Book Review: “The Return Of Catesby” By Bob O’Connor

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It isn’t every day that I come across a book that inspires me on several levels.  The Return Of Catesby by Bob O’Connor did just that.  The rest of my review will explain how and why.  If you enjoy historical fiction, I can’t recommend The Return Of Catesby enough.

Over the last few days I’ve spent some time thinking about how The Return Of Catesby inspired me.  First, I have to admit the style in which the book is written is one of my favorites.  I love journals and believe this technique is particularly suited for this type of historical fiction.  As a reader, I am always looking for my next book.  After learning a little about Bob O’Connor’s work, I knew I wanted to read more.  The Return Of Catesby serves well as a sequel to Catesby:  Eyewitness To Civil War, as well as a stand-alone read.  While I don’t feel the need to read Catesby:  Eyewitness To Civil War to fully appreciate The Return Of Catesby, I am now compelled to read the first book due to Catesby’s experiences discussed in the sequel.  All other content aside, the topic, genre, and organization of the book would’ve been enough to draw me in.  But there is so much more.  I simply don’t remember the last time I read a work of historical fiction with such heart.

Why The Return Of Catesby inspires me is an easy question to answer.  There is, of course, the character of Catesby himself, a fictionalized version of a real blacksmith who lived during the Civil War era.  In the book, he comes across as the most authentic, inspiring teacher imaginable, despite having never stepped foot in a classroom prior to his first day of teaching.  His wife, Marcia, truly comes into her own at the end of the book and is Catesby’s constant helpmate in every sense of the word.  Perhaps most inspiring of all is the insatiable appetite for learning exhibited by some of Catesby’s students.  They simply couldn’t get enough, despite the fact that the town of Harpers Ferry wasn’t exactly welcoming.  I envy the community created around the school.  They truly cared for one another and even sought to learn the history of the tension between the community of Harpers Ferry and the school.

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

The Return Of Catesby by Bob O’Connor will stay with me for some time.  I am honored to have hosted an interview with him and to have had the opportunity to review the book today.  If you have any interest in historical fiction at all, I highly recommend The Return Of Catesby.  Do not be surprised if I review more of Bob O’Connor’s work in the future.

Antietam National Batllefield

Antietam National Batllefield

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Author Interview: Bob O’Connor, Author Of “The Return Of Catesby”

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Today we learn a little more about Bob O’Connor, author of The Return of Catesby, in this author interview. Bob is currently on tour with Walker Author Tours. Enjoy, and pick up your copy of the book at

How did you get started on your writing career?

My writing career officially started in 7th grade when an article I wrote got published in the Illinois Historical Society’s student magazine.

If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be? Focused, determined, believable, creative, imaginative.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction to read? To write?

I read both. I write both. But I prefer to write historical fiction because I can be much more creative.

How do you build your character world?

I keep a notebook. I observe people in the grocery store, in church, etc, and try to pick up interesting behaviors I can incorporate into a character.

Tell us about your favorite character you have written and why.

Catesby is by far my favorite character and is the subject of two of my books. He is a fighter, having overcome so many troubles to find freedom. I admire his courage and “stick-to-it” spirit, his observations and his “never give up” attitude.

Do you think that the future is ebook or print?

Obviously the trend is e-books. But the industry encourages us “little guys” to give away our e-books in hope that people will buy or next one. I am not convinced that is a good idea. I actually think people who give away thousands of e-books will find that the person reading them will seek someone else’s free e-book the next day. It is also discouraging that although we (authors) make 70 percent on e-book sales, the price of e-books keeps going downward. I hope they never figure out how authors can autograph e-books. I am a HUGE fan of books that are printed and hope they never go away.

Where have you had the most success in selling your work?

It is always easier to sell books when I have given a talk. But I am also successful anywhere there are large crowds of people including at fairs, festivals, Civil War reenactments and the like.

Tell us about your book.

My book is the continuing story of Catesby – a real colored blacksmith who lived originally in Charlestown, VA as a slave to Colonel Lewis Washington, a descendant of George Washington.  In the first book Catesby struggles to find his freedom. He runs away from the operation of a blacksmith shop under a cruel owner who permanently cripples him. He flees on the Underground Railroad to Pennsylvania.

This book follows Catesby’s new adventures leading up to his teaching position at Storer College, a new school to teach newly freed blacks to become teachers. Ironically, the students’ first day in the classroom was Catesby’s first day too, because he had been taught at home by his mother. Catesby’s vast experience is helpful in encouraging his students and helping them believe that if Catesby, a man with a bad leg who had been a slave could accomplish greatness, they could too.

Where can we find out more about you and buy your book? On my website at

Interested readers may purchase the book here.

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Spin The Plate On Tour With Walker Author Tours: An Interview With Donna Anastasi


Today we have an author interview with Donna Anastasi, author of Spin the Plate, who is currently on tour with Walker Author Tours. Enjoy, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of Spin the Plate!

What are your habits when you sit down to create? Do you have to be in a certain room? outside? Music playing? The inspiration part happens when I’m driving or walking and my mind is relaxed and wandering. The ideas happen at random moments so I’ve always carried a small notebook. More recently I’ve been using the notebook or recorder feature on my iphone. The writing part happens when I’m alone and things are quiet. Any place will do. I usually write an hour at a time between other obligations. But when I’m just starting to pull it together or getting near the end, I’ll go away by myself and hole up for a day or weekend for concentrated writing.


Where do you find inspiration for your books? The inspiration for me for fiction work finds me and demands to be written. For non-fiction it is more a intellectual decision to write about something that I’m an expert on that doesn’t have good or detailed enough coverage.

Do movies inspire you and if so, which ones? Yes! I am a movie-aholic. I had one job where I took a bus into Boston everyday and watched 3-4 movies a week. I love movies that are a bit off beat, have characters with great chemistry that aren’t perfect but that you bond with anyways, are intelligent or clever, and teach or remind you of important truths that perhaps help you be a bit of a better person. Just a few of my recently watched favorites are Les Mis, About a Boy, I Am, Catfish, Death to Smoochy. Primal Fear is my most watched movie. Silver Lining Playbook is my newest favorite. I also loved 50-50.

I write reviews and make listmania lists on Amazon of films and books that I like. If you share my tastes you can check these out here:



Have you ever had a moment that you felt like quitting writing? Why? No, because I don’t do it professionally which gives me the luxury to pick it up and put it down as I want. I do have different feelings toward my novel at different times and these feelings run the full gamut.


Do you think that the future is ebook or print? ebook. Books are going to go the way of the newspaper. That makes me sad. Nothing like the smell and feel of a “real” book in your hands.

Tell us about your book.

This book is not your usual bodice-ripper romance where an unnaturally gorgeous heroine meets a buff, alpha-male for hot nasty sex.

Not even close.

Jo is a survivor of a bleak and abusive childhood. She channels her pain and rage into weight training and roams the city streets at night as a powerful vigilante. While she is more than capable of defending herself against physical danger, she is defenseless against the memories of the past that torment her.

Francis is a mysterious man she meets on the subway train. He doesn’t have a regular job and is still living at home. But he is gentle, likeable, friendly, intelligent, sensitive, respectful, generous, patient, and understanding. Just what a brave, but damaged soul like Jo needs.

In this story, the average-guy hero battles to win the battered heart of the wary, edgy, less-than-perfect heroine.

“Spin the Plate is a fast-paced, edgy, darkly comic tale of resilience, romance, and redemption that breaks over you in waves. All you can do is gasp, stay afloat, and enjoy the ride.”
— Holly Robinson, author of The Wishing Hill and Sleeping Tigers


Where can we find out more about you and buy your book?

The novel is offered as a free ebook from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes, and is a 99 cent kindle ebook. It is available in paperback from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Make sure to get the January 2013 (full length novel) version titled “Spin the Plate: A Novel.” More information about me and the book can be found at





Why I Write: Every Life Has A Story

Let’s start at the very beginning: Why Write At All? « The Collaborative Writer

As of late I’ve come across some great material that got me thinking about why I write in the first place.  The article above from The Collaborative Writer gets it exactly right.  I admit it:  I am my own worst enemy.  I tend to over-think everything and spend too much time planning what I’d like to do when I really should be writing.  I.  Just.  Need.  To.  Write.  Why is that so difficult in practice?

The thing is that I truly believe everyone has a story.  No one has a perfect life.  Everyone is struggling with something and conflict is the heart of any great story.  Not only does that simple premise – everyone has a story – get to the heart of why I write, it is also the reason why I love to read.  I am drawn to biographies and autobiographies or any good plot driven by realistic conflicts dealt with by well-rounded characters.

Again, I keep going back to asking myself why it has to be so hard.  I love to create.  I know what I like to write.  I always feel more myself when I write.  Why don’t I write more?  I think we all need to ditch the excuses.

The video included below I came across as part of training for my position as a clerk.  I love the message of the video.  It is all too easy to forget that everyone is struggling with something.

A Hard Act to Follow Book Blast! Check It Out!

A Hard Act to Follow by Henry Bushkin

“A Hard Act to Follow,” is a non-fiction literary account of Henry Bushkin’s tenure as Johnny Carson‘s lawyer, business partner, and friend.  The book gives genuine insight into the ‘Carson behind Johnny’ with candid personal vignettes about the two, during the rollicking years when Johnny was the undisputed king of television.  This is an engaging, eye-opening, anecdote-packed story about a young lawyer and his client, one of the biggest celebrities in the country.  This funny, unfiltered account gives readers a look at the Johnny Carson that none but a select few really knew.

“A Hard Act to Follow” by Henry Bushkin provides a stirring account into Johnny Carson’s world—as told by Carson’s closest confidant.

The New Yorker article by Kenneth Tynan from 1978, included the following question and answer:

Tynan: When you’re at home, whom do you entertain?

Carson: My lawyer, Henry Bushkin, who’s probably my best friend.

Praise for the Book

“I loved the book.” ~Wayne Newton

“Henry was Johnny’s closest friend for many years which becomes clear through many of the wonderful chapters of the book.” ~Bob Trapenberg

“The book is full of tough love, humor, cultural history, sadness, humor, love, loss, well I guess I am saying it is full of life.” ~Rupert Garcia

” Henry’s portrayal of Johnny was spot on. I highly recommend this book which is the closest the reader will ever get to know the real Carson.” ~ Ed Weinberger, former Tonight Show writer and Producer for Carson Productions

“A beautifully easy read that pulls you in to an effortless journey through Johnny Carson’s effortful life. The glamour  the fellow celebrities behind the curtain, the loyalties, and the betrayals. It certainly provides new insight on decisions and the lives that are behind the scenes.” ~Kathy Davis, Kathy Takes on Books

“”I have read this book and it is FAB! If you love reading about celebrities, this is awesome. It is also a great memoir as well. I am a huge memoir fan so this one was a real treat and one of the best I have read in this genre in a long time” ~Mary,  Bookhounds Blog

“Bushkin’s easy, unpretentious style allows the reader to be a fly on the wall as this inside story plays out in the rarified air on which Johnny thrived. “A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW” is a must read whether you grew up on Johnny or never heard of him. And then there are the supporting characters — from the Rat Pack to Johnny’s Ice Queen mother ranging around the pages disturbing the peace. I read it straight through in 90 minutes and was left wanting more.”  ~Sandy Ignon, Screenwriter (RANSOM).

“The tales are epic in nature and stretch from the first page to the last. “A Hard Act to Follow” is an honest appraisal of Carson and shows his dark side. In this, Bushkin strikes the right blend of salacious detail with an appropriate dose of discretion. Sure, you’ll learn more detail about Carson’s marriages– in a tasteful way.  Bushkin will leave you wanting more. Great books will do that.” ~Barry Mordis, Senior VP at Merryl-Lynch

“No one would describe Johnny as easy going-there was an edge to him that Bushkin always managed to soften. He continues to do that in this book. There was that challenging side of Johnny which is also captured in the book. Henry was Johnny’s closest friend for many years which becomes clear through many of the wonderful chapters of the book. All in all a great book to read.” ~Bob Trapenberg, Johnny’s former Tennis Pro.

Author Henry Bushkin

Henry Bushkin is an experienced lawyer who practices in both California and New York. He currently lives in Los Angeles where his children also reside.

Blog Tour Now Through January 11th

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Book Blast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 12/26/12

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Heavy Boots

I debated whether or not to write at all about 9/11.  There just doesn’t seem to be anything left to say.  I then decided to finally write about Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, the plot of which hinges on the events of 9/11.  Unfortunately real events made it impossible to not write about 9/11.

I woke up this morning to learn that the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was murdered, along with three others.  That attack, along with major protests outside the American Embassy in Egypt, makes it clear we are still at war.  All sparked by a rumor.  The thing is that no matter how hard we all try in the United States to pretend we aren’t still at war, that 9/11 didn’t change everything, there are still terrorist attacks.

Back in 2000 I studied abroad in London for a month during the summer.  Every day I used the Russell Square tube station to get around the city.  It happened to be merely blocks away from Commonwealth Hall, where we were all staying that July.  It is precisely the same tube station attacked in 2005 after it was announced London would host the 2012 Olympics.

In 2002 I spent a semester studying Spanish in Caceres, Spain, once again through Michigan State University.  Throughout that semester I made several trips via train to Madrid.  Time and time again I’d find myself in Atocha Station.  I can’t even begin to tell you how heartbroken I was when I learned it too was a target for terrorists in 2004.  I can tell you precisely where I was when I heard the news.

While I haven’t experienced the day to day anxiety of say New Yorkers in the days and weeks following the September 11th attacks or the residents of Washington, D.C. a year later during the beltway sniper shootings, terrorism did color many aspects of my college days.  To this day 9/11 seems surreal to me.  At the time I was studying abroad in Ecuador (again, Spanish).  It took weeks before some sort of normalcy returned to our routines as foreign exchange students.  We all kept expecting additional attacks back home.  I remember pleading with my Mom to tell me exactly what was going at home the evening of 9/11.  We heard so many rumors I suppose I needed some reassurance that life at home as I knew it did go on.

In Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, the young protagonist of the story, Oskar Schell, uses the term “heavy boots” to describe any sadness or unpleasant emotion relating to losing his father Thomas Schell on 9/11.  The term just seemed so fitting for the events of that day and everything that followed.  I suppose that is the precise term for what I’m feeling today:  heavy boots.  It saddens me deeply to think of how many people across the globe have lost their lives as a result of terrorism since 1979.  Believe what you wish, but we are still very much at war.

Wars & Rumors Of Wars

Cover of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly C...

Cover of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close