The Road Renounced by Kaye D. Schmitz is a historical fiction story that follows the ugly effects of war, following people far from the battlefield. World War I was devasting, and while it’s a fictional account, the story tugs at the heartstrings.
The story begins with three characters at different places and times. In 2015, in Pennsylvania, Suzanne Ryan discovers her grandmother Maude’s diary. She learns that back in 1915, Maude Brewer was living on the family farm with her parents and brother Henry who spent much of his time with Buzz Ryan, his best friend. Their lives are abruptly impacted by the first world war, with death and despair.
When you initially start reading The Road Renounced and weave through the three characters and their perspectives, you’ll eagerly want to find how they intercept and what makes their lives connect. The author does a great job of pulling the curiosity out of readers, keeping them on edge until all three storylines converge. It’s a fantastic read that will keep you turning one page after the next.
I found this book well-written, and the author didn’t shy away from the horrors of war on the battlefield, back home, and with the remaining family members awaiting any news. The characters are complex and intriguing, and the story doesn’t pull away from the brutality of war and the issues that arise behind people’s closed doors. Schmitz does a great job of handling the dual storylines and integrating them together.
The Road Renounced by Kaye D. Schmitz is an excellent, 5-star read that will keep you reading from start to finish. Highly recommended!
Pages 382 | ASIN: B0BLYDJ1WB
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The Shadow of The Mole follows the intertwining stories of a man who believes himself dead, who is writing a story he claims is being recited to him, and the doctor caring for him during WWI. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?
From 1990 to 2003, I was a freelance travel writer in conflict zones worldwide: Somalia, Liberia, Bosnia, Serbia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Mozambique, Kosovo, and Burma(Myanmar)… to name but a few. I stopped when I was fifty and began to suffer from strange psychic symptoms. I struggled with the impression that something invisible followed me like a shadow. A leering, threatening presence mocked me, whispering that I wasn’t an actual human, just a walking mummy and that a terrible death would be my fate. So, of course, I sought professional help and soon learned that long periods of stress can produce all kinds of unusual mental phenomena. Intrigued, I began researching Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I learned that PTSD, even in Roman Times, was documented and that, in WW1, soldiers who showed signs of PTSD usually ended up in front of the firing squad as cowardly deserters who pretended to be lunatics.
And then, I stumbled across Cotard’s Syndrome, sometimes also called “walking corpse syndrome.” When I began to read about it, it was as if a cold finger prodded me in my neck, and I smelled the energy – still far away – of a new novel, coming to life.
In 1880, the French neurologist and psychiatrist Jules Cotard was the first to describe and analyze the psychiatric syndrome he called Le délire des negations (The delirium of negation). I read about different symptoms and cases, but the ones that I found highly fascinating were patients who were convinced that they were dead. One of them was a young man who told everyone that he was a corpse and that his ‘self’ (sometimes, he said ‘soul’) was standing behind his right shoulder.
That night, I had a nightmare in which a ‘gypsy’ played a frightening role. That made me think about thirty years ago when I published ‘Feria,’ (Funfair), my third book, a short story collection about the Romani – gypsies – a people of wanderers with a unique culture and myths of gods and demons that I found fascinating.
Subsequently, by chance, I read stories about soldiers in WW1 trenches who reported about ‘presences,’ benevolent or malicious, materializing during intense fighting. New trends in psychiatry and psychoanalysis didn’t limit these symptoms to stress or cowardice but, hesitantly, began to search for malfunctions in the brain and childhood traumas in Freud’s psychoanalysis, often of sexual nature.
Thus, puzzle after puzzle, the hidden entry in my subconsciousness opened itself slowly and gave me access to writing “The Shadow Of The Mole.” The road to completion took me three years, sometimes stumbling over wondrous details, sometimes following dead-end forks in the journey before I once again found the “silver thread beneath my feet” (Hermann Hesse: Steppenwolf). Buffeted by doubt, despair, illumination, wonder, and hope, I wrote like a mole, rooting deeper into my story…
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
Being a full-time author for over 30 years, I have published ( traditionally) more than forty books in Holland and Belgium, and each novel started with only a hunch, a flash of intuition, and a first sentence. Each time a first sentence of a book came to me, I knew that I was on my way and that I more than possibly would finish the novel, trusting the inspirations that would materialize when the story developed itself. Often, I felt a pass-through for insights given to me.
