Saturday, June 6, 2020

Ellen Marie Wiseman’s THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR is #167 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION

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****Ellen Marie Wiseman’s THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR is #167 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? The Orphan Collector (coming August 2020) is my fifth novel. The title came to me in the middle of the first draft and I loved it. Luckily, my editor loved it too!
What are the dates you began writing this piece of fiction and when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I started the manuscript around the middle of February 2017 and finished it on January 15th, 2019

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  I wrote the book at home, either in my office or outside on our deck overlooking Lake Ontario. My office has a desk, bookshelves overstuffed with books, framed photos of my covers, beer steins and pewter plates from my mother’s hometown in Germany, and photos of my kids and grandkids. It’s a charming room, but my favorite place to write is outside when it’s warm enough to swim and watch the geese and ducks on the lake.

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I always write on my Mac and drink lots of hot tea. But the first draft of my debut novel, THE PLUM TREE, was written in long hand on a legal pad in three days. (It took another six years to make it into a real book) To keep my head inside my stories I need everything to be quiet, but I can write any time of the day as long as I’ve taken care of my “real” life chores first.

What is the summary of The Orphan Collector?
From the internationally bestselling author of What She Left Behinda powerful tale of upheaval, resilience and hope set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak—the deadly pandemic that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population…
          In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.
         Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”
          Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

Please include just one excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  This one excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.

