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How fighting styles have transformed Hollywood

Posted October 29, 2014 by

Author of military-thriller THE SPARTAN Charles Purcell joins us on the blog to talk about fighty-kicky-punchy.

Tom Cruise’s turn last year as former MP turned lone wolf Jack Reacher in the movie of the same name was noteworthy for two things.
Firstly, Cruise’s embodiment of the Reacher character, a difficult ask considering that Reacher as written by Lee Child is six-foot-five and more than 100 kilograms, requiring some suspension of belief on the part of the audience; and secondly, the very interesting fighting style Cruise employed in the movie.

Cruise used a modified version of the Keysi street fighting method, where the fighter quickly closes with his opponent and strikes with knees, elbows and hammer fists.
A fighting style used previously by the Dark Knight in Batman Begins, Keysi’s effect on screen was dramatic, making Cruise’s hand-to-hand fights exciting and new, his method of striking fast and exotic. There’s one particular scene where he beats an opponent down using his fists as hammers – starting with the face and ending with the knee – that is like nothing I’ve never seen before, the systematic and dramatic demolition of a foe. So, too, is the battle when Reacher propels his knee into a kneeling foe’s face from a standing position, an image that has always stuck in my mind.
Jack Reacher is also a great detective drama, but the choice of Keysi helped elevate the action scenes and transformed the film beyond the standard Hollywood mystery.
Now it seems moviemakers, producers – even writers – are becoming more and more aware of how the use of a strange, rare or interesting fighting style can win over audiences.
For example, take the Bourne trilogy. Matt Damon exploded onto our screens with his deadly, super-fast martial arts moves, a mix of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali (not krav maga, as some believe). His fighting style was a far cry from the basic boxing and slugfests of, say, Bruce Wayne, movies, Bourne bringing down opponents before they could barely blink.

He may be a figure of some mockery now, but seven-dan black belt Steven Seagal made a big impression with his aikido moves in 1988’s Above The Law. Aikido has been around for a long time, yet it had rarely been seen on the big screen. With its rapid take-downs, Seagal made aikido seem exciting … made himself seen exciting. (Indeed, there’s no shame to admit that you once liked his movies. Plenty of us did.)
Another veteran action hero, Jean-Claude Van Damme, also brought something different to the screen with his mix of kickboxing and Shotokan karate. Audiences loved it enough – particularly where he seemed to do the splits in mid-aired as he kicked opponents – that the kickboxing Belgian had a slew of movies such as Kickboxer, Bloodsport, Street Fighter and Universal Soldier.


Yet before any of them we had Bruce Lee. So fast he literally had to slow down for the camera, Lee was the face of martial arts in the ’70s, his poster adorning the walls of teenagers around the world. Indeed, Lee’s one-inch punch could knock a man across the room.

 


Lee was an expert in so many fighting styles he created his own martial art, Jeet Kune Do, which combines minimal movements with maximum effect … and maximum viewing pleasure. Arguably no one has ever been as exciting a fighter on screen as Lee (sorry, Chuck Norris).
While he was cruelly robbed of the role of Kane in Kung Fu – that role went to David Carridine – Lee’s involvement helped spread the knowledge of martial arts into Western culture, a flowering which eventually transformed fighting in movies forever.
After karate and kung fu came ninjas, compelling armies of impressionable kids in the West to pretend to jump backwards into trees and to create home-made shurikens. Again, this seemingly new fighting style captivated audiences and made a hit of movies such as American Ninja and Enter the Ninja. Remember Japan’s Sho Kusugi? He was to ninjas what Bruce Lee was to karate warriors.
You could even argue that George Lucas added an invaluable hook to the Star Wars franchise with lightsabers, taking the basic art of fencing and giving it a mystical, glowing tweak.
And who forgets The Karate Kid franchise, with lines like “sweep the leg”, “there is no fear in this dojo” and “wax on, wax off”?

And all the while, Hollywood was taking note of the audience’s appetite for something new.
Now we have a situation in films – one for which I am personally grateful – where the old staples of yore such as boxing, judo or wrestling are no longer enough. Today’s action heroes are sent to martial arts boot camp before being given their own specially crafted fighting styles.
Or they take an “all you can eat” buffet approach, using mixed martial arts encompassing several styles. Daniel Craig adopted such an MMA approach with his Bond reboot Casino Royale, updating Bond’s fighting palate beyond the karate of Roger Moore and the bruiser biffo of Sean Connery. And MMA is huge today.
The use of strange, rare or interesting fighting styles can work for books, too. My action hero, the special forces soldier known as the Spartan, uses a wide variety of martial arts, everything from boxing and karate to krav maga. He also uses a Spartan short sword known as a xiphos in close-quarters combat. I like to make sure the combat in my books is as varied, fast and exciting as some of the best examples I’ve seen on screen.
And, oh yes, my next book has ninjas. Lots and lots of ninjas. Because I reckon they’re due for a comeback.
Or maybe I’m just a child of the eighties who never got over Sho Kusugi and making home-made shurikens out of tin in my own backyard.

My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is now available.

Cover reveal – Trinity: The Koldun Code by Sophie Masson

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 An unexpected encounter with a handsome stranger in a Russian wood changes the life of 22-year-old traveler Helen Clement forever, catapulting her into a high-stakes world of passion, danger, and mystery. Tested in ways she could never have imagined, she must keep her own integrity in a world where dark forces threaten and ruthlessness and betrayal haunt every day.

Set against a rising tide of magic and the paranormal in a modern Russia where the terrifying past continually leaks into the turbulent present, Trinity is a unique and gripping blend of conspiracy thriller, erotically charged romance and elements of the supernatural, laced with a murderous dose of company politics. With its roots deep in the fertile soil of Russian myth, legend, and history, it is also a fascinating glimpse into an extraordinary, distinctive country and amazingly rich culture.

Trinity comes out on November 13 in all good ebook retailers!

Guest post from Felicity Pulman

Posted October 22, 2014 by

A Room of My own: Winning the Di Yerbury writer’s residency award.

As writers living in Australia, we are always challenged by that ‘tyranny of distance’ that hampers our research when it comes to writing novels set elsewhere.  So I am absolutely thrilled, and so honoured to have won the inaugural Di Yerbury writer’s residency which was presented at the Society of Women Writers literary festival at the NSW State Library on Saturday. Generously donated by Professor Yerbury, the residency will give me three months quiet research and writing time in the historic and beautiful North Devon town of Barnstaple next year. A bonus is that Devon is in the heart of the territory associated with Arthurian legend, which forms the basis of my novel I, Morgana (published by Momentum) and my proposed sequel with the working title Return to Camelot.

This is a wonderful opportunity to walk in the footsteps of my characters, to see their landscape and all that inhabits it, to have access to local libraries, museums and historic buildings, as well as experts in situ who hold the knowledge that I might need, plus it gives me the chance to take time out in a space quiet enough for reading, writing and reflection, which makes this a gift beyond price.  This residency will give me ‘a room of my own’ to find out what happens when Morgana’s daughter Marie is set adrift in our own world, as she composes her lais and tries to hold at bay the terrifying images of the destruction of London that haunt her. Also in the mix will be Morgana’s counterpart in our world and in our time, who holds our future in her hands – if only she can be persuaded to honour the legacy of her magical ancestor.

I am so grateful to Professor Yerbury, and also to the Society of Women Writers for choosing my submission for the award this year.  And let me point out that the award is open to all members of the NSW Society of Women Writers who are over 55 and who are working on a mss (fiction or non-fiction) set in or linked somehow to the UK = a HUGE incentive to join in time for putting in your submission next year!  BTW, there are many advantages associated with being a member of the NSW SWW, including other competitions and awards for various writing genres.  Their inaugural literary festival on Saturday was a huge success, comprising numerous interesting and topical panel discussions as well as book launches from three talented writers: Libby Hathorn, Susanne Gervay and Blanche d’Alpuget.

In Conversation: Amanda Bridgeman and Steve P. Vincent

Posted October 21, 2014 by

Momentum stable mates Amanda Bridgeman (the Aurora Series) and Steve P Vincent (The Foundation) just finished enjoying each other’s books. They decided to have a chat about their books and their writing. They could have done it in private, but where’s the fun in that?

Steve P Vincent: Hi Amanda. We’re Twitter buddies, but this is the first chance I’ve had to talk to you in more than 140 characters. Tell me three things I don’t know about you.

Amanda Bridgeman: Hmmm. Three things… Well:

(1)   I was raised a Catholic (but am one no longer – read my books if you don’t believe me).

