The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories is a collection of impassioned short stories that follows various characters through their ordinary yet compelling lives. What were some sources of inspiration for you while writing these stories?
The primary source of inspiration was simply the experience I’ve had living in Spain, getting the opportunity to gain a sense of the history and culture and the people. Place provides such a powerful source of inspiration in general, and I think this only increased when I was immersed so completely in a culture different from the one I had been brought up in. It provided a real awakening of the senses, and I tried to be a keen observer as I worked to craft these stories.
Each of your characters were fascinating in their own way. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you found the characters in these stories interesting. If there is a driving ideal in these characters, I’d like to think that it’s rooted in their simplicity, their humanness, and the realistic nature of their personas. These characters aren’t superhuman or famous or overly powerful. In many ways, they are, well…somewhat ordinary. But they are also very much alive, which is extraordinary in its own right. They feel the weight of their own existence, and their relationships and interactions shape their own unique narratives, their own stories. I wanted to be able to explore the idea that stories don’t necessarily need an elaborate twist or a car chase or a bank robbery to be compelling. I suppose whether or not I’ve been successful in this regard is ultimately up to the reader. But it is my hope that the relationships the characters have with others (and with themselves) are moving, that their common interactions can be utterly revealing, and that the smallest moments can mean a great deal.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I would probably say the themes of loss and aging are probably most central to these stories. These things obviously have the potential to go together as we get older, and that is consistent with many of the characters in the book. But I think the theme of connection is also ever present in the book. The characters in this book seek connection—with their pasts, their futures, and, I think, with one another. Regardless of what they’ve lost, I’d like to think the stories maintain some degree of inspiration or hope.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book I am working on is a collection of stories entitled I Didn’t Know What To Say, So I Just Said Thanks, and I hope it will be out by the end of the year.
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Some people are impulsive, and some are very calculating and measure every move before they make it. Others wait for someone to tell them what to do and when to do it. Then there is Jaime. When Jaime decides to begin life anew, he does it based on a movie. Not everyone can say they look to settle in the town in which a movie was set, but Jaime can. He’s a man with a plan to have no plan and looks forward to seeing what his future may hold in Fort Davis, Texas. With absolutely no idea how he will make a living and no long term plans, Jaime sets out on his own to make his way in the world.
Tumbleweed and Dreams: Book I From the Trilogy – The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz by T.P. Graf, chronicles the experiences of Jaime Cruz as he starts a new life in a sleepy Texas town. He has left behind a life in California that was less than successful and has begun to haunt him. Jaime is looking for a fresh start in every aspect of his life, and holds out hope that he will not only find his way to a rewarding career but also to a meaningful relationship. As Jaime begins to shape his life in Texas, he meets and becomes close to one character after another, each with his or her own unique story to share.
This is a book as much about relationships as it is the main character’s plight. Graf has given readers a beautifully crafted tale. From the intricate descriptions of the diverse cultures found in Texas to Jaime’s thoughtful exploration of religion, the author shows readers a depth not often found in most works of fiction. Jaime is an especially introspective character, and readers find themselves growing closer to him throughout the course of his story.
Graf manages to keep readers enthralled with Jaime’s day-to-day experiences chapter after chapter. While this first in a series is not a thriller or especially dramatic in its own right, it is captivating due to the author’s ability to present a well-developed main character who reaches out and grabs readers by the hand and carries them along on the journey that is beginning to shape his new life.
I recommend Tumbleweed and Dreams: Book I From the Trilogy – The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz to any reader looking for a beautifully penned tale of self-discovery and a strong main character who stands out in a crowd. Jaime Cruz, a memorable and relatable figure, will linger in readers’ minds far beyond the final page.
Pages: 210 | ASIN: B08P27HYBD
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China is one of the world’s most storied nations, filled with rich history, colorful legends, and longstanding traditions, China has seen its rise and fall several times over the last millennium. Yet the China of today remains mired in mystery, hidden behind a curtain. The last fifty years has seen significant increases in China’s standing on the world stage, but what do we really know about the massive country?
Chris Fraser OBE’s Inside China – From the Great Leap Backward to Huawei is an honest and straightforward examination of the good and bad as witnessed during his time in the Hong Kong police force. This colorful memoir is filled with historical value and a deeply explored past. Chris Fraser’s book is much more than a memoir as it captures the unique path that lead to China’s current culture.
Chris Fraser is a seasoned veteran of both police and military service and it is clear that he has a strong working knowledge of what the rest of the modern world will never bear witness to. Chris Fraser’s time in the Hong Kong police force is highlighted with his encounters with various gangs, drugs, and government corruption. All of it delivered in a riveting, but factual, manner. This is a must read for everyone seeking to learn more about the turbulent decades leading up to China resuming control of Hong Kong and the removal of British authority. It is the perfect example of political and economic differences between East and West and sets the stage for understanding Chinese expansion throughout Asia. Inside China – From the Great Leap Backward to Huawei is a captivating cultural memoir that is sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking, but always compelling.
Pages: 126 | ASIN: B08L6TZRKZ
Tags: author, biography, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, china, Chris Fraser Obe, culture, ebook, goodreads, history, Inside China, kindle, kobo, literature, memoir, nonfiction, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, story, writer, writing
NINU tells the saga of the Wanchos of Arunachal Pradesh and helps readers learn about North East India. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I am an Army Officer and I was posted to Tirap in November 1982. The area was still backward in terms of infrastructure and almost all activity in the villages necessitated active Army assistance. The area was very close to the core areas of the militant Naga Insurgent Group, the Naga Socialist Council of Nagaland. This insurgent organization had been formed in December 1979 and was declared an independent Naga Group in February 1980. This they announced to the world by carrying out the raid on Indian Army’s Kunsa Post as mentioned in my book. The Civil Administration was also dependent on the Army for routine activity in the villages. We thus became very close to the villagers who looked up to us for all kinds of assistance. Despite their disadvantages and dependencies, I found them to be very proud and actually very fiercely independent. They dressed in just an ordinary loincloth and beads. Some of them wore a coat. The Village Chiefs wore a red coat over the loincloth but that did not deter them from sitting in front of us and talking to us man to man. On their request to travel by air, our Brigade Commander sent two of them on a round trip from Dibrugarh to Tezu and back in a regular Indian Airlines regular flight. They were not shy to travel in their traditional dress. Besides the tribes of Tirap we had to travel to other areas of Arunachal Pradesh too. The State has over 40 tribes co existing peacefully and working towards development. Most followed their animist or Buddhist religions. Christianity has made rapid gains recently. I developed a very healthy respect for them. I felt that the world should come to know of these wonderful people. With the beginning I have made I do hope more people will write about these wonderful people and visit their villages. Arunachal Pradesh has opened its doors to tourism in a big way and eagerly welcomes anyone who desires to enjoy their beautiful land. Of Course, today the infrastructure is very good.
What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the historical aspects of the book were accurate?
I began this book as a historical narrative in 1986. Over a period of time, I collected all the material required for the book. History books on Assam are available aplenty. There are books on the society and culture too. The Government Gazetteers on Arunachal Pradesh and its Districts are priceless. However, my work in the Army and in the Corporate Companies precluded me from devoting time to begin writing. It was only in 2015 that I got down to collating the material into a book form. I then realized that the bland historical format may not appeal to the common reader. So I decided to add a little bit of fiction into it. This is a first historical fiction on Northeast India. I believe that this has lightened the book enough to enable an easy read. As I wrote, I included a lot of details of the area which may not essentially about the tribes. For example the information of the origin of Badminton in Thanjavur in South India; or Bamboo Flowering once I 12 to 20 years resulting in widespread famines; or the construction of the famous Stilwell Road from Ledo in India to Kunming in China by Afro American Troop Labor and Indian Labor; or the Naga Insurgency; or the advent of Catholicism in Tirap. All information is accurate besides adding interest to the original story. I can proudly state that with my extensive research, my book is a veritable reference book useful not only to the general reader, but to the Government Administrators and Armed Forces Personnel serving in the Area but also to tourists and general public to understand the area. The book also has a number of stories that could appeal to filmmakers.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?
I wish that more people come to know about Arunachal Pradesh both in India and all over the world and to respect all cultures equally and learn from them.
Do you plan to write more books on this subject?
I plan to write military fiction based on my experience in the army. My next book, based in Kashmir is on the way, but it will be very different from this book. I do not plan to write on Northeast India now, but I do hope more of my friends from the army write about their experience in the area.
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Mythos Early Ireland recounts the inspiration of mystical Celtic traditions. What kind of research did you undertake to complete this book thought-provoking book?
I have always been interested in history and mythology from a young age but became more interested in the subject when I was working on a research project in my 20s for the Office of Public Works in Ireland. Archaeologists and assistants were employed to research the sites, monuments, and history of the area. I worked as an assistant, working with the team on site with archaeological field work. It also involved spending a lot of time in the local libraries collecting information from old manuscripts and books. From this learning experience, I became interested in mythological stories and started doing research for my draft manuscript.
The manuscript was first written in the early 1990’s and after a lot of editing it was accepted for publication by the Manuscript and Publishing Agency Ltd, UK and published in 2005. During the lockdown this year, I felt I needed to update and self-published my book with Kindle Desktop Publishing (Amazon). I am delighted with the control I have with the book publishing process on KDP and I have discovered a lot about book publishing.
Stories have been told throughout the years on this subject of mythology and early Ireland with publications as early as 11th to 12th century and I found some wonderful books that inspired me (18th and early 19th century), many out of print and were borrowed from the libraries at the time though some are my own personal copies. Books have always been a part of our life growing up as children; my dad often bought boxes of books for us at the local auctions, many which included works by Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde.
Do you plan to publish more books on this subject?
I have not planned any more books about Irish mythology, but this might change. There seems to be a lot of books out there already. I am really inspired by the classics, the old authors alive or dead and I have a full list of inspired works listed in Mythos Early Ireland.
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NINU: A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos by Mady Menon is a historical and military fiction story about a real tribe (the Wanchos) in North East India, told by a fictional character. Peter Atamkhung Shawang is a student studying at Trinity College in London, but he plans to return to India to work on his thesis. Peter’s family is part of a tribe of headhunters who live in the village of Ninu. He shares the region’s history with fellow classmates and tells the story of his father’s childhood and career. Will the young man be able to hold on to his tribe’s traditions while living in an increasingly modern world?
Mady Menon has added a touch of authenticity to the story by including real historical events. The map at the beginning of the book helped me to better picture the region. You learn a lot about the history of North East India, from the constant struggles to maintain the Ahom kingdom for 600 years, to the native tribes living under British rule, to India becoming an independent republic and the many improvements made to the infrastructure in the area. I had little previous knowledge of the native people of this country, and it was interesting to read about the tribal structure and daily life in the villages. The author provided good descriptions of the setting, especially the village layout, the Naga Army headquarters, and Shawang’s mission school.
The historical information that was conveyed in the first part of the book, where Peter was relaying the history of the region reads a little like a professor giving a lecture. This slowed the pace of the story but it is all worth it in the end. There were portions where some of the historical details were repeated from previous chapters. The pace picks up when Peter was retelling his father’s life experiences and an overview of historical events was given while Shawang was visiting significant sites during his class trips and while working as a Circle Officer. I found the vocabulary definitions at the end of the book very helpful to clarify Indian terms used in the story. Ninu is an insightful and beautiful read that I highly recommend to readers looking to be immersed in an exotic and intriguing culture.
Pages: 272 | ASIN: B08GQYZ8BY
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A tour of the world’s top cocktail destinations, featuring insider info and food-and-drink recipes that will add thrilling new flavors and global flair to your everyday entertaining.
World traveler and drinks writer André Darlington will be your tour guide through more than forty of the globe’s most vibrant cocktail locales. Each city stop is packed with insider intel on the current scene, local history, easy food-and-drink recipes, and tasting notes. This sloshy voyage includes: Amsterdam, Dublin, London, Madrid, Stockholm, Cape Town, Tangier, Delhi, Singapore, Beirut, Tokyo, Bogotá, Havana, New Orleans, São Paulo, Toronto, Sydney, and many more!
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A Rift That Lies Between Us is a coming of age story about love, tradition, race, and the impact of unlikely friendships. Farisa is an art-major, who escaped the pressures of her highly traditional Muslim family, by going to college out of state. This is where Farisa meets Caiden, a charming, but sometimes overly dramatic classmate who Farisa forms an unexpected friendship with. Despite their drastically different backgrounds often getting in the way, Farisa’s relationship with Caiden shifts something inside her that proves to be the exact push she needs to start living her life, for her and not just everyone else.
Following a coming of age story that starts in college and goes through early adulthood was refreshing in and of itself, but the fact that this novel also tackled the difficulties of first-generation kids growing up with the conflict of traditional family pressures, and more modern beliefs face was a delightful departure from the norm. Muna was able to bring us into the conflict and pressures of Farisa’s Muslim Bangladeshi-American family in a way that is accessible and eye-opening.
While Muna was able to give us a well-rounded view of Farisa’s family life and what that demanded of her, some of the attempts at representation seemed a bit forced. I’m all for more representation for minorities in books and media, but some of the lesser storylines about LGBTQ+ issues and mental health didn’t get the focus and the detail that it deserved and as a result didn’t feel as meaningful as it should have.
I was invested in Farisa’s life and her relationship with Caiden but the book could have used a bit more time to develop some of the other storylines that were brought in to have the impact they deserved to have on Farisa’s life, self-discovery, and beliefs.
Farisa and Caiden’s relationship and all the forms it took over the 8 years this novel covered provided a refreshing look at the evolution of how cultural differences can inform relationships, for better or worse, and the importance of finding your own voice before it’s too late.
I haven’t read a book in a long time that I couldn’t put down in the way that I couldn’t put A Rift That Lies Between Us down, I found myself giddy with excitement, devastatingly sad and completely engrossed in Farisa and Caiden’s story.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B07T324W4L