“Silent Crossroads” Interview with Jem Duducu

jem crossroads portraitGood morning everyone!  Can you believe it is already September?  Days are cooling down (FINALLY) and Mithril and Arwen have at last given up on nesting for the year.

Over the summer I became acquainted with Jem Duducu, one of two hosts of the Condensed History Gems podcast. At the end of August, Jem and Greg (Chapman) were kind enough to bring me onto the podcast to talk about historical fiction verses narrative history, Shakespeare, and even share some period music from China, Korea, and Scotland. Take a listen to our podcast episode which I hope will be the first of many.

Post recording the podcast I decided to check out some of his writing work.  You can find my review for “The American Presidents in 100 Facts” at

silent crossroads jemI also decided to download Jem’s new novel “Silent Crossroads” and ask him some questions about it.  Here is that Q & A for your reading pleasure.


LR: Silent Crossroads takes place during both World War I and World War II.  What interests you most about these time periods?  What do you personally find most compelling about those years?

JD: World War 1 really is the end of the “old world”. At the start of the war you have a Kaiser in Germany, the Habsburgs rule Austro-Hungary, there’s a Tsar in Russia and a Sultan in the Ottoman Empire and yet within a few years after the war, none of those century old institutions existed anymore. There were men fighting for institutions that literally were history by the end of the war.

As for World War II, it’s the war to go for so many people because it’s easy to work out the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. It’s rare to have such moral absolutes in a war. It’s also the most destructive war in human history, nothing to be proud of but scared Western Europe so much that this has been the longest peace in Western Europe since history began…

LR: You are best known for your non-fiction history books.  What made you decide to take on a historical fiction novel?

JD: On my Facebook page (@HistoryGems) as a “thank you” to regular followers, I used to make up history stories around their names. Everyone loved them, and the more grizzly the death, the better. I came up with the basic conceit for Silent Crossroads with one of them- a man changing sides in both world wars.  It’s the only one that had a few people reply that it would make a great novel. I kept piecing it together in my head, allowing the idea to evolve for a couple of years and then started writing it out when enough of the framework was there. The original was just a few paragraphs long, the final work is a little over 400 pages! I guess I got a bit carried away.

LR: Most writers draw at least some inspiration for characters and/or plot lines from their own lives.  What parts of Silent Crossroads come from your life?

JD: Harry Woods the soldier is nothing like me. Harry the husband, father and shop keeper, that’s much more me. My parents owned a shop in Portobello Market in London so the creaky stairs the serving customers, that was all in the back of my mind when describing the more mundane elements of his life.

LR: Are there any characters in Silent Crossroads who resemble people you know or parts of yourself at a specific time? Elaborate, please.

JD: A number of characters are named after friends and they get a sort of cameo although their characters may be quite different, they know who they are. Richard Barley has a small but vital part to play in the book and he’s a real guy, and just as smart as the fictional version of him but works in a very different line of business and s far less Machiavellian than the Richard in the book. Feisty clashes of will displayed by the female characters aren’t a specific woman, but as my wife, sister and mother are all very independent women, you could say they are all influences and vital in making the women believable. Also, the German Nurse Katarina is inspired by my sister in law and she loved what I did with the character.

LR: What details from real life did you integrate into this book that perhaps most people are not aware of as being historical?

JD: I put a brief synopsis of what’s real and what’s not right at the end. The battles in the wars and the rise of the Third Reich are well known. I think it may be the largely historically accurate character Wilhelm von Thoma that may surprise readers to know he did virtually everything that’s in the book. He is not widely known of and an example of a senior German officer who was genuinely uneasy about the direction Hitler was taking both his country and his army.

On the lighter side of things, I had an argument with the editor that there were ice cream parlours in Germany in the 1920s, but I proved to her I had done my research and there were.

Perhaps the most poignant bit of research is the message some American troops sent towards the end of World War I about being under friendly fire. The incident and message are both real.

LR: What lessons from WWI and WWII do you feel most people need to learn and remember about this time period?

JD: I think World War I is arguably the most misunderstood major moment of history there is. It wasn’t all sitting in trenches for 4 years, troops were rotated out of the front lines every 7-10 days. The generals did care about their troops and there are many examples of innovation to try and break the deadlock be it the tank or the first example of (major) aerial bombardment. Also, it wasn’t a stalemate, the allies (particularly Britain) very much won the war and were amply compensated.

The less militaristic point is I wanted to show how dreadful Germany was after the war. Most people outside of the country don’t know there was a brief civil war in Germany, everyone knows about the hyperinflation but don’t realise that after recovering from that they were crippled again with the stock market crash of 1929. So it wasn’t just about the Versailles treaty. I think about how in desperate situations, people sometimes make desperate choices. If everything in Germany had been “fine” in the 20s and 30s then Hitler would never have risen to power.

 LR: What do you feel is the greatest legacy of each of the two wars?

JD: With the First World War, it was the redistribution of power. This was the point where Britain’s Empire reached its maximum size. It was also the end of a number of other empires (as previously stated). New countries were carved out like Palestine, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria…and nothing bad has happened in any of those countries since!

World War Two, however, ended the last “traditional” Empire, Britain and cemented the power of two new empires. The Soviet Union had its own empire and influence spread across Eastern Europe and supported the Communists in China, something that is still impacting the news today. Of course, America was the big winner from both conflicts and again is still reaping the rewards 75 years later.

I could go on but I don’t want to turn this into a degree in 20th-century politics!

LR: If you decide to write another historical novel, what time period do you think would be the most interesting to explore and why?

JD: To try and catch the eye of the agents I actually have already written a second book. I deliberately made it very different to try and counter the reservations some had about Silent Crossroads. Set in the Middle East, in the 13th century, the protagonist is an Italian woman. Silent Crossroads looks at the horrors of mechanised warfare and the politics of the 20th century. This other work is about religion and how it may not have been used in the way you’d assume 700 years ago. This era and area are what I specialised in at university so it felt a bit like coming home.

Also being a woman in a man’s world she has all the best ideas, that none of the arrogant men give time too until it’s too late, I think you may like it. Saying that it didn’t catch the eye of the agents either, depending on how Silent Crossroads go, I may release that one too.

LR: What did you most learn about yourself in the writing of this book?

JD: Ha! Great question. That I can write battles and stoicism easily, that stuff just flows out of my keyboard. I guess I’ve watched too many war movies and documentaries. But I had to break a sweat to make the domestic elements and the female characters compelling too. And that’s important. If this was a just about a soldier fighting it wouldn’t be half as interesting as the end product. A wise person once told me “women are 50% of history” and therefore to show a mother’s worries as she see’s her daughter being seduced by fascist ideology and having to keep physically safe from all kinds of external threats, in some ways that are more what the book is about than Harry.

LR:  Thank you for taking time out of your very busy day!  You can purchase Silent Crossroads in both kindle and paperback editions on Amazon. Read my review here.




On Air: The Speculative Fiction Cantina (10th April 2015)

Complete Series 3DFriday 10th April 2015 at 600pm eastern daylight time is very special.  At that time I will be LIVE ON AIR with the Speculative Fiction Cantina hosted by S. Evan Townsend.  This is a call-in radio programme for both guests and listeners.  Join in by calling 347 945 7246 (New York City area).  Take a listen at both live and after the one hour broadcast.

During the programme both K.A. Laity will be reading from our books for about five to eight minutes each.  Expect singing from me as I read to you from chapter eight of “The Ghosts of the Past.”

In preparation for the show and simply because I cannot sing all the Peers of Beinan Series songs in the time allotted, I recently made youtube video recordings of the songs.  These are music videos and not book trailers; not one of the videos include any marketing messages nor any links to buy any of my books.  These exist purely for their entertainment value and for the satisfaction of making them and sharing my music.

Here they are in order presented in the series:

This is from chapter three of The Great Succession Crisis.  It was added to the book when I released the extended edition in January 2013 and does not appear in the rare first edition (1st edition is a major collector’s item if you have one).

This song is “I Shall Always Find You” from chapter seven of “The Ghosts of the Past.  It is a song about love, hope, and reincarnation and is sung by Lady Mind Healer Feawen.  This song reprises as a duet between Lord Knight Elendir and Princess Anyu at the very end of the book.

This is the entire scene featuring “Here Lays My Father and My Lord” and is most likely the section I will read on air.  The song tells the story of King Kendric’s reign which is otherwise skipped over in the book.

The Coronation Hymn is the final song in the Peers of Beinan.  I wanted to perform this scene in full on Friday, but it contains way too many spoilers.

Music is very important to my life.  I hope you enjoy these songs and will share them with others.

The Writing Process Chain Blog Hop

Firstly I am not sure I am doing this right, but here I go.

A few weeks ago an author/blogger I know asked me if I wanted to be involved with the chain blog hop. Basically she posts and tags several people and they tag others they know and so on. We discuss our own writing processes and pass the baton.

The Questions are:

What am I working on?

When a sudden plague of mysterious cancers strikes the southwestern city of Nan-li, it falls to Lady Abbess Cara of house Ten-Ar to investigate, entangling her in a royal trap that may cost her life.

When a sudden plague of mysterious cancers strikes the southwestern city of Nan-li, it falls to Lady Abbess Cara of house Ten-Ar to investigate, entangling her in a royal trap that may cost her life.

The Lost Tales of the Anlei's Legacy Trilogy

Today I just published my first Peers of Beinan Series novella, “The Poisoned Ground,” as a paperback.  Find it in “The Lost Tales of the Anlei’s Legacy Trilogy” for kindle at

In May I plan on releasing Poisoned Ground to kindle as a separate novella (May 27th) and The Lost Tales into paperback.

I am also working on a May release for book two of the Legendary Women of World History Series, “Catherine de Valois.”  From there, my focus turns to finishing the “Princess Anyu Returns,” the third and final book in the Anlei’s Legacy Trilogy.

Princess Anyu Returns concludes the Anlei's Legacy Trilogy

Princess Anyu Returns concludes the Anlei’s Legacy Trilogy

2015 will mean the beginning of the next Peers of Beinan trilogy looking at the Great Migration and early settlement of the planet.

How does my work differ from others?

My background is poetry, music, and academic non-fiction.  As many of you know, I was originally published as a poet, then as a non fiction writer with Yahoo Voices.  I love non-fiction; I love the research, the learning, and the amazing connections you find when you explore many different academic disciplines.


My writing very much grounded in this love of learning, knowledge, and getting the facts, the data right.  I usually say that I am not so much imaginative as I am logical (my blood is red, not green, I swear — even if you heard otherwise!).  I extrapolate and redact very well which is a fancy way of saying that I am good at filling in gaps in a pattern and figuring out what should be there.

Ghosts of the Past

Everything I do is very scientific — even when I am not writing non-fiction or science fiction.  I try to be as non-fictional as I can within the boundaries of the story.  I bombard people with questions and work very hard to get details RIGHT.  So when someone is murdered by crossbow (as happens in “The Ghosts of the Past”), where that quarrel (crossbow arrow) lands is precisely chosen based on what medical doctors have told me.  Whether a person dies instantly or has a few seconds/a minute to get out last words can be a matter of just millimeters or centimeters.  And yes, to me, it is important to get it right.  A medical doctor is likely to be reading that scene.

Now the same applies to my history work with the Legendary Women of World History.  First, I draw upon primary source materials — but then I go to the archaeology and anthropology to help me fill in gaps.  I also ask questions.  For example, author Alexandra Butcher of Bristol, UK helped me know what Boudicca and King Prasutagus probably ate at their wedding reception which I set on the beach of the North Sea (Iceni lands being right on that North Sea coast).

I made up the whole wedding/beach scene for the novella.  But it’s a believable scene because it applies a dozen different facts or probable facts based on geography and culture.

Most writers I know are more willing to just make things up.  The scientist in me will not do that; I have to create things that are believable to me within the boundaries of the known.  Fortunately, I am blessed with a great education that helps me do that.  Though I must ask the BBC to please please please make more programs available in the United States.  That way I can do even better work!

