Guest Post: Reclaiming History – JJ Toner

Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Guest Posts

JJ Toner is one of those novelists who, in spite of a natural interest, came to professional writing late in life, after what he describes himself as ‘half a lifetime of procrastination’. Yet, considering the quality of his prolific output, and admirable success since returning to writing in 1996, one can’t help but wonder; why on earth did he wait? Toner is one of those authors who seems destined for the profession. A private man by nature, Toner spent much of his career working with computers (he has a degree in Mathematics), which sent him travelling around the globe. He also found time to marry and raise a family. Now, finally, he has been able to dedicate himself to writing full time since 2007, and Toner’s most recent novel, The Wings of the Eagle (the eagerly awaited sequel to Toner’s enormously successful historical fiction, The Black Orchestra), has just been published. I manage to catch the elusive Toner (between golf games and the writing of his self-imposed 1000 words a day) for an insightful interview, in which we discuss anxious writing methods, reclaiming history, and the brutal idiocy of war… Me: First of all, from your previous descriptions of your method for writing a novel, it appears to me that your background in mathematics affects your approach to novel writing. It seems like a very structured method of writing. Do you always adhere to these formulas when approaching a new novel? Toner: Yes, although this has little to do with mathematics and a lot to do with anxiety. I wrote a blog about this a few years ago (link to included below). For me, writing without a good strong outline is like climbing a mountain without a rope. Even with a gap in the middle, I’m hopelessly lost. Say my outline includes a line that says: “Chapter 42: Somehow (in spite of having no money for a ticket and no travel permit) Kurt makes his way to Leipzig by train.” All the time that I’m writing chapters 1 – 41 the puzzle of chapter 42 is on my mind, and if I reach the end of chapter 41 without solving the chapter 42 puzzle, I feel like a mountaineer who comes to an unbridgeable gap half way up the mountain. Mind you, the mountain, I.e. the outline keeps changing as I climb/write. The finished book never turns out the way I expected. Me: What inspires you to write a novel? Your most successful novel, The Black Orchestra, focuses on events in World War Two. Are you especially interested in history as a subject, or did the subject of this novel simply jump o at you? Toner: All of the above. I hated history in school. It was all about remembering dates and other people’s opinions about what happened and why. But now I love the subject, especially social history....

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WRITER’S GUEST POST #86: Eric Penz: Where does your muse live?

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Guest Posts

  Every writer has a muse. But do you know where yours lives? If you don’t, how can you commune with it, soaking up that all important inspiration? It took me a few years to hunt mine down, but I finally tracked my muse beyond the horizon and into the great unknown. You see my muse lives high in the alpine peaks of the Pacific Northwest. This is where the noise of the world goes mute and my soul finds its voice, speaking to me in the language of plot, character and conflict. It’s my second language. Story. If you’re reading my posts then I assume story is your second language, too. And if so, then I encourage you to track your muse back to it’s hermit hole. Knowing where you can always find your muse can come in handy when your soul loses its voice, or in the least begins to whisper. Cryptid, my debut novel, was born by doing just that, on a long trek through the Hoh rainforest. Here are a few pics of where my muse calls home. Care to share the home of yours? Drop me a line if you dare. That, you must admit, is one cool place to find your muse! If you want to learn more about Eric Penz and his award winning thriller, Cryptid, visit his site: +++++++ Welcome to the guest post slot, Eric.  I wish you continued success with Cryptid. If I am lucky I will get to visit those mountains some day. This guest post is part of a series where I will be showcasing emerging and established authors on this blog. You can help by visiting their sites, buying their books, sharing this post on Twitter and Facebook and coming back for the next post. You can also follow this site (click the button above right), to be notified by email about future posts. And if you want to experience the simple pleasure of finding novels that you like, fast,...

