Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The winners are......

Hailee ~ Cyndy

Surrender the Dawn ~ Cheryl, Leola, Beth & Laetitia

Congratulations and enjoy!

10 Authors You Need to Read

Here are 10 brilliant writers, who are equally amazing people, and whose books completely captivate me! 

The links will take you to their pages on the also amazing FamilyFiction website (whose magazine I write for) and you can check out their books.  You will soon see I love a whole range of genres from military thrillers to historical romance but I can't recommend these authors enough.  

I'd love you to check them out, read one of their books and come back and let me know what you thought!

TL Higley 

Here are covers of some of my favourite books they have written :)

I had to do this list really quickly as I kept thinking of other authors who I would like to add!!  Maybe next time :)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Susan May Warren's Jinx Worth

Character Spotlight

 Jinx Worth

Susan May Warren pens the first in her Daughters of Fortune historical series with Heiress.  Enjoy meeting Jinx!

Over to you, Susan:~

Brief physical description 

Jinx is curvy and shorter, with long black hair, a smug smile and someone who thinks she just might know everything. She wants to be at the top of the social class of NYC at the turn of the century, and she’ll do anything to make that happen. However, the cost may be more than she can bear.

Actor/famous person

Meet Jinx: Lea Michele

Strengths and weaknesses

Jinx knows what she wants and how to get it. She belongs to the social elite, knows how to plan parties, run a household and advance her husband’s career. What she doesn’t expect is her heart falling for another man. Her strength is her determination and drive, her weakness is her desire to be loved.

Quirk (if any)

Jinx is fiercely independent during a time when women were fixtures in the household. She learns to drive a car early on, and even teaches her husband’s brother how to drive. She also joins the suffragettes and marches on Washington.

Your inspiration for the character

I wanted a character that could resemble Jacob, of the biblical Jacob and Esau story (someone who could compliment her older sister, Esme). Jinx is headstrong, a little diabolical, but also broken by her choices and decisions, afraid to face God and her sister with her sins.

Background to the story

I love history, and especially the turbulent times of the early 20th century – the gilded age, the roaring twenties, the depression era thirties and World War two. This is the first book in the Daughters of Fortune series about a family and their generations through this turbulent time. Heiress asks the question: If you could buy anything, would you sacrifice it all for love?

Thanks for sharing, Susie :)  Always lovely to have you visit!

Relz Reviewz Extras
Reviews of Nightingale & Sons of Thunder
Visit Susie's website and blog
Buy Susie's books at Amazon or Koorong

CFBA Blog Tour of Thunder in the Morning Calm by Don Brown

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Thunder in the Morning Calm
Zondervan (August 2, 2011)
Don Brown


DON BROWN, a former U.S. Navy JAG Officer, is the author of Zondervan’s riveting NAVY JUSTICE SERIES, a dynamic storyline chronicling the life and adventures of JAG officer ZACK BREWER. After TREASON, his first novel in the NAVY JUSTICE SERIES, was published to rave reviews in 2005, drawing comparisons to the writing style of John Grisham, Don Brown was named as co-chairman of national I LOVE TO WRITE DAY, an event recognized by the governors of nine states to promote writing throughout the nation, and especially among the nation’s schools.

Paying no homage to political correctness, Don's writing style is described as “gripping,” casting an entertaining and educational spin on a wide-range of current issues, from radical Islamic infiltration of the military, to the explosive issue of gays in the military, to the modern day issues of presidential politics in the early 21st Century.

Don graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1982, and after finishing law school, continued his post-graduate studies through the Naval War College, earning the Navy’s nonresident certificate in International Law.

During his five years on active duty in the Navy, Don served in the Pentagon, was published in the Naval Law Review, and was also a recipient of the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.


Lieutenant Commander 'Gunner' McCormick is assigned as an intelligence officer to Carrier Strike Force 10, being deployed to the Yellow Sea at the invitation of South Korea for joint exercises with the US Navy. During his pre-deployment briefing, he discovers a TOP-SECRET MEMO revealing rumors that the North Koreans may still be holding a handful of elderly Americans from the Korean War in secret prison camps.

As it happens, Gunner's grandfather, who was a young marine officer in the Korean War, disappeared at Chosin Reservoir over 60 years ago and is still listed as MIA in North Korea. Sworn to silence about what he has read, the top-secret memo eats at him. Gunner decides to spend all his inheritance and break every military regulation in the book to finance his own three-man commando squad on a suicide mission north of the DMZ to search for clues about the fate of his grandfather.

