Historical Fiction at its Best: Review of “Finding Billy Battles: The Lost Years” by Ronald E. Yates

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5stars

This well-written conclusion to the Billy Battles trilogy is its crown jewel. This series’s characters are so vivid and compelling it’s hard to believe that this is a work of fiction. Their involvement in the events of the late 19th and early 20th century brings history alive as well. The author has outdone himself in researching that era and many of the events of which only true history buffs would be aware. In doing so, he has performed a great service bringing them to readers’ attention because these various international skirmishes laid the foundation for much of the contention seen in today’s world.

As they say, victors are the ones who write history. It’s also true that what you hear in history class is based on what higher powers want people to believe and incorporate into their view of the world. There is nothing more enlightening than to see familiar situations from the other side of the fence. Through these novels, Ron Yates has done a stellar job of placing the reader in the middle of various international situations and, in the true spirit of journalism, objectively presenting both sides. Sadly, today there is so much bias in the news media that true journalism has virtually disappeared. But even before they stooped to fake news and blatant lies, the stories presented by the media were designed to maintain a certain mindset that fueled nationalism at its worst.

When the U.S.A. entered World War II, they were definitely invited. Western European countries still appreciate us for the victory made possible by our intervention. For example, to this day Luxembourg places a wreath every Veterans Day on George S. Patton’s grave, which is in a U.S. Military Cemetery within that country. However, there have been times when our actions were nothing less than intrusive, albeit based on self-protection. That is justifiable to a point, but once that goal is achieved, hanging around terrorizing other country’s native populations is flat-out wrong. If you’ve ever wondered why Mexico hates us, this book will provide some answers.

European colonialism, which we supported, is another thorn in the side of many countries, especially in Far East countries like Korea and Vietnam. Bringing our version of civilization to these foreign shores, which we were convinced to consider a favor, in many cases wasn’t. How we’ve treated indigenous populations in other lands is shameful and even persists to this day with regard to Native Americans.

Of course America did not start this practice, which originated millennia ago. Not that long ago, we were a colony ourselves, who were being oppressed, which ultimately resulted in the American Revolutionary War. So what did we do, but turn around and support colonization by those who had once been our enemy. When our borders or way of life are threatened, that’s one thing. If someone attacks us, we have the right to defend ourselves, but our intrusion into these other battles has often made us the invader. It’s no wonder that other countries fear us, and it spirals down from there. However, the world is now entangled in the unfortunate consequences of thousands of years’ worth of conquests. Cliché though it may be, it’s true that those who fail to learn from history are indeed doomed to repeat it.

I didn’t intend for this review to turn into a political essay. However, it demonstrates how effective this novel and its predecessor, “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, have been in enlightening me to some of the less than savory facts embedded in U.S. history, thanks to the exploits of Yates’s amazing characters. Their interaction with actual historical figures makes it all the more interesting and convincing. Astounding imagery puts you right in the thick of things, whether geographically or via the use of the conversational vernacular of the time. In more ways than I can count, this book is a masterpiece. Do yourself a favor and get started on this series today. You’ll not only be entertained, but see the world in an entirely different way. Isn’t that what great fiction is all about?


You can pick up your copy on Amazon of “Finding Billy Battles: The Lost Years” here.

You’ll also want to read “Finding Billy Battles: An Account of Peril, Transgression, and Redemption”, Book 1 of the series, which you can find here.

Book 2, “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, can be found here. My 5* review of this one is here.

Ron at Southcoast WineryLearn more about the fascinating background of author, Ronald E. Yates, and how it prepared him to write such outstanding stories from our interview here.

 

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Ronald E. Yates: Premier Journalist in Fact…and Fiction!

Ron at Southcoast Winery

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Ronald E. Yates, former foreign correspondent, professor emeritus, and author of the highly acclaimed Finding Billy Battles series.  If you haven’t experienced his work, you are missing out on some of the finest novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Not only do his characters jump off the page, but you’ll find yourself transported back in time to historical events of which I, for one, had little knowledge or understanding. His stories brought me to an entirely new comprehension of the Spanish-American and Vietnam Wars, as well as how and why the USA is often viewed in a negative light. You can find more regarding my thoughts on “The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles”, second volume in his series, in my review HERE. I am now an avid fan and hooked on properly researched and objective historical fiction.

Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse of the person behind these landmark works, demonstrating that personal experience contributes greatly to the stuff of which an outstanding writer is made.


MF: You had a long and interesting career as a journalist, not unlike your protagonist, Billy Battles. Does any one particular correspondent assignment stand out above the others? If so, why?

RY: Hmmm. Let me count the assignments. There are several but I would say covering the end of the war in Vietnam between Jan 1974 and April 30 1975. The last day was chaos incarnate. Russian made 122mm rockets were slamming into buildings, 130mm mortars were hitting Tan Son Nhut airport, and the U.S. Embassy was surrounded by frantic South  Vietnamese desperate to get out of the country because they had worked for the American military or some U.S. agency. The city was in full panic mode. Several of us made our way to the sprawling Defense Attaché Office building at Tan Son Nhut and we were finally evacuated by a U.S. Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter. It was a relief until the door gunner told me later aboard the U.S.S. Okinawa that the pilot apparently had to drop flares to misdirect a SAM-7 (surface to air missile) that had been fired at our chopper.

Every year I post a story detailing the last 24 hours in the fall of Saigon. People can find it on my blog. I could add a few more such as the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the time I was taken prisoner in El Salvador by anti-government guerillas, but that would take up the entire interview.

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MF: One thing that impressed me the most about the Billy Battles stories is how well you maintained his objectivity. I learned so much about historical events that have colored other country’s opinion of America. It seems the old standards of journalistic objectivity have gone the way of landlines and 20 megabyte hard drives. How do you feel about today’s highly biased reporting?

RY: As someone who spent 25 years as a journalist practicing it at the highest levels and then another 13 years as a professor and Dean at the University of Illinois where I taught journalism, I am terribly disappointed and disgusted by the lack of fairness and accuracy I am seeing—especially in Washington. It seems to me that too many journalists today see themselves as subjective opinion leaders rather than impartial purveyors of information that is fair and accurate. Coming as I did as a neophyte into the cavernous news room of the Chicago Tribune back in 1969 right out of college, I had editors who made sure that I didn’t stray from accurate, evenhanded and unbiased reporting into opinion and rumor. When I did, I heard about it from some crabby City Editor.

An even worse sin at the Tribune was the sin of omission. That occurred if you took it upon yourself NOT to report something because doing so might not coincide with YOUR interpretation of the event or your political predilection. Good journalism, somebody once said, is a nation talking to itself. Sadly, it is the public that suffers when journalists become advocates for one party or cause at the expense of providing unbiased news. Some say journalism in America is dead. I won’t go that far. But I believe it is in a coma.  

Ron Yates in Bangkok with title 2 (2016_01_14 15_27_28 UTC)MF: Billy is one of the most memorable and realistic characters I’ve encountered in fiction. Did he just spring to life or is he mostly you time-traveling to historical settings?

RY: That is very perceptive of you, Marcha. Aren’t all novels (or trilogies in my case) supposed to be autobiographical in some way? I guess if I’m honest I would agree that Billy is me time-traveling to the past. There are parallels in Billy’s life and mine. For example, both of us grew up in Kansas and we both attended the University of Kansas. Of course I graduated and Billy didn’t. We both spent a lot of time in Asia and Latin America in places like Saigon, Manila, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Veracruz, etc. We both lived in Chicago and we both worked for newspapers there. Even though my wife is German she is not a baroness as Billy’s second wife was. I only had two daughters, not three like Billy. We both owned guns. That’s where the similarities end. Unlike Billy, as far as I know, I never killed anybody.

MF: If you had access to a time machine, which period of history would you go to first?

RY: There are two periods that I have always been fascinated with. One is the 19th Century during the period my trilogy begins. I grew up in Kansas and I was always fascinated by what life was like there in the 19th Century when the state was still quite wild. One of my passions during my time in Kansas was the state’s past, with its cow towns, gun slingers, law dogs, and other assorted characters. I spent a lot of time learning about some of the people whose reputations were made in Kansas—Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, etc.

One of my forefathers from that time knew some of these people and I used that fact in having Billy rub shoulders with them. The other is the period between 100 BC and 200 AD during the height of the Roman Empire. I would love to be able to walk through ancient Rome now that I have walked through it in the 21st Century.

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MF: How much harder would it have been to write your Billy Battles stories without the research capabilities of the internet?

RY: Let me see, how much more difficult? How about 10 times more difficult. The internet has opened up myriad avenues for conducting research. I have a fairly substantial library containing lots of reference books countless subjects, as well as books on Asia and Latin America, etc. because of my time as a foreign correspondent. I use those a lot—especially if I need to double check something I find on the internet that seems a bit off. Believe me, there is plenty of misinformation on the internet—even in Wikipedia, which I support annually with a modest contribution. I had a lot of books on Asia’s colonial period and those were invaluable. Same with books about 19th century and early 20th century Mexico, but I still found myself surfing the internet almost every day. For a writer the internet is an invaluable tool.

MF: Do you (or have you) physically travel to the locations where your stories take place or do you do so vicariously? If the former, what new insights and inspiration came from any of them that made a significant difference in the story?  Did any new plot twists come as a result?

RY: Because I was a foreign correspondent posted to Asia and Latin America I spent years in the places I write about in the Finding Billy Battles Trilogy. I actually lived in the same hotel (The Continental Palace) in Saigon that Billy lives in when he is there in 1894-96. In fact, I had him stay in the same room I lived in, so I could describe the scene outside his window quite accurately. I think it is really important for any author to have visited, if not lived for a while, in the places he or she writes about. There is a ring of truth that you simply cannot achieve by visiting these places virtually on the internet or in travel books, etc. For one thing, you can’t effectively describe the heat, the smells, the way a place can envelope you unless you have been there.

As for plot twists, there are a few in each of the three books. Probably the most significant one in Book 1 is when Billy encounters the Bledsoe clan for the first time and winds up accidentally shooting the matriarch of that family of outlaws. It changes his life and sets him on a path that borders on criminality. In Book 2, it has to be the way Billy and Katharina grow together despite their many differences. I hadn’t originally planned to have the two of them fall in love, but somehow they forced me to do it! In Book 3, I would have to say it is tragedy that sends Billy very definitely on a lawless path along with his cousin Charley Higgins. I won’t say any more. I don’t want to spoil the book for those who haven’t read it yet.

MF: Did you always aspire to become a novelist some day or did it simply evolve over time?

RY: I knew when I went into journalism that I wanted to write novels. But I also knew, that like Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Edna Buchanan, Graham Greene, and the late Tom Wolfe who started as journalists, I needed to learn the craft of writing. I needed to develop a style and I needed to develop confidence in my writing. I didn’t want to write fiction while I was still working as a foreign correspondent, but doing that job allowed me to collect scores of characters for the books I knew I would write someday. My experiences as a journalist have been priceless and vital as I transitioned from journalism to fiction. I think any author who started as a journalist will tell you that. Hemingway once said, “everything I ever learned about writing I learned from the Kansas City Star style sheet and covering the streets of Kansas City.” I could say the same about my 25 years with the Chicago Tribune.

MF: What’s your favorite part of being an author? Your least favorite?

RY: I really enjoy telling stories. It’s what I have done all my life. Journalism is essentially storytelling, but in a different format. Of course, writing fiction is quite different. In fact, I think being an author is both a curse and a gift. It is a wonderful gift if you allow the process to come to you and don’t force it. However, don’t let anybody tell you it is not damned hard work. It is. As I said, the joy of writing for me is telling a good story. I don’t care about imparting a “message.” Nor do I care about creating any hidden “meanings” that some literature professor will hold forth about in a writing class when I am no longer around to rebut him/her. I just want to tell a good story. That, to me, is the ultimate goal of writing.

The curse is that writing can take over your life, isolate you from family and friends, and turn you into a kind of inscrutable recluse if you are not careful. Writers need to take breaks from working. If they don’t I believe they run the risk of becoming stale, self-absorbed, and misanthropic.

MF: Besides Billy, who’s your favorite character in the series and why?

RY: There are a few, but if I had to single out two they would be Charley Higgins, Billy’s shadow rider cousin who has spent part of his life south of the law. Charley is a tough hombre who never shrinks from a good scrap. He is a man-killer and were it not for him, Billy might not have lived to reach old age. Then there is the Baroness Katharina von Schreiber whom Billy meets on the SS China in 1894 on the way to Asia. At first Billy is not attracted to Katharina. She seems aloof and caustic and Billy avoids her until one night she knocks on his cabin door and his life is forever changed.

MF: What’s the most fascinating historical fact you uncovered doing your research?

RY: French Indochina was home to lots of rubber plantations and I was planning on having Billy become involved with them in some way. Then I learned that there were no rubber plantations in French Indochina until after the turn of the century. So between 1894-96, when Billy is there I discovered that coffee and black pepper plantations were the main crops. I was fascinated by the black pepper plantations, how pepper is grown and harvested, etc. so I had him involved in those. I learned a lot.

MF: What are you working on now?

RY: I am beginning a book on a woman named Iva Toguri, AKA “Tokyo Rose.” I wrote a series of stories back in the late 1970s that resulted in President Ford giving her an unconditional pardon. Iva was convicted in 1949 on one of eight counts of treason—one of only 11 Americans ever convicted of treason in American history. However, that one count was based on the testimony of two men who confessed to me that they had been forced to lie at her trial. “Iva never did anything treasonous,” one of the men told me. “Just the opposite. She was fiercely pro-American.” The two men asked for Iva’s forgiveness. They never got it. And with good reason. As a result of their lies Iva spent 6-1/2 years in Alderson Federal Women’s Prison, was fined $10,000 and essentially lost the rights of American citizenship. Those convicted of treason can never vote, never be certified for any profession, never get a passport. My stories went all over the world and, as his last act as president, Ford pardoned her. Iva and I got to be good friends. She lived on the North side of Chicago while I was with the Tribune. We had planned a book together, but in 2002 she suffered a minor stroke and we never got the book off the ground. She died in 2006, but she always told me she wanted to tell her story in her own words. That’s what I plan to do in this book.


9781545632819_cov2.inddBilly Battles: The Lost Years, third and final volume of the trilogy, is now available as an ebook; the print version will take a few more days. If you haven’t already enjoyed the other books in the series, you probably should start with them so you can travel alongside Billy, witness his progression as a character, and chronologically experience history through his eyes.

Link to Finding Billy Battles (Volume I)

The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles (Volume II)

Billy Battles: The Lost Years (Volume III)

 

5-Stars for “Finding Billy Battles – Book II” by Ronald E. Yates

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I learned so much from this well-written and meticulously researched book. I’m not usually that much of a fan of historical fiction, but in this case it was a welcome educational experience. As Billy’s journeys take him to Saigon, the Philippines, and even turn-of-the-20th-century Germany, this story is richly imbued with cultural and historical facts I previously did not know. This included something as simple as where white pepper comes from, but most especially the dark history of colonialism. I had heard of the Spanish-American War, but had no idea it was fought in the Philippines, much less why.

I have grown up simply accepting the fact that the British, French, and Spanish did a considerable amount of exploring, which also constituted conquests for more land and resources. This is apparent by the languages spoken in diverse parts of the world, far from where they originated. Getting a glimpse into the climate and attitudes of the 19th century, especially how indigenous people were trampled and exploited, brought up multiple considerations that had previously been entirely off my radar.

While colonialism’s defenders note that it brings a higher standard of living to these areas, it is also at a high price to the cultural norms and freedom of those unfortunate enough to live in such a place. Insights into Saigon in the late 1800s provided a new understanding into the Vietnam War and guerilla warfare. While in some cases, America has helped defend these countries, in others it has been just as guilty as the European conquests. Ironically, American is the prime example of a country that rebelled successfully against colonialism, yet then went on to force it on others, for example Native Americans. We are no better than anyone else and it’s easy for me to understand why other countries hate us.

The best part of this story is that all these fascinating details were woven into the plot of a story with believable characters caught up in this historical drama, from the Old West, to pre-WWI Europe, and overseas in the Far East.  I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys a meaty, well-researched read that serves up more than an interesting story. History buffs will love it. While it is the second book in a trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed it and had no trouble following it without the benefit of reading the first.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Review of “The Wake (and What Jeremiah did Next) by Colm Herron

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This story is nothing short of brilliant. If you have any connection to Ireland, you’ll recognize the intimate depiction of its people and culture. If you don’t, you’ll get a crash course. The saying that fiction is best for depicting truth definitely applies. In this case, it’s like being fully immersed, perhaps even like being baptized in Irish whiskey, through the eyes of the main character, Jeremiah.

The book is so loaded with truth I hardly know where to start. It starts out at a wake, an event that is typically associated with Irish culture. If you’ve never been to one like myself, this will give you a glimpse of what they’re all about. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, it will make even more sense. Here you have someone who has passed away and has no relatives, so a neighbor holds the wake because it’s the thing to do. The conversations during this event reveal a boatload. It’s more of a social event where refreshments are served than a time to remember the deceased, who was not particularly liked. Jeremiah, whose mother is the hostess, is stuck attending and, to make it more tolerable, has a bit too much to drink. Well, okay, maybe more than a bit. This results in some absolutely hilarious situations that had me laughing ’til I cried, but I won’t give away because I hate spoilers.

So what did Jeremiah do next? Well, he got on with his life. A rather weird, somewhat dysfunctional, crazy one that wasn’t particularly unexpected for a young man in his twenties discovering life in that time and place. As is the case with most that age and gender, he’s obsessed with sex. He’s in love with a woman who’s not only bisexual, but a rebel. This is where all the social issues regarding the Catholics and Protestants come into play. After all, it’s the 60s when protesting was in vogue. So, Jeremiah hooks up with Aisling and her partner, Frances, whom he describes as “Stalin in drag.” The adventures they encounter, including in the bedroom (which are tastefully done, considering it’s a menage a trois) take off from there, and provide a glimpse into the religion-related issues and what the protests are all about.

I consider this story a literary masterpiece. I could hardly put it down, which was exacerbated by the fact it doesn’t have chapter breaks. It reads partly like a journal and partly like following Jeremiah around, perhaps as his guardian angel sees him. Few books have the ability this one has to draw you into a world so effectively. It’s like a very personal trip to the Emerald Isle.

As a bonus, and to assist those who may not “get” what this book is all about, the author includes some discussion questions at the end which would be particularly helpful for book clubs or even English teachers. All great literature is unique and stands out from everything else and this is in that category. You’ll either love it or hate it. I loved it.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Review of “Stealing Time” by K.J. Waters

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I have three fairly basic criteria that will earn a book an instant 5-star review: It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, and it keeps me up past my bedtime. As you have probably guessed, “Stealing Time” definitely hit the mark.

I also have tremendous respect for an author who takes nine years to bring a book to completion. Now, of course, this is really bad news if you have to wait that long for the next episode, which hopefully won’t be the case! But IMHO, there’s a certain richness that a novel achieves with time versus those that are kicked out in a few weeks. No offense to those who do so, of course, I’m probably just jealous, because I’m another one who takes a while to finish up a book. Sometimes much longer than nine years, but that’s another story. What I’m getting at is the quality of the characters, imagery and plot details show when a book, like a fine wine, has aged a bit, giving the author time to rethink, embellish and perfect their story. Yeah. Like a fine wine.

As a time travel story, this one is outstanding. The mechanism that transfers the heroine, Ronnie, back in time is in the realm of science fiction, i.e., credible, but not belabored. Thus, this is not true science fiction fodder, but more in the realm for those who love historical fiction since the majority of the story takes place in 18th Century England with some flashbacks (or would it be flashforwards?) to Florida enduring Hurricane Charley, back in 2004, which precipitated the transfer.

The research for this period of time was incredible. The reader is truly transferred back in time to a world so different than ours it feels like another planet. If you don’t think the world has made any progress in the past two hundred fifty years, you definitely need to read this book. While today’s world definitely has its problems and fundamental human nature doesn’t change, it’s incredible to get a glimpse of what England was like back in 1752. Wow. I, for one, am reminded how lucky I am to be living in this century. There are plenty of undercover lessons here, too, with regard to superstitious and unreasonable beliefs that drive a culture, in this case the ridiculous view of what qualified a woman as a witch and how she was subsequently tried and treated. Chilling and horrifying are the first words that come to mind.

The imagery and action was absolutely breathtaking, especially the last fourth of the book, at which point I just sucked it up regardless of the late hour and finished. Since this is the first book in a trilogy, I knew everything wouldn’t be solved, but it did provide a satisfying ending, though there were certainly plenty of unanswered questions to drive the reader’s hunger for the next volume. I highly recommend this well-written story to anyone who loves a thriller, historical fiction or romanticizes the past. Believe me when I say we have come much farther than you may think.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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Review of “An Extended Journey” by Paul Sherman

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This exceptionally well-written and flawlessly edited story has everything a good time travel story demands. Note, however, that it’s more fantasy than science fiction since the means of delivery to the past is in the realms of the paranormal. Thus, don’t expect some exotic high tech means to remove the characters from the present time. This detail, indeed, is but a moot point given the tremendous message of this meticulously researched historical novel, but I wanted to throw it out there just in case you’re expecting sci-fi.

More often than not, time travel stories have more of a philosophical theme as they tread the line between fantasy, history and “what if” speculations. I recommend this story to those interested in American History, particularly the period around the Revolutionary War. The author’s research is apparent in the convincing details that take the reader back to another but not necessarily simpler time.

This story features David Dearns and his family which comprises his wife, Monica, and two young daughters, Jane and Katelyn, who are unexpectedly transported from modern times back to Colonial Williamsburg in 1781. The transition is great, given they’re visiting that location in modern times and thus surrounded by numerous individuals dressed in period costumes and buildings that date back to the time of the American Revolution, which is in progress. You can sense their confusion, particularly when they suddenly realize not only where but when they are.

This event was not simply coincidence, however, but clearly a matter of being chosen to accomplish a specific mission at the behest of a mysterious black woman they know only as Aunt Harriet. Their task is to intervene with Thomas Jefferson in a manner that convinces him to end slavery as part of the yet-to-be-written American Constitution. Since I want to avoid spoilers, that’s all I’ll say about plot details so future readers can fully enjoy the story as it unfolds.

There were some areas where the story seemed to drag, but it was so well-written that the slow pace was forgivable. It also served a purpose in establishing the time, place and mood of the times as this 21st Century family gradually acclimates to life in the late 1700s. If you’re a history buff, you’re likely to thoroughly enjoy it. A bit more culture shock would have added to the realism and perhaps picked up the pace in those pages capturing the details of life at that time. The plot action definitely accelerated toward the middle and took off from there with well-sustained suspense.

Historical details were plentiful and expertly integrated. The matter of changing history and the various paradoxes introduced by the family’s presence were addressed in a clever and sometimes unexpected manner, such as the premature albeit inadvertent introduction of modern technology. There were numerous places where I laughed out loud at some of the main character’s witticisms and sarcastic thoughts though his propensity for profanity was a bit troubling and could turn off certain potential readers. Many religious folks have a keen interest in American History and are often more forgiving of an expletive here and there, which is all too common today, than profanity. It wasn’t excessive by any means, and was mainly in the first part of the book, but would have earned a few cringes from various folks I know who would otherwise love the story.

Matters of free choice were suitably addressed and demonstrated the “butterfly effect”, i.e., where one small event institutes major change. On a personal as well as collective level, I’m sure all of us could point to various decisions that could have been made in a more constructive manner given 20:20 hindsight. The decisions of those who run countries certainly affect thousands and even millions and the consequences of bad ones splash on all concerned, many of whom suffer far more than the perpetrator.

As physicist Michio Kaku and various others have noted, parallel dimensions are a possibility included in quantum theory. Some have even speculated that every possible outcome of every decision ever made is represented somewhere, which I frankly don’t buy into. Nonetheless, starting a new track as a solution to time travel stories, e.g., Spielberg’s “Back to the Future” trilogy, works here for the sake of reader satisfaction. I’m not a big fan of historical novels, but the author’s strong writing skills kept me immersed in the story. More often than not, I find my inner editor slipping out while reading which, to his credit, did not occur. Such exceptional writing alone makes this book worth reading.

You can pick up your copy at Amazon here.

An Outstanding & Thought-Provoking Time-Travel Tome

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While the premise of going back in time to alter history isn’t new, the author’s skill in its presentation coupled with his unique insights will satisfy science fiction and history buffs as well as anyone with an eclectic taste for literature. Indeed, this story possesses the makings of a classic. It’s highly intelligent, flawlessly edited, and I love the author’s straight-forward yet ethereal style which flows with the essence of timelessness that you’d expect in a book that involves time travel. His skillful writing combined with the fact his name is a pseudonym leaves the impression that he may, indeed, be a time traveler himself. The title is perfect, a thought-provoking glimpse of the nature of time and how far it could be stretched were it breached or controlled, the scope of its content undoubtedly epic.

As this tale begins, time travel has already been achieved and a multi-disciplined committee of academics privy to the technology directs its use to keep humanity’s history on the proper track. Three previous attempts didn’t work out as hoped, but the problems have supposedly been solved by scientist, Lawrence Henry, a.k.a. Hank, whose breakthrough discovery removes the troublesome paradoxes. Thus, Hank and his fiancée, Frances Newton, set out to establish humanity in a New Historical Age.

Those with whom they interact see them only as a very tall, mysterious gentlemen and a red-headed woman who serendipitously slip into their respective eras at historically important times. Each fable is independent and captures a nexus where a decision made by an individual, some famous historical figures, others not, takes the world in a new direction. These included encounters with Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, King Henry VIII, Marcellus and Archimedes. As a reader I was immersed in the flavor of the moment and felt as if I was observing a profound moment in history unfold.

Events prior to those in recorded history were touched on as well, such as the invention of writing and numbers, the wheel, the transition to an agrarian society and even a new look at man’s best friend. The episodes operate on multiple levels which will satisfy casual readers as well as history lovers or those with philosophical tendencies. Each carefully selected situation demonstrated the author’s thorough understanding of history, was well researched, and included some little known facts packaged as a tremendously enjoyable story stylishly written. I haven’t read the preceding volumes in the Elastic Limit series, but this one stood well on its own while nonetheless leaving me with the desire to read the previous volumes, which this one ties together.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Rhoda D’Ettore Blog Tour

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No One Is Safe While…

ZODIAC LIVES

A Novel by Rhoda D’Ettore

After surviving a car accident that killed her father, three-year-old Jennifer begins having nightmares. It’s soon obvious she suffers from something more dreadful than the accident when she provides clues to a murder committed 3,000 miles away—and two decades before she was born.

Jennifer’s nightmares set off a chain reaction that prompts the infamous Zodiac Killer to emerge from dormancy and terrorize San Francisco for a second time.

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BOOKSQUAD

Goin’ Postal & The Creek

Rhoda D’Ettore began her writing career by publishing humorous tales about working at the United States Postal Service. Fifteen years of dealing with bombs, anthrax, and human body parts in the mail made for an interesting read. Her co-workers laughed so hard at the nostalgia, they encouraged her to publish the writings. Since then, D’Ettore has fascinated readers with plot twists mixed with sarcastic humor.

D’Ettore knew postal workers would buy her story, yet she also wanted to show them she could write interesting, serious work with shocking twists. In Goin’ Postal & The Creek, the reader gets two very different stories in one book. The first containing the hysterical tales of postal worker life. The second story is a historical fiction that spans 200 years with a slightly supernatural twist. Topics include war, love, romance, death, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and how families survive such events.


Newborn Nazi

Newborn Nazi tackles the issues of right and wrong as well as self sacrifice when fourteen-year-old Edmund is forced into the Hitler Youth in 1935. His older siblings vow to destroy Nazi Germany, and the family gets swept up in espionage and the Underground Movement. When Edmund becomes an adult and joins the feared SS, his sister’s secret endeavors to save Jews in her home endangers lives—including her own. This suspense thriller is sure to keep you guessing.

Newborn Nazi is based on Rhoda D’Ettore true family history. There was an Edmund who was forced into the Hitler Youth, and his sister did help Jews escape. D’Ettore found the story so riveting, she took the plot of the story and added murder and espionage to create this intense thriller.


Tower of Tears: The McClusky Series 1

In Tower of Tears: The McClusky Series, we find Jane traveling to America from Ireland with her three-year-old son. Expecting to find a better way of life, Jane finds nothing but intimidation, betrayal, violence, and heartache. This family saga includes blackmail, murder, mystery, and a touch of romance.

While writing Tower of Tears, D’Ettore gave her mother one chapter at a time for feedback. D’Ettore was undecided who the murderer in the book would eventually be, so she wrote the story with five characters hating and threatening the murder victim. Halfway through the book, D’Ettore’s mother shouted, “I know who killed him…. it was ####”. D’Ettore then finished the book with a different character as the murderer. When her mother read the final draft of the book, she replied, “That’s not who the murder is. I told you who is was.” D’Ettore then said, “I wrote the book, so I know who the murderer should be. Thanks.”


10 Shades of Blush: The Softer Side of Kink

10 Shades of Blush: The Softer Side of Kink is a collection of naughty fantasies of ordinary women. Teachers, mothers, and professionals submitted their wants and desires for kinky fun. All the tales are told as if the women are speaking directly to their partners. The audiobook of this has been called “Two hours of phone sex for $7”.

Rhoda D’Ettore works are available as ebook, paperback, and audiobooks

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Review of “Newborn Nazi” by Rhoda D’Ettore: A suspense-filled view of Nazi Germany

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Sometimes I found this book as difficult to pick up as it was to put down. I do most of my reading at night after I go to bed and the opening chapters were so intense that I could barely get through them. The suspense and tension were incredible as the author transports you to Germany during the Third Reich. I remember being told many years ago that ethical dilemmas make excellent stories and that is certainly the case here. As Hitler’s regime assumed power, the brutality employed to demand compliance placed many good, law-abiding citizens in a very precarious position. This story chronicles how one particular family dealt with these challenges, how some had no choice but to obey while others stuck to their beliefs and morals regardless of consequences.

This incredible book took me through the entire spectrum of emotions.  I felt their fear, determination, frustration, heartbreak and strength. It’s loaded with surprises that sometimes left me gasping, yet they rang true and were not contrived. The main character, Hedwig, is a strong, determined woman who refuses to compromise her standards. All of the characters are compelling, their motivation convincing. The relationships between them are often complex yet entirely believable, especially given the precarious wartime setting. The fact the author drew the premise for this story from her own family history makes it all the more intense and unforgettable. Those of us who have lived a relatively peaceful life have no idea what much of the world faces on a day to day basis. This book had additional meaning to me because I have a dear friend who was born in Berlin in 1943 and grew up playing on post-war rubble, wondering where the next meal was coming from.

If you enjoy suspense, mystery and intrigue in an historical setting that takes you back to another place and time this book is for you. The fact I found some parts emotionally difficult is testimony to the author’s ability to draw the reader into the story. This is indeed a novel that will stay with you, leaving you a slightly different person by the time you finish, as if you, too, were part of the horror of Nazi Germany. As they say, those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Witnessing the hard choices ordinary citizens were faced with provides a much needed reminder that freedom is not something to be taken for granted.

(Be sure to see my Interview with author, Rhoda D’Ettore in the “Interviews” section.)

BUY LINKS:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Newborn-Nazi-Rhoda-DEttore-ebook/dp/B00NGC8GXM/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/newborn-nazi-rhoda-dettore/1120331304

Interview with Author Rhoda D’Ettore

rhodaI have rarely encountered a book that was so intense that it was literally stressful to read but that was the case with Rhoda’s “Newborn Nazi” (posting of review to follow). Her ability to build suspense and create vivid characters is incredible. It’s even more interesting that much of her inspiration comes from real-life stories.

MF: Your family history has served as considerable inspiration for your novels. Did you do your own genealogical research or was it handed down to you?

RD: I did use ancestry.com for a considerable amount of research. On that site, I was able to find distant cousins from around the world who were able to provide me with research that had already been compiled. It was an amazing journey. With regards to Newborn Nazi, that story was based on a story that was verbally passed down. However, I do have certain memorabilia which provides proof that it is true.

MF: If you did your own research, did you have any interesting or perhaps even paranormal experiences while doing so?

RD: I was not expecting some of the things I did find. In the 1890s, one of my ancestors was in the newspaper for drunk driving of a horse and buggy. During World War I, my German ancestor (naturalized as an American citizen) had a bar fight in which he said this country was going to “hell in a hand basket”. I was able to find an FBI file on him for “Violation of the Espionage Act” because he spoke against American interests. I think one of the funniest things was to find that in the 1820s, members of my family worked for the postal industry. I currently have about six family members who either work for, or retired from the USPS. My brother’s response was, “Great. In 150 years, our family didn’t advance at all!”

As far as paranormal, I have experienced such occurrences, but none that involved my genealogical research. I have incorporated my family’s paranormal experience into a book entitled “The Creek: Where Stories of the Past Come Alive”. I am also working on a book currently entitled Zodiac Lives which is a paranormal thriller.

MF: Did you grow up with these stories being told by grandparents or at family gatherings?

RD: My German grandmother did indeed raise me with stories of interesting tales. Specifically the story that inspired Newborn Nazi.

MF: If you did your own research, was it to find story ideas or did it work the other way, that what you found inspired you to capture and develop it?

RD: I had always loved history, and because of it, I have always had an interest in my own past. Once I started writing seriously, I realized that some of those stories of the past did indeed make for good plots. Of course, I have embellished upon them. Although my family did house Jews and others to help them escape from Nazi Germany, they were not involved in any sort of spy network. But the truth is an awesome basis for a story.

MF: When you extrapolate what you know about a certain family do you ever feel as if you’re channeling as opposed to creating what occurred?

RD: I would not say “channeling” but I have certainly considered that my deceased sister has influenced me. I can hear in my head her saying things like, “You go, lil’ sis! That book is awesome”. I have even used her picture on a couple book covers and written a free short story about her, Thrice Dead. If you want to read about how many times a person can die, read that one!

MF: You certainly have a very lively genetic background which includes ancestors from Germany, Italy and Ireland. Did you notice any culture clashes growing up or did they meld together and create their own unique cultural environment? Was there any particular factor (e.g. religion) which bound them together?

RD: All three ethnicities were Catholic, and growing up that way provides some awesome material as well. I have often joked that the Irish would get drunk, the Italians would then start fights with the drunken Irish, and the Germans would sit back singing polkas and laughing at the other two for not being able to hold their alcohol. I know that sounds really stereotypical, but it made for some fun times. I miss those days. My German grandmother used to love a party… and the family joke was “It’s Tuesday night and someone sneezed. Be at Mom Mom’s house at 7pm.” Be sure to check out the “Short & Silly” posts on my blog for my Strip Club Grannies story. Then you will get an idea of how much fun I had as a kid!

MF: Do you identify with one nationality more than the others? If so, which one and why?

RD: Physically, I am the typical blue eyed blonde, big framed German woman. I didn’t really fit in physically with the rest of the Italians or Irish, that is for sure. My mother is a very strong lady who has the Italian temper. So I am a mix of the Italian temper with the German brawn— that is a dangerous combination! But I never got into any trouble because of it.

MF: What are your thoughts on the statement “Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it?”

RD: Unfortunately, most people find history boring. Or in their own lives, they refuse to learn from the mistakes of others and insist on making their own mistakes. However, people need to open their eyes.

Some of the societal issues in Newborn Nazi involve giving up our freedoms for safety or economic improvements. It discusses conformity without question. As the American society evolves, we are giving up more of our personal freedoms and even thoughts. We live in a world now where if you are not politically correct, then you are evil. A racist might be a stupid bigot, but it is still his right to believe the way he does. And I have the right to believe he is a moron. But when you limit people’s right to think the way you do, then the horrors of the past are not only possible, but probable. We live in a society where a Lieutenant in the US Army died in Afghanistan after serving to protect the rights of the American people, but his wife had to fight for over a year to be able to place a Wiccan symbol on his headstone. What hypocrisy! He can die to provide freedoms, but not be entitled to those same freedoms? Only by learning from the past can we ensure our freedoms in the future.

MF: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

RD: The best part of writing is talking to people who have read and enjoyed my work. Reading the reviews is one of the most incredible feelings I have ever had. I have a friend who stopped talking to me for a month because I killed her favorite character, but she failed to realize what a huge compliment that was. She felt so connected to that character—someone I invented— that she yelled and got mad. What an incredible feeling that is for an author! To know I can use words on paper to stir people into such strong emotions!

MF: What are you currently working on and when do you hope to release it?

RD: I have three books I am currently working on:

Liam’s Longing: The McClusky Series Book 2 – This is a continuation of my historical fiction, Tower of Tears, which centers on an Irish family who immigrates to Philadelphia in 1820. The first book involved murder, betrayal, blackmail as well as a little romance. I will continue upon those themes while incorporating historical events into the series such as the Potato Famine, the Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution.

Zodiac Lives – This is a paranormal thriller where a child begins having nightmares and tells her mother of incidents and people from her former life. When her mother researches her daughter’s claims, she not only begins to believe in reincarnation, but she soon finds that she and her daughter are now targets for the Zodiac Killer of the 1960s. A serial killer who was never caught, he emerges from hiding to protect his identity.

I hope to have both of these out by January or February. Newborn Nazi’s audiobook is currently in production, and scheduled for release in January.

I also am working on “Mob Kids: Growin’ Up Philly Style” which is a novel that delves into what it was like to grow up in the families of the South Philadelphia Italian mob. No release date is schedule yet.

CONNECT WITH RHODA:

Website:  http://www.rhodadettore.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhodadettore
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RhodaDEttore

TITLES

nazi
Newborn Nazi (ebook, paperback, soon on audiobook)

toweroftears
Tower of Tears: The McClusky Series Book 1 (ebook, paperback, audiobook)

othertitle
Goin’ Postal & The Creek (Where Stories of the Past Come Alive) (ebook, paperback, audiobook)

shadesofblush
10 Shades of Blush: The Softer Side of Kink (ebook & audiobook)

Amazon buy links:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Rhoda%20D%27Ettore&sprefix=Rhoda%2Caps

Barnes & Noble buy links:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Rhoda-d-Ettore?store=allproducts&keyword=Rhoda+d%27Ettore

Smashwords buy links:
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/rainydal74