Monday, December 31, 2012

Authors Remember Sandy Hook

Interview with historical fiction author Jack Durish

1.      What is the one book you want us to read (title, genre, and availability).
Rebels on the Mountain: Historical Fiction available in all ebook formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

2.      Give us a one sentence synopsis.
Nick Andrews, a U.S. Army spy assigned to unwrap the mystery of diplomatic failures in Cuba, avoids being entrapped in Castro's Revolution until he is forced to bury his friends and fight.

3.      Who are the main characters and who would you like to see portray them in a movie?
Nick Andrews: A U.S. Army Ranger and Korean War Veteran who has made a career of reconnaissance patrols behind the Iron Curtain – possibly portrayed by Stephen Amell
Lucia Comas: An American-educated, island-born mulata, daughter of the second wife of don Carlos Comas, a Cuba sugar plantation owner, and love interest of Nick Andrews – possibly portrayed by Christina Milian
Emma Regan: An American socialite whose husband, a retired pediatrician operates a free clinic on the sugar plantation she inherited, and sister to the don Carlos Comas' second wife Sigourney Weaver
Fidel Castro: The charismatic leader of the revolution that overthrew the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista – possibly portrayed by Jsu Garcia
Che Guevara: The Argentinian doctor who became one of Castro's most notorious lieutenants and his executioner following Fidel's rise to power – possibly portrayed by Guillermo Diaz
Ernest Hemingway: Nobel Prize winning author and Havana resident who mingled freely in the halls of power in Havana and purportedly supported Castro's revolution – possibly portrayed by William Hurt

4.      Tell us about the story, but please don't reveal too much.
Nick Andrews uses the cover of a pleasure trip with friends, the Regans – a retired doctor and his socialite wife who own an estate in Cuba – to infiltrate the island from its halls of power in Havana to the rebel camp in the mountains at the eastern end of the island. Unexpectedly, he rekindles a childhood crush with the island-born niece of the Regans, and makes friends with a loyal Fidelista rebel. Romance, rum, rumba, and revolution layer themselves into a thrilling tale of intrigue, action, and suspense.

5.      What inspired you to write this book and how long did it take?
I was slated to pilot a vessel from Galveston Bay to the Chesapeake, with a stop in Havana, when I was a young sailor, but the trip was canceled due to several factors including the fall of the Batista government in Cuba. I suppose that I never let go of the disappointment of missing that adventure. Thus, I followed events in Cuba closely and studied the history of the island and its people during the intervening fifty years. I spent another two years cataloging and studying my research, and another year and a half to write and edit the manuscript.

6.      What other books have you written?
Dream Pirates – Fiction for young readers with impaired reading skills and new English speakers
WordPerfect: Creative Applications – Technical manual
Infantry School: A Soldier's Journal – Personal memoir
Vietnam: A Soldier's Journal – Personal memoir
Trifles: Literary Dessert – A collection of short stories to be published soon

7.      Which authors inspired you, your style?
Many including...
Ernest Hemingway: Voice
Mark Twain: Irony
Charles Dickens: Memorable characters

8.      Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Http:// contains my personal blog as well as my biography, a synopsis of all my books and links to them, and recommended websites for anyone interested in reading

9.      How can we follow you? Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.

10.  Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I am currently working on my second novel featuring Nick Andrews as a young soldier in the Korean War. Also, I have been posting to my blog a series of articles built from my research into Cuba with special emphasis on the love-hate relationship between the island and the United States. Most expect a change in US-Cuban relations when Fidel Castro dies, and Americans will begin looking forward to visiting this Caribbean paradise which has been off limits for so many years.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Farewell 2012, Hello . . .?

NASA Sunspot Number Predictions for Solar cycl...
NASA Sunspot Number Predictions for Solar cycle 23 and 24 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In just a few hours the year 2012 will be fodder for historians.  We’ll then have to hunker down and begin the effort of facing 2013, and whatever the new year has in store for us.

I’ve spent most of the morning wrestling with what to write in my final 2012 blog. Should I rehash the momentous events of the year about to pass?  Were there, in fact, even any momentous events?

We had a historic election.  The nation’s first black president won reelection; not with an overwhelming mandate, but with a comfortable enough margin of victory to make it more than a mere fluke.  But, he’s still faced with an implacably hostile House of Representatives; populated with enough hard core Tea Party activists to make getting rational legislation passed a task not to be envied, and a Senate that has a minority that will, from the difficulty we seen in getting a sane fiscal policy passed, continue to pose obstacles.  Horrific acts of mindless violence, such as the slaughter of innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, were a blot on us as a nation, and the response of the gun nuts just made it worse.

We saw 12/12/12 pass without notice, and the so-called Mayan Calendar Apocalypse predicted for December 21, 2012 was a nonevent.

Should I, instead, focus on what we could or should be doing for the coming year?  Will it be better or worse?  That would, unfortunately, involve making predictions; and, predicting is something I’ve never been good at.  Life has a way of making fools out of those who would have the arrogance to do such a thing.

I don’t even plan to make any New Year’s resolutions.  I haven’t done that for as long as I can remember.  Making promises to myself for one day out of the year always struck me as a useless exercise.  I’d much rather resolve every day to do better than I did the day before.  You might say that makes me sound like a supremely self-centered person, and you’d be right.  I am self-centered.  The emphasis here is on ‘centered.’  Not in an egotistical sense, although I recognize that there’s a large element of egoism inherent in this philosophy, but, just the acceptance that it’s only my own actions and thoughts that I have any control over.

So, for me, 2013 will just be 2012 continued; and, hopefully bettered.  That’s a resolution I plan to make each day.  I will continue to try and write 1,000 words a day – actually, since I retired from government service in September I’ve managed to do three times that, so maybe in 2013 I’ll up my game and shoot for 3,000.  I started working on improving my Spanish language skills; for no specific reason, it just seemed like an interesting thing to do.  I began to get to know my new granddaughter, Samantha.  Being in Zimbabwe for most of the first year of her life, I was a stranger to her at her first birthday party.  I hope that she and I will become friends in 2013.  She’s such a smart kid; reminding me a lot of myself as a child.  And, I recognize that she, and all the other children, are the world’s future, so I have a responsibility to help her achieve her dreams – or at least get her on the road to doing that.

Maybe, in 2013, I’ll try and stretch my writing wings; maybe take a stab at adding to the genres I dabble in.  I have a long list of to-do writing projects, so the year will be busy.

I’m rambling, I know, but, that’s the way I feel at this moment.  I just ramble until I stumble across something that interests me.  Always have and I always will.  So, I bid a fond farewell to 2012 and a hearty welcome to 2013.  I don’t know what lies ahead, but I think the journey will be fascinating.  I hope all of you will come along with me.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The National Memo » Still Crazy After All These Years: Fox News Gang Owes Hillary An Abject Apology

The National Memo » Still Crazy After All These Years: Fox News Gang Owes Hillary An Abject Apology

Friday, December 28, 2012

A New Way to Promote Your Writing

Buffalo Soldiers recreators 03
Buffalo Soldiers recreators 03 (Photo credit: Joe Mabel)
Whether you're an independent publisher or you've gone the traditional route, one of the things you'll have to do is promote your books.  If you think traditional publishers do a lot of promotion for writers other than those high on their 'A' List, think again.

There's a new site, though, that just might be of benefit to any writer who wants to get a buzz going on his or her work. is in its Beta phase, so it hasn't been proven yet, but it's probably worth a try. It's easy to showcase your work, and enables direct purchase links to wherever your books are found on the Internet.  Ganzy also allows you to imbed any video trailers you have on YouTube, making it a pretty complete promotional product.

Here are two examples of my books, one from my mystery series, and one from my YA historical series:

"Dead Men Don't Answer" by Charles Ray on Ganxy

"Buffalo Soldier: Incident at Cactus Junction" by Charles Ray on Ganxy
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Greetings

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...
Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You don’t have to be Christian, or even believe in Santa Claus, to believe in the specialness of the Christmas season.  As someone who believes in peace and goodwill as a way to mitigate a lot of the violence and chaos that infects our world, I think any holiday that emphasizes peace, love, and understanding, is okay in my book.  Of course, it’s also a time when families, so often pulled apart by the incessant demands of our consumer society, have an excuse to get together and renew their bonds.

I talked, for instance, to my older brother yesterday.  We hadn’t spoken for more than three years, not because of any estrangement, but my travels and the demands of his business just kept us apart.  As I write, I’m waiting for my youngest daughter and her husband to arrive with my first grandchild, Samantha, in tow.  Sammie’s 15 months old now, and this will be the first Christmas we’ve been together that she’s old enough to remember, so that makes it sort of special regardless of my beliefs.

