Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hope in Hungnam: A Story of the Korean War by David Watts Jr.

This book is the third in a series of book reviews I'm doing about Americans at War.  Click on these hyperlinks to go to the first and second.

In honor of the anniversary of the start of the Korean War (January 25th), author David Watts Jr. has released for publication his excellent retelling of one of the greatest heroic deeds in American history.  Please enter in the drawing at the bottom of this post  for a free copy of this book.  Winners will be announced July 3rd, 2012.

In honor of the anniversary, Mr. Watts will have a free Kindle down load on January 25th.

The one hundred thousand Korean civilians who were evacuated from Hungnam on Christmas Eve of 1950, and their descendants, live on today.  As refugees, they risked all to escape Communism.  Their lives are a tribute to the men who risked everything to take them to safety; the men of the US Merchant Marine, the US Navy, the Marine Corps, the Army, and the Air Force. Most importantly, their lives are a tribute to the power of hope. 

They are the subject of what was, and remains today, the greatest naval evacuation in all of human history. (From the Epilogue)

Hope in Hungnam is the little known story about a merchant marine ship, SS Meredith Victory that transported fourteen thousand Koreans, fleeing the communists from what became North Korea, down to what became South Korea.

The Korean War, maybe because it was sandwiched in between WWII and the Vietnam War, seems to be the forgotten war.  But I believe the impact America had in that country is still being felt today.  I mean that in a positive way and David Watt’s book Hope in Hungnam offers a lot of insight into why that might be so. 

Instead of a dry recitation of a historical event, Mr. Watts chose to make this story personal by bringing the reader into the lives of some of the individuals who were impacted by the war.  It’s one thing to hear about statistics, how many Americans died and how many Koreans were displaced because of the communist take over.  It’s quite another thing to vicariously experience an American soldier’s fears and hatred towards an enemy he’s supposed to kill until that enemy has a face and becomes a fellow human.  To experience the desperation of a young Korean mother trying to save herself and her children.  A family that loses the home and land that had been in their family for generations.  Suddenly people aren’t statistics anymore.  They’re human beings whose pain and suffering you cry over.

It is inspiring to read about the selflessness of American soldiers who chose to risk their own lives to save the lives of a group of people from a place and culture remote from their own.   

Those men holding the final line, they’re risking and losing their own lives so that all these people-people they don’t even know-flee the Communists...Where do we find such men, Lunney?

I think they’re just doing what Americans do, captain.  They came over here for a fight for freedom that was not their own, for a people they don’t know-and here they bleed and die so others can live in liberty. (pg.  185)

This book made me wonder if there is a connection between the service Americans did for the Koreans during this war and the fact that the largest Christian church in the world is in South Korea.  Is there another religion in the world that asserts “Greater love hath no man than he who lays down his life for another”?  (John 15:13, Holy Bible)

It also makes me wonder if the reason we haven’t been as successful in our latest war is that-even though our soldiers are fighting for freedom, we’re not giving the people we’re fighting for a  godly belief system to replace their tyrannical one.

Something to think about.

I found Hope in Hungnam to be a quick, enjoyable and suspenseful read.  It left me inspired by man’s altruism and it should be required reading in school.  Books like this give information and insight that textbooks can never impart.  David Watts Jr. and his wife home school their children.  I think that this book should be available for purchase at every home school convention in the nation for parents who want to teach their children real history and not politically correct sound bites.

Even though Watt’s book is a work of historical fiction, most of the people are real.  In the Epilogue, he gives a follow up of what happened to key figures in this historical event. 

I also recommend watching the youtube video.  It has some moving footage of the Korean War.  Be sure to have tissues handy.

David and his family make their home in Longview, Texas 
I was given a copy of this book to review by the author.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Kindle Store for $4.99

For more information:
The Author's web site

Hope in Hungnam youtube video with footage of the Korean War

Facebook page


For more reviews of books about Americans at War:

The Navajo Code Talkers

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The False Prophet by Ellis H. Skolfield

This is the second book review in a continuing series about end time prophecy.  For the first review go here.

William Blake (1757-1827)
The Great Red Dragon and The Beast from the Sea c. 1805
(Revelation 13)

Ellis H. Skofield has written a book about the end times that differs from any book or position I’ve read before. He exhaustively explores the prophesies written in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, connects them to the prophecies in New Testament scripture, primarily Revelation but also Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matthew and passages in Paul’s epistles.

Skofield uses certain time frames to discern who the Beast, the anti-Christ, the false prophet, and the Abomination of Desolation is. His logic and arithmetic are thought-provoking as well as staggering.
Much of what he has to say is too complicated and detailed to try to reproduce here but I will try to give some of the more startling calculations. By equating Daniel’s days with years Skofield arrives at the precise years that:

The Dome of the Rock is built on the site of the Jerusalem Temple (The Abomination of Desolation)
The year Israel became a nation

Who the leopard-bear-lion rulers are
Who the Two-horned beast is to name just a few.

I find it interesting to see that Skofield asserts that the two witnesses described in Revelation are the Jews and then the Christian church. I can see where this makes sense in that for the first millennia, in a world steeped in paganism that had lost sight of their creator, the Jews were the ONLY group of people who knew the one, true God. They were the only people that held the gateway to the truth.

Then the Messiah came and His followers have been witnessing to God’s truth ever since and His gospel is spreading all over the world. So in one sense I can see how Jews and Christians can be seen as the two witnesses giving testimony to the one true God of mankind. I’m not saying I’m convinced, I’m just saying that on one level, what Skofield is saying is true. Whether these are the two witnesses being referred to in Revelation, I don’t know.

I should mention the Skofield is a Jewish Christian. That means to Jews he’s an apostate but to Christians a complete Jew who has progressed beyond “types and shadows”- which were the function of Jewish traditions and rituals- to what they were leading up to, namely the ultimate redeeming sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb of God that truly redeems us as a sacrificed animal never can or could.

Skofield asserts that the Jewish people are being purposely separated by God so they won’t assimilate. This is because He has an ultimate, wonderful plan for them in the final days of the world. It’s pretty exciting and joyful to think about.

Reading The False Prophet made me realize that everything that has been happening in world history has not been a random turn of events but rather leading up to a point: the Roman empire, rise of Islam (which, according to Skofield, figures prominently in the end times), the Roman Catholic church, Reformation, rise of Secular Humanism, Zionism and global economy and terror. Reading how Skofield matches these events with specific prophecies in the Bible causes goose bumps to rise.

The False Prophet would be considered a historicist approach to end time prophecy.  Whether one is a futurist, dispensationalist, preterist or any of the other myriad “ists” that interpret the end time prophecies a certain way, I strongly recommend reading Scofield’s book. It is heavy food for thought.

For more information:

The Beast of the Sea Tapestry of the Apocalypse
c. 1000 A.D.

A free download of this book can be found here  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Art of the Book Proposal: From Focused Idea to Finished Proposal by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.


This is the second in a series of book reviews about writing and publishing.  For the first review go here.

   Eric Maisle has written an excellent book for those of us entering into the world of writing and publishing.  Of course, a lot of us, myself included, believed that writing had simply to do with writing.  As I have become more involved in the business I have since discovered that there are many other aspects to the whole process.  Unless you’re going to self-publish, there is the business of getting an agent to represent you. 

     Getting an agent is more complicated than simply submitting your manuscript or finished book to someone you’d like to represent you to a publishing company.  One must first send a query letter and then a book proposal.  Of course there’s the whole problem of doing your homework and getting the right agent for you but that’s another topic.

      If you’re like me you had no idea what a query letter or a book proposal is or what one should look like.  While Maisel’s book touches a little upon the query letter he mainly deals with what is involved in writing a book proposal.  His book is about writing a book proposal for non fiction but there are many helpful strategies and methods for the fiction writer as well.

      I found this book to be helpful in that Mr. Maisel breaks down and methodically lists each step one takes to write a successful proposal.  In twelve chapters he defines what a nonfiction book proposal is, how to flesh out your book idea, how to title, create a credentials section, market and promote  your book (very important!) and how to create an overview, chapter summaries, sample chapter, and how to submit your proposal.  In his appendix he shares several of his own book proposals as examples of good proposals.

     I learned a lot about not only the art of writing a proposal but also how the industry works. For instance, I had no idea a publishing company would pay a year’s salary to someone for a book not even written yet!  Not that publishing companies are throwing the dollars around, but I found it interesting that apparently it's acceptable to write a proposal before you've even written the book.  Maisel explains how to do this and the consequences it has for your writing.  Also, the chapter on listing all the different ways the writer can promote their own book was especially informative. 

       Overall, this book is well-written, gives clear and creative instructions and would be a good resource for those who would like to learn how to write an effective book proposal- primarily for a non fiction book- but also for those of us writing fiction as well.

or on Kindle for $12.99

For more information:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Meet Jason Whiteley, author of Father of Money

A week ago I posted a review of the book, Father of Money.  Father of Money is a memoir of Mr. Whiteley's time in Iraq where he worked as a liaison between the Iraqi people and the U.S. Army.  For the review you can go here.  Mr. Whiteley was gracious enough to give me an interview. 

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Beaumont, Texas and raised nearby, in Lumberton - a small southeast Texas town.  It was a great place to grow up; everyone treated you like family and no one locked their doors.  I still love going back there.

How and why did you attend West Point?

Almost accidentally.  I attended the West Point Academic Invitational after my junior year of high-school.  It was a one week camp for people who scored above a certain level on the PSAT. I did not like it. West Point seemed too cold, too gray, and too far away.

I applied to a number of Texas schools  and Georgetown University.  By May of my senior year in high school, I was accepted to all of my Texas choices, but Georgetown did not accept me.  In that moment, my Representative, Charles Wilson, called me and offered to appoint me to West Point.  I decided to give it another chance. It was the best decision I could have made.
The author with Ammar, one of his more colorful, if not volatile, translators

Any interesting tidbits about your military career (not just Iraq, your deployment to Honduras or any other place or experience not covered in your book-scariest thing that ever happened to you, craziest and so on) etc.

Father of Money is a fairly comprehensive account of my stories in Iraq, but there is one additional anecdote you may enjoy.  Our battalion executive office loved to hunt turkeys, and he was bemoaning the opening of Spring Turkey season while we were in Baghdad. One thing led to another and I accepted a challenge to find him a turkey.  As you might imagine, Baghdad was a violent place, devoid of order, but you could also find anything in the markets.  After an afternoon of gesturing and trying to describe a turkey, I finally found a guy selling one, along with a number of other strange animals.  He was happy enough to give him to me in exchange for a couple t-shirts and a soccer ball. 

When I showed up for dinner, with a live turkey, everyone had a good laugh.  We kept him as a mascot for the next few months.

How did you get the idea to write a book?

I started writing Father of Money soon after I returned from Baghdad.  However, I began to think about publishing it in 2007.  The news about the so-called surge in Iraq and the constant mischaracterization of our progress in Iraq convinced me that there was room in the debate for my perspective.  I maintained throughout my time in Iraq that the Iraqis preferred security to liberty and that the day the U.S withdrew would be the day Iraq celebrated its freedom.  (You can read my 2004 interview on that subject here:  I like to think that Father of Money conveys a message of humility and skepticism about the American ability to influence cultures by force.

Was it difficult to find an agent?

I sent a number of query letters, probably fifty, before David Fugate of Launch Books agreed to represent me.  Iraq literature saturated the market, and it was difficult for us to stand out and not be considered another war story.  Eventually, Potomac Books kindly agreed to publish Father of Money.

 Let me add my own two cents here. I've reviewed hundreds of books, including many nonfiction and military history stories. Father of Money is one of the best I've read. I know that war stories are saturating the market right now but this one should be at the top of your TBR pile or the book you give as a gift to people you know who enjoy this genre of literature.

Any other projects at the moment?

Yes, actually. I have written a children’s book entitled Escape From the Crooked Tree. It is an illustrated storybook of 2,500 words and 36 color illustration.  I hope that it is the first in a series that retells fishing mishaps from my childhood from the perspective of the lures.  I like to think of it as “Toy Story in a tackle box.”   Escape From the Crooked Tree is available from June 2012 on Amazon, B&N, or you get an autographed copy from

Also, I am fundraising for the second book in the Tales From the Tacklebox series, entitled the Hydrilla Clump and the Bigmouth Popper.  If we can raise enough money, we should have Hydrilla Clump out by the end of the year. The link is and the fundraising ends June 14, 2012, so if anyone would like a chance to become part of this series, I encourage them to check out the Kickstarter page.
Thanks so much, Jason, for sharing some of your life's experiences and info about the publishing world for the rest of us aspiring writers.  I wish you the very best in all your endeavors!

I will be posting a review of his children's book, Escape From the Crooked Tree in the weeks to come so stay tuned.

Or buy from Kindle for $15.12

For more information: