Guest Post with Steven Hancoff, Author of “Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo”

November 30, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Books | 1 Comment

Congratulations on the release of your multimedia biography about Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach ibook vol 1_0504.pdfBach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo. Can you describe this project and tell us what compelled you to put it together?

Here’s a Synopsis:

From Tragedy to Transcendence:

The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo

by J. Sebastian Bach

Steven Hancoff

Acoustic Guitar

I have transcribed and recorded the thirty-six masterpieces that comprise J. S. Bach’s Cello Suites on acoustic guitar—almost three hours of music.

I have also written a four-volume, highly interactive iBook: Bach, Casals and The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo — biographies of Bach and of Pablo Casals, the man who rescued the Suites from oblivion. This work is anecdotal rather than technical, describing the lives of these great men in the context of their times as I have come to fathom them—as fascinating, illuminating, and inspiring artists, and as human beings challenged, like all of us, by the demands life.

In addition to the storytelling, the book is highly illustrated, with about 1,000 period pictures – portraits, oils, watercolors, stained glass, photographs, etchings and engravings, documents, sculptures, statues and monuments. These pictures illustrate the text, and make the e-book very colorful and accessible.

In addition, more than 300 contemporary artists have contributed hundreds of works of contemporary art, all of which is inspired by J. S. Bach and Pablo Casals. This is the most comprehensive art book devoted to Bach and Casals that has ever been compiled.

To tell the story of the Cello Suites, I have also created and embedded 25 beautiful and compelling videos.

Not only that but the written transcriptions — the scores – will be made available for free so that guitarists who wish to learn these pieces can try their hands at them.

Here we have a set of music by Bach never before performed on acoustic guitar, accompanied by entertaining, easy-to-read, stunning and informative biographies in the form of a visually bountiful, highly interactive e-book.

No, I cannot tell you what compelled me to do this. It more or less feels like it is my destiny to have done this. A music reviewer said that I was “called.” I know that cello is a one-note-at-a time instrument, while guitar is idiomatically suited to play harmonies, bass lines and chords. So, the creative juice is in harmonizing the Cello Suites while still playing all of Bach’s notes, and staying true to the profundity of his musical and emotional intent.

In order to fulfill this intention, I started to read about the man, then think about it, how did he come to compose this music at this time in his life. I kept on reading, and thinking about it, and writing, and talking to people… and eventually this iBook project got born.

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Interview With Steven James On “Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded”

November 16, 2015 at 11:58 pm | Posted in Books | 1 Comment

A Conversation with Author Steven James: “killer-nashville-finalKiller Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded”

1- Mr. James, you’ve been writing for years and have had many great successes. I, for one, have enjoyed many of your books. How do you balance the evil in the world with grace?

I like how you phrased that question. I think honesty in fiction is vital—by that I mean honesty about human nature. Life on this planet is full of both grace and horror, both grief and glory. The balance you’re talking about really comes when we’re telling the truth. It’s easy to close one eye when you look at the world—either pretending that the wound in our heart is all there is or that it’s not as deep as it is. Too many writers shy away from portraying evil as disturbing (they either glamorize it or gloss over it). This is a fractured planet, but it is a place where hope, where redemption are available. Honest storytelling reveals the evil and the grace so we see them both more clearly.
2- What is the most challenging aspect of writing different genres for you? Or do they each just serve their own purpose in your life?
Although I’ve dipped my foot into a lot of different ponds, these days most of my writing is in the field of suspense. I just love intense stories that ask big questions, that get my heart racing, and that are full of twists and turns that I never see coming. Each genre has its own drawbacks and conventions that can become cliches if you’re not careful. If I ever found myself writing cookie-cutter stories, I would know I need to switch to a different genre. Or a different field altogether.
3- What is the most extraordinary thing that’s happened to you due to your career?
The writing has opened up doors to relationships I never would have been able to dream of having. While doing research I’ve toured FBI field offices, military installations, the Pentagon, etc. I’ve ridden along with undercover police officers, toured evidence rooms, consulted with world-renown scientists. All of those are extraordinary, but perhaps the most meaningful thing is the relationships with readers. I love it when I hear from people who say, “I hate reading, but I love your books.”
Is there anything you’d like to add?
There was a recent study that found that over a quarter of Americans didn’t read even a single book last year. Partly that’s because so many people are self-publishing work that isn’t ready to be published yet and people are being turned off from reading. Keep supporting your authors, keep searching out the writing that is excellent, and let’s turn that statistic upside down.
—Steven  J


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Interview With C.E. Laureano On “The Sword and the Song”

October 18, 2015 at 2:30 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment

A Conversation with Author C.E. Laureano: “Sword and the Song bok coverThe Sword and the Song” The Song of Seare Trilogy By C.E. Laureano

1.  How did the Song of Seare Trilogy come about?
I’m a longtime fantasy reader, starting as a child with the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit, but this particular series began with a single premise: what happens when you have a young man who is raised to rule, but his personal, religious, and philosophical beliefs are different than the country over which he’s meant to reign? The story went through a number of iterations. In the early drafts, Conor was all ready in his twenties and about to take the throne of Tigh. But I realized that the real story began much earlier, where those personal beliefs were formed:  his fosterage with a rival king. As I dug into the story, I realized that Conor was only a small part—or maybe the culmination—of a generations-long struggle that has at last come to a breaking point. And so the final storyline of the Song of Seare trilogy was conceived.
2. Why Celtic fantasy?
I’ve been interested in Ireland for as long as I can remember, maybe because of my distant Irish heritage. I had the opportunity to travel there during college, and I’ve never felt such an instant affinity for a place. While America will likely always be the place I “hang my hat”, I realized that Ireland was my heart’s home. Ever since then, I’ve written Irish characters and settings. But it was only when I started reading books by Juliet Marillier—wonderful historical fantasies that showed the pagan/Christian conflict from the pagan point of view—I knew I wanted to do something similar with a Christian slant.
3.How much is based on history and how much was made up?
The culture of Seare is very much based on ancient Ireland before the 10th century, but since relatively little is known about that time period, much of it is extrapolated from research done in the 1920’s. (Some of that research, like the idea that the Irish wore kilts, has since been disproven.) But the food, weaponry, law, and social structure of Seare is very similar to how things might have been in ancient Ireland. Of course, the addition of magic changes things, so I got to imagine how the existence of supernatural gifts and blood magic might have affected their culture. I also re-envisioned the faerie mythology from a neutral, mischievous role into something more malevolent.
4. What kind of research did you do to write this book?
I have a fairly extensive library on Irish history, and what I wasn’t able to buy, I checked out from the library (thank goodness for inter-library loan…some of my books came all the way from Nebraska.) Because Seare was united by a man who had been
a mercenary in the Holy Land, I also did a lot of research on the Near East and the Roman Empire from that time period. You’ll see traces of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Greco-Roman influence in the Fíréin brotherhood, especially their fighting and training styles. I also used my background as a martial artist and fencer to create a fighting style that was believably cross-cultural.
5. Why did you choose to write Christian/inspirational fantasy?
I didn’t start out to write fantasy for the Christian market. I’d originally envisioned the series as having a Christian worldview but little overt religion. However, the coming of Christianity so heavily influenced the history of Ireland, removing it left my society feeling flat and unrealistic. Not to mention that I quickly found out Conor wasn’t happy without a wider perspective and deeper goals than just bringing peace or winning the throne. The spiritual thread came along organically and tied the story together.
6. Who is your favorite character and why?
That’s almost an impossible choice, but I’d have to say Conor, my primary hero. He’s definitely the one I find most personally relatable. He knows he was created for something greater, but he doesn’t always make the right decisions—he lets his emotions sway his thinking and he lets down the people who depend on him—but he always comes through in the end. In that way, he’s something of a Biblical hero than a
superhero…David was described as a man after God’s own heart, but he still did some seriously stupid things.
7. What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
I didn’t want to write a “safe” story where you know that everything is going to be okay and everyone will come out unharmed—because real life isn’t like that. It can be
scary and messy and unpredictable. But through it all, if you look hard enough, is the ever-present thread of God’s grace and provision. My greatest wish is that readers come away with the understanding that they have a purpose, that they matter, that God cares for them as individuals and not just as a face in the crowd. I’ll consider my job done if readers walk away with hope.
8. If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be?
Aine…because it guarantees that I would also get to spend time with Conor and Eoghan! After all, one or the other is always shadowing her. Plus, she just seems like the type of person I’d like to hang out with: practical, no nonsense, and filled with interesting knowledge. She’s also the one you want around if you’re going to do something dangerous—her healing ability would come in handy!
9. What do you think makes a book Christian or not?
Christian authors can’t help but create a world that reflects our beliefs in some way. Sometimes, it’s an overt parallel to historical Christianity as it is in the Song of Seare. Sometimes, it’s the presence of the values that we learn from the Bible: faith, love, hope, loyalty, perseverance. Even if God isn’t mentioned by name, if you look closely, you’ll often find Him there.
10. Who are your fantasy writing inspirations?
My two direct inspirations for this series are Guy Gavriel Kay and Juliet Marillier, both of whom write lovely historical fantasy. But I also enjoy Karen Hancock, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, David Farland, C.J. Cherryh…the list goes on.
11. What’s on your bookshelf/e-reader?
My reading habits are rather eclectic, so you’ll find everything from non-fiction, biographies, and spiritual memoirs to romance, steampunk, literary fiction, and fantasy. Some of my current favorites are Patrick Carr, Mary Weber, A.G. Howard, Billy Coffey, and Susanna Kearsley. But I have at least a dozen paperbacks waiting to be read and hundreds on my e-reader. There’s just not enough time to consume all the wonderful books I come across. Not to mention all the research books I keep around
to spark ideas for new projects!

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