Ancient Chinese Drama with Alice Poon

Growing up in British Columbia, and having a mother who spent several years in Asia, I developed a fascination with the culture and people of China. I dig Chinese movies (House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and the like will bring productivity to a halt in this house) and have a very snobbish opinion of what most North Americans call “Chinese food” (friends don’t let friends eat Panda Express.) So when I came across Alice Poon’s new novel, I was intrigued.

Not only is the book set in the Ming and Qing dynasties, but Alice lives and writes in Richmond, BC, about 40 miles from my home town. She’s  an avid reader of world historical fiction. Born and educated in Hong Kong, she grew up devouring Jin Yong’s (Louis Cha’s) martial arts and chivalry novels which are all set in China’s distant past. That sparked her life-long interest in Chinese history. Writing historical novels set in Old China has been her long cherished dream. She is the author of the bestselling Chinese edition of Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong, which won the 2011 Hong Kong Book Prize. In 2007, Canadian Book Review Annual selected the original English Edition as Editor’s Choice (Scholarly). Okay, she’s way out of my league but she talked to me anyway….

What is The Green Phoenix about?

It’s about the life and times of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, the first matriarch of China’s Qing Dynasty. She was a Mongolian princess descended from Genghis Khan’s full brother Khasar and her maiden name was Borgijit Bumbutai. By arranged marriage she becomes the consort of the Manchu Khan, Hong Taiji, who is a dauntless warrior intent on conquering Ming China. But right from the beginning, deep conflicts seethe beneath the relationship with her husband, the future Qing Emperor, as she is deeply in love with his half brother Dorgon, who, it so happens, is the Emperor’s nemesis due to a deep-seated mutual hatred going back one generation. The story follows Bumbutai as she struggles to survive the Manchu court’s in-fighting, the sibling rivalry and war, burdened as she is with an heir-producing duty owed both to Hong Taiji and to her own tribesmen. Eventually, when Ming China is at last conquered, circumstances dictate that she has to take up leadership in the new Qing regime, and to help her son and grandson restore peace and rule over a war-wearied multicultural Empire.

The narrative is set against a turbulent canvas as the Ming Dynasty is replaced by the Qing Dynasty and the transition is marked by numerous vicious battles between the Manchus and the Hans. Ethnic antagonism between the opposing camps and perfidy (major points for use of perfidy!) and corruption among the Hans themselves drive conflicts to a culmination, which results in large scale deaths and sufferings.

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

The time period is most fascinating as it is marked by the violent demise of one ruling regime and the simultaneous birth of another. Such straddling periods in history, whether it’s in the West or the East, are, in my view, always a subject that bears studying. The saying that history repeats itself, though clichéd, is not far from truth. I’ve often pondered over the question, why does humankind never learn from history? Recently I came across a sobering article by Paul Lynch, recommended to me by a good friend, that says there’s no such thing as historical fiction: the modern world is governed by ancient forces – power versus weakness, truth versus falsehood, life versus death – and there’s the question of how we can survive those forces. How spot-on! When we look at our past, we are actually staring into our present.

Above all, I was motivated to write about the character of Empress Xiaozhuang because I felt that her contributions to humanity in China’s history are greatly underrated, and also because this historical character has never been introduced to the Western literary consciousness. Western readers only know about two Imperial women in Chinese history: Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty and Empress Cixi of the late Qing, but the fact is, Chinese people don’t even respect these two characters.

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

There are actually quite a few. It’s hard to choose one. Let’s see. I love the scene where Bumbutai has a long conversation with her half sister Little Jade (Dorgon’s wife) in the beautiful setting of the imperial hunting park called South Park. Both women love Dorgon deeply. Here each of them expresses her own cutting insight into Dorgon’s behavioral eccentricities, while being mindful of the other sister’s sensibilities. The natural landscape exerts a rejuvenating effect on Bumbutai, who is a born lover of nature, whereas their visit to a deer farm brings out different reaction from each.

One favorite event (I’m cheating here!) is where Bumbutai tries to coax her son Shunzhi Emperor to face down his fear in a critical crisis by enlisting the help of his respected adviser, a German Jesuit priest, who she knows always has Shunzhi’s ear. As she predicts correctly, the priest gives a most convincing speech, which calms down the Emperor at once. She has the whole situation under control and knows clearly in her mind which commander to deploy and how to resolve the crisis, but keeps quiet as she does not want to appear to be overriding her son’s power in the presence of courtiers. Then when the Emperor is out of the fit of hysteria, she casually hints at the name of the commander, and gives credit to her son for coming up with the solution.

 Where can people find you and The Green Phoenix?   

Alice: The Kindle version is now available for pre-order from Amazon. The hardcover and paperback versions will be available on September 1, 2017.

The Goodreads book page:

The Amazon book page:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alice.poon.author

Twitter: @alicepoon1

My Blog: http://alicewaihanpoon.blogspot.ca

 

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

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?

The Legend of Orrin Porter Rockwell with David J West

As a kid, I remember watching an episode of “Death Valley Days,” (It was a repeat, i’m not that old) where they talked about the legend of Orrin Porter Rockwell. He was-depending on who you ask- either a bad-ass enforcer and assassin for Brigham Young or a lawman with almost mystical powers. Either way, with his long hair, mystical religion and supposed bullet-proof skin, he was pretty much the stuff of legend.

David J. West writes dark fantasy and weird westerns because the voices in his head won’t quiet until someone else can hear them. He is a great fan of sword & sorcery, ghosts and lost ruins, so of course he lives in Utah with his wife and children.

What’s the story about in a nutshell?

Scavengers is an adventure featuring an infamous, gunslinger named Orrin Porter Rockwell who had a near supernatural aura hanging over him. Supposedly he was blessed by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, that if he never cut his hair, he could not be harmed by either bullet or blade; and for someone who was in the thick of things throughout the old west – that blessing remarkably came true. He was never shot nor stabbed though plenty of people tried on numerous occasions.

Rockwell is on a short list of real-life people I’d love to write novels about. The list starts with Byron de Prorok (from Count of the Sahara) but includes people like Kate Warne, Richard Francis Burton, and Eugene Francois Vidocq. Why did Rockwell fascinate you so darned much?

I was fascinated with this real person and since no one had written any adventures featuring him to my satisfaction I set out to do some of my own. I found him to be the perfect character for the weird west genre, where I can play around a little with spooks and legends and such.

There were a lot of funny scenes, and some good dialogue. What was your favorite scene to write?

A favorite scene? That’s a hard one but perhaps when Porter has his horse leap a wide chasm while pursued by bandits. I did base that on a real place in the San Rafael swell where a cowboy did leap the divide on a bet.

So where can we learn more?

and interact with me on my blog at http://www.kingdavidjwest.com/ or twitter at https://twitter.com/David_JWest

 

 

 

 

 

The Great War-No, the First One- With Jeffrey K Walker

Every historical fiction fan has their pet periods. I will confess (and this is probably the Canadian in me- it was a seminal event in Canadian history and we were literally knee deep in it pretty much from day one. Plus, find one current world mess that doesn’t intersect with it somewhere) the First World War is a real obsession. So, when I find other writers working in that period it’s a happy day in my world. Enter Jeffrey K Walker, and his new novel, “None of Us the Same.”

Jeffrey is an impressive cat, and I’m looking forward to reading the book.

Jeffrey K Walker, author of the Sweet Wine of Youth trilogy and None of Us the Same.

JEFFREY K. WALKER is a Midwesterner, born in what was once the Glass Container Capital of the World. A retired military officer, he served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, planned the Kosovo air campaign and ran a State Department program in Baghdad. He’s been shelled, rocketed and sniped by various groups, all with bad aim. He’s lived in ten states and three foreign countries, managing to get degrees from Harvard and Georgetown along the way. An attorney and professor, he taught legal history at Georgetown, law of war at William & Mary and criminal and international law while an assistant dean at St. John’s. He’s been a contributor on NPR and a speaker at federal judicial conferences. He dotes on his wife, with whom he lives in Virginia, and his children, who are spread across the United States. Jeffrey has never been beaten at Whack-a-Mole.

I’ll put my doting on my wife up against his any day of the year. Other than that, he is just a better man than me in pretty much every way, which is incredibly annoying. That said, I still summoned enough self-esteem to ask him some questions.

In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

The book tracks the experiences during and after the First World War of three main characters. Deirdre Brannigan, who adds new meaning to ‘headstrong,’ is an Irish nurse from working-class Dublin, while affable Jack Oakley and complicated Will Parsons are childhood pals from St. John’s who enlist in the Newfoundland Regiment the day it’s formed in August, 1914. Deirdre joins a military nursing service after her father and brother hit the beach at Gallipoli. All three of their paths cross at Deirdre’s field hospital the first day of the Somme. Each of them suffers terrible and varied trauma from the war. The second half of the book returns to Newfoundland as they come to a reckoning with their self-pity, addictions, and emotional devastation. A big part of the healing process involves overlapping romantic and business relationships, not all of them entirely legal.

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

Well, Deirdre Brannigan is, in hindsight, an unconscious and dead-on composite of all the strong Irish-American women I grew up with—mother, aunts, grandmother, great aunts and cousins. Write what you know, right? I’ve been attracted to the First World War since I was a kid, much more so than World War II, which may sound odd coming from an American. The Great War was the first full-blown industrialized conflict fought by the world’s greatest economic powers with enormous conscript armies and rapidly evolving technologies. What no one really foresaw was the unimaginable level of violence, that if we could mass produce Model T’s and light bulbs, we could also mass produce death and destruction. Since at its heart None of Us the Same is about how war changes everyone and everything, World War I dovetailed nicely in my mind. Of course it’s also the centenary of the War, which we Americans just started commemorating 6 April 2017, being Johnny-come-lately as we were.

The other reason is, well, because I’m a coward. I wanted to write about the very timely subject of returning from the devastation of war—think Iraq and Afghanistan—but couldn’t quite bring myself to set the story present day. Besides the current over-politicized narrative around those two ongoing conflicts, I got the creeping sense I was appropriating the stories of these young men and women much too soon after the fact. As a retired Air Force officer, I was keenly sensitive to this. On the other hand, this also makes None of Us the Same historical fiction that deals with very contemporary issues.

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

Wow, tough question—and I know every writer has that same reaction, having created so many darlings, after all. I’m partial to the very first scene, set in Deirdre’s charity hospital where she’s dealing with a young trainee’s rather unique problem with, shall we say, man parts. The scene is interrupted by the rising peal of church bells all across Dublin as the declaration of war is announced. There are three scenes throughout the book set at a lighthouse kept by Jack’s uncle that were a guilty pleasure to write, the Newfoundland seacoast being so remarkably beautiful. There’s a scene early in the book when the pals meet their new company sergeant-major that’s a wry twist on the crusty old drill sergeant and all of my early readers loved Sergeant-Major Pilmore. Later in the book, there’s a fine (and pivotal) scene along the waterfront during “fish making”—the production of salt cod which was the economic mainstay of Newfoundland until the fisheries collapsed in 1992, ending 500 years of tradition.

But if I had to pick, I’d say my favorite scene is Will’s experience on the first day of the Somme. You can’t make up a more atrocious battle scene than the reality of the Somme on 1 July 1917. The British had 20,000 men killed just that morning, the Newfoundland Regiment suffering over 90% dead, wounded or missing. It’s almost unimaginable at a macro level, so I tried to show the abject horror of that day through one young man’s experience. And it’s plenty horrible, believe me. (If I can butt in, I’d put it up against the battle of Passchendaele where nearly half the dead drowned in mud…. but why pick nits?)

Where can people find you and your book?

I’d welcome them first and foremost at jeffreykwalker.com. Sign up to receive my latest news and I’ll happily send you a fun piece on sayings that originated during the Great War. Many fans have read it and said, “I didn’t know that!”

Also, follow me on:

Twitter https://twitter.com/JkwalkerAuthor

Facebook at www.facebook.com/jeffreykwalker

Instagram @jkwalker.author

Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16863722.Jeffrey_K_Walker

None of Us the Same is available on Amazon at amzn.to/2qvJSJm.

 

 

Duty in the Cause of Liberty with Charles Frye

The American Revolution is truly one of the seminal events in world history, and while I get insane amounts of fun tweaking people about being a Loyalist and seeing it from the Canadian side, there’s no doubt of its importance. Oh, and the right side won. That leads us to “The War has Begun,” by Charles E Frye, the first book in his quadrology. (Is that a thing? Let’s assume it is)

So what’s the Charlie Frye story?

author and polymath Charles E Frye, author of The War has Begun

I am a geographer, cartographer, information scientist, and U.S. Army veteran. However, I studied architecture for three years prior to discovering geography, and I am still fascinated with architectural history and the design of the built environment. I have read books by the dozens every year since I could read. For fun, I still read fantasy and historical fiction. I decided I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I was five years old, and while I grew out of that, I have always enjoyed watching baseball, and am an Angels fan now. For the past fifteen years, my hobbies have included genealogy, reading about the history of the American Revolutionary War, and researching Isaac Frye’s story. I have been a member of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) for twelve years, and a member of George Washington’s Lifeguard, which the unit my chapter portrays in re-enactments, living history events, and parades—it definitely helped to know how to walk a mile in those shoes, including how to fire a musket and study the manual of arms. I was born in Ohio, and spent significant time in Missouri and Kansas. I am married and have three sons and a daughter, and for twenty-three years have lived and worked in southern California.

Re-enactors fascinate me (and freak me out a little) because of the depth of their passion for the topic. What is the story of The War Has Begun (besides the obvious, that the war had begun?)

The War has Begun is the first of four books about Major Isaac Frye in the American Revolution. He is a farmer, husband, father, and minuteman from Wilton, NH. So, why write about him? Wasn’t everybody a farmer and minuteman in those days? In New Hampshire, it was roughly one in five men. What makes Isaac different is that he served for the entire war as an officer, starting on day one, through to being in the last unit disbanded. No one else from New Hampshire did that, and nobody from any other colony, other than Massachusetts could have. To me, that was a story worth learning about and telling.

I called the series of four books Duty in the Cause of Liberty because as a veteran I know a little of what that means, but Isaac Frye and the men he served with fought to establish something that none of them could describe fully, even while their lives were at stake as they fought for it. As I watched our country go about its daily business remaining largely oblivious to the recent wars, I wondered how many of those people would sacrifice anything if their country called upon them. By the time I completed my research on Isaac, and saw the magnitude of what he, his family, and his town sacrificed; I felt strongly compelled to tell his story and hopefully convey some of why he may have done what he did. The story begins as he responds immediately to the Lexington and Concord alarm on April 19, 1775 and serves as an officer in the American army. His descendant’s oral history oral history included his words as he left: “The war has begun, I must be going.” Isaac fights in the Battle of Breeds Hill, and after the siege of Boston ends, marches to New York City, where he stays only a short time before ordered to Quebec. After retreating with the sick and nearly starving army from Quebec, his regiment is one of several that establish and construct Camp Independence during the latter months of 1776. The next book in the series will take up the story starting in early 1777.

What is it about this particular story that appealed to you?

As I started the research, I was stunned to find so many records were preserved, particularly compared the next hundred and fifty years. In part, it was due to Isaac being an officer, which meant he was named in many records pertaining to his regiments, and responsible for producing some of those records. I am a geographer and cartographer, so it was second nature for me to decide to map Isaac’s timeline during the war using a geographic information system (GIS). This allowed me to organize hundreds of records pinpointing Isaac’s location nearly a thousand times.

To make that geographic timeline, I needed a detailed map of America from 1775 to 1784. I spent several years compiling that from primary source documents—this allowed me to locate Isaac. Modern maps would not work because we have changed the names of towns and landforms, dammed rivers, drained swamps, and built highways and railroads. I needed a map that showed all the places that mattered during the Revolutionary War. The map is available online, and shows the path Isaac took during this book:  https://dutyinthecauseofliberty.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/using-gis-to-research-isaac-frye/

All that research and time, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

I have always liked reading battle scenes, so the Battle of Bunker Hill is my “default” choice. However, the scenes near the end about Josiah Parker, the son of Isaac’s neighbor, were the most satisfying to write in terms of what motivated me to write this book. Those scenes stem from a letter Isaac’s wife Elizabeth wrote to him in the fall of 1776. It took both genealogical research and a little bit of luck to find a corroborating account that brought all the details together. That letter, combined with determining who Isaac’s neighbors were, held the keys to understanding some of how Wilton suffered and operated as a community during the war.

Where can people learn more about the book series and your work?

 

 

The 1960s, Portugal and Lesbians with Genta Sebastian

While exact definitions are hard to come by, historical fiction has to have taken place in the past. Most people generally accept a generation ago as the cut off (beware the upcoming flood of 90s nostalgia!). This means that the years of my childhood are now considered history. My first car ( a 1970 Chevy Nova) is officially an antique. Which is a way of saying that if you don’t think of the 1960s when you think HF, well get used to it. I’m trying.

What I love about reading stories that take place in the past is trying to get an insight into what and how they thought. I try not to judge, or impose modern attitudes to people then, just find out their stories. And that, in a way-too-long introduction, brings us to Genta Sebastian and her tale of female sexuality and empowerment, When Butches Cry.

Okay, so what’s the Genta Sebastian story?

Author Genta Sebastian

I am a multiple award-winning author with a backlist including LGBT YA novels and lesfic science fiction, erotica, and historical romance. Living in the thriving art center of the Twin Cities, I’m a professional storyteller with experience entertaining audiences of all ages and most proclivities. A traveler by nature, I have toured the continental US entertaining folks from all walks of life. My work has been compared to authors John Steinbeck and S.E. Hinton, mostly I believe, because I love the complexity of people. I give my characters foolishness and failings as readily as self-reliance and success.

Lesfic science fiction is a thing? Niches get nichier, which is why categories are so limiting I suppose. I know I find the same thing when I try to sell Acre’s Bastard to people who don’t think they care about the Crusades. Which (ever notice that when someone says “long story short,” it’s already too late?) brings us to this story which has a unique historical setting. What’s it about?

When Butches Cry takes place in the middle of the twentieth century when a twist of nature creates an unusually high number of young lesbians on a Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean. Terceira, where Americans are establishing an Air Force/naval base among a local population of farmers and fishermen, is paved with cobblestone roads connecting isolated villas that have existed for five hundred years. Traf and her merry band of lesbians, calling themselves Troublemakers, take on the outdated conventions of friends and families, community gossips, brutal bullies, Catholic priests and even the US military, seeking to define themselves as modern women. The young women learn to deal with love, friendship, sex, and the power of women working together who never give up, but not one is prepared When Butches Cry.

A lot of people find their stories in family connections. What is it about this time period, and especially this uncommon location, that appealed to you?

Well, completely by coincidence mind you, my wife was born and raised on Terceira during the mid-twentieth century. Over our lifetime together, she’s told me stories about this fascinating place and the people she knew and loved then. Some of her tales are tragic, others funnier than hell. What else could I do but write a book making the shadows of real people and events live again?

Being the real life Trafulha’s wife brings me into the familial circle whenever we visit the Azores islands of her birth. Although the twenty-first century has marched through Terceira with all the miracles of modern technology, there’s a unique mindset to people who live on the same hundred and fifty square miles where the bones of their ancestors have been buried for centuries. Modern Azoreans are leaping into the future and I wanted to capture a unique period of change spurred, not incidentally, by an unusually large LGBT segment of their society. What happened there and then is unlike any other situation I’ve ever heard of, and contributed to a diaspora that changed the world. The courage of the Maria Rapaz in the face of incredible odds cannot be scattered on the winds of time.

Without spoilers, any favorite scenes?

Oh, I have so many. I laugh over Traf’s baptism of the whorehouse, cry over the broken bar, shudder in the graveyard, and cheer on chuckies! Crucifixion causes chuckles, letters bring hope and despair, fumbling first kisses make me sigh every time, and I fume at the renowned bull-fighter’s misogyny. The stories in When Butches Cry are as varied as the characters in them. There – absolutely no spoilers at all.

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Look for me on Facebook. I spend way too much time there, unless I’m busy writing when I’m scarcer than hen’s teeth. I’m also on Twitter. @gentasebastian

You can read about my books and find links to buy them on Goodreads and Amazon.

My blog, Authorially Yours, Genta Sebastian, is also a good place to look for news about my work as well as five years of writing advice, thoughts on LGBT issues, and the occasional rant.

 

 

 

Who Can Resist the Resistance? Pamela Boles Eglinski

As over-exposed as much of WWII stories can be, I’m a sucker for the French Resistance. It’s an underdog story, it’s spy stuff, it’s got hot French girls (quick, name a movie where the French Resistance fighter isn’t a total babe… thought so. Apparently there was a dress code or something), what’s not to like?

It seems, Pamela Boles Eglinski agrees. Her third novel, The Third Knife, is set in the French Riviera in 1943… well, I’ll introduce her and let her tell you….

So who’s Pamela Eglinski when she’s home?

My life is a little more sedate than that of my characters.

You may view my biography, while cruising though my books on Author Central. I’m a founding member of Read Local: Kansas City, Write Brain Trust, and a contributing author to The Good Life France, an on-line magazine for ex-pats. I am also a proud member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. The Third Knife has propelled me into the status of best-selling international author, and earned the novel a lovely little golden tag that says, “best seller.” I count my “Amazon blessings.”

Show off 🙂 So, what’s the book about?

The Third Knife is an intimate story of young men and women who fought in the French Resistance during WWII.  It’s the tale of vengeance and passion, lives lost and saved, and the making of heroes and martyrs.

I’ve always been intrigued by strong women—especially under fire. I created a male/female spy team in my second and third novels [Return of the French Blue, and She Rides with Genghis Khan], and wanted to tell their back-story. I needed to answer this question: what drove my contemporary characters to follow in their parent’s path? Today, my characters take on global terrorism, while their parents and grandparents fought another kind of terrorism—the German Gestapo.

So, I asked myself, what better back-story than the French Resistance? And so, into the chaos of war enters a young woman, Charlotte Beaumont. She is sent by her parents from Turin to Nice—with the hope of finding refuge with her aunt. She carries a family heirloom—a diamond necklace cut from the legendary French Blue.

Why was the time-period intriguing?

The novel begins in 1943. In the chaos of war, Charlotte is unable to find her aunt, and in desperation searches for a childhood friend, Edouard Bonhomme. He now leads a band of French Maquis—a subset of the Resistance. She embraces their mission . . . one of espionage, subterfuge, and guerilla warfare. Set on the French Riviera, this rag-tag team of spies sets out to defeat the Germans—focusing on the Gestapo.

I know we love all our children equally, but what’s your favorite scene in the book?

In researching the novel, I discovered the French village of Vercors—a WWII refuge for Maquis, in the Alps near the Italian border. There is a fabulous PBS series, Wish Me Luck, which depicts what is now a famous and heroic battle between the French Resistance and the Germans. I enjoyed the series so much I watched it half a dozen times. Great characters, true to life, and filled with the mission and passion to defeat Hitler. When writing my novel, I chose to focus on the battle of Vercors—a battle that epitomized love of country.

Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

Readers will gain an admiration of France, the resilience of its people, and deep insight into WWII and the Resistance movement—in both the cities and countryside. The e-book is available on Amazon and the paperback may be found on Createspace.

They can find me on my author page on Amazon as well as

Please join me on:   Facebook    Goodreads     New website under construction!

If you buy and read The Third Knife, kindly leave a review. Thank you in advance, and enjoy the story of the brave souls who fought and won the war against German oppression.

That’s a good point, Pam. Indie authors need reviews. The same is true of The Count of the Sahara and Acre’s Bastard. If you liked it, tell someone!