About the Book

Title: The Hooligans of Kandahar

Author: Joseph Kassabian

Genre: Nonfiction / War Memoir

During the peak years of the Afghanistan War, a group of soldiers is dropped by helicopter into the remote mountains outside of Kandahar City. Mismanaged and overlooked by command, how they survive is largely up to them. In the birthplace of the Taliban, some men lose their sanity, others their humanity. They are The Hooligans.

Written in the months and years following his deployment, Joseph Kassabian recounts his time in the isolated and dangerous country of Afghanistan. Pulling no punches, The Hooligans of Kandahar is a sobering, saddening, and often sarcastic first-hand account of America’s War on Terror.

 

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Book Excerpts

Excerpt #1.

Generally, when our squad went on patrol for hours at a time, we would set up Observation Points, or OPs. OPs were areas that were slightly defensible and allowed us to watch a large area while remaining concealed from sight. That’s what the manual says about OPs, anyway.

    What we really used them for was to duck away in the night for a few hours and take turns napping. A few soldiers stood watch while the others removed their overbearing gear and lay down in the dirt to catch a few minutes of much-needed sleep.

    The official mission was to watch over a Taliban “rat line,” or trail used for smuggling weapons into the area. We had watched the ratline and raided various houses in the last few months and found nothing. We were all pretty sure that the ratline didn’t actually exist anywhere outside of Scream’s head.

Since Scream was adamant that something was going to happen in that village, he kept ordering us to sit in the darkness and stare at nothing.

    We established a primary OP on an elevated ridge that overlooked the trail that Scream was certain was a pathway for whatever nefarious deeds the Taliban did at night. During our first ten-hour watch of the area, Walrus—who was one of the laziest people I’ve ever met—found a couch in one of the cornfields. He dragged the furniture up the ridge and into the OP, giving the position its name.

   It was at that OP that some of us older soldiers had to teach the other guys the art of soldiering in the pitch darkness. Smoking without being seen became a skill. You could easily see a cigarette’s lit cherry over a mile away. If you weren’t careful, you could give away your position while feeding your terrible vice.

  You could stick your cigarette and lighter into your ration bag to light it. Then cup your hand around your mouth and cigarette when you need a hit to conceal yourself from whoever wants to blow your face off in the middle of the night. A few of us switched from smoking to chewing tobacco for night patrols. The first few times I tried it I puked on myself.

There was only one guy in our squad who didn’t smoke or dip—Slim, but he made up for it in the states with a drinking habit that would make Hemmingway suggest rehab.

 

Excerpt #2.

We had to teach our soldiers real skills to survive at night as well. You would be surprised how much noise a soldier can make shambling through the darkness with all the gear we carry. We had to duct tape down anything that would rattle or clang off another piece of equipment and spray paint any little piece of metal that would catch the moonlight.

I knew a few guys who went above and beyond by not cleaning themselves for weeks in order to smell like the natives. Like the Taliban were out in the mountains trying to sniff us out of our hiding spots or something.

 

Excerpt #3.

At some point during the night, all hell broke loose. Guns started cracking to life. Machine guns and rockets started ripping through the air all over. Tracer rounds started tearing through the night from all sides about one hundred yards in front of them. They had no idea what was going on and no one was actually shooting at them. No one seemed to know that they were there. It was like they stumbled upon some random turf war in the middle of nowhere. The various militant groups that operated in our area—a strange mix of Islamic insurgents, smugglers, and gangs—routinely tried to kill each other. The Afghan security forces would shoot at anything that went bump in the night. It could have easily been two different Afghan Police patrols shooting at each other.

Forbidden Colours was the evolution of a question that had been rattling around in my brain. You know, those annoying questions that wake you at 4am and won’t let you rest until you’ve written something. Well, that’s how it was for me. I had read a newspaper article about the complexity of the human brain and well, it all started from there. Forbidden Colours is a gripping love story which contains elements of psychological suspense. It has enough adrenaline fuelled drama to power the national grid! Once I had the protagonist Midori Yates firmly fixed in my mind’s eye she took charge and dictated the direction of travel. I have a passion for science and being able to incorporate that into a book is very exciting. The story centres around a new drug being brought to market that does not quite do what it is supposed to…. I shall leave it at that. As I said earlier I started Forbidden Colours with a question and everything flowed from there. So, I know you want to know, what was the question? It’s a question I often ask myself but seldom has it led me in such an unusual direction…… ‘ What if?’

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Blurb:

What if your memories were not your memories? What if the drug hailed as a cure becomes your  curse and ultimately your destruction?

Forbidden Colours is a gripping tale where nothing is quite as it seems. Neurologist Nick Campbell is all set to believe in new drug Centoria, but when his patients start turning up dead he starts to wonder whether his faith has been blind.

Determined to uncover the truth, pharmaceutical employee Midori Yates and Dr Nick Campbell find a conspiracy that is to have devastating consequences for both of them. Forbidden Colours is a clever contemporary thriller that has numerous twists and turns that will make your head spin! A book for bedtime? Maybe but don’t expect to get any sleep!

Snippet:

Katzuko Yates eyed her daughter thoughtfully. A sense of apprehension gripped her. Those years in Japan were long ago; she wondered if she could be clear with her explanation. Even though buried, her memories continued to breathe under the mountain of life she’d lived. Dare she even speak of them? Could she speak of them? Their place of residence had become an unmarked grave in her history. Her family had a right to know, after everything that had happened. His world was dark and full of shadows; where would she begin? For over 25 years she had told no one. Now she was being drawn back into his world. It was a time she wanted to forget. The tie that had been bound to her so tightly was about to be broken.

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Author Bio:

Nicole Fitton is an author and freelance writer who has lived in such glamorous locations as London, New York and Croydon! She currently reside in Devon, UK with her family. Forbidden Colours is her second novel. Her career has spanned over 3 decades working in PR and marketing within the music industry. She currently works within healthcare in the UK.

Alongside her novels Nicole has a passion for writing short stories.This year has seen her short ‘Soaring’ featured in an anthology by the Black Pear Press. Her stories always have a happy ending, but, the way in which they get there will keep you guessing right up until the last page! She admits she gets bored easily and can often be found enjoying new adventures!


Links:

Website address: https://www.nicolefittonauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicolefittonauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MisoMiss

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/fitton3818/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nicole-Fitton/e/B01A3NSIL6/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/misomiss/?hl=en

 

About the Book

Title: Fallen Star Dust

Author: Morgan Straughan Comnick

Genre: Collection (Poetry, Short Stories, and more)

When I reached the point where adult life began to make its presence known right after high school graduation, I looked to the sky. I hoped to see a shooting star that would light my way and I wished that it would leave a trail of star dust behind to remind myself to stay young at heart. Thanks to writing, the enchantment of youth has never left me. In the next chapter of my life, I began college to follow my dream of being an educator. I developed my career, found out who I was an independent being, stopped hiding my passions, figured out my role in my lifelong relationship with my now-husband, and realized that it was okay to question the world. There was darkness that needed to be seen as well as the light. The poems, short stories, scripts, essays, and other works in this second collection are my everything: the shoulders I cried on, my joys, my bravery when the road became too twisty or too safe. It led me to a waterfall of creativity. That fallen star dust gave me the drive to become who I am today: a teacher, an author, a nerd, and a person of morals, love, and magic.

 

Author Bio

Educator of young minds by day, super nerdy savior of justice and cute things by night, Morgan Straughan Comnick has a love for turning the normal into something special without losing its essence. Morgan draws from real life experiences and her ongoing imagination to spark her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys doing goofy voices, traveling to new worlds by turning pages, humming child-like songs, and forcing people to smile with her “bubbliness.” It is Morgan’s mission in life to spread the amazement of otaku/Japanese culture to the world and to stop bullying; she knows everyone shines brightly.

For more information about Morgan and her works, check out her website, which also have links to all her social medias: http://morganscomnick.com.

 

Links

Website: http://morganscomnick.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Morgan-Straughan-Comnick-167241833430209/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorganSComnick

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7510773.Morgan_Straughan_Comnick

Youtube: channel

Amazon sales page


Excerpt

To Bear a War (Summer 2014)

It is April and by now, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, so bright, so vibrant they glow in the night like pink fireflies.  Their fragrance fills the air, stirs your soul, clings to your clothes as the petals dance in your hair.  But, you do not mind for they put a spring in your step.

Oh, how I miss the cherry blossoms of my home!

All I smell is decay and dried blood, mud and illness, rot and uncleanness, smoke and death.

All I hear are barks in my tongue and in ones foreign to me, screams of pain, whimpers of fear, gun fire…yes, tons of gun fire; my ears are not trained to know anything else.

All I see is a desolate wasteland, dust and smoke clinging to the Earth like death’s shadow, mounds and mounds of hills that I used to think of as brothers.

Oh, how I miss the cherry blossoms of my home!

I should be in college, studying landscaping like I dreamed of since youth.  I should be eating a home cooked meal with mother as father reads his newspaper carefully, smoking his pipe.  I should be able to watch my sister grow up, to see if she is becoming a young lady or is still an annoying, childish brat.  I should be with…

BANG! A shock ran through my body, zapping my blood.  My teeth chattered uncontrollably and my ears rang like the bells of a shrine during the New Year’s season.  My body reloaded my gun by instinct as I crept through the dirt, mud hugging me like a second skin.  I became primal, animalistic, but as our general told us: ‘We were in war; survival, victory, and dying with honor if it came to that was our only focus…’

I shot my gun, saying the key words in my head like a mantra: Survival…Bang! Victory…Bang! Honor…BANG!  The world popped around as I heard something I was not used to; silence, China sighing from the weight we had put on her.  The battle was over.

I gasped, not positioning my gun down for a second.  When you get into a survival state, it is hard to wind down from it, relax, become a man again…Am I still a man?  I kill, I kill for honor, but, it is still a death…So, am I still…a man when society had barely considered me one?  When I, at nineteen, have not considered me one?

I felt a hand on my shoulder and flinched.  It was Hisao, my buck mate.  He gave me a tight smile of understanding, soot smeared across his cheek, his helmet catty-cornered.  I hopped down from my spot and followed him as he jabbed his thumb hard towards our camp.  His grin became one of joy.  I knew what that meant.

It was time for food.

We unpacked our gear in our bunks, boots sloshing like it was the rainy season, which I suppose back home, it was near.  As I walked slowly to my assigned area all the way towards the back of the base, something on my bed caught my eye.  It was a box.  I walked a little faster, then it became a light jog until I was sliding all over the place, trying to get my footing.  Good thing none of the generals saw that! I shook thinking of a punishment they would give me.

Hisao came to my side, gawking at the package as well as if it was a woman randomly laying on my bed, which, in his mind, was probably what he was wishing for.  He had such a dirty mind! His commentary while we played cards made me squirm!

He was drying his short hair with a towel and he gave me a sly grin, like a fox demon catching one of his subjects stealing from a human, “Oh oh! What’s this?!  Takeshi got a package?  I wonder who it is from? Your osake?  A lover?  You stud!”

I examined the package carefully like it was a precious newborn infant, but there was no indication of where it came from; it simply had my name on it along with my division’s number. So, this person knew I was in China, at this base, but how?  I was shocked we could even get more than a simple letter out here. We were in the middle of a war, for Budda’s sake!

Hisao clicked his teeth together and looked at me deviously, giving my back a hard, but playful smack that bounced off the walls.  I grunted, still holding the package for dear life.  I bared my teeth at him and he chuckled, his eyes shining with sheer wonder and happiness for me.

“Go ahead and open your package there buddy; might be something I do not want to see. If you get any nice pictures from any lovely ladies, however, you ARE sharing?  Does that sound fair?”

I opened my mouth to respond, but before a sound escaped from my lips, Hisao slapped the back of my head and walked off, waving his hand flippantly in the air, repeating “You promised” in a cocky voice.

I ignored his usual, but comforting weirdness and sat down on my bunk, package sitting on my lap. With the utmost care, I took out my pocket knife and let the tape that bound it fall to the floor like ribbons of cascading water in a waterfall.  I lifted the lid with ease, my eyes half shut from fear and half closed for wanting to make this moment last longer.

The mystery was revealed as I moved the flaps of the lid and my mind was absorbed at what was inside: it was a teddy bear.

I picked him up with care, feeling his soft fake fur.  I could tell he was handmade for there was some unevenness in the stitching, but it was secure, tight, and made very well.  His light brown color was warm and inviting and his eyes had a twinkle to them.  He had a little, endearing smile sewed on to his charming face.  I felt bad that he had to smile for all eternity, but I suppose if I was forced to feel one emotion forever, that would be the one I would pick.

He even had a different shade of brown and material to make the paws and feet!  I could sit him down easily and he stayed how I posed him.  Someone took a lot of time and attention to make this…was it really for me?  To top it all off, the bear had a pink ribbon tied aound his neck.  That pink…it reminded me of something, but my mind was fuzzy, ticking me …

Images of a moon-filled night, the breeze dancing around my body, embedding messages into my hair as someone stood beside me, someone who smiled brighter than the moon, their hair smelling like it was bursting with flowers from every land.  The sky was as dark as pitch, but every time I blinked, I saw neon shapes of pink that made everything look magical, like I could believe in miracles and that impossible things could come true, that dreams were not wishes, but pathways for ourselves that had not yet been paved…

I blinked, my head beginning to throb.  I looked at the little bear again and gave his head a pat.  I would give him a home and protect him.  He would give me something to come back to, something I could see every day.

I was about to place him back in the box for now and under my bed when a small piece of white paper became visible.  It clung to the bottom of the box.  I peeled it off and opened it.  I was a note, written in Japanese, and addressed to me.  So, the bear was truly for me! Someone had made it for me!

Excitement coursed through my veins, volts of excitement crackling the air around me.  With an eagerness I was not aware existed in me.  I read the message:

“Takeshi, let us look at the cherry blossoms…”

That was all it said.  I scanned the page left and right, up and down, close and far, but saw no signature.  The box also did not have a name or location on it.  Eh?  Who could have made me this bear, this little bear who filled me with such a numerous amount of emotion that I almost forgot where I was at?  And what was with this message?  I had just been thinking about the cherry blossoms.

The bell sounded for us to go get our dinner, but as I reluctantly closed the box with the bear and letter inside, I noticed one more clue to this mystery: a date.

The letter and package were both sent to me on February 14th.

***

“Nani?!  What?! The package was sent to you on February 14th?  You, my good sir, have a lover.” Hisao’s expressions were all over the place and after he flung his spoon out of his hand, he leaned back in his chair all too casually, rocking back and forth on two legs with his arms crossed behind his head.  A man whose voice could drown out a fighter plane and then go act like all of this was no big deal, like I was a lonely priest to his godliness, irked me.

“Hamlet” Script Rewrite:

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Man, nothing seems to be going good for me lately.  I mean, I’m still so heartbroken that my father was murdered and here, nearly a month later, my uncle, my father’s creepy brother, becomes the new king of Denmark.  Not only that, but my mother, my worry wart MOTHER, married my uncle a month after her husband was killed!  I don’t think everything is right. I don’t trust my uncle; he’s too moody.  And I just don’t understand my mother. Did she marry my uncle for love, for power, for…other stuff that makes me sick to think about?!” (Throwing up noise and shakes).  “Note to self, NEVER imagine your uncle like that!  Maybe I just don’t get women…Maybe that’s not a bad thing…” (Smacks head).  “Oh, and on top of all this, some stupid Norwegians are trying to invade too! AHHHHHHHH! I suppose it could be worse; I could be reading a play for a high school class.  But, I’m sad.” (Gives puppy pout) “MAN!  I need a drink.  OH!  F.Y.I. guys, I’m not promoting drinking or anything, but…yeah, you guys all took D.A.R.E.”

Krystil: (Reading from script) “So, poor Hamlet was basically depressed about his deceased father.  Now, when the story takes place, two men run in fright, seeing a ghost, which they believe is the dead king.  They tell Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, who tells him the news.  Horatio also sees the ghost king and runs to find Hamlet, who is still whimpering like a puppy dog.”

Horatio (student):  (calling) “Hamlet!  Hamlet! Where are you dude?”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (muffled) “Below you, get off my face bro!”

Horatio (student):  (steps off) “What in the world are you doing?”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “I tried to jump over the table last night, but I didn’t make it and so I took a nap.  What do you want?  Oh! Secret handshake!”

Horatio (student):  “That was weak…anyway!  You need to follow me; I saw your father last night…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (stands up): “Say what?!  You’re pulling my leg.  My father is…he’s…”

Horatio (student):  (pats shoulder compassionately) “Let it out buddy…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (cries) “He’s swimming with the earthworms man…”

Horatio (student): (rolls eyes) “Anyway, I really saw him!  In front of the watch tower.  He was all, see through and ghost like.”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (yawns).  “Dude, isn’t that something Scooby Doo should handle?”

Horatio (student):  “I think he wants to talk to you…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Well…I do miss my father and Project Runway isn’t on tonight…Okay.”

Krystil: “Hamlet and Horatio wanted front row seats to the event so they waited all night in the bitter cold.  They were about to give up when the ghost came and spoke to them.  It was indeed, King Hamlet, Hamlet’s dead father as a spirit.”

Ghost King (student): “Hamlet, my son…”

Horatio (student):  “AHHHHH!!! Run away before he remembers I owe him $5!”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Shut up!  Father, it is good to…see through you.  Please, what do you want from me?”

Ghost King (student): “Hamlet, I must tell you the truth…Claudius, your uncle and my horrible brother, murdered me by pouring poison in my ears. He has always wanted my beautiful Gertrude and my beloved Denmark. I demand from you a great task: avenge me!”

Morgan (as Hamlet):  “I’m not sure I have the time, I mean, prom’s coming up and…”

Ghost King (student): “Hamlet!  I’ll haunt you boy!  Look inside yourself; what is right…”

Morgan (as Hamlet): (deeply sighs, thinking) “Avenging you father.  I agree and will make it my mission, even if it makes me breathless!”

(The ghost vanishes after this, saying “weee!”)

Horatio (student):  “Man, that was flippin’ nuts!”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “I have a great task.  I’m not sure if the ghost can be trusted, but I will study hard.  I will pretend to be insaner than Mr. Young in order for others to leave me alone.”

Horatio (student):  “You can hide in the library; nothing important is in there.”

Morgan (as Hamlet): “Excellent idea!  And how true.  Now…I’m off!” (flips a pretend cape and glides off to the side)