Inspirational writers – guest post by Paul Harrison

Today I’d like to welcome Paul Harrison to the blog. Paul is the author of Revenge of the Malakim, book 1 of The Grooming Party trilogy.

The question for Paul today is this:

“Which authors inspired you to write and who do you follow avidly in your own reading?”

The first book I ever read, that had a profound effect, on me, was Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The character, Captain Ahab, and his obsession with catching the white whale, which he turned into a monster, had me gripped. A fundamental fight between good and evil. Yet, by the end of the book, I was left contemplating, which was which.

It was that volume, that aroused my interest in writing stories. At school, I excelled in all areas of English. My reading habits changed, as new interests came to the fore, girls and football. Not necessarily in that order. Later in life, I began to avidly read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I still enjoy reading his Sherlock Holmes stories. Both authors undoubtedly paved the way for my own writing career.

However, it was my great, great grandfather, Will Scott, who was my true inspiration. He was employed as a letter reader/writer and story teller in Victorian times, there were tales within the family of his writing exploits and stories. I believe, the writing gene, if there is such a thing, has been passed down to me from him. In reverence to him, I have named the main protagonist, in my book Revenge of the Malalkim (DCI Will Scott) after him.

The twists and turns and plot lines within Revenge of the Malakim, are very much inspired by both Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. I want the characters to engage with the reader, and become friends, or in some instances, someone to seriously dislike.

The first author I physically met, was the late Jonathan Goodman. He became a trusted friend, and a mentor for my true crime writing. Together, we would often take off on case research expeditions across the UK. I learned so much about the writing craft, from Jon, he too was an excellent story teller. I still miss him to this day.

My interest in reading crime fiction re-emerged with Mark Billingham books. That man can write a gripping, down to earth book, he’s someone whose books I will always find time to read. Another author who I thoroughly enjoy reading, is Malcolm Hollingdrake. He’s got a story telling style that really appeals to me.

Revenge of the Malakim is my first crime fiction novel. It’s the first book in the Grooming Parlour trilogy, published by Williams and Whiting. I can promise the reader many twists and turns right through to the last page. One of the crime scenes is, let’s just say, unique. I’ll leave that surprise for the reader to find.

Thanks Paul. Revenge of the Malakim is published by Williams & Whiting and is out now.

It’s high summer and the streets of Bridlington East Yorkshire are awash with tourists. A serial killer is on the loose. DCI Will Scott and his team embark upon a fast paced investigation to catch a killer with a unique agenda. As the body count rises the killer randomly moves location and the police are unwittingly drawn into a dark and sinister world where cover-ups and corruption reigns. A place where no one can truly be trusted and nothing is ever what it seems.

A Dave by any other name…

recently I came across this most glorious thing, courtesy of Dr Seuss.

Too Many Daves
BY THEODOR GEISEL (DR. SEUSS)

Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, “Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!” she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.
And often she wishes that, when they were born,
She had named one of them Bodkin Van Horn
And one of them Hoos-Foos. And one of them Snimm.
And one of them Hot-Shot. And one Sunny Jim.
And one of them Shadrack. And one of them Blinkey.
And one of them Stuffy. And one of them Stinkey.
Another one Putt-Putt. Another one Moon Face.
Another one Marvin O’Gravel Balloon Face.
And one of them Ziggy. And one Soggy Muff.
One Buffalo Bill. And one Biffalo Buff.
And one of them Sneepy. And one Weepy Weed.
And one Paris Garters. And one Harris Tweed.
And one of them Sir Michael Carmichael Zutt
And one of them Oliver Boliver Butt
And one of them Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate …
But she didn’t do it. And now it’s too late.

Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), “Too Many Daves” from The Sneetches and Other Stories

Henceforth, I wish to be known as Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate. After all, it’s never too late…

Parallel Lines – Steven Saville

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for  Parallel Lines, by Steven Savile. Each stop on the tour focuses on a particular character. Today the extract I have for you is all about Sasha Sumner. Sasha ’s love life can best be described as gossip worthy. She’s having a bad day. She has had a lot of them recently…

How far would you go to provide for your child? Adam Shaw is dying, and knows he ll leave his disabled son with nothing. His solution? Rob a bank. It s no surprise that things go wrong. What is surprising is that when another customer is accidentally shot, no one in the bank is in a hurry to hand Adam over to the police. There s the manager who s desperate to avoid an audit, the security guard with a serious grudge, and the woman who knows exactly how bad the victim really was… Eight people, twelve hours, one chance to cover up a murder. But it s not just the police they have to fool. When many lives intersect, the results can be explosive

Sasha Sumner

As usual, the lights were out and the blackened façade offered no glimpses of life beyond the glass. She rang the staff bell and smiled up at the security camera. A few seconds later the door buzzed and she pushed it open. She was surprised to find that she was the last to arrive. The entire staff had gathered on the main floor and there was a soft but insistent buzz of conversation, with Richard Rhodes, the manager, at the center of it. She didn’t like the guy: he was needy and always tried too hard to be liked. She thought for one terrible minute she’d got her days wrong and was late for the staff meeting. She hadn’t and she wasn’t. The reason everyone had gathered around Richard Rhodes was obvious the moment she saw him properly. He looked like shit. The entire left side of his face was covered with purple-black bruising, his forehead was cut up with a mesh of small grazes, and his lips were swollen. The swelling made his voice slur.
“…followed me out of the bank last night. I didn’t notice him at first, then I heard his footsteps right behind me and looked back…” Rhodes looked up uncertainly, as though seeking understanding. His staff hung on his every word. He could have told them how he bumped into Mike Tyson and volunteered to spar a few rounds and they would have nodded and smiled encouragingly. “He was big.” Rhodes rubbed at his chin. “He was an animal, snarling and swinging his fists… I thought he was going to kill me.” Rhodes paused just long enough for that one to sink in. It was the one nightmare they all shared: a bank robbery with violence. “When I fell down he started kicking me, yelling about keys to the bank. I tried to explain that we have a time-lock on the night safe, that even I can’t open it, but he just wouldn’t believe me.”
Sasha looked at her co-workers as they absorbed his bullshit. And it was bullshit. It wasn’t even good bullshit. She’d grown up around liars, both good and bad. Rhodes was at best economical with the truth. She couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see straight through him; he was twitching and shifting, clearly going through a well-rehearsed speech. Worse, he kept looking for affirmation in their eyes. But why was he lying?
“Did you call the police?” she said, looking Rhodes straight in the eye, challenging him to try to brush her words away. “He could be out there now. And if not here, another bank in the city. You were lucky, Richard. Next time he might kill somebody.”
Rhodes looked at her. She smiled as he swallowed and rubbed hard at his right eye as though trying to make the bruise disappear.
“God… yes. Yes… I should. I didn’t even think…” he said sickly. He shook his head, his body language saying no, no, no. “I’ll do that now while you girls open up. Everyone be safe today.” He touched his cheek again, then shuffled away to his office across the lobby. That was another thing, he insisted on calling them “girls.” She really hated that.
They had the routines down, so when the little hand ticked over onto the hour they were ready to open the doors to the world.
The morning dragged on. She wasn’t a clock watcher. That would drive you mad in a place like this. She saw a guy with the twitch shuffling towards her counter.
She didn’t know what was wrong with him, Parkinson’s, maybe. She couldn’t help it; she pitied the guy. She knew she wasn’t supposed to pity people, that demeaned them and their fight, but how could you be human and not? She flashed him her most welcoming smile as he wrapped his left hand around his right elbow. His arm twitched almost like he was battling an uncontrollable urge to do the birdie dance.
Sasha kept on pitying him right up until he pulled out the Beretta 9mm.

Parallel Lines by Steven Savile is published by Titan Books. You can follow more of the blog tour and meet some of the other characters from the book here

Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

I have a tiny confession to make. The book turned up and, dear reader, I judged it by its cover. More specifically, I judged it by its title, the ‘Wyld’ made me think of the terrible fantasy epics of my youth and Wyld Stallyns from Bill & Ted.

Oh how wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Kings of the Wyld is, quite simply enormous fun. Clay Cooper, determinedly helmetless member of the Watch, returns home to find his old mate Gabe with one last job: Let’s get the band back together and go on a quest to find his daughter on the other side of the world. It’s only a thousand miles through a monster-infested forest. Should be no problem.

What follows is a splendid rollercoaster of the most rollicking kind, with a grand smörgåsbord of beasts and monsters, evil villians, ex-girlfriends, former managers, relentless bounty hunters and what will soon become your favourite wizard since Gandalf (or Rincewind, depending on your literary tastes), Moog.

