Indie Author Spotlight – Jack Geurts “The Fire And The Forge”

I am extremely pleased to share this interview with you. I recently reviewed Jack’s novel, “The Fire And The Forge” and was completely blown away by how great it was. It has a permanent spot on my favorite books list. Jack’s insight and story telling will leave you mesmerized. I truly believe that Jack is a born story-teller and I can’t wait to devour every word he writes. I hope you enjoy the interview and grab a copy of the book for yourself. 

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Jack Geurts Author Pic

Jack Geurts is the author of The Fire and the Forge, first in an epic fantasy series about cruel gods pulling the strings of mortals and people wielding elemental magic. He lives on coffee and podcasts, and only leaves the house to walk his dog, Ruben. Currently, he’s hard at work on his next book. Keep up with all his latest books at JackGeurts.com

The Interview

Q: “The Fire And The Forge” is an amazing story. What are your hopes for the book?

Honestly, my hopes are just that it will reach as many readers as possible and that they’ll enjoy it as much as you have. There’s a lot of authors out there and a lot of other books people could be reading.

Q: In the world of “The Fire And The Forge”, a Blacksmith must earn his ‘iron’ before going out on his own. Can you explain this custom?

‘Earning one’s iron’ is a phrase I used in the book, but the concept dates back to the guilds of medieval Europe. Upon completing his apprenticeship, a young man would embark on what were known as his ‘journeyman’ years, where he would travel from place to place, earning day wages and gaining experience. Later, he would become a master craftsman himself and take on his own apprentice. This is more or less the plan for Imharak’s life until Alba is attacked.

Q: This world is comparable in some ways to the “Old Testament” and different Mythologies. What inspired you to bring this world to life?

I suppose I was tired of the medieval European setting that had become standard for epic fantasy. I wanted to see something different, and was always much more fascinated by ancient history than the Middle Ages.

So I created a world that borrowed from ancient Egypt, Israel, Carthage and Rome, rather than England or Scandinavia. I drew mainly from the Old Testament in terms of the Liberites themselves and their exodus from Kemet, but there’s also a lot of Homer’s Iliad in there, too. You’ll notice distinct similarities between the old pantheon of gods who are not really worshipped anymore with the Greek gods of Mt. Olympus. We’ll see more of that ancient Greek influence in Book #2.

Q: Authors often mention that their stories are either already in their head or the writer is a kind of vessel that the story flows from. How did this story come about for you?

Funnily enough, it started as a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi dystopia. It was all about a society that evolves in the wake of a nuclear holocaust – each tribe had a different elemental power based on the environment in which they lived (desert, sea etc.). But that concept was really all that stayed.

I guess the story, for me, felt like a natural culmination of all the things I loved most – ancient history, the setting of the Old Testament, movies like Gladiator and Braveheart and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I didn’t want to write historical fiction exactly, but fantasy allowed me to explore history with the freedom to change details to fit the story I wanted to tell. I’m sure I’ll get some people who are upset that I don’t have complex magic systems or other things that are common to the genre, but that wasn’t really what drew me to fantasy in the first place. Hopefully, that means I’ll be able to bring something new to the table.

First and foremost, I focus on the characters. I’m not really interested in doing multiple plot-lines – I find it hard to latch on to someone I really care about, and if I do, I find myself wishing I could just see the entire story from their point of view. That’s why I chose to keep The Fire and the Forge focused mainly on a small group of characters in a single narrative arc – follow them on their journey from one place to another, the conversations they have over campfires and the dangers they face together, the revelations they come to.

Q: Infernos seems less autocratic in personality than Caelos, do you think the society of Libera is reflected in the god they praise?

I think part of that might be because we don’t really see Infernos in this book. For that matter, we don’t really see the Kem or get a good insight into their way of thinking. All we really have to go on is Imharak’s interpretation of them.

However, I certainly think that Infernos could be less autocratic. He was banished to the underworld by Caelos, and is something of an underdog in this story. His patronage of the Kem could be seen – especially from their point of view – as ‘teaming up’ to take down the cruel tyrant that is Caelos. They certainly don’t think they’re the bad guys in the story.

With regards to Libera being reflected in the god they praise, I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head. Caelos is unyielding, jealous and has the capacity for terrible violence. The Liberites (or at least the ones we see in The Fire and the Forge) are very similar in the way they treat other peoples who may have different beliefs, and indeed, their own people who stray from the path.

