Seize the Moment Relaunch

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Graduation 2018

From high school graduation — June 2018

In January 2014, I began Seize the Moment with a review of Professor Denis Judd’s Empire: The British Imperial Experience from 1765 to the Present. Fourteen years old and I was reviewing and interviewing Professors of British history. As dorky as that may seem, I am still proud I took the initiative to do something like that. I went on to review many of my favorite books, write political pieces, and conduct interviews with many different authors and figures. I am also proud to have written a seventeen-part series on the Russian invasion of Crimea, articles that I wrote to warn Americans of the threat Russia posed not just in Ukraine but here.

Those didn’t quite worked out as hoped.

But, anyway, for some reason I stopped writing posts around July of 2015. Now, two-and-a-half years later, I am ready to take up the pen again. My writing ability has changed and evolved through those years and I have a stronger grasp on effective communication. I have kept many of my prior interests while developing a passion for new(er) ones. Most of all, I have a reason to write on here again.

I will be writing about a variety of topics of interest to me here. My love for America, foreign affairs, history, classic literature (especially Shakespeare and Dickens), automobiles, and film are just some of the topics I will be writing about. From time to time I may also post some non-article writing I have been working on. I am currently planning on posting a foreign affairs piece each Sunday but will also aim to post other writings throughout the week. I promise to be ethical, reasonable, and prudent in all I post.

This week I will have a few posts to make. Be on the lookout for an analysis of the recent indictments announced by the Special Counsel investigating Russia for interference in the 2016 election. I will post the article on Medium, then post the link to it on this blog.

Thank you for all of the constant support. May I do all I can to keep that trust.

 

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The Demon Who Peddled Longing By Khanh Ha is A Literary Epic Of The Human Condition

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Khanh Ha is a different type of author. While some authors focus on sales, others, like Ha, write to break old boundaries and push forward literary achievement. Ha made great literary progress with his first novel, Flesh, but now, instead of falling into a ‘sophomore slump’, he has written something unprecedented.

The Demon Who Peddled Longing is set in post-war Vietnam, a nation overrun by Khmer pirates, thieves, and other malevolent beings. It follows the story of 19-year-old Nam, a young fisherman who embarks on a path of vengeance on 2 drifters who violently raped and killed his cousin, who he also shared romantic feelings with. The story begins with Nam in the Plain of Reeds, where he is stumbled upon by an abnormal fisherwoman. While assisting her and earning money Nam plans his next steps in pursuit of the drifters. When the partnership ends badly, Nam runs away from the fisherwoman and on to the South.

On the journey to Southern Vietnam, Nam meets many people, good people who have had their hearts turned black due to the longings their soul carries. This is where also we see the devastation a corrupt and violent government (Communists) and outlaws can inflict upon innocent lives. Nam’s presence in each of these lives both alleviates the darkness in their hearts but also further escalates some already tense situations.

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Credit Here.

Whether it be through the colorful markets of cities or the remote fishing villages on the coasts, Nam is always on the lookout for his cousin’s killers. When the boy uncovers the truth of his cousin’s death, he becomes a man with his own compass to guide the direction of his life. This independence lasts until the pain of further longing and oppression reveals to us all that none of us are truly in complete control and often fate isn’t black in white, but grey, in its outcome.

The Demon Who Peddled Longing is truly a literary masterpiece. Utilizing very immersive visuals and the imprint the senses leaves on each of us, the novel delivers an unconventional epic of vengeance, longing, and compassion. The dialogue, which at first may confuse a reader, emerges to enhance the writing to make it a very organic and rhythmic read.

Khanh Ha is masterful and unmatched in his ability to show how violence can lead to atonement and how, like a lotus flower, beauty can arise from the deepest depths of darkness. His writing style and structure is something unseen before, giving the reader a more realistic story of how no one is in complete control of their life’s path and how compassion and redemption can still arise out of the darkness of longing and oppression.