(2)   I lived in London for over 1.5 years and was there during the London bombings (I got off the tube about 8 minutes before it all happened).

(3)   Once in a blue moon I dabble with singing. I do vocals on a track written and recorded by my brothers that you can hear/buy on iTunes (Bridge Music – ‘Made It Home’).

So what about you? Tell me three things I don’t know about you?

Steve: Ha! I don’t think I have a list that varied. Or that interesting. We should do karaoke some time. Here goes:

(1)   I’ve got a solid basis for writing about political intrigue. I studied it at university and have worked for government. I’m less solid on the shooting and violence and the explosions, though I do have a good imagination, and once did a commando roll down a hill.

(2)   I’m a big American football fan, much to the chagrin of most of my friends. It’s a love I share only with my brother in law, who’s from Denver.

(3)   My wife and I are both historians, and I proposed to her sitting next to the Roman baths in Bath, England. I thought that would get me out of the Jane Austen walking tour… It didn’t.

Okay. I’ve read book one in the Aurora series and I’m looking forward to the others. But for those not familiar with the series, give me your ‘elevator pitch’ – what’s it about and why might readers enjoy it?

Amanda: The Aurora series is about two very different people with one common goal, survival. It’s about a captain and a corporal who’ve been thrown together on a mission they discover is not as straight forward as it seems. Each book adds a new twist to what they know, as it builds up to a massive revelation. It’s for sci-fi fans who like character-driven stories with a nice blend of action, thrills, drama and even a bit of romance.

 

 

So what about you? Tell me your elevator pitch for The Foundation?

Steve: Globe-trotting journalist Jack Emery has to fight a cancer in the heart of Washington – The Foundation for a New America. The Foundation is a think tank with a dark side and darker plans. They’re fighting for American rebirth. To achieve it, they arrange for Shanghai to be blown up, spark a war between the US and China, try to take over the largest media company on the planet and are involved in a whole lot of other nasty. Their boss is Michelle Dominique. Jack has to stop her.

 

 

One thing that struck me was the detail you put into writing medical scenes, particularly when Doc (the Aurora’s medic) is stitching up people who’ve been shot, crushed, assaulted or blown up. I find this sort of thing really tricky to write convincingly, so tell me how you do it? Any secrets?

Amanda: For the most part I literally just used my imagination, but there were a few things I double checked with a friend of mine who is a nurse. Anything she couldn’t answer, she then asked the doctors at the hospital she works. So the medical side of things, I hope, is pretty realistic.

Now, tell me about your knowledge of international politics (particularly US politics) and journalism? Did you glean all your knowledge from the degree you did at university? Or is this an ongoing interest of yours?

Steve: A degree, a career in government, an obsessive interest in politics and current affairs and a wife who teaches this stuff too. It’s sick. Really. As for the journalism, less knowledge of that, even though the old man was a journo. I nearly studied it once I finished high school, but decided there was no money to be made in a dying industry. Then I decided to write books. Ha.

What’s one writing tip that will totally change my life?

Amanda: Listen to everyone’s advice, but don’t take it to heart. What works for one person, may not work for the next. Sometimes people think it’s wrong to do things a certain way, but if it works for you, well, then screw everyone else basically! When I first started I listened to all the ‘experts’ advice, and some of it was good, but some of it just didn’t apply/work for me. I soon realised that I had to forge my own path, taking bits and pieces of advice with me, and ditching the rest.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard so far?

Steve: Sketch out a loose plot outline then write like a crazy man. My biggest problem prior to writing The Foundation was trying to perfect a scene before moving on. It made for a few nice scenes, but not much of a story. Having finished a book, I realise the amount of fine-tuning that takes place. It’s far better to get the whole thing down and work from a full draft than trying to perfect as you go. It’s only when it’s all down that you see the giant gaping wounds in your plot that need fixing.

To close this out, what are you working on?

Amanda: I have more of the Aurora series lined up and ready to go, but I’ve also been working on a brand new, stand alone, sci-fi novel, which I hope to start pitching to agents by the end of the year (or thereabouts).  In some ways it’s very different from the Aurora series – it’s short and sharp, and set in the present-day on Earth. Told from multiple perspectives, it follows the immediate events of a world-wide phenomenon. The book is called The Time of The Stripes, and as per my writing tendencies, readers can expect the same level of tension, drama, and exploration of the human condition that I like to deliver.

What about you? What are you working on?

