Stätten der Geschichte, die ich dabei besuchte, versorgten mich mit Einsichten und Anekdoten, ohne die kein Autor auskommen kann.

 

Foto: Peng (wikimedia.org)

Autos, Autos, Autos

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Autoren historischer Romane müssen gründlich recherchieren. Obwohl ich viele meiner Kindheitserinnerungen in meinem Roman der Fünfziger Jahre verewigen konnte, brauchte ich mehr Informationen und wollte die Autos jener Zeit mit eigenen Augen sehen.

„Oktober Heat“ behandelt das Aufeinanderprallen zweier Kulturen: Auf der einen Seite waren die amerikanischen Soldaten mit ihren großen Autos und auf der anderen die Deutschen, die froh waren, wenn sie ein Fahrrad besaßen. Die Hauptfigur meines Romans spart für einen Motorroller und sehnt sich nach einer Fahrt in einem amerikanischen Straßenkreuzer.

Deshalb wollte ich wissen, wie ein Auto der Fünfziger Jahre von nahem aussieht. Wir fuhren zu einer großen Car Show, wo Chevrolet BelAir und Ford Fairlane mit mehreren Exemplaren vertreten waren. Ich fotografierte die Autos und fragte sogar einen Besitzer, wie sich der Motor des Autos anhörte. Obwohl ich bisher nicht das Glück hatte, in einem klassischen Auto mitzufahren, kann ich mir jetzt bildlich vorstellen, warum solch ein Auto auf den engen deutschen Straßen für Aufsehen sorgte.