Ancient Rome and China Meet – Lewis McIntyre

Whenever I hear people freaked out by other cultures (and you see it all the time) I think about what it must have been like when someone would literally see a different colored face or hear a different language for the first time. I’m not alone in this, I presume, because Lewis McIntyre has written a novel about a literal clash of cultures: Ancient Rome crossing paths with the Chinese for the first time in his novel The Eagle and the Dragon.

So what’s the Lew McIntyre story?

Hello to all.  My name is Lew McIntyre. I have done a little bit of everything, it seems. I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1970 and spent my career in Naval Aviation flying special-mission C-130 Hercules aircraft. I retired in 1990 and continued to support my aviation community to this day as an engineer, though the “Herc” has long since been replaced by the “Merc,” the E-6B Mercury.

I am an odd character, an engineer that seems to have mastered the art of writing.  Over the past twenty years I have done a lot of technical writing that people actually seem to enjoy reading.  About twenty years ago, I began The Eagle and the Dragon, and now here we are, two books out, three in the oven, and my wife Karen has published two, with a third in work. We seem to have found our third careers!

Besides writing, I enjoy biking, amateur radio (call sign KB6IC) and deer hunting.

OH, he tries to sound all normal-guy and non-engineery, then he goes and gives us his HAM sign. Probably not helping your cause any, but I digress. What’s The Eagle and the Dragon about?

The Eagle and the Dragon is a fictional account of the first Roman mission to China, set in 100AD, and modeled loosely around an actual Roman mission to China in 166AD.  Like most first missions, nothing goes according to plan:  Senator Aulus Aemilius Galba, tapped by Trajan to lead the envoy, expects an easy path to fame and fortune.  But the Fates have other plans for him and his unlikely companions.  From the storm-tossed Indian Ocean to the opulent court of Han China, from the grassy steppes north of China with the wild Xiongnu nomads, to the forbidding peaks of the Pamir Mountains guarding Central Asia, they will fight for their lives, looking for the road leading back to Rome. It’s quite an epic adventure, with a few love stories thrown in for good measure.

Writing it was a lot like watching a TV series, I had to go write the next chapter to find out what happened next!

Fun. That’s how I felt writing Acre’s Orphans. What intrigued you about this time period enough to invest the time writing a novel?

What intrigued me most about the era was the extensive contact the Romans had with “The Distant East”, the Oriens Repositus as they called it. Every year for over two centuries, 120 ships a year sailed from the Red Sea ports over the open Indian Ocean for India, loaded with gold, silver and Mediterranean wine to purchase silks, peppers and spices, and artwork.  Even tortoise-shell, from which they made a plastic-like, decorative waterproof finishing for wood furniture. The scale of trade was almost modern in scope, about a half billion dollars in gold going out each year to purchase goods that would be marked up ten, twenty, thirty-fold and taxed at 25%.  There were Roman interest sections, today we would call them consulates, in dozens of Indian cities, along with Roman temples.  Buddhism made its way to Rome as a popular, philosophical religion… things we never heard of.  Roman coins of the era have been found in Nagasaki, Roman shipping jugs have been found in Vietnam, and they even got as far east as Kattigat, somewhere in Borneo. Outside London, two Chinese skeletons were found in a Roman grave across the Thames two years ago… I know their names, they figure in my sequel!

I just had to capture this wholly unknown side of ancient Rome, the big ships they used, how they would have defended their lucrative cargo against pirates, what they thought of the world of the East, so different from their own.  I had to experience for myself what it was like to make that trip, and bring that experience to my readers.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

I have two, I think.(Editors note: why does everyone always have two?)  One is a violent storm that blows up while the Europa is transiting the Indian Ocean.  I think it was a tropical cyclone, the time of year was right, but I believe they just grazed the fringes of it, otherwise, I might not have been able to finish the book.  The Europa was a big ship, a three-master of about 200 feet, but the seas were bigger, and they fought through the night to keep the ship afloat and facing into the forty-foot waves, wind gusting to perhaps eighty or more knots.  And the next day, de-watering the ship, surveying and repairing the damage, tending the injured.

Yes, the Romans had ships of that size.  I modeled the Europa, Asia and Africa off the Mediterranean grain freighters, which were of that size, perhaps 800 to 1200 tons displacement, for you nautical types. You can read about one such ship, besides my own, caught in a Mediterranean storm with St Paul on board, in the Acts of the Apostles.  It was a very detailed contemporary description of a prolonged storm at sea, accurate enough for a detailed reconstruction of the incident.

The second involves my heroine, Marcia Lucia, Chinese name Si Huar, who begins as an abused concubine of a mid-level Chinese official.  She rises throughout the story, coming to leave that life behind and find love with the grizzled centurion Antonius, for whom love is also a new experience. She learns to fight, much to his disgruntlement, taught by Hina, a warrior woman of the Xiongnu nomads.  Hina is a hard taskmaster and Marcia masters everything Hina sets her to do.  But when she faces her first real fight, a fight with her former consort that must be to the death if she is not to return to the life she left behind, she hesitates… almost fatally.  The doubt, the fear, the uncertainty of that first real fight, the agonizing pain of a serious wound that must be ignored.  Then sitting beside the dead body of the man she has known for ten years, the man she has just killed.

That’s intense. Where can people learn more about you and your work?

You can find my book at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback. Or email me at mcintyrel@verizon.net and I will send you signed copy for just $20, shipping included at no extra charge.

https://www.amazon.com/Eagle-Dragon-Novel-Rome-China-ebook/dp/B01MSEAC3I/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=

I have a second book out, a short story, Come,Follow Me, a Story of Pilate and Jesus, that first Easter weekend told from the point of view of that most reluctant executioner, Pontius Pilate.  Also on Amazon.

 

Subscribe to my newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of  my upcoming novel.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look at the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction of all types from around the world.

 

 

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

 

Smart Answer to a Silly Question: Chris Northern and “Why Rome?”

In a moment of snark in a previous post, I posed the question, “Why does it seem like every other historical fiction novel is set in ancient Rome?” (By the way, Rome is the new Middle Ages if the list of new books is any indication.) This is not terribly new in traditional “histfic”, but there are more and more fantasy books set in this time as well.  In a Goodreads discussion, author Chris Northern, author of the Price of Freedom/Freedom’s Fool series took me to task.

I asked him, using small words that even I could understand, to explain why that was. Here’s his answer. Enjoy.

I enjoy the mix of history and fantasy, but some people are uneasy with it. Why do you think they go together so well?

History and Fantasy are tied together by numerous silken threads. Fantasy develops naturally from history for the simple reason that a fantasy social and

Chris Northern explains the fascination with the Roman Empire
Chris Northern explains the fascination with the Roman Empire

political structure must be based on something, and picking a historical period is the simplest method available. The high medieval period has been the default choice for a good while, but it has become far more common to reach further afield geographically and temporally for a framework to define fantasy stories.

 

And we are kind of burned out on the pretend-medieval theme, I grant you.  So why Rome?

Rome is not one commonly used, but for me it was the most obvious choice. When I first settled to write The Last King’s Amulet, the first novel The Price of Freedom/Freedom’s Fool fantasy series, I desired a background where a central, magically powerful state expanded and contracted in cycles, more or less at the whims of a ruling class that were competing with each other as much or more than they were with other nations. I also had in mind a fantasy Falco, the protagonist of the murder mystery series by Lindsey Davis. The adoption of the Roman Republic seemed natural enough, and has defined the series ever since.
Ancient Rome burns bright in European and World History for more reasons than I can begin to address here, though I will make every effort to touch on as many as possible. To begin with, though little noted, is that it is one of the few cultures to so obviously encompass a complete cycle of political development and decay to its own self-destruction. Beginning as a Kingdom, transitioning into a Republic, Democracy and enduring a surprisingly long time as an Imperial Dictatorship as stubbornly maintained economic incompetence corroded the wealth of the empire to the point that the difference between the Barbarians and Rome itself was wafer thin when the latter swamped the former and the Dark Ages ensued.
The centralisation of power, the physical and social isolation of an increasingly centralised ruling class, the drift away from pragmatic response to economic and political problems… these are all things that led to the downfall of Rome as geopolitical power, and are all echoed in modern times, which I think is one of the reasons there has been a resurgence in interest in Rome. We see the decline of Rome going on around us on a daily basis – for Rome, read Washington, London, Brussels, concentrations of powerful individuals living in an echo chamber where voices of dissent are marginalised. No one told the Emperor Diocletion that his ‘great new idea’ of universal price fixing on all goods was a terrible idea because no one around him knew any better, all potential voices of dissent having been removed from the ruling society. We see that our own society, now more-or-less global, has its own systemic problems that will not be address, that cannot be addressed, because of the prevailing culture of advancement only of those who accept the ruling elite’s views.
So basically, it’s easy to make analogies…..
Much is made of the military might of Rome, the invulnerable Legions, with little reference to the fact that the Legions fought well in significant part because they were, as individuals, advantaged economically by the society they were fighting to protect and expand. When that advantage was no longer a factor – token coinage that had no value and a shattered economy that offered little in the way of goods to purchase – the soldiery ceased to be invested in winning battles. It is also little mentioned that one of the primary reasons the Republic and early Empire won wars even though they routinely lost battles, was because they always had enough wealth in reserve to raise more armies. War is never a cheap undertaking and if a nation simply does not have a robust economy that generates wealth, wars are less likely to be successfully prosecuted. Lost wars cause loss of territory, confidence and social cohesion, as well as cause further economic difficulties.
One title of the Freedoms Fool series
One title of the Freedoms Fool series

Still, Rome burns bright in history as one of the longest lasting empires, territories of economic and social stability, that the world has ever seen. Little wonder that it resurfaces in the collective psyche when our own times become increasing unstable. Perhaps we recognise the parallels and subconsciously fear Rome’s ultimate fate – a decent into barbarism and poverty that we know can persist for centuries. Not a cheery thought, but perhaps one worth a little more than a passing glance.

Thanks, I’m smarter now than when I started…… Where can people learn more?
The Price of Freedom (Freedom’s Fool) consists of four novels, to date: The Last King’s Amulet, The Key To The Grave, The Invisible Hand, and All the King’s Bastards.

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 Amazon.com, 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 TheBookFolks.com

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!