Lowell author & reporter Emma Palova completed The Lost Town, a third book in the Shifting Sands series on the last day of June.
The historical fiction novel is set in Singapore, MI, a ghost town on the shores of Lake Michigan during the pioneer era of the 1830s.
Palova captured the spirit of the once thriving lumbering town in its main characters – beautiful Miss Ida, her boss lumber baron John Bosch, Singapore founder Oshea Wilder and supporting characters, Sir Artemas Wallace and housemaid Mrs. Fisch.
Miss Ida was torn between her hometown of Chicago and her new home Singapore, and between two men. Who will win her heart?
The story unravels as the greedy New York investors set their eyes on the undeveloped land at the Oxbow bend in the Kalamazoo River surrounded by sand dunes with much coveted white pines.
Wily Oshea established the New York & Michigan Co. in 1836 to facilitate the development of Singapore. The investors envisioned that Singapore would rival Chicago and Milwaukee. With its humming mills, boarding houses, hotels, and general stores at the height of its prosperity, Singapore almost outshone Chicago.
The name remains a mystery, as its famous counterpart island city in East Asia was only a fledgling town at the time.
“The mysterious name inspired me to write this novel,” Palova said.
According to one interpretation, the exotic name was used to honor the “singing sands” of the Lake Michigan shore. The shape of the grains and the moisture combine to make the sand sing or squeak when someone walks on it.
Always on the hunt for stories and inspiration, Palova walked into the general store on Butler Street in downtown Saugatuck in the mid- 1990s. She picked up a book about Singapore and checked out the historic marker in front of the Saugatuck Village Hall.
“The story just gripped my imagination and stayed with me throughout the years,” she said. “Then I forgot all about it for decades.”
It wasn’t until getting ready for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last November, that Palova realized that what she had planned to write about Singapore would turn into a novel rather than just a short story.
“I wanted to do the fascinating story of Singapore its justice,” she said. “I knew a short story wouldn’t cut it.”
During her research for the novel, Palova came across Singapore’s ‘wildcat bank.’
“I knew this was big,” she said, “bigger than life.”
Singapore had a ‘wildcat bank’ that issued its own ornate bank notes that are still in the collection of the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society in Douglas.
“I used their online collections catalog exclusively for research,” she said. “It’s an excellent tool for anyone who wants to write about history. Most historical societies in Michigan have online collections.”
The novel covers the entire span of Singapore’s existence from the 1830s to its demise in the 1870s. At one point the town was known as Ellis Island since it accepted immigrants from European countries like Norway and Holland. The town was the first stop for Hollanders before they moved further up north and established Holland. It came before Saugatuck which was smaller and known as Flats.
“I wove nautical stories into the novel because I love the seas,” Palova said. “I wish I was a sailor.”
It was not just a lumbering era, but also a time for steamers, schooners, and tugboats on the Great Lakes. Nautical transportation was just as dangerous as travel by land, and later by rail.
“Sometimes the story evolved all on its own to my surprise like in the chapter ‘Mail fraud at Oxbow’, she said. “I was really surprised at what Ida was capable of doing driven by secret love.”
Other chapters were meticulously planned with research usually showing up later in the novel.
“My previous research didn’t help me much, but the immediate research during the NaNoWriMo challenge helped,” she said. “I can easily say that this novel is a direct product of the challenge.”
During NaNoWriMo, Palova wrote a minimum of 1,750 words daily to reach the victory lane at 50,000 words by the end of November. After that came months of more writing, revisions, and editing.
Carol Briggs of Lowell edited The Lost Town. The whimsical cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford. Beta readers include Nancy Price Stroosnyder and author Diana Kathryn Wolfe-Plopa.
Emma’s ease at mixing actual history into her stories is remarkable, and so entails Miss Ida’s response to an invitation to a soon-to-be bustling “Singapore” on the shores of Lake Michigan. She is transported away from Chicago, family, and friends. She quickly learns the duties expected of her in maintaining a boarding house and warehouse in the rapidly growing community. Soon she falls in love with one of the corrupt founders. The many colorful characters weave a fantastic story of love, mystery, hope, and faith. This is a quick, very worthwhile read!
