Booking Through Thursday
Q: Do you bring the book(s) with you when you go out? How? physically or in an e-reader of some kind. Have your habits in this regard changed?
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
About the Book
We all carry our own battle scars.
This is the premise of War Stories, a rich collection of short fiction that draws upon both the literal and figurative meaning of its title. Through a diverse array of characters, settings, and circumstances, War Stories delivers a series of powerful tales from the home front of war: the stories of parents, siblings, and spouses of those who have fought, as well as those who have returned from battle.
Set against the backdrop of contemporary conflicts, War Stories’ compelling nine narratives tell of a wounded veteran who seeks renewal through an imagined relationship with a neighborhood girl, a grieving father who finds peace and reconciliation at the site of a disastrous bus crash, a young woman who searches for identity and meaning in the wake of her husband’s injury, and an urban teenager engaged in a fateful standoff with local recruiters. Interspersed with these tales are powerful, non-traditional “war stories” – of youth, unexpected loss, and heartbreaking love.
War Stories’ thoughtful and beautifully crafted tales, which range in style from deceptively simple to rich and complex, tell of people young and old, male and female, who share two things: humanity and resilience. These diverse and deftly written stories are joined through Elisabeth Doyle’s remarkable style and ease in creating a universe full of despair, hope, and dreams. At turns tender and harsh, tragic and yearning, these stories will leave you wanting more.
1. Please tell us about your current release.
War Stories is a lean collection of short fiction – nine stories – many of which are set against the backdrop of contemporary conflicts, including the war in Vietnam and current wars.
2. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?
In January 2002, I traveled for the first time to the country of Vietnam. I went there on a bit of a lark – a childhood friend of my mother’s was working there and had extended a kind of “open invitation” to visit. For some reason, I decided to go. Maybe I shouldn’t say “for some reason” – I was born during the war in Vietnam, and the conflict endured throughout my early childhood. I had vague memories of the images of war that flickered on our small television screen each evening. Usually, these images were mere background to our lives – they played out as my mother cooked dinner. No one seemed to pay great attention. I also had vague recollections of the scenery of Vietnam – some mountains and a village. I’m not sure where or when I saw those early childhood images – perhaps on a news program, or in a later documentary.
In any event, I traveled to Vietnam in 2002, and it’s safe to say that the experience changed my life, and opened for me new doors of interest, of passion, and of compassion. I returned with a deep and abiding interest in the war in Vietnam, its history, and its effect on American soldiers and Vietnamese citizens. I read – and continue to read – anything that I can get my hands on regarding the war. I focused primarily on first-hand autobiographical accounts by soldiers.
I had a background in fiction writing, but hadn’t written a short story in years. When I relocated to Washington in late 2006, I resolved to return to writing, mostly at the urging of my mother and grandparents. Away from the distractions of family and familiarity, in a new city, I was able to find the peace in which to write. It should be noted that I did not set out to write a collection of short stories on the topic of war. In fact, I did not set out to write a collection, at all. I just wrote – one story after another. And what I found, as I wrote, was that the theme of war continued to assert itself in each of these stories, in one way or another. After years of reading and learning, war had apparently become the foremost, organizing principle in my mind; the circumstance around which all other things revolved. It emerged as a theme that linked all of the new stories that I wrote, without conscious or deliberate effort or planning on my part.
It should be noted that these are not combat stories, nor do they attempt or purport to be historically accurate or to give voice to the actual experience of those who have fought. Only those who have had to fight, or who have lived in a war zone, can truly understand that experience. These stories are just that – stories – written with the deepest respect and empathy for those who have found themselves in such extreme circumstances, and who have faced the kind of difficult, unforgiving choices that most of us can only imagine.
