Talon Series #2: Assassins Of Alamut Is A Multi-Dimensional Novel Of The Crusades

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This is my second post in the “James Boschert’s Talon Series”. To read my other post so far, more information on the other books, and upcoming posts in the series, please visit my “James Boschert’s Talon Series” page at the top.

James Boschert’s first novel, Assassins Of Alamut, takes place in the 12th Century. Immeshed in the Crusades, it is the story of Talon, a young Frank who is captured by the Ismaili Muslims, themselves hunted by the Sunni and Shi’a. He is raised as a Ismaili, and trains to become a Hashshashin (Assassin), utilized by the Ismaili to defend themselves.

As Talon moves up the ranks, he develops skills only master assassins have. He slowly starts to realize, however, that there is treachery among the assassins, and he must defend himself, his friend Reza, and his forbidden love Rav’an from the traitors that lurk behind every shadow in the Holy Land.

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Alamut Region. Credit Here.

Boschert’s first novel is a rare one because he has experienced first-hand this region, can speak Farsi, and knows Persian history like the back of his hand. He also can connect to Talon’s plight in the assassin community because he is a Brit who explored this region, not a native. His dual connection to both sides of this book brings it to life like none other.

The book’s length may be daunting to some readers, but it is well paced, with detail that absorbs us but allows for great action scenes. Also, this is not purely historical fiction nor military history; it combines both to make multi-dimensional characters and the events and locales around them.

Assassins of Alamut is executed perfectly, great for readers of historical fiction and military history both. It brings a new dimension to the time period of the Crusades, with personal experience tied with great accumulated knowledge of the period.

Next will come my review of the sequel, Knight Assassin.

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James Boschert~ Author

James Boschert grew up in the then colony of Malaya between the ages of four and eleven. The Chinese communists were active in the jungles at the time threatening the entire country with a cruel insurgency. His school was burned down and the family survived the ambush of a food convoy, saved by a patrol of Gurkha soldiers. He joined the British army as a boy soldier and later served in remote places like Borneo, Oman and other countries of the Middle East, eventually spending several years in Iran. While there he explored the castles of the infamous sect known as the Ismaili or Hashashini. It sometimes took a few days hard walking or driving to find these remote deserted fortresses high in the mountains of the Alborz in northern Iran. They eventually became the subject matter for his first book “The Assassins of Alamut” Escaping from the turmoil of Iran during the revolution he went to college and now lives in the USA.

He has developed a fascination for medieval history in general but in particular the history of the Middle East, Andalusia, Egypt and all the way to India. His books are historical novels about the medieval history of the same region but seen from both perspectives, that of the Crusaders and the Muslim world. “I believe that in order to put some depth to the Crusades one needs to look at what was going on all around them at the same time. I find the world at that time incredibly rich in every aspect.”

“The four legs of civilization as we have recorded it, Andalusia, Europe, Byzantium and the old empires of Persia and the Islamic world of Syria and Egypt make a rich backdrop for any novel.”

“The politics and under currents of the Middle East continue to hold my attention as they are always in flux and are never still.”

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Ukrainian Crisis: The Reason Why Putin Calling Eastern Ukraine “Novorossiya” Is Worrisome

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Credit Here.

To most, hearing the term “Novorossiya” would elicit a “What?” But in the crisis currently occurring, it is yet another eerie reminder of the Soviet and Czarist Russia age coming back.

For historical background, Novorossiya, or New Russia, was the region encompassing Ukraine and some of its neighbors back when it was conquered by Catherine the Great in the 18th Century. Queen Catherine took it during the Russo-Turkish War, and it was part of Russia until the Bolsheviks granted it to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922.

In a nearly four-hour Q&A Thursday, President Vladimir Putin called this region “Novorossiya”, which was a term that had not been used to describe this region in nearly 90 years. “It’s new Russia,” he said, adding,

“Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in czarist times, they were transferred in 1920. Why? God knows.”

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Credit Here.

Some voiced worry that Putin freely using this term means that he is embracing the idea of the Eurasian Union as an actual reinstatement of the Soviet Union, as I have been warning for over 2 months now. This includes the Polish Defense Minister, and other officials in NATO and the UN.

Yet, Putin seriously believes that what he is doing is best for Russia. At one time we were promised,” Putin said, “that after Germany’s unification, NATO wouldn’t spread eastward.”

