Valor in Action and in Remembrance: an interview with Terry Wilson

The first Wednesday of the month is IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) started by  Alex Cavanaugh.  Please visit the IWSG site, and this month’s co-hosts: C. Lee McKenzieRachel PattisonElizabeth SeckmanStephanie FarrisLori MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata

I am always insecure when I encounter a gifted writer.  Today I am happy to interview him:  Terry Wilson.

I am pleased and honored today to present my interview with Terry Wilson, a man of wide experience, with a sense of humor, a knack with a pen, and an understanding of conflict, courage and resolution.  I ‘met’ him through the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award fora, and always enjoyed his contributions.

I learned that Terry had written a book (at that time) set during the Kent State Massacre: The Blanket Hill Insurgency.  Over the next several years he produced another also set during the Vietnam war but looking back to another war: Breaking Liberator’s Shackles . The Vietnam war was the event, as it was going on, and then afterward, that seemed to hang over my generation and form my society afterward.

Terry’s third book, Tarnished Valor, touches upon the Vietnam one more time.

I am happy to present my interview with Terry.  Enjoy the excerpts from his books.  I have inserted geotargeted links to his books (they will take you to whatever Amazon site you use) as well as links to my reviews.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

You have done a great many things in your life -combat veteran, writer, devoted husband (you’ve done a lot of other things: what are they?) Which of them did you find the most challenging?

Because of my respect for 58,272 men and women who died in Vietnam, I must make a clarification related to this question. I served, but I did not see combat.
I’m no different from any other human being who has lived for many decades. As a child and teenager I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where my faith was nurtured and ethics were stressed. My father was a high school coach who taught me the rewards of hard work. I participated on the football, wrestling and track teams. I held my high school’s record for the 880 yard run. My dreams were to either become a pastor or an architect.
Following my time in the Army, I became an architect. Millions of children have been educated in school buildings I had a hand in the design and construction of. I’ve served on the boards of a number of non-profits, and I enjoy fishing and golf.
As with everyone, I’ve been faced with problems. In the early Nineties a striving architectural practice I built was wiped out by a default judgment from the court when my attorney failed to respond to motions for sanction brought against me associated with what was a nuisance law suit. All of my resources were wiped out, and this led to a divorce from my first wife of twenty years.
Being able to hang on to my belief in the Lord and conduct my life with ethical principles has been the greatest challenge I’ve faced. When things go bad, it’s hard to not want to seek revenge, but I have been able to move on. These challenges have helped me renew who I am.  
You have written three books that touch upon hope, despair, renewal high hopes, faith and love.  What inspired you to write them?
I would add humor, ego, self-doubt, conflict, loss and ethics to the descriptors of this question. Humans are forced to deal with all of these on a daily basis. I strive to portray every character as a complete person. None are perfect, and none are all bad. I want the reader to feel empathy for each…. even for an antagonist.
Now I’ll address the inspiration for my novels. Finishing my enlistment in the Army in 1970 I returned to Kent State to continue my education. The University was a different environment from the one I left three years prior. The culture changed. The once patriotic campus, steep in tradition, exploded into a battleground of unrest and revolution. I witnessed the tragedy of the shootings that rocked our nation and the world. The change and clash of cultures that occurred at Kent and elsewhere were in need of telling, and to tell the story I wrote The Blanket Hill Insurgency.

The following excerpt is from the 41st Chapter of The Blanket Hill Insurgency:

Six were seated around a large round table in Ray’s Place. Because of his shortly cropped hair, Jim stood out from others in the campus town tavern even though he wore civilian clothing. Richard, Linda, Jed, Ruth and Ann all agreed to spend the evening before the start of classes for the Winter Quarter having pizza and beer. It was something Jim had missed doing, in a campus tavern, since he graduated from Ohio State. Having just arrived, the conversation was mostly light and dominated by the upcoming weddings. Ruth was intrigued by the conversation, and Jed acted as though he didn’t notice her interest to everyone’s amusement.
It was revealed to Jim that Linda and Richard had become god parents. This led to Ann starting a more serious conversation.
     “Their godson has parents who protest against Vietnam,” Ann said abruptly. “I can’t believe the lying they do to make our being there sound wrong.”
     “Like what?” Jim asked.
     “Kelly, the kid’s mother, said we intentionally destroy farmer’s crops. She said it has forced whole communities to move to city slums so they won’t starve.”
     Jim reached out and grabbed Ann’s hand and said, “She’s not telling a lie. We are, but there’s a legitimate reason for it.”
Ann was shocked as she asked, “What?”
     “The country has political divides, and there are large rural areas sympathetic to the North Vietnamese government. Many living in these farming communities are farmers during the day and grab weapons at night… sometimes during the day. They are the Viet Cong.”
     Jim had everyone’s attention.
     “The Cong have killed and wounded thousands of our soldiers. We target these communities by dropping a chemical on their fields. It’s called Agent Orange. It’s very effective in killing the crops, and without food, the people, rather than starving, move from the area, mostly to cities where slums have sprung up. I feel sorry for the people, but it has probably saved thousands of American lives.”
     “There’s no other way?” Ann asked.
     “Short of our leaving, I doubt it.”
     “So we should leave?” Linda asked.
     “No Linda… that’s not what I’m saying. A majority… most of the South Vietnamese people support their government. If we left, they could not stop the country from falling to communist rule. I agree with our being there, and I would hate to see us pull out before we complete our mission. Three men in my platoon died for the cause. I’d hate to see their sacrifice go in vain.”
     “Couldn’t we just find the farmers that are the Viet Cong?” Ruth asked. “Why should whole communities have to suffer?”
     “Most of what my platoon did was called search and destroy missions. Our job was to find the Cong. We’d search hamlets and farms looking for signs of enemy activity. We’d look for stashes of weapons and ammunition along with tunnels they would conceal themselves in. We were successful in identifying some of the Cong, but we never knew if the next person, be it a man, woman or child would be the next to aim a weapon at one of us.”
     “Child?” Ruth exclaimed.
     “Yes. Hundreds… maybe thousands of children fight with the Cong. Following the firefight where two of my men died, we surveyed the Cong that were killed. Along with twelve men there were three children probably between ten and twelve years old. All were clutching A.K. Forty-Sevens.”
     At that moment one of two coeds who were seated at an adjacent table walked over to Jim and slapped him across his face as she screamed, “BABY KILLER!”
     Jim simply looked at her and did not say a word as the bartender raced to the table from behind the bar.
     “What’s going on here?” he barked at the coed.
     “He’s a baby killer.”
     Looking at Jim the bartender asked, “What’s she talking about?”
“She must have overheard part of our conversation. I’ve just returned from Vietnam, and I was…”
     “You don’t need to say another word,” the bartender said to Jim. He addressed the coed. “You… young lady… get out of this bar. I don’t need your kind of trouble in here.”
     The coed and her friend left without arguing.
     The bartender shook Jim’s hand and announced, “Welcome home. This table’s tab is on me.” He lowered his voice and continued, “My brother was killed in the Iron Triangle.”
     Jim stood up and embraced the bartender, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

As a child my hero was my Uncle Kirby. During the Second World War, he endured the horror as a prisoner of war held by the Japanese. He would never talk about his ordeal, but when I was able to watch an old Japanese Army Newsreel showing the capture of him and his bomber crew, I decided to write Breaking Liberator’s Shackles. The novel is based on his experience, but the bomber crew is fictional characters…. after all, my uncle never talked to me about it.
     The following is an excerpt from the 1st Chapter of Breaking Liberator’s Shackles:

     My excitement was intense. I couldn’t wait to see Doug. Since he was inducted into the army, this was only the second time he came home. He had a two week leave the past Christmas holiday.    

      The drive into and through Cleveland to Hopkins Airport seemed to take forever. Traffic was very slow moving because of road congestion caused by a rare Saturday Cleveland Browns’ game. This was actually my first trip to the airport. At Christmas Doug traveled by bus, and when we dropped him off the day he entered the army, he left on a train from the Terminal Tower station. We could see the tower dominating the skyline as we crept along on the crowded inner-belt of the expressway.    

      Eventually we arrived about a half hour before the scheduled arrival of Doug’s plane.          Emma and I found our way to a gate on Concourse A where Doug’s plane was scheduled to unload. We waited, with a handful of others for a United flight from Washington National Airport. I was surprised that what was referred to as a gate was a second story waiting area with regular doors identified with gate numbers. Between these doors were large expanses of windows through which we could watch the commercial jets as they arrived or departed. It amazed me how aviation had advanced since my days in the Army Air Corp. I watched as a jet taxied to an adjacent gate.
      I pointed to the jet as I addressed Emma, “Look at that.”
     We watched a motorized enclosed and moveable telescoping ramp that was connected to the building being moved into position at the door of the jet. The passengers were provided direct access into the terminal while protected from outdoor weather conditions.
     About a minute later a much smaller aircraft pulled up outside of the window. Rather than a jet, it had a single motor and propeller mounted on each wing. My mind screamed at me. Except for the porthole windows to the passenger cabin, it was the same type of aircraft I flew on during my return trip to the States following my imprisonment. The plane was a DC-3, a commercial version of a C-47 Skytrain, a military cargo plane.
     Rather than connecting with a movable walkway, a set of steps was wheeled into position at the cabin door of the plane.  I watched in anticipation as passengers exited and descended the stairs to the pavement and walked toward the terminal. It wasn’t long before Doug appeared.
     “There he is,” Emma stated. Tears of emotion were trickling from her eyes.
     “That’s our son,” I replied. “He really looks sharp.” It wasn’t an exaggeration.  The way he wore his uniform was a sight to see. The khaki uniform had what appeared to be razor sharp creases. The pants were neatly tucked into the tops of highly polished black leather boots. Sergeant stripes dominated the short sleeves of his shirt, and a deep-green beret crowned the top of his erectly held head.
     Doug disappeared from sight as he entered a door to the terminal building, and I noticed those who exited the plane in front of him started to enter the waiting area through the door labeled with the gate number. I grabbed Emma’s hand and led her toward the door. I felt lumps in my throat, and I was filled with pride when Doug appeared. Emma raced to him and engulfed him with a passionate hug. The smile on Doug’s face was electrifying, and then he leaned over and kissed his mother’s forehead. I wished I would have brought a camera with me to catch the moment.
     Once Emma released her hold on our son, Doug extended his hand to me and stated, “Great to see you sir.”
     I accepted his firm handshake and responded, “Great to have you home Doug.” I then took my other arm and wrapped it around him in a hug. “You don’t need to call me sir. Dad is fine.”
     Doug laughed and stated, “It’s my military training.” He quickly looked around and asked, “Where’s Mary?”
     Emma answered, “Someone had to milk the cows. She wanted to be here.” Emma then realized Doug left the plane without any baggage. “Don’t you have luggage?”
     “We’ll have to pick it up at the baggage claim area. I was told it will probably be about a half an hour before it’s there.”
     “So…” Emma stated. “We have some time to kill,”
     “Let’s catch a beer,” I offered. “I saw a small tavern along the concourse on our way in.”
     “Sounds like a great plan,” Doug stated.