Khanh Ha: Author Bio

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Khanh Ha studied Journalism at Ohio University and learned the craft of writing under Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon) and Walter Tevis (The Man Who Fell to Earth). He is the author of Flesh (2012, Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (2014, Underground Voices). Khanh Ha is a five-time Pushcart nominee, a Best Indie Lit New England nominee, and the recipient of Greensboro Review’s 2014 ROBERT WATSON LITERARY PRIZE IN FICTION. His work, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, was honored by Shelf Unbound as a NOTABLE INDIE BOOK.

Excerpt From Rebecca Hazell’s Trilogy-Concluding Novel Consolamentum

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Lady Heloise added, “It is said that Saint Denis rose up after his execution, picked up his head, and walked a thousand feet before falling again. That is where a pilgrimage shrine was later founded, but the abbey that bears his name lies farther to the north. You will soon see that it is quite beautiful and also very special, for it is where all the kings of Francia have been buried since it was built. The king, I hear, intends to commission effigies to lie over each tomb, even of the earliest kings of Francia, like Clovis and Pepin. I find it very moving, and you must as well; it is good politics.

“Oh, look, they are already setting up for the October fair; one farmer always sells the richest cream you ever tasted. Not that I use it for eating: it also works wonders on the skin.”

As we passed, I saw many men and a few women setting up booths and stalls and even a few solid buildings. The aroma of roasting meat drifted across our path.

The fair was not yet open, but she and several other ladies did fall back to buy trinkets and, yes, cream, which the vendors were glad to sell them. I made the mistake of following behind. They were already returning, and I should have gone with them then, but I was drawn by a tent surrounded by colorful banners depicting odd-looking symbols. I thought just to look at them quickly and then to return to ask Heloise what they meant, but a woman dressed in motley came out when I rode up and began urging me inside her tent to have my fortune told. When I refused, a gang of hard-looking men suddenly surrounded me.

They probably had never heard a lady scream, but scream I did, and several knights in our company were soon bearing down on the ruffians, laying about and quickly rescuing me. This was shaming enough, but the king and queen heard the noise and were staring at me as I rode back, red-faced, to join their train. Lord Joscelin rode back to see me, looking stern. At least he began with, “Are you all right?” I nodded, looking down, unable to meet his eye. But then he added, “Don’t do anything foolish like that again. King Louis marked it, and you especially offended him by seeking out a fortune teller!”

Like what you read? This is an excerpt from author Rebecca Hazell’s new novel, Consolamentum, the conclusion of the Tiger And The Dove Trilogy.

More About This Book:

In the finale of Sofia’s memoir, Consolamentum, both dramatic and poignant, her dreams of home are shattered when her own family betrays her. Raising her child on her own, mourning the loss of her beloved knight, and building a trading empire, she seeks safe haven for her child and herself. Her quest takes her from Antioch to Constantinople to Venice. A surprise reunion in Venice leads her to France where she runs afoul of the newly established Holy Inquisition, possibly the greatest challenge she has yet faced. Can a woman so marked by oppression, betrayal, and danger ever find her safe haven, much less genuine happiness?

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order.

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About The Author:

Rebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases. She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca:
Website | Goodreads | Facebook

Visit other blogs on the tour for reviews, guest posts, excerpts and giveaways!

Giveaway:

Use this link to enter to win an ebook copy of the entire Tiger And The Dove Trilogy.

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Interview With Author Judith Starkston Discussing Hand of Fire, The Trojan War, And Achilles’ True Nature

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I am very excited to share with you an interview I conducted with Judith Starkston, author of Hand of Fire. Starkston has a wealth of knowledge on ancient history to rival Homer himself, and I hope this interview is as enjoyable for you to read as it was for me to conduct.

Hello, Judith, and welcome to Seize the Moment! I am so happy you’re here, and I’m excited to talk about your new debut novel, Hand of Fire! How are you?

I’m great and very happy to join you on Seize the Moment. I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while.

Homer has been an inspiration to many historians and military writers for a very long time. He must have had an impact on you too, as Hand of Fire follows Briseis, Achilles’ love, during the Trojan War. When did you first read any of Homer’s work, and when did it first pique your interest in that time period?

