Thoroughly Enjoyable Imperfect Enjoyment- MJ Logue

The internet is a small place, especially for historical fiction authors. We tend to cross paths in the same Facebook groups and Twitter feeds. I’ve been aware of MJ Logue for a while, and have been eagerly awaiting the publication of her new book, “An Imperfect Enjoyment,” to interview her. Her funny, snarky outlook on life can’t help but infiltrate all her work.

So what’s MJ Logue’s deal?

Writer, mad cake lady, re-enactor, historian.
Been slightly potty about the clankier side of Ironside for around 20 years, and lists amongst my heroes in this unworthy world Sir Thomas Fairfax, Elizabeth Cromwell and John Webster (for his sense of humour.)

When not purveying historically-accurate cake to various re-enactment groups across the country, M.J. Logue can usually be discovered practising in her garden with a cavalry backsword.  (for the record, I don’t believe those exact words have ever been put in that exact order….ever.)

So what’s the nutshell version of your book?

An Imperfect Enjoyment is basically The Thin Man meets Forever Amber: if you can imagine the suave and rather elegant investigators of 1930s pulp fiction, set in Restoration England. A little bit sexy, grimly witty, slightly violent, and unerringly sophisticated.
Being the story of Thankful Russell – middle-aged, slightly-broken Admiralty intelligencer, retired – who finds himself married to the girl he’s always loved. (Turns out she’d always loved him, too. She was just waiting for him to notice.) The romantic Thomazine is big on happy ever afters. The problem is, as war with the Dutch looms and tensions run high in the capital, someone’s determined that she shouldn’t get one – or, indeed, that Russell’s going to get any kind of ever after, other than a traitor’s execution. Would a man whose principles led him to once take up arms against his King, turn his coat again and work against His Majesty for the Dutch Republic? Thomazine doesn’t think so. But her determination to see him cleared is going to lead them into more danger, and more high places, than either of them would have dreamed of….

What is it about that time period that fascinates you so?

Why the 1660s? Because I write another series set during the British Civil Wars, in which we initially meet Thankful Russell as a very badly damaged young lieutenant in the Army of Parliament, and because he meets Thomazine (in those books) when he’s twenty-one and she’s a little girl of not quite two and it was clear to me as a writer from pretty much that meeting that they were going to get together one day. She sees him as her especial property: because he’s disfigured, he’s terrified of women his own age – or their pity, at least – and Thomazine, not having known him before the scars, just thinks of him as… well, as Russell, really; as her rebel angel. So I had to know how that was going to pan out. He has to go away to come back, if you see what I mean.

So there are the two stories running alongside each other. There’s a not-quite-young man who’s thoroughly messed up, who’s got to the age of forty-two without having dared to love anybody in his life, and a girl who is single-minded enough to take him on but who’s starry-eyed enough to forgive his not being wired up right: and how they learn to be ordinary, really, to have a marriage and a home and children (one day…) together. There’s that. And then there’s the various intrigues and upheavals and literary chicanery of the Restoration going on around them: Sam Pepys the chest pest, and Aphra Behn and the Earl of Rochester writing dirty poems, and the theatre, and all of that. Imagining how you would live in that new world, if you had been happy with the old world. If you hadn’t been a fop or a cavalier or a poet, but someone who had believed in the ideals of a Commonwealth and a democracy without kings.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Oh, they make me laugh, them two. I couldn’t pick a favourite. Possibly the scenes where Russell decides that the best way to clear his name of a number of murders is forensically, and finagles an introduction to the Royal Society to talk about dead bodies. (With a very real and practical introduction to the same, which makes Thomazine heave.) There’s always an assumption that being a middle-aged, scarred, lapsed Puritan administrator he must be this dry-as-dust and rather humourless individual and he plays up to it relentlessly – being neither. I suspect he and Thomazine think it’s howlingly funny, in private. The sort of scene that could be high romance and oh-darling-your-eyes-are-like-stars, entirely derailed by a ticklish man and a woman with cold feet….

Or Chatham Docks. Because obviously, it’s a romantic thriller, and that means the heroine will need to be rescued from the clutches of the bad guy. Or, as it were, not. One minute it’s all sly humour and political intrigue, and the next minute it’s hairpins in the eyeball, with a horrible gristly crunch.

Where can people learn more about the wonder that is MJ Logue?

Website:         www.asweetdisorder.com
Twitter:        @hollie_babbitt
Facebook:        www.facebook.com/MJLogue/ 
Amazon links: Author.to/MJLogue        

 

Come Out and Meet Me in October

I will be part of a lot of book events in the next few weeks, and would love it if people would come meet me (and even buy a couple of books if you’re so inclined.)  I will have plenty of paperback copies of both  Acre’s Bastard and The Count of the Sahara.

Here’s what’s happening over the next little bit:

October 7 is the Oswego Literary Festival at the Oswego Public Library (Oswego

The Count of the Sahara is now available in Kindle format. Also available in paperback from Amazon or direct from the publisher.