Why do I write what I do?

I want to inspire people and encourage people to think about and discuss social issues.  Too often we feel the weight of life’s challenges.  We become overwhelmed with difficult life events.  We feel lost.  We lose hope.  We judge others.  We fail to care.

But none of this has to be.  We can do better.  We can make choices that make tomorrow better than today.  We can change our world with every choice we make in every single day and every thought in our minds.

As Sentient Beings we possess this amazing ability to learn from the experiences of others.  The people we learn from do not have to be real; they can be legendary or fictional too.  When we see people or characters go through the same challenges we face, we relate to them — and are inspired to take up the same solutions that they find success in.

Books have an enormous power to transform our lives.  Can it be any wonder that literacy has always been at the heart of slavery in all its forms?  When we keep people from reading, we also block them from finding solutions to their problems, cutting them off from vital role models for success.

I write to teach, to inspire, to transform the world around me.  I also write as part of the music of my own heart and soul, the songs that have brought me through adversity and into the Light.  In singing — whatever the form — I rise up from the ashes of my life’s challenges and soar on powerful wings of joy.

How does my writing process work? (something like do you plan it all, do you start with a short story and do you work from there.)

The process varies with the individual article or story or book I am working at the time.  Sometimes I create the cover art first.  Sometimes I spend weeks full of 15 hour days just researching.  Sometimes I just get a melody in my head and start writing whatever comes into my heart — music, lyrics, prose, whatever it decides to be.

The editor in me is a cold, harsh mistress.  If something does not sound right to my ears, it does not stay on the page.  For me, music and novels are very little different.  This could be an extension of my sight loss; I am low vision.  But it is also just part of being a musical creature.  My writing is musical and that quality gives it an elegant, legato sort of character that I hope inspires and stirs souls.


I tag:  Alexandra Butcher

Alexandra Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre.  She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys.







Repost: Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni on BookGoodiesKids

cover art for Boudicca:  Britain's Queen of the Iceni

cover art for Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni

Reposted from


In 43 CE Roman conquest of Britannia seems all but certain — until a chance meeting between King Prasutagus of the Iceni and a runaway slave of royal decent from the Aedui tribe in Gaul changes the fate of the British islands forever.

Based on the accounts of Roman historian Tacitus and supplemented with archaeology presented by the BBC.

Interactive: click on interior hypertext links to access enhanced content.

For children, teens, and adults age 10 and up

Includes K-8 study guide for students, educators, and home-schools. Lessons: geography, reading comprehension, critical thinking skills

Targeted Age Group:: age 10 and up

What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Boudicca came about after discussing women’s history with a friend and discovering how few people know about the amazing contributions of women across history. In particular I chose Queen Boudicca because I love her story of courage and heroism. Ancient British cultures believed in equality between women and men, cultures, incomes, and so forth. She gave her life defending Britain from the Romans. That’s inspiring!

How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My prologue and epilogue characters are a 5th century mother and daughter from the Dobunni tribe coping with the Saxon invasions. They enable me to tell Boudicca’s story from a British point of view. The rest of my characters are directly historical. In some cases, where we simply do not know the names (example: Tacitus, typical to Roman sensibilities, did not tell us the names of Boudicca’s daughters), I gave these persons names from names known to be popular at the time.

Book Sample
Seven days after the destruction of Londinium, Gaius Suetonius Paullinus assembled a mighty force from the fourteenth legion, veterans of the twentieth, and other available Roman forces for a final and decisive confrontation with the ‘killer queen’ as the legionaries called her. Choosing a carefully strategic field surrounded by thick forest so that the Britons could only engage the Romans from a single, narrow opening safe from the sort of ambushes the tribes proved themselves so skillful at, the governor ordered his powerful legionaries into the center of the battlefield with cavalry and more lightly armed troops standing nearby on the wings and concealed in the woods.

As the Britons approached, Gaius Suetonius Paullinus addressed his forces proudly, “Despise the savage barbarians, men of Rome, how they scream and shout to strike fear in your hearts. Do not listen to their cries. What are these warriors of Britannia? Women, soulless creatures without proper weapons, without your disciplined training. They know nothing of order or glory! They are weak children who gladly will flee the moment they see true warriors working together with joined and flaming swords wrought of the victories we have all forged together with our blood and valor. Against you, they cannot stand for they fight as individuals – but we fight together with one voice. Among their multitudes, only few have the strength to pursue honorable combat against you. Destroy these and the rest will fall away. Hold your formations and strike them with your swords and javelins, knowing they cannot hurt you. For today the field is ours. We shall be victorious! VICTORY OR DEATH!”

“VICTORY OR DEATH!” chanted the legionaries in battle fury.

Across the field, Boudicca drove her chariot in front of her people, her daughters safely with her, “Women and men of Britain, warriors, friends, and allies. Come now to the cause of liberty and freedom for all the tribes. Remember the savage brutality of Rome – against druid priestesses and priests whose only crimes were of the heart and soul – against our belief in freedom and liberty – not for a few but all people, women and men, nobles and commoners, druids, farmers, crafts people, and all the many ranks and talents of our society. We who dare see sacredness in the faces of all, who war with one another, yet cherish life. We who see glory and honor not in just the deeds of a few, but the deeds of the many, no matter how great or small. We see honor and goodness in individuals and refuse to give up our personal liberties for the advantages of a perceived majority. And yes, we treasure our daughters. In Rome, it is said, many daughters are left to die just because they are girls. Only boys, they say, are fully human. Look at me now and see through the lies of these Romans. Remember our teachings, our customs, that which make us who we are. No matter what the goddesses and gods bring us this day, hold tight in your heart all that we hold dear. Remember the way that Romans treat our people: raping our virgin daughters as mine were in front of all of us, flogging those who dare stand up against them as I was, and killing or enslaving all who refuse to bend knee to them. Do not bend your knees to Rome. Do not give in to the comforts they promise you should you simply conform to their ways. For slavery – of the soul and the flesh – are all they can give you.

“But we will not give in. We refuse to be slaves. Together we rose against them – and won. Camulos, Cathubodva, the Morrígan all stand with us for our cause is righteous! See the ravens circling above? Soon the ravens shall feast on Roman flesh. Behold our warlike spirits! With ravens do we soar – in prayerful victory around the bonfires – or among the glorious dead. Life as slaves we do now refuse. Victory or death are our only choices. On this I am resolved, a woman, a queen, a Briton!”

Author Bio:
Laurel A. Rockefeller was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska where she received her bachelor of arts from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in writing, psychology, and medieval and Asian history. In 2009 she joined Yahoo Voices where she writes non-fiction articles covering a broad range of topics. In August, 2012 Laurel launched the Peers of Beinan medieval science fiction series with book one, “The Great Succession Crisis,” book one of the Anlei’s Legacy trilogy. In March 2014 she launched the “Legendary Women of World History” series. Laurel currently lives in western Pennsylvania with her beloved cockatiel.

Repost: Interview on BookGoodies

Self portrait taken January 24, 2014 showing new haircut, new hair style, and black eye makeup.

Self portrait taken January 24, 2014 showing new haircut, new hair style, and black eye makeup.

Here is the repost of my interview on as found at


Author Bio:
Laurel A. Rockefeller was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska where she received her bachelor of arts from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in writing, psychology, and medieval and Asian history. In 2009 she joined Yahoo Voices where she writes non-fiction articles covering a broad range of topics. In August, 2012 Laurel launched the Peers of Beinan medieval science fiction series with book one, “The Great Succession Crisis,” book one of the Anlei’s Legacy trilogy. In March 2014 she launched the “Legendary Women of World History” series. Laurel currently lives in western Pennsylvania with her beloved cockatiel.

What inspires you to write?
I am inspired to write by the amazing stories of courage, intelligence, and perseverance I see all around me, especially in my own life and in the lives of countless women whose names history never recorded. I care deeply about the world around me and have lived a very challenging life, surviving those challenges mostly through my belief that tomorrow will be better than today. Social problems seem to really inspire me to write, to demonstrate that solutions are out there if we all come together to make the world a better place. Star Trek showed me what fiction can do in changing our world. I want to change our world; the status quo is not good enough! We can and must do better.

Tell us about your writing process.
My writing process depends on genre. I write medieval science fiction (The Peers of Beinan series), biographical novellas (The Legendary Women of World History), and non-fiction (articles on Yahoo Voices). Research binds all three together. When I first get an idea for a story or article, I immediately learn as much as I can about whatever it is. This involves watching documentaries (I love Dr. David’s Starkey’s work from the BBC like “Monarchy.”), reading science and social science websites, and so forth. The research phase always begins the process, but never stops there; I constantly stop to fact check or look for information on whatever detail I am working on. Being accurate is very important to me; I write assuming my readers are experts on whatever it is that scene involves.

That also means I love to talk to people from different professions and backgrounds. I’ve consulted with engineers, emergency room doctors, lawyers, parents, teachers — you name it — from around the world.

After I create that knowledge foundation, I typically just free write whatever comes to me. I’m notorious for writing a section, reading it back, and then discarding large chunks — then starting from paragraph one all over again. This is why my third Peers of Beinan series book has taken me 14 plus months to only get to chapter two (annoying, I suppose given the cliff-hanger ending on book two). I write and rewrite and rewrite until I get it right. If I don’t hear a fluidity, that musical quality I am known for, I will ruthlessly discard it until it sounds JUST RIGHT!

Princess Anyu from Laurel A. Rockefeller's  Peers of Beinan series

Princess Anyu from Laurel A. Rockefeller’s Peers of Beinan series

For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I am rather hands-off with my characters. They just talk to me and I write down what they say. I agonize over action verbs because I hear their voices in a precise way and feel the action they experience (as a blind/low vision author, I cannot “visualize” in the conventional sense; my inner “sight” is more of a sound/touch experience). Because I am not a visual person, sometimes I find the characters almost angry at me for not being able to always render them as accurately as I want to. They have sight; I do not. That can be a challenge for me.

What advice would you give other writers?
There is no shortcut to writing. The only way to master it is to DO IT. Practice. Do not treat your first draft as the perfect draft; usually it is not. Usually there is something you can do better.

Princess Anlei at the beginning of The Great Succession Crisis

Princess Anlei at the beginning of The Great Succession Crisis

Listen to others. So often we get caught up in how we feel about our work that we fail to pay attention to the constructive criticism around us. Never personalize this. Usually (there are trolls out there who just love to bully and nitpick) people want you to succeed. Trust in that and let them help you succeed.

How did you decide how to publish your books?
I did not know self publishing existed until about two months before I self published my first book, “The Great Succession Crisis.” Once I researched and learned more about it, it became a no-brainer for me. The traditional publishing route came off as very expensive and very difficult with few benefits to authors.

So self-publishing is the way for me.

What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think print-on-demand is the future of paperback books. Some say that paperback is dead, but it’s really not. People like to hold physical books when they read.

The old traditional publisher and mega-bookstores are falling away. Instead, I think the emerging idea of print-on-demand kiosks will replace your mall bookstore. Just like you can order eyeglasses and pick them up in an hour, I think we will see print books done the same way. You place an order at a kiosk, pay for it, and then either pick it up in an hour or have it shipped to your home.

What genres do you write?
Juvenile, young adult, new adult, science fiction, fantasy, biography, historical fiction, mystery, paranormal, romance, action adventure

Library of Erana – one year old! Lessons, advice and reminiscence

Library of Erana

Apparently this blog is one year old today. It doesn’t seem a year! So what has the last year brought and what have I learned? Has the adventure been worth it?

I was a little sceptical when I began, if truth be told. Would the blog take away from writing time? Would anyone want to read my posts? What on earth would I actually write about?  I don’t post every day, but I do try and post weekly and vary the interviews, I reblog, I follow others and now I have twitter I tweet the posts. Whether that helps is another post entirely.

The blog doesn’t have a massive following, but it does have followers, and some of them are kind enough to comment on posts, to reblog and to tell others. I’ve had various positive comments and I have more author and character interviews than I ever expected, of…

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