99 CENT SALE – The Reach of the Banyan Tree

99 CENT SALE – The Reach of the Banyan Tree

99 cents on AMAZON.COM

For a limited time only, The Reach of the Banyan Tree is well within reach. You might say it’s a steal at only 99 cents on Kindle from August 17-23.

Historical Fiction + Contemporary Romance + VIETNAM!!!! = A Terrific Read!

I had an amazing time piecing together this 300 page novel. I loved adding the center section which extends back to Vietnam in 1945 at the tale-end of World War II. It not only helps the reader understand the complexities 20th century Vietnam and that country’s amazing story, but it also helps to explain the modern romance which makes up the rest of the story. Don’t worry, the romance is ALSO based in Vietnam and bathed in its amazing culture.

How did I do my research? By living in Vietnam for 10 years. By learning Vietnamese fluently. By studying Vietnamese culture and history IN Vietnamese. I do hope my experiences help to bring this book to life. But don’t worry, this isn’t some high-brow treatise on geo-politics. At its heart its a story of fathers and sons and the loves of their lives.

Please do pick yourself up a copy. And now, it’s so cheap, there’s no reason to pass it up.

And don’t forget to leave a review. Your support is much appreciated.

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Did Truman Start the Vietnam War?

The headline is purposefully provocative. How could Truman, who came on the scene after Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, have started the Vietnam War of two decades later? He didn’t, of course, but the case could be made, and was made in my thesis, that Truman instituted a policy shift towards Indochina which set the groundwork for what was to come. Here’s a snippet of my introduction on the topic.

Harry S. Truman, Vice-President and former Senator from Missouri, assumed the office of the Presidency on April 12, 1945 after the death of the longest serving U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Truman immediately found himself in charge of a nation embroiled in the most all-encompassing war in human history. Unprecedented in scope and in challenge, President Truman faced the ravages of war waning in Europe but with the likelihood of a long and costly affair in the Pacific Theater against Japan. The Truman administration was charged with the task of managing war reparations, checking Communist advances, attacking an entrenched Japanese army, and balancing fragile relations with Britain and France. This would have been enough of a challenge for a seasoned leader like Roosevelt, but for the inexperienced Truman, it was truly daunting.

Truman had served as Vice President for only a matter of weeks before Roosevelt’s death. His senatorial background gave him limited experience in the realm of foreign affairs, and Roosevelt did not include the new V.P. in important matters of state during the nascent hours of FDR’s fourth term.  In fact, Truman had been excluded from most executive branch conferences on foreign policy, leaving him to gleam his knowledge of world events mostly from reading newspapers and listening to Capitol Hill chatter (Donovan xiv).  When he became president, Truman did not know about the Manhattan Project (Bradley 103), and had not been informed of what Roosevelt had said at the meetings in Tehran and Yalta earlier in the year (Donovan 10).  He entered the Presidency as a neophyte in foreign policy with no experience in the art of negotiating (Donovan 10), and he brought with him a new Secretary of State, James Byrnes, who also had little foreign policy training (Donovan 17).  This lack of experience, coupled with Roosevelt’s confusing and often contradictory foreign policy, presented Truman with great challenges as his administration tried to bring closure to two wars while balancing world peace.

Not surprisingly, Truman said very little publicly about foreign policy over the first few months of his presidency, but a closer look at the actions of the executive branch in the early days of his administration reveals a clear shift in foreign policy which favored an understandably strong commitment toward France and Britain as tensions heightened with the Soviets over the make-up of post-war Europe (Lucas 13).  In July 1945, the discord over Poland unraveled the trust between the two war-time allies and put Warsaw firmly under control of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (Donovan 57). This undoubtedly gave Britain, France, and the U.S. a great deal of apprehension concerning the Soviet Union’s long-term plans. The U.S. viewed the Soviets in purely ideological terms, thinking that worldwide Communism was the goal (Lucas 13). By the end of 1945, most American policy experts viewed Soviet aggression as the greatest threat to world security, and they saw the Soviets emerging as the dominant power in Asia (Buhite and Hamel 370). Because of this, Truman’s focus on repairing European alliances in the summer of 1945 made a lot of sense; however, this European-focused foreign policy shift would have grave consequences for the peoples of Indochina.

A Valentine’s Day Exclusive: “Banyan Tree” Romantic Excerpt

My latest novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, is loosely a historical romance. I hate to categorize it as such because I don’t believe it adequately describes it. But, it does have romance and it does tell a historical story. I thought I’d share a short romantic excerpt in honor of Valentine’s Day 2015. In the scene below, Charles Regal Carson finds a little unexpected love in the midst of chaos in the quiet, remote countryside of French Indochina – July 1945. Enjoy.

***

Charles paused for a moment, and then all was revealed to him. He understood her hesitation and her apprehension. He understood the worried look on her face and her comments about betrayal. The irony of the last two days finally came to light—that love could appear out of the muddy struggle for life in the countryside of Vietnam. He put his right hand in her hair and slightly pulled away, allowing the hair to cascade back down to her head. She closed her eyes and turned her head into his touch. Protocol and procedures were hundreds of miles away in the sleepy camp of Tan Trao. But on this night, on this patch of ground, Charles felt the urgings of his heart like never before. Death seemed a lifetime away, as did Dinh-Hoa and the rifles. He had never met anyone like Mai, and whatever tomorrow would bring, he knew they at least had this moment.

He leaned in towards her, and their lips met for the first time. Mai didn’t think of her husband or Vinh or the revolution; she thought only of the love and respect she had for Charles Regal Carson. Charles pulled her close, picking her petite frame off the ground, slowly caressing her back as they kissed.

There is comfort in shared experience, in the touch of a woman, in the arms of a respectable man. They pushed off the troubles of tomorrow, letting the dawn worry about the future.

Purchase The Reach of the Banyan Tree HERE!

New Excerpt from “The Reach of the Banyan Tree”

In this excerpt, the small teen, Long, who is large in spirit and hatred for the French colonialists, insists on trying to shoot a rifle and almost ends up shooting an Allied plane. Setting: Tan Trao – Tonkin, French Indochina – July 16, 1945. Enjoy.

“Can I try?”

“We don’t allow skinny school boys to shoot,” said one of the gruff soldiers.

“I’m not a school boy.”

“Well, you should be.”

“I wouldn’t go to a French school if you paid me,” snapped the precocious teen.

“Well that’s good because there aren’t any French schools around here, and I wouldn’t pay you to wipe my boots. What are you? Eight?”

“I’m fourteen, and my uncle says I can join the revolution in eight months.”

“I didn’t know they were allowing babies into the army now,” another soldier jested with him.

“I’m not a baby.”

“You could have fooled me. You have to be taller than a rifle to actually shoot a rifle.”

The gaunt, malnourished, height-challenged youngster scoffed at those petty remarks. He may have been small, but he had the spirit of a warrior who wanted nothing more than to help the revolution. His uncle had taught him a hatred for the French that bred easily amongst the weary-laden souls living in a war-torn colony that had suffocated under eighty years of the foreigners trying to squeeze blood from their Asian turnip. The French, somehow, found a steady stream of income where there was no money or resources, with only the raw-boned determination of the Vietnamese peasants willing to work all day for a bowl of rice gruel. The abuse was all well documented—the rubber plantations that used corvee labor in near slave-like conditions to produce the sap to profit the large French corporations. The French imposed a quota on alcohol that each village was required to purchase whether they wanted it or not and whether it took away from their necessary grain purchases. They opened opium dens, addicting large portions of the male population while forbidding the sale of opiates of any kind in France itself. They purposefully kept the education system unattainable for the vast majority of the population, giving a French education to just enough Annamese to fill the necessary low-level administration posts in order to serve the colony and the French Empire.

“Come on. Let me try one.”

“Go ahead. Teach him a lesson,” said one of the soldiers.

“All right. Here you go.”

He put the outdated French relic on his shoulder and pointed it down-field towards a broken wooden crate with an “x” painted across it.

“Watch this,” said the cocky young man.

His eye lined up along the barrel and pulled the trigger hard but nothing happened.

“You have to pull it back further.”

“I know,” said Long.

“You know about as much as my ox.”

He flinched once and pulled back with his finger as hard as he could. The barrel went flying upward and the shot rang out into the heavens as Long blew back onto the ground.

“What are you shooting at?”

“Must be that plane there,” chimed in another soldier.

On the horizon, the rolling hum of a C-47 pierced the sky.

“Idiot! That’s a friendly plane. It’s the Americans.”

Long hoped that the trajectory of the bullet didn’t find its way into the path of the Allied plane. As he watched it get closer, shouting could be heard in the camp.

“They’re coming! They’re coming!”

“Slim. You better hurry or you’re going to miss it!” yelled Long.

You can pick up a copy of The Reach of the Banyan Tree HERE!

Kindle $2.99  Paperback: $10.79

 

Know Your History: Indochina 1945 from a Page in my Novel

I’m going to change up the “know your history” post this time around and use a direct quote from my new novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, to emphasize the strange WWII ties which existed in Indochina in 1945. Here’s a short paragraph from the chapter entitled “The Strange Ways of the Universe”:

On a cosmic scale, it all seemed kind of absurd. Communist trained guerrillas fighting to overthrow the Japanese, so that they could get a chance to overthrow the French, whom they really hated. Communist trained guerrillas, working with the communist Chinese in cooperation with the nationalist Chinese to fight against the imperialist Japanese with the help of the Americans. Americans, working with the communist Chinese and the communist-leaning Vietnamese, while ignoring the French of Indochina who had kowtowed to the Germans and cooperated with the Japanese, even though their Free-French brothers fought side-by-side with the Allies in Europe. So it was. July of 1945 in Indochina was a political and military mystery—common threads tangled in the strangest of ways.

Commentary: Confusing, isn’t it. But that was the truth and this confusion is what led the Viet Minh to feel confident to declare independence for Vietnam on Sept 2, 1945. They hoped greatly that the Americans would have backed their bid for independence. If only they had, history would have told a much different tale, and the Vietnam War may not have happened. But of course, it is futile to play the “what if” game with history. There is only that which “was”.  And so it was in the summer of 1945.

It might challenge your own bias.

A colleague of mine was gracious enough to read and review my third novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree. I thought a few of his comments about the novel were pertinent. He said:

“A great historical fiction novel that made me feel like I was in Vietnam. Helped me understand Vietnam history more. The story line was wonderful and yet it challenged my own set of biases and notions.”

The Vietnam era was a confusing mess; that is for sure. But my novel deals with the generation before and after the Vietnam War – 1945 and 2000. I hope it will challenge your views of what we went through. But more than that, I hope you will enjoy the story because after all, on the most basic level, it’s a love story. Who can resist that?

Available now in Kindle and Paperback. Read reviews or purchase here!

Thanks for the support.

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Three Generations – One Awesome Vietnam Story

As The Reach of the Banyan Tree gets closer to launch day, I want to highlight the one American family which always seems to be connected to Vietnam – the Carson family.

Charles Carson was a member of the OSS (pre-cursor to the CIA) and parachuted into Tonkin, French Indochina in the summer of 1945, just a month before the Japanese capitulated. His task? Train the Viet Minh resistance fighters to be more effective against the Japanese. But what he doesn’t bargain for is getting dragged into an adventure to find a truck load of missing rifles which in turn brings him face to face with a tough, but beautiful Vietnamese woman. Anything can happen from there.

Charles “C.R.” Carson II spent time in ‘Nam during the 1960s. He fell out with his father and eventually struck it rich with his grandfather in the oil business. He is brash, arrogant, slightly crooked with a good heart – maybe.

Charles “Chip” Carson III arrives in Vietnam in 1998 to do humanitarian work. He falls not only for the country but also for a beautiful young Vietnamese woman named Thuy. He just has to convince her father to let them get married.

Three generations of Carson men, whose stories in Vietnam get connected in the most unexpected and gripping ways.

It’s all about loving and leaving Vietnam.

The adventure begins July 1!

 

Know Your History: Americans Helping the Viet-Minh in 1945

On July 16, 1945 a group of American OSS officers (Office of Strategic Services – the precursor to the CIA) parachuted into the Viet-Minh HQ in Tan Trao, Tonkin. (Tonkin was the name for northern Vietnam during the French colonial period.) This small group of officers were charged with helping to train the Vietnamese to fight against the Japanese, who had taken control of French Indochina during WWII.

The Viet-Minh was headed by communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. The goal of the Viet-Minh was to be on the correct side of victory at the conclusion of WWII. They anticipated correctly that the Allies would eventually win in the Pacific Theater, and they tried to be as helpful as possible to the Allies by providing intelligence to their command headquarters in southern China. Ho Chi Minh even helped walk a rescued American pilot, who was shot down, back to safety to China. The trust that was built up led to the OSS parachuting into Tan Trao to help train their troops.

The goodwill found between the Americans and Vietnamese in the summer of 1945 would never be that close again for the next two generations. By August, President Truman had thrown his support behind the French’s pre-war claim on Vietnam, thus casting aside the Viet-Minh patriots who declared their independence during a mass rally in Hanoi on September 2, 1945.

By December 1946 Ho Chi Minh’s forces realized that the French would never relinquish control over Indochina, and they declared a war of resistance against their colonial masters of nearly 80 years. The French-Indochina War lasted until 1954 when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, bringing about an end to their colonial reign in Asia. Ironically, the Americans were the ones who bankrolled the French during the war, even though the French were fighting against the same soldiers that the Americans had trained in 1945.

Author’s Note: My third novel set to release in July 2014 is deeply wrapped around these exciting events! It’s called The Reach of the Banyan Tree. Tan Trao is famous for the massive banyan tree that sits in the middle of where the Viet-Minh trained that summer.

Vietnamese General Giap: 1911-2013

The revolutionary general of the Viet Minh and the North Vietnamese communists died earlier today.

(You can check out the slide show of his life on yahoo HERE!)

He was the military mind and right hand man of Ho Chi Minh. He dressed in street clothes and a fedora, making an unassuming presence. But his presence was felt on the battlefield – not that he won many huge decisive battles. He just won hug, decisive wars.

He worked with the Americans of the O.S.S. in the summer of 1945 as they received training in order to help defeat the Japanese and bring an end to WWII in Indochina. But when the Americans, under Truman’s leadership, did not back the Vietnamese claim for independence, instead backing the French and General de Gaulle’s desire to reestablish authority in their show-piece colony.

With American support waning, Giap and Ho Chi Minh declared war against the French in December 1946. The brutal French-Indochina War ended in 1954 with the French’s stunning defeat at Dien Bien Phu.  This was Giap’s signature achievement – one of the most strategic and important military victories of the 20th century. It directly led to the split of Vietnam and the Vietnam War a decade later, followed by the fall of Cambodia, Pol Pot & the Killing Fields, a war with China in 1979, the boat people of the 1980s,and complete isolation from the world. All the Vietnamese wanted was their independence, but no one could have seen the far reaching effects of that battle.

Giap continued to be involved with the military throughout the Vietnam War and became a national hero during his long, twilight years.

Two last notes. The general makes an appearance in my upcoming novel entitled,The Reach of the Banyan Tree.” It’s a completely fictional account of an American meeting him and Ho Chi Minh in July of 1945 during the waning moments of WWII. I like the scenario that I’ve created that enabled me to confidently bring these two historical figures into my story. I hope everyone will like it. Estimated arrival: mid-2014.

Lastly, next year is the 60th anniversary of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Vietnamese officials are expecting one million visitors to the remote mountain city during the course of the year. It is one out of the two northern Vietnamese provinces which I have not yet visited. I really want to go next year. I hope I get the chance.

Mixing real historical figures into a work of fiction. Vietnam 1945.

My untitled third novel that I’m currently working on is set during two different time periods in Vietnam. The first is 2000 and the second is 1945.

Nineteen-forty-five is the crucial year in modern day Vietnam. It’s the year that the Japanese completely overthrew the remnants of the French Empire in Indochina. It’s the year that the Vietnamese freedom fighters – Viet Minh – were trained by the Americans in July. It’s the year that they declared their independence on September 2, 1945, in vain looking for a western nation (namely America) to support their desire to move beyond both Japanese imperialism and French colonialism. Alas, the nascent Truman administration felt it prudent to back French claims and support de Gaulle as he reasserted French presence in the world after the war.  It’s the year that set the course for the French-Indochina War which would last from 1946-1954, resulting in a split Vietnam which would lead to the Vietnam War of the 1960s. It’s a fascinating year with larger than life characters who exert themselves on the scene: Roosevelt, Truman, Churchill, Chiang, de Gaulle, Ho Chi Minh.

Okay, enough with the history lesson.

I found myself writing about the fascinating interaction between the O.S.S. and the Viet Minh in July 1945. Of course, my story is fictional and it has a crucial bearing on the story that I am writing along side it set in 2000. But, when it comes to 1945, I couldn’t resist putting Ho Chi Minh into my writing. But I realize I must do so with caution.

Ho Chi Minh is revered in Vietnam as ‘Uncle Ho’ who never married and spent his life in one single pursuit – freedom for his nation and people. I’ll let the historians argue about the veracity of that statement. However, regardless of your view, there is a lot to admire about Ho Chi Minh. He spoke, they say, upwards of 11 languages or dialects. He was good at English and wrote letters and spoke freely to the OSS officers who visited him that summer. He had general goodwill and admiration for Americans and he hoped that Truman would back his legitimate claim on Vietnam. He even wrote several unanswered letters to Truman trying to get across his point.

Was he a communist? Yes.

Was he a pragmatist? Yes.

Did he put dogma ahead of practicality? I think not.

He was a patriot who loved his country much like George Washington loved his country.  In fact, Ho Chi Minh even used this comparison to George in some of his rhetoric questioning America’s relentless support for the French who ruthlessly raped Vietnamese resources for 80 years.

So, I had fun today thinking how I could bring this real-life character into my story. Of course, his role is minor, but I wanted it to be memorable. Hopefully I’ll achieve this. I’m not going to give any specifics at this point, but I will say this:

Uncle Ho is making an appearance in my third novel.

Should be fun!