, IL)   20 Local Illinois authors will be on hand to sell/sign/bother strangers about their books. 9 AM-1 PM

October 14 9AM-1 PM  Plainfield Public Library Indie Author Day (Plainfield Illinois, Library. There are way more independently published writers in Illinois than you can even imagine. Come join us!

Reading On the Rail at the 2015 Rivulets launch

October 14  1PM-4PM  The Naperville Writers Group will hold its annual Rivulets Book Launch. Every year we do an anthology of the best writing from the group. My short story, “Through the Arbor Vitae” will be included. Join us at the 95th Street Library in Naperville. (Of course, you can read the story on my site, by clicking here.)

October 15  Hometown Reads and Centuries and Sleuths presents #readlocalshoplocal  I’m proud to be hosting this gathering of Hometown Reads authors at Centuries and Sleuths in River Forest, IL. We will read and share our books with pretty much everyone who pops in. If you enjoy meeting and discovering new writers, this is the event for you. If we need to bribe you, there will be snacks.

Please stop by and say hello. I love meeting readers (even those who don’t buy my book, although I may steal a lock of hair for a voodoo doll–you won’t even miss it)

The Dreaded Day Job and a Really Good New Book

Much as I’m trying to carve a niche for myself as a novelist, my first books–and the business that pays the bills–are non-fiction and center on business communication. That’s why I’m really proud to announce that (co-written with Kevin Eikenberry, peace be upon him) the new book is at the pubishers.

The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership is now available for pre-order. It’s from Berrett-Koehler publishers, and we couldn’t be happier, both with the book and our partnership with B-K.

This book takes the communication skills i wrote about in “10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations” and “Meet Like You Mean It- a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings” and blends them with Kevin’s years of Leadership Development expertise to take a totally fresh, new look at how we are really working today.

If you manage a remote team, or work in a place where your co-workers are at home or spread around the globe, I invite you to check out the book. Since publication date isn’t until the end of April, you’ll be hearing more as the date gets nearer. In the meantime, I blog and write regularly at The Remote Leadership Institute site. Check it out or follow us on Twitter @LeadingRemotely

Check out the book, or my Amazon author page. If you know my work because of my fiction, you’ll find lots of information to help your business life. If you only know me through my day job, I invite you to check out my novels, The Count of the Sahara and Acre’s Bastard. Heck, if you’re bored, check the Stories section on this page for some of my short fiction work.

More to come, I look forward to continuing to share with you. Have a great week.

 

French Foreign Legion in Mexico w Ian Colquhoun

One of my favorite subjects to read about is the French Foreign Legion. In fact, I am currently doing research for a potential novel (you don’t want to see how many files I’ve started for how many novels. If I live to 110 I might get to them all) which led me to Ian Colquhoun’s novel, “Le Boudin- The Demons of Camarone.” After reading the book, I reached out to see if he’d be interested in doing an interview. As you’ll see, he is a fascinating guy with a personal history that’s both unique and inspiring.

Ian Colquhoun is an author and historian from Livingston, Scotland. Since 2007 he has released 11 books, with subjects ranging from military history to football. He is a keen military historian and Hibernian FC fan. Ian’s life changed in 2002 when, at the age of 24, he was the victim of assault and arson which saw him lose both legs. No longer able to do his old warehousing job, he went to university to study history and then went on to writing. For a time he was also an amputee actor/stunt man (okay, I now feel completely useless and out of excuses for pretty much anything!), and has appeared in movies like The King’s Speech and Sunshine on Leith, as well as in TV series such as Taggart and Downton Abbey. Largely retired now for medical reasons, Ian still writes for a newspaper called The Irish Voice, mostly covering sports.

Besides being both a song and a song about Blood Sausage, what’s Le Boudin about?

Le Boudin – The Demons of Camerone is a historical novel largely based around the French Foreign Legion , France’s often forgotten conquest of Mexico in the 1860s and France’s most famous military action – the 1863 battle of Camerone. The story revolves around the adventures of two young men who run off to join the Legion in search of a new life, which they certainly find, and in hope of redeeming their ‘lost’ honour after a terrible turn of events at home.

The story takes us from the British Isles, to Paris, Marseilles, Algeria, Mexico and all the way back again. True historical events and timelines are intermingled with fictitious but gritty and realistic stories involving the main characters, leading all the way up to the famous last stand by France’s Foreign Legion at Camerone in 1863, and beyond. The book also compares Camerone to other  famous ‘last stand’ type actions from the same period in history, which are perhaps more celebrated but nowhere near as heroic.

It’s a pretty bad-ass story, to be sure. What drew you to it as a subject?

I write books as way of combating my own PTSD. I remember reading about the Camerone story when I was a teenager and being in awe of it. Later, the story resonated even more with me after losing my legs as , of course, Captain Danjou who led the Legionnaires at Camerone was himself an amputee, having lost his hand due to a rifle mis-fire several years before Camerone. As a boy one of my earliest memories of history is the BBC’s early 80s mini-series version of PC Wren’s ‘Beau Geste’ – it’s so much better than the dreadful movie versions as it stays true to the book, including the scene where the beleaguered garrison at Zinderneuf sing ‘Le Boudin’ to keep up morale and to fool the Arabs into thinking that they are still at full strength. Later I read the actual book , aged 12, and then years later, as my writing career began after I lost my legs, I decided that I wanted to write  my own Legion adventure story. I find the 19th century’s colonial wars fascinating – valiant , ferocious natives fighting against outnumbered, back to back imperial regulars, often to the last cartridge.  It was perhaps the last ‘romantic’ era of warfare, before machines took over – though there’s nothing romantic about actual mass-slaughter.

The other reason I wrote this book is easily explained. I think the Camerone battle deserves a movie – I’m not necessarily saying that I think my humble novel should become that movie, but Little Round Top, Rorkes Drift, Custer’s last stand and The Alamo all have movies made about them – Camerone is a far more heroic battle as both sides had guns, and France has a national holiday to celebrate its anniversary, yet there is no movie. Perhaps it’s because it was The Legion and not France’s regular army who fought the action, or perhaps there is no movie because France lost that war, or maybe there’s no movie because the events occurred in a period when France’s libertarian republic had been subverted by the second French Empire – or perhaps simply no-one has thought to make a movie about it yet. Whatever the case, my humble novel brings this largely French and Mexican episode in history into the English speaking sphere of things : If that inspires someone to make a movie about it then great, if it doesn’t, I just hope they enjoy the book itself. It was a real adventure to write!

I’d watch that movie, for what it’s worth. What’s your favorite scene?

My favourite part of the book is actually the murky sub-plot which forces the book’s heroes to flee to the Legion, though I confess, I also love the part in Mexico where the two armies exchange music as well as bullets! I’ll say no more on that!

Where can folks find your books?

Le Boudin –The Demons of Camerone is available via Amazon or direct from LULU books.

My Goodreads author page is live, and you can learn about my other books there.

Follow him on Twitter @IanColquhounMA

 

Why I Read Historical Fiction From Around the World

” I read historical fiction because I can. I read it from many sides and in many voices because I should.”

Thanks to the lovely and charming Alice Poon, (you can read my interview with her here) I just discovered and read Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain, by Yong Jin Yong.  Think “House of Flying Daggers Meets the Hateful Eight,” and you have some idea. Apparently he’s the Steven King of Cantonese Kung Fu (or wuxia) novels.

Why would I spend my precious long weekend reading a translation of a novel by a Chinese author I’d never heard of, about a time more than 500 years ago? Because I can. It’s available on Kindle, in a very readable translation. It’s the same way I discovered some of my favorite story-tellers:

  • Arturo Perez-Reverte- this Spanish author and his Captain Alatriste novels are like the Iberian version of the Three Musketeers. The history is mostly an excuse for sword fights, illicit romance and drinking, but damn good adventure stories.
  • Leonardo Padura Fuentes (better known as just Leonardo Padura) is from Cuba, and while the 80s might not seem like history, just ask your kids if it was a long time ago. His police novels are not only good procedurals, but they show life in Cuba beyond cool old cars or Cold War machinations.
  • Alexandre Dumas. Don’t laugh, the old master still can tell a tale, and the Three Musketeers (and its 4 sequels, all of which I’ve read) and The Count of Monte Cristo are still world-class reading today. Okay, I discovered him when I was 12, but addictions die hard.

But why read these authors when there are so many easy-to-find Anglo/American/Canadian writers telling stories from those periods? Because for me part of the appeal of histfic (as the kids call it) is empathy- to learn how others felt and acted at that time as well as to learn about events we don’t know well.  The Civil War from both the Southern and Northern perspectives makes for good fiction (and while I have precious little time for revisionism, i’m happy to read it if it’s well done). Agincourt was both a glorious victory and a humiliating defeat, depending on which direction you were facing at the time. Oh, and if I have to read about Henry the Eighth and his bloody wives and daughters one more time I may behead someone myself. Give me something fresh that I haven’t read a dozen times already.

In all the hubbub about cultural appreciation, and who has the right to tell what stories, I believe this heresy: anyone can tell any damned story they want. If i want to tell the story of a ten year old half-caste orphan in Acre, I can do it. You can read Acre’s Bastard and let me know if I did it justice or not. Odds are it would be a different book if written by a Syrian, and I’d love to read that book. The problem is when people aren’t allowed to tell their own stories. I’d rather hear from them, we just don’t often come across them either through intentional white-washing or just lack of opportunity in general.  Seriously, if someone has a Crusades epic from the Arab side, in a decent translation, please let me know. I’m dying to get my hands on it.

So I read historical fiction because I can. I read it from many sides and in many voices because I should. It makes me a better writer and, I believe, a better person. When was the last time you read something in translation, or from a different perspective than your own? Don’t you think you oughta?

Let me know… who do you read that I (and our visitors here) should know about?