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.

 

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?

 

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.

Glancer Magazine Showcases Acre’s Bastard

Always nice when local press supports local authors, especially those who are indie–published. Glancer Magazine in DuPage County (outside Chicago) Gave me and Acre’s Bastard some love. You can check it out here

https://www.glancermagazine.com/single-post/2017/07/01/ARTS-ENTERTAINMENT-Literary-Local-Early-July-2017

 

From Roses to Tudors-Samantha Wilcoxson

Readers of historical fiction tend to gravitate to certain periods. There are huge clumps of writers and readers fascinated by The US Civil War, World War 2, and One of the hottest trends the last little on both TV, the movies, and novels has been the Tudor period. Cable TV is littered with torn bodices. I will confess somewhat ashamedly, I have somehow missed the boat. If sheer numbers are any indication, there are a lot of people out there who find that time more fascinating than I do.

Enter Samantha Wilcoxson, and her Plantagenet Embers trilogy. The latest installment, Queen of Martyrs is now out.

Samantha, you and I are both members of the Historical Novel Society (join us on Facebook here). What else should we know?

Samantha Wilcoxson

I’m the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, I live in Michigan with my husband and three teenagers.

Three teenagers? That explains your obsession with family blood-letting and intrigue. What’s Queen of Martyrs about?

Queen of Martyrs is biographical fiction that transports the reader into the life of Mary Tudor. The story begins with her receiving the news of Margaret Pole’s execution in 1541 and follows her through the rest of her life as she struggles as a bastardized princess who finally becomes queen. My objective was to humanize the woman that many people today dismiss as ‘Bloody Mary’. There is so much more to her character, and many of the ‘facts’ people believe about her are no more than myths. My research made it shockingly easy to find sympathy for Queen Mary I.

As England’s first queen regnant, Mary faced many challenges, which she was, quite frankly, unprepared for. She failed to realize how great the outcry would be against her choice of Prince Philip of Spain as a husband. She did not recognize the great religious changes that were taking place throughout the world and that could not be ignored or reversed. Mary was a devout, caring woman, but she was no politician. In this intimate portrayal of her, readers are invited to enter her world, share her heartbreaks and victories, and gain understanding of this complex sixteenth century woman.

I confess I’ve kind of missed the whole Plantagenet/Tudor thing. What’s your fascination with this period?

Some readers might be surprised to discover that the Tudor era is not my first love. It was the Wars of the Roses that captivated my attention, but I was looking for a new angle that had not already been written about. That was how I began with Elizabeth of York in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen. I had not planned a trilogy, but the story of the York remnant unfolded in front of me, ending with Reginald Pole at Mary’s side in Queen of Martyrs.

The fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries are interesting not only due to political upheaval, but the impact of religious changes that forced people throughout Europe to evolve in their thinking and way of life. The heavy influence of faith on daily life is difficult to wrap the modern mind around, but that is just what I appreciate about studying the medieval and reformation eras.

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

One of my favorite scenes in Queen of Martyrs takes place during the reign of Edward VI. This was a turbulent time for Mary as she watched the country she loved falling into heresy. At that point, she had no reason to believe that she would become queen. She was her brother’s legal heir, but he was much younger. In this scene, Mary has the opportunity to escape England with the help of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This is when Mary decides that she must remain in England and do what she must to save her brother and all Englishmen, though she may be forced to pay the ultimate price.

It is a great misconception that Mary’s attempt at counter-reformation was based on bitterness or a need for revenge. Mary truly believed that she was doing what was necessary to ensure that her people enjoyed eternal life in heaven, and I think this scene gives readers a poignant view of Mary’s true motivations.

Where can people learn more about your work?

The best place to find me is on my blog. I also invite everyone to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. Besides bookish news, I share a wide variety of history articles and images of historic places that I visit. I love to share my tendency toward bibliophilia and wanderlust with friends!

My books are available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon. They are also free with Kindle Unlimited!

 

The 1960s, Portugal and Lesbians with Genta Sebastian

While exact definitions are hard to come by, historical fiction has to have taken place in the past. Most people generally accept a generation ago as the cut off (beware the upcoming flood of 90s nostalgia!). This means that the years of my childhood are now considered history. My first car ( a 1970 Chevy Nova) is officially an antique. Which is a way of saying that if you don’t think of the 1960s when you think HF, well get used to it. I’m trying.

What I love about reading stories that take place in the past is trying to get an insight into what and how they thought. I try not to judge, or impose modern attitudes to people then, just find out their stories. And that, in a way-too-long introduction, brings us to Genta Sebastian and her tale of female sexuality and empowerment, When Butches Cry.

Okay, so what’s the Genta Sebastian story?

