Month: February 2014

Review of ‘Be a Hero – Anita’s Piano’

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41-u-IMrnDL._SS300_When Hitler’s Germany began its long march to subjugation of Europe in pursuit of lebensraum, Anita Pollak was seven years old and living in Prague, Czechoslovakia. When Nazi forces poured into the country, and began carrying out the racist policies aimed at ridding Europe of Jews, Gypsies, and other so-called undesirables, Anita was plunged into a nightmare that impacted the rest of her life.


Marion A. Stahl’s Be a Hero – Anita’s Piano, tells Anita’s story, partly in her own words, partly in a narrative that provides the historical backdrop to one of the darkest periods in world history. The reader sees the world through Anita’s eyes as her environment is transformed from the sunny world of childhood to being shunned because of her religion to the degradation and misery of a concentration camp.


Stahl’s book is intended as a discussion tool to introduce students to the Holocaust. It is just as valuable for any reader seeking a better understanding of how madness can spread so quickly and lead to such catastrophic results – how otherwise decent people can take part in, or ignore, unimaginable cruelty.

I received a free review copy of Be a Hero, and read it in one sitting. This is a book that compels you to keep turning pages. I have only one negative comment, and it might seem petty, given the outstanding job Stahl has done in penning this work. The cover title, Be a Hero – Anita’s Piano is interesting, but the title page has Be a Hero – A Witness to History. Whether this was intentional or an oversight, it is confusing. But, it shouldn’t keep you from enjoying this book

Check Me Out on Becca’s Blog

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My favorite blogger, Becca, is at her usual best over at Lady or Not . . ., and she just happens to mention my latest book, Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal.  Of course, she’s worth reading even when she isn’t pimping my books, so check her out.

Set the Scene with a Three-Picture Story

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The Daily Post

I upload sets of photos to my photoblog and use images to liven up posts here all the time, but until this year I never thought much about the overarching stories my choices of images tell. I used images as decoration and illustration, not as real elements of my content.

That is, until I spent a morning last fall exploring a sunrise market in Hanoi with photographer Colm Pierce, learning to improve my photography and how I present it. Introducing: the three-picture story.

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What are the Qualifications to be an Ambassador?

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Asnycnow Radio

Washington, D.C. – All Americans have a vested interest in the effective management of U.S. embassies and missions. The strong leadership of our Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission is crucial for the success of U.S. foreign policy and maintaining our standing in the world. With that in mind, the American Foreign Service Association convened a committee of ten former chiefs of mission, comprised of career and non-career ambassadors, to identify the requisite qualifications and experience that every chief of mission nominee should possess to enable him or her to succeed.
On February 25 at 11:00 a.m., AFSA will release the “Guidelines for Successful Performance as a Chief of Mission” in a teleconference. AFSA President Robert J. Silverman, AFSA Vice President Matthew K. Asada and four committee members will be available to take questions:
 Anthony S. Harrington is former Ambassador to Brazil…

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Create an Awesome (Free) Header in Ten Minutes

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The Daily Post

A custom header image is one of those personal touches that can really set the tone of your blog and establish your visual brand. What’s that murmur in the back? You don’t have time to create a custom header? Image-editing software is too expensive? Think again. Today, we’ll show you how to create your own snazzy header quickly — and for free.

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Review of ‘Wothlondia Rising: The Anthology’

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For lovers of the sword and sorcery genre of fantasy novels, Wothlondia Rising: The Anthology by Gary F. Vanucci, will satisfy your every craving. A collection of short stories that introduce the characters who inhabit the Realm of Ashenclaw, Wothlondia Rising has everything the reader expects – magic creatures, valiant heroes, and devious villains aplenty – engaged in dastardly deeds and derring-do that will keep you up at night.

Vanucci has a deft hand at description and dialogue that creates the proper mood for his mystical realm. From Rose Thorne, a not-yet woman with strange powers, to zombies that threaten the existence of Ashenclaw, he offers up fully fleshed characters with complex histories and motivations, giving an insight into the heroes they are born to be.

I was fortunate enough to be able to read a free review copy of Wothlondia Rising, and while I’d planned to do it over a long holiday weekend, I found it impossible to put down. Everything else was put on hold while I thumbed anxiously through these tales. At the end I was left with a strong desire to know: what next for them? If you like fantasy, I can guarantee you’ll love this collection of fantastic tales, and be left thirsting for the rest of the series.

‘The Culling’ – My Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Entry

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I’ve entered The Culling in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. A preview excerpt is posted on, and I’d love reader feedback.  Check it out.

Cover for The Culling

Stephanie Kinney: Wither the Foreign Service? — Wham! Read Before You Go-Go

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❊ If you want to help keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub ❊

— Domani Spero

On its home page, the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training shares a funny ha!ha! joke that the Foreign Service has undergone major reforms and tinkering over the past century so much that people often say that if you didn’t like the current system, just wait a few years and it would change.  One of the fascinating periods of change at the State Department occurred during the tenure of William Crocket, the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Administration from 1963-1967. He  was responsible for bringing Chris Argyris to write a report on the Foreign Service, now only available to read at the State Department library (anyone has a digital copy?).  He did T-groups, organizational development and such.  When Mr. Crockett retired in 1967 many of the programs he started were barely…

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Review of ‘Final Witness’

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Rachel Ybarra is an up and coming young legal clerk working for the U.S. Attorney’s office. She’s given the chance of a lifetime when she’s made part of the team prosecuting a vicious Russian mobster, but something from her past threatens to end her life.

Final Witness by James Bell is taut courtroom suspense at its best. The story has a bit of everything, without a wasted word or scene. Follow Rachel as she confronts demons from her past and threats to her future. I reviewed a free copy of Final Witness, and have to give Bell four stars for outstanding craftsmanship and a great story.

Review of ‘Post’

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Exhausted from war, and abandoned by his superiors, combat veteran Bryon Tibor just wants to reunite with his wife, Julia. After dealing with the murky world of Islamic terrorists in the Hindu Kush, he has little patience with the bureaucratic indifference he encounters.

Sean Black’s Post takes you into the bowels of the monster in a gripping thriller that reads like a declassified document from the War on Terrorism. Tense dialogue, and realistic descriptions of everything from combat to bureaucratic backstabbing and rear-end covering will keep you on the edge of your chair.

Get on this roller coaster and you’ll be breathless at the end of your ride. I got a free ride courtesy of a free review copy. I can’t really say that my review is totally unbiased. As a military veteran from the 1960s, I’ve seen what Black writes about up close, and can attest that even though this book is fiction – it’s pretty darn close to how things really work.

Awesome Authors–Charles Ray

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A neat interview by D.V. Berkom, author of the outstanding Leine Basso and Kate Jones series.

Review of ‘Divergent’

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In a future Chicago, people have decided that it’s not politics or religion that causes war, but personality defects. So, society has sorted itself out into five personality types. They stay firmly segregated, and each is assigned roles depending upon personality, which is chosen through testing when citizens reach the age of 16. It might seem like a utopia, but for those who don’t pass the test for one of the five personality types, Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, amity, or Dauntless, the choice is being unclassified and placed on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

When Beatrice Prior, raised in the abnegation class, turns 16, she is tested. Her results are inconclusive, and she’s classed as Divergent. She is faced with a choice – follow the route to freedom and be separated from her family, or remain in her class and be frustrated. Best-selling author Veronica Roth’s Divergent is anything but utopian. Told from Beatrice’s point of view, it shows how rigid classifications can cause the problems they’re supposed to solve, and will have the reader questioning his or her beliefs about how the world works.

Society is laid bare in this suspenseful and exciting work. Roth shows why she’s a New York Times best-seller in this, the first of a trilogy that is dystopian fiction at its best.

Review of ‘Doyle’s Law’

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Arthur John Doyle, a veteran Detroit homicide detective has a problem. Actually, he has lots of problems, but in the main is his intolerance of lowlife criminal scum, which keeps him in hot water with his superiors. Doyle is suspended for beating a suspect in an attempted mugging, but when the mayor’s kids are kidnapped, and shortly afterwards the mayor himself is snatched, Doyle is called back to duty. The kidnappers want the mugger Doyle put in the hospital in exchange for the safe return of the hostages, and they insist Doyle be the go-between. Things don’t always go as planned, though, and the mayor gets wounded during the rescue, leading Doyle to turn in his badge and become a private investigator.

If you think that was the end of his problems, though, you’d be completely wrong. But, you’ll have to read Doyle’s Law by Bob Moats to know just how wrong you are. A fast-paced, gritty mystery novel with lots of salty banter and enough violence to satisfy fans of noir, this is a book you’ll find impossible to put down until you get to the end. Moats gives us a bit of everything – touches of humor and lots of no-holds-barred action as Doyle proves he’s tougher than the toughest scum on Detroit’s mean streets.

I finished the free review copy of this book in one sitting, and now I’m looking for more.

Photographing People: Ten Tips From NomadRuss

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The Daily Post

Russ Taylor, aka NomadRuss, is a cultural documentary and NGO photographer, as well as wilderness guide who’s been leading trips for over twenty years. His adventures span the globe, from Southeast Asia to South America, and throughout the United States, too, which he documents on his photoblog.

From gorgeous landscapes to snapshots of people, his photography is varied and full of life, reflecting the many places he’s trekked and cultures he’s observed. Last fall, he published a blog post with tips on photographing people that is practical, accessible, and inspiring — and the accompanying images are incredible. We’re happy to invite him as a guest contributor to share it with you. 

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