Palova will be signing her new book at the following locations: Fallasburg Summer Celebration on July 30, Englehardt Library in Lowell TBA, Holland, Aug. 6, and Paradise, Aug. 19-20. Listen in to an upcoming podcast about The Lost Town on http://emmapalova123.podbean.com
The cover of The Lost Town was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss or Rockford.
Summer is finally here and I am getting ready for several road trips. My first event of the year is the Palmer Park Art Fair on June 4 & 5 located at 910 Merrill Plaisance St. in Detroit. I am very excited since I’ve never been to this event. I tried to avoid big-city gigs but because of the nature of Greenwich Meridian Memoir which describes our life in communist Czechoslovakia and our travels across three continents, Detroit with a large Czech community is a must-stop.
Palmer Park Art Fair is a premier event on Lake Frances with an authors’ tent with 13 authors, and 120 other art vendors selling original artworks of various media, including painting, sculpture, music, mixed media, and more. In addition, the event will have a music stage and specialty booths.
The hours are on June 4 from 10 to 7 p.m. and June 5 from 11 to 5 p.m.
Next weekend I will be at GIZZARD FEST, POTTERVILLE, JUNE 10& 11Gizzard Fest is not your ordinary festival. Thousands of people stream into Potterville for this unique event and good old-fashioned fun! The small-town atmosphere, live music, carnival, and great food (including plenty of gizzards) bring people from across the Midwest.
The hours are on June 10 from 9 a.m. to DARK, June 11 from 8 a.m. to DARK
LAKESHORE ART FESTIVAL, MUSKEGON, JUNE 25 & 26
This event is held in downtown Muskegon with more than 20 authors representing all genres. The LAF features a unique blend of fine art, handcrafted goods, music, food, and fun. Experience over 300 juried fine art and specialty craft exhibitors, a Children’s Lane, an artisan food market, street performers, multiple interactive art stations and so much more.
The hours are on June 25 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and June 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Detroit Virtual Book Fest July 15-July 17 see the link at the bottom
COMING SOON The Lost Town is a historical fiction novel set in a ghost town. Protagonist Ida is torn between her hometown of Chicago and her new home across Lake Michigan, and between two men. Who will win her heart- her husband or her lover?Shifting Sands is a growing anthology of short stories and a brand new novel Shifting Sands: The Lost Town coming soon. The novel was edited by Carol Briggs of Lowell with the cover designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford. The first book is a collection of 13 stories divided into three circles based on my life experiences: retail, journalism, and immigration. The second book Secrets is a collection of 15 short stories with the main historical fiction story Silk Nora set in Belding, MI. There are other stories as well such as the Chief about a corrupt small-town police chief and 40 Hunks exploring cheap labor from Mexico. FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS PODCAST with host EMMA PALOVA Listen in for a chance to win a signed copy in the podcast book giveaway. http://emmapalova123.podbean.com and major podcasting apps.
June Schedule Jon Stott, Summers at the Lake, June 2 Mark Loeb, special guest at Palmer Park Art Fair, June 3 Kris Gair, The Beautiful Moment, June 3 Nikki Mitchell, Nightshade Forest, June 17 Deborah Frontiera, Superior Tapestry, June 17 Victor Volkman, U.P. Reader, June 24 Sponsored by Doc Chavent, The Lowell Ledger, Modern History Press, Nikki Mitchell Find Out More
Detroit Virtual Book Fair, July 15-17, link to the catalog of my books in my virtual booth coming soon.
Copyright (c) 2022. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Join me for Virtual Book Launch on Sunday Nov. 15 at 5 p.m on Facebook
Greenwich Meridian Memoir goes live on Amazon Above is a scene from Africa; mom Ella is standing by the irrigation equipment. On the right, in the first row, second from the right, is dad Vaclav at the Archbishop’s Gymnasium in Kromeriz.