Author Genta Sebastian

I am a multiple award-winning author with a backlist including LGBT YA novels and lesfic science fiction, erotica, and historical romance. Living in the thriving art center of the Twin Cities, I’m a professional storyteller with experience entertaining audiences of all ages and most proclivities. A traveler by nature, I have toured the continental US entertaining folks from all walks of life. My work has been compared to authors John Steinbeck and S.E. Hinton, mostly I believe, because I love the complexity of people. I give my characters foolishness and failings as readily as self-reliance and success.

Lesfic science fiction is a thing? Niches get nichier, which is why categories are so limiting I suppose. I know I find the same thing when I try to sell Acre’s Bastard to people who don’t think they care about the Crusades. Which (ever notice that when someone says “long story short,” it’s already too late?) brings us to this story which has a unique historical setting. What’s it about?

When Butches Cry takes place in the middle of the twentieth century when a twist of nature creates an unusually high number of young lesbians on a Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean. Terceira, where Americans are establishing an Air Force/naval base among a local population of farmers and fishermen, is paved with cobblestone roads connecting isolated villas that have existed for five hundred years. Traf and her merry band of lesbians, calling themselves Troublemakers, take on the outdated conventions of friends and families, community gossips, brutal bullies, Catholic priests and even the US military, seeking to define themselves as modern women. The young women learn to deal with love, friendship, sex, and the power of women working together who never give up, but not one is prepared When Butches Cry.

A lot of people find their stories in family connections. What is it about this time period, and especially this uncommon location, that appealed to you?

Well, completely by coincidence mind you, my wife was born and raised on Terceira during the mid-twentieth century. Over our lifetime together, she’s told me stories about this fascinating place and the people she knew and loved then. Some of her tales are tragic, others funnier than hell. What else could I do but write a book making the shadows of real people and events live again?

Being the real life Trafulha’s wife brings me into the familial circle whenever we visit the Azores islands of her birth. Although the twenty-first century has marched through Terceira with all the miracles of modern technology, there’s a unique mindset to people who live on the same hundred and fifty square miles where the bones of their ancestors have been buried for centuries. Modern Azoreans are leaping into the future and I wanted to capture a unique period of change spurred, not incidentally, by an unusually large LGBT segment of their society. What happened there and then is unlike any other situation I’ve ever heard of, and contributed to a diaspora that changed the world. The courage of the Maria Rapaz in the face of incredible odds cannot be scattered on the winds of time.

Without spoilers, any favorite scenes?

Oh, I have so many. I laugh over Traf’s baptism of the whorehouse, cry over the broken bar, shudder in the graveyard, and cheer on chuckies! Crucifixion causes chuckles, letters bring hope and despair, fumbling first kisses make me sigh every time, and I fume at the renowned bull-fighter’s misogyny. The stories in When Butches Cry are as varied as the characters in them. There – absolutely no spoilers at all.

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Look for me on Facebook. I spend way too much time there, unless I’m busy writing when I’m scarcer than hen’s teeth. I’m also on Twitter. @gentasebastian

You can read about my books and find links to buy them on Goodreads and Amazon.

My blog, Authorially Yours, Genta Sebastian, is also a good place to look for news about my work as well as five years of writing advice, thoughts on LGBT issues, and the occasional rant.

 

 

 

Alternative History- Rome in the 21st Century w Alison Morton

About  a year ago, I asked, “why does it seem everyone’s working on a novel about ancient Rome?” Then this year has gone by and I think the question should be more like, “why isn’t EVERYONE writing about it?”  The notion of history holding perhaps some answers for why our own nations act like they do is an old one, as is asking, “what if?”

That’s where alternative history comes into play, which eventually leads us to Alison Morton’s “Roma Nova” series, and her latest installment, “Insurrectio.” Not only does it ask “what if the Empire survived until today?” It also plays with roles of gender and class.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilization. Armed with a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her award winning Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.

The sixth book, RETALIO, will be published on 27 April. In the meantime, Alison lives in France with her husband, tends her Roman herb garden and drinks wine, which is a good gig if you can get it.

Okay, Lady. In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

INSURRECTIO is about a rising nationalist movement led by a charming demagogue who wishes to overturn an established political system at a weak moment in a country’s history. (Any resemblance to persons living or dead, is completely coincidental and fully denied – I started drafting this first).

But it also charts the lifelong struggle between Aurelia, our upright and complex heroine, and Caius, an amoral charmer determined to destroy her and all she stands for. She’s an ex-Praetorian officer and now imperial councillor, utterly loyal to the imperatrix, the ruler of Roma Nova; he’s a wastrel, just released from prison where she put him nearly thirteen years before.

So it’s about sex, power and revenge in a small piece of the Roman Empire that’s survived into the 20th century. Until now.

