Windy City Reviews likes Acre’s Bastard

It’s hard for an indie book to get reviews aside from the folks who take the time to write on Amazon or Goodreads (and a thousand blessings on your homes and camels.) So when someone you don’t know, share DNA with, or owe money to likes your book, it’s a cause to celebrate.

Windy City Reviews has done a pre-publication review of Acre’s Bastard, and it’s a good one! You can read the whole thing here.

Any review that starts with

The subtitle to Wayne Turmel’s Acre’s Bastard is “Part 1 of the Lucca le Pou stories,” and I am already looking forward to further stories from this author about his engaging main character.

and ends with

… even these supporting characters have none of the cardboard cut-out feel of many adventures. They have the feel of people we might have chanced to meet if we were transported to those hectic times.

Now, I could pick nits… the biggest thing is this is NOT a YA novel that adults can read, it’s an adult novel teen readers can sink their teeth into. Still who am I to complain when people are telling strangers to buy your book?

Richard Adams and Why I Don’t Believe in “YA”

Richard Adams

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, died this week. Although talking bunnies in the English countryside are a long way from the Crusades, he and I have (had?) at least one philosophy in common–“there are no such things as children’s books.”

I know it’s tacky and self-serving turning the loss of a writer into a discussion about my new book, Acre’s Bastard, but there’s a point to be made, so indulge me.

Watership Down, because it involves talking rabbits, is sometimes (very mistakenly) thought of as a children’s book. Adams’ point was that a book is a book. If you can read, then the book is for you. Now, to make this about me again, that’s one reason I intentionally avoided making the tale of Lucca and his adventures, “YA.” Yes, the hero is a young boy. Yes it’s an adventure story that anyone over the age of 14 or 15 can enjoy. That doesn’t mean it’s meant for a younger audience or that adults can’t enjoy it guilt-free.

In fact, one reason my former publishers at The Book Folks (blessings be upon them) turned this book down, is the fear that adults won’t read about a young boy, and younger readers will be appalled or offended by the violence and terror Lucca goes through. I don’t believe that. So far, my readers and reviewers haven’t either.

The fact is, a good story is a good story. Jim Hawkins, Luke Skywalker and Kim were young boys thrust into violent situations and thrilling adventures. Treasure Island and the lot were written for a general audience, before marketing people segregated the audience and school libraries were the final arbiters of what was appropriate reading material.

The recent violence in Aleppo only goes to show that children are often caught in wartime, and combatants don’t care what’s “appropriate for children.” That’s what Acre’s Bastard is about. Yes, it might not be for all young readers (although I’d have read it at 15.) That’s why I rejected the original title of “Acre’s Brat,” lest it entice those not ready to tackle the subject matter. You have to play fair with the audience, after all.

Richard Adam’s allegorical rabbits weren’t intended solely for a young audience, although it didn’t talk down to, or exclude them either. I hope the same is true of my book. I hope teen readers will thrill to Lucca’s adventures and identify with his spirit, and older audiences won’t be put off by the idea that it’s about a child so must be for younger audiences.

Acre’s Bastard is available for pre-order now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Chapters online. The Ebook will be available January 17, and the paperback February 8.

 

Family Letters Inspire Civil War Drama: Greg Seeley

Lately, my email has been filled with authors who’ve written Civil War dramas (henceforth to be referred to as Civil War 1.0, because I’ve got a bad feeling about this.) I’m a bit ambivalent about the time period, maybe because I’m Canadian and don’t really empathize too much with the South on this one. (I’ve heard all the arguments. Bite me.) At any rate, many of the authors have deep family connections to the event. Such a writer is Greg Seeley, whose new novel, “Henry’s Pride,” is here for your consideration.

greg-seeleyGreg Seeley was raised on a farm north of Afton, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a major in history and received his Master’s degree from the University of Iowa. He is a retired certified public accountant and lives in Overland Park, Kansas with his wife Carolyn, a retired math teacher. Henry’s Pride is Greg’s first novel. He is also the author of
a book verse entitled The Horse Lawyer and other Poems.

So what’s Henry’s Pride all about?

Henry’s Pride is a wide-sweeping novel of the Civil War told from the perspective of two families, one from Minnesota and the other from Georgia. Henry Hancock is a Minnesota tenant farmer who reluctantly but dutifully goes to war to save the Union. Darius Morgan, the son of a Georgia plantation owner eagerly enlists in the Confederate army to save what he considers to be his rightful legacy. Other characters, whose stories are interwoven include Hamilton Stark, the cowardly yet vicious overseer from the Morgan plantation and Adam Kendrick, a gentle but dutiful southern soldier, who must keep his anti-slavery sentiments hidden. Meet also Joshua Gibbons, a Union chaplain and Hosea Billings the vindictive captain of guards at a Federal prison camp.

The story is told through the usual means of narrative and dialogue but also through numerous letters written back and forth between the characters expressing their loneliness, fear, pride, and other emotions associated with what the title character calls “the nation’s nasty business”. The story also portrays the devastating effect of war on soldiers and families alike – wounds both physical and mental as the characters deal with battle injuries and with what is now call PTSD. There is Jonas Hancock, Henry’s brother, who is injured and mustered out early in the war but continuously deals with haunting memories. There is Henry himself, tormented by reminders of what he has had to see and do. Henry’s Pride is a war novel that, in sense, is also an anti-war novel. Characters on both sides examine themselves and must decide whether or not their respective country’s objectives are worth the sacrifices they and thousands of others are called upon to make. Henry’s Pride is not about generals and military strategy or troop movements. It’s about ordinary soldiers and families each trying to find their way through the “madness” that is the Civil War.

What inspired the story? Where’d your passion for the topic come from?front-cover-thumbnail

My great-grandfather, Ira Seeley, served with an Iowa regiment in the Civil War. When I was still in elementary school, my grandmother would sometimes bring out letters he had written home, show them to me, and read me some of them. After college, I took the same letters and carefully typed a transcript of each one exactly as written.

Many years later, after I retired as a CPA, I thought about trying to reconstruct all of the unsaved letters that my great-grandmother might have written to her soldier husband and mesh them with the transcribed letters.  I soon determined the task to be nearly impossible given the time it would have taken for their letters to cross in the mail and the difficulty of determining which letters each would have received when writing to the other. At that point, I decided to write a novel of the period – a fictional account where I could weave into the story letters to and from my characters written in the style of the day.

What’s your favorite scene from the book?

I believe my favorite scene takes place after Henry Hancock has been mustered out of service and has returned home. The traumatized Henry, though of Methodist faith, seeks out a priest to take his confession and absolve him of the things he has had to do. The scene shows a certain depth of feeling shared even now by veterans of more recent wars. Though Henry was a hero of the Battle of Shiloh – even called ‘the Lion’ by his men, he is vulnerable. He is at the same time proud of his service to the country and guilt-ridden over the part he has played.

Where can people learn more about Henry’s Pride?

The book is available at Goodreads and as both an e-book and paperback edition at Amazon.com. For signed copies, contact me at Greg.Seeley@att.net.

Manhattan Before Hudson with Harald Johnson

I have mixed feelings about New York City, but there’s no argument it’s changed the world like few places before or since. Harald Johnson has tackled the history of the island of Manhattan in a series of novellas. The first Manhattan Novella: 1609, is out now.

Sometimes I feel like such an underachiever when I do these interviews. What’s the Harald Johnson story?

I invent a new career for myself every 7-10 years, like a memory-challenged

The author visioning his Manhattan story at the tip of the island he swam around.
The author visioning his Manhattan story at the tip of the island he swam around.

cicada. Over the past 40 years, I’ve been a magazine publisher, Hollywood art director, ad agency creative director, photographer/filmmaker, marketing consultant, and of course, a writer across all those trips around the sun. And recently, I’ve turned my focus back to something I’ve kept hidden for a long time: fiction writing. Oh, and did I mention I like to swim? A lot. Not only did I win that around-Manhattan swimming race mentioned here, but I continue to swim regularly as much as I can. So water and swimming are recurring themes in my life, and in my writing.

What’s the story behind Manhattan: 1609? And don’t say it’s about Manhattan in 1609 because that’ll just tick me off…..

If historical fiction is your thing, you might also want to check out my own novels, The Count of the Sahara and the newest, Acre’s Bastard.

 

 

Launch Event for Acre’s Bastard February 11th

My new novel, Acre's Bastard will be out in January of 2017 and available in all formats and online stores
My new novel, Acre’s Bastard will be out in January of 2017 and available in all formats and online stores

Join me February 11th, 2017 to launch Acre’s Bastard! I’ll be speaking at the Museums at Lisle Station, in Lisle, IL at 1 PM, on “Putting the Story in History,” Then I’ll be signing the first hot-off-the-presses copies of my new historical fiction novel.

If you can join us, click CONTACT on the right side of the screen and drop us a line.

 

 

Here’s the poster and the details:

Join us February 11th

 

 

 

The Other Side of the 49th- Elaine Cougler’s Loyalists

The whole point of historical fiction is to tell a story. And every story has two sides, unless it’s your side and then the other side’s uh, side, is apparently invalid. Sometimes this gets contentious (those of you who missed the point of my last post and thought I was a Castro apologist need to breathe.) So let’s take the most calm, polite example I can think of: the Loyalists who built Southern Ontario after the cruel terrorists forced them from their lawful land in America…. oh did that hurt? #sorrynotsorry.

Fact is, that the American revolution didn’t end in 1778, and the “other side” weren’t all animal brutes and Hessians hired to oppress the good people of the colonies. Elaine Cougler has done yeoman service in her “Loyalist Trilogy,” and I interview her here.

So, here’s the Elaine story in a nutshell…

Elaine Cougler is the author of historical novels about the lives of settlers incougler the Thirteen Colonies who remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution. She uses the backdrop of the conflict for page-turning fictional tales where the main characters face torn loyalties, danger and personal conflicts.

Her Loyalist trilogy: The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck and The Loyalist Legacy came out this month. The Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair selected The Loyalist’s Wife as a finalist in its Self-Publishing Awards. The Middlesex County Library selected the book as its choice for book club suggestions. The Writers Community of Durham Region presented Elaine with a Pay-It-Forward Award.

Alright, so this is the third book in the series. What’s it about?

The Loyalist Legacy plunks the Garner family right in the wild heart of Upper Canada (now southern Ontario) to build a life after their devastating losses in Niagara. They’ve suffered through the American Revolutionary War (The Loyalist’s Wife) and the War of 1812 (The Loyalist’s Luck) and now settle on two hundred acres awarded them by the Crown for military service. All they want is peace and prosperity. Instead they find extreme hardship, back-destroying labor, disgruntled native peoples,  family feuds and a government where they have no say and must watch as the “Family Compact” keeps power and position in the hands of a privileged few. This last becomes the divisive knife that leads the settlers ever closer to rebellion. Perhaps Upper and Lower Canada will take the path their neighbours to the south have taken.

What’s your interest in that time period?

I  have in my possession a book about Butler’s Rangers, a famous group of militia who fought for the King in the Revolutionary War, and in the back are the names of two of my relatives, John Cain and John Garner. That absolutely got my attention even though there is some question about whether the second one is actually my John Garner ancestor. My brain took off on all the possibilities and mapped out a fictional story for John Garner set against the history of the times after the Boston Tea Party, the resettling after the Revolutionary War (where did all those disgruntled people go?) and the War of 1812. Once I was into the initial research more and more nuggets seemed to drop into my head leading to not just one novel but a trilogy. My brother and his wife shared their findings of the family history and took me on a car tour to the actual land where William and Catherine (Cain) Garner settled north of London, Ontario. I could just see the third book as I gazed out at the two hundred acres on either side of the Thames River and the place where the Garners had built their home. How in the world did they do it?

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene?

loyalistI have so many. There is one involving Catherine Garner and her ability to rise up and fight against a lynx that has come right up on her porch and grabbed a papoose from its cradle there. There is another where she is furious with William because of his treatment of his brother and in a flash of insight switches to empathy for the man she loves. I love the strength of Migisi and Kiwidinok, a Chippewa couple who represent the plight of the native peoples at this time in our North American history. And I love the scene from Lucy’s point of view at her granddaughter’s wedding and its subsequent denouement. All of these scenes and many more show the strength of these ordinary people who when circumstances demand become absolutely extraordinary. These are the ancestors of many of us lucky enough to live here now in North America.
While the times I write about often emphasize the division between the United States and Canada I am ever mindful of our united beginnings. Brother against brother in the wars, laws restricting land ownership  based on allegiance which went on for years, the ugly head of slavery, the struggles of neighbour against neighbour where had been staunch allies—all of these show the difficult times my characters and our ancestors lived in, no matter which side of the border they were on. Still today most of us have relatives on the other side of the US-Canada border. Imagine if our two countries went to war not as allies but as enemies. When governments and those in power make decisions, we the little people must find ways to survive. This is the backbone of the Loyalist trilogy.
You can learn more about Elaine and her work here:

Her blog

Her Amazon author page

Twitter @ElaineCougler

Her Facebook author page

 

The Castro Conundrum for Historical Novelists

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.- F Scott Fitzgerald.

Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro's Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, smokes a cigar during his meeting with two U.S. senators, the first to visit Castro’s Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 29, 1974. (AP Photo)

Fidel Castro is dead. That is objectively true. Pretty much everything else is open to interpretation. He was a fighter for oppressed people against Batista and around the world (assuming you felt oppressed and didn’t welcome your oppression in the name of employment) or a torturer and despot with no redeeming features (basically everyone who didn’t fall into category one). The fact that he was both is precisely why I love historical fiction. Two opposing ideas at once might be a bit disorienting, but Sweet Baby Jesus, it makes for fun reading.

Historical novelists tell stories based on the past. In a just world we get both sides of the story- and I suspect over the next couple of years we’ll be buried in an avalanche of novels from the Caribbean Jungles in 1959. Most will tell of noble families driven to Miami by the socialist hordes. Some will travel with Fidel and Che through jungle heat and the rolling decks of the Granma to defeat American gangsters and whatever the Latin version of Oligarchs are. (The underdog is way more romantic, hence white liberal college girls wearing Che tee shirts even though he despised everything they are. After the Revolution there will be no Pumpkin Spice Anything!) Either way I can’t wait. Both sides will have wonderful adventures to tell and characters that we’ll love and hate. If you can’t wait, start with the stories of Leonardo Padura Fuentes.

One of the things I try to do in this blog is find voices on both sides of a story. For example, I am a huge fan of Washington, Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. As a Canadian, though, I am also aware of the other side of the story. After a couple of pints, I love telling the story of the American Revolution from the “other side.” Those poor patriotic, god-fearing British subjects driven from their land by godless radical liberal terrorists are wonderful characters that we don’t hear from often enough on this side of the 49th Parallel. Plus Canadians burned down the White House thirty years later. Scoreboard. Yes, I put my Green Card at risk, but it’s soooooo worth it to hear the screams of outrage. And yes, to answer your next question, I’m a bit of an obnoxious drunk.

In my new book, Acre’s Bastard, I try to walk a similar line with the Crusades. ab_cover_frontfinal
Were the Franks godly men, driven by holy purposes or simply a bunch of fourth sons and ne’er-do-wells looking to get rich and establish themselves when Feudal law left them powerless at home? Was Saladin (or Salah-adin) freeing Syria of foreign invaders in the name of Allah, or a rebel Kurd conducting a power grab at the expense of local Muslim warlords? There are plenty of stories on both sides that should be told and enjoyed. I decided to pull most of my research from the Muslim accounts just because readers will be less familiar with them (thus the spelling of Salah-adin) and I hope they enjoy the result. Doubtless I’ll annoy the crap out of other people. Such is life.

I love historical fiction because I can get stories that are both familiar and challenge my beliefs and what I think I know about a given topic. Hopefully you do too.

Was Castro a hero or a villain? Yes. Here’s hoping we get great stories to help us decide for ourselves and still be able to function.

 

 

 

J D R Hawkins Civil War Drama

The US Civil War (actually, given the current mood in this country maybe I need to start referring to it as Civil War 1.0) is a great backdrop for drama. Patriotism, family squabbling, technology-enabled massacre–all come together in one time period.  Today’s author takes all that very seriously.

j-d-r-hawkinsJDR Hawkins is an award-winning author who has written for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, e-zines, and blogs. She is one of only a few female Civil War authors, and uniquely describes the front lines from a Confederate perspective. Her Renegade Series includes A Beautiful Glittering Lie, winner of the John Esten Cooke Fiction Award and the B.R.A.G. Medallion, A Beckoning Hellfire, which is also an award winner, and A Rebel Among Us, which has just been published. These books tell the story of a family from north Alabama who experience immeasurable pain when their lives are dramatically changed by the war. She’s a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, Pikes Peak Writers, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is also an artist and singer/songwriter. (Editor’s note: Showoff.)

What’s the idea behind A Rebel Among Us?

After David Summers enlists with the Confederate cavalry, his delusion of chivalry is soon crushed when he witnesses the horrors of battle. Shot by a Union picket, he winds up at a stranger’s farm. Four girls compassionately nurse him back to health. David learns his comrades have deserted him in Pennsylvania following the Battle of Gettysburg, but his dilemma becomes much worse. He falls in love with the older sister, Anna, who entices him with a proposition. To his dismay, he must make a decision. Should he stay and help Anna with her underhanded plan, or return to the army and risk capture?

So if you’re a Daughter of the Confederacy and all, I’m guessing you’ve got a deep family interest in the war?

I have always been intrigued with the Victorian era. Living in Colorado, I became enthralled with the old mines and mountain towns. When I visited Gettysburg, I saw for myself the enormity of the battlefield, and was inspired to write a novel about it. However, I wanted to write something from a typical Southern soldier’s perspective; something I felt hadn’t really done before. So I wrote A Beckoning Hellfire. I decided the book was too long, so I cut it in half. Thus, A Rebel Among Us was created. The story wasn’t finished, though, so I wrote another sequel (yet to be published). And then I went back and wrote a prequel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. I have enough material to write a fifth book in the Renegade Series as well.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?rebelamong

My favorite scene in the book has to do with a secret. And a wedding. That’s all I can say!

Spoilsport. You’re a social media junkie. How can people reach you (and the rest of us should be making notes. I haven’t even heard of some of these!)

Find the book on Amazon here.

·         Websitehttp://jdrhawkins.com

·         Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/jdrhawkins/

·         Twitter – @jdrhawkins

·         Newsletter http://jdrhawkins.com

·         Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com/jdrhawkins/   

·         Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1238370.J_D_R_Hawkins

·         Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jdrhawkins/?hl=en

·         Google +https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JDRHawkins

·         YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UC12gW5kbv5FLDH6Qxd9duzw

·         Wattpad https://www.wattpad.com/user/jdrhawkins

Publication Dates for Acre’s Bastard

Okay, deep breath. Here we go:

Acre’s Bastard will be coming out in mid-January (ebook) and mid-February of 2017 (paperback). I’m very excited. This is the first in a series of adventures about Lucca Le Pou, a 10-year-old who becomes an unwilling spy against Salah-adin. It’s NOT YA– it’s the very adult story of the Crusades told through the eyes of it’s most innocent victims–the children. The book is in turns funny, thrilling, sad and exciting.

If you are a reviewer or blogger interested in a pre-publication copy, please let me know. I’d like to get some honest blurbs and reviews in the can to help with a successful launch.

This may or may not be the final cover for my new book, but here’s an update. (Feedback is a gift and all)

ab_cover_frontfinal

Out on Vacation- This should hold you…

I’m on vacation this week…. a real vacation, even if it is the “Cheesy Tourist Trap Tour.” However, I want you to take a look at what’s below. Yes, Acre’s Bastard is nearing the end of the road….. get ready.

acres_bastard_2-1

What do you think? Does it say “adventure” and “Crusades?” More news when I get back…. and Go Cubs.