Monday, 27 January 2014

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...Jeffrey Perren

1. Tell me about your book, Cossacks In Paris, and where you got your inspiration for it?

Its the story of an engineer caught up in Napoleon’s Russian Campaign and events of the subsequent two years. On a scouting mission to St. Petersburg he meets the daughter, a Finn, of the counselor to Tsar Alexander. Despite that she’s promised to a privileged Cossack, they fall in love and the engineer deserts the Grand Armeé to claim her.

The love story is entirely invented but clearly the background is true historical events. The root is as well; the engineer was a real person who participated in the Battle of Paris in 1814, the conflict that actually led to Napoleon’s abdication, long before Waterloo.

I happened to read about the battle and the young conscript who ended up chased by Cossacks in a news clipping from Journal de l'Empire of March 1814. In real life he was knighted in the order of the Legion of Honour. I think I ran across it by accident; I wasn’t planning an historical novel about any of this at the time. This fellow inspired the character of Breutier, the engineer.

2. Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Frequently. Lol. That’s what editing is for. If you’re asking if I ever hated anything I’ve published, no. That’s what editors are for, even if the editor is just your spouse.

3. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Only if I magically acquired greatly improved writing skills overnight. Nothing major anyway. I generally keep polishing until I’m reasonably satisfied I can’t make it any better this time around.

On the other hand, it’s nice that as an indie publisher you can sneak in corrections to typos, minor historical errors, and the like. That’s not just true of eBooks, either. It’s easy now with POD to update a paperback edition that, in years past, would’ve required a publisher to spend money on a revised book.

4. What was your last dream about?

I dreamt I was part of a smuggling ring in Napoleon-era Paris and les flics (the cops) were closing in on us. I have no idea what that means, really.

5. If you could ask your future self, one question, what would it be?

Oh, that’s a good one. It reminds me somehow of Faustus. I confess, though, that after thinking it over for a while I can’t come up with any good reply.

My first thought was I’d like to know if my sales would be good and all the efforts were worthwhile, but knowing in advance would take out a lot of the adventure, so that’s no good.

My next thought was I’d like to know what sort of country I’d be living in 20 years from the present. (I notice you don’t ask how far in the future... clever minx.) I’m pretty confident I already know the answer though and, after all, there’s no guarantee my future self wouldn’t lie to my present self, is there? :)

So, I’m really stuck. I’m sure this question will haunt me for days now, though, so thanks.

6. Would you break a law to save a loved one?

If I thought that doing so would benefit her more than it would harm her, certainly. There are worse things than dying.

7. Is there a message in your novels you want the readers to grasp?

Have you got an hour? Any short answer to this is sure to mislead as much as it in informs, I’m sure. Still, it deserves a good old-fashioned try.

If I had to compress it down to essentials, I’d want readers to see in my work the view that life can be good, that we can flourish, and our thoughtful choices have a huge influence on whether or not we do. I’d want them to ‛get’ that the keys to that are through striving for high competence via creativity, and sheer persistence in the face of obstacles over a long, often difficult period.

Typically, in life as opposed to literature, those hurdles are not big, dramatic one-time events. More often they’re the day-to-day Chinese-torture drip of the inertia of wet human cotton balls, to use a horribly mixed metaphor. Those barricades are usually held in place by small souls who, paraphrasing Mencken, fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.

At heart, I’m a romantic writer – but in the 19th century sense of that term.

Not an undiluted cheerful message, in the final analysis, but I see it in all my work in one form or another. Interestingly, this isn’t sheer chutzpah or delusion on my part; some readers have noticed it and said so in reviews.

8. Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

It would be impossible to pick just one.

I’ve enjoyed such a variety from E. M. Forster to Ayn Rand, from Dumas to R. F. Delderfield. Those are all, clearly, starkly different writers. I do tend to prefer British writers mostly.

Of authors of more ‛popular fiction’ I used to read a fair amount of Ian Fleming, Alistair MacLean, Arthur Hailey, Ken Follett, and the like. More recently, I’ve discovered a wonderful fellow named David Bruce, who writes WWII-era military fiction.

I’m not sure I could identify just what ‛strikes me’ about any of these. I like books that have a story with admirable characters and that moves along. I generally get impatient with ‛serious’ authors who, as the saying goes, muddy their waters to make them appear deep. At the same time, superficial ‛heroic’ characters get boring very quickly. Of more popular fiction these days, at least among the successful ones, the emphasis often seems to be more on either the grim or the goofy and neither is really my taste.

For good or ill, I’m a fairly old-fashioned fellow in most of my tastes.

9. What was your favourite subject at school?

Here again it would be impossible to choose just one. Mathematics and physics were high on the list, but I always loved art and music and literature, too. I did a lot of acting in my younger days in school and later. I’ve always been interested in a very wide variety of subjects.

10. If you could learn one random skill, what would you learn?

I’d finish learning to play the piano. I doubt now I’ll take the time but I’ve always regretted not practicing enough to become proficient. I could say the same thing about drawing, an ability I consider next to divine when it’s developed well and one for which I have no talent at all, probably because of native impatience. I greatly admire those who have those qualities.

11. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it all imagination?

Most of my books are based on real-life events, heavily modified by my imagination. “Cossacks In Paris,” whose background is the final two years of the Napoleonic wars, is from start to finish, obviously. But, less obviously, it is right down to the main character, whom I discovered in a news clipping from 1814.

“Death Is Overrated” was influenced by a few different classic films but the events themselves are mostly drawn from the experience of real people, though the characters are only very loosely.

My next, Clonmac’s Bridge, is based on a real-life discovery by marine archaeologists of a medieval bridge in Ireland near a famous monastery. Again, though, the real events are just background; the story is entirely invented.

My work fits roughly into the Romantic Realist school, though how well it fits varies quite a lot from novel to novel.

12. What’s next for you?

Well, I mentioned Clonmac’s Bridge, which should be published around the time this interview is, I hope.

Past that, I’m finishing the research for a 19th century medical drama about a young woman from Scotland who emigrates to America to become a physician, a rare and very difficult thing even as late as 1890. It might sound like a grim historical romance à la Phillipa Gregory, but it’s actually more social commentary – but the opposite of the sort a reader might imagine when hearing it described, and definitely not dreary. For one thing, she opposes most of those who try to help her because she’s poor, but not for reasons of false pride or even a simple desire to ‛make it on her own’.

After that, I plan to start writing a trilogy whose background is the Age of Discovery – when Venetians traded in the Levantine, the Portuguese opened oceanic trade routes to India, etc. I’ve been researching it for a couple of years.
On the eve of Napoleon's Russian Campaign a conscripted engineer gets swept up in events that will forever alter his life and all Europe.?

"If you read in bed, you might be up all night." - Frank Schulwolf, Amazon

"Sit back and strap yourself in for a riotous, rollicking ride following appealing heroes, heroines and villains across war-torn Napoleonic Europe." Peter Cresswell, Not PC

"Perren's economical style moves one quickly from page-to-page while leaving little for interpretation, and everything to purposeful conquest. The reader is driven by one overriding question: will a man's passionate pursuit of a woman prove more powerful than a ruler's quest for an empire?" - Michael Moeller, The Atlasphere


Rebellious engineer Breutier Armande is drafted into the Grande Armeé on the eve of Napoleon's 1812 Russian war campaign. On a spying mission to St. Petersburg he meets Kaarina, daughter of the counselor to Tsar Alexander I.

The pair soon fall in love -- but Kaarina is betrothed to Agripin, a brooding Cossack and a favorite of the Tsar. When she refuses him, Agripin kidnaps her, sowing a showdown to the death between the two young men.

Risking a firing squad, Breutier deserts Napoleon's army during the war. Dodging the vengeance of the world's most powerful rulers catapults him onto a perilous quest to hunt down his greatest enemy.

Interweaving the characters' personal dramas with the battles in Europe forms the core of the story. The conflict peaks at the moment when, for the first time in 400 years, foreign armies invaded France, leaving behind Cossacks in Paris.


About Jeffery

Jeffrey Perren wrote his first short story at age 12 and went on to win the Bank of America Fine Arts award at 17. Since then he has published at award-winning sites and magazines from the U.S. to New Zealand.



Saturday, 25 January 2014

Salems Reviews: Disney's Frozen


So Frozen is supposed to be based on the story of the Snow Queen. Now usually I dislike it when films stray too far from the original material. I am one who ends up saying regularly "when they say based on, they mean very loosely." However I found that with Frozen this fact didn't bother me at all. In fact I was glad as the original tale of the Snow Queen isn't a very happy one - as you find with a great deal of Han Christian Anderson's work.

Frozen is one of the few Disney movies where the main relationship isn't boy meets girl. Frozen's focus is on the relationship and love between sisters - Elsa and Anna. I found I was touched by their story, in fact I had to wipe tears from my eyes at a couple of points during the movie. Elsa has a power that she has feared all her life - typically her parents didn't know how to handle it so made it worse by telling her to hide it and isolating their daughters from society. I think this also explains a little of Anna's naivety when it comes to Prince Hans. When Elsa's powers are revealed and the reaction only continues to feed her own fear (therefore making her control of them worse) she runs away, leaving Anna as the only one who can bring her sister back and save the kingdom from an endless winter.

Not that Disney leaves out the romance element that comes in the form of Kristoff. The handsome young mountain man who agrees to help Anna on her quest in the hopes that the return of summer will save his ice business. Kristoff is a bit of a loner much like Anna has been spending most of his time with his reindeer Sven. Of course Anna doesn't see him that way till its almost too late as she is mistakenly of the belief that she has found her true love in Hans.

Of course you have your comic relief character in the form of Olaf. A child hood snowman Elsa brought to life by accident when finally giving her powers a run after she has left her kingdom behind. He provides very, very light relief because he actually isn't all that amusing. After his song about wanting to see summer - you actually end up feeling a little sorry for him as the clueless guy doesn't seem to understand that snow melts in heat.


What surprised me most in this story was who the true villain turned out to be. Prince Hans. That's right, Disney made the handsome prince the bad guy. I didn't see it coming either, they fooled me even giving him and Anna a love duet right at the beginning of the film. Hans, the 13th son of another kingdom knows he will never inherit his throne, so knowing that Arundel has two princesses he concocted a plan. Knowing Elsa was too isolated and cold, he tricked Anna hoping to marry her and bump Elsa off. When fate turns so that both sisters are as good as dead, he reveals his true colors and makes a grab for the kingdom.

Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.

I give it 5 black cats

Monday, 20 January 2014

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

... R. A McCandless

1. Tell me about your book Tears of Heaven and where you got your inspiration for it?

In the distant past, the children of angels and humans, the Nephilim, were allowed to lead their lives as they willed. But they proved too strong, too ambitious, and too cunning for their own good. They became warlords, conquerors and emperors. They caused war and strife. Then the Throne stepped in and forced them to submit to Its will, or die. Many died. Unlike most of her fellows, Del, one of the first Nephilim, had no interest in conquest and domination. But she is still forced to live under the Throne’s interdiction. Tears of Heaven explores both Del’s ancient past and her present in the modern world.

The inspiration came when I was re-reading some Lovecraft, and became interested in demons. I didn’t want to raise any or sit down and have a chat about my soul. I was curious what lore existed about them, if there were classifications and what the mythos really said. I started doing some research into the topic, and stumbled across the Biblical passage about Nephilim, the half-divine and half-human offspring of angels. I’d wanted to write about a strong, female character in a supernatural setting, and the pieces all fell together.

2. Do you admire your own work?

Sometimes I get an idea for a single scene, or an emotional description, or maybe dialogue that I consider clever and witty. That’s when I enjoy my own work. I like almost all of my characters, the heroes and the villains, but I never know how they will translate to an audience. It’s always exciting when a beta reader comes back and says, “I love Del!” or “Orion is such a badass!” That’s when I feel like I’ve done my job well.

3. Do you enjoy giving interviews?

Absolutely. My favorite thing in the world to talk about is writing, and most especially my writing. If I ever get the standard Rich & Famous contract, interviews might start being tedious. For now, anyone interested in writing or me is someone I want to talk to.

4. Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or movie?

Tall, gawky, somewhat uncoordinated geek-guy? My archetype doesn’t come up too often, but when my wife and I watched Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall”, she couldn’t stop pointing out the similarities between Allen’s character, Alvy, and I. Clearly, not the auteur film-making genuis, but some of the neurotic, movie-loving, talking nerd. That’s me.

5. What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?

“That’s an excellent suggestion. Thank you.”

6. While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?

Not always, but you should, right? That’s where the best writing comes from, when you’re so inside the character that no matter what outrageous thing happens, you know what the response is. “Del wouldn’t smile here, she would be angry.” Or “Tomoe would let this enemy live no matter the danger.” That’s when the character stops being just words on a page, and takes on that realism that readers really enjoy. That’s the goal.

7. Have you ever hated something you wrote?

There have been some darker-than-dark scenes that I didn’t want to write, but I knew they were part of the narrative. They were necessary for the character to either be who they currently were, or to become who they were meant to. I don’t think I’ve ever hated those scenes, but I do hate the necessity of them. Our world is not all rainbows and light. Bad guys don’t all wear black hats, and good guys aren’t always clever and right (or even guys). Good writing should at least be plausible, if not real, and that means bad things happen to good people.

8. Do you prefer blue or black inked pens?

Black Pentel RSVP medium point. When the RSVP first came out, they were only fine point. I loved the size and feel, but I always ripped the paper. I even called Pentel and asked them to make a medium point RSVP. I like to think that my input helped them come out with the medium points. Before that, I customized the pens by exchanging the ink cartridges. I ended up with a lot of fine point ink cartridges, so if you know anyone who’d like to buy them, I’ll take any offers.

9. Is there a message in your novels you want the readers to grasp?

Other than the on-going need to address women as equals , rather than inferiors, my main characters almost always rely on a deep friendship. In addition to my family, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some wonderful people who have helped me throughout my life. You don’t get to pick your family, but I think you don’t pick your friends either. It’s like leaves on a tree, you tend to grow together, and if you do it right, you’re all stronger for knowing each other.

10. Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I like different authors for different things. David Gemmell did some amazing hack-n-slash, I miss him. Patrick Rothfuss is doing some incredible work, and it’s deeper than most readers suspect. Bernard Cornwell probably strikes me the most. He is the king of historical fiction, but what I love about him most is the three or five pages of author’s notes at the conclusion. He does his research, states the facts and admits his liberties. His stories are always engrossing.

11. What’s next for you?

Now that Tears of Heaven has been released, I’m working on two projects. A historic fiction called The Second Cut based on the early samurai period of Japan and featuring one of the only known female samurai warriors, Tomoe Gozen. I’m also working on a heroic fantasy series that starts with The Blood of Heroes. I’m very excited about both projects.

12. Which book do you wish you’d written?

Elizabeth K. Lynn’s “A Different Light”. It’s a scifi novella with strong characters and story, but the prose is amazing. It’s like reading a narrative in poetry. I can’t say enough good things about Lynn’s work on this title, except that everyone should read it. It’s one of the few books that I crack open every year or two and just drink in. It’s soothing to a reader’s soul.

In the past, the children of angels and humans, the Nephilim, were allowed to lead their lives as they willed.  But they proved too strong, too ambitious, and too cunning for their own good.  They became warlords, conquerors and emperors.  They caused battle, death and strife until the Throne stepped in and forced them to submit to Its will, or die.

Unlike most of her fellows, Del, one of the first Nephilim, had no interest in conquest and domination.  In the ancient past, prior to the Throne’s interdiction, she met and fell in love with Dami, a Mediterranean ship captain and trader.  Together, they faced down pirates and storms and tried create a future together. In the present, two-thousand years later, Del unwillingly works for the Throne, obeying the commands of the angel Ahadiel.  She helps keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons.  At the same time, she keeps herself in the Throne’s good graces.  Whenever a rogue demon breaks free from Hell, she and her partner, Marrin, another Nephilim, work together to banish it.


“Throne be damned,” the rogue hissed.

The fight was not going well.  Del should have brought Marrin.  Ahadiel had told her to bring Marrin, but that only made certain that she wouldn’t.

Del gasped as the rogue landed a solid punch into her stomach and ribs, the air whooshed from her lungs.  He followed with a stab of his fingers into her right arm.  Cold-filled pain suffused her shoulder and caused it to spasm painfully.  She spun away, awkwardly.  Her right arm felt like it had been shattered, pulverized into pudding, useless as gelatin.  The cold-forged iron spike she’d been holding, dropped from useless fingers and clattered to the floor.  The rogue looked at her with brutal menace in his eyes and flame licking around the lids.

It would have been a good trick.

If only it was a trick.

The flames were all too real.

Fortunately, Del didn’t suffer from the same fears that mortals contended with.  A rogue divinity hissing heresy and spouting fire, literal fire, around his eyes would have left a mortal quivering in terror until the Last Judgment.

She’d seen it happen.

“Leave now, little half-breed,” the rogue said. His voice had a sibilance that surrounded her, whispering in both of her ears intimately. “Leave, and I will not kill you.  Stay, and I will make your pain a torture.  I will see you last for days upon days, and I promise you abuses you could not dream.”

Del said nothing.

People think they want to meet an angel, but they really don’t.  The awful truth is that meeting an angel is the scariest, most life altering moment of any mortal’s short existence.  Angels have always had their voices raised in songs of praise and their wings dipped in rivers of blood.  When the Throne needs a mortal slain, or an army felled, an angel is sent.  When a city or nation needs to be levelled, and the ground sown with salt for a thousand years, an angel is the destroyer.


About R. A McCandless

R.A. McCandless has been a writer both professionally and personally for nearly two decades.  He was born under a wandering star that led him to a degree in Communication and English with a focus on creative writing.  He is the author of “Tears of Heaven” (due this Fall) and many unpublished words (anthropomorphic is a good one) and continues to research and write historical and genre fiction.