Last night I hoisted my traditional glass of Templeton on the rocks; my ritual when I finish the draft of a book. I don’t drink whiskey as a rule, I’m a tequila guy when I need to indulge my inner Hemingway, but custom demands it. I have–officially –for real–finished the first draft of the novel that for now, I’m calling “Acre’s Bastard.”
I say “for now” because what I love about the editing process is that novels can always be better, and minds much clearer than mine see problems I don’t. The Count of the Sahara, for example, was originally saddled with the pretentious title, “Pith Helmets in the Snow.” See what I mean?
As you can see by the picture, first drafts are ugly little brats and while you don’t like to hear your offspring aren’t beautiful, at least at this stage you can still do something about them before dragging them out in public and frightening the neighbors.
I have 5 people serving as Beta readers. They’re all members of my writer’s group, The Napervile Writers Group. Some are grammar Nazis, some are just readers who know story and structure, one shares my geeky fascination with the Crusades (when the story’s set) and has a keen eye for anachronisms and inaccuracy. That’s essential in historical fiction, even if you occasionally want to throttle them and hide their bodies before they rat you out rather than actually fix the gaping plot hole they’ve spotted.
Speaking of writer’s groups…… if you’re a writer, hie thee to one. I have learned so much, not only by getting feedback on my writing, but on reading other people’s work. Reading good writing helps, and there’s something about reading bad writing that’s critical to exposing your own flaws and will make you swear a blood oath never to inflict those things on an innocent reader. In any organization like this you’ll see plenty of both.
So I’m awaiting the verdict before sending this on to Erik at The Book Folks and hopefully he – and you – will love Lucca, and Brother Marco (and hate Brother Idoneus and al Sameen) as much as I do…
If the death of Prince (blessings upon him) doesn’t have you nostalgic for the 1980s, I’ve got something that will. My friend Lou Holly Sr. has written a tight, fast-moving crime thriller set on the Southside of Chicago.
You can nearly smell the char dogs and stale Old Style… not to mention those horrible fake leather Bulls jackets…. and if a story set in the 80s doesn’t seem very historical… try telling your kids about them some time. Besides, it’s my blog……
Okay for those of you who don’t know, what’s the Lou Holly story?
I’m 65 years old, married, retired and live in Naperville, IL. I was brought up on the southside of Chicago in a blue-collar neighborhood. I’ve been a self-employed entrepreneur most of my adult life. Past businesses I’ve owned include a band booking agency and limousine business. In the 1990s, I worked as a private driver and bodyguard for a Chicago actress. My wife and I published a 1950s & 60s nostalgia/rock & roll magazine from 2009 to 2013 titled Keep Rockin’. I started writing novels five years ago. Basically, I’m a self-taught writer with no formal training.
I was lucky enough to help workshop your book with the Naperville Writers Group, but for those who didn’t watch your baby grow up, what’s the plot?
SOUTHSIDE HUSTLE is about a 31-year-old man called Trick (short for Patrick), who gets out of prison after serving close to three years for a drug bust. He owes a ruthless drug dealer $60,000 from a previous debt. He is having a hard time adjusting to life on the outside and is under pressure to come up with the money he owes. Trick’s life turns around when he sees a black bag thrown from a speeding car being chased by the police. The bag contains three kilos of cocaine and $285,000. He pays off his debt to the drug dealer by giving him the kilos. He thinks he is on easy street with all that cash, until the guys that the bag belongs to somehow catch up to him. That’s when Trick finds himself in a trick bag.
What was it about that time period that’s so interesting?
The 1980s was a fascinating period in America. There was a lot of drug money
being thrown around and a lot of debts incurred. Some people got rich, some went broke, some went to prison and others ended up dead, all as a result of the cocaine trade. I remember the 1980s as a time of beautiful women, fancy cars, expensive clothes, jewelry, and discos.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
One of my favorite scenes occurs when Trick is being processed into Cook County Jail. Trick is in a line with a large group of men, all stripped naked. They are instructed not to move. When the man to Trick’s left absentmindedly folds his arms, a guard hits him on the head with a billy-club and knocks him out. What results next puts Trick in a serious predicament. It’s a true story that I personally lived through.
