Gone, but never forgotten

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At Colchester Zoo with my dad in the mid-seventies

The first thing you need to know about my dad, Phil, is he liked to do things his way.  I wouldn’t call him headstrong; if he’d have been any more laid back he would have been horizontal, but he most definitely had a stubborn streak.  He was also like the bunny in the Cadbury’s Caramel adverts in that he liked to take things easy.  He wasn’t lazy (well, not bone idle lazy), but when Jack Nicholson said ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, Dad was first in queue to take his advice.

Dad only ever wanted for a comfortable life and for him this consisted of cigarettes, alcohol and rich greasy food, a newspaper to read while he sat on his ‘throne’ for half an hour each morning (a routine that would eventually result in piles) and a daily walk through the aisles of our local Sainsbury’s, where he knew most of the staff by name, and would leisurely peruse the wine section, helpfully recommending bottles to complete strangers.

He grew up in a sleepy village on the Suffolk/Essex border in a working class family, and was the eldest of two sons, doted upon by our nan.  Dad and Uncle liked to consider themselves the wide boys about town and dressed in Cuban heels and Godfather style long leather coats.  Although in old photos their poses were reminiscent of the Kray brothers, they were more like The Walton’s and, as children, we were told tales about how they saved the local factory from burning down, were head hunted by Colchester United Football Club and performed kung fu style heroics on local thugs intent on taking over the village pub.

At thirty Dad decided that he had outgrown village life and it was time to leave home.  He had travelled to London a handful of times as roadie with various bands and had contacts in the industry.  Packing his bags he headed all the way north to the heady lights of Norwich.

Not renowned as a buzzing hive for up-and-coming musicians, Dad’s philosophy on the move, and answer to his critics, was ‘why be a small fish in a big pond, when you can be a big fish in a small pond?’

To be fair to him, he made waves in the music business as a promoter in the late sixties and early seventies, bringing several known artistes to East Anglia and he is still remembered fondly by many in the industry. I can also thank him for ensuring I listened to an eclectic range of music growing up.

The rock n roll lifestyle did mean that on the night I was born he was out partying with Rod Stewart, having helped promote him at the Wheeley Festival. Weeks later, Rod went on to have a number one single with Maggie May and the rest is history.

As he settled into family life, priorities changed and although he kept the ‘Liam Gallagher of the seventies’ look, he set up his own agency, mostly dealing with the military and supplying all manner of entertainment – from bands to dodgems – for their summer and Christmas balls. He also owned a couple of video rental stores, which is probably why I have always had a huge love for film.

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Mum and Dad on their wedding day – December 1970

The agency was run from home, which meant plenty of free time for golf. Dad was a player was what was best described as a ‘unique’ swing. He also introduced Mum to the sport and got the hump when she proved to be much better than him. As Mum continued to excel at the sport and the lounge cabinet became home to all her trophies, Dad eventually resigned himself to becoming a golf widower, occasional trolley puller and secretary of Mum’s fan club.

Lack of golf meant lack of exercise, so we got a dog.

Dad had always been anti pets and as young children we had been resigned to goldfish.  Gradually we managed to climb our way up the animal chain by sweet-talking Mum, working our way through hamsters, budgies, rabbits and kittens. Then we tried our luck with a dog.

As I recall, the conversation with Dad went, ‘if you bring it home, I’m leaving’.  Of course the trick was to show Mum the cute yowling little puppy and once she was seduced we brought him home regardless. We called the puppy Cody and although Dad sulked for a few days, he made no attempt to pack his bags.

Of course the novelty of walking a dog soon wore off and the leash was passed to Dad, who along with Cody became a familiar sight around the village.  Long gone were the Cuban heels (the Godfather coat hung in the cupboard for years, but we tried not to let him leave the house in it) in favour of a more middle of the road wardrobe of ill-fitting trousers, which often slipped down to reveal his bum crack and knitted pattern jumpers.

With his snowy white hair and smiling ruddy face, he cut a friendly figure and soon got to know all of the neighbours and fellow dog walkers on his route.  In the summer and autumn he and Cody would disappear for hours, returning with ice cream containers full of cherries, blackberries and wild mushrooms. He would attempt to use these in weird and wonderful recipes that we, of course, would all refuse to eat.

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Cody the wonder dog

Cody never travelled well in the car, hence why he was only ever taken on the occasional road trip.  This fact came to light when Dad, Mum, Brother and Sister went to the coast one day to take Cody for a run on the beach.

Family walks always followed the same routine. Dad would march half a mile ahead of everyone else; a man on a mission who seemed to work on the theory that the quicker he walked, the quicker it would be over. The rest of the flock would follow together. Sister usually whining to Mum that her legs were aching or she needed an ice cream or drink. My brother would keep close tabs on everything sister was asking for to ensure he didn’t miss out if she got it. Over the years little has changed. The complaining of aches mantle has been passed from sister to Mum and brother rarely accompanies us on any social gatherings that don’t involve alcohol.

On this particular occasion the family was walking along the high street in Wells. It was a warm day and busy. As Dad marched ahead, the rest of the clan noticed people giving him a wide berth and some were looking at him in complete disgust.

Dad was oblivious (he was his daughter’s father) both to the stares and to the fact that Cody’s upset stomach had turned into diarrhea and was dripping down his trouser leg.

Let’s just say it was a rather uncomfortable and smelly ride home.

There are many great stories I could tell you about my dad. He passed away thirteen years ago, just four months before 9/11, and never got to witness Mum become the Captain of her golf club, Sister join the police and make detective or know that I eventually became a published author. Most of all though, I think he would be devastated to learn that my brother now works for a whiskey magazine and that he would have never had to pay for a bottle again.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Gone, but never forgotten.

 

My Chocolate Bar Challenge

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Last weekend I was invited by my friend and fellow author, Tara Ford, to take part in the Chocolate Bar Challenge Blog Tour.

Ooh, chocolate, I thought. Ooh books, I thought. Ooh, chocolate plus books, I thought. What could be more fun? (Well… aside from wine of course). And so I have spent the past week sampling chocolate, because if you’re going to compare it to your favourite books, you need to do your research properly, right?

And now I feel fat and I have chocolate crumbs round my mouth, on my clothes, even in the duvet for chrissakes. So thanks a lot, Tara Ford.

For those who don’t already know, Tara is the author of the Calling All… series and her latest novel, Calling All Dentists was released earlier this year. Her genre is probably best described as chick lit and she is a very funny lady. If you like my humour then you will definitely like Tara’s.

To find out more about Tara and check out the result of her Chocolate Bar Challenge, visit her website http://taraford.weebly.com/blog/chocolate-book-tag-challenge

I have selected seven books for my challenge. Do check them out below and let me know what you think of my comparisons.

THE MAGIC FARAWAY TREE – ENID BLYTON

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This was by far my favourite book when I was a child. Enid Blyton had a fabulous imagination and with Faraway Tree novels (this was the second in the series, The Enchanted Wood being the first) created wonderful worlds for the reader to visit. The story follows four children – Joe, Bessie, Fanny and Dick (you couldn’t make this up) and their adventures at the top of the oak tree near where they live. There are many colourful characters living in the tree, Moonface, Silky the Fairy, Dame Washalot, who pours her dirty laundry water down the tree, and Saucepan Man, who is covered in pans and kettles. Together with the children they visit magical lands by climbing a ladder at the top of the tree, experiencing numerous adventures.

My chosen chocolate bar is the Kinder Surprise, as the lands at the top of the tree change every couple of days and the children never know what they are going to find.

THE SHINING – STEPHEN KING

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‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ types Jack Torrance, lead character in The Shining. Well, I have chosen a Mars Bar for this story, as it will help Jack work, rest and play. Hopefully then he won’t take his axe and try to butcher his wife and little boy, Danny.

Jack is an author struggling with writers block and takes a job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel. The hotel is vast and empty, albeit for Jack, wife, Wendy, and little Danny, and they are snowed in for the duration. As Jack starts to go slightly crazy, is it caused by cabin fever, or is there something sinister within the walls of the hotel? Danny knows something is wrong. He has the shining, a gift of seeing into the future. Can he use this to alert help before it is too late?

TALES OF THE CITY – ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

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After reading this book, I wanted to find a time machine to transport me to 1970s San Francisco.  Young, wide-eyed Mary Ann Singleton moves to the city and becomes the latest tenant at 28 Barbary Lane. TOTC follows the colourful characters who live there, including eccentric, pot growing landlady, Mrs Madrigal, hippy, Mona, womanizer, Brian, cagey man on the roof, Norman, and the recently ‘out of the closet’, Mouse.

Maupin really captures the colour and vibrancy of the city. The characters are all so different, but their personalities shine through and for this reason I have chosen Quality Street.  Mary Ann would be the vanilla fudge, Mouse the strawberry delight, etc, etc.

REBECCA – DAPHNE DU MAURIER

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I adore both Du Maurier’s book and the Hitchcock movie adaptation of Rebecca, a story for me that has a little bit of everything. Our protagonist is the second Mrs de Winter, a shy and innocent young woman in her early twenties, who has been working as a companion to a rich American woman. She marries Maxim de Winter, after a whirlwind romance and suddenly finds herself lady of the house at Mandalay, the home Maxim shared with his first wife, Rebecca. The new Mrs de Winter soon finds herself out of her depth, particularly when she comes up again the housekeeper, a bitter woman called Mrs Danvers, who was fiercely loyal to Rebecca.

There are many twists and turns throughout the book, which is in part a love story, but also has a much darker core. The foreboding Mrs Danvers is the domineering presence and for this reason I choose the smooth, fine and intense, but very dark, Bournville.

VALENTINE – TOM SAVAGE

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This book is a hidden gem and although it has sold moderately well (and spawned a movie – which I recommend you avoid at all costs, as it takes everything that is clever about this book and throws it out of the window) it is a real shame more people do not know about it.

Jillian Talbot is a successful novelist who attracts the attentions of a Valentine stalker. It starts innocently enough, but things soon get sinister, and she begins to suspect there could be a connection to her past. In high school, Jillian was part of a clique, and a prank played on a fellow student ended with devastating consequences. If you like my novels, you will love Valentine. Tom Savage is a master of twists and red herrings and the plot moves at breakneck speed, leaving you going ‘Oh my God!’ at the final revelation.

I can’t give you my heart, but I will certainly give you my last Rolo if you try this book.

SUPERSTITION – DAVID AMBROSE

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You know those times when you are alone and think you hear the presence of someone else in the room? Well for that reason, Wispa seems the most appropriate chocolate bar for this supernatural tale.

I say supernatural, but the twist here is Superstition follows parapsychologist, Sam Towne, who sets out to prove that ghosts come from the human mind and not beyond the grave.  He invites a number of volunteers, including skeptical reporter, Joanna Cross, to take part in an experiment to ‘create’ a ghost. The experiment appears to be a success, but then things get out of control and when the volunteers start dying, it seems their ghost has taken on a mind of its own.

A THIN DARK LINE – TAMI HOAG

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I have saved my favourite book for last and as it is set in Cajun country in the deep swampy south of Louisiana, close to New Orleans, my final chocolate choice is Black Magic.

Pamela Bichon was horrifically murdered and the prime suspect, Marcus Renard, who relentlessly stalked her prior to death, has just been freed on a technicality. Detective Nick Fourcade blames himself for Renard walking free and goes after him in a drunken rage. Enter rookie cop, Annie Broussard, who comes across the scene and arrests Fourcade. This action sets the scene for the rest of the book, as Annie finds her alienated by her male dominated colleagues for turning on one of their own. Worse still, Renard is very grateful and Annie has just become the object of his latest affection.

Tami Hoag is a brilliant storyteller and the characters and the setting come alive off the page, making you feel the sticky swampy heat and Cajun flavour and as a reader you are really drawn in to Annie’s battle to do the right thing in a mostly corrupt police department.

If you have never read this book then I strongly recommend it.

 

So those are my choices for the Chocolate Bar Challenge and now it is time for me to hand over to three new authors, whose blogs will appear next week. They are all from across the pond, so I guess it now becomes the Candy Bar Challenge.

Say hello to Robin Hardy, Bryan Koepke and Megan Denby.

Robin Hardy is an award winning author, who has been writing Christian fiction for 29 years. She has dozens of novels to her name, including Chataine’s Guardian (runner-up for the Gold Medallion book award) and Streiker’s Bride. Robin says about her writing ‘What I have learned (and keep learning) is that the most powerful story in the world is that of redemptive love. So I keep working at it, trying to get the story right, and to adequately express something that is really beyond me’.

Robin is most prolific on her Facebook author page and this is where she will be posting her Chocolate Bar Challenge Blog. You can find her page here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-Hardy/55052677826

Denver based, Bryan Koepke, published his first novel, Vengeance, earlier this year. The thriller follows Reece Culver, a former aerospace engineer turned PI, who is tortured by unanswered questions revolving around the mystery of his father’s cold-case murder. His latest case puts him on a collision course with the man who can provide those answers.

Bryan’s blog can be found at http://thewriterscabin.blogspot.co.uk/

Finally, onto Megan Denby, award winning Canadian author of A Thistle in the Mist, an atmospheric and epic tale of love, tragedy and murder set on the shores of Scotland and Nova Scotia. The story was inspired by her Scottish Grandmother. Megan is currently working on the darker and disturbing sequel, Lost to the Mist, which should be released later this year.

Find out how Megan gets on in the Chocolate bar challenge at http://www.megandenby.com/

 

Why I write

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I have friends who just don’t get it. They don’t understand why I am prepared to sacrifice such a huge chunk of my life to writing.