When I was an undergraduate, I studied ancient Greek and read the Iliad with one of my favorite professors. The discussions we had in that class were so insightful and engaging that I ended up writing my undergraduate thesis on the Iliad. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Briseis is just very briefly mentioned in The Iliad. What kind of research did you conduct to create the multi-dimensional character that fills your novel? What would life have been like as a healing priestess like Briseis?

When I first thought of writing about Briseis, I imagined a strong-willed young woman because I couldn’t see a wet noodle standing up to a hero like Achilles, who is half-immortal and very conflicted and complicated. She had to have some major strength of character and a cultural background that supported that power. But I was afraid I might create an anachronistic woman. I assumed, based on what I knew about the later Classical Greek women, well after the Homeric period, that Briseis would have a similarly limited set of horizons.

Early on in my research into the Trojans and their allies (such as Briseis’s city of Lyrnessos), I had an amazing revelation that put Hand of Fire on its path. The Bronze Age civilization in the area which today is modern Turkey, where ancient Troy was located, gave certain women very high status and respect, both to rulers like princesses or queens and also to various priestesses.

The major political force in this region during the Bronze Age was the Hittite Empire. Troy and her allied cities were semi-independent kingdoms within the same cultural, religious and political traditions as the Hittites. This is important because extensive Hittite libraries of cuneiform clay tablets have been excavated and translated in the last couple of decades (which explains why I didn’t know about all this cool stuff in college or grad school, since I’m told I went to college during the Jurassic Age). From these translated libraries I found the raw material to build Briseis’s life. I should point out that the actual translations are very dry reading, but if you pluck all the juicy details out and put them into a compelling story, then you end up with a historically accurate world and a non-anachronistic but strong woman of the Late Bronze Age. Just what I needed! Briseis’s “jobs” as a healing priestess and princess came straight from these tablets. She would have enjoyed the deep respect of her community, have had a lot of say in what happened in her city, and she would have been involved with performing the town’s religious festivals and rites, curing illness, delivering babies, creating harmony between gods and men, and a few other small tasks like that!

While we are on the subject of research, how did you reconstruct the city of Troy and its surroundings? Are there very many texts that describe what life was like then that date to that period?

I’ve been to the archaeological site of Troy and studied it carefully. I’ve also wandered thru the area where traditionally the Greeks thought Lyrnessos must have been (it’s never been found). Being there in the setting allows me to include vivid descriptions based on the actual geography. I like my readers to feel like they are there. For example, there’s a beautiful waterfall on Mt Ida’s flanks and that became a setting in my novel. The archaeology at Troy during the last twenty years has established how the walls were built, the basic layout of the city and those kinds of details. For my more imaginary city of Lyrnessos, I studied a variety of excavated Bronze Age cities in the general area and found the common elements that would be present in a real Lyrnessos.

As far as texts, there are the Hittite libraries I mentioned above, although they focus mostly on the royal court and religious practices, so there are some areas that I’d love to know more about that they are silent on. I had to do the best I could with what archaeology reveals (and common sense). So, for example, a really thorough contemporary dig will include some DNA profiles revealing the organic substances present. I mine things like that to make delicious meals for my characters to eat. I pluck out the spices, grains, meats, etc. But trust me, this takes some messing around in the kitchen before something mouth watering goes on the page. DNA profiles by themselves are a good cure for insomnia! I’m giving out bookmarks at my book launch that have one of my favorite recipes that I worked out during this process, lamb with lentils and raisins.

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Briseis (left) And Phoenix. Credit Here.

You have portrayed Achilles as a man that, despite being half-God, still has many human flaws. Why did you take this route with the character, and did those flaws add another dimension to his romance with Briseis in actual history?

First off, let me remind the world that Achilles describes himself in Book 9 of the Iliad as a mother bird caring for her chicks (his fellow warriors are the chicks in this analogy). He may be the best of the killers in this war, but he also has a nurturing side. Or thinks he does, at least. That’s not a flaw, but it isn’t what people expect when they picture Achilles.

