Guest Post – Bram Connolly Talks About Experiences and Influences on His Writing

Please welcome Aussie author Bram Connolly to my blog. Bram talks books, reading and reading influences.

bram-connolly

“As a Special Forces officer, Bram Connolly served several tours in Afghanistan and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for leadership in combat. He takes you deep into the world of high-intensity combat few have experienced.”https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/crime-mystery/The-Fighting-Season-Bram-Connolly-9781760290382

 

When I joined the Army there was a period of a few years where I didn’t read very much. The weekly training was intense and the sudden existence of a fortnightly wage saw me pursue other less wholesome pursuits on the weekends (drinking with my mates and chasing girls mostly). Don’t get me wrong; there were certainly lots of opportunities to read. One constant of being in the Army is that there is much sitting around and waiting involved: waiting for work to start, waiting for the next lesson, waiting for your turn at something, waiting for lunch, waiting for knock off – the list goes on. Soldiers are good at amusing each other. Dark humor and situational comedies are the main narratives of their tales; and we are colourful liars when it’s required to “sell” the story. I love this about us.

I fell into reading again by necessity when I was sent off on a six-week exercise to Weipa in Far North Queensland with a section of nine men. I remember we all took books to pass the time, knowing that sitting around an airfield in Northern Australia, as static defence, was going to be a boring undertaking. I discovered Robert G. Barrett’s books about Les Norton. In later years I also found these were the easiest to wrap in a small sandwich bag, secured by rubber bands, and thrown in the bottom of a military rucksack. Barrett’s books seemed to be impervious to the Tully monsoon rain that could seep into everything. I would sit under my individual shelter out in the middle of the jungle, as the rain pounded down, and immerse myself in Les Norton’s world of Sydney nightclubs and summer beaches. Easy reading and with strong Australian characters, the books reignited my passion for storytelling. With Barrett’s books complete, I graduated myself onto Jack Higgins, The Eagle has Landed and then every other book he ever wrote.

In the late 1990s, I was influenced in what I read by some of the older members of the battalion. The following books were considered required reading:

1 – Devil’s Guard by George Robert Elford. The story of a German SS officer who, with the rest of his Battalion, was seconded into the Foreign Legion at the completion of WWII, this book begins on the eastern front and continues into the First Indochina War. I remember it mostly because of the detail the author went into regarding the German operations. It was initially published as non-fiction but I understand that over time it was suggested this was a work of fiction. Either way, The Devils Guard is a riveting read and worth having on the bookshelf.

2 – As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me. Written by Bavarian novelist Josef Martin Bauer, this is the story of a German World War II prisoner of war Clemens Forell (Cornelius Rost changed his name to avoid detection by the KGB) and his escape from a Siberian Gulag in the Soviet Union back to Germany. Rich in its description of the landscapes, Bauer does a great job of making the reader anxious for Clemens the whole way through.

3 – Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. The story of Mason’s experiences as a ‘Huey’ UH-1 Iroquois helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, this is full of detail required to operate the aircraft. The book chronicles Mason’s entire career from his enlistment to his experiences in Vietnam, and his experiences after returning from the war. I think a generation of us who read this book believed we could jump straight in and fly a helicopter. I wouldn’t like to test that theory though.

4 – Marine Sniper. With 93 confirmed enemy kills, Carlos Hathcock was the most lethal sniper to emerge from the Vietnam War. This book describes his career and outlines the art of sniping in its purest form. I particularly like the details of the difficulties faced by those conducting operations in the jungles of Vietnam, something I could relate to at the time because of the intensive training we had also undertaken in jungle operations.

5 – Bravo two Zero by Steven Mitchell (writing under the pseudonym Andy McNab). This was the must have book of the 1990s. It was the first time a member of the British SAS had broke ranks completely to tell his story and give an account of what it was really  like for the men on the ground. The book inspired a generation of soldiers in the UK and Australia to attempt Special Forces selection.

6 – The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Based on the story of four British soldiers targeted by a hit squad known as ‘The Clinic’ on the orders of a Sheik whose own sons were killed in Oman by British forces, this book created real controversy in the UK when it was released. Sir Ranulph added much fuel to the speculation at the time about whether or not it was a disguised factual account by branding it fictional and contesting that elements were true, a great marketing plan. He also wrote Where Soldiers Fear to Tread, a brilliant book full of romantic images of the Middle East and well worth a read.

The books on this list are rich in characterisation and landscape description, skills I take great pride in developing as a writer. The books I read as a young adult demonstrated to me that fiction can be written within an historical context. It’s a complex balancing act to not let one aspect overshadow the other, but if you get it right then the story really sings.”

 

 

Bram has a new book out – see how his personal experiences and reading have influenced his written work.

 

the-fighting-season

Introducing Matt Rix… Australian commando. An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan.

The Fighting Season is military fiction of the first order: as tough as nails and packed with the insider knowledge of someone who has done it for real.’ – Matthew Reilly

‘Action packed, gritty and authentic to the core.’ – Merrick Watts

An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan

Outside the wire, Uruzghan Province, Afghanistan, 2010…

In the badlands of central Afghanistan an Australian Special Forces platoon is fatally hit by a roadside bomb.

A shadowy Taliban commander, codenamed ‘Rapier’, is identified as responsible for the deadly attack. Matt Rix, the ultra tough commando who led the ambushed platoon, swears vengeance. Rix is one of Special Forces’ most lethal operators. He’ll neutralise Rapier – whatever it takes.

But in Afghanistan’s brutal war, not all things are as they seem.

 

Post Script: Mulga’s Magical Musical Creatures – Mulga

Mulga's Magical Musical Creatures

Mulga’s Magical Musical Creatures

Mulga

Hachette Australia

Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734416704

 

Description:

Guitar-playing fishes? Gorillas on drums? Fluting kangaroos? Join Mulga in his dreamy jungle jam session, where magical animals play sweet tunes from night till day.

 

MULGA’S MAGICAL MUSICAL CREATURES is a rhyming picture book for children that answers the question where does music come from? It tells the story of a musician who finds musical inspiration in his dreams. While he’s sleeping he dreams of banjo-playing owls, jazz-fluting kangaroos, trumpeting elephants and whistling toucans, and when he wakes up he’s inspired to write a song.

 

With a style that is entirely and unmistakably Mulga, this fun and colourful story will delight readers of all ages with its fantastically quirky creatures.

 

Biographical Notes

 

Mulga is Joel Moore, a Sydney-based artist, freelance illustrator and poet who paints murals, designs t-shirts and runs the Mulga clothing label. He draws beards, animals, zombies and wacky characters and has a unique style combining crazy colours overlaid by intricate line work. Mulga runs weekly market stalls across Sydney is regularly involved in live-painting events, group shows, private commissions and shop-front murals. His first book, MULGA’S MAGICAL COLOURING BOOK, was an instant bestseller.

 

My View:

Fun!

Colourful!

Silly rhyming prose!

 

You will adore the art, the detailed drawings and your child will love the bright candy coloured images and hearing you read out loud this happy and fun rhyming story.

 

Post Script: Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit in Australia – Matthew Biggs, Jekka McVicar and Bob Flowerdew

complete-book-of-vegetables-herbs-and-fruit-in-australia-9781925456080_lg

Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit in Australia

Matthew Biggs, Jekka McVicar and Bob Flowerdew

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781925456080

 

 Description:

Encyclopaedic in scope, The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit in Australia is the definitive sourcebook for growing, harvesting and cooking your own fresh produce at home.

 

Featuring over 100 different herbs, 70 vegetables and 100 fruits, this magnificent guide will help, encourage and inspire novices and experienced gardeners alike. The coverage is phenomenal – from growing tomatoes throughout the year, to the great variety of potatoes you can grow in your own backyard, and there are herbs that can be grown in even the smallest of spaces.

 

Written with Australian consultants for Australian conditions with lavish illustrations and information that is easy to read and find, every gardener can discover the origins of plants, how they were named, their medicinal, cosmetic and culinary uses, and most importantly, how to cultivate the right plant to ensure a bumper crop. This is a real must-have for every gardener or cook.

 

 

My View:

If you are interested in having a home vegetable garden, or even an orchard or herb garden then this book is for you!  If you buy one gardening book this year – for yourself or as a gift –buy this one- you will have all your needs met in this one book!  (And this makes a great coffee table book for those who don’t have green thumbs).  J

 

This is a great resource – divided into useful easy to read sections

 

Vegetables A-Z

 

Herbs A – Z

 

Fruits –

Orchard fruits

Soft, Bush and Cane fruits

Tender Fruits

Tropical and Sub Tropical Fruits

Shrub and Flower Garden Fruits

Nuts

And

Practical Gardening tips.

 

With real life (plant) images, information on varieties, cultivation, propagation, harvesting, pests and diseases, culinary uses and a recipe or two relating to the individual plant – all the information you need is here to get started.

Start planning your garden today and remember to feed the bees – plant blue and purple flowering plants and herbs and you will have a bee friendly garden in return the bees will happily pollinate your crops for you!

 

 

 

Beetroot Dip:The Naked Vegan – Maz Valcorza

naked-vegan-cvr

“Images and recipes from The Naked Vegan by Maz Valcorza (Murdoch Books) RRP $39.99”

Makes 250 g  (9 oz/1 cup)

 

“A pretty addition to a meze plate, and delicious dolloped over salads and wraps. I’m known as the person who always packs her own food, and I love taking a jar of this dip to the movies and nomming away happily with some Kumara chips (page 136).”

beetroot-dip-and-sadhana-guacamole

150 g (5½ oz/1 cup) peeled and chopped raw beetroot (beet)

80 g (2¾ oz/½ cup) activated cashew nuts

¼ red onion, finely chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled

3 tablespoons activated sunflower seeds

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon mustard

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 heaped teaspoons carob powder

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt

 

Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. Pour into a clean, airtight glass jar and seal the lid.

The dip will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Sadhana Wake Up Call: The Naked Vegan – Maz Valcorza

naked-vegan-cvr

 “Images and recipes from The Naked Vegan by Maz Valcorza (Murdoch Books) RRP $39.99”

“These days, after quitting the ciggies, eating plant-based foods and being more present and mindful when I am eating, I no longer crave the things I used to. This drink is part of my daily ‘sadhana’. On waking, and before yoga practice, I drink one of these to flush out my system, rehydrate my body, kick-start my metabolism  and prepare for the day.”

 

1 whole lemon (including the peel, if the lemon is organic), quartered

2.5 cm (1 inch) knob of fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped

120 g (4¼ oz/1 cup) chopped apple

pinch of cayenne pepper

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) filtered alkaline water

 

Pass all the ingredients through a cold-press juicer, adding the water last.

 

sadhana-wake-up-call

Sadhana Kitchen Super Bowl: The Naked Vegan – Maz Valcorza

naked-vegan-cvr

 “Images and recipes from The Naked Vegan by Maz Valcorza (Murdoch Books) RRP $39.99”

 

Sadhana Kitchen Super Bowl

SERVES 4

 

“This is one of our most popular dishes at Sadhana Kitchen because it’s so vibrant, beautiful and delicious. That it’s one of the healthiest things you could eat is just a happy bonus.”

 

baby English spinach leaves, to serve

1 batch Brazil nut cheddar cream cheese (page 79)

1 batch Tomato, paprika & zucchini hummus (page 125)

1 batch Sauerkraut (page 84)

1 batch Beetroot dip (page 122)

 

Zoodles

2 zucchini (courgettes), spiralised

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

pinch of Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt

 

Minted cucumber

2 large cucumbers, sliced

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Lemony kale

140 g (5 oz/2 cups) shredded kale

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

 

Parsley tomatoes

250 g (9 oz) cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 tablespoon cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

 

Put the zoodles ingredients in a small mixing bowl and toss together. Toss the minted cucumber ingredients together in another bowl, and the lemony kale and parsley tomatoes in two separate bowls.

 

Line a large bowl or platter with some baby spinach leaves. Arrange the four different salads on top, along with the Brazil nut cheddar, hummus, sauerkraut and beetroot dip. Enjoy straightaway.

 

superbowl

 

Post Script: The Naked Vegan – Maz Valcorza

naked-vegan-cvr

The Naked Vegan

Maz Valcorza

Murdoch Books

ISBN: 9781743366233

 

 

Description:

There once was a nurse-turned-pharmaceutical sales manager who had always partied hard, chain smoked, eaten as many bacon sandwiches as she liked and exercised just enough to ‘stay fit’. One day, she decided to take up yoga (because it seemed like a great way to get a toned butt). Little did she know that this snap decision, made out of curiosity and vanity, would change her life forever, leading her on a journey to organic, plant-based, raw food health, one delicious bite at a time.

 

My View:

I picked up this book for several reasons – I wanted to learn more about vegan food options, ingredients, methods of preparation and because the cover of this book leapt out at me – the food photography here is so vibrant and enticing; the images look good enough to eat!

So what do raw food eating vegan’s eat? Nut and seed milks/mylks – yes I have heard of these and tried a couple of them – the book shows you how to make the milks at home – so much cheaper than buying ready made.  Salads – yes I expected to find these – but there are some really interesting ingredient combinations here – and the finished plates look so fresh and delicious.  Breads, crackers and wraps – all raw – a food dehydrator is needed to prepare these.  Super food smoothies- yes I love these! The breakfast section looks good – some foods were already on my radar –  “grawnola”, chia pudding, Acai Bowl, breakfast trifles…yum. Main meals – zucchini pasta (these seem to be very popular but you need a spiraliser for these sorts of dishes), a raw “stir fry”, dips, wraps, tacos, lasagne (raw), quiche – raw, pizzas- raw.

There are also some wonderful savoury and sweet condiment recipes, chilli jam (raw), sauces, and snacks and sides. (Berry chia jam is so trendy and so easy to make – you need to try this one!) And there are raw vegan cakes – the Choc Raspberry Cheezecake look incredible! And the Superfood Caramel Slice…divine!

 

Whilst vegan and raw foods are not necessarily my first options when I start to think about what to make for breakfast or dinner there are plenty of recipes here that I might enjoy and some I will try out…the recipes here are so fresh and vibrant even non vegans will get excited!