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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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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How to Write an Oscar-Nominated Screenplay with Terri Tatchell & Mark Dawson

 

IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY

 

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How to Write an Oscar-Nominated Screenplay (The Self Publishing Show, episode 201)

 

 

 

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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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200th Episode: Four Years of the Self Publishing Show with Mark Dawson & James Blatch

 

IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY

 

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200th Episode: Four Years of the Self Publishing Show (The Self Publishing Show, episode 200)

 

 

 

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Author Interview with Pulitzer Prize Finalist S.C. Gwynne of Hymns of the Republic

 

 

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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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Interview with S. C. Gwynne,

Author of Hymns of the Republic

 

  • How did you develop a love for history?

 

The first history books I loved were the Cornelius Ryan works about World War II: The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far. I also loved the Bruce Catton books about the Civil War, starting with A Stillness at Appomattox and This Hallowed Ground. Note the war theme. These books taught me what history could do. I had two great professors at Princeton—Stephen Cohen (Soviet history) and Robert Darnton (history of the French revolution)—who really inspired me.

 

 

  • What’s the significance behind the title, Hymns of the Republic? 

 

The title is a play on “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” that Bible-based, blood-drenched, sword-themed song of divine triumph that the northern soldiers liked to sing. I meant to suggest other “hymns,” in a more metaphorical sense, that were sung by the various constituencies of the war. (Black soldiers actually had their own battle hymn!)

 

 

  • What drew you to write about the final year of the civil war?

 

A few years ago I wrote a biography of Stonewall Jackson, entitled Rebel Yell, that ended with his death in May 1863 and thus covered roughly the first two years of the war. When I was researching the last year of the conflict, I was struck by how much more violent, desperate, brutal, and vengeful the war had become. This was the product of many things, including the progressive destruction of southern property, southern industry, and southern wealth; the staggering body counts from the Grant-Lee fight in Virginia; the anti-civilian warfare of William T. Sherman and Phil Sheridan; the rise of the prisoner of war camps; the rise of a bitter guerrilla war; and the presence of 180,000 black soldiers in the northern army, which drove Confederate soldiers to unprecedented acts of violence. I wanted to try to convey how deeply the war had changed, and the final year gave me a mechanism by which to do that.

 

 

  • Do you follow a certain process for writing nonfiction?

 

For this book I did about a year of background reading, then proceeded to research and write each chapter as I went along. I always travel to the places I am writing about. The research/writing ratio was probably 60-40.

 

 

  • How do you take facts from history, or story that’s already been told, and turn it into a compelling narrative?

 

Characters are always the drivers of compelling narratives. So I start with interesting characters and do as much reading as I can in their memoirs, letters, and other documents, as well as other primary sources of the era. With a character like Grant, about whom much has been written, I just try to look for a particular angle that other historians haver not pursued. The difference lies less in the facts themselves than in how I analyze those facts.

 

 

  • If you had an opportunity to change anything about the civil war, would you?

 

That is a very hard question. Assuming that the war had to happen, I guess that the single worst piece of news for the nation, and for its future, was the assassination of Lincoln. So I would save Lincoln.

 

 

  • How do you think the final year of the war shaped us as a nation today?

 

Again, tough question! You can pick up virtually any major newspaper these days and immediately grasp the fact that the United States of America has not solved its problems with race. One can argue that it hasn’t even come to terms with them. Our nation has always been deeply divided. More than twenty percent of the residents of the American colonies were loyal to the English king. I grew up in the 1960s, a time when the nation was badly split over the Vietnam War. There were race riots in the streets, riots at the Democratic convention. In 2019 we are deeply divided. The Civil War was the worst split of all. 750,000 men died because Americans could not agree on questions related to race and the future of the country. I actually take a positive lesson from this. I think you can read about the war and understand 1) that we are by nature divided, sometimes violently; and 2) that in spite of these problems we always manage to muddle through. Democracy is messy, and often violent, but the republic stands. 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

How to Turn a Struggle Into a Strength with Mark Dawson & Hilary Jastram

 

IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY

 

TV Television Tuesday

 

 

 

How to Turn a Struggle Into a Strength (The Self Publishing Show, episode 196)

 

 

 

The Self Publishing Formula

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How To Get Organized To Write Your Book & Preparation for NaNoWriMo With Kristen Martin

 

 

IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY

 

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How To Get Organized To Write Your Book | PREPARATION FOR NANOWRIMO

 

 

 

www.kristenmartinbooks.com

www.nanowrimo.org

 

 

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