Friday, September 7, 2012


My guest is actor, swordsman, and historical author, C.C. Humphreys. I'm delighted to have Chris visiting today. I've spent the last few weeks in Constantinople, caught up in the epic sweep of history (which I love) and the personal stories of the ordinary people who lived there or came there for battle. It's an amazing story, rich in historical details and full of the joys, heartbreaks, and victories of people caught up in the battle for Constantinople. 
Chris shares how a moment can change the course of a story.

I enjoy a good blogging. (My wife suggested I substitute ‘f’ for ‘b’ but I said we shouldn’t air our predilictions in public). What I enjoy most about a blog is the opportunity it gives to focus on an aspect of my life or my craft. (My wife suggested the phrase ‘pontificate about’ but again I declined).

            I have always been a wanderer, from a family of wanderers. Nowadays, I wander most for my work. I have to go where my novels are set. Research for me is not so much about getting the facts right, important though that is. A fact is dry unless it is put into the context of character and action. A fact needs to be used as a springboard for imagination. And the ‘facts’ I pick up in the place where my actions have happened usually give me the biggest bounce of all.

            This has never been more true than in my latest novel. Where would I have been without my two visits to Istanbul? The first was tacked onto my 2007 trip to Romania when I was researching my novel on the real Dracula: ‘Vlad: The Last Confession’ (Sourcebooks 2011). I was so close, why not see this fabled city? ‘Armageddon’ was not even glimmer in my mind then. I wandered about, visited all the key sites – Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque. I even went out to the Theodosian walls and, knowing something of the great siege of 1453, marvelled at the courage it would take to both assault and defend them. I smoked narghile, played backgammon in Pera alleys, drank raki. Left, sated.

            Inspiration is often not a lightning bolt but a thing of stealth. Istanbul had me and this idea crept up. I found myself reading ever more about the place until the moment came when I knew I had to tackle 1453. Once committed, I knew I had to return. I view  a place differently when I have a story in mind. Different senses operate more fully – especially the sixth one. I long ago discovered that there is a resonance in stone where extraordinary – often violent - acts have happened. Walls give off a special energy and I just have to sit still long enough near them to channel it.

St Maria of the Mongols, Istanbul
I prize imagination above most things - but imagination stimulated by the senses, grounded in geography and history… ah, there’s the ultimate! On my second visit to Istanbul I discovered a location for part of my story and the whole novel changed. I’d read about it, the tiny church of St Maria of the Mongols. It’s not on the tourist track, tucked away in the labrynthine streets of working class Fener. I found it eventually, thanks to my Turkish publishers – who, in a wonderful example of Humphreys’ serendipity were just publishing ‘Vlad’ the week I was there. (Doing a book signing in that city of words was truly one of the greatest buzzes of my life)

It is rarely open to the public. But 20 bucks to the caretaker got us in. I gasped when I saw this exquisite jewel box with its vaulted roof, its gilt and silver ikons, its teak altar screen. It had survived the sack that followed the Turkish conquest of 1453; spared by special order of Mehmet ‘fatih’: the conqueror. Why? No one knows. But it is into the gap between facts that the historical novelist leaps. I was free to speculate – and did. This glorious place became crucial to my characters’ very survival and, back at my desk on Salt Spring Island, I reshaped the novel around it.

How much is too much? How to strike the balance in an epic adventure between battle, sex and story?

Available now

The year is 1453. The city of Constantinople is at the center of a clash of civilizations. For the Greeks, it's their home that has withstood attacks for centuries behind mighty walls. For the Turks, it's the prize they have spent centuries trying to win. 

Gregoras had vowed never to return to Constantinople, the cursed home that had betrayed and scarred not only his mind, but his face, for all to see. But now with 100,000 Muslim soldiers outside its walls, he can hear its desperate calls for his help, as it can only be held by men and mercenaries as skilled in battle as Gregoras, of which few remain.

His return home, though, will mean not only having to face the constant hum of arrow and cannon, but also Theon, twin brother...and betrayer. And with him his beloved Sofia, lost when Gregoras was cast from his home, now bound to Theon in marriage. But the rewards of victory would not only be the glories of the battle, but the redemption of his name and his soul. EXCERPT

From sword fights with pirates to explosions in tunnels and towers, secret rendezvous in the enemy camp, and the religious and moral dilemmas of war, Humphreys once again uses his dramatic flair and meticulous research to weave fiction into fact.

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys was born in Toronto, lived till he was seven in Los Angeles, then grew up in the UK. As C.C. Humphreys, Chris has written six historical fiction novels. Chris lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and young son.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

REVIEW: KISS OF STEEL—Steampunk Romance

My scheduled guest, Robin Maxwell, wasn't able to be here this morning, I will be having her later in the month and her latest book  JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan.


Mass Market Paperback448 pages
Published September 4th 2012

He craves her like no other...

Honoria Todd has no choice. Only in the dreaded Whitechapel district can she escape the long reach of the Duke of Vickers. But seeking refuge there will put her straight into the hands of Blade, legendary master of the rookeries. No one would dare cross him, but what price would he demand to keep her safe?

Ever since Vickers infected him with the craving, Blade has been quicker, stronger, almost immortal—and terrified of losing control of the monster within. Honoria could be his perfect revenge against the duke…or the salvation he never dared to dream of.

Kiss of Steel intrigued me from the first moment I read the story premise. I thought the concept of paranormal steampunk romance (mouthful isn’t it?) interesting and I was curious to see how Bec McMasters handled the mix of genres.

Bec McMasters is creative and handles it very well. It’s a fresh take on the vampire lore, and she stirs a werewolf into the mix as well. I liked her idea of its origins of the vampire and how it spread to England (and she offers a different twist to the French Revolution). It’s different but she makes it plausible especially the difference between one who is a vampire and one who merely one of the elite blue bloods (the aristocrats). There is a line they cross to become the dreaded vampire.

She creates a believable world using an alternative historical timeline set ostensibly in Victorian England. There are plenty of steam-gadgets—hackneys, transport boats/taxis—other nifty inventions that run the households or the existing world. Some of the weapons that were cool as were the cadre of robotic weapon soldiers, and extensive use of robotic prosthetics for humans. 

The story does manage to capture the attitudes of the time with regards to science and research. The Victorians also had a hidden fascination of erotica (not the same as sex or sex scenes) and you see traces of that in the story. McMasters’ world definitely has the dark, somewhat bleak flavor of the old British scientific romances of that time period (think HG Wells), except her heroes aren’t powerless or as hopeless.

The romance between Blade, Master of Whitechapel (crime ridden slum area), and Honoria Todd, master researcher’s daughter (and research assistant), is good. It’s the bright spot in the dreary atmosphere of McMasters’ world of London.

Honoria has a price on her head set by the powerful, somewhat profligate, Duke of Vickers. He wants the research diaries of her father, which may hold the vaccination against the craving disease, and he wants her. She changes her name, flees with her young brother and sister to the slums, to escape him. Honoria is smart, fiercely protective of her siblings, and has no compunction in protecting them via scientific concoctions or actual weapons (I liked her gun). She’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe even if that means making a deal with Blade. 

I really liked Blade. He’s a good mix of tough and rough and has a caring heart. He’s gathered quite an eclectic group of people (whom I also liked a lot) that are now part of his family. His great enemy is the Duke of Vickers and he has an information network well in place and knows who the three new residents in the rookeries are and that Vickers wants them. Blade initially seeks out Honoria with the idea of using her to lure his archenemy, Duke of Vickers to him. Both Honoria and Blade have trust issues and secrets, but Honoria has lots of secrets and she isn’t one to share them easily even as she becomes romantically involved with Blade. It’s a point of conflict between them and increases the danger of all involved their world. 

Kiss of Steel has a good set of well-drawn, characters. Well-defined sense of motivations in both the good guys and the bad guys and even the monster on the loose elicits some sympathy. There is plenty of tension and suspense with several mysteries to solve in this story and some good kick ass battles.

Overall, it was a good story, which kept me guessing and turning the pages to find out what would happen. 

Monday, September 3, 2012


Most people comport themselves professionally in the workplace. It’s hammered in that we must have professional courtesy when dealing with clients, customers, and fellow workers. The formality of our actions is determined by the type business we’re in and who we’re dealing with. We answer emails within 48 hours, we confirm arrangements made by email, we send email reminders to customers and clients, we handle cancellations the same way—phone or by email. We maintain confidentiality. At least in my line of work this has always been the routine. I handle myself professionally. It’s a mindset.

Personally, I think courtesy is an important quality regardless of whether you’re dealing with business or personal matters. Courtesy is part of having good manners and manners should be as natural as breathing.

I bring that same professional mindset to my online persona and especially with my blog. I have a personal blog day, Mondays, but the other two blog days feature authors. I have a monthly scheduling calendar. I have to have one to keep track of my guests and topics. Usually, I’m booking a month in advance. I’m dealing with busy authors, publicists, PR firms, publishers, and the occasional agent. This is a business and I handle it as such. Professional courtesy is a must.

Part of the professional courtesy I offer is my guidelines, a topic suggestion sheet, confirmation of guest spots, if I have to cancel for any reason I send an email. My reviews are handled the same way—I list those genres I read and those I don’t. I give turn around times. If I haven’t received an authors article and material the week before their blog date, I send a reminder of the blog date. I do have those few I can tap if my blog guest is a no-show to do a quick article. Or I do it. Cancellations happen occasionally due to sickness, a major conflict in schedules, deadlines, and of course there are those who just don’t show up or respond. The latter usually don’t get invited back.

I don’t get paid for my blog or reviews. But I do try to handle those things as if I were paid. I’ll admit it burns my bacon when paid professionals don’t use their professional manners and I tend to weed these out of my life—I don’t have time for the attitude that they’re doing me a favor by sending me books or guests. *Snort. I don’t need any favors. What I need is professional courtesy and follow-through.

Most of the authors I work with are professional. Writing is their business and promotion is part of that business. I have a great deal of respect for hard working authors and PR people. I’ve made some good friends among them and I treasure them.

Like many, I have a very busy life. I work (I run a call center from home), have a spouse, kids, home responsibilities, a ranch and animals to care for, and I write. My time is tight. Dropping something last minute in my lap, especially a guest post, means a late night getting it set up (on a good day and happy blog gods, I’m done in 60 to 90 minutes). It’s even harder when I still have to go online and find bios, book covers, links to Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or websites. Set up then can take several hours. God forbid if I have to work early morning on 4 hours sleep. It isn’t pretty and a foggy miasma of colorful metaphors abound.

I’m heading into my busy time with work.  As demands of work increases my time online decreases, although I still schedule time for that. I’d miss my online buddies too much if I didn’t. J

What are your thoughts on professional courtesy? Especially as an author or aspiring author?

  • When you’re a scheduled guest how early do you try to get your material to the blog owner?

  • If you’re a blog owner who schedules guests, as a professional courtesy, do you have clear guidelines for your guests?