Thursday, December 27, 2012


I was trying to clean out some spam and just deleted the last one hundred or so comments on my blog. If you were effected, please be assured it was nothing personal.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Betrayal, Guilt, and World War II: An interview with historical fiction author David Leroy

1) Tell me about your book

The Siren of Paris follows the mortal life of Marc Tolbert during World War II.  The story opens with him as a ghost of the war who is attempting to move past his mortal life into eternity.  His failure to deal with his own sense of survivor’s guilt, and the personal shame he has regarding a relationship with a woman, prevents him from moving on. Instead he must fall back into mortal time to review his life during the war. This review becomes the bulk of the story. 

2) Your protagonist is a French-born American art student. That's an interesting POV for a story of World War II. Why did you decide on that particular background and POV

Marc and Marie are based, in part, upon real people.  There were, in fact, many real people who became trapped by the war and were unable to leave France, hence living in very dangerous circumstances. Marc is a “Teddy boy,” which is a term for a child of an American veteran of World War I.  His dual citizenship is both a blessing and a curse to him throughout the story.  He decides to drop out of medicine and pursue art, primarily because his girlfriend, who wanted to be married to a rich doctor, has left him.  Marc’s experiences during the war will drive him, for the rest of his life, to give himself entirely to medicine, powered by the memory of being helpless to care for his friends as they died during the war.  

3) Please tell about the primary themes your book explores.

 The main theme is transcending guilt.  Marc is Catholic with a strong conscience. He feels guilt over the death of many of his friends who were betrayed during the war, because this betrayal came from his own girlfriend.  He blames himself for not seeing her as a collaborator until it was too late to do anything.  The second theme is the nature of freedom.  This is explored through Dora’s reactions to the war and Jacques’s experiences during the liberation of Buchenwald.  There are multiple lesser themes including courage in the face of danger, faith, hope, love and innocence.

4) Please tell us a bit about your historical research process.

I got a little carried away because I set out to write a realistic story.  The story follows real events instead of a fictionalized storyline of events. This required reading about 46 different books, along with several papers and documents, to put together all the various details. This has opened the door to some criticism regarding the book.  For instance, the scene of the traveling circus being raided on the Loire Valley seems to stretch credulity, but there was a circus on the run, remembered by many eyewitnesses.  The resistance group I choose is small, humble, and isolated from others with only few resources, because Dr. Jackson and his family are real. They are in contrast to the fictionalized Hollywood portrayal we have in our imaginations regarding Parisian resistance members.  The head of the Sons of Liberty, which is the largest of the French youth resistance movements, is blind. He is another unlikely actual historical figure of the war.   

5) You've said your book is a mix of a historical narrative and a spiritual journey inspired by The Egyptian Book of the Dead. World War II and the Book of the Dead are two things I don't normally associate with each other. Please tell us a bit more about that and how you came up with that connection to begin with.

My degree in philosophy and religion has a major influence upon how I approach telling a story.  If I had limited myself to only the clear historical facts, focusing upon certain events and people during the war from Marc’s emotional and mental point of view, it would be an interesting historical novel regarding a betrayal. 

However, by placing the historical events of the war into the context of Marc’s spiritual test, The Siren of Paris becomes allegorical historical fiction.  The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a mythical journey through an underworld of both demons and gods, testing the soul of Ani, until he reaches his place of final peace.  The match was perfect for the purpose of exploring guilt felt on a spiritual level.  Of course, I do not follow the same journey that Ani takes, because this is Marc’s journey and his tests are different.  The lucid dreams and hallucinations in the story serve as a way of guiding Marc in this journey that equates the war with hell.

Readers’ reactions to this allegory are mixed.  Some find it incredibly interesting, while this odd mixture of imagery does not impress others. I am actually surprised that I have not attracted more negative reviews, since some readers do not enjoy allegorical writing.   

6) World War II, being the greatest, most horrific war that humanity has even known and relatively recent has been rather thoroughly explored in fiction. What does your novel bring to the forefront that has perhaps been less explored well in the past?

Aside from the fact that The Siren of Paris is an allegorical approach to exploring World War II, the book brings several obscure events to light.  Very few people know the story of the RMS Lancastria, a British passenger liner put into service as an emergency troop ship, that took on 8000-9000 soldiers and civilian refugees only to be sunk, killing most in 20 minutes.  The British government, to this day, continues to passively deny this sinking, which is the worst maritime accident in British history. People are very familiar with the stories of Titanic and the Lusitania. However the Lancastria death toll, which is estimated to exceed both disasters combined, is unknown to most and has never appeared in a novel. Most war novels don’t dwell long on the “false war period” when the French and British engaged in a long period of denial of their circumstances.  This is reflected in the confirmation bias of Marc’s fellow trapped travelers. Plus, many of these historical figures, such as Joan Rodes, Jacques Lusseyran, Ambassador Bullitt, and Sylvia Beach, have never appeared in a fictional account before.   

A standard historical novel would explore these characters in depth. However, in the context of an allegorical novel, these characters play roles in the service of the larger spiritual journey of Marc’s soul.  The people are guides, gatekeepers, threshold guardians, teachers, and mentors to Marc as he travels through this dark underworld where he lost his own innocence to the horrors of war.

A strict historical novel would remove all allegorical elements, including any spiritual mysticism, lucid dreams, or symbols, as useless elements that obscure the historical story.  I choose to look at this historical story through the use of allegory, because frankly, I can’t expose my readers to enough bombings, starvation, terror, arrest, and death to help them experience World War II.  I do not have a romantic vision of this war, because I grew up around so many civilian survivors who were haunted by what they saw and experienced.     

7) Do you have any excerpts you'd like to share?

There are those who believe that faith, hope, and love are things we do, in order to lead blessed lives. They are like tricks that earn us a prize from God, such as an easy life. If we play the tricks just right, we will be blessed with love, find riches, and be successful.” Jacques remembered the precise morning the bill came due for his tricks on the Nazis when they came to arrest him. 

“It is not true. Faith, hope, and love are states of being, and when you are these states of being combined in one moment, you can pass any test that life may bring to you, even the test of when it is your time to stand for your own death.” 

 Jacques Lusseyran, 1967 at Marc’s grave in Saint Nazaire.  Chapter 45.

8) Please tell us about your other projects.

I am currently working on the first draft of a smaller book called The Flower of Chamula.  It explores the victory of living a life worthy of today, over death tomorrow, because of a diagnosis of terminal cancer.  It is set in the Chiapas Mountains of Mexico in the town of San Cristobel and the indigenous spiritual center of the town of Chamula.  I hope to release this work in 2013. 

Several readers of The Siren of Paris have asked about the fate of Marie after the war.  I plan to explore writing a follow up book that will explore her own betrayal, arrest, trial, and death, after the war, during the period known as the Purge.  I am not sure what I will be able to teach the reader about a narcissistic personality, but the Greeks did have a place for tragedy.  The natural title would be Death of a Siren, but I am leaning towards Death by Sun.   


Thanks, David.

About the Author: A native of California, David received a BA in Philosophy and Religion at Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego. After returning from a European arts study program, he became interested in the history behind the French Resistance during World War Two. Writing fiction has become his latest way to explore philosophical, moral and emotional issues of life. The Siren of Paris is his first novel. You can visit him at

You can purchase The Siren of Paris from Amazon -- -- for more information about his virtual book tour, please visit --

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ancient Japan Comes to Modern-Day Pittsburgh: An Interview with UF Author Larry Ivkovich

If you're interested in entering a drawing for the book, please click the following link: a Rafflecopter giveaway.

1) Please tell us about your book. 

The Sixth Precept is an urban fantasy with science fiction and horror elements, part of it taking place in contemporary Pittsburgh, PA, and part in ancient Japan. My two main characters and several supporting ones get caught up in a centuries-old conspiracy involving a 16th-century Japanese courtesan, a power mad warlord, a group of genetically bred animal-human hybrid hunter/trackers and time-travel. Kim Yoshima is a Pittsburgh police officer beginning to discover her latent psychic powers and Wayne Brewster (whose name is a take on Bruce Wayne aka Batman) is a mild-mannered IT analyst who dreams of a life as a real super-hero. Both characters undergo startling metamorphoses in order to combat an evil from the past that threatens the stability of the present. And everything is tied to a mysterious book written by an obscure ancient Japanese philosopher titled The Five Precepts to Enlightenment.

2) Please tell us a bit about your characters.

Kim Yoshima is a lieutenant in the Pittsburgh Police force who has maintained an interest and connection to her Asian heritage. She becomes a cop in order to help people and maintain the “harmony” of the world around her. Not particularly close to her parents or brother, the only family member she really has ties to is her paternal grandmother. Grandmother Mitsu’s advice over the years begins to take on whole new meanings as Kim tries to deal with her burgeoning esper powers and the very real danger out of Japan’s medieval past. It was Mitsu who gave Kim the book The Five Precepts to Enlightenment.

Wayne Brewster’s life has been fairly routine up until he begins to dream of the comic book icon, ArcNight. Nicknamed “Tame Wayne” by his coworkers, Wayne is anything but a super hero. But these dreams are different as Wayne feels he’s actually becoming this masked vigilante. Trying to make sense of the change coming over him, circumstances lead him to a person he’s been seeing in these nocturnal visions repeatedly--Kim Yoshima.

Omori Kadanamora is the Eminent Lord, the warlord of Odawara, having taken the 16th century Japanese city and the environs of the Kanto Plain by force. Using the combined might of his warrior monks, the sohei, and terrifying human/canine hybrids called shadow-trackers bred by the witch, Eela, he has staked his claim on the region through fear, force and intimidation. But his superstitious fear of the supernatural leaves him vulnerable to a prophecy by Eela--a child will usurp him, a child with a link to the future.

Shioko is that child. The attendant to the shirabyoshi (precursors to the geisha), Yoshima Mitsu (Kim Yoshima’s ancestor), Shioko is flung centuries into the future by means of the ‘Spirit Winds”--temporal displacement tremors. There, Mitsu believes Shioko will be safe from the purges of Omori. And for a while, she is, found and cared for by Kim herself. But the past catches up with Shioko, in a very literal and horrifying way.

3) What got you interested in writing an urban fantasy story with such an intimate connection to Japanese mythology and history? What sort of research did you do to add verisimilitude to these elements?

After reading James Clavell’s novel, Shogun, in the 1970s, I developed an interest in medieval Japan and have been wanting to write something with elements from that historical period for some time. I actually wrote four short stories featuring Kim Yoshima before I wrote The Sixth Precept, two of which were published--“Time Noir” in M-Brane SF and “A Concerned Citizen” by IFWG Publishing but these were pretty straight-forward genre tales with just small references to Kim’s interest in her heritage. When I decided to expand her adventures, the idea of including elements of ancient Japan just fit right in with the story I wanted to tell. I did a lot of mainly online research of the time period. The Muromachi or Warring States Era, with its almost constant warfare between the warlords and the samurai, seemed a good fit for the novel. I also read a lot about Japanese mythology and the city and castle of Odawara and the Kanto Plain region as well as the Ise Jingu complex in Ise, Japan. It was fun and enlightening. For instance, I originally made Kim’s ancestor, Yoshima Mitsu, a geisha, but then found out that geisha’s didn’t exist during that era but the shirabyoshis did, practicing the same type of entertainment and art. So, with a global search-and-replace on my PC, Mitsu became a shirabyoshi!

4) Related to that, the mythology and history of Japan isn't as readily known to Western readers. Did you have any concerns that your heavy basis in such elements would alienate any readers? Many popular urban fantasy books sometimes rely on people's general familiarity with certain concepts (such as vampires, werewolves, et cetera) to quickly bring people up to speed.

No, I wasn’t. I wanted to do something a little different although manga and anime are certainly popular and contain those elements. I tried to explain or translate any concepts or terms in the book not so much by info-dumps but by short phrases or more familiar words. It’s true that a couple of people who’ve read the book told me they were initially stumped by the Japanese terms but did get into the story very quickly regardless.

5) What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?

Besides finding the time to write (which is a common problem among writers in general), I think it was tying all the disparate elements of the book together. I’ve got time travel, mental telepathy, Japanese myth, reincarnation and genetic experiments all in the mix. It was fun to include all of that but it took some work to bring it all together.

6) Do you have any sequels planned?

Yes, I’m writing the sequel to The Sixth Precept now. Working title: Warriors of the Light. I’m not done with these characters yet! Or, maybe I should say, they’re not done with me.

7) Please tell us a bit more about your writing background. The Sixth Precept is hardly your first trip to the writing rodeo. Indeed, you've even won a writing awards.

I’ve been writing genre fiction for thirty years and began selling some of my short stories about fifteen years ago to various print and online markets. I’ve always been a big reader and finally decided one day that I’d like to try my hand at writing. Haven’t looked back since. I belong to two writing/critique groups, the Pittsburgh Southwrites and the Pittsburgh Worldrights, in which the members meet every couple of weeks and go over any submitted work. This had helped my writing and critiquing skills immeasurably. I advise any new writers to try and find or start such a group. I’ve been fortunate to have been a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest and was the 2010 recipient of the CZP/Rannu Fund Award for fiction for my science fiction short story, “Finding Sanctuary.” The Sixth Precept is my first published novel.

8) Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing the sequel to The Sixth Precept, which will delve deeper into the characters’ pasts as they battle a new threat. Part of it takes place in Venice, Italy. Next year, IFWG Publishing will be publishing my second novel, Magus Star Rising. This is a futuristic science fiction novel with noir elements taking place on a backwater rim world where superstition and science are a dangerous and deadly mix. I’ve also started several short stories that are in desperate need of finishing!

Thank you very much for hosting me on my virtual book tour.


Thanks, Larry.

If you'd like to see more from Larry, please check out him out at his Website and Facebook page.

The Sixth Precept can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IFWG Publishing.

Here's giving away copies, please click here if you're interested a Rafflecopter giveaway.