The Roaring 20s With Johann Laesecke

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

Author Johann Laesecke wearing a hat frighteningly similar to mine
Author Johann Laesecke wearing a hat frighteningly similar to mine

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 Road storyline 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.

Volume 1 of the Roaring Road Series: The Road West
Volume 1 of the Roaring Road Series: The Road West

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!

Where can we learn more?

The Roaring Road website: www.theroaringroad.com includes the Road Trip Dog Blog.

Twitter: @johannlaesecke

Facebook: Johann C M Laesecke

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RoadTripDog

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0155AE5XW

Wayne Grant- Robin Hood, Viking Lads and Rampaging Welshmen

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?

Author Wayne Grant
Author Wayne Grant

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?

Longbow, the first book in the 4-part series.
Longbow, the first book in the 4-part series.

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?

You can find my books on my website www.waynegrantbooks.com,

or on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JST7HYQ

or on Amazon UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00JST7HYQ/

or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8192923.Wayne_Grant

What Does It Take to Write Your First Novel? Damned If I Know, But I Talk About it Anyway

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.

Phil Gerbyshak and I talk about what it takes to take risks in your life, like writing The Count of the Sahara
Phil Gerbyshak and I talk about what it takes to take risks in your life, like writing The Count of the Saharahttps://youtu.be/ZYsduynZIwY

Here’s the whole thing on YouTube. I hope you’ll find some inspiration and a little entertainment.

If you’re properly inspired, you can get The Count of the Sahara on Kindle or Paperback from Amazon or direct from my publisher, The Book Folks.

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

 

Texas is a Hard Land to Rule – Anthony Whitt

Full disclaimer: I view Westerns like I view Super-Hero movies: I know that most of what I’m seeing or reading is as much mythology and wish-fulfillment as  history, but that’s okay as long as they’re fun. I’m also aware that there are political and social ramifications associated with them. I just maintain a healthy skepticism/cynicism about it all and enjoy the ride. Some people, though, take the whole “Wild West” thing very seriously and that’s where today’s interview comes in.

Anthony Whitt, looking exactly like what someone who writes about Texas should look like
Anthony Whitt, looking exactly like what someone who writes about Texas should look like

Anthony Whitt is a darned good writer from the Austin, Texas area. He’s currently working on a trilogy about the hardy settlers that scratched a living out of the Texas Hill Country surrounding Austin after the Civil War. Hard Land to Rule is first in the trilogy that takes the reader on a ride through treachery, greed, lust, and death in a riveting tale that’s more than just another western. Cold Hard Ride continues the story as the characters battle their inner demons and devious enemies in the hills and the hellhole known as Austin. His goal is to create a trilogy with continuity, but make sure each book delivers a compelling story in its own right. The third book has a release date planned in the spring or summer of 2016.

So briefly, what’s the Hard Land to Rule trilogy all about?

Hard Land to Rule is a story of faded love, forbidden temptations, treacherous adversaries, and the conflict of competing interests on the Texas frontier. Returning from the Civil War where he served as a sergeant, Matt is forced to deal with a marriage complicated by a tragic death and the alienation of his wife. He can’t seem to find the right combination to patch things up despite his dedicated efforts to provide for his family and maintain his ranch in the hills. The times are economically tough after the war and opportunistic carpetbaggers prowl the countryside searching out targets for their aggressive efforts to secure ranchlands burdened with overdue taxes. Raiding Comanche complicate the harsh conditions he faces in the Hill Country while he is also forced to battle the unscrupulous politicians and businessmen that call Austin home. Surrounded by overwhelming problems it’s no wonder that an attractive neighbor with a struggling marriage of her own tempts him with her siren song of seduction. A proposition to serve as a Texas Ranger seems to offer an answer to his tribulations, but opens him to a plague of personal doubts and uncertainties that threaten to undermine the life he has worked hard to mold out of an unforgiving land.

Besides a higher than usual loathing for Texas politicians, what is it about the story that grabbed you?

Throughout the early years of my youth, my grandparents and their tales of the old days exerted a heavy influence on me. My grandfather often talked about his time as a cowboy working the ranches in the rugged hills west of Austin. During the first years of his marriage to my grandmother they actually traveled and lived out of a covered wagon to follow the work wherever it was available. As a young boy on family drives through the Texas Hill Country I can still recall them pointing out the locations of Indian trails they remembered seeing in their younger years.

My grandfather also regaled us with tales of his grandfather, a sergeant in the Civil War and a famous Texas Ranger with a colorful history. One of the favorite stories I grew up hearing from him was about an Indian raid on his grandfather’s homestead west of Austin. Despite my great-great grandfathers reputation as a well-known Texas Ranger the Indians gave him little respect and singled his place out for a raid. The tale always fascinated me and I set out to write a fictionalized short story about the event unaware of where the decision would lead. After the story received early praise, it transformed into a full-length novel that needed room to grow. As a result, the decision to write a short story became a life changing moment that gave birth to the Hard Land to Rule Trilogy.

A Hard Land to Rule is the first book in Anthony Whitt's Trilogy
A Hard Land to Rule is the first book in Anthony Whitt’s Trilogy

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

It’s hard to pick a favorite scene in Hard Land to Rule because I strived to stitch the chapters together in a cohesive flow of storytelling. But if I have to select my favorite scene it would be the one where three innocent characters are oblivious of their danger as they stroll into a Comanche ambush guaranteed to inflict death and perhaps rape if things proceed as the warrior plans. The reader is fully aware of their impending peril and is forced to take the walk with them unsure of their collective fate. The buildup of tension is such that my editor advised me not to change a single word in the scene. Naturally I was delighted to receive this kind of advice.

For what it’s worth, I think your strongest writing is in the action scenes, so I tend to agree. Where can people learn more?

His website       www.anthonywhitt.com

 

Twitter              www.twitter.com/AnthonyWhitt_

 

Facebook           www.facebook.com/AnthonyWhitt.Author

 

Goodreads            www.goodreads.com/author/show/7334347.Anthony_Whitt

 

 

Read Much Aztec History? – Ed Morawski

I’m always looking for stories I don’t know, in time periods or characters that aren’t familiar to me. Enter Ed Morawski’s book, Goddess of Grass. It tells the tale of the fateful meeting between the Spanish and Aztec kingdoms, through the prism of a young female interpreter. Don’t read that every day, do ya?

Ed Morawski has written numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. After

Ed Morawski lives and writes in Southern California
Ed Morawski lives and writes in Southern California

serving in the U.S. Air Force for 8 years, seeing action in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. to Edwards AFB and after his discharge began a career in security and law enforcement. He became an expert in physical and electronic security, alarms, and video surveillance. He resides in Southern California.

So tell us about Goddess of Grass…

Before there was America, before there was even Mexico, there were the Aztecs. Back in the 16th century, they were not called Aztecs, but known as the Mexica, a Nahua people who founded their metropolis capital city Tenochtitlan on a raised islet in Lake Texcoco. The Mexica came to dominate the other tribes of the land south of what would someday be North America and formed a vast and feared empire ruled by Montezuma, which probably consisted of a million or more subjects. While sophisticated and cultured, the Aztecs had a bloodthirsty dark side: they practiced human sacrifice on a scale never before known. These sacrifices consumed so many victims that the Aztecs waged war solely to obtain captives for their rituals.

In one of the most fateful events in history, Hernando Cortes arrived in that land we now know of as Mexico in 1519, the exact year an ancient Aztec prophecy predicted a god would return from the land of the rising sun. With less than 500 men and a few horses and cannon, Cortes conquered the Aztec empire in a blindingly short time. What was his secret weapon? A 17 year old native slave girl named Malinalli, who would come to be known as La Malinche. This teenage girl was given to Cortes as a gift to be his slave. But instead of accepting her fate, Malinalli used her own abilities to seize upon a unique advantage, thereby making herself indispensable to the Spanish Conquistadors. Goddess of Grass is the story of Malinalli, the unknown heroine who fought alongside professional soldiers, who negotiated with hostile native tribes, who stared down Emperor Montezuma, the most feared man in Mexico, and who bore as her child the first offspring of a Spaniard and native Indian: the first Mexican.

This story doesn’t seem a natural for someone with your background. What drove you to tell this story from such an unusual point of view?

I was inspired to write Goddess of Grass solely by Malinche. Here was a young teenage girl who instead of remaining a slave, turned her fortunes around to become the most powerful woman in Mexico for a period of time and literally changed the course of history. Unfortunately, though Spanish and native history records Malinche’s exploits, there is little known about her.

Goddess of Grass is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback
Goddess of Grass is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback

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

Probably my favorite scene is when La Malinche comes face to face with Emperor Montezuma and instead of looking down as the law commanded, she eyes him directly as she translates for Cortes. Montezuma is so unnerved by her actions and the prophecy, he willingly becomes a prisoner in his own palace.

Where can folks learn more about you and your book?

You can find me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1126615.Ed_Morawski

The book is on Amazon in Kindle and paperback 

 

After the Trojan War- Hock Tjoa

One of the things I love best about interviewing other Historical Fiction authors, is that you learn what stories obsess them, and how they view these stories through whatever personal experiences they have. Case in point, if I told you there was an Asian-American author whose previous book was a translation of  Chinese romances, would you expect their latest book to be about the Trojan War?

See what I mean?

Hock TjoaHistory teacher, banker, finance executive–Hock Tjoa has turned to writing for
his “third act.” He published The Battle of Chibi, (if you ever saw the movie Red Cliffs, that’s the story)  
selections from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms that he translated in 2010 and Agamemnon Must Die in 2014. He is married and lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California.

 

Seems to me that the definitive book on the Trojan War was done a while ago. What’s this story about?

The “mother of all wars” (the Trojan War) is over. All the people of Mycenae want is peace and normalcy. But the gods have a crowded agenda for them. There will be blood and pain, even quarrels among the gods.
The royal family of Mycenae has a bloody, monstrous history. Agamemnon returns with his war trophy, the Trojan Princess Cassandra, whom he unthinkingly flaunts before his queen. After an epic sword fight in his own banquet hall, Agamemnon is killed. Cassandra has her nightmares/visions of the gory and unspeakable deeds of the House of Atreus; she is led away to be executed. Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus have their respective reasons, but this regicide must be avenged. Or so say the voices in Orestes’ head. He must avenge his father. He must kill the regicides. He must kill his own mother.
Hmmm, no wonder so many neurotic syndromes have Greek names. There’s a lot going on there. What inspired you to write this particular book? Why this story?
The story is based on the Oresteia, the sole surviving classical Greek trilogy, by Aeschylus. I was assigned (an English translation of) this book in a humanities course at college with the introduction that this was a key work, a part of the foundation of Western civilization, etc.. I did not get it (just as I did not get Moby Dick).
Over the years I have read almost every translation that has appeared, hoping for the light to go on. I decided a few years ago, to write this story myself, as I understood it and not necessarily as my professors might have wished.
Sounds like there’s probably a Greek name for that kind of thinking but we’ll leave that to a therapist. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Hm, every scene was difficult to write and a delight in the end, but I’ll pick the

Agamemnon Must Die, by Hock Tjoa.
Agamemnon Must Die, by Hock Tjoa.

chapter that deals with Cassandra, a minor character with an unusual gift and a sad fate. It also includes portions in verse, something that I experimented with in this book.

You can find Agamemnon Must Die and Hock’s other work here:

Elgin Literary Festival January 29-30

I am thrilled to be part of two panel discussions and a book signing at the Elgin Literary Festival January 29-30 in Elgin, IL.

Join us at the Elgin Literary Festival January 29-30
Join us at the Elgin Literary Festival January 29-30

I’ll be part of a panel on “How your real job influences your writing” as well as one on various methods of publishing.  I’ll also be talking about how working with a “middle way” publisher like The Book Folks helped me get The Count of the Sahara out into the world.

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

Not for nothing, but I’ll also be signing and (hopefully) selling the book as well.

Join us!

From the Silly Dreams Come True Department- Writer’s Digest

Like many fledgling writers, I have spent a lot of years reading Writers Digest. From the early 80s til last month, I would read the articles and think, “Man, you must really know what you’re doing to get an article published. Wish I could.”

Know what? It happened. November 23rd’s Online Edition, Brian Klems’ column has an article by yours truly: “6 Ways Standup Comedy Can Make You a Better Writer”

 

Hey, I'm in Writers Digest just like a real writer.
Hey, I’m in Writers Digest just like a real writer.

Fact is, while 15 years of my life looks like a black hole on my business resume, nothing has prepared me in life like the time I spent telling jokes to drunk people for a living. I’m happy to have shared the lessons learned with other writers.

Has anything really changed as a result? Probably not. I may have sold a few more copies of Count of the Sahara (in Kindle, of course, because other writers are as broke as I am.) Am I a better writer for having done this? Did I make any money on it? Did my ego really need more reinforcing that doesn’t actually improve my lot in life? The answers to all those are a big old no.

The weird part? Someone out there is reading that, envying me. Life is strange, huh?

 

The Count of the Sahara Gets Honorable Mention, 2015 Great Midwest Book Festival

What a nice surprise. The Count of the Sahara has been awarded Honorable Mention as “General fiction book of the year” at the 2015 Great Midwest Book Festival.

Below is the book’s place on their Table of Honor Page.

The Count of the Sahara took an "Honorable Mention" for the 2015 Great Midwest Book Festival.
The Count of the Sahara took an “Honorable Mention” for the 2015 Great Midwest Book Festival.

It’s so gratifying that the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, if a bit mixed. If you’ve enjoyed the story, please tell the world on Amazon or Goodreads.

Oh and my favorite review so far? A 4-star that started with “I liked this book and I don’t know why…”