Texas is a Hard Land to Rule – Anthony Whitt

Full disclaimer: I view Westerns like I view Super-Hero movies: I know that most of what I’m seeing or reading is as much mythology and wish-fulfillment as  history, but that’s okay as long as they’re fun. I’m also aware that there are political and social ramifications associated with them. I just maintain a healthy skepticism/cynicism about it all and enjoy the ride. Some people, though, take the whole “Wild West” thing very seriously and that’s where today’s interview comes in.

Anthony Whitt, looking exactly like what someone who writes about Texas should look like
Anthony Whitt, looking exactly like what someone who writes about Texas should look like

Anthony Whitt is a darned good writer from the Austin, Texas area. He’s currently working on a trilogy about the hardy settlers that scratched a living out of the Texas Hill Country surrounding Austin after the Civil War. Hard Land to Rule is first in the trilogy that takes the reader on a ride through treachery, greed, lust, and death in a riveting tale that’s more than just another western. Cold Hard Ride continues the story as the characters battle their inner demons and devious enemies in the hills and the hellhole known as Austin. His goal is to create a trilogy with continuity, but make sure each book delivers a compelling story in its own right. The third book has a release date planned in the spring or summer of 2016.

So briefly, what’s the Hard Land to Rule trilogy all about?

Hard Land to Rule is a story of faded love, forbidden temptations, treacherous adversaries, and the conflict of competing interests on the Texas frontier. Returning from the Civil War where he served as a sergeant, Matt is forced to deal with a marriage complicated by a tragic death and the alienation of his wife. He can’t seem to find the right combination to patch things up despite his dedicated efforts to provide for his family and maintain his ranch in the hills. The times are economically tough after the war and opportunistic carpetbaggers prowl the countryside searching out targets for their aggressive efforts to secure ranchlands burdened with overdue taxes. Raiding Comanche complicate the harsh conditions he faces in the Hill Country while he is also forced to battle the unscrupulous politicians and businessmen that call Austin home. Surrounded by overwhelming problems it’s no wonder that an attractive neighbor with a struggling marriage of her own tempts him with her siren song of seduction. A proposition to serve as a Texas Ranger seems to offer an answer to his tribulations, but opens him to a plague of personal doubts and uncertainties that threaten to undermine the life he has worked hard to mold out of an unforgiving land.

Besides a higher than usual loathing for Texas politicians, what is it about the story that grabbed you?

Throughout the early years of my youth, my grandparents and their tales of the old days exerted a heavy influence on me. My grandfather often talked about his time as a cowboy working the ranches in the rugged hills west of Austin. During the first years of his marriage to my grandmother they actually traveled and lived out of a covered wagon to follow the work wherever it was available. As a young boy on family drives through the Texas Hill Country I can still recall them pointing out the locations of Indian trails they remembered seeing in their younger years.

My grandfather also regaled us with tales of his grandfather, a sergeant in the Civil War and a famous Texas Ranger with a colorful history. One of the favorite stories I grew up hearing from him was about an Indian raid on his grandfather’s homestead west of Austin. Despite my great-great grandfathers reputation as a well-known Texas Ranger the Indians gave him little respect and singled his place out for a raid. The tale always fascinated me and I set out to write a fictionalized short story about the event unaware of where the decision would lead. After the story received early praise, it transformed into a full-length novel that needed room to grow. As a result, the decision to write a short story became a life changing moment that gave birth to the Hard Land to Rule Trilogy.

A Hard Land to Rule is the first book in Anthony Whitt's Trilogy
A Hard Land to Rule is the first book in Anthony Whitt’s Trilogy

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

It’s hard to pick a favorite scene in Hard Land to Rule because I strived to stitch the chapters together in a cohesive flow of storytelling. But if I have to select my favorite scene it would be the one where three innocent characters are oblivious of their danger as they stroll into a Comanche ambush guaranteed to inflict death and perhaps rape if things proceed as the warrior plans. The reader is fully aware of their impending peril and is forced to take the walk with them unsure of their collective fate. The buildup of tension is such that my editor advised me not to change a single word in the scene. Naturally I was delighted to receive this kind of advice.

For what it’s worth, I think your strongest writing is in the action scenes, so I tend to agree. Where can people learn more?

