I want to welcome, B. K. Fowler to my blog! First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
Well, I was born in…just kidding. I’m a word nerd, meaning I love writing (and rewriting), completing crossword puzzles and finding boo-boos on menus and brochures. I have a bossy cat and a well-behaved spouse. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm people are showing for Ken’s War and for the support Melange Books, LLC provides during the process of acquiring a book and onwards.
Tell us about your latest release.
“When teen hormones and culture shock” collide is an accurate “sound bite” for the YA novel, Ken’s War. As the conflict in Vietnam escalates, army brat Ken and his hot-headed dad are suddenly deployed to a dinky post in Japan. Culture clash is just one of the many sucker punches that knocks Ken’s world upside down. He struggles as his assumptions about friends and enemies, loyalty and betrayal, and love and manipulation are fractured. An army misfit, a Japanese girl and a martial arts master play indelible roles in Ken’s rocky journey he starts as a Pennsylvania boy itching to get his driver’s license to when he’s a young man who stands heads above some and shoulder-to-shoulder with his father.
Readers can get their own copy of the Ken’s War at http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/bkfowler/kenswar.html and
Readers can visit
https://www.facebook.com/#!/kenswar for insights into the book and the publishing process.
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
Reading Lawrence Sander’s First Deadly Sin was the first time I’d come across a fictional antagonist who was fully developed, not a cardboard stereotype created to fill a role. Making me care about the bad guy is quite a feat, I’d say.
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
I’m intrigued by Ken, the protagonist, for the same reasons Nancy Springer, an award winning writer, (http://nancyspringer.com/index.html) was. Nancy said that Ken’s War “depicts the angst of an Army brat, exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion, mirroring the messiness of real life. Ken’s psyche includes a plethora of contradictory impulses, including an awakening sexual awareness handled with delicacy and tact by this gifted author.”
3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
I write article-length nonfiction pieces to promote non-profits. I write fiction to explore relationship dynamics and emotions, especially emotions occurring covertly in the subtext of what’s overtly acknowledged between people, as in Ken’s War.
4.) What are you working on now?
I'm putting the finishing touches on the novel Authenticity. Lynn, a gifted art intuitive, knows in her gut of painting are priceless masterpieces or forgeries. Authenticity is her forte. Or so she thought.
5.) What got you to start writing?
When my spouse was transferred to Malaysia, I found myself in a foreign country without all the props that defined normal life: no house, car, job, network of friends. We were starting from scratch on many levels. Writing was something I could do no matter where we lived. My first paid article was written about Malaysia on my first word processor.
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
My ideas come from something that bugs or intrigues me. The seed for Ken’s War was planted when my former martial arts instructor, a white American, told me he’d lived in Japan with his dad and had learned martial arts at a dojo. Now, that’s intriguing!
7.) Do you have any special talents?
I can concoct one-of-a-kind meals made with whatever’s on hand. How else can you explain sweet potato-chickpea-yogurt soup? Or fried chicken livers with grapefruit and celery. Yum!
8.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
“Write fast. Edit slow.” Editing slowly means chipping at a chunk of writing as a sculptor chips at a chunk of marble. Lots of debris falls onto the sculptor’s studio floor. That metaphor conveys the work writers do to transform what was written in the heat of inspiration and creativity into a tight, marketable piece. To me, edit slow also means letting spans of time pass between editing sessions on a project. It’s amazing how time changes one’s perspective.
9.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
I’d like to ask Joseph, Jesus’ dad, to tell some funny stories about his little boy.
10.) What song would you say describes your life?
Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” captures how I feel sometimes.
"You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack / And you may find yourself in another part of the world / And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile / You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife / You may ask yourself, Well, how did I get here?"
How DID I get here?
How DID I get here?
11.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
My cat. For a moocher with bad manners, he’s got it made.
Ken's War Excerpt:
Ken Paderson squinted against light streaming through the door into the belly of the U.S. Army transport plane he and his dad, Captain Paderson, had flown in on. The world was buzzing out there. He worked a pen under the cast on his broken arm but couldn’t reach the itch to scratch at it.
A backlit figure chasing a long shadow strode toward the plane and saluted with excessive finesse. “Welcome to Camp Zama, home of the 9th Theater Army Area Command.” The soldier yelled to be heard over the roar of an airplane taxiing nearby on the airstrip.
Ken returned the salute. Captain Paderson’s salute turned into an awkward flapping of hands as he tried to stand on a pair of legs that refused to follow orders.
“Whoa, watch your step, sir.” The soldier propped Captain Paderson up. “Don’t worry, a cup of coffee and you’ll find your land legs.”
“Are we in
“Yes, indeedy.” The soldier’s cigarette bobbed between his lips. “Like they say, ‘The island of Okinawa existing among the bases.’ ” He shook a cigarette out of a flattened pack. The soldier’s grin lifted one side of his face, while the other side concentrated on keeping the cigarette clamped between his lips. “Follow me. Lieutenant Colonel Topker is expecting you at oh-nine-hundred hours.” He looked at Ken. “Follow me, cherry boy.”
Ken regarded his dad’s expression, but couldn’t de-code what he might be feeling.
Lieutenant Colonel Topker, a muscular man, rose from his desk and leaned over it to shake their hands. He stood a head taller than Ken’s dad.
“Be seated,” Topker said. “I’m pleased to have you aboard. Both of you.” His gravelly voice reverberated in his chest in a friendly but forceful way.
“I’m pleased to be here, sir.” His dad’s talent for lying was extraordinary.
“You’re a lucky boy.” The colonel’s eyes, framed with fans of tan wrinkles, were smiling on Ken. “You’ve been on trains, a ship and a plane to get here from half way around the planet. A million boys would love to trade places with you, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes, sir,” Ken lied to be polite. Like father, like son.
The ceiling fan’s whirling blades sliced warm breezes off the ceiling, and made bright colored banners with emblems bearing a whole new set of acronyms to learn — USARJ, USARPAC — flutter against the wall. The roars of airplane engines revving for takeoff and the rumbles of others idling after landing vibrated the office window.
The window looked out on a field of tall grasses. Farmers with long knives chopped and bundled shanks of tall grass into sheaves. Giving Japs machetes seemed like a pretty stupid idea. Ken’s expression must have conveyed his misgivings, because the lieutenant colonel detoured from his conversation with Paderson about the army’s logistical bases in Asia and said:
“They’re harvesting sugarcane.”
“I know,” came Ken’s testy reply. Sugarcane? In Japan?
“Are you feeling sickly, son?” Topker asked. He rubbed his hands together, making a shishing noise. “I know what will bring you right around.” He switched on an electric burner and picked up a bronze bell: its peals sounded like a shower of thin coins on fine china. Within a moment a Japanese woman wearing a pleated skirt, neat blouse and straw slippers, noiselessly carried a tray into the office.
The lieutenant colonel spoke to her in Japanese. Ken looked to his dad for an explanation for this absurdity, but his father was working over a problem in his own mind. The woman nodded ever so slightly and placed a set of bamboo implements on the blue and white cloth she’d spread on the lieutenant colonel’s desk. She spent a considerable amount of time arranging and adjusting the implements and clay cups and teapot until she was satisfied. Topker watched patiently, a faint smile tickling his lips. Finally she whisked green powder and hot water into a froth. She bowed, and then turned each handleless cup with smooth, precise movements. Before he drank, Topker bowed his head and rotated his cup between his large palms. He concentrated on something submerged in the green liquid.
The captain and Ken imitated the light colonel’s motions and contemplative expression as best they could. By now, as he brought the cup to his lips, Ken was painfully thirsty. The green tea smelled like stinking water from a stagnant pond. It curled his tongue. They told the Japanese woman the tea was delicious. She bowed and departed, taking Topker’s smile out with her.
“Next time when you visit longer,” he said, “Hiroko will demonstrate the entire tea ceremony for you. She reluctantly agrees to use the electric element instead of a wood fire because she knows how much I enjoy tea in my office.
“Our mission,” Topker’s voice was official again, “is to maintain storage facilities with capability to expand the Asia Pacific base. This is increasingly important as we beef up our involvement in Vietnam. As of today the
has 183,850 troops in U.S. .” He
picked up a pointer and tapped a plaque behind his desk. The gold gothic
letters read: We put boots on the ground through the Asia Pacific. Vietnam
Ken corralled his attention in from the cane fields where a man was sharpening his machete on a whetstone. All his life he’d listened to secondhand stories of combat. He’d been soaking up blood and glory from TV shows, movies, books and from barracks officers when they thought no one else was within listening range to intercept snippets of the epic battles they spoke of. Now he was close to the action.
“This is terribly boring for you, son,” Topker said.
“Wait a minute.” The bell rained coins again, and again he spoke Japanese to the woman who’d appeared at the doorway within seconds. She left and returned with a Japanese child who was no older than a kindergartner, if he was old enough to go to school . . . if they had schools on this island.
“Michael,” Topker said, “this is Ken Paderson. He’s on tour with his father. We’re going to discuss business now. Show Ken your rock collection and bring him back in fifteen minutes.”
“Does he speak English?” Ken asked the light colonel.
“Do? You? Speak? English?”
“Naturally. I’ll show you around.” Michael took Ken’s hand and led him out of the office. “Okinawa is the southernmost
. It has one
hundred and eight islands. Did you know that?” prefecture
“I know and I don’t care,” Ken replied.
“I’ve got igneous and sedimentary rock samples in my collection. Do you want to see them? This island is made of volcanoes. Did you know that?”
Ken’s lie was preordained. “I know.” He yanked his hand free from the boy’s moist grip and followed him down a corridor, past doors where the sounds of typewriters clicking and telephones ringing trickled through heavy air.
“What part of the
are you from?” Michael asked. United States
“Pennsylvania. Did you know the first Christmas tree ever was at the barracks where I live?” Where I lived. Past tense. He could scarcely think it, could not say it aloud because it would require acknowledging broken promises, crushed trust, a phantom life left behind.
“You mean the first Christmas tree in America,” the kid said.
“Any dummy knows that. Prisoners of war decorated a pine tree.” From his pocket, he started to remove the stone that he’d found in his grandpap’s garden to show it to Michael, but when they entered a room with glass-covered display cases lining the walls, he let go of the quartz. Stones representing nature’s treasure of hues and shapes were labeled with neatly typed strips of paper. Hematite. Rhodochrosite. Limonite.
Mica. Granite. Jade. Gold. He pressed his thumb on a sharp point on the quartz
in his pocket. “How long you been collecting rocks?” Galena
“Ever since I was little,” Michael said. He lifted the glass top of one of the cases and pointed to the specimens, saying, “This is lava from
This is a piece of columnar basalt from .” Scotland
“Gee. You were in
“Yes. My parents like to travel when my father is on leave.”
An image of this pipsqueak and his massive father wearing Scottish kilts appeared to him.
“What are you laughing about, Ken?”
“Nothing. You’re too young to understand.”
Lieutenant Colonel Topker motioned Ken into the seat he’d sat in before. “We’ll only be a few more minutes. Did Michael show you his rock collection?”
“Yes, sir. It’s dandy.” He cringed. What a doofuss he was turning into.
“Thank you, Michael. Bye, bye,” Topker said.
“Bye, bye.” The boy wiggled his bent fingers in a childish wave.
Topker squared his shoulders and continued briefing Paderson. “In addition to the aforementioned items there are odd lots and nonperishable foods.”
“When do I get a look at the depot I’m in charge of?” Captain Paderson asked.
“As soon as the plane arrives. You’ll be flying to the depot with a shipment of provisions.”
“I hadn’t realized
was that large, sir.” Camp Zama
“Your assignment isn’t on this base.” Topker handed Paderson a manila folder.
Ken knew better than to tell his dad, in a ranking officer’s presence, not to move his lips when reading silently.
“We can’t put all our eggs in one basket,” the light colonel explained. “You’re in charge of a remote post. You’ll have staff.”
A low-flying cargo plane, judging by the timbre of the growling engines, obliterated all other sound. Ken wanted to hop on that plane right now, fly back home and start practicing for his driver’s license test. Or he’d be super-nice to his dad so he’d break down and send him home. Better yet, he’d have a word, man to man, with the light colonel. He seemed like a nice enough guy. He’d understand and send Ken home. He was too afraid to do any of these things. He prayed real hard to God, a God that he never believed cared what happened to people’s lives. He prayed that his mom would phone long distance, admit she’d made a big, big mistake, and order the captain to put him on the next plane off that god-forsaken island. Send her boy home.
“You report to Major Bellamy,” Topker was saying, “He’ll brief you today. Twelve-hundred hours. At location.”
The phone rang. The lieutenant colonel listened, the lines around his eyes tightened. Topker hung up.
“That was the Bureau of Personnel,” Topker said. “Paderson, I’m sorry to do this at this time, on your first day in Japan. I’m obligated to inform you that if any further incidents transpire like that which occurred Stateside, you’ll be requested to resign your commission.”
“I’d hoped,” Paderson said, “personnel’s legendary lethargy would be on my side, just this once.” His dad’s dispirited laughter was saddening.
“Not in this instance,” Topker said quietly.
The meaning of what was said hit Ken and caught in his throat. His dad had been reassigned because of the fight Ken and his dad’s commanding officer’s snot-nosed boy got into. One more screw up and his dad was a goner. Could the Army do that to a man? Hold him responsible for something his kid did? Ken scootched to the edge of the chair and tried to think of the right way to ask the light colonel, all polite and everything, who did he think he was threatening his daddy, but a sergeant appeared in the doorway.
“Pardon the interruption. Captain Paderson’s transport to Kyushu Island is ready and waiting, sir.”
“Dad, where’s Kyushu?” Ken pronounced the word quickly, like a sneeze.
“Between purgatory and hell.”
“Don’t be so grim.” Topker stood, making the room shrink. “One day soon you’ll learn to love this archipelago.”
“I don’t think so, sir.”
“If you change your attitude first, you’ll discover that living here can be as agreeable as living anywhere else. It’s not likely to happen the other way around.” The lieutenant colonel looked pensive and then brightening with an idea said, “This is for you.” He forced a pouch into Ken’s hands. Inside the pouch were wads of dried green stuff.
“What are they? Silk worms?”
Topker’s booming laugh competed with a prop plane’s engine coughing to a start on the runway. “Green tealeaves. The dried leaves unfurl in warm water and emit a flowery aroma.”
Obliged to, Ken held the opened pouch under his nose, inhaled and wondered why adults thought they had to tell tall tales to get a kid’s attention.
“Don’t wrinkle your nose!” Topker laughed. “You’ll acquire a taste for green tea, I guarantee it.”