(My review is HERE.) 

One of the ugliest periods for my generation was the War in Vietnam. The ugliness continued for veterans who returned, and it continues to this day for many. Tarnished Valor is my tribute to all of the men and women who served during Vietnam. It focuses on the aftermath of the War that still haunts many veterans years following return to “The World”.
     The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Tarnished Valor:

     I have just arrived in Philadelphia at the Thirtieth Street Station. Following the hassle of getting myself off the train and to the taxi stand in front of the terminal… had to negotiate barriers with my chair… I feel the chill of an early morning wind. I am cold. My field jacket doesn’t have a liner, and I left my sweater with Judy.
     I roll my chair to a taxi, and I can see the driver look at me, but he doesn’t seem interested in giving me a ride. I tap on the passenger side window, and he takes his time lowering it.
     “I need a ride to Carver High School.”
     He stares at me. I have the impression he’s about to refuse me a ride.
     “Do you have twenty dollars?”
     “I do.”
     “You’ll need to pay me up front.”
     I take a twenty-dollar bill from my wallet and hand it to his outstretched hand. He gets out of the car and helps me into the back seat and hands me my crutch. He folds my wheelchair and places it in the trunk along with my knapsack. Once he returns to the car and pulls away, he asks, “You’re sure you want to go to Carver this early in the morning? I doubt if it’s open yet.”
     “I do.” I decide to take a verbal jab at him for his rudeness. “This is my first time in Philly. In almost every other city taxi drivers collect after reaching the destination. It’s different here.”
     “Can’t be too safe. I’ve been burned once by a vagrant, and I’m not about to be burnt again.”
     “I’m not a vagrant.”
     “Can’t tell that by looking at you.”
     I rub my face with the palm of my hand and realize I need a shave. I’m wearing an old Army field jacket and trousers with a dirty knee caused by yesterday’s crawl up the Capitol steps. I’m minus a leg, and I realize I probably look like a vagrant. I haven’t had a shower, so I probably smell like one too.
     “Yeah… I probably look pretty bad. I’m from Cleveland and flew to D.C. yesterday. I planned on being back home by now, but my plans changed. I didn’t pack a change of clothing, a razor or toothbrush.”
     “Why were you in our nation’s Capital?”
     “I joined a large number of other disabled to crawl up the Capitol steps. It was a protest to encourage Congress to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
     “I saw that on the news last night. They showed this little girl…”
     “Jennifer Keelan. She was amazing. I crawled up just behind her.”
     “Watching her choked me up.”
     “She’s an amazing kid.”
     The traffic is fairly heavy, and I’m amazed to see the flow of vehicles blocked by trucks making deliveries by double parking on the street as they are unloaded. Back in Ohio this would never happen without tickets being issued by the police. What’s even more interesting is how traffic will get by these temporary roadblocks. Cars, where they can, quickly drive over the curbs onto the sidewalks to pass.
     We pass areas with large numbers of people wrapped in blankets sleeping on sidewalks. This leads me to comment.
     “I’ve never seen so many homeless. Is it like this during the really cold nights?”
     “Always. You’ll notice some of them are lying where steam is rising from under them. They have the warmest location on top of manhole covers to the city’s steam pipe tunnels.”
     After we pass Temple University, we turn off of a wide boulevard onto a side street, and the driver comments, “Carver High School is just a few blocks ahead. Why are you going there?”
     “I’m looking for a good friend I served with in Vietnam. I thought he was killed. After I finished the crawl up the Capitol steps, I visited the Vietnam Memorial. His name wasn’t on the Wall.”
     The driver is silent until he stops the car in front of Carver High School. “We’re here. I hope you find your friend.”
     “I do too.”

My review is HERE

What started you writing at all?

When I was a high school student, a fantastic English Teacher dropped a bombshell on my class. We were all assigned two novels to read and write a literary comparison. The novels assigned to me were Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham and The Citadel by A.J. Cronin. Following my initial alarm, I read and (to my surprise) thoroughly enjoyed both books. I was awed by the ability of each author to hold my attention and rip at my emotions, so the writing of the literary comparison became a labor of love. I also wondered, “Could I also write a story as potent as these?”
Fast forward a few years. I was in the Army, and during my free time I found that always getting drunk with the guys was not for me. I started to write, and by the time I completed my military service the first draft of a novel was also complete. The novel dealt with the struggles of a young man in college (at a fictional university) and his time in the Army during the Sixties. Following my service I returned to Kent State University to continue my education. I was there to witness the horror when National Guardsmen fired into a mass of students…. killing four. At that time I knew my novel would need to be reworked incorporating Kent State.
The novel remained dormant until I retired from the practice of Architecture. I did conduct research for it during those years. I needed to understand the cultural changes and events at Kent during the three years I was away in the Army. They were dramatic. I retired, dusted off my old manuscript and wrote. One could say it took me forty-seven years to write The Blanket Hill Insurgency.
I know that a storyteller tells a story, and you do.  But what is the ‘core’ or ‘kernel’ of your story?  Aside from keeping your readers engaged, what do you hope to convey to them?
I describe my writing as, “Novels of significant cultural and historic events wearing a costume of fiction.” The events I write about need to be remembered. They are part of the fabric of who we are and the changes in our cultural norms. I have noticed many young people today have little understanding of the world their parents and grandparents grew up in. What were highly offensive words have become common in conversations (such as “bitch”). It is my sincere hope the stories I write may help younger generations appreciate where we were and those who lived it to remember a time that has been lost.
When you write, do you put yourself in your work, somewhere?  Perhaps in disguise?  (If so, I’d like an illustration of the character that really is you.)  Do you express your hopes and dreams?
Many of the experiences I have had are molded, following modifications, into scenes depicted in my novels. As an author I find this essential to create stories capable of evoking emotional conditions a reader will believe. I also, not often, have inserted myself into the work. In The Blanket Hill Insurgency a collegiate cross country race provides a back-drop to a scene. I actually was one of the runners in the race. In Tarnished Valor a scene takes place in a building where I operated an architectural practice. My name is mentioned in a short dialog between two of the characters.
I asked you to send me excerpts of each of your books, which I post now.  -Which one do you, yourself, like best?  Why?
This question is like asking, “Which of your children do you love the most?” While writing a novel, I become so engrossed and attached with the work. They all are very much a part of me. Having said that, my most recent novel, Tarnished Valor, I consider the most important. It focuses on a tribute to a generation of veterans who gave their all and returned home to face ridicule and problems that haunt many until this day. It’s a story that had to be told.
If you had something to tell someone who is considering reading your stories or writing, or just facing life, what would it be?
I believe my novels are a good read for any age. They honestly depict who we were by placing characters into historically accurate times and events from our not so distant past. They cross a multitude of genres including historical, romance, tragedy, faith-based and military/war. Offensive language is only used where necessary to properly depict an action, and words selected are never based on political correctness (it’s the way it was).
Related to life, due to medical conditions I may be nearing the end of mine. If I make it, I’ll be seventy my next birthday, and looking back I know life is short. We are on this earth only once, but while we are here, we affect the lives of many. Live life to the fullest, but live with integrity.

I’m often asked about the photo on the back of my books. The dog with me is Rascal, and he’s a bit older now. When I write, Rascal is always on the floor at my feet. When I finish writing a section, I’ll read it aloud.  Rascal is attentive. His tail wags as I read happy passages, and he whimpers as I read emotionally sad passages. He probably reacts to the tone of my voice, but Rascal has become my first critic.

July 29, 2016 – Celebrating Heat Waves and Teething Puppies

Celebration Friday!!!

Friday is the day we observe the ‘Celebrations’ blog hop founded by VikLit and now ably managed by Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits (Go visit them!)

So…  What am I celebrating?

After about two weeks of above 90 degee weather, the heat wave is breaking!  Temperatures in the eighties and then the seventies.

I thought New England was supposed to be a cool area…

Chet, small and cute

I am also celebrating the fact that my teething puppy appears to be lightening up a little.  Although at four months – approximately 5 years old in human age – he wants to romance anything on four legs at the dog daycare he goes to for training twice a week.  We are hoping for an Alpha Female to arise and knock him into the middle of next week.  That just might straighten him out.

Chet The Nuisance

  Someone commented that it might traumatize him.  I suspect that smart, stubborn puppy is about as easy to traumatize as a U.S. Army  Humvee…

The U.S. Army’s replication of a teething Labrador Puppy

July 15, 2016 – Celebrating A Wonderful Writer’s New Offering

As many bloggers know, Friday is the day we observe the ‘Celebrations’ blog hop.  It has been a joy and an inspiration (and, often, a smile-maker) for several years: you can visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits for more information.

There are always things to celebrate – you just have to look.

And today I am celebrating the arrival of a new book by a talented author who graces several blogs that I frequent and who, further research uncovers (well…  Not research, exactly.  She told us about this and it sounded wonderful the sort of thing to share)  Anyhow, after a number of pieces in anthologies – the sort of pieces that have interesting twists to them, stories that make you think and wonder and, perhaps, glance over your shoulder, she has he has published HEART STOPPER and other Stories. 

This collection of stories will send shivers up your spine and make your imagination work.  

This is not sledgehammer blood or gore, but the sort of tantalizing, slowly building tension that will send you groping for another pillow and eyeing your alarm clock to see if you might be able to read to the end and not be too impaired in the morning at work.

In her own words:

Heart Stopper and Other Stories
By Tamara Narayan 

One collection, four stories, 171 pages of suspense…

Heart Stopper: 

The disappearance of random household items baffles Dallas Radner and his eleven-year-old daughter, Tessa. Ten plastic bags, nine ballpoint pens . . . what’s next? This odd countdown should end on November 1, The Day of the Dead. That’s also Tessa’s birthday and the one-year anniversary of her surgery, the day her heart stopped on the operating table.

Dallas almost lost Tessa once. On November 1, one thing will vanish forever. Will it be his daughter?


Fed up with her abusive boyfriend, coed Chloe Langley takes off in a borrowed car for the safety of home. She’ll never make it.

One Step Away: 

Acrophobia has ruined Darryl James’s marriage and stolen his son. To get Andrew back, Darryl undergoes desensitization therapy. Just as success is within his grasp, a relapse occurs with shocking consequences.


Perched on a mountain with a view to die for, Laura and Paul Alderson have it all: new house, new baby, and new challenges. But urgent whispers from the baby monitor about her infant son and the garage threaten to turn Laura’s American dream into a nightmare.

Purchase these on Amazon

Heart Stopper (click to go to the book page)  (this is a geotargeted link – it will take you to your own Amazon store):

Four tales I present to tingle your spine 
Four seasons of suspense to let you unwind. 
Lives at a crossroad, a breakdown of order 
Between life and death, it’s a tenuous border. 

Halloween comes, and the Day of the Dead 
For one man this custom brings heartache and dread. 
As belongings disappear, a child makes her shrine 
Is it a ghost? Perhaps. Or a shattered mind? 

A couple spars, and fear invades 
An abused coed flees on a spring escapade. 
Across Florida’s searing and pocked landscape 
Sinkholes will assume many a shape. 

Another dreams of feathers, wings of might 
Yet experiences terror at a meager height. 
This phobia takes every dear thing away 
Then, in a brutal twist, saves a dark summer’s day. 
Peppermint, mice, and a cold-as-winter voice 
A mother must make a desperate choice. 
Heeding her instincts to save the child 
What’s lost instead, the pain won’t be mild. 

Four tales I present to tingle your spine 
Four stories of suspense to let you unwind. 
Read on to learn more before you order 
Between art and madness, it’s a tenuous border. 

You can visit Tamara at her blog HERE

And you can find her Author Page HERE

Do Fabulous Writers Make You Nervous?

In keeping with IWSG day, I am happy to host Helen Hollick, writer of engrossing historical fiction, luscious series set in far ago times and fascinating places.  Her creativity is only matched by her encouragement and support of other writers.  She is the sort of person who makes insecure folks nervous.

…and tomorrow she is releasing the latest book in her swashbuckling seafaring SeaWitch series!  I am happy to host her here – and am looking forward to reviewing On The Account.  (You see, I have a Reader’s Copy and I am deep into it.  You will enjoy it, too!)

The Anticipation Of The New Book


Helen Hollick

You would think that after more than twenty years as a published author and with (quick count-up) eleven books behind me and two more ‘on the boil’, that I would be confident about my next title’s release.

Not a bit of it!

I am as excited about the fifth adventure in my Sea Witch Voyages as when the very first book was published. That one was The Kingmaking, the first of my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. But I am also just as nervous.

In the early eighties I had achieved a small success with a children’s ‘keep yourself safe’ book called Come and Tell Me (now, alas, out of print) and was accepted for publication by William Heinemann a week after my 40 th birthday in 1993. What turned out to be the first two books in the trilogy had taken me over ten years to write; I had not expected anyone to actually want to publish my scribblings. I did not think I was clever enough to be an author. I had an ordinary secondary school education, which in the 60’s meant a second class education. I did, however, have a very good English teacher, a deep and immense love of books and reading – and, when I discovered it by accident, a passion for history.

History at school had been a very low priority because it was so boring. In fact, I used to do my geography homework during the history lesson. I left school and went to work as an assistant in the local library in the London suburb of Chingford. There, I rediscovered Rosemary Sutcliff and found Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave and Hollow Hills. She had an author’s note which mentioned that if King Arthur had existed he would have been alive around the end of Roman Britain, circa 440 AD. That interested me. I started researching (hooray for library books!) and then, dissatisfied with novels about King Arthur and in particular his other half, Guinevere, I decided to write my own version. My trilogy is a ‘back to basics’ story, using the earlier Welsh legends, not the later Medieval tales. There is no Lancelot, round table, Holy Grail or Merlin.

Instead, Arthur is a warts an’ all warlord who has to fight hard to gain his kingdom, and fight even harder to keep it – and Gwenhwyfar as I call her. The trilogy led to my next two novels about events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings, Harold The King (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US) and A Hollow Crown (titled The Forever Queen in the US). 
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge between then and now. I was simultaneously dropped by Heinemann and my (ex) agent so went into Indie publishing instead, (sharp learning curve there, I can tell you!) Subsequently I was picked up by North American publisher, Sourcebooks, I’m about to have several of my books translated into Turkish, Italian and German, and I have been commissioned to write a mainstream non-fiction book about pirates. I guess I could say I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and written, not just read, the book. (Yes, done that as well: Discovering the Diamond is a modest little book giving a few useful tips to new and novice writers.)

So here I am on the eve of my next book setting sail and I am still biting my fingernails and worrying.
  • Will readers like it?
  •  Have I missed errors despite several edits?
  • Will I get some decent reviews?
  •  Will the Amazon #ranking read more like a light-year mileage figure than a reasonable sales indication?
  • Why do I write?
  • Why not take up knitting?
  • Why is the rum gone…?

 Of course I want the book, this latest adventure of my charmer of an ex-pirate Jesamiah Acorne, to do well. I’ve worked hard on this nautical adventure series that is a cross between Hornblower, Patrick O’Brian’s books, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, with a splash of James Bond, a dash of Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe and a smattering of Indiana Jones.
Of course I want sales, of course I want it to scramble up to somewhere near the top of the sales list – even if it is only on Amazon, where no one actually knows how the ranking works anyway.

But none of these are my top concern. My greatest worry is not letting my readers down.  For the past few weeks I have been inundated (well had a few…) emails from followers wanting to know when On The Account will be available for pre-order/sale. ‘Soon’ has been my cheerful answer: 7 th July is the official date. It has been wonderful receiving these supportive emails as they show there are people out there eager to sail-away on the Sea Witch with Captain Acorne for another adventure. They have been patiently waiting since Ripples In The Sand, Voyage Four, which left Jesamiah arrested for smuggling contraband, his mistress in labour, and his ship, Sea Witch aground on England’s North Devon coast. But trouble follows Jesamiah like a ship’s wake: in this next episode he has to find a missing box (valuable), and a boy who has also gone astray (possibly with the box). He would like to be rid of a mysterious Night-Walker love-rival (who is annoying him) while dealing with a boatload of Barbary Pirates who have kidnapped his wife, Tiola… (Oh, and he is in trouble with her as well.) Meanwhile, Tiola herself has her own battle to fight – keeping herself and Jesamiah alive.

That’s the gist of the plot, but will my eager readers enjoy the adventure?

That is my biggest worry. I don’t want to let them down.

Twitter: @HelenHollick
My Author Page on an Amazon near you:

IWSG July 7, 2016 – The Best Thing Someone has Ever Said About Your Writing

Today is IWSG day. Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and all the other writers who support each other, make us all smile and think in this monthly hop. No one is mocked or sneered at. All are welcome. We have all been there.

The awesome co-hosts for the July 6 posting of the IWSG will be Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte , LK Hill, Rachna Chhabria, and JA Scott! 

Visit the website and look around:

This month’s question is:

What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

I was lucky enough to receive two new reviews on one of my books this past week.  They were both good reviews, not too long, but each one ‘got’ the core of the story, expressed its connection to his or her enjoyment and said that they were eagerly awaiting the next installment (which will be coming out sometime early next year.)

That was a wonderful surprise, since I don’t haunt my listings looking for reviews, and since I have been out of circulation for two years due to family concerns.  But the best thing someone said about my writing happened over twenty years ago.  I was fresh out of college, had been working for maybe two years, and had started writing what would become A Killing Among the Dead, the last book in my Memphis Cycle.  It is based on a great tomb-robbing scandal during the last dynasty of the New Kingdom, and edges into fantasy in some areas.

I have written since I was nine years old.  This story, however, which came to me during my ancient history studies, was my first serious attempt with an eye to publication.  I was polishing (and polishing and polishing) it, and I took it with me on a vacation to my family’s cottage in the New York finger lakes.  My father’s cousin, Sally, was visiting with her children.

I liked Sally.  She was a fun person, though sometimes pedantic, being a teacher of sorts –  a professor, actually.  That’s about all I knew about her, except that she had written a book about growing up in the fingerlakes.  She learned that I was ‘writing a book’, asked if she could look at my manuscript, and (surprisingly) I handed it over and went off to enjoy sailing, fishing, driving through the upstate New York.  Several days later she handed back my manuscript, which she had marked up, and told me that she enjoyed reading it, but she had a few suggestions, and hoped that I didn’t mind.

I think at that point I had begun to realize that my flying fingers did not automatically put out fabulous writing, and this story, which I had overhauled, was in need of more work.  I thanked her, chatted with her and her kids, enjoyed the rest of my vacation, and looked over her comments when I had a moment.

Sally had some suggestions:  ‘Instead of ‘digging your own grave’ you might want something more in period such as ‘carving your own tomb’.  There were others, but her notation at the very climax of the story actually blew me away.  The hero, thought to be dead, has returned to his command after spending several weeks in a tomb hunting the robbers and, finally, destroying them.  He dreams of the gods and the Land of the Blest.  And when he returns, his men are taken aback.  He has changed…

Sally noted in the margin that I wasn’t quite saying what she thought I meant.  That maybe I should read T. S. Eliot’s Return of the Magi, especially the last stanza.  She thought it maybe expressed what was in my mind:

but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

In a sentence or so she had put her finger on what was at the very heart of my story, at the change in my main character, the change that he undergoes in the course of his struggle and his ultimate victory.  She ‘got’ the story and she was able to unlock it for me.  I now know that it was very rough – and she saw the gem within it and helped me to shape it.  It was a magnificent gift.

I learned years later after her death that she had been the coordinator of the Syracuse University Creative Writing Program for many years while Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff were in residence.  Her credentials were very impressive…  And she had spent her time on my little effort.  She had ‘gotten’ the point, and she had shown it to me.  And she had enjoyed the story.

That was the best thing anyone has said about my writing.
        He walked past the bodies without another glance and continued toward the tomb entrance, waiting for the echo of the warning trumpet.
        The echo never came.  Instead, faces appeared at the tomb entrance and people stepped out into the sunlight to watch his approach.  He could hear excited whispers, and then his guardsmen came forward, their bows in their hands.  They, too, were staring with a mixture of awe and fear, and some of them raised their hands to shield their eyes, though the sun was behind them. 

        Wenatef could see Ramses standing high on the hillside.  The young man raised his hand in greeting and then hurried down to the tomb entrance.

        Wenatef paused to look up at them and note their expressions, then squared his shoulders and began to ascend the hill toward the opening.  Several of the men fell to their knees, their hands about their protective amulets.

        Wenatef saw the motion and paused.  They don’t know, he thought with a sudden lurch of his heart.  They will never understand, even if I explain… 
Thank you, Sally.

Celebrations July 1, 2016 – Choices, choices…

This is my post for the ‘Celebrating the Small Things’ blog hop.

T0day is the first day of July, which means that we are that much closer to the end of the really hot days and the beginning of autumn, my favorite season.

Things are settling at last.  My mother is in her new home and is, somewhat against her own expectations, rather happy.  People greet her, ask her to play bridge, come by to chat…  And she is walking better, as well.  I can’t ask for more than that for her.

The Jaws of  Death

For myself, I’m getting used to a new puppy:

This is Chester (or ‘Chet’ for short).  He is now four months old.  I had become spoiled by my old fellow who died three months ago.  I had forgotten how manic puppies are.  I think they could power a medium-sized city for a week on one day’s energy.

Based on Chet’s dentition and propensities, I’m thinking that he could be best depicted as a set of dentures that bounces around the house trying to ‘nom’ everything from food set near the edge of tables to used paper tissues (thought to be safely) discarded in the trash..

For Labrador Retrievers, apparently, the world is their trash bin.

Finally, I have a long weekend coming up.  Five days away from work.  And as it happens, I have to choose between three manuscripts to actually finish and set out for Beta-reads.

It has been too long since I published anything, and while I have some good excuses for standing idle,  it is time.

This means that I have to make a choice:

—Fantasy/Fable novella that fits in with my ‘Memphis Cycle’ or the Second installment of my ‘Orphan’s Tale’ trilogy.

Fable set in Egypt

Second installment, Paris 1834

The third one is a collection of shorts from different projects.  Vignettes, chapters.  Something of a smorgasbord.  I have one piece in which an elderly High Priest tells of the day that Akhenaten (Tutankhamun’s father, who shut down the worship of the various major gods) comes to the great temple of Amun in Thebes (you can say ‘Opet’ or ‘Waset’ if you prefer) with the aim of destroying the great gold cult statue of the god.  This scenario lies behind one or another of the Memphis Cycle stories.

Decisions, decisions…  But it’s nice to have options and a good, long weekend to mull them over.

…Now, do visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits,

Celebrating the Small Things. June 17, 2016 – Fireflies

Welcome to the Celebrations Blog Hop.

It is a good way to pause, take stock, and see that your world is actually a fairly nice place to live.  A time to focus on the small things that you tend to overlook.  

Today I am celebrating fireflies.
I just stepped outside holding a leash which had, on its other end, a three-month old puppy named Chester.  Night had fallen, but a glow remained to the west.  The moon rode high in the sky, still bright from the vanished sun.  A breeze, still carrying a touch of early spring coolness, stirred my hair.  Chester was snuffling in the grass and deciding whether he wished to ‘do his business’ or just sniff the wind.
Chester’s preoccupation with sniffing the wind was a good thing, I thought, savoring the scent of still-tender grass and flowers.  It was a perfect evening, the stars beginning to glitter in the sky’s zenith, mirroring the fireflies that sparkled below them.
I had forgotten fireflies.  I forget them every year only to remember them in the spring with a sense of finding an old friend that I had once thought lost.
I remember driving through a summer night heading toward my grandparents’ house in rural Vermont, seeing the woods so alive with the pale light of fireflies, they seemed to be full of tiny fireworks.  The woods were a sea of flickering light, and if I looked up into the sky I could see them trailing upward.

My father liked to watch the fireflies with us…  Like any child, I tried putting them in jars as night lights.  I stopped after perhaps the third time.  They always died, and they were so beautiful and so harmless, how could I put them somewhere that they could die?  Later, I learned more about them:
For example, male fireflies flash in flight, seeking females while females return the males’ flashes from the ground on the on vegetation.  Well, that may be the case.  Propagation of the species is always important, but as the years pass I become more convinced that things are often done because they are enjoyable.  The glitter of fireflies is a joyous sight for me, and I would not be surprised to learn sometime,, somehow, that fireflies enjoy flying and flickering.
If you are in Florida during firefly season, you can visit a park that features them:

,,,and do visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits,

IWSG – May 4, 2016

Today is IWSG day. Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and all the other writers who support each other, make us all smile and think in this monthly hop. No one is mocked or sneered at. All are welcome. We have all been there.

The awesome and very nice co-host for this month is Chrys Fey 

Visit the website and look around:

And visit the other posters in this blog hop, enjoy the thoughts and the advice and most of all (for me, at least) the realization that everyone has insecurities, and we can enjoy them, work with them, and understand that at times they motivate us.

My post this month deals with something that I certainly feel.  This graphic expresses it beautifully:

Don’t we all feel that way?  We write, we think, we plot, we agonize over characters, we feel angst over whether we are promoting our published work, polishing the work that we hope will be published, smarting from a rejection, worried about whether our beta-readers will like the story, and whether they will tell us to scrap it, worried that no one will be willing to read our manuscript, and wondering whether we still have the spark, since it has been over three weeks since we set pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard.

We know that this is all part of writing, and we try to hold our heads proudly (those of us who have been beheaded…  No, wait!  I am trying to express something profound and normal, and humor is out of place…  Or is it?  Hm.  I’ll leave the wisecrack in.) and soldier on.

So what can we do?  Realize that there are a lot of us soldiering on, accept that the feelings are going to arise no matter how fabulous you are.  Sarah Bernhardt, the great actress, had terrible stage fright before any performance of a part that people loved.  So we can acknowledge the worries, smile at them, and soldier on.  …And maybe share our worries with our nearest and dearest, whether friends, family or co-writers.

Celebrations, 22 April, 2016 – getting back into things

22 April, 2016 Celebrate The Small Things

This is my first post in over a month.  I took a ‘repairing lease’ and unwound.  We all have times where we have to sit down and catch our breath, clear the cobwebs from our minds, and try to gain a little peace.

It helped, and I am glad I bowed out for this time.

And now I am back and celebrating.

I am celebrating the literally hundreds of blog posts I missed in these past two plus months. And I must admit that returning at the height of A to Z gives me a lot of good things to read.  Since I will be with my mother this weekend, I’ll be doing some catching up.

I am celebrating a book I picked up to read, which led to some truly wonderful moments, and gave me an author  to admire.

I will be working on a review for it.

I am celebrating the fact that my mother has decided, with no pushing from her children, that she will move into a condo-type place with other people, many her friends, where she won’t be isolated, will have activities, and won’t be lonely.  I could wish that she were closer to me than 250 miles, but if it allows her to stay where she is accustomed to be, with people she knows, I can certainly drive 250 miles to see her.

The move will cause headaches, of course, but she will be in such a better place that I can’t object at all.  She said “I feel so badly that you have to drop everything and come down here.”  And I say, “I seem to recall you and Dad doing the same for me.”  It gets the point across.

Treasure your nearest and dearest.  Time passes too quickly, and it’s best to say the things you want to while they are here.

Now to go off to work and to read other posts.

Do visit Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits,

Celebrations March 18, 2016

18 March, 2016 Celebrate The Small Things

Once upon a time, a lovely lady and writer and blogger named VikLit had the idea to start a blog hop commemorating the little things that make our lives (or weeks or days or moments) something to celebrate.  After some years, she turned it over to 
Lexa Cain and her two delightful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits,

I am celebrating the close of another week, the prospect of a (nearly) spring weekend, and the opportunity to get a little reading and writing done.

Spring is an important celebration, and it was heralded by 0the sudden appearance of a line of daffodils, just about ready to bloom, near the door to my garage.  They pushed up through last year’s leaves and moss and there they are, like gold-tipped spears.

Of course, Friday’s appearance is a wonderful thing to celebrate.  It is not that I grudge my day job, I simply like the time to step back and catch my breath.  Sleeping in on a Saturday morning is a prospect to celebrate.

It is nearly time to break out my quilts, one made by a very dear friend, the others heirlooms of various ‘importance’.  I have a very old one, made in 1843, of blue-dyed and white cotton muslin, celebrating the marriage of two people, their names embroidered in red cross stitch on the corner.

Incidentally, if you have an old quilt, don’t store it folded with the backer out.  The quilter friend told me that that strains the backing.  Always store quilts with the patterned side out.

Now you have something to celebrate!  (The way to store quilts that won’t strain them.) and I can lose myself in the memory of the scent of laundry drying on a clothesline.

And  the arrival of Spring!

What are you celebrating?