Steve: Momentum has begged and pleaded with me for two more Jack Emery books, so who am I to disappoint? State of Emergency is in the works, and going well. It’s a much darker book than The Foundation, dealing with the overreach of government in the United States and what might happen if that is taken to its fullest extent. There’s also a Jack prequel novella and a third full novel in the works. Beyond that, I’m casting my mind beyond the series and figured out a working title for my next project. In all I’ve got too much to do and no time to do it, just how I like it.

 

And that’s probably all we have the space for, given we’re now above the average length of one of my scenes. Just want to say it was great to chat with you, Amanda. I enjoyed the first Aurora book together, am looking forward to the next few, and congratulations of your announcement on Friday about being signed for three more!

Amanda: Thanks Steve! It’s been great chatting with you too. And congrats also on your debut rocketing up the charts – I look forward to reading about what Jack Emery gets up to next!

Steve P Vincent’s first book, The Foundation, was published by Momentum in September 2014. Connect with him on:

Web: http://stevepvincent.com
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/stevepvincentwriter
Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/stevepvincent
Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8423932.Steve_P_Vincent

Amanda Bridgeman’s Aurora series (Aurora: Darwin, Aurora: Pegasus, Aurora: Meridian, and soon to be released Aurora: Centralis) are published by Momentum. Keep in touch with her via:

Web – http://amandabridgeman.com.au/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AmandaBridgemanAuthor?ref=hl

Twitter – @Bridgeman_Books

Google+ and Goodreads.

Momentum’s Facebook Book Club!

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Momentum would like to invite you to participate in our facebook book club! The first book we’ll be discussing is Belinda Williams ‘The Boyfriend Sessions’, released on the 23rd of October and the discussion will kick off on Thursday November 20th to give everyone the chance to read the book!

How it works: On Thursday evening at 7pm (eastern standard time) we’ll kick the conversation off with a question to Belinda, then it’s over to you. We’re looking for a light conversation on the books themes, how you related to it, what you liked about it etc. At 7pm (EST) on Friday we’ll wrap it up – but feel free to keep the conversation flowing!

Link to the book: http://momentumbooks.com.au/books/the-boyfriend-sessions/

Our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/momentumbooks

Time Travel and the Problem of Paradoxes

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Graham Storrs joins us on the blog to discuss all things TIME TRAVEL.

“Paradox is the poisonous flower of quietism, the iridescent surface of the rotting mind, the greatest depravity of all.”  – Thomas Mann

What, you’re not a quietist? Never mind, we’ll come back to that.

As a writer of time travel novels, I spend a lot of time with paradox. It has become a friend. A shabby, disagreeable friend, I have to say, but one for whom I have an inordinate fondness. There are two ways of looking at paradox. Either it is a hideous monster of purest logic that prevents all possibility of time travel, or it is a sly creature of silken charm that whispers in the writer’s ear, urging creative trickery to make that story possible.

To be clear where I stand on the physics, let me just say that time doesn’t really work the way story-writers want it to. We don’t really travel in time. We travel in spacetime. Yes, you can describe space as a dimension something like the spatial dimensions to get a geometrical description of spacetime and, yes, it does seem as if you can move (in one direction) along that dimension at different rates. But consider this, if time is slowed in the vicinity of massive objects (which it is – ask Einstein), why does the Earth (a much smaller mass) not race ahead of the Sun in time, eventually leaving it far behind?

Time, as it affects us, is something like the ticking of a clock that can be different in each “inertial frame” (you’ll have to Google that one). If a spaceship moves past you at near the speed of light, the ticking of its clock seems slower than your own. If a suitably cooled and shielded man stands on the surface of the Sun, his clock also ticks relatively slower than yours. There’s a sense in which time is merely the rate at which events can unfold in your local spacetime. You can manipulate that rate by moving at different speeds or moving between different strength gravitational fields but, as far as we know, you can’t reverse it or even stop it, just slow it by applying unimaginable amounts of energy. You can maybe cut corners by moving through wormholes from one spacetime location to another by a route that is shorter than would be available in normal space, and that’s sort of like time travel, but not really.

There is a sense in which time travel, as we conceive it in science fiction, where we physically leave the present and reappear in the past or the future, would require jumping outside of time itself, jumping outside the Universe we know. If that is possible, no-one has ever worked out how. To a physicist, it probably just sounds silly. Yet that is the premise behind every single time travel story ever written (except for the Rip van Winkle and time dilation types).

As if this wasn’t argument enough against time travel, it’s very easy to conclude it is impossible just by looking at paradoxes. If I were able to travel back in time and shoot myself yesterday, I wouldn’t be alive today to travel back in time and shoot myself. Paradox! Most physicists conclude that this kind of paradox (known as the grandfather paradox) is sufficient reason to believe that we cannot travel back in time. The “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics is a get-out-of-jail-free card for the grandfather paradox, since it allows a whole new Universe to be created whenever you go back and shoot yourself. So your own timeline is preserved and the one with you dead instead of alive is simply unfolding in parallel. The paradox is avoided but it’s an unsatisfactory kind of time travel if you ask me.

Paradoxes really are the spanner in the works for time travel. They don’t only happen for backwards travel, they also work if you travel into the future. Imagine you go forwards twenty years, meet your own sixteen-year-old child and immediately shoot yourself. You never went back and conceived the child. It’s a paradox!

You might have noticed that what all these paradoxes actually rule out is backwards time travel, not forwards time travel (in the previous example, the paradox arises because you can’t go back). And that makes sense, of course, because we are all, at this very moment, travelling forwards in time. If we went on a near-light-speed trip, or stood near the event horizon of a black hole, or had ourselves cooled to a fraction above absolute zero, we could slow down the rate at which time passes for us (our own local clock would run slower) and we would effectively zoom off into the future relative to everyone else. So going faster into the future is also possible. But note that you never leave the “present” for all the observers around you. They can still track your spaceship with radar, or monitor you on that event horizon, or watch you in your cryogenic chamber.

The time traveller who disappears from the present, goes to the future or the past, and then comes back, does seem to be a complete fiction. The physics of the real world, plus the logic of paradoxes seem to rule out such a thing. And yet time travel story writers from H G Wells onwards have imagined it just like that.

I’ve done it myself – knowing all that I know about the physics – because time travel stories are just so incredibly fascinating. However, in my own work, I have striven to remove the paradoxes and allowed myself the luxury of inventing new physics. The logic of paradoxes is a much more rigid barrier to creativity than the physics of reality. We can always imagine a future world in which what we think we now know about relativity or quantum theory is augmented or supplanted by a new understanding. But the logic of paradoxes does not depend on the science. It is eternal and unbending. You just cannot get around it.

So I used a version of time travel in one novel where you can jump around in time but there is only one, immutable timeline and your jumping around is already part of it. This is known as the Novikov self-consistency principle. Thus, if you go back and try to shoot yourself yesterday, you’ll miss, or the gun will backfire, or whatever. Something will always happen to prevent it. Why? Because that’s what must have happened in order for you to be alive the next day to go back in time!

In the Timesplash novels I used a different trick. My time travellers can go backwards in time and they can cause anomalies to their hearts’ content but the Universe can only be bent out of shape temporarily. It quickly springs back into it’s original form and spits out the time travellers like the irritants they are. So the past goes back to how it always was. No paradoxes, guaranteed. However – and this is what gives the books their dramatic interest – the disturbance caused, if it’s big enough, flows through to the present and causes massive acausal weirdness. It’s like a major acid trip but played out in the real world, not just someone’s mind, and it can be enough to topple buildings and kill people. But if you like chaos and the trippy effects of seeing causality completely messed up, jumping back in time is a great way to get people off and fuel the best underground parties ever.

Oh yes, and the quietists? They’re group of philosophers who think that by describing problems in a way that makes the misguided reasoning they’re based on apparent, they will put an end to all confusion, and set us on the path to intellectual quietude. And they really don’t like paradoxes. But then, who does? Maybe they should spend a bit more effort on clarifying the problem of time travel.

Who wants money to write about books? BOOK BLOGGER WANTED!

Posted October 20, 2014 by

Momentum is the digital-only imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia. Established in February 2012, we publish high quality ebooks globally. Our website and blog is the hub of our operation, and we’d like to include as many diverse voices as possible. Our blog currently hosts opinions from Momentum employees, authors and other contributors, and now we’d like you to have the chance to have your say about the world of books, writing and reading on the Momentum blog.

We are looking for someone who is interested in books, specifically with an interest in genre fiction (predominantly thrillers, horror, YA/NA and science fiction/fantasy).

What we want from you:

– 4-8 blog posts a month, with a minimum word count of 300 words each

– The posts can cover any topic that you think is relevant to reading, writing, book and storytelling culture and can be in the form of reviews, interviews, author profiles, recaps, catch-ups, re-reads and reader polls – creativity and audience engagement is the main aim

– Preference will be given to a blogger with a relevant social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, etc)

– Genre bloggers step to the front of the line. If you love romance, science fiction, fantasy and thrillers show us your passion for your genre(s)

What we are offering in return:

– An audience of readers and writers

– $20 per post (minimum of 4 and maximum of 8 posts per month)

– free Momentum ebooks

To apply, send a sample blog post, covering letter and brief resume to info@momentumbooks.com.au by October 27th 2014 with the subject line ‘Momentum Blogger’ and be sure to include your name, city, country of residence and occupation. We welcome applicants from all over the world, but the posts must be in English.

Your sample blog post should be the type of thing you’d be posting on a regular basis (not a hokey introductory post). And of course, if we select you as our resident blogger then you will be compensated accordingly if you decide to use your sample blog post as your first post.

If you have any questions, feel free to email or ask in the comments below.

Terms & Conditions

  • The winning applicant will be subject to a trial period of one month.
  • Posts will be vetted by staff before going live.
  • Posts will remain the copyright of the author, however, Momentum will retain an exclusive right to first posting for a period of no less than six months.
  • The successful blogger will invoice Momentum monthly for posts within the previous four week period.
  • The successful blogger’s contract can be terminated with two week’s notice.
  • These conditions are subject to change.

Party Time – a short story in the ‘Timesplash’ world

Posted October 17, 2014 by

Foresight: Timesplash #3 is out, but what even is a timesplash? This short story set in the world could help explain.

Party Time

by

Graham Storrs

You wouldn’t expect the world to change right there, in a house off Beverley Road. Beverley Road is the kind of place commuters pass through on the way to somewhere smarter. The grimy brick buildings that front the main road give way to side streets that should have been demolished long ago, to sagging terraces in which every other two-up-two-down has its windows boarded. Children and dogs roam those quiet streets in packs, bored and dirty.

But that’s where it happens.

“It’s a fucking brick, Grace.” Rylan Dickson giggles as if there is something funny about it, but he’s so stoned everything seems funny. His long, scrawny body is clothed in old jeans and an even older jumper. He looks like a gangly teenager, but he is actually twenty-three.

The brick sits inside a metal cage on the kitchen table. Around it there are coils of wire, heavy banks of capacitors, computer screens, black cables writhing away to a distribution board hacked into the electric main. A bright red dot shines from the side of the brick where it is illuminated by a low-powered laser. Beyond the brick, a photocell waits.

“Yeah, it’s the metaphor, right?” Grayson Faber explains. He is excited and a little wired. Shorter and stouter than his friend, he is dressed in the same kind of jumble-sale clothes. “Time is a stream, right? We lob the brick back into the stream and it makes a splash. Yeah?”

Rylan shakes his head. “You don’t have to convince me, man. I was the one who did the maths.”

Grayson gives a nervous laugh. “Yeah. It’s just… It’s like this is a really big deal Ry. We should have the press here. Television.”

“Bourgeois bullshit, Grace. That world is dead and gone, man. This is what’s real.” He waves a hand at the room. His gesture is exaggerated and sloppy. It takes in the dirty sink and the mouldy wallpaper as well as the piles of makeshift electronics.

There are footsteps in the hallway and the kitchen door opens just as Grayson is saying, “Right. Bourgeois bullshit.”

The newcomer gives a clenched fist salute and says, “Right on, man!”

Rylan giggles again and also gives the salute.

“So what’s up with you two geniuses today?” the newcomer wants to know. He is a well-fed, well-built youth of about seventeen, bare chested under an army greatcoat. He goes by the tag Major Tom and no-one knows his real name. Rylan picks up a bong from beside his chair and hands it over. Major Tom takes it and sets it down without using it. “Hey, you got the time machine going.”

He steps closer and peers into the mechanism. “Is that a brick in there?”

“It’s a metaphor,” Rylan says.

Tom grins at him. “Fucking geniuses. You’re all nuts.”

“We’re going to, you know, test it,” Grayson says, even more tense since Tom joined them. “It’s the first ever trial run.”

“Is it going to, like, blow up or something?” Tom asks, stepping back. “Cos I’m organising a real big party tonight, out at Orchard Park, and I need all my arms and legs.” The old Orchard Park Estate had been bulldozed by the city council, partly because it was a festering slum, partly because the police wanted to clear out all the drug factories and street gangs. Now it was a wasteland of rubble and ghosts, perfect for the loud, stimulant-fuelled, dance parties Major Tom was famous for.

“We’re going to lob that brick back in time, Tom,” Grayson says. “That’s a bit more important than your stupid party.”

Rylan is grinning but Tom doesn’t think it is funny. “It’s 2032, man. Biggest damn recession the world has ever seen. The oil’s run out, half the world’s at war, and the other half’s having a revolution. There’s nothing as important as a party right now!”

At which Grayson starts frowning. “Yeah, and they shut down the fucking university right in the middle of our PhDs.” He looks like he is going to become maudlin again, to start harping on his favourite subject.

“But we did it, right?” Rylan, says, trying to encourage him out of the mood. “We’ve got the proof of concept right here.”

But Grayson isn’t going to be cheered up easily. “Building lighting rigs and sound systems for this jerkoff!” he grumbles. “The two finest minds of our generation, sunk without a trace because the whole world’s turned to shit!”

“Who are you calling a jerkoff, Doctor Fucking Who?”

“OK,” Grayson raises his voice. “I’m going to throw the switch. You ready? Five, four, three…”

“Just throw the damned switch, Grace!”

“…two, one.”

The brick disappears. A buzzer sounds as the light from the laser is freed to cross the gap to the photocell. A timer starts displaying the passing seconds. They all gape in astonishment at the empty cage.

Then the buzzer drops in pitch. Major Tom shouts, “Whoa!” and Grayson looks round at him. Tom seems to be miles away, as if the room is as big as a football stadium. Then he snaps back. Rylan says something but he is speaking in a high-pitched squeak, his lips a blur. Ripples of distortion pass along the kitchen worktop and the oven door falls open, bounces closed, falls open again. The strangeness continues for a few more seconds, then stops.

The buzzer is still buzzing. The timer is still ticking. The three young men stare at the empty cage and at each other.

When the brick hits the bars of the cage and falls onto the metal plate beneath it, they all jump.

“Holy shit!” says Tom.

“It worked,” says Grayson.

“Wow, that was so far out,” says Rylan.

“I want that,” says Tom, looking from Grayson to Rylan and back. “Can you do that bigger? Like, maybe over an acre or two?”

“What?”

“That weird, trippy thing that just happened. Can you imagine that at one of my parties? Man! It was like acid, only it’s the world that’s tripping, not you! Just think about it. A hundred people – No. Five hundred people seeing that and feeling that all at the same time! No drugs. No hassle with the pigs. And the music! We could revive the Eighties, or the Nineties, or whenever all that house shit went down. This could be fucking enormous. We could all be living like kings!”

The silence is deep and incredulous. Rylan starts laughing and Grayson bursts into explanation. “We just sent a brick back in time, Tom. It wasn’t just some kind of show. That brick…” He opens the cage and pulls it out. It feels cold and is beaded with condensation. “If our calculations are right – and they must be, right? – that brick went back about five years.”

Major Tom looks at Grayson as if the young scientist just doesn’t get it. “All that shit – your calculations and all that – doesn’t matter. No, listen, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care where your bloody brick went. What matters is that weird thing that went on right here. That’s what’s going to make my parties – our parties – the only ones in the whole country that anyone will want to go to.”

Rylan is still laughing. Grayson turns sharply and shouts, “Shut up Ry. It’s getting on my nerves.”

“No, he’s right, Grace,” Rylan says. “It’s the lambda residual that matters. We chased it around the whiteboards and worried about the causal implications for all those hours, and what do you know? It’s all that really matters.”

“The residual? You mean what we just felt was an acausal backwash from the timesplash? You said it would be negligible. You said it would pass right through the present into the future.”

“Yeah, well, I was wrong. Obviously the future isn’t made yet, the Universe is self-assembling like Cahill and Klinger said. We always knew that was possible. When the residual travels downstream, the ‘backwash’ as you call it hits the present and has nowhere else to go, so it screws with causality.”

“What’s all this claptrap got to do with the price of fish?” Major Tom wants to know.

“It means we can make it bigger,” Rylan says, grