Category Archives: historical

Interview with author C.G. Carey

Please welcome Chris Carey, author of Temporary Problems, to today’s author spotlight on Britbear’s Book Reviews.

Temporary Problems full coverFrom Goodreads:

John Fox has succeeded in a achieving a mundane life, the suburban house, the silver car, and the steady white-collar job. He doesn’t know anything is lacking, until he meets the woman who will be the love of his life, Sheri. Events conspire to separate the lovers, and in an attempt to avoid returning to the humdrum, John immerses himself in military life and ultimately the war in Afghanistan.

In Operation Herrick, John’s journey takes him from flying on secret Royal Navy helicopter missions, to eventually participating in ground combat operations with American Marines. He finds that war has its own allure of passion, terror, and humor, but at what cost?
Set in contemporary Britain and Afghanistan, Temporary Problems draws parallels between love and war, each having the power to heal and destroy.

Buy Temporary Problems at Black Rose Writing.

Hi, Chris. Wecome back to Britbear’s Book Reviews. Tell the readers–what was your inspiration behind Temporary Problems?

Do you know the saying that there is a book in all of us?  Temporary Problems was the story inside of me.  It’s a cliché answer, but it’s the truth.  The book mirrors my relationships with love and war and how they have both affected me.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read Temporary Problems?

I had written this for broad-spectrum appeal, and I think I came close to achieving that.  Most of the feedback from men and women has been positive but many agree it leans more towards a male audience.  It is written from a man’s perspective.

The story is entertaining enough for light reading, but it also supports the deeper messages.  There is coming of age, love, war, and even a bit of travel around Scotland.  On the military side, it is written from an unusual standpoint.

How much of Temporary Problems is based in reality?

That is very difficult to quantify, it ranges from total fabrication to near word-for-word diary entries. Some of the experiences were not my own, and almost everything in the book has been fictionalised to a greater or lesser degree.

The messages and feelings in the book are real.  Most of the events are based in reality.

There you go, a long and a short answer!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

It was in first grade, my father inspired me.

If you had to choose, which writer(s) would you consider a mentor? What is the most important lesson(s) you learned from reading his/her writing?

I usually read non-fiction and am not fixated on any particular author in that genre.  Of the fiction that I have read though, Tom Clancy is whom I have read most and so he must have influenced me a bit.  On this project, Bing West did provide some sage advice that I embraced.

I was fortunate to recently read a manuscript by Rodney Page.  That manuscript reminded me of some basic techniques for writing fiction, in particular methods to prevent over narration.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Yes!  Writing from the female perspective is particularly challenging for me.  I cannot count the number of times my wife laughed out loud at my attempts to write women’s thoughts and dialogue.  Seemingly, I don’t understand women too well.  Luckily I had a lot of much needed assistance with those parts.

How would you describe your writing style?

My wife strained to say, “contemporary, lively, and insightful.”  She’s the smart one.  I would call it rough, ready, and direct.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I have read all of my reviews and have thus far been able to reply to most of them. I am grateful to anybody who has taken the time to read my work and then taken even more time to review it.

At this stage, if somebody asks me a question, I’ll try and answer it, and then thank him or her.  If somebody is positive, I like to thank them.

[With regards to] advice for handling negative reviews?  I try to remember that peoples’ tastes in books are a lot like tastes in food and drink – they are all highly subjective.  Although I want everybody to like my book, some people will not.  Some suggestions I take on board, others I do not.  And then I thank them.

If the reviews are in a forum like Amazon or Goodreads, etc., I look forward to reading them, but unless asked directly by the reviewer to provide a comment, I plan to leave those forums to the readers.  The audience deserves to have their say without me chiming-in.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I can’t think of anything I would never write about, but I would have to find some aspect of it interesting.  I can laugh at most things and that opens up a lot of topics, although the end product may not be what people expect.

What’s your next writing project? Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’ve got a few ideas for my next book project, with two front runners.  I’m either going to write of my great-grandmother’s experiences around the time of the Russian Revolution, or a fast-paced military fiction piece set in the Middle East.

My great-grandma lived a very interesting life, especially early on, and my parents interviewed her in the early 1980s.  It might be my first attempt at a creative-nonfiction/memoir, as her story is incredible.  I may fictionalise it into a novel.  Either way it would also be an incredible challenge for me.  I mean, write a whole book from the female perspective?  Daunting.

I learned from this book where some of my strengths are as a writer.  Writing about the war, although emotionally difficult in places, was creatively easy for me.  The words almost wrote themselves.  I may write to my strengths and blow up Iran, ISIS, or maybe Detroit.

Thanks for the informative interview, Chris. Where can readers learn more about you and your writing?

Webpage | Facebook |

About Christopher Carey:

cgcarey-author-photoC.G. Carey grew up in California and is a lifelong Oakland As fan. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 17 as an Infantrymen and later attended university in Scotland. He commissioned into the U.S. Navy where he went on to fly in E-25 off of the Eisenhower, Royal Navy H-35 over Afghanistan, and serve with the U.S. Army in Iraq. His awards include some Air Medals and a Combat Action Badge. He retired to Virginia.

A Captivating Window into Time

Journey_of_an_American_Son_full_cover-3_copyIn Journey of an American Son, Ben Albert marries Catherine, goes to war, loses his left hand, and finds himself caught in an international web of deception, intrigue and murder. In this book, John Hazen employs a technique of dual narrative, following Ben’s story and Catherine’s in separate chapters. When Ben is framed for murder, Catherine must step in and take charge of the investigation in order to prove her husband innocent.

I liked Journey of an American Son. Though the dual narrative is awkward at first in that it tells of the journey of the so called “American son” in third person and his wife, Catherine, in first person, the choice to do this begins to make more sense midway through the novel when Catherine emerges as the true protagonist. In following Catherine, Hazen is able to portray the role of women in society just after the turn of the century with interest. But Catherine is no ordinary early twentieth century woman. Rather, she is a modern woman transplanted into an early twentieth century world, which is what makes her character so interesting.

Though I enjoyed Hazen’s novel, and found myself often immersed in the pages, I do wish there was a better balance between narrative and dialogue throughout. I would have also liked for the story to be a bit more streamlined to eliminate the overlap in narrative and the repetition throughout as a result of the dual narrative format.

That aside, Hazen’s Journey of an American Son provides the reader with a captivating window into a time when the economy was less global, people used snail mail, telegrams and land telephone lines to communicate, and, outside of fingerprinting, there was no such thing as forensics.  Hazen’s story documents the rocky path one immigrant family travels while trying to attain the American dream in the New World. In Journey of an American Son, whether or not the Albert family ultimately meets that elusive dream is subject to the reader’s interpretation.

Mamabear gives this book

four-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with author Joe Swope

Please join me in welcoming fellow Black Rose Writer Joe Swope to Britbear’s Book Reviews. Today I interview Joe and his novel, Pleasant Valley Lost for my author feature. 

swope pleasant valley coverFrom the Amazon description:

Set amid the turbulent times of the late 1960s, Pleasant Valley Lost chronicles the last days of a family dairy farm condemned to destruction by a federal dam project. As the family struggles to find a new home and build their future, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moves into Pleasant Valley, ruthlessly destroying a community and its history. Pleasant Valley Lost is based on the true story surrounding the author’s childhood farm. Originally part of the estate of Pennsylvania’s fifth governor, the farm had been in the Swope family since 1939 and was located in one of the most fertile areas of the region. Pleasant Valley Lost also recounts the family’s long- suffering devotion to baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies. Following many years of losing seasons, the Phillies finally provided cause for celebration when they claimed their first World Series title in 1980. Today, Pleasant Valley and the Swope farm are submerged under the Blue Marsh Dam.

Buy Pleasant Valley Lost by Joseph J. Swope at Black Rose Writing.

Welcome, Joe.

Your website describes Pleasant Valley Lost as “a work of narrative non-fiction, a family memoir written in the format of a traditional novel”. What inspired you to write about this topic?

Our historic family farm, handed down from my grandfather to my father, was originally part of the estate of Pennsylvania’s fifth governor. Our farm was in the heart of Pleasant Valley, an agricultural community with roots that dated into the early 1700s. In the early 1960s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designated the area as the site of a federal dam project. The Corps allowed the area to hang in uncertainty for more than a decade, but when they did begin the condemnation and acquisition proceedings, they did so ruthlessly and heartlessly. The Corps did their best to erase the history of the community. I’ve been trying to find the right way to tell this story for more than 30 years. Finally, in 2013, a local gallery ran an exhibit on the lost landscape beneath the Blue Marsh Dam that drew record crowds. At that point, I finally found the voice I needed to tell the story this region deserved.

Your homepage displays some amazing photographs and paintings. Can you talk a little bit about the selection process for the graphics on your site?

I’ve been really fortunate in locating the images that represent the Pleasant Valley region. The watercolor painting of our farm, which is also on the cover of the book, was done by a local artist in the early 1970s when it was clear the area was doomed to destruction. The painting has graced my mother’s living room wall for more than 40 years. There’s an aerial photo of the farm, which I didn’t even know existed until the gallery exhibit.

I also have a pretty extensive photographic background, and it’s come in handy. A number of photographs from the farm were in pretty bad shape until I copied and enhanced them. I also took a number of original images as part of my master’s degree project on the American independent farmer, and they’re represented on my website as well.

Your story sounds like an incredible personal journey. What about the characters you created. Are they fictional or based in reality? Talk a bit about the character you describe as a “mentally-challenged handyman”.

Adam was indeed real. He came to our farm at about the same time I was born and lived with my parents into the 1990s. Adam is an amazingly complex character and represented one of the real challenges in writing my book. He was incredibly strong, gruff and rough-hewn, but capable of surprising acts of kindness. There’s a scene in the book – which is based on a real incident – where my younger brother is attacked by a hive of bees far from the farmhouse. Adam carried him from deep in the fields to the house, reassuring him the entire time.

The real difficult aspect of portraying Adam was his language. When my 81-year-old mother read the first draft of my book, she asked: “Can you use words like that in a book?” Then, she acknowledged that “Adam never did say a sentence without swearing.” Adam’s profanity – in both English and Pennsylvania Dutch – was an integral part of my childhood and his relationship with my family, especially my father. You just can’t realistically portray Adam without swearing  nearly every other word. It may become a sticking point with some readers, but there was no other way to paint a realistic picture of him.

It’s great that you stayed true to his character.

You describe the late 60s and early 70s as “turbulent times”. What did you experience during this time (besides the events chronicled in the book) that lead you to describe the time period this way?

My parents weren’t particularly political, but there was no way to escape the realities of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Nixon and Watergate, the suburbanization of America that led to the decline of the inner cities . . . there was no escaping the cataclysmic shifts taking place in the United States and across the world. It was the first time that the definition of what was “right” was subject to argument, and it seeped through every part of society: in school, in church, at home. Pleasant Valley Lost isn’t directly about these cultural shifts, but they are used as a backdrop to the events occurring in our community.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? What’s the first thing you remember writing about?

I was fortunate to discover my love of writing early. As early as sixth and seventh grade, my writing skills began to shine. By eighth grade, I had fully learned the power of words. We had a demerit system in our school, and one of our teachers would come into class and read off a list of students with the number of demerits each had received. It was a ridiculous number – some received 30 or 40 demerits at a time without explanation. So I wrote a parody story for the school newspaper that turned the demerit system into a race, listing the leaders and their strategies for winning. The story got censored, but the system got changed. That was when I knew I could make a difference with words.

Talk a bit about your career as a public relations professional, educator and writer and how (or if) it’s influenced your writing.

I always wanted a career where my writing skills played a major role, and the public relations profession has been the perfect avenue. One of the best things about a public relations career is that I never have two days that are the same. I think my career as a PR professional and my adjunct university teaching efforts have influenced my writing in complementary ways, since in many cases I’m teaching at night what I practice during the day.

A couple of specific lessons come through in my writing style. First, be clear and to the point. There’s an old journalistic axiom that says: “The Declaration of Independence, the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and the Gettysburg Address are all less than 1500 words.” In fact, the Gettysburg Address is less than 300 words. You can say a lot in a short amount of time.

Second, bring your scene to life. You very quickly learn that the man wasn’t driving a car fast. Instead, a 37-year-old clean-shaven white man with medium-length brown hair was driving a red 2007 Chevrolet Impala at over 80 miles per hour. Details are everything.

Third, satisfy the reader with an appropriate ending. I’ve always found that I can’t write a story without having the beginning and the end. I’ll figure out the middle along the way.  But too many great ideas go unfulfilled. One of the things about journalism and public relations is you tell the end of the story up right up front. You tell readers what happened, then go back and explain why in the trusty inverted pyramid style of writing. I don’t write my books that way, but it does remind me of the importance of the ending!

That’s great advice.

You recently posted on Facebook that your publisher, Black Rose Writing reported that Pleasant Valley Lost has shattered all of the previous pre-order records for sales on their website. What marketing tactics did you use that helped you to accomplish this amazing feat?

While my campaign was a solid public relations campaign, I really didn’t do anything remarkable.  The biggest thing that contributed to the success of Pleasant Valley Lost is that it has tremendous appeal to those who remember the area before the dam. As I mentioned earlier, the gallery display in 2013 attracted record crowds and had to be extended three weeks to accommodate the demand. One of the great things about Berks County, Pennsylvania is that its residents take great pride in local history, and a number of people have thanked me for this contribution.

That being said, I launched a Facebook author page, a website and promoted Pleasant Valley Lost on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google+. One thing that most people don’t recognize about Google+ is that it significantly helps your search ratings on Google (marketing secret revealed!).

I had bookmarks printed and distributed them freely, trying to enhance word of mouth. I shot a short video trailer that I’ve received a lot of compliments about as being genuine and heartfelt. That’s on YouTube and linked to all my other social channels.

I also have a good relationship with a number of local media, and I received coverage on the local community access channel as well as a chain of weekly newspapers. The biggest boost, however, was a section-front story in the Reading Eagle, the daily newspaper in Berks County. They focused on the local history angle, and the story came out three days before the book’s release. The tremendous coverage served as an amazing catalyst for the launch of the book.

That’s amazing. I think the print media and press are great tools that so many of us either forget about, or have difficulty accessing.

Another of your Facebook posts says it took you two years to see Pleasant Valley Lost from start to finish. Describe your writing process for us.

I have to ruminate on my story for a long time before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). As I mentioned earlier, I have to know my beginning and ending before I start, plus some vague direction of how I’ll get from A to B. I have a lot of handwritten notes laying all over the place, then I finally sit down and start writing. One of the things I discovered in writing a book was there was too much to keep in my head (old age, I guess), so I started doing a chapter outline, which grew and grew as the book progressed. It kept me on track.

The thing about Pleasant Valley Lost is it actually took much longer to write than two years. I started writing about Pleasant Valley in my freshman year in college, and there’s a couple of lines from that initial essay that made it into the book. I did a lot of research on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an Environment Science class, and more when I wrote my master’s degree project. After graduating from college, I wrote several pieces on the Blue Marsh Dam for local newspapers and magazines. I started a book numerous times, but never could get very far.

After the gallery exhibit, which actually used a number of materials I had collected, I started again. I made two major decisions that made the book work. First, I decided to write in first person (which I NEVER do!) to give the story the intimacy and emotion it deserved. Second, I compressed the time frame to focus primarily on 1968 to 1972. The book actually extends to 1980 (the dam was completed in 1979), but the major action takes place in four years. It took me 37 years to get it right, but I finally had a vision that worked!

What research did you have to do while writing Pleasant Valley Lost? What is the most interesting thing you learned as a result of your research?

I actually needed to do a ton of research. As I mentioned, I had extensively researched the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and discovered that Pleasant Valley was not the only victim of their voracious appetite to flood America. They have left a string of questionable dam projects that have destroyed communities across the country.

In writing the book, I had to go back and research the events of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a history-changing time – the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy; the election of Richard Nixon as president and the subsequent Watergate scandal; Vietnam; the civil rights movement; the first Moon landing . . .All these things happened in the timeframe of my book.

The second thing that took some work was the cultural changes across the country. There’s one scene that depicts New Year’s Eve 1968 leading into 1969. Who was on TV that year? Guess what, it wasn’t Dick Clark. It was Guy Lombardo and his big band. When did suburban shopping malls begin to carve into the shopping meccas of the inner cities? My mother is a devout Catholic – when did Saturday night Mass start? Again, all these things came into place during that timeframe, and I tried to get as much right as possible.

What’s next for Joe Swope, author? Tell us about your current work in progress.

Well, as usual, I have multiple projects and not enough time to tackle them. I’m working on a children’s book , something that I’ve always wanted to do since I have six kids ranging from ages 5-24 I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life, so I’ve recruited my oldest daughter, an artist and architect, to illustrate it.

I’ve also been approached by a publisher of professional books to consider writing a book on public relations practice for beginners. I’m on the outline stage of that project.

I have a fantasy book in various stages of construction and a pretty solid outline for a science fiction novel. Fantasy and Sci-Fi have always been my first loves, so at some point, I want to re-visit those genres.  I also have an idea of a re-telling of the Arthurian legend.

Finally, I’d love to re-visit Pleasant Valley one day and write a prequel. I’d call it Pleasant Valley Alive and show the community while it was flourishing, before the entrance by the Corps of Engineers. But I have to interview people soon. Most of the people who remember Pleasant Valley at its height are in their 80s and 90s, and won’t be around forever. My uncle will turn 97 this spring. He’s still sharp as a tack. He’d be a great resource.

So all in all, I have enough projects for the next 10 years. Now just to find the time.

Best of luck with Pleasant Valley Lost and all of your future endeavours, Joe. How can interested readers discover more about you and you work?

| Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest |

Amazon Author Page |  Goodreads |

About Joe Swope (from Amazon Author Page):

swope author picJoseph J. Swope has been writing both fiction and non-fiction since high school. Swope has enjoyed an award-winning career in public relations spanning more than 30 years in both higher education and corporate settings.

He is currently the Communications Manager for UGI Utilities, Inc., a natural gas and electric utility based in Reading, PA. Swope has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Alvernia University since 1982.

Pleasant Valley Lost is Swope’s first book, and it chronicles the last days of his historic family farm before its condemnation and acquisition for a federal dam project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Swope farm and the rest of Pleasant Valley eventually became the Blue Marsh Dam in 1979.

The story also documents the family’s long-suffering devotion to the woebegone Philadelphia Phillies of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a loyalty that finally paid off in a World Championship in 1980.

Swope is a lifelong resident of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and he and his family reside outside Bernville, just a few miles from the Blue Marsh Dam. He never visits the complex.

 

 

 

Welcome Indie Lights Book Parade Author Jaima Fixsen

Incognita, by historical romance writer Jaima Fixsen

incognita

Jilted and faced with returning to the battlefields of Spain, Captain Alistair Beaumaris is quite sure his life can’t get any worse. Then he mistakes a perfectly respectable widow for a female of a much more interesting variety, and discovers he was wrong—on both counts. 

Incognita is the second book in the Fairchild series, which chronicles an aristocratic family in Regency England. The first book, Fairchild, tells the story of Sophy, Lord Fairchild’s illegitimate daughter, who must carve her way through a world that has no place for her. Incognita, the second book, follows Sophy’s rejected suitor, a Captain in the British army during the peninsular war: his unconventional love story and the complex web of relationships in the Fairchild family.

Here’s letter from the conflicted and lonely Lady Fairchild, not included in the novel, that she writes (but is too proud to send!) to Sophy, her estranged step-daughter, in the midst of Alistair’s troubles.

From the correspondence of Lady Fairchild

Dear Sophy, 

I’ve written you so many letters I can hardly close my desk—they slide over each other, ramming against the top of the drawer—but I never send them so they sit here, getting battered about the corners. I’ve started even more that I can’t finish, and they end up in the fire. 

It shouldn’t be this hard. What I want to say is, I’m sorry. For not loving you from the first, when you lost your mother and came to my home, and then, when you became like a daughter to me, for not loving you well. I should have listened, when you told me you loved Tom and couldn’t marry Alistair. I just wanted to keep you close and see you settled happily. Alistair seemed the best chance for both. 

Now I’m less certain. He was broken hearted for a week or two, but now he’s tangled up with a Widow with Problems. I don’t see it ending well at all. He feels though, more than you think. It’s a sad tangle. 

Are you happy with Tom? Is he good to you? It’s hard, imagining you married to a stranger. I wish I knew how you are faring, that I’d listened, and held your hand as you drove to church for your wedding. The chance for that is gone, but if I could convince you that I only ever had your best interests at heart…I’d like to see you, in your home, with your new husband. I’d like to be your friend, if you will let me. I’m not good at apologies, or at starting over, but I want to try. 

Is Tom kind? Does he smile at you and tell you to stay off high-tempered horses? I hope you listen. You’ve had enough scrapes of that kind. 

London is empty with you gone. I miss you. 

With affection,

Georgiana

Buy Incognita by Jaima Fixsen on Amazon.

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