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?

 

Christoph Fromm and the Battle of Stalingrad From the German Side

Every human being sees history through their own eyes, but too often readers get to see it from essentially one side… a cynic would say the winners’, but more likely those who write primarily for an English speaking audience. However, we all know any time human beings are involved, everyone has their own take. That’s what makes historical fiction so fascinating. Case in point… when was the last time you read about a WWII battle from the German side?

Christoph Fromm studied at the film academy (Hochschule für Film und

Christoph Fromm has written about the Battle of Stalingrad as you've never heard it.
Christoph Fromm has written about the Battle of Stalingrad as you’ve never heard it.

Fernsehen) in Munich from 1977 to 1981. He has worked as a full-time screenwriter since 1983. He started early with writing prose alongside his work on screenplays.

In 1984 he published the short story collection “Der kleine Bruder”. After working on several movie and television screenplays, he founded the publishing house Primero Verlag together with children’s books author Tina Lizius in 2006. In the same year he published the political thriller “Die Macht des Geldes”.  In 2013 he published his novel “Stalingrad: The Loneliest Death” which was a great success. In 2015 it was translated into English.

His third novel “Amoklauf im Paradies” will be published in spring 2016.

 In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

In September 1942, the few survivors of a Sturmpionierbataillion stationed in Northern Africa are sent to the Eastern front. During the decisive battle of Stalingrad – which claimed more than two million victims – the soldiers lose all their moral inhibitions and confronted by trench warfare, close combat for every single house, hunger and arctic cold, madness is their only remaining refuge before dying anyway…

Young lieutenant Hans von Wetzland is forced to recognise that these conditions do not allow him or his soldiers to stick even to the most basic moral principles.

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

My novel is based on extensive research in the course of which I was also able to talk to numerous contemporary witnesses. I was especially fascinated by the letters from my mother’s former fiancé who was stationed at the Eastern front as a lieutenant of the German general staff, later as an artillery captain, and who went missing in action in February 1945. It is alarming to recognise how contemporary his longing for personal happiness, romance, and his escape into religious, conservative, apolitical areas appears.

What interested me most about my fictive protagonist was his transformation from a war romantic to a war defector. The cauldron of Stalingrad shocked me with its existential and extreme situations. The vast majority of the soldiers could not remain human under these inhuman conditions, but were overpowered by madness which did not even stop at cannibalism and taking the law into their own hand.

Stalingrad was a nightmare for all participants, although most Americans know little about it. What’s your favorite scene in the book (without giving away any spoilers)?

That would be chapter 48 in which the soldiers are demoted and have to shovel snow off a street inside the cauldron of Stalingrad. When they are completely exhausted and finally achieve their target for the day, they recognise that the murderous strain was completely in vain as they cleared this street only because of an administrative error.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

You can get the English Translation of Stalingrad on Amazon Kindle
You can get the English Translation of Stalingrad: The Loneliest Death on Amazon Kindle

You can find my eBook on Amazon and if you have a Kindle Unlimited account it is also available for lending. 

http://www.amazon.com/Stalingrad-Loneliest-Death-Christoph-Fromm-ebook/dp/B00Y30GRVO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448549163&sr=8-1&keywords=Stalingrad+Fromm

 I am also on Goodreads and Library Thing.

 You can find more information (only in German) about me and my publisher at

http://www.primeroverlag.de/

https://www.facebook.com/primeromuenchen

 

Radio Interview: Indiana Jones Myth or Reality talks Byron and why Archaeologists Need Presentation Skills

Had a great time doing this one-hour radio interview with Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein on November 18. We discussed Byron de Prorok, why presentation skills matter to scientists, and why I could never…. ever…. be a real archaeologist.

It was a wide-ranging interview, and a lot of fun. Take a listen:

Check out the Indiana Jones: Myth or Reality podcast.
Check out the Indiana Jones: Myth or Reality podcast.

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…”

The Logan Museum Honors Pond and De Prorok

What a blast we had on November 9. The Logan Museum at Beloit College invited me to speak to the Three Rivers Archaeological Society  about Byron de Prorok. This was part of their exhibit for the 90th Anniversary of the Franco-Saharan Expedition: Blue Veils, Black Mountains: Alonzo Pond’s 1925 Expedition to Southern Algeria.

Michael Tarabulski and I tour the Logan's exhibit based on his years of research. Great finally meeting him in person!
Michael Tarabulski and I tour the Logan’s exhibit based on his years of research. Great finally meeting him in person!

First, I got to meet Michael Tarabulski, whose research on Byron de Prorok is the cause of all my troubles, and The Count of the Sahara couldn’t have happened without him.

Part of the exhibit. The character of Belaid's wife, Tadefi, was based on the painting in the upper right.
Part of the exhibit. The character of Belaid’s wife, Tadefi, was based on the painting in the upper right.

Then we toured the exhibit… seeing photographs, film and artifacts from the original site, and reliving moments of the book. The story really came alive.

Part of the terrific exhibit at the Logan Museum.
Part of the terrific exhibit at the Logan Museum.

Finally we spoke at the Three Rivers Archaeological Society, a mix of academics, hobbyists and students. What a blast.

Had a blast speaking to the group about Byron de Prorok and how he'd make a great Kardashian.
Had a blast speaking to the group about Byron de Prorok and how he’d make a great Kardashian.

Thanks to all. Of course, if you know any group interested in Midwest history or archaeology, I’m available to speak! Drop me a line on the Contact Page

 

Press Release for November 9 Presentation at the Logan Museum

I am well and truly stoked to be speaking at the Logan Museum/ Beloit College on Monday, November 9. Below is a copy of the press release for the event.

For Immediate Release

Novelist Wayne Turmel to discuss “Count” Byron de Prorok on Nov. 9

The dubious character accompanied Logan Museum explorers on a famous expedition in the 1920s 

Media Contact: Jason Hughes,  hughesj@beloit.edu or (608) 363-2137

Of all the archaeological expeditions in the Logan Museum of Anthropology’s history, none remains so tangible in public and institutional memory than Alonzo Pond’s journey across the Sahara desert in 1925. “Blue Veils, Black Mountains,” the Logan’s latest exhibition takes a full accounting of the Pond trip.

The items Pond brought home from that expedition formed the backbone of the Logan Museum’s collection. “The materials brought back by the Pond expedition created the first large, purposefully and intentionally assembled ethnographic collection brought to the museum,” says Curator of Exhibits and Education Dan Bartlett. Additionally, “Pond’s trip was covered by newspapers across the country,” Bartlett says, “For the greater Beloit community, the expedition elevated Beloit’s reputation as a center of scholarship.”

But like any good expedition, it was not pursued by Pond alone. On Monday, Nov. 9, the Logan Museum will welcome a pair of guests to shed some light on perhaps the most famous member of the expedition, “Count” Byron de Prorok. The event will be held in the Godfrey Anthropology Building, Room 102.

At 7 p.m., Michael Tarabulski, a Beloit alumnus and an archivist with the National Archives, will screen his brief film “A Distinctly Dubious Character: Byron de Prorok and the Tomb of Tin Hinan.”

Immediately following the screening, author Wayne Turmel will discuss his new work of historic fiction, The Count of the Sahara. The novel, told from the point of view of Byron de Prorok’s assistant, follows de Prorok on the cross-country promotional tour he undertook during the year following the Pond expedition as well as a number of flashbacks to the expedition. As readers will note, there is a bit of discrepancy between Prorok’s recollection of events and how things unfolded during the Pond expedition. Turmel’s e-book was one of the most downloaded ebooks on Amazon worldwide the week it debuted.

“Prorok was really one of modern media’s first celebrities,” Turmel says. “He really crafted an image of a swashbuckling adventurer for himself,” Turmel adds. “He was a perfect storm of charisma and accessible fame. He traveled to parts of the country that had never seen film footage of these far-flung expedition destinations before.”

Prorok “drove the archaeological purists crazy,” Turmel notes “because Prorok declared some of his discoveries the greatest since King Tut’s tomb.

Tarabulski and Turmel’s presentations will tell the story of the rise and fall of Byron de Prorok. Following the presentation, the Logan Museum will be open at 6:30 p.m. so attendees have an opportunity to visit the exhibit both before and after the presentations. The Logan Museum is located at the corner of College and Bushnell Streets on the campus of Beloit College.