Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Dance Me To The End Of Time

This is such a magical time of the year and I have written a short story I would like to share with you.

So curl up, think of crackling fires and roasting chestnuts and pop on over to Suz deMello/Sue Swift's blog for 'Dance Me To The End Of Time'.. http://fearlessfastpacedfiction.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas And To All, A Peaceful and Joyous New Year


Thank you all for following me this year.

I wish you peace, joy and prosperity for this festive season and the year to come.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Vienna Villainy


 Vienna. Its name alone conjures up images of the golden statue of Johann Strauss in the Stadtpark, eternally playing his violin; the Blue Danube (which is more a muddy grey colour actually) and Sachertorte accompanied by lashings of whipped cream.







It is, without a doubt, one of the most culturally endowed, beautiful cities in the world.
It is also renowned as one of the safest. 
Ironic then, that it should possess one of the goriest museums I have ever visited in my life.
Vienna is a city well populated by museums. Not just the many situated in the MuseumsQuartier on the Ring, but down side streets, off the beaten track and down mysterious alleyways. There is a separate museum for practically everything. From tobacco to trams, Sigmund Freud to theatre, as well as military, art, science, social and natural history. In total, there are well over 100, but perhaps the most curious is a little building, tucked away down a side street in the 2nd District (Leopoldstadt).
You are highly unlikely to stumble upon it by accident, but a determined effort and a tram ride and there you are.
Although not intended to be exclusively concerned with the city’s grisliest murders, the lasting impression it leaves you with is that of skulls (of executed murderers)and images of mutilated bodies.
One such example of a skull belonged to a deceptively charming looking gentleman by the name of Hugo Schenk. He was a serial killer par excellence, preferring his victims to be female, young and attractive. In his hands, they wouldn’t stay that way for long. Rape and drowning awaited them, after he had wooed them, convincing them he was a Polish Count. Sometimes, he was even assisted in his evil crimes by his brother. 
Having apparently tired of his usual method of killing, he taught one unsuspecting victim to play Russian Roulette (with an empty gun, of course!). Sad to say, the young woman paid for her naivete with her life when she shot herself, saving him the trouble of tying a boulder to her feet and chucking her into the Danube.
When he was finally caught, Schenk was reported as having been in correspondence with at least 50 women – no doubt all of whom were destined to share the fate of their many predecessors.
This and many other stories await you within the dark and rambling confines of the Vienna Crime Museum.
Although I saw children there, I personally would not recommend it for anyone below the age of 13 or 14 or if you are of a particularly nervous or squeamish disposition.
But for everyone else, next time you find yourself in Vienna on a rainy afternoon and fancy a trip to the dark side, get yourself along to:
Gro├če Sperlgasse 24, A-1020 Wien
(If you don't read German, you may need your dictionary as all the descriptions are in German but as the objects and images are graphic, you may find you don't need it as often as you may anticipate.)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Attila the Hun - With The Bits Your History Teacher Would Have Censored!

 An Interview with Tristram La Roche
 Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Tristram La Roche whose novella, ‘The Hun and The General’ has just been published by Etopia Press. 

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:

Livianus is bored and longs for action. His reward for serving Rome is the governorship of a quiet corner of Gaul, but as he whiles away his days at his sumptuous villa, his thoughts turn to Attila the Hun, the feared barbarian with whom Livianus once enjoyed an intimate friendship. When a desperate emperor asks him to return to Pannonia to broker a truce with Attila, Livianus's old passion flares.

Attila is losing the will to go on. He is tired of being a tyrant but his people's future depends on him. The arrival of Livianus renews Attila's spirit as he prepares to march on
Constantinople. Livianus has nothing to bargain with, but when the emperor's sister delivers a proposition for Attila, a new and brighter future seems to lay directly ahead. For the people, and especially for the two men.

But the deadly hand of the emperor isn't interested in peace, and as their plans are destroyed, only one course of action remains open to the Hun and the general.