Kings of the Wyld has a simply delicious premise – what if the bands of adventures were treated as rockstars, with bookers sorting out gigs to clear out a horde of goblins, or dealing with an infestation of kobolds? Clay’s band really do get back together (one even wields an axe) and go on one final world tour with the action cranked firmly up to 11.

The cast are all brilliantly depicted, but my favourite would have to be Moog the somewhat eccentric (is there any other kind?) wizard, with his all-in-one pjs and a sideline in, ahem, gentlemen’s medicine. Then there’s Matrick, the cuckolded king and to complete the set, Ganelon. Who has his own set of issues…

It’s an epic quest which simply rattles along, putting our ageing heroes with their sore backs and gammy knees through trials and tribulations one after the other until the grand finale.

As you can probably tell, I adored this book. It’s gone immediately onto my Books of 2017 list and I will pester you mercilessly to read it.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames is published by Orbit and is out now. You can find Nicholas on twitter @Nicholas_Eames, or at his website nicholaseames.com.
Thanks to Nazia at Orbit for the review copy and David @bluebookballoon for the gentle encouragement (ok, nagging) to read it!

From the Shadows – a guest post by Neil White

Delighted to welcome Neil White to the blog today. Neil is the author of From the Shadows, a new series. I’ve read Neil’s The Domino Killer, and Neil has been a guest here before talking about plotting his novels, and here he is again!

Over to you, Neil.

Thinking of a new series is always hard. It’s more than just thinking of a plot. There are characters and back-story and setting, all to get right from the start if the characters are to be repeated.
From The Shadows is a new series for me, my third series. The fundamental thing for me in writing a series is that there should a pair of principal characters. No lone heroes for me, and all of my books have been like this, other than my standalone Beyond Evil.
This reliance on pairings began with my second novel, Lost Souls. My first novel, Fallen Idols, had involved two main characters, a crime reporter called Jack Garrett and a detective called Laura McGanity. They were in a relationship but came into conflict in their working lives, as Jack wanted to know about her cases, and Laura wanted to keep him away from her cases.
My initial intention was to create a community of characters, and in my follow-up novel, Lost Souls, I was going to make a defence lawyer the focus, with Jack and Laura as peripheral figures. As I wrote it, however, I found myself wanting to put Jack and Laura into it more, and it evolved into a novel where the lawyer became the background figure and Jack and Laura became the focus. It was when I realised why that the Jack and Laura series developed, and the series after that, as well as the series that begins with From The Shadows.
It was about conflict, the push and the pull between the characters. The two strands kept bouncing the reader back and forth, pushing the story onwards, and created conflict between the main characters. From that second novel, I knew that I would always prefer pairings to solo heroes.
Not that the classic solo characters don’t have sidekicks. Jack Reacher roams alone, but he always picks up a helper along the way. Holmes had Watson. Morse had Lewis. Those were sidekicks though. I’ve always seen mine as equal partners.
When the Jack and Laura series ended after five books, my choice, and a standalone, I embarked on another pairing: the Parker brothers series. Set in Manchester, it involved two brothers, one a defence lawyer, the other a detective. As with Jack and Laura, there was an in-built conflict, the push and the pull, both on opposite sides of the criminal justice fence.
I ended the series after three books and turned it into a trilogy because I wanted to write a new series. It’s not that I have a low boredom threshold, but more that I don’t want to keep on with something past its natural expiry date.
What changed everything was the launch of BonnierZaffre, a new publishing imprint that I wanted to be involved with. I liked the people behind it, I liked the authors they were recruiting, and I wanted to be part of it.
It set off to a hungry start though.
I met the big guns of BonnierZaffre for the first time at a Chinese restaurant in London, a favourite of my wonderful agent, Sonia Land. They were adept with chopsticks. I was a beginner. They gleefully tucked into the stream of food landing in straw baskets, all of it confidently making its way to their plates, whereas I wobbled the food my way like I was balancing jelly on a knife-edge. I told them of my idea and watched them eat, and occasionally retrieved more food. They liked what I had to say and a fabulous new relationship began. They left, stuffed and contented. I left excited and happy, but immediately detoured to a kebab shop, still hungry.
The idea?
The series will focus on a defence lawyer, Dan Grant, and a private investigator, Jayne Brett. The hook between them is that Jayne was once Dan’s client, accused and acquitted of murdering her abusive boyfriend. Jayne has strong feelings for Dan, but can’t express it, because the last person she loved ended up dead, the knife in her hand. Dan has strong feelings for Jayne, but she’s a former client and he won’t cross that line.
The setting was important for me. I wanted to make them legal in nature, much more so than my previous books. After all, I’ve been a criminal lawyer for more than twenty years, so why not use. I wanted to set the books in the north of England, but in a smaller town than the Parker brothers books.
My feeling about that was that there’d been plenty of legal thrillers set in the big cities, but not so many in the small towns. There have always been plenty of police procedurals set in small northern towns, but rarely legal ones.
Here we are, two years on from that Chinese restaurant and the first book is out, From The Shadows. I hope you like it. I enjoyed writing it, and it felt like an exciting new chapter. The second is nearly finished and will be due out next year, and I can’t wait to start the third.

