Finnegan Found is a fictional account of the true horrors of Chinese POW camps from the Korean War. Why was this an important book for you to write?
When I met and became friends with the men called the North China Marines, men who were captured in China on 7 Dec 1941, I found something very unsettling to me. Their wives and children knew very little about their time as POWs. I came along at a time when they were finally willing to talk to someone willing to listen. My background as a Vietnam veteran and a history teacher, with at least a beginner’s knowledge of the POW experience, meant those men were willing to give me the details. I found it unacceptable so little was known to the public about their experiences. As a result, I created northchinamarines.com for family members to discover details they had missed. I then did some writing for the American EX-POW organization and found the same set of circumstances existed for families of our POWs from Korea and Vietnam. Those details went into the creation of the book, more a document than book, Bean Camp to Briar Patch-Life in the POW Camps of Korea and Vietnam. It is the only single source of information on all the major camps in both of those wars. The Korean POW experience especially bothered me. They came home to find themselves blamed for their own captivity. The media made them out to be weak, not the caliber of our veterans from other wars. When Bean Camp to Briar Patch was ignored, I decided to turn to fiction as a means of getting the Korean War POW story in front of the public. I believe the novel accurately presents the story. Now my job is to get that story recognized. Those men have gone long enough without the recognition they deserve.
I appreciated the candid and accurate nature with which you relayed POW experiences. What were some aspects you felt needed to be accurate and what did you take liberties with?
It was important to me to be highly accurate throughout the story. As a history teacher, the historical part of the novel is the story. The only liberties I took were in some of the actions of Swede. The sinking of the B-29, the burning of the records, the taking of the photographs of radar equipment, and his rescue of Mike Randall were completely fictional. As I explain in an addendum, details throughout the story are based on facts. Some characters in the story were real people, utilized to tell the facts of their story. To be honest, I glossed over some aspects of the treatment the men received. I have found some people will not believe what is sometimes required to survive horrific circumstances. Or they will be so upset by the facts they will put the book down and never pick it up again. So at times I just hinted at what took place.
What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this book?
Most important to me was historical truth, even if that meant portraying an individual or group in a negative light. I have never written a novel before. I really did not sit down and decide on specific themes I thought might give the story more appeal. I simply wanted to tell what I feel is an important story. I also wanted to correct a wrong inflicted on those men by a military and government that did not want to face their own shortcomings.
Paul Larson is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?
I needed a character I could like to help tell this story, a character with a built in strength to carry him through. A character who had been raised by strong characters. “They” say you should write what you know. I know mid-West farm culture. I knew the details of the story from my research on my first book. I needed characters that I “knew” to help in telling the story. Many of the main characters have a combination of traits of people I served with during my time in the military, again both the good and the bad.
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Atomic Kiss is a collection of thought-provoking poetry exploring emotion and the human condition. Why was this an important book for you to publish?
After writing “War, What Comes After” I needed to provide another way for people to connect with or be introduced to the warrior from that book. My intent in my series of poetry books is to have them all connect and show the depth of psychology in a person. “Atomic Kiss” is intentionally a very different book but it contains lines and poems that connect with my first book. In particular, ‘You I Envy’ and ‘Atomic Kiss’ are direct constants that play off poems from my last book, with ‘Atomic Kiss’ being the sister poem to ‘My Sarin’. They provide an alternate context in which all the poems can also be interpreted as a psychological and emotional look at the Veteran returning home. But I also wanted the poems to provoke thought on different subjects as well, such as technology and the different types of abuse that people inflict upon each other.
Did you write this collection of poetry for this book or was it written over time?
Some of the poetry was meant for my last book but would have made it too unfocused so I saved those poems and built new poems around them and their themes.
My favorite poem from the collection is ‘AI > Human’. Do you have a favorite poem from this collection?
Besides that poem I like ‘The People that We Meet’ because the narrator felt one way but never allowed that to show. I also like ‘Crius of the Rams’ because there were several poems scattered throughout the book that laid the foundation for that poem, such as ‘Abuses Many’ and ‘The Language of Manipulation’. The poem introduces language commonly used in organizations as tools to exclude individuals or manipulate them. Phrases such as ‘perception is reality’, ‘valuable insight’, and ‘learning points’ are positive phrases but also have a dark twist in that they are often used as cover for discrimination. It starts to become very cult-like. The 2nd half of the poem uses more archaic language that most people wouldn’t know without using google. It even references an obscure mythological figure named Crius. This is because when manipulating, individuals may often attempt to overwhelm others with obscure and grand verbiage or ideas. It paralyzes the victim. This poem prepares the reader for the next book, which will discuss personality profiling and its damaging effects on people.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The relaunch of “War, What Comes After” is complete so the 3rd book in the story arc is code-named “…and Even the Stars were Bothered,” based off the name of one of the poems. I am aiming to release it around Spring of next year.
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Now that Paul O’Brien has returned from serving in Vietnam, he wants nothing more than to piece together a meaningful life. But the war-spawned, guilt-driven nightmares won’t stop haunting him. In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, Paul is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his family amidst his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As his life unravels from the lingering effects of PTSD, Elizabeth is committed to helping him overcome the obstacles in their path. Determined to live in love, they struggle a lifetime with the burden that Paul brought home. However, in spite of the darkness he carries, he still manages to create a legacy of light, compassion, and understanding that Elizabeth and their children will keep forever.
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Tags: Alexa Kingaard, author, book, book review, book trailer, bookblogger, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, KEEP FOREVER, kindle, kobo, literature, love story, military, nook, novel, ptsd, read, reader, reading, romance, story, trailer, true story, veteran, vietnam, war, writer, writing
Everyone has a second truth in their lives. There is always some choice which can be made that will lead to suffering. We often do not know what these choices will lead to until it is too late. There are many people who do not fully understand what is entailed by their choice to protect and serve others, especially the suffering that can easily result from this choice. In the case of the Korean War, many of these sacrifices went forgotten by people back home, with a lack of recognition, this war, and the people who fought it began to fade into obscurity.
The Second Truth written by John Viola is a riveting personal account of his time spent in the military during the Korean War. This intriguing memoir gives incisive and thoughtful insight into what service men and women actually experience during their tours of duty. There is a matter of fact feeling to the book that tells it like it is.
While I enjoyed this memoir immensely, I would’ve like to have had the military terminology explained a little bit more so that readers who have no direct relation to the military could better understand what is being discussed. However, the book had a natural feel to it as well as an integrity to it that I found very satisfying and authentic.
If you are looking for a memoir that provides a candid view of the military during the Korean War then I would highly recommend The Second Truth by John Viola.
Pages: 62 | ASIN: B0794RTL9M
Keep Forever follows a Vietnam veteran who struggles with PTSD as he tries to piece together a meaningful life. This is a novel based on a true story. What is the origins of the story?
Anyone who was a teenager in the 60s’ and 70s’ has Vietnam firmly embedded in their history. It’s the story of my generation, and many of my girlfriends married veterans either right out of high school or when the men returned. Women played a part in-country, mostly as nurses and unsung heroines, but overall, it was a war fought by middle and lower class males, those who were not college bound or who were unable to get a deferment. As with every conflict, combat veterans are plagued with mental and physical burdens upon their return home, but none were vilified like the young men and women who fought in Vietnam. It stained their psyches, and many passed it down to their children – the second generation to suffer the effects of the most unpopular war in our country’s history. Wives were kept in the dark, the VA was not established until the late 80s’, and PTSD didn’t have a name. Aftercare was minimal, and many kept their unseen wounds bottled up for decades.
I fell in love with a Vietnam veteran in 1969, nine months after he came home. This guy, and many like him, were just kids. Surfing and attending community college one day, picking up a machine gun and participating in a bloody fight for their lives the next. We married almost a decade later, had two children, and divorced after eleven years. But there was always that link that never faded and a lot of guilt that I carried because I didn’t have the insight to deal with or understand PTSD at the time.
September 27, 2011 – My veteran and I had become close again and spent almost all our free time together. His health was failing, he suffered from depression, but it had become less intense and on this day he was at the top of his game. We were returning from a coffee date in the Village about a mile away from his home. As I waited at the bottom of the hill to make a left turn a half a block away from our destination, we were rear-ended by a vehicle twice as heavy as mine, going 45 miles an hour. Physically, we were not hurt. My car sustained $6,000 worth of damage. The impact of the collision triggered a PTSD episode in my veteran. Seventeen days later, on October 13th, he committed suicide.
The only way I found to cope with mine and our children’s grief was to write about the oppressive, lifelong burden he brought home and the collateral damage he left in his wake. At sixty-eight years old, I became a writer, but it was not a vanity project. Rather, it was an inspiration to share my story and honor all Vietnam veterans with a love story based on fact. I am not the only wife, and our children are not the only youngsters that live daily with the unseen wounds of a family member who suffers a lifetime with the memories and guilt of their participation in war. The other day, I saw a very potent cartoon on Facebook, posted by a Vietnam veteran. A soldier, rifle slung over his shoulder, head down and staring at the Vietnam Wall. At the top of the page, the caption read, “When was the last time you were in Vietnam?” At the bottom of the page, the caption read “Last night……”
What were some aspects of the novel that you fictionalized and what were some aspects you stuck close to the facts?