A book is born
I am happy to announce that my new book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” goes live on Amazon on Nov. 12, 2020 in both formats: Kindle ebook and paperback. The epic story of love and emigration from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S. portrayed by the main characters Ella & Vaclav Konecny, Emma Palova & Ludek Pala, plays out on the backdrop of two major historic events: the 1968 Prague Spring and the 1989 Velvet Revolution led by late president Vaclav Havel. In the aftemath of the Soviet occupation of the country in 1968, dad professor Vaclav Konecny, made the pivotal decision to leave Czechoslovakia. What followed was a thread of events that propelled the characters across three continents and into dangerous situations. “What I consider unique about the book is that all of the players contributed in their own way to the memoir,” Palova said. My dad wrote the chapter ‘How Professor of Math Escaped Czechoslovakia.’ It is an account of his physical escape from the country, and his plans for how he plotted the whole escape. “Can you visualize a math professor taking a painted dinghy across the Black Sea to Turkey?” Palova said. “That was his plan B in case plan A of escape didn’t work.” The second generation of characters Emma & Ludek followed the Konecny lead and plotted their very own escape out of the country, that put Ludek at peril as he crossed the Karawanks Mountains from Yugoslavia to Austria and into the Traiskirchen refugee camp. “It’s been a long process in the making,” said author Emma Palova. “The publishing has been delayed several times due to the COVID-19 situation.” I finally made a decision in late September to go ahead with the publishing since nothing has changed with the pandemic. I hired my awesome publicist team “Anthony Mora Communications” to present the book in front of the world. The book will also publish in Romanian and Italian languages by Editura Minela, Romania. The publisher is Valeriu Dg Barbu. The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford. The book was edited by Carol Briggs of Lowell. I would like to express my deepest thanks to everyone involved in this very complex publishing process. I hope you enjoy the book, as I am planning to write a screenplay based on the memoir. We are looking for a Czech translator of the memoir, so our fans, friends and family living in the Czech Republic, can enjoy it as well.
In the newsThe Lowell Ledger published the article about our escape on the Czech Independence Day, which was a total coincidence.
VIRTUAL BOOK LAUNCH NOV. 15 AT 5 P.M.Join us for the Virtual Book Launch on Facebook this Sunday for a live discussion with author Emma Palova about her new book. The event will be moderated by Jakub Pala. Post your questions in the comment section for a chance to win a free signed copy of the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.” Following is a link to join: https://www.facebook.com/events/3751102538242043 LINK TO THE BOOK ON AMAZON
Lowell, MI – Welcome “Blue Moon” October with your two full moons, pumpkins, candy, spooky characters, books, Girls Nites Out in ugly sweaters and paranormal investigations in the Fallasburg historic village.
The month started off strong with a full moon, a storm in the morning and a brainstorming session in the afternoon with Anthony Mora Communications for the PR of my upcoming book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the USA. As part of the project, they will also be marketing my book no. 2 that never fully reached the market because of covid-19. Thank you Anthony and Lindsey for your work on this project.
While most of the events have been cancelled, the nature hasn’t canceled her show in hues of oranges, browns and yellows. Moreover, today was the Feast of the Guardian Angels. We each have a guardian angel, and this year we need more than one. As I drove to the Vergennes Township hall to pick up my absentee ballot, I noticed a sign on Bailey: “Jesus 2020.”
Just 10 minutes before the brainstorming session, I found out from my Romanian poet/publisher friend Valeriu Dg Barbu, that my book has already been translated into Italian. Thank you Valeriu. Valeriu owns a small publishing house Editura Minela at:
Plus my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary on Oct. 7. Happy anniversary Ludek.
The socially distant Lowell Harvest Celebration will take place on Main Street on Oct. 10. This year, the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce is taking over the Larkin’s Chili Cook-Off. The chamber will be selling $5 wristbands for chili tastings at different venues.
Featured photo: Hannah Rietzema at the Springrove Variety, that is now closed.
Copyright (c)2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Note: Following is an excerpt from the chapter: “Living in socialism” from my upcoming book- the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” set for Oct. 16 release on Amazon.
The book is available for preorder in Kindle format at:
Continued: Living in socialism
Among interesting events at workplaces were birthday celebrations. Ludek described a typical birthday celebration at the ZPS factory as follows; the celebrant typically brought in a bottle of plum brandy and poured everyone from each department a shot. After work, the celebration continued at the local pubs. There was a lot of birthday celebrations throughout the years. Milestone celebrations like turning 50, meant you got a fancy watch from the company and a huge party at a local pub.
During national holidays, the workers would steal anything and take it through the gates without being checked because there were so many of them leaving at once for the parades. So, the parades were known as the “March of Thieves.” The parades actually started inside the factory. On the matter of overtime, one individual was selected to punch for all those, who waited somewhere outside the factory behind the gates.
The major employers in Zlin were Svit and ZPS; their huge factory complex spanned several blocks in town. The shoe factory Svit was built during the Thomas Bata era in the 1920s. It employed 10,000 workers. ZPS was the mechanical engineering factory, employing also 10,000. Women worked mainly in Svit, while men worked in ZPS.
Our hometown Zlin grew thanks to the T & A Bata firm, when Tomas Bata was known as the “king of shoes” (aka the creator) of the global shoe emporium with export of shoes to the U.S. as well. The growth and success of the Bata firm were attributed to a large army contract with the Austro-Hungarian Empire to make shoes for 5,200 soldiers.
The core of city Zlin boasts the fine architecture of functionalism; the former Bata headquarters building “Twenty-one”, a high-rise reaching 254 feet and the 11- story Hotel Moscow. During socialism, the shoe empire became the factory Svit, where people worked for generations. In socialism, the economy was planned accordingly into one-year plans, five-year plans and ten-year plans. All the companies had to strive to fulfill the plans to the highest percentage for bonuses at the end of the year. The bulletin boards at the different workplaces boasted the percentages of fulfilled plans.
The average salary for women working in the Svit factory was 1,200 crowns; for men working in ZPS it was 2,500 to 3,000. Since, the work or the economy didn’t fluctuate, most jobs were for the entire lifetime until retirement.
“You couldn’t quit,” said Ludek.
According to Ludek, even if you wanted to quit, you couldn’t because you had to give a six-months’ notice, and the other employer wouldn’t wait for you that long. On top of that you had to sign a work contract.
Of course, there was no such thing as calling in sick; you had to have a doctor’s script that you are sick. Not showing up for work was called American time off or “A.” If you did it for three days in a row, the police would come looking for you.
If you were sick and stayed at home, you had to be in bed, because regular controls at home were conducted if you’re not cheating.
“They even touched the bed and the sheets if they were still warm,” Ludek said.
You got paid when you were sick, and the health care was free for all. There was a universal one crown fee per prescription of any drug. People often ask, if there was a shortage of drugs and doctors.
Of course, there was a shortage of everything due to the planned economy. You got used to most of the shortages, but some were just plain embarrassing like not enough toilet paper, hygiene products or laundry detergent.
On the other hand, there were fashionable dresses in nice boutiques, pretty shoes and fancy parties with crystal glasses and porcelain plates. The paradox of not having basic needs fulfilled sharply contrasted with the opulence of the fashion, including home fashions inside homes and apartments. People took good care of their homes and took pride in their furniture. Women spent days polishing the furniture, and usually you couldn’t touch anything when visiting a friend. You were designated a safe spot to sit, where you didn’t jeopardize the cleanliness and the order of things.
Most products were made in Czechoslovakia or they were imported from the countries of the RVHP–the association of mutual economic assistance such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany, Romania and U.S.S.R.
You spent a lot of time waiting around for anything and everything, quite often it was in lines for desirable items like bananas or meat.
The grocery stores were small with only a limited amount of shopping baskets, so you waited for the shopping basket, then you waited inside the store at the dairy counter for cheese, and at the meat counter for meat, you waited in a line for the cash register and you waited for the bus to get home with your groceries. There you waited for the elevator to get to your apartment.
The waiting game was due to everything being small and crowded. Overall, the country is small with only 15.6 million population and territory of 127,875 square feet kilometers in the heart of Europe. So, it has traditionally been the target of other countries in their quest for more land.
At the time, there were only savings banks in the country except for the Commerce Bank in Prague that handled international currency. People got paid money not checks. Most of them kept the money at home and spent it for basic needs.
Nothing was really cheap; you pretty much spent your entire paycheck on life’s necessities. And that definitely discounted gas and telephone bills, because only a few people had cars or telephones. However, most people were not in debt, and mortgages didn’t exist. Something as bizarre as a non-returnable loan for newlyweds existed.
It wasn’t uncommon for several generations to live in one house. But the main housing was in apartments, that were affordable, but you had to wait for them for years. There were cheaper state-owned apartments and apartments owned by the cooperatives. Condos did not exist. This set-up was due to the socialist ownership of everything from apartments to land, factories and businesses that happened through the major nationalizations in 1945 and 1948. Houses were individually owned and usually built by owners. Most houses were in villages, and these included very old buildings like my Grandfather Joseph’s beloved “Ranch” at 111 Krnovska in Vizovice. The old buildings known as “chalupas” required extensive repair challenged by the shortage of contractors and materials.
However, the main source of the communist pride were the apartment mega complexes such as the “Southern Slopes” housing 20,000 people, which was one- fourth of the population of Zlin. These were dubbed as the “building successes of socialism.” The country is sprinkled with these and their inhabitants are happy to live in them. Most of them have been turned into condos.
Atheism vs Religion
A friend asked me to write about religion in socialist Czechoslovakia. Under the Marxism Leninism philosophy, the official religion was atheism–not believing in God or any deity. The church properties were confiscated along with everything else and belonged to the state as of 1945. But people went to churches, some secretly, others openly.
There were only two denominations that my husband Ludek and I could recall: Catholic and Evangelic. Each town had one church only, and the Catholic church usually prevailed depending on the region. The churches were old dating back to feudalism and the reigning aristocracy. It took 150 years to build the new Saint Mary’s Church in Stipa due to a pause in construction because of the 1620 war. The construction started under Albrecht of Valdstejn in 1615 and ended in 1765 thanks to the money from the Rottal countess.
The clear and present danger of going to church mainly impacted teachers and career-oriented people who were trying to get ahead of the game. It impacted both my father and my aunt.
Although we come from a large Catholic family, Aunt Martha, who was a teacher in Stipa, could not go to church. Many years later, I found out that she was a member of the Old Catholic Church, a chapter located inside a chapel at the cemetery across the street from the Konecny house and that she had sponsored a priest in his education. The chapel is also a tomb of the count Seilern family, a major influence in the Stipa region with the Chateau Lesna.
One of the major wars, the Thirty Years’ War, in Czech history was over religion. What I consider the sad part of modern history is that after the downfall of socialism in Czechoslovakia, the majority of people never returned back to the church.
However, a big tradition centered around the parishes stayed intact–that is the feast of the saints. In our case, it was the Feast of Saint Mary in Stipa on September 8 th. These feasts or pilgrimages were much like homecomings or festivals in the U.S. The entire families gathered for the feasts for an opulent celebration of the saints. In many cases, animals were butchered and ladies baked the famous pastry-kolache or strudels. A dance took place at the local hall on the night before the feast. This often turned into a brawl, as people got drunk on plum brandy. Carnival rides always came into town with booths and paper roses. I loved these paper colorful crepe roses on wires; I wish I had kept at least one. Other booths sold gingerbread hearts of all sizes and for all hearts.
In traditional pilgrimage places like Hostyn, the booths were set up all the time and opened for the season with hundreds of religious and non-religious items: rosaries, prayer books, medallions and miniature statues. Pilgrims streamed to Hostyn, both on foot and on buses.
That brings me to celebrations of holidays in general. In villages like Stipa, many people raised animals for meat: rabbits, pigs, geese, turkeys, chickens and ducks. That was the primary source of meat for the holidays. Most meat was roasted, served with creamy sauces or sauerkraut and dumplings. Pork and chicken were often fried into wiener schnitzel. Salads or vegetables were not as common as in the U.S. due to their year-round shortage. Soups were always a part of a holiday meal, mostly beef or chicken. In some households, people made their own noodles.
As a rule, women baked for the weekends all sorts of pastries, some for breakfast. But there was also an abundance of pastries on the market; at the bakeries, coffee shops, patisseries and in grocery stores. The patisseries served as cafes with people hanging around in them sipping coffee or wine, while enjoying a “rakvicka.” This dessert has always fascinated me; the pastry is in the form of a small coffin filled with delicious cream and ornately decorated on the top with whirls and swirls of more cream.
Among the most famous baked goods, were “rohliky” or bread rolls in the shape of a crescent, some even came with poppy seeds. And bread was always good, whether baked round with hard crust or in loaves in small or large bakeries.
Other homemade products included sausages and smoked meat. The butchering of the family pig usually took place in winter and before the holidays, so there was plenty of meat on the table. Socialism with its chronic lack of basic goods, drove the need for self-sufficiency specifically in the villages and craftsmanship as well. People were forced to be more creative in many different ways.
Many households in villages and towns were self-sufficient with everything homemade or home grown. National artist Joseph Lada illustrated the traditional festivities: The Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, the butchering of the family pig in the yard with onlookers, Christmas by the tall tiled stoves, autumn campfires with fire-roasted potatoes and summer fun by the ponds with the willows.
The Czech Republic enjoys four distinct seasons: mild winters, early springs, hot summers and moderate autumns. The seasons are conducive to year-round vacationing and recreation. In the socialist era, people traveled freely between the two parts of the country, Czech and Slovak republics. Slovakia is the home to the Tatra Mountains. Travel to other socialist countries was also accommodated.
Recreation was encouraged and subsidized through the membership in the Revolutionary Union Movement (ROH) at the workplaces. Some companies had their own recreation centers in the mountains like Jelenovska. We visited this center in the mid-1980s. Much fancier centers belonged to the leaders of the Communist Party.
The ultimate goal of socialism aimed at the health and well-being of the population and the country. However, that was contradicted by the inability to act freely in many aspects such as travel to the Western countries and overall limitations of freedom of speech and press.
The press of the socialist era represented the opinions and views of tolerated organizations. The number one daily newspaper was “The Red Truth,” the official paper of the Communist Party gloated with the party philosophy and the party news. Then, there was a version for the younger generation called, “The Young Front,” which was a little bit less biased. After that, came “The People News” and “The Agricultural News.” All of them were heavily censored for content and inuendo. Journalists had to go to political schools, which were hard to get into.
The older generation like my grandpa read “The People News” only on Sunday afternoons. At the Gymnasium Zlin, we had to recite the news in the “Citizens’ Education” class. The news was usually about the president sending a congratulatory letter to another leader of a socialist country or about the regular Communist Party conventions.
The TV wasn’t much better, if not worse. There was one TV station–The Czechoslovak TV run by the government. The books and magazines were less censored. I sent a lot of novels to mom Ella.
I will be participating in October Virtual Book Fest with a reading on Oct. 5 and an interview on Oct. 23.
Zoom Reading:October 5, 2020 @ 7pm – 7:30pm
Zoom Interview:October 23, 2020 @ 7pm – 8pm
Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Stay tuned for news about my upcoming new book, the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.” I had to sold off on publishing it due to the COVID-19 situation. But since we’re going nowhere with that, I am moving forward with publishing the memoir in August.
It is now available for preorder on Amazon. Just click on the link below: