Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Love, friendship, and the Munich girl Hitler chose

Heartfelt thanks to book blogger and author Lisa Binion for hosting me and The Munich Girl so kindly — plus offering a great interview experience.

When you first learned about Hitler and Eva Braun, did you think of either of them as having friends?
I don’t think that Hitler really had the capacity for friendship. It requires a sort of mutuality of which he just wasn’t capable.

But Eva Braun, characterized by many who knew her as warm, thoughtful, and full of love for life, most surely was. Regardless of how people make assumptions about her based on her link with Hitler, history shows that she was a genuinely caring friend to those who, in addition to being morally respectable people, were very appreciative for her friendship. As with the situation in the novel’s story, some of them did not know of her connection with Hitler until after her death.

What inspired you to write about the friendship of two lonely women in Nazi Germany? Do you know of someone who made a discovery similar to what Anna discovered?
I chose this focus, in part, because friendships were what helped many everyday Germans survive the war. Such friendships were also what helped protect and save those who were most vulnerable to persecution by the Nazis. Also, I was taken by the paradox that two people could know and care about – value – each other yet never know about complexities in each of their lives that could seem to put them on different “sides.”

As for what Anna discovers about Peggy (her mother), my own war bride mother had many surprising secrets in her background, revealed only after she died. Some of them, much like Peggy’s friendship with Eva Braun, were things she might not, in her own history, have felt safe to share.

What is your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?
I love revisiting a time period and immersing myself deeply within it. An added plus is looking at it with the hindsight we have now.

The tricky balance in writing the story, of course, is to be able to stay in the perspective of those times, even when you do have that hindsight. Realizing that many events were something people of that time didn’t know about or couldn’t see coming shows how much trying to judge them from the perspective we have today is unrealistic and even unjust. One very important reason for us to study history—and reflect on what patterns we can find there—is that without that reflective understanding, we will imitatively repeat it.

Obviously Eva Braun and Hitler really existed, but how many of the other characters were taken from history?
The two individuals to whom the book is dedicated, and who are each referenced in the story, were under-recognized heroes in their time. Poet/artist Erich Mühsam and Jesuit priest Father Alfred Delp each resisted what the Nazis were doing. They took enormous risks to help others who were being persecuted, and ultimately paid with their lives—Mühsam in a concentration camp in 1934 and Delp by execution by the Nazis close to the end of the war.

The stories of both men came to me quite serendipitously as the novel was unfolding. I felt it was as though those stores wanted to surface, to be known.

You can find Lisa’s full interview, along with a review of The Munich Girl here:

http://lisaswritopia.com/phyllis-edgerly-ring-interview-the-holocaust-eva-braun-and-friendship/

 


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Happy February, Munich Girl

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KINDLE  0.99 special

for WWII fiction THE MUNICH GIRL

through Feb. 10

 

February is the month when the two friends in my novel, The Munich Girl, each have a birthday.

To celebrate, the novel’s Kindle version is currently offered at its biggest discount ever for a short time across most worldwide Amazon markets.

And, on February 10, I’ll draw a winner for a signed print copy of the book and a silver butterfly bracelet designed by artist Diane Kirkup.

Those who’ve read the book know that a variety of objects help unfold the trail of the story. One of these is the image of a butterfly.

To enter the drawing, send an email to: info[at]phyllisring[dot]com

with “Butterfly” in the subject line.

All three women in The Munich Girl have strong connections with Germany, where two of them meet just before World War II.

Peggy, is a Leap-year baby with “29 February” on her birth certificate. That kind of thing can make you feel like a fictional character right out of the starting gate.

EB pix Germany and more 610Eva Braun, always wanted to live the life of a character in a movie or novel. However, as many women have, and still do, she gives her life away to someone who hasn’t the capacity to value it, or, it would seem, to care for humanity at all.

“Did she really love him? How could she ever love him?” are questions I hear frequently about the woman who became “Mrs. Hitler” for the last day and a half of her life.

Anna, the story’s narrator grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun.

Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother, Peggy, and Hitler’s mistress were friends.

The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief and a man named Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own. munichgirl_card_front

The pathway of this novel’s story dropped many clues in front of me, two of the biggest, a handkerchief just like the one Anna finds — and the portrait of Eva Braun, which, somehow, found me, too.

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War here:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/B01AC4FHI8


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Goodreads question: “Any historical deductions regarding Eva Braun?”

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It was a pleasant surprise to find a question about The Munich Girl at Goodreads last week:

May I ask, were you able to make any historical deductions regarding Eva Braun?

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70My reply:

“Thanks for this question, Johnathan.

“Albert Speer said that historians would be disappointed in what they did, or did not, uncover about Eva Braun. As a writer, I had a different experience as I researched.

“Some of the discoveries were more intangible and paradoxical, such as the fact that so much of what was conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about him, when in fact, more complete and accurate facts about her could help us better understand him.

“This made me wonder: how much of the truth do we miss because we approach finding it with ingrained, inherited — often blindly imitative — assumptions? In other words, how much do our biases trip us up before we even get started? s-l1600

“Another paradox, for me, was the recognition that those very qualities of compassion and caring that the Third Reich sought to suppress and demean were what Hitler came home to Eva Braun for.

“The massive hypocrisy in that got me wondering how this continuing imbalance, which misunderstands and devalues those “softer” human aspects even as it needs and depends on them, is still creating the kind of chaotic, power-pursuing conditions that engulf our world in so much violence and suffering.

gottlob_berger“A more concrete discovery was that testimony from an officer named Gottlob Berger at the 1948 Ministry Trials at Nuremberg indicates that an action Eva Braun took in the last week of her life saved tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war. The record shows that she almost never interfered or intervened in anything Hitler did as leader, with very few small exceptions.

I believe she did this out of the regard she had for life, some understanding of the moral principles behind the Geneva Convention — and, bizarre as it may seem to us today, to protect how Hitler would be perceived after the war. This suggests to me that, much like his secretaries and others in his inner circle, she lived a compartmentalized existence that, even that close to the end, knew far less about the Nazis’ human-rights atrocities than has been supposed.

eva-braun“A personal turning point for me was the discovery that some British members of my family were likely saved by this action of hers.”

Johnathan followed up with a comment that wondered about Hitler’s marriage to Eva Braun in the eleventh hour of their lives, shortly before the pair committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in April of 1945.

My thoughts:

“I think that the marriage was intended to reward and honor her loyalty, and perhaps to honor her family, especially her Catholic mother, who, curiously, Hitler included in his will. I think he understood that much of what he appreciated in her daughter had been shaped by her.

“Thanks again for asking, Johnathan. It’s nice to get chance to use this Goodreads feature.” cropmunichgirl_card_front1

I welcome other readers to share their questions at Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2890301.Phyllis_Edgerly_Ring

And more about The Munich Girl is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8


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“Any small, calm thing … “

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

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Art: Judy Wright

I like the idea of dreaming the big dream and making small steps.

I’d like to think that you reach your hand, just a little bit further than your reach, not enough so that you’ll be frustrated, not enough so that you’ll give up, but just enough so that you’ll stretch yourself.

~ Maya Angelou

Trust yourself.

Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

 ~ Golda Meir

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Art: Judy Wright

Sometimes we forget that we must bring presence to the as yet unmanifest dream which wants to come alive around us.

By presence I don’t just mean attention, but a certain quality of attentiveness which holds the anticipation of being met.

It doesn’t require the world to act first, to prove itself, or miraculously appear.

Instead it behaves as if the thing one is becoming is guaranteed and moves as if it carries that secret in its step. Life isn’t only happening to us, we are happening to life.

~ Excerpted from the upcoming book, Belonging,

by Toko-pa Turner

 

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 


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First impressions, last reflections

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The Munich Girl on a recent visit to Kehlstein Haus, near Berchtesgaden.

There are lots of happy year-end surprises for The Munich Girl as 2016 comes to its close.

Book reviewer Whitney at First Impressions Reviews included the novel on her innovative “My Life According to the Books I Read in 2016.”

She kindly chose The Munich Girl as her answer for: “Your best friend is … ”

Then, in an end-of-year book survey, she named the book “Hidden Gem Of The Year.” You can find her entire list here:

http://www.firstimpressionsreviews.com/2016-end-of-year-book-survey/

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Eva Braun toasts the new year with her parents and sister Gretl.

Blogging reviewer Barb at Book Club Mom included it on her list, too, highlighting the prevalence of novels with “girl” in their titles. Barb posted about the novel several times, including her review here:

https://bvitelli2002.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/the-munich-girl-by-phyllis-edgerly-ring/

Story Circle Reviews made the novel an Editors’ Pick this month after writer Margaret Dubay Mikus left her glorious review there.

dcnye154428_10151437571091802_283903656_nAnd animator, designer — and author — Foster Haskell created a trailer for the book, bless him. If you’d like a peek you can find it where it’s up on my author page at Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2890301.Phyllis_Edgerly_Ring

From this writing life, and the path of The Munich Girl, I extend my very best wishes to every reader kind enough to linger and engage here.

I am grateful for you, and all that you offer in our world.


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A reboot of spirit

Delighted to share this Guest Post from Tracey E. Meloni:

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Photo: David Campbell / http://gbctours.com

 

After a lifetime of moving as an Army Brat, Navy wife, and Federal drifter, I settled into my present home at the end of 2000. Looking for Christmas tree ornaments that first year, I came across a box labeled, “Somebody Stole My Boots.” It turned out to be the box of the best Christmas Past.

The winter I was 19, I was a newly married scholarship student in Boston University, making ends meet on $75 a week. My in-laws sent much-anticipated plane tickets so we could go home for a Connecticut country holiday, but Mother Nature intervened.

On Christmas Eve, monster snow not even Boston could overcome brought our plans to a halt. Christmas became an impromptu event, with an empty larder and equally empty wallets.

Down the hall lived friends Joe and Noni, another married student couple also stranded by weather and not much better supplied. We decided to pool our meager resources and make the best of things.

We took the then-MTA of Kingston Trio fame to the old farmers Haymarket (now a much trendier spot) and bought as many fresh, cheap veggies as we could carry just before the vendors went home.

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Photo: David Campbell // http://gbctours.com

We also bargained for a scruffy tree and dragged it onto the subway, laughing and waving at the conductor’s halfhearted warnings that no trees were allowed.

The engineering-student guys built a terrific tree stand. We trimmed the tree with popcorn, cranberries, and paper chains and installed it in the outside hallway for all to enjoy. Then we split up the cooking duties.

My mother had sent goodies from the venerable (now defunct) S.S. Pierce. Our Haymarket bounty was transformed into hearty vegetable soup, Delmonico potatoes, and what my husband called “painless beans,” the green bean-mushroom soup casserole. Joe and Noni defrosted their famous Bolognese sauce for Christmas Eve “SpagBog,” as the Brits call spaghetti Bolognese. We heard from two more stranded couples: one had a turkey, the other had cheese – and wine! Our Christmas feast seemed assured. We all arranged to meet for midnight services at a nearby church. churchnight

At church, our little band collected two more couples (fruit and rolls, guitar and flute) and we all trudged home to my building through deepening snow, feeling quite a contented glow.

A sad and ragged man armed with a sketchpad trailed behind us. We ignored him. Back at the apartment, my husband left his $10 boots in the outside hallway by the tree to dry out.

Reg4013900705643On Christmas morning, when we went to look at the tree, the boots were gone. We found a scrawled note following the cadence of The Little Drummer Boy: “Somebody Stole Your Boots, ta rup a tum tum.” Next to the note was propped a charcoal sketch, perfectly capturing us all, laughing as we walked home from Christmas Eve services – and oblivious to our portraitist.

Finding that note and the sketch brought memories flooding back. My coat was emerald green, even though it is shown in black and white. The images of my husband’s young and carefree face, and mine, make me smile – we did not know, when our unknown artist captured us, what horrors half a world away would derail our lives just a few months down the road. The charcoal, so hastily done, preserved our young innocence for all time.

Beyond that, the Christmas “Somebody Stole My Boots” taught me a most important lesson. Sometimes having no money is not a curse – it means you can’t blur spirit with commercialism. Still, even that year, I blindly overlooked someone much more needy than I, and will never forget the shame I felt that Christmas morning. Not only did Boot Man forgive our indifference – he rewarded it, and so perfectly.tracey_edgerly_meloni

Rediscovering the boot memory helped renew an old tradition in a new house. Once again, I’m putting out a modest pair of boots for needy Santas.

 

Tracey Edgerly Meloni won first prize in Ingenue Magazine’s short-story contest when she was 14 and just kept on writing. Her most recent award is a first place in feature writing from the Virginia Press Association. Formerly press secretary to three California Congressmen and Virginia’s senior Senator, she contributes regularly to several magazines, writing about food, health, the arts, and travel.

 


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Eternal life begins with what lasts forever

Some thoughts in darkening hours, and a dawning Season of Light:

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Photo: Oliver Schratz

Nothing that exists remains in a state of repose.

Everything is either growing or declining.

Benevolent Forces are in evidence, as we are invited away from “fighting evil” toward our human family’s next exciting stage: creative, collaborative, and limitless building of the good.

We are here to mirror to each other the attributes of our Creator.

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

Every attribute and faculty we possess, known and unknown, comes into balance as we strive to align the acts of giving and receiving.

Eternal life begins when we honor what lasts forever.

The gift of this age, bestowed on all humanity, is the right each one of us has to investigate reality independently, and to learn to see with the eye of oneness.

The natural outcome of that is to express —  willingly — joyful acts of service, our personal and collective pathway for building the good.

These should be more than enough points of focus to free our hearts from the weight of a world’s unreal illusions this week.

Here’s hoping.

Learn more about these possibilities in With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

Find more about the book at:

http://www.amazon.com/Thine-Own-Eyes-Imitate-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I