Alex Gough and the Bandits of Rome

So what is it about ancient Rome that has people all a flutter? It seems like the new hot topic in Historical Fiction is the Roman Empire. I will bet a quarter of the indie writers I connect with are writing about that particular period in time. And it’s not just fiction. My buddy Cameron Reilly’s Life of Caesar” podcast is insanely popular and a lot of fun.


Alex Gough is rockin' in the Roman Empire.
Alex Gough is rockin’ in the Roman Empire.

A new author to the field, writing only for Kindle at the moment, is Alex Gough from the UK. The latest in his Roman series is “Bandits of Rome.”

Oh, and those aren’t typos, he’s British. The language is English, deal with it……

Hi Alex. In a nutshell, what’s the new book about? 

Carbo (the hero of the series) and his loved ones leave Rome for the sleepy Italian countryside, desperate to recover from their recent traumas. But a chance encounter with locally notorious masked bandits leads to a devastating outcome. Carbo has to fight his own demons and an evil conspiracy to save himself and his friends, and avenge his loss.

Bandits of Rome, the sequel to the number one bestselling novel Watchmen of Rome, follows Carbo as he plunges from happiness to despair, from the Italian countryside to the lead mines of Sicily. Will Carbo ever find the peace he craves?

Good cliffhanger question. So what is it about Ancient Rome that is so intriguing? Seems like a lot of British writers are focusing on it- it’s becoming the new “Arthuriana.”

I’ve always had an interest in Ancient Rome, which has grown deeper the more I have found out. They were a civilisation of huge contrasts. They had mighty

Bandits of Rome is the third in his series.
Bandits of Rome is the third in his series.

armies, a huge Empire, philosophy, art and architecture. They also had terrible cruelty and awful poverty. I am fascinated by the ordinary people of the Roman Empire who had to survive in the shadows of the magnificent buildings. My hero, Carbo, is a traumatised war veteran, trying to find peace, and consistently failing. He has to overcome his own inner demons, as well as his prejudices, to fight for what is important.

A completely unfair question to ask an author; what’s your favorite scene in the book?

One favourite scene is too spoiler-heavy to describe but is full of emotion, especially if you have read the first book, Watchmen of Rome. Another favourite part involves Carbo being sent to the lead mines as a slave, and I try to describe the horror of the existence of a Roman mine slave.

Bandits of Rome, and all his books are available on Amazon UK and on, depending on how you want to spend your money.

Speaking of spending money, my novel The Count of the Sahara is now available on Kindle and Paperback from

Holding Your Baby- The Count of the Sahara in Paperback

Nothing like holding an old-fashioned hard copy in your hands
Nothing like holding an old-fashioned hard copy in your hands

There is nothing like the feeling of holding a hard copy of your book in your hand for the first time. This is especially true in the case of my first novel, The Count of the Sahara.

I have published a number of books (you can see the whole list here) but until now, something’s been missing. I always felt in my heart that to be a “real writer” you had to have a novel published. And not just published, but published by someone who wasn’t you.

Thanks to the folks at The Book Folks, the dream has come true. My first novel, published by someone with a purely commercial interest in the works, and available to everyone is now out for the world to gaze in awe… and to take shots at.

Anyone who has ever been published knows that holding your book in your hand for the first time is an emotional experience, one that Kindle books–much as I love reading them–can’t match.

Today, I am a real author. Now to see if the world thinks my baby is ugly….



The Count of the Sahara: Now Available in Paperback

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

At long last, The Count of the Sahara is available in paperback and Kindle.

Not only can you order the book, but people actually seem to be enjoying it.

Good historical fiction leaves you entertained while you learn something. Excellent historical fiction leaves you wanting to know more about the history and wondering where the history ended and the fiction began. This is excellent historical fiction.

Kevin Eikenberry, author of Remarkable Leadership

Wayne Turmel has created an exciting and well-crafted novel that draws the reader in from page one. The hero is Willy but the most interesting character is the fascinating Count de Prorok, a figure that any writer of historical fiction would be proud to have in their book. The story is well paced, set in an interesting period and full of surprises. I look forward to more.

Peter Darmon, author of “The Sword Brothers” series

Order now from Amazon in Kindle or paperback .

