Saturday, December 6, 2014

More promotions !

"They" advise frequent promotions for Indie writers to succeed in selling their books. Of course one wants to be read even if one does not write for a specific audience. 

As an aside, let me confess that "What is your target market" is the question that gives me most pause when it comes up in an interview. 

I write what interests me, in a way that, I hope, would make it interesting to others. But it has never occurred to me to write a scene because it would sell. Obviously, this is something to ponder for the future.

For now, I have enlisted the help of the INDIETRIBE 
and I have also made Agamemnon Must Die
available for 0.99 from today until December 11 at its AMAZON site.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Interviewed by blogger-friend

The following interview if from Bella Harte's Blog reproduced by permission.

What inspired you to start writing novels for your chosen genre?
I wrote my first novel because when I read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, considered one of four great Chinese classic novels, I found it very boring. A couple of years later I found myself studying Mandarin (it’s a long story) and wondered if I had read a bad translation. Then I got into it and turned the 120-chapter classic into a twenty-three chapter novel I called The Battle of Chibi. Somehow it flatters me whenever I am told how close to the original readers find it.
Agamemnon Must Die grew out of decades of wondering why at University I was told I had to read Aeschylus’ Oresteia because it was essential to the foundation of Western culture and politics.

Are you working on anything new right now and can you tell us more?
I am sketching out a sequel to The Chinese Spymaster, which I had written because I found James Bond and Jason Bourne entertaining but not at all believable. So I decided to write about an intelligence agency in China whose main concern is intelligence, and the finding and analysis thereof.

Can you offer any advice to the fledgling authors, just starting out?
Be very sure this is what you want to do. The muse, some say, is a bitch-goddess and the pay is terrible. Some call what it takes, “passion.” I have settled for “curiosity.” Also, be sure to ask yourself why anyone would want to read what you write.

What is/are your all-time favourite novel/s?
I honestly can’t say although I have read The Lord of the Ring three or four times (also The Alexandria Quartet) and all of the Harry Potter stories at least twice (also Remembrance of Time Past). I also wish I could write something like The Life of Pi.

What are you reading at the moment & would you recommend it to us?
The Wine-dark Sea, a book about an English captain and his crew. It is quite knowledgeable and witty.

Do you have a favourite quote, if so what is it?
Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.

How do you come up with the Titles for your novels?
There does not seem to be any magic to it and three of the five things I have written have a straightforward title. The fourth, Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away is a well known saying in Chinese culture among those who don’t have country homes or perhaps any homes. The original was a three act play about a tea house in Beijing. It had over seventy characters, etc. I adapted it into two acts and twenty characters, but I wanted to keep the feel of a world similar to that which Dickens might have written about. It was also about struggling to survive during with war and civil war. Agamemnon Must Die came to me early in my writing of the novel.

Do you have a day job, other than writing – if so can you share?
I used to teach history, then I was a banker, but I am now retired.

What is your preferred method of writing:-  The plot pre-planned from day one, or just go with the flow and see what happens next?
Both actually. One has to adapt.

If you don’t like a character you’re writing about, what do you do?
            a. Kill them off instantly
             b. Get over it and learn to like them
             c. Give them a whole new personality
            d. or something else – do tell?! Please!
You are the author and can do anything you want with the characters. But they do grow roots, so to speak. In any case, it should be easier than breaking up. If it isn’t, you need more help from a different department.

Do you have any input in the Cover design of your novel?
One tries. Cover designers should have a mind of their own though.

Who would be your dream cast if your novel was made into a movie?
Angelina Jolie as Clytemnestra (like a majestic Lara Croft) and Brad Pitt as her lover.

Tell us one thing that no-one else knows about you – your darkest secret if you dare!
I am an old Chinese male who wishes he had had the opportunity to play the role of Lady Macbeth.

Can you tell us why you think we’d love to read your novel?
The War, the Trojan War, is over. In Mycenae, it’s back to reality. Except the gods have something unfinished on their agenda. Wouldn’t you want to know what it is?

Finally, what 7 words best sum up your novel?
Love, reasonableness, realistic goals, honour, courtesy, courage.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 17. Twenty-seven thousand words to go

The National Novel Writing website is quite useful. It told me, for instance, that as of today the seventeenth I had 27,000 words to go. and should be writing at the rate of 1,943 words per day for the rest of November, Thanksgiving Day included (no football then). I had reported that to date I have written 22,801 words.

I am not sure whether to be comforted since my target was to write two thousand words a day, but it is killing me. I feel like the fifty year old parent I was after having taken my then preteens on a horseback ride up and down some national park trail. Would I make it to dinner? Is there enough tylenol or advil to make me feel whole again?

Several other fellow writers in a local community group are also in this month of insane endeavor and are slightly ahead. Perhaps they "shaved their points" in our discussion to allow me to feel better. On the other hand, a correspondent blithely reported that he had not only written thirty thousand words but also just released a CD of original yuletide songs.

Both those who encourage and those who humiliate (without malice aforethought) are to be cherished. So help me God.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

NaNoWriMo, the first step

Perhaps I took the first step last year. If so, it did not lead anywhere. Our local writers' group hosted two regional facilitators (or whatever it is that they are called) for an evening earlier this month and I was inspired to think I would try again. Besides, I am experiencing a writer's block in the worst way and believe extreme measures are in order if I am to get even a draft of the second volume to The Chinese Spymaster (published in 2013) done/started this year. 

The spy novel was announced as the first of three as I wanted to challenge myself to write something other than about Chinese Classics. Since last year, I have written a retelling of a GREEK classic (the subject of several posts on this blog), but I did not know this when I dreamed up the Spymaster. As an aside, let me note that some kind of political correctness filter must be in place on this site or on the sites to which I link this blog because the cover of The Chinese Spymaster will not show at the other site. But I digress.

As the facilitators shared their enthusiasm, I was lulled into thinking this year's NaNoWriMo would be a good exercise, at the very least. I determined that I would sign up and be official this year.

So here's the OFFICIAL logo and the link to the NaNoWriMo website. The website requires participants to check in regularly and to upload the novel occasionally. It also provides opportunities for writers to connect in person or "virtually." Early
life experience has taught me that I was more likely to get something done if I told other people, especially family (Mom in particular), what I wanted to achieve. 

Alas, Mom is no longer around. So I am telling my potential readers, you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Giveaway on Goodreads

In the attempt to "get with it" in the promotion department of an independent author's life, I decided to have a "Giveaway" on Goodreads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Agamemnon Must Die by Hock G. Tjoa

Agamemnon Must Die

by Hock G. Tjoa

Giveaway ends October 26, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I hope this works!

If it does, who knows ...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Loukia Borell

I am occasionally able to present a guest blog. Today's is by Loukia Borell, who tells briefly of her Greek-Cypriote heritage and her recent writing.

Certain events in our lives stay with us, and when you are a writer, those are the times you remember when you need material for your books. In 1972, I went to my parents’ homeland, Cyprus, and encountered a world that might have been mine if my parents hadn’t immigrated to the United States.  I spent the summer in a small, mountain village surrounded by my grandparents and other relatives who lived off the land. The village was a study in agrarian life: Most of what they ate was grown by them – olives, figs, cheese, grains, fruits¸ and eggs from their own chickens. They had their own lambs or poultry when they wanted to add meat to a meal. There was a village church, built under the direction of the village priest (my great-grandfather), water came from the mountain, and donkeys were ridden to go from one village to the next. I was 9 years old and completely fascinated by this old world, a place that was 50 years behind the one I lived in.

In 1974, everything I saw two years before was blown away when Turkey invaded the Northern third of Cyprus in an effort to stop plans to unify the island with Greece. My maternal grandparents and other relatives were among those who were killed by advancing troops. Their bodies, along with hundreds of others, have not been recovered. Other Greek-Cypriots on the island were now refugees, driven out of their homes to live in exile in other Cypriot villages or to leave Cyprus entirely. When I overheard my parents talking about the atrocities, my mind was filled with scenes I was just beginning to understand: Stories of men and women shot and killed, young girls and their mothers raped repeatedly, families piling into cars with the clothes on their backs to flee to safety, men shipped to prisons and never seen again.

In 2011, years after my trip to Cyprus and long after the crisis that changed our lives, I wrote a historical fiction novel, Raping Aphrodite, and told my family’s story. A few weeks ago, I self-published the prequel to Raping Aphrodite. Delicate Secrets explores the love story of my two primary characters when they first met.  Both books are available on and as e-books. Raping Aphrodite is also available in paperback; Delicate Secrets will be released in paperback in 2015.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting "beta reads" for Agamemnon

Through a group on, I found some beta readers for my next publication, Agamemnon Must Die. The Group, one of hundreds (perhaps more) on the site, is called the (link here) Beta Reader Group. I had never heard of a beta reader before and was most grateful to have found this group and the volunteer readers who can be reached there. A writer's circle of friends gets tired after being asked so many times and anyone willing to read one's writing and give concrete feedback other than paid editors is truly welcome.

Finding online those willing to read one's work in this manner is a blessing. The same rules of etiquette still apply, of course. These readers perform a service without contract and must be treated with courtesy and respect. If any do not comment (or read), they are no different from one's friends who blithely promised to do so but do not deliver. One may only prompt or nudge for a response only so often and only with regard for feelings, "life events," etc.

As it turned out, I was fortunate to find three such readers in a combination of friends and the online group. I wish here to report on my experience. 

One reader raved over Agamemnon to such an extent that I actually asked if there was not anything that might be less than perfect. Honestly, I did. Obviously there is nothing better for an author's ego than such a reception. I felt vindicated in the choices I made in the retelling of thoroughly foreign (to me) myths that are over three thousand years old.

But I was glad also for the reaction of the second reader who confessed that reading my work had been an almost overwhelming chore--that nothing worked, not the plot, the characters or the dialogue. The reader was most apologetic and fortunately my usually robust ego had been previously fortified by the first response I received. Here was warning, if such was necessary, not to expect a runaway seller.  

The third reader turned out to have been born and educated in Greece. We discussed the nuances of religion and philosophy implied by my reinterpretations of the myths that Aeschylus wove into the Oresteia seven hundred years after the "events." I was quizzed about the sources of the differences, many quite radical, between what the fifth century (B.C.) dramatist conceived for his prize-winning trilogy and the story I wished to tell. I was also challenged to check on the terrain, for instance between Mycenae and Delphi, since I could not use the excuse that something happened "off stage" for some of the major transitions (scene changes). How wonderful these days to be able to avail oneself of satellite maps and "street views"!

These beta readers have prepared me for the forthcoming travail with the editor and proof-reader. I don't pretend to have discovered their existence, not even in the sense of Columbus discovering America, but nonetheless heartily commend them to my fellow writers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why fuss over the cover of a book?

Some time ago, I asked friends and acquaintances which of two covers they preferred. (I am vague about this because I no longer recall what social media I used for my inquiry.) But I am able to reproduce both covers and also add that I chose neither of them. Instead I worked with a cover designer to come up with this.
The decision was made more difficult because the first two covers had been designed and given to me by a friend. In honor of those gifts, I am reproducing the covers here with an explanation of why I decided on a new one.
This cover appeared most attractive to many viewers, but I had to admit to myself that although it was attractive to more browsers because of the action evoked, it was misleading. Agamemnon Must Die is not about warriors or war although there is a fight scene and the story is set after the Trojan War. It is about those who watch and wait and the consequences of they did.

Of the two covers, I preferred this as it evoked the dark atmosphere of the story even though I like to think that it is a story of individuals who defy their fate with affection and spirit. But then I decided that the helmet does not belong to the era, late Mycenaean. It struck me as being almost Roman in style. (I did like, however, the "hollow men" feel of the disembodied armor.)

But I chose to commission the final cover in order to incorporate the Mask of Atreus, commonly referred to as the Mask of Agamemnon because it is an artifact genuinely from the period and is in fact iconic of the generation of the Trojan War.

Agamemnon Must Die will be published November 1, 2014.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A blog tour/chain

I was invited to this new (to me) concept of a blog tour/chain by Sue Perry, author of Was it a Rat I Saw and Scar Jewelry, among other books (check out her web-site). The way this blog tour works is that I answer four questions, then tell you about a couple of writers and their work. They will continue this tour by answering the same questions on their own blogs in two weeks.

1) What am I working on?

I am finishing up a re-telling of a trilogy by Aeschylus. It was written in the 5th century BC,

in what is considered the most exquisite lyric poetry and won the equivalent of the Pulitzer, Oscar or Emmy. No translation that I have read has impressed me as much as the fact that Aeschylus' epitaph does not mention this play or the dozens of others for which he also won similar prizes; it simply states that he serve Athens well and fought bravely at the Battle of Marathon (490 B. C.) The Oresteia, I thought, deserves a modern retelling; I regret that it is not in lyric poetry (one must recognize one's limitations) but "Agamemnon Must Die" will be available before the end of this year.  The truly iconic image to the right is known by scholars as the Mask of Atreus but more popularly as the Mask of Agamemnon (The National Archaeological Museum of Athens which has the original labels it as such).

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

"Genre-defying" I am tempted to say, except for the fact that people choose books to read usually because of their authors or the genre. I'd say then that it is historical fiction since Aeschylus' trilogy was based on stories that were well known in classical Greece about the ruling dynasty of Mycenae (the House of Atreus and Agamemnon), but those stories include what we would today consider legends or myths. All this may justify saying that it is historical fiction with much adapted from Greek myths.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I started writing in general with the goal of increasing awareness of Chinese history and classical literature and the "values" inherent in those works and I intend to continue with that goal even as I write the sequels to The Chinese Spymaster (not at all classical) that was published in 2013. But "Agamemnon" is something I felt I needed to write because I had been told all through college that it ranks very high in world literature and I have never understood why. Most writers know the feeling of having a book inside oneself that struggles or screams to be written. Those who have had this experience know also how wonderful it is and how impossible to ignore.

4) How does my writing process work?

Every writer should develop a rhythm to the writing process; after four years, I am still trying to get mine going. The general idea is to work on writing about four hours every day and write a thousand words; I have occasionally managed to do that. But most days I fail and content myself with reading and writing as little as a hundred words. I think it is important for a writer to read seriously; I find that editing is often a distraction from writing new stuff. It remains my goal to get to a thousand words a day, every day--perhaps by the end of this year. I cannot imagine how participants in the Nanowrimo each November achieve what they do.

Now I am pleased to hand off to two talented writers that I know with the hope that everyone will gain something from this exercise of promotion by independent writers.

Marta (Masis) Adint-Weeks is a writer and entrepreneur who lives in the peaceful foothills of Northern California. She is looking into publishing the first novel of her science-fiction/fantasy trilogy: VIRGINS. Also her book of poetry: A Seat On The Bus. Has a degree in liberal arts and over thirty years employment in government and private industry as program manger, researcher, counselor, and trainer. Has freelanced for Sacramento CBS–Arts Culture,, Ex-And-The-City, and others.

Marta's website

Rebecca Hazell is an award winning writer whose nonfiction books for children were published in English, Korean, and Greek, and distributed by Scholastic and Mercy Corps. She now has applied her talents to an epic trilogy of novels. Set during the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, they sweep the heroine, and the reader, from the doomed city of Kiev into the Middle Eastern conflicts between Crusaders, Sunnis, and Assassins and finally to the world of the French Inquisition.

ecca's website 


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Furies defy Apollo

Though often described as crones, gorgons or even harpies, I have chosen instead to have the Furies (Greek, erinyes) represented here by a scene from a 4th century Greek vase now in a museum in Karlsruhe, Germany. In my own imagination, they are much older and wingless. The chapter with the title above follows--

Orestes and his companions awoke to a noisy commotion in the shrine. They saw Kalkhas and his assistant confronting three or four creatures that looked like old women dressed in many layers of rags and covered with snakes; perhaps it was so because when they spoke what everyone heard were hisses that almost drowned out their voices. Their appearance suggested that they should smell of sulphur and hell-fire, yet around them swirled a smell mostly of the earth, of deep and old earth.
“You have no right to be here,” intoned Kalkhas. “This shrine is dedicated to Lord Apollo, son of Zeus Almighty. Orestes whom you seek for your foul purposes has been purified by Bright Apollo himself. You have no power over him!”

What would you know about our powers?
You are but Apollo’s servant.
We are more ancient even than Zeus,
Though we bow before his thunderbolts.

Him that we seek has shed his mother’s
Blood, such pollution Apollo—
Even though he rides with the sun
And spreads great pestilence among
The armies and the cities of men—
Cannot forgive, cleanse or absolve.

One who has shed his mother’s blood
Is damned forever; we would devour
Such a monster …

The Furies, ancient divine beings that tended to the fate of men and the world, were interrupted by the appearance of Apollo himself, radiant in anger and self-importance:

Such crones as you dare to intrude into my shrine?
You fail to reckon on the passing of power to a new era.
Even as Ouranos was supplanted by Chronos
And him by his son Zeus, father of us all.
You dare belittle my power to absolve what you call pollution.
Know then that Zeus has deemed the morality of men in need
Of proper and orderly management and
Will bring an end to the senseless cycles of blood feuds.
Such vengeance as you speak of is either too little
Or too much and depends on inflamed passions.

His audience, however, was far from cowed by his appearance or his claims and retorted:

We hear what you have to say
And long have seen that what you do
Seem to mock your own high goals.
Zeus himself has favored Herakles,
And waged war on Priam’s city.
Why else do you favor Agamemnon?
And now wish to exempt his son
From full and just retribution
For slaying his own mother, pah!
How just and proper is that!

Apollo in turn protested:

Agamemnon was far from being my favorite among
The Greeks. He prolonged the agony of war before
Priam’s gate by refusing the ransom offered by Chryses
My priest, who pleased me with his manifold devotion,
For his daughter, Chryseis. The fool claimed she was more
Fit to be his queen than Clytemnestra. So he
Boasted and kept Chryseis to warm his bed a year
Despite the pestilence I sent among the Greeks.
Then when his chiefs and men persuaded him that she
Should be given up in ransom, he took Briseis from
Brilliant Achilles. That fool, idiot, Agamemnon.
I do this not for him at all, but to uphold
The law that fathers and kings are sacred to Zeus.


Then why protect his son Orestes?
For the son killed his mother.
Are mothers less than fathers and kings?
Do they not deserve to be avenged?


Because she had shed blood first, that of Agamemnon.
His sin is less; he must avenge the father she slew.


That blood-guilt is not the same;
Man and wife are not kin, though wrong
This sin is less than matricide.
Our role is to avenge the shedding
Of family blood, the worst
Of crimes, the most impious.


Do you then belittle the bonds of marriage?
Such as is made sacred by Aphrodite, Hera,
Zeus himself, even by Hestia, his older sister.
Further, to the sacred rituals should be added
The vows of parents and even of clans and nations.
Those are what bind man and wife more than their blood.
Your fine distinction is strained and weak; murder
Is the taking of any life. But to kill a
King who must, Zeus-like, give order to a city,
We deem a crime that demands vengeance, thus
We urged Orestes on to his glorious deed.


You call glorious what we assert
To be heinous murder. A mother
Is closer and dearer than anyone
And ought to be revered above all.


Not so, for a child is born of the seed of a man,
He places that seed in a woman only temporarily
Until it is ready for the world and its fate.
The mother gives nothing but a space for the seed
Which she gives up when time is ripe and birth fitting.


Your words are childish and ignorant—


Athena, goddess of wisdom was not born of a mother.


The exception that proves the rule.
But we will stay and bandy words
No more with you. You cannot cleanse
Orestes of the pollution of the
Blood of his mother. Surrender
Him to us; we will suck out his
Stained blood, polluted as it is.

Apollo shone brilliantly as ever, full of Olympian majesty. But the Furies walked through his barriers as if they did not exist. In a towering rage, he summoned his chariot drawn by the fire-horses that drew it at his behest. He would have ascended to Olympus and called on Father Zeus to smite the Furies with his thunderbolts. But Hermes appeared briefly and whispered to him and then to Kalkhas before disappearing.
Greatly humiliated and offended, Apollo cast a spell to put the Furies to sleep—he could not fight them but apparently he, like Hermes, could delay them. Then he whispered briefly with Kalkhas and vanished. The seer approached Orestes and his party and told them:
“Lord Apollo has cast a spell to put the Furies to sleep. It will hold them for a few days. Meanwhile, you need to go to Athens and supplicate the goddess Athena for her protection. She is not there now but Lord Hermes has gone to fetch her from her errands. It is to Athena that you must go, and quickly.”
Without another word, Orestes led his party out and got on the way to Attica and Athens. “So much for the promises of a god,” he muttered.
“His dreams were strong and the headaches real enough,” responded Pylades.
“You all do not have to come with me on this quest,” announced Orestes after they had ridden for a while. “If Athena can save me, well and good. If even she cannot, the Furies will kill me whether or not anyone else is there.”
          “But Orestes,” contended Pylades amiably. “We want to keep you company; besides, I’ve never seen Athens.”

Book Reading - Six Stories

These six stories show some characters from the Shu and Wu kingdoms. Liu Bei, the warlord who dedicated himself to the defense of the Han Dy...