Tag Archive: author guest post


As ever, I really enjoy it when I get the chance to host a guest post from an author. Even more so when they’re interested in coming back later with another one. Damien’s previous guest post can be found here and, notably, Big Red has released just this week. Definitely worth checking out, links for that are down below. Enjoy!

A few years ago, I decided to become an app developer as a bit of a side project. I was already busy with looking after my two young children full-time – while working a part-time job – so that didn’t leave a lot of spare time. Despite the time constraints, I was driven.

More than anything, I wanted to grow this side-project from something that earned me some pocket money into something that could provide for myself and my family. One of the goals that spurred me on was the idea that once I achieved this, I could then focus my time on what I really wanted to do: write novels.

With the odds stacked against me, I landed several contracts and for a while, it really felt that my goals would come through. And then… everything fell apart.

Three projects crashed and burned in epic fashion. Months of hard work went up in flames, forcing me to re-evaluate my priorities. I spent an entire day soul-searching, really trying to peel back the layers and asking myself what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My thoughts drifted back to my list of goals and as I thought about those fantasies of becoming a writer, it struck me like a lightning bolt.

If I had all this time to focus on app development, wouldn’t that mean I had plenty of time to write too?

Without hesitation, I cut my losses and dug out a few pages of a story I had started two years previously. Based on a dream, this story followed a bunch of teenage cadets trapped in a vicious and brutal war while their country collapsed around them. With renewed determination, I picked up where I left off and had just over one hundred thousand words done within three months.

I spent another six weeks with edits and rewrites before I began submitting to agents and publishers. Within three months, it had been rejected upwards of thirty times. Unfazed, I decided to self-publish and after a surprisingly good start, book sales inevitably waned until they became practically non-existent.

I remember having another heart-to-heart with myself and asking if I really wanted to keep going with this. Unlike with app development, I had finally found something I was passionate about, so I dusted myself off and dived back in again.

Spurred on by another vivid dream, I set about writing what would become Big Red. Again, the standard rejection template emails came flooding through my inbox. Gritting my teeth, I prepared to self-publish again when something happened.

In a Twitter pitch-war, several different publishers liked my tweet about Big Red! Out of those, I got my first request for a full manuscript followed by an offer of a publishing deal. To this day, it still feels like a dream come true.

I wanted to share this because I’ve failed at a lot of things in my life. It can be painful and raw, but I’m a firm believer in taking the positive (as much as possible) out of everything that happens in life. If I hadn’t failed with my app development venture, I would have missed knowing this feeling. I’m doing something I’m passionate about and watching a story I crafted come to life in book-form. It’s amazing!

Whatever it is that you want to do; whatever your passion is, go for it. Yes, it will be hard and there’ll be plenty of times when you’ll want to give up but push yourself to keep going. Failure is good – it’s not taking action on your dreams that is the real enemy.

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Big Red

By Damien Larkin

We have always been here…

Traumatized by the effects of Compression travel, soldier Darren Loughlin holds the key to the fate of Earth’s Martian colonies. With his Battalion decimated, his fractured memory holds the only clues to the colony-wide communications blackout.

With time running out, Darren pieces together his year-long tour of duty with the Mars Occupation Force. Stationed in the Nazi-founded New Berlin colony, ruled by the brutal MARSCORP, he recounts his part in the vicious, genocidal war against the hostile alien natives and all who question Terran supremacy.

But as his memories return, Darren suspects he is at the centre of a plot spanning forty years. He has one last mission to carry out. And his alien enemies may be more human than he is…

https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/

Damien Larkin is a part-time Planning Analyst and a full-time stay-at-home father of two young children. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.

Links:
Barnes & Noble  Kobo  Amazon ITunes

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Hank Quense Guest Post

Hey all! We’ve got a returning author with a guest post for you today, Hank Quense. It’s a nice interview with the super patient and deeply professional Faux News Network reporter Marcia Hammerhead regarding his new novel, The King Who Disappeared. Enjoy!

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Author Interview:

This is Marcia Hammerhead.  I’m the cultural reporter for Faux News Network.  I love literary fiction and I love going to symphonies and ballets. My boss knows this, so what does he tell me to do?  Every time Hank Quense, an unknown scribbler of genre fiction, comes out with a new book, I have to interview him, but at least I don’t have to read and review the books.  Let’s get started.

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Marcia Hammerhead: Mr. Quense.  What is your latest atrocity?

Hank Quense: It’s a fantasy novel called The King Who Disappeared.  The main character is a king who spends two hundred years under a sleep spell.  When he awakens, he finds his nemesis is still alive and the king wants revenge. The book has a lot of political satire in it.

MH: It sounds just as dreadful as all your previous books.  I suppose it’s filled with silly fantasy creatures.

HQ: It is.  Besides humans, there are elves dwarfs, half-pints —

MH: Half-pints?  What’s a half-pint?

HQ: They are also called halflings.  Hobbits in other words, but I can’t use the word ‘hobbit’ because Tolkien’s estate trademarked the word.

MH: Why don’t you invent your own creatures instead of stealing other authors’ work?

HQ: I do.  The novel has dwelfs.  They’re half elf and half dwarf.  They tend to have all the bad features of both races and none of the good traits.  The story also has yuks in it.  Yuks are like orcs but aren’t as friendly.

MH: I’m getting a headache just thinking about these matters.  How many books have you foisted on the unsuspecting reading public?

HQ: I have 23 books on Amazon right now, both fiction and non-fiction.

MH: Good heavens!  You’re like a plague.  Fortunately, you’re almost completely unknown.  Otherwise civilization would be in a crisis mode from reading all your drivel.  Have you considered retiring from writing to do something useful?  Like delivering newspapers or pumping gas?

HQ: Nope.  I’m almost finished with the first book of a scifi series of three novellas.  I’m also writing a non-fiction book that integrates self-publishing and book marketing into a single project.

MH: I can’t stand the thought of interviewing you several more times. Maybe I should retire.  Well, I can’t go on.  That’s it for this interview.

HQ: Thanks for having me on again, Marcia.

M: Why is that whenever I interview you I have an urge to go out and buy a large bottle of wine?

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Hank Quense writes satirical fantasy and sci-fi. Early in his writing career, he was strongly influenced by two authors: Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Happily, Hank has never quite recovered from those experiences.

He lives with his wife in northern New Jersey, a mere 20 miles from Manhattan, the center of the galaxy (according to those who live in Manhattan). They have two daughters and five grandchildren all of whom live nearby.

For vacations, Hank and Pat usually visit distant parts of the galaxy. Occasionally, they also time-travel.

Besides writing novels, Hank lectures on fiction writing, publishing and book marketing. He is most proud of his talk showing grammar school kids how to create a short story. He used these lectures to create an advanced ebook with embedded videos to coach the students on how to create characters, plots and setting. The target audience is 4th to 7th graders. The book’s title is Fiction Writing Workshop for Kids.

Guest Post: Robert Gryn

Here’s to returning to the internet and a nifty guest post from Robert Gryn. Not much in the way of wording just now. So, enjoy!
In a city that crosses all realities, everything is possible, and everything is complicated. A murder of two lovers seems simple, but when the man is from Above and the woman from Below it’s anything but.
Detective Lang hunts for the killer. The chase takes him from the decrepit neighborhoods of Below to the highest towers of Above. And somewhere in between, he finds himself in a game between ambition and betrayal, whose stakes are not life or death, but only his soul.
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The Love and Hate Framework for the People in My Head

When I first began studying fiction writing, I remember reading that you have to both love and hate the characters you create. I didn’t understand this at first. Why would you write about characters you hate? How do you show fictional characters that only exist in your head love and hate in the first place? And how can you do both? This aphorism seemed a little too simple to the younger me. But over the years I’ve come back to it time and again, using it as a framework for thinking about the treatment of characters in fiction. Inventing people with real feelings is not an easy thing, after all, and being mindful of how we can fully engage with the characters we write can make them seem more present and more true to life.

Let’s begin with examining the most obvious question: why would you write about characters you hate? I’ve come to think of this in two ways. First, and this may seem obvious, but every hero needs a villain. We are all just as fascinated by psychopaths as we are by saints and so, as writers, we must learn to write them well. There’s something intriguing about people who act against one moral code or another. Maybe we wish we could have the freedom these characters seem to have or maybe we’re just drawn to something we can’t imagine ourselves doing. Whatever the reason, we love to read about characters we hate.

Second, as writers, we have to learn to “hate” the characters we love. It’s not that we have to hate the protagonists of our stories but sometimes we have to act as if we do. It’s an easy impulse to spare our cherished protagonists “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” But without the suffering, like that of the poor prince who spoke the words above, our stories would hardly be interesting.

I like to think that the drive to see characters suffer has more to do with our capacity for empathy than from some sadistic impulse. Then again, perhaps seeing characters suffer fits into our subconscious understanding of a reality that lies somewhere past the borders of optimism. There’s a certain comfort in seeing fiction fall in line with the unfair ways we expect life to treat us. A third possibility is our innate understanding of delayed gratification. We are willing to experience the “slings and arrows” because somewhere in the back our minds we expect some sort of relief or resolution.

But stories can’t be all about the trials we put our characters through. At some point, we have to show them some love. I’ve come to think of this in two ways as well. First, and perhaps the easier of the two, we should bask in the love we show the characters for whom we genuinely care. One of my favorite things to write is a scene in which a beloved character wins out. This could be a small personal victory, something as simple as a shared smile or one-upping a bully, and is especially meaningful if the character had little chance to succeed.

There’s something affirming about the underdog beating the odds that makes me hopeful for the human spirit. As I stated above, we naturally expect the world to be unfair and look for fiction to match that reality. But we also want the characters we care about to succeed regardless of those poor odds, and when they happen to fail, we feel their fall all the more keenly. Our capacity for empathy is so deep it seems to shape the narrative structures of all our stories.

And empathy is key for us as writers. This brings me to my second point about love. In order to portray the characters we write as people and not just narrative devices, we need to show them a level of empathy we might not be comfortable with if they were real people, especially if we present them as immoral or as performing “evil” acts. This is not to say that we shouldn’t write pure villains for whom we feel nothing and disavow their choices whether explicitly or implicitly. But rather, it’s that we experience more as readers when we see things from many perspectives. It’s one thing to see the faceless monster chase the protagonist. But it can be much more interesting to see the story from the monster’s point of view. Why do they act this way? What brought them to this place where they feel they must play such an awful part? And perhaps, in the process of giving insight into the villains in our stories, we learn to enhance our own general empathy for real people.

So do I finally understand what it means to both love and hate the characters I write? To sum up, my framework for love and hate as it relates to the people I write is as follows:

To love the people I write means to be present in the moment with them, especially if I genuinely love them as characters. It also means to see what they see in the way they see it, especially if I hate them as characters. This expressed empathy is crucial not only to make stories more well-rounded but to give us broader perspectives on our world in general.

Likewise, to hate the people I write means to use their sometimes immoral natures and acts to evoke curiosity and emotion from readers, especially if I hate them as characters. It also means that however much I may love certain characters, I must expose them to the pitfalls of our imperfect and often unfair existence. I must step back far enough to show them how cruel and uncaring life is.

This is by no means a complete formula for the treatment of characters in fiction. Whether these ideas sharpen my writing and make it more interesting is up to readers to decide. What I get from this framework is a path that helps me transition from inventing characters to realizing them as people, at least as people who only live in my head.

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Robert Gryn was born in Poland during the latter years of the communist regime. His parents recognized that the socialist experiment was doomed to fail and set out for the more hopeful shores of America. Robert spent his youth moving from one school to another, winding up in one of the worst high schools in New Jersey. After graduating, Robert spent years working odd jobs in warehouses and construction sites. Like his parents before him, Robert soon realized that the personal experiment of his own life was doomed to fail.
Determined to find a better path, Robert decided to attend Columbia University where he studied everything from Psychology to Japanese, as well as Creative Writing. Unfortunately, even graduating with highest honors didn’t put him on a path that spoke to him. He drifted again, and accidentally wound up becoming a successful technology consultant, primarily because he knew how to turn on a computer.
It was a beach vacation to St. Martin that changed his life once again. Bored with the bright sunlight and the pristine beaches he sat down to begin writing the books that had always been in the back of his mind. He soon found that he was not so much a writer but a chronicler, as if the words had drifted into his mind from all those future centuries. What could he do but tell the stories of all those people who may never exist?
Robert has written a number of novels of impossible futures and unbelievable dreams. And as long as he knows how to turn on a computer, or how to commune with the thinking machines of tomorrow, he will continue to do so.
To learn more about Robert and his books, visit www.robertgrynbooks.com
You can also find Two Skies Before Night here.

Guest Post: Alex S. Avitabile

I told you all I had I nifty guest post for you today. Especially given that it’s NaNoWriMo month, I find that there’s some really good advice in part one here. As a bonus, there’s also an excerpt from Occupational Hazard coming up tomorrow for you all. Enjoy!

Part I:  The Story about writing Occupational Hazard

The story that would over time become Occupational Hazard was originally conceived in the mid-90’s.   I would jot the ideas down and plot out different scenes and write dialogue, many of which would eventually prove worthless and would never make it into the book.

In 1999 or so, I would sit down for a timed half-hour a day for a number of days and wound up with 55 double-spaced pages, which pretty much set up the story and would serve as the content for what would eventually become Occupational Hazard’s first nine chapters.

However, my law practice and other responsibilities precluded me from my doing any significant follow-up to those pages until after I retired and signed up for a novel writing course.

I drew upon the story I had started for the content for assignments for that writing course, and both the instructor and I liked what I wrote, and that was enough to prompt me to pick up from where I had left off, fix it up and then work on figuring out and writing the middle and the end of the story.

Over the years, I suffered from writer’s block, primarily fueled by (1) wanting to write the whole thing in one fell swoop, which would leave me frozen, immobilized from the impossibility of doing that, and (2) insecurity from the fear of failing.

To overcome these debilitating forces, I had to take a leap of faith into the unknown, trusting that I would be able to tap the source of inspiration, whatever that is.  I also had to trust that by moving a step at a time, everything would eventually come together.

And ideas did come to me and I did manage to proceed systematically toward the finish line, to my great surprise and relief.  I can only guess that once I retired from the practice of law, my mind was relieved from the many matters that consumed it while practicing law and it was now free to intently focus on figuring out the succeeding steps of the story

I firmly believe that if I can write a book, anyone else can.  I urge those who want to write, just do it!  Finish you story! Then let the chips fall where they may.

Part II:  Some particulars about Occupational Hazard itself

There is no question that imagination was a huge factor in writing Occupational Hazard.  But the book also benefitted from my personal experiences, values that are important to me and wordsmithing that I like to engage in.

There were quite a few incidents from my life that were incorporated into the story.  Most were the initial inspirations that my imagination then ran with.  However, the story about Jackie Pintero in Chapter 17 was an accurate account of an encounter I had with a classmate, whose name was changed to spare that person embarrassment.  Also, Mick’s way of dealing with insects, set forth in Chapter 14, is my proven method of successful extermination.

And many of my characters were inspired by people I know, but only as a starting point, for my imagination would take over and complete the profile.  For example, while someone I know was the model for Gordon Gilbert, the model was no way as nasty or devious as Gilbert.

Writing the story also permitted me, among other things, to stress values that are important to me, like the importance for men to respect woman (Chapter 11), or the importance for us to help one another (throughout the book, but in particular Mick’s speech at the end of Chapter 18), or the value of diversity and of not sticking to “our kind” (throughout the book, but especially in Mick’s speech about “our kind” in the last chapter).

I like to wordsmith and in several spots in Occupational Hazard I work in particular phrases of note.  Some are risque in nature, so I will leave those to the reader to find.  But an obvious example is in Chapter 20, as the phrase in question is also the title to that chapter.

The excerpt from Chapter 18 includes two sentences that I think are good examples of how to speak volumes with only a few words and thereby engage the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks.  Here are those sentences in which Mick states certain ways that he had assisted JBJ’s father:

When this one doctor wasn’t payin’ proper attention to him, I had a conversation with the doctor and adjusted his attitude toward Frank. And when I found out a male nurse mistreated Frank, Pedro had one of his guys make sure the nurse never made that mistake again.

After reading these sentences a reader will wonder how that doctor’s attitude got adjusted and what mistakes were committed by the nurse and what happened to ensure they are not repeated.

Go to Occupational Hazard’s website, www.AlandMickForte.com, for more information about the book, me and other issues related to the story.

Thank you,

Alex S. Avitabile

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Alex S. Avitabile Bio:
Like his characters Al and Mick Forte, Alex S. Avitabile grew up back in the day (i.e., the ’50’s and ’60’s) on the then “mean streets” of South Brooklyn–present day Carroll Gardens. For the past some thirty years he has lived within walking distance of his original “hood,” which is now less mean and more gentrified, about which Alex is not so sure that’s a good thing.

Alex retired after practicing law for thirty-four years, and Occupational Hazard is his first published work of fiction. Alex is presently working on the second installment of the Al and Mick Forte series, which he hopes to publish in 2019.

Guest Post: Nita Round

Hey all, I’m excited to bring you a guest post from Nita Round author of the Touch of Truth series. Enjoy!

As an author, it is always lovely to be able to share how our stories come together. So many thanks for inviting to say a few words. As a reader, I’m always fascinated by the processes that bring a story to life too. This brings us to “Raven, Fire and Ice,” which is the first in the Touch of Truth series.

The world is a post-apocalyptic future. It’s this world, but not quite. Think steampunk, a Victorian-fuelled fantasy where airships travel the world and horse-drawn carriages clatter across cobblestone streets. The clang of industry fills the air with the smoke and smell of progress. In this world, the veil between the ordinary and the extraordinary is thin enough to be transparent, and the paranormal is, well, not so unusual any more. Our main characters are three very strong-willed characters, and they function together in a way that makes them more than the sum of their parts.

It amuses me when I say this is a series, because I’d never anticipated writing anything more than a standalone novel. Here we are though, book two, “Raven, Sand & Sun,” should be released December this year (2018) and I am about two-thirds of the way through book three, “Captain, Ice and Floe.” I smile because I never envisaged a series when I started writing, in fact, I didn’t think that it would be this genre at all.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’d just published my third novel with Regal Crest and I wanted a few weeks off. No writing, maybe a bit of reading, nothing more. On an online forum about writing, the exercise of the week involved writing the perfect, ie most eye-catching, opening first line. They decided this exercise would have a maximum of 10 words. I’d commented on other first lines as I thought of my own. This is what I wrote:

 

Blood. Blood everywhere.

 

Nothing else. Just that. We had quite a discussion about those three words, but as far as I was concerned there was no story. It was just an opening line. I forgot about it for a few days. In fact, I didn’t think any more of it until it was time for my writing group get-together. At the writer group, we usually take something to read out. I had nothing in mind, but I looked at those three words and wondered if I could turn them into something. A thriller maybe, and so at the last minute I wrote:

 

Blood. Blood everywhere. Fresh blood.

Once white walls, smeared from floor to ceiling with shades of wine and scarlet.

Blood, and bandages.

Red on white.

Eight little shower heads, standing in a row.

The blood fell in tiny noisy drops.

 

 

A very bloody start. I had a title too, “A touch of madness.”

This is when a writer’s best friend steps in, her character. Enter Lucinda Ravensburgh, and she said. “No. I am not doing a modern thriller.”

“Who asked you?” I mumbled.

“Well go on, see how far you get without me.”

Nowhere as it turned out, and after a couple of days I gave in. “All right, what do you want?”

“Ahh,” she said, “I want a tower. Not one of those small squat things. I want a big one. The biggest in the city.”

“And what city would that be?” I asked. I made notes of course because I’m the secretary and PA of the characters.

“Mid-Angle, of course, don’t you know anything?”

Apparently not, but I let her have her way because in the end the story came together and our Lucinda, Miss Ravensburgh herself, did not let me down.

“And by the way,” Lucinda said, “we’ll not start the story with that line about blood everywhere, that’s just too much. You can start by telling everyone a little bit about me and the tower. Not too much though, I’d like to save some surprises for later.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

Guest Post Hank Quense

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Hank Quense, author of the Zaftan Troubles series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. Today, he’s provided us a totally non-fictional interview courtesy of Margaret Hammerhead and the Faux News Network. Enjoy!

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Faux News Network Interviews Author Hank Quense

 

My name is Marcia Hammerhead and I’m the literary reporter for FNN.  Once again, my boss insists that I interview a scribbler of fantasy and science fiction stories. My boss KNOWS that I prefer epic poetry and literary works and that I despise genre fiction.  But, here I am about to interview Hank Quense who has penned yet another novel despite the lack of success of his previous works and his apparent lack of talent.  Mr Quense, tell us what trash you are about to unleash on the unsuspecting reading public.

Hank Quense: Hi Martha. Thank you for the warm welcome.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha.

HQ: My new series, Zaftan Troubles, consists of seven ebooks and describes what happens when an alien explorer ship discovers Gundarland, a world populated by humans and fantasy creatures.  The zaftans are a vicious race who believe treachery and assassination are social skills.

MH: Good heavens!  You mixed science fiction and fantasy together?  Have you no shame?

HQ:  The two genres work well together.

MH: What’s the point of writing such a mishmash?  Are you indecisive to the point you can’t chose a single genre?

HQ: The point is entertainment and satire.  And the mixing of genres was a conscious decision, Margaret.

MH: Martha, not Margaret. Tell us about the characters?

HQ: In the first four books, the main characters are MacDrakin, a dwarf miner and Leslie Higginbottom, a constable.  The two have a budding relationship that is torn apart about the appearance of the aliens and their explorer robots.  The government orders Higginbottom to protect the robots while MacDrakin declares war against the robots and the aliens.

The next three books occur many years later when the Gundies (as they’re called) confront the zaftans in outer space.  The two main characters are Sam, an android with an organic brain and Klatze, a young zaftan naval officer who is determined to succeed using her ability rather than murder.

MH: What!  How can you write this nonsense?  Do you do drugs?  Booze? it is not possible to come up with this stuff without using some sort of stimulants.

HQ: Sorry, Marcia. I don’t do that stuff.  My stories come from unstimulated brain.

MH: This has to be some sort of anti-genius.  It should be declared illegal.  I suppose the novel uses the obsolete technique called plots?

HQ: It sure does.  The series has a number of plots and subplots.

MH: Did it ever occur to you to write stories about normal, human people, the kind of stories that comprise true literature.

HQ: Nope.  Sounds too boring.

MH: You said this series has seven ebooks in it.  I hope that’s the end of it.  I shudder to think that still another of your books will test our sanity.

HQ: Right now, Martha, Im working on books 8 through 10 for the Zaftan Troubles.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha. The very thought of you continuing this rubbish is giving me a headache.  I can’t stand any more of this genre trash.

HQ: Thanks for the great interview, Martha.  Good-bye.

MH: It’s Marcia.  Roll the wrap-up music.  I need a drink.  Where’s my bottle of merlot?

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Author bio: Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric scifi and fantasy stories. He also writes about fiction writing and self-publishing. He has published 18 books and 50 short stories along with a few dozen articles. He often lectures on fiction writing and publishing and has a series of guides covering the basics on each subject.
He and his wife, Pat, usually vacation in another galaxy or parallel universe. They also time travel occasionally when Hank is searching for new story ideas. To learn more, visit http://strangeworldspublishing.com/wp/.
Hank recently published Books 1 and 2 of his 7-part satirical fantasy series, the Zaftan Troubles, about an advanced alien species who steal resources from other worlds for profit. They’re available on Amazon:
Book 1: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F8352QC/  and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F883MW9  and the rest of the series is scheduled to publish later this year.
You can see the video trailer here: https://youtu.be/NHMJ_XRzrtI

Survive Blog Tour

Hey all, the house keeping post is going to be a bit postponed this week. Today, I’m happy to host my stop on the Survive blog tour and with it a guest post from the author, Stephen Llewelyn. He’s going to talk about one of his protagonists here, so I’ll give him the board. Enjoy!

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Hi Lauren,

Thank you for your interest in my book.

Five things about Tim

There are three main protagonists in ‘Survive’, Captain James Douglas, Commander Jill Baines and Tim Norris.

I have chosen to write about Tim as he is a complete outsider; he is young, has no power or reputation but soon finds himself in a position of trust and importance well beyond his years.

Love of natural history and dinosaurs

Rather obvious this one. Tim and I share a wide-eyed wonder of how everything works, so from that perspective at least, I see some of myself in Tim.

Resilience

Starting at the beginning, Tim Norris is a sixteen year old school leaver. Orphaned at the age of two, he was fortunate enough to be adopted by a young couple, Drs Ted and Patricia Norris, both low earning scientists. Tim’s adoptive father was a metallurgist with a fascination for the history of life on Earth. He shared this passion closely with Tim for the next ten, fairly happy years. Unfortunately, Tim then lost the only father he had ever known to an industrial accident at the age of twelve. This heartbreaking disaster made the world a much darker and lonelier place for Tim and Patricia and because of it he becomes at once closer to his mother and more introverted. Eventually, Patricia, through hard work and dedication, wins a placement on the Mars Mission. Tim follows her career avidly, so that he can share fully in the life of the only person he has left. He encourages her to take the position, so that they can leave all the pain and overcrowding behind to be part of something vital and exciting. They leave Earth full of hope, but a terrorist attack directs their hopeful future into a terrifying past. During the journey back to Earth, Tim has a long heart to heart conversation with another teenager onboard named Rose. He explains how the loss of his parents and later, his adoptive father, have affected him. From this it is clear to see how and why someone so young could become pessimistic. However, Tim is not ruled by pessimism. Despite being poor and, it has to be said, unlucky with most of his parents, he knows he is blessed with his adoptive mum. Furthermore, it may well be a catastrophe which sends the USS New World back in time, but Tim wouldn’t have it any other way…

Intelligence and awkwardness

Tim has exceptional amounts of both, although new friends help him to slowly overcome the latter with varying levels of success. His brilliant mind becomes a resource aboard the New World as Tim spearheads a ‘Cretaceous Living’ educational programme to help people to adapt to their new reality. It is, of course, all too easy to build a protagonist who is brilliant at everything; Tim on the other hand, is not physically impressive or cool in any way. In fact, he is fairly hopeless in some respects, social awkwardness to name but one. Girls send him into a blushing panic and throughout the book he has to learn how to have friends because it’s all new to him. As for romance, I believe that any man who reads the appropriate passage within the book will be reminded of the first time he ever put his arm around a girl and, depending on how well it went, will either smile ruefully at the memory or put his head in a bucket! Tim’s lack of confidence is probably not helped by his new best friend, Woodsey; who has far too much. Aside from being accused of speaking like a textbook – textbooks being his only friends up to this point – Tim also has the misfortune of being spotted by Woodsey on both occasions where he realises that he likes a girl and just maybe one might like him too.

Courage

Tim’s poor start may have made him a little pessimistic and lacking in confidence but when it really matters he is most certainly no coward. Just speaking out in a room full of adults and very senior staff takes enormous courage for this young man. Tim had made a career out of being unnoticeable at school, and he finds it hard to push himself still. However, it just so happens that with the new reality the crew are thrown into, Tim’s knowledge and even opinions become very important to everyone. Although he feels and is very junior, when the ship is in peril just before the New World attempts to land on the old world, the very old world, Tim refuses to hide away from the action. He will not be separated from his mum, although who is looking after whom becomes a little blurry.

Humility

What has always been a hobby, albeit a passionate one, for Tim is now serious currency aboard the USS New World. As the only person with the slightest inkling about what the crew will face when/if they manage to land safely, Tim very quickly comes to the notice of the senior staff. Suddenly he is included in meetings and decision making processes beyond anything he could have dreamed of. Even his young contemporaries are genuinely interested in what he knows and keep up a constant barrage of questions, banter and playful insults. This new ‘rock stardom’ could easily turn a young lad’s head, but Tim has known so much loss in his young life that he remains grounded and enjoys his new standing with surprising humility and gratitude. However, he is a teenager and so with a little help from his new friends, he still manages to find trouble. For years it was just Tim and Patricia and they have a close and touching relationship; as with his adoptive father, she is the only mother he has ever known. This places her in an ideal position throughout the book to berate him for getting into trouble with Woodsey and to destroy his teenage world by attempting to proudly hold his hand when he tries to speak up in a meeting!

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Author Information

Originally from Dudley in the West Midlands, Stephen Llewelyn works in construction.  Years spent digging into the foundations of ancient buildings, steeped in a vivid sense of the past, inspired his research into palaeontology and, in turn, shaped his inventive science fiction trilogy.  Llewelyn lives with his wife and their four dogs in the mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales.  The cover design for Survive features a line drawing of a Giganotosaurus skull by Hannah Armstrong, a young artist who died in tragic circumstances; Llewelyn plans to donate a percentage of royalties from the sale of Survive to the charity, MIND, in Hannah’s memory.

Website: http://www.stephenllewelyn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.llewelyn.142

Guest Post: D. S. Smith

Alright, I’ve mentioned this blog tour before, but today’s the day my post goes live. This one’s about the inspiration behind Unparalleled. Enjoy!

Unparalleled coverThe inspiration for writing Unparalleled came to me during a visit to the zoo. I had been toying with the idea of writing a science fiction novel after reading other works in this genre. I was especially impressed by Michael Crichton’s novel, Timeline. In this story, a group of scientists are sent back in time to medieval France.

 

I loved the way Crichton crafted this story, using a combination science and technology with history and malevolence to create a gripping tale of conflict and wonder. As I strolled around the zoo, head buzzing with ideas for a tale of my own, I came across the tiger enclosure. A group of people gathered at the fence watching a keeper throw meat to one of the animals. The tiger did not seem interested in the scraps being thrown, but it did seem very interested in the source of food.

 

I marveled at the fact that the keeper and the tiger were only separated by a chain fence and a moat circling the enclosure. I imagined the carnage that would take place if the fence were to suddenly disappear, or what would happen if someone was dragged from the past, like a character from Timeline, materializing at the other side of the fence, face to face with one of these magnificent yet lethal beasts. The idea for a story started to take form and that night I wrote the prologue for Unparalleled.

 

Unfortunately, life got in the way of writing and the first few hand written pages of what was to become my first published novel were shoved into a shoebox and stored in the loft.

 

Ten years past before the creative juices started to flow again and the story progressed beyond the prologue. I had just finished reading ‘The Time Travelers Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger. I enjoyed the way she used science fiction to create a love story with a modern day twist of Shakespearian conflict. I decided to use a similar method, not so much to create a love story but to try to place every day characters with real emotions into extraordinary situations. Situations that make them question everything they have ever understood about their existence and the world they live in.

 

Unparalleled is as much about the human condition as it is about the science fiction. It turned out to be a very different story to the one I thought of all those years ago. The whole novel stems from the original prologue which gained its own momentum as one idea lead to another. I hope the pace of the novel keeps the reader interested while the underlying plot, based on real science, leaves them wondering, what if…….

DSSmith Author pic

You can find Unparalleled here or here.

Hey all, sorry for going radio silent again. Odd week. It’s Friday the 13th and I figured what better time to treat you all to an excerpt from a book that, as I hear it, does some really cool stuff with werewolves. The author, Dan O’Brien is re-releasing his entire bibliography, so if you’re interested this could be an awesome time to check him out. Either way, enjoy!

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Synopsis: A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined FBI agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could imagine.

An excerpt from Bitten:

THE CREATURE crashed into the sides of its space. Tearing broken, rusted objects from the shelves, it threw them to the ground in angry fits of rage. Tears streamed down its face and the guttural whimper that echoed in the oversized shed was the only shred of humanity that remained.

With each mashed piece of its life, it plunged deeper into madness; closer to the monster it was slowly becoming. The light of the day had all but faded. Reaching out and grasping a light bulb that hung dimly at the center of the shed, it crushed it, allowing the shards to rip apart its hands.

Blood dripped on the work table and the partial husk of Wayne Joyce’s mutilated face. It had stretched out the flesh, drying it and coating it with deer oil. Its cries were crocodile tears; there was no emotion left except rage, hatred. Remorse and guilt long since disappearing into the abyss that was its mind.

The winds howled.

It responded.

Black thread, spooled with a sharp needle, sat beside the human mask. It reached down with one of its mangled hands, lifting the needle and then the flesh. Pressing against its skin, it drove the needle into its own face, drawing blood and an angry snarl. Each time through, there was a growl and a pool of blood. The task was complete: the flesh attached to the monster.

Little folds lifted from its face. The wind whipped against them, drawing its attention. Reaching out to a staple gun, it pressed it against its face. The creature drove thick steel staples into its face, flattening out the macabre mask.

The table was a massacre.

Leftover pieces of the trophies it took were lifeless artifacts of its ascension to death-bringer. Reaching out for the long claw of torture it wore as a glove, the creature groaned. Language was lost. More and more, it felt like an animal, a creature meant to destroy everything.

The rage built like steam. It coursed through its veins, polluting every aspect of humanity that remained. The moon would rise soon––full and omniscient. That would be the moment of its ascension.

It would be its masterpiece.

 

If you love supernatural fiction, a good mystery, and a fun story, then you’ll want to give Bitten a look. Releasing in July as well is the follow-up novella, Drained. The third novella in the series, Frighten, will be released in early 2019.

What readers are saying about Bitten

“Bitten is an extremely well-balanced and engaging novel. It contains mystery, suspense, horror, romance, and best of all – a creative, genre-bending twist on werewolf mythology. The story is quick-paced and dark without being too heavy or overdramatic. The protagonist is a strong and courageous FBI agent who is able to assert herself without casting aside her femininity. She reminds me of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum…. If a sequel follows, I will definitely read it.”

“Author Dan O’Brien left his mark with Bitten. I’ve now read three books by O’Brien, but BITTEN is by far my favorite. It not only showcases his literary skills, but leaves the reader wanting more. What else could an avid reader ask for?”

Get it today on Kindle!

Dan OBrein author picture

Dan O’Brien has over 50 publications to his name––including the bestselling Bitten, which was featured on Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam Consulting, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. You can learn more about his literary and publishing consulting business by visiting his website at: www.amalgamconsulting.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AuthorDanOBrien.

Mad Cat Franz and the Bomb cover

For me there has always been something a little weird about books. That someone you’ve never met, who may even be long dead, had an idea for a character, a place, a scene, a story form in their mind and translated it into lines of squiggles on pieces of paper. Years later you come along and pick up those pieces of paper and decipher the squiggles and in your mind the images re-form. You may say, well duh-huh stupid, that’s writing and reading! This I know, but there still seems a little magic involved.

Personally, an idea for a novel can quite literally trigger from anything at all. Something seen, heard, read, an event, a feeling experienced, a comment, a joke, an injustice particularly, a silly fact, a conversation overheard. There’s no end to the list really. Also this trigger can provide the missing links to let you chain together any number of ideas you’ve been carrying around for some time into a workable synopsis.

The idea-spark for my latest novel Mad Cat, Franz and the Bomb came from a quip, too vulgar to repeat here, made by a good friend of mine when he deranged a line from the musical Oklahoma. For some bizarre reason it combined with an image I’d had in my head for years that goes like this.

It’s a beautiful summer day and you’re sat at the beach gazing at a calm sea when you notice something moving in the water close in front of you. As you watch, the surface of the water is broken by the top of a blond head, a forehead appears, eyes, a face, shoulders until the figure of a German World War Two pilot in uniform steadily walks up out of the water bone dry. The beach is crowded but no one else sees him. Only you.

In the novel the ‘you’ concerned is a teenage girl, Catherine McEvoy, also known to one and all in the small seaside town as Mad Cat because as a young child she insisted she had three invisible friends who tormented her horribly. Franz is the German pilot and the Bomb in question, which maybe real or not, is used as a metaphor for what is happening to Cat.

The other main characters are two retired gay actors, Teddy and Perry, who are as good as family to Cat. Perry is calm and loving while Teddy is profane and raucous and also, in the story, dying. That these characters are polar opposites allows for the injection of humour at regular intervals to prevent the story becoming too sad or introverted. This wasn’t a conscious, contrived device on my part as the two characters occurred naturally alongside the initial idea, but I did find I enjoyed them as I wrote their scenes and so their interjections became more frequent as the story unfolded.

The world building for the novel was relatively easy given the geographical setting of the story. We’re all familiar with such small, seaside towns and the one I describe is an amalgam of a few I am familiar with. The houses and rooms are imagined to reflect the characters who live in them and are assembled with as much of an eye for detail as possible to try to bring them alive. It wasn’t as if I had to envisage a dystopian future world and I admire writers who are capable of that type of imagination.

I read somewhere Stephen King will sometimes begin writing a novel or short story with no idea how it will end and just let it continue not knowing where it will take him. Just writes. Amazing. Being a mere mortal and old school in comparison, as soon as I get the initial story idea I pretty much know most of the beginning and always the ending and much of the arc leading from one to the other, though as the story develops it can go off at tangents I hadn’t originally thought of at all.

This being in many ways three stories woven and linked together around the central character Cat, made keeping the events and scenes in the arc fluent a little complicated, rather like juggling at times. Also there was quite a bit of historical research involved which can be laborious but it does sometimes uncover unthought-of pearls that enrich the story. I shouldn’t say this but it also looks like you know what you’re talking about!

And as for characters, well, they can cause a real problem. I’m lucky in that they mostly come fully formed right down to the sound of their voice and their clothes  and once they are realised they are fixed as firmly as something ghastly you’ve seen and can’t un-see. Some very occasionally require a little polishing to make them, hopefully, memorable for the reader.

The problem being invariably when writing, other characters will appear which are great but ultimately not right for the particular story and so you have to, as Faulkner says, “…kill all your darlings.” That can be a tough call sometimes to know if it is the right decision or not and the upshot is you end up with a disgruntled mob in the back of your mind grumpily waiting to be employed in their own yarn. Likewise a scene you’ve written can be really on the money but it jars in the context of the overall story. You read and re-read looking for any excuse to include it but eventually and however reluctantly, you admit it just has to go.

Mad Cat, Franz and the Bomb is in essence a ghost story and the three invisible friends who torment Cat as a child I saw as perhaps, the horrid spirits of Victorian children who once inhabited the house where she lives. The concept of invisible friends is interesting to me too in that, in young children they are tolerated but in adults it’s labelled as delusionary or schizophrenia, which is something I explore in the story too. So are they real or is Cat indeed going mad as everyone believes?

Author Picture

Bio of Tony McAndrew:

Having what little education thrashed into him by nuns at the convent caned out of him by grammar school, Tony kept a promise to himself to begin writing when he finished doing tedious stuff like working full time. After a wander through psychiatric nursing, the Met Police and almost thirty years as a frontline paramedic the time seemed about right. He still works now and again in Primary Care somewhere in Wales and lives happily on the Gower indulging in writing, reading, talking with friends, drinking beer and floating in the sea with his wife.