I received a nice and unexpected fan letter today.

“I devoured your “By the Hands of Men” trilogy last week, and am pleased to say that my first thought was to consider how long I should wait until re-reading those three. That has not happened in a very long time.

“High praise intended for you; I’m a life-long voracious reader, with most of my books on paper. I’ll read one, and it might be decades before the same volume floats up again during cleaning or re-arranging to surprise me with a fond memory that inspires a visit.

“Double praise in that when I find a book on the kindle platform *really* good, I’ll purchase it in print. All of your efforts meet that standard.”

Those make my day.

(Oh, yeah, after he read my free download story “The Fire This Time,” he also bought the first volume in the Lonesome George series, “The Big Bang.”)

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No Writing Today

No Writing Today

Just research.  In fact, as much as work as I have to put into these particular novels, one of the delights of the work is the research.  What I look for in the books I read about regular people in those time (the more obscure the better) is the telling detail, the little facts or quirks or annoyances of daily living that help make that time period feel real and relatable to anyone who’s entered my story.

The joy of research is in discovering something like this:

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A police officer stands next to a member of the “Black Legion,” an underground organization separated from the Ku Klux Klan and actively fought blacks, Jews and Catholics. Its members practiced ritual murder, in its ranks were more than 10,000 people. 1936”  I’d never heard of this group, and yet they were a force to be feared by some in Southern California.  As I had Orlando say in Book Three, “Hell does not appear to be limited in its ingenuity.”

 

I can’t recall exactly when I developed my love for history, but I am fairly certain it was learned from my father.  Dad grew up pretty damn poor in rural Florida.  My grandfather did a lot of different kinds of work to keep the family fed, and at fifteen my dad was helping out, delivering moonshine from time to time.

My father is a smart guy, and looked around at the opportunities in that little town of Stark (“perfect description of the place” he once told me), Florida and knew he needed to get out.  At 17, he joined the Air Force and changed his life.  His own story might have been the one that ingrained in me the belief we can always make ourselves and our positions better, if we’re willing to pay what it costs in time, sweat, and blood.

Regardless, some of my clearest memories are of watching movies (that were old then) on a black and white television, and listening to him tell me the stories behind the films.  Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, who in reality was really a damn fine Olympic Swimmer.  And, better than that, there were books about Tarzan, written by a guy named Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Or, when we were traveling across the United States––as one’s family was known to do when a member of the US Air Force––Dad would tell me about the settlers who’d crossed those long wide plains in covered wagons.  The paths they’d taken, the battles they’d fought against indigenous people, outlaws, even germs.  “And he loved her so much, he walked across the US to find her again.”

Man, those weren’t just random facts, those were stories of real people, folks with dreams and feelings not so different than my own.  More than that, it was about lives that had meaning and purpose, lives worthy of emulating.

Got all that from my father.  So now, when I’m reading new books (or, new-to-me books) for historical background, I often think “Dad is gonna love this one.”  And it takes me back to when I was a kid.  It’s a great feeling.   I end up setting books aside for when I’m finished with the novel, and I look forward to sending them to him so we can talk about them together.

Thanks, Dad!

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Mid-western modesty

Tends to forbid me from singing my own praises.  It’s not natural for me to tout reviews for my work.

Back in Nebraska (the Nebraska of both my youth and my imagination), understated acceptance of praise was an art form in itself, because, hell, everybody who worked the fields, everybody who had to get up before daylight to feed the animals before going to school, everybody knew the work was hard.  So when someone complimented your efforts, there had to be a touch of humility in your reply, along with a very wry acknowledgement that it was just your luck to be noticed.

“Good job getting that calf out of the well by yourself.”

“That wasn’t anything, she didn’t weigh nor more than a speckle-bottomed puppy.” Unsaid, but known by both speakers, is the fact the baby cow was the size of a Harley motorcycle.

Those midwesterners could teach a Grecian statue a thing or two about being straight-faced, but, man, they were funny folks.plowing

I will say this one thing about reviews:  over and above the ego-stroking they provide to an author, they also let us know if we really achieved what we set out to do.  Getting feedback from a stranger can be brutal (think speed-dating on national TV, with every rejection and snide comment about how far your ears stick out from the side of your head broadcast to millions), but it can also be incredibly useful.  Did I hit the mark or miss by a country-mile?  Do I sorta have a clue about what I’m doing or am I fooling myself?  Oh, look, some reader half-way across the world is going to take the time to let me know.

So, you might understand why I really appreciate this review from novelist BarbTarb.

“I simply can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s a read for the long haul, with steady pacing, characters whose spirits are torn apart and slowly painfully rebuilt, a supporting cast of three-dimensional characters who breath life and color into the tapestry. And there is the story itself, which is nothing more than an epic picture of a world between wars, as experienced on human scale through the two protagonists. The bare bones I’ve told here don’t begin to convey the wealth of detail and adventure that are woven into the twin stories of Robert and Charlotte, of what the war has cost, and of what they’ve each gained.

“It’s an incredible achievement and my only complaint this time is that I want to know what happens next.”

Well, shucks.  Guess I’d better get back to work on Book Four, then.

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“The Wrath of a Righteous Man” available today!

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The Wrath of a Righteous Man

By the Hands of Men, Book Three

The epic saga continues:  After escaping enslavement in Russia, Charlotte Braninov fights to build a new life in London while the shadow of modern fanaticism looms over Europe.  Robert Fitzgerald faithfully serves the Crown in Africa until honor compels him to risk everything to overcome an ancient evil, only to discover that the greatest war rages within himself.

Available in ebook and paperback at Amazon

 Kindle version of Book One, The Old World, free until Sunday, May 29.

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Book Blitz Giveaway

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Book giveaway over at TomeTender, a festive book blog that has a lot of love for both The Old World and Into the Flames and who then had a lot of fun with me while putting it together.  Check it out!

 

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Nice review for “The Old World”

By  book blogger “Mrs. C.” This is for By the Hands of Men, Book One, “The Old World.”

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My Thoughts

About the time I discovered my grandfather’s role in WWI, I received a request from this author to review this beautiful novel set during The Great War.  Author Roy Griffis has the rare talent of writing vividly descriptive narrative which places the reader inside the scene as a nonparticipating character.  His impeccable research has allowed this novel to be compared to Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms.

This novel begins on the battlefield during the Christmas Day truce, and takes off like a bullet thereafter.  Charlotte, a nurse, physically cares for Robert, an officer, man of mystery, and eventually emotionally cares for him.  Charlotte longs for him, and he her, the only bright spot in their war.  Eventually, they part, but not their hearts.  Even in deepest despair, Robert remembers the giver of a cross he wears around his neck.

I appreciate the author sharing the graphic gore of this war without the vulgarity.  If you are a romantic, lover of history, and appreciate great writing which could be described as classic, you will enjoy this excellent work.  I have the sequel to The Old World at my side, ready to open as soon as I complete this review.  I also look forward to the third book in this series to be published this year.

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So…

I wrote the first page of By the Hands of Men, Book Four.

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Nice review for “Into the Flames”

Roy M. Griffis’ By the Hands of Men

 

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I’ve complained a bit lately (“lately,” you say?) about the various horse-puckey mechanisms that encourage Americans to ignore all but the most formulaic and famous of our national fiction. But part of this is perhaps the fault of writer-reviewers; even if we produce novels ourselves, we both avoid and screw up fiction reviews, because they are hard (and also not conducive to clickbait, you barnyard Internet animals).

The more enthused a reviewer is about a piece of fiction, ya see, the less we want to spoil its surprises—be they plot twists, turns of phrase, or a sweet new massage of a time-honored theme. We know the writer worked hard to come up with that left turn, dammit. Thus we overcompensate, giving the reader only the vaguest idea of why he would profit from the story, and the writer’s hard work is all for nought.

So I’m painfully aware of the need to strike a balance with Roy M. Griffis’s By the Hands of Men trilogy, which is the most touching as well as the most enjoyable historical fiction I’ve read in quite some time—though there were some technical flaws which I hope that I, as the second volume’s copyeditor (there’s my full disclosure for you), was able to resolve.

The first book, The Old World, was released to very little fanfare (unless you count me); the second, Into the Flames, came out on December 10, 2015—to what I hope will be a response more commensurate with its merit.

Read more here:

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“Into the Flames” ignites December 10

Very grateful and pleased to have Into the Flames, Volume Two of the By The Hands of Men series, finally released.

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Early reviews are enthusiastic.

Book Three, The Wrath of a Righteous Man, will be released in May, 2016.

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Coming Soon

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