The Writing Life Blog Hop June 16, 2014

A YA writing colleague, Christine Kohler, asked me to participate in a writing life blog hop. Blog hopping is very new to me so I thought I would take a chance and see how it goes. Next week you can follow the authors below and see which three people they have asked to share their writing life.

1) What am I writing or working on? 

I am currently writing several books at once, all revolving around the records and stories of World War II. As I was writing my latest book, Stories of the Lost I recognized a great need for not only the genealogy community, of which I have been a part for many years, but others interested in World War II, for a book on how to do the research of a WWII soldier. By August I will release a short guide to the basics of getting started in WWII research. Shortly after I will release a short guide on beginning to write your soldier’s story. Then by this fall I will release the second book in my Stories of the Lost series, The Tiger’s Widow. 

At the same time I’m conducting research and writing a four volume set on WWII records. Nothing like this exists and the first volume will be released by April 1, 2015. Add to this the client genealogy work and writing I do plus lecture writing. Writing books is not all I do, there is a lot of business work and research that goes into every book, lecture, and client project. I love it!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I run a business that was established in the genealogy community. Over the last two years my business has merged with the world of history, specifically military history. I stand in two camps – Genealogy and History. The two do not always appreciate the strengths of the other so I feel my work may help lay a foundation to open minds.

I did write and publish a series of beginning genealogy books two years ago for kids and adults. I also published To Soar with the Tigers, a story about my cousin Robert Brouk who was a Flying Tiger. That book contained genealogy information but also Robert’s war diary and information on his life. Technically I write non-fiction. genealogy non-fiction I think is more “how-to” and serious research analysis in general. The books I’ve been writing lately like Stories of the Lost and The Tiger’s Widow, are more creative non-fiction. I have written a story using genealogy and military records and taken some liberties to make it more of a story that people want to read rather than all names, dates, and places.

3) Why do I write what I do? 

My writing focus has shifted to telling the stories of WWII soldiers, particularly those who did not return to tell their stories. They say people die twice. The first time when they physically die and the second time when someone utters your name for the last time. These soldiers should be remembered and I feel a deep need to tell these stories. I believe I was put on this earth to serve a purpose – this is one of those purposes. I also feel I need to share the knowledge I have gained about the records of WWII. There is such a disconnect between what is actually available and what people believe to be unavailable.

If you have ever attended one of my military lectures I also talk about the things no one thinks about or want to think about. Like the men of the Graves Registration Service in WWII. I talk not only about the records they kept which are valuable in telling the story of a soldier, but also the gruesome, emotional, very necessary job they performed. My books talk about the hard stuff and encourage people to think about concepts of war they never did before.
4) How does my writing process work?

My process varies depending on the book. When I wrote Stories of the Lost, I did it without outlining the book. I knew which four soldiers I wanted to write about and I dug into the research and started writing. I hopped from soldier to soldier as the muse said to. In some cases I had to switch who I was working on because I was waiting for a book or research to arrive. Then about a year into the book I thought, “I really need to learn about the Graves Registration Service to better explain Frank’s story.” I spent an entire weekend connecting with people around the world, filling two white boards with notes, and ordering books through inter-library loan on the GRS. That GRS research became a final chapter in my book and completely changed a lecture I was writing on one of the men. Yet it worked. I listened to my intuition and followed the puzzle pieces.

I wrote a great deal of that book at “The Magical Starbucks” near my house. I call it “The Magical Starbucks” because I think great things happen there. And, there is enough distraction that when I’m researching and writing the hard, sad parts of my books, I make it through without completely breaking down. I also meet a lot of interesting people there that give me quite a lot to think about where my research and books are concerned.

The four volume series I’m writing now required an outline. Initially I thought it would be one massive book but as I really pulled apart the outline I realized it needed to be multiple volumes. I’m sure it will change the more I research and write.

The two short guides I’m writing now draw from work I’ve already written for other projects and all my current books. Gathering a massive amount of information together and cutting large chunks out to create a simple, straightforward basic guide is difficult. No outline, just thinking about the process I want to convey.

I’m not sure I’d recommend my writing process to anyone. Read any writing book and they will tell you to outline, create a writing schedule and stick with it. I’m not your usual writer though and have to fit in paid client work around my unpaid till the books are published writing. When the writing muse finds me and yells “WRITE” I do. When she doesn’t, I do other work or research. It works for me.

Now please meet the authors who will continue the hop next week.

Shannon Combs-Bennett

Shannon Combs-Bennett is an author, lecturer, and genealogy researcher from Virginia.  While she speaks on a variety of topics her passion lies with genetic genealogy where she puts her Biology degree to use explaining this complicated subject to those getting started.  Her personal blog Trials and Tribulations Family History chronicles her adventure through the genealogy world and beyond.  Shannon continually strives to educate herself in this field and is proud to be a graduate of the Boston University Online Genealogical Certificate Program.  You can follow her on Twitter @tntfamhist or learn more about her on her here.

Stephanie Pitcher Fishman

Stephanie Pitcher Fishman is an author and professional genealogist specializing in Midwestern and Southeastern United States family history. She is the author of seven family history research guides in the Legacy QuickGuide series on topics including religious records, census records, and state-specific research techniques. She has also written articles and blog posts for websites such as and is a co-founder of The In-Depth Genealogist. She is also an active member of the Ohio Genealogical Society volunteering by lecturing on topics such as Plain Religions, Quaker research, and introducing family history to children. Her first novel, Finding Eliza, was published in 2014. To learn more about Stephanie and her products and services, visit:

J. Eric Booker

Sadly J. Eric Booker’s blog is having some technical difficulty. But you can read his answers for the tour here. If you would like to learn more about him, please check out his FaceBook author page.

1) What am I writing or working on?
I love to bounce between my mutli-genre writing projects, in order to keep my creative juices flowing. Besides a dozen or so projects that range from “nearly done to “basic concepts,” I have four published books being sold worldwide and making charts: Epic Fantasy Trilogy and a Who-dun-it? Mystery.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Unlike most authors who outline their plot, characters, etc. before writing his or her story, I don’t. I make a basic character in a basic land and run with that. Oftentimes I am surprised or shocked at what my characters do.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Because I love writing and it keeps me sane.

4)How does my writing process work?

Just like a super-data computer.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL



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