He continued:

“Our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this. Needless to say, first and foremost we wanted to support the residents of Crimea. But we also followed certain logic: if we don’t do anything, Ukraine will be drawn into NATO sometime in the future. We’ll be told, ‘This doesn’t concern you’ and NATO ships will dock in Sevastopol, the city of Russia’s naval glory.”

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Credit Here.

As I have stressed many times before, we need to reinstate anti-missile defense systems in Poland right now. No questions asked, I call on NATO, President Obama, and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to do this immediately. I am talking about the European Intercepter System, which, if Russia feels so inclined to escalate its Eurasian Union goal to take over Poland, will defend our greatest ally in East Europe. For right now, though, they would act as a deterrent to Putin and the Russian Government.

I could of sworn we ended this war yesterday.

Ukrainian Crisis: Turning Point In Eastern Provinces

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Armed Pro-Russian Demonstrators Sunday. REUTERS

Ukraine announced that it will deploy troops to the eastern provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv today, April 13th, if pro-Russian demonstrators do not surrender. It is being called a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” to push back attacks by pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine by Ukraine’s Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov in an address.

After the speech, the ousted former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych accused the CIA of setting up the planned operation. The CIA Director John Brennan straight up denies the accusation, with his spokesperson saying the “claim that Director Brennan encouraged Ukrainian authorities to conduct tactical operations inside Ukraine is completely false.”

Sunday morning, Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists exchanged fire outside a city in eastern Ukraine, leaving one security officer dead and 5 wounded. This is the first deadly encounter in the eastern oblasts, which comes after armed separatists took multiple government buildings last week.

These “pro-Russian demonstrators” are outfitted the same exact way as the ones who took over Crimea, which then Russia annexed. The State Department (@StateDept) tweeted “Militants in eastern Ukraine were equipped with Russian weapons and same uniforms as those worn by Russian forces that invaded Crimea.” The international community is worried that this may end up the same way.

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REUTERS

To address this situation, the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting at 8 PM April 13th. The US Mission to The UN (@USUN) tweeted, “@AmbassadorPower and the @UN Security Council to hold emergency consultations on #Ukraine at 8 p.m. ET tonight.” This will be an open meeting in New York. Previously to this Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, had his spokesperson issue a statement. “The Secretary-General stresses that further disturbances will not serve the interests of any side. He therefore appeals to all sides to work towards calming the situation, adhere to the rule of law and exercise maximum restraint,” said the statement.

Vice President Biden will also be traveling to Kiev on April 22nd. Biden “will underscore the United States’ strong support for a united, democratic Ukraine that makes its own choices about its future path,” the White House said in a statement.

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REUTERS

Russia has 40K+ troops ready for an invasion into eastern Ukraine at a moment’s notice. If this occurs, it would become undifficult for Putin to take Kiev, and the entire nation. As I have stressed in previous articles, an action needed to be taken by NATO would be to reinstate Anti-Missile Defense Systems in Poland along its Russian and Ukrainian borders.

We must wait and see how this will play out. If the pro-Russian demonstrators do not surrender by 1 AM EST Monday, the anti-terrorism operation will occur, under orders of Kiev. This may be met with Russian aggression, and, in my predictions, these oblasts may either schedule votes or be militarily taken by Russia by Wednesday.

Talon Series #1: First Interview With James Boschert On His Life Stretching From Malaysia To The Mideast

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James Boschert

James Boschert, the author of the Talon Series (Assassins Of Alamut, Knight Assassin, Assassination In Al Qahirah, and Greek Fire) is joining us today for an interview. We will have this interview focus on he as a person, and then I will be reviewing his Talon Series, and finally we will have a closing interview focused on the books and his writing to end the blog post series.

Welcome James Boschert to Seize The Moment today for our first interview. How are you?

Hello Nassem, I am well. Good to talk to you. I appreciate the time you are taking for this interview.

I love foreign policy and affairs, and you have lived all over the world, which fascinates me. I hope to follow a path in foreign affairs to reach the Presidency, and so I am eager to learn more about you and your life. Let’s jump right in!

You were born in Malaya when it was a British colony. I understand that while you were there, in the early 1950’s, the Chinese Communist Insurgency was fighting the British in an early example of guerrilla warfare. You also narrowly escaped an ambush after your school was burnt down by the CCO, being saved by Gurkhas. When you look back on this time, do you try to forget its horrors, or do you embrace it as a learning experience?

I recall that the jungle was somewhat menacing because the Chinese were there and we did hear a lot of bad stories so there was a kind of wariness wherever you went between the British and the rest of the people.Odd as it may seem I don’t remember being frightened too much although on one or two occasions it was exciting! During the ambush I was tossed into a crude dirt ditch on the bank side if the road and was there on my hands and knees in two inches of dirty water watching everything with wide open eyes. The Gurkhas were very busy blazing away into the jungle on both sides of the road but the man who interested me most was the Bren gunner who was just ten feet up from me. So I paddled up to him and before anyone could stop me I was standing just behind him peering over his shoulder as he crouched in the same ditch and fired bursts into the jungle below. He was a typical Gurkha, fighting was in his nature so he glanced back at me and began to laugh and called over to his mates. Then the others noticed and laughed too. My mother was having fits further down but she had a pistol out and I am really sure she was not new to this kind of thing, she had been in France during the war and got tangled up with the resistance.The main impression I came away with from that encounter was the sheer excitement, the smell of sweat, the shouting and the sound of the gunfire and the lazy curve of the red tracer from the Bren gun as it went into the jungle below. It was all over within a few minutes after that and we were escorted home.

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I know that you feel British, but was it difficult living thousands of miles from London? I know that for much of the time you were there it was British-controlled, but was there really a major English population among the people?

No the British population was not large. It consisted mainly of Rubber estate managers who were bumped off quite regularly by the CCO with most of the rest being professionals such as lawyers, doctors and people like my father who worked for the government in agriculture. There were of course a lot of soldiers about. There is no doubt that the British enjoyed a privileged status in the colony of Malaya but unlike Africa this country had a King (Agong) and a Sultan in nominal charge of each of the states. Hence the British were very careful to work with these people so that at least the illusion was maintained that the Malays were in charge. I barely knew the UK so this was home. I played with Chinese, Malay and Indian children who lived around our own home which was a large bungalow. These were the more wealthy people it is true but the Ama ( the maid servant who looked after the children) the Kaboon ( the gardener) and the cook were Malay, Tamil and Chinese respectively. We colonial brats were always respectful to them or…we got punished by our parents.

You joined the British Army at age 15, as still a very young man. Was this in accordance with rules, or did you sign up earlier than you were supposed to? Also, did your experiences discussed in question 1 influence your application to the British Army?

When my father was sent home from Malaya because it declared Merdeka (Independence in 1958) he bought a sheep farm in Wales. I put up with the silly, wet and wooly animals for as long as I could but I was ruined. I didn’t like the cold wet gray country . I was spoiled by the sun and color of Malaya you see. Despite the dangers there it was home. I thought the Army might be a good place to start and yes it was legal then. The British Army understood full well the advantage of training boys. While they know every trick in the books as to how to get out of fatigues duties they become very good soldiers.

As a soldier, you first were posted in your birthplace of the now nation of Malaysia. We in the West often do not here about that region of the world, other than currently because of Missing Flight 370, which took off from Kuala Lumpur. Did you encounter many of Malaysia’s diverse cultures while stationed there, and were these different than other soldiers who did not grow up there?

Bit of an irony that wasn’t it? Straight back to the country where I had grown up. Yes because I spoke Malay and felt perfectly comfortable there. The soldiering was new and Borneo was shall we say interesting as we lived rough for months on end the we would come back to Penang which was like a paradise. In 1964 the country was just about finished with the CCO( Chinese Communists) although we did go into the jungle to look for them on occasion in the north east remote areas of jungle where tigers lived. Malaya was a fairly sleepy country with the Malays in charge , the middle class and professionals were mainly Chinese with a sprinkling of Indians. It was an uneasy relationship that on occasion went very badly for the Chinese when the Malays decided that they wanted to put them in their place. There were a mix at the bottom of Chinese coolies and Tamils who did all the hard labor, building and roads. Malays are Muslem of the Sunni kind but it was a fairly benign form of Islam and very tolerant of other faiths in the country but that has begun to change unfortunately.

The economy depended almost entirely on the Tin mining and rubber plantations but also the industrious Chinese who ran most of the businesses and were quite determined to send their children to other countries like Britain and America for education. Lawyers and doctors. The Sultans played polo and the Agong or king ruled for five years after which one of the other sultans assumed the role. Oil had not been discovered as yet.

You then served in Oman, which wasn’t part of the British Empire but was heavily influenced by it. How did this experience differ from your previous one in Malaysia?

Oman was really my first experience of the Middle East and it was quite a change from the jungle war in Borneo and we had to get used to a different way of fighting. The British were there because Yemen was experimenting with Communism and our old friends the Chinese communists were there making a nuisance of themselves. So this was all about a very small force of Brits (Who were officially not there ) lending a hand training and help to an Omani force that was really tribesmen who were fighting for the Sultan. It got hairy at times because the tribes were on both sides of the border. One could not always be sure. One of our missions was called “Heart and Minds” where we would go into a village and help with medical issues and with wells. The country was firmly back in the 16th century and the young sultan wanted it to change. The Communists would come in at night and intimidate the villagers. In the end the Omani had enough trained men and the Iranians came along to help. It was there that I learned that goats are the best spies a village has. The Chinese and Russians packed up, went home and left Oman alone. It was a success from that point of view.

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I understand that you then spent time in the Middle East, in countries including Lebanon, Israel, and Iran. Do you think that society in the West has misconceptions when it comes to this region, especially Iran? Were there any times where you experienced “culture shock”?

I think that if I had not grown up in Malaya I might have suffered from culture shock but in the main I was pretty adaptable. One of the reasons I was kept out there might have been because I liked it on the main. I hated going back to the UK so I stayed. There used to be a huge variety of cultures in that whole region. Lebanon I remember with fondness. It is a beautiful country and everyone got along despite their religious differences. Israel was fascinating because the people there were Kibbutzim and this was their home. These people in the main had no quarrel with the Arab people but were equally determined to keep what they had. I think it was here that I began to appreciate how many shades of gray there are in the region known as the Middle East but that extends to Iran and Afghanistan too. Nothing is simply black or white and it is naive to think so but sadly many people in the west do just that and as a result confuse things causing real damage in the process. I became quite fascinated with the history of the entire region, The Arab culture, Persian, Byzantine and all in between and believe that if you know the middle ages i.e. 11th-12th century history it gives one an insight into the place today. Not an awful lot has changed in some ways.

Your passion for the hashshashins (assassins) came during your time in the Middle East,visiting the old castles in the Alborz mountains. How did you first find out about the assassins, and what about them peaked the interest you obviously have for them?Have you been back at any recent time?

That is a good question. I found a book called the Castles of the Assassins by Freyda Stark and realized that I was very close to the very mountains where they were located. The Alborz you mentioned. I was with a tank battalion in a town called Ghazvin which is about 150 miles north west of Teheran. I obtained a good map and set out on my time off to find them. The hospitality of the villages which I had to walk through because the jeep couldn’t always get there was wonderful. I visited all of them. Semiral, Alamut, and spend the night on top of the rock of Alamut. During the night which was warm and starlit I woke up to hear a terrible wailing and rattling from up the valley. My hair must have stood on end. The noise came rushing down the steep valley and swept over me then rattled and wailed off down the valley. I didn’t sleep another wink and the next day the Rais of the village asked me rather pointedly if I had slept well. I told him about the wind and he gave me a half smile and said “Ah the ghosts of Mayan Diz came to visit you.” I subsequently discovered that the Mongols had slaughtered a great number of Hashashini or Ismaili in a location called Mayum Diz not too far off after they invaded Iran. No I have not been back since sadly but I think sometimes it is not always the best thing to do.

When the Iranian Revolution of 1978 (mainly known in the US for the Iranian Hostage Crisis) really picked up steam, you escaped from Iran. What did that entail, and did you find it unfortunate to have to leave, especially as the country was being taken over by radicals?

I had been in Shiraz when the riots began and then the revolution started in earnest. I was told by a man whom I admire to this day and will never forget, General Esphandiary, the garrison commander of Shiraz, that the revolution was going to happen and that I should get things sorted in Teheran and then leave the country. He told me that it would be a bloody one and was no place for me. I heard much later that he had been shot. Then it became a scramble for a lot of Europeans to leave but I got to Teheran after the last planes had left and that meant an overland treck for me. As a British soldier I would not have had a good time of it and in fact several of my colleagues were imprisoned. I got out across the Turkish border just south of Tabriz. That too was interesting.

After all of this, you became an engineer. What sector of engineering did you specialize in, and what caused you to take that path?

I had few options open to me when I got back to the UK. I could have gone to Rhodesia or Angola, they were looking for ex soldiers like me. Then a tiny ad caught my attention and I went to a college where I signed up and from there it was a total change of life and one that I never regretted. Few of my friends came back from places like Angola. I became a mechanical engineer but here in America that can become an adventure in of itself. I eventually became a program manager and worked on some very cool projects over here. It was a good move.

What do you consider the greatest place you have lived? Do you still travel often? Any that have inspired future book ideas?

I would still be living in Iran had there not been a revolution I really didn’t want to go back to the cold and the wet. I was moved about the whole region from Lebanon to Afghanistan and related to it entirely. I could have passed as an Irani or Pashtoon and spoke Farsi so it was where I wanted to be. No I don’t travel very much any more. I like Arizona, in some ways it resembles that region…arid, mountainous. It is America for me now without question.

We will be discussing Mr. Boschert’s writing in our next interview, after reviews of the Talon Series come. Thank you Mr. Boschert for answering these questions so informatively and with such fervor. I look forward to our next interview!

I want to thank you Nassem for your thoughtful questions. I have enjoyed this interview a great deal.

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James Boschert~ Author Of Talon Series
James Boschert grew up in the then colony of Malaya between the ages of four and eleven. The Chinese communists were active in the jungles at the time threatening the entire country with a cruel insurgency. His school was burned down and the family survived the ambush of a food convoy, saved by a patrol of Gurkha soldiers. He joined the British army as a boy soldier and later served in remote places like Borneo, Oman and other countries of the Middle East, eventually spending several years in Iran. While there he explored the castles of the infamous sect known as the Ismaili or Hashashini. It sometimes took a few days hard walking or driving to find these remote deserted fortresses high in the mountains of the Alborz in northern Iran. They eventually became the subject matter for his first book “The Assassins of Alamut” Escaping from the turmoil of Iran during the revolution he went to college and now lives in the USA.

He has developed a fascination for medieval history in general but in particular the history of the Middle East, Andalusia, Egypt and all the way to India. His books are historical novels about the medieval history of the same region but seen from both perspectives, that of the Crusaders and the Muslim world. “I believe that in order to put some depth to the Crusades one needs to look at what was going on all around them at the same time. I find the world at that time incredibly rich in every aspect.”

“The four legs of civilization as we have recorded it, Andalusia, Europe, Byzantium and the old empires of Persia and the Islamic world of Syria and Egypt make a rich backdrop for any novel.”
The politics and under currents of the Middle East continue to hold my attention as they are always in flux and are never still.”

Visit James Boschert’s Website.
For More Information On The Talon Series: James Boschert’s Talon Series

Ukrainian Crisis: Escalation In Eastern Ukraine

 

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Pro-Russian Protester Monday. Credit Here.

On the night of April 6th, Pro-Russian Groups seized military arms and declared one province of Ukraine a separatist republic. These are the largest moves made since March in the ongoing crisis between Kiev, Moscow, and the West.

The overnight takeover of 3 cities in eastern Ukraine looks eerily like how the events in Crimea played out, and that is Kiev’s position as well. The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseny Yatseniuk, said Monday, ” An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation … under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country…We will not allow this.”

These separatists, after taking the cities of Kharkiv, Lugansk, and Donetsk, demand that referendums be held, like those in Crimea weeks ago, on whether or not to join Russia. If these lands join Russia, which could happen by the beginning of May, would be a loss of land equal to the size of South Carolina, and would be another step closer for Putin to take Kiev.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, that the US is watching the events in Ukraine with great caution, and any further steps to destabilize the region would “incur further costs for Russia.”

Kerry “called on Russia to publicly disavowed the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs” in Ukraine, the Department of State said. He and Lavrov will be discussing peace talks between Ukraine, Russia, the US, and the EU coming in 10 days.

It is presumed that Russia will, if it decides to annex these oblasts, take them like they did Crimea. Already we have seen the similar first step: “Pro-Russian Protesters” taking government buildings. The 40K+ Russian troops who are already on the border between Russia and Ukraine have been outfitted with quick-movement arms, which means they could seize these oblasts with minimal cost to life.

EasternEuropeMap updated

Black Dots: Where Anti-Missile Systems Should Be Placed By NATO. Created by Nassem Al-Mehairi.

We have an option that we can take right now. I want more, stronger sanctions too, but I am going to focus on another course of action we can take. These oblasts, unfortunately, will probably be annexed into Russia. We can, however, reinstate missile defense systems in Poland and put them in Romania. Both of these nations are NATO members, and understand the dangers of letting Putin take Ukraine.These anti-missile systems would draw a line where Putin must stop, where he cannot go without further, much harsher consequences. We then must use sanctions and diplomacy to try to save Ukraine before it is too late.

To Live Forever By Andra Watkins Is A Genre-Bending Debut About The Life, Legacy, and Destiny Of Meriwether Lewis

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I went into reading this book a little apprehensive. I do not usually like anything supernatural, but I soon realized that To Live Forever by Andra Watkins was not focused on that, but on a really interesting story intertwining the 1800’s and the 1970’s.

Meriwether Lewis has been stuck in Nowhere since his death, a mystery whether a suicide or murder, about 170 years ago. Enter Emmaline Cagney: A 9-year-old girl from New Orleans who has just been caught up in a nasty divorce between her parents, and her mother happens to be a madam (mother promoting prostitution) who tries to sell Emmaline out. Em is Merry Lewis’ last hope for redemption, and so he must get her to her father in Nashville.

There is one problem: To do this, Lewis must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he must confront old foes and old sins if he is to save Em and to save himself.

To Live Forever was a very interesting read for me. I was not expecting it to go the way it did, which is the reason why I liked it. So many authors would have been restricted by genres, but Andra Watkins wrote what flowed, and it was truly a great read.

Meriwether Lewis died mysteriously, and so he being condemned to Nowhere in the book is a viable story element. I also found the way Ms. Watkins tied her interest, and where Lewis died, in the Natchez Trace tied in well. The trek Merry and Em had to take, with the corrupt Judge Wilkinson chasing them as he had Lewis for centuries before, worked quite well, and was the central plot of To Live Forever.

One note on the villain, Judge Wilkinson: He is one of those you will love to hate. Convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his beloved wife, we find out that he may have personal connections to Lewis too. He had depth, a true evil, that made him a great literary antagonist.

All in all, To Live Forever by Andra Watkins is an innovative novel encompassing the life, legacy, and destiny of one of America’s greatest explorers, Meriwether Lewis. It is a story of redemption, and how sometimes mistakes can be made right. It is also a story of history, written utilizing Lewis’ actual life, making, like it often is, past prologue. To Live Forever bends genres to deliver a novel worth reading.

Note: Andra Watkins just became the first person, male or female, to walk all 444 miles of the Natchez Trace since the 1820’s! Running from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, this is the trail Lewis actually died on, and the trail this book is centered around. Congratulations to Ms. Watkins on her accomplishment!

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Andra Watkins~ Author

Andra Watkins is a native of Tennessee, but now calls Charleston, South Carolina home. She is the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey Of Meriwether Lewis which debuted March 1st, 2014. It is a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction, and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809. She is married to Michael T. Maher.

Visit Andra Watkins’ Website.

An Interview With Author Jermel Shim Including Jamaica, President Obama, and His Writing

I recently reviewed Jermel Shim’s Whom God Has Blessed, Let No Man CurseI now have an interview for you that I have done with Mr. Shim.

Hello Jermel, Welcome To Seize The Moment. How are you?

Hello Nassem, I am fine, thanks for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to do this interview.

You were born in Jamaica. I am interested in the Jamaican culture, and so could you tell us a bit about growing up there? Does your belief in equality come from any injustice you saw there? Jamaica became a sovereign nation in 1962, so do you have any memories of when you were very young of British colonization of the island?

 I have very fond memories growing up in Jamaica with people who cared about each other and with friends, relatives, and plenty of outdoor activities. Back then there were no social or political problems to worry about – life was wonderful.

The Jamaican culture includes a diverse group of people that reflects its history as a British colony. With a population of just over two million people, the largest group are of African descent, with a smaller percentage of Chinese, Asian Indians, Lebanese or Middle Eastern, and whites. This diversity is reflected in the national motto “Out of many one people.” The large black population originated from slavery and after the abolition of slavery, Asian Indians came to Jamaica to work as indentured servants on the sugar plantations. Later Chinese people who were working on the construction of the Panama Canal came to Jamaica after the canal was completed.

Despite the diversity of the Jamaican population, Jamaica has not experienced any significant conflict along racial lines. During the time of the British colonization when I was growing up, there were complaints about lighter complexioned Jamaicans getting employment preference over darker complexioned Jamaicans in banks and other governments agencies. That practice changed after Jamaica gained its independence from Britain in 1962.

Although social class bias exists, there were no real issues with equality or social injustice like you have in the US. This does not mean these problems did not exist but certainly not to the degree where they became social and political issues. Class bias used to be an issue with Jamaicans being conscious of class status. Many Jamaicans held people in the upper class with high esteem and as a result, the elected political leaders and government ministers were usually members of the upper class. That has since changed in recent years where Jamaicans from various social backgrounds now hold political office.

During colonialism, the British influence manifested itself in various aspects of Jamaican culture. For example, I was educated in the public schools with English textbooks. The high school exams were administered from England. We observed the traditional English holidays and we played English games like cricket, soccer, and netball. The political and judicial systems remain the same as the British system.

Jamaica today like many Third World countries faces economic, social, and political challenges. Because of these challenges, some older Jamaicans who have lived through the British colonial system believe that Jamaica was more disciplined and better off under the British system

For a small nation Jamaicans have excelled and gained international recognition in athletics (Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser – two times Olympians), reggae music (Bob Marley), The Voice champion (Tessanne Chin), a Spelling Bee champion, and many others in other fields.

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Did growing up in Jamaican culture influence the faith component in your book Whom God Has Blessed, Let No Man Curse? I know there is a Christian following in Jamaica, but what inspired your Buddhist Eight-Fold Path component?

 Yes, as a child growing up in Jamaica I was raised by a white Englishman who was very religious and a deacon in the local Congregational Church. I attended Sunday school every Sunday and studied the Bible as part of my preparation for Bible examination that was administered island wide by the executive administrators of the Congregational Church.

During my early adolescent life, I became interested in Indian spiritual knowledge that came from gurus. I even remember going to a meeting held by a guru who came to Jamaica. I also was interested in Transcendental Meditation (TM) and yoga. At the time, these things provided a different perspective of life and understanding of mind consciousness. Following this, I began reading series of book by Lobsang Rampa. His books were primarily about Tibet and their Buddhist customs. Lobsang Rampa books like Wisdom of the Ancients and The Third Eye influenced my life and gave me a whole new perspective on religion and other social issues.

 

Jermel Shim's Pappy

William “Pappy” Shout, Jermel Shim’s Adopted Father

I understand that you were an engineer for 29 years with 2 different companies. What sector of engineering did you specialize in. Did you ever draw up technical documents, satisfying your love of writing, at least during your career?

 I studied mechanical engineering at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada where I obtained a bachelor’s degree.

During my career, I worked in various engineering groups that included mechanical engineering, procurement engineering, and field engineering (working in nuclear power plants doing modification work to plant systems or equipment). Working in these different engineering areas, I consider myself as a generalist engineer rather than a specialist who worked in a single engineering area.

The assignments that I worked on included preparing procurement and installation specifications, prepared technical reports, reviewed engineering drawings, prepared systems descriptions, calculations. With my last employer, I worked mainly in design control engineering for the company’s nuclear power stations. Specific tasks included preparing several design control procedures and standards that governed the design change process, and technical reports to support the maintenance and modification of power plant equipment and systems.

My love of writing made it easy for me to enjoy doing technical writing. My experience in engineering and technical writing equipped me with skills to be analytical and research oriented. These skills have helped me tremendously in my new career as an author.

 

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Jermel Shim’s First Book

4. While we are talking about your penmanship of technical documents during your career, did you find it challenging to change from a technical writer to nonfiction?

It was challenging because with technical writing you have to be specific and precise to communicate effectively. You also need a good technical knowledge of the subject and a good understanding of the technical jargon.

With nonfiction, you also have to write with clarity and preciseness. However, there is more freedom for creativity and style. The challenge for me was to try to break out of the mindset of expressing myself as a technical writer. I hope I am making progress in doing this with my books and articles.

In your author bio, it stated that you have voted in every presidential election since you   became a US citizen in 1988. What in you fueled this love of exercising the right that we are all entitled to as humans in a time when many do not?

I have a great love for the political process and this love along with the right to vote is a good opportunity to participate in the political process. I believe it is the civic duty of every citizen to vote. In a democratic society, we elect people to govern us. The failure to exercise the right to vote and elect the right people often results in poor governance. I understand that the political process can sometimes cause people to be cynical or delusional about voting. However, voting is a significant right that a citizen has, and I believe people should use it in all elections.

When was the first time that you heard of Barack Obama? What about him made you realize that he is a “blessed” man?

The first time I heard of Barack Obama was when I watched the 2004 Democratic convention on TV. He was one of the keynotes speeches and I remember his eloquent and powerful speech about “We are not a red state, we are not a blue state, we are Americans.” His charismatic personality and eloquence made me recognize that he was going to have a bright future in politics. However, I certainly did not envision that he would be a prospective presidential candidate.

After reading a few books about President Obama I was convinced that he was a special man who was destined to become president. What convinced me was the many challenges he faced during his childhood, his early political career, and then in his first term going into his second term. What struck me about his relationship with his mother was that as a child she never told him anything negative about his father despite the bad relationship she had with him. To me this is a blessing for him.

Later on in his political career up to the time of being elected president, he was able to overcome many challenges- some of course historical and related to race. These challenges include events that occurred and could have thwarted his political career and his presidency.

Being able to overcome the obstacles and challenges he encountered – sometimes with unexpected events occurring at the opportune time to help him – made me realize that he was a blessed man. His other blessings include his remarkable ability to treat even his detractors with respect and understanding. In my book, Whom God Has Blessed Let No Man Curse, I describe in detail some of the characteristics that only a blessed person could have. We shouldn’t forget also that his name Barack means blessed.

Your book is in defense of President Obama, and that his detractors will never succeed. Do you believe that he many become one of the greatest Presidents to ever serve our nation?

I do believe President Obama is destined to become one of the greatest presidents. We may not see him get this honor in our lifetime. However, when the historians look at what he was able to accomplish as president despite relentless attack on his character, and obstruction of his policies throughout his two terms, people will recognize that it was amazing that he was able to perform his presidential duties and accomplish the things he did.

His accomplishments during his two terms include implementing the first health care law that many presidents before him failed to do. Other accomplishments included rescuing the economy that was on the verge of collapse when he took office in 2008, signing the Equal Pay Act, and many other things that he has done hardly gets any recognition. It is unfortunate that because of the crusade by the right to destroy him he does not get the credit he deserves. I believe historians will vindicate him and recognize his legacy as that of a great president.

In a time when, as I experience it on almost a daily basis and will for the rest of my life as a minority, racial separation and discrimination is at almost an all time high, so what is the civil rights issue that needs to be undertaken in our time now?

America still struggles with racial problems and a lot of work needs to be done to fix these problems. I was optimistic that with the historic election of President Obama in 2008, America was on a path of transcending its racial past and becoming a more racially tolerant country. Unfortunately, there are some people who do not like President Obama and by their actions, behavior, and words want to maintain racial dominance and inequality.

I believe all people should live freely and without having to bear the burden of racial inequality. Racial inequality was the civil rights issue of the 60s and although progress has been made since that time, it remains the civil rights issue today. Great effort is still needed to pursue a process of racial understanding, tolerance, and reconciliation. Only when these things are accomplished will people respect each other and treat each other fairly.

I understand that you are married. Could you tell us a little more about your family, and where your greatest support comes from?

I have been married to a wonderful woman since 1972. I met my wife when she was a nursing student in Jamaica and since that time, we have enjoyed our accomplishments and cope well with our disappointments. We have two grown children – a son who is a jazz musician and a daughter who is a psychiatrist. My greatest support comes from my wife and my children.

What are your current writing projects, including books and other literature?

Currently, I am working on my third book, A New Perspective on Racism – Issues with Morality, Spirituality, and Other Social Problems. I hope to get this book published this fall. I also write political articles for my website blog.

Thank you so much Mr. Shim for allowing me to interview you. I enjoyed having you here, and I look forward to our new friendship to grow. Thank you.

 Thank you Nassem, it was a pleasure doing this interview with you.

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Jermel Shim- Author

Jermel Shim is a retired mechanical engineer who has launched a new career as an author. Writing is not a new experience for Jermel. In his professional engineering career, he authored many technical documents. In his new career as an author, he has faced the challenge of switching from a technical writer to a nonfiction writer.

Born in Jamaica, Jermel was educated at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where he graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Following his graduation, he moved to the US, where he began an engineering career spanning 29 years with two major engineering companies – Gilbert Commonwealth in Reading, Pennsylvania and Dominion Resources, Inc., in Richmond, Virginia. He has voted in all Presidential elections since becoming a citizen in 1988.

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Visit Jermel Shim’s Website.