Risking his career, his fortune, and his life, Gunner will get his answers, or he will die trying.

Don Brown is building a loyal fan base by writing what he knows best: thrillers with heart. A former Navy JAG officer and action officer in the Pentagon, Brown pens action-packed plots and finely-drawn characters that are credible and compelling. Thunder in the Morning Calm is a novel of bravery, duty, and family love that will keep readers of all ages reading straight through to the last page.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Thunder in the Morning Calm , go HERE

Rel here:  I'm snowed with INSPY Award longlist reading at the moment but check back soon as I will be reviewing Don's book.  I've thoroughly enjoyed his others :)

Monday, 29 August 2011

Torrent by Lisa T Bergren with US giveaway


When Gabi and Lia finally learn to surf the river of time, they realize they must make hard choices about life and love in the third and final book in the River of Time series.

Gabi and Lia Betarrini have learned to control their time travel, and they return from medieval Italy to save their father from his tragic death in modern times. 

But love calls across the centuries, and the girls are determined to return forever-even though they know the Black Plague is advancing across Europe, claiming the lives of one-third of the population. In the suspenseful conclusion of the River of Time series, every decision is about life and death. 

My take:~

Lisa T Bergren has captivated my heart, soul and mind with the stunning conclusion to her epic River of Time series.  Torrent hurtles readers back to medieval Italy with Gabi and Lia, this time with parents in tow.   Intrigue, corruption, secret societies and one gorgeous but ambiguous villain intensify the danger and romance, as Lisa weaves twists and turns together with heart pounding adventure into another unique and thrilling tale.  While penned for teens, this series' appeal extends to any reader who craves exceptional storytelling, brilliant characterisation and a legendary love story.  Torrent left me both breathless and invigorated and as much as I would love to say more, there is no way I am spoiling the adventure for those who haven't yet read Waterfall and Cascade, but will say I was both surprised and delighted by the conclusion of the series.  That said, nothing would please me more than to hear that Lisa is able to write more books in a new series about the Bettarini women, the Forelli knights and said ambiguous villain!  I can't wait to dive back in to this amazing series ~ that is how fabulous they are.

With thanks to Wynn Wynn Media for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras
Character interviews with Luca Lia, Gabi and Marcello

Reviews of Waterfall & Cascade
Character spotlight on Gabi, Marcello, Luca & Lia
View the trailer for Cascade
Visit Lisa's author website and her travel website
Buy Lisa's books at Amazon or Koorong

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin


Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life. As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

My take:~

Sarah Sundin completes her Wings of Glory trilogy with the stellar Blue Skies Tomorrow, the story of the eldest Novak brother, Ray and young war widow, Helen Carlisle. A talented researcher, Sarah's attention to historical detail is second to none which makes her books educational as well as entertaining! Tackling issues often avoided in Christian Fiction, Sarah addresses spousal abuse, dysfunctional families, racial discrimination and more while weaving a tender love story alongside a fearful man's heroic adventure. The World War II era comes alive as do the characters, with all their flaws and insecurities, and the strength that comes from deep held faith and convictions. Blue Skies Tomorrow will engage, evoke heartfelt emotions and deeply satisfy.

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

With thanks to Revell for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras
Character spotlight on Ray & Helen
RBC Book Club interview with Sarah ~ Part 1 & Part 2
Character spotlight on Jack & Ruth
Review of A Distant Melody
Character spotlight on Allie & Walt
Visit Sarah's website and blog
Buy Sarah's books from Amazon or Koorong

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Gina Holmes' Eric Yoshida

Character Spotlight

Due to the success of Gina Holmes' debut novel, Crossing Oceans, her September release Dry As Rain has been greatly anticipated.  Enjoy meeting her latest protagonist, Eric Yoshida.

Over to you, Gina:~

Brief physical description

Eric Yoshida, half-Japanese, half-caucasian. Attractive forty-five

Actor/famous person

No one I can think of. He was a hard one to find a picture on that I was satisfied with. He’s in my mind though.

Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths-hard worker, loves his family, good friend, fair boss.

Weaknesses: workaholic, reactive, jumps to wrong conclusions.

Quirk (if any)

He knows what he wants and yet constantly does the opposite. For instance, he loves the ocean, but he moves his family away from it to give them a McMansion in the suburbs because he thinks that’s what he ought to do to be a good provider.

Your inspiration for the character

I just climbed inside the skin of a man who was tempted and stumbled and tried to discover what would cause him to do that.

Background to the story

Eric and Kyra Yoshida have been married two decades, growing slowly apart one misunderstanding and unkind word at a time until they finally separate. Kyra is involved in a car crash and a concussion causes her to lose parts of her memory, including the memory of the chasm between her and Eric. When she begins to look at him again with eyes of love, Eric realizes he still loves her too. But he’s already committed the unthinkable—infidelity. Eric takes his second chance to win back her heart, before her memory returns.

Thanks Gina ~ sounds like a great story :)

Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Gina's website and her Novel Rocket blog
Buy Gina's books at Amazon or Koorong

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Day of War by Cliff Graham


In ancient Israel, at the crossroads of the great trading routes, a man named Benaiah is searching for a fresh start in life. He has joined a band of soldiers led by a warlord named David, seeking to bury the past that refuses to leave him. Their ragged army is disgruntled and full of reckless men. Some are loyal to David, but others are only with him for the promise of captured wealth.

While the ruthless and increasingly mad King Saul marches hopelessly against the powerful Philistines, loyal son Jonathan in tow, the land of the Hebrew tribes has never been more despondent-and more in need of rescue. Over the course of ten days, from snowy mountain passes to sword-wracked battlefields, Benaiah and his fellow mercenaries must call upon every skill they have to survive and establish the throne for David-if they don't kill each other first.

My take:~

Cliff Graham's debut novel, Day of War, is a unique addition to the Biblical Fiction genre and I found much to like in this retelling of David's battles alongside his fierce and faithful warriors. I was particularly enamoured with Cliff's portrayal of the charismatic and conflicted David, as he and his rag tag army of mercenaries roamed and fought in ancient Israel.   Jonathan is also drawn with intelligence and insight and while they do not cross paths in the time frame of this story, their abiding friendship is evidenced well.  Benaiah, who carries much of the story, reflects the staunch, career warrior who comes to realise he betrayed his wife with his dedication to the fight.  Cliff has a gift for characterisation and there is plenty of opportunity to display it with the numerous main players from Benaiah to David, Jonathan to Saul, Keth, Garab, Eliam and Josheb.  Earthy conversations, bloody battles and gallows humour are thankfully all present reflecting the lot of a warrior rather than sanitizing a story that is unquestionably gruesome as well as heroic.   Check out the Biblical books of Samuel or Chronicles and you will get the picture. While there are fearsome battles, wrestling with lions and suicidal missions, Cliff includes the frailties and fears of these men adding excellent texture and depth to the tale. On occasion, the descriptive prose was overdone and some scenes too drawn out, but I expect to see some tightening of the plot and language as Cliff continues to hone his craft in the remaining four novels. Men will thrive on these books but women, do not discount them! Anyone who loves a gritty and authentic read will be hooked by Cliff's stories and his marvelous characterisation and hopefully will venture back to the Scriptures which inspired Cliff to pen the adventures and failures of David and his Mighty Men.

PS.  I think the cover art is brilliant :)  And be on the lookout for the movie in due course.

With thanks to Zondervan for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Cliff's website and blog
Buy Cliff's books at Amazon or Koorong

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

RBC Book Club interview with Mesu Andrews ~ Part 1

Mesu Andrews' take on Job, Love Amid the Ashes, was our July selection and we had a fabulous discussion on our thoughts and responses to the story.  Mesu graciously answered our many and varied questions which I am delighted to share with you.

Mesu's debut release gave us much to think about as we reflected on the Biblical accounts of Job and Dinah, the horrific experience Job struggled through and his faithfulness to God.
*some spoilers ahead*

RBC:  How long did the writing process of this book take you and what was your 'plan of attack' in writing it?

Mesu:  I began researching the book in October 2008 and found the first tid-bit of info on Job’s wife—I saw the possibility of Dinah mentioned in a commentary and was hooked. With biblical fiction, research continues throughout the writing of the manuscript. It seems I never know enough to write a full scene without digging for more information! My first rough draft was submitted to Revell in March 2010, one year before release.

My “plan of attack” (love that) is always the same with any biblical story. I look to Scripture first for all the unalterable FACTS. That includes looking for any small reference that might be tied to the story in other books of Scripture. It also means viewing Scripture as one story on a single timeline—not looking at it in separate books. Such a view generally ties me into ancient history, which is my second step in research—historical documentation. Ancient texts, archaeological findings, and geographical information about the specific land I’m describing are crucial elements to pull readers into the story. My third step is good ol’ fashioned imagination. That’s when we get to hang the tinsel on the leaves and branches of the tree.

How did you choose the characters names and did the characters remind you of people you know?

Oooh, great question! Many character names were given in Scripture or historical texts. When I must name a character, I use several websites (Biblical Baby Names, Muslim Baby Names) to find something that fits the personality of the person I’m portraying; however, I also must choose names that a reader won’t stumble over. For instance, Sayyid seemed relatively simple to read and means “master.”

While writing, I didn’t portray the characters with certain people in my life in mind. But as the book progressed, I saw similarities in my characters and my family and friends. No one is exactly like any of my characters, but I think there’s specific resemblance of several family members in the characters. My husband is Job to me. He led me to the Lord and helped me overcome some of the shame that plagued my B.C. days. My daughters are Dinah and Nogahla, and my son-in-love is Aban. Not totally, but close. :)

With all the editing work done on a book, has your book changed much from your initial conception of what the story line was going to be?

ABSOLUTELY! Here’s the pitch sentence my editor thought she was getting: When their possessions were lost and their children killed, Job’s wife stood strong beside her husband. But where was God when the man she loved more than life drew near to death? Join the powerful journey of a woman wooed by God toward personal, intimate faith. The book is a little different, eh? But I have THE MOST WONDERFUL editor in the whole world! And evidently, she liked the final story better.

The picture of the lady on the front cover is a fair haired blue eyed woman. I suspect that that wouldn't have been common in Israel - usually darker hair & eye's. Who made the decision to use that picture? Do authors get to have a say about a front cover or is this decision left entirely to
the publishing house?

It’s so funny that you ask that. One blogger’s review really fussed about the model, but I actually wanted this fair-haired, blue-eyed model! I didn’t do a very good job of it in the book, but my conclusions after researching Jacob/Leah’s heritage is that Leah’s eyes may have been called “weak” (Gen. 29:17) because they were light in color. Crazy, huh? When you think about Esau’s red hair, we also can imagine fair coloring. Though it’s not what we picture when we think of today’s typical Middle Eastern tones, the research I did showed it was not only possible, but even likely that some of Leah’s children might have inherited her gene for lighter coloring.

Authors, from what I’ve heard, don’t usually get a lot of say on their covers. This was actually the second cover for LAtA. Revell had even gone so far as to publicize another cover but pulled it and reshot this one when their sales team felt the first one fell short! Amazing people to work with, they’ve included me on lots of decisions. I love Revell’s team!

I too have a chronic illness - what advice can you share from your journey?

Embrace it, and then release it. I fought fibromyalgia for years. And then I fought POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). Then I fought migraines. I tried every new cure, every possible answer. I recently ordered a new book on fibromyalgia. It’s the first thing I’ve read about fibro in almost 6 years. Why? Because the more I read about it, thought about it, tried to get rid of it—the more mastery it had over me. Granted, there are some days, when the pain is undeniable, and I can’t concentrate on anything else. But most days, I find something else to bury myself in—a new project, a good book, more research. Hours go by without a single thought of my discomfort.

Distraction doesn’t take away the pain, nor does it remove the need for my Umpteen-bajillion medications. But it replaces my angst with peace. I still pray for healing, and then I leave the timing and details up to the Lord.

Reading your book made me want to go straight back and read Job again. What character / story will feature in your next book?

First of all—THANK YOU! That is the greatest compliment I get. If the book sends you back to Scripture, the Lord has answered my prayer! Woohoo! asked about the next project...

Love’s Sacred Song is scheduled to release March 2012. It’s the story of Solomon’s Song of Songs – a young king’s royal passion refined by a shepherd girl’s sacred love. But that doesn’t tell you what you REALLY want to know, does it? Here’s the inside scoop:

This one nearly killed me...but it’s the one that gave me wings. Love’s Sacred Song was the original manuscript that I submitted to Revell with my proposal in 2008, but because the story involved King Solomon, they asked if I would wait to publish it until Jill Eileen Smith’s Wives of King David Trilogy was complete. They offered a second book in the interim (story of Job), and I accepted. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. I originally wrote the Solomon manuscript back in 2000, my first-ever attempt at fiction. So, when it came time to blow off the dust and prepare the rough draft for was ugly. I’ll describe the process with a question. Which is easier—to remodel an old house or build a new one? Well, my Solomon “old house” was a mess! Thus, the reason it almost killed me.

The reason it gave me wings...obviously, because it was the ms that earned my first contract. But the story itself changed my relationship with Jesus—and therefore my life forever. I not only understand God’s love in a whole new way, I actually feel it—both in receiving it and giving it back to Him. I adore Him and truly know his relentless love.

What was it about Job's story that made you want to delve further into it, for the purposes of writing a novel?

Curiosity and stubbornness. J I’d always wondered who Job’s wife was, and I began a quest into historical literature to discover if anyone dared name her. Sure enough, they did. Sitis was the name given to his Arabic wife in the Testament of Job.

Stubborn...yep, stubborn. I can’t stand to read God’s Word and not understand it! I heard Jill Briscoe say once, “It’s important to read Scripture until God speaks to you in word or concept.” Well, I trudged through a lot of Job without understanding it, so I decided to read it, study it, research it, and write about it—until I understood what God wanted me to hear from it! See. Stubborn.

I have been wondering about the slight twist in Dinah's story. The Bible clearly states that she was defiled, which conjured up quite a different scenario than the one you describe in Love Amid the Ashes. How did you come up with the scenario in the book?

A few things worked together to create that twist. First, I love Anita Diamant’s Red Tent. In her story, Dinah was not raped; however, I wasn’t willing to go completely away from the Scriptural context (remember my action plan—step #1 = Scripture is unalterable Truth). My second reason wanders a little, so follow me...I promise I’ll land the plane eventually.

While reading commentaries on 1 and 2 Chronicles and 1 and 2 Kings, the scholars often talk about the way the Chronicler (for example) has left out part of the story in Kings because he didn’t want to present a certain Judean king in less than glowing terms. Keep this in mind as I go to reason three...

When I was sixteen, I allowed myself to be taken into the private home of a twenty-something-year-old man. Had I reported what happened in his home to the authorities, he would have been arrested for (statutory) rape. I was young and confused. I didn’t consider it rape at the time, but my father would have.

Now, imagine the writer of Genesis (probably Moses), recording the lasting record of God’s Chosen People—Jacob’s clan. Was his daughter raped by Shechem? Yes, she was in a city, alone, where she shouldn’t have been, with a young man she shouldn’t have been with. Scripture declares it as truth. But the absolute revulsion with which Jacob treats his sons after their vindictive slaughter makes me wonder if there might have been more to Dinah’s relationship with Shechem than Scripture’s details revealed. Because my story is FICTION, I can raise the question, cause the reader to ponder, without asserting that it is truth. And HOPEFULLY, it will cause the reader to go back to Scripture and re-read the story of Dinah, Shechem, Levi, Simeon, Jacob, etc...

Pressing folks back to Scripture is ALWAYS my goal. I won’t ever (purposely or knowingly) write anything that contradicts God’s Word; but if I feel the context of Scripture as a whole supports a little twist, I will shadow long-held beliefs to stir your curiosity.

What was the most difficult part of this book for you to write?

Job’s despair after Sitis’ death was without a doubt the most difficult part of the book to write. When the man of faith finally questions God, questions everything... I get teary just thinking about it. My critique partners are ruthless. :) I had to rewrite that section several times because I just couldn’t get real. I wrote it with too much control, too much of a “it will all turn out” philosophical viewpoint. It was as if I had to revisit the days of my own dark illness, the days I MYSELF questioned God...which is what I had to do before I could write Job’s true despair. I’m glad I wrote it, but I’m thankful I don’t have to write it again. :)

Thanks Mesu :)  Look for Part 2 of our interview, coming soon!

Relz Reviewz Extras
Q&A with Mesu
Visit Mesu's website
Buy Mesu's books at Amazon or Koorong

The winners of Restless in Carolina are....

US winner ~ Abby M

Australian winner ~ Julia B


Monday, 22 August 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Anne Mateer's Rebekah Hendricks

Character Spotlight

Rebekah Hendricks

Anne Mateer's debut novel has just released so enjoy meeting Rebekah and learn how the story came about.

Over to you, Anne:~

Brief physical description

Rebekah is 19 years old, of average height and medium build. Her light brown hair is often unruly and her brown eyes often flash with fire. She is a sturdy farm girl, but prefers stylish, modern things. She is full of energy.

Actor/famous person

I’ve never gone into a book with a physical picture of my protagonist, but the funny thing is that everyone who has read the book and seen my book cover says, “That’s exactly Rebekah!” The model they used is almost a dead ringer for Megan Follows in her Anne of Avonlea role, though with more brownish than reddish hair.

Strengths and weaknesses

Rebekah’s strengths also tend to be her weaknesses, depending on the circumstances. She can be decisive—or impulsive. She can be strong—or stubborn. She can empathize with others—or she can rely too much on her feelings. But ultimately her greatest strength is her faith while her greatest weakness is her lack of life experience.

Quirk (if any)

I don’t think Rebekah has any truly definable quirks, though other characters in the story do!

Your inspiration for the character

Although my initial inspiration for Rebekah was one of my great-grandmothers, Rebekah really didn’t turn out anything like her. My characters tend to be conglomerations of many people and looking at Rebekah now, I believe she is an interesting blend of my daughter and me.

Background to the story

I grew up hearing how the influenza and the Great War led to my great-grandparents’ marriage. Being the romantic that I am, I took the kernel of their story and began to dream of a novel. But I had to wait years to find focus for the plot and characters because little research had been done on the influenza epidemic of 1918! After finally delving into all I could find about the influenza epidemic, I attended a local historical symposium. One of the papers presented at that event focused on aviator training at Fort Dick and Love Field in Dallas during the Great War. That lecture provided the final piece of the framework for Rebekah’s story.

Thanks for sharing, Anne ~ I'm looking forward to reading your story!

Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Anne's blog
Buy Anne's book at Amazon or Koorong

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Book trailer for Robin Caroll's Injustice

Robin Caroll begins a new romantic suspense series in 2012 with Injustice for All, which I have previewed here.

Enjoy the trailer!

Friday, 19 August 2011

The INSPY Awards Needs Judges

If you are a Christian with a love for faith driven literature and have time to devote to reading five books this fall for the INSPY Awards we need you!

The INSPYS are blogger awards so we need bloggers who review books to take the next round! You could be part of choosing the next INSPY winner!

Be a blogger
Provide a sample book review in the application
Agree to our statement of faith
Be responsible to obtain their own copies of the books they are judging
Agree to read all five of the short listed books and turn their decision in by the deadline of December 10th.

The INSPY categories are
General Fiction
Literature for Young People
Creative Nonfiction
Speculative Fiction
Mystery & Thriller

Please go visit the INSPY site and sign up now if this is of interest to you
Thanks to fellow INSPY Advisory Board member Amy for this post

FamilyFicton Magazine ~ July 2011 Issue

I'm a bit behind with this post but do check out the July issue of the FamilyFiction magazine.

I had the pleasure of writing some special features as well as my regular historical and romance author profiles and news columns.

You can read the full magazine here and or even download it to your computer.  If that doesn't suit you can read the articles at the FamilyFiction website.  Not all the July articles are published yet but two of mine are:


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Don Brown's Gunner McCormick & John Davenport

I've been a fan of Don Brown's military thrillers since his Navy Justice series.  Enjoy meeting his latest protagonists ~ I think you are going to love them!

Over to you, Don:~

Lieutenant Commander Gunner McCormick, USN

Brief physical description

Mid to late 30s, salt-and-pepper hair, more pepper than salt. Athletic build, but not overly muscular. About six feet tall. U.S Naval Intelligence Officer.

Actor/famous person

Tom Cruise, with just a little more grey, and a bit taller.

Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths – Very smart. Patriotic. Determined to do the right thing. Dedicated to family and country.

Weaknesses - A bit of a riverboat gambler, almost to the point of self-destruction. Willing to try a personal mission that would jeopardize US security to find out about his missing grandfather.

Your inspiration for the character

I’ve written extensively about JAG officers in the first three novels of Zondervan’s Navy Justice Series. (TREASON, HOSTAGE and DEFIANCE).

In BLACK SEA AFFAIR (my fourth novel), and in MALACCA CONSPIRACY (my fifth), things started to shift from a JAG Emphasis. Aside from the fact that Zack Brewer, who is a JAG Officer, appeared in all five of those novels, In BLACK SEA AFFAIR, the real hero was a sub commander, Pete Miranda.

And in MALACCA CONSPIRACY, one of the secondary heroes was a US Navy Intelligence Officer named Bob Molster. In that novel, Molster’s work as an intel officer in analyzing oil price futures was integrated into his work as a military analyst and helped solve the MALACCA CONSPIRACY.

I decided I wanted to write a book about a Navy Intelligence Officer, and so my inspiration for Gunner started with the character of LCDR Bob Molster from MALACCA CONSPIRACY.

In fact, as I began the draft, I initially considered making Bob Molster my main protagonist. But then I decided that Bob was just a bit too bureaucratic, that his name did not contain a sufficient gravitas to carry the lead role. II wanted more of a swashbuckling, athletic type of Intel Officer driving the train. And thus, the birth of LCDR Gunner McCormick!

Gunner is a guy on a mission to find out what happened to his grandfather, who went missing at the battle of Chosin Reservoir some sixty years ago. Spurred by TOP SECRET intelligence reports he has seen that Americans were left behind alive in Korea, Gunner is prepared to risk his personal fortune, his military career, and his life to get some answers about the fate of his grandfather, who disappeared years before his birth.

Lieutenant Colonel John O. “Jackrabbit” Davenport, US Army (Retired).

Brief physical description

Mid to late 50s, crew cut, grey hair, athletic and muscular. About six feet tall. Wears tight, black t-shirts, even in freezing weather. Has a tattoo on his bulging bicep degrading to North Korea. An aging tough guy, who seems to get tougher with age.

Actor/famous person

Clint Eastwood. Think Dirty Harry with a crew cut about ten years older, and with a southern accent.

Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths – Special Ops Mastermind. One of the best sharpshooters ever in the U.S. Army. As a retired special forces guy living in South Korea, Jackrabbit Davenport is the guy you want to bring with you to a gunfight, especially if you are outnumbered.

Weaknesses - Jackrabbit Davenport, who married a Korean woman when he was assigned to Seoul while in the US Army, has a seething hatred for anything North Korean. This hatred is driven by the fact that his Korean wife was shot and killed by North Korean Guards in the Demilitarized Zone while on a humanitarian mission several years ago. His strong hatred of the North, this desire to shoot and kill anything North Korean, could compromise the safety and success of this mission.

Quirk (if any)

As a retired and highly-decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, Jackrabbit is in fact highly-educated and briefed in special operation procedures, having served in deadly, covert operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand and other parts of the globe. Having said that, he sometimes slips into sort of a Southern redneck type of dialogue, as if he has never taken an English class, as he sometimes longs for the good ole days as a deer hunter back in South Carolina.
Your inspiration for the character

“Jackrabbit” Davenport is one of those characters who sort of “comes out of the blue” to a writer. While he is secondary to Gunner as the novel’s main protagonist, by the time I’d finished the manuscript, I think he had become my favorite character.

Jackrabbit evolved out of the idea that a naval intelligence officer (Gunner) would not be equipped to prosecute a commando mission on his own, and thus, would need someone with commando expertise on the team. So from this criteria, “Jackrabbit” Davenport was born.

Here’s an excerpt from the original manuscript, toward the beginning of the book, where Gunner is about to meet Jackrabbit for the first time. In this scene, just before the two of them meet, Gunner is reviewing some notes to remind himself of Jackrabbit’s qualifications for the job.

What about this Jackrabbit? Gunner pulled out a small piece of paper with notes on Davenport’s resume.

Special Forces. Green Beret. Multiple kills in Afghanistan and Iraq before transferring to South Korea. Met a Korean woman. Married her. She died. He stayed. Mercenary work in Myanmar and Thailand. Then back to South Korea—but for what?

So in Jackrabbit, we have a retired American special forces guy on the prospective commando team that will invade the North. But still, in addition to Gunner and Jackrabbit , the team needed tough-guy Korean to round it out in my opinion.

Enter Colonel Jung-Hoon Sohn.

Like Gunner and Jackrabbit, Jung-Hoon Sohn, a retired South Korean Special Forces officer, also has his personal axe to grind against the North Koreans.

Gunner’s Grandfather disappeared at Chosin and was never accounted for. Of course, as I just mentioned, Jackrabbit’s wife was shot by a North Korean guard. In Jung-Hoon’s case, his brother was shot and killed on a dangerous humanitarian mission to deliver bibles in the north and the help refugees escape.

So like Gunner and Jackrabbit, Jung-Hoon brings his own personal grudge to this mission. But that isn’t all he brings. Not only is he fluent in Korean – Jackrabbit is also –but his ethnic and racial features as a native Korean will help him blend in seamlessly in the North if the team makes it that far. He is also a pilot, a skill which will be invaluable to the plans for the mission. Like Jackrabbit, also brings special-forces expertise to the mission, which Gunner will need if he is to find an answer to the unsolved mystery about his missing grandfather.

Background to the story

Over 8000 Americans were missing or unaccounted for at the end of the Korean War in 1953. This is over four times as many as the approximately 1600 missing from our wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia combined! Bear in mind that the war in Southeast Asia lasted well over a decade, from the Kennedy Administration to the final fall of Saigon in the Ford Administration.

So we have 8200 missing from Korea over a three-year period, versus 1600 missing from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos over a twelve-year period.

Those numbers are unbelievable and are shocking to me.

What’s wrong with this picture? What happened to our Korean MIAs?

Our vets from the Vietnam era, finally, have gotten some of the overdue respect that they deserve. But incredibly, Korea is called the “Forgotten War,” and our Korean Vets never even got a memorial until 1995, over forty years after the signing of the Armistice.

By contrast, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington was completed in 1982, just seven years after the fall of Saigon.

Now the Vietnam Vets deserve all the accolades they’ve gotten and more. In fact, it’s a national travesty when you consider they were treated during the course of that war.

By the same token, the forgotten MIAs of Korea, in fact even calling Korea the “Forgotten War” is just as big a national tragedy as the inexcusable treatment heaped upon our brave Vietnam vets.

In fact, America has forgotten just what our troops did for Korea.

Consider this.

South Korea was a country that was suddenly and completely overrun by the surprise communist attack across the 38th parallel in June of 1950. Communist insurgents controlled the entire Korean Peninsula, with the exception of a small enclave of land surrounding the coastal South Korean City of Pusan, at the very bottom of the peninsula on the southeast.

But our boys, starting with a daring amphibious invasion at Inchon commanded by General MacArthur, cut off the head of the snake, and drove the communists out of the south, all the way to almost the Chinese border, until the Chinese started pouring south across the border in frigid winter conditions.

When the fighting ended three years later, South Korea, which today is one of the worlds’ greatest capitalist democracies, had survived and had in fact had been saved because of because of spilled American blood. The fact is, that is one of the greatest and most glorious triumphs of liberation in the history of the U.S. military.

But yet, it is swept into oblivion under such look-the-other-way phrases like a “UN Police Action” and “The Forgotten War.”

On top of that, over the years there have been numerous reports of live American POWs still in North Korea.

When the war ended, North Korea denied that it had any live American or South Korean prisoners. The United States denied that any POWs were still there.

But for nearly sixty years, dozens upon dozens of reports have surfaced of spottings of both American and South Korean POWs still in the north.

In 1996, the Eisenhower Presidential Library released previously classified documents revealing that in 1953, when the Korean War Ended, the US Government was aware of at least 900 Americans still being held by North Korea, which contradicted the U.S. Government’s position in 1953 that there were no such Americans in captivity in the North. This, in and of itself, is a travesty and a disservice to the truth.

Then, in 1998, two South Korean POWs from the Korean War escaped North Korea, directly refuting the North’s lie that it had no American or South Korean prisoners in its custody. About that same time, a senior Clinton Administration official handling the Korean POW/MIA issue resigned because so many reports of American POWs still alive could not be refuted.

Unfortunately, neither the Clinton Administration nor the administration of President George W. Bush pursued the issue meaningfully, and neither has the Obama Administration.

Reports of Americans alive in the North have surfaced as recently as 2006.

There is now absolutely no doubt, in my mind, as proven by documents released by the Eisenhower Presidential Library, that this country left Americans behind the lines in North Korea, and untruthfully denied that fact for many, many years.

There is also little question, in my mind, that at least some of those Americans lived for many years, forgotten and abandoned by their country.

Is it possible that some may still be alive?

Although it may be unlikely, yes, it is possible. We have not yet reached the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice, which will occur in 2013.

Any surviving Americans still left there would most likely be in their eighties. Perhaps unlikely, assuming the difficulty of surviving that long in harsher conditions, but certainly very possible.

At any rate, I’m very passionate about the sacrifice of our Korean Vets, and the missing plight of our over 8000 American MIAs there. It’s a horrible thing that this country has largely forgotten them, and I wrote this novel, in part, hoping that someone would read it, would remember them, and give some thought to the plight of missing Americans of Korea.

And maybe, just maybe, there’s still time to save a life.

Thanks for the spotlight and the history lesson, Don ~ Australian forces were part of this war, too, and I think feel similarly that it has become a forgotten war.  Thanks for opening our eyes a little!

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