Saturday, November 22, 2014

Richard Godwin's Two-Minute Pitch for Confessions of a Hit Man

OK, I'll admit the cover is impressive but we'll have to change that wussy looking fellow. I'm thinking a young Schwarzenegger. Or an old Miley Cyrus. Never mind, we can work that out later with the Promotion Department. Let's talk about what's inside. How did you come up with the idea?
A tethering of incidents and ideas, much like the juxtapositions of newspapers, we inhabit a narrative structure. I rented a villa in the interior of Sicily from a Mafia lawyer one blazing summer near where Bernardo Provencano, Cappo di tutti was hiding, and had been hiding for 42 years shortly before his arrest as Berlusconi was ousted, and I was simultaneously interested in the machinations of the secret services and Syria, so I have a hit man working for the Cosa Nostra becoming implicated in a UK government plot selling plutonium to Syria.
"Walla"? Are you from Portland? Never mind, I don't really care. So, what's the teaser pitch? What makes me really give a crap about this book?  

It will seduce and beguile you. And leave you wanting more.

Yeah? Maybe we should really go for Miley with all this seduction stuff. Never mind, we'll never afford her. Who have you got playing the lead here and how does he change during the book?  

Jack, ex-Commando, expert in reconnaissance. You will love him because he is preying on those more corrupt than him, a sort of modern knight on a charger coming to your rescue.  In the book, he is trying to save both America and Britain.
He changes social situations through a higher level of moral assassination. He may well be a philosopher.
A philosopher? Yeah, that's what he looks like on the cover. On the other hand, there's no law against a philosopher having a bitching bod, is there? Don't answer, I'm just thinking aloud. Why this title?
Can you think of a better one?
Well, sure. Um, there's... Or we could say... Wait a second, that's not in my wheelhouse. Let's move along. What’s the logline--the one-liner that will pack 'em in the seats?

Confessions Of A Hit Man is the irresistible love child of The Day Of The Jackal and The Godfather.

Not bad. OK, last and most important question. Why should an important, rich, and incredibly handsome Movie Mogul like me buy this book?
Because it will give you directions to the exit. Any exit you need right now, trust me.
Damn! I love you! You've got guts and brains and the best thing is, I don't understand most of what you're talking about. The exit is right down the hall but, before you go, Doris, make out a blank check for...what's your name?  

Richard Godwin
Right, I knew that. Make it to Ralph Goodwin or whoever and we'll just let him fill it out.  

Check out "Confessions of a Hit Man" for yourself at Amazon

Confessions of a Hit Man

Thursday, November 6, 2014

F by Daniel Kehlmann review – a comic novel about the death of God

This is an exuberant look at love and life in an absurd and godless universe

Laughter in the darkness … Daniel Kehlmann. Photograph: Jens Trenkler/dpa/Corbis

It cannot be an easy thing to write a comic novel about the death of God. Still, the German novelist Daniel Kehlmann may just have pulled it off. “F” is the protagonist of a book within a book, the debut novel of Arthur Friedland, a rather disorganised buffoon who never had any success as a writer until an encounter with a hypnotist gave his life its chilly purpose: “This is an order, and you’re going to follow it because you want to follow it, and you want to because I’m ordering you, and I’m ordering you because you want me to give the order. Starting today, you’re going to make an effort. No matter what it costs. Repeat!”

My Name Is No One is so exuberantly nihilistic, its readers are throwing themselves off TV transmission towers. As Kehlmann says: “The sentences are well constructed, the narrative has a powerful flow, the reader would be enjoying the text were it not for a persistent feeling of somehow being mocked.”



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Phillip Simpson knows something about writing a novel.

Phillip Simpson's book "The Minotaur" is coming out in 2015

Writing a Novel

At the time of writing this, I have just completed my seventh novel. This  is on top of the fifty odd chapter books I have had published.

Most of my novels fall between 70k to 110k words. This is a lot of
words. Even if you typed ‘and’ 70,000 times, you’d find that it would  take you a while.

Writing a novel is a serious undertaking. It involves a great deal of commitment in terms of time and energy – time and energy that many people simply do not have. I read a recent blog that stated that 97% of writers never finish their novel. I understand why.

Whilst I may have written several novels, it’s not to say that I’m an accomplished novelist. In fact, I still think that in many ways I am still at the prologue of my career. Not all of my novels were successful. In fact, not all of my novels were that good (I think five of the seven were, but that’s just me).

Saying that, I have become better with practice. Not only that, I have become better at planning – or not – but I will explain further in a moment. Coming up with ideas is the most important, however.

This is where my top tips come in. The idea or premise is crucial. Your agent (if you
have one) won’t be pitching your amazing writing. What they will pitch is the idea. Without a good premise, who cares about your writing (not entirely true, but I’m trying to make a point here). Sure, it’s going to come under scrutiny later, but you have to intrigue people first with your idea.

A good idea can be summarized into a couple of sentences. If it’s good, it will immediately get people’s attention. It’s like being hit by lightning. Perhaps you’ve taken an
idea that’s been done before and put a twist on it, perhaps it’s something completely fresh and different (unlikely – as Bono said ‘every artist is a thief’) – it doesn’t matter, it just needs to be good.
You’ll know it when you hear it or read it. I often lie in bed at night just thinking of ideas, taking any situation and imagining ‘what if.’ I know straight away when I’ve got a good idea. I feel it in my bones.

Without a good idea, you really don’t have a novel. Your writing might be exceptional but without it being scaffolded around an excellent idea, it won’t matter much. Most people read a book because they like the story idea. If the writing is terrible, they will probably not read any other books by the same author, but at least you hooked them for a moment. Besides, a writer might have shockingly clumsy sentence structure for one or two novels, but after that, it should improve. Being a good writer takes time and practice. In spite of any internal or external limitations, it will get better.

For More Click Here

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Touring Across America: Author G. Michael Vasey Spills The Beans

 G. Michael Vasey is one of those unique writers you come across on a hot summer day. I have marvelled at this interview, and I’ve wondered what I can really say about it. I like this writer—a lot—and I can’t wait for you to like him, too! His book The Last Observer is a bit of everything, and that is the best way to describe this interview. It’s a bit of everything!
G. Michael Vasey is currently touring radio stations. Catch his breathtaking interview with “The X Zonetoday.
gary vasey

Who do you have in mind when you write?
Me. I write about my interests and things that I am passionate about. I trust that the end product is something of interest to others and that I have something unique to offer – my perspective and one that is entertaining and different.
How do you find “inspiration” and where does it live?
Inspiration often comes to me in a semi-meditative state. So listening to music of the right type can start the juices flowing, or sometimes I listen to meditation music on Youtube as I write. It seems to relax me and open a channel to the creative part of me. Other books can also give inspiration too, so when I am reading something it will trigger a series of questions or thoughts and an inner dialogue. I don’t find finding inspiration difficult to be honest. If you look around and pay attention to what is around you, how can you not be inspired? For example, until recently, I lived in Prague. Most people tramp to work, head down, worrying about the day ahead or wishing themselves miles away. As I walked through Prague to work, I looked up – at the glorious architecture and beauty, history and sheer wow of the city I lived in…. that inspires me.
Have you always aspired to be a writer? 
No, but writing has always been a key part of what I do for a living, and I have always enjoyed writing. Being an author sort of sprung up on me when I realized what a body of work I had had published as articles, newsletters, book chapters and so on. Once I got comfortable with the idea, I thought – why not give it a proper go?
Tell me about how you became a writer. What was the first step for you?
Having to write so as a part of my job. I must have written well over 500 articles in newsletters and magazines professionally along with 100 white papers and reams of blog articles. So, it is something I do continually. The step you ask about is probably when I first sat down with the objective of writing a book, and I did that because I was told to in meditation…
Do you have a distinctive “voice” as a writer?
I don’t know to be honest, but in poetry I do try to play with words in certain evocative ways.
Do you think anyone can learn to be an effective writer, or is it an unnamed spiritual gift?
I think anyone who really wants to write can learn, but very few writers are true masters. That is a gift that you are born with.
Is there a book you’ve written that you’re most proud of?
No, as I tend to keep looking forward as opposed to backwards. That’s not to say there isn’t a book I am fond of. My novel, The Last Observer, though certainly not perfect, is my favourite book to date; and my last book of poetry – Moon Whispers – I think is my strongest effort yet. I pick the novel because it has the potential to appeal to a broader group of readers, I think.
On average, how long does it take for you to write your ideas down before you start writing a book?
I don’t follow this approach usually. I plan it in my head and then, after it’s going, I start to write down subplots and themes I wish to develop. In the end though, the books have a surprising talent for writing themselves and surprising even me. I suppose it’s because I write in a meditative state usually and it’s as if it’s not me doing the writing anyway.
What would you say is the “defining” factor in your writing? What makes it yours?
Ah, good question! I think it’s my passion for trying to understand the nature of reality and my practise of magic. You see, I think magic (or if you prefer, metaphysics) has already described the Universe, and science is gradually catching up. What fascinates me is how we create our own reality or our own perspective on reality and how imagination and will can make magic. This provides for a never-ending smorgasbord of ideas, plots, endings and concepts to play with.
How do you guard your time to do what’s most important?
I am a multi-tasker and am always engaged in fifteen things at once. I move my focus from one thing to another and that constant variety keeps me engaged and busy.
What are some of the more common distractions you struggle with, and what ways have you found to overcome them?
There are times when I simply do not want to write. So I don’t.
What kind of review do you take to heart?
Oh, I hate bad reviews and take them ever so personally. It seems to me that there are a few people out there that simply get a kick out of writing deeply negative reviews – like trolls on a discussion board. I can’t help being hurt by deeply negative criticism. On the other hand, we only get better through criticism. It is how that criticism is delivered that makes the difference between something we gain from or something we are hurt by.
How do you decide what your next book will be about?
Well, I decide probably in a moment of massive interest in something or an idea, but then I end up writing something else entirely! For example, on my bio it says I am writing a book about the Fool in magic. It’s a great idea, and I have written a few pages, but I keep finding other things to write about, and I make no progress at all on that idea. I keep it in the bio to remind me that I must/should/will write that book.
Was there a link between your childhood and your vocation as a writer?
Yes – imagination. I had and still do have a very well-developed imagination to the point I can really be where I imagine I am. It is this imagination that runs riot and is the creative seed within me.
As a writer, however, you have the opportunity to self-reflect, to revisit experiences. How does that feel?
Sometimes good but not always….often, the worst of life’s experiences are actually the best – at least for writing.
What motivates you to tackle the issues others may avoid, such as nature and spirituality?
I have been interested in such things since I was knee high to a grasshopper as I wrote in my first book – Inner Journeys. Back when I was 12, I was attending meetings of the church for psychical research and reading Blavatsky… So, I am well-grounded in this stuff and a practising magician to boot. As a result, I guess I see the world a bit differently and want to share the idea that the world looks like you want it to.
When you start a new book, do you know how a book will end as you’re writing it?  Or does its direction unfold during the writing, research and/or creative process?
The Last Observer wrote itself, I swear. The ending surprised me and still does.
How do you see your role in impacting and influencing society?
I only hope that I can make people think a bit, wake up and look around and see that not everything is how they were taught. If they do that, then I have already succeeded.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to do?
Writing is so integral to everything I do, and it’s not possible to answer this question.
What are the things a writer “must not” do?
You know, I don’t like rules. Why should a writer not do anything? I do feel sometimes that we are constrained by success, but real art is breaking all the rules and having the product mean something. This is why I love poetry – there are NO rules. I hear some people criticising Indie writers as if the only people who should write are Shakespeare and his ilk; but this is literary snobbishness, isn’t it? Everyone should be able to write if they so choose, and if they break rules of grammar but people love their stuff, then great….
What are some pieces of advice that you would give someone on writing well?
I would never tell someone how to write – I think people should write as they wish, and some will deem it to be good and some bad.
Young writers often make foolish mistakes. What is a mistake to avoid?
Answering a bad review… don’t do it. Ever. I did and I learned.
What obstacles and opportunities do you see for writers in the years ahead?
The whole industry is in flux with eBooks, Amazon and so on. Trying to keep up with how to market what you write, how to make money, how to find an audience, whether to self-publish or not? It’s knowing how things will fall out that could present either an obstacle or opportunity.
Could you talk about one work of creative art that has powerfully impacted you as a person?
Yes – a CD by Blackfield called Blackfield II. The music on that CD inspires me to write, and it feeds my creative juices. Every single poem in Moon Whispers was written listening to that CD. In fact, music often is the work of creative art that sends me….
What relationship do you see between imagination and creativity, and the real world?
Imagination and creativity are intertwined like lovers – one needs the other, and together they make beautiful music.
For a writer, it is easy to become an elitist.  Have you ever (or do you still) struggle with pride as an author?
Not really – I do what I do and lots of people do the same so there is nothing special about me. But let’s see how I behave if I ever have a real best seller, shall we?
With all your success, how do you stay humble?
Age. I am that sort of age where nothing much impresses me anymore, least of all myself.
Have you ever considered writing fiction full time?
I would love to… will you get me a contract?

Explore your imagination with “The Last Observer“…

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Ready For Take Off: An Interview With Author Rebecca McLendon | Novel Ideas

Rebecca McLendon is a new writer, but this new writer title has a
twist. She has years of experience with words. As a teacher she taught
the written word, and as a retiree she has dedicated her time to
learning to fly and writing a book. That book is called “The Day I Grew
Wings: Journey of a Soul With A Destiny.” 

What’s this new book about?

It’s about learning to fly!

“It all began when we decided to
get an airplane. I looked forward to riding with my husband over the
countryside and enjoying the scenery. But one day he dropped the bomb.
He told me I would need to learn to fly the plane, because, should
something happen to him up there, I would have to put it on the ground. I
began waking up at night silently screaming because I felt I was flying
out of control up there with no way of getting the plane down. We
ordered the Ground School materials, and thus the journey began. I had
overcome cancer. I could do this too. My new song became, “I believe I
can fly.” As instruction continued, and the hours added up, I suddenly
realized I was a pilot.”

Let’s see what Rebecca has to say about her experiences as a writer!

Ready For Take Off: An Interview With Author Rebecca McLendon | Novel Ideas

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet | THE BIG THRILL

By E. A. Aymar
I almost missed the deadline for this article and it’s all Barry

Lancet’s damn fault. I got so absorbed in his second thriller, TOKYO

KILL, that I ended up reading it slower than I usually do, savoring each

line, observing how expertly and subtly the plot twists and

complications were built. Those who are familiar with Lancet’s

JAPANTOWN, which was a Barry Award finalist for Best First Novel and

optioned for television by J. J. Abrams and Warner Bros., will be

excited to catch up with Jim Brodie’s newest adventure, which takes

place largely in Japan and pays homage to that country’s beautiful and

mysterious customs and society.

These customs are introduced to the reader both through Brodie’s

interactions and personal knowledge, as well as through his side career

as an art collector. The two cases he’s been involved with have both

involved relics related to Japan’s past, and the country’s history is

revealed to the reader as Brodie begins to unravel the mysteries behind

the homicides that end up on his doorstep.

In addition to his writing, Barry Lancet has worked in publishing. He

resides in Tokyo, and was gracious enough to answer some questions

about his work (the Russian spy story is especially fascinating):

Your debut novel JAPANTOWN won four “best” book citations, is a finalist for a Barry Award, and has been optioned for TV by J. J. Abrams. Do you feel any pressure for the next installment in the series?

No, I’ve been too busy. JAPANTOWN reprinted three

times before publication, and a fourth was scheduled the week the book

came out. All the interest generated a lot of interviews and talks so,

ironically, I had no time to think about the second- or third-book

jitters when it came time to write them. I just jumped right into

stories. I already had several threads for the books in mind, and so it

was a smooth transition.

Click here for much more Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet | THE BIG THRILL

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Killers, Kids, and Human Heads | David Swatling

Killers, Kids, and Human Heads

Serial Killers“A human head weighs about the same as a large oven-ready chicken,” crime fiction author Peter James told a roomful of rapt listeners at ThrillerFest 2014 in New York City. If anyone felt queasy, they didn’t show it. After all, the panel was called Sick, Sick, Sick: Is it Possible to Write Great Thrillers and Not Be a Secret Sadist?
It’s always fascinating to spend a weekend with writers who think a
great deal about new and grisly methods to murder someone or how to
commit the perfect crime. With my debut suspense novel coming out in two
months, and having started a second one, I couldn’t think of a better
place to be than this yearly International Thriller Writers event.

Unhappy Endings

The first panel to really capture my attention was, perversely, on how stories end. Moderated by historical author Nancy Bilyeau, the name almost said it all – Happily Ever After & Other Myths: Must Everyone Hold Hands or is a Dark Ending Possible?
She noted that endings in romance fiction have an iron-clad
happily-ever-after rule, whereas in literary fiction anything goes. What
about thrillers? The consensus of the panel was that the reader must
not feel manipulated or robbed.

“Steinbeck’s a pretty good writer but he needs to work on his endings.” Romantic suspense author Carla Neggers’ 12-year-old son had just finished reading Of Mice and Men,
and he was not happy. But sometimes making readers unhappy means the
writer is doing something right, countered thriller author Chelsea Cain.
Earning the emotion by going deep and challenging readers’ expectations
are important factors to keep in mind. Then there’s the question of how
much punishment a villain deserves? I remember at my previous visit to ThrillerFest
in 2012, one writer said, “The nastier a killer is, the more terrible
an end he or she should meet.” (Advice I took to heart in the next draft
of my book.)
ThillerFest Panel

Killers, Kids, and Human Heads | David Swatling

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Barry Lancet's 2-Minute Book Pitch for "Japantown" (delivered to Clueless Movie Mogul)

(Movie Mogul is on phone as Barry Lancet walks in)

Sure, J.J. Let's have lunch and we can talk over my concept for Fast and Furious 22. You're gonna love it. 

(as he punches out of the call, he hits the wrong button and the speaker says 
"At the tone, the time is..." before he can shut it off.)

That Abrams, always the joker. Heh, heh. OK, young man, I'm warning you. Don't waste my time. I'm a very big fish in this town and I'm used to making sushi out of punk writers like you. You've got 2 minutes to sell me on this Japantown nonsense. Don't waste it.


Why did you pick this title?

Japantown is the one that stuck, from a list of about fifteen. It’s where the book starts—with murder—and the challenges of what happens in San Francisco’s Japantown and elsewhere become symbolic by the book’s end.


What’s the logline?

Japantown opens with the perfect murder—and one clue that no one can read. 


What’s the Teaser Pitch?

Everyone in Hollywood wants to do their Japan picture. This one bounces from San Francisco to Tokyo and beyond. It has potential. 


So you think you know all about this town, huh? We'll see. Who is your hero and how does he change in the book?

Jim Brodie is a Japan expert based in San Francisco who grew up in Japan, born to Caucasian American parents. He knows the culture, the country, and the people. He sees things about Asian cultures none of us can. As the story progresses, he faces increasingly overwhelming threats against himself, family, and friends, and must change and adapt. 


How did you come up with the idea?

After twenty-five years as an expat American in Japan, I wanted to show what I’ve seen and experienced—and chose the form of a mystery-thriller. 


Why should I, the Incredibly Rich and Handsome Movie Mogul, buy this book?

You already did—for a television drama. And your name is J. J. Abrams. 


 Really? J.J. bought it? (coughs) I mean, I knew that. As a matter of fact, we were going to talk about it over lunch. Speaking of which, can I buy you lunch? 


Love to but I'm meeting with Spielberg in 10 minutes about my next book. Ciao.

(Lancet leaves. He snaps his fingers at the pretty receptionist 
on his way out. He is whistling as he gets into the elevator.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Great, Great, Great! A Review of The Bullet-catcher's Daughter.

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Book 1 [Kindle Edition]

Rod Duncan Rod Duncan is a published crime writer. His first novel Backlash was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, and he has since written three other novels (all Simon & Schuster UK), and had his first screenplay produced. His background is in scientific research and computing, and he lives in Leicester.

( Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on August 26, 2014.  I downloaded a review copy from

(Disclaimer:  I dowloaded this out of a feeling of solidarity with Angry Robot and the great authors on their list. This was, of course, before Angry Robot discontinued MY publisher, Exhibit A, without warning. I will attempt to be "fair and balanced" as one of my many previous employers would say.)

First, the headline. 

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is a wonderful book. Great writing, believable and enjoyable characters, clear and different alternate universe, and a story line that actually goes somewhere. Buy it, enjoy it.

Now, the precis of the book from Angry Robot. 

Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life – as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…

 Finally, the review.

First off, I am really going to miss the artists and cover designers at Exhibit A/Angry Robot. The cover for my book, Courier, is probably the reason for half of my total sales. The cover design for Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (henceforth known as BCD,) is even more original, visually startling, and still ties directly to the story,

Gotta love dem Limey artists!

On to the story. I haven't read any of the other books by Rod Duncan but now, I plan to find all of them. BCD is the story of a brave, intelligent, and resourceful heroine (and a virtually identical hero) who are trying to make a living as Private Intelligence Gatherers in an England that ended the Civil War between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads with a peace treaty that divided the country in half. (In reality, the Roundheads chopped off the King's head, the Cavaliers fought back and won the war, and the Roundheads becames the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock.  Didn't get that tidbit of history in your high-school history?)

In addition, Ned Ludd, the semi-mythical weaver who became famous for destroying an automatic loom and gave us the term 'luddite' (which is only used in arguments between tech pundits these days.) led a successful uprising against the types of technology that put people out of work and made their lives a living hell, (In real life, the machines won and millions of workers were unemployed and starving until Margaret Thatcher forced them back to work.) To enforce the elimination of technology that was not in the interests of the human condition, an International Patent Office was established to rule on every invention and, at this point (which is 1973 as far as I can tell,) the entire world has signed on and the Patent Office is an Empire in all but name.

[By the way, I'm reporting the history in the book seriously but fooling around with my descriptions of reality. Go figure.]

OK, that's the world. It's an original and tight alternate universe that makes sense and allows for a great mixture of enormous balloons carrying people instead of trains, carnivals where the carney's live in brightly colored horse-drawn wagons, and very modern bureaucracies. You've got smuggling, pigeon post, religious humility facing aristocratic arrogance across a border and many other cool mazes for the author to run his characters through.

And he does run them. It's all centered on Elizabeth Barnabus and she's one of the best female characters I've read in a long time. Smart, tough, resourceful and determined, she is still capable of honest emotions and practical solutions. A refreshing change from the blood-soaked heroines of too many noir titles and the sex-obsessed wimps of too many romance novels.

The plot involves a normal intelligence assignment that grows into a life-threatening disaster that requires our heroine to race down country lanes and across international borders. It's reasonable and yet has twists at the end that which will catch you by surprise.

More than anything else, I enjoyed the writing. It was simply excellent: descriptive without being cloying, alien without being silly, and, I have no idea where Duncan learned so much about traveling carnivals and their unique language, customs, and signals.

Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is a great read. I looked forward to picking it up on my iPad every time. I never cringed at some phrase or description and I ended up lost in the adventures of Ms. Barnabus.

With any luck, Angry Robot will have better luck than Exhibit A and we can look forward to many more "Gas-lit Empire" novels.

(Damn you Marc Gasgoigne!!)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Kill In the Morning - A Wonderful Surprise!

A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin 

(Transworld Books Co. UK 2014  Click on book cover to purchase from Amazon.)

  OK, I'll start off with the criticism. This has got to be the worst cover I've ever seen. It's bad at first glance, second glance, and by third glance, you can't look at it any more. It's clunky, junky, and over complicated and it seems to scream, "Don't Read This Book!"

  Here's my advice. Immediately after you purchase this book (and you absolutely should,) rip the cover off, and dispose of it properly. By properly, I mean in a specialized toxic waste facility properly certified for used power rods from nuclear power plants. In a couple of thousand years, the new races that occupy Earth will dig it up and probably be wiped out, but that's what they get for ignoring the warning signs.

   Here's where the Wonderful Surprise comes in.

   The book is tremendous.

    Graeme Shimmin's debut is an alternate history speculative fiction novel that manages to avoid the pitfalls of the genre: the different world that grows out of the alteration of a single event is completely believable and the characters are fully developed and not just animatronic figures acting out Shimmin's concept. The protagonist is a British secret agent and assassin fighting in the 1950's Cold War between Britain and a Germany run by victorious Nazi's that now dominates Europe. Yes, there was a peace agreement instead of a Battle of Britain, the USA never entered the conflict, the British Empire still stands, and a Jewish State exists as a British colony.

  All-in-all, a fascinating concept and Shimmin makes the most of it. The Nazis are even more arrogant than reality circa 1943 and have spent years building kitschy monuments to themselves and their Aryan beliefs. The British are more down-at-heels and their technology never benefited from the innovation of the later war years. As happened between the US and Russia, the peace is maintained by a balance of terror backed by British and German atomic weapon stockpiles.

  The protagonist isn't really a hero, he's a man emptied of emotion and ideals by years of brutal combat in the shadows. He's a precision machine built for killing and Shimmin never allows sentiment or emotion to break in and shatter the character. There are two strong female characters, a pacifist member of the German resistance and another agent cashiered because she's grown too old--for a woman, that is. It's nice to see such strong portrayals in a genre all too often dominated by female characters who are defined by bra size and degree of willingness to bed the hero. The other characters are equally well-drawn; Nazis, both power-crazed and lost in the savagery that can arise out of total domination, a Jewish spymaster with wit and guile, and the inbred, elitist spymasters of a very Old School British Secret Service.

  A Kill in the Morning is a thriller and thrills is what you get--not a lot of explanation and blather. The action is crisp, well-written, and intense. Shimmin moves the hero (or anti-hero, if you prefer) through well-described locations across Europe and the Middle East and in and out of a intensifying series of dangerous situations. Fans of real and imagined post-war weaponry and airplane design will be particularly pleased with Shimmin's meticulous descriptions. One thing I appreciate (because so few authors do it) is that his battle scenes are done with bullets that don't always miss, guns that occasionally misfire, and injuries that don't conveniently heal after a day in bed.

  The writing is fluid and readers will be swept along with the action--do not start this book if you have an important meeting the next morning. I'm not going to spoil any of the twists in the plot--I mean, you didn't expect twists with an alternate history thriller?--but they all make sense and the characters live within this alternate world as completely as you live in yours. An excellent job, especially for a new author, and one that promises more to come. Expect to hear a lot about Graeme Shimmin in the future--I can see a long line of titles on the shelf (what, he's the only one who can have an alternate universe?)

  Just don't ask him to design your cover.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Goodreads | Charles Stross's Blog - Stross at the top of his game--which is to say, few do it better.



I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that "The Rhesus Chart" is officially available from next Thursday, July the Third. And to whet your appetite, it got a starred review in Kirkus:

Laundry regulars by now will be familiar with Stross' trademark sardonic,provocative, disturbing, allusion-filled narrative. And, here, with a structure strongly reminiscent of Len Deighton's early spy novels, the tone grows markedly grimmer, with several significant casualties and
tragedies, perhaps in preparation for Angleton's feared CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Stross at the top of his game--which is to say, few do it better. Pounce!
You can buy the US edition—and other Laundry titles—here, or the UK editions of the series here.

And tomorrow I'll be posting the first chapter here, on my blog!

Goodreads | Charles Stross's Blog - One week to go to THE RHESUS CHART - June 26, 2014 07:55

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Leonardo da Vinci’s Life and Legacy, in a Vintage Pop-Up Book | Brain Pickings


The legacy of the great artist, inventor, and
scientist in illustrated “interactive” paper engineering that would’ve
made Leonardo himself nod with delight.
As a lover of pop-up books, a celebrator of the intersection of art and science, and a great admirer of the vintage children’s book illustration of wife-and-husband duo Alice and Martin Provensen, I was instantly smitten with Leonardo da Vinci (public library)
— a glorious 1984 pop-up book that traces the life and legacy of the
legendary artist, inventor and scientist in gorgeous illustrations by
the Provensens and “interactive” three-dimensional paper engineering
that would’ve made Leonardo himself nod with delight.

In the spirit of previous efforts to convey the analog magic of vintage paper engineering in animated GIFs — including Bruno Munari’s “interactive” picture-books and this naughty Victorian pop-up book for adults
— I’ve animated a couple of the visuals, which is of course no
substitute for the hands-on whimsy but at the very least a whetting of
the appetite.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Life and Legacy, in a Vintage Pop-Up Book | Brain Pickings

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shield and Crocus: Heros, Villains and A World Like No Other | Joe's Geek Fest


Michael Underwood‘s Shield and Crocus is
an alternate world urban fantasy which contain a whole cast of
characters as villains, good guys, and semi-innocent bystanders. The
geography of the city, Audec-Hal, is that of a humanoid giant god, the
species are varied from the blue-skinned giant Freithin to the
yellow-skinned Ikanollo where all of the men look alike and as do the
women. The different races have various skills and, too top it all off,
there are spark storms which alter the citizens for Audec-Hal to give
them yet more individualistic funky powers. The heroes are the Shields
and the villains are a cartel of criminals, with lots of
in-fighting, who took over control of the city (and the City Mother) 50
years ago. Each run a district of the city. As the publisher blurb lays
it out:

Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel
and the Shields are the only resistance against the city’s overlords as
they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only
thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each
other as well—that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will
permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal.
It’s one thing to take a stand against
oppression, but with the odds stacked against the Shields, it’s another
thing to actually triumph.

Michael R.Underwood

Much more can be found at:

Shield and Crocus: Heros, Villains and A World Like No Other | Joe's Geek Fest: Shield and Crocus: Heros, Villains and A World Like No Other

Thursday, June 5, 2014

God, Writing, and the Creative Process — Medium


“‘Ole!’ to you, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert

of the most rewarding things about being a writer — and that’s saying
something, as they are too many cool things to count (Working in
pajamas! Reading! Cats!) is sitting down with other writers and
discussing the creative process. It is the one topic that transcends all
others. Numbers matter not a whit when one is faced with the cosmic
opening that comes when another writer explains HOW THEY DO IT.
seek out tomes on the subject, gobble up blogs, tweet our heroes, take
friends to lunch, searching for nuggets of wisdom. I call it Seeking
OPP — Other People’s Process.
are always shiny, exciting, logical. Everyone else’s process looks so
gloriously awesome, so intrinsic and organic. We listen at conferences,
smacking ourselves — Why didn’t I think of that? How come I don’t have
that level of understanding of my work? This must be why it takes so
long to write a book, I need to be doing X, or Y, or Z.
am a huge fan of the “How I Work” series on Lifehacker. Even though the
vast majority of the people don’t work in my industry, seeing them
drill down into what works and what doesn’t give me hope that one day, I
too will figure it out.
I have a long and varied list of things I do and own because of OPP. To name a few I can’t seem to live without:
  • Clairefontaine Notebooks
  • Levenger Circa Planner for research
  • Blackwing Pencils
  • Lamy Fountain Pens
  • MacAir
  • Scrivener
  • Evernote

God, Writing, and the Creative Process — Medium: God, Writing, and the Creative Process
How Books Are Made

“‘Ole!’ to you, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The second Jon Reznick Thriller, Hard Kill by J.B. Turner!


Hard Kill by J.B. Turner

The Second Jon Reznick Thriller…
An American diplomat goes missing and ex-Special Forces operative Jon Reznick joins a top secret team, led by FBI Assistant Director Martha Meyerstein, to help track him down.
The team believes that there may be a terrorist group – perhaps Islamists – who have kidnapped him, as the diplomat’s area of expertise is the Persian Gulf. But Reznick is training his sights on an unlikely candidate – a leading Washington DC surgeon.
But as the team itself comes under attack, and the 9/11 commemoration approaches, it becomes clear that the kidnapping is part of a much bigger plot, one that threatens not only New York, but the whole country too.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spain Has Talent: Author Jana Petken Reveals All.... | Novel Ideas


About This Interview
Petken is a talented writer who currently resides in Spain. She chose ahard genre when she became a writer and it’s only fair that we give her a great interview. What makes her stand above other writers? That’s an
easy one to answer– she writes as though she is watching a movie– her words are moving pictures. I think you will love her interview and her book… Enjoy!
The Guardian of Secrets
A historical family saga spanning four generations, from 1912, Kent, England, to Spain and its 1936–39 civil war. Celia and Ernesto’s two sons march under opposing banners, whilst their daughters take different
paths, one to the Catholic Church and the other to the battlefields, and in the shadow of war, an evil ghost from the past watches and waits for an opportunity to destroy the entire family. In exile, Celia and Ernesto can only wait and pray for their children and their safe return home..
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre and what does a would-be writer in your category need to know?

History has always held my interest. I love the subject and the wonderful opportunities that history can bring to the imagination. This is not a genre that I chose; I believe it chose me. To be able to read about kings, queens, wars, politicians, villains and heroes throughout
history, is a wonderful experience.

I can only give this advice to, would be, historical writers: When you tell a story, make your backdrop real. Take the time to investigate and research the facts surrounding your characters, such as locations, names, dates or events.

What kind of research did you do and where do you begin your research?

The research for The Guardian of Secrets was a long, painstaking job. I had no internet and spent my time in libraries, buying reference books, watching documentaries, visiting battle sites in Spain, studying the lives of nuns, interviewing Civil War survivors, and a couple of soldiers from opposing sides – I said painstaking but it was a wonderful

I still prefer researching the old fashioned way, rather than using Google or Wikipedia. They are both great tools but they don’t bring me the same sense of “Learning” as reference books.

Much More at 

Spain Has Talent: Author Jana Petken Reveals All.... | Novel Ideas:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cover Reveal: Surrender By Donna Malane

by Bryon Quertermous
It’s cover reveal time again. I love doing these. This is an exciting time for the book and for the author and I’m always happy when we get to be part of it here at Exhibit A. Before we get to the reveal though, I wanted to do an update on the decision I made after the last reveal. If you’ll recall I gave you two different styles of reveals. First, there was the smaller cover with all of the buying info right there in the post. The second was a larger cover with a link to the buying info on another page. And the winner is: The Larger Cover. So without further delay, I present:


Available September 2014
Missing persons expert, Diane Rowe, is used to making sense of other people’s lives. It’s just a pity she’s not having much luck with her own.
The brutal murder of her little sister, Niki, and the break-up of her marriage have tested her usual tough optimism. When Niki’s killer turns up dead, Diane is determined to nail the truth, despite the best efforts of her policeman ex-husband to sideline her.
But uncovering Niki’s seedy past reveals truths and dangers she never expected – or wanted – to face. Diane is determined to make sense of it all – whatever it takes.