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

I’ve been a ‘Roman nut’ since I stepped onto my first mosaic pavement at age eleven. As I listened to my father (senior Roman nut) explain about senators and soldiers, farmers and traders, power and occupation, I asked what the mummies and children did. Being the daughter of a feminist mother I was dismayed about the reply that mummies stayed indoors looking after the children and had no public life, vote or independence.

Maybe it was the hot sun in that Spanish sky, budding feminism or merely a smartass kid asking a smartass question, but I asked him what it would be like if women ran Roman life instead of the men. He shot back, “What do you think it would have been like?”

I held that thought throughout most of my life until I sat down to write my first Roma Nova thriller. I brought the story up to the modern age as although women exerted influence, they weren’t able to hold power in antiquity in the way I wanted them to in my stories, so I plunged into alternat(iv)e history. We’re still fascinated by Rome; just suppose a Roman society had survived with forums, temples, a Senate, a strong military but with an innate state service ethic and well-developed personal responsibility and it was run by women…

That’s a lot of ifs… Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favo(u)rite scene or event in the book?

I’d like to choose two types, if I may. Firstly, all the confrontations between Aurelia and Caius. They spark personality and supressed sexual tension, but most of all, the struggle for power. Very Roman! He winds her up, but can’t dent her inner core; she refuses to bend her principles and can’t understand why he has no conscience.

Secondly, Aurelia will do anything to protect her frail and, to be honest, light-minded daughter; they struggle to understand each other although there is no doubt about their mutual love. Writing their scenes together was an emotional experience as was Aurelia’s frustration with, and deep passion for, the elusive Miklós.

Where can people find you and your book (links to Amazon page, Goodreads, Twitter, Blog whatever)?

Social media links

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison-morton

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_Morton

Amazon author page: http://Author.to/AlisonMortonAmazon

 

Buying link for INSURRECTIO (multiple retailers/formats):

http://alison-morton.com/books-2/insurrectio/where-to-buy-insurrectio/

INSURRECTIO book trailer: https://youtu.be/eXGslRLjv6g

 

Acre’s Bastard is an Award Winner

When you send your books out to be reviewed, it’s kind of a weird process. You send them off, full of hopes. Then the waiting begins. Even if you think your book is pretty good (and the voices in your head actually agree) you honestly have no idea what the readers will think. And there’s… all… that… time to obsess, worry, and eventually forget you ever sent it off in the first place. Then you get an email that says, not only did these total strangers like your book, they’d like to give you an award!

So, it’s with pride that I say Acre’s Bastard has not one, but two awards to its name now. The “Chill With a Book” awards have awarded Acre’s Bastard with both the “Reader’s Award” and the equivalent of a Founder’s Prize, the “PB Award” (named for Pauline Barclay, the obviously brilliant woman who runs the joint and has impeccable taste.)

 

Nzinga: African Warrior Queen- Moses L Howard

I will be the first to admit that when I think of “African history” my mind immediately goes to Victorian Englishmen in pith helmets. That, of course, is both wrong and stupid, but so much of real African history is only found in oral tradition. So I was absolutely delighted to stumble across a novel called “Nzinga- African Warrior Queen,” by Moses Howard. It’s a great read about a young woman in what’s now Angola, and her fight for her people and culture against the Portuguese in the early days of European exploration. It neatly fits two of the important tenets of this blog: 1) It’s hard to be a badass woman in a corset and 2) Swords are cooler than guns.

When I read about his own personal journey to writing the story I knew I needed to learn more.

What’s the Moses Howard story?

Dr Moses Howard, author of Nzinga: African Warrior Queen

I started out on a farm in Mississippi. With a biology degree in hand, I was in the first wave of the Teacher Education for East Africa project out of Columbia University in the 1960s, where I spent ten years training medical technologists and teachers in Uganda. Back in the States, I’ve been a biology teacher, assistant high school principal, community college dean, and counselor/mentor for students at risk. I began writing children’s chapter books while in Africa, and have been writing fiction for children and adults ever since.

What’s “Nzinga” about?

“Nzinga” is really about a child who at an early age learns to decipher her environment, understanding what she needs to survive. She treats her father, the king of Ndongo, as a beacon of light that she follows to know how to be in the world. As an adult, Nzinga masters the elements of her society and the ways of her enemies—and uses her enemies’ ways against them. She uses their animals, guns, language, and especially religion. But she achieves what she does through empathy and understanding.

What is it about that time period and character that appealed to you most?

I had a whole different idea about Africa until I learned about Nzinga. I had the idea that old-time African “chiefs” thought of Europeans as gods, that they’d fight for a little bit, then capitulate and become corrupted, selling their people as slaves. But that all came from a European outlook, with no understanding that tribes were as different from each other as French or Germans in language and culture. Competing tribes went to war with each other and sold their enemies defeated in war—the same as Europeans and Mediterranean cultures had done for centuries.

