I found this: epic rap battles of history. The one I liked was Marilyn Monroe vs Cleopatra – I guess because they featured in two of my books.

Don’t watch if you’re offended by bad language – after all, it is rap.

So who won? The best answer gets a Kindle/Kobo/iPad version of either Naked in LA or Cleopatra, Daughter of the Nile – you choose.

NakedInLA(2)Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Egypt







  CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER

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The Black Witches of Mexico

I was in Mexico researching a book and a writer friend told me about the black witches. I decided to go looking for one. It was in the south, in a town called Catemoco, that I finally tracked one down.

BlackWitch(6)He was a snappy dresser, even down there in the middle of nowhere; a silk guayabera shirt, chunky gold rings on every finger, one of them a skull with small rubies set into the eyes.

In a candle-lit room filled with statues of Santa Muerte, he got straight down to business.

‘Is this for business or for love?’ he asked me.

I decided to play along. ‘Love,’ I said.

‘Who is this woman? Do you want her back – or do you want her dead?’

That took me off balance. ‘I don’t want anyone to die,’ I told him.

‘Give me a photograph,’ he said, putting out his hand. ‘She will come back to you.’

He smiled as if he could read my mind.

is-there-such-a-thing-as“There exists good and evil in the world,’ he said. ‘There is the devil and there is God.’

He regarded him with his magician’s nasty eye. ‘I can call forth the maldad negra and cause great harm, even death.

‘Is that what you want? Is it? All I need is a name, and a piece of their clothing or even a photograph. I can take away your bad luck and give it to someone else.

‘Or I can make a woman love you. Is that your secret desire? Come, tell me. What is it you want? I can give you anything, anything. Todo que quieres.’

I walked out.

Would-you-sell-your-soulBut the idea lingered; what would have happened if I had gone along with him?

And so The Black Witch of Mexico was born.

Would you sell your soul to have anything you wanted?

BlackWitch(6)From the witch markets of Mexico City to the ancient valleys along the Guatemalan border, places still haunted by the statues and ruins of the Olmecs, a man is drawn deeper into a world he doesn’t understand. He soon comes to question everything he once believed.

Are witches just superstitious nonsense? Or is there such a thing as real evil in the world?

The Black Witch of Mexico is a chilling psychological thriller where nothing is quite what it seems.

Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it.

CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER


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They never had these when I was at school. I might have been more attentive to history if they did.

This is Pharaoh-licious – a crash course on Cleopatra, with apologies to Fergie from Black Eyed Peas and ‘Fergielicious.’

the first Empress of Rome was almost a woman … called Cleopatra

Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, EgyptSome believed Caesar was about to instal himself as King of Rome and make Cleopatra his queen when he died in a pool of blood in the Forum.

So she married his successor, Marc Antony. Brash, irresistible and fatally unreliable, his hold on power soon slips away.

As the tide turns against her, she plots a last, spectacular manoeuvre to save her children, her empire, and her place among the gods.



“This is the riveting story of Egypt’s last and greatest queen … creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman who thrived and triumphed in a world ruled by men.” - Publishers Weekly

CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER


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An interview with Julia Robb

I’m absolutely delighted to have Julia Robb as my guest on the blog today.

1456140_10201617301008414_1636940648_nJulia and I have never met and we don’t even always see eye to eye on things, but I love her take on life and I am a huge fan of her work.

Scalp Mountain was one of the best books I read last year, and I’m not a huge fan of westerns. Her style reminds me of Annie Proulx, spare prose without sentimental or romantic ideas of the American West. If you like Proulx or Cormac McCarthy, you’ll love Julia’s work.

So Julia … tell me something about Julia Robb that no one else knows.

JR: I am convinced the human race is insane.

I was a reporter for twenty years. I once wrote a story exposing a political candidate’s past life, his bankruptcies, various kinds of lies the man told the public and charges filed against him in court.

1471797_10201945591775478_1930155958_n-3The day the story ran, he walked into the news room. We all froze, thinking he was going to start shooting.

Instead, he shook my startled editor’s hand, thanking him for the “great story.” He meant it. A few months later, he went to a public place and shot himself.

On the other hand, human beings can be so good. I was working for a paper in South Texas and they told me to drive around the countryside and report on “the rural poor.” There are a lot of rural poor in South Texas, which is thousands of square miles of creosote, scrubby mesquite trees, scorpions and rattlesnakes but not many people.

10014593_606621776084772_1815731488_n-2I stopped in Mirando City (population 400) to get a hamburger and started talking to the waiter and restaurant owner and cook (all one person)! He told me a few years earlier the town had been on its last legs, it was running out of water. People were closing up and moving on.

But two brothers who owned a machine supply company, bought out the water company, paid to fix the town wells, then sold the water at cost. They then went to Austin and got a law passed to make it easier for people to buy town lots. They saved that town.

The contrast between human craziness and human goodness fascinates me.

CF. Your writing has been favourably compared to Cormac McCarthy. Not an unflattering comparison! Is he a hero of yours?

JR I believe “All The Pretty Horses” is one of the best American novels, and one of the characters in “Horses,” Jimmy Blevins, is one of the all-time great characters.

view_in_the_bend-2But I have not cared for McCarthy’s other novels because they are so nihilistic. I do not find redemption in McCarthy’s work and that’s one of the qualities I try to insert into all my books. I believe the world is tragic, but I believe situations and people can be redeemed and life would be truly empty and sterile if that weren’t true.

CF. With so many women writing contemporary romance, you stand out from the crowd with tough, gritty novels about Texas. You’re invading Annie Proulx territory and you do it so well. Where do you find your inspiration?

JR Writers pull from their unconscious and we don’t necessarily know where we get the stories. That said, I have lived in South Texas, where “Saint of the Burning Heart” is set and many of the people and situations in the book are based on people and situations I observed there.

david's heart revisions_Page_1I was on the scene when the “patron” system was dying – it’s also based on the conflict between Anglos and Hispanics that raged in Texas for a generation. As for Nicki, who will not give up on making Frank Kendell love her again … maybe that came from my personal life.

“Del Norte” happened because I got fascinated with Civil War POW camps and began wondering how that experience would affect both the prisoners and their jailers. And since everyone already knows about Andersonville, the Confederate camp for Union prisoners, I set mine in Elmira, the Union camp for Confederate prisoners.

As for Scalp, I grew up in West Texas, where the West and the Indian Wars are still real to people.

CF I remember reading an excerpt from Scalp Mountain about your character, Lohman. He’s not the hero of the novel but he intrigued me straight away, so I went on to Amazon and bought the book. A fascinating portrayal – who inspired him?

scalp-mountain1-1JR I can honestly say I have no idea where Lohman came from, but I learned to love him; his passion and secret bitterness, his debonair manner, his culture, self-possession and good looks. He’s an educated man among uneducated people. But, I also have so much compassion for him.

What would it be like to be sexually fixated on another man in the nineteenth century west? Not good. He’s a tragic man. He could have done and been so much, but he has a problem.

CF. They say all novels have a pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. Where is that point in Scalp Mountain and Saint of the Burning Heart?

JR Readers tell me they can’t put Scalp down after Jose Otero kidnaps Clementine.

I personally got most involved in the scenes between Lohman and Colum; especially when they’re alone together at the Rio Grande River with a fretful baby, and when they come back and take bathes and wear new clothes so they’ll be clean when they fight to the death.

I also enjoyed writing about Henry’s Texas Ranger career. Henry is an interesting combination of deadliness and sweetness.

CF And right from left field: what’s your idea of a fun Saturday night?

DSC02635JR I’m an extremist. I would ideally begin Saturday night on Saturday morning by riding bicycles with a friend, then going to a good Thai restaurant for lunch, playing poker or forty-two all afternoon (forty-two is a Texas domino game), then going to a movie and then go out dancing. Whoopee.

CF. You have been invited to a luncheon to talk about the publishing industry. How would you start?

JR The publishing industry is so screwed up it’s going to take years to fix it. The industry is mostly owned by overseas’ companies who don’t understand Americans and who refuse to innovate, who pay authors almost nothing for their work, who take forever just to get a book out, who refuse to see the problems and insist on blaming them on Amazon rather than themselves.

DSC00483The good news is, these problems will eventually be fixed because these companies will go out of business and new companies will take over the industry and those new companies will provide the innovation for both hard copy books and e-books.

Also, I hate to mention it, but our culture depends on hard copy publishers staying in business. The only way classics are preserved is through multiple printings. “The Great Gatsby” alone has been printed dozens of times.

We have no guarantee technology will last forever. What’s going to happen if the lights go out? We need books we can hold in our hands (and this is from a writer who, so far, can only be found on your kindle).

CF If you want to take a closer look at Julia’s work, her website is here, you can find her here on Facebook and you’ll find her on Amazon too – before the lights go out – here’s Saint of the Burning Heart, Del Norte and Scalp Mountain.

Thanks Julia!

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What if real life was like World Cup soccer?

To celebrate the end of the World Cup, get your teeth into this.

Fourgrounds Film from Canada speculates on what life would be like if it were like World Cup soccer. Inspired.


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My niece asked me recently: Why is there always a love story in your books?

And it’s true: there almost always is.

So why do it?

For a gratuitous sex scene?

Because people like romance?

So the main character can have a love interest, like a medal given out at the end for beating the bad guys or overcoming the odds?

Love_Story_the_Musical_PosterThose of you who have read my books know that that’s not quite my style.

I believe love stories can change lives. I even know a love story like that.

It happened to my best mate. Rather than embarrass him and use his real name, let’s call him Errol.

Now on the surface of he is one of the least romantic blokes I know.

He smokes, he drinks, and has turned the bad habit into an art form.

Yet the story of his life is one of the greatest love stories I know.

In his younger days Errol was a bit of a bad boy. He was forever getting into fist fights and he had a harem that made Suleiman the Great look like a chronic underachiever.

A long term relationship was a second date.

Eventually Errol got married but it didn’t last. No one ever thought it would.

Errol also had a knack for driving people away. He had an edge, especially after a drink or two.

446px-Top_Love_Stories_No_3In fact we didn’t see each other for 15 years. The next time I saw him was when he appeared out of the blue at my wife’s funeral, the very day I needed him most.

I recognised him straight away, of course. Yet somehow he was also radically different.

Everything I used to love about him remained – but without the hard edges. The womaniser and the bruiser was gone. Here was a man at peace with himself and the world.

I was astonished to discover that he’d been happily married for years. Of course, some people would say he met a good woman and she reformed him, but it didn’t quite happen like that.

photo: 武铁辆玻

photo: 武铁辆玻

His wife had been married three times before so she’d had her ups and downs too. And as Errol told it later, after a year or two they had hit the skids big time.

They almost split, just as everyone expected them to. But just at the moment when everything was about to fall apart, they both gave ground.
Rather than battle each other, they turned to face their own demons.

Errol still smokes and drinks. And bad habits! Don’t start me.

But he has become this cuddly teddy bear of a man who tells anyone who will listen how he is the luckiest man in the world. It’s like Charlie Sheen turning into Tom Hanks.

They are the happiest and most devoted couple I know.

(He’s now a marriage counsellor. The best there is, because he actually walks the walk.)

Love doesn’t change us by some miracle; it rather gives us the motivation to change, to overcome our fatal flaw. And we all have one.

Of course it doesn’t always come out that way. Human history is littered with unhappy endings and many times our demons prove too strong.

But that’s why we write stories about when love works; because it requires uncommon heroism to overcome those fears that hold us back.

So when love wins out it means more than just the triumphant twang of the bed springs.

At its best, it can change us in profound ways and forever.

And great stories are about just that – people changing, through great courage.

And THAT is why there’s always a love story in my novels.

EastIndiaFINALThis is one such love story.

COOLGUS and APPLE are running a special promotion for the release of EAST INDIA.

…IF  YOU HAVE AN iPAD, YOU CAN GET EAST INDIA ON iTUNES FREE! before its official release on July 8.

Just click here and join my newsletter subscription today and ask me for your iBook store code!

  CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER

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Like most of the western world, I am totally hooked on Game of Thrones.

I don’t watch much TV but this is story telling at its finest.  However I got a bit behind so I’ve only just got to watch the Red Wedding – probably the very last English-speaking person in the entire world.

This was two nights ago. Anyone with the name of a good trauma therapist, please call me.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one a little distressed by what I saw:

Now if Adolf had watched that on his iPad, he could also have got a copy of EAST INDIA, FREE to help him in the recovery process.

EastIndiaFINALCOOLGUS and APPLE are running a special promotion for the release of EAST INDIA.

…IF  YOU HAVE AN iPAD, YOU CAN GET EAST INDIA ON iTUNES FREE! before its official release on July 8.

Just click here and join my newsletter subscription today and ask me for your iBook store code!



 CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER




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Zebras are black and white. People aren’t.

It is so clichéd to observe that people are not black and white. We all say it – yet we don’t get it. Not really. Encouraged by the media, we tend to think of people as good and bad, as heroes or villains.

But it’s something to try and avoid when we write.

Take Luis Suarez, for example.

What has Luis Suarez got to do with good writing?


photo: Jimmy Baikovicius

photo: Jimmy Baikovicius

For those of you who don’t follow the World Cup, Luis Suarez is an immensely talented soccer player. He has also bitten more people than Hannibal Lecter.

Since 2010 he has taken chunks out of 3 opponents, and racially vilified another.

He is also widely denigrated as a cheat who will use any dirty trick to gain an advantage on the soccer field. He’s a cross between Bob Sugar and a junkyard dog.

He’s also a loving and devoted family man.

Let me tell you his story.

Luis grew up in a broken family on the wrong side of the tracks in Montevideo, Uruguay. Luckily, he had talent to burn as a soccer player. But by the time he was 15 his coaches thought he was lazy and off field he had a drinking problem. He scraped by working as a street sweeper.

Then he met Sofia. Sofia was blonde, beautiful and middle class. She saw things in Luis that Luis couldn’t see. Her family took him under their wing and made him feel he actually belonged somewhere. He stopped drinking. He got a taste of what life might be like away from the barrio.

And then her family left Uruguay and went to live in Spain.

Luis was devastated. He started up his drinking again. For a while it was all downhill.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay, World Cup

photo: Jimmy Baikovicius

And then he got the insane notion that he might see Sophia again if he became a good enough soccer player.

Some rich European soccer club might be his passport out of the slums and back into the arms of the love of his life.

So he stopped being a lazy soccer player and became instead the kind of kid who would do anything to win.

And here’s the thing: he did it.

A small Dutch club, Groningen, scouted him and brought him to Holland to play for them. He caught the eye of Ajax, and then Liverpool, two of the biggest clubs in Europe. He became a superstar. Luis married Sofia in 2009, and they have two children that he absolutely dotes on.

He wore a t-shirt with his family’s picture screen printed on it to one game, underneath his club shirt. When his son was born he carried him out onto the pitch before the next match, to show him off to his adoring fans.

It should have been a fairytale but for one thing; the handsome prince was also the wicked witch. This cream puff of a family man bit chunks out of opposing defenders if they got in his way. Can you see why?

Dracula, vampire, Luis SuarezTo some people Suarez is still a hero; to others he’s almost cartoonish in his villainy.

More likely he is just Everyman writ large; he is both Indiana Jones and Count Dracula, depending on which side of the white line he is standing.

He’s a human being, his complexities magnified by the TV screen, all the terrifying internal conflicts and morbid fears laid bare on prime time.

If you’re a fellow human being, don’t rush to defend him; but don’t judge him either. If you’ve ever been pilloried, you’ll know what I mean.

But if you’re a writer – watch it all play out … and be sure to take plenty of notes ….

And while we’re on the subject of people battling their dark side …


EastIndiaFINALCOOLGUS and APPLE are running a special promotion for the release of EAST INDIA.

If you buy it at the iBooks store, you can get EAST INDIA free before its official release on July 8.

Just join my newsletter subscription today and ask me for your iBook store code!



 CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER

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EastIndiaFINAL History can be a real pain in the butt for every author of historical fiction. HF readers hate it if you get your facts wrong so you sweat blood on research. God help you if you make a mistake.

Salad is particularly tricky.

I once had a reader take me to task over a freaking tomato, so you overlook research at your peril, even one line in a 150,000 word book.

BUT you must also remember that you’re not an historian, you’re a novelist. My sister-in-law’s constant complaint – and she always has her nose in a book, God bless her cotton socks – is that some writers bombard her with too many facts. ‘I just want to get into the story,’ is her mantra. ‘I hate it when I have to start skipping pages.’

And here I think is a great and misunderstood truth: it’s not that you shouldn’t do the research, it’s that you should leave most of it out.

So she is my litmus test. When I give her my books to read I always say:

‘Did you have to skip?’

If she had to skip, I cut that bit out, no matter how interesting I think it is.

The other difficult thing about writing history is that it’s chaotic – like life.
Because it is life, only life that happened a while ago.

Shakespeare, Historical Fiction, Hollywood, Braveheart

the long and winding woad

A novel is not chaotic, by its very definition. Neither is a movie. That’s why the makers of Braveheart, for instance, messed with history like they did. They were trying to make an epic and when the facts got in their way, they just ignored them.

Authors can’t do that. Film directors can play tennis with the net down. We can’t.

My latest novel, ‘East India’, was based on one of Australia’s most iconic stories, the wreck of the Dutch retourschip “Batavia”, which grounded on a reef fifty miles off the West Australian coast in 1629.

But this was no ordinary shipwreck. One of the senior VOC officers decided to turn the islands into a personal fiefdom, murdering all those who were of no use to him – such as the male passengers and the children – and forcing the women to become sex slaves. He was defied and thwarted by a small band of Company soldiers who built a fort out of limestone rocks and made their own weapons from flotsam and held them off until help arrived.

It’s a truly extraordinary tale – but it’s not a novel. There’s been many books written about the episode in Australia, and I’ve read most of them, but it’s deeply unsatisfying as a story. The main character turns out to be a bit of a coward. No one really tries to defend the women. The real hero only emerges on the last ten pages.

Sorry, doesn’t work.

The UtrechtSo even though my novel was closely based on the Batavia story, I realised early on that I had to fictionalise it. I messed with the facts so much it became an original story but I had to make clear in my Afterword the source of the inspiration.

History was still a pain in the butt though, because there were some parts of the story that just begged to be retold and yet, like much of real life, they didn’t make sense. Could a seventeenth century skipper really navigate an open boat not much larger than a racing skiff across the open sea all the way to Indonesia?

Well yes he could – he did.

photo:Mason Masteka

photo:Mason Masteka

But there are other problems you can never get right. No matter what I do, I know someone will write me and say I’ve drawn too much from real history or missed something about a tomato.

The good news – there was no salad on seventeenth century VOC retourschips.

But for my litmus test I always go back to my sister-in-law. ‘What did you think?’

‘Couldn’t put it down.’

‘Great. Did you skip anything?’

‘Not a paragraph. I cried at the end.’

There you go. Great.

Job done.


EastIndiaFINALCOOLGUS and APPLE are running a special promotion for the release of EAST INDIA.

If you buy it at the iBooks store, you can EAST INDIA free before its official release on July 8.

Just join my newsletter subscription today and ask me for your iBook store code!



 CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER

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Now for something truly inspiring.

I’ve never been a huge Jim Carrey fan. Sometimes when I see him in a movie he cracks me up – and sometimes I want to throttle him.

But as a guy – I love the bloke.

This is a quick snippet from his commencement address to the Maharishi University of Management this year. Listen to what he has to say about practicality, and what he learned about life from his father’s ‘safe job.’

The star of Dumb and Dumber is not so dumb.

And some more inspiring stuff:



“ … a gripping tale of endurance laced with heartache and wry humour …” Sun Herald

“ …their courage and honesty in facing their demons makes this book a compelling read …” Woman’s Day

“ …by any measure this is a remarkable, painful, illuminating and inspiring book …” The Sydney Morning Herald




 CB Valencia croppedCOLIN FALCONER



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