Q: The Kem seem much different than the God Infernos who they seem to be tied to. What is the main driver for this divide?

For the Kem, the adoption of Infernos as their one and only god is a very recent thing, more recent than the Liberites adopting Caelos as their sole deity. They are, in many ways, still transitioning from a polytheistic state, and this is reflected in the blending of Infernos with their former chief deity, the sun god, Bast – a process known as syncretism.

There’s another reason for the Liberites potentially being more devout followers of Caelos than the Kem are of Infernos, but that will be explored in a later book…

Q: Imharak is torn between many allegiances. This sets him apart from society from the onset of the book. The intention was as punishment but could it also be the reasoned as an asset?

That’s a very interesting way to look at it. I, personally, believe that it is an asset. It allows Imharak to be critical and self-aware in a way very few others around him are. Being skeptical of his surroundings, of people and their gods, gives him an advantage over others who might be blinded by their faith and the way they think the world works. Because of this well-honed doubt – for lack of a better word – he is able to see the truth of things, even when the truth is unthinkable.

 Q: “The Fire And The Forge” is the first book in what is an ongoing series. Is there a planned amount of books?

There are four books planned at the time I’m writing this. I’m almost finished editing Book #2, which is called To Kill a King. It is due for release January 12th (it’s actually up for preorder now). Book #3 is called Queen of the Dead Lands and that will be out sometime around April/May.

The third instalment has been fully outlined, and while I’ve got a very definite idea about what Book #4 will be, I haven’t plotted it out yet. All I can say is that it will bring this particular series to an end, but there are other planned series in the universe, each drawing influence from certain, less-explored periods of history (think the rise of Islam in late antiquity, or the transition from hunter-gatherer tribes to cities in Central and South America).

 Q: Who in the story do you feel the deepest connection to?

Probably Gaius. I find him to be the most sympathetic and empathetic character in the book, a man who has done terrible things and who is trying desperately to forget, or redeem himself if he can. I know this probably isn’t how a lot of other writers do it, but when I envision a character, I’ll usually think of the actor I imagine playing them in the movie. It might be a hold-over from when I was studying screenplays before I turned to writing novels, but I always imagined Andre Braugher in the role. He has this careful deliberation and gravitas about him, a quiet power. Very eloquent, enunciating every syllable.

Q: If you could have any two powers, what would you choose and why?

Flight, without even thinking. I’ve always been very jealous of birds. Second to that would probably be some kind of regenerative ability – I’ve had a bad back for a few years now, which is kind of messing with my hips and knees, too. It’d be nice to get rid of that.

Q: If you were to identify with one of the many societies in your story, with whom would you belong?

Wow. The ancient world was such a brutal place, even just in daily life. I suppose if I had to pick one, it would be the Elladenes. We get a glimpse into their culture at the end when Longinus is playing his lyre and singing in the Elladene language. If the Liberites are influenced by the people of biblical-era Israel in the Old Testament, then the Elladenes more closely match the ancient Greeks. In the world of The Fire and the Forge, they’re perhaps the most progressive, advanced and tolerant society around. But more on them in Book #2…

The Fire and the Forge Cover

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“Espionage London” John Day #BookReview

By late 1943, Hitler desperately needed a secret weapon to win WW2. Engineer & master spy Karl Strom devised a simple device that would bring Britain to its knees over night. 
This character driven story of intrigue and guile, love and revenge, tells of the suicide mission undertaken by 4 German spies. It will transport you back in time to the Channel Island of Alderney where they prepared and to the back streets of London, where they struggle to survive. 
Timing is everything in war, and a cruel twist of fate changes history. 

A super-intense John Day Thriller.

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   In “Espionage London”, John Day delivers a fast paced thriller that may as well be glued to your hands as you read. Prepare yourself for a wild ride accompanied by German spy’s with steel resolve. As the four spy’s face trial after trial, their plight will capture your imagination, your heart and get your adrenaline pumping. It’s not every day that you find yourself cheering on the bad guys.

   John Day has written from a perspective that is rarely used. Reading from the point of view of four German’s gives a very human face to a side of WW2 that few take the time to give credit for. Just for this insight, I am adding Mr. Day to my list of favorite authors. He’s taken a risk in writing this that few pursue and I thank him for it.

“She saw them and let out a loud and unfettered scream that tailed off to a wail of abject misery. Sinking slowly to the floor, she cried like never before.”

   It’s clear through the entire book that John Day has put his heart into every word. His characters are extremely well developed. Each trial they face is explored from multiple angles and thought provoking. It gives tribute to the saying “No one is fully evil. Nothing is as simple as black and white. We are all grey areas”.

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   After completing the story, I found myself very conflicted. This is high praise for an author. Think about the skill it takes to put such a human face on people who have for decades been portrayed as pure evil. After reading “Espionage London”, I feel that I have a deeper understanding of the plight of Germans and their motivations for fighting. That is not to say that I condone their actions or the murder of millions. For that reason, the German’s are complicit in an unthinkable evil.

“She decided he had the cold detachment of a venomous snake about to strike.”

   Being American, it took me a bit to fall into the different use of language, punctuation and spelling, but this didn’t take away from the brilliance of the story in the slightest. John Day is from the UK and it’s expected that he writes the way he does. To be honest, I actually prefer authors to write with their native version of English. It helps the reader with a worldview perspective as well as being fun to imagine the narration with an accent. Before you ask, I also added a German accent to the characters as well. John Day’s writing makes it easy to do this and it added another layer to the story that I greatly enjoyed.

“When face to face with your enemy, if you show fear, you’re done for”

John Day does a good job of tying up loose ends and serving up justice where justice is due. As Peter, (one of the main characters) so eloquently puts it…..Revenge is a dish best served cold. I greatly enjoyed his success in exacting that particular revenge. I literally gave a cheerfully loud “Hell yes!” after reading that passage. Some people deserve their fate and trust me on this, that particular person absolutely got what was coming to him. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you read it.  

“Espionage London” is very quotable and filled with interesting insights. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and will be adding his other books to my TBR list.

5 stars!!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: Espionage London – A WW2 Thriller | Series: N/A  |  Author(s): John Day  |Publisher: John Day / Self Published / Publication Date: 9-30-2017 |Pages: 379 (Print) |ISBN/ASIN: B07635MHM5 |Genre(s):  Action / Thriller / Suspense / Historical / Espionage |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 11-06-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

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John Day lives in the Channel Islands, on Alderney, in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Much of what happens in Espionage – London takes place there.

Retired from his own businesses, building designer and accredited energy consultant about 10 years ago. He tends to spend much of the year travelling the world. He has a keen interest in photography and the Alderney Island Tourism marketing team use his photos in their publications and notice boards around the island. He is a qualified open water, wreck and cave diver. Many locations abroad and under water are used in his other books.

In the past, he has developed advanced software and has a detailed knowledge of electronics.

He holds the family crest with direct lineage back to King Charles 2nd.

 

 

 

The Booklist – Historical Thrillers

      Historical Thrillers are one my favorite genre’s. It’s the best of both worlds. The characters were/are real people and reading about them brings history alive in a way that textbooks just can’t. The fiction bit allows the author some room for speculation. It’s fun to see each authors take on the same historical characters. I think this genre keeps the past in the present and encourages people to look back and learn. The Thriller bit digs into the reader, blows the dust off the past and rips a hole through time to keep the story fresh. It’s easy to forget the past when you don’t feel connected to it. Historical Thrillers allow it’s readers to connect with those long dead and breeds empathy for those who survived (or didn’t) some of the worst periods of our history. If we have no empathy for the horrors of the past are we bound to repeat them?

I hope you enjoy my selections! Never stop reading!

♥♥♥♥

The Pursuit of Pearls CoverIn the spring of 1939, the drums of war beat throughout Europe, but nowhere more ferociously than in Berlin. The film studio where Clara Vine works is churning out movies, but each day that she stays in Germany is more dangerous than the last. Spying on the private life of the Third Reich, passing secrets to contacts in British intelligence, falling into a passionate affair—any of these risky moves could get Clara shot. So she is wholly shaken when someone close to her is murdered instead. The victim is Lottie Franke, an aspiring costume designer and student at the prestigious Faith and Beauty finishing school that trains young women to become the wives of the Nazi elite. While the press considers Lottie’s death in the Grunewald forest the act of a lone madman, Clara uncovers deeper threads, tangled lines that seem to reach into the darkest depths of the Reich—and to a precious discovery that Hitler and his ruthless cohorts would kill for.

Freinds and Traitors CoverLondon, 1958. Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard, newly promoted after good service during Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain, is not looking forward to a European trip with his older brother, Rod. Rod has decided to take his entire family on “the Grand Tour” for his fifty-first birthday: a whirlwind of restaurants, galleries, and concert halls from Paris to Florence to Vienna to Amsterdam. But Frederick Troy only gets as far as Vienna. It is there that he crosses paths with an old acquaintance, a man who always seems to be followed by trouble: British spy turned Soviet agent Guy Burgess. Suffice it to say that Troy is more than surprised when Burgess, who has escaped from the bosom of Moscow for a quick visit to Vienna, tells him something extraordinary: “I want to come home.” Troy knows this news will cause a ruckus in London―but even Troy doesn’t expect an MI5 man to be gunned down as a result, and Troy himself suspected of doing the deed. As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy is haunted by more than just Burgess’s past liaisons―there is a scandal that goes up to the highest ranks of Westminster, affecting spooks and politicians alike. And the stakes become all the higher for Troy when he reencounters a woman he first met in the Ritz hotel during a blackout―falling in love is a handicap when playing the game of spies.

The girl in the picture cover

Two women. One house. Centuries of secrets.

East Sussex Coast, 1855 – Violet Hargreaves is the lonely daughter of a widowed industrialist, and an aspiring Pre-Raphaelite painter. One day, the naïve eighteen-year-old meets Edwin; a mysterious and handsome man on the beach, who promises her a world beyond the small costal village she’s trapped in. But after ignoring warning about Edwin, a chain of terrible events begins to unfold for Violet…

East Sussex Coast, 2016 – For thriller-writer Ella Daniels, the house on the cliff is the perfect place to overcome writer’s block, where she decides to move with her small family. But there’s a strange atmosphere that settles once they move in – and rumours of historical murders next door begin to emerge. One night, Ella uncovers a portrait of a beautiful young girl named Violet Hargreaves, who went missing at the same time as the horrific crimes, and Ella becomes determined to find out what happened there 160 years ago. And in trying to lay Violet’s ghost to rest, Ella must face ghosts of her own…

Book list

“Teach Us All” – You Should Watch It.

I’m pretty sure that most of us in the US have heard at least something about the segregation issues we have with our public school systems. I remember my step-father telling me about it when I was a kid. My mother in law was in school in Pine Bluff, Arkansas when they desegregated. She told me of the outright violence those poor kids suffered. She told me of her silence and of the silence of her friends. I remember feeling pretty damn superior to her at that moment because I just knew in my heart of hearts that I would not of been silent. Oh to be young, stupid and naive. I would love to think that I would of stood up for those kids. I would love to think that today things are different and my generation is getting it right. Truth is, while I would now stand up and support their right to an equal education….I don’t know if that would be true of myself as a child. I’m almost thirty years old and while I believe that millennials are doing better….we haven’t got it fixed. Our public school systems are as broke as ever and I applaud shows like this for bringing attention to an issue that desperately needs repaired. Our kids really are the future and we need to be innovative in our education efforts. “Teach Us All” goes deep into education inequality and should be a required watch for politicians and parents alike. I encourage you to watch it and raise your voice for change.

#BookSpotlight “When Wolf Comes” John Pappas

Historical adventure, 1801. A survivor from an attack on a trade ship is sold as a slave to the Makah tribe of the Northwest Washington Coast. In a beautiful hostile land of people with strange spiritual ways he will become teacher and student, find friendship and even love, and realize escape comes in many guises, and survival is not always as simple as saving your own life.

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When Wolf Comes Cover

“I started reading the story and I literally couldnt put it down. Finished in one read! I loved the detail put into every day journaled in the book. I especially liked the ship board section and dangerous trading. I also liked how a romance starts and kinda slow simmered and built throughout the book. Wow, like I said if you like to read a great story with the details described making you feel like you are really there, this is the book for you. Great story!” – Amazon Reviewer

“When Wolf Comes” is well researched. Time and again I found myself lost in time and imagining the beauty of the northwest. The wonder of it’s people and their means of survival. I haven’t read much into this time period or the tribes that inhabited the northwest but Pappas leads the reader expertly through the complexities of both it’s cultural and natural wonders. Pappas has a real talent for cultivating a love in his readers that has at the very least encouraged me to learn more. I imagine that sentiment will spread through each new reader.” – AlliesOpinions Review

Get your copy today!

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Are you a reviewer looking for your next amazing read? “When Wolf Comes” is free on Kindle Unlimited. Don’t have a subscription? No problem! Shoot us an email and we’ll get you set up with the author for a possible review copy. Send review inquires to asumner28@hotmail.com !

 

“When Wolf Comes” John Pappas

Historical adventure, 1801. A survivor from an attack on a trade ship is sold as a slave to the Makah tribe of the Northwest Washington Coast. In a beautiful hostile land of people with strange spiritual ways he will become teacher and student, find friendship and even love, and realize escape comes in many guises, and survival is not always as simple as saving your own life.

When Wolf Comes Cover

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“When Wolf Comes” begins with Aiden doing what he does in much of the book….deliberating on his next move. Aiden has found himself far from home and does his best to be positive while also endeavoring to be useful. When the first ship comes Aiden’s spirits lift and life takes a new path. Like life can do, the path quickly shifts again and Aiden finds himself once more a slave. This time though, maybe being a slave is a step forward.

As Aiden finds his purpose within his masters tribe and culture his eye finds itself stuck on another slave. Neveah is a beautiful native woman who also turns out to be more than what she appears. Their relationship blooms slowly and it’s a real treat to see. 

Something that should be noted is how Pappas managed to embed a message of tolerance in his story. Aiden and the Makah are very different and those differences are stark at the beginning but as the story deepens those differences don’t seem so far apart and each culture melds together to find this new direction that I found fascinating. Aiden’s culture and knowledge was accepted (albeit with suspicion) and their culture became another piece of Aiden. This story has a message of oneness that resonates even now.

“When Wolf Comes” is well researched. Time and again I found myself lost in time and imagining the beauty of the northwest. The wonder of it’s people and their means of survival. I haven’t read much into this time period or the tribes that inhabited the northwest but Pappas leads the reader expertly through the complexities of both it’s cultural and natural wonders. Pappas has a real talent for cultivating a love in his readers that has at the very least encouraged me to learn more. I imagine that sentiment will spread through each new reader.

Squintanasis was a character that I really couldn’t get enough of. I would love to see him get his own book. I felt like there was more to tell and learn from this most stoic of men. He was mysterious and wise. He was shrewd but fair. I liked him immensely. He was a big part of what made this story bury itself so deep into my psych. 

Pappas depiction of battle is gory but not overly so. The horror is addressed but not dwelt upon. The significance is put more on how the community came together and their bond. I thought it was well written and well balanced.

I could go on for days about how much I enjoyed this story. I encourage you to hop in and lose yourself in the magic of the early 1800’s.

Absolute 5 star book.

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: When Wolf Comes | Series: N/A |  Author(s): John Pappas  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 5-8-2016 |Pages: 264 (Print) | ISBN: B01FEC6YM6 |Genre(s): Historical Fiction  |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-29-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

When Wolf Comes Cover

“The images conjured up by the Northwest Coast tribes is one of fierce people what with their dramatic masks, nose bones and complex ceremonies. This story takes you to the people beneath that image. It highlights their sense of community as well as their recognition of the changes being brought by traders. It tells of how they treat their “slaves”, their capacity for compassion and their lack of tolerance for wrongdoing.” – Amazon Reviewer

“Naveed – Through My Eyes” John Heffernan

The explosion jolts him awake. He sits up, gasping for air, heart thumping.

Was the blast real? Perhaps it had only happened in his head, a bad dream. Demons of the dark, his father had called them. ‘Push them away. They’ll only poison your thoughts. Seek the light and they can’t hurt you.’

Naveed is sick of war – of the foreign powers and the Taliban, the warlords and the drug barons that together have torn Afghanistan apart. He’s had to grow up quickly to take care of his widowed mother and little sister, making what little money he can doing odd jobs and selling at the markets. When he adopts Nasera, a street dog with extraordinary abilities, he has a chance to help rebuild his country. But will a new friend’s betrayal crush his dreams of peace forever?

From the winter of war comes the spring of hope.

Naveed Cover

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     I found this book while browsing the kids chapter books at my local library. It was one of those books the librarians shelve cover out so it caught my eye rather quickly. I picked it up and after reading the summary decided it sounded like a book I should read and maybe later add to my kids homeschool reading list when they are the appropriate age. I often grab a chapter book along with the younger kids books and if they sound like something that would interest my four year old now, I read them to him. My four year old is much too young for this book but it’s absolutely a book I’ve added to our reading list for later years. 

“Naveed” offers two unique perspectives that, as an American, I don’t often get to see. An Australian solider and a young Afghan boy. Naveed may be a child but his struggles are anything but small. Naveed’s mother relies on him to provide for the family and Naveed works hard to do so. He also provides for his younger sister who, due to a bomb, has lost her legs. Naveed carries a heavy load of responsibilities but it’s clear that he carries them with love. Naveed’s love for his family is beautiful. He has known nothing but war and it’s touched every single piece of his young life.  

After a bomb took away his father and severely injured his sister, Naveed’s family lives in a hovel and their situation is precarious. The land lord is a bad man who has even worse friends and cares for no one but himself. He sets his eyes on Naveed’s mother and I held my breath with worry about Naveed’s family and how or if they would find a way out of that nasty man’s reach.

Naveed is adopted by Nasera (the dog) and his life takes on a whirlwind of change. By chance he meets Jake and opportunities open that he never thought possible. Naveed’s world is almost broken by a relative (whose really broken himself) and for a time, everything is thrown into chaos once again.

I want to talk about that chaos for just a minute. In the west, we are so quick to see a terrorist and dehumanize them. We don’t think of all the things that built up and turned this otherwise unassuming person into an extremist. Heffernan brings humanity back in this tale and gives us a look into what goes into the makings of a terrorist. It’s not harped upon but Heffernan gives us a window into a world I don’t think we discuss or even acknowledge nearly enough.

Kudo’s to John Heffernan for doing his part to put a very human face on a very ugly war. May his stories enrich our lives and encourage us to find peace with one another.

5 stars.

5 stars

The Technical Data:

Title: Naveed | Series: Through My Eyes |  Author(s): John Heffernan  |Publisher: Allen & Unwin / Publication Date: 9-1-2015 |Pages: 216 (Print) | ISBN: B00YVBQO8Q |Genre(s): Middle East / War / Historical Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-05-2017 |Source: Copy from library.

 

David Smith – Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

David Smith is a British author who has now published four works under the Troubador imprint. His first novel Searching For Amber has been described as “A powerful and notably memorable debut” with a review describing it as “masterly and confident” and another as “Extraordinary, poetic, enchanting, sublime”. In addition to writing, he is currently CFO of a blue chip UK public company and lives near the South Coast in England with his wife and three teenage children.

https://www.davidsmithauthor.blog

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David Smith — Guest Blog

My Inspirations for Letters to Strabo

Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

My first idea for Letters to Strabo came from the memory of a trip I made twenty years ago to Olana, the amazing Catskills home of the painter Frederic Edwin Church. It was a truly stunning experience. Both the exterior but more importantly the interior of this Moorish extravaganza produced a complete sensory overload that day that has stayed with me ever since. I’ve long wanted to write a love story that starts with a visit to this house by a young writer, but for ages I didn’t have a good starting point.

However, as I researched further, I discovered that the name the Churches chose for their hilltop home overlooking the Hudson was originally derived from a quotation contained in one of the first English translations of a Geography written by the first century BC Greek scholar Strabo: “Olane, one of the treasure-storehouses on the Araxes River, with a view both of a fertile valley and of Mount Ararat where Noah’s Ark is said to have come to rest.”  Frederic’s wife Isabella had given him a copy of this work for Christmas 1879. I confess I knew nothing about Strabo (Geography’s Herodotus) but my next discovery sealed my idea. I found that Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens to use his real name) made a visit to the Church’s just a few years after this and that Twain had referred to Strabo many times in his early successful work The Innocents Abroad. Furthermore, both Twain and the Churches had been touring the lands described by Strabo at almost exactly the same time but had never met. The die, as they say, was cast.

Twain was accompanied on his visit to Olana by his family and by Grace King, the southern novelist. Her description of his two elder daughters, Susy and Clara “More entrancing characters I have never met in my life” sparked me to research deeper into the story of these remarkable young ladies. Their loves, dreams and the personal tragedies they endured gave me the inspiration for the backstory of my heroine Eve.  Further research provided me with neat links to Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Peggy Guggenheim and Homer amongst others.

Letters to Strabo is therefore both a love story and a coming-of-age tale, set in the late 1970s that takes the form of a fictional odyssey recorded with disarming honesty by my protagonist, an innocent young American writer called Finn Black. His adventures, both funny and evocative, follow closely the itinerary taken by Twain on his own périplus around the Mediterranean a century earlier and are structured around the seventeen chapters of Strabo’s great work.  The amazing places Finn visits, the art and cultures he comes across and most importantly the people he meets are faithfully described by him for Eve, the Olana archivist, now his long-distance pen-pal. Eve’s replies, her Letters to Strabo as she calls them, however, not only reveal to Finn her own hopes and dreams but increasingly disturbing glimpses of a tragic past; a past that echoes that of Twain’s two daughters.

This proved a complex project and I greatly enjoyed the research but ultimately any novel must tell a story that captivates the reader. I therefore hope my story will both intrigue you and provide an opportunity for reflection on the doubts and dilemmas of youth. It’s deliberately rich, emotionally charged and at times intense, but also, I hope, ultimately spiritually uplifting and life-affirming. What else should a true love story be?

Letters To Strabo Cover

Adam Finnegan Black, or ‘Finn’, an innocent young American who is insatiably curious about life, made a promise to his mother before she died: To find out what really happened to his father…

His ambition is to be a travel writer, like his heroes: Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and the ancient Greek ‘father of geography’, Strabo. His journey of discovery takes him through the radiant literary, cultural and picturesque landscape of the Mediterranean.

Following his heart and inspired by Letters to Strabo, written by his long-distance pen-pal Eve, Finn gradually learns more about himself but also about the woman he hopes will one day become his wife.

Funny, provocative, disarmingly honest, Finn’s story captures the excitement and mistakes of youthful energy and proves ultimately life-affirming in the emergence of new hope from personal tragedy.

Quite simply one of the best coming-of-age novels you will ever read: Letters to Strabo will appeal to lovers of literary fiction, good travel writing and the classic works of Ernest Hemingway.

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Book Review “Lives of the Spirits” John Pappas

1801-02 on the wild Pacific Northwest Coast: At the village of Ozette, the spirits have determined that Aidan and Neveah must be exiled for six months. They are sent south to winter with the rich Chinooks near the mouth of the Colombia River and look forward to a comfortable few months together in the big lodge of Chief Comcomly. They could not have imagined the horrors awaiting them as they paddle their big canoe into the most feared curse of the times. People are dying and Aidan is seized by fear for his pregnant wife. There is only one escape–upriver. Aidan manages to put a disparate group together, including Josiah, a Virginia slave who looks too much like his famous father and who Comcomly planned to burn to rid his people of the curse. The group of 10 embark on a 200 mile odyssey up Big River to the Land of She Who Watches, into an unforgiving landscape of violence, suspicion and even friendship. They begin to feel safe, until Neveah is taken by raiders led by the most feared criminal of the region. Aidan is told the vicious Lesheen may not ransom Neveah because he likes pregnant women. To save her Aidan must face his own inner demons and immerse himself ever deeper into a spirit realm he fears. But even that doesn’t prepare him for the final shock and only path of escape. The last challenge is inevitable–he must confront the real curse maker.

Lives of the spirits cover

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I’d like to start this review with a quote from the book that I found both hilarious and profound in its wisdom.

“Tis often that a persons mouth broke his nose”

Aiden (Irish) is a man in his early twenties but his experiences paint him as a much older soul. I loved his respect for those with different cultures. I realize that a good portion of his interest was due to survival but I also felt Aiden took on a little piece of those identities. The friendships he makes and the love that he has for Neveah aren’t based on survival. His evolution and wisdom is part of what makes this story so compelling. He saw each person as a person and did all he could to do right by them. Aiden is a grade A guy and is now one of my favorite characters. 

The banter between him and Neveah is another one of my favorite parts of this book. Their relationship is beautiful. Their friends and lovers. They are what I think of when I imagine true love. Aiden was so considerate of her feelings throughout this entire book she is the center of everything that means anything to him. Aiden loves hard and his empathy is just another part of him that brings the reader deeper into the story. 

Pappas writing is passionate and it’s clear that each of his characters are deeply loved by him. I imagine him sitting at his computer with glistening tears when Neveah is captured and all that follows. I had to wipe away my fair share of tears and I felt so close to her after that. She’s still a bit mysterious but that event brings Neveah closer to the reader.

Pappas did amazing research for this book and it’s clear he wove history and fiction as close to as real as he could get. When I read novels like this, it’s important to me that the author stays close to what that time period was really like. I want to time travel to that time with your words. I want the people to look and act like they really would have. Pappas did an outstanding job. I came away feeling like I learned a lot and that’s exactly what I wanted.

I’ve put this book on my short list for paperback purchases. I’ve got a spot on my shelf waiting. 

5 stars!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: Lives of the Spirits | Series: N/A |  Author(s): John Pappas  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 3-6-2016 |Pages: 270 (Print) | ISBN:  B01CN3DQOI |Genre(s): Historical Fiction |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 4-22-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

John Pappas Author Pic

Born in Seattle to Irish, Scotch and Greek parents, at age nine John Pappas was launched on a ten year odyssey that took him to five states and the Territory of Alaska, where he began working construction and driving a truck at age fifteen. He has been a commercial fisherman, salesman, general contractor, tech writer, script writer, video producer and property manager and has loved stories from an early age. He’s written two technical books and dozens of articles and short stories.

As a teenager in the late 50’s he saw Cape Flattery for the first time from the deck of a 40 foot salmon troller. On that day in June he fell in love with the rugged Washington Coast and has spent many happy times there in boats and walking beach trails. This lead to an interest in the region’s early times and native culture, and the discovery of many obscure stories, such as the once-thriving village of Ozette. Some time later he wrote “When Wolf Comes,” based on true events and native legend, an adventure told through the eyes of a young Irishman’s epiphanous journey toward discovery and a woman’s love.

“That Dog Will Never Hunt,” written over a decade, is a dog book like no other. Twelve very different stories with a dog theme that pulls you into the times, places and hearts of real people and their dogs in surprising ways. From humorous to serious, hunters to best friends, set in contrasting places and situations.

Now available in Kindle (PC and Mac for Kindle, mobiles) is an expanded version of the popular “Aphrodite’s Food For The Gods,” a Greek cookbook that will offer the reader a window into an ethnic past with great authentic recipes, stories and thumbnails of a few Greek gods, plus some modern examples of how Greek cooking works with the different foods available in America and other countries.

JUST PUBLISHED: “Lives of the Spirits”, the sequel to “When Wolf Comes”, is now available exclusively on Amazon. I’ve been researching the Native part for some time, but there was more I wanted in this story and it’s finally done. Journey 200 miles up wild and treacherous Big River (Columbia) with Aidan, Neveah and the son Tom Jefferson wanted to exile forever. Please see the early reviews and also check the Editorial reviews on this many faceted adventure story. (Some of my readers have had difficulty placing reviews on Amazon so at their request I’ve placed them in “Editorial Reviews” which shoppers can access on the Review page by clicking More.

All reviews of books by John Pappas are posted on his site, orca11.com or johnanthonypappas.com

The Booklist – Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is my favorite genre. It’s the best of both worlds. The characters were/are real people and reading about them brings history alive in a way that textbooks just can’t. The fiction bit allows the author some room for speculation. It’s fun to see each authors take on the same historical characters. I think this genre keeps the past in the present and encourages people to look back and learn. It’s easy to forget the past when you don’t feel connected to it. Historical fiction allows it’s readers to connect with those long dead and breeds empathy for those who survived (or didn’t) some of the worst periods of our history. If we have no empathy for the horrors of the past are we bound to repeat them?

I hope you enjoy my selections! Never stop reading!

Beneath A Scarlet Sky Cover

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Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

A House Without Windows Cover

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For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Cover

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In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

The Glass Palace Cover

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The Glass Palace tells of Rajkumar, a poor boy lifted on the tides of political and social chaos, who creates an empire in the Burmese teak forest. During the British invasion of 1885, when soldiers force the royal family out of the Glass Palace and into exile, Rajkumar befriends Dolly, the woman whose love will shape his life. He cannot forget her, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her.

What is the What Cover

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What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children —the so-called Lost Boys—was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man.

Book list