The Opinions of the Characters Are Not Necessarily Those of the Management

When the characters in your book say something despicable, stupid or “politically incorrect,” does that mean that the author is a racist, an idiot or a bad human being? This has been the topic of conversation, some of it fairly heated, at my writer’s group lately.

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle

Historical fiction is particularly susceptible to this kind of discussion, because the characters must necessarily reflect the ethics and flavor of the time. My novel, The Count of the Sahara, takes place in the 1920s. This was a long time ago, and many attitudes have changed. Things that people said and believed then may seem outdated, wrong or even awful to us today. Don’t believe me? Get your Great-Grandma drunk and bring up the topic of race…. try not to be too scandalized by what comes out of her mouth–remember she’s old.

One of the few disagreements with Erik, my editor at TheBookFolks.com (a thousand blessings on his house and camels) was over just such a scene. Willy, a naive 19 year old German-American kid from Milwaukee walks up to the front desk and in his mind tries to place the ethnicity of the desk clerk.  In the original draft,  he looks at the slicked back hair and prominent nose and thinks he “must be a Jew or a Hungarian or something.”  The points I was making were a) in the cities of early 20th Century America, racial identity was just part of the landscape so this was the way Willy would think and b) the big dummy wasn’t anti-Semitic, just curious about where the desk clerk was from and probably couldn’t tell the difference between a Jew and a Hungarian. It wasn’t a judgment, it was an observation.  It also wasn’t a hill I was prepared to die on. Did I mention I lost that argument?

We had a similar dust-up at the Naperville Writers Group over the use of the “N” word in someone’s writing. Does the use of a certain hot-button word in your fiction condone it? One of my fellow writers actually made a great distinction: if it’s inside quotation marks, or the narrator is clearly identified as a specific character, you can get away with it. If the narrator is “third person omniscient,” then that narrator is basically you. If your character says something hurtful or insensitive, that’s one thing. If “you” do, perhaps you should reconsider.

Maybe I’m a liberal wimp, but I actually cringe a little when one of my characters says something I disagree with. It’s not being a slave to “political correctness,”  I consider it common courtesy. Do I want to unintentionally cause offense to someone? I  stop and think twice before writing something that I think might be hurtful to a reader, even if that’s not my intention.

Probably, though, I’ll write it anyway because that is what the character would do in that time and place. I’m not a 19 year old, big city, immigrant kid, and I don’t think like one. When I’m writing that character though, he’s not me either.

Maybe all fiction should contain a disclaimer: “Warning, opinions of the characters are not necessarily those of the management.”

Or maybe readers can just lighten the hell up a bit. Both work for me.

 

Finding the Right Voice for Historical Characters

When I was writing The Count of the Sahara, the hard part was taking facts that were well known, but making the characters more than just a regurgitation of what was already known and their own writing. How do you make the dialogue real, and the people involved come alive?

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle

As I explain in this interview on Lavinia Colins blog, I had one of those aha moments writers love to blab on and on about. You can read the interview here,  but basically the desert scenes between Alonzo Pond and Byron de Prorok came alive when I found the analogy: It was “Amadeus in the Desert.” Read the article and find out why.

I remember standing in the archives at the Logan Museum of Anthropology when I had the epiphany.  The Logan’s exhibit on this expedition is opening soon, and if you’re in the area check it out. Meanwhile,  you can read the article on Lavinia’s site.

Full disclosure, Lavinia is a fellow writer for our publisher, TheBookFolks and a very good writer of Arthurian fantasy.

The Count of the Sahara is Available Now on Kindle

“… a brilliant novel, great historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” Angela Best

“A cleverly woven heart-warming story. Warning, it can make you giggle!” Chris Dangerfield

My first novel, The Count of the Sahara is now available on Kindle.

In 1925, “Count” Byron de Prorok was the most famous archaeologist in the world. By the summer of 1926, his marriage, his career and his reputation lay in ruins. “The Count of the Sahara” is the exciting account of his meteoric rise and fall.

The cover of The Count of the Sahara
The cover of The Count of the Sahara

This sweeping novel tells the tale of De Prorok’s rise and fall through the eyes of Willy Braun, a 19 year old German-American desperate to flee his life in Milwaukee. When Willy uses his only real talent, his technical skills, to save a lecturer from disaster at the hands of an incompetent assistant, he meets Count Byron De Prorok, a glamorous lecturer and world famous archaeologist. De Prorok is everything Willy isn’t; glamorous, handsome, a brilliant speaker and, most of all, rich. The Count needs a projectionist and assistant for the rest of his tour, Willy wants out of Milwaukee for good. This may be his ticket out, but can he trust his future to someone who may not be all he claims?

As Willy and the Count tour snowy Midwestern cities in the winter of 1926, weaving tales of his adventures and basking in his fame, the story flashes back to the Franco-American Sahara Expedition of 1925. Unearthing the ancient tomb of Tin Hinan, the fabled Mother Queen of the Tuareg nation, cemented the Count’s already flourishing reputation, but warring local tribes, bad weather and personality clashes make the truth more stirring—and very different from–the tales he tells on the lecture circuit.

What starts as a simple job offer is complicated when a robbery attempt reveals the Count may be hiding stolen jewels from Tin Hanan’s tomb. Caught up in a web of deceit, bootleggers and Pinkerton detectives, de Prorok could be the young man’s ticket to a new life, or another crushing disappointment in a life too full of them.

This fact-based novel contains adventure, lively characters and sly humor seldom found in historical fiction.

 

“Great characters brought to life in full color. A real page turner.” Ernie Fisher

Please remember that in the new world of online publishing, reviews matter. If you enjoy the book, tell your friends and kindly leave an Amazon review. If you didn’t……well, feedback is a gift and all that.

Available on Kindle, Now  and in paperback from Amazon and TheBookFolks.com September 15, 2015

 

Eterlimus: Pre-Roman History From Aziz Hamza

As a Canadian, living in America, writing for a global audience about something that happened in Algeria (among other places) I’m well aware that the great stories of history don’t belong to any one group. Case in point: Aziz Hamza’s tale of Rome before the Republic, Eterlimus.

Author Aziz Hamza
Author Aziz Hamza

Aziz is from Saudi Arabia, and writes in both English and Arabic. So  his choice of a story set in long-ago Rome is kind of interesting. Here’s what he had to say:

What’s the story of Eterlimus? If you’re familiar with the opera or story of the “Rape of Lucretia,” that’s the setting. The book ETERLIMUS takes place during the reign of the seventh King of ancient Rome, the tyrant Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, until the salvation came through ETERLIMUS the Pimp (a fictional character), who caused the collapse of the last Roman Kingdom in 509 B.C.

What inspired you to write the book? Why this story? 

Of course the incident of the rape of Lucretia has the biggest impact when i decided to write the novel. However the most influential character was Sextus, he is sly, wicked and ruthless, he was really a distasteful character.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Probably Cloelia’s dialogue with Sextus in chapter 2. It’s full of fear and violence  and showed the evil personality of Sextus.

You’re right, he’s a bad, bad guy. How can people find your work (including in Arabic, if you’re so inclined?) 

Eterlimus is available in English or Arabic. Some people just have to show off!
Eterlimus is available in English or Arabic. Some people just have to show off!

 

Logan Museum Celebrates Byron (and Alonzo’s) Expedition

I just found out today that the Logan Museum of Anthropology in  Beloit, Wi, is opening a new exhibit about the Franco-American Expedition of the Sahara of 1925. Why does this matter? Because it’s the setting for my novel, “The Count of the Sahara.”

The Exhibit, entitled, “Blue Veils and Black Mountains- Alonzo Pond’s 1925 Expedition to Southern Algeria,”  opens the week of August 17 and runs through October.

It’s no surprise that the exhibition focuses on Alonzo Pond, rather than Byron de Prorok…. one of the major scenes of my book takes place at Beloit College, and the news isn’t good for The Count.

There’s a good chance I’ll be asked to deliver a lecture up there based on my research. Given how the book wouldn’t have had a chance if not for them letting me rummage around in their archives, I’m thrilled. More details to come!

Does Historical Fiction Include Fantasy?

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.- F Scott Fitgerald.

Yeah, I’m a freakin’ genius.  I love historical fiction that is researched and full of interesting details. I also love fantasy (yes, I’m a sword and sorcery geek, sue me.) These two ideas come together, and often seem to clash. A good case in point is the sub-genre called “Arthurian fiction.”

From my earliest memories, the story of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have thrilled me.  But was Arthur an actual historical character? If so, what about Merlin, who was a magician, after all? This has led to a schism between those who love “Arthurian Fantasy” and a more factual, history-based approach. Two of my favorite current writers take opposite approaches to the same source material.

Jack Whyte, the author of The Camulod Chronicles painstakingly researches his

Was Arthur real? Jack Whyte’s carefully researched books are an amazing take on the story you think you know.

books and places them in a gritty, dark period between the fall of the Roman empire, and the beginnings of that bizarre mix of Celts and Saxons that created pre-Norman Britain. I love his stuff: dark, philosophical, as close to “realistic” as something lost in the fog of time could be. If you’re not reading him, you should be. Just saying.

Lavinia Collins, on the other hand, writes Arthurian fantasy full of magic, sex and a Celtic/feminist approach. Here’s the thing, though. It’s not like she doesn’t know her history. The background of the stories is well researched and true to the period. She just chooses

Was Arthur's sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn't it?
Was Arthur’s sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn’t it?

to use the known history of the time as the starting point to spin a great yarn. Does that mean it’s not “historical fiction?” She has written a wonderful blog post about that dilemma in fact. Click here to read it.

A case in point is where Excalibur came from. Jack says it was forged from the metal that came  from a meteorite, so it had unusual properties. According to Lavinia, it was forged by a woman blessed with magic in the caves under Avalon.

Is either “true?” Does it matter? I prefer to just enjoy them both. How about you?

Renaming The Baby: The Count of the Sahara

So a little news on my upcoming novel. For 6 months, the working title has been “Pith Helmets in the Snow.” To no one’s surprise, the tile has changed. The new title is “The Count of the Sahara.”

Publication date for Kindle worldwide is now set for August 15, 2015 and the Paperback will be on Amazon by September 15. It will also be available at www.TheBookFolks.com.

More details including cover art to come!

Can Historical Fiction and Kinky Sex Get Along? V W Singer

When the question “What is Historical Fiction?” comes up, you get all kinds of answers. There are innocent Regency romances, brutal military fiction, Arthurian fantasies and strict transcriptions of famous events …. but what about straight-up erotica? Did our ancestors get their freak on? Today I interview V.W Singer, who writes fiction laced with S&M and other things, often set in the past. We’re talking today about his pirate-themed novel, “Port Royal.”

Kinky sex and Pirates seems like a natural enough fit in VW Singer's "Port Royal".
Kinky sex and Pirates seems like a natural enough fit in VW Singer’s “Port Royal”.

So what’s the VW Singer story?

I’ve always loved to write and tell stories. Nowadays I’m a full time author. When I was younger I used to entertain my friends with impromptu stories invented on the spot. However, first I became a Charted Accountant. I’ve been a CFO, General Manager, and Project Director in a multinational organisation. I’m multi lingual and I’ve lived and worked all over the world. In my time I’ve faced down super typhoons on a Pacific Island and been shot at and chased by machete wielding rebels, all as part of the job. I started writing seriously when I discovered that no one was writing erotica or science fiction the way I wanted to read it. So I decided to do it myself. I particularly enjoy writing historical erotica, because the history of mankind is the history of sex, and even BDSM style sex. From Egypt to Troy to Rome, and Henry VIII to Bill Clinton, sex has shaped the world. BDSM itself has a long history as well. One of the earliest English sex novels “Fanny Hill” has a very explicit birching scene, Victorian Erotica is filled with it, and nowadays BDSM is almost mainstream. With regard to BDSM, I am a practitioner, a Dominant in real life, and have been involved in it for over twenty-five years, so the sexual aspects of my novels are just as true to life as the historical.

In a nutshell, what’s the story about, and why Port Royal?

 Port Royal is a combination of a “Captain Blood” style pirate adventure and intense SM (sadomasochistic) erotica. While I consider it romantic, it is not a Romance novel. The sex is detailed and explicit. But so is the plot and action. I was inspired to write this book by the surprising (to me) discovery that during the late 16th to 17th centuries, slavery in the Spanish Main, which was the Caribbean and the Americas, consisted primarily of white men and women. Most were Irish, with a good number of English, swept off the streets of London and other cities by gangs called “Spirits” – hence the term “spirited away” – and sold off to the Caribbean as “indentured servants”. Such contracts were supposed to be for limited periods and the “servants” were supposed to be released with a cash stake. But the owners found numerous ways to extend the contracts. Disobedience, attempted escape, and so forth added time to the contract. Children born during the contract became permanent slaves, forcing the parents to stay on. Many worked the “servants” to death rather than pay the freedom stake.
The city of Port Royal was known at its peak as “the most sinful city in the world”, which was hardly surprising since it was the base of the famous Pirates of the Caribbean. The pirates defended Port Royal from the Spanish and were its chief source of revenue. The dock-sides were filled with shops and bars and brothels. It is in this setting that the story’s hero Captain Harry Pierce, privateer (licensed pirate and pirate hunter), trader, brothel keeper, and slaver, has his adventures. There are battles at sea, duels on land, intrigue, treachery, and sadistic sex, especially with his private collection of beautiful Irish slaves.
So is this researched historical fiction, or just “Fifty Shades of Pirates?”
 It took over a month of research to write this book. I learned about every aspect of the period, location, and people. Everything from clothes and underwear, to politics and geography, naval technology and techniques, all the way to the sex practises of the period. I happened to write a short illustrated blog piece on this very subject, which can be found on Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/8782406-looking-into-research
Probably the best way to illustrate the level of research is to show an extract of the research directory on my computer relating to Port Royal:
Okay, I believe you.
Okay, I believe you.

Assuming we use “incognito mode,” and don’t do it at work, how can we find you and your books?

Those who want to know more about my work can visit my website, www.vwsinger.com or my author page at Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7267049.V_W_Singer . Some of my books can be found on Amazon, including Port Royal. Those which are not can be obtained at A1adultbooks http://www.a1adultebooks.com/ebooks/b7918-port-royal.htm
Thank you Wayne for this opportunity to talk about my work. Hopefully it will be of interest to your readers.
What happens on your Kindle, stays on your Kindle….