Thanks Neil – the new series sounds fantastic – can’t wait to read it!

From the Shadows by Neil White is published by Bonnier Zaffre and is out now in ebook. You can find Neil on twitter @NeilWhite1965.

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .

Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.

When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.

But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost…

The Year of No Clutter – Eve Schaub

Eve has a problem with clutter. Too much stuff and too easily acquired, it confronts her in every corner and on every surface in her house. When she pledges to tackle the worst offender, her horror of a “Hell Room,” she anticipates finally being able to throw away all of the unnecessary things she can’t bring herself to part with: her fifth-grade report card, dried-up art supplies, an old vinyl raincoat.

But what Eve discovers isn’t just old CDs and outdated clothing, but a fierce desire within herself to hold on to her identity. Our things represent our memories, our history, a million tiny reference points in our lives. If we throw our stuff in the trash, where does that leave us? And if we don’t…how do we know what’s really important?

Year of No Clutter is a fantastic, thought-provoking read. Part memoir, part guide, it’s a funny (and often hilarious) look at our obsession with Stuff. How do you even start going through the accumulated gubbins of a lifetime? It’s easy to relate to – I’m sure we’ve all got boxes of things stashed away because they bring back memories, or for sentimental reasons and I loved following Eve’s year-long quest to sort out her ‘Hell Room’.

If you’re looking for a ‘how to sort my clutter out’ book, then this isn’t it. However, if you want to follow Eve’s very personal journey to a clutter-free (well, if not clutter-free, then certainly less cluttered) life, I can highly recommend this.

The Year of No Clutter by Eve O. Schaub is out now. You can find Eve on twitter @eveschaub or at her website eveschaub.com/

Sign up to receive a daily e-newsletter with tips, advice and videos from Eve Schaub on how to start conquering clutter this spring during the Week of No Clutter, March 7-14. Sign up now! http://books.sourcebooks.com/year-of-no-clutter/

Twelve science fiction technologies: How close are we? a guest post by D. Nolan Clark

Delighted to welcome D. Nolan Clark to the blog today. Forsaken Skies is the first book in a new series – more of that later. Firstly we’re talking science fiction technologies – how close are we? Over to you…

2015 came and went, and the promises of Back to the Future II failed to be realized—real world hoverboards are less a fun sport accessory and more a disappointment that tends to explode. This wasn’t the first time science fiction had promised us cool new technologies that just kind of fizzled—we never got undersea cities or gorilla butlers, either. Some of the most familiar technologies from science fiction are more plausible, however. Let’s look at a dozen science fiction technologies and where they’re at now:

Faster-than-Light Travel: A long staple of sci-fi movies and books, the ability to travel between the stars without spending an entire lifetime doing it has always been one of our best dreams. Einstein said it was impossible, though, and it’s a bad idea to bet against history’s most iconic genius. News stories about subatomic particles that move faster than light (and thus, backward in time) are common but never quite pan out. A putative “Warp Drive” is being examined by NASA, which is exciting, but so far the jury’s still out—and expectations are low.

Laser Guns: Long thought to be a bust, lasers are back in a big way. The US and Israel are jointly testing a THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) weapon system, which uses a chemical laser to detonate incoming missiles in mid-air. The energy needs of the weapon are staggering, but a projectile that travels at the speed of light is, it turns out, very useful as a defensive weapon.

Force Fields: The idea of a personal shield that will protect you from all harm is still a ways off. Magnetic bottles, though, which are designed to hold back dangerous substances like plasmas, are very real and are part of many new technologies. Powerful electrical fields have been proposed for use to protect interplanetary spacecraft against debris, but they only work against charged objects, so they need to be supplemented with good old armor plating. Give this one some more time to bake.

Teleportation: Theoretically, it’s possible. Quantum mechanical effects like entanglement and tunneling suggest that bodies could be moved almost instantaneously across massive distances, even through barriers. Theoretically. A more accessible tech is the rise of 3D printing, which would allow you to make copies of just about anything, even half a world away. It may not be as exciting, but the potential to create replacement parts in the field could revolutionize how many present-day technologies work.

Suspended Animation: Need to travel to Alpha Centauri but it’s going to take 120 years? Just put yourself on ice and sleep your way there—right? Yeah, it turns out if you freeze somebody in liquid nitrogen… they just die. Nowadays scientists are looking into a state called torpor, instead. This is the same physiochemical process that lets bears hibernate, and it could massively reduce the amount of food, water, and oxygen an astronaut would need on a long journey. It’s a bit more… messy, though. Robots and catheters would be needed to keep the torporous astronauts clean and healthy.

Space Habitats: Is your local city feeling too crowded? Don’t like the local laws? Why not build your own nation in space? Sadly, of all the technologies on this list, this is easily the most feasible but also the one we’re moving away from the fastest. The International Space Station is slated for destructive de-orbiting (that means exactly what you think it means) in 2024, and there’s currently no planned replacement. The Chinese have suggested they might build a space station soon, but they’re a little hesitant on sharing details. Cities in space are still a distant dream.

Fusion Power: The world has needed this one since the 1970s, and it’s still not here. Which isn’t to say nobody’s trying. Germany is pouring money into something called a Stellerator, which has shown promising results, while France is building a twenty billion dollar Tokamak (the original fusion reactor design, and arguably still the best). Real progress has been made, but so far it takes more energy to start the reaction than the reaction produces. Don’t give up hope, though—this one would change the world overnight, and solve many, many problems, so it’s definitely worth pursuing.

Virtual Reality: 2016 was often described as the year VR was truly born… yet at this point that means sub-Mario Bros. graphics and a headset that gives most people headaches and nausea after half an hour’s use. Well, baby steps. The promise of a simulated reality so perfect you can’t tell it from the real thing—like the Matrix—remains on the horizon, but it gets closer every day. This is definitely a technology to watch.

Mind-Computer Interfaces: Do you want a chip implanted in your head that will let you control things in your environment just by thinking really hard at them? I mean, do you? Well, if you’re still saying yes, you’re definitely in luck. There have been huge strides in this technology every year. The most exciting application for the tech is to create artificial limbs that respond to the user’s mental commands just like their biological limbs do, and allowing the blind to see and the deaf to hear by bypassing nonfunctional organs and sending info from cameras and microphones directly to the appropriate lobes of the brain. Using your brain to turn up the thermostat or send subconscious texts to your friends isn’t far behind.

Robots: The robots are here, and have been for decades, working in our factories. But recent developments have led to robots that look almost like what you see in the movies—robots that can walk like humans, manipulate objects, navigate the environment. This is one of the fastest growing fields in science fiction technology—and it could have a massive impact on how we live our lives in the current generation.

Artificial Intelligence: Do not be fooled when IBM, Google and Microsoft talk about AI. They’re using over-zealous terminology for what are really just neural networks and expert systems. Fantastically advanced computers, to be sure, but nowhere near the self-aware, thinking machines of fiction. We’re still hampered from that development by the fact that we don’t truly know what consciousness is, or how it works. Which isn’t to say we couldn’t accidentally develop it in the lab… a lot of Big Thinkers have recently warned about the dangers of runaway AI, but so far they’re just thinking forward. “Strong AI” is still very much a future technology.

Cloning: Banned pretty much everywhere, and considered unethical by just about everybody, human cloning is one of the few technologies we’ve turned away from—probably because there’s no killer app for it, yet. Don’t get too comfortable, though. Genetic science and stem cell research is already developing the ability to grow human organs on the lab, constructing kidneys and livers and such around collagen scaffolding. There’s a lot of potential there, if we can get past the ick factor.

Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark is published by Orbit, and is out now.

forsaken-skies

Commander Lanoe is one of the navy’s greatest heroes, but the civil war left him with nothing but painful memories. When a planetary governor is murdered, it falls to Lanoe to hunt down the killer and bring them to justice.

Yet his pursuit will lead him towards the greatest threat mankind has ever faced.

An unknown armada has emerged from the depths of space, targeting an isolated colony planet. As the colonists plead for help, the politicians and bureaucrats look away. But Lanoe has never run from a fight – and he will not abandon thousands of innocents to their fate.