3. Can you tell us about the story behind your book cover?
Sure. Well, suffice it to say that the book cover underwent a lot of changes, much to the annoyance of the cover designer, who (nonetheless) was a wonderfully good sport about it. It was important to me to create a cover that was NOT obviously rooted in or reflective of the topic of war. This was so because, first, the title “War Stories” is used both literally and figuratively. That is, while the majority of stories in the collection are set against the backdrop of war, other stories are not. These additional tales reflect “war stories” of another kind – the kind that we might all experience. So I wanted the cover to encompass all the themes in the book.
I chose to use a triptych of photos - a series of photos that could each be traced, if a reader so desired, to one or more of the stories in the collection. The characters in the photos are loosely representative of several of the characters in the book.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I tend to write in a “spare” style, and make a deliberate, conscious effort to avoid sentimentality or over-statement of any kind. That’s just me. I don’t know that I succeed, but I try to convey the characters’ circumstances and states of mind without excess or manipulation of the reader. I also deliberately write without any “message” or agenda in mind. None of these stories, even those that are set against the backdrop of war, are intended to convey any kind of political message, and none of them were written with any kind of agenda or judgment. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to write a story with an agenda or message in mind. In general, I write short stories as a series of vignettes – as moments in time, things that happened - from which the reader can draw his or her own conclusions, messages, etc. I prefer to leave the interpretation of the “meaning” of my stories in the hands of the reader.
5. Open your book to a random page and tell us what’s happening.
I did as you asked and opened the book to a random page. It happens to be the first page of the story “The Deepest, Darkest Part of the Woods,” on page 53. This happens to be one of my favorite stories, and one of the last in the collection that I completed. It’s one of the stories in the collection that takes the most risks, I think, and revolves around a young veteran who returns to his suburban neighborhood and struggles to re-integrate. This first page is also one of my favorites in the book, as it describes the return of this young man – and others like him – into a familiar setting that is now entirely unfamiliar to him.
War Stories: Short Fiction can be purchased at:
Price: $14.95 paperback
Release: August 7, 2012
About the Author
Elisabeth Doyle is a writer and attorney living in Washington, D.C. She studied fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College and the University at Albany, and is completing a Masters of Laws Degree at Georgetown University Law Center. Ms. Doyle’s short fiction was published in the literary journal Nadir and was awarded the University at Albany’s Lovenheim Prize for best short fiction. Her first short film, Hard Hearted One, was admitted into the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema and the Street Films Film Festival, and was shown on Public Television and Manhattan Cable. War Stories is her first collection of short fiction.
Connect with Elisabeth:
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012
About the Book
Was missile defense started to save the free world or start a new empire? Do religions help us understand God or help keep God a mystery? Do schools prepare us for life or delay our lives? Does Congress help protect us or help exploit us? Has there ever been any BS involved in any of the above? Have we embraced or challenged the BS.? Could we make a difference? Would we want to make a difference?
Whether reading a newspaper, watching TV, or listening to a song, we are probably observing and absorbing a certain amount of BS. Do we recognize it, realize it, reject it or absorb it. This book provides a beginning to considering these questions. It can provide a basis for understanding, a basis for action, a cause of laughter, a foundation for tears, or some combination. This book often states the obvious, but it’s the obvious that often we collectively don’t seem to own up to. Much of the strife of life, the inequities of the world, even the causes of wars and disasters of the economy might be rooted in our collective self-deception.
The adventure starts with a reflection on a fairy tale from our childhood and one from Washington. It then joins a pair – a professor and his young assistant on an American adventure. They look at such topics as social interaction, sports professional and local, and our individual fitness. Business and education provide many examples and insights. Next, religion and science provide contrasts and similarities.
Government, politics, the legal system, and military service complete this brief trip. In each area, the presence and effects of BS are noted. The final section is devoted to the three greatest downfalls of society in the last century. They are identified and their drastic effects on our society are briefly examined.
Have you ever wanted to stand up during a speech, lecture, sermon, advertisement and just yell. You weren’t being directly harmed or attacked. Nothing was physically being stolen from you. No one was demanding your mind or your money. Just the same, you felt violated in a very real sense. BS steals from us all. Pretending to accept the false makes it harder to trust the authentic.
It seems very important that we know what is real and what is BS. It is also important that those that generate BS, (we all do some) realize that they’re not fooling anyone. It would really mess things up if all BS were challenged and rejected, but it might be useful if it were identified and acknowledged. As I started to collect my thoughts, I was almost overwhelmed by the examples and challenges that life presents us. Almost every area of our experience is affected. In the book I have not put much emphasis on politics. As we proceed in this election year I am sure that we will have ample opportunity to find “sterling” examples. (Sterling BS is sort of an oxymoron!)
As we proceed we’ll need active participation to make this the best experience. Maybe we can have some awards on the blog for different classes of BS. Your suggestions are encouraged. As with any blog, it is your participation and our interaction that will provide the richness.
I have spent much of my life being frustrated by the BS and by the frequent pretense that the BS is reality. Through the book and this blog I want to challenge this. I believe most of us recognize BS when we stop and think about it. I’ve often felt that putting up with BS is societies definition of maturity and wisdom. I don’t think most of us really feel that way. This is an effort to observe, laugh and possibly change.
Throughout the book you will see a wagging finger beside the text. There was a small group of us at work that would silently use this finger wagging as means to silently, but visibly, point out BS when we see or hear it. It would be great to establish this as a nationally recognized and accepted symbology, It might even become an effective way of communicating our knowledge and feelings to those that provide the BS.
Maybe we can also create a list of BS. Postulates. The first might be: “If you wonder if it’s BS, it almost certainly is!”
Please enjoy. Laugh at the BS, act but don’t get mad!
Gotta Call BS on That One can be purchased at:
Click here to read an excerpt.
Price: $13.99 paperback, $6.99 ebook
Release: August 5, 2012
About the Author
Gerry Steiner has enjoyed a life that is varied in location, vocation, and activities. He started in the land of tradition and history, Hampton, Va., the oldest continuous English speaking settlement in the United States. After high school and eighteen years surrounded by history. Gerry was ready to venture away from Virginia. After considering Cornell, he caught a train to California and went to Caltech. He left Caltech after a couple years to work in seismic oil exploration. His Uncle invited Mr. Steiner to visit Asia. Gerry picked the Navy as the best way to get there. This kept him busy for ten years. A year of Navy school as an electronics technician started the process. Fortunate circumstances led him to his wife and “stability?” for the next 40 years. Gerry then finished his BS and an MS in oceanography before sailing for Vietnam, There gunfire support and chasing aircraft carriers kept him in touch with the real world. Receiving fuel and supplies at sea gave him an appreciation for close quarters’ steerage. A pleasant break provided a week in Olongapo followed by a week in Hong Kong. His wife, Marilyn joined him.
After the Navy and back in Seattle he continued his work in sonar research at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. He started work on a PhD in electrical engineering. He made sonar measurements from an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean north of Barrow, Alaska. Two visits by polar bears approaching to 20 ft. added to the excitement Dr. Steiner moved to Ridgecrest, CA where he held a position at China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Several years in automatic target recognition included radar field measurements from Pt. Loma, San Diego. Next he started the Airborne RF Targeting Branch. Gerry also completed his doctorate in electrical engineering.
From China Lake Dr. Steiner ventured off to Denver, Colorado to join Martin Marietta. The initial year in Denver was focused on space based radar plans. A movie and a president changed his focus. The movie was Star Wars, the president was Reagan, the focus became the Strategic Defense Initiative. He spent the next decade on issues related to SDI. After the space based interceptor there was a space based laser concept. His efforts contained analysis, management, design, and testing. A couple years were spent developing a new rocket to provide a re-useable single stage to orbit vehicle. Only physics stood in the way.
Gerry’s wife was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer and given six months to live. They had great times that were ended. Dr. Steiner moved to Maui five years ago. He has written this book to share his observations on how the world works and how it could work better.
Connect with Gerry:
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