Nzinga’s story is attractive because she faced and overcame such overwhelming odds. It was unheard of for a woman in her culture to do what she did, with only her father as a model for leadership. She had a quick mind and mastered languages and advanced an enormous sense of justice. I felt compelled to learn how Nzinga did what she did, which took years of research.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene is the one where Nzinga is in the greatest danger—when she goes to observe slaves being loaded on the ship. She witnesses scenes of horror, and I felt immense fear for her while writing it, because she could have been taken away as a slave. I carry a strong sense of that horror, of course. When I was a teacher in Uganda, I was walking with my students, and we passed some old women who were disturbed that I couldn’t speak with them (I wasn’t rude; I didn’t know the language). My students told them I came from the people who’d been captured and taken to America. One woman walked around me, examining me, and said, “I know this is true, because there’s a tree in my village where they used to tie them up, the people who were sold as slaves.”

We went to the woman’s village, and she showed us the tree. All that remained were flakes of rust issuing from a hole in the tree, which of course had grown in the hundreds of years since then. But I turned my back to the tree, and put up my hands to see how it would be—would I fit?—to be chained to that tree. The feel of that tree, and the old women’s words, have stayed with me for more than fifty years. (Editor’s note, if you read the book you have to read the epilogue where Dr Howard relates this story. It gave me chills- and you know what an unemotional grump I can be.)

How can we learn more about Nzinga and your other books?

The best place to find what’s new with me is on Facebook (@MosesLHoward).
You can find all my books at amazon.com/author/moseshoward
We have extra essays and insights on my website at jugumpress.com/moseshoward

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about Nzinga!

The Alfred Hitchcock Test for Historical Novels

Whenever I’m speaking to people about writing historical fiction, the question of “How much of it needs to be exactly true?” arises. For a long time I hemmed and hawed and couldn’t really define it. At long last I have an answer. Does it pass the “North by Northwest” test?

Allow me to digress a bit and I promise I’ll get to the point. One of the major points of contention in my marriage to the Duchess is Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, North by Northwest. (Not for nothing, but after 25 years if this is the biggest bone we have to pick with each other we’re doing just fine.) My bride loves that movie. After all, it’s got peak Cary Grant, a stylish Eva Marie Saint, and amazing visuals, including a rousing finale on the top of Mount Rushmore. What’s not to love?

Trying to murder someone by biplane seems a bit hard to swallow, doesn’t it?

Plenty. I don’t care for that movie and the reason is simple. There are two scenes that ruin the whole experience. First, there’s no cool Frank Lloyd Wright house on the top of Mount Rushmore. Secondly, crop-dusters make really inefficient murder weapons. Actually, the crop-duster is mainly the reason I don’t enjoy that film: I remember thinking, “oh come on,” when that scene came on and Grant was pursued through the Indiana cornfield by the airplane. By the time I got to the mid-century modern house placed on top of a national monument, which I know darned well doesn’t exist, I had detached emotionally from the movie and didn’t believe any of it. The spell was broken.

Nice house, right? Too bad it doesn’t freaking exist, no matter how badly my wife wants it to.

Still with me? For historical fiction to work, we have to stay in the moment. We have to believe that the story is taking place in the time, place, and with the characters the author has established. All authors manipulate events to make a good story. Often this doesn’t matter. In Acre’s Bastard, I have Lucca watch events from the top of a hill where he couldn’t possibly have been, but I made it work and unless you’ve been to Hattin, and seen the Horns, you wouldn’t know, and it’s not a critical detail. No harm no foul. On the other hand, I had to make sure that the famous characters did what we know they did, and acted believably or I’d have lost readers along the way. I couldn’t just have Lucca bump into Richard the Lionheart 7 years before he got there.

All historical novelists face this dilemma. Does your character say or do something that isn’t true to that time period? If so, your readers (and HF fans tend to be smarter than most, if I may be so bold) will say “oh come on,” and you’re dead in the water.

So here’s my guide to how true to the facts your book needs to be. Does it make the reader say, “Oh come on?” If so, you’ll lose credibility and your story won’t ring true.

In Count of the Sahara, the excursions and characters are well documented- heck, one of them is still alive. I had to be as accurate as possible. With Acre’s Bastard, the general facts of the time are known, but the characters are mostly fictional and there’s plenty of room for imagination.

Trust me, I pushed the boundaries but it’s not like I had a crop-duster chase Lucca all the way back to the city walls, or had Byron de Prorok snap a selfie (which the arrogant SOB would have, if he could have.)

I hope you read my stories and enjoy them. If so, let me (and Amazon!) know.

If you’d like me to speak to your book club, library or group about “Putting the Story in History- How Writers Turn Dry Facts into Great Fiction”, I’d be delighted. It’s available as an in-person talk or can be delivered by Webinar no matter where you are. Use the contact form on the side of the page to drop me a line.