Top 10 Discoveries About My Book

This is how I imagine the book cover. Only with the shadow of a man in a coat and hat looking all detectivie

Are you surprised how your book turned out?

Now, spoiler alert, this is a longer post than normal. Get into your comfy underwear, pour yourself a glass of whiskey, put your feet up on the dog and continue.

Yager’s War has come so far since it’s inception back in 2016, but my first historical novel has finally been sent off to my first readers – Two professional writers, and one person who lived through that time.

Oh, but that seems so long, ago, now. A lifetime. And in that lifetime, I learned a lot about my story, which kinda surprised me since I thought I pretty much knew everything about it when I sat down to write it.

So, what did I discover?

1) I discovered that I can’t eat well and write. Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with the novel, per se, but if anyone is looking to write a character in a novel who writes for a living, it’s a good trait. Not a healthy one, but something odd. Quirky. Stupid. Peanut M&Ms. Pop. Pizza. Oddly, I didn’t drink. Sorry Hemmingway.

2) I discovered that I sat down to write this because I love history and World War II history in particular. But it’s not a love based on battles, but stories. It’s something that’s not being taught a lot in schools. It’s all about facts, maps, (wait, I love maps, too), and dates. Even without a specific person, there is a narrative that thrills me. The massively outnumbered Jews who fought the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto. The 500 Spartans at Thermopylae. The Alamo. Then it hit me. I love the underdog. The few who stood up when it mattered BUT died in the end. All knew they would die, yet still fought the fight. That leaked into my novel in a big way (and will certainly be a major part of the second and third novels.)


Iron Lungs. Therapy for polio. But it looks like something out of a horror movie.

I discovered a lot about things we understand now, understand back then. Polio. PTSD. Asperger’s. They’ve all existed since the beginning of time. Like the Queen of England. But we’re only now understanding them fully and I was surprised at the complexity of each one of those subjects.


4) I discovered ‘what to keep in and what to take out’ was tougher than I ever thought. Yanking out a whole subplot ain’t easy, my friends. It’s like trying to yank off a skin tag, it’s quite painful and wants to snap right back. I can still use a lot of what I wrote or imagined in my next book,

5) I discovered I could fall in love with one of

Amelia Anderson. (AKA- Bryce Dallas Howard)

my characters. It’s amazing how much a story can change even from the 2nd draft, to the third. I yanked out some decent writing about my character’s interaction with a family to explore a love interest and I fell in love with that love interest. Amelia “Amy” Anderson, a brilliant red-head with Sherlock Holmesian Asperger’s. Socially awkward. Kind. Driven. Beautiful (of course, cuz, you know, I’m a guy.) I dream about her now. Don’t tell my wife.

6) I discovered it’s tough to choose what research to use and what not to use. I had to cut research out. Oh, that fine line between having authentic historical details and way, way, way too much information… it’s so easy to cross because information is so fun! (You know what I’m talking about, Paula!)

7) I discovered that I could make myself cry while writing. Not, oh god, this is terrible, but I moved myself at some of the tragic scenes. Maybe no one else will shed a tear, but it’s odd that I could actually get in touch with emotion. Without whiskey. Thanks to Don Maass for making me live in the pain for a while.

8) I discovered, much to my horror, that it was not as much fun, sometimes, to do research. Now, this really shocked me. I love learning new facts. Like did you know that the Kaiser, the Imperial Emperor of Germany, fled to Holland? And had the nickname of the Woodchopper? But trying to get all my facts right, like what soap the Dutch used for dishes or what goods were sold in the Waterlooplein market, well, that took a bit of work and I often got distracted tracking down other details.

9) I discovered this is not, at its heart, a who-killed-Roger-Rabbit story. This is a Jewish

Lest we forget

story. Again, a bit of a shock. Not that I didn’t have Jewish elements in it, but on the last rewrite, it really hit home how much I needed to tell the Jewish story here.

10) I discovered it’s a feminist novel. This came as the biggest shock. BIGGEST. Like finding a spider in your underwear.  Both of my main female characters are strong, independent women in a time where such things were not the norm. Maybe it was all the women in my life who influenced that. My mom who went to university and graduated as the only woman in her class. My wives, Margot and Corinne. My inherited great Baba, who designed and built a frigging church.

But all those discoveries aside, the novel will get one last polish from my first readers, then it’s off to the agent.

It is the best thing I have written, but something not achieved without great pain and anguish. Ask my wife who’d find me wandering around the house muttering, “No, that won’t work, won’t work, my precious, he has to die, yes, die but how, dammit, how?”

It’s been an interesting journey, combining my deep emotional connection to the Netherlands (based on my visits there and my reading of the holocaust), my love of a good thriller, and my love of books that touch a poignant chord within us all.  But, as any writer should, if someone has a way to make it EVEN BETTER, (my first readers, my agent, my editor, Bob the grocery bagger,) then I’ll kick it up yet another notch.

Because I not only want it to be the best story I’ve ever written, but one of the best others will ever read.

Traveling With Kids – San Diego Air and Space Museum – It's No Ripley's –

Are You Not Entertained?

IMG_2152The oldest is like the best version of me in a museum. Respectful, reads all the information on a display that interests him, doesn’t touch sh*t he’s not supposed to touch. Like the Prettiest-girl-in-the world. The youngest is like the worst version of me. Giddy at some exhibits, wanting to climb on others, happy to stay with the family until he’s not, until there’s something cool to look at longer than the others would like. Plus, if he gets excited about something, he won’t stop talking about it. Just like me sometimes.

I figured 50/50 that we would make it out before being asked to leave.

I was the first one to crack.

events air and spaceForget all the things I could see… they had a room filled with planes set aside for a special function, planes that I wanted to see. Not that I couldn’t see the planes from the windows, it’s that I hate anything that stops me from doing stuff.

It’s a flaw in my character.

If I see a sign that says do not touch, I desperately want to touch whatever it says I can’t touch. Like at whistler, there was a sign that said do not touch the honet’s nest. Seems like good advice, yet it took every ounce of my self-control not to touch it.

Here it took every ounce of control not to wander into that room filled with people in suits and dresses, planes overhead, chefs in white outfits standing behind their creations, and overly hot-looking waitresses carrying silver plates of tasty-looking yummies. If I’d been alone, I would have likely wandered in there by ‘mistake’ and grabbed a few snacks before I was escorted out of the event.

However, today, I am very respectful of museum rules. Mostly. So I didn’t go in. That and likely the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world would have left me rot in jail.

IMG_0323IMG_2172The youngest, too, was well-behaved. He loved that he could stuff himself in a small plane or climb into the cockpit of a helicopter. He asked all about the WW1 planes (though it could be he didn’t ask at all, maybe I just started going on and on about them and how they flew and fought.)

But he didn’t much care for the rest of it. In fact, much to my horror, no one cared that they had a P51 or Spitefire or F-18. Like right there!

You could even touch it!

IMG_0327Also, no one wanted to hear my incredibly entertaining and informative talk on WW2 and planes. Not even my epic story about the battle of Britain and how we owe so much to so few. In hindsight, I should have talked about how my dad had worked on those planes or mentioned that Finn and Jake flew them in an alternate universe. In fact, I was so boring that I was left talking to myself at one point, looking up at a ME109 swooping down from the ceiling. *sigh*

Another dad looked over at me, as I glanced around to where my family had gone and just shook his head and smiled. He too was alone, his family standing in line to get rewards for completing the Ripley questions.

However, for the oldest, there was highlight. Something that he actually enjoyed.

IMG_2173I took him on a flight sim. An F18, blue angels sim.

The youngest refused to go. He knows his limits. It’s one thing to climb into a cockpit that doesn’t move, another thing entirely to be locked in a large coffin-like box that could spin upside down.

So the oldest and I were belted inside one of the sim machines., told about the controls, then sealed inside.

He was a bit nervous. Excited, too, but nervous. I was dead proud of him for even trying this out. It was going to take him well beyond his comfort zone.

Then the sim started.

The oldest roared down the runway then into the sky. The controls were hard to understand, at first. He flew into buildings, the ocean, the runway, and a mountain. But then he began to get the hang of it. We shot straight up, the sim tilted 90 degrees. We spun in the air, the sim rolling us upside down. We barrel rolled and banked and dove, over and over and over again.

IMG_2176I held on for dear life while the oldest laughed and giggled and shouted with pure joy.

However, apparently there was a camera in the sim. The prettiest girl in the world said I looked like I wanted to get out.

And throw up.

I told her that’s my usual face, but it was all I could do to hold on as the oldest flew the hell out of that plane.

It only lasted 10 min, but it was an amazing 10 min.

He wants one for his home now.

Afterwards, we collected the little rewards for having completed the Ripley believe it or not questions (though, to be truthful, the youngest had decided to tick every possible answer box, but they gave him a gift anyway – which was probably based on numerous previous meltdowns experienced by younger children.) The oldest got a pencil which he dubbed his magic wand. The youngest got something he hit his brother with on the way home but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was.

IMG_2154However, despite my failure to interest anyone in the epicness of flight and warplanes and tales of WW1 and 2, we hadn’t got kicked out, both boys had a bit of fun at some point and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world hadn’t had to explain why her boys (me included) had done something silly.

So, a success, I guess.

But we still had some time left in the day.

What to do, what to do?

Luckily our secret San Diego spy, Schmennis, had a suggestion.

The day was not done yet!