When I started stringing the beginning, middle and end together in my head, I knew I had to place the two main characters, Paul and Elizabeth, in a position that would make their love story believable. I had never written or published anything prior to this endeavor, so I drafted it in my head before I ever put pen to paper. While the story was inspired by the life I shared with my veteran and our children, it became my mea culpa, my deepest apology for not understanding the gravity of PTSD and making choices that were unwise over the course of our history. The childhood years of Paul and Elizabeth are pure fiction compared to mine and my Veteran, but I felt the need to structure their early losses, weave them into the storyline and create a common thread for making their attraction to one another a natural evolution of their friendship.
I did create the character and personality of Paul in the image of my Veteran, but Elizabeth, I have to admit, was created from the perspective of what I learned and dealt with after my veteran took his life. She was a better version of me, but also a reflection of most wives who live with and love Vietnam veterans.
The anguish depicted in difficult, heartbreaking scenes was real, even though some were embellished for better or worse. My veteran was kind and funny, never a harsh word for anyone, but was also a hoarder. He truly did resemble Santa Claus at the end of his life, with an extra fifty pounds that added a cumbersome gait to his 5’8″ frame, thick white hair grown to shoulder length, and a long beard he rarely trimmed. He carried a duffle bag with him just to get coffee or go to a movie, adored our children, and had a host of idiosyncrasies that were as endearing as they were frustrating. Both my Veteran and the character, Paul, received purple hearts and suffered from PTSD. The suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization were factual, along with many other descriptions of their home, and surroundings. Truth and fiction were interwoven throughout the second half of the novel, although out of context in some instances. The most important reality to me was the ice cream cone with Elizabeth’s name…yes, there really was an ice cream cone with my name on it, which I still have in a Tupperware container after thirty years. My veteran, I discovered when I sifted through his accumulation of inanimate objects, had never thrown it out. That one item was the inspiration for the title, KEEP FOREVER, as we are an amalgam of memories, good and bad, that linger, remind, soothe and terrify all of us throughout our lives. As in the book, my Veteran scrawled the words, “Keep 4Ever” on everything from taxes and bank statements, to Christmas cards and shopping lists. Nothing was ever thrown out…certainly not his memories.
Paul’s death was the most important chapter that I wrote. It was difficult to re-live, but it purged my soul because I got to change history. It was my novel, my story, and I could make any ending I wanted, so I strayed from the truth in the manner in which he died; however, I drew on the experience of my Veteran’s funeral to describe the pomp and circumstance and the emotional good-bye to a member of a military family that is laid to rest in a National cemetery. I hope this bittersweet story helps to convey the sacrifices of all our veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam, and reminds readers that not all wounds are visible.
I thought this book was an emotional story. What were some themes that were important for you to focus on?
In my mind, and in speaking with many Vietnam veterans that I know personally, collateral damage to wives and children was a topic that had not been explored in a historical, Vietnam-era story. Most are memoirs of service members in battle, and written from the point of view of one person. I tried to capture the roller-coaster that exists with all family members, from birth through adulthood, in an effort to highlight how the internal battle of a veteran affects the entire family unit. I also wanted to make the point that most veterans refuse to speak of their pain, and what they keep bottled up inside is the most damaging to themselves and their loved ones.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
This is the 2nd edition of KEEP FOREVER, and a deeper version than my first that was self-published in Feburuary, 2018. In between then and the re-release in March, 2020, I wrote and published MY NAME IS ROSE, another nostalgic story, about a young girl raised in a commune during the 1970s’. It has become an Amazon #1 Best Seller, as well as a first-place winner in an International Book Competition in 2019. KEEP FOREVER also topped the Amazon Charts soon after the second release, with #1 spots in New Releases, Vietnam War History, 1960s’ History of the US, and 1960s’ American History.
During my first nine weeks of quarantine, I completed the first draft of my third novel, MIRACLE. And yes, another piece of nostalgia, which seems to be what I am drawn to. The story revolves around two young women in the 1950s’. One lives in Southern California and must come to terms with the fact that four unsuccessful pregnancies leaves adoption as the only option for herself and her husband. The inability to qualify with the adoption agency due to their advancing age – almost thirty was old in the 50s’ – steers them towards an alternative solution of adopting a child outside the United States. During this time, the Canadian government created maternity homes for young women who were without a spouse or family assistance. After giving birth, it was understood that they would leave their baby behind for adoption by a suitable couple. The second young lady finds herself in a position that demands she reside in one of these homes for the last part of her pregnancy as she agonizes about the ultimate sacrifice she is being forced to make. Ultimately, these two women are destined to connect, but the ending is not as one might suspect. I hope to have MIRACLE ready for publication by mid-2021.
Keep Forever is a book that will sit with you for a long time and bring to light subjects you hadn’t thought of. The book focuses on two men during the Vietnam War. Paul and Sam. Both wounded in the war and sent home; they have to relearn how to be who they are in a society that didn’t believe in the war. While Paul’s scars are internal and Sam’s are in your face, both men realize that moving on from the war isn’t as easy as they thought it would be. The book also focuses on Sam’s sister and the journey she takes from being a young woman to a woman who has grown and matured while trying to help her family.
As a military veteran’s wife, this hit home, and I cried at some parts, wondering what would have happened if my spouse had been alive during the Vietnam War. I could relate to the characters personally as my husband has PTSD and found myself crying for Sam, Paul, and Sam’s sister Elizabeth when reading everything they had to endure. It seemed like they faced so much adversity and struggle, but life is like that, and it reflected what we all go through.
I liked Sam’s character but felt he didn’t get enough time to fully develop. We can assume he lived a peaceful life and had children who had children, but we never hear what happens to him. We stop hearing about Sam about halfway through, and I did find myself wanting to know more about his life and journey. The only other small issue I had was with the ending which didn’t bring the conclusion I wanted… but I suppose this is a good reflection of life in a way. I could guess the ending before it happened, and had braced myself for it, (though I still burst into tears having felt a connection to the characters and their story), but the last two pages were not a good ending for me.
I do think this book is beautifully written and sheds light on a crucial issue and issues that affect the military. I honestly respect anyone who has ever put on a uniform and feel that the author did the book justice, by how it was written. I just wanted a different ending for the characters, but this was because I genuinely fell in love with them.
Pages: 282 | ASIN: B0863F1WCV
What happened in Vietnam … didn’t stay in Vietnam.
It came home with us!
As one reviewer described the book, “Patrick Hogan pulls off what most cannot – invoke emotion using non-fiction. Fair warning, his description of the Vietnam War will make you angry, depressed, sad, and happy all at the same time.”
This edition of Silent Spring – Deadly Autumn of the Vietnam War, is an account of war – a tale of anger and determination – a chronicle written in sorrow and hope. It’s the story of countless veterans who served in Vietnam and many of their children.
The book is both a memoir and an investigational voyage into all the issues the U.S. government doesn’t want you to know about the Vietnam War.
It’s not just another paperback about Vietnam or Agent Orange. Rather it’s a “silver bullet” which cuts through to the heart of the circumstances and chemical used during that war—toxic enduring herbicides and insecticides—which in some cases are still being used to this very day all over the globe, even right here in America.
So, forget everything you’ve heard from the government and what you think you know about the Vietnam War because you will be absolutely stunned by what the US government had willingly dumped on Vietnam and its own troops.
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Reflection: The Paul Mann Story by Titan Frey is an amazing work of fiction interweaving alternative history within it. Paul Mann is 104-years-old and in a nursing home. Every day he writes in his journal about his life and has a sack of journals that tells the story of his lifetime. He is reunited with his son and grandson in this book, where Paul tells his story through his journals. An intimate family relationship is born between grandson and grandfather where we see the hectic, heartbreaking, and even heartwarming life Paul Mann has led while also following his current adventures.
I love this book. It was intriguing and hard to put down. At first, I did not like many of the characters, but then I saw, as their story developed, that they were shaped by their pasts. The main characters are well-developed in that sense, and we get to know these characters as if they were complex, real-life people. It truly felt as if I was witnessing these events pass and getting to know them. I would have liked to understand the side characters motivations more, though, as they did seem cruel without real reason. Though sometimes, that is the harshness of the world, and this book’s theme seems to be how callous and brutal the world can be, but that love is still important.
The main aspect of this book was learning about Paul through the eyes of his past in the form of a journal, and it was done so well. I love how the journals truly seemed to be written by Paul Mann. It shows incredibly strong character development. I liked the idea of learning about someone through journals; it put me in the mindset of Marlin, the grandson, where I felt like Paul was my grandfather and I got to connect with him in that way. Frey does a marvelous at humanizing her character and allowing you to grow attached to them.
This book is an emotional roller-coaster with lots of twists and turns. Terrible things happen, but you get to see the love Paul has for his family, and that beauty shines through. The portrayal of the nursing home struck a chord with me and made it relatable; at least to me. It made me feel for the residents, especially Paul. In a way, this book made me feel more connected with my own grandmother.
I highly recommend this book. It puts you in the head of an older person by relaying their life experiences. It also shows how sometimes you do not really know a person or how they came to be who they are until you take the time to listen, or read in this case. The book also illustrates the importance of life and spending time with loved ones. In addition to valuable lessons, the book is also intriguing, thrilling, and mysterious. Marlin and his grandson truly have a special bond.
Pages: 186 | ASIN: B07MTSFWJG
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