Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mailboxes, Shelves, and What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

I've been focusing on striking a better balance between upcoming titles and my personal TBR shelves, so only 1 new addition this week.


Find Virgil (A Novel of Revenge) by Frank Freudberg
Published November 14th 2013 by Inside Job Media

Get inside the mind of a serial killer as you never have before. Is Martin Muntor a villain or a victim?

Can you imagine rooting for a madman to succeed in a terroristic plot to kill hundreds of people?
Second-hand smoke gave Muntor lung cancer, and he's mad. Very mad ... and he's going to do something about it. It's 1995, and the tobacco industry thinks it's invincible.

But is it?

Muntor devises an ingenious strategy to put cigarette companies out of business, and he doesn't care how many people he has to take with him in order to do it.

Hapless private investigator Tommy Rhoads has to find Muntor, and fast. But that's not going to be so easy. Muntor's smart and has nothing to lose, and the FBI doesn't want Rhoads's help. Rhoads has a lot at stake -- personally and professionally -- and is desperate to stop the killer.

Who's right, and who's wrong? Read Find Virgil now, and go along for the wild ride. You'll never forget it.

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With an eye towards my scheduled reviews for the next few weeks, I'm currently turning pages with:

• Jani and the Greater Game by Eric Brown 
A rip-roaring, spice-laden, steampunk action adventure series. Not what I expected, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

• The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
I've always looked to Lackey for classic fantasy, and her collaborations with Mallory have been outstanding . . . plus it has pirates!

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fantasy Review: Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

I can't remember the last time I felt so torn about a book, and so conflicted about a review. This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and I really wanted to enjoy it. In fact, compared to my usual reading pace, I spent a great deal of time in the world that Robin Hobb created - and while I did enjoy aspects of it, I have to be honest in that most of my time was spent waiting for aspects to enjoy. It's a testament to Hobb's writing (and to Fitz's legacy) that I was able to exhibit such patience. Looking back, the closest analogy I can think of is watching a chess game between tournament masters - fascinating, challenging, and admirable, but hardly riveting.

Fool's Assassin may be labeled book one of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy, but it's really an extended prologue of over 500 pages, followed by an opening chapter of about 80. That is to say there's a lot of talking, a lot of speculating, a lot of worrying, but not a lot of action. In fact, there are only a handful of scenes where anything of consequence takes place, and most of them are rushed together in those final 80 pages. It's hard to talk about them without getting into spoiler territory, but I will say the resolution of Molly's pregnancy is genuinely surprising, and those of you anxious for a reunion between the characters of the title will be waiting a very long time.

Hobb's writing is gorgeous, as always, and it's easy to fall into the cadence and rhythms of her story. Initially, it felt like no time at all had passed since the last trilogy, allowing me to become lost in the world of Fitz all over again. It was truly marvelous. However, around the halfway mark I really began to feel the lagging pace, with the story slow going, but somehow still compelling. I genuinely doubt it would have worked if I weren't already so familiar with Fitz, and invested in seeing where his second life might take him. The problem is, Fitz wasn't Fitz. Yes, his personality was there, and I know Hobb was trying to show us how far he had distanced himself from his past, but I have a hard time believing he could become so lazy, so gullible, so careless, and so insecure.

As for the other characters, that's a sore spot for me. Characters that we know and love, like Chade and Kettricken, are but pale imitations of their former selves. New characters, like FitzVigilant and Shun, are as shallow as they are annoying, while the most significant new addition (whose identity I refuse to spoil) is far too cold and awkward to ever embrace as a character, much less a narrator. Molly started out with some real potential, but soon became an extended plot device, and as fascinating as his (small) piece of the story is, we hardly get a chance to know the Fool.

The opening scenes were fantastic, and I really expected the story to take off from there, but we're subjected to endless chapters of dancing, talking, dressing, shopping, dreaming, complaining, and musing. It took forever to come back to that potential and, when we finally did, it was a race to the finish with a cliffhanger that reeks of desperation. I will absolutely give the next book a read, but Fitz had damned well better return to his old self, and there had better be a significant payoff for all the time we've invested in tolerating that character/narrator I have been so careful not to spoil.

Fool's Assassin is for hardcore fans only, and even then I suspect it will be something of a polarizing tale. Then again, maybe it's just me. The book does have a plethora of 5-star reads, so I'll be curious to see how the readers and reviewers I respect most react to the read.


Hardcover, 688 pages
Expected publication: August 12th 2014 by Del Rey

Interview with Bill Kirton (satirical crime author)

Good morning all, and welcome to the next in our series of interviews with the authors of Thorstruck Press.

This week we're sitting down to chat with Bill Kirton, author of satirical crime thrillers, including his latest, The Sparrow Conundrum.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Bill. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.

I took early retirement from university teaching to concentrate on writing. I've also done a few other jobs – acting, directing, voice-overs, TV presenting, writing fellowships. As far as my novels go, the main output is the series of 5 mysteries featuring DCI Jack Carston. They’re set in North East Scotland and follow the whodunit and/or whydunnit pattern but I’ve tried to avoid genre clichés. Carston, for example, is happily married and there’s usually a coda at the end of the books suggesting that, while this particular case has been solved, crime is a constant aspect of life. I also write satire, humour, historical crime/romance and children’s stories. I’m classed as a crime writer but I’d rather just be a writer. I’d like readers to laugh a lot but also to think about some of the things that crop up in the narratives.

Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?

I’ve been writing for decades. My first broadcast output was radio drama on the BBC and Australian BC and stage plays which were performed in Scotland and the USA. I’ve no idea why I changed to novels but back in the 90s I sent my first one to an agent who liked it and took me on. She sent my book to Piatkus, who also liked it but wanted police procedurals instead, so I wrote one (Material Evidence) and they published it. Since then I’ve been traditionally published in the USA and, when the publisher had to close, I followed the Indie route and published my 9 novels as ebooks and paperbacks. The process was surprisingly easy and certainly quick and cheap. I’m happy, though, to be part of the Thorstruck family now and will be transferring most, if not all my books to them. Being an Indie gives you almost total freedom but having also to do marketing and PR means you lose a lot of writing time.

Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

Blurbs and titles take far longer then they should. I mean, when you’ve written a story of 90,000 words, reducing it to a couple of hundred – or even fewer – is very hard. As for the book itself, it’s often slow going at the beginning, not because I’m striving for the perfect, attention-grabbing opener but because some of the characters haven’t yet formed and need to say and do a few things before they have any substance. Once they’ve done that, though, I can usually rely on them to take the story where it needs to go. Occasionally, I get stuck because they’ve taken me to an impasse but that’s usually the cue to rethink the plot. Sometimes, the person I thought was guilty turns out to be the good guy and an apparently innocent one has done the killing. Whenever that happens, the result is always better than my original instinct. That doesn’t happen, though, with the satire/humour books. Once the characters are up and running, I just enjoy being with them and get plenty of laughs from what they do.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

Ooops, I realise I’ve just answered this question. For me, it’s not a question of ‘sometimes’ but ‘always’. I was chairing a panel at the Edinburgh book festival one year and one of the panellists said ‘You’ve got to give your characters room to dance’. That was a beautiful way of summing up how the process works. In an early radio play, I used the characters to illustrate some imagery of expansion and contraction that, to me, fitted the play’s theme. The problem was that I then began forcing them to say things I wanted to say rather than letting them be themselves. A review of the play in a national magazine began ‘This is a tiresome play about tiresome people’ and I agreed completely with that assessment. I hadn’t given them room to dance or to be themselves.

Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

One bit of basic advice I give when asked is that you should separate the functions of writer and editor. When you write the first draft, don’t worry too much about technical things – spelling, grammar, etc. – just let the story flow. But then, having set it aside for as long as possible, come back to it as an editor (and reader) and start polishing it and getting rid of anything that gets in the way of reading pleasure. There’s definitely satisfaction in getting the rhythms of prose right or of twisting the story to create surprise and, most of all, there’s enormous pleasure in reading reviews which have lots of LOL references. Negative reviews are useful except when they arise from the reviewers’ prejudices rather than anything that happens in the book. Writing with readers or reviewers in mind would never work for me. It has to be just me and the characters – anyone else would destroy the fiction.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

Two things. In one of my books, there’s a rape scene. I asked my wife to check it from the woman’s point of view and she made some great suggestions of reactions which would never have occurred to me. The book was reviewed in The Sunday Telegraph by a top crime reviewer, who praised it and acknowledged that the rape scene wasn’t gratuitous but essential to the plot resolution. An Amazon reviewer, however, was shocked by it (fair enough) but then said that when you read that sort of thing you have to ‘"question the author’s psyche’.

Another Amazon review of a different book was entitled ‘What's the Weather Forecast?’ and this is it:
‘An interesting story overall, but really - what is it about British authors that make them write extensively about the terrain and the weather - and not only that, but the history of the weather and the weather in relation to surrounding areas and different seasons. A simple "It was raining." would do. The story could have been cut quite a bit shorter without all of the weather and rolling hills.’

The fact is that the story opens on an offshore installation, where weather is always a significant factor in whatever’s happening. There are 2 paragraphs establishing what a dangerous place it is, especially in a gale which throws hailstones at you. And that’s it. I checked the manuscript to see what had upset the reviewer so much and, in over 86,000 words, the word ‘weather’ occurs 4 times and, overall, there are 9 references to things such as rain and wind – each of them one-liners. As for the ‘rolling hills’ – the expression never appears and there are only 2 references to ‘hills’ which, since it’s set in Scotland, seems very restrained to me.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

I've always written so I don’t think I can say that any particular writer got me started, but I enjoy reading writers such as Tom Sharpe, Terry Pratchett, Carl Hiaasen and others that I’d like to emulate them. That’s what The Sparrow Conundrum is aimed at. When I taught, though, I had to give lectures and tutorials on French literature, especially the great 19th century novelists and I learned so much from them. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve read Madame Bovary, for example, but I still enjoy it. I sometimes just read a couple of pages to remind myself of the importance of choosing exactly the right word, getting the right rhythms, and making the gaps between events as important as the events themselves. We’re always learning.

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were your work to be optioned for the big screen?

In fact, a Los Angeles company has optioned one of my short stories for the screen. I won’t have any say in the casting (that’s if it ever happens) but it’s nice to know that someone thinks the story’s interesting enough to want to film it. My ideal casting for, say, Jack Carston and his wife Kath might be Alan Rickman and Olivia Coleman, but I’d be happy to leave that to the director. Film and theatre are great collaborative media and the things they produce differ greatly from the books on which they’re based, so I think the director would know better than the writer what would work best.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?

I’m writing the sequel to my historical novel The Figurehead at the moment but recently I've been feeling I’d maybe like to get back to drama, so that’s a possibility. But I’ve also started a sequel to The Sparrow Conundrum and I want to write the last in the Carston series, so plenty for me to look forward to. And, of course, I’m now with Thorstruck so who knows what that will bring?

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About the Author

Bill Kirton was a university lecturer in French before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer. He’s had radio plays broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, stage plays performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the USA and he’s been the visiting artist to the Theatre Department of the University of Rhode Island on four separate occasions. There, he directed stage plays, gave classes on creative writing and theatre, performed in revues and translated three plays by Molière for public performance, one of which won a BCLA prize. Material from his Edinburgh Festival revues was broadcast on the BBC, ITV and French television.

He’s also been a TV presenter, a voice-over artist, and a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and the universities of Dundee and St Andrews. His non-fiction output includes Just Write, co-written with Kathleen McMillan and five books in Pearson’s ‘Brilliant’ series: Brilliant Study Skills, Brilliant Essay, Brilliant Dissertation, Brilliant Work Skills and Brilliant Academic Writing.

His novels, two of which have won awards, are set in the north east of Scotland. Material Evidence, Rough Justice, The Darkness, Shadow Selves and Unsafe Acts all feature DCI Jack Carston. The Figurehead is a historical novel set in Aberdeen in 1840, The Sparrow Conundrum is a satirical crime spoof and Alternative Dimension is a satirical look at the online worlds where virtual and real overlap. He’s also written a children’s novel, The Loch Ewe Mystery and some other children’s stories. His short stories have appeared in the Crime Writers’ Association annual anthology in 1999, 2005 and 2006 and one was chosen as one of the Best British Crime Stories, Vol. 7, a 2010 anthology edited by Maxim Jakubowsky.


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About the Book

The Sparrow Conundrum  by Bill Kirton
Published June 26th 2014 by Thorstruck Press

Chris Machin may think he’s just a teacher but the bottom feeders in Aberdeen squabbling over North Sea oil and gas contracts prefer to use his code-name – Sparrow. When his garden explodes, he takes flight, unleashing various forms of Scottish mayhem.

More complications are added by his ex girl friend and a sociopathic policeman whose hobbies are violence, making arrests and, best of all, combining the two. Several murders later, two wrestlers, a road trip to Inverness, a fishing trawler, a Russian factory ship, and some fragments of a postman complete the enigma of…

… The Sparrow Conundrum.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interview with Rik Stone (author of Birth of an Assassin)

Joining us today is Rik Stone, a man who took a company pension at 50, after years in the shipyards and in the quarries, completed a BSc degree in mathematics and computing, and began writing. His debut novel, Birth of an Assassin, is the first in a series.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.

About me? My name is Rik Stone and I grew up in the slum-lands of North East England. I left school at fifteen and worked in shipyards, the merchant navy, and quarries before taking up education and going into IT. The idea of becoming a writer in the early days was like the current idea of winning the lottery. But a dream is a dream and is there to be realized; even winning the lottery, albeit, that depends on luck while realistic ambition is achieved through hard work.

When an opportunity arose to pursue a writing career I grabbed it with both hands, did a few creative writing courses, read a million ‘how to’ books and wrote stories – not very good ones. Still, I pressed on, honed the skill set I was constantly accruing and completed a novel that I was proud of; Birth of an Assassin. This book is an explosive and fast paced thriller that looks deep into the darker side of society. It is set in Cold War Russia and none of the cast are what I would describe as being good-guys; to a man they have personal motives and their intentions are not always honourable.

Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?

I began writing seriously in 2005 and I can tell you, the road to publication is peppered with disappointment. I thought my dream had come true when I first got an agent, but, having been tied into a contract for thirteen months, felt the need to walk away from it. I had a publishing contract offered to me, but when I had the fine print looked at, they wanted to own me, so again I walked away. If that sounds arrogant, it isn't, they were tough decisions to make, but you have to look after your own interests.

Q: That's a hard thing to walk away from - good job! In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

The first paragraph. When I get an idea I write three sentences. They constitute the beginning, the middle and the end. I usually let that simple outline sink in for a day or two before putting pen to paper. When I do, the tale flows in my mind, usually through to the end. But it’s in that first paragraph where the story takes shape; this is the place where the characters become real to me and because of that it is them who decide which way they want to go.

I can struggle with the last chapter. It could be the most important piece of the book as it can determine whether you have a fan or just someone passing through. Because of this I probably write and rewrite that chapter more times than any other.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

Almost every twist and turn surprises me. I have something in mind and then the character throws in a curve that I have to follow. I mentioned my three sentence rule; while I allow them to change in the first chapter, I will produce another three sentences and after that I stick to them rigidly. They become waypoints I must reach. However, the route taken to get to them is flexible. This is one of the things that excites me about writing; like life, you don’t know what’s coming next.

Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

Difficult! With Birth of an Assassin I felt I might ostracize a section of readers because the setting was in Cold War Russia and none of the heroes were from the west. Of course, every writer wants lots of readers to go out and buy their books, but you have to follow what you feel is right for the plot. So, I guess I wanted to write for my own satisfaction and yet still have a multitude of readers who would love it!

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

I don’t know about strange reactions, but I have been surprised. When writing Birth of an Assassin I thought its appeal would lie with a male audience, but that guess was way off mark. The book has received great reviews from male and female readers alike – equality rules.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

The work of Harold Robbins inspired me in early life. The opening chapters of his books always gripped me, so much so, I would read them over and over: they took me into the scene where I felt I was actually witnessing the proceedings. And to be able to escape reality at that time in my life was a wonderful thing. John Connolly is currently one of my favourites; his work makes me think and, for some strange reason, I can associate myself to his Charlie Parker protagonist.

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were Birth of an Assassin to be optioned for the big screen?

Oh boy, I wish! My main protagonist, Jez, would have pretty, good looks, something like Johnny Depp, perhaps with a bit more muscle. The love of his life would be like Christina Aguilera; apart from her obvious beauty I think she could carry off the tough image of Anna. George Clooney has the strong features required of Jez’s mentor and a young version of Ivan Drago (Rocky IV) could carry off the evil character of Otto Mitrokhin.

Q: Nice I can imagine that. Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?

The Turkish Connection is ready-to-go. It is a follow-up to Birth of an Assassin. The terms prequel or sequel don’t apply because the story runs in parallel, so I call it a paraquel. It has a different cast of characters to that of the first book and is set, as the name suggests, in Turkey. It is the second segment in a story that will take five books to complete. The first two books are stand-alone, but the characters come together in the third offering. I am currently half way through book four, but in the mean time a modern day thriller came to mind and I felt obliged to put what I was working on to one side. This book is set in Brazil and I am currently working on an edit which will be followed by a copy-edit and then that will also be done and dusted.

Thanks for joining us, Rik.

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About the Author

Do children born into poverty become impoverished adults? It happens; pitfalls and roadblocks to advancement are everywhere. Rik Stone grew up poor amidst the slum-lands of fifties North East England, and left school at 15 without any academic qualifications.

He worked in the shipyards on a local river and later went into the merchant navy. Further down the line, he worked quarries in Essex in South East England.

But life was without horizons until, contrary to what his teachers had told him, he found he was capable of studying and completed a BSc degree in mathematics and computing.

Life got lucky for him when he took company pension at 50 and began writing. And now, here he is offering up his debut novel Birth of an Assassin, the first in a series.


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About the Book

Birth of an Assassin by Rik Stone
Published July 16th 2013 by Silver Publishing

Set against the backdrop of Soviet, post-war Russia, Birth of an Assassin follows the transformation of Jez Kornfeld from wide-eyed recruit to avenging outlaw. Amidst a murky underworld of flesh-trafficking, prostitution and institutionalized corruption, the elite Jewish soldier is thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems, nobody can be trusted, and everything can be violently torn from him.

Given the order to disperse and arrest a crowd of Jewish demonstrators in Red Square, Jez breaks up the rally but discovers his sisters in their ranks. Rushed for a solution, he sneaks the girls from under the noses of secret police and hides them in downtown Moscow. But he knows they will no longer be safe in Russia. He has to find them a safe route out.

The journey begins, but he is unaware that his every move is being observed and that he has set in motion a chain of events that will plunge his life into a headlong battle to stay alive.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Glass Shore by Stefan Jackson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Glass Shore by Stefan Jackson
Digital Edition in September 2014; Paperback in December 2014

What if ‘Think Differently’ was more than a campaign slogan?

What if it was part of a mind control network geared toward advanced sciences, creating a vibrant, creative and competitive workforce?

This is the world of Glass Shore, a dynamic existence featuring fierce vehicles, cruel weapons and serious body augmentation.

Manhattan, 2076. The fabled city of gold realised; a city of dazzling buildings and beautiful people; a city celebrated for converting an obsolete subway system into an adult playground. Manhattanite Nikki’s life changes forever when she finds the files labelled ‘Project Blue Book appendix 63-A’. The report contains a disc related to the Glass Shore, the horrendous nuclear event at Puget Sound in 2062. Disclosure of these files is not an option, so powerful people want Nikki dead. To protect her Nikki hires Apollo, her long-time friend and lover, who is magnificent at his job. He is also a clothes whore with an honest enthusiasm for life.

Nikki and Apollo are the hottest couple in Manhattan. Betrayed by friends at every turn, set upon by bounty hunters and other elements of security, law enforcement and civil protection, they utilise the best hotels, the sexy Underground and the glorious city of Manhattan as their shield.

“Government hit squads, illegal weaponry, hackers, cyborgs, twists, turns, sex, drugs, and a surprising lack of rock’n’roll – Glass Shore takes its readers on an express journey through the highs and lows of life in a dystopian future. Leaving you wondering at each turn what will come next, the story is superbly balanced between government conspiracies, criminals and corporations and how they inevitably intertwine.”


This one appeals to me on so many levels - it just seems like a cool sci-fi read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Interview with Nigel Lampard (author of The Loser Has to Fall)

Good morning all, and welcome to the next in our series of interviews with the authors of Thorstruck Press.

This week we're sitting down to chat with Nigel Lampard, author of more than a dozen psychological thrillers and murder mystery, with The Loser Has to Fall - a war romance - coming soon.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Nigel. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.

My name is Nigel Lampard and I spent thirty-nine years in uniform with the British Army before working as a civilian for them for eight years.  I started writing after a tour in Berlin back in the early 1980s: I fell in love with the city and what it stood for and after leaving Berlin I needed to continue the experience, so I put pen to paper – then I fell in love with writing, a love affair that is still very strong.  Jane, my wife, and I have been married forty years, we have two sons and with their partners we have three grandchildren.  I have written thirteen novels so far, four of which have been published. You can expect from me a sense of humour, dedication, integrity, loyalty and when needed, support.

Q: As I'm sure you can attest, the journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?

As I said, I started writing in the early 1980s and although the possibility of being published was always at the back of my mind – a dream – I didn't think it would ever happen. After I retired at the ripe old age of sixty-one a dedicated supporter told me that I should ‘do something’ with my novels. Without any expectations I joined a website called Struggling Authors, its owner read some of my work and put me in touch with Night Publishing – which became Taylor Street Books (TSB). I never looked back. It had taken thirty years but as I never thought the dream would come true, those thirty years were the equivalent of five minutes.  TSB folded on 1st June 2014 but fortunately I discovered Thorstruck Press Ltd, was accepted, and now I feel that together we have a long friendship ahead of us.

Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

Initially it didn’t matter because only loyal friends and relatives read my ramblings, but when it became serious I was very fortunate to have a great editor (teacher!) who has given me tremendous support and confidence.  I find – as I’m sure many other authors do – that once I have created the characters they take over and quite often change the direction in which I wanted to go. In order of difficulty though, I would say the first paragraph is the hardest because that is where you have to grab the reader’s attention and hopefully, keep it.  The final paragraph is dependent on whether there is to be a sequel or not.  As long as most of the readers are happy with the outcome, the last paragraph can be very satisfying. I don’t like writing the cover blurb but I don’t find it difficult. I think the author of the cover blurb ought to be independent of the author of the novel, but that is just me.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

I touched on this in my previous answer. I was walking through a local quintessentially pretty English village called Ashby St Ledgers in Northamptonshire with my family, when one of my sons suggested I write a novel centred in and around the village. Ashby St Ledgers just happened to be the location of where the Gunpowder Plot was planned.  It was 2003 and the 400th anniversary of the plot would fall the following year. I had just finished a novel so I took on the challenge.  A modern day gunpowder plot would give me a tremendous story line and in 2003/4 there were a number of politicians I would gladly put a bomb under! I even called the main character Peter Salter, a play on Salt Petre being a constituent part of gunpowder.   Suffice to say in Subliminal – the title of the book – the gunpowder plot gets a passing mention, the thrust of the story was taken over by the characters and concentrated on the tricks of the subconscious mind – how different could that be? Although the story was turned on its head – literally – by the characters I had created, I finished the story feeling they had got it right and thank God they had! The politicians lived to see another day!

Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

Initially I wrote for my own satisfaction but since some of my books were published, and when editing my own work, the reader and reviewer are constantly on my mind. Writing for me is like entertaining: you invite people into your home to enjoy themselves, therefore I invite people to read my books and enjoy what I write – if I did not think of them I would be failing as a host.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

One reviewer said that one of my novels – In Denial – was the best story she had ever read, another  reviewer said that Pooh Bridge – my first novel to be published – was summed up very well in the title – pooh! The accolades – although unbelievable on occasions – boost the ego, the criticisms at first, hurt.  I have learnt to cope with the good and the bad but abuse, which I’m sure all authors have experienced, is uncalled for but will always happen. There are some strange people out there.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

Yes, Robert Goddard –  I was an avid reader of his books before I started writing seriously but I felt if I could emulate him then I would be happy. I was overcome with pride when a reviewer said about one of my books – In Denial I think – that Robert Goddard was still alive and well. I also thoroughly enjoyed MR Hall’s Jenny Cooper (Coroner) series. But now I find myself reading a variety of books – judging the opposition – on my Kindle and highlighting the typos, and the grammatical and PoV  errors as I read. Perhaps that makes me rather sad!

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were your work to be optioned for the big screen?

Obviously it would depend on which book was being dramatised for the big screen. I am sure as with other authors, I visualise my characters and then they become real people. Yes, there are known actors who could be cast in the leading roles but also there are people on the street who could equally fit the bill. Authors have to be people watchers and I often see an individual and think, yes, she could be Sarah, he could be Colin etc, etc. So, this is a difficult question to answer and one which if the producer didn’t get right, I would withdraw – if I could – the rights for dramatisation.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?

The first book to be published by Thorstruck Press LtdThe Loser Has to Fall - is very different to the ones already published by Taylor Street Books and which will hopefully be republished by Thorstruck. I suppose my genre – I hate that word – is thriller/romance, but The Loser Has to Fall is a tearjerker set in Sarawak during WW2 and in post-war England.  My future books – already written – fall back into the original genre although I have written one science fiction novel, but if my sons’ comments are worthy of note, it will need a lot of revising! So something completely different is closer than the horizon, but changing genres can – I am told – lose an author some of his followers. We will see.

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About the Author

Nigel Lampard was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army when after thirty-nine years he retired from active service in 1999. Trained as an ammunition and explosives expert, he travelled all over the world and was appointed an Order of the British Empire for services to his country. Before finally retiring in 2007 and as a second career, he helped British Forces personnel with their transition to civilian life.

Nigel and his wife, Jane, have been married for forty years and they have two sons and three grandchildren. They have lived in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex since 2007.

Nigel started writing after a tour in Berlin in the early 1980s – he fell in love with what was then a walled and divided city. After leaving Berlin the only way he could continue the well-developed affair was to write about it. By the time he completed the draft for his first novel he was already in love with writing. Over the ensuing years, and for sheer enjoyment, he wrote a further twelve novels most of which are in the psychological thriller/murder mystery genre but there is always a bit of romance thrown in! However, the first novel – The Loser Has to Fall - to published by Thorstruck Press is not in this genre, it is a war romance set in a war-torn Sarawak on the island of Borneo and then in post-war England: if ‘Tearjerker’ is a genre than this story fits the bill.

Nigel is a previously published author with Taylor Street Books


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About the Book

The Loser Has to Fall by Nigel Lampard
Coming Soon . . .

War comes to sleepy Sarawak
Lovers are separated
The misery ends and they are reunited
But the war has taken its toll

When Colin attempts to escape the invasion, Rachel is interned by the Japanese. She begins nearly four years of untold hell. Injured, Colin is cared for by the Iban – the notorious head-hunters of Borneo – and embarks on a previously unimaginable life, taking Aslah, the headman’s daughter, for his wife.

But his heart is torn in two for although separated, the love Colin and Rachel have for each other never wanes.

The war ends.
Colin, Rachel and Aslah stand to lose everything.
There could be winners.
But The Loser Has to Fall.