Author Archive

Justice: France agrees Holocaust SNCF rail payout with US


Today, justice was served. The U.S., government and the State of France announced a compensation package from the SNCF – the French national railway – for their role in deporting 76,000 Jews from France during WW11. Better still, there will be an official apology from the company. The agreement, to be officially signed in the U.S. on Monday, will have to be ratified by the French parliament.
Frankly, I never thought I would live to see this day happen. Yet, it was my belief in justice that propelled me to write the story of my search for my uncle, Benjamin Albaum, one of 76,000 French Jews transported by the SNCF from France to the death camp of Auschwitz. Of that number only 2,500 survived. No amount of money or apologies can bring back their lives or take away the suffering and humiliation the victims suffered. But, as my daughter suggested when I shed a tear this evening, it may bring long overdue closure to survivors and victims’ families.

A Stone for Benjamin FINAL (3)


Before You Publish: Best Practices For Book Marketing


Before You Publish: Best Practices for Book Marketing

Ever wonHomeworkder how you are going to sell more books during the first year of publication? When I wrote my book I had no idea about marketing me or the book. I was so thrilled to find a publisher willing to publish it, nothing else seemed to matter. I had visions of my book becoming an instant bestseller with media begging me for interviews. I’ve learned a lot since I came crashing down to earth after floating on a cloud with a publishing contract in hand.

Best practices for book marketing apply to everyone, whether contracted by a publisher or self-publishing. And, the marketing of you and your book needs to begin long before your book is published.

First of all, begin setting-up social media while writing your book. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram and of course registering as an author on Goodreads are just a few platforms I recommend. Ensure that these accounts are separate to any personal accounts you have. That said, leverage your personal email contact lists to gain an early buzz, asking friends and their friends to like or follow you and your book. I find it hard to juggle postings every day (yes, you should post on Twitter at least once a day and Facebook 4 times a week). Updating social media takes valuable time away from what you love doing most; writing. Programs such as Hootsuite are excellent for organizing social media postings all in one place.

Blog as often as you can, at least twice a month. Blogging builds relationships between you and the reader, so finding your niche content brings followers and potential readers of your book. Make sure you post your blog on all social media sites.
Once you’re ready to publish, give yourself some time and submit either paper or digital galleys to media who may be willing to review your book. Send it to several journalists with a different pitch, at the same paper or magazine. Most newspapers and magazines will no longer review a book once it has been published. Early reviews can make a huge difference to sales, establishing your credibility as a writer.

Ultimately, it’s all about the quality of your book. If you’re submitting your manuscript to an agent or publisher, make sure it’s well edited. Even if you are self-publishing, your biggest and first investment should be a professional editor. You’ve put hours into telling your story, make sure it’s the best it can be and then market it with all your heart!


Letters From The Past: History In The Making

Why are Letters from the Past Important?



After my parents died, I sorted through the worn blue suitcase, my mother carried with her from England so many years earlier. Snapping open the two metal clips, I lifted the lid. Neatly wrapped in plastic bags, the contents were in good condition. I flipped through pages of diaries, my father’s army discharge papers from WWII and telegrams celebrating departures, arrivals, births and deaths. Then I pulled out dozens of letters my parents wrote to each other when my father worked in Chicago for eight months during 1948. I carefully removed the musty airmail paper from ripped envelopes, reading perfectly preserved hand written words from the still crisp blue pages. My mother wrote her letters in blue ink, every line neatly spaced. All are dated and filled with descriptions of people and events from the past. What a legacy they left!
Correspondences are just some of the items you can use in genealogy research. So where should you begin?
The best place to start is with parents, aunts, uncles and older cousins. Their recollection of names, places and events may vary, nevertheless every piece of information counts when compiling information. Engage in casual conversation and record it; it’s much easier to extract pertinent facts from recordings later on than figure out hand written details.
Find out where ancestors are buried. Cemeteries can provide a treasure-trove of information carved on a stone or from the records administrators are required to keep. When you begin searching on websites or requesting information from archives in other countries, bear in mind that surname spellings may differ slightly from what you may have been told. Avoid running specific name searches, allow for variations. Dropping the first name can also be helpful in an initial search. Remember; just because your ancestors lived in one town or village their entire life does not necessarily mean they were born there! Be flexible in your searches. Translate letters into local dialects when writing to local archives and other institutions. Be patient, it can take several months before you may get a response. Don’t get disheartened when you hit a dead end; we all do! Giving your search a rest, returning a few days or weeks later with a fresh approach can help propel your journey forward.

Genealogy research is detective work; however when you discover information about your ancestors the rewards can be exhilarating!
So what am I doing with the letters in the blue suitcase? They’re the inspiration for my next book!

4 Tips On Creating a Buzz about Your Book Before Publication

4 Tips On CreFiona Head Shot 4ating a Buzz about Your Book Before Publication.

While I had a publisher for my first book, the marketing of it fell squarely on my shoulders. Most of all, I didn’t realize how critical marketing is prior to the publication of a book. Yes, my website and social media were up and running a couple of months prior. But, there are other things you can do to help create some noise about  you and your book in the preceding weeks.

Here are 4 ways to expand your book marketing activities prior to publication.

1. Whether your book is print, digital or both, invest in a professional book cover designer. The cover is the first thing people see when they look at your book. The highest number of views and likes that I receive on my Facebook pages are for simple pictures with few words. So, your book cover needs to be eye catching. This is particularly important if you are planning on submitting your book or Galley (advanced copy) to the media for review. Make sure your website is up to scratch and have professional head shots taken; using a nice photograph taken on vacation doesn’t cut it if you want to be taken seriously.

2. If it is in your budget, have your book reviewed before publication by Kirkus Reviews or other similar industry magazine. Their reach is broad and respected within the publishing industry. Allowing sufficient time before publication will enable you to print a quote from the review on the back cover of your book.

3. Research on-line reviewers of your book’s genre and find out if they accept guest posts. Several of them probably do and it’s an excellent way to get your name out there.

4. As soon as the Galley of your book is available, send it out to potential mainstream media outlets for review. Most will not review a book once it has been published.

Do you have some other views or ideas on marketing a book prior to publication? Feel free to share your comments.



Marketing Your Book: Is Social Media Consuming Your Time?

I will never forget the thFiona Head Shot 4rill of signing the contract to have my book, A Stone for Benjamin published. Told I would have to do most of my own book promotion, I believed it would be a simple task. But in reality, I didn’t have a clue how to market a book. Yes, my publisher sent me some suggestions and ran on line tutorials on social media, but there were not enough hours in the day to update and post to all my accounts apart from writing a blog. And what about my next book…well that’s another story.

So, after working solidly for five months promoting my book on social media I hired some professional help. The hiatus has proven invaluable to me while I regroup and reorganize my life. So here are some recommendations on time management for authors:

1. Schedule your day. Do all your Social Media updates during the morning. That said, analyze your authors Face Book page as to when you will receive the most number of hits. Twitter is usually better around 10:00 am, and late afternoon and some days better than others. HootSuite is an excellent program that enables updating of most of social media postings within one application

2. Work on all updates including your blog during the morning.

3. Reward yourself with lunch and a walk!

4. The afternoon is yours to do what you enjoy most…writing your next book.

Have I begun working on my next book? Yes, I have, and it’s a relief to know that I don’t have to think about my social media updates at least until tomorrow.



A Stone for Benjamin SMALL

Kirkus Reviews A Stone for Benjamin


“Kroll comes from a close-knit Jewish family in postwar London, and in her debut memoir, she traces her ancestors’ migration from Eastern to Western Europe before World War II.

In searching for her family’s lost history, Kroll becomes particularly interested in her great-uncle Benjamin, whose striking portrait captivates her. He’s her beloved grandmother’s brother, though her family is unaware of his fate. After years of searching, she discovers that he died at Auschwitz in 1943, but the fact of his death doesn’t provide closure; on the contrary, it sparks her curiosity. She becomes determined to uncover as much as she can about Benjamin and his family. Her quest takes her to Paris, where Benjamin was living when he was captured by the Nazis; Poland, where she tours Auschwitz; and Israel, where she’s moved to tears at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. Kroll’s prose is eloquent and evocative, and her writing is admirably self-aware. At times, she acknowledges that her family might think she’s obsessed with a ghost, and she wonders if she is, in fact, too rooted in the past. But the goal of her writing is both clear and incredibly important. Benjamin’s life story—his normal prewar life, his family’s separation and his time in a concentration camp—is, like many real-life narratives, a paradox: remarkable and riveting without being terribly original. Yet the point of Kroll’s work isn’t to put forth an untold or unusual story; she tells Benjamin’s tale “to elevate him from a mere number—the number tattooed on his arm in Auschwitz.” In doing so, she realizes that she’s helping, decades later, to “negate the Nazi doctrine of dehumanizing their victims.”

A detailed examination of a Holocaust victim’s life and a considerate, thought-provoking look into why Holocaust narratives are important.”

Pub Date:Oct. 24th, 2013
Page count:98pp

Would you like a free copy of A Stone for Benjamin?

Would you like a free copy of A Stone for Benjamin? A Stone for Benjamin SMALLGoodreads are giving away five copies of “A Stone for Benjamin” on December 18.  This is your chance to receive a free copy of the book, so make sure you sign-up today!

A Stone for Benjamin received another great review on :

“This is truly a lovely story and one that takes a different approach to the Holocaust. Yes, this piece is about the author’s search for information on her Uncle and his family but I believe there is also a mirrored search of discovery about the author’s own life and how she is connected to both her past and future. It is rare to find a book that is emotional, but not weepy; educational, but not overly factual; and has a strong narrative, without being preachy. I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend.”
Purchase your copy today:


A Stone for Benjamin is born

butterfly effectA Stone for Benjamin took almost nine years not nine months to arrive. The book became both a labour of love and anguish to write, but it gave me enormous pride when I touched and looked at the cover for the first time. Finally, Benjamin Albaum would be recognized not as a number assigned in Auschwitz, but as a living person with a name, an identity and history.

“Chasing Holocaust shadows across Europe and beyond, Fiona begins her powerful journey searching for clues with nothing more than a misspelled name, old photographs and family stories.  Determined to uncover the truth about Benjamin’s life and death and France’s betrayal of its Jewish population, Fiona pieces together her great-uncle’s life, elevating Benjamin’s legacy from a number tattooed on his arm at Auschwitz to a more complete memory of the vibrant man he was.”

Purchasers began downloading and ordering the book on Monday and by the following Saturday A Stone for Benjamin was number #14 in the top 100 Holocaust books on  But, my goal is for the book to be read in libraries and schools across English speaking countries and beyond, because education is essential if we are to ensure that apathy does not tarnish Holocaust stories in future generations.

A Stone for Benjamin is more than just another Holocaust book.  It is a story about blemished French history during WWII along with the pleasure and sometimes heartbreak of genealogy research.

Currently, filming of a book trailer along with a short movie of A Stone for Benjamin has been completed by Creative Rebellion in LA. The book trailer will be ready for viewing on YouTube during the next few days and the movie will be prepared to submit to film festivals in the U.S. and Canada over the next twelve months.

A Stone for Benjamin has been born and well worth the wait!  View the book teaser A Stone for Benjamin now

Are there Intimate Letters you Wish you had Written?

 NA Stone for Benjamin SMALLow that A Stone for Benjamin has gone off to the printers I have time to reflect on different parts of the book. I never knew Benjamin or his family but I frequently think about the relationships that I could have had with my great-uncle, his wife and his three children. I spent the first eighteen years of my life living in England and after I turned five, my family vacationed in Europe each summer. We drove everywhere and I have no doubt that my father would have taken us to Paris, where I would have met and played with my older cousins Sara, Freda and Roland. I imagine that we would have taught each other to speak a little French and English. We would have written to each other; pen pals were common and encouraged when I was a child. And the families would have joined together in celebrating Bar Mitzvah’s and Weddings in London and Paris. Most of all I think about the unwritten letters. I have always found it easier to write my intimate thoughts rather than speak them. I think about those letters, realizing that I have a need to write to Benjamin and his family. Here is a letter to my cousin Freda.

 Dearest Freda,

 It was wonderful to see you again, and I wish that our visits were more frequent. It was fun learning to put on make-up with you. I made sure that I washed it off before my mother saw me wearing lipstick!  I wish I were older like you.

I’m so excited to be a bridesmaid at your wedding next spring and I can’t wait to receive the material for my dress! My father will have it made by one of the seamstresses in his factory. My mother said that most of the family from London and Glasgow will be there. I hope that my grandfather is well enough to travel.

After our visit with you, we left Paris early the following morning and drove south towards the Riviera. All of the food that your mother packed for us was delicious and I think we ate it all by lunch time. We had a good vacation, and my mother relaxed the whole time. My father was lots of fun. Maybe someday, we can all go on a vacation together.

I have to go, my mother is calling me for dinner.  Write soon!

Lots of Love,



A Stone for Benjamin

A Stone for Benjamin SMALL I’ve received several emails this week asking me when my book A Stone for Benjamin will be published.  “It’s close, possibly during the next two weeks,” I tell them. Then, they ask me what my book is about. When I give them a brief summary, most people are shocked to learn that the Vichy government of France collaborated with the Nazis during World War 2 in the arrest, detention and deportation of 76,000 Jewish men, women and children. Then they ask me how many people survived; often silence is followed by incredulous disbelief when I tell them there were 2,500 survivors who returned to France. While historians have written many books about France during World War 2, I have come to realize that very little is known outside of France about this terrible part of the Holocaust. It was kept quiet for many years after the war ended in 1945, swept under the carpet so to speak until 1995 when Jacque Chirac made a public statement acknowledging the French Vichy government’s complicity. 

When I decided to write a book about my own journey, searching for my missing French great-uncle, I also had to make an important decision.Should the story be a non-fiction memoir or a novel based on fact?  But, I suspected I would diminish the facts if I wrote it as a novel.It’s curious as to why I would feel that way, considering I enjoyed reading “Everything is Illuminated” and “Sarah’s Key.” However, while both of these books contain some historical facts, the characters and story lines are fictional.  Some would argue that if novels on the subject of the Holocaust receive wider readership, then they not only entertain but also educate and should therefore be published.  But, I believe there are still thousands of true Holocaust stories still waiting to be uncovered and written, and those are the stories and books that should be published before the novels. That was my goal when I wrote A Stone for Benjamin, and ultimately that’s what I did.