Serpents Underfoot finds JD Cordell facing a terrorist group that plans to detonate nukes on US soil. What were some sources that informed this novel’s development?
This story grew out of thoughts I have had about what it would be like to be a Spec Ops warrior. I served in the military and spent most of my time overseas. I served in the Army infantry, and when I enlisted, I scored high enough on the ASVAB test to get Ranger School in my contract. Unfortunately, when they discovered I had a slight speech impediment, they would not send me to Ranger School. There were going to let me out because they couldn’t honor their end of the deal, but I asked to stay. Hell, I could still shoot pretty darn well. So, I guess it is, at least in part, a fantasy about what might have been.
Combine that with a lifetime study of martial arts, the political climate at the time, my interest in Asian culture, and you have the birth of this story.
The rest is simply a bunch of “what if” questions. For instance, what if a soldier in Vietnam married a Vietnamese girl who saved his life? What if their son became a Navy SEAL, and what if his team uncovered a major terrorist plot? What if it involved high-ranking US government officials? You get the idea …
JD Cordell is essentially a composite of several people I have known and respected. While I was a bit too young to serve in Vietnam, I was old enough to have several good friends who did. One friend, in particular, served as a medic on long-range reconnaissance patrols in the region the first few chapters of Serpents Underfoot is set in. I also know a couple of former Navy SEALS, one of which recently passed away. He was actually an Underwater Demolition Team member and served in the Mekong Delta region during the Vietnam War. The UDT teams were essentially forerunners of the Navy SEALs.
What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
I guess you could say the writing challenges were pretty extensive, and they essentially set themselves. Serpents Underfoot was my first serious attempt at a book. I am still amazed that I finished it, published it, and have gotten some pretty rave reviews, including Literary Titan’s excellent review and many great reader reviews. It even got a good review from Kirkus.
And I did make a lot of newbie mistakes. It was self-edited, which I learned right away is not a good idea. I used an editor, Beth Kallman Werner, for my second book, Montagnard. She was a great help and worth the investment. But for Serpents Underfoot, there were several frantic re-edits and uploads of the book’s interior as readers pointed out problems or typos to me. I knew nothing about launching a book release or marketing. I mean, in reality, writing it was probably the easy part. It has even gone through four different cover revisions.
All that being said, I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience. I grew so much as an author during that process. We learn so much more from our mistakes than our successes.
What draws you to the military action-thriller genre?
It is a genre I have always enjoyed reading. I like action thrillers of all kinds and have read a great deal by authors like Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, W.E.B. Griffin, Ken Follett, Greg Iles, Vince Flynn, and Ian Fleming, to name just a few.
I was also a huge Louis L’Amour western fan, so I guess this kind of thing comes naturally. I like stories where despite terrible odds, the good guys win. Louis L’Amour had a great quote I’ve always loved, “There’s no stopping a man who knows he’s in the right and keeps a-coming.” I think JD Cordell personifies that quote.
And I also love reading military history, especially World War II and the Vietnam War. As I mentioned, I have had several friends over the years who were Vietnam Veterans, and I was appalled by how this country treated them on their return to the US. So, I like to write stories that cast American military members in a positive light; who stand on principle and won’t back down.
Serpents Underfoot is the first book in The JD Cordell Action Series. What can readers expect in book two?
Book two, titled Montagnard, is already out. I sort of did this “review thing” out of order. Montagnard also received a 5-Star review from Literary Titan and even won your Literary Titan Gold Book Award for August 2020. I was shocked but very thrilled. I have to give a lot of credit for that to my editor. Beth told me it was good and that I should submit it for review. It was that success that prompted me to submit Serpents Underfoot as well.
In Montagnard, JD Cordell and a few buddies try to rescue his mother, who disappears into Vietnam after traveling there to find her adopted brother. Dish, of course, played a significant role in Serpents Underfoot. JD’s mother, Mai, inadvertently falls victim to an old feud between her adopted brother and a former Viet Cong colonel. During the rescue mission, JD also receives assistance from a half-Thai, half-American nightclub owner, a great character full of surprises.
I am currently working on book three, titled Reciprocity. This tale picks up where Montagnard leaves off. In Reciprocity, JD finds himself drawn into a deadly conflict with a criminal gang trafficking young women forced into lives of prostitution. In this case, two young women you meet in Montagnard. It is a dark topic but, sadly, all too relevant in today’s world. I hope this book, while fiction, will help bring this topic to more people’s attention.
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War of the Sparrows follows a WWII veteran struggling with PTSD as he sets out on a mission of redemption to stop a killer. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The story came from an idea I had about a girl who lives in a loveless home and discovers an attic full of her parent’s things from when they were young and happy. I asked myself, why are the parents miserable? My great grandfather was a Rat of Tobruk, a veteran from World War 2, so that seemed a logical place to start. I wanted there to be an additional layer to the story of a war-veteran father struggling with civilian life, and thought his desire and actions to redeem himself could provide that. Hence, the story begins with the historical abduction of a little boy; a crime that haunts the town and provides Frank the opportunity to earn his salvation. If he can find the man responsible, of course.
Frank is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Frank is a fixer who likes things to be orderly and well-maintained. He is meticulous in everything he does, from his house, to his job as a builder, to the injured birds he cares for in his aviary. But his psychological trauma prevents him from mending the relationship with his daughter. We know Frank is an inherently good man who wants to do the right thing but, after his experiences in the war, he believes he has a terrible price to pay to balance his moral ledger. He’s also in a unique position in terms of his military experience to be able to bring that about.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
1930s-1950s Australia is the setting for this book, a period of time that was in a coming-of-age for the nation. We lost our innocence in a way. People didn’t lock their doors, they were bouyant after the end of WW2, there was a sense of relief, and of pride in our valiant contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany. But I also thought it unrealistic that many of the returned men and women would just be happy to be home and get on with their lives unaffected. There’s plenty of recent work that explores PTSD in more modern conflicts, especially out of the US, but I haven’t come across much in the way of Australian fiction. The other thing I have often felt was that our Australian troops have always been lauded as soldiers beyond reproach but I thought it naive to think that our boys would have all served honourably at all times. While I was typesetting the book, it was announced there was to be an investigation into Australian soldiers and potential war crimes committed against civilias in Afghanistan. That really resonated with me and confirmed what I felt was a story that hadn’t really been explored, as I said, in Australian war fiction. Ultimately, in WOTS, we witness the loss of innocence of our protagonists and how each approaches the aftermath.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next novel is another Australian story called Things are Always Blowing Up in Bangle. It’s a lighter-themed novel that I hope could be available in 2021, but with work and family, that will be a miracle. The hero of the tale is Douglas Jones, the town’s station master. A mild-mannered gentleman who loves his trains and his detective novels, Douglas becomes entangled in Australia’s most famous art heist when the getaway driver is revealed to be living nearby. Bangle is a (fictional) remote mining town in country New South Wales that is famous for two things: the red dust that coats everything, and the abandoned artilery range just out of town. Every night at dusk, kangaroos migrate across the range and detonate unexploded ordinace. So, as the old boys at the pub love to tell the visitors, ‘Between the mine and the exploding kangaroos, things are always blowing up in Bangle.’
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The Light From Darkness follows Teddy Miller who, after years of sending unanswered letters to his father, decides to break his father out of Fort Jefferson, a behemoth of a prison. Author John W. Bebout has written a fast-paced action-adventure novel with lots of sharp twists as Teddy gets himself into more trouble than he anticipated.
The Light From Darkness is a short novel but suspenseful historical adventure novel that captures the heart of the reader and guides them Teddy’s emotional turmoil. Readers are provided with a quick section at the beginning of the story to know what Teddy sets out to do and from there the adventure begins, many things open up to Teddy and challenge him which makes him feel guilty, unsure, and lost. Most of these moments will pull at readers heart, if not fully allowing them to empathize with the character.
This is a fast paced story of the Civil War that sets a quick pace early on that rarely stops for details. The charm and humor embedded within the story provides a nice contrast to the emotionally-charged adventure that Teddy sets out on. Numerous times I found myself chuckling or grinning. This made the atmosphere a bit more light-hearted and fun in contrast to some heavy moments. This all paired well with the prose which was simple and easy-to-read, which works especially well with short novels.
The author effectively made the setting both grounded and vibrant even with the tense undertones of opposing cultures and peoples existing. This was achieved through the side characters being fun and lively while also making clear how uncaring and, at times, destructive nature can be, especially when at sea for long periods of time. Even when Teddy was not at sea, he seemed to stay close enough which allowed for new characters to be introduced while still holding love for the ocean.
The Light From Darkness is a riveting historical fiction novel that follows an intriguing character on an unforgettable journey that readers will certainly enjoy.
Pages: 193 | ASIN: B08SHTPCSP
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EO-N follows five lives on a gripping journey through the cruelties of war to the relentless pressures of corporate greed. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I’ve had a long fascination with archaeology and ‘things being found,’ and have always felt an odd connection to the events of the Second World War – maybe as a result of being the child of parents whose cities were bombed when they were kids. At some point I’d read a news article about a boy who’d discovered an aircraft, complete with pilot, buried in the mud of his father’s farm, and aside from the awe of that revelation, I began to wonder “what if?” What if that buried aircraft had contained things that had no business being there?
Your characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
I simply wanted them to be ‘real.’ The central characters are all just doing the best they can, with whatever they have, in difficult circumstances.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Some of the characters parallel each other, although they may be living in different decades or wearing different uniforms. Love and loss, courage and fear, guilt and redemption, and cruelty and kindness are universal to human experience, and luck (or lack of it) and the personal choices people make both weigh heavily in life. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which of those things is most responsible for an eventuality, or for a path taken or not taken. And finally, I wanted to explore the idea that human history may be painted with a broad brush (and usually on a massive scale), but most of it is actually made up of billions of actions taken by individual people. We may never know the massive consequences of our own tiny acts of courage or cruelty or kindness. But they matter.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m in the middle stages of a second historical fiction novel centered around the concept of freedom vs citizenship. When will it be available? Great question! Keep you posted.
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After the gruesome events that took place in Tobruk, Libya; celebrated war veteran Frank Miller returns to his hometown to get on with his life. He gets a stable job and has a loving daughter. However, as happens with many war survivors, he suffers from PTSD. Frank is unable to emotionally connect with anyone and is haunted by the horrors he was forced to witness and commit. When the ten-year-reunion for Tobruk veterans takes place, Frank fears for his integrity as his darkest secrets resurface in the face of a curious daughter as she closes in on his attic and everything hidden within. So when a new mission in the deserts of northern Africa arises, Frank accepts in the name of redemption. Only this time rather than facing german troops he must find a feared child murderer.
War of The Sparrows is an emotionally-charged historical fiction novel. This stirring book by Matt Strempel narrates events of Tobruk during the second World War in an engaging and emotionally resonant manner. An event not as well known by many people but just as bloody and gruesome as famous dates such as D-Day. Frank Miller, our protagonist, is an emotionally detached Australian war veteran, and his character feels genuine throughout the novel and was someone I could really connect with. He is protective of his secrets and fears their exposure to his daughter. Francesca is Mr. Miller’s daughter, she is loving, curious, and intense at times but always with the intention of taking care of her father. What makes these characters feel real is that they are based off of the author´s actual family members, so he describes them in a way that is familiar and with a hint of his real emotions towards them.
The writing is beautiful, perfectly portraying PTSD and showing flashbacks of the events that caused it. Not only is the book quick-paced and entertaining to read but in a way it’s very educational on the events described. There are not many accounts of what happened during this time as opposed to the same old war stories we see in the media.
Reminiscent of Julia Navarro´s Tell Me Who I Am and perfect for fans of historical fiction and action/suspense. An amazing storyline, educational content, historically accurate events, and real and relatable characters all combine to make War of The Sparrows a story that is dramatic and engrossing.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B08VKWCX3Y
Tags: and as one woman’s future draws toward its inevitable close, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, historical fantasy, historical fiction, kindle, kobo, literature, Matt Strempel, military, military fiction, mystery, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, story, suspense, thriller, war, War of The Sparrows, writer, writing, wwII
Love and Sabotage follows Marty Gregg, a new graduate beginning her first job. She is a female journalist in what is still a man’s world. To further complicate Marty’s life, her fiancé is away at war, stationed in the pacific during WWII.
This is a story that is easy follow, which is certainly a benefit in a mystery novel as riveting as this one. The novel is narrated by our captivating young protagonist Marty, and we follow the trials and tribulations she faces working in a male dominated industry whilst constantly awaiting word from her fiancé. As she follows a breaking story readers are treated to glimpses of the quaint town she lives in, and the complex relationships she has. There are delightful descriptions of the town, including many descriptions of the houses and buildings, as well as the gardens and trees. Author Martha Tolles cleverly integrates several community features such as the library that makes the setting feel realistic and like a character on its own. Set during World War Two, most of the references to technology, clothing and speech are consistent with this time period, which allows the reader to be immersed in the story.
I enjoyed the main characters in this story and felt that they were well developed. Marty, the young female journalist pinning for her fiancé Eddy who is away at war, feels like a trope but its given much more dimension with Marty’s unique personality. She is clearly dedicated to her job, this is shown by her thoughts, her conversations with others, and actions. However, it is clear that being a young female journalist during the war can be difficult in what is still essentially a man’s industry. We see her hesitation in dealing with her employer’s sexual overtones, as well as other men who are not accustomed to working with women. Understandably, her fiancé Eddy is never far from her mind, however we never really learn much about him. Another complex relationship is the relationship between Marty and her friend Grace. Their relationship encompasses both a personal friendship and a working relationship. We see Grace authentically try to support her friend from her employer’s advances, whilst still maintaining her own professional relationship with him. It’s a relationship that I thought was intriguing and wanted to see more of.
Love and Sabotage is a mystery novel that is easy to read and, because of that, is easy to get wrapped up in. The setting descriptions allow the reader to immerse themselves both in the town of Rye and the circumstances for civilians living in WWII. Fans of historical fiction will find plenty to enjoy in this compelling novel?
Pages: 182 | ASIN: B07MHQXKJT
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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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The Korean War was fought between communist North Korea supported by the Chinese and the soviets, and South Korea supported by the United States. Known as “the forgotten war” for its lack of media coverage, The Korean War was incredibly bloody; but the main thing the war is known for is its enormous amount of American prisoners of war and the brutal treatment they received while under communist captivity.
Finnegan Found by John N. Powers is a historical fiction novel that follows the story of Paul Larson, also known as “Swede”. A nineteen year-old boy born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, who joined the Army in order to broaden his limited opportunities and save for university. When he is captured as a POW and sent to the war camps along the Yalu River by the North Koreans, Swede must endure terrible death marches under dangerous weather conditions where many soldiers died, physical torture, and eventually go through forced “mental conditioning” which consisted of lessons where soldiers were taught to hate capitalism. His resolve is tested countless times and the reader really gets to feel the emotional stress that he is under. His perseverance is one of the things that was truly amazing and I appreciated how well his character portrays this trait while still feeling authentic even under some stressful situations. This is a character driven story, and one with impacts that we can see today. This novel does a fantastic job of relaying the harsh realities of a dangerous time in a exotic location.
It’s amazing how author John N. Powers managed to collect so many real testimonies from those who lived the war and morphed them to form a single experience that realistically portrays the brutal treatment of POWs in the Yalu prison camps. While the topic approached throughout the novel could make for a very heavy read, with all the context needed beforehand. The author managed to write beautiful descriptions that make the situation understandable for any reader no matter how limited their knowledge on the Korean War. He captures the essence of life as a prisoner of war as described by the survivors who have opened up about their past.
Finnegan Found has incredible descriptions and a thrilling plot. It is highly recommended for historical fiction fans or really anyone interested in learning more about the Korean War or the long battle between communism and capitalism.
Pages: 445 | ASIN: B08BC2F76C
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