His website       www.anthonywhitt.com


Twitter              www.twitter.com/AnthonyWhitt_


Facebook           www.facebook.com/AnthonyWhitt.Author


Goodreads            www.goodreads.com/author/show/7334347.Anthony_Whitt



When Current Events and History Cross in the Ukraine: Nik Krasno

One of the interesting 3-beer conversations I have with other Historical Fiction writers is: when does a novel become “historical”? How long ago does the setting need to be? Take the fall of the Berlin Wall…. a critical event in history, but not that long ago and the reverberations are still being felt today. It can also lead to some controversial opinions about those events (I remember getting a lecture on Balkan and Cold War history from a Serbian friend that still makes my head hurt.) That leads us to Nik Krasno, co-author of the book “Rise of an Oligarch Book 1: The Way It Is.”

Nik is a semi-retired lawyer, who after long years working in former USSR republics has some downtime to dedicate to things that matter, like writing books.

Nik Krasno
Nik Krasno

So what is it about your background that drives your writing?

As a commercial lawyer you learn from your own angle different industries and trades, so you can become half real-estate developer, one-third aviator, one-forth medical facility owner and so on and get exposed to intricacies of each business. During previous, more turbulent years of my career, I witnessed, heard and learnt stories and events that can easily inspire a dozen of thick thriller books. Some of my observations, experiences, thoughts, imagination and facts I use in my Oligarch series, which combines real historical events with imaginary plot-line and characters and casts light on the atmosphere preceding the Big Bang of the USSR and follows the extremely difficult transformation of Ukraine from Soviet socialist republic to a Wild West capitalistic pseudo-democracy.

So what is Rise of an Oligarch about? (Obviously the rise of an oligarch, you know what I mean.)

Rise of an Oligarch describes the path of a fictional Ukrainian tycoon from modest Soviet teenager to a mighty billionaire with considerable political influence against the backdrop of a young Ukrainian state striving to live up to its statehood through economical, political, psychological and existential troubles. Something like ‘The Godfather’ Ukrainian style -:)

My initial assumption is that people are curious about those who made countless fortunes, be it Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Jobs or William Gates. While their stories are truly amazing, those of their Eastern peers, in my opinion, are much more thrilling. Although I write about a fictional magnate, the same or similar schemes and shenanigans could easily have happened in the real world.

I am guessing that you still have some very fresh memories of this time period. What is it about this that you think others would be interested in?

The sense of historical phenomenon unfolding in front of my eyes. To see that sharp a turnabout in one place and not to expose it to the world just didn’t make sense. The country and society evolved into opposites in almost every aspect: from the place where initially a private property was almost a curse it turned to a place where few individuals amassed billions of dollars and hundreds of assets in a meteoric spell from historical perspective, from the republic which was never independent it needed to cultivate its own national idea, identity and aspiration, from austere Soviet propaganda to a chaotic freedom of speech, from iron curtain designed primarily to keep everyone inside to a global dispersal of its impoverished citizens seeking decent wages for their left- home families…

Rise of an Oligarch based in history, set today
Rise of an Oligarch based in history, set today

Here’s an unfair question: what’s your favorite part of the book?

Pretty hard to single one out. When you write a book you endeavor to fill it with good scenes all along. But if I have to, I’d go with the transition periods in the book: from communist era to Wild West anarchy, from illicitness to glamour after the ‘Orange revolution’, from hype to 2008 financial crisis, because these periods of extreme turbulence necessitated immediate adaptation to new, previously unknown conditions and only the most apt managed to utilize them to their benefit…  

Where can people learn more about you and your book?

They can find my Amazon author page, with links to the various countries sites here.

My Goodreads profile is also available here

And my Facebook page.


Read Much Aztec History? – Ed Morawski

I’m always looking for stories I don’t know, in time periods or characters that aren’t familiar to me. Enter Ed Morawski’s book, Goddess of Grass. It tells the tale of the fateful meeting between the Spanish and Aztec kingdoms, through the prism of a young female interpreter. Don’t read that every day, do ya?

Ed Morawski has written numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. After

Ed Morawski lives and writes in Southern California
Ed Morawski lives and writes in Southern California

serving in the U.S. Air Force for 8 years, seeing action in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. to Edwards AFB and after his discharge began a career in security and law enforcement. He became an expert in physical and electronic security, alarms, and video surveillance. He resides in Southern California.

So tell us about Goddess of Grass…

Before there was America, before there was even Mexico, there were the Aztecs. Back in the 16th century, they were not called Aztecs, but known as the Mexica, a Nahua people who founded their metropolis capital city Tenochtitlan on a raised islet in Lake Texcoco. The Mexica came to dominate the other tribes of the land south of what would someday be North America and formed a vast and feared empire ruled by Montezuma, which probably consisted of a million or more subjects. While sophisticated and cultured, the Aztecs had a bloodthirsty dark side: they practiced human sacrifice on a scale never before known. These sacrifices consumed so many victims that the Aztecs waged war solely to obtain captives for their rituals.