The beginning of Chapter One 
September 28, 1918

   The deadly virus stole unnoticed through the crowded cobblestone streets of Philadelphia on a sunny September day, unseen and unheard amidst the jubilant chaos of the Liberty Loan parade and the patriotic marches of John Philip Sousa. More than 200,000 men, women, and children waved American flags and jostled one another for prime viewing space along the two-mile route, while the people behind shouted encouragement over shoulders and past faces to the bands, Boy Scouts, women’s auxiliaries, marines, sailors, and soldiers in the street. Planes flew overheard, draft horses pulled eight-inch howitzers, military groups performed bayonet drills, church bells clanged, and police whistles blew; old friends hugged and shook hands, couples kissed, and children shared candy and soda. Unaware that the lethal illness had escaped the Naval Yard, the eager spectators had no idea that the local hospitals had admitted over two hundred people the previous day, or that numerous infectious disease experts had pressured the mayor to cancel the event. Not that it would have mattered. They were there to support the troops, buy war bonds, and show their patriotism during a time of war. Victory in Europe—and keeping the Huns out of America—was first and foremost on their minds.
Many of the onlookers had heard about the flu hitting Boston and New York, but the director of Laboratories at the Phipps Institue of Philadelphia had just announced he’d identified the cause of the specific influenza causing so much trouble— Pfeiffer's bacillus —and the local newspapers said influenza posed no danger because it was as old as history and usually accompanied by foul air, fog, and plagues of insects. None of those things were happening in Philadelphia. Therefore, it stood to reason that as long as everyone did what the Board of Health advised—kept their feet dry, stayed warm, ate more onions, and kept their bowels and windows open—they’d be fine.
But thirteen-year-old Pia Lange knew something was wrong. And not because her best friend, Finn Duffy, had told her about the dead sailors his older brother had seen outside a local pub. Not because of the posters on telephone poles and buildings that read  "When obliged to cough or sneeze, always place a handkerchief, paper napkin, or fabric of some kind before the face" or "Cover your mouth! Influenza Is Spread by Droplets Sprayed form Nose and Mouth!" 
Pia knew something was wrong because the minute she had followed her mother—who was pushing Pia’s twin brothers in a wicker baby pram—onto the packed parade route, a sense of unease had come over her, like the thick air before a summer thunderstorm or the swirling discomfort in her belly right before she got sick. Feeling distraught in crowds was nothing new to her—she would never forget the panic she’d felt the first time she walked the busy streets of Philadelphia, or when Finn had dragged her to the maiden launch of a warship from Hog Island, where President Wilson and thirty thousand people were in attendance, and the water was filled with tugboats, steamboats, and barges decorated with American flags.
But this was different. Something she couldn’t name seemed to push against her from all sides, something heavy and invisible and threatening. At first she thought it was the heat and the congested sidewalks, but then she recognized the familiar sinking sensation she had grown up trying to avoid, and the sudden, overwhelming awareness that something was horribly wrong. She felt like the little girl she had once been, the little girl who hid behind Mutti’s apron when company came, unable to explain why she always wanted to play alone. The little girl who didn’t want to shake hands or hug, or sit on anyone’s lap. The little girl who was grateful to be left out of kickball and jump rope, while at the same time it broke her heart.
Looking up at the boys in worn jackets and patched trousers clambering up streetlamps to get a better view of the parade, she wished she could join them to escape the crush of the growing throng. The boys shouted and laughed and waved their newsboy caps, hanging like monkeys below giant American flags. More than anything she wanted to be like them too, carefree and unaware that anything was wrong. But that was impossible. No matter how hard she tried, she’d never be like everyone else.
When she looked back down at the sidewalk, her mother had disappeared. She opened her mouth to shout for her, then bit her tongue. She wasn’t supposed to call her Mutti anymore—not out loud, anyway. Speaking German in public was no longer allowed. Her parents would always be Mutti and Vater in her head, no matter what the law said, but she didn’t dare draw attention by calling her that in a crowd. Standing on her tiptoes to see over shoulders and backs, she spotted the top of Mutti’s faded brown hat a few yards away and hurried to catch up to her, stopping short and moving sideways to avoid bumping into people on the way.
Finally behind Mutti again, she wiped the sweat from her upper lip and breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing she needed was to get lost in the city. Bunching her shoulders to make herself smaller, she stayed as close to Mutti as possible, weaving and ducking to avoid the sea of bare arms and hands all around her, wishing her mother would slow down. If only she could crawl into the baby pram with her twin brothers and hide beneath their blankets. She had known coming to the parade would be difficult, but she hadn’t expected this.
As far back as she could remember she’d been extraordinarily shy; Mutti said few people could hold her when she was a baby because she’d cry like the world was coming to an end. And she used to think being bashful was the same for everyone; that it was something you could feel, like a fever or stomachache or scratchy throat. Sometimes she wondered what would have happened if Mutti hadn’t been there to protect her from men wanting to pinch her cheeks, and little old ladies waggling their fingers at her to prove they were harmless. But gradually those feelings had changed, even more so in the last couple of months. She’d started to notice other sensations when she touched someone’s bare skin, like a dull pain in her head or chest, or a strange discomfort in an arm or leg. It didn’t happen every time, but often enough to make her wonder if something was wrong with her. Now, whenever she went to the dry goods store or vegetable market, she took the streets—dodging horses, wagons, bicycles, and automobiles—to avoid the congested sidewalks. And handing coins to the peddlers nearly gave her the vapors, so she dropped them on the counter more often than not. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do about any of it. Telling Mutti—or anyone else, for that matter—was out of the question, especially after hearing about her great aunt Lottie, who spent the second half of her life locked in an insane asylum in Germany because she saw things that weren’t there. No matter how confused or scared Pia got, she wasn’t willing to take the chance of getting locked up too.
Now, following Mutti along the packed sidewalks, her worst fears that something was wrong were confirmed when a man in a linen suit and straw gambler cut across the flow of pedestrians and bumped into her, laughing at first, then apologizing when he realized what he’d done. Having been taught to always smile and be polite, she forced a smile—she was so good at it that it sometimes frightened her—but then the man pinched her cheek and a sharp pain stabbed her chest, like her heart had been split in two. She shuddered and looked down at herself, certain a knife would be sticking out of her rib cage. But there was no knife, no blood trickling down the front of her flour-sack dress. The thin bodice was smooth and spotless, as clean as it had been that morning when she first put it on. She stepped backward to get away from the man, but he was already gone, the pain disappearing with him. The strength of it left her shaky and weak.
Then a small, cool hand latched on to hers and her chest constricted, tightening with every breath. She swore she heard her lungs rattle, but couldn’t be sure with all the noise. She yanked her hand away and looked down. A little girl in a white ruffled dress gazed up at her, smiling—until she realized Pia was a stranger. Then fear crumpled her face and she searched the crowd with frantic eyes before running off, calling for her mother. When she was gone, Pia could breathe normally again.
How Pia longed to be back in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where open spaces were filled with blue skies, swaths of wildflowers, and herds of deer, instead of miles of pavement, side-by-side buildings, and hordes of people. In Philadelphia, she couldn’t walk ten feet without bumping into someone, and every sight, sound, and smell seemed menacing and foreign. The neighborhood alleys were strewn with garbage and sewage, and the biggest rats she’d ever seen crawled in nooks and crannies, scampering between walls and passageways. Trolleys and wagons and motorcars fought for space on every street, and more people than she had ever seen at one time seemed to crowd every sidewalk. The city reminded her of a clogged beehive, teeming with people instead of insects. Even the row houses were full to overflowing, with multiple families squeezed into two and three rooms. Certainly there had been hardships in the mining village back in Hazleton—the walls of their shack were paper-thin, everything from their clothes to their kitchen table seemed covered in coal dust, and worst of all, Vater’s job digging for coal was dangerous and grueling­—but it didn’t make her any less homesick. She was glad her father had found less dangerous work in the city a little over a year ago, but she missed the chickens in the yard and the neighbor’s hound dog sleeping under their front porch. She missed taking the dirt path to Widow Wilcox’s shack to learn how to read and write. She missed the mountain trails and the grass outside their front door. Vater said she missed Hazleton because she longed for the rolling hills and green fields of Bavaria. And when she reminded him she was only four years old when they boarded the ship to America, he laughed and said Germany was in her blood, like her fondness for sweets and his love for her mother.
Thinking of her father, her eyes burned. If he were here with them now, she could hold his wide, weathered hands in hers and lean against his tall, muscular frame. He’d squeeze her fingers twice, in quick succession like he always did, which meant “I love you”; then she’d squeeze his back and they’d smile at each other, delighted with their little secret. No one would guess by looking at Vater that he was tenderhearted and always whistling, singing, and making jokes; instead they tended to hurry out of his path because of his imposing presence and piano-wide shoulders. With him by her side, she could have moved through the crowd nearly untouched. But that was impossible because he’d enlisted in the army three months ago, along with two of his German-American friends, to prove their loyalty to the United States. Now he was somewhere in France, and she had no idea when he was coming home. Like Mutti said through her tears when he left, moving to the city to keep him safe had done no good at all.
Suddenly a woman in a Lady Liberty costume pushed between Pia and her mother, jarring her from her thoughts. When the woman’s bare forearm brushed her hand, Pia held her breath, waiting for the strange sensations to start. But to her relief, she felt nothing. She relaxed her tight shoulders and exhaled, trying to calm down. She only had to get through the next hour or so. That was it. Then she could go home, to their rooms on Shunk Alley in the Fifth Ward, where no one but her loved ones could reach her.
Then Mutti stopped to talk to a woman from the greengrocers’ and a pair of clammy hands clamped over Pia’s eyes. Someone snickered in her ear. A sharp pain instantly twisted near her rib cage, making her hot and dizzy. She yanked the hands away from her face and spun around. It was Tommy Costa, the freckle-faced boy who teased her during school recess, and two of his friends, Angelo DiPrizzi and Skip Turner.  They laughed and stuck out their tongues at her, then ran away. The discomfort in her ribs went with them.
By the time Mutti chose a spot to watch the parade, Pia was shaking. She’d begged her mother to let her stay home, even promising to straighten up their two-room apartment while she and the twins were gone. But despite knowing how Pia felt about large gatherings, Mutti insisted.
“Going to the parade is the only way to prove we are loyal Americans,” Mutti said in heavily accented English. “It’s hard enough after President Wilson said all German citizens are alien enemies. I follow the new laws. I sign the papers they want me to sign refusing my German citizenship. I do the fingerprinting. But I have no money to buy Liberty loans or make a donation to the Red Cross. I have to feed you and your brothers. So we must go to the parade. All of us. Even your father fighting in the war is not enough to keep the neighbors happy.”
“But it won’t matter if I’m with you or not,” Pia said. “Everyone will see you there, and the twins will enjoy it. I could make dinner and have it ready when you return.”
“Nein,” her mother said. As soon as the word came out of her mouth, worry flickered across her face. “I mean, no. You must come with us. The radio and newspapers tell everyone to be watchful of their German-American neighbors and to report to the authorities. Before your father left, a woman shouted at me, saying he stole a real American’s job. She spit and said to go back where I came from. I am not leaving you home alone.”
Pia knew Mutti was right; she’d suffered enough bullying at school to know everything she said was true. Rumors were flying that German spies were poisoning food, and German-Americans were secretly hoarding arms. Some Germans had even been sent to jail or internment camps. The city was plastered with posters showing Germans standing over dead bodies and ads directing people to buy war bonds to “Beat back the Hun!” Churches with German congregations had been painted yellow, German-language newspapers were shut down, and schoolchildren were forced to sign pledges promising not to use any foreign language whatsoever. As if that weren’t enough, a special police group called the Home Guard, originally formed to patrol the streets with guns to ensure adequate protection of important points in the city—the Water Works and pumping station, the electric light distributing plant, the telephone service, and various power stations at manufacturing plants—now also patrolled the south end of the city to keep an eye on German immigrants. Some companies refused to employ Germans, so Mutti lost her job at the textile mill. And because she needed a permit to withdraw money from the bank, what little cash they had left was kept under a floorboard inside a bedroom cubby. Even sauerkraut and hamburgers were renamed “liberty cabbage” and “liberty sandwiches.”
But knowing Mutti was right didn’t make going to the parade any easier.

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you as a writer to write?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? This was a chilling excerpt for me to write because the idea of a deadly virus making its way unnoticed through crowds of people felt very scary to me (of course, at the time, I never imagined it happening in my lifetime). To me, it brings home the fact that humans are so much more fragile than we imagine ourselves to be. 

          Our end can come on suddenly, with a cataclysmic event that breaks our bodies from the outside, or slowly, with a lethal, silent virus or mutation wreaking havoc from the inside. Either way, we’re far from invincible. 
          I think that’s something we forget during our everyday pursuit of happiness and success. It was also disconcerting to write about the prejudice against German immigrants during that time because my mother grew up in Germany during WWII and we’ve both been victims of the same discrimination. (Above Left:  Childhood school photo of Ellen Marie Wiseman)

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? I’m sure there were deletions but I don’t have them or the marked up draft because I write electronically. All my deletions are sent to the cyberspace trashcan! (Above Right: Ellen Marie Wiseman's write-up of why she chose Philadelphia as the setting for The Orphan Collector) 

          Biography of Ellen Marie Wiseman: I was born and raised in a tiny hamlet in Northern New York, where I discovered my love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the state. My first stories starred heroic black horses and a beagle named Buffy the Rabbit Hunter.
          As I got older, one of my favorite things to do was walk to the general store to buy a nickel candy bar and a scary comic book. I had a vivid imagination back then, imagining terrifying creatures around every corner—kidnappers, ghosts, vampires, and monsters from the deep. I discovered the power of words during my teenage years while reading Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Dean Koontz. 
          When I got married and became a mother, (which was all I ever wanted) writing became a hobby, and thinking about getting published became a fun daydream. It wasn’t until my son and daughter left for college that I decided to get serious about it.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the seeds for my debut novel, THE PLUM TREE, were planted during childhood visits to my mother’s hometown in Germany, where I fell in love with the country’s traditions and culture, and learned the heartrending details of my family’s struggle to survive poverty and the unimaginable chaos of WWII. Somehow even as a young girl, I knew those trips were destined to have a huge impact on my life. But I had no idea they would inspire me to write a novel someday. When the entire plot came to me decades later, I wrote the horrible first draft on a legal pad in three days. Of course after the initial excitement wore off and I read what I’d written, I realized I had a lot to learn. It took over four years of rewriting and research to turn that first draft into a readable manuscript, and another three years to find an agent to represent me. Then things got crazy and, much to my delight, THE PLUM TREE sold in three weeks.
Since then, I’ve written four more novels that have been translated into eighteen languages and sold around the world—WHAT SHE LEFT BEHINDCOAL RIVER, THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN and THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR. (coming out July 2020)
     I’m beyond grateful to live on the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario with my husband and a spoiled Shih-Tzu named Izzy (Right). When I’m not busy meeting deadlines, I love reading, cooking, gardening, watching movies, swimming, boating, and spending time with my children and grandchildren.