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WRITERS’ GUEST POST #84: The Witch of Leper Cove by Deborah Bogen

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014 in Guest Posts

I have enjoyed historical fiction since I was a child. Deborah Bogen’s novel, The Witch of Leper Cove, captivated me from the moment I heard about it. If you like historical fiction this is for you. Deborah tells us more about it below. Everyone said Lily was lucky. The only girl in the Bigge family she’d been spoiled from the start – extra treats, extra attention and especially extra time. In 1224, in the small village of Aldinoch, any youngster who had time of her own was considered pampered.  English winters were hard, food was scarce. To survive a family needed everyone over seven to help gather, wheedle, barter or steal food enough to get them through. But Turstin Bigge was a boat builder and his darling was not expected to help fill the larder. She’d been indulged, allowed to take long walks by the river and dream up fanciful stories that while a delight were not necessary. Although she was fourteen, she was not actually needed. That changed the day Turstin and his wife Durilda disappeared, leaving Lily and her twin brothers with nothing more than a few cheeses in the cupboard.  For Lily, time stopped. She felt caught in a bad dream. She couldn’t think, couldn’t move. Everything was wrong and she couldn’t understand the new life that was hers, separated from her brothers, alone in the smelly hut of an old herbal women The Witch of Leper Cove is available on Amazon US and on Amazon UK You can also visit Deborah’s web site here. +++++++ Welcome to the guest post slot Deborah.  All the best with The Witch of Leper Cove. It really is an amazing story. This guest post is part of a series where I will be showcasing emerging and established authors on this blog. You can help by visiting their sites, buying their books, sharing this post on Twitter and Facebook and coming back for the next post. You can also follow this site (click the button above right), to be notified by email about future posts. And if you want to experience the simple pleasure of finding novels that you like, fast, visit

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WRITERS’ GUEST POST #83 A Matter of Time – Elizabeth Jennings

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Guest Posts

When my book came out in May, one of the questions people asked me was how long I took to write it.  The answer—18 years—was sometimes hard for them to believe. It’s not hard for me, though, as I have living proof.  When I first began The Button Collector, I was pregnant with my son.  Now he is a six-foot-four young man. In other words, it took as long for my book to grow up as it did my human child. To clarify, I wasn’t writing non-stop for eighteen years.  Mine was always an on-again-off-again endeavor.  Moreover, I was able to complete my first version of the book in six years. I then spent more than a decade doing minor edits and marketing and went through many heartbreaking “close but no cigar” experiences. One highly respected publisher held the manuscript for 13 months, sending it to multiple readers before saying it wasn’t quite right. As consolation, I was shown some of the critiques, which were overwhelmingly positive—the writing was moving, the characters poignant, the setting vivid.  This jived with other feedback I’d received. So what was the problem? Unfortunately, my book had structural issues. The Button Collector is a book of stories, with each story connected to a discarded button.  When I began, the stories were quite episodic, but the characters soon introduced recurring plot elements, especially the narrator, Caroline.  It is her process of reconciliation that forms the overarching plot, which originally happened largely in the final section. All this made my book more than a story collection, but not quite a novel.  Its ongoing narrative was too weak to compel the reader to keep turning pages.  To remedy this, more than one editor suggested limiting the POVs to two or three. This wasn’t an option I wanted to take.  To me, the beauty of the book lies in the metaphor of the button jar.  There is a serendipitous quality to the storytelling as Caroline randomly pulls out buttons to tell their stories.  Limiting perspectives would utterly destroy that. Then I sent my book to a new, small publisher in Ohio.    The editor expressed interest–if I did  a revision. Here we go again, I thought. But surprise, surprise.  Her idea wasn’t the same-old-song-and-dance after all.  She recommended pulling elements from the longer, more developed final section and spreading them throughout the book, placing it firmly in novel territory. This idea immediately struck me as right; in fact, it now appears so obvious I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it years ago.  It wasn’t even hard to do.  Since the book had been settling so long, I was able to approach revisions with ruthless objectivity. Today, I’m happy with the novel I created with suggestions from my editor.  Deep down inside,  I also feel it couldn’t have happened earlier, that this was how my book was meant to take...

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WRITERS’ GUEST POST #82 They’re all going to die! Eliza Green’s dystopian future filled with secrets and lies.

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Guest Posts

Enter the competition for a free copy of Becoming Human & Altered Reality here! Eliza Green hails from Dublin, Ireland. While she has a marketing degree and has worked in many industries from fashion, to sport to finance, she fell in love with writing when she discovered it only a few years ago. Did that title get your attention? Well, it’s the premise of the opening chapter in Becoming Human, Book 1 in the Exilon 5 Trilogy. Earth is becoming uninhabitable and there’s another planet called Exilon 5 that is suitable for humans to live on. But there’s a problem: the planet needs to be terra formed and there’s a race called the Indigenes already living there. The trilogy starts off with a bang as humans, forced to seek out an alternative home, prepare the new planet for habitation. Decades later, two races now live on Exilon 5: the humans in their cities and the Indigenes who have been forced to live underground.  In order to understand humans’ motives better, a member of the Indigene race agrees to approach a human boy. Secrets are divulged by the boy that alters the course of how the Indigenes and the humans live now. Altered Reality, Book 2 in the Exilon 5 trilogy, continues with the fallout from Becoming Human as the two races try to come to terms with the secrets they’ve learned. But as plans are put into action on both sides, new changes emerge that threaten each race’s attempts to survive. The Exilon 5 trilogy explores what happens when humans are faced with a crisis on Earth and opt for the easiest, but not necessarily the wisest, solution. In today’s times, we are ignoring serious problems such as air pollution and overcrowding. There are some among us who are capable of looking to the future—scientists, engineers, maybe even some politicians—but most of us only look to the now. There is a great line in The Matrix where the protagonist, Mr. Smith, compares humans to viruses. In a nutshell, he says they consume everything around them and only move on when they’ve depleted all resources. I believe we are clever enough to recognise what we need to do, but are trapped by our limitations to move beyond what is both short term and convenient. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved stories; the hows and whens make for great viewing, but what draws me in so intimately is the why.  Why do we act in a certain way? Why do we ignore problems that we know will only get worse? I love dark stories that speak to my inner anarchist (!) and that make me think. I hope you do too. Thanks Eliza! Eliza writes down-to-earth science fiction, which has stemmed from her lifelong obsession with sci-fi stories. She has a dark side, so you will never read anything...

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WRITERS’ GUEST POST #81 Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen by T.R. Heinan

Posted by on Dec 18, 2013 in Guest Posts

I spend my retirement years maintaining a shelter for children, victims of the migration chaos and drug wars that plaque the Mexican-American border.  A steady stream of orphaned, abandoned and abused children soon began to consume all my energy.  I realized that I needed some sort of break in order to protect my own focus and sanity. My plan was simply to take a short holiday in New Orleans.  It was there that I discovered Delphine Lalaurie.  I began writing a book in hope of capturing her story. Writing became my “Mondays Away From the Orphans” hobby. My aim was to research everything I could find about the people, times, facts, and legends.  Both of my title characters, Delphine Lalaurie and Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, have their own cult following.  Each year, thousands of tourists line up just to see the exterior of Delphine Lalaurie’s mansion.  The tomb of Marie Laveau is the second most visited grave in American (after Elvis Presley). I knew I had to get it right. L’immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, is an irreverent story drenched in the torrid excess of its nineteenth century southern Louisiana landscape. It is based on actual events involving an elite society woman and the barbaric treatment of her slaves. My novelization begins in the city’s cathedral, where sacristan Philippe Bertrand has become a recluse after the loss of his mother and wife. The influence of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau upends his life and leads him to Delphine Lalaurie’s mansion. There he meets Elise, a slave girl who has discovered the secret, macabre medical experiments being conducted in the attic. African slaves are being mutilated and killed, even as Delphine puts on a refined social façade during her well-attended society balls. After fleeing from the mansion, Elise turns to Philippe for help, but Philippe must break the chains of his own conflicted spirituality and learn the power of compassion before he can help the Lalaurie slaves. Slowly, Philippe learns how to love again as he unearths the very different ways humans can seek immortality. Delphine turns to Voodoo to give her everlasting fame, her husband looks for life after death in science, Elise wants immortality in poetry and Philippe hopes to gain everlasting life through his religion. L’immortalité is both a fast-moving horror story and a thoughtful meditation on what humans will do to persist beyond their mortal lives. Find out more at the Website. or buy L’immortalité on Amazon. +++++++ Welcome to the guest post slot TR.  I admire so much what you do to help orphans in Mexico, innocent pawns in a deadly game. Your novel sounds right up my street. I’m looking forward to reading it. This guest post is part of a series where I will be showcasing emerging and established authors on this blog. You can help by visiting their sites, buying their books, sharing this post...

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