A long time ago when I was first working on an earlier version of this book, I took a fiction writing class and brought some passages for critique. One of the other students got so angry at me for portraying Achilles as a man of conscious who could be kind. He wanted his hero bloodthirsty and constantly killing. He thought I’d made a wimp and, boy, it made him mad.

I avoided that one-sided violent portrayal, despite the ire I’d inspired, for two reasons.

First, when I read the Iliad, I see a man with a subtle mind and a heart easily overwhelmed (someone who can describe himself as a mother bird). Think about his early childhood—which, by the way, I decided to accept as “true,” never mind that it involved immortals etc. I told the tale as Homer intended it—a kind of ancient magical realism. That’ll be a leap for modern audiences, but I think this style allows us to step into the ancient mind. First in Achilles’ infancy his goddess mother puts him in a magic fire that burns away most of his humanity in order to make him undying, but since his dad yanks him out, he’s still mortal. I think that makes for a very uncomfortable mix, a fragmentation of the soul. We think of God as a source of goodness, but the ancient Greek (and Hittite) gods were capricious and unpredictable. And they didn’t give a hoot about humanity except as a source to take things from. So being part immortal didn’t make Achilles moral, but quite the opposite. I think his redeeming part is his mortality. If you will die, then you value what little time you have. If you are immortal (in the Greek system anyway) you have no time pressure to value life. Continuing with Achilles’ childhood, his mother abandons him because she is so paralyzed by the idea that he will die one day that she can’t even enjoy the years she’s got with him. He gets raised by a Centaur (part horse, part man—another dual personality!) who teaches him two things, how to heal and how to fight. Another split in his soul. He’s fragmented and thus fragile—which is ironic because physically he’s invincible. No one can challenge him successfully in battle and he is definitely a merciless killer on the battlefield. But I think we’ve come to realize that such killing instincts don’t mean a man (or woman, quite relevant to this book) is devoid of moral sensibility once that frenzy passes. We humans have more layers than we like to feel. Achilles’ real flaw for Briseis is that he lets her down at a key moment. That comes from his fragmentation.

Finally, my second reason to ignore that early-on angry claim that I should make a one dimensional Achilles. No one finds a totally good or a totally bad hero interesting. Even our “superheroes” come with flaws. I think Homer knew this basic rule of good story telling, and I followed the same sound advice. While I did some extending and imagining, I don’t think my Achilles is different than Homer’s. But I’ll admit, there are still lots of people who read the Iliad and don’t see the same Achilles I do. That’s what makes it a great poem and I hope part of what makes Hand of Fire engaging.

What actual information is there on the city of Troy? Information like where was it located, when did it rise, and when did it disappear from history?

Ah, the mess that is Troy. What I mean is that of all the archaeological digs in the world, one of the most mistreated is Troy. It’s located on the western coast of what is now Turkey, right on the straits (the Hellespont or the Dardanelles depending on which age is naming the straits) which lead into the Black Sea, a very rich area for trade with the Mediterranean. Troy’s ruins were first dug in the 19th C by a romantic, incredibly rich German businessman named Schliemann. Most people thought Troy was a legend with no foundation in reality. He begged to differ. There were other, more archaeologically trained scholars who had identified possible locations for Troy. He bought the land out from under one of them and then assumed that what was Homeric would be at the bottom of the mound, so he dug a giant trench straight down and threw out the stuff above.
He couldn’t have been both more right and more wrong. It was indeed Troy that he had found. We owe him that. But he was wrong about where in that mound to find “Homer’s Troy,” that is a city that was destroyed somewhere roughly around 1250 BCE give or take a few hundred years and was grand enough to be worth a major Greek attack. It turns out Troy has 9 major layers with many sub-groupings within each of the layers. People started building on that site generations before the Bronze Age and the last layer is a Roman city and temple, which unfortunately carved off the top and erased for all time the citadel of the Bronze Age Troy. If I’m remembering my numbering correctly I think our current best guess as to which could have been a city described by Homer is layer VI. Fortunately, the last couple decades have been kind to Troy and first rate archaeology has uncovered many of its secrets. Guess where the one sample of writing from Troy was found? In Schliemann’s garbage pile.

What other time periods fascinate you like the Trojan era does? Are there any that you have thought to maybe set a story in?

I wrote a story set in the modern world and that was fun. Very handy not having to go read for several hours each time a character reaches for something and you need to know what that something looked like. I remember using chicken wire in the story and thinking, wow, why don’t I write more contemporary stories? I totally know how painful it is when chicken wire bounces back and stabs you. (The life of a writer is not something to envy—as you can see from my glee in understanding chicken wire.)

I thought I knew a lot about the Trojan era before I started. I discovered that I didn’t know enough to completely immerse a reader. So I got to work researching. I don’t know which period I’d also like to get to know that well, but I suspect I’ll move around eventually. For now, I’m going to stay here where I’ve learned the details.

Your career led you to teach high-school English, Latin, and humanities for over 2 decades. What do you find so fascinating about these subjects, and what advice do you have to someone interested in learning more about ancient historical time periods and people?

The commonality to those three subjects is that they all make a person think. I enjoyed showing high-school students what they could do with their brains. It also kept mine busy. Learning about ancient history is an enjoyable project if you love to read. I’d start with historical fiction—there are superb writers of Greece, Egypt, Babylon, Rome, etc. One of my favorite writers of non-fiction about the ancient world is Eric Cline. He gets how to write history and entertain at the same time. His latest, 1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed, about the simultaneous fall of all the great empires of the Late Bronze Age is a great read.

I have seen that you spent some time in Cyprus earlier this year. Are you planning to write something set on that Mediterranean island? What other works do you have planned?

You caught me. My husband and I spent time on Cyprus climbing over Bronze Age ruins, enjoying the crystal Aegean Sea and savoring a tradition of red wine making going back 5,000 years. I was testing out an idea that the sequel to Hand of Fire could move to Cyprus. After a lot of fascinating discussions with archaeologists working on Cyprus, it turns out to be a workable concept. Cyprus was the center of the copper trade in the Late Bronze Age. Tons of copper mines and a central location. Copper is the key ingredient of bronze—so clearly a major commodity in an age named after the stuff. This means that my metal-working savvy Briseis can make a new life in Cyprus and there is evidence of women taking on major roles in trade there. I don’t yet know how this will all work. My characters tend to boss me around once I get them going, so who knows. But I think we’ll be moving the crew to a new and gorgeous landscape that was a hot spot of the ancient world.

But first I need to finish my first historical mystery featuring the Hittite Queen Puduhepa as “sleuth.” She would be as famous as Cleopatra if she hadn’t been buried by the sands of time. Her seal is on the first extant peace treaty in history next to her foe, Pharaoh Ramses II. Now that she’s been dug out, I’ve taken her remarkable personality, which seems perfectly suited for solving mysteries, and I am writing a series. She ruled from her teens until she was at least eighty, so I think this series may outlast me.

Hand of Fire is a truly great novel, full of romance that makes it seem all too real. Where can people purchase a copy for themselves, and where can readers get in touch with you?

Amazon
Nook
My Website
Twitter
Facebook

Thank you so much for being here today, Judith! I look forward to seeing all your readers love Hand of Fire as much as I have!

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Judith Starkston: Author Biography~

Judith Starkston writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. Ms. Starkston is a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their golden retriever Socrates. Hand of Fire is her debut novel.

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Guest Post From Donald Michael Platt, Author Of Close To The Sun

Today I have a guest post from Donald Michael Platt, author of Close To The Sun. Mr. Platt has had a long career in teaching and writing, and I look forward to sharing a post penned by him. He has now begun to write many new novels in genres including historical and military fiction, and I hope that this post helps you learn more about the man behind the books.

Guest Post From Donald Michael Platt:

I thank you Nassem Al-Mehairi for inviting me to post on your blog.

I have loved reading about History since first memory and later immersing myself in Historical Fiction by age eight. If I saw a swashbuckler film first, I wanted to read the book it was based on and non-fiction to learn how much was true. No Tom Sawyer for me, I preferred Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, both of which were made into films.

I bypassed Dickens, Johnny Tremaine, and the Hardy Boys for writers from the so-called Golden Age of HF. Many of their novels were made into films when I was a boy into my early Teens:

Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood, The Black Swan, and Scaramouche
Samuel Shellabarger’s Captain from Castile and The Prince of Foxes –
Thomas Costain’s The Black Rose
Frank Yerby’s The Foxes of Harrow, The Golden Hawk, and The Saracen Blade—Edison Marshall’s novel Benjamin Blake became the film Son of Fury and others that made it to cinema included Yankee Pasha and The Viking –

And at age twelve I even read Kathleen Windsor’s Forever Amber. All the HF and non-HF I have read since then would fill many pages.

Continuing my love of History, I earned my B.A. in History at U.C. Berkeley and taught it as well. Able to write in several genres and media, film and TV, I decided the time had come for me to try HF.

Although my first published novel A Gathering of Vultures was contemporary horror, I included some history about worship of vultures going back to ca, 7,000 BC.

Little known historical characters who led exceptional lives have always interested me. I wanted to know more about them, but often no information existed to fill the gaps and satisfy my curiosity. That is why I wrote my first HF novels Rocamora and House of Rocamora based on the life of Vicente de Rocamora. a sparsely documented historical personage who went from Dominican ( the monastic Order that controlled the Inquisition) royal confessor and spiritual director for the teenage teenage Infanta of Spain and sister of Philip IV to at age 46 a Jewish physician in Amsterdam, married a twenty-five year old woman who would give him nine children over the next eleven years.

Another historical personage who appears in my next novel to be published in September of this year is Bodo, the Apostate, as described in this blurb for the back cover:

“… in the meantime, a credible report caused all ecclesiastics of the Catholic Church to lament and weep.” Prudentius of Troyes, Annales Bertiniani, anno 839

On Ascension Day May 22, 838, Bishop Bodo, chaplain, confessor, and favorite of both his kin, Emperor Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, and Empress Judith, caused the greatest scandal of the Carolingian Empire and the 9th century Roman Church.

My novel, Bodo the Apostate, dramatizes the causes, motivations, and aftermath of Bodo’s astonishing cause célèbre that took place during an age of superstitions, a confused Roman Church, heterodoxies, lingering paganism, broken oaths, rebellions, and dissolution of the Carolingian Empire.

About my novel published this past June 15th,, 2014, Close to the Sun follows the lives of two Americans and a German from childhood through the end of WWII. As boys, they idealize the exploits of WWI fighter aces known as chivalrous Knights of the Skies.

Hank Milroy from Wyoming learns his first flying lessons from observing falcons. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen accumulated during WWI. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field. The young men meet exceptional women. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe believes she is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German intelligence. Elfriede “Elfi” Wohlmann is a frontline nurse. Mimi Kay sings with a big band.

Flying fighters over Europe, Hank, Karl, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat victories and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and firebombing of entire cities. Callous political decisions and military mistakes add to their disillusion, especially one horrific tragedy at the end of the war.

Why did I write Close to the Sun? A sentient boy during WWII, I admired the fighter aces and their sleek planes. Over time I was given access to many documents from both the Allies and the Axis, and I met and conversed with aces from the USAAF, the RAF, and the Luftwaffe. A novel formed in my mind and I sat down to write.

I wanted to create a fictional USAAF fighter group and its squadrons for my fictional composite American characters against a realistic background. It took some time to find numbers that had not been used. For the Luftwaffe, I chose to use historical unit and bases.

My next challenge was to create composite characters. I wanted the two Americans to represent country and city, with a secondary character who had all the negative traits of certain fighter aces. I found it easier for purposes of the novel to make the Luftwaffe ace an aristocrat. The history of the air war over Europe carried the narrative.

I did not want Close to the Sun to be an all-male story, so I added four female characters. Winty McCabe was easy to create because she was the embodiment of all women who wanted to fly and who served as a WASP, Women’s Airforce Service Pilot. A Russian princess who worked with the anti-Nazi faction in the Abwehr, German Intelligence, gave me the inspiration for Mariya-Xenia. Given that some U.S. fighter aces wed actresses and big band singers, after a while I came up with the singer streetwise Mimi Kay. Last of all, I added Elfie, a German combat nurse for purposes of story.

My publisher has asked me for a sequel to Close to the Sun, which I have begun, and many more HF novels have been written in my mind.

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Donald Michael Platt, Biography~

Author of five novels Rocamora, House of Rocamora, A Gathering of Vultures, Close To The Sun, and Bodo, the Apostale, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST.

Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A Gathering Of Vultures, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and writing a sequel to Close To The Sun.

Books By Donald Michael Platt:

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Visit Mr. Platt at: http://donaldmichaelplatt.com/, and watch his YouTube video at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6OtI

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela By Zelda la Grange Tells The Human Side Of The South African Icon

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Nelson Mandela…Madiba…was a truly great man. He had the strength to not cower away when things got bad, and did not allow himself to fall into despair even after 27 years imprisoned on Robbins Island. His soul was not overwhelmed with evil, even though so many others were. He righted a wrong, and freed many people in his own nation of South Africa, along with many people’s souls around the world. There will never be another like Madiba.

The sad fact is, we only see Madiba as a towering icon instead of a real person, with love and loss, success and pain…until now. Good Morning, Mr. Mandela is a remarkable achievement by Madiba’s honorary granddaughter Zelda la Grange. la Grange is a white Afrikaaner, bred believing that Mandela was a “terrorist.” Growing up in apartheid, she was raised believing that the system was correct.

But, as the nation changed, so did she. In 1994, she became an employee at the office of President Mandela as a senior ministerial typist. As South Africa transitioned from a poverty-stricken nation to a developing one, la Grange also changed, realizing that Madiba was not the man that his haters told her and countless others. She found a man full of compassion, courage, and love for all people, and someone who was willing to make her, a white Afrikaaner, an aide, even after all the things the Afrikaaners did to the black Africans.

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Zelda la Grange and Madiba.

In 2002, la Grange became Mandela’s personal assistant at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. This is where the book gets really interesting, where we see how Madiba reacts to all the international places he traveled as a humanitarian. Everything from dining with the King in Saudi Arabia to visiting celebrity friends like Bono, President Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey, la Grange was there, right by his side. For over 2 decades.

One of the funniest stories Zelda la Grange told was the fact that, due to their great friendship, when Madiba visited Buckingham Palace, he called the Queen “Elizabeth.”

“I think he was one of the very few people who called her by her first name and she seemed to be amused by it. I was entertained by these interactions,” La Grange writes. “When he was questioned one day by Mrs. Machel and told that it was not proper to call the Queen by her first name, he responded: ‘But she calls me Nelson.’ On one occasion when he saw her he said, ‘Oh Elizabeth, you’ve lost weight!’ Not something everybody gets to tell the Queen of England.”

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela is a testament to both of the main figures in the memoir: to Nelson Mandela’s pure heart and trustworthiness, and to Zelda la Grange’s benevolence to the man she called Khulu, or “Grandfather.” la Grange writes with precision, expertise, and vigor that make the book informative and at the same time exciting to read. la Grange reveals the human side of Madiba like none other.

Nelson Mandela may be gone from this world, but his vast legacy remains. Did he ever really die, then, if his deeds still live on through leaders like President Obama? In any event, I believe that we all can agree with Zelda la Grange’s words of goodbye:

“Tot weersiens Khulu!” – “Until we meet again, Grandfather.”

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Zelda la Grange~ Author Bio:

Zelda la Grange was born in 1970 in Boksburg, South Africa, and began working as a secretary for the South African government in 1992, in the Department of State Expenditure. In 1993 she moved to the Human Resources division, and in 1994 she joined the office of the first democratically elected president of South Africa as a senior ministerial typist. She became one of President Mandela’s three private secretaries in 1997. In 2002 she left government and became a full-time employee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. She lives in Pretoria, South Africa.

Praise for Zelda la Grange:

“In Good Morning, Mr. Mandela, Zelda la Grange recounts her remarkable life at the right hand of the man we both knew and loved. It’s a tribute to both of them—to Madiba’s eye for talent and his capacity for trust and to Zelda’s courage to take on a great challenge and her capacity for growth. This story proves the power of making politics personal and is an important reminder of the lessons Madiba taught us all.”
—President Bill Clinton

“President Nelson Mandela’s choice of the young Afrikaner typist Zelda la Grange as his most trusted aide embodied his commitment to reconciliation in South Africa. She repaid his trust with loyalty and integrity. I have the highest regard for her.”
—Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“Zelda la Grange has a singular perspective on Nelson Mandela, having served as his longtime personal aide, confidante and close friend. She is a dear friend to both of us and a touchstone to all of us who loved Madiba. Her story of their journey together demonstrates how a man who transformed an entire nation also had the power to transform the life of one extraordinary woman.”
—Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary, actor, producer of Invictus

Wake by Anna Hope Is A Post-World War 1 Masterpiece of Intersecting Lives

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< US Cover

Wake:
1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep
2) Ritual for the dead
3) Consequence or aftermath.

The idea for a commemoration for World War I in England came into being in 1920, from the mind of a British army chaplain. The chaplain, in a letter to the Dean of Westminster, talked about how he had seen, 4 years prior, a wooden cross in Armentières (a northern French city) marked only with, in pencil, “An Unknown British Soldier.” The case was made for a memorial for an unknown soldier, for a great reason. Because the deceased serviceman’s name was not known, it showed war at its worst: his social, economic, and royal ranks were stripped. Without any of these, he belonged to all the people.

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UK Cover; Copy I Received, Due To Requesting Even Before UK Release >

Wake, Anna Hope’s debut novel, takes place in the 5 days between the exhuming of the British Unknown Soldier and his burial. The book follows 3 London women: Hettie, from west London, who supports her war-wounded brother and herself by dancing with former soldiers, some who have lost limbs, for sixpence a waltz; Evelyn, after giving up her nobility due to her lover’s disappearance during the war, who works in the Pensions Office; and Ada, who is plagued by the loss of her son Michael, who disappeared in the war.

These women’s stories all intersect in ways they do not know, but are uncovered by the reader, piece by piece, over the 5 days the book takes place in. We learn the fate of Michael, and how his death has impacted Ada, Evelyn, and Hettie, all in some way. These 3 women feel so much heartache, so much pain, over these 5 days, almost too much to bear, but just enough to be perfect.

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Tomb Of The British Unknown Soldier. Credit Here.

Anna Hope has written a true masterpiece with Wake. It does not merely show 3 women and their lives; it does show this, but also shows how each life affects the others. These women do not directly know each other, but through their family members they feel each others’ pain, their loss. The book is written without sentimentality, and with a prose that does not exaggerate, just shows like real life, pain. The writing is on par with Ian McEwan, who also told a story of the loss that comes from war (Atonement). The novel has direct messages for today’s world, for those both suffering from mental and physical wounds from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also from men and women suffering from wounds linked to rape, torture, and other unthinkable horrors.

The greatest thing that I took away from Wake was the underlying message. When the ceremony takes place for the Unknown Soldier, all 3 women realize it is time to get up, brush off, and, well, “dance again.” Hope strives to show this for our time too, to not forget what happened during wars, but not let it ruin us. She hopes to say that no matter what, a brighter future is always ahead. She achieves this, along with a book that will not leave a person’s memory for a very long time. If ever.

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Anna Hope~ Author Bio:

Anna Hope is an English writer and actress from Manchester. She is perhaps best known for her Doctor Who role of Novice Hame. She was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and Birkbeck College, London.

Anna’s powerful first novel, Wake, sold to Transworld Publishers in a seven-way auction. Set over the course of five days in 1920, Wake weaves the stories of three women around the journey of the Unknown Soldier, from its excavation in Northern France to Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey. US rights were pre-empted by Susan Kamil at Random House.

Thanks To Doubleday UK For A Review Copy. I have provided an honest review in return.