Finding George Washington

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Bill Zarchy and his historical time-travel baseball thriller Finding George Washington.

Author’s description

On a freezing night in 1778, General George Washington vanishes. Walking away from the Valley Forge encampment, he takes a fall and is knocked unconscious, only to reappear at a dog park on San Francisco Bay—in the summer of 2014.

 

Washington befriends two Berkeley twenty-somethings who help him cope with the astonishing—and often comical—surprises of the twenty-first century.

 

Washington’s absence from Valley Forge, however, is not without serious consequences. As the world rapidly devolves around them—and their beloved Giants fight to salvage a disappointing season—George, Tim, and Matt are catapulted on a race across America to find a way to get George back to 1778.

 

Equal parts time travel tale, thriller, and baseball saga, Finding George Washington is a gripping, humorous, and entertaining look at what happens when past and present collide in the 9th inning, with the bases loaded and no one warming up in the bullpen.

 

When a sidekick’s sidekick takes on a major role

In my books I usually have one minor character who insists on playing a larger role in the story. I’m always curious as to whether other authors experience this, so I asked Bill Zarchy if he had such a character in his novel, Finding George Washington. I was quite impressed with the sensitivity and insight in his response!

A Foil for My Foil

Early in the development of my debut novel, Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale, I knew that I wanted to tell the story in the first person, from Tim’s point of view. I wanted to bring General Washington to the present, and I figured that I could show George’s personality and response to the 21st Century through his interactions with Tim.

Tim was George’s foil, a character whose purpose is to contrast with another character, often the protagonist, to bring out their differences. Think Sancho Panza in Don Quixote, Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, or Bud Abbott playing straight man to Lou Costello.

Having Tim as the foil certainly worked out in many ways, but pretty soon, I began to think that I needed to provide him with a sidekick. As I wrote the early parts of the story, it became apparent that the very fact of George suddenly appearing in Tim’s life was astounding, to say the least, and Tim needed his own foil to reflect his astonishment. That’s how the character LaMatthew Johnson came to be. Tim and Matt could have their own private conversations about George, particularly in the early stages of the narrative, where they weren’t sure if they believed his story.

That wasn’t all. As I deepened my research into Washington as a slave owner, I realized that I needed people of color in my story. So Matt is mixed race, descended on his father’s side from enslaved people in the South (the Johnsons), and on his mother’s side from Jews fleeing the Nazis (the Lefkowitches).

From their first meeting, Matt confronts George about his role as owner of many enslaved people, forcing him to acknowledge that slavery is cruel, evil, and immoral. These dialogues elevate Matt’s role in the story from mere sidekick duty. He never gives George a break about slavery, even rejecting the notion Washington was just “a product of his time.”

As I write this, it’s Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, the liberation of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt, and I wonder, “was Pharaoh just a product of his time?”

Despite their differences, George and LaMatthew do learn to trust and admire each other.  Matt, whose role at first was to help Tim understand and explain George’s momentous presence among them, later takes decisive and risky action to defend George during a surprise ambush. Originally intended as a mere sidekick, Matt thus forces his way into becoming a principal character.

About the Author

Bill Zarchy filmed projects on six continents during his 40 years as a cinematographer, captured in his first book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil. Now he writes novels, takes photos, and talks of many things.

Bill’s career includes filming three former presidents for the Emmy-winning West Wing Documentary Special, the Grammy-winning Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, feature films Conceiving Ada and Read You Like A Book, PBS science series Closer to Truth, musical performances as diverse as the Grateful Dead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and countless high-end projects for technology and medical companies.

His tales from the road, personal essays, and technical articles have appeared in Travelers’ Tales and Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers, and American Cinematographer, Emmy, and other trade magazines.

Bill has a BA in Government from Dartmouth and an MA in Film from Stanford. He taught Advanced Cinematography at San Francisco State for twelve years. He is a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of the EPIC Storytelling Program at Stagebridge in Oakland. This is his first novel.

Find the Author

https://findinggeorgewashington.com/
https://findinggeorgewashington.com/blog/
http://billzarchy.com/

Buy the Book

The eBook will be $0.99 during the tour everywhere it’s sold.

Paperback:    https://www.amazon.com/dp/0984919120/
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08NXXNLBB/
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/finding-george-washington-bill-zarchy/1138366946
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/finding-george-washington
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1053144
Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/finding-george-washington/id1541743641
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Finding-George-Washington-A-Time-Travel-Tale-by-Bill-Zarchy-112403433952296

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

I had once kissed my old girlfriend Marnie on the Kiss Cam, a few months after we started dating, when things were still going well between us. I didn’t miss her, exactly. She had treated me badly. But the memory brought on pangs of loneliness. The camera focused on a young couple in the stands, who watched as their image came up on screen, then dove into a passionate smooch.

The crowd cheered. Though he still wasn’t sure what was happening, George was shocked by these indecorous public displays of affection. The camera cut to an older couple, who responded with a much more dignified buss. Light booing and laughter from the masses.

Sinatra continued to croon to “Strangers in the Night.” George was mortified.

“Timothy, this song and these people seem to be celebrating romantic liaisons of the most crude and casual type. How offensive!”

The screen cut to a pimply young guy, who practically leaped onto his cute girlfriend, attacking with a scary abundance of tongue.

“Ewww,” a girl behind us called out. Our whole section laughed.

The image on screen switched to George, with Rachel beside him. In that strong left profile shot, with his pale skin, high forehead, prominent apple cheeks, graying russet hair tied in back, and aquiline nose, he looked just like the guy on the quarter dollar.

The camera seemed to stay on them forever. Finally, with a good-natured grin, Rachel gave him a prim peck on the lips, then lingered an extra second or two. The fans screamed their appreciation.

I was speechless, overcome with dread, though not sure why. How had this happened? We had brought the Father of Our Country out in public to a baseball game in San Francisco.

And his iconic face was up on a giant screen, being kissed by a woman not his wife, as Sinatra sang about getting lucky.

I shared the moment with 40,000 of my closest friends at the ballpark. I hoped all their intentions were friendly.

Thank you!

Bill Zarchy — we appreciate your sharing your book Finding George Washington with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Michael Tranter, PhD and his popular science book  A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist

Author’s description

A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist answers some of the most asked questions about the brain, making the science fun and accessible to everyone. Inside, you will journey through some of the most interesting and strange things that our brain does every single day.

Have you always wanted to know just what a memory actually is, or why we dream? What is our consciousness? Why do some people seem to ‘click’ with others? And can our brain really multi-task?

How can you be blind but still see?

(The brain is amazing, that’s how!)

Dr. Tranter’s book looks amazing to me, but I was curious what single piece of information about the brain he thought people would find to be the most surprising. I got the chance to ask him that questions and here is his … well … amazing answer.

At the back of the brain we have the occipital lobe. This region receives images from our eyes and optic nerves and decides what we are seeing before sending that information to other parts of our brain to determine how to react. So, if we see an adorable fluffy dog, the light reflected from that dog travels to our retina at the back of our eye, along the optic nerve and to the occipital lobe, where it is processed. Other areas then interpret the meaning and decide what the emotional response should be, resulting in a very excited ‘Aww, a cute puppy – I like this, I feel happy!’

However, damage to the occipital lobe, for example, through trauma, a brain tumour or a stroke, can result in the images of the cute puppy arriving at the visual areas safely, but not being processed or transmitted to other areas of our brain, and hence, we become blind. This is a little different to instances where the eyes or optic nerve don’t function. This additional blindness is termed cortical blindness – essentially, blindness in the brain. You may be asking why I am talking about cute puppies and blindness. Well, because in some people with cortical blindness, even though they can’t see particular objects, their subconscious brain still perceives them. This means a person can interact with something even if they don’t actually see it. Let’s use another example. Say you want to walk across the room to the doorway, but there is a chair in your path. Under normal circumstances, you would see the chair and walk around it. A person with blindsight would also walk across the room and avoid the chair, yet they would not actively see that there is a chair in the room. They simply avoid it but do not fully understand why.

This strange phenomenon was first documented in the 1974 research by Lawrence Weiskrantz and has since been recorded in all manner of situations. A person may catch a ball in mid-air without ever seeing it, for example, but perhaps the most interesting study shows how it is possible to identify facial emotions and even mirror those same emotions in your own face, without ever being consciously aware of seeing any facial expressions.

Blindsight has been rigorously tested in many experimental settings, and as such, neuroscientists think they have an explanation. Firstly, the fact that some people with cortical blindness experience the phenomenon of blindsight may be because the superior colliculus – an area of the brain important in visual orientation – is preserved. Although we don’t yet fully appreciate the full function of the superior colliculus, we do know that this area receives information about what we see and converts it into signals that initiate an appropriate movement. To help explain this, imagine sitting down and watching a racing car drive past. Our eyes and head would instinctively follow the car as we track its movements. This is the responsibility of the superior colliculus, to instinctively monitor the environment and decide how to move our body.

The current hypothesis for blindsight states that as the brain senses damage to the occipital lobe, it starts to rewire itself to bypass the visual areas. The person may never entirely regain normal vision, but they may still be capable of living a normal life. Some neuroscientists suggest that this is a process by which the brain reverts back to a more basic form of vision, and one that is seen in animals who naturally lack the advanced visual areas of a human brain.

So, there you have it. That is how you can be blind, but your brain can still see, pretty amazing right?

About the Author

Dr Mike Tranter is from the North of England and studied how drugs work in our body, but it wasn’t long before he found his true calling as a neuroscientist. After a PhD in neuroscience, he spent years in research labs all over the world, studying how the brain works. Although, it is his prominent rise as a science communicator, opening up the world of neuroscience to everybody, that he enjoys the most.

Buy the Book

Buy Link:  www.aNeuroRevolution.com
Buy at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578861690/

Find the Author

Website: https://www.aneurorevolution.com/
Instagram: @TheEnglishScientist

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Have you ever been standing at the top of a tall building or cliff edge and had a sudden but brief urge to jump? You have no real thought of actually doing it, and you are not depressed, suicidal, or otherwise distressed, but that urge appears nonetheless. As it turns out, neuroscience has a name for such an occurrence, high places phenomenon, sometimes termed the call to the void, and it is actually very normal and common. There are also reports of impulses to jump in front of a train, stick a hand in a fire, or turn a steering wheel into traffic. Thankfully, the person generally doesn’t follow through, and although most accounts of this phenomenon are anecdotal, there is one team of scientists in Florida, USA, who decided to take another look. The research team asked 431 students about such episodes in their personal lives, and a surprising 55% acknowledged that they have experienced them at some stage in their lives.

Science has revealed to us that high place phenomenon is possibly the result of a split-second delay between two opposing brain signals. One signal is based on our survival instinct that notices danger and tells us that we should avoid it, such as falling from a great height, or a train hitting us in the face. Another signal coming from our more logical brain tells us that we are relatively safe where we are, and there is no real threat to our survival. The resulting signals are interpreted by our brain – now somewhat confused, for it to relay this rather bizarre message and we experience the high place phenomenon. So, if you ever have a sudden impulse to jump off the top of Mount Everest, just remember that it is normal, but please don’t do it anyway.

Personal note from your blogging host: this has happened to me many times and I was so glad to read that it is a normal phenomenon! Wow. This may be the most useful excerpt I’ve ever posted!

Thank you!

Michael Tranter, PhD — we appreciate your sharing your book A Million Things To Ask A Neuroscientist with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

Emergence

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Ellie Beals and her thriller novel, Emergence.

Author’s description

It starts with Just Watching. But danger emerges when Just Watching ends.

When the “wild child” Xavier ¬ first encounters Cass Hardwood and her dogs in the woods of West Quebec, he is enthralled. Unknown to them, he Just Watches them in a lengthy ongoing surveillance, before ¬ finally staging a meeting. His motives are uncertain—even to him.

The intersection of the lives of Cass, a competitive dog handler; her dogs; her cousin Lori; and the complex and enigmatic Xavier leads them all into a spiral of danger. It starts when Just Watching ends—when Cass and her crew encounter tragedy in the bush. Xavier’s involvement in the tragedy, unknown to Cass, sets off a chain of potentially lethal events that begin in the dark woods of Lac Rouge, when hiking, skiing, hunting, trapping, marijuana grow-ops, and pedophilia collide. It matures in the suburbs of both Ottawa and Baltimore, and culminates back in Lac Rouge, when Lori’s spurned and abusive lover arrives uninvited at Cass’ isolated cabin in the woods. In the night. In the cold. In the heavily falling snow. His arrival is observed by Xavier, whose motives are again uncertain, but whose propensity for action is not.

Join Xavier, Lori, Cass, and the realistic and compelling dogs that are essential players in this dark drama as their fates converge in a deadly loop of revenge, fear, guilt, and hope.

A Sort of Well-Behaved Minor Character

In my books I usually have one minor character who insists on playing a larger role in the story. I’m always curious as to whether other authors experience this, so I asked Ellie Beals if she had such a character in her novel, Emergence? And if she didn’t, I wanted to know how she got the characters in her head to behave so well!

Here is her fascinating answer.

I have been a chronic over-planner and over-preparer all my life.  I waited an obscenely long time to start work on a novel, because I so dreaded what I anticipated to be the long and grueling planning process required before I could actually WRITE.  And then one day, I said:  What if?  What if I don’t do that?  What if I just sit down and start writing?
And that’s what I did.  My plan at the outset was this simple:  I knew that:
    • the centre-piece of the book would be Xavier, one of my two protagonists. He is the adolescent “wildchild” who first surveils and eventually befriends my other protagonist, Cass Harwood – a middle-aged dog trainer and wilderness recreationist
    • dogs would be legitimate characters, helping to move the plot forward – but once again, they like Cass should never blur the focus on Xavier
    • there would be three dramatic and traumatic events and two Bad Guys associated with them, catalyzing the danger that eventually ensnares both of my protagonists.
Beyond that –  everything was open to that strange magic that occurs during the act of writing.  Knowing that it was really all about Xavier was my key to all of the other characters – I wanted to give them only enough oxygen to be realistic and believable, and to properly showcase the wildchild of Lac Rouge.  It was this minimalist drive that resulted in the characters in my head “behaving so well”.  I am a very disciplined human.  I simply refused to listen when one of the other characters clamored for more attention.
And one of them most certainly did.  Stefan is Xavier’s father.  I needed to create context that would realistically explain how Xavier grew up in such profound isolation at Lac Rouge.  So I made his father a declared anarchist with both intellectual and survivalist leanings.  When I first conceived of him, I thought I would shape him to be at least mildly abusive.  As the book took its own path, I abandoned that.  There were already two bona-fide bad guys, and given that I wanted a realistic plot, I figured that was plenty.  I also wanted there to be a reasonable explanation of Xavier’s many fine qualities.  So Stefan became a more complex and nuanced character than I had originally envisaged.  I endowed him with this background:  a Franco-Ontarian distanced from his rural family by his love of learning, who moved to Quebec to work in the lumber camps.  In Quebec he met Xavier’s french-speaking mother,  who left him when Xavier was eight.  Stefan also became partially disabled through a work accident.  He home-schools Xavier, and does a remarkably good job of it, except when his recurrent backpain intrudes.   That is the public face of Stefan. 
But his presence injected a host of questions I had to decide whether or not to answer.  For example:  what really happened to Xavier’s mother?  Why did she leave?  Xavier mentions Stefan getting “mean” when he’s in pain, but he never describes that.  How does this “meaness” manifest?  And towards the end of Emergence, after Stefan tells Xavier that Cass has been questioned by the police, Xavier becomes quite concerned about an almost predatory alertness he sees in Stefan, that reminds him of the way Stefan is when they hunt.  Xavvy is not sure about this —  but there is a concern he expresses, without telling us why he is so concerned.  What actions does he fear Stefan might take?
I wanted the reader to be subtly or even subliminally aware of these questions I planted about Stefan.  One part of me played with expanding the book considerably, in order to explore them more fully.  However, given my commitment to render Emergence primarily a story about Xavier – I resisted the temptation.  But Stefan keeps nagging  me.  I have been urged to write a sequel, which I doubt that I’ll do.  But again –  one part of me plays with the idea of a parallel project that focuses on Stefan.  I don’t think I will – life is short and I’d like to try other things.  But Stefan does keep gnawing away at me.  He is only superficially “well-behaved”.    We shall see.

About the Author

Ellie Beals grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Canada when she was 20. She spent the majority of her professional career as a management consultant in Ottawa, Ontario. Plain language writing was one of her specialties.

Dogs have been a constant in Ellie’s life from the time she was a child. In the mid-1990s, she started to train and compete in Obedience with Golden Retrievers, with considerable success. In 2014, she had the highest-rated Canadian obedience dog (Fracas—upon whom Chuff is modelled), and her husband David Skinner had the second-rated dog. During a ten-year period, both Ellie and David were regularly ranked among Canada’s top ten Obedience competitors. They have an active obedience coaching practice in Ottawa, having retired from their previous professional careers in order to spend more time playing with their dogs and their students.

Like Cass and Noah Harwood, Ellie and David have a log cabin in the wilds of West Quebec, where Ellie is an avid wilderness recreationist, constantly accompanied by her dogs. As COVID-19 spread in March of 2020, she and David temporarily shut down their coaching practice and retreated to their cabin, where Emergence was written. Lac Rouge is not the real name of the lake on which they live. Everything else about the locale for Emergence is faithful to the character of the gentle Laurentian mountains of West Quebec.

Find the Author

WEBSITE  http://elliebealsauthor.ca/
FACEBOOK  Ellie Beals – Author | Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/ThrillerEmergence
TWITTER  Ellie Beals – Author (@BealsEllie) / Twitter  https://twitter.com/BealsEllie

Buy the Book

AMAZON.COM  https://amazon.com/dp/022884309X
AMAZON.CA  https://amazon.ca/dp/022884309X
INDIGO CHAPTERS  https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/emergence/9780228843115-item.html
BARNES & NOBLE  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/emergence-ellie-beals/1138624466
BOOK DEPOSITORY  https://www.bookdepository.com/Emergence-Ellie-Beals/9780228843092
SMASHWORDS  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1064211
APPLE BOOKS  https://books.apple.com/us/book/emergence/id1549092590

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Cass

The dreams started as soon as they made that decision. Cass had been subject to sleep disturbances—nightmares, night terrors, and sleepwalking—throughout her childhood and early adult years. The older she got, the more infrequent they became. And when she met Noah, they just stopped. Secretly, Cass was embarrassed that it seemed that all she’d needed to get her psyche together was a good man. If that were true, it offended her feminist sensibilities. She never told anyone about these musings; this was another of those things too private to share.

[…] In the dream, she was kayaking at Lac Rouge through the twisting stream where herons had flown above her and Lori during the preceding summer. She heard the lovely sound of the paddles churning through the water. As she approached the only deep spot in the black water, the water briefly churned, and then out of the water rose a man’s bare hand and forearm—it was held aloft in a fist. No more water sounds. There was perfect stillness except for the steady drumbeat of a heart, at first slow and steady and then mounting in speed and volume until she was desperate to awaken herself, which she accomplished with a strangled scream.

Even as Noah shook her fully awake and soothed her, Cass was simultaneously shaken by the emotional impact of the dream, and acutely embarrassed by its lack of originality. Every fan of director John Boorman’s movie version of the James Dickie classic Deliverance would recognize that arm rising out of the water as a cinematic icon of guilt. And then, just to whip it up, her subconscious had fed in an imagined soundtrack from The Tell-Tale Heart.

Thank you!

Ellie Beals — we appreciate your sharing your book Emergence with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.