Yeah, the reality really burns through in that scene. Southside Hustle is published by The Book Folks, same people who did my novel, The Count of the Sahara. Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Acre’s Bastard- Exciting new historical fiction from the best-selling author of
“The Count of the Sahara”
The Holy Land in 1187.
10 year old Lucca Nemo is an orphan on the streets of Acre, the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s most corrupt city. A simple prank goes horribly wrong, and catapults him into a terrifying world of spies, violence and political intrigue that ends in battle at the Horns of Hattin.
Author Wayne Turmel blends heart-pounding action, human drama and sly humor in this exciting tale set during the Second Crusade.
My friends and I were famous, if that’s the word, as The Lice. We were small, annoying, and constantly in someone’s hair. Berk was Turkish, Fadil and Murad were Syrian—supposedly converted Saracens—which is why they were allowed to live in town. They all had parents, or at least a mother, that they constantly disappointed.
Then there was me. Shorter and skinnier than my friends, and a year or so younger. My parentage, or at least what I knew of it, was written all over my brown, sharp face. At first glance I seemed purely Saracen; dark brown skin and a long beak of a nose, but my green eyes showed the other half of the tale. Depending on which story you believed, my mother was either a Syrian whore got with child by a Frankish Knight, or a pure, innocent Frank woman, dishonored by a pillaging Mussulman. The idea that my parents might have actually liked each other and wanted me never seemed to be part of the tale.
I preferred to think of my mother as a whore, giving me a claim to the ruling class by virtue of my father’s nobility, because of course he had to be noble if he was really a knight. Whatever the truth, their union left me with the best—or worst, depending on who told the story—features of each.
You all know my motto: Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The rest of us are doomed too, but get to sit there smugly and say ‘told you so’. With that in mind, it’s easy to forget that the whole “clash of civilizations thing” isn’t new. Not by a long shot. That’s where Julie Anderson’s new book, “Reconquista,” comes in.
So what’s the Julie Anderson story?
I was born in the English midlands, spending much of my childhood in a semi-rural village, yet I have lived in South London with my husband and cats for most of my adult life. We enjoy the cultural life of the city and eating out with their friends, but we also have a home in Andalucia.
After college I taught English Literature for five years then joined the British Civil Service. I had a fulfilling and successful career, but took early retirement to do what I had always wanted to do. Write.
I set up The Story Bazaar publishing imprint to publish my own writing and that of others. This year it is publishing books by several writers besides me, fiction and memoir. My first publication was ‘The Village; A Year in Twelve Tales’ my own first collection of short stories. My second ‘The Story Bazaar 2015’ was a compendium of articles, fiction and blog pieces from the web-site by myself and other regular contributors. My new book is ‘Reconquista’, an adventure story and the first in the Al Andalus series.
I blog under the name ‘JulieJ’, at www.thestorybazaar.com . I report on cultural events and exhibitions in London, places and people of historical interest, life and events in southern Spain and writing and publishing.
This is a fascinating time period, and very relevant to today. What’s “Reconquista” about?
‘Reconquista’ is an adventure story set in 13th century Al Andalus ( Spain ) during the campaigns of the Christian north to re-conquer the rich southlands from the Moors. The book opens on 9th October 1264. Outside the walled city of Jerez an army waits the signal to attack. Within the city walls, for fourteen year old Nathan, his older cousin, Rebecca and their friend, Atta, events are about to change their lives forever. Their city is about to fall and everything they have always known will be questioned.
Across a war-torn Al Andalus King and Emir vie for supremacy and bandits and pirates roam land and sea in their wake. Our heroes set out on their own desperate journeys to find freedom and safety. But, if they are to succeed, they must first face down their fears and decide what sort of people they want to be. In short, each of them has to grow up, but they have lots of adventures along the way.
