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?

 

Ancient Chinese Drama with Alice Poon

Growing up in British Columbia, and having a mother who spent several years in Asia, I developed a fascination with the culture and people of China. I dig Chinese movies (House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and the like will bring productivity to a halt in this house) and have a very snobbish opinion of what most North Americans call “Chinese food” (friends don’t let friends eat Panda Express.) So when I came across Alice Poon’s new novel, I was intrigued.

Not only is the book set in the Ming and Qing dynasties, but Alice lives and writes in Richmond, BC, about 40 miles from my home town. She’s  an avid reader of world historical fiction. Born and educated in Hong Kong, she grew up devouring Jin Yong’s (Louis Cha’s) martial arts and chivalry novels which are all set in China’s distant past. That sparked her life-long interest in Chinese history. Writing historical novels set in Old China has been her long cherished dream. She is the author of the bestselling Chinese edition of Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong, which won the 2011 Hong Kong Book Prize. In 2007, Canadian Book Review Annual selected the original English Edition as Editor’s Choice (Scholarly). Okay, she’s way out of my league but she talked to me anyway….

What is The Green Phoenix about?

It’s about the life and times of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, the first matriarch of China’s Qing Dynasty. She was a Mongolian princess descended from Genghis Khan’s full brother Khasar and her maiden name was Borgijit Bumbutai. By arranged marriage she becomes the consort of the Manchu Khan, Hong Taiji, who is a dauntless warrior intent on conquering Ming China. But right from the beginning, deep conflicts seethe beneath the relationship with her husband, the future Qing Emperor, as she is deeply in love with his half brother Dorgon, who, it so happens, is the Emperor’s nemesis due to a deep-seated mutual hatred going back one generation. The story follows Bumbutai as she struggles to survive the Manchu court’s in-fighting, the sibling rivalry and war, burdened as she is with an heir-producing duty owed both to Hong Taiji and to her own tribesmen. Eventually, when Ming China is at last conquered, circumstances dictate that she has to take up leadership in the new Qing regime, and to help her son and grandson restore peace and rule over a war-wearied multicultural Empire.

The narrative is set against a turbulent canvas as the Ming Dynasty is replaced by the Qing Dynasty and the transition is marked by numerous vicious battles between the Manchus and the Hans. Ethnic antagonism between the opposing camps and perfidy (major points for use of perfidy!) and corruption among the Hans themselves drive conflicts to a culmination, which results in large scale deaths and sufferings.

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

The time period is most fascinating as it is marked by the violent demise of one ruling regime and the simultaneous birth of another. Such straddling periods in history, whether it’s in the West or the East, are, in my view, always a subject that bears studying. The saying that history repeats itself, though clichéd, is not far from truth. I’ve often pondered over the question, why does humankind never learn from history? Recently I came across a sobering article by Paul Lynch, recommended to me by a good friend, that says there’s no such thing as historical fiction: the modern world is governed by ancient forces – power versus weakness, truth versus falsehood, life versus death – and there’s the question of how we can survive those forces. How spot-on! When we look at our past, we are actually staring into our present.

Above all, I was motivated to write about the character of Empress Xiaozhuang because I felt that her contributions to humanity in China’s history are greatly underrated, and also because this historical character has never been introduced to the Western literary consciousness. Western readers only know about two Imperial women in Chinese history: Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty and Empress Cixi of the late Qing, but the fact is, Chinese people don’t even respect these two characters.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

There are actually quite a few. It’s hard to choose one. Let’s see. I love the scene where Bumbutai has a long conversation with her half sister Little Jade (Dorgon’s wife) in the beautiful setting of the imperial hunting park called South Park. Both women love Dorgon deeply. Here each of them expresses her own cutting insight into Dorgon’s behavioral eccentricities, while being mindful of the other sister’s sensibilities. The natural landscape exerts a rejuvenating effect on Bumbutai, who is a born lover of nature, whereas their visit to a deer farm brings out different reaction from each.

One favorite event (I’m cheating here!) is where Bumbutai tries to coax her son Shunzhi Emperor to face down his fear in a critical crisis by enlisting the help of his respected adviser, a German Jesuit priest, who she knows always has Shunzhi’s ear. As she predicts correctly, the priest gives a most convincing speech, which calms down the Emperor at once. She has the whole situation under control and knows clearly in her mind which commander to deploy and how to resolve the crisis, but keeps quiet as she does not want to appear to be overriding her son’s power in the presence of courtiers. Then when the Emperor is out of the fit of hysteria, she casually hints at the name of the commander, and gives credit to her son for coming up with the solution.

 Where can people find you and The Green Phoenix?   

Alice: The Kindle version is now available for pre-order from Amazon. The hardcover and paperback versions will be available on September 1, 2017.

The Goodreads book page:

The Amazon book page:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alice.poon.author

Twitter: @alicepoon1

My Blog: http://alicewaihanpoon.blogspot.ca

 

Roots of Faith in American History Anthony Cleveland

American history is full of contradictions. This is particularly true when it comes to the interweaving of history and religion. As an immigrant (and a seriously– probably permanently– lapsed Baptist), I have seen both the good and the bad of how faith plays a part in the national discourse. Regardless of your individual position, you can’t really examine America’s history without looking at faith, religion, and everything that goes with them.
That brings us to this weeks interview with Anthony Cleveland about his book, Roots of Faith.
So who’s Anthony Cleveland when he’s home?
Anthony (Tony) Cleveland is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan. He has a B.S. In Chemistry from the University of Toledo and an M.A. In Counseling Psychology from Moody Theological Seminary – Michigan.
Professor Cleveland spent 25 years in the private sector holding positions in R&D, Operations, Sales and Marketing. Seeking a deeper career fulfillment, he enrolled in a Christian seminary where he encountered the healing power of applied psychological principles integrated with a Christian worldview. While serving as a clinician Cleveland discovered his passion and true calling as an educator and has been at Jackson College since 2002. In 2012, Professor Cleveland received the Outstanding Faculty of the Year award, after being nominated by numerous students and colleagues.
Anthony and his wife of 42 years have two daughters and two grandchildren. Roots of Faith, published in May of 2017 by Lighthouse Christian publishing is Professor Cleveland’s first novel written in the genre of Christian historical fiction.
What is the book about?
Roots of Faith is an intergenerational saga following four southern American families from their ancient roots in Great Britain through their immigration and settlement in the United States. Each of the 17 chapters highlights a specific period of time where one of the families must adapt to the dynamic political, economic, sociocultural and technological forces at work in their lives. The book is of course about the ever evolving Christian religion and it’s direct impact upon these families. The book is indeed a journey of faith as it attempts to highlight the universal human experiences of doubt, fear and confusion in each of the principle characters as they grow and develop in their relationship to their God. It is a story about people whose faith bends but does not break.
Roots of Faith is also in an indirect fashion about the impact of the Christian religion upon the development of the United States. Hopefully, readers of the book will have a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of the need for a Constitution which guarantees the free expression of religion and the right of every citizen to worship (or not worship) God in a manner they deem appropriate without fear of retribution by the government. Nor shall our government establish (and enforce) a national religion.
Roots of Faith is also about the power of love. Romantic, familial and spiritual love that stands the test of time through difficult and seemingly overwhelming trials.
What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?
Quite simply, I wrote this book for my grandchildren. The four families I write about are my ancestors. I wanted my grandchildren to know of the sacrifices their ancestors made in coming to America and the importance their faith made in that endeavor. The book, of course, is historical fiction. I attempt to weave together an imaginative yet informative blend of history and myth, fact and fiction, that will help guide them through their lives after I am long gone. I do pray reading this work will help them remember not only the history of their ancestors but of our nation. God willing, it will somehow inspire them to stay strong in faith, follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and, ultimately, “run the race well”.
Without giving away spoilers, what is your favorite scene or event in the book?
That’s a tough one to answer. As you might imagine, this was truly a labor of love. I suppose if I had to select something, I would mention three events; the dialogue between William Cochrane and his grandson while standing outside Paisley Abbey in Scotland, the encounter of Isabel (who has been accused of witchcraft by the elders of the local Kirk) with the vision of Jesus, and finally, the tearful departure from his father of the indentured teenager, Alexander Cleveland, at the docks of Bristol, England as he boards the ship heading for the Colony of Virginia.
Where can people find you and your book?
The book is available at Amazon or at the Lighthouse Christian publishing website. I am also a Goodreads author where you can read my blog, the “Historical Foundations of Roots of Faith”. Also, I have an author’s Facebook account at Roots of Faith by AJC where you can find photos of many of the places I write about.
Of course, you can also read my books like Acre’s Bastard,  or The Count of the Sahara, with a slightly different take on religion and history… just saying.

Born at the Wrong Time- Lauren Sobka

Most of us have our favorite historical periods. If pushed, we’d even say we’d like to have been around then. (News flash, much as the 17th century might have been fun for sword fighting and decolletage, I’m partial to cheap books, hot water, and indoor plumbing. I’m good here, thanks….) and some even say they were born in the wrong era (The Duchess says in all seriousness she wanted to be around in 1920s New York- and thinks she was). That brings us to Californian Lauren Sobka and her chronic Francophilia, as well as her book, Brokenly Live On.

Okay, what’s the Lauren Sobka story?

Just a girl born in the wrong era. My name is Lauren, I’m an artist and writer living in California. To sum myself up I propose this:

A dirt lane leading down a path beside a crumbling, ancient wall where wildflowers have cast their roots in like flags pitched in ownership; they are legion, reaching, and riotous. Looking ahead, the rolling fog obscures much of the landscape, but in the distance you can hear the rushing crash of waves reaching up the bluffs; all around the wind gently pushes through the trees and sways the heather bushes reaching out across the rolling hills.

There are a few more nuanced details, but that’s about what rolls around in my brain all day, and knowing what someone thinks is the best way to understand them, is it not?

Actually, that’s a terrifying thought, but then I’m paranoid. What’s the book about?

It takes place in France, in 1875. After the fall of the Second Empire, on the cusp of the Belle Époque, Clara Devereaux finds herself motherless, left with a recluse for a father with whom she shares the halls of a slowly decaying estate – Château Rivière. At twenty-two she has not been able to discover the reasons for her mother’s death nor her father’s phantasmal existence, and so, unguided and temperamental, Clara finds no other purpose but to spend her days carousing in Paris with childhood friend Remi.

As the mystery of her parents begins to unravel – thanks to the help of her dear friend and neighbor Christophe – deep prejudices, betrayals, and a vindictiveness distilled through generations are revealed; all of which falls onto Clara’s shoulders. While facing her family’s past, a new valet in her father’s employ catches her interest and causes a jealousy to spark that sets in motion events she never could have imagined. With what little pieces of a life she can claim falling away around her, she must find the resolve to endure a fate she cannot escape, the loss of all she holds dear, and the strength to face the retribution of her parent’s mistakes.

So why “la Belle Epoque” and France? What’s the fascination?Product Details

When I was thirteen I was told I needed to choose a language to study in school, which would be the one I would learn for the next five years. Out of my three choices I settled upon French, and since that time I’ve been fascinated by the culture and history, driven on by beauty in the language.

Over the course of seventeen years I’ve picked up more than a few novels by Flaubert and Dumas Fils and found the times they were set in to be fascinating. One object in particular, however, was my starting point – a painting by artist Toulouse Lautrec. His work spun my imagination and soon a short story turned into twenty thousand words and before long I knew I had to do things the right way; so I researched. The more I learned the more I knew that his era, the end of the 19th century France, that of the Impressionists, of Art Nouveau, of no more Napoleons, of the fading aristocrats and the continued rise of the bourgeoisie – and so much more – was the era I wanted to write about.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Such a horribly difficult choice, but if I had to, I’d say the scene where Clara and Alain encounter one of her old friends from her past life of debauchery in Paris. I really enjoyed writing the banter between a drunk bon vivant laying down insults and how Alain handled it.

Speaking of debauchery, how can people learn more about you 😉  ?

website: www.brokenlyliveon.com

 

amazon (the book): https://www.amazon.com/Brokenly-Live-Lauren-Sobka-ebook/dp/B07481XB2Z/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501094619&sr=8-1&keywords=brokenly+live+on

amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Sobka/e/B07482RTK7/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Goodreads (the book): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35534325-brokenly-live-on

Goodreads (author page): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16986987.Lauren_Sobka

Twitter: @brokenlyliveon

Instagram: @brokenlyliveon

Dodging the Rain Publishes My Story, “Bayamon, 1978”

I am thrilled that the artsy Irish lit journal, “Dodging the Rain” has published one of my short stories: “Bayamon, 1978”. You can read the story here…  

Arguello-Escalera-knockdown

It’s both a sports story (boxing is one of my passions) and historical fiction, since it’s based on one of the great title fights of all time, 1978’s “The Bloody Battle of Bayamon,” between my boy Alexis Arguello and Alfredo Escalara.

Like all my short pieces, it began as a thought experiment, but turned into something I think you’ll enjoy.

You can read more of my short stories here, under Short Stories and Other Pieces on the menu bar or by clicking this link.

 

World War 2, Spies and Bobby Sox Libby Fischer Hellmann

I occasionally (very occasionally, because it’s too nerve-wracking. I seriously hate doing it) review books for Windy City Reads. This gives me a chance to repay some Karma, as they’ve been very kind to my books (so far) and also meet some Chicago writers. Last month I reviewed Libby Hellmann’s, “War, Spies and Bobby Sox, Stories About WW2 at Home.” (You can read the review here.)

Even though it was as far from the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific as you can get, there were important things happening here that impacted the war.

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fourteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first.

She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony, three times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times.

Libby Fischer Hellman lives and writes in Chicago

Her most recent release, War, Spies & Bobby Sox: Stories about WW2 At Home was released March 1, 2017. Her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection.  In 2005 Libby was the national president of Sisters In Crime, a 3500 member organization dedicated to the advancement of female crime fiction authors. Her website is http://libbyhellmann.com.

Your book is actually an anthology, which is rare in historical fiction. What’s the nutsell version?

WS&B is my 14th crime thriller. (I have published five novels in one series, 4 in other, and 4 stand-alone historical thrillers.) The sub-title is “Stories About World War Two At Home” which is pretty much self-explanatory. WS&B is slightly different than my novels because it’s a collection of two novellas and one short story. But all three are set in and around Chicago during World War Two at home.

The first story, “The Incidental Spy”, is about a woman who worked in the Physics Department at the University of Chicago during the early years of the Manhattan Project (before it was officially called that, of course). “POW” is about two German POWs who were imprisoned in a camp that actually existed in Glenview. And the 3rd story, “The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” was set in Lawndale, which, in the 1930s, was a thriving Jewish community in Chicago.

I liked them all, for different reasons. What was about this time period that intrigued you enough to do three different stories?

I’ve always been an avid reader of WW2 fiction, because I think it’s the last time in recent history where there was such clarity between good and evil. It was a time where some people turned out to be heroes while others became cowards—or worse. So it presents a wonderful opportunity for complex character development. At the same time, though, I was intimidated at the prospect of writing about the war. So many rich, beautiful stories have already been written (NiGHTINGALE, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, UNBROKEN, SARAH’S KEY, and more) I wondered what I could possibly add. A friend of mine, however, thought differently, and while she didn’t dare me, she did encourage me to write about the era. Eventually I took a deep breath and dived in. My caveat was to choose small pieces of the human “canvas,” since I couldn’t write about battles and military actions.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

There are several. The scenes in Hyde Park near the U of Chicago were really fun to write, as was the description of the “Pile” (the first nuclear reactor) underneath Stagg Field. I also loved writing about the emotional tug of war in POW between Mary-Catherine and the two German soldiers. Lawndale, another South side setting, was fun to research, as I actually met a couple of “old-timers” who grew up there.

What I liked about your Lawndale story was the clash of cultures and class inside the Jewish community, which a lot of people under a certain age aren’t aware of. Good stuff. Where can we learn more about you and your work?

My Website: http://libbyhellmann.com

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Libby-Fischer-Hellmann/e/B001HMMDZU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://facebook.com/authorlibbyfischerhellmann