Tag: famous and notable people.


Writing. Really, it’s no big deal.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

Ernie writing to beer companies looking for a sponsorship deal

It’s the shameless acts of self-promotion that are hard for most of us.

We live in a world where the advances in digital technology have made writing a book not so much an achievement but an obligation to anyone with access to a Microsoft Word program. It has also made the opportunities for self-promotion almost limitless.

Write the equivalent of a long email and you are required to bombard friends, relatives and people you meet in the lift with Facebook alerts, followed by a shit-storm of tweets and YouTube trailers. It is now considered the industry standard.

These days even a print publisher will expect you to do pretty much everything but put ink in the presses and choose the font for the typeface.

Okay. I’ll do it.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertisingYet still I can’t shake the feeling that it’s all a touch shameless. I have these bad dreams where I’m a snake oil salesman at a county fair in 19th century Idaho, standing on a box and haranguing passers-by, giving free candy to their kids to lure them to buy.

In others, I am standing on a street corner in a short leather skirt, chewing gum. Won’t do anything for less than seven bucks fifty.

It’s not Tolstoy, is it? It’s not Hemingway.

Or is it?

“For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed.” Who said that? No, it wasn’t Neil Gaiman.

It was Balzac.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

Captain, my captain; the king of the review farm

The problem was highlighted recently when an author by the name of Ray Dolin, writing a book about the kindness of Americans, was shot in the arm by a passing motorist while hitchhiking across the country. Terrible, right?

Except it later transpired that he’d actually shot himself, in a desperate attempt at self-promotion.

(You see? It works! He’s getting free publicity right here.)

Or, as Stendhal said in his autobiography : “Great success is not possible without a certain degree of shamelessness, and even of out-and-out charlatanism.”

Ray is just following in the footsteps of celebrity authors from before the time of Christ. For example, in 440 B.C. a novice Greek scribbler named Herodotus paid for his own book tour around the Aegean.

He got his big break during the Olympic Games in Athens, when he got a gig at the temple of Zeus and read excerpts from his “Histories” to the city’s smart set. It was like being on Oprah, except with chitons.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertisingMore recently, Balzac observed that in 19th century Paris it was common practice to bribe editors and critics with cash and lavish dinners to secure review space. In 1887, Guy de Maupassant even sent up a hot-air balloon over the Seine with the name of his latest short story, “Le Horla,” painted on its side.

Le Horla is about a man going insane. Shortly after its publication Maupassant actually was taken off to an institution by the men in white. Or was it just another piece of blatant self-promotion?

Even sham reviews on Amazon are nothing new. Back in the day, Walt Whitman was bigging himself up this way – anonymously, of course: “An American bard at last! ” he raved in 1855. “Large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded.”

O captain, my captain. Even John Locke was subtler than that.

self-promotion, hemingway, balzac, steinbeck, balzac, advertising

sold the grapes of wrath and the hops of Ballantine beer

It was Georges Simenon, author of the Inspector Maigret novels, who raised the bar. In 1927 he agreed to write an entire novel while suspended in a glass cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub. Members of the public were to be invited to choose the novel’s characters, subject matter and title, while Simenon hammered out the pulp on a typewriter.

Tragically, the newspaper financing this little stunt went bankrupt. But the publicity was priceless and for years afterwards journalists still described the event as if they had actually been there.

And then there’s Hemingway; surely America’s grand old man of letters, winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature, would not stoop so low?

Better believe it. Papa could have showed Nike or Coca-Cola a thing or two about branding.

Not only did he set up photo ops on safaris, fishing trips and war zones with the shamelessness of a whore on the hustings, he even posed for beer advertisements and endorsed Pan Am and Parker pens. He pursued the limelight like it was a thousand-pound marlin.

Papa was a tart.

He wasn’t alone. John Steinbeck recommended Ballantine beer after a hard day on Cannery Row; even Virginia Woolf was lured away from discussing philosophy and ethics with her Bloomsbury pals to go on a shopping expedition at the French couture houses in London with the Vogue fashion editor in 1925.

So look, I’m up for it. Want me to flog toothpaste? My contact details are at the top of the page. Write a book outside a nightclub? I’ll write one inside if you like. Shoot myself in the arm? Just on the way to the shop now to buy ammunition.

But as Hemingway and Steinbeck both liked to say; just for God’s sake, buy my book!

And to prove to you just how shameless I am, here it is:

East India, Batavia, shipwreck, historical romance, historical fiction, adventure, romance


colin falconer, bestselling author, romance, adventure, love stories


Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!


JOAN OF ARC ‘S HAIRCUT – a quick quiz

Today is Joan of Arc’s birthday. Happy 605 Joan! You don’t look a day over 300.
She may have died six centuries ago, but she lives on in the spirit of an entire nation. Her name has been immortalized all over the country in street names, in village squares, on churches and on monuments. Even today, both sides of the political spectrum are locked in a battle to hijack her appeal for electoral gain.
Yet her life is shrouded in myth and mystery. How much do you know about her? Here’s a quick quiz.
I’ll start with an easy question first.

1. Which hairstyle did Joan of Arc inspire?

 a. the Donald Trump comb-over
b. the bob
c. the Sarah Palin pouf
d. the buzz cut
Photograph: Mila Zinkova
Actually it was (b). In 1909, a Paris hairdresser created the bob, citing Joan as his inspiration. These days it’s just another hairstyle; back then it was a revolution, ending centuries of taboo against women wearing their hair short. 
It became a symbol of rebellion among women in the nineteen twenties, and was adopted in the US and Britain by the ‘flappers.’ The haircut is still known in French as coupe à la Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc’s haircut)

2. Which of the following did she survive in the course of her military career?

a. a stone cannonball blow to the helmet
b. a crossbow bolt through the thigh
c. a glancing blow from a mace to her bob
d. An arrow wound to her shoulder
Her entirely military career only lasted a year but in that time she had a cannonball dropped on her head, and was shot with an arrow and a crossbolt. In each case she continued to fight on until the action was over. This was one very, very tough and courageous young woman.
She claimed to have been divinely inspired, having been visited on many occasions by the Archangel Gabriel, and Saints Catherine and Margaret. The Catholic Church now claim these two saints never existed; whether they did or they didn’t, they moved Joan to do the impossible.
Oh and in case you were wondering re (c) : As far as historians can tell, her bob was never damaged in combat.

3:  Where was she born?

a Arques
b. Orleans
c. Paris
d. Domremy
She was born in Domremy, the daughter of Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romée in modern day Lorraine. Her father was a farmer, who supplemented his income by collecting taxes for the king. 
Her life, from the age of seventeen, is preposterous; ‘a peasant girl experiences divine visions telling her to lead the French armies against the hated English, in defiance of every limitation placed on a woman of the late Middle Ages.’ If that was your pitch for an historical fiction novel, you’d get thrown out of the publisher’s office.
Yet that’s what she did; lopped off her hair, put on armor and roused an exhausted and demoralised army into a string of victories that changed the course of the Hundreds Year War and of history. How she did it beggars belief.

4. Which of the following actresses never played Joan of Arc on the screen?

(a) Ingrid Bergman
(b) Jean Seberg
(c) Vanessa Redgrave
(d) Whoopi Goldberg
Ah-ha! You thought I was going to say Whoopi, didn’t you; in fact, Whoopi played Joan in a 2010 TV campaign for Poise adult underwear. Vanessa Redgrave was the red herring there.

5. Why was she put to death at the stake?

a. Because she was a witch
b. Because she was a heretic
c. Because she was a virgin
d. Because she voted for the Euro
Her trial was staged; the Duke of Bedford had claimed the French throne for his nephew Henry VI. Joan had given her imprimatur to his rival, Charles, so he wanted to burn her as a witch to undermine the reigning king’s legitimacy. It was a politically motivated smear campaign (How medieval. Thank God those days are behind us!)
Unfortunately, the Duchess of Bedford inconveniently confirmed that Joan was as a virgin and virgins cannot be witches (the Church’s position was that a real witch had real intercourse with the Devil). So they had to think of something else.
Her show trial dragged on for over a year. Uneducated as she was, Joan was too smart for the best the Church could bring against her. In the end they resorted to falsifying documents, convicted her of heresy and then burned her at the stake.
Their verdict was overturned thirty years later but vindication came a little late for Joan.  
No post about her would be complete without this: I think it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and was composed by Canada’s national treasure, Leonard Cohen.  It is sung here in duet with Jennifer Warnes.
If you enjoyed this post, then find this kind of stuff, and lots more, at my Falconer Facebook Club. You can join by clicking here.
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Not Joan of Arc! That looks like …



Anastasia, Rasputin, RomanovsIf you Google ‘world’s most evil men’, chances are that – after Osama bin Laden and Donald Trump – the name Rasputin will come up.

Rasputin was a Russian mystic who became a close adviser to the Romanovs.

It was said he subverted the government, used his position as a religious leader to seduce women and caused the Russian Revolution.

But the worst thing he ever did was … no we’ll save that for the end.

How much was rumor and how much was fact?


Anastasia, Rasputin, Romanovs

Rasputin with some of the women he saved

Rasputin was the Jimmy Swaggart of his day, a religious nut notorious for attracting scandal.

He was accused of drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and political corruption. He told his followers that sex and alcohol should not be resisted as once you had overindulged in both you had cause to repent – and repentance led to salvation.

It does have a kind of twisted logic to it.

The Czar himself suppressed investigations into reports of Rasputin’s outings to bathhouses and his violent sex with society women. It will probably never be known how much was true, what was slander and what was myth.


Anastasia, Rasputin, RomanovsThe czarevitch suffered terribly from hemophilia, a disease not uncommon among European royalty because of centuries of inbreeding. Rasputin was credited with relieving some of the agonizing symptoms

Hoping for a miraculous cure the royal family turned to the mystic, who had a reputation as a healer. He said he could cure him through prayer, though it is now thought he provided relief with the use of hypnosis.

He also took away his aspirin, at the time the ‘new wonder drug’ the doctors had prescribed for the boy’s pain. It’s an anticoagulant and would have been making his condition much worse.


Which was believed to have parted ways with its owner during his assassination. A maid found it at the crime scene and saved it. You never know when you’ll need a thirteen inch penis, right?

Anastasia, Rasputin, Romanovs

this is what a sea cucumber looks like

During the twenties a group of Russian women living in Paris acquired it and worshiped it as a holy relic, keeping it inside a wooden casket until Rasputin’s daughter, Marie, demanded it back.

After she died in California in 1977 it was found with some of her manuscripts at a lot sale.

It was then sold to an auction house who discovered it was actually a sea cucumber.




No he didn’t, but his influence thoroughly discredited the Romanovs. The Czarina thought the man with the burning eyes and piquant body odor was a prophet sent to the royal family by God himself and so she made him her personal adviser and allowed him to fill governmental offices with his own handpicked candidates.


Anastasia, Rasputin, RomanovsBy 1916 Rasputin had become such a pernicious influence with the royal family that several noblemen- Prince Felix Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitiri Pavlovich and politician Vladimir Purishkevich – decided it was time for him to go.

They lured him to Yusupovs’ Moika Palace and served him poisoned cakes and wine, laced with enough cyanide to kill five men.

When that didn’t work they shot him; but that only annoyed him and he tried to strangle Yusupov. So they shot him three more times. He was still alive so they clubbed him into submission, wrapped him in a carpet and threw him in the icy river where he finally drowned.

In fact, photographs of his corpse show a bullet hole in the forehead that would have killed him instantly. However the official report of his autopsy disappeared during the Stalin era, as did several research assistants who had seen it.


Anastasia, Rasputin, RomanovsTrue.

While visiting his wife and children in Pokrovskoye in 1914 a rival mystic’s disciple had stabbed him in the stomach, eviscerating him.

She then yelled: “I have killed the Antichrist.’

Nearly, but not quite.

The Tsar sent his own physician to operate on him and after several weeks in hospital he recovered from what in most men would have certainly been a mortal wound.


After the revolution his remains were exhumed  and burned by Members of the Downtrodden Masses. As the flames took hold his corpse sat up in the fire, zombie-like, sending the proletariat screaming for their mothers. In fact this story is very likely true, as the heat from the fire would have shrunk the tendons and forced the body to bend at the waist.


Anastasia, Rasputin, RomanovsBefore he left Siberia to become rich and famous, he joined a group of Christian flagellants, the Khlsty.

They were a little like the dervishes, they sang and prayed and became ecstatic through spinning.

It was also claimed that they indulged in orgiastic sex as part of their religious rites.

As well as self flagellation critics also accused them of bestiality and necrophilia, but I think they were flogging a dead horse.


True. For this he is condemned by history. Damn you, Rasputin! Here’s the proof:


anastasia, romanovs, russian revolution, historical romance, historical fiction, romance, adventure

‘Falconer’s grasp of period and places is almost flawless … He’s my kind of writer.’ – Peter Corris, The Australian

Holy Week, Easter, Spain


Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!


So who is this in the photograph? Do you recognize the face? What a cute little baby!

Hitler, baby, It’s someone very well known.

Instantly recognizable as an adult, in fact.

I’ll give you a clue. It’s a he.

What do you think he became when he grew up – saint or sinner? Famous or notorious?

Write it down and check your answer later.

Writers are taught from the get-go to create believable motivations for their characters. Some teachers even recommend creating whole folios on our MC’s family of origin so that we understand them better.

A hero should have understandable flaws, I was told; and a villain has to have reasons for being bad so we can at least empathize. All very good advice.

But how does it hold up in real life? Continue reading

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