In one of the most fateful events in history, Hernando Cortes arrived in that land we now know of as Mexico in 1519, the exact year an ancient Aztec prophecy predicted a god would return from the land of the rising sun. With less than 500 men and a few horses and cannon, Cortes conquered the Aztec empire in a blindingly short time. What was his secret weapon? A 17 year old native slave girl named Malinalli, who would come to be known as La Malinche. This teenage girl was given to Cortes as a gift to be his slave. But instead of accepting her fate, Malinalli used her own abilities to seize upon a unique advantage, thereby making herself indispensable to the Spanish Conquistadors. Goddess of Grass is the story of Malinalli, the unknown heroine who fought alongside professional soldiers, who negotiated with hostile native tribes, who stared down Emperor Montezuma, the most feared man in Mexico, and who bore as her child the first offspring of a Spaniard and native Indian: the first Mexican.

This story doesn’t seem a natural for someone with your background. What drove you to tell this story from such an unusual point of view?

I was inspired to write Goddess of Grass solely by Malinche. Here was a young teenage girl who instead of remaining a slave, turned her fortunes around to become the most powerful woman in Mexico for a period of time and literally changed the course of history. Unfortunately, though Spanish and native history records Malinche’s exploits, there is little known about her.

Goddess of Grass is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback
Goddess of Grass is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback

Without giving away the goods, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Probably my favorite scene is when La Malinche comes face to face with Emperor Montezuma and instead of looking down as the law commanded, she eyes him directly as she translates for Cortes. Montezuma is so unnerved by her actions and the prophecy, he willingly becomes a prisoner in his own palace.

Where can folks learn more about you and your book?

You can find me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1126615.Ed_Morawski

The book is on Amazon in Kindle and paperback 


After the Trojan War- Hock Tjoa

One of the things I love best about interviewing other Historical Fiction authors, is that you learn what stories obsess them, and how they view these stories through whatever personal experiences they have. Case in point, if I told you there was an Asian-American author whose previous book was a translation of  Chinese romances, would you expect their latest book to be about the Trojan War?

See what I mean?

Hock TjoaHistory teacher, banker, finance executive–Hock Tjoa has turned to writing for
his “third act.” He published The Battle of Chibi, (if you ever saw the movie Red Cliffs, that’s the story)  
selections from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms that he translated in 2010 and Agamemnon Must Die in 2014. He is married and lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California.


Seems to me that the definitive book on the Trojan War was done a while ago. What’s this story about?

The “mother of all wars” (the Trojan War) is over. All the people of Mycenae want is peace and normalcy. But the gods have a crowded agenda for them. There will be blood and pain, even quarrels among the gods.
The royal family of Mycenae has a bloody, monstrous history. Agamemnon returns with his war trophy, the Trojan Princess Cassandra, whom he unthinkingly flaunts before his queen. After an epic sword fight in his own banquet hall, Agamemnon is killed. Cassandra has her nightmares/visions of the gory and unspeakable deeds of the House of Atreus; she is led away to be executed. Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus have their respective reasons, but this regicide must be avenged. Or so say the voices in Orestes’ head. He must avenge his father. He must kill the regicides. He must kill his own mother.
Hmmm, no wonder so many neurotic syndromes have Greek names. There’s a lot going on there. What inspired you to write this particular book? Why this story?
The story is based on the Oresteia, the sole surviving classical Greek trilogy, by Aeschylus. I was assigned (an English translation of) this book in a humanities course at college with the introduction that this was a key work, a part of the foundation of Western civilization, etc.. I did not get it (just as I did not get Moby Dick).
Over the years I have read almost every translation that has appeared, hoping for the light to go on. I decided a few years ago, to write this story myself, as I understood it and not necessarily as my professors might have wished.
Sounds like there’s probably a Greek name for that kind of thinking but we’ll leave that to a therapist. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Hm, every scene was difficult to write and a delight in the end, but I’ll pick the

Agamemnon Must Die, by Hock Tjoa.
Agamemnon Must Die, by Hock Tjoa.

chapter that deals with Cassandra, a minor character with an unusual gift and a sad fate. It also includes portions in verse, something that I experimented with in this book.

You can find Agamemnon Must Die and Hock’s other work here: