Elizabethpic1

I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Lamprey, indie author of lively and intriguing whodunits. I asked her a few questions.

Tell us briefly about One Two Buckle My Shoe and Three Four Knock On My Door. 

They are novellas, and whodunits in the Detection Club style, set in Scotland in the kind of retirement village I hope to end up in myself one day. Retirement villages aren’t old age homes – they’re designed for people in late middle age who are down-sizing into an environment that will be age-friendly when they get old.  My invented one is definitely eccentric.

What’s the story behind the stories? Why did you write the books?

My mother moved into a retirement village very reluctantly, after finally realizing she couldn’t cope with a big house any longer then absolutely loved it, she was always delighted and intrigued by her new neighbours. Sadly she took ill and died and I wrote a story where murders occurred in the village and she and  friends did a sort of multiple Miss Marple on them – it was a therapy for me, to fix her in my mind as having fun and lively friends and a bit of a challenge, like a never-ending murder dinner. I’d never written a whodunit before, although I enjoy reading them, and a year or so later the One Two title popped up out of nowhere and the idea for the series was born. I borrowed the basic story from her book, fictionalizing the characters and making them younger. She’s lent her name to the friend character – Vivian – but Vivian only borrows her voice and moments of her history, she isn’t a portrait.

Are they fun to write?

They’re great fun to plot – deciding on a murder and working backwards to set it up so that the reader and the characters can solve it, hopefully in a neck and neck finish. Setting up the clues so they are fairly presented but not screamingly obvious is the trickiest part.

12knockdoorWhich character are you most like and why?

I think I may be most like Katryn, the administrator who joins Grasshopper Lawns in the second book, after the death of the first administrator  – I grew up in South Africa, so I can identify with her, and quite enjoy having her around. She’s a minor role, very direct and pragmatic.

Dogs feature quite prominently in the stories. I’m guessing you’re a dog lover. Please tell us about your current canine companion/s. Dogs totally took over the second book, but they’re normally more wallpaper. There’s a cat coming into the third book – I do love pets, they really make a house a home, especially for anyone living alone. I became a cat person about ten years ago but there were always dogs in my life before. I took on a rescue dog with severe personality issues (she shares most of Maggie’s traits, and more) about six months ago and at first regretted it bitterly but wouldn’t want to be without her now. The cat is still reserving judgement.

Do you have any bizarre writing rituals?

I don’t think so – I had a foible about writing with purple ink and it reached a point where I could only write with purple ink, but finally trained myself to type direct, rather than write the first draft in longhand.  And breaking myself of the habit of smoking while I typed was mind-numbing for a while! I was quite stressed during the adjustment and held a pen between my teeth, sucking furiously when my mind went blank, until one burst and ink went everywhere. Cured.

Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?

I got really lucky with the covers, I might have tried some inexpert photo-shopping but I knew the first one had to be an abandoned shoe – trying photo-shopping that. I finally went onto Elance to find an artist.  Lacey O’Connor is practically psychic and can create more than I even realized I wanted, she’s absolutely brilliant.

34knockdoorWhen did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Since forever, since before I even knew that daydreams and scribbling endless stories had a name. I thought the dream would only ever be that, a dream, when family problems meant I couldn’t go to university to read English, but reading and writing are two of my greatest pleasures, I just wish I could write as well as the authors I read!

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Don’t rush into self-publishing – I doubt anyone will listen, because I wouldn’t have listened, but in retrospect I threw away a lot of potential word-of-mouth goodwill from family and friends by putting out a sub-standard first book. The story itself hasn’t changed but there were so many glitches in the first edition, and the format was really amateur. A lot were picked up in the second, and I had already completed a complete loop on the learning curve by then! I feel really strongly about it, and am constantly meeting SP authors who simply don’t see errors as a problem, the important thing, they insist pompously, is the story. Putting out sub-standard books is bad for us all and with so very many books on offer your readers won’t get to the story because they will give up on the first page. I’m a copy-editor myself (granted, mainly business / technical stuff) and I thought I could do my own copy-editing. No-one can – your brain auto-adjusts and simply doesn’t see errors on work it knows well.

 And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

I have four names – apparently in some traditions a long name means good luck – and also a Twitter name (Elegsabiff) so in a weird way I have several lives. My professional life skips the second name,  I write under the first three (Elizabeth Joanna Lamprey), I am known by my first and last names, and I review and tweet under the elegsabiff name. Maybe one day I’ll settle on one version, but it could be boring. I was quite taken with the idea of publishing as Elegsabiff but KDP isn’t really set up for one name. Maybe that’s why Cher has never self-published?

About the books

One Two Buckle My Shoe

Detectives nearly always work alone, although some don’t mind an admiring sidekick as they deftly and efficiently go about their business. In real life, murder isn’t always straightforward and clues can be much more elusive. In this particular case, just finding out who exactly got murdered was the first challenge.

The residents at Grasshopper Lawns were closely interested, because the murderer could be among them, but hadn’t any intention of interfering in the solving of the case. Piecing together scraps of information was intriguing, though. And they did keep coming across facts that no-one had given to the police… This is the first in the quite light-hearted murder series based in a rather unusual retirement village in Scotland.

Three Four Knock On My Door

A dead body in the laundry sparks off the next murder mystery at Grasshopper Lawns. Once again Edge and her friends help the police with this investigation but there’s more to deal with. Throw in a badly behaved dog, a tall, shadowy figure and Death with his scythe and events get quite complicated!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Knock-Grasshopper-Lawns-ebook/dp/B00C4FE0TG/

ebyacodeThe eBay Code by Charles Salter (Volume 2 of The Ebay Detective) is every bit as good as the first book in this series. The author continues the theme of basing his novel on actual events, which makes it so immediate and that much more sinister. Major Brad Stout was appointed as an eBay Detective at the end of the last novel and the throws himself into his new role enthusiastically. Following up a terrorist threat he needs to decipher a code in order to intercept their deals on eBay. In this adventure Brad teams up with the interesting and complex Pierre, now his father-in-law, to try and prevent a horrendous international incident involving radioactive matter. Amidst the tension and excitement, there’s domestic happiness and tenderness, family commitment, frustration, moments of humour and much to enjoy.
Salter creates brilliant characters. Every one, however minor, is rounded and has a real role to play. Mary Lou and her parents bring some fresh interest in this story. The plot is exciting, built soundly on real events and everyone’s familiarity with Ebay. From these factual foundations a superbly imaginative story springs, and the action doesn’t end – even at the end. There’s a new development waiting for us there. Settings are superbly depicted, with great attention to detail and adding yet more realism to the story. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this novel as it has all the ingredients an engrossing modern thriller needs. It’s a successful and riveting read.

Zuto: The Adventures of a Computer VirusZuto: The Adventures of a Computer Virus by Udi Aharoni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Zuto: The Adventures of a Computer Virus” by Udi Aharoni is a fabulous, quirky and imaginative book for youngsters. Tommy’s computer has a virus – Zuto to be precise. But Zuto is a laid back, inoffensive one who rides a motorcycle. He is happy to hang around with his friend, an outdated media program, Super Media 2.0. There is a friendly but dodgy calculator program in Newton and also Silver Shield, a virus fighting program. This extremely likeable but less than promising group join together to fight the worm that has invaded Tommy’s computer and is causing all the trouble. As they do so, kids are introduced to various parts of the computer and they will get an understanding of how they work. For example, firewalls are depicted as curtains of flame that open and close to let safe info through. There are Central Processor Agents who keep everyone organised, much as you’d expect.

Udi Aharoni has a very readable style. He explains things clearly and it never gets complicated. There is plenty of fun in the story but also a very real look at loyalty and unity for the common good. There is a heroic quest going on and the friends work well together. They are a loyal, tight team and that is inspiring. The Zutopedia at the end is a nice touch and explains the technical terms that are used in the book. There are good quality illustrations and all in all, this is a very professionally presented, well-written and well-thought-out book. Both I and my eleven-year-old enjoyed it immensely and learned about the inner workings of computers.

View all my reviews

The whole genre of detective fiction began with a lady author – Anna Katherine Greene – and it’s good to see that it’s safe and even more successful these days in the hands of other women writers such as Marcia Turner. Ill Conceived is the second in the Meredith and Hodge series and is every bit as good as the first book, Misplaced Loyalty. The characters we encountered previously continue to develop and we meet some interesting new ones. Relationships between them don’t always take the course we’d expect. There’s an intricately created and thought out plot with several strands to it.
Patsy Hodge is now working as a private investigator and her first job throws her in at the deep end. How come Stella Young, businesswoman and lesbian, is pregnant? To her certain knowledge she has never slept with a man. Meanwhile, Meredith and his team are investigating the murder of a young man in broad daylight for apparently no reason whatsoever. Why does all the evidence seem to point to a very unlikely suspect? How does the Sensations night club fit into all of this? And even after the self-confessed perpetrator is taken into custody, how come the deaths continue? The various story lines become intertwined meaning Patsy and Meredith are working together again but there are tensions between them, in both their professional and personal lives. Are they being completely honest with each other?
A truly absorbing book with an ending that takes your breath away, and leaves you eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

brokenangelNot for the faint-hearted, Broken Angel by S W Vaughn, is a tough, gritty yet thought-provoking and, at times, touching read. It has something of a timeless, dystopian setting in New York, but centres on the world of illegal fighting rings and prostitution. Destitute Gabriel Morgan, who’s desperately searching for his lost sister Lillith, gets dragged into the Ulysses House by Marcus Slade, its leader, who sees a lot of potential in the young man. He also has a unbreakable hold over him, in that he has Lillith. If Gabriel will fight for him, he’ll keep Lillith safe. Gabriel had a rough upbringing and his sister was the only good thing in his life so he’ll do anything to protect her.

Gabriel becomes Angel, with wings tattooed on his back, under the hands of his brutal trainer Jenner. He systematically breaks Gabriel down before recreating him as a focused, powerful fighter. There’s a lot of sweat, blood, broken bones and pain in this book. It’s dark and it’s challenging but it’s a very exciting read. The book isn’t just about people pounding each other into a pulp, there’s a well thought out and twisting plot holding the action together. The ending certainly takes you by surprise.

Vaughn creates a brooding atmosphere that can and does erupt into violence at any moment. He depicts a series of damaged, complex characters in the book with great and convincing detail. You see the worst in people, but also the best in the resilience and loyalty shown by Gabriel/Angel and the sheer drive to survive.

This book will keep you reading. Even if it doesn’t sound like something you’d usually read, give it a go because it’s well written and it opens your mind up to parts of society it’s too easy to dismiss as beyond salvation. Good people get caught up in bad things for good reasons.

 

girl clour lindaThe Girl Who Could Change Colour is the first in a super new series of YA paranormal fiction from exciting author Linda Dent Mitchell. Our heroine is teenager Lizzarda Lexx who is headstrong yet also very vulnerable, having been orphaned young and then sent into a string of homes and foster care. She’s a tough cookie but not as impervious to her own and other people’s feelings as she tries to make out.

She finds herself in the small town of Little-Riddell with the Swallow family in their aptly named house, Swallow’s Rest. Sally Swallow is a wonderful foster-mother, kind, understanding and patient. She already has two foster-children under her wing, Lulu and Nathan, the latter who doesn’t take to Lizzarda and has a few problems of his own.

Little-Riddell is dead boring as far as Lizzarda’s concerned, so when a group of ‘undesirables’ start appearing regularly in the park, they become a focus of her attention. At least they’re exciting. However, Lizzarda soon finds she’s out of her depth but fortunately her strange, new ability comes into play just in time. Linda can change colour to blend into her surroundings. However, this ability also causes problems, not least of which is to make her feel as though she’ll never fit in.

How will she cope with her uniqueness? Will she use it for good or sinister reasons? And what do other people really think of her? This novella, that touches on difficult issues such as fostering and underage drinking, sensitively explores this unusual teenager’s psyche and introduces us to a very complex yet likeable character. I look forward to her future adventures as there’s a lot more to Lizzarda than meets the eye.

Only a very interesting author could come up with such an interesting story, so I had to find out more about Linda. I asked her some questions about this book, her writing and herself.

Linda_MitchellWhat inspired you to write The Girl Who Could Change Colour?

I was inspired to write The Girl Who Could Change Colour because I was interested in how a troubled teenage girl might overcome her problems. As the story unfolds Lizzarda discovers how her ‘amazing powers’ can not only be used to her advantage, but also the advantage of others. The combination of these things, and the events which take place in the subsequent books change the way Lizzarda values herself and other people.

Was it an easy story to write? After all, you deal with some quite tough issues such as foster care and underage drinking.

I don’t think any story is easy to write – not for me anyway. The death of Lizzarda’s  parents, foster care and the underage drinking are issues that she struggles with. In time, her ‘amazing powers’, and the people she grows to trust help her to deal with these issues.

Did you design the cover yourself?

The book cover was a collaborative creation. I’m from an art background. I trained in textile design and worked in a design studio for thirteen years. I also taught art and design in schools having gained a BA, MA and a PhD. I work with a digital designer called Jacqueline Abromeit. I send her my ideas for the covers, she interprets them, sends them back, then we finalise the details. This is the fourth book cover she’s done for me and she gets it right every time!

Which character from the book are you most like? Lizzarda? Mrs Swallow? Hopefully not one of the Hoodies!?

I’m probably most like Lizzarda in that I have her independent streak. I looked similar to her when I was younger (but I didn’t have body piercings and multi-coloured hair. I’m from a different generation and those things weren’t as accepted as they are now).  That’s where the similarity ends because (fortunately) I came from a happy loving family and didn’t leave home until I was twenty five.

Who’s your favorite character and why?

As well as Lizzarda, I’m quite fond of Lulu Lang. She’s so bubbly, happy and friendly. Unlike Lizzarda she’s grateful for her new home at Swallows’ Rest – and for the care her new foster parents are giving her.

What are you working on now? Will it be out soon?

I’m working on a few things: The second book in the Lizzarda trilogy, and the third book in my Oribliss castle series for 9-12 year olds. I’m working towards these two books being published this year. As I’m a very creative person, I have lots of notebooks on the go and other titles ‘in progress’.

Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I read all sorts of things. As well as children’s books I read lots adult books. I love mystery, suspense, fantasy, paranormal and murder mysteries. I also like ‘tongue in cheek’ humour. I love my new Kindle Fire! I think it’s a brilliant invention. It’s opened up a new world for readers and writers and I download lots of sample chapters to see what books are like. I generally have a few books on the go, then dependent on my mood I can switch from one to the other. I love to give new authors a try. I recently saw an ad in a national newspaper, a book for teens called Fugitive by Louise Miles, so I downloaded a sample, decided I liked it and bought it.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I never decided that I wanted to be an author. It sort of ‘came upon me’. My art and design background and my educational studies led me to it. I used to get lots of inspiration for my painting and drawing from literary themes, and then a few years ago I suddenly started writing. My biography is on my website www.ldmitchell.com which gives more details about myself and my books.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors, adults or children?

If I was to give advice to self published authors it would be similar to that given to me by my PhD supervisors: KEEP GOING. A true professional never gives up. Don’t cut corners! You need a good book cover, a good story, and a punchy website – and the work MUST be professionally edited and proof-read. Use social networking sites, respond to emails and interview requests, advertise in your local area. You need to be visible – if you’re not no one will know your work exists. The hardest part is marketing your work independently, this is one of the disadvantages of self-publishing. I’d also keep trying to get a mainstream publisher, but if you’re lucky someone might find you.

OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are the three favorite things in your wardrobe?

zebraNow that’s a hard one! My wardrobe is overloaded (so is my jewellery box) as I’m a bit of a hoarder. So I’ll say what my favourites are at the moment: The first is my all-in-one that I wear in the evenings. It’s a zebra with a hood and pink ears (no – it doesn’t have a tail) You may smile, but with all this extremely cold weather, and living in a two-hundred-year-old cottage with fluctuating heating, it’s a garment that I look forward to wearing. The second are a pair of black leather shoes that a bought from Dune. There’s something very witchy about them. They’re very plain, with a tiny heel, laces, and a little pointed toe. I’m struggling on my third…but I do like my green tourmaline and diamond ring…

What food can’t you resist?

Easy – a cool glass of wine at the end of the day. White or rose are my favourites. I also like chocolate. I’m veggie so I like fresh fruit, salads, pasta and rice dishes.

Describe your perfect day out

This is another one that’s easy for me to answer. I love a day out by myself – no Kindle – no telephones. I like market towns and cultural cities. I enjoy wandering round streets, window shopping and going for lunch. My daughter lives in Leeds so I love to meet up with her. We always have a restaurant booked in advance – and because I don’t drive on those days I can have a glass of wine…or two!

 

kengore

I’ve been fortunate enought to be able to pin down a very busy man – semi-retired horror film producer Kensington Gore – to ask  him about his recently published and very entertaining diary that I was honoured to edit for him.

Tell us briefly about One Year Closer to Death.

It’s my diary… Too brief?
Sorry young lady, I always have problems with briefs. It’s my diary in which I set out to show in words my comeback into the movie world. The story of my creation and production of my last great Horror feature.
Sadly, like all things in life, it didn’t turn out quite as simple as that.

Why did you feel the need to publish your diary?

In the first place it was to publicise my last great horror film “Werewolves of London,” I knew 2012 was going to be an amazing year. What with the Queen’s jubilee that summer long sports day thing, London felt like the centre of the universe.
Hasn’t felt like that since the swinging sixties, back then I was too busy swinging and off me head to remember a bloody thing so I thought this time get it down Kenny old boy. Keep it for prosperity- I mean posterity!

Was it easy to write? Do you feel you’ve given away too much about your private life – or not enough?
Well, as with most diaries it was just taken one day at a time.

I thought a lot about what I put in and in the end I thought bugger it, best to lay myself bare. Warts and all so to speak. There’s too many bland, banal, so-called celebrities these days I decided to give people a an insight into a real character, I’m a horror leg end don’t you know?

kenpumpkinDid your wife Marge help in the writing and editing process?
Marge was a brick. In fact I often wanted to throw her through the window!

No, seriously that woman inspires me every day of my life. It is for her I bother standing up erect.
She did give a little help with editing but she’s American you see and kept wanting us to have sex in the “parking lot” or an “elevator”, the sex I didn’t mind I just didn’t want to confuse the reader with the terminology.
In the end I got a very good professional editor, her name escapes me at the moment but you look a lot like her…

How has your film production experience helped with your writing?

It always helps me, every day and every way, working to deadlines, knowing you have to fine tune right up to publishing. Realising things that happen out of your hands that sometimes are pure magic and you have to, as I like to say, just slip them in.

Did you design the cover yourself?
That’s me on the cover – but it was designed by my grandson Graeme Parker. He’s a whizz with all that computer jiggery pokery. He touched me up and took years off me.

kendeadfunnyWhat are you working on now? Will it be out soon?

I’ve got more fingers in more pies than a whole host of fat chefs.
My biggest project is now I have some finances I’ll be starting to shoot my feature “Werewolves of London” it’s a great script that shows London in a totally new light.
My agent Sol also wants me to do a novel of the film, says he wants to tap in the YA market, whatever that means? Think he means YMCA but I’ll not dance to the beat of that dance.
I’m working on a new diary for 2013 and this time it will be more about the film making process. I’d like to make it the must have handbook for young horror film makers. I’m keeping my rants to a minimum.
Working on a joke book about the battle of the sexes with my good young female writer friend, Leesa Wallace, she’s very talented you know you should interview her.
I also have three of my “Twisted Tales” collection of short stories coming soon. They are all Love stories with a dark twisted edge. I did mean to have them published for Valentines until I took unwell; but I’m a lover any time of the year and fighting fit and ready to spread the love and Gore.

Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

Sadly I don’t get much chance to read for pleasure at the moment. I use a lot of audio books – at the moment in my Sony Walkman I have “The Rotters Club” by Jonathan Coe. A book set in the Seventies, good book but a horrible decade that sadly I remember all too much.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author as well as a film director?

I’ve always written all my life. My mother said I was born with a pen in my hand; that surprised the midwife, I can tell you.

As a director it was always a different challenge taking another’s words and sharing the vision and making their words come alive on the screen. Now maybe in my old age I just have time for my own vision, I have my own stories to tell with my very own unique touch of Gore.

kenbetWhat one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Normally the only advice I give to actors is don’t take advice. But I have to say as a self-published author it might feel like it’s you doing everything and the world and his dog is against you but it doesn’t have to be like that: get a good support team around you. My wife Marge is often giving me a hand, granted usually to my face and slapping me and telling me to behave myself.

Oh, and if you are taking self-publishing seriously get a good editor you can work with. I was lucky I got the best.

OK, enough of the serious stuff. Do you ever write naked?

It’s the only way I ever write, true it gets me a few funny looks when I’m writing on the train.

Has the dog ever eaten your manuscript or the cat or pig sat on the delete button on your computer and destroyed a work-in-progress?

My pet dog Fang eats anything and everything but luckily never ate my work. My pet pig, Bacon Sandwich, once tried to eat my memory stick. He thought it was a boiled sweet which I normally feed him as he sits beside me in my office.
Marge says like-minded company flock together.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

It’s hard to say. I worked in the House of Commons as a reporter and when even younger I worked down the sewers. It was a pretty bad dealing with the shit and the bloody turds on a daily basis but working in the sewers was pretty bad too.

What are your three favourite bloke’s gadgets and why?

It might surprise you, my dear, I’m not much of a gadget man. I’m old school. Mind you I’d be lost without my smart phone but at times it’s so smart it just makes me feel incredibly dumb. The TV remote control is the greatest invention known to man but it causes more fights than anything else in our house. I’m always wrestling with the grandkids over it, desperate to watch In the Night Garden. In the end they give in and let me watch.

And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?
I can breathe through my ears, Marge says that comes in handy. My favourite whiskey is Glenfiddich but you’ve all missed my birthday it was on Valentine’s Day. I’m seventy-eight you know?
You can get to know more about me in my website
http://kensingtongore.com/
Also on a writing front I’m doing quite a bit of work for charity. Normally I don’t like to talk about it but they are two very worthy causes.

Firstly for Comic Relief – I’m doing A joke-a-thon on the night of Friday the 15th of March you can follow me on the night on @kensington_gore
I hope to raise at least £500 towards that but would love to raise a lot more. I like to try and do my bit, as Marge can verify.

If people would be kind enough to sponsor me on the Comic Relief site my grandson has set up. https://t.co/xSomkrOY

We also plan to put all the jokes I write and that people send to me on the night into a joke book with all profits going to Comic Relief.

portiaI’m also working on a collection of various up and coming authors to make a charity collection called “Kensington Gore’s Twisted Tails” shorts with a twist in the tale about animals somehow. All profits hoping to go to the RSPCA. Hoping to get ten or twelve writers involved, kind of pay it forward, help them out and help animals out charity and animals too.
Any writers wanting to get involved in this or any future projects feel free to contact me via e-mail [email protected]

Here are the links to all my books so far:
Kensington Gore’s Diary – Another Year Closer to Death – viewBook.at/B00AG0BBFM
Kensington Gore’s Twisted Tales Volume 1 – Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater – viewBook.at/B009XLKUS4
Kensington Gore’s Twisted Tales Volume 2 – Bet Your Life – viewBook.at/B00A2ZMARY
Kensington Gore’s Dead Funny Joke Book – viewBook.at/B00B9243K6

thatswarThat’s War

By William Arthur Sirmon, reproduced by: Brannon William Sirmon

This book is the actual diary as written by William Arthur Sirmon. The diary is reproduced from 1st January 1918. The book records faithfully the long periods of tedium that are part of the army routine although this appears to be interspersed with quite a lot of entertaining for the officer class. The excitement and patriotism builds up as the 82nd Regiment makes ready for war and finally gets its orders to travel from Camp Gordon, Georgia to the port of New York. The regiment sailed on the 25th April joining up with a large convoy for the crossing. Lt Sirmon observes that the main difference between one day and another is just the state of the sea.

The regiment reaches the safety of Liverpool after twelve days at sea and just one week later they arrive in France. Three weeks after landing on French terrain they get their wish and are posted to the front line. Little by little they experience the grim reality of war, seeing friends and comrades wounded or killed. Lt Sirmon is slightly wounded but continues to conduct offensive operations until his unit is attacked with mustard gas and he suffers severe skin burns.

This has been a fascinating read and while the diary format is not the most free flowing, it has been a riveting insight into the life and beliefs of a young US officer. It is very clear that the army and populous believed what their government told them about the reasons for the war being the defense of freedom and democracy. They also accepted without question the claims of atrocities committed by the German war machine against civilians. The grand geo-political causes as large empires vied for power and territory are never debated.

Yet this should not detract from the quite matter-of-fact bravery displayed by Lt Sirmon and his generation very much in contrast to the Hollywood hero. In his first action he admits to being badly frightened and shaking but swearing to himself that he wouldn’t run. After the engagement he was over he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Honor of France and the Croix de Guerre with Palm.

The book has not been edited for political correctness and while some of the attitudes are a shock in the modern day context, they have to be considered  for the insights that they provide.

This is a great book and I highly recommend it.

 

zombies acpocalypse z greg swansonWe all know that zombies are reanimated corpses, brought back to life by whatever means, but it’s a lot harder to define why they are so popular. People love reading and writing about them. Is it because of a general fascination with dead things? A terror management tactic (overcoming death by killing it in the form of zombies)? Is it Freudian – allowing our inner zombie to express itself?

It doesn’t really matter. Zombies provide us with a lot of entertainment and particularly in Apocalypse Z and Uncommon Ground, two zombie novels by indie author G. E. Swanson. These two fast-paced books follow the adventures of a group of youngsters attempting to survive after the United States has been stricken by a deadly zombie virus. The core characters are brothers Mark and Jeff, sisters Lisa and Dedee and their friend Jet, and nurses Tami and Sheryl. Others join them in the two adventures – some survive, and others don’t. In Apocalypse Z the group are trying to get to Mark and Jeff’s family’s remote cabin which has been prepared as a survival centre with weapons, food and energy supplies. The youngsters face goon squads as well as zombies, not to mention their own fears.

In Uncommon Ground the group need supplies so have to run the gauntlet of the zombies again. They pick up some more survivors and meet with the mysterious Smith. They also encounter a very different type of zombie who looks like becoming quite a force to reckon with in the future. They also learn that the government isn’t worried about killing off groups of survivors in their drastic attempts to keep zombie numbers contained. Yet another threat to cope with.

Both novels are exciting, unpredictable, full of action and the work of a very imaginative, energetic writer.

So time to here from the author. Over to Greg.

zombie uncommon ground greg swanson1. Tell us briefly about Apocalypse Z and Uncommon Ground.
Apocalypse Z and Uncommon Ground are the first two books of the series. It’s about a group of young adults that were brought together through a twist of fate shortly after an outbreak of a deadly zombie virus. Their first goal was to get to a safe place and ride it out; hoping things would go back to normal soon. When they discover that things may never be what they once were, they start work on a safe haven for the living to give humankind a chance to start over.

2. What’s the story behind the stories? Why did you write the book?
When I sat down I knew that there were scads of zombie books already out there, so I wanted to something a little different. Almost all the ones that I’ve read have adult heroes, but there were little to none with young adults/teens as the hero. Teens are smarter than what some people give them credit for, they can quickly adapt to new situations, and are willing to extend a hand to others in need. The parents were removed, making them orphans with only each other to rely on for protection and support.

3. What do you enjoy most about writing about zombies? Do you ever scare yourself?
The zombies, smash, bash, guts and gore. I have been a big zombie fan since the 1980s and can’t get enough of them. Though I haven’t scared myself with zombies, there are a few other creatures I have in mind for future books that had me looking over my shoulder at times.

4. Which of the main characters are you most like? Mark? Jeff? Lisa? Jet?
In one way or another, most of them have a tiny little sliver of me in them, but not enough to say they are like me. However, I would have to say that Mark has a few more slivers than the others.

5. Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?
I have a basic idea before I get with a friend of mine who is a very talented artist. I’ll select a few characters from the story to be on the cover, give him a little information on the story line, and what I had in mind. Zach is really amazing; he’ll take that, fill in any gaps and make it all come together. The cover has to reflect a little on the genre; it must be exciting and graphic.

Greg Swanson26. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
Actually, it was something that happened over time. When I was in the fourth grade I had a teacher that had us do quite a bit of writing. Once there was a contest between three classes (fourth through sixth grade) to write a poem and a short essay. I got first place for my essay and third place for the poem. This is what first inspired me, plus my mother always told me I have and over active imagination. Later in Junior High I tried finding books about writing, but they always seemed to be checked out by others. Fast forward about twenty years and the internet came along and shortly after that was news groups, some of the very first social networking. I would jot down short stories and post a couple paragraphs a day through them, but that was as far as it went. Over the next several years I checked into it a couple of times without success. Unless you had just the right connections, or the money to do it yourself, it wasn’t going to happen. I had neither. Then eBooks came along and evolved to a point where book sellers like Amazon made it possible, so I went for it.

7. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Don’t just aspire, do it. Put your fingers to the keys and start typing. Book sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble has made it possible to get published without an agent or publishing house.

8. How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and self vs. conventional publishing?
I like printed books, but they aren’t that convenient. I would usually have several with me and it got tiresome having to lug them around. When I decided to self-publish, I went to Amazon and bought a Kindle Touch just so I could see what eBooks had evolved into. Once I saw how convenient it was to carry not just a few, but hundreds of books, I was sold. Also, it seems that everything is going mobile and people can have all their stuff on one device, music, movies, and now books. Cost is another factor. A person can get two or three eBooks books for the same price as one printed book.

I’ve only self-published, so I can’t really compare the two. All I can say is that I’ve talked to a few authors that have gone that way, and they weren’t completely happy with the results. Something else that must be kept in mind is that with self-publishing comes self marketing and promotion. I would say to try it as an independent first; if it isn’t working, check into publishers that can help you with it.

9. How do you keep sane as an indie author?
I write and have fun doing it. I’ll start typing and get so focused on the story that anything that might have been bothering me is forgotten.

10. Do you have any writing rituals?
No, I clear my mind and start typing.

11. Anything else our readers need to know about you?
I’m an adrenaline junkie of sorts and used to take things to the extreme for the rush. But I don’t bounce as well as I did twenty years ago and the healing process takes longer, so I’ve had to slow down.

12. And finally, would you secretly like to be a zombie?
I don’t think so. It would be really boring walking around all the time with nothing to do, wearing the same torn and dirty clothes every day, and the stench of rotting meat would get pretty gnarly after a week.

Visit Greg’s Facebook page here.

Buy the books here:

Apocalypse Z on Amazon.com

Uncommon Ground on Amazon.com

Today’s Books Are Cool feature is about Marcia Turner, indie author of murder mysteries. Marcia has recently published two very different books in the genre which we’ll take a quick look at first before hearing from Marcia about her books and writing.

misplaced coverMisplaced Loyalty was Marcia’s debut detective novel. Patsy Hodge won’t be second best – not in her job as a police detective or to another woman. After a relationship with a man at work who turned out to be married, she transfers to another area and finds herself working for the prickly and opinionated John Meredith. She forms an uneasy alliance with another female detective in Meredith’s team, Tanya, as they investigate what at first appeared to be suicides but are now realised to be assisted suicides – in some cases, very assisted. Patsy proves to be a very sharp investigator, which antagonises Tanya, but she’s not the only enemy Patsy makes. Surprisingly, her biggest initial enemy, her boss Meredith, proves to have another side. He’s been frankly a complete bastard to women in the past, but it’s time to change. Especially when Patsy appears to be in real danger. However, whether two such strong-willed people can make as successful a private team as they do a professional one remains to be seen.

This is a supremely successful murder mystery with rounded, convincing characters who grab your attention and an extremely clever and unpredictable plot. There’s tension, terror, intrigue, humour and romance, and this book will appeal to anyone who likes any of those elements since it’s so readable and entertaining.

Next up is Murderous Mishaps.

Muderous Mishaps CoverFive work colleagues meet up at the reasonably nice St James Hotel for a weekend of pampering and self-indulgence. There aren’t many other guests there – a few priests, an elderly couple, a much younger people and a few others, including a hotel inspector. So Suzie, Jenny, Debby, Charity and Anna should get plenty of attention from the spa staff and the dishy French barman. Hotel manager Gina Brown determinedly keeps standards the highest she can, despite the fact that this weekend she’s having to deal with Cornwall’s heaviest summer rain in decades, power failures – and a dead body. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink, and several people overindulge over the period!

The police arrive swiftly to deal with the body and with the weather meaning no one can leave the hotel, it shouldn’t be too hard to solve the crime. And there’s no shortage of perpetrators ready to own up. When DI B asks for a confession, several guilty parties jump up. So who really did commit the crime? And just how many murders were there?

There’s a lot of entertainment to be had from this lively, clever and very funny murder mystery. Marcia Turner has woven a fascinating plot and she has a lovely, natural writing style. You’re there with our fun five leading females as they tease each other, take part in the karaoke competition, and although they get the claws out on each other occasionally, they’re genuinely kind and caring. They take other guests, notably Barbara and Simon, under their wing and look out for each other. And only one of them might be a murderer…

Marcia Turner has a great eye for detail and the close-knit community she creates in this hotel draws us in. Every single one of her characters is complex and truly intriguing. No little mannerism or quirk escapes the author’s eye. The plot is ingenious, to say the least, and keeps us interested, puzzled and guessing to the very end.

marcia picAnd now, over to Marcia!

Tell us briefly about Misplaced Loyalty.

Misplaced Loyalty was my second full length novel, although the first published. The first novel I wrote was Murderous Mishaps although written under a working title of “Whodunitchiclitthing”. Once I’d completed that, I decided to see if I could write a serious whodunit. I wanted it to be a little different, so I threw a will they won’t they into the mix. It was a huge learning curve in just about every way, and eventually absorbed every spare minute of my time. Once I had finished it, I missed the development of the characters and began to plot out the next in the series, whilst editing/rewriting what eventually became Murderous Mishaps.

What’s the story behind the story? Why did you write the book?

As mentioned above, I was coming to the end of writing Murderous Mishaps, and wanted to write something less frivolous. I saw a news item on a poor man who had been badly injured and wanted to end his life. He had been an active sportsman and father, and found himself a quadriplegic, unable even to feed himself. He was brave enough not to take the option to end his life quietly, but challenged the law through the high court, wanting to be given permission to end his life legally, and on his terms. He did that to both protect his family and those that would have to help him, and to provide hope to others in a similar situation. He lost his case and his reaction was harrowing. He died a few weeks later. I began to wonder, what if? What if there was someone willing to risk helping those who saw no future, irrespective of the law? Those whose lives had become so retched, that death was the most palatable option. But what if that person started making the decision as to when the time had come?

I wanted to consider the argument from both sides. I wanted to show that there are people, who, for one reason or another, truly had reached the end of their life as they see it, and the misery it causes them waking up each day. I countered this by showing that some days they were glad that they had seen their loved ones one more time, and that giving others control over their existence could prove fatal. I wanted to question that if such an agreement had been made, at what point does the decision to end your life pass into the hands of others.

Was it an easy story to write?

Surprisingly, yes. I had the basic premise as to how the victims would die, and I knew I wanted to show that whilst these awful things were going on, life for everyone else carried on as usual. I think that’s why I introduced the will they won’t they element. Meredith & Hodge were desperately trying to find and stop the villain, whilst trying to decide whether or not to become involved with each other. I would confess though, that I didn’t decide finally ‘who did it’, until I was over half way through.

Which character are you most like? Patsy? Jasper? Meredith?

Hmm. That’s a tough question. Probably a mixture of Patsy and Meredith, weighted toward Patsy. I am quite calm and pragmatic about most things.  I don’t like to be the center of attention, I’m quite happy to be on the peripherals looking in, but more often than not get dragged in to the thick of things. When I explode, which is rare, it is of that moment and then I move on.

 

And now we’d like to hear a little bit about your latest novel Murderous Mishaps.

My “Whodunitchiclitthing” was born from a conversation with a friend. She had been asked to help someone who had ‘killed’ their partner with an odd weapon. The conversation ended with her saying, “They wouldn’t believe you if you wrote it down!”  I wasn’t working at the time, and having always enjoyed writing I thought, why not? I sketched out a story where I was able to drop in many of unusual and amusing things that had happened to my friends and colleagues over the years. I borrowed a pet irritation from here, and a mannerism from there, and my cast was born.

It’s fair to say it’s less serious than Misplaced Loyalty, even though we have a few bodies. Was it more fun to write?

Not really, as it was supposed to be farcical, and because I’d never attempted anything like it before, I found getting some of the scenes to work without overdoing it really difficult. I’d love to write stories that make people laugh, and admire writers who seem to be able to do so effortlessly. It was never supposed to be a comedy but nor was it serious, and when I decided to publish it I was concerned that readers would think I meant it to be taken seriously.

Your lady characters in Murderous Mishaps are successful, glamorous businesswoman. I get the feeling you’re one too. Who are you most like out of Anna, Jenny, Debby, Suzie and Charity?

Glamorous is not a word I would ever associate with myself. It made me laugh reading the question. However I was a Regional Director for a large corporate for many years and I was competent at my job. I suppose if I had to choose a character most like myself, it would be Anna, sensible, reliable, a tiny bit adventurous, and so not totally boring.

enid-blytonWhat’s the main appeal of crime fiction?

I like reading all types of fiction but I like to be challenged as the story develops. I grew out of Enid Blyton at about nine years of age, and started reading Agatha Christie because that was mainly what was lying about.  I like to work out what, why and how with whatever I’m reading, and when I came to writing Murderous Mishaps, it seemed natural to drop all the things I wanted to include into a whodunit.  Surprisingly, some of my favourite novels are not related to crime in anyway.

Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?

I found a graphic designer quite by chance, gave him a brief synopsis of the stories and he came up with various designs. With both Misplaced Loyalty and Murderous Mishaps the covers jumped out at me. With Ill Conceived the second in the Meredith & Hodge series I did give him several of my own ideas. I am not artistic in anyway shape or form, but I know what I like. The aim with Murderous Mishaps was to ensure readers knew this was not a serious read. With the other two, I wanted to catch the eye and whilst depicting perhaps a little of the story, ensure that it raised more questions than it answered.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I don’t think there was an absolute moment. I’ve always enjoyed making up stories. I would find myself in situations where on the face of it everything was normal, but someone would do or say something that wasn’t quite right. I would find myself making up dramatic reasons for it, just for my own amusement. The reality of course was far more boring. One day I simply sat down in front of the laptop and started writing fuller versions of my thoughts and exaggerations.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

To research how things work as an indie author. Join as many writers groups as you can find time to attend both on line and in person if possible, and learn by other people’s mistakes. I am not at all technical and managed to make as many mistakes with the first upload of Misplaced Loyalty, as was possible to make. I also didn’t consider how I was going to promote it to anyone other than people I already knew. So, do your homework first and be prepared. I now have the legacy of some reviews which would have been great if it wasn’t for the mistakes I made. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty it get yourself an editor!

This is your baby. You have nurtured and developed it, you have done your absolute utmost to give it a good start in the world, and then you let it down at the final hurdle by sending it out into the world without first making sure shoelaces are tied, and it trips up on the first outing. That can be corrected of course, but some damage will already have been done. It would be so much better to avoid the fall if at all possible. An editor will tie the laces for you.

And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

Not really, I’m just an average mum, wife, or work colleague. I happen to disappear for hours on end in front of a laptop, and I sometimes ask odd questions at inappropriate moments much to others amusement. Such as, “can you get DNA from urine?” whilst eating dinner.  Other than that I’m normal!

Thanks Marcia!

You can buy Marcia’s books here: