A Q&A with Crime Writer Thomas O’Callaghan

 

 

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Is there a sociopathic killer on the loose and murdering prostitutes in New York City? NYPD’s top cop, Homicide Commander Lieutenant John Driscoll, believes there is. Someone who calls himself “Tilden” and claims to have been sexually abused as a child by his mother’s john. But what could have triggered Tilden’s rage that has him on a mission to eradicate all the women of the night in The Big Apple?

 

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Q&A with Thomas O’Callaghan for Benjamin Thomas’ The Writing Train

 

How did your early reading habits lead you to become a writer?

After graduating with a liberal arts degree from Richmond College I landed a job with Allstate Insurance Company as a sales agent.  When the company opted to take their sales force in another direction I decided it was time to retire and find something else to do with my time. I spent much of that time reading.  On the beach in summer and on the couch in winter.  One day I picked up a copy of HELTER SKELTER, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. This is an often used adage, but I couldn’t put it down. The author’s attention to detail fascinated me. After that, I was hooked on novels depicting murder, mayhem and suspense. I soon discovered such notables as Thomas Harris, John Sandford, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain, just to name a few. Unlike, HELTER SKELTER, where the storyline was based on an actual murder, Harris, Sandford, Block, McBain and company, created murder and the intrigue that surrounded it. I was enthralled all the more. Read on, I said, and so I did.  After I finished reading my twelfth 87th Precinct novel, I thought: I could do that!  And so, on a gloomy, rain-soaked Friday afternoon, that happened to follow Thanksgiving, I began writing NIGHTKILLS, which would later become BONE THIEF.  Looking back, I’m happy with the course my life had taken me, bringing me to what has become my life’s passion:  Writing!


Was it a journey developing the confidence to write, or did it come naturally? 

 

It was a journey that had begun at a slow pace.  Aside from essays in college I’d never written in a narrative fashion.  When I took an early retirement from Allstate I was 49.  With a great deal of free time on my hands a very good friend suggested to either take on a new job or devote time to a hobby I’d enjoy.  My first venture toward that end had me wandering through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY armed with a 35mm camera taking photographs of nature-in-the-raw.  That interest waned after four or five weeks.  I then enrolled at HB Studios in NYC to study the art of ‘acting’.  It was fun, but after two months I began to lose interest. Since I enjoyed reading mysteries and thrillers, my trusted friend suggested I write one.  Me?  Write a book?  I haven’t a clue as to where to start, I argued.  She suggested I write 

an opening chapter similar in style to what I liked to read.  And so I did.  After she read it she asked me what I had in mind for the next chapter.  This went on for several weeks at the end of which I had written the opening of a story that only she and I had read.  I didn’t think it was very good but she encouraged me to call a friend of hers, a “writing coach” of sorts, which I did.  His name was Stephen Ohayon.  He had once taught the art of writing on a college level and offered to work with me to turn my feeble attempt into a saleable novel.  We met weekly in his office in Manhattan where his day job was as a psychotherapist.  He scheduled time for me between patients.  I brought him a typed chapter and during a one hour session he helped me push that chapter from first draft to second, third, fourth and fifth.  When we reached Chapter Last I set out to market the book.  It sold close to 100,000 copies and was translated and published in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy.   

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy writing for a number of reasons.  One that comes to mind immediately is that writing allows me to escape the hum drum of everyday life.  Another reason is that creating characters for the sole purpose of performing in a story that I’ve set in motion is exciting.  I’m fueled by that. And, because it’s fiction, I’m motivated to weave memories of times in my life, some good, some regrettable, into the back story of my characters. We all have chapters we wish never to see published, but, with the right finesse, the theme of those blunders can and do add human authenticity to fictional entities. 


What are the most challenging aspects?  

One of the most challenging aspects of being a writer is constantly competing with an inner voice that tells me what I’ve written isn’t very good.  That, of and in itself, drives me to be a better writer.  Writers write.  Rewriters get published.


How has your writing process developed over the twelve years it took to become published?

The writing process as outlined above continued in the same fashion, day after day, week after week.  Those weeks became years as I needed to convince a publisher my work was ready for print.  That involved submission after submission of query letters and partial manuscripts to every single literary agent that specialized in my genre.  When I reached the end of the line, so to speak, and any further submission would be repetitive I took the advice of a few well intentioned literary agents along the way to have a professional editor have a look at my manuscript.  After working for two years with the late Dick Marek, who’d edited The Silence of the Lambs for Thomas Harris along with nine of Robert Ludlam’s books, Kensington Books agreed to publish my debut novel.  


What are some ways working with an editor has helped you?

Aside from learning that a tightly written novel reads very quickly, thereby keeping the reader engaged, working with a professional editor taught me a wonderful lesson:  a writer, especially someone starting out, often feels his or her work is sacrosanct, but the editor is keenly aware of what a publisher is looking for and what sells.  It’s best to accept that reality and be open to change.  It will increase the chance of having your work published.   

How important is rewriting when working on a manuscript?

Extremely important.  I begin by writing a first draft of a chapter which entails typing without concern for spelling, punctuation, or cohesion.  The point is to get the thought on paper as quickly as possible without listening to that inner voice telling you “Oh, that’s not good,”  Once that’s done, I’ll go in and rewrite the chapter over and over again, until I have what I consider perfection.  In essence, one must write drunk and edit sober.


If we were to meet NYPD homicide cop John Driscoll, what kind of person would we meet?

In short, he’d be a taller version of me.  He’s an Irishman with a sense of morality who tries to do the right thing.  A compassionate soul who tries to be kind to friends and foes alike. Yes, Lieutenant Driscoll is flawed.  But, then, who isn’t?

 

Do the John Driscoll mysteries employ a certain theme?

Yes, the theme is that good prevails over evil.  They are psychological thrillers which detail the fictionalized onslaught of heinous murders perpetrated by a madman, or in the case of THE SCREAMING ROOM, a set of demonic twins, using New York City as a killing field.  Lieutenant Driscoll is brought into the equation intent on putting a stop to the madness.

 

If you were John Driscoll in, No One Will Hear Your Screams, could you solve the case?

 

Absolutely!  The Lieutenant is a resourceful investigator who, with the able-bodied assistance of two professional and ingenious associates in Margaret Aligante and Cedric Thomlinson, evil can’t triumph.

 

What are you currently working on?

My current work in progress introduces Richard Singleton, a bestselling author suffering from writer’s block.  When he becomes the owner of a beach house where a heinous murder had taken place, he finds stimulation and is able to put the pen to paper again.  His manuscript is progressing well and his faltered career is looking bright again, that is until he gets an anonymous call from the former owner of the house who had perpetrated the aforementioned murder who has plans of his own regarding what this bestselling author should write. 

 

 

Thomas O'Callaghan

 

 

Thomas O’Callaghan’s work has been translated for publication in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. As an internationally acclaimed author, Mr. O’Callaghan is a member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers associations. A native of New York City and a graduate of Richmond College, Mr. O’Callaghan resides with his lovely wife, Eileen, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful Belle Harbor, New York. His debut novel BONE THIEF introduces NYPD Homicide Commander Lieutenant John W. Driscoll. THE SCREAMING ROOM, is the second in the John Driscoll series. The third book in the series, NO ONE WILL HEAR YOUR SCREAMS was recently released by WildBlue Press. For more information, please visit: ThomasOCallaghan.com

 

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A Q&A With the Authors of Robin Hood’s Widow: Olivia Longueville & J.C. Plummer

 

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Don’t miss this unique retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

England, 1154-1194
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.

Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube. From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade, to harrowing sea voyages, to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.

Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader—and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan. Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.

Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith-like fury of the woman he once loved. How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime? He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption, while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.

And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues.

Part two of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

Although the books in the trilogy are not stand-alone, they do not end in cliffhangers.

 

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Author Q&A with Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

Robin Hood has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows.  How is your trilogy different?

In our first book, Robin Hood’s Dawn, we re-imagined the origins of the Robin Hood legend, which included exploring his family dynamics: an aloof, selfish father and a kind-hearted mother devoted to ministering to the poor.  One theme is how the consequences of immoral actions and secret sins can reverberate across generations.  This is part of Robin’s legacy from his father.

We cast Robin as a hero fighting against the tyranny of a lawless government official. When Robin is falsely accused of a shocking crime by the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he could have retreated to a safe place beyond the reach of the sheriff.  However, he feels a responsibility to the people because he believes in the intrinsic value of every human being.  Instead of running away, he stays to protect the people from the sheriff.  And this points to another theme: one person can make a difference by taking a stand for what is right.

The second book, Robin Hood’s Widow, picks up where the first book ends. Robin is alive and still with King Richard in the Holy Land, but Marian, the sheriff, and Guy of Gisborne have returned to England thinking that Robin Hood is dead.

Robin Hood’s Widow explores themes of grief and redemption, while featuring Marian’s adventures as leader of the outlaws. Her story is interwoven with Robin’s quest to return home while fulfilling his obligations to King Richard.

In this book, we wanted to explore both the stages of grief and their non-linear nature. Experiencing loss and grief is not like climbing stairs; you don’t complete one stage, progress to the next, and eventually arrive at acceptance. The emotional turmoil of an earlier stage can reappear and reassert itself during the process.

That being said, this story is not sad or depressing; Robin Hood’s Widow is an optimistic tale of triumphing over adversity. 

You’ve emphasized how your Robin Hood story has been re-imagined.  Will fans of the traditional ballads still recognize this as a Robin Hood story?

There is a lot of variety in the many books and screen adaptations of the Robin Hood legend.  We wanted to create a story that was respectful towards fans of the original ballads and legends without adhering to the same story lines that have been previously written.  We hope that all Robin Hood fans will enjoy this fresh retelling of the story.

However, we felt that Marian is a character who deserves more attention.  All too often she is a background character with little to do.  With this in mind, we have focused on creating a Lady Marian who will figure more prominently in the story, especially in Robin Hood’s Widow, where she takes center stage as the leader of the outlaws. She must learn how to lead while finding clever ways to thwart the sheriff and rob those supporters of Prince John who dare enter Sherwood Forest.  We also wanted Marian to be feminine and believable as a woman of the 12th century.    

Do the first two books of the trilogy end in cliff-hangers? Are the books stand alone?  

We have structured the trilogy so that the books do not end in cliff-hangers, and we have endeavored to create a sense of completion in each of the books. 

Although we want readers to start with Robin Hood’s Dawn, we know that some might be more interested in Robin Hood’s Widow. Therefore, we have endeavored to provide enough information in the second book so that a new reader will not be lost.

Both Robin and Marian are guarding secrets that will be revealed in Robin Hood’s Widow!

How did you become interested in writing this story and working together as co-authors?

Olivia:

The story of Robin Hood’s Widow is very special to me, and I wrote the original version after I experienced a devastating personal loss. Readers might be surprised to learn that Robin Hood’s Widow was written before Robin Hood’s Dawn!

I love to tell stories with multi-dimensional characters.  I am multi-lingual, and I enjoy writing stories in different languages.  My first novel is an English-language alternate history featuring Anne Boleyn.

I met Coleen (J.C.) on the Internet, and we decided to co-author a Robin Hood Trilogy with Robin Hood’s Widow as its centerpiece.  

So, you’ve never met, you come from different countries, different cultures, and speak different languages.  How can you co-author a book?  Is it because you have similar writing styles?

Coleen:

Fortunately, Olivia is fluent in English, because that’s the only language I know!

Olivia:

We have found that we have a lot in common—especially our love of writing and of history.  We have to work hard to merge our writing styles, but we have successfully done this. 

Coleen:

That’s true.  Olivia and I have very different “voices” and writing styles.  You might even say they are nearly opposite styles.  

I write in a straightforward, expository style, with a minimum of descriptive elements and metaphorical flourishes.  I am good at explaining things, organizing ideas, and creating natural sounding dialogue.

Olivia:

My writing is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism.  I love to create metaphors and descriptions which excite the imagination of the reader in a vivid and dramatic way.

Coleen:

In some respects, Olivia’s words are the emotional heart of the story, and my words represent the rational intellect.  Of course, it’s not quite that cut-and-dried, but it is one way to describe how two people with such different styles have come together to create Robin Hood’s Dawn and Robin Hood’s Widow

 

 

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Author Information

Below are the author biographies and social media profiles.  

Olivia Longueville 

Olivia has always loved literature and fiction, and she is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and the arts.  She has several degrees in finance & general management from London Business School (LBS) and other universities.  At present, she helps her father run the family business.  

During her first trip to France at the age of ten, Olivia had a life-changing epiphany when she visited the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau and toured its library.  This truly transformed her life as she realized her passion for books and writing, foreshadowing her future career as a writer.  In childhood, she began writing stories and poems in different languages.  Loving writing more than anything else in her life, Olivia has resolved to devote her life to creating historical fiction novels.  She has a special interest in the history of France and England.  

Having met on the Internet, Olivia and J. C. Plummer, a writer and historian, decided to co-author The Robin Hood Trilogy.  Olivia and J. C. are retelling the Robin Hood story with an unusual and imaginative plot that is solidly grounded in 12th century history. The trilogy incorporates twists and turns which will captivate and entertain readers.

 

Olivia’s social media profiles:

Personal websiteOlivialongueville.com

Project websitewww.angevinworld.com

Twitter@O_Longueville

FacebookOlivia Longueville

Tumblr: http://www.olivia-longueville.tumblr.com

 

J. C. Plummer 

J.C. Plummer (Jennie Coleen) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology.  She later earned a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Dartmouth College.

Co-authoring The Robin Hood Trilogy has merged J.C.’s passions for history, culture, and technology into one unique, exciting project.

As an author and historian, J.C.’s goal is to provide thoughtful and entertaining storytelling that honors the past, is mindful of the present, and is optimistic for the future.

 

J.C.’s social media profiles:

Project websitewww.angevinworld.com

Twitter@JC_Plummer

FacebookJennie Newbrand

Legal Thriller: No Truth Left To Tell by Michael McAuliffe an Excerpt

 

 

No Truth Left to Tell

 

February 1994—Lynwood, Louisiana: Flaming crosses light up the night and terrorize the southern town. The resurgent Klan wants a new race war, and the Klansmen will start it here. As federal civil rights prosecutor Adrien Rush is about to discover, the ugly roots of the past run deep in Lynwood.

For Nettie Wynn, a victim of the cross burnings and lifelong resident of the town’s segregated neighborhood, the hate crimes summon frightful memories of her youth, when she witnessed white townspeople lynch a black man. Her granddaughter Nicole DuBose, a successful journalist in New York City, returns to Lynwood to care for her grandmother. Rush arrives from DC and investigates the crimes with Lee Mercer, a seasoned local FBI special agent. Their partnership is tested as they clash over how far to go to catch the racists before the violence escalates. Rush’s role in the case becomes even more complicated after he falls for DuBose. When crucial evidence becomes compromisethreatening to upend what should be a celebrated conviction—the lines between right and wrong, black and white, collide with deadly consequences.

No Truth Left to Tell is a smart legal thriller that pulls readers into a compelling courtroom drama and an illusive search for justice in a troubled community.

 

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An Excerpt

NO TRUTH LEFT TO TELL

By Michael McAuliffe

 

Prologue

July 1920
Lynwood, Louisiana

 

The following excerpt is reprinted from No Truth Left to Tell by Michael McAuliffe, released on March 3, 2020. Reprinted with permission of Greenleaf Book Group. Copyright © 2020 Michael McAuliffe.

 

Nettie glided along the sidewalk in her best dress, her mother’s creation that would soon be too small. That Saturday, however, the colorful outfit still fit and perfectly complemented her wide smile and earnest stride. The dress was spring blue with flower patterns bursting open into full blossoms, quite like Nettie herself. 

She stayed out of the way of the white pedestrians inspecting her with what appeared to be a mixture of curiosity and irritation. “What’s that one doin’ here?” one woman asked as she passed by. So Nettie hugged the buildings as she moved, trying to disappear against the facades. There was something big going on in the square, but Nettie couldn’t see over or through the gathering, since she was just seven years old. 

She had pleaded with her parents to go with her father from their home in Mooretown, Lynwood’s section for blacks, to a nearby town while he delivered a meal to a close friend who was gravely ill. At the last minute, Nettie’s mother had wanted one more item added to the delivery from a store on Lynwood’s downtown square—an establishment that served them only from the back door off an alley. Nettie was supposed to wait in the car, but despite her father’s admonishments, the strange and festive noises drew her out into the nearby crowd where she was protected only by her look of youthful wonder. 

Lynwood’s civic core was comprised of an expanse of lawn with a massive oak reigning over the surroundings. Four perpendicular streets framed the lawn, and they had been closed for several hours so people could mingle without regard to sputtering cars. The attendees had obliged the gesture by swarming the entire area by midmorning. The day’s activities appeared to originate across the street nearer the tree, allowing the spectators along the periphery to wander about with more freedom. From where Nettie was she could see the crown of the tree, and she moved in that direction as if pulled by some invisible force. 

The day was hot and humid. High clouds had gathered through the morning and darkened the midday sky, but the music played on and people chatted in small groups as if they were at an annual parish fair. 

After several minutes of distant rumbling a sprinkle started, and it soon developed into cascading water pouring from invisible pots in the sky. The drenching dispersed the crowd into stores and under awnings. Deserted chairs and soda bottles lay across the lawn. 

The scattering of the masses created large openings around the square. What was an impenetrable wall of people became a flat, open field of vision. The oak, of course, remained right where it had begun decades before as a sapling. 

Nettie couldn’t run into any of the stores like the others caught out in the street during the rainstorm. So, like the oak, she remained standing, although now she had a clear view of the square. Her dress—dripping and heavy with water—would have distracted her in any other setting, but unanswered curiosity kept her searching the square for clues about the day’s festivities. 

The oak tree had long, thick branches, like the heavy arms of a giant. A braided rope was slung over one of these arms, out about ten feet from the trunk. The rope was wrapped once about the branch and secured to a large stake in the ground. The other end of the rope was fashioned into a noose, and suspended from it was the still body of a black man. The man’s neck was grotesquely angled, and the feet were bare. His hands were bound behind his back. 

Nettie leaned forward like she was about to rush toward the oak. But she neither ran away nor went to it. She stared up at what had been until moments before a living, breathing person. She was frozen in place and time—alone in the moment when her world changed forever. 

Her father came running from behind and snatched her up with such force that the dress ripped along a side seam. He covered her with his protective embrace and spirited her away to the car that waited in the alley. They headed straight home using back streets and little-known shortcuts, the car not speeding despite the urgency of the situation. The trip to deliver the meal basket was abandoned as her father kept swearing that he’d never go to the square again. 

Nettie didn’t look outside the car. She kept her head down and stared at one of the dress’s printed blossoms, the flower part of the pattern ending at the hemline to reveal her trembling knees. 

 

 

Michael McAulife

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael McAuliffe is the author of No Truth Left to Tell and has been a practicing lawyer for thirty years. He was a federal prosecutor serving both as a supervisory assistant US attorney in the Southern District of Florida and a trial attorney in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. In 2008, Michael was elected and served as the state attorney for Palm Beach County, leading an office of approximately 125 prosecutors. He was  known for leading the ethics reform movement in county that resulted in the creation of a permanent inspector general, an ethics commission, and new ethics code. Michael and his wife Robin Rosenberg, a US district judge, have three children and live in Florida and Massachusetts. For more information, please visit https://notruthlefttotell.com/

 

 

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Where The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow by Rashi Rohatgi

 

Autumn mountains at sunrise in Switzerland

 

EXCERPT

Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

 

It’s 1905, and the Japanese victory over the Russians has shocked the British and their imperial subjects. Sixteen-year-old Leela and her younger sister, Maya, are spurred on to wear homespun to show the British that the Indians won’t be oppressed for much longer, either, but when Leela’s betrothed, Nash, asks her to circulate a petition amongst her classmates to desegregate the girls’ school in Chadrapur, she’s wary. She needs to remind Maya that the old ways are not all bad, for soon Maya will have to join her own betrothed and his family in their quiet village. When she discovers that Maya has embarked on a forbidden romance, Leela’s response shocks her family, her town, and her country firmly into the new century.

 

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The next day my cheeks, my eyes, and my hair are as good as they’re going to be when Nash arrives just after breakfast. Instead of inviting us to his family’s for lunch, he is taking Maya and me to Gol Ghar. Everybody, from children to grandparents, loves Gol Ghar, but I wonder if he’s chosen the grain silo so that we will have an excuse to walk hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder up the narrow staircase. As Maya tells him about the good luck we’ve had with the training college’s opening, I study him.

Nash has always been beautiful: his dark skin smooth, his broad lips projecting softness, his lashes longer than mine with three coats of petroleum jelly. Beautiful, and somehow therefore gentle: the Chowdhurys have always been successful, and lucky, and generous. They have nothing to prove, and Nash, a diamond in this fine setting, even less so. And so though he’s always been tall, and always looked at each person as though they were the only one left in the city, he’s always struck me as laughing, comforting, with kindness to spare. In childhood, we hardly saw anything of him, but once we were formally engaged, he withstood the taunts of his classmates and often swung by with ices or samosas or the choruses of songs from the latest films. It was easy for him to love, and as all I’d ever dreamed of was loving someone back, he was perfect.

He’s changed: his lanky frame has tightened, straightened, and as he listens to Maya, I can see in the stiffness of his hands in his lap and of his toes, curled around the edge of his sandals, that he’s kept the tiniest portion of his attention for himself. He is still beautiful, but also…threatening? Is that the right word for the way he makes my body, still seated and composed, feel called to attention against any inclination of its own? His hair is longer, I see—his barber must only have shaved him this morning, rather than give him the accompanying trim—and this imperfection lets me catch my breath.

The carriage is pulling up to the Gol Ghar— our very own Round House, our silly English silo that once held grain and now serves as a pleasure ground for those of us too brown to make use of the club—as Nash responds to Maya’s exclamation that she’s more than ready for us to go back to school next week. “But surely…” he says.

When Nargis and Mawiyya do that to me in school—trail off in the middle of a thought there’s no chance I could finish on my own—it’s to mock me, but Nash doesn’t mock. I realize that while Maya and I have had numerous conversations about my post-marriage life and how to keep it as seamless a transition as possible, Nash and I haven’t had any. “Why don’t you run slightly ahead and check on the crowd?” I ask Maya with our shared look. We trail her, slowly, and I want to throw my arms around him again, but instead I say, “You know I won’t attend the training college from August if you or your parents don’t approve.” I start with what Maya would call a barefaced lie because I suppose that, all said and done, it’s the truth. November, really, is wedding season, but ours is to be held as soon as the weather settles. Some families need time to negotiate; ours will be efficiently put together as Papa has ceded complete control to the Chowdhurys since, as even Koyal Chachi would agree, there’s no chance of their taste being anything less than impeccable.

“Oh, no, of course I wouldn’t dream of stopping you!” he says. He actually stops, and turns to me, and reaches for my hands before he realizes, and stops himself. “Leela, I didn’t realize you wanted to become a teacher, but I should have guessed. You’ve read all of the great histories of Chandrapur, and your Sanskrit is far better than mine. I’ve no right or desire to stop you making the most of yourself.” “Well, that’s good, then,” I say. “Though if I’m being honest, I mostly just want to attend the school to make sure I’m able to see Maya every day. I’m not used to a joint household and I’m not sure I’ll be able to play a dutiful daughter-in-law without her as a sounding board.” I pause, but Nash smiles, and laughs. “And after suffering through a mixed education, I think it will be nice to have the chance to teach in the Hindu school whenever it opens.”

We have only taken a few steps, but already Nash stops, causing the mother and daughter behind us to bump into our calves and mumble apologies. “Leela,” he murmurs, so softly I have to lean in to hear, and the proximity is causing my heart to do a furious dance. But then he keeps walking.

“Leela,” he says again after a few steps. “When I was in Japan, at first it was terribly lonely. We tried to integrate, but without eating fish, we Hindu students found ourselves isolated in the canteen; without much money, additionally, I found myself unwilling to hole up and play cards with boys from Lucknow or Kanpur. I know you didn’t have it easy at Bankipore, either, with your father in trade.”

I nod.

“But after the triumph against the West, it was as though divisions had melted away. Even when we were sent home, I knew I was coming back to something important, and the sight of you in that swadeshi sari running towards me solidified every commitment I’d hardly understood, before Tokyo, that I’d had. I’ve dreamt about you in red for years,” he says, and though I want to faint I press my hands to the wall and keep myself barely upright, “but for the past year, I’ve dreamt about you in white. I’m so lucky that my life partner shares my dreams, not only for us, but for the country.” Nash sees me faltering, and risks censure from the auntie behind us by steadying me, a hand to the small of my back. I am dizzy for so many reasons.

“I just cannot understand why there is no hesitation towards a communal training college that will only lead towards a communalization of the school system itself, when we’re fighting, desperately, against communalism!”

We have almost climbed to the top; I see Maya awaiting us, and when she catches my eye, she winks, but I can’t reciprocate. “It wasn’t a British initiative,” I tell him. “The Director of Schools wanted to keep us girls together, in fact, and then both the Nawab and the Maharani joined together to oppose him. There are surely more than twelve Hindu girls in Chandrapur who may have wanted to get educated alongside us, and soon there will be places, and teachers for them. Education can only help us.”

I am out of breath, but we’ve climbed Gol Ghar, and the view is rewarding enough to let me tear my eyes away from Nash for a minute. And thank heavens, because looking at this new Nash while he is deliberating is… no, not threatening. Unsettling, I decide on. I wink at Maya, and we play our usual game of identifying all of the best places: the fields, in the distance, past the river, where on the way to Gaya we always stop, much too soon, for the best roasted corn; the Rama temple with the most rambunctious monkeys; the Sikh gurudwara that is unquestionably our most beautiful building; the Khudabaksh library where the real scholars spend their days with microscopes, studying the beautifully illuminated manuscripts; the market, where one day soon we must go and see what Indian-made lingerie I will wear to start my married life.

Nash speaks up again, finally. “I’ve missed this place so much.”

There are the beginnings of tears at the corners of his eyes, and I don’t know what to say.

Maya never has this problem. “And didn’t you miss us, then? I didn’t get even one letter from you, Mister.”

She has cracked the gloomy spell, and Nash rifles through his bag until he hits upon a small wrapped package. “I thought you’d prefer the paper,” he says, handing it to her.

“You didn’t have to get her a gift,” I say, knowing what it has cost his family to send him away, and all for a trip with no degree certificate.

“But he did,” Maya says, as though he’d take it back, ripping it open willy-nilly instead of
properly, neatly. I lean over to get a better look, and am glad I did: he’s brought her stationary more beautiful than I have ever seen. The British have their formal, heavy paper to announce their galas, and I’ve coveted that often enough, but this is its opposite: thin, almost translucent, and sparkling, oyster pink with sea-green filigree adorning its edges. Maya is staring at it, and I squeeze her shoulders. “Oh, yes,” she says. “Thank you.”

She walks ahead of us on the way down, staring at it; it is a good thing, after all, that we’ve been here countless times before. Nash and I pretend to watch her, to stop her from falling off the edge, but really we are stealing glances at one another. “Thank you,” I tell him, and just for a moment, before our feet reach the solid ground, he takes my hand.

 

Reprinted from Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow with the permission of Galaxy Galloper Press. Copyright © 2020 by Rashi Rohatgi.

 

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About the author:

Rashi Rohatgi is the author of Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow. An Indian-American Pennsylvania native who lives in Arctic Norway, her short fiction and poetry have appeared in A-Minor Magazine, The Misty Review, Anima, Allegro Poetry, Lunar Poetry, and Boston Accent Lit. Her non-fiction and reviews have appeared in The Review Review, Wasafiri, World Literature Today, Africa in Words, The Aerogram, and The Toast. She is a graduate of Bread Loaf Sicily and associate professor of English at Nord University.

www.rashenka.com

 

 

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Interview with Peter Riva, Author of Kidnapped on Safari: A Thriller

 

 

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The third book in the Mbuno & Pero series pulls terror from headlines to create a gripping international thriller for readers of John le Carré, Daniel Silva, and Iris Johansen.

Expert safari guide Mbuno and wildlife television producer Pero Baltazar are filming on Lake Rudolf in Northern Kenya, East Africa, when they receive news that Mbuno’s son, himself an expert guide, has been kidnapped while on a safari five hundred miles away in Tanzania. After gathering the clues and resources needed to trek through the wilderness, they trace the kidnappers back to an illegal logging operation clear-cutting national park forests, manned by sinister Boko Haram mercenaries. There, they find not only Mbuno’s son but also a shocking revelation that has terrifying and far-reaching consequences.

Relying on Mbuno’s legendary bush skills, the pair must overcome the danger both from inside and outside the camp to bring Mbuno’s son out alive. In doing so, Mbuno and Pero discover that kidnapping and deforestation are only the beginning of the terrorist group’s aspirations, and they realize a threat that would herald an even more dangerous outcome for Tanzania—a coup. A rescue might just risk the entire stability of the region.

Exciting and expertly plotted using facts ripped from news’ headlines, Kidnapped on Safari is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller set in deepest, darkest, Machiavellian, East Africa.

 

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Interview with Peter Riva,
Author of Kidnapped on Safari: A Thriller

 

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

As an adult? No. However, as a child I was always writing and making up stories based on real events, machines, animals. My mother, of course, loved these, as did my much younger brothers. Then school took that hedonistic pleasure away. It was only in later years, post-40, that I found that pleasure of writing for fun again. It’s a slightly guilty feeling to allow myself the pleasure…

Have you ever written a screenplay?

Yes, at UCLA film school 1969-70. Those years were interrupted by the anti-military riots and it went nowhere. I did critique other young TV/filmmakers—like Steven Spielberg (at USC- he used to come to see original films at UCLA)—with my opinion of films and their perspective. My advice to Steven was useless. He always had a steel-trap memory, remembered every credit of every film he had seen. Steven, who worked with my brother Michael, is a storyteller at heart. We have that in common.

How did you become a literary agent?

As a gopher on Monty Python’s Flying Circus for BBC TV—and I mean a gopher, I had, for example, to fetch two ladies of the night willing to dress as nuns for the penguin tennis sketch… and bare their chests (BBC 2 allowed that, it was aired, but never in video). When the TV season was over they asked my help in getting a book published. My father was a toy agent and he was able to steer me in the right direction. Things went on from there…

How did you develop a love for wildlife in Africa?

I first went to Africa age 16 and then returned –this time to East Africa with a client Peter Beard. There I met some wonderful people, real people, people of the land and adventure, who showed me their connection with nature. Three times I walked solo across the Maasai plain to the Ngong Hills and back, eight miles each way. Lions let me pass, hyenas paid me no heed. I walked through herds of gazelles. There I also met Mbuno who, as you can see in my stories, had a profound impact on me. The stories of his exploits and those of his father (who guided Teddy Roosevelt) are awe inspiring.

What are your favorite animals?

Let’s start with those I hold in my heart… a succession of wonderful companions since I was 18, dogs, currently Lil Lady and Tay, both Golden Retrievers. Except for those dog friends who I consider much like family members (I do not own them, we share life), I have always admired, studied, and been fascinated by animals. I had a farm back east with a rescued pulling horse, Big Jim, 1500 pounds of muscle, along with cows, ducks, chickens and wonderful goats. Where I live now on a ranch in NM we have Pinzgauer cattle that I hand feed when they turn up early morning. 

How did your writing process develop? Or has it always been the same?

I am afraid as a writer I binge. In work I read 100k to 150k words a week, write maybe 10k words at least. I have written for the past 20+ years a weekly op-ed piece, 800 words, for the Millerton News and often the Lakeville Journal. It all adds up. But writing a story? I sit down, pluck events I know about out of the thin air, write them down and let the characters construct events. Sometimes that means I’m still typing at 3am… sometimes I need to stop and mull it over for a day or more.

Do you always write what you know? And if not, would you write something outside your direct knowledge base?

Yes, I rely on what I know, have studied, learned about or—and this is the fun part—connect the dots on. Take two separate events, especially when everyone assumes that there is one event and that’s final—and there is another event and that too is final, self-contained. If you then find the link between them, if you can find that thread that mysteriously (plot twist) connects them, then you have great fun allowing the threads to be woven into a good story. If I reach a point where my personal knowledge fails me, I have resources, people I can talk to of course. Quite often that gap not found on Google until you get to the 20th or more page down. I often prefer my 1956 Encyclopedia Britannica. Research is never frustrating, it is always illuminating.

Write something outside my direct knowledge base? Yes, sure, insofar as data and facts are concerned. That’s fun. My SciFi stories fit that bill, tons of learning (all fun).  Write something outside of my personal emotions and experiences as a character or those of characters I have known? Not sure I can make up a human out of whole cloth. Can anyone?

I believe storytelling originates out of some kind of appreciation. What do you appreciate about Mbuno?

Mbuno embodies—both the real man and the character I write which is an amalgam of Mbuno, his father and stories of pre-colonial East Africa—that which is most honorable, most deliberate, least constrained by false values levied in modern society. I’m not talking about PC here, but let’s take an example. The real Mbuno was asked to help the British powers during the Mau Mau revolution. This was a terrorist faction of the Kikuyu tribe, set on upending British rule. Mbuno didn’t care who wanted to rule the country. Like ownership of land which he believed to be nonsense—“Only the gods own the land they created.”—ruling a country didn’t interest him. However, Mbuno could not stand by and watch Mau Mau butchers hacking up women and children in the dead of night. He had no hesitation in tracking those killers down. Nothing to do with sides, just moral right from wrong, nothing PC about his thinking.

What do appreciate most about the setting in your book?

It is so hard to convey the true majesty of real nature. I live in New Mexico, abutting the Gila Wilderness, 3.5 million acres set aside as wilderness. To be here, to inhale unspoiled air, revel in the scenery, watch the wild animals (bears, coyote, fox, javelina, snakes, and 1/3 of all the bird species in N. America come through here)—it’s like a meal for the senses. The difference between here and East Africa’s wild places? On foot, almost nothing, but Africa has that primordial connection to a part of your brain that you cannot escape. The senses can be overwhelmed with the beauty and majesty. In a zebra-painted tourist minivan, your TV is better.

Is everything in Kidnapped on Safari real?

Oh, of course, real yes and actual fact? No. Times, events, places are moved about. A similar coup in Tanzania was a real possibility until it was stopped in the ‘70s. Boko Haram kidnapped girls (news events). Transporting the girls to Tanzania as a means to effect the coup? My imagination and that connection thread no one expects. The trains, the places, the parks, the animals, all real, researched or experienced first-hand. Mbuno’s ability to communicate with elephant? As told by him true and, in his old age (approaching 80 when I knew him), no longer fully possible—but the prowess of his father to do so—taught to him—always astounded me and even him. He used to explain, “You need the beat of the land, of nature. Without that, they will not listen.” Mbuno was the real deal.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Peter Riva is the author of Kidnapped on Safari. He has spent many months over thirty years traveling throughout Africa and Europe. Much of this time was spent with the legendary guides for East African hunters and adventurers. He created a TV series in 1995 called Wild Things for Paramount. Passing on the fables, true tales, and insider knowledge of these last reserves of true wildlife is his passion. Nonetheless, his job for over forty years has been working as a literary agent. In his spare time, Riva writes science fiction and African adventure books, including the previous two titles in the Mbuno and Pero Adventures series, Murder on Safari and The Berlin Package. He lives in Gila, New Mexico. For more information, please visit https://peterriva.com

 

 

 

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The Obsolescence Blog Tour: Crash by Chris Muhlenfeld

 

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The global power and communications outage arrives without warning…

 

 

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About Audiobook #1

Author: Chris Muhlenfeld

Narrator: Price Waldman

Length: 9 hours 46 minutes

Publisher: Chris Muhlenfeld⎮2018

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 1

Release date: Nov. 14, 2018

 

 

 

 

Synopsis: And then it went dark…the world’s electrical grid was gone. 

Who would survive the chaos? 

For James and Alexa, they saw it unfold from their ranch, which was a blessing. They were away

from the chaos, and they thought they were safe. They thought wrong. 

What will they do? 

All across the country cities are in crisis. 

Logan and his family look out from their Manhattan penthouse. The world is crumbling before their eyes. Unprepared, he’s got to do something. They can’t stay. But how can they leave and where will they go? 

Someone has a solution. 

It’s Logan’s domestic android. 

Can he believe a machine? 

You won’t believe the twists and turns, but you’ll love the adventure.  

Get it now.  

 

 

Ruins of the city.

 

 

Buy Links for Audiobook #1

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This was a very fascinating book. The premise was great and it only gets better towards the end. Although it provides good suspense, I thought the author could’ve filled in, or sprinkled, more information in the first and second acts. That’s the only reason I believe that weakened the story. However, everything is tied together quite nicely towards the conclusion of the book. Having this book as the foundation for the rest of the trilogy makes me wonder how the remaining books play out.  Looking forward to seeing what happens next!

Narrator Price Waldman does an excellent job with a variety of accents. From British English, to American southern accents, Waldman does a good job of characterization and breathing life into the story.

 

 

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About the Author: Chris Muhlenfeld

Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world,  he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world. 

 

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About the Narrator: Price Waldman

Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.

 

 

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A Self-Care Checklist for the Sandwich Generation by Dr. Ken Druck

 

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A Self-Care Checklist for the Sandwich Generation

By Dr. Ken Druck

Regardless of whether adult children are distant or close, the pressure to get involved in a parent’s life increases over time. Parents who are beginning to look and feel older, slow down, unplug from a career, face a new season of life—and whose needs are changing—may look to their adult children for greater support. The parent who once gave care is now in need of care. For many adult children, meeting the needs of an aging parent comes at a time when they’re raising their own children and immersed in their career. “The Sandwich Generation,” a term officially added by Merriam Webster to its dictionary in 2006: is defined as “a generation of people (usually in their forties to seventies) who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” I refer to them as “SanGen’s.” Adult “SanGen” sons and daughters are called into action no matter how overwhelmingly busy they are with their own lives, necessitating a new self-care OS (Operating System).

A Self-Care Checklist for the Sandwich Generation

To repeat something very important: the only way to survive the squeeze of SanGen stress is to upgrade your operating system for self-care. When we feel exhausted and pulled in a million directions, self-management is the key. SanGen survival requires upping your self-care game. At the end of the day, each of us is our own primary care physician. We are responsible for ourselves.

Here is a blueprint for taking exceptionally good care of yourself—that you can tailor to meet your particular needs—taken from my new book, Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life.

 

1. Exercise and move

2. Balance stress and activity with rest and relaxation

 

3. Eat right and hydrate

 

4. Say “No” and avoid putting anything more on your plate

 

5. Find healthy/constructive outlets for emotions like fear, sorrow and anger 

6. Maintain a positive outlook to the best of your ability

7. Stay engaged with other parts of your life (friends, neighbors, community, etc.)

8. Make a plan to do things that lighten and lift your heart

9. Work smarter, not harder and waste not

 

 

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A self-care checklist can be more powerful than it might look at first glance. At its core, taking good care of ourselves is about balancing rest and activity, getting in game shape to play at our life, restoring and rejuvenating our souls, and investing wisely in our best possible futures. For perhaps as long as we can remember, we may have been running around doing everything for everyone else, leaving ourselves with crumbs and leftovers. It’s time for a change.

 

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About: Dr. Ken Druck is an international authority on healthy aging and author of the new book “Raising an Aging Parent.” He has spent four decades helping people grow into the more courageous, compassionate, and resilient version of themselves by transforming adversities and losses of every kind into opportunities. Learn more at www.kendruck.com.

 

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Decisions by Robert L. Dilenschneider: An Excerpt

 

 

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Your Future Depends on Your Decisions

Sorting out our lives amidst chaos, confusion, and innumerable options is a process we all have in common. The decisions we ultimately make can affect our lives and the lives of others. It’s not always easy. In this empowering guide, an expert in business strategies shares the choices of notable, visionary decision-makers–from Harry Truman and Henry Ford to Marie Curie and Malala Yousafzai–and explains how you can apply their principles to your own personal and professional real-life scenarios.

Resolve, patience, and practical thinking–take it from these politicians, scientists, economists, inventors, entrepreneurs, theologians, activists, and commanders of war and peace. Their inspiring counsel will give you the tools you need to help change your life. Both big and small, your choices can shape the minutes, days, weeks, and years ahead. This book is the first motivating step in the right direction.

“Upgrade your daily decisions with the wisdom of two dozen renowned influencers who changed history.”
Mehmet Oz, M.D.New York Times bestselling author of You: The Owner’s Manual

“A truly inspiring book about how to become a leader. Highly recommended!!”
Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of American Moonshot

“The best decision you will make today is to read and learn from this array of bold thinkers.”
Harvey MackayNew York Times bestselling author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive (less)

 

 

Business judgement. Making the right decision.

 

 

Excerpted from DECISIONS by Robert L. Dilenschneider. Reprinted with permission from Kensington Books. Copyright © 2020 Robert L. Dilenschneider.

 

Abraham Lincoln was known throughout his life as an extremely gifted writer and speaker. Astonishing when you remember that he had very little formal education. But in addition to immense intelligence, Lincoln had an innate sense of what to say and how to say it both beautifully and effectively. And he worked at it! 

I think that eloquence is part of strong decision-making. Writing and speaking well depend on clarity. You must know your thoughts and your facts and be aware of the needs and expectations of your audiences. You need to have a thesis statement, a clear-cut goal for what you are writing or saying. Just as with decision-making. You need to marshal all the factors that will, or might, affect what you are contemplating. 

Beyond his carefully crafted speeches and letters, Lincoln used story-telling (or yarn-spinning) to marvelous effect. He could be ribald, humorous, or wickedly funny, homespun, serious—whatever it took to disarm his audience while he made a point or performed what research professionals have come to call “soft soundings.” You can do the same.

Confidence is an overlooked factor in effective decision-making. I don’t mean cockiness. I mean the personal strength that is rooted in knowledge, experience, and purpose. 

Lincoln may have “freed the slaves,” but America continues to be haunted by the Civil War and what some have called our “original sin” of slavery. 

Vicious disagreements about statues of Confederate generals, for example, are place-holders for larger issues of identity, history, racism, and inequity. Think about lynchings, beatings, murders, and assassinations, about lunch counters and city buses, about violence in minority communities, voter suppression, restricted real estate listings, affirmative action, integration, the 2008 Presidential election—and so much more. 

Civil rights activism remains its own war. And theologically, the nature of original sin is that it is forgiven and removed but its effects remain. Does this gloomy assessment mean that Lincoln’s decision about the Emancipation Proclamation was wrong or ineffectual? This is something that all of us worry about as we make decisions large and small.

 

My answer is a resounding No. Abraham Lincoln’s decision was of the highest moral order. It was right, in the true sense of that word. It was good. The changes it caused in America have become worldwide. 

I’ll close by suggesting a visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. If you’ve been there before, you’ll know why. If this would be your first visit, you have much to look forward to. Picture yourself standing there, dwarfed and humble, as you gaze up at the magnificent and massive statue of a brooding, seated Lincoln. What is he pondering? Surrounded by the shadowing, sheltering, and towering classical columns of the Memorial edifice, resolve to make your own decisions—right ones and good ones. They will change your world.

This greatest of American presidents offers us these lessons:

  1. Be patient in all you do. 
  2. Always seek clarity in your actions. 
  3. Do not accept immorality. Work to change the culture. 
  4. Work to understand when the right time to act might be. And gather supporters, especially if you are making a controversial decision. 
  5. Always be humble. 
  6. When possible use stories and illustrations to make your point.  
  7. Timing is everything.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert L. Dilenschneider has hired more than 3,000 successful professionals, and advised thousands more. He is founder of The Dilenschneider Group, a corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm based in New York City. Formerly president and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, he is the author of the bestselling books Power and Influence, A Briefing for Leaders, On Power and newly released Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Shaped the World. For more information, please visit https://robertldilenschneider.com

 

 

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An Excerpt of Hymns Of The Republic by S.C. Gwynne

 

 

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From the New York Times bestselling, celebrated, and award-winning author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell comes the spellbinding, epic account of the dramatic conclusion of the Civil War.

The fourth and final year of the Civil War offers one of that era’s most compelling narratives, defining the nation and one of history’s great turning points. Now, S.C. Gwynne’s Hymns of the Republic addresses the time Ulysses S. Grant arrives to take command of all Union armies in March 1864 to the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox a year later. Gwynne breathes new life into the epic battle between Lee and Grant; the advent of 180,000 black soldiers in the Union army; William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea; the rise of Clara Barton; the election of 1864 (which Lincoln nearly lost); the wild and violent guerrilla war in Missouri; and the dramatic final events of the war, including the surrender at Appomattox and the murder of Abraham Lincoln.

Hymns of the Republic offers angles and insights on the war that will surprise many readers. Robert E. Lee, known as a great general and southern hero, is presented here as a man dealing with frustration, failure, and loss. Ulysses S. Grant is known for his prowess as a field commander, but in the final year of the war he largely fails at that. His most amazing accomplishments actually began the moment he stopped fighting. William Tecumseh Sherman, Gwynne argues, was a lousy general, but probably the single most brilliant man in the war. We also meet a different Clara Barton, one of the greatest and most compelling characters, who redefined the idea of medical care in wartime. And proper attention is paid to the role played by large numbers of black union soldiers—most of them former slaves. They changed the war and forced the South to come up with a plan to use its own black soldiers.

Popular history at its best, from Pulitzer Prize finalist S.C. Gwynne, Hymns of the Republic reveals the creation that arose from destruction in this thrilling read.

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CHAPTER ONE: The End Begins

Excerpted from HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War, by S.C. Gwynne. Copyright © 2019 by Samuel C. Gwynne.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

Washington, DC, had never, in its brief and undistinguished history, known a social season like this one. The winter of 1863–64 had been bitterly cold, but its frozen rains and swirling snows had dampened no spirits. Instead a feeling, almost palpable, of optimism hung in the air, a swelling sense that, after three years of brutal war and humiliating defeats at the hands of rebel armies, God was perhaps in his heaven, after all. The inexplicably lethal Robert E. Lee had finally been beaten at Gettysburg. Vicksburg had fallen, completing the Union conquest of the Mississippi River. A large rebel army had been chased from Chattanooga. Something like hope—or maybe just its shadow—had finally loomed into view.

 

The season had begun as always with a New Year’s reception at the Executive Mansion, hosted by the Lincolns, then had launched itself into a frenzy whose outward manifestation was the city’s newest obsession: dancing. Washingtonians were crazy about it. They were seen spinning through quadrilles, waltzes, and polkas at the great US Patent Office Ball, the Enlistment Fund Ball, and at “monster hops” at Willard’s hotel and the National. At these affairs, moreover, everyone danced. No bored squires or sad-eyed spinsters lingered in the shadows of cut glass and gaslight. No one could sit still, and together all improvised a wildly moving tapestry of color: ladies in lace and silk and crinolines, in crimson velvet and purple moire, their cascading curls flecked with roses and lilies, their bell-shaped forms whirled by men in black swallowtails and colored cravats.

The great public parties were merely the most visible part of the social scene. That winter had seen an explosion of private parties as well. Limits were pushed here, too, budgets broken, meals set forth of quail, partridge, lobster, terrapin, and acreages of confections. Politicians such as Secretary of State William Seward and Congressman Schuyler “Smiler” Colfax threw musical soirees. The spirit of the season was evident in the wedding of the imperially lovely Kate Chase—daughter of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase—to Senator William Sprague. Sprague’s gift to Kate was a $50,000 tiara of matched pearls and diamonds. When the bride appeared, the US Marine Band struck up “The Kate Chase March,” a song written by a prominent composer for the occasion.

What was most interesting about these evenings, however, was less their showy proceedings than the profoundly threatened world in which they took place. It was less like a world than a child’s snow globe: a small glittering space enclosed by an impenetrable barrier. For in the winter of 1863–64, Washington was the most heavily defended city on earth. Beyond its houses and public buildings stood thirty-seven miles of elaborate trenches and fortifications that included sixty separate forts, manned by fifty thousand soldiers. Along this armored front bristled some nine hundred cannons, many of large caliber, enough to blast entire armies from the face of the earth. There was something distinctly medieval about the fear that drove such engineering.

The danger was quite real. Since the Civil War had begun, Washington had been threatened three times by large armies under Robert E. Lee’s command. After the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, a rebel force under Lee’s lieutenant Stonewall Jackson had come within twenty miles of the capital while driving the entire sixty-thousand-man Union army back inside its fortifications, where the bluecoats cowered and licked their wounds and thanked heaven for all those earthworks and cannons.

A year and a half later, the same fundamental truth informed those lively parties. Without that cordon militaire, they could not have existed. Washington’s elaborate social scene was a brocaded illusion: what the capital’s denizens desperately wanted the place to be, not what it actually was.

This garishly defended capital was still a smallish, grubby, corrupt, malodorous, and oddly pretentious municipality whose principal product, along with legislation and war making, was biblical sin in its many varieties. Much of the city had been destroyed in the War of 1812. What had replaced the old settlement was both humble and grandiose. Vast quantities of money had been spent to build the city’s precious handful of public buildings: the Capitol itself (finished in December 1863), the Post Office Building, the Smithsonian Institution, the US Patent Office, the US Treasury, and the Executive Mansion. (The Washington Monument, whose construction had been suspended in 1854 for lack of funds, was an abandoned and forlorn-looking stump.)

But those structures stood as though on a barren plain. The Corinthian columns of the Post Office Building may have been worthy of the high Renaissance, but little else in the neighborhood was. The effect was jarring, as though pieces of the Champs-Élysées had been dropped into a swamp. Everything about the place, from its bloody and never-ending war to the faux grandiosity of its windswept plazas, suggested incompleteness. Like the Washington Monument, it all seemed half-finished. The wartime city held only about eighty thousand permanent residents, a pathetic fraction of the populations of New York (800,000) and Philadelphia (500,000), let alone London (2.6 million) or Paris (1.7 million). Foreign travelers, if they came to the national capital at all, found it hollow, showy, and vainglorious. British writer Anthony Trollope, who visited the city during the war and thought it a colossal disappointment, wrote:

Washington is but a ragged, unfinished collection of unbuilt broad streets.… Of all the places I know it is the most ungainly and most unsatisfactory; I fear I must also say the most presumptuous in its pretensions. Taking [a] map with him… a man may lose himself in the streets, not as one loses oneself in London between Shoreditch and Russell Square, but as one does so in the deserts of the Holy Land… There is much unsettled land within the United States of America, but I think none so desolate as three-fourths of the ground on which is supposed to stand the city of Washington.

He might have added that the place smelled, too. Its canals were still repositories of sewage; tidal flats along the Potomac reeked at low tide. Pigs and cows still roamed the frozen streets. Dead horses, rotting in the winter sun, were common sights. At the War Department, one reporter noted, “The gutter [was] heaped up full of black, rotten mud, a foot deep, and worth fifty cents a car load for manure.” The unfinished mall where the unfinished Washington Monument stood held a grazing area and slaughterhouse for the cattle used to feed the capital’s defenders. The city was both a haven and a dumping ground for the sort of human chaff that collected at the ragged edges of the war zone: deserters from both armies, sutlers (civilians who sold provisions to soldiers), spies, confidence men, hustlers, and the like.

Washington had also become the nation’s single largest refuge for escaped slaves, who now streamed through the capital’s rutted streets by the thousands. When Congress freed the city’s thirty-three hundred slaves in 1862, it had triggered an enormous inflow of refugees, mostly from Virginia and Maryland. By 1864 fifty thousand of them had moved within Washington’s ring of forts. Many were housed in “contraband camps,” and many suffered in disease-ridden squalor in a world that often seemed scarcely less prejudiced than the one they had left. But they were never going back. They were never going to be slaves again. This was the migration’s central truth, and you could see it on any street corner in the city. Many would make their way into the Union army, which at the end of 1863 had already enlisted fifty thousand from around the country, most of them former slaves.

But the most common sights of all on those streets were soldiers. A war was being fought, one that had a sharp and unappeasable appetite for young men. Several hundred thousand of them had tramped through the city since April 1861, wearing their blue uniforms, slouch hats, and knapsacks. They had lingered on its street corners, camped on its outskirts. Tens of thousands more languished in wartime hospitals. Mostly they were just passing through, on their way to a battlefield or someone’s grand campaign or, if they were lucky, home. Many were on their way to death or dismemberment. In their wake came the seemingly endless supply trains with their shouting teamsters, rumbling wagon wheels, snorting horses, and creaking tack.

Because of these soldiers—unattached young men, isolated, and far from home—a booming industry had arisen that was more than a match for its European counterparts: prostitution. This was no minor side effect of war. Ten percent or more of the adult population were inhabitants of Washington’s demimonde. In 1863, the Washington Evening Star had determined that the capital had more than five thousand prostitutes, with an additional twenty-five hundred in neighboring Georgetown, and twenty-five hundred more across the river in Alexandria, Virginia. That did not count the concubines or courtesans who were simply kept in apartments by the officer corps. The year before, an army survey had revealed 450 houses of ill repute. All served drinks and sex. In a district called Murder Bay, passersby could see nearly naked women in the windows and doors of the houses. For the less affluent—laborers, teamsters, and army riffraff—Nigger Hill and Tin Cup Alley had sleazier establishments, where men were routinely robbed, stabbed, shot, and poisoned with moonshine whiskey. The Star could not help wondering how astonished the sisters and mothers of these soldiers would be to see how their noble young men spent their time at the capital. Many of these establishments were in the heart of the city, a few blocks from the president’s house and the fashionable streets where the capital’s smart set whirled in gaslit dances.

This was Washington, DC, in that manic, unsettled winter of 1863–64, in the grip of a lengthening war whose end no one could clearly see.

 

Excerpted from HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War, by S.C. Gwynne. Copyright © 2019 by Samuel C. Gwynne.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

 

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About the Author:

S.C. Gwynne is the author of Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War and the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He spent most of his career as a journalist, including stints with Time as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor, and with Texas Monthly as executive editor. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife. For more information, please visit https://scgwynne.com

 

 

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Book Review: Realm of Knights by Jennifer Anne Davis

 

 

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***The first book in a new fantasy series from best-selling author Jennifer Anne Davis.***

 

 

Realm of Knights (audiobook)

 

 

About the Audiobook

 

Author: Jennifer Anne Davis

Narrator: Kim Bretton

Length: hours minutes

Publisher: Reign Publishing⎮2019

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Knights of the Realm, Book 1

Release date: Oct. 11, 2019

 

 

 

 

Synopsis: Reid has spent her whole life pretending to be a man so she can inherit her father’s estate, but when a chance encounter threatens to expose her lie, she is forced to risk everything.

In the kingdom of Marsden, women are subservient to men, and land can only pass from father to son. So, when Reid Ellington is born, the fifth daughter to one of the wealthiest landholders in the kingdom, it’s announced that Reid is a boy.    

Eighteen years later, Reid struggles to conceal the fact she’s actually a young woman. Every day, her secret becomes harder to keep. When one of Marsden’s princes sees her sparring with a sword, she is forced to accept his offer and lead her father’s soldiers to the border. Along the way, she discovers a covert organization within the army known as the Knights of the Realm. 

If Reid wants to save her family from being arrested for treason and robbed of their inheritance, she will have to join the knights and become a weapon for the crown.    

To protect her family, Reid must fight like a man. To do that, she’ll need the courage of a woman.

This is the first book in a new fantasy series from best-selling author Jennifer Anne Davis

 

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BOOK REVIEW

 

The Realm of Knights is a gem! I was very delighted to find this book via Audiobookwormpromotions.com. The premise, plotting, characterization is excellent. Reid Ellington is faced with a dilemma at every turn that forces her to comply and keep her family secret. I thought the writing was brilliant. It kept me turning the pages! 

 

 

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW 

 

How often do you write?

I write five days a week, 8-10 hours a day. I usually set a goal for myself, and I’ll work until I reach that goal. When I’m writing a first draft, I try and write 5,000 words a day. Then when I’m editing, I usually try and edit 10 pages a day.

 

Tell us a little bit about the characters in Realm of Knights.

Realm of Knights is centered around Reid Ellington. She’s an 18 year old young woman, and the fifth daughter of Duke Ellington. Since land and title can only pass from father to son, the duke tells everyone Reid is a boy when she’s born. So Reid has grown up wearing boy clothing and playing with boys. It has made her fiercely independent and she views the world differently than those around her. There are a few other characters of importance in the book. Her best friend, Harlan, helps her out. He’s the sort of guy that’s always there, fiercely loyal, and he respects Reid even when he learns she’s a woman. Then there’s the princes—Ackley and Gordon. They’re brothers and best friends. Ackley is tall and lean. There’s a fierceness to him that he manages to keep hidden. Gordon is the commander of the army. He’s shorter and stockier than Ackley, he’s fairly quiet, and he’s a little stubborn. 

 

How do you balance other aspects of your life with your writing? 

It’s hard to balance everything. I treat writing as my full-time job (because it is). It allows me the freedom to be there for my kids when they need me. However, when I’m on a deadline, it can be rough revising when I need everything to be quiet around me. Thankfully, my family is very supportive and we make it work.

 

What makes a great story line? 

Interesting characters that the reader can connect with, an obstacle the main character has to overcome, a fantastic villain, and a unique love interest.

 

What is the hardest thing about writing a book? 

Revising. Writing the first draft is the fun part. Revising—which is basically rewriting the entire story—is difficult for me. I want to make sure that everything I’m thinking and feeling in my head is exposed on the page. It usually takes me about 25 min to revise one page.

 

Do you have any people who help you with your story lines as well beta reading and such? 

Yes. I have two people that read everything I write. They’ve both been with me for years, and I couldn’t write without them. One started out as my biggest critic and now is my biggest cheerleader. The other is a pro at finding plot holes and inconsistencies. 

 

How did you choose your narrator?

For Realm of Knights, I wanted a female voice with a British accent. It was important to me that the narrator have a youthful voice since Reid is only 18. However, I also wanted her to have a maturity to her that hints at the hardships Reid has faced over the years. When I was listening to auditions, the second I heard Kim’s voice, I knew I’d found the perfect narrator. I was so excited when she agreed to take on the project, that I had her sign for all three books in the series. She is the perfect person for these books, and I couldn’t be happier. 

 

 

About the Author: Jennifer Anne Davis

 

Jennifer Anne Davis graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential. She is currently a full-time writer and mother of three kids, one weimaraner, and a tortoise. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart and lives in the San Diego area.

Jennifer is the recipient of the San Diego Book Awards Best Published Young Adult Novel (2013), winner of the Kindle Book Awards (2018), a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards (2014), and a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (2014).

Publishers Marketplace listed Jennifer as one of the best-selling indie authors in June 2017. She has also been ranked among the top 100 best-selling authors on Amazon.

 

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Narrator Kim Bretton

 

 

About the Narrator: Kim Bretton

 

Kim is an accomplished and award winning actress and director with West End/Broadway theatre credits. Kim has narrated over 35 audiobooks and counting. She is also an in demand voice over talent in the commercial and corporate arena and owns her own class A recording studio in Nashville. Kim is from the UK but has lived in NYC, L.A. and now Nashville TN. She continues to work in Theatre, Film and TV as an actress and a director alongside narrating audiobooks and commercial voice overs. 

 

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