Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Virtual Book Tour + #Giveaway: Finding George Washington by Bill Zarchy @GoddessFish

Finding George Washington

by Bill Zarchy

GENRE: Historical, Time Travel, Baseball, Thriller


On a freezing night in 1778, General George Washington vanishes. Walking away from the Valley Forge encampment, he takes a fall and is knocked unconscious, only to reappear at a dog park on San Francisco Bay—in the summer of 2014.

Washington befriends two Berkeley twenty-somethings who help him cope with the astonishing—and often comical—surprises of the twenty-first century.

Washington’s absence from Valley Forge, however, is not without serious consequences. As the world rapidly devolves around them—and their beloved Giants fight to salvage a disappointing season—George, Tim, and Matt are catapulted on a race across America to find a way to get George back to 1778.

Equal parts time travel tale, thriller, and baseball saga, Finding George Washington is a gripping, humorous, and entertaining look at what happens when past and present collide in the 9th inning, with the bases loaded and no one warming up in the bullpen.


A chill wind greeted us as we left the ballpark, swirling San Francisco’s famous fog around us as we hurried toward the car. The temperature had dropped ten degrees as night fell.

Carl Sandburg was wrong. The fog didn’t come in on “little cat feet,” stealthily tiptoeing across the hills. It was only picturesque from afar. When the fog engulfed you, it was like getting hit in the face with a cold, wet mop. Maybe Mark Twain never actually said that “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” but summer days often turned cold and foggy, and changes in temperature could be dramatic and sudden.

The Giants always played Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” as a victory anthem after home games. Despite tonight’s loss, I sang a few comforting lines to myself as we walked out into the howling wind.

Ironic words for a gloomy night. The mood of the exiting Giants fans matched the angry weather. A few drunks in the crowd started to chant, “Gi-ants suck! Gi-ants suck!” Other fans booed the drunks halfheartedly, but too many were silent, annoyed that the Giants had tanked all week, losing five out of six.

Rachel took George’s hand as we followed the crowd. I heard someone up ahead of us baiting L.A. fans who had come to the game in full Dodgers regalia. Baiting in a nasty, personal way, beyond the bounds of good-natured sports rivalry. Someone began to chant, “F**k-the-Dodg-ers!” and a minute later I heard yelling, the smash of a glass bottle, and running feet. I shuddered. Just wanted to get back to Berkeley.

We walked along the foggy Embarcadero, and the disappointed crowd boiled off the sidewalk and into the driving lanes. Traffic slowed and cars swerved as angry fans jaywalked against a DON’T WALK light.

A black sedan careened out of a side street at great speed—headlights off, despite the thickening fog—rattled across the tracks onto the Embarcadero, and raced toward a small gap in the swarming crowd just ahead of us. I realized that the sedan was aiming directly for a couple of Dodger fans up ahead, along with George and Rachel.

He never saw it, but Rachel spotted the imminent danger, lowered her shoulder, and smashed her diminutive body into George’s midsection, just below the word “Giants” on his jersey. Caught unawares, he toppled over backward out of harm’s way, but she somehow stayed on her feet in the path of the car.

BAM! The car sideswiped Rachel and spun her like a top. She crumpled to the ground.

BAM! The car hit a guy in a Dodger jersey, then sped away. I tried to read the license plate, but it was too dark in the gloomy night.

Someone yelled, “Call 911!” I feared the worst. George and Matt were by Rachel’s side. She lay facedown on the pavement, the other victim about ten feet away. My heart was in my throat.

Oh my god, I thought. She’s dead.

Interview with BILL ZARCHY

What made you want to become a writer?

I have always been a writer. My father, Harry Zarchy, wrote and illustrated over thirty published books on crafts, hobbies, and the outdoors. Titles like Let’s Make Something, Let’s Make More Things, Let’s Make A Lot of Things, Let’s Fish, Let’s Go Boating, and Let’s Go Camping. And he did all that while working fulltime as a high school art teacher. That was inspiring for me, and I always thought that writing would be part of my makeup. I learned to type with two forefingers at a young age, on an ancient portable machine Pop gave me. I hunt-and-pecked well enough to produce a short-lived family newsletter, write for my high school paper, and edit my college daily.

I was diverted away from words for years by my career as a cinematographer on film and video shoots all around the world, but eventually I came back to writing and finally learned ten-finger typing. At that point, I wrote mainly about working in other cultures, interacting with unfamiliar crews overseas, meeting quirky people, and dealing with sometimes-poignant, sometimes-funny experiences I encountered in my shoots on six continents. Many of these true stories became the basis of my first book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil, published in 2013.

What inspired you to write in Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale?

I had been fascinated by the presidents for a long time, and Washington in particular. For years, when I was a kid, I would challenge my own ability to explain the workings of various mid-century technology, by wondering how I would explain this to George Washington, if he were to come to life. But that was just a notion, not a fledged-out idea, and, for a long time, I only wrote nonfiction. As I got closer to retirement, though, I found I wanted to write a novel, like most of the other writers in my critique group. I dredged up my old head game about George and decided it was time to bring him back to life.

Originally, I thought of this as a comic, fish-out-of-water story, watching George confront the wonders of our 21st-Century world. But the more I researched Washington, the more I realized how little I knew about him. As I filled in the gaps in my knowledge, it became clear to me that his was not a simple story. He was the Great Man of his era, a complex personality, deeply passionate but tightly controlled, a charismatic leader but a soft-spoken orator, a splendid horseman and graceful dancer, who enjoyed equally the company of men and women. And he owned hundreds of enslaved people, even as he fought the English for freedom from tyranny.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale?

The main protagonist is Tim, a mid-20s grad student from Berkeley. He first finds George at a dog park near his home on the shores of San Francisco Bay and takes him in, though he’s not sure if he believes George’s story about who he is.

Tim’s best friend Matt lives next door and, as a young Black man, has a built-in disdain for and fear of the tall, muscular slave owner Tim has brought home. This tension sparks a number of discussions about George’s dawning awareness of the evil and immorality of slavery.

The other main character, of course, is General George Washington of the Continental Army, who is stuck in the Bay Area in 2014, trying to come to grips with where and when he is, learning about our modern civilization, and, eventually, struggling to get back to his own time. Tim and Matt are huge baseball fans, and they introduce Washington to the ins and outs and eccentricities of the game and follow their beloved Giants through the ups and downs of the 2014 pennant race and post-season.

You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?

Wow, tough question. I have many “favorites.” I read a lot of mysteries, some thrillers, and a smattering of history books. I especially like much of Stephen King’s non-horror writing, the mysteries of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, and the Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr.

Right now, I’m reading Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird, and The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret: George Washington, Slavery, and the Enslaved Community at Mount Vernon, by Mary V. Thompson.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?

I have begun a sequel to Finding George Washington, with some of the same characters (but not George!). The story is based on the true events of February 1933, when an armed assassin worked his way close to then-President-Elect Franklin Roosevelt and fired half a dozen shots from a pistol. Roosevelt was unharmed, but two people were killed (including the mayor of Chicago) and several were injured.

It’s speculative fiction, another what-if story. In Finding George, we wonder what would happen if Washington never returns to his own time. In the sequel, tentatively titled Saving Franklin Roosevelt, the burning questions are: what would happen to the U.S. in the Great Depression and the Second World War, if FDR were murdered before he could even take office? Would the New Deal, his bold plan to restore the economy, even pass Congress without his aggressive politicking? And how would the Allied nations succeed in the war without his leadership?

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Several things I enjoyed things in writing Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale — first, the research. In order to present an accurate and respectful portrait of the General, I consulted many books, of course. But I also decided that I had to visit everyplace that I wanted to send my characters. So I traveled to relevant historical sites, city locations, ballparks, museums, and libraries all over the country, and I took the same long train trip my characters endured. In my travels, I picked up emotional experiences, physical descriptions, local lore, and, best of all, several villains, based on folks I met along the way.

The other thing I enjoyed tremendously was freedom of imagination. As a lifelong writer of nonfiction, I had concentrated on accurate descriptions of events, places, dialogue — all real things that had happened IRL (in real life). But now I was writing fiction, and I suddenly realized that I could just make stuff up! And plausibility wasn’t always going to be an issue. I watched thrillers and mysteries carefully and noticed that even thinly conceived plots could serve as a satisfying catalyst for action.

At one point, when I was trying to figure out how and why GW had disappeared from Valley Forge, I consulted a young man I knew, who suggested that “perhaps there was a magnetic confluence at that spot.” I was astounded. “Oh, is that a thing?” and he replied, “It is if you write it that way.”

Freedom of imagination. I could just make stuff up.  

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Bill Zarchy filmed projects on six continents during his 40 years as a cinematographer, captured in his first book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil. Now he writes novels, takes photos, and talks of many things.

Bill’s career includes filming three former presidents for the Emmy-winning West Wing Documentary Special, the Grammy-winning Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, feature films Conceiving Ada and Read You Like A Book, PBS science series Closer to Truth, musical performances as diverse as the Grateful Dead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and countless high-end projects for technology and medical companies.

His tales from the road, personal essays, and technical articles have appeared in Travelers’ Tales and Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers, and American Cinematographer, Emmy, and other trade magazines.

Bill has a BA in Government from Dartmouth and an MA in Film from Stanford. He taught Advanced Cinematography at San Francisco State for twelve years. He is a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of the EPIC Storytelling Program at Stagebridge in Oakland. This is his first novel.

Book Website ~ Book Blog ~ Author Website ~ Facebook

Buy Links:

Paperback ~ Kindle


$50 Amazon/BN GC

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Bill Zarchy said...

Thank you so much for hosting me today!