The Choice: Escaping the Past and Embracing the Possible
By Edith Eger
A Review by Shelley Kassian
A must read, Edith Eger delivers a compelling true-to-life memoir, not only about surviving internment at Auschwitz (a Nazi death camp), but also finding purpose in her latter life by helping others as a psychologist. In this emotional account, a novel I won’t soon forget, it’s the traumatic recollections of the author’s life combined with her profession as a doctor that give meaning to the novel. The author’s courage, the will to rise above acts of brutality, to overcome the scars, and the patients and recollections of how they’ve been helped, make this novel a must read for anyone wanting to learn how to cope with past trauma. I’ve visited Auschwitz. I felt it necessary to see this place. A moment in the novel that resonated with me was the quietness of the death camp, the lack of birdsong, as if the land cannot escape the evil. The Choice is a poignant reminder that while each human being has a past, we must try to overcome our individual pains, whatever they might be, and look to the future: Each of us can live a beautiful life if we take the necessary steps to reach enlightenment.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be publishing a Christmas book this year in collaboration with seven other authors. Entitled A Gentleman for Christmas, the novel will be included in the anthology: Hugs, Kisses and Mistletoe Wishes.
To give you the history behind this anthology, eight Alberta romance writers have combined their talents to publish this eight-novel collection. The idea was born during the pandemic, when colleagues and writer friends came together at weekly Zoom meetings to share creative advice and moral support. This became a fun project for the group members and a great way to give something back to our loyal fans.
Romance novels can range from sexy to historical to fantasy (apparently even vampires fall in love) but in keeping with the season, we decided to stick with “sweet romance,” the kind of charming feel-good love stories that everyone from teens to grandmothers will enjoy.
The authors agreed on a giveaway price of ninety-nine cents for all eight books in the digital collection—their gift to romance readers everywhere.
Romance is the most popular fiction genre, with millions of readers reading tales of love every day around the world (and contrary to popular opinion, sixteen percent of them are men).
The collection is described as: Straight from our hearts to yours, eight enchanting love stories to enjoy during the holiday season and all year long. Each contains a romantic “mistletoe moment,” and an uplifting, happily-ever-after conclusion.
You may also seek out other romance novels published by the eight individual writers represented in this Christmas collection: Roxy Boroughs, S. L. Dickson, Raine Hughes, Ellen Jorgy, Shelley Kassian, Katie O’Connor, Sherile Reilly and A. M. Westerling.
The anthology releases on November 2, 2021 and myself and my colleagues can’t wait to share it with you!
I’m excited to release my latest novel, A Sea for Summer. This contemporary romance takes place on Vancouver Island at Summer Landing (a fictional retreat center). When I first imagined the premise, I wanted to write a novel that focused on friendship and a later in life relationship. In Peter and Claire’s love story, I wanted to recognize the work it takes to reach twenty-some years of marriage. I hope I’ve accomplished this.
My first review says that my novel may encourage readers to do more work in their own relationships, and I hope that’s true. Love isn’t possible without building bridges and meeting in the middle. I want to be a more inspirational author and bring joy to other people’s lives. There’s more stories to come in my new series, Places in the Heart. Fingers crossed—I can complete the next novel prior to Thanksgiving.
“…the author sets the perfect beachside scene for redemption, recognizable conflict, and thought-provoking conversations that may encourage readers to do more work on their own close relationships.”
A Sea for Summer is book one in the series: Places in the Heart. Book two is tentatively titled A Farm for Fall. This second chance story will focus on Anne.
I appreciate the written statement ‘When Words Collide.’ It juxtaposes an immediate impression on the listener of molecules clamoring together to form a new compound. ‘Mark Leslie Lebfebre of Kobo Reading Life’ neologized the quote at a recent readers’ and writers’ festival in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (WWC, When Words Collide). I love quotes for the immediacy they offer to their audience, so I especially enjoyed this one.
Magic happens: When Words Collide.
I write fantasy; as well as contemporary and historical romantic fiction. When my words collide, creating fictional accounts of characters in action, I hope my stories torture the root of something clever. Conceivably, the brilliance that an imaginative mind might coerce onto the written page.
I’m taken back to my fantasy series where I portrayed the subject matter of my first book, The Scarlett Mark, a MedEvil Romantasy. I thought the spelling of the new word clever. Now, I’m not so sure… but after two books published in this series, I don’t believe the word can be changed. (I can almost hear C.C. Humphreys enunciating the strangeness of the MedEvil word, his expression bewildered, perhaps stressing the e-vowel before delivering the final ⏤vil.) He has a talent for acting, but I digress.
The festival will prevail in my memory as one to cherish. I loved racing to various sessions, between the tower and the atrium building (insert sigh), among readers and writers. As an author, there’s something empowering about walking amongst creative individuals, so for those that have not experienced “When Words Collide, a festival for readers and writers,” I recommend that you attend next year.
Advice from Key-Note Speakers Include:
I attended an all-day master class with C.C. Humphreys. His key advice was to: ‘keep the reader reading.’ Through his teachings/technique, and the numerous workshops offered, I gained invaluable knowledge and best practices, which may assist in keeping my reader’s reading. Plus, and this a shameless plug for Mr. Humphreys… I am dying to read: Vlad: The Last Confession. The printed edition, gorgeously bound in ebony with a scarlet embellished paper-edge, is not available in Canada. Why? I might need to take a trip to an exotic country to find this beautiful and likely scary book! Transylvania, perhaps?
Guy Gavriel Kay shared an opinion about social media, entering into a more earnest dialogue with festival attendees to have balance in their marketing live’s. This wouldn’t only apply to writers. I appreciated it when he said:
“Sometimes, the changes in society carry a stealth element…”
So true! Authors⏤traditionally or independently published⏤know that social-media marketing has become an ever-increasing burden, regardless of platform, which can stealthily rob words from a written-page, potentially a written-work. A novel! I believe true fans want the written word. Namely books. True reading-fans won’t be disappointed by one less tweet or post on social media if it means that their favorite author will deliver their reading pleasure. (I’m thinking of George R.R. Martin, my favorite author. Be kind, have faith, the long winter will eventually come to an end, and oh how beautiful, when that spring finally blossoms.)
It all comes back to Mark Leslie Lefebre’s quote and a recent writing festival, “Magic Happens When Words Collide.” He’s right! A boon for readers and writers as flashes of insight encourage readers to read and writers to write. I extend my thanks to When Words Collide, the board, and the many festival volunteers. I had a fabulous experience! My knowledge enriched, my mind aches from the learning… and yes, I’ll be back next year!
Now with a flash of my magic wand… I write!
Two year’s later, I’m about to attend the festival for the third time. WWC meant so much to me, I joined the Board of Directors in the finance portfolio. This year, I’m also participating as a moderator on the panel: Everything you always wanted to know about romance, but were afraid to ask. Join me, Sunday at 2 pm. See you there!
When I enrolled for a preliminary course for my Freelance editing certificate, one of the first principles of language that my professor taught the class was this: the subject of a sentence, followed by action, equals the object of the sentence, and when written in this style the reader will always understand the sentence’s meaning. The writing convention shouldn’t have surprised me, but it was an aha… moment. To this day, if I stumble over my words or another author’s words, I ensure the sentence follows this basic structure.
I became a Reedsy Discovery Reviewer recently, and I was reminded about this writing style when an author didn’t follow the rule, leaving me confused in regards to the sentence’s meaning. While a novice writer may not comprehend basic sentence structure and the importance of word placement, at some point, they must learn their craft prior to publishing to ensure their readers understand the meaning of their sentences.
Let’s say a sentence is written as: “At every desk worked people.”
This sentence indicates that the desk is working, not the people, which is incorrect. Stylistically, the idea of people working at their desks would be better understood if written as: “People worked at every desk.”
This basic sentence structure is effective, which is why I wanted to share this simple structure with you. Subject + Action = Object (or meaning) of sentence.
Author C.J. Carmichael warms the hearts of her readers in this cozy, holiday romance novel, A Bramble House Christmas. This yuletide exultation takes a mother and son to Marietta, Montana; a reassuring place where goodwill, a family mystery, and an unlikely hero bids Willa and her son Scout a chance at future happiness. The novel was made into a Hallmark Channel Original TV Movie in November 2017, and this author was fortunate to have been invited to the viewing celebration. A Bramble House Christmas brings tidings of comfort and joy to Carmichael’s readers, and the sweet narrative will keep you smiling long after the story ends.
Author Katie O’Connor gifts her readers with an early Christmas present in this contemporary romance novel, Christmas in Silver Creek. The heartwarming story shares homecoming and holiday reverie as Hailey and Jesse refurbish the store, Two Angels Gifts, which subsequently not only brings a couple together, but also ‘builds’ a promising new future for their family. Christmas in Silver Creek decorates the season with tender emotion, promising tidings of comfort and joy for O’Connor’s readers.
Shelley Kassian writes lively and fun romance in intriguing settings and is currently writing A Sea for Summer, which is book one of her new series, Places in the Heart.
“Ladies and gentlemen, come this way,” said the tour guide.
It’s been eight months since I experienced the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and former Nazi German concentration camp, and though time has passed, I can’t escape the tone of the tour guide’s voice, nor his respectful inflection of Ladies and Gentlemen, any more than I can escape the images of the innocent who have been imprinted in my mind. Images of deportees; men, women and children, standing on a railway platform in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, waiting for their fates to be decided, to learn whether they would live or die. They didn’t know they would die. Many deportees were murdered soon after the following photo was taken.
After the liberation of Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, Lili Jacob, a Jew from Slovakia, found an album known as the Auschwitz Album or the Lili Jacob Album, which contained almost two hundred photographs (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum). The above photo forms a part of this collection.
I wanted to write about my experience when I returned to my home in Canada. Initially, I couldn’t write about what I had seen. I wanted to talk about my impressions to friends and colleagues, but I remained mostly silent. It’s a difficult subject, but today, 75 years after Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated, it’s time for conversation and for humanity to remember the atrocities committed here.
A sombre feeling grips you while passing through the entrance gate in Auschwitz. I could have been experiencing a normal community, a community where people like you and I live. But in this place humans didn’t live comfortably. Initially a quarantine center, a death camp existed here with inhumane conditions. The chimneys are silent now, smoke and ash does not rise into the sky. Yet, the stench of death lingers. I sense it. The tour guide reminds our group that we could be walking on lingering ash. Evil doings whisper at Auschwitz, of genocide; starvation, slave labor, torture, medical experimentation, selection and extermination. The death camp survives as a memorial, a cemetery, a place of remembrance and contemplation, and the museum holds the evidence of crimes committed here.
The evidence is overwhelming. Out of respect for the victims, images of ‘the room of hair’ were not permitted, though this evidence is viewable on the museum’s website. If I close my eyes, I can visualize the massive collection of human hair, cut from murdered deportees heads after death. The image imprinted in my mind brings me to tears, still.
“Ladies and gentlemen, come this way… Leave your belongings here and we’ll take care of them for you.”
Auschwitz gives the impression of a normal community until you realize the prisoners were forced to live here against their will. And while a few did escape, those left behind suffered severe punishments, which encouraged other victims to remain obedient to their SS Guards.
Many victims were murdered the same day they arrived, especially if they were considered unfit to work. The elderly. The disabled. Children.
“Ladies and gentlemen, come this way… Leave your belongings here and we’ll take care of them for you. Don’t forget where you placed them…”
When construction began in 1941, Auschwitz II-Birkenau was supposed to be a camp for 125 thousand prisoners of war, but it also served as the center for Jewish extermination. The majority—probably about 90%—of the victims of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp died in Birkenau. Approximately one million people. The majority, more than nine out of every ten, were Jewish. A large proportion of the more than 70 thousand Poles who died or were killed in the Auschwitz complex perished in Birkenau. So did approximately 20 thousand Roma and Sinti, in addition to Soviet POWs and prisoners of other nationalities (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum).
Walking beside the railway line overwhelmed me. My feet ground against the stones, an iron trail and walkway where deportees were forced to walk more than 75 years ago. The surrounding area is vast, quiet, no birdsong brightens the air, and many of the buildings are gone. Yet, the image of Jews arriving from Hungary, a country where my father’s family emigrated from, makes connections in my mind.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Nazi officers committed these atrocities. Like you, they or their descendants could be walking among us now.”
Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet army on January 27th, 1945.
I’ll never understand how humans can commit heinous crimes. On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Ladies and Gentlemen, I leave you with this important message:
Historical facts were confirmed through Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’s website. If you are interested in learning more about the holocaust or the Auschwitz concentration camps, this is a good resource.
Torrey Pines, a community in San Diego, California, breathed new life into a husband and wife’s travel adventures. We recently experienced a fabulous hotel, a world class golf course, and amazing beaches where we left our footprints in the sand. What more could an author ask for? Torrey Pines delivered it all.
I’m fortunate to have visited many pleasurable destinations in the United States while traveling with my husband, the President of Kassian Dyck and Associates, but I will return to the community of Torrey Pines, and likely accompanied by my family. Living in different places in the world, we’re always searching for new destinations to meet up, places such as Torrey Pines.
Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines
It’s been my experience that my vacation needs are best met when I stay at the best hotels. The Hilton La Jolla at Torrey Pines had comfortable accommodations, pleasant staff, an expansive breakfast buffet with vegan and vegetarian options, and an amazing pool area. Much thanks to the hotel’s front desk clerk who upgraded our room, giving my husband and I a view of the pool area, which offered an incredible view of the Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean in the background.
Being part of the Hilton Honors loyalty program has earned my husband and I such benefits before, which is why we usually choose the Hilton hotel brand.
Torrey Pines Golf Course
Neither my husband or I golf, but Torrey Pines Golf Course might have inspired us to start. The course overlooks the ocean and backs onto the Hilton hotel property. We visited the pro shop and purchased golf shirts for our son-in-law’s, who love the sport of golf, which was an exciting gift for them when we arrived home.
The Farmer’s Insurance Open, a professional tournament on the PGA tour, was about to start. Taking place January 23rd to 26th, the course was being prepared during our stay. The Hilton hotel was also preparing for celebrity golfers before we left. Can you imagine golfing at a course where Tiger Woods, Rory McIlRoy and the best golfers in the world have golfed? We will return for sure.
Torrey Pines State Beach
I love the ocean. Torrey Pines State Beach was the perfect place to experience the vibe of the sea. I wasn’t alone while walking along the shoreline. My husband accompanied me. He patiently strolled beside me and held my hand while I searched for pebbles, shells and sea glass, both of us listening to the swell of the ocean. A king tide had passed across the shoreline the night before, so the sand was absolutely incredible. Almost a mirror of the sky.
Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines
Life should be enjoyed and a favorite moment of mine was shared with my husband. Wine and cheese at Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. My hubby knows how to please his wife.
Where will your next vacation take place? I recommend Torrey Pines.
It occurred to me while writing at the hotel that Torrey Pines would be the perfect name for a character. Hmm… that story must wait for another time.
Shelley Kassian is the author of several novels including The Women of Stampede novel, The Half Mile of Baby Blue. She’s currently writing her next fantasy novel, The Forgotten God, Book three in A Reign of Blood and Magic, which will release in the latter part of 2020.
I watched ‘The Secret’ last night, a documentary that is currently playing on Netflix. If you have not read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne or watched the documentary, there’s a message in the book that seems so simple to me.
You get what you put into life. If you want joy, exude joy, but if you focus on worries, you exude worries.
I WANT TO FEEL JOY!
2019 is almost gone. It’s December, the most wonderful time of the year, and I’m aware my written words have been lacking (worries). I passed the 30,000 word mark in my medieval saga recently, and in reaching this milestone, I felt like I’d jumped over a hurdle. I was exhausted. I focused on the exhaustion. I equated the effort to breathlessness after climbing the highest mountain. I sat on the plateau knowing I needed at least 30,000 more words (more worries). I couldn’t visualize where I wanted to travel next, which is a barrier to completing my work in progress. Huh!
I didn’t celebrate reaching my milestone. I didn’t sit at the top of a mountain with my arms outstretched, enjoying the work, feeling the joy, the success, that I had created far more than 30,000 words. A story is taking shape! My words bring characters to life. This is a fabulous effort. After watching The Secret, I realized I’ve been analyzing my writing goals in the wrong way.
An author blessed with imagination should not only focus on the work in progress, but also visualize the success of their finished book. Imagine it in your mind and hold it in your hands.
If you’re not an author, what does success look like to you? This is what joy feels like at the top of a mountain:
I WANT TO EXUDE JOY!
The Secret states that a person must “ask, believe, receive.” This message is written on The Secret website. I didn’t even know there was a website until today. Their mission statement is to bring joy to billions.
My takeaway? I’ve asked for joy. I believe each written word will bring me joy. What will I receive? A finished book that will give me and others joy. I hope. 🙂 What’s your secret and what does joy mean to you?
I am thrilled to announce that I will be a featured author in Opal Writers’ Magazine’s July/August edition. I’m so grateful to have been chosen, as the July issue will arrive prior to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, The Calgary Stampede.
The magazine will include the novel that celebrates The Calgary Stampede, The Half Mile of Baby Blue, which I wrote as part of the Women of Stampede series.
OpalWriters’ Magazine is a Calgary based magazine for authors and writers. Within its pages readers discover articles on writing craft and short fiction pieces. It’s a bi-monthly magazine, available by subscription or single copies.
To learn more about the novel, The Half Mile of Baby Blue, click here.