Veterans and my novel, Brindle 24

J.J.Brown father photo

On Veterans Day I always think of my father and our veterans. I think of their families and how far the ripples of shock spread out, too. My father was a veteran of WWII; he joined up underage after his older brother, Gerald, was killed in the war. Those wartime experiences had a huge influence on his life – and on ours. As kids, we heard so many stories, so many memories, and confusing discussions between out parents about war. These always ended with the eternal hope for peace – my father, like some of the other veterans I’ve known, had become a pacifist.

J.J.Brown father photo
Veteran Norman Brown, the author’s father

Two fictional characters in my third novel, Brindle 24, are veterans I based on memories of my father, who had already passed away from lung cancer at the time I was writing. The characters Officer Joe, and David, a father, are both veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Their friendship grows from a shared past in the service, and both were drawn from my father’s personality.

In Brindle 24, which takes place over 24 hours, the veterans are dealing with an environmental emergency in a remote rural town, Brindle. The area is a lot like where I grew up, Freehold, New York, and the struggles there are very personal to me. David’s teenage daughter is trying to make sense of the changes on their property and the surrounding hills after fracking (gas drilling with hydraulic fracturing).

David is a tragic character, and an anchor in the story. Officer Joe is a main character who witnesses changes fracking brings, and crimes that occur as reactions. His main role is to protect families in Brindle from devastation the gas drilling brings.

In Brindle 24, the veteran characters work through some of their residual trauma from Iraq. In real life, my father’s time in Japan’s targetted cities at the end of the war shaped him in many ways. He remembered walking through the destroyed areas and just keep going after the atom bombing, and talked about bringing food to people who survived. He sometimes told us stories about his experiences when he took a break from working out in his garage beside the house, and his tales became a part of my childhood imagination.

The PTSD was hard for me to understand then, but now it all makes sense. Sudden noises or loud sounds would startle him, and he had no tolerance for fireworks, no interest in parades. His wartime memories filtered the remainder of his life through the perspective and the scars of being a survivor of WWII, where his brother and so many men he know had died.

You can find Brindle 24 in most places books are sold, Amazon, in print and on kindle and other e-readers. Leave me a review and let me know what you think – maybe a veteran in your life shaped your childhood too. So many of us were children of soldiers.

For the Love of Pears

Pears1

I’ve been loving pears these days, as I tend to do through the last days of summer and first days of fall. I made up a new virgin cocktail recipe I call “The Sweet Tart” yesterday and a new confection recipe, “Light Chocolate Mousse” today. Both are plant-based recipes and vegan, with the sweetness of ripe pears. No added sugar is in either one. No dairy.

The Sweet Tart

2 very ripe pears

1 soft juicy lime

Cut the pears into small pieces, juice the lime, and blend until it’s all very smooth. It has the natural sugar of the pears balanced with the fresh tang of the lime. Add some ice and pour it into a large glass. It’s filling and refreshing and tastes a lot like the candy of the same name.

Light Chocolate Mousse

1 very ripe pear

1 small ripe avocado

1 heaping tablespoon of powdered cocao, unsweetened

Cut the pear into small slices, cut the avocado into small sections, add the cocao and blend well until it’s very thick and creamy like whipped cream. It comes out looking like milk chocolate mousse, but it’s just the pears and avocado combining. You’ll want to use a spoon for this one.

Flowers_of_Pear_Tree

I have a special love of trees. A pear tree lived in the corner of our backyard garden when I was in the Bronx, during my post doctoral fellowship in viral oncology at the Albert Einstein College of medicine. Each fall, for the 13 years we lived there, we looked for the pears. It produced hundreds of them, more than we could every count. From the day they bloomed in spring until they ripened, my daughters and I looked forward to the pears dropping from the tree. We washed, peeled and quartered dozens of them for childhood friends who visited. I made them into pear tartatins (also without dairy) for Thanksgiving. I boiled large pots full of them down into jam, gelled with the pectin in their skins.

Our last year in the Bronx, new neighbors moved in, climbed the pear tree before any pears fell, and picked it clean. It was the year to leave anyway, with the coming of college years for my daughters. I miss the pear tree sometimes, and the comfort of its yearly cycle, the delicious abundance of its pears. But ripe pears from the vegetable stands or farmers market in Queens where we live now still bring the joy back.

One of the central charaters in my third novel, Brindle 24, has a love for trees that’s much like mine. She is from a small town, as I am, and lives close to nature with her small family. In the story, fracking for natural gas comes to her community, having an effect on the trees, the animals, and health of the local residents.

You can find that story in print or ebook at these links:

Brindle 24, print

Brindle 24, Kindle

Brindle 24, iBook