Anyway, I’d like to wish all my readers a happy and safe holiday.  May you renew the bonds of love with your family and have all the happiness you deserve; and, may the upcoming year see a greater effort to make a dent in the world’s problems. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

'Alien-like' skulls are unearthed in 1,000-year-old cemetery

'Alien-like' skulls are unearthed in 1,000-year-old cemetery

A League of Our Own - By Janet Rosenbaum | Foreign Policy

A League of Our Own - By Janet Rosenbaum | Foreign Policy

In the Wake of Sandy Hook: Political Posturing Unhelpful

Westboro Baptist Church members from Topeka, K...
Westboro Baptist Church members from Topeka, Kansas protesting in front of RFK Stadium located in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Commenting on tragedy is something that is hard to do in the immediate aftermath.  For that reason, I have avoided comment on the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which a deranged gunman took the lives of 20 students and 6 adults.  I have, however, followed the comments by others – and, some of the comments that have flooded cyberspace have left me shaking my head in dismay.

Anyone who might wonder about my position on religion and politics; I try to steer clear of the former and have a strong feeling of disgust for the latter; has but to read some of the commentary to know why.  The puerile political posturing by some former politicians, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who blames the shooting on a combination of lack of prayer in classrooms, homosexuals, and contraception are too dumb to even attempt a response to.  Huckabee, perhaps realizing how inane his comments sounded, has since tried to back off them a bit, but it’s a case of too little, too late.  The initial statements are engraved in stone, and no amount of scratching will remove them.

But, it’s the statements by those who try to portray themselves as ‘religious’ leaders that has really left a bitter taste of bile.  Using this senseless tragedy as a vehicle to push their far out agendas has further validated my decision decades ago to look at Western religions with a sense of caveat emptor.  Take William J. Murray, son of former anti-school-prayer activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who brought cases that spurred the Supreme Court to get prayer out of schools.  Murray, now a convert to evangelical Christianity, has gone on record as saying, “lack of school-sponsored prayer led to this tragedy.”  Like beginning the school day with a Christian prayer would have dissuaded Adam Lanza from his killing rampage.  Murray needs to get real.

As if Murray’s ridiculous statements were not enough, Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, joined the chorus, claiming on American Family Radio’s AFA Today that the Sandy Hook shooting was due in part to ‘God being taken out of our schools.’  James Dobson, considered the number one right-wing religious leader in America, went even further.  He had the audacity to claim that letting gay couples get married, among other things, caused God to let children be killed at Sandy Hook.

Finally, we have the nutty congregation of Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist Christian church from Topeka, Kansas, threatening to stage a demonstration at the funerals of the victims of Sandy Hook, declaring that God sent the shooter.

These so-called ‘religious’ leaders would have us believe that their God approves of the slaughter of innocent children in retribution for treating all people with dignity regardless of their politics or sexual orientation, or for policies that put religion where it belongs; in the home and church; or, for teaching children rational science rather than religious fantasy in school.  This isn’t even the Old Testament God, but something from a sci-fi horror novel.  If there are people out there who buy this drivel; and I fear that there are many; I can’t sign on to such a religion.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims.  We might never know what motivated this deadly event, but, the pulpit pronouncements from these foam-at-the-mouth prophets of doom aren’t helping.  I find it strange that none of them seem to want to venture a comment on the ease with which disturbed people can get high-powered automatic weapons in this country has contributed to the continuing slaughter.  There are some sane voices out there.  Let’s hope that they’re not drowned out by all this insane patter.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The National Memo » 6 Situations Where ‘More Guns!!’ Didn’t Help At All

The National Memo » 6 Situations Where ‘More Guns!!’ Didn’t Help At All

The National Memo » What Americans Should Learn From The ‘Republican Apocalypse’

The National Memo » What Americans Should Learn From The ‘Republican Apocalypse’

Monday, December 17, 2012

Public Reading of "Wallace in Underland"

Author Virginia Phiri reading from "Wallace in Underland"

Every writer wants his or her books to be read, and hopefully enjoyed.  One of the ways of getting your work noticed is through public readings.  In November, I had that experience vicariously when Zimbabwean novelist Virginia Phiri read my book Wallace in Underland at one of Zimbabwe’s secondary schools.  Virginia, one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent writers, had previously read and reviewed the book, and when she was invited to do a reading at the school, asked if she could read my book.  Well, of course, I said YES.
I’ll let Virginia’s own words describe the event:
I have just come back from a successful Masiyephambili Junior School Readings. The students, their teacher, the School Librarian and I had a lot of fun!

Wallace in Underland was a hit with 12 and 13 years olds. This was both boys and girls. During the questions, answers and interaction sessions the students seemed to have picked up the bullying aspect by Jamal and his friends and the abused pets sentiments. It was clear that the students were able to relate the topics to their environments.

This is a different style of writing from what they are used to but they enjoyed every minute of the reading.

It looks like there will be more of these readings in other towns and at the Book Fair.

Thank you for letting me read Wallace in Underland.