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Young Adult, Historical and Fantasy
“Brimstone And Lily”

#121 01 12 2020 Melissa Yi’s
Fiction Thriller

#122 01 15 2020 Marcie R. Rendon’s
Crime Thriller

#123 01 16 2020 Tori Eldridge’s
Multi Genre Novel

#124 01 17 2020 Kristen Joy Wilks’s
Christian Romantic Comedy

#125 01 20 2020 Susan C. Shea’s
Cozy Mystery

#126  01 22 2020 Phong Nguyen’s
Improvisational Fiction

#127 01 23 2020 Kate Thornton’s
Mystery Short Story In Its Entirety
“Ai Witness”

#128 01 24 2020 Phil McCarron’s
Semi Fictional Essays
“The Great Facepalm: The Farce of 21st Century

#129  01 27 2020 Kenneth Weene’s
Historicized Literary Fiction
“Red And White”

#130 01 28 2020 Graham Storrs’s
Science Fiction Thriller

#131 02 08 2020 Angela Slatter’s
Short Story “Terrible As An Army With Banners”

#132 02 11 2020 Joan Joachim’s
Just One Kiss

#133 02 16 2020 Kelsey Clifton’s
Science Fiction

#134 02 17 2020 Soraya M Lane’s
Women Historical Fiction

#135 03 07 2020
Linked Fiction
BLEACHERS Fifty-Four Linked Fictions
By Joseph Mills

#136 03 15 2020
Science Fiction Romance
By Marie Lavender

#137 03 17 2020
Crime Fiction
12 Bullets
by O’Neil De Noux

#138 03 18 2020
Flash Fiction Piece
by Kelle Grace Gaddis

#139 03 20 2020
By Jamie Sheffield

#140 03 21 2020
Character Driven Novel
By Jamie Lisa Forbes

#141 03 23 2020
Literary Murder Mystery
By Russell Rowland

#142 04 01 2020
By Kim Cormack

#143 04 02 2020
Western Noir Short Story
“Night Rounds”
by James Reasoner

#144 04 03 2020
Southern Fiction
By Claire Fullerton

#145 04 04 2020
Mainstream novel with elements of crime, mystery, and magic
by Karen Hugg

#146 04 07 2020
Historical Fiction
by Sophie Perinot

#147 04 08 2020
Dark Urban Fantasy with elements of Paranormal Romance
by Stephanie Reisner aka AUDREY BRICE

#148 04 13 2020
Mystery With A Fantasy Twist
By Shoshana Edwards

#149 04 14 2020
Historical Fiction
by Sharon Glogal Friedman

#150 04 19 2020
Vampire Horror Novelette
Blood Thrasher:  The Devil’s in the Metal
by Adam Messer

#151 04 25 2020
Historical Fiction
Charis in the World of Wonders
by Marly Youmans

#152 04 29 2020
Historical Fiction
The Master of Verona
by David Blixt

#153 04 30 2020
General Fiction (Family)
Bread Bags & Bullies:  Surviving the 80s
by Steven Manchester

#154 05 01 2020
Into The Ashes
by Lee Murray

#155 05 06 2020
Coming of Age/Crime Novel
All Things Left In The Wild
by James Wade

#156 05 10 2020
Paranormal Mystery
Southern Bound
by Stuart Jaffe

#157 05 13 2020
Mystery/Crime Novel
By Mark Slade

#158 05 15 2020
Horror/Crime Novel
Hotel Nowhere
By David E Adkins
#159 05 16 2020
Satire/Crime Novel
by Clint Margrave

#160 05 19 2020
Southern Gothic Fiction
by Emily Carpenter

#161 05 21 2020
Women’s Domestic Life Fiction
by Alena Dillon

#162 05 26 2020
by Drew Fortune and Spain Willingham

#163 05 31 2020
Coming of Age/ Psychological Thriller
by Ruth Dugdall

#164 06 01 2020
Psychological Thriller
by Owen Mullen

#165 06 02 2020
Small Town Short Story Collection
by Eliot Parker

#166 06 04 2020
Noir Crime Novel
by Christina Hoag

#167 06 06 2020
Coming of Age/Historical

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