This ‘method’ was not always foolproof: sometimes, I made useless detours, or, on other occasions, I resisted an inducement because I was afraid of the artistic, commercial, or personal consequences. When this happened, I noticed that the story fell flat or just plain stopped, so I had to give in and sought for a style and an element of mysterious opaqueness to incorporate the inducement in my story. For instance, there is a family secret of sexual nature in “The Shadow Of The Mole” that plays a big part in the story, but I didn’t want it to be in the readers’ faces, so dispersed in the novel, you can find allusions, hints, metaphors. This mysterious atmosphere plays an essential part in this novel.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
During my years as a travel writer, I noticed how war and violence could turn humans into terrible creatures committing horrible atrocities. Why and how does conflict trigger such savagery in us? And why don’t we learn from warfare in the past? For instance, in the nineties, I witnessed the Bosnian war’s ruthlessness, and now, thirty years later, I see the same horror in the Ukrainian conflict. Nothing has changed…Correction, something has changed: the weapons used on the battlefield have become even more sophisticated, deadly, and destructive.
Must we conclude that war alters something in the chemistry of our brain, or do we have to turn back to the old belief that humans can be possessed by demons who thrive on endless suffering? Hidden in “The Shadow Of The Mole” lies a possible and chilling answer.
What is the next book you are working on, and when will it be available?
I’ve chosen the working title “The Firehand File” for my next novel. Again, it’s a historical novel, this time situated in 1921 Berlin, the European “capital of sin.” In Flanders, critics described “The Firehand File” as a “worthy successor to “Baudelaire’s Revenge,” my first novel in English translation (2014), which won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best suspense novel of the year in Belgium, and the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category “mystery/suspense. “Baudelaire’s Revenge” has been translated into English, French, and Russian. The novel centers around the poetic oeuvre of Charles Baudelaire, one of the greatest nineteenth-century French poets.
Likewise, the plot of “The Firehand Files” has a lot to do with the poetry of the Flemish Dada poet Paul Van Ostaijen who lived for a while in Berlin. Once again, it is a complex, thrilling, historical novel noir.
Maybe, it’s better that I disclose the first draft of a blurb. It will give readers a condensed picture of the novel’s soul.
Berlin is a city of extremes. Political violence plagues the streets during the day. A serial killer whom the media call “The Skinner” roams the streets at night. He is suspected to be a rabid World War I veteran, but he remains untraceable.
In this human pressure cooker, the relationship between Paul Van Ostaijen and his impetuous girlfriend, Emma Clément, is on edge. Like hundreds of thousands of others in Berlin, they live in poverty. They are addicted to cocaine and other drugs, while Van Ostaijen is convinced that the artistic Dada movement, rejecting the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society, instead expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois protest, would change the world.
On a drug-induced whim, Van Ostaijen steals a document titled “The Firehand File” in the apartment of the spy Elise Kraiser. He finds the title “dramatically poetical.” Who could foresee that the poet, doing so, would set in motion a series of dramatic events that shed surprising light on a politician who is rapidly gaining influence?
His name is Herr Adolf Hitler.
The Firehand Files was one of the five finalists of the 2018 Hercule Poirot Prize in Belgium. I hope to see the translation finished this year and that Next Chapter, my publisher, will find it a worthwhile novel.
I sense that “The Firehand File” will be my last novel. I turn seventy this year, and my health is waning, so I’m preparing myself for the most fantastic adventure of all: death and the afterlife.
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Three nations. One planet divided. Will the survivors of the Space Ark Mayflower find their way when cultures clash and the fires of fury threaten to consume their lives?
Now masquerading as citizens of the Collective, the Mayflower crew has a new reason to fear. With the end of the Second Denebian War, Wesselan’s General Pallav Kóbor and his astrophysicist wife, Dr. Tara Kóbor, have high hopes that life will return to normal on Deneb7. Yet nothing can be further from the truth.