‘You should come out more at the weekends and do stuff’ they say. ‘You need to expand your social circle and meet more people. It’s not healthy spending time cooped up indoors writing’.

For the record I think my social life is fine. I have plenty of friends and I generally dedicate one day of my weekend to seeing them or family and one day to writing. Truth be told, I could do with a few extra days in the week to fit everything in.

For those in any doubt, this is why I write.

Firstly, the boring reason. I write for added security.

I have a day job, but it’s one that pays barely enough to cover the bills. I live in a tiny one bedroom house and drive an eighteen year old car that keeps threatening to die on me. At the moment I have no future financial security. Until this year I couldn’t even afford to pay into a pension and I permanently live in my overdraft.

This was never the plan and it would be nice to look forward to a future where money wasn’t such a worry. No different to a million or so other people I expect.

Writing gives me a chance to have that added security. Okay, so I’m never going to make it on to the rich list alongside JK Rowling and James Patterson, but while my books are selling my income does receive a tiny boost and the more I write, hopefully, the bigger that boost will be.

The second reason I write is because I love it.

Telling stories is what I do. It’s what I have always wanted to do, it’s what I am good at, and no other job on the planet will ever give me the same buzz or satisfaction.

I love creating characters, fleshing them out into real people, building twisty tales around them, and trying to grab readers in those first few pages before dragging them on a rollercoaster adventure that climbs and climbs and climbs before an exhilarating drop back down to the finale.

I remember being in my early twenties and telling people I wanted to be an author. Most of them used to smirk, some politely humouring me. Writing was a career like singing or acting. It wasn’t a job that people in the real world got to do.

Well, guess what. I believed in my dream and I persevered, and eventually it came true. And if anyone thinks I am going to be complacent and assume the hard work is done, then you’re wrong, because now I have that dream in my grasp, I’m never going to let it go.

In fact, I’m just getting started.

 

 

So you want to be a writer?

The number one thing I get when people find out I’m a published author is ‘I’m thinking about writing a book’.

I am always polite as I smile and wish them luck, but deep down I know that for most of them it is all talk and they have no idea what is involved in writing a novel.

That may sound harsh, but it is honest and anyone contemplating writing a book, read on because here are three truths that you need to take on board.

TO BE A WRITER YOU MUST WRITE

This is where most people fail. Penning a novel is an arduous task. To begin with you need a decent plot structure, one that will be interesting enough to appeal to your audience. You need to identify your genre and meticulously plot where your story is going, and you must create likeable characters who will undertake the journey with the reader, people who are fleshed out and easy to identify with.

Pad of Paper & Pen

Okay, so you have gotten this far, now you need the commitment to write. You need to be able to sit down at your computer and stare at a blank page and be able to put words on it – regularly.

This is where many start to make excuses. Fear of the blank page, writer’s block, not enough time to write regularly. If this is you and you’ve maybe penned the first couple of chapters over a few year period, chances are you may never finish it.

We are all busy and struggle to find free time due to family commitments or holding down a fulltime job to pay the bills and there may be times in our lives where it is truly impossible to find the time to write, but if you are really serious about penning a book you will need to stop saying ‘one day’ at some point. I work fulltime and have very demanding bosses. Most evenings I arrive home exhausted and with my brain only half functioning. I wrote Dead Write during my evenings and over weekends, setting myself a schedule and sticking to it. Yes it meant sacrificing 90% of my social life, but it was worth it to see the book finally completed and in print.

As for writer’s block, the only way to beat it is to write. Chances are the first few pages you churn out will be drivel, but so what? You’re writing. And the more you write the better and the easier it will become.

A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR IS A NECESSITY

It is scary how many people are arrogant enough to think they can write a book and edit it themselves. Once you have completed your manuscript you need to go through and do a rewrite, taking out irrelevant clutter and sharpening your work, but remember, you wrote this, so you will likely miss several errors in your story. That is why you need to hand it over to fresh eyes. And professional fresh eyes too.

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I have six beta readers (I call them my ’alphas’ because there is nothing beta about them) who are great for judging the story for readability, character likeability and picking up plot holes, but they are not professional editors, trained to pick up grammatical errors.

When I send my manuscripts off to my editor I always think they are perfect. ‘Ha, she’s not going to find any errors this time,’ I told myself after completing Dead Write. And then it came back with a lot of highlighted areas and notes in the side column and I huffed in frustration at all the silly mistakes I had made and reminded myself I’m not as great at grammar as I would like to be.

Ignore this advice at your peril. Yes you can publish a book that hasn’t been professionally edited, but it will show and it will never be taken as seriously as its counterparts.

PROMOTION IS KEY

Too many authors are of the opinion that once their book is written and published the hard work is done and they can sit back and watch the sales rack up.

No book is going to sell itself and if you want people to be aware of your novel’s existence then you need to spend time promoting it.

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By promoting, I don’t mean blatantly shoving it in people’s face, but you need to build a fan base and ideally you should do this well in advance of your book’s release.

Make sure you have a website and blog on this regularly. You should also set up a Facebook author page and get yourself on Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google + and as many other sites as you can manage. Chances are you will only have time to dedicate regularly to a couple of these, so figure out what is working best for you and concentrate on it.

For me it’s my Facebook author page and I try to post to this on a daily basis. A few of my posts are suggesting people check out my books, but mostly they are humorous anecdotes, pictures or quotes, things I think will engage people and hopefully bring them back to my page.

Promotion really is vital and the harsh truth is, unless you are prepared to put in the effort you will sell very few books.

Stumbling across a new story

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As part of my plan to stop being the laziest person on the planet, I have embraced spring and tried to get my butt outside for a walk and some fresh air as often as possible.

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I have always appreciated the little things, such as the chirping birds, the blossom on the trees, spring flowers and the scent of fresh cut grass and I try to make sure I have my camera or phone on me to capture a few shots.

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Last weekend’s wander wasn’t the most picturesque, but we did stumble across what I believe is an old part of the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum. It is currently standing in a derelict state and from the signs up around the grounds work will soon commence to convert the building either into flats or office space.

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Of course it had my writer’s imagination running wild. What terrible tales could take place within the walls? I have the pictures and will return to them at some point to craft a story.

Watch this space.

Inside a writer’s mind at her first book launch

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Thursday night saw the launch party for my second novel, Dead Write.

I never had a launch event for my first book, Dead Letter Day, so I was a little unsure of how I should set the format of the evening, as well as nervous as to whether anyone would actually show up.

Being a girl who likes her wine, I chose a city pub as my venue. I wanted the evening to be relaxed and fun, a chance for everyone to mingle, have a few drinks, maybe buy one of my books and eat cake.

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Yes, I went all Marie Antoinette and let my guests eat cake.

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These were courtesy of my great friend, Vanessa Hagg, of My Sweet Williams, who produced a fabulous giant chocolate fudge cake in the shape of my book, plus dozens of cupcakes.

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The day of the launch party arrived. I was excited and a little nervous. My publisher and Iceni Magazine were both going to be there to support me, as well as a few of my fellow authors. I had family travelling up from Suffolk who I hadn’t seen in years and lovely readers coming who had been engaging in my Facebook author page, but who I had not yet met.

And then there were the niggling doubts still there. What if none of them came? What if it was just me sat in the pub with a stack of books and enough cake to fill a bakery?

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And throughout the day as I sat in the hair salon having all those pesky grey bits covered up ahead of my big evening, the texts and email came, people sorry that they were unable to make my event due to illness or unforeseen circumstances. I had expected a few such messages, as I know there is a lot of sickness around at the moment. These things can’t be helped and I know many of those affected were genuinely disappointed they couldn’t come, but I hadn’t expected so many last day drop outs.

As my phone continued to bleep with apologies, I began to wonder if my niggling doubts would prove to be true and it would be a book launch flop.

Gulp!

So I arrived at the venue with my mother and my aunt. It was still packed out with after work drinkers as we carted in boxes of books, then Vanessa arrived and brought in the cakes. One drinker glanced across at our eateries before informing his pals ‘reckon they must be having a funeral party or something.’

Well, people do die in my books, so I guess he could have been right by a very big stretch of the imagination.

Eventually the pub cleared out and we were able to set up.

My mother glanced around at the small number of us and helpfully said in that wonderfully pessimistic way of hers, ‘Maybe this is it and no one else is coming. Oh well, your brother and sister should turn up later.’

Yup, thanks for that, Mum.

And then I spotted a couple of familiar faces and the shadow of doubt lifted slightly.

By the time the books were laid out and the cupcakes set up, the room was packed out.

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‘Yes.’ I thought silently. ‘Take that pessimistic mother.’

And from that moment on the evening passed in a bit of a blur.

I said a few words, thanked everyone for coming and for their support. I sold and signed books, people ate cake and a good time seemed to be had by all.

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For one evening I had glam hair, delectable cupcakes and a fantastic crowd of people celebrating the release of my second novel. I felt like the belle of the ball.

If only those same people could have seen me the next day, dressed in sweats with tousled hair and no make-up, washing dirty dishes, scooping up cat poop and taking out the trash.

Oh the heady life of the writer.

 

Interview with Bryan Koepke, author of Vengeance

 

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It is my pleasure to introduce to you fellow author, Bryan Koepke, who has recently released his first novel, Vengeance.

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Bryan has been very supportive of my writing career and I am delighted to be able to return the favour. Below he talks about his novel and the journey to getting published. I hope you enjoy and please do check out Vengeance.

Tell us a little about yourself, Bryan.

I grew up drawing pictures of cars and airplanes and running through the fields and woods of Michigan and Oklahoma.  At a young age I got into motorcycles and enjoyed ridding dirt bikes.  Early in my career I had jobs that ranged from paperboy to sous chef.  I spent twenty-years working as an electronics-engineering technician and during this past decade had the privilege of being on teams that built, tested, and launched spacecraft from both Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  Prior to that I worked on F-16 fighter jets, I got my FAA Airframe & Powerplant licenses, and later managed to get a private pilot’s license.  These days I work on the financial side of things at an aerospace company, and write a Blog called The Writers Cabin.

When I was in my teens I knew I wanted to be a writer and during much of my technical career I gravitated toward documentation and test procedures.   I’m married to a beautiful woman named Ildy, and we have a dog-named Daisy.

What made you decide you wanted to become an author?

When I was a teenager I wanted to become an author, but over time more urgent matters such as figuring out a way to earn a living replaced that pursuit.   A few years back at a time when I was reading tons of mystery and thriller novels I decided to write one of my own.  I spent the next two years writing two thrillers that are currently sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk aging like fine bottles of wine.  Book three became Vengeance.

Each author has a different writing process. Can you tell us about yours?

I do the bulk of my writing early in the morning before my day job and on weekends.  When I begin a novel I write scenes and chapters sequentially.  At some point in the process I’ll begin an outline mainly to use in the revision process.  Recently I’ve started aiming for a goal of 1000 words each time I sit down to write.  On weekends when I’m well rested I can crank out 3,000 or more words in one sitting.

Vengeance is your first novel. Tell us about your journey to getting it published. 

I began sending out query letters in the fall of 2013.  It was sometime after a visit to see my 80 something year old parents that I decided to start my own small publishing company, Writers Cabin Press, Ltd. and publish my own work.  I think the biggest reason I made this decision was that I knew that the traditional process of gaining the attention of an agent, going through additional revisions with them, and ultimately publishing the work could take two or more years.  I wanted to put a book into my mom’s hands sooner than later.

Can you tell us a little about the story?

Vengeance is the story of Reece Culver a former aerospace engineer tortured by unanswered questions revolving around the mystery of his father’s cold-case murder. When a seemingly desperate and seductive woman hires him in an effort to find her missing mother he ends up on a deadly collision course with the very person responsible for killing his father.

What was your inspiration for the book?

In September of 2011 I read an article about a woman who dreamed up a home invasion story to murder her husband and almost got away with it.  From there my story morphed into something completely different.

If Vengeance was turned into a movie, who would be your dream cast?

I would have someone young and outgoing like Bradley Cooper play the part of Reece Culver.  Scarlett Johansson would play Crystal Thomas, someone like Bruce Willis might play Sam Shanks, and I’d cast Anthony Hopkins as Vinton Blackwell.  I’d also cast Denzel Washington as Reece’s mentor Haisley Averton.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on books 2 and 3 in the Reece Culver Thriller Series.  This next book is shaping up and will contain some interesting aerospace technology.

What are your views on social media and how it can help/hinder authors?

Social Media is a great tool.  It provides a great means of interaction and information between authors and their readers.

Tell us about what you like to do to relax when you’re not writing.

My favorite things to do when not writing are hiking, skiing, ridding my ATV, and fishing in the mountains of Colorado.  I also enjoy reading and traveling.

And can you tell us who the authors are who inspire you?

Stephen King, Raymond Chandler, CJ Box, Ernest Hemingway, and James Salter.

What date will Vengeance be released and where will readers be able to buy a copy?

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Vengeance is currently available on www.Amazon.com as both an eBook and as a 6”x9” Paperback.  It is also available on www.smashwords.com, and will be available shortly on Nook, and from many other distributors.  For more information about the book and links to amazon go to my website http://www.bryankoepke.com Stay tuned to the website for some exciting events that will take place next summer.

 

 

 

And I’m done, done, on to the next one

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Dead Write is on sale.

Months of writing, panicking the story wasn’t coming together, that my characters might come across as vacuous or unlikeable, that the twists wouldn’t be as clever as those in Dead Letter Day, editing, choosing covers, writing blurb for the cover (always more difficult, in my opinion, to do this than write the book) and now the anxious wait to see how it sells and find out if my readers enjoy it.

Early feedback seems to be positive from the few who have already finished the book, but there are still plenty more to go, and refreshing the Amazon page hoping to see that new reviews have appeared is like having skated in the Olympics and waiting for the judges scores. I quite like that analogy given my complete lack of poise, grace, rhythm, coordination and actual skating ability.

Now is the time for promotion. Trying to make people aware of Dead Write’s existence, and to give my novel a try, without forcing it down their throats and annoying them by relentlessly saying ‘buy my book, buy my book’. And all the while my mind is thinking ahead to the next story.

The most exciting part for me of writing a book is getting the words down on the page and feeling the novel start to take shape. Preceding this is usually several weeks of developing and plotting, hanging out with old characters and deciding what paths they are going to take, while meeting new ones and learning all about them.  And this is where I am at now.

Most of my days are spent with my characters and they are nearly in place. My dilemma now is building a story for them that will live up to the first two books.  I have so many ideas and have explored several different plotlines. None of them are quite right yet, but the story will come, and if you see me wandering around with a completely vacant look on my face, in a world of my own, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just very busy figuring things out.

Followers of my Facebook page, be prepared for many questions over the next few weeks as my dark and devious mind goes into overdrive.

 

Interview with Andrew Ives, author of Oblique

My guest this week is Europe’s answer to Michael Crichton, Andrew Ives. Originally from London and now based in France, Andrew is the author of a series of science fiction thrillers, Psinapse, Sirene, Parallax and Oblique.

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Welcome, Andrew. Can you tell us about yourself in exactly one hundred words? No more and no less.

I’m from London, grew up near Cambridge and have lived abroad for ten years with spells in France, Holland and Italy. I have a mild interest in old cars and motorbikes as you might be able to tell from my books. I’m *cough* 40ish and due to a misspent youth in IT, don’t get out as much as I ought to. This tranquil haven in the Dordogne affords me plenty of time to write in between power cuts, with four pygmy goats, lots of birds and a noisy almasty to keep me company in case I ever become too prolific.

Why did you decide to become a writer?

While I was still at school, I had an idea for a story that was rather too long for a piece of homework. A few years later, I came by my first ‘proper’ word processor, WordWorth for the Amiga, and set about writing said story during those long summer holidays between school and university in 1989. That book was Psinapse which I Kindle-ised a few years ago, and is still my best-selling title.

Who are the authors who inspire you?

My tastes are rather wide and varied, but the one author that has most influenced my work is probably Jules Verne. I had always considered the broader sci-fi genre to be full of giant spaceships and crazy bug-eyed monsters from far-off worlds, but Verne’s more plausible, Earth-based, steampunk sub-genre with its predictions for technology and life in the near future – a future one might actually live to see – fascinated me more. Verne’s stories, so often very macho and lacking in female characters, always crescendo with bombastic, uplifting messages of Victorian scientific progress. Michael Crichton’s more 1970s taste for ‘science gone wrong’ plotlines rather appeals to me, so with the addition of a European setting, a female lead and some moral undercurrents, you have my chosen style and genre in a nutshell.

Tell us about your books.

I recently finished my fourth book, Oblique. People always ask me: “is it one of a series?” to which the answer is an awkward “yes and no”. All four of my books feature the same lead character, they follow a chronological order, but they can be read separately and not necessarily in that order.

Oblique is mostly set in London and the surrounding area, partly in Dublin, Milan and cyberspace, spanning the timeframe 2020-22. The world in which Karen lives is not wildly dissimilar to the present one – technology has advanced a little, London’s population has grown, unemployment, houses prices, homelessness, crime and civil unrest are the expected knock-on effects. An ‘Aztec Apocalypse’ is predicted for 22/2/22 on an ancient calendar which drives the more superstitious parts of the populace into a panic while genuine, man-made ‘life challenges’ go mostly unnoticed. My writing style is always some way from being deadly serious. If such a thing as a sci-fi satire exists, this would almost be one. As ‘high-brow’ modern films such as Inception are bristling with assault rifles, I made a point of writing a (hopefully) cerebral thriller featuring no guns and no murders. Imagine that.

What words of advice would you give to any budding writers out there?

Read. Read lots. New books, old books, newpapers, anything, but lots of it and with plenty of variety. Write what you know. You will see tips and advice from self-proclaimed ‘experts’ declaring that you can bang out a book in a week if you set your mind to it. You can’t. Well, you can but it’ll be mindless tripe. You need the groundwork. There is no elevator to success, you must take the stairs.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

Normally, the day begins full of good intentions. “I’ll just check my email, news and Facebook then get cracking.” By about noon, I’m drinking a cup of tea, have not written anything and am ‘just thinking through a few scenes that I will definitely write up this afternoon’ while Bargain Hunt passes before my vacant eyes. Around 2pm, I’ve got the laptop out, gone through all the Java, Adobe and Avast updates, found the charger, loaded up Word, typed “The night was sultry” just as my next door neighbour starts mowing or rotivating, the phone rings repeatedly and someone visits. By about 5pm, I’ve usually written a line or two that I’m not particularly happy with, then at around 11pm, I actually get 600 words down, quite different to what I intended that lunch time.

I usually write a whole chapter, or at least a few segments, edit it until it seems decent, read it again on the Kindle, find and fix about a dozen things wrong with it, then sent it off to my reader friends. At the end of the book, I go over the whole thing a few more times on the Kindle, add a few explanatory hyperlinks, maybe notes, pictures or music links, but I normally just rearrange scene order. I might include an extra line or two, but I don’t generally rewrite much.

Social media seems to be playing a big part in the success of books these days. What are your thoughts on this and how active are you on various sites?

I fear this is all too true. I have a sparse Facebook page, I don’t have a blog, I don’t have a Twitter account. I personally dislike seeing spammy posts on Facebook every day about “I’ve got a new book out. It’s like totally earth-shattering and only $2.99 today, tomorrow and every day, so get it while it’s hot.” in a dozen groups or “I haz wroted 20,000 words b4 breakfast, amn’t I amzazing? Lol” so I will never do that either. ‘Connecting’ with your audience with the occasional question such as: “What did you like best about character X?” is ok, but fearing your audience might stray after a while means you start asking “what’s your favourite shade of green?” and things take a turn for the spammy again. I imagine Twitter is even more mindless, so I keep away. I wonder how Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy or Oscar Wilde would’ve fared in today’s Twittersphere? I suspect they would’ve gone unnoticed behind ‘noisy’ authors who retweet a lot of Lolcatz pictures and commentate on breaking news from Heat magazine fifty times a day on their phones. How witty can anyone repeatedly be in 140 characters or less?

Every writer must dream of seeing the big screen version of their novel. Who would you like to see playing your lead characters?

I would prefer unknowns to play all the roles in all my stories in a new wave of Euro neo-realism, but anyway… In Oblique, Karen is aged 26-28 so, as I said elsewhere “perhaps Naomi Watts or Evan Rachel Wood ideal for the Hollywood version at different ages.” I pictured her unduly narcissistic boyfriend, Nathan, as a sort of smarmier version of Robbie Williams who could therefore be played by any slimy, young London estate agent.

Declan could be played well by Jonathan Rhys Meyers maybe, while Trofimena and Chelsea could be the first two ‘valley girls’ that audition. There’s a dull auctioneer on Bargain Hunt who would be ideal as Brian. Homeless art teacher, Deirdre, would be played by someone a bit like Jan Leeming and her restaurauteur friend, Nikos, would be perfectly personified by the bloke who runs my local Wimpy. An eclectic bunch.

If you could find out the answer to one of life’s mysteries, which one would you choose?

Although I would be very interested to find out whether we are alone in the universe, how ancient peoples made the Nazca lines, how they welded rocks to make ancient temples, whether Bigfoot exists, ghosts and all that other X-Files phooey you see on the History Channel, the one thing that really puzzles me is why do computers become worse as they become better? After thirty or so years, home computers should be a breeze to use by everyone, and no more difficult than a toaster or record player. I’ve heard Frederick Forsyth still uses an old typewriter and he probably gets a lot more done than I do.

Share a personal fact that no one would ever guess about you.

I was accepted into my first school about six months later than the other kids because I was deemed too backward for being unable to say “yellow” in the interview. If I really concentrate, I can say it now, on a good day. Maybe even twice. It amuses my mum to remind of this foible whenever I get too flash.

What would you do in life if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I don’t know what you call it, but you know when you jump out of a plane on a surfboard and surf for miles across the sky like the Silver Surfer before you open your parachute? That.

Share one quote, or saying, that keeps you going in life.

An enigmatic one for you that I’ve remembered since an Encarta CD came with my first PC – “Wie goed doet goed ontmoet.” I like to believe it holds true.

To find out more about Andrew, please follow the links below.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Oblique-Andrew-Ives-ebook/dp/B00HS3FSEU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390170388&sr=1-1&keywords=oblique

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndrewIvesAuthor