Roots of Faith in American History Anthony Cleveland

American history is full of contradictions. This is particularly true when it comes to the interweaving of history and religion. As an immigrant (and a seriously– probably permanently– lapsed Baptist), I have seen both the good and the bad of how faith plays a part in the national discourse. Regardless of your individual position, you can’t really examine America’s history without looking at faith, religion, and everything that goes with them.
That brings us to this weeks interview with Anthony Cleveland about his book, Roots of Faith.
So who’s Anthony Cleveland when he’s home?
Anthony (Tony) Cleveland is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan. He has a B.S. In Chemistry from the University of Toledo and an M.A. In Counseling Psychology from Moody Theological Seminary – Michigan.
Professor Cleveland spent 25 years in the private sector holding positions in R&D, Operations, Sales and Marketing. Seeking a deeper career fulfillment, he enrolled in a Christian seminary where he encountered the healing power of applied psychological principles integrated with a Christian worldview. While serving as a clinician Cleveland discovered his passion and true calling as an educator and has been at Jackson College since 2002. In 2012, Professor Cleveland received the Outstanding Faculty of the Year award, after being nominated by numerous students and colleagues.
Anthony and his wife of 42 years have two daughters and two grandchildren. Roots of Faith, published in May of 2017 by Lighthouse Christian publishing is Professor Cleveland’s first novel written in the genre of Christian historical fiction.
What is the book about?
Roots of Faith is an intergenerational saga following four southern American families from their ancient roots in Great Britain through their immigration and settlement in the United States. Each of the 17 chapters highlights a specific period of time where one of the families must adapt to the dynamic political, economic, sociocultural and technological forces at work in their lives. The book is of course about the ever evolving Christian religion and it’s direct impact upon these families. The book is indeed a journey of faith as it attempts to highlight the universal human experiences of doubt, fear and confusion in each of the principle characters as they grow and develop in their relationship to their God. It is a story about people whose faith bends but does not break.
Roots of Faith is also in an indirect fashion about the impact of the Christian religion upon the development of the United States. Hopefully, readers of the book will have a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of the need for a Constitution which guarantees the free expression of religion and the right of every citizen to worship (or not worship) God in a manner they deem appropriate without fear of retribution by the government. Nor shall our government establish (and enforce) a national religion.
Roots of Faith is also about the power of love. Romantic, familial and spiritual love that stands the test of time through difficult and seemingly overwhelming trials.
What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?
Quite simply, I wrote this book for my grandchildren. The four families I write about are my ancestors. I wanted my grandchildren to know of the sacrifices their ancestors made in coming to America and the importance their faith made in that endeavor. The book, of course, is historical fiction. I attempt to weave together an imaginative yet informative blend of history and myth, fact and fiction, that will help guide them through their lives after I am long gone. I do pray reading this work will help them remember not only the history of their ancestors but of our nation. God willing, it will somehow inspire them to stay strong in faith, follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and, ultimately, “run the race well”.
Without giving away spoilers, what is your favorite scene or event in the book?
That’s a tough one to answer. As you might imagine, this was truly a labor of love. I suppose if I had to select something, I would mention three events; the dialogue between William Cochrane and his grandson while standing outside Paisley Abbey in Scotland, the encounter of Isabel (who has been accused of witchcraft by the elders of the local Kirk) with the vision of Jesus, and finally, the tearful departure from his father of the indentured teenager, Alexander Cleveland, at the docks of Bristol, England as he boards the ship heading for the Colony of Virginia.
Where can people find you and your book?
The book is available at Amazon or at the Lighthouse Christian publishing website. I am also a Goodreads author where you can read my blog, the “Historical Foundations of Roots of Faith”. Also, I have an author’s Facebook account at Roots of Faith by AJC where you can find photos of many of the places I write about.
Of course, you can also read my books like Acre’s Bastard,  or The Count of the Sahara, with a slightly different take on religion and history… just saying.

Born at the Wrong Time- Lauren Sobka

Most of us have our favorite historical periods. If pushed, we’d even say we’d like to have been around then. (News flash, much as the 17th century might have been fun for sword fighting and decolletage, I’m partial to cheap books, hot water, and indoor plumbing. I’m good here, thanks….) and some even say they were born in the wrong era (The Duchess says in all seriousness she wanted to be around in 1920s New York- and thinks she was). That brings us to Californian Lauren Sobka and her chronic Francophilia, as well as her book, Brokenly Live On.

Okay, what’s the Lauren Sobka story?

Just a girl born in the wrong era. My name is Lauren, I’m an artist and writer living in California. To sum myself up I propose this:

A dirt lane leading down a path beside a crumbling, ancient wall where wildflowers have cast their roots in like flags pitched in ownership; they are legion, reaching, and riotous. Looking ahead, the rolling fog obscures much of the landscape, but in the distance you can hear the rushing crash of waves reaching up the bluffs; all around the wind gently pushes through the trees and sways the heather bushes reaching out across the rolling hills.

There are a few more nuanced details, but that’s about what rolls around in my brain all day, and knowing what someone thinks is the best way to understand them, is it not?

Actually, that’s a terrifying thought, but then I’m paranoid. What’s the book about?

It takes place in France, in 1875. After the fall of the Second Empire, on the cusp of the Belle Époque, Clara Devereaux finds herself motherless, left with a recluse for a father with whom she shares the halls of a slowly decaying estate – Château Rivière. At twenty-two she has not been able to discover the reasons for her mother’s death nor her father’s phantasmal existence, and so, unguided and temperamental, Clara finds no other purpose but to spend her days carousing in Paris with childhood friend Remi.

As the mystery of her parents begins to unravel – thanks to the help of her dear friend and neighbor Christophe – deep prejudices, betrayals, and a vindictiveness distilled through generations are revealed; all of which falls onto Clara’s shoulders. While facing her family’s past, a new valet in her father’s employ catches her interest and causes a jealousy to spark that sets in motion events she never could have imagined. With what little pieces of a life she can claim falling away around her, she must find the resolve to endure a fate she cannot escape, the loss of all she holds dear, and the strength to face the retribution of her parent’s mistakes.

So why “la Belle Epoque” and France? What’s the fascination?Product Details

When I was thirteen I was told I needed to choose a language to study in school, which would be the one I would learn for the next five years. Out of my three choices I settled upon French, and since that time I’ve been fascinated by the culture and history, driven on by beauty in the language.

Over the course of seventeen years I’ve picked up more than a few novels by Flaubert and Dumas Fils and found the times they were set in to be fascinating. One object in particular, however, was my starting point – a painting by artist Toulouse Lautrec. His work spun my imagination and soon a short story turned into twenty thousand words and before long I knew I had to do things the right way; so I researched. The more I learned the more I knew that his era, the end of the 19th century France, that of the Impressionists, of Art Nouveau, of no more Napoleons, of the fading aristocrats and the continued rise of the bourgeoisie – and so much more – was the era I wanted to write about.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Such a horribly difficult choice, but if I had to, I’d say the scene where Clara and Alain encounter one of her old friends from her past life of debauchery in Paris. I really enjoyed writing the banter between a drunk bon vivant laying down insults and how Alain handled it.

Speaking of debauchery, how can people learn more about you 😉  ?

website: www.brokenlyliveon.com

 

amazon (the book): https://www.amazon.com/Brokenly-Live-Lauren-Sobka-ebook/dp/B07481XB2Z/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501094619&sr=8-1&keywords=brokenly+live+on

amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Sobka/e/B07482RTK7/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads (the book): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35534325-brokenly-live-on

Goodreads (author page): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16986987.Lauren_Sobka

Twitter: @brokenlyliveon

Instagram: @brokenlyliveon

Dodging the Rain Publishes My Story, “Bayamon, 1978”

I am thrilled that the artsy Irish lit journal, “Dodging the Rain” has published one of my short stories: “Bayamon, 1978”. You can read the story here…  

Arguello-Escalera-knockdown

It’s both a sports story (boxing is one of my passions) and historical fiction, since it’s based on one of the great title fights of all time, 1978’s “The Bloody Battle of Bayamon,” between my boy Alexis Arguello and Alfredo Escalara.

Like all my short pieces, it began as a thought experiment, but turned into something I think you’ll enjoy.

You can read more of my short stories here, under Short Stories and Other Pieces on the menu bar or by clicking this link.

 

World War 2, Spies and Bobby Sox Libby Fischer Hellmann

I occasionally (very occasionally, because it’s too nerve-wracking. I seriously hate doing it) review books for Windy City Reads. This gives me a chance to repay some Karma, as they’ve been very kind to my books (so far) and also meet some Chicago writers. Last month I reviewed Libby Hellmann’s, “War, Spies and Bobby Sox, Stories About WW2 at Home.” (You can read the review here.)

Even though it was as far from the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific as you can get, there were important things happening here that impacted the war.

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fourteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first.

She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony, three times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times.

Libby Fischer Hellman lives and writes in Chicago

Her most recent release, War, Spies & Bobby Sox: Stories about WW2 At Home was released March 1, 2017. Her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection.  In 2005 Libby was the national president of Sisters In Crime, a 3500 member organization dedicated to the advancement of female crime fiction authors. Her website is http://libbyhellmann.com.

Your book is actually an anthology, which is rare in historical fiction. What’s the nutsell version?

WS&B is my 14th crime thriller. (I have published five novels in one series, 4 in other, and 4 stand-alone historical thrillers.) The sub-title is “Stories About World War Two At Home” which is pretty much self-explanatory. WS&B is slightly different than my novels because it’s a collection of two novellas and one short story. But all three are set in and around Chicago during World War Two at home.

The first story, “The Incidental Spy”, is about a woman who worked in the Physics Department at the University of Chicago during the early years of the Manhattan Project (before it was officially called that, of course). “POW” is about two German POWs who were imprisoned in a camp that actually existed in Glenview. And the 3rd story, “The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” was set in Lawndale, which, in the 1930s, was a thriving Jewish community in Chicago.

I liked them all, for different reasons. What was about this time period that intrigued you enough to do three different stories?

I’ve always been an avid reader of WW2 fiction, because I think it’s the last time in recent history where there was such clarity between good and evil. It was a time where some people turned out to be heroes while others became cowards—or worse. So it presents a wonderful opportunity for complex character development. At the same time, though, I was intimidated at the prospect of writing about the war. So many rich, beautiful stories have already been written (NiGHTINGALE, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, UNBROKEN, SARAH’S KEY, and more) I wondered what I could possibly add. A friend of mine, however, thought differently, and while she didn’t dare me, she did encourage me to write about the era. Eventually I took a deep breath and dived in. My caveat was to choose small pieces of the human “canvas,” since I couldn’t write about battles and military actions.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

There are several. The scenes in Hyde Park near the U of Chicago were really fun to write, as was the description of the “Pile” (the first nuclear reactor) underneath Stagg Field. I also loved writing about the emotional tug of war in POW between Mary-Catherine and the two German soldiers. Lawndale, another South side setting, was fun to research, as I actually met a couple of “old-timers” who grew up there.

What I liked about your Lawndale story was the clash of cultures and class inside the Jewish community, which a lot of people under a certain age aren’t aware of. Good stuff. Where can we learn more about you and your work?

My Website: http://libbyhellmann.com

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Libby-Fischer-Hellmann/e/B001HMMDZU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://facebook.com/authorlibbyfischerhellmann

 

Just Another Russian-Argentine-Jewish-Historical-Fantasy-Mashup

When you put out the call to authors who have unique stories to tell, be prepared for the unexpected. This is especially true for historical-fantasy “mashups”. These can be fabulous and inventive (Think Naomi Novik’s Dragon/Napoleonic War series). Of course the line between mashup and car wreck is pretty subjective, so it’s a risky proposition (“It’s Harry Potter set in the Civil War and Hogwarts is in Arkansas…”). Still, the imagination and talent required to pull off such a trick is impressive. Even when it doesn’t work, sometimes the “what if” of it all makes the read worthwhile.

Full disclosure, I haven’t read Mirta Ines Trupp’s “Becoming Malka,” but when it takes the real history of a Russian/Jewish/Argentine family and mixes in time travel and mysticism, that’s some chutzpa/valentia/khrabrost’/nerve right there. I had to talk to her.

Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with “un pie acá, y un pie allá” (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years. She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, Mirta lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, Mirta most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.

In a nutshell, what’s the book about?
Thank you for inviting me, Wayne. I am delighted to participate in this interview! “Becoming Malka” is a Historical Fiction/ Fantasy. In pursuit of her master’s degree in Imperial Russian history, we find twenty-four year old Molly Abramovitz heading to Moscow for a week-long seminar. Being methodical and meticulous, she is not one to miss an opportunity for genealogical research and so; she plans a side trip to Ukraine. Molly’s trek to her ancestral home leads to the discovery of a mythical tarot card which transports her to the chaotic year of 1900. She finds herself in her great, great-grandmother’s presence. Surrounded by the history and culture she has studied her entire life- and knowing, full well the fate that awaits her ancestors- Molly is faced with a dilemma of extraordinary proportions.

One reader expressed it best, I think, when she said that “Becoming Malka” on the surface appears to be a “modern-day fairytale, but there are layers of serious subjects to investigate and discuss i.e. Russian history, the debate of Jewish Enlightenment, Kabbalah and Jewish immigration to Argentina.” I would add that the Molly’s introspection- realizing her own strengths and value and how she fits into her familial evolution- speak to various universal themes such as tradition, assimilation, acceptance and personal growth.

You get major points for originality (historical fiction with no Tudors or honorable Confederate soldiers in sight, who knew?)What is it about that time period or story that intrigued you?

The historical mashup “Becoming Malka” is available on Amazon

Ah- great question! I was inspired to write the book I wanted to read! Here I was, an avid fan of Historical Fiction and all things Judaic, but I couldn’t find a fusion of these two worlds. There are a few “mash ups” out there- if you look hard enough- however; I found most of them to be filled with stereotypical characterizations of the Jewish community. When I did find something of merit, the material was intense, heavy reading- “Daniel Deronda” comes to mind, as a good example. There is a wealth of dark Fiction and Nonfiction that speaks to the atrocity of anti-Semitism throughout the ages, but I was inspired to shine the light on a period of time just prior to the Russian Revolution and to bring attention to the heroic steps taken by Baron Maurice Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association.

Rather than being a tragic narrative, I depict an upper, middle class, Jewish community in the 19th century. My favorite reads- my period dramas- speak of the landed gentry, aristocrats and high society; I was inspired to create educated, successful, philanthropic, characters. The Brodskys- the famed Sugar Kings of the South-were a prime example and I based the Abramovitz family on their history. I wanted to present a cultured, well-established family living “Jewishly” in Mother Russia, and conversely, I wanted to write about their emigration to Argentina, as it speaks to the courage of my own ancestors who risked everything for the sake of future generations. I added the fantasy element, with the discovery of a mythical tarot card and some discussion of Jewish mysticism, to add a speculative dimension to the story. Who wouldn’t want to travel back in time to meet their ancestors? I know I would!

Wtihout giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Wayne! That is a tough question- somewhat akin to asking a mother to choose a favorite child! But, since we are limited here to time and space (no pun intended), I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed writing the scene where Molly finds herself transported to her ancestral home. In “Becoming Malka,” a reoccurring narrative revolves around the concept that “inexplicable” is not the same thing as “unexplainable.” Duvid, a young boy of thirteen, poses an interesting question when he asks, “Why are adults so eager to dismiss things that they cannot explain?” History, I find, is full of extraordinary- miraculous- events. I discovered a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which states, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Quite apropos to my story!

And words to live by. Where can people find you and “Becoming Malka”?

http://facebook.com/mirtainestrupp

https://www.amazon.com/Mirta-Ines-Trupp/e/B00BA1U3SM/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6864345.Mirta_Ines_Trupp

WW2 Romance from Clare Flynn

I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly Canadian guys in European wars are a hot commodity. First it was the Newfie boys in Jeff Walker’s “Not One of Us the Same.” (Read my interview with him here...) Now it’s a different world war, but Clare Flynn brings us her romance set in the English seaside, “The Chalky Sea.”

So, what’s your story, Clare?

I live on the south coast of England – Kipling’s “Sussex by the Sea”, in Eastbourne, a seaside resort with a Victorian pier and a beautiful seafront bandstand built in 1936. I moved back here just over a year ago from London. I spent my teenage years in the town and always loved the South Downs and the sea – both of which are outside my windows and I can hear the screams of seagulls as I write this. I have used the town as the setting for my latest book, The Chalky Sea – although I had not planned to do that when I moved here.

I am now writing full-time, after a long career in Marketing and then as a strategy consultant with my own business. My career took me to some wonderful places – I lived in Paris, Brussels, Milan and Sydney and did a lot of travelling all over the world for both business and pleasure.

I write historical fiction, often about displacement and with a strong sense of place. The Chalky Sea is my fifth novel and I have also published a collection of short stories.

What’s your book about?

It’s the wartime story of two people.

Gwen is a thirty-something Englishwoman whose husband has just headed off to war. She is stranded in Eastbourne – by choice, working for the Women’s Voluntary Service and training as a fire warden and subsequently as a translator of German signals. The war gives her a purpose her peacetime life has lacked. Gwen appears emotionally cold, having bottled up her feelings for years.

Jim is a young Canadian farmer from Ontario. He joins up on the spur of the moment after an unpleasant discovery that makes him want to get as far away from home as possible. He arrives in England expecting to fight and caring little if he dies ­– only to find himself kicking his heels in Aldershot like most of the Canadian army, performing endless exercises far away from the front. Eventually the two story strands come together and we see how the war changes each of them. These are people who in normal circumstances would never have met.

Ah yes, because when you think romance, Canadians leap immediately to mind…. Besides our natural magnetism, what is it about the time period or the story that intrigues you?

I never intended to write a book set in the `Second World War. In fact I’d always shied away from it. It seemed too big and in some ways too recent – my father was a pilot in the RAF and my Mum was evacuated as a child. When I moved to Eastbourne I discovered that the town had a little known significance in the war – noted for being the most frequently raided in the south-east of England. Almost two hundred people, mostly civilians, lost their lives in bombing raids and there was wholesale destruction of homes and many notable buildings including the town’s library, fire station, two churches and many shops. German bombers even machine-gunned people in the streets and one of the worst raids happened while people were doing their Christmas shopping in Marks & Spencer – completely destroying the store.

The other little known fact was that Eastbourne was home to thousands of Canadian soldiers during the war, with troops moving in and out of the town and its surrounds constantly from July 1941 until just before D-Day. I discovered that the Canucks of the 23rd Field Regiment used to drink in both my two local pubs, the 31st and 46th Batteries preferring The Ship with the 83rd Battery favouring The Pilot, which they treated as a second home. They used to park their tanks on the local streets (destroying much of the old Victorian brick paving) and there was an officers’ mess in one of the houses in my road. The first German plane shot down over the town during the Battle of Britain landed in the playing field of the school down the road. How could I resist?

Good point. Without giving away the store, what’s your favorite (or favourite) scene?

Oddly enough it was a scene I wrote in my final revisions. It happens in the nearby port of Newhaven on the day of the ill-fated and tragic Dieppe raid in which around nine hundred Canadians lost their lives. My scene is at the harbour as the ships return bearing dead, wounded and survivors. I had “under-written” this, skating over it too quickly, despite one of the key characters being directly involved in the raid. Fortunately my editor called me on it – I immediately knew she was right and still can’t understand why I had missed something so obvious. I sat down to rework the scene and I hope that this time around I did it justice.

I also enjoyed writing a lot of the Aldershot scenes. When I realised some of the book would need to take place there I wasn’t exactly thrilled. Aldershot was another place I once lived in (aged about seven!) and it was singularly unmemorable – basically an army garrison town. As the poor old Canucks nearly went out of their minds with boredom there, I thought I would too – but I ended up really enjoying writing the Aldershot chapters. A character, who was meant to feature briefly in one scene, elbowed me out of the way and wouldn’t get out of the book. She has now forced her way into being a main character in the sequel I’m working on now, set in Canada.

Where can we learn more about The Chalky Sea and your other books?

The Chalky Sea is available as a paperback (ISBN 978-0-9933324-3-2). Online as an e-book it is exclusively on Amazon at the moment http://mybook.to/chalky sea

You can find out about me via my website which is http://www.clareflynn.co.uk

Or my Amazon author page http://author.to/clarefly

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6486156.Clare_Flynn

And Twitter https://twitter.com/clarefly

Glancer Magazine Showcases Acre’s Bastard

Always nice when local press supports local authors, especially those who are indie–published. Glancer Magazine in DuPage County (outside Chicago) Gave me and Acre’s Bastard some love. You can check it out here

https://www.glancermagazine.com/single-post/2017/07/01/ARTS-ENTERTAINMENT-Literary-Local-Early-July-2017

 

Vietnam War Tales From Rick DeStefanis

Even growing up in Canada in the 60s and 70s, the Vietnam War was present throughout my childhood. I remember watching Walter Cronkite with the “scoreboard” up behind him. Every Canadian high school had that cool English teacher who appeared to come from nowhere (usually with long hair, bellbottoms, an acoustic guitar and a vaguely Midwestern accent) and I’m fascinated by the many books and films that have come from that era–both the classics and the crap. Enter Rick DeStefanis and his new novel, The Valley of Purple Hearts.

Rick is known as “The Word Hunter.” The author of six books, he brings a wide range of life experiences to his writing. His experiences as a paratrooper with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division from 1970 to 1972 predicates his Vietnam War Series, a collection of novels written as historical fiction, but which exceed simple genre classification. DeStefanis writes not only about men at war, but the women they love and their families back home, as well as the people of Vietnam. His novel, “The Gomorrah Principle,” was a Readers Choice Book Award Winner in 2014. He also published “Tallahatchie” in 2016, the first book in his new Southern Fiction Series.

Rick presently lives in northern Mississippi with his wife, Janet, six cats and a male Labrador retriever named Blondie.

I’m not going to even think about the gender identity crisis you’ve created for your poor dog. Let’s get to the book. What’s the story about?

Have you ever wondered about that father, grandfather, uncle or brother who served in Vietnam? What was it that he refused to talk about? Or perhaps your question is: Why did he drink so much, or couldn’t keep a job, or had three divorces? What was it that made this person that way? These things are what “Valley of the Purple Hearts” is about. It’s about a squad of paratroopers with the 101st Airborne Division fighting in Vietnam, immediately after the 1968 Tet Offensive. It’s about their lives, their friendships, their loves, the war and the aftermath. I like to call it my Vietnam War version of A Farewell to Arms.

Protagonist Buck Marino is a dumb kid from Mississippi who finds he is facing the consequences of his poor decision to join the army and escape the rural farm life of his deceased parents. And when he meets Army nurse, Janie Jorgensen, he falls in love, only to realize the war has destroyed his vision of a happy life. This book is about the violence of war, the effects on the soul and redemption.

I’ve listened to their stories and read dozens of non-fiction accounts by Vietnam War combat veterans. Many of their books are very well written. Most are not. This is not to degrade the efforts of brave men attempting to tell their stories, but merely to state an observation. And the most recognized stories are those that have been bastardized by Hollywood for the sake of entertainment. The problem with the veterans’ stories is that describing the pain of burning alive is probably not quite possible after the fact. Most cannot see beyond the flames that consumed them. Historical Fiction allows a knowledgeable author to show the deep emotions the veteran cannot often sufficiently express. It allows a certain exposition from an external perspective that cannot be otherwise replicated. Historical fiction goes deep into the human psyche, a place where many fear to tread.

Is it your own experience that makes that period so intriguing for you?

I was a wall flower who got dressed for the big dance and was left behind. I trained; I did everything in preparation to go to Vietnam. I even got orders, but my military orders were change at the last minute to go to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. A year later, while still serving with the 82nd Airborne Division, my friends from AIT at Fort Polk and Jump School at Fort Benning began returning from their tours of duty in Vietnam. I spent many an hour in bars in Fayetteville, North Carolina listening to their stories and the hell I missed. Even then, these combat veterans refused to let me write about their experiences. My only option became to write them as fiction, with the mission of telling the things they revealed to me (only when they had consumed enough alcohol to bear the pain). My novels are their stories, and I tell them for the purpose of giving credit to a generation of combat veterans who were marginalized in a political climate very similar to that which we are experiencing today.

Without giving away the goods, what’s your favorite part of Valley of  the Purple Hearts?

The ending!  Okay, that’s true, but let’s talks about my “second” favorite scene. 1968 was the beginning of the “sexual revolution.” Youth in America were breaking away from the rigid mores of their parents. This led to a certain degree of promiscuity, probably over-emphasized in many respects, but very real. Buck Marino was of this generation, but when he finds himself in the room above the Vietnamese laundry in Phu Bai with Janie, he suddenly realizes what is about to occur is not simply a sexual tryst. Chapter Nine, “A Night at the Laundry,” is my next favorite scene, because Buck realizes if he follows through and makes love with Janie, he is signing a lifetime mortgage of commitment.

Where can we learn more?

Valley of the Purple Hearts, will be out by August 1st, 2017, and the first three books in the Vietnam War Series are available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon.com , and can  be ordered through most book stores.

Spirituality and Historical Fiction with Nataša Pantović Nuit

My relationship with the spiritual and religious is complicated, to say the least. And while I remain very skeptical, bordering on the agnostic, in most issues, the search for the soul and the things that bring it peace fascinates me. Basically, I gave up searching a while ago, but respect and cheer on those who continue their journey. As usual, it’s taken me a long time to get to the point: today’s interview with Nataša Pantović Nuit and her novel “A-ma: Alchemy of Love.”

Nataša is an author, trainer, Yogi and spiritual researcher who lives and works in Malta. She’s the author of 9 Mindfulness Books called  the “Alchemy of Love Mindfulness Training.” Ever fascinated with the energies of: Love, Divine, Power of Mind, Creativity, Tao, Living one’s Highest Potential, Nuit writes self-development courses exploring topics of inner-development, esoteric or occult teachings, and New Consciousness. The main theme of her Mindfulness Books, her poetry, and for today’s purposes her novels, is our alchemy transformation, the alchemy of soul, our everlasting quest to find the gold within, and discovering the stone that transforms metals into gold.

Like I said, that’s way more work than I’m willing to put in. But it’s not like spirituality, religion and restlessness of the soul haven’t been behind some of history’s greatest movements so….. (and at least it’s not another story about the Civil War or the #$$%@%ing Tudors)

In a nutshell, what’s Ama about?

We follow Ama through her life journey. Ama was born of an African mum and a Portuguese Lord De-Nobille. She was an alchemy mix of a White King and a Black Queen and she was supported with all the knowledge, money, spiritual insights from both the East, African spirits, and the Western Alchemy. She is a Goddess incarnated to help the transition from one Era to the next. All the events and manuscripts mentioned within the book: the Dutch attack on Macao on the 24th of June 1622, Fortaleza do Monte proved crucial in successfully holding off the attempted Dutch invasion, the Dutch East India Company, the Reform of the Chinese Calendar during 1630s in China, Father Schall’s [Johann Adam Schall von Bell] Appointment to the Chinese Board of Mathematicians (during 1650s), the Witch hunt and Witches Manual, are carefully researched historical facts. During the 17th century, some 5,000 slaves lived in Macau, around 2,000 Portuguese and 20,000 Chinese. The book uses history to create the connection between actions of the individuals that live surrounded by magic.

I think that historical fiction is a great way of asking the important questions in life, don’t you?  

Yes, using historical fiction, my major question to the audience was: How much of our thoughts, feeling or insights are truly ours and how many of them repeat within the various historical settings on Earth, throughout the centuries. Within our own spiritual journeys the major question is our eternal addiction to suffering (in my story this is the voice of Lilith). Can we let it go? Can we live our highest potential? Can we open to Love?

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

I was triggered by Giordano Bruno’s writings and his drive to change the existing “dogmatic” structure within the science and religion of his time. Trying to prove that the Earth is not at the center of our  Universe, placing humans at the periphery of Gods attention, shook the essence of our Adam and Eve story, our story of Jesus, our promises of Heaven and Hell, and has threatened to undermine our Religious and Political foundations. Entering the Age of Reason and Age of Enlightenment from the long period of darkness, fighting so many “demons” must have inspired many enlightened souls and their “revolutionary” spirit and works: Leonardo Da Vinci, Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Galileo Galilei, to name just a few.

Now, imagine living during these times, imagine the 16th and 17th century China, being in the shoes of Jesuit Portuguese Priests who came to convert the Chinese into Christianity and for the first time truly met the wealth and depth of this most amazing culture…

Why China you may ask? I found it most intriguing that China had a compass and gun powder centuries before they came to Europe. Did you know that they possessed the most advanced Navy, yet they always focused on the trade with their neighbors, never went into frantic invasions of other continents. Reading about holocausts committed all around the world by Colonists powers around different continents (American Indians slaughter, Australian Aboriginals destruction, or crimes against New Zealand Maoris) all gave me an insight about how unfair was our world, and difficult our fight for justice, better world, and freedom. Within A-Ma we follow insights and subtle energy battles following lives of a group of enlightened souls who understood the prime importance for West and East wisdom sharing.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

It is the setting of my story.

The world without a coffee or a tea shop was also our reality, not such a long time ago. The books were kept within the cellars of privileged, with an access only to the few. Various Monasteries were great for studying, however going out of their walls, there were a few places where people could gather to discuss life and philosophy. Coffee or tea shops mushroomed during this time, each one of them having similar setting where all classes are mixed and each could afford this inexpensive cup of delicious liquid. They were called “Penny Universities”, they gathered artists, philosophers, time-wasters, actors, poets. This became a natural setting of my story, Ama’s coffee house in Macao, at the edge of China. Ole within its walls gathered all sort of researchers.

If people are interested in the questions you ask and this intriguing story, where can they learn more?