You can also buy directly from the Publisher


7 Days in July- Revisiting the Civil War with Kenneth A Griffiths

I may be the only person in America not obsessed with the Civil War, but a good story is a good story. 7 Days in July is a new work from Kennneth A Griffiths. I interviewed him about the book and what inspired it.

So what’s the Ken Griffiths story?

KAG Photo 001 (1)
Ken A Griffiths , author of 7 Days in July

Born in Iowa, raised in central Florida, military school for 2 years in Atlanta, Florida State University, accepted into US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps for many years. I declined selection for early promotion to Major, left active duty.  Hired by The Coca-Cola Company, passed Ga. bar exam, held 5 legal/management positions over the

next 11 years, resigned and became a commercial real estate broker first with a large national company , then a company in which I was a founder.  Remained in Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. I’m married, three adult children and 4 granddaughters, all of whom are in or near Atlanta.

In a nutshell, what’s the story of 7 Days in July?
This book tells the story of the Battle of Atlanta during the Civil War

The book, “Seven Days In July” tells the story of the 7 days leading up to and including July 22, 1864, on which “the Battle of Atlanta” took place.  The history is as good as I could make it and,  I used fiction, hopefully informed, to illuminate otherwise dark, unknowable corners of history.  The story is balanced and is seen and told by men on both sides and at different levels of rank.  An effort was made to understand motivation as well as behavior.  Reader’s comments indicate some success in that regard.

Especially when it comes to the American Civil War, everyone has their own motivation for writing. What’s yours?
When I was 10 or so years old my paternal grandfather died.  As part of his estate, a box arrived at our house containing 2 civil war swords, a double barreled shotgun, a telescope, a drinking cup and a likeness of a man in uniform.  Additionally a 10 volume set of the “Photographic History of the Civil War” was in the box.  I had never seen a sword, knew nothing of Captain Henry H. Griffiths and had never seen photographs like those contained in the books.  My Dad served in WWII but never spoke of it, we were a non-warlike family, these things from the box were the stuff of fancy to a boy of 10.  These material items planted  an interest in family, genealogy, reading, history, patriotism and the law.  I discovered Captain Griffiths, my great grandfather, had fought in the Atlanta campaign and I set out to discover where he and the First Iowa Battery were located during the summer of 1864.  He makes an appearance or two in the book and served as a catalyst and inspiration for the story but it is not his story in any meaningful way.
Without giving away spoilers, what’s a favorite scene in the book?
My favorite is a fictional account of the death of Confederate General and division commander, William Walker.  The death of fiery, old Walker may well have been a costly turning point for the south as the attack by Hardee’s Corps jumps off.
Where can people find your work and your book?
You can find me and the book at Amazon or on the Indigo River Publishing web site at Seven Days in July | Kenneth A. Griffiths

Seamus O’Griffin and the Galloglass Series

Sometimes we read history to learn deep lessons about mankind and where we’re going as a people. Sometimes you just want hacking and cleaving and plenty of good old fashioned smiting. That’s where Seamus O’Griffin (and if that’s not one of the coolest writer names ever, I don’t know what is) and his Gallowglass series comes in.

It’s been a while since I just devoured a series like this. It’s the Medieval version of a beach read; lots of swords hacking, Saracens attacking and mysterious beautiful women. I was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed for this little blog of mine.

So, what’s the Gallowglass series about?

The Gallowglass series is like a beach read only bloodier
The Gallowglass series is like a beach read only bloodier


The Gallowglass series follows the life and times of Ronan Mac Alasdair from a hot-headed, imprudent young man on the island of Islay to a hard bitten, professional soldier of Ireland and the isles; a Galloglass (yes you can look up what it means by clicking here, and yes, it is spelled both ways). The first three books in the series cover his early days as a Templar, his rise within the Order and his part in the siege and fall of Acre in 1291. The next books in the series will cover his return to the Isles and his rise as a Galloglass.

We share a fascination with the Crusades and swords and all kinds of “guy stuff.” Where’d that come from?

I have always been fascinated with the Middle Ages. I read a novel as a kid, I don’t remember its title, about the Siege of Malta, and I have been hooked ever since. Likewise, I had read about galloglasses and their dominance as professional soldiers throughout Ireland and the Scottish Isles for roughly four hundred years and thought that there was definitely a story there, one that few people had written about.

Without spoilers, what’s your favorite scene?

I don’t necessarily have one particular scene in the first three books that stands out as my favorite but I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed writing The Fall of Acre from beginning to end.

Seamus O'Griffin better hurry up, we're waiting for more.
Seamus O’Griffin better hurry up, we’re waiting for more.

I’m actually envious of the way you sustained the battle scene for basically a whole book, and since it’s called The Fall of Acre it’s not exactly a spoiler, is it? Where can readers find you?

They can find my books on Amazon or Smashwords.

Okay, well we’re waiting for the next book in the series, so quit talking to me and get back to work!

The Opinions of the Characters Are Not Necessarily Those of the Management

When the characters in your book say something despicable, stupid or “politically incorrect,” does that mean that the author is a racist, an idiot or a bad human being? This has been the topic of conversation, some of it fairly heated, at my writer’s group lately.

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle

Historical fiction is particularly susceptible to this kind of discussion, because the characters must necessarily reflect the ethics and flavor of the time. My novel, The Count of the Sahara, takes place in the 1920s. This was a long time ago, and many attitudes have changed. Things that people said and believed then may seem outdated, wrong or even awful to us today. Don’t believe me? Get your Great-Grandma drunk and bring up the topic of race…. try not to be too scandalized by what comes out of her mouth–remember she’s old.

One of the few disagreements with Erik, my editor at (a thousand blessings on his house and camels) was over just such a scene. Willy, a naive 19 year old German-American kid from Milwaukee walks up to the front desk and in his mind tries to place the ethnicity of the desk clerk.  In the original draft,  he looks at the slicked back hair and prominent nose and thinks he “must be a Jew or a Hungarian or something.”  The points I was making were a) in the cities of early 20th Century America, racial identity was just part of the landscape so this was the way Willy would think and b) the big dummy wasn’t anti-Semitic, just curious about where the desk clerk was from and probably couldn’t tell the difference between a Jew and a Hungarian. It wasn’t a judgment, it was an observation.  It also wasn’t a hill I was prepared to die on. Did I mention I lost that argument?

We had a similar dust-up at the Naperville Writers Group over the use of the “N” word in someone’s writing. Does the use of a certain hot-button word in your fiction condone it? One of my fellow writers actually made a great distinction: if it’s inside quotation marks, or the narrator is clearly identified as a specific character, you can get away with it. If the narrator is “third person omniscient,” then that narrator is basically you. If your character says something hurtful or insensitive, that’s one thing. If “you” do, perhaps you should reconsider.

Maybe I’m a liberal wimp, but I actually cringe a little when one of my characters says something I disagree with. It’s not being a slave to “political correctness,”  I consider it common courtesy. Do I want to unintentionally cause offense to someone? I  stop and think twice before writing something that I think might be hurtful to a reader, even if that’s not my intention.

Probably, though, I’ll write it anyway because that is what the character would do in that time and place. I’m not a 19 year old, big city, immigrant kid, and I don’t think like one. When I’m writing that character though, he’s not me either.

Maybe all fiction should contain a disclaimer: “Warning, opinions of the characters are not necessarily those of the management.”

Or maybe readers can just lighten the hell up a bit. Both work for me.


Finding the Right Voice for Historical Characters

When I was writing The Count of the Sahara, the hard part was taking facts that were well known, but making the characters more than just a regurgitation of what was already known and their own writing. How do you make the dialogue real, and the people involved come alive?

The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle
The cover of The Count of the Sahara available now on Kindle

As I explain in this interview on Lavinia Colins blog, I had one of those aha moments writers love to blab on and on about. You can read the interview here,  but basically the desert scenes between Alonzo Pond and Byron de Prorok came alive when I found the analogy: It was “Amadeus in the Desert.” Read the article and find out why.

I remember standing in the archives at the Logan Museum of Anthropology when I had the epiphany.  The Logan’s exhibit on this expedition is opening soon, and if you’re in the area check it out. Meanwhile,  you can read the article on Lavinia’s site.

Full disclosure, Lavinia is a fellow writer for our publisher, TheBookFolks and a very good writer of Arthurian fantasy.