In a diabolical plot to erase the scars left by the Second Denebian War, warlord turned Wessel Head of State Gomalan unleashes a fiendish scheme to heal his nation’s wounds, while his top soldier, General Ravenna, falls under the spell of a seductive Fyjer agent intent on crushing their ambitions. Dragged into a brutal reality of terror and intrigue, can the Kóbors and warbird ace Fynn Vogel remain unscathed, or will the flames consume them and all that is evil on Deneb-7?
Find out in FIRES OF FURY, the third novel in the sci-fi adventure series “The Chronicles of Deneb”.
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The Killer Half follows a dispirited military veteran who stumbles across a plot to invade America and is forced into action to stop it. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I read a magazine story, with pictures, of a horrible thing that happens to some women when they are being led illegally across the border. The leaders will take some of the women to a predetermined spot and gang rape them, and leave the undergarments of the women hanging on a tree that the whole company would pass by—and the article included a photo of one such tree. I wondered if I had been there would I be able to stop it. The answer was probably not because those men are armed. Then I asked myself who would be able to stop it, and that’s when the character of Hawk was born. I dreamt about it every night for two years, building on the story of Hawk. I reached a point when I decided I must write it down before I forgot it. When I wrote the story from my mind it was like taking dictation—I didn’t have to stop writing to think what would come next. It was about 50,000 words on that first pass. I continued to reread the book and more sections came into my mind as completely finished scenes. When I finally decided to find a publisher, the story was slightly more than 93,000 words.
Hawk is a fun character to follow. What were some driving ideals behind his character’s development?
Hawk would need expert combat skills and a good support group of operators around him. He would be conflicted about who he was: a killer, or someone who could love. He would be a leader that others with similar skill sets would follow. He would not take for granted the feelings of those who were close to him. His relationship with women would be conflicted because of his experience in seeing the horror of rape on the psyche of women who were caught in the middle of a war.
This seemed like a fun book to write. What scene in the book did you have the most fun creating?
There are so many it is difficult to pick just a few, but I’ll try.
I love dogs and I know their body language very well. The scene of canine separation anxiety makes me laugh when I read it. The dogs are alone on base without Hawk’s supervision. They drag loose stuff from around the base and make a big debris pile outside of Hawk’s hooch. Then, they accidently set fire to the debris pile in the middle of a large military base. His conversation with them, and their resulting shame is a classic for all dog lovers.
The rescue of Sarah Stuart, a beautiful British MP, from the Miss-Tique night club is a big scene involving Hawk’s team. That’s all I’m going to say about it—except to say that Hawk walks in looking like a very big Don Johnson from Miami Vice.
Hawk delivering a baby in the middle of a battle and wanting to name it “AK” because of the rifle fire he hears around them.
The rescue of Heidi Lothbrok, a beautiful, young, inexperienced FBI agent. Hawk refers to her as a Viking Shield Maiden.
Any scene with Uncle Peter, the degenerate gambler and Night Stalker pilot.
Hawk meeting the beautiful Mossad operator, Rachel.
Hawk having Leah Parker, a young actress, literally fall into his arms.
The big scene with the wolf attack and how Hawk and his dogs resolved it.
The final battle scene.
Do you have future books planned featuring Hawk and his exploits?
With a large wink of my eye I will say that it is possible that there is more to the story of Hawk. I’ll reply in the best practice of a covert operator, who would say, “I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a Part 2 of The Killer Half: The Legend of Blackhawk 6 Deuce.” Try not to notice that I’m winking again!
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The Smallest War follows a group of military operatives who go up against Russian operatives in a battle to control a new oil source. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I was a Cold War kid so thought it would be fun to pitch the old enemies into a battle. During research for The Smallest War, I came across the USA/USSR Maritime Boundary Agreement and realised I’d found the catalyst for the confrontation. The first draft of The Smallest War was a heavyweight, weighing in at a little over 140K words. It detailed the backstory of the United States buying Alaska from Russia and how the error in the alignment of the boundary across the Bering Sea came to be. Sadly, there was a “Kill your darlings” year during which I slimmed the novel down. That said, it is a better book for the cuts.
Did you create an outline for the characters in the story before you started writing or did the characters’ personalities grow organically as you were writing?
A bit of both. I wrote outlines for the characters detailing their looks, speech patterns, habits, heritages and dreams. I also wrote a plot which was around 17K words. As The Smallest War developed, so did the characters, but the more refined development came with the assistance of an editor. There was no particular guidance given, more just observations about the characters themselves. In the draft the editor read, the main characters were verging on superhuman, and the editor thought they could do with taking a toilet break (i.e. do those things that people do as a matter of course each day, such as being injured if they were involved in a car crash).
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I sweated over the epigraph “Good people are imperfect. Bad people aren’t.” It’s the main theme of The Smallest War, and I hope I’ve crafted the characters to fit the premise. We are all flawed, but overwhelmingly we are good. There are only a few of us that are perfectly malevolent, like Major Regina Volkov.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In light of what I learnt writing The Smallest War, I’m re-writing the first novel I wrote. The first novel did the rounds with the agents in Australia and was put in the drawer while I wrote The Smallest War. It’s not a sequel or prequal, just another book I’d like to read. It will be published in 2023.
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A fantastic race through space told from the first-person perspective of First Officer Genevieve Autumn graces the pages of Taken Away by London Knight. A dying planet: a desperate race for resources out there in the vast blackness of space. With the building blocks of so many preceding science-fiction tales firmly supporting it, we travel on an adventure that takes us across the universe and spans hundreds of years. But the conspiracies have been in play for much longer than we realize, as the cryogenic sleep that was supposed to support Genevieve and her crew until they reached their planet of salvation goes wrong, and the new world is more hostile than they expected.
The world of Taken Away is carefully constructed and told in the first person. This style of narration lends a sense of ownership to the reader. We are there; we are experiencing it. London Knight does a great job building the characters that will carry this story and gives a slightly different twist to the trope of a space crew that is frozen for a big adventure. It has been done before, but Knight peppers the awakening of the team with an interesting side effect that hasn’t been done before.
The excitement is present from the get-go and doesn’t stop. There are problems with the ship, with the sleep, with the awakening of the crew, and the unexpected side effect they find themselves experiencing after their freezing. And that’s just what happens at the start. It seems like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, but that is just the beginning. There is a bigger conspiracy at play here and a much bigger reveal the deeper you travel within these pages.
If you are looking for an exciting science fiction book that will keep you engaged and on your toes as you flip through the pages, then you must pick up a copy of Taken Away by London Knight. Not often are science fiction stories told through the lens of a female character who is more than just a pretty face. Genevieve Autumn is a First Officer, and she absolutely deserves her position. She’s earned it through merit, and her skills bring the story together. The ending could be interpreted as a beginning of sorts: perhaps there will be a part two for readers to eagerly look forward to.
Taken Away is a riveting science fiction adventure with a strong female protagonist. Readers will be taken through space on a mission that challenges them on all levels and is filled with uncertainty and unexpected events keeping everyone on edge.
Pages: 268 | ASIN : B0B9K4Z5Z9
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Laddie Roy DFC follows an intrepid youth from a British colony who flies a combat aircraft for the Royal Air Force in the Great War. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Having read a few brief mentions of Lt. Indra Lal Roy or ‘Laddie Roy’ on Memorial Day, I was quite in awe of his achievements. Here was a young Indian boy from colonial India flying expensive war planes to take down the German aircrafts at a time when the Red Baron spread terror in the skies with his deathly ‘Flying Circus’. It seemed too good to be true: we have read amazing accounts of Indian infantry battalions storming German trenches on the ground but the aerial fight of the flying aces was a tactical and expensive war and if not for Colonel Sefton Brancker, no one from the British colonies could ever fly these magnificent machines, let alone get near them. However there were brave men from all corners of the Empire and America whose characters have been woven into Laddie Roy’s journey to greatness because they worked as one squadron, one team. It didn’t matter where they were from but what they did to fulfil their mission duties. Mike Mannock (Victoria Cross), George McElroy (Distinguished Flying Cross) and James McCudden(Victoria Cross) and many others were Indra Lal Roy’s contemporaries and colleagues who figure prominently in his story. When a plan and a few good men come together only greatness can follow, this was the inspiration for the setup of my story.
Indra Lal Roy is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Indra Lal Roy’s journey to become a pilot of the Royal Flying Commission (as the RAF was named at the time) was not without incredibly challenging odds and yet he overcame them. It was his struggle about getting past his first failed qualification test for the RFC, his first crash which nearly killed him, his remarkable recovery thereafter to become a flying ace in a matter of days gives us hope that we can achieve what we set out as our goals. Indra Lal Roy was as determined, as forthright and sincere as anyone could be but I see this brilliant brightness in his persona that just made destiny put the pieces together for him to fulfil his dreams until it didn’t in his final flight mission over Carvin, France. Roy never let up his determination to keep going despite all odds and yet he never lost that touch of humanity between missions despite fighting the moral dilemma of destroying an enemy aircraft.
My book touches upon this aspect of what we now call PTSD but back then soldiers were afraid to admit this and yet one could find evidence of their stress in the mails they sent back home as I have mentioned in the story. My driving ideals were to present as accurate a picture as I could, a snapshot of the time when flying was still an experimental science forcefully brought into urgent improvement during the First World war.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted to delve into the psyche of the victor and the vanquished airmen in an aerial dogfight, clearly this is a different war than those fought in the trenches and that is where the heart of the book lies. One is transported into one of these biplanes, high above the sky, cold and alone except for possibly a few more colleagues in their own planes on a flight mission waiting to take on enemy aircraft. It is a situation where a thousand checks can fail save for one rash maneuver, one bracing wire to snap or have enemy aircraft shoot at you from below. Flying these aircrafts required incredible skill if one were to stay alive after the mission was over and this is the reason why some of the challenges faced by the pilots especially technical faults are mentioned. One has to remember these men were not given parachutes as it was a ‘do or die’ mission which made sure the pilot applied himself the best he could while flying these airplanes.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My third book would be a conclusion of my first one, The Incidental Jihadi because I couldn’t quite give the story a conclusion at that point in time. Given the geopolitical situation in Syria is difficult, it felt almost impossible to conclude the story but the wheels are in motion as some ideas are shaping into chapters. I always want the best for my characters which is why closure from the first book is quite important to me as it needs to be realistic to what could be achieved now that the US has retreated completely from Syria, leaving the nation completely open to Russian influence. I am hoping to complete the conclusion to my first book The Incidental Jihadi by the end of 2023.
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Laddie Roy is the story of a young boy from India named Indra or ‘Laddie’, as he is later known. After the family moves to England, the older boys, Indra and his older brother, must try to integrate into a British school where they are faced with discrimination. They both enlist in the army to try and prove themselves. The story moves between Indra’s life as a boy and his experience during the Great War.
This is an adventurous tale that is full of vivid historical imagery and intriguing metaphors. One of my favorite pieces of writing is ‘Father Frost was gently laying a quilt of snow on Indra.’ There is something so compelling about it, especially since it is a peaceful scene juxtaposed against the background of war. In addition to the beautiful writing there are many quotes that the reader will find heartening and inspirational such as, ‘Exhausted in the satisfaction that he gave his best and the outcome would not matter as much as the journey itself.’ This gave the book the same uplifting and thought-provoking feel as Paulo Coelho The Alchemist.
It is good to see a story about the Great War that is told from the unique perspective of an Indian soldier. The way the main character’s life flashes between past and present is written in a clever way that is easy for the reader to follow, and makes the story engaging. I enjoyed seeing what lead to the character being in the war, and flying a plane in the first place. I felt connected to the character by the end of the story.
Laddie Roy DFC by Samrat Mitra gives readers an interesting and unique perspective on life growing up from someone who has emigrated to Britain and wishes to prove themselves, not only to their family and their country of origin, but also to their new friends and their new country. The writing in this story is so moving. I would recommend this impassioned military adventure story to any reader who enjoys military or historical fiction.
Pages: 282 | ASIN: 1915330025
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