Bookish Giveaway & Interview: James W. George, Author of My Father’s Kingdom

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Folks, please give a warm welcome to historical fiction author James W. George. I recently had the pleasure of listening to his book, My Father’s Kingdom, which explores the relations between the Wampanoag tribe and the Puritan colonists of the 1670s.

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Wow, what a fun question. Is time travel a possibility? I might have to go back to 1970 and pilot a B-25 while sitting next to Art Garfunkel in “Catch-22.” If I have to stick around 2017, I guess “The Tudors” is long gone so I can’t gallivant around with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Natalie Dormer and Henry Cavill in my finest sixteenth-century frippery.
I guess I’ll keep it simple and appear on the next “Avengers” movie. Maybe I can smack some of the smugness out of Tony Stark, and my daughter would be extremely jealous.

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

My first answer is very predictable. When writing and marketing My Father’s Kingdom, I’ve held fast and true to a fundamental precept: King Philip’s War in 1675 New England was one of the most fascinating and catastrophic events in American history, and most of us have never even heard of it.

So certainly, I would welcome the opportunity to see seventeenth century New England, especially the first interactions between some of the Native people and the European settlers.

I would love to visit well-studied periods like WWII, the American Revolution, the Viking conquests of England, and Tudor England, but I feel like historical fiction and cinema have done such a remarkable job of recreating these eras, I almost wonder if anything would genuinely be surprising.

If you’re going to hand me a fully-functioning time machine, I think I’d like to see some really obscure and mysterious periods, such as the empires of South America.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Brom Bones from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is a remarkable piece of American literature. I love it so much my daughter is named Katrina. The lyrical prose by Washington Irving is simply unbelievable.

Brom Bones is the villain, but what did he actually do? He deceived the interloping schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane, with a brilliant ruse. No one was actually hurt, maimed, or killed. I guess in the end he already has his happy ending, but I would hope he and Katrina lived a wonderful married life together.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

Wow. Let’s go with some intellectual giants of American history. Maybe Increase Mather, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Let’s throw in some modern-day wit. Perhaps Mark Steyn can regale us with the conservative viewpoint, and Jon Stewart can hold down the left wing.

What to read? Probably 1984 and Catch-22, but we’re going to have to do an awful lot of explaining to all those old people. And of course, my book, so Increase Mather can tell me how unfairly I portrayed him.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I used to load trucks for UPS while in high school. It was physically exhausting and quite difficult. You don’t load one truck at once, you loaded multiple trucks.

In addition to the physical toil, it was all like one big game of Tetris; you have to make sure you’re building the wall of boxes in the most logical, sturdy fashion possible. I guess there’s a lesson there for writers; sometimes you think all the disparate elements are seamlessly coming together in a nice, impressive structure, but when they don’t, you have to tear it down and start over.

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

As a writer of historical fiction, I rely on countless works of nonfiction that help make 1670s New England come to life. I think one book in particular, which is probably my favorite work of nonfiction, is Don’t Know Much about the Bible by Kenneth Davis. He approaches all the complex, thorny questions of the Bible with an open mind, and gears the book toward those who know little or nothing about the Bible. It helped me imagine how incomprehensible the Puritans and Bible must have been to Native Americans in the seventeenth century.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I live my relatively mundane life here in southeastern Virginia. I work my day job (which I love) and spend time with my wife and two kids. I’m a big music fan and it’s been a great pleasure watching my sixteen-year-old guitarist son completely eclipse me musically.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Yikes. No distinct memory is coming to mind. It might have been Clifford the Big Red Dog. I also remember loving the “Encyclopedia Brown” series as a kid. We have a house full of books and have kept quite a few children’s books. My favorite, hands-down, is Yertle the Turtle. That is Dr. Seuss at his finest!

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

I’ve completely immersed myself in the New England of the 1670s this year, but it’s reminded me how ignorant I am of so much history regarding the European exploration of the United States before the Mayflower. I live down the road from Jamestown, so I’m pretty familiar with that, but the tales of Spanish conquistadors like Coronado and DeSoto exploring the southern U.S. in the 1500s are unbelievable. How many Americans know the tale of the French Huguenot settlement in Florida?

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Book Two should be out this fall, and I’m delighted with how it’s shaping up. I think Book One is quite atmospheric. It develops the characters and sets the tone for King Philip’s War, whereas Book Two is the actual war and is a little more action-packed. Benjamin Church, one of colonial America’s most famous soldiers, will play a very prominent role.

Check out more interviews, spotlights, & reviews on the blog tour.

About Author James W. George:

James W. George is a debut author currently residing in Virginia.  He is a graduate of Boston University, a military veteran, and a lover of historical fiction.

Amazon ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of My Father’s Kingdom:

In 1620, more than 100 devout men and women crossed the treacherous Atlantic Ocean and established a colony in the New World where they could build a righteous and Godly society. Without the fortuitous friendship of the Wampanoag people and their charismatic leader Massasoit, however, it is doubtful the holy experiment would have survived.

Fifty years later Plymouth Colony has not only survived, it has prospered, and more and more Englishmen are immigrating to New England. The blessed alliance with the Wampanoag, however, is in severe jeopardy. Massasoit has passed away along with most of the original settlers of Plymouth Colony, and their children and grandchildren have very different ideas about their historic friendship.

Thrust into the center of events is Reverend Israel Brewster, an idealistic young minister with a famous grandfather and a tragic past. Meanwhile, Massasoit’s son, known as “King Philip” by the English, is tormented by both the present and the past. He is watching the resources and culture of the Wampanoag nation fade away at the hands of the English and desperately wishes to restore hope and security to his people.

In a world of religious fervor, devastating sickness, and incessant greed, can the alliance of their forefathers survive? Or will New England feel the wrath of tragic, bloody war?

Audible ~ Amazon ~ Audio Excerpt

About Narrator Angus Freathy:

Angus Freathy was born and educated in London – that’s the one in England, for you Ohio folks!

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, he went to Switzerland to join Nestlé for a 2-year wandering assignment, which lasted 37 years and involved travel and work on every continent (except the cold ones at the top and bottom).

Periods of residence in the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland have resulted in a network of friends and acquaintances with an amazing range of world insight and a wide repertoire of mostly excellent jokes.

Since retirement, Angus and his (still working) wife, Debra have lived in Oregon, Maryland and are now in Dublin, Ohio, ‘the only place we have actually chosen to live since we have been married!’.

Following a crushing rejection by the BBC at the age of 19, Angus is re-activating a long-held ambition and launching a new career in voice-over, with the sole intention of having some fun and being in touch with some very talented people.

Website

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $25 Amazon gift Card. Open internationally! Ends August 6th, 2017.

My Father’s Kingdom Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Cold Hollow by Emilie J. Howard

HowardColdHallowWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: J. Scott Bennett

Publisher: Emilie J. Howard (2015)

Length: 5 hours 27 minutes

Author’s Page

Angus Barner is relocating his family to a quaint town, Cold Hollow, in Vermont because he’s been offered a good job there. His wife Sophia has sold her bakery and plans to open a new one. The kids are excited over the adventure. Everything seems peachy until the odd rules of Cold Hollow are enforced. The town is full of odd people who have odd habits. Not all of them are benevolent folk.

The story opens by jumping from one character to the next pretty quickly. Don’t let this throw you off as we will get to know these characters more later in the story. Myrna has an abusive husband, Bob, and she’s just about fed up with him. Meanwhile, a truck driver (Ray) fell asleep at the wheel, causing an accident. Forest Ranger Bullock is meeting out some serious assault on Hugo. All this is going on as the Barners pack up the last of their belongings in Connecticut and head out to Vermont.

Once the Barners arrive in Cold Hollow, the focus shifts to them for the majority of the story. Sophia revels in opening her new bakery. She puts the kids (Liam and Leila) to work part time there and even then needs to hire another hand to keep things going. Myrna becomes an important part of the story as she forms a friendship with Sophia and tries to smooth the way for the Barners in the town.

Mizar is a very shady character. Technically, he is the mayor of the town but pretty much he is a bully with authority backing him up. He checks up on each and every town resident regularly and this is usually to elicit some kind of protection money. He uses Bullock as his muscle, when needed. As he tries to elicit one shady tax after another from the Barners, Sophia starts pushing back. I enjoyed trying to figure out Mizar. At first, I thought he might once have been a kind of good guy that had to instate a kind of martial law and then his ego got too big for his britches and things had just been getting worse since then. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but I definitely enjoyed trying to figure him out.

The Barners are generally good-natured and this gets them into an untenable position. However, they have treated several of the townsfolk with kindness, that few are indifferent to them being bullied. Myrna especially has grown quite found of them all. She knows how the town works and she does her best to smooth things over and/or beat the cranky into submission behind the scenes. Indeed, Myrna’s story arc (from abused house wife to independent bakery assistant) was most interesting. She’s not a goody twoshoes nor does she believe in the absolute right or wrong of an action. She’s really a kind of grey character, committing some actions a person might not agree with but doing so for very good reasons. She quickly became my favorite character.

Meanwhile, we were privy to that serious beat down Hugo took from Ranger Bullock at the beginning of the book. Hugo pops up again later, though he isn’t moving too well. When I started the book, I didn’t know if Hugo deserved the beating or not. It was hard for me to tell who was the bad guy in that situation, even as I disliked Bullock’s obvious enjoyment in his work. Later, it does become clear who is the bad guy between these two and that all ties back to Mizar.

With all these interesting characters running around, the plot thickens. There’s no way to call out of the valley, even with cell phones. Whenever the Barners want to leave on a shopping trip, they have to check in with the local law enforcement. The rules are indeed strange. Then Angus makes a chilling discovery, which is followed by yet another worrisome discovery. The Barners don’t like what they see now that the curtain has been pulled back.

The ending was not what I expected. I really felt for the Barners in that last bit of the book. Myrna steps up and shines as a beacon of righteous payback for all the years of abuse from Mizar. Even as she started making her plans, pulling in allies, and calling in favors, I still wasn’t sure if she would be successful. Indeed, I had my little doubts that all would not end well. The tension in this last 5th or 6th of the book was intense! When all was said and done, I was satisfied with how things turned out. Not everyone gets out alive but many wrongs have been righted. It was a very satisfying book.

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: J. Scott Bennett had to do some New England accents for this story. Most of the time he was great, though sometimes characters would slip out the New England accent (like Sophia). I didn’t really mind this much as each character still had a unique voice. The female voices were believable for the most part – one little old lady sounded like an asthmatic man (but, hey, that might be me in 40 years). I liked his gruff voice for Hugo and his kid voices.

What I Liked: Starts off all happy happy and gets more and more mysterious; Myrna is not your typical heroine and I didn’t even peg her as one until perhaps half-way through the book; the kids work part time; the big reveal about the town and the inhabitants; the last bit of the book was super intense; not everyone makes it out alive; this book made me hungry for pastries.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

Giveaway & Interview: John Enright, Author of New Jerusalem News

EnrightNewJerusalemNewsFolks, please give a welcome to author John Enright! Enjoy the interview and don’t miss out on the giveaway at the end of the post.

Who or what are your non-writer influences?

The New York Times.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

None of the above.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I was a lot younger, and shorter. I don’t remember much. There were a lot of brothers and sisters. I saw a picture of Van Gogh with his bandaged ear and wanted to be a painter.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in comedic mysteries or dramedies literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I stopped teaching college decades ago, so I don’t have to think this way. Besides, I don’t know what dramedies means. Why would I teach a course like that?

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

One winter night in the ‘60s I spent hours in the cold on the sidewalk outside the Manhattan hotel where Pablo Neruda was staying, hoping for a glimpse of the GLP (greatest living poet). Several years later, 1970, I hunted down Ezra Pound’s humble house in Venice, but could not bring myself to knock on the door.

What do you do when you are not writing?

My fingernails are very clean.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Falstaff.

A few—okay, two—of my male friends have said they would like to go out with Queen Emma, the Indian chief in New Jerusalem News.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’ll be doing a gig at Newport Public Library during their March Mystery Month. The next book in the Dominick Chronicles series, Some People Talk with God, will be out in June from Yucca/Skyhorse.

EnrightNewJerusalemNewsBook Description for New Jerusalem News:

Dominick is always just passing through. He is a professional houseguest who follows the sun and the leisure class from resort to resort. But this winter he lingers on a quaint New England island and in spite of his best intentions becomes involved in the travails of his eccentric geriatric hosts. An environmental protest against a proposed liquid natural gas terminal turns ugly, and by accident and happenstance Dominick becomes a mistaken suspect in terroristic bombings. But the book, of course, is really about its characters. None of them are young—white-bearded men and blue-coiffed women busy with aging, dementia, and ungrateful children. Dominick strives to float above it all in a life of itinerant escape. A New England comedy of sorts, New Jerusalem News, on another level, is an extended meditation on history, identity, and what it means to drift.

Buy the book:    Amazon   Barnes & Noble    Book Depository

Author’s Bio:

Originally from Buffalo, New York, John Enright holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the City College of New York and a master’s degree in folklore from the University of California, Berkeley. After working in magazine journalism and book publishing, he left the U.S. to teach at the American Samoa Community College. He remained in the South Pacific for 26 years, directing environmental, cultural, and historical preservation programs and writing extensively about the islands. His acclaimed detective series, Jungle Beat (Thomas & Mercer), featuring Det. Sgt. Apelu Soifua, is set in Samoa. His collection of poems about Samoa, 14 Degrees South, won the University of the South Pacific Press’s inaugural Literature Prize for Poetry in 2011. He now lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, with his wife, ceramicist Connie Payne.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter    Facebook

GIVEAWAY!!!

Check out the tour schedule with iReads Book Tours for more interviews, reviews, guest posts, and chances to win. Win 1 of 2 copies of New Jerusalem News or one $15 Amazon gift card (USA & Canada).

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Black Sam: Prince of Pirates by James Lewis

LewisBlackSamWhere I Got It: Review copy from one of the narrators via Everything Audiobooks Facebook page (thanks!).

Narrators: Alex Hyde-White, Roy Dotrice, Scott Brick, Stefan Rudnicki, William Dufris, Jayne Entwistle, Simon Vance, R. C. Bray, and then quite a few more.

Publisher: Punch Audio/Smoke N Oakum (2015)

Length: 10 hours 54 minutes

Series: Book 1 Black Sam (I assume we will have a sequel because this book left the ending set up for another adventure)

Author’s Page

Note: GoodReads has this book written by two authors: James Lewis and Mat McLeod. However, McLeod’s name doesn’t appear on any of the cover art and he is not listed as an author of the book Audible.com. So, not too sure what is going on there.

It’s the early 1700s, the War of the Spanish Succession has ended, and Sam Bellamy, like so many others, is out of a job. The American colonies is where work and opportunity lay. He falls in love with Maria, a New England debutante who comes from a family of some wealth and repute. Sam must make a name (and a wealthy bank account) for himself before Maria’s parents will even consider him a candidate for her hand. Sam takes on a ship and crew to go treasure hunting off the coast of the Florida. Along the way he meets several other entrepreneurs (aka pirates), earns a few enemies, suffers loss, and gains a wealth of knowledge.

Sam is a good guy, like the boy next door. He can be depended on to do the honorable thing. So while his character was pretty predictable, he was still fun and easy to connect with. He runs around saving women, rescuing his men, and standing up to bullies and other disreputables. In fact, his inclinations towards the good true often leave him in a fight.

This is the time of privateers. It seems every major European country has their privateers. The rules these privateers live by seems largely up to the captain. Needless to say if you privateer on an opposing countries ships and get caught, you can be hung as a pirate. The line between pirate and privateer is often thin. I bet you can guess how our hero Black Sam Bellamy ends up in so much trouble!

There’s plenty of historical characters, like Black Beard the pirate, walking in and giving cameos in this book. That was quite fun and I am sure there are more than I recognized. Sometimes they were giving Sam a hand, sometimes obstructing him, and definitely showing him the seedier side to pirating.

There are very few women in this story and often they are focused on the men and/or need rescuing. Maria was the main female and even so she had a small role. If she wasn’t thinking about men she was talking to or about them. Hence, the ladies were entirely predictable and rather boring.

I did enjoy the book. The plot was a bit predictable because the main characters were predictable. Even so, it was a fun romp through the American colonies and on the high seas. The good guys win, the sticklers for protocol get snubbed and perhaps learn something, and the bad guys either die or go on to wreak havoc for a sequel. If you are looking for a pirate adventure that doesn’t require close attention, then this is perfect brain candy.

The Narration: As you can see above, there was quite the cast for this book! Alex Hyde-White was our main narrator and he did a really good job as Sam Bellamy’s voice. I had a fun time picking out familiar narrators as they popped in and out. My only criticism is that sometimes the background white noise changed as we switched narrators, making it clear that not everyone was in the same studio during recording, and also some studios had a better quality of recording than others.  

What I Liked: Fun historical fiction; Sam is easy to cheer for; historical figures pop in and out; great cast for the narration.

What I Disliked: Very few ladies and they have no lives outside of what concerns the men; plot was a bit predictable.