Catherine:  Welcome Tris and congratulations on ‘The Hun and The General’. This is something of a departure for you from your previous books, isn’t it? What inspired you to branch into historical fiction and why these particular subjects (Attila the Hun and the Roman General  Livianus)?
Tris: You might remember that one of my characters in my very first story, On My Knees, was called Attila. That Attila was very much a modern day man but one of my fans said ‘Oh, imagine if someone wrote an MM about Attila the Hun.” Well, that was like a red rag to a bull and I immediately accepted the challenge. It came together easily as I have a very great interest in ancient history, especially Rome. A bit of research gave me the period and it all slotted into place. A Livianus existed, but in an earlier time.

Catherine: Are you planning to write any more stories centred on actual historical characters and, if so, do you have anyone particular in mind yet?
Tris: I am planning to because I enjoyed writing The Hun and The General tremendously. I really lived those characters. One day I broke off from a scene in which I’d been in Livianus’s head to go to the doctor; you should have seen his face when I walked into his surgery, raised my right hand and said ‘Hail!’ Right now I’m toying with a number of possibilities and it’s likely I will write several since wherever I look I see potential. What I like about The Hun and The General is the juxtaposition of brutality (not for its own sake, but of necessity for the characters, time and plot) with love and tenderness. I therefore can’t help but think what might happen if I went into other brutal (to our sensibilities) civilisations such as the Aztecs. The Nile during the reign of the pharaohs is tempting but would need a lot of care not to be derivative, and England in the 17th century might be fun.

Catherine:  Since we chatted in June, in addition to ‘The Hun and The General’, you have had two other books – ‘Lorenzo Il Magnifico’ and ‘Fixed’ – published. It’s been a busy six months! Do you have a pool of ideas just waiting to be written or do you have to spend time searching for your next storyline?
Tris: The one thing life has given me is an overflowing ‘experience account’. My head is awash with ideas; some vague but some vivid. I do draw on my own personal experiences, then adapt them. Lorenzo il Magnifico is partly true in that I did meet someone called Lorenzo in Florence (he wasn’t a waiter) who had inherited a flat in Via Lorenzo il Magnifico. They say ‘you couldn’t make it up’ and sometimes you couldn’t. Fixed reflects the experiences of a dear friend who lost a great deal in 2008 when the world got turned on its head; it’s a story I felt had to be told as too many people take too much for granted. So, yes, I have a lot of ideas but turning them into stories that people will want to read is the hardest part, and finding that hook can come easily or take months.
 Catherine: Your books are highly erotic. What, for you, are the ingredients that blend together to create a good work of erotic fiction?
Tris: Are they really? (blushes). You see, I don’t think about the erotic content. To me, sex is as much a part of normal life as breathing, eating and sleeping. If one writes about a relationship between two human beings – be that straight or gay – it is a fallacy to leave out the sex. In fact, there is an argument that the sex act is even more important in some gay relationships during the early stages because often sex comes first and the love develops in the aftermath. If this is all going to work, for me at least, it has to reflect reality. It’s not enough to titillate with mere physical descriptions of the various working parts, we need to know what it feels like, be it romantic love or animal lust.
 Catherine: If you had to choose only one, which writer has influenced you the most and why?
Tris: Not easy to answer, Cat. I suppose, if I have to choose one, it will have to be Alan Hollinghurst. And not for the reasons you might think. Yes, I loved The Line of Beauty but I haven’t liked anything else. In fact, I recently read The Spell and it was a chore to get through; the spoilt middle class characters came so close to getting a good smacking! So, his influence has been in the sense of encouragement - that I thought if he could write about gay lives and get recognised in the mainstream, why not me?

Catherine: If ‘The Hun and The General’ was made into a film, who would you cast as your central characters? And who would direct the film?
Tris: Erm, did you know that I am writing the screenplay as we speak? I think Brad Pitt would make a terrific Attila, don’t you? But if Brad were cast in the role then I would want to play Livianus myself. Ahem! Well, I can always hope. Assuming that was out of the question, Colin Farrell or Christian Bale would have to fight it out for the part. If I could persuade Peter Greenaway to direct it I think we would have a classic on our hands.

Catherine:  What are you currently working on?
Tris: The Hun and The General screenplay! Right now I’m not actually writing another book because I do not believe a writer can maintain quality and bash books out as if on a production line; I’m toying with ideas and plan to begin in January with a view to publishing another three or four during 2012, perhaps a full-length novel among them.

Catherine: I shall look forward to that. 2012 looks set to be another really productive year for you!  Thank you very much for joining me again today, Tris. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your books?
Tris: You can find me here -
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tristram-La-Roche/e/B0054U5A2E
/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Here are the buy links:

Here’s an excerpt to give you just a flavour of ‘The Hun and The General’:
Pannonia, 5th Century AD
Attila smashed his fists into the table, toppling his cup of mare’s milk. “They call me The Scourge of God and yet dare to question my orders?”
The warrior held his king’s gaze. “Your Highness—”
“Don’t Your Highness me, you blubbering fool. I’m sick of your groveling, Barbax. Speak frankly to me, without fear.” Attila rounded the huge table and brought himself up close to the trembling warrior. “Or shall I have you impaled and left out on the plains as a warning to others?”
Barbax shook his head. His lower lip trembled and his voice wavered. “N-no, Attila. I beg you, not that. If I am to die, let it be by your hand, with your sword.”
Attila flung his arms wide and Barbax flinched.
“How could I kill you?” Attila laughed and slapped Barbax on the shoulder. “Of all my warriors, you are the one I need at my side when we take Constantinople.”
“Yes, Attila. Of course.” Barbax shifted from one foot to the other, his eyes averted.
“But?”
Barbax stared at him blankly.
“I’m waiting for the but. Come on, man, show me your guts. Tell me why we shouldn’t seize what’s left of the Roman Empire once and for all.” Attila turned to the table and saw the fallen goblet, the milk dripping off to soak into the mat on the floor. He bellowed to the far side of the room. “Girl, fetch ale.” He perched on the edge of the table and smiled. “Let us drink, my friend. See if the barley loosens your tongue more than your king’s wishes seem to.”
A slave girl scurried in, carrying a jug and two goblets, which she set on the table.
“Hurry up, woman, or I’ll tear your womb from you with my bare hands.” He grabbed the girl from behind as she bent over the table to pour the beer. He pulled her by the hips until his cock pressed against her buttocks. “Or maybe you’d like us both to give you a good fucking?” He let her go and laughed. “Away with you. We can pour our own ale.”
Attila filled one silver goblet and gave it to Barbax, then shook the dregs of milk from his wooden cup and served himself. He took a long swig and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Well, get on with it then.”
Barbax swallowed hard. “Theodosius has made Constantinople impregnable.”
“Nothing is impregnable, except that Visigoth wife of yours.”
“The walls he’s built around the city are like nothing else on earth.”
“And nothing on earth has ever stopped us.”
“But this is different. Constantinople is weeks away.”
“We’ve marched farther.”
“But not with the machines we’ll need if we are to even break one brick. We’ll need battering rams and towers and—”
“And we’ll take them. We’ll take all we’ve got, ironworkers and carpenters too, and then we’ll take Constantinople. I’ll personally impale that snake Theodosius before I piss on his throne.” He drained his cup and slammed it onto the table. “Start the preparations. I want to leave before the rainy season.”
“But Attila—”
“But nothing! Now get out of my sight before I put you over the table and do what I should have done to that serving wench.”
Attila stroked his fine beard with his fingers and watched Barbax leave. Pillaging had served their people well, but they had need of greater wealth now. Yet despite his bravado, the warrior king hoped for an alternative to the march on Constantinople. Barbax spoke the truth. With so much to transport, they would move slowly. Word of their approach would reach Constantinople long before they did, and Emperor Theodosius would have time to prepare. What Attila needed was a miracle.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011

'An Affinity for Shadows' - an Interview with Liz R. Newman

Today I am delighted to be joined by Freelance Writer and Novelist, Liz R. Newman, whose atmospheric love story, ‘An Affinity for Shadows’ has recently been published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. Here’s a little information about it:

‘Award-winning broadcast journalist Kate Theodore has it all under control, until she rushes to the scene of one of the greatest tragedies in American history in pursuit of the perfect story. Having pressured her cameraman into accompanying her, she feels responsible for his untimely death. Her guilt opens the door to transformation in a desperate attempt to rediscover her soul.

Brushing aside a chance meeting with a handsome Italian stranger, Kate soon becomes captivated by his charms, but he is a man whose heart is shrouded in secrets. Can she open her heart to the possibility of true love, or will she be lost forever to her past mistakes'

Catherine: Welcome, Liz and congratulations on ‘An Affinity for Shadows’. It is described as a story of ‘love and rediscovery’. Can you tell us a bit more about it ?
Liz: An Affinity for Shadows is a mainstream literary romance, and it is my first novel.  It is the dynamic story of Kate Theodore, a journalist for one of the highest rated cable news network shows around the time of 9/11.  She rushes to the scene of one of the greatest tragedies in American history in pursuit of the perfect story.  Pressuring her cameraman into accompanying her, she feels responsible for his untimely death.  Her guilt opens the door to transformation in a desperate attempt to rediscover her soul. Along the way she meets a gorgeous and sexy Italian gentleman who turns out to be much more than he appears to be.  There is a surprise ending, and she discovers although she falls in love with him, she could never have guessed just exactly what she was getting into.

Catherine:  Why did you decide to become a novelist and who or what has inspired you most?
 Liz: There's this miraculous moment in every writer's life where they just realize they have a story to tell, and they start putting it down on paper.  The words are difficult at first, clumsy and labored, but after umpteenth drafts and learning more about the craft, they simply begin to flow.  I think the greatest challenge for us writers isn't necessarily finding the stories, but recording the stories the way we feel them, see them, hear them in our imagination. We can only hope the reader sees, hears, and feels them with us.

I think the first moment I realized I had a passion for telling stories was in sixth grade.  I had this lovely teacher named Mrs. Kennedy, who was so warm and inclusive.  She read a creative writing essay I wrote for school: this somewhat corny piece in retrospect about how the wind was like the choreography of a dance.  It was autumn, the leaves were blowing around, and I just stared outside of the window and recorded that on paper.  She read it aloud to the class and gave this wonderful sigh of happiness, flashed her huge smile, and plied my writing with compliments in front of the entire class.  Flash forward a few years later and I'd won some school awards for writing.  Flash forward another few years and I was doing everything to suppress my creative voice, trying to stop writing since I was going through somewhat of an Edgar Allan Poe stage (although looking back I really wish I would've kept all of that morose stuff), and drown out thoughts which were displeasing to the overtly religious views I was raised with.  Flash forward to now and I'm at peace with who I am, and amazingly and coincidentally I completed my first novel. 

There are medical theories that say suppression of a condition will make it stronger.  Let's take, for example, the allergenic response and the popular treatments of suppressing allergic symptoms.  Discontinue the treatment and the allergies sometimes come back even stronger than before.  In some strange way, this is what happened with my writing.  Writers as well as any other artists get that reflective insight into the human condition mostly from the intense life experiences of joy, happiness, pain, love, and suffering.  Maybe not all of us do, but that's how it turned out for me.

Catherine: That’s really interesting, Liz. I can see where you’re coming from with that. Now, where can readers pick up a copy of your book?
Liz: The book is available pretty much worldwide through Amazon, and it is also at several ebook sites and on the shelves at some stores in the SF Bay Area.  The book is now on sale at Barnes and Noble and it can also be purchased through the Gypsy Shadow Publishing Company website. 
Barnes and Noble
Gypsy Shadow
Readers can find me on  Facebook or at www.lizrnewman.net.  

Thank you so much, Catherine, for having me as a guest on your blog.

Catherine: Thank you for joining me, Liz