Hey, loyal readers. I hope you’re doing well. Things have been busy here around the Wheeler homestead, what with a few more readings to promote Kings of Broken Things, I spoke with Mary Hartnett on Siouxland Public Radio about Tom Dennison’s legacy in Omaha, saw Kings named as having one of the best book covers of the year by Book Riot, and most recently appeared on the Writing Fun YouTube channel to talk about the process of writing historical fiction and whether or not I’m into the MLB post-season even though the Royals didn’t make it this year. (Meh.) Along with teaching fiction writing at UNO again this fall, starting Dundee Book Company, and that whole full-time job and family thing, I’ve been busy.
A couple more things.
First, I’d like to point out that the hardcover edition of Kings of Broken Things is now 49% off at Amazon. I know many of you already have the book, but if you don’t yet have a copy, or don’t yet have the beautiful hardcover version, and have been waiting for the price to drop online, here you go.
Lastly, Carrie Meyer from the Durham Museum was kind enough to send along some images from our awesome Objects of Inspiration event at the museum a few weeks ago with my fellow Omaha historical novelists Timothy Schaffert and Andrew Hilleman. It was such a fun event, made even more special by the select artifacts that Carrie had pulled from the Durham’s archive. Specifically related to Kings, there was a WWI-era doughboy uniform and an amazing zither. See below for the full gallery. (All photos were taken by Dawn Myron and appear courtesy of the Durham Museum.)
Hear below–me reading from my new chapbook On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brownon the Platte River Sampler radio show (KZUM, 89.3 in Lincoln, Nebraska) and being interviewed by host Phil Schupbach. This was a lot of fun and turned out pretty well, I’d say. Thanks so much to Phil and KZUM for having me.
A few updates on events surrounding the release of my chapbook (On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown) and some info on how to obtain a copy for yourself, if you’re so inclined:
– The e-book version is available right now on Amazon for the bargain price of 99 cents. If you’re a Kindle user, check it out here.
– I’ve confirmed that the paper pamphlet version will be sold through the online store of Edition Solitude–which you can find here. Well, you can’t find it there now–unless you’re reading this in the future–but it will be there soon. Probably in March.
– Promotional materials are starting to come out for the “Quotes & Appropriation” event Darren Keen and I (and many others) will be a part of at Akademie Schloss Solitude later this month. There’s more information on the event here and here and here, if you’re interested. Here’s the flyer for the event.
– A chapbook release party has been organized, and the good news is you’re all invited! The other good news is that I talked Darren into stopping by Omaha on his way to SXSW, so we’ll have our entire reading/music/film/photography presentation ready to share to a local audience too, which is important. Join us on Wednesday, March 11, at Pageturners Lounge (5004 Dodge Street/Omaha). Here’s a link to the Facebook event page, with all the details. This will be the easiest way to obtain a copy of the paper version if you’re in the Omaha-area, as we’ll have copies for sale at the event, with all proceeds benefiting the Urban League of Nebraska.
With the centenary of Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo coming up this June 28, one would think World War I will be much more in the news soon–at least in the US and Britain. (Here’s how Washington DC plans to celebrate, if you’re interested.)
Of course, while in-person events and the unveiling of monuments is interesting, what’s coming out on the web now is more compelling, at least to a more historical, less political perspective.
The Atlantic has launched a ten-part photo archive from Alan Taylor called World War I in Photos. It’s awesome. Definitely recommended. The depth of the selections is striking. I particularly like how the images are pulled from the different sides. It seems like most of the stuff I’ve seen before has been very American-centric and jingoistic, although this isn’t always the case, the History Channel aside.
I’ve come across a few cool pages lately that show World War I in living color. The Prague Revue presents WWI in Color, including the impressive combat footage in the video below. From the looks of things, those are French-built trenches in the video. And Time recently posted over a dozen very cool images in Rare Color Photographs from the Trenches of World War I. (Several are graphic, fyi.) So many of these are great, particularly the non-combat images that kind of reveal the style-within-war that seems to be a major part of the era.
One that really caught my eye is featured here on the right, of the Messine Ridge in Flanders. For months British miners tunneled under trenches and No Man’s Land in order to dig mines under German trenches and pack them with explosives. Over 10,000 German soldiers were killed when the TNT was detonated–and you can see what a crater the explosion caused. According the the caption in the article, this was one of the largest “non-nuclear” blasts in history, and could be heard in London and Dublin. So, yeah. This is something that’s mentioned in my novel, so it was of particular interest to me. Amazing stuff.
Some cool stuff. I’m hopeful, that with the centenary of the war coming upon us very soon, a ton more of stuff like this will be coming out. It’s fascinating.
Back in April of this year, I wondered in this space if anyone knew the current whereabouts of the Friedrich von Schiller monument that used to be in Riverside Park. Thanks to some astute research by my Uncle Ed, it was determined that the Omaha German-American Society took possession of the statue after it was removed from the park. (An angry mob also deposited it in a ditch for the duration of World War I, before it was retrieved and replaced, and then tore down again. )
This weekend, we took the occasion of Oktoberfest at the German-American Society to confirm the location of the Schiller monument. Found!
-My novel (The Uninitiated, for the uninitiated of you reading this) has reached it’s newest stage of done! It’s off to my trusted cadre of readers for feedback and comment. Depending on how soon I hear back from them, I hope to be nearly done-done with the novel early this summer. Then the novel will be off to agents, hoping to find representation. Exciting stuff. I’m rather fond of the book and hope it does well. It’s very exciting to have it completed. Strangely, I kind of care less about publication now that it’s finished than I did when I hardly had any of it written. Maybe I still kind of doubted I could do it. It’s always easier to dream of publishing than it is to write.
-Not much else has been going on, writing-wise. I’ve been working on a few book reviews, and toiling day and night as Web Editor of Prairie Schooner. Some highlights: navigating a reformatting tangle to get our summer issue on Kindle, helping develop a mobile app, and launching (as co-editor with Claire Harlan-Orsi) a monthly book review on Prairie Schooner’s blog. Fun stuff.
-I’m also working on a few photo features for this blog. Mostly historical Omaha stuff, but also contemporary photos of spots where things in my novel happened. I’ll get on this soon.
-Clara has been around for a month now. We’re pretty fond of her as well.
-My grandpa Wheeler died. He was eighty. He was only able to meet Clara once, on Easter, but it was pretty nice. Shouldn’t have rushed around so much. We had four generations of ____ Lynn(e) Wheelers in the same room—Billy Lynn, Dennis Lynn, Theodore Lynn, Clara Lynne. We neglected to snap a photo. Unfortunately, that turned out to be our only opportunity.
Dispatch from The Uninitiated
“It used to be a common thing for a young man to light off secretly in the night, searching for a life different from the one he toiled through at home. Jacob Bressler became an exile in this way. He left under starlight and led his horse over the brawny shoals of what would be his brother’s farm from then on. He didn’t bother with a saddle but merely slid a bridle over the nag’s muzzle and walked out into the buggy paths of the river valley. Even in the dark he found the graveled highway that led to Omaha. There was no need to rush. He knew his brother wouldn’t follow him, not after what happened the week before. It was the kind of thing that happened a lot in Jackson County, and that’s why Jacob had to leave. He slid from his horse when he arrived on the River Ward, easing down to the pavement to land on one foot, the left one raised limp. His foot pulsed dully. He couldn’t worry about it, the Ward had his attention. It was a dark morning but he saw the dim hash marks of intersections on the hills beyond where sanitation wagons crept along knolls that slanted up from river to prairieland. There were tenements to the south, dirt-yard shacks he passed coming in from the north. The River Ward was pinned between the Missouri and downtown Omaha. It was mostly mills and warehouses, tar-topped and sturdy. There were other buildings too. Townhouses puzzled together from curb to curb, brownstones that had been fashionable once but were too close to the pig iron mills now, the constant hammering of steel and tails of factory smoke rising in the mucid morning ether. These were made extravagant, brownstone, sandstone, a blushing peach shade of brick. Jacob knew he would need money right away if he were going to survive. It hadn’t occurred to him in his rush to leave Jackson County. He was too concerned with making his life of great importance—with getting rich—that he forgot about practical things like having enough money for supper and a room. He would have to sell his horse.”
The Cove by Ron Rash. Set in WWI-era North Carolina, this novel deals with a German musician’s struggle to avoid anti-German violence in the rural south and a young woman’s difficulty living down the stigma of a birthmark in a superstitious town. An often beautiful and compelling novel.
The Missing of the Somme by Geoff Dyer. Really a must for anyone interested in the military history or the symbology of war.
Has everybody (or anybody) been watching Ken Burns’ new PBS documentary Prohibitionthis week? It’s really fascinating how much the face of the United States was changed in order to bring about Prohibition–and how it was largely anti-German sentiment surrounding America’s entry into World War I that was finally “the home run” for Prohibitionists, as most of the brewers were German-American, of course.
Below is a section that is period-relevant to the book I’m working on. The bit on the anti-German wave and World War I starts around 8:13.