Eterlimus: Pre-Roman History From Aziz Hamza

As a Canadian, living in America, writing for a global audience about something that happened in Algeria (among other places) I’m well aware that the great stories of history don’t belong to any one group. Case in point: Aziz Hamza’s tale of Rome before the Republic, Eterlimus.

Author Aziz Hamza
Author Aziz Hamza

Aziz is from Saudi Arabia, and writes in both English and Arabic. So  his choice of a story set in long-ago Rome is kind of interesting. Here’s what he had to say:

What’s the story of Eterlimus? If you’re familiar with the opera or story of the “Rape of Lucretia,” that’s the setting. The book ETERLIMUS takes place during the reign of the seventh King of ancient Rome, the tyrant Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, until the salvation came through ETERLIMUS the Pimp (a fictional character), who caused the collapse of the last Roman Kingdom in 509 B.C.

What inspired you to write the book? Why this story? 

Of course the incident of the rape of Lucretia has the biggest impact when i decided to write the novel. However the most influential character was Sextus, he is sly, wicked and ruthless, he was really a distasteful character.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Probably Cloelia’s dialogue with Sextus in chapter 2. It’s full of fear and violence  and showed the evil personality of Sextus.

You’re right, he’s a bad, bad guy. How can people find your work (including in Arabic, if you’re so inclined?) 

Eterlimus is available in English or Arabic. Some people just have to show off!
Eterlimus is available in English or Arabic. Some people just have to show off!


Logan Museum Celebrates Byron (and Alonzo’s) Expedition

I just found out today that the Logan Museum of Anthropology in  Beloit, Wi, is opening a new exhibit about the Franco-American Expedition of the Sahara of 1925. Why does this matter? Because it’s the setting for my novel, “The Count of the Sahara.”

The Exhibit, entitled, “Blue Veils and Black Mountains- Alonzo Pond’s 1925 Expedition to Southern Algeria,”  opens the week of August 17 and runs through October.

It’s no surprise that the exhibition focuses on Alonzo Pond, rather than Byron de Prorok…. one of the major scenes of my book takes place at Beloit College, and the news isn’t good for The Count.

There’s a good chance I’ll be asked to deliver a lecture up there based on my research. Given how the book wouldn’t have had a chance if not for them letting me rummage around in their archives, I’m thrilled. More details to come!

Does Historical Fiction Include Fantasy?

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

Yeah, I’m a freakin’ genius.  I love historical fiction that is researched and full of interesting details. I also love fantasy (yes, I’m a sword and sorcery geek, sue me.) These two ideas come together, and often seem to clash. A good case in point is the sub-genre called “Arthurian fiction.”

From my earliest memories, the story of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have thrilled me.  But was Arthur an actual historical character? If so, what about Merlin, who was a magician, after all? This has led to a schism between those who love “Arthurian Fantasy” and a more factual, history-based approach. Two of my favorite current writers take opposite approaches to the same source material.

Jack Whyte, the author of The Camulod Chronicles painstakingly researches his

Was Arthur real? Jack Whyte’s carefully researched books are an amazing take on the story you think you know.

books and places them in a gritty, dark period between the fall of the Roman empire, and the beginnings of that bizarre mix of Celts and Saxons that created pre-Norman Britain. I love his stuff: dark, philosophical, as close to “realistic” as something lost in the fog of time could be. If you’re not reading him, you should be. Just saying.

Lavinia Collins, on the other hand, writes Arthurian fantasy full of magic, sex and a Celtic/feminist approach. Here’s the thing, though. It’s not like she doesn’t know her history. The background of the stories is well researched and true to the period. She just chooses

Was Arthur's sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn't it?
Was Arthur’s sword created by magic? Makes a good story, doesn’t it?

to use the known history of the time as the starting point to spin a great yarn. Does that mean it’s not “historical fiction?” She has written a wonderful blog post about that dilemma in fact. Click here to read it.

A case in point is where Excalibur came from. Jack says it was forged from the metal that came  from a meteorite, so it had unusual properties. According to Lavinia, it was forged by a woman blessed with magic in the caves under Avalon.

Is either “true?” Does it matter? I prefer to just enjoy them both. How about you?