So why does this story grab you? What is it about this period in time?
The book began, ten or more years ago, as a serial story for my nephew and god-son. We have a home in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and my nephew was about to visit there for the first time. I wanted to engage him in the history and romance of the place, so I wrote an adventure story, delivering ‘episodes’ on a gradual basis. He’s nearly twenty two now and the story which I wrote for him has changed out of all recognition.
The period is an intriguing one and full of stories of real heroes, El Cid, for example, but the truth is often more interesting than the legend. So, even though the Reconquest is presented as a religious war, in fact, lots of towns and cities changed sides, depending on circumstances rather than religion. El Cid himself fought for Muslim cities as well as for the Christians and, sometimes, on his own account. It was the time of ‘convivencia’ or people of different faiths living together in relative tolerance. But there was a contrast between this attitude and the religious piety and zealotry also in evidence from various sets of ‘invaders’ not just the Christian north but also the Muslims from across the Straits of Hercules (Gibraltar). Yet ordinary life went on. I wanted to write about ordinary young people, growing up in extra-ordinary times.
And the subject matter has become ever more relevant. Right now Europe is facing the largest migration of people since the Second World War, with refugees risking their lives to get here and putting strain on services and the social fabric when they do. People are fleeing from war and terrorism. The US also has a constant influx of people entering illegally from Latin America. I hope that readers of my book might look with some understanding and compassion on the TV pictures of weeping and frightened people waiting at Europe’s borders once they have read ‘Reconquista’.
You have a very active Social Media life. How can people find you?
Another of my favorite writers has gone to…. well probably not his reward. There aren’t a lot of rewards for spending most of your life cooking, hunting, fishing, writing and drinking. Seems kind of redundant.
Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall and so much more has passed. Go read something of his. Hell of a way to spend a weekend.
One of the pleasures of historical fiction is delving deep into time periods you’re fascinated by. Another is learning about things you didn’t know. The shelves are full of tales retelling the US Civil War or the exploits of Edward Longshanks, and that’s fine, but I love finding stories that I don’t know. That’s where Vicky Adin comes in. How much do you know about the founding of New Zealand? Yeah, didn’t think so…..
Vicky Adin is a New Zealand author living on the North Shore of Auckland within walking distance of the beach, the coffee shops and inspiration.
Three words sum up her passion in life: family, history and language. After decades of genealogical research and a life-long love affair with words (she actually enjoyed writing essays at school) she has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together, based on real people, with real experiences in a way that makes the past come alive.
It’s the story of Brigid, a talented eighteen-year-old Irish lacemaker, who fled starvation and poverty to seek a better life in Australia, but life didn’t run smoothly in that harsh new landscape either.
Brigid must learn to overcome bias, bigotry and tradition as well as her own fears if she is to survive. She looks to one man for inspiration and protection: a man who, once her champion, soon became her adversary. She gathers those who matter to her most and moves to New Zealand. Gradually, her dreams become reality and tranquility prevails – until the day the man who seeks her downfall finds her.
What intrigues you about this story?
Living in New Zealand, I’ve always held a fascination for the 19th Century pioneers of our country, especially the women. They needed strength of mind as well as body to survive the journey, let alone flourish in the densely bush clad new country they came to. Being a genealogist in love with history, these men and women, and their ancestors, drive my stories.
The Treaty of Waitangi between The Crown and the indigenous Maori was signed in 1840 and only 40 plus years later, New Zealand was still a nation coming to terms with itself, defining what it meant to be a New Zealander and inventing its history as it went. How could I not want to write about such beginnings and the ordinary people who shaped our nation?
As a fellow colonial (albeit the nothern, completely opposite
corner of the planet) I agree that there are wonderful stories from around the world no one has heard. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
“Get out of the way, girl,” a man shouted pushing at her. She had no idea in which direction she was being pushed, but it took all her strength to stay on her feet. Above the storm’s turbulence, voices shouted, calling out for people they couldn’t find. Mud oozed underfoot, people lurched and skidded as they tried to escape the confines of the market place. Shrieks and wails rang in her ears – “Help me, God. Help.” Was that her own voice she recognised? – and still the relentless push persisted…
Brigid is caught up in 1887 Brisbane floods – one of the worst experienced. The damage done to the economy, the infrastructure and many families was immense and took a huge toll on the town. Brigid’s thoughts and feelings bring life to the facts of this natural disaster that nearly took her life, but instead gave her strength and hope.
How can we learn more about you and the PathFinder series?
There are some fun comparisons between author Johann Laescke and myself. Both of us have written a ton of non-fiction and business stuff before tackling our first novels, both our debut novels take place in the 1920s and have a passing (or more than passing) connection to Hollywood. We tackled the novels partly because our spouses were tired of us talking about it. Also, there is a high level of smart-ass in what we write. If you enjoyed The Count of the Sahara, you’ll probably dig his work. Figured it was high time to introduce you to him…..
So what’s the Johann Laesecke story?
Writing novels came late in life for me. For a very long time I thought that I could
write a book and must have said it too many times because the love of my life felt she had to tell me to “Stop talking about writing a book and start writing it!” She added a couple more descriptive words that I have left out of the quote, but I immediately recognized her wisdom and her exasperation that was vented at me in the directive. A few years later, after writing or partially writing five novels that I regarded at the time as hopeless failures, my inner muse (named Laure) began relating The Roaring Roadstoryline to me. Previous writings included business books and research papers, software design process books, training manuals, project proposals and other exciting dustbin trivia. Today, I am writing the third book in The Roaring Road series, and have found that all of those first five hopeless failure novels might yet come to life with a careful application of lessons learned.
Well, having a name for the voice in your head is certainly a start. What’s the series about?
Dan Lindner, a young sheba-chaser and fan of the late film star Wallace Reid is grabbed by thugs and taken to the local mob chief, who threatens him with dire consequences if he doesn’t undertake an unusual mission. Seeing no way out he reluctantly decides to go but his new flapper girlfriend Laure leaves him, thinking he is joining the mob. With his German Shepherd Dog named Raider (aka The Road Trip Dog) Dan begins his journey on the roaring road from his home village of Long Grove Illinois, driving a prototype Duesenberg Model X to the Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma.
Book 1 The Road West is the story of Dan, Laure and Raider’s adventures on their way to California and up to the time they begin their return to Long Grove. The young couple must contend with road bums, prison escapee bank robbers, a corrupt sheriff, Laure’s father who catches up with them, and a gang hired to take Laure back to the Chicago crime boss’s son who has become both enraptured and enraged with her. Dan undertakes to rescue Laure from a rustbucket ship on the rough San Francisco waterfront. Seeking a few days of fun before their return journey from Napa to Chicago, Dan and Laure take a trip to Hollywood, meeting silent era film stars like Douglas Fairbanks, W.C. Fields, Buster Collier, Alice White and Billie Dove. They also make friends with sexy Louise Brooks, who devises a prank that succeeds and delivers major unintended consequences reverberating through the series. Spiced with speakeasy visits and served with Napa wine to make a thrilling road trip tale. “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
OOOOOH, extra points for use of “sheba-chaser.” I know why I enjoy reading about the 20s, but what is it about this time period that you find so fascinating?
The nation was still recovering from World War I when the Eighteenth Amendment made Prohibition the law of the land and the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. Young women who had been trapped in the strict social mores of the early 1900s seized their new freedoms and ran with them. Lois Long, flapper and reporter for The New Yorker magazine in 1925 wrote “All we were saying was ‘Tomorrow we may die, so let’s get drunk and make love”. Many of the citizens who publicly wanted Prohibition found that gangsters had stepped in to provide them with the booze they secretly sought. Other factors included the explosion of automobile ownership and road travel in the 1920s, stories from writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the burgeoning popularity of the movies (aka ‘flickers’). Law enforcement struggled to catch up with the wildly profitable organized crime mobs. It was wild times for everyone and I weaved each of these catalysts into the story.
I admit to have fallen in love with Dan and Laure. They are young and initially naive but thrown into situations where they learn to respect, trust and rely on each other while becoming best friends and falling in love. But this is not a romance book. It is a hard-edged sexy historical fiction thriller, spiced with mayhem and humor influenced by my exposure to W.C. Fields, Rocky and Bullwinkle and Gary Larson’s The Far Side comics.
Without spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?
The event that really begins the adventure and mayhem is when Dan meets Laure. I had a lot of fun writing that scene. Reading it still makes me laugh. There’s another scene related to that, but sorry, no spoilers!
I am a sucker for any time period with swords, arrows and buckles being swashed. No big surprise, then, that I really enjoyed Wayne Grant’s “Saga of Roland Inness” series. It takes place during the same time period as Robin Hood, the Third Crusade and various unending wars in Wales. What’s not to like?
So what’s the Wayne Grant story?
I grew up in a small cotton-farming community in Louisiana and escaped the cotton patch by going to West Point. After graduation, I spent five years in the US Army during the post-Vietnam, Cold War period, stationed in West Germany and later, South Korea. I later went on to a civilian career in government, including a senior position in the Pentagon during the Reagan years. I’m retired from that world now and have been writing full time for the past two years. I live in Raleigh, NC with my wife and have two grown sons.
So what’s the series, and in particular your first entry, “Longbow” about?
Longbow is the first book in a four book series (The Ballad of Roland Inness) that follows fourteen year old Roland Inness as he comes of age in 12th century England, where the Normans maintain a tight grip on their subjects. Roland tries to feed his starving family by poaching a deer on the Earl of Derby’s land, which brings down disaster on his family, as his father is killed by the Earl’s son and Roland is forced to become a fugitive.
Roland manages to elude capture with the aid of a strange monk named Tuck and ultimately finds refuge with a gruff Norman knight. Sir Roger de Laval recognizes the boy’s skill with a longbow and other qualities that make Roland valuable as a squire. Roland hates the Normans for killing his father, but comes to recognize through his new master that not all Normans are tyrants. This is a story about vengeance, but also a tale of courage, and loyalty and family—all played out in a world of violence and intrigue.
I was corrupted early by Errol Flynn (that’s what she said…. sorry couldn’t help myself) what’s your excuse? What is it about that period you find so entertaining?
Longbow actually began fifteen years ago as a serial story for my two young sons. I had just read a great history of the 3rd Crusade, so when they asked me for a story, I decided to tell them a tale about a boy squire who goes on Crusade. The battles in the Holy Land and the events back in England are filled with larger-than-life characters (Richard, Saladin, evil Prince John, Queen Eleanor) that have inspired myths and legends ever since.
In a slight departure from historical fiction norms, I’ve incorporated both real and some legendary characters from that time in my story. I did not want to do a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, though Tuck and Robin are characters in my books, and so created my own hero, a young boy descended from the Viking invaders of England who has extraordinary skill with the longbow.
I don’t think it’s much of a departure, I did the same with The Count of the Sashara. It’s fun sometimes when history and pure nonsense mix, and you’ve done a good job. Without giving away the store, what’s one of your favorite scenes in the book?
Roland witnesses Sir Roger’s daughter being taken prisoner by Welsh raiders. Millicent de Laval has not been very kind to the new squire, but Roland knows his duty, and sets out on foot after her. He uses all of his skill as a woodsman to track the girl and her captors into the wilderness of the Clocaenog forest of northern Wales.
Where can people learn more about you and your books?
I’ve had a couple of requests to share this interview with people. My buddy, Phil Gerbyshak, interviewed me on his video podcast about how to make big changes in your life and tackle challenges like completing your first novel at age 54.
Here’s the whole thing on YouTube. I hope you’ll find some inspiration and a little entertainment.