Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Welcome Tom Oestreicher, Civil War Historian and Author, by DL Larson

Tom Oestreicher has been an avid Civil War enthusiast and National Collector for over 40 years.
Tom has taught history at both the high school and collegiate levels. Oestreicher is currently teaching at Genoa-Kingston High School and will retire in May of 2014. Tom is near completion of his fifth novel titled Crown.  His first novel, Present and Accounted For, was a featured title in New York at the 2005 Book Expo America. Tom, his wife, Marilyn, and. his extended family reside in historic Sycamore, Illinois.

 Tom has hosted writing seminars and lectured on character and scene development.  I first met Tom in 2005 in Aurora IL during the Midwest Literary Festival.  Since then, Tom has continued to blend his love for history and a strong talent for telling a good story into his novels. 

Here is Tom to share his insight on developing a scene ...

I find it extremely frustrating when I' m reading a book by a popular author and just can't get into the plot. 

Setting the scene and starting your story with a "gripper" is best way to grab the readers attention. We see this practice all the time with television shows; think about the beginnings of Bones or NCIS. These shows have excellent writers and sustaining plots. Your writing should do likewise.

Whether at the beginning of your story or at a chapter, the more extreme the details the better. There is never too much.

When writing Present and Accounted For, one scene I had my lead character driving her car into a thick forest. I could have just mentioned that she was driving very cautiously into a thick dark forest that blotted out the sunlight. The reader would have understood the situation, but wouldn't it be more dramatic to include the crunching of the gravel under her tires as she slowing entered the forest, or the eerie silence with the only sound being the crunching of the leafs and gravel?

In my newest novel, Crown, the assassin enters the great room at Stratham Castle. He notices the rich burgundy draperies, the elaborate wall coverings, the solid oak wood inlaid table and hand carved chairs. The reading left pondering a picture of the scene. One can imagine that the character pauses to take it all in. He is not just walking through a room, he is overwhelmed by it. The history of the castle, and thus the importance of the person he is stalking, is better understood by the reader through these simple details. Notice that I never mentioned anything about who was being stalked, his name, rank, social importance, but it must be someone of importance or great wealth based on the details given. 

There are numerous books for writers that offer assistance for developing characters and scenes. I particularly enjoy developing my characters in great detail, from the shape a beautiful woman's eyes to the curl of her thin lips. 

If you are having trouble with scene or character development, you do not have to reinvent the wheel. I do a good deal of people watching at a mall or coffee shop. The good Lord put all the details you will ever need right in front of us. All a writer has to do is look for it, see it, and describe it. Close your eyes, put yourself in the scene, and tell the reader what you see.

Enjoy what you write. Treat it as a painting and imagine all the fine lines.

Tom Oestreicher

Other works by Tom are:
With Full Honors, sequel to Present & Accounted For
Sept 17th A Soldier's Story
Ghost Walkers

Visit Tom at

One of Tom's goals in life is to write a definitive history of The 105th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  This Regiment originated from the Sycamore-DeKalb IL area and was General Sherman's spear-head unit in his March to the Sea in 1864. 


  1. Great ideas! Observing can be lots of fun. When I worked in Downtown Chicago, as I walked down the street I'd listen to others' conversations and learned a lot about them, things I could use in novels. I hated it sometimes when they crossed the street and I didn't hear the end of what happened!

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Welcome Tom!
    I'm so glad you could join us here today! I too am a people watcher. I love the expessions and nuances we as humans make with our faces. It's always a challenge to move those actions to paper.

  3. Hi Tom,

    The Civil War era is my favorite period of history to read about. Right now my class is in the middle of a study of the Gettysburg Address to celebrate its 150th anniversary next week.

    I love people watching. It really is a great way to get inspiration and to catch a lot of the little things needed to make a scene come to life.