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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Shu Wei’s Revenge

In his role as Town Scribe in 1898, seventeen-year-old Shu Wei is part of an incident which causes his family to emigrate from their village in China to San Francisco’s Chinatown. The intrigue, mystery, and tension that follow grow deeper as he tries to assimilate into a hostile world. Shu Wei ends up working for a local newspaper while he juggles the need to get his stories while dealing with the scurrilous demands and death threats by Tong members. In this coming-of-age saga, the restoration of his self-confidence and his family’s honor is at stake. Jack London and Mark Twain lend timely support.

About the Author (Full Text)

“I have had the good fortune during my career as an architect to travel and experience different cultures and environs. Working on large-scale projects in such places as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and England has not only been satisfying from a creative standpoint but has also allowed me to take away impressions that last a lifetime. Some of those impressions eventually became the seeds of my new novel. While at Columbia I was fortunate enough to receive a summer scholarship to travel and study throughout Europe. Writing a report on this trip in addition to my Master’s thesis in Urban Planning confirmed my deep-seated interest in writing. While working for the Mayor’s Office of Lower Manhattan Development in New York I published a book, To Preserve a Heritage-a book on landmarks in Lower Manhattan. By that time the motivation to research and to write-particularly historical pieces-was in my blood. My original research began some twelve years ago, but several hiatuses caused an interruption in my writing, specifically creating audio walking tours for the Financial District in San Francisco and artwork (etchings) for five of those years. … My book, Shu Wei’s Revenge, was a Semi-Finalist in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.” 
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While watching a retrospective on the American film maker, Ken Burns, the commentator announced that Burns was soon to release a new documentary about the Vietnam War. After seeing a short heartbreaking clip, I thought about the 50,000+ American soldiers (many of them drafted) who lost their lives in a foreign war the U.S. inherited from the French who originally colonized this southeast Asian country.

Ken Burns’s, The Vietnam War, recently shown on PBS, brought back the images that were so much a part of my childhood, many of them indelible—the sort of images that you can never erase but you wish you had never seen.

I admit I don’t know much of the history and have not researched the politics surrounding the decision to send our troops into this small country. I have read only a few books about this war and seen even fewer films. The experience of the war for me, as a girl who had just lost her own father, is still raw and painful.

My Vietnamese and Cambodian friends are too young to have experienced the war itself. Of course, its aftermath affected their futures in many ways, most are now American citizens, arriving as children with their parents as refugees, establishing new lives and professions, raising families.

Today, my featured book is the book I most often recommend about this seemingly endless war written by John Podlaski—a drafted Vietnam War Veteran, a “cherry”—from his own experiences. Below is the full description of the book:

“When a soldier leaves for war, those left behind often wonder what their loved ones are experiencing. Letters home are always cheerful and vague – no sense in worrying the family. Then upon returning home, these young soldiers do not want to talk about their experiences. Family and friends allege they are now distant, changed, and not the same person they remember from several months earlier. What causes this?

“Although the backdrop for this novel is the Vietnam War, ‘Cherries’ exist in every war. They are the young ‘Newbie’ soldiers, who are trained for war. However, most are not ready to absorb the harsh physical, mental and emotional stress of war. Once they come under fire and witness death firsthand, a life-changing transition begins. This eye-opening account offers readers an in-depth look into the everyday struggles of these young infantry soldiers. You’ll feel their fear, awe, drama, and sorrow, witness the bravery and sometimes laugh at their humor.

“No two war experiences are the same, but after finishing Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel, readers will have a much better understanding as to why these changes occur and why our military heroes are different upon their return home. Veterans will relate!

“Parental Rating: This book contains content that may not be suitable for young readers 17 and under.

“Author’s statement: While Cherries is largely a work of fiction, many of the events and anecdotes described in the novel were based on the actual experiences of the author. The places and units mentioned were real and did exist. All characters portrayed are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events, and locales, are entirely coincidental.

“Award: Finalist in Sixth International Literary Awards at Washington State College, 1986 (titled The Ingenuous Soldier).”

Another of John Podlaski’s novels is When Can I Stop Running, reviewed on VVA Books. John is a Goodreads author.

When you see a Vietnam veteran, please say “Welcome Home, thank you for your service.” These “Cherries” deserved better than they received.

Welcome home, John! Thank you for your service and your willingness to write about your experience.

— Leigh Verrill-Rhys

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My good friend and colleague from Avalon Books has recently published a new book, An Uncertain Path.

Here are a few word about the book from Sandra Carey Cody’s own writer’s blog, Birth of a Novel, also on WordPress.

A tragic accident links the lives of two young women, unrelated, unknown to one Cody Uncertain Path Coveranother, causing each to question things she thought were certain, and setting each on a path neither could have imagined.

Peace Morrow, abandoned as an infant, is about to meet the birth family she’s always longed to know. Raised as a Pennsylvania Quaker, she wonders what her Virginia aristocrat family will think of her. What happens when a careless action by one of them takes the family to the brink of disaster?

Rachel Woodard, longing to break out of the safe world she’s always known, takes a drastic step that results in the death of a young man and sets off a chain of events that swirls outward like a pebble dropped in a pool. Can she live a lie to preserve her own life and save everyone she loves from heartbreak?

An Uncertain Path is available on Amazon.

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Cover Image of BookOn April 24, 1915 the Ottoman Turk Caliphate began one of the most heinous, inhuman exterminations of their fellow citizens when they systematically annihilated Armenian men, drove women and children on death marches into the Syrian desert, and committed the first genocide of the 20th Century. This terrible act led to a coverup on an international scale and paved the way for Hitler’s extermination of Jews, gypsies, disabled Europeans by the millions, Stalin’s Bolshevik henchmen’s slaughter of eleven million Ukrainians as well as the Siberian Gulags, home to many dissident Russian writers.

This butchery is only possible when political expediency takes precedence over morality. The Ottoman Turks were allies of the Germans during World War I. Remembering the Armenian Genocide 1915 chronicles the efforts Germany made to hide the murder of 1.5 million Armenian Christians at the behest of the Islamic Caliphate of the Ottoman Turkish empire.

“Among the Turks and Armenians both it seems pretty well known that this thing is from the Germans. Even Mr. Ehman* himself is coming to the conviction that it is the work of his own government. We all know such clear-cut, well planned, all well carried out work is not the method of the Turk. The German, the Turk and the devil make a triple alliance not to be equalled in the world for cold blooded hellishness.” 

Tacy Atkinson, American Missionary, July 10, 1915, in her diary on the day when Armenians were deported from the town of Kharpert, quoted in Remembering the Armenian Genocide 1915

*Pastor Johannes Ehmann, the local German missionary

This book, by Patrick Thomas (author of From Carmarthen to Karabagh: a Welsh Discovery of Armenia) offers insights and perspectives on this vast tragic conspiracy to annihilate an entire population that is still swept under the carpet, despite incontrovertible evidence.

I became aware of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 when I was 13 years old. Many of my classmates in the 8th and 9th grades were of Armenian descent. Their parents and grandparents were victims and survivors of this hideous crime. While I was living in Wales, I was proud that this small country was one among only a very few nations courageous enough to embrace and proclaim the truth.

Patrick Thomas’s book gives graphic details of how vicious the Islamic Turks, with the help of their German allies, were to their fellow citizens. Unfortunately, we have seen this barbarity in our own time committed by men and women of the same ilk.

“A ‘Special Organization’ of criminals (including many murderers) had been recruited …[and] sent to the provinces to enforce the deportation of Armenians, with the assistance of Kurdish irregulars. … The remaining men would be rounded up, taken away and massacred. The women and children were sent on death marches towards the Syrian desert. Many were gang-raped, some were abducted or trafficked, while others were left to die of exhaustion or starvation at the side of the road. Pregnant women had the babies ripped from their wombs. Those suspected of swallowing gold coins were sometimes set on fire. Their ashes were later sifted by those looking for loot. In Trebizond boatloads of Armenians were taken out and drowned in the Black Sea.”

Remembering the Armenian Genocide 1915, page 18

During World Wars I and II, many Germans refused to believe what was being done in their name. Even now, too many Europeans and Americans close their eyes to history as well as current events. We choose not to believe when the truth is too painful or hideous:

“In the eastern provinces, that is excluding Constantinople and Smyrna and other places in Western Turkey, 80-90% of the entire [Armenian] population and 98% of the male [Armenian] population is no longer alive. These figures are probably correct. They can be checked town by town and correspond to my personal impressions and observations.”

Count von Lüttichau, German official, quoted in Remembering the Armenian Genocide 1915

We have been silenced and intimidated in the face of great inhumanity, over and over again. Time has come to look the past straight in the clear, though ugly, eye of truth and see the cure that history offers. Can we do less than our colleagues, Patrick Thomas and Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn? What is a writer’s job but to write the truth as she sees it?

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While writing my novel by installment, I consciously chose holiday celebrations.

The one common thread about these holidays—besides the story itself—was the undeniable commercialization of every one of them as an opportunity for Big Sale Weekends, a fact I did mention in several of the 10,000 to 11,000 words short stories/novellas that make up the novel.

One could argue that the use of these holidays in book titles was a blatant and shameless exploitation in itself. Guilty!

In my defense, I used each holiday to structure an event in my protagonist’s growth from a pouty, self-pitying, rejected girlfriend to a woman capable of giving, as well as accepting, love from the two most important men in her life: her father, who she willingly believed had abandoned her in childhood, and her future Number One, who she must learn to trust when his profession makes demands, both of whom are men who have put their lives on the line for others.

The commercialization of Memorial Day, Presidents Day, Independence Day/4th of July, Cover Image Nights Before: The NovelVeterans Day, while celebrating our traditions and national values, as well as commemorating the sacrifices of those who have died to keep us safe and to secure our freedoms, also speaks to our fundamental identity as the land of opportunity.

As one of my English friends expressed the strength and success of our nation: “If you can’t make it in America, you can’t make it anywhere.”

The 4th of July, our ancestors’ declaration of independence from oppressive laws and unfair taxes, is a perfect occasion to celebrate what Americans do best: making our work, our lives, our families, our country great.

Happy Independence Day to all!

 

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CJ Verburg’s Another Number for the Road  has all you could ever want from a murder mystery set in two iconic periods of American history: the 1960s: Free Speech, Free Love, Stop the War, Civil Rights and sex, drugs, rock and roll; and 1980s: Reaganomics, Cold War Collapse, Punk Rock, big hair and bigger shoulders.

Rock journo cum detective, Cory Goodwin (who has as many names as identities) goes on a “Magical Mystery Tour,” and then some, to recover her true inner self which has been consumed and subsumed by the demands of her multimillionaire son-of-the-founder-of-a-cosmetics-conglomerate husband’s boardroom betrayal of all they meant to each other as writing romantics who eloped in creative Paris and crashed in corporate necessity in Boston.

Cordelia Goodwin Thorne had many years of protest activism and rock star groupie antics to keep her from sinking into the paradox of her journo daydreams and her cosmetic charity dinner reality.

She joins the “Magical Mystery Tour” when she learns that The Rind is the mystery band—a group she interviewed for a magazine as a teenager. She aims to rekindle her past admiration for the much-maligned strongman of the band, the appropriately named, Dan Quasi, who, after the brutal murder of his friend and co-band member, Mickey Ascher, takes a runner and hides out for the twenty year hiatus, having lost his wife and his French bit to aforementioned co-band member.

Did this Quasi musician kill his best friend? Or was it the French bit? Or possibly her jilted lover and third band member, also appropriately named, Roach? Or has the mild-mannered Terry, fourth band member, been hiding a violent temper all these years?

The process of discovery is further energized by the author’s experience as a playwright and director. CJ Verburg makes use of the theatrical technique of juxtaposing two scenes on stage at once: flashbacks, backstory, supposition and real time, one upon the other, while skillfully  juggling a cast of characters that would daunt Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffiths.

Another Number for the Road  will satisfy all fans of complex, convoluted whodunits who remember the Sixties with longing and survived the Eighties, Nineties and are in deep with the Twentieth Century.

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One of the first books that sparked my interest in history, and particularly the Middle Ages, A Distant Mirror, purported to compare the 14th Century to the 20th. At the time the book was published, I was deep in studies of Comparative Literature, World Literature, Women’s Fiction et cetera, et cetera.

Cover image of A Distant MirrorWhat enthralled me about A Distant Mirror was the inevitable connection to tales of chivalry and classic romance—a literary convention that is neither tragedy nor comedy; a heroic or mysterious prose narrative set in a distant time or place; a medieval tale of knightly adventure.

Barbara W. Tuchman turned the study of history into a great adventure and a lifelong love of all things Medieval.

I loaned my copy to a fellow Mediophile (I think I’ve made that word up) and she never returned it, so it was with great pleasure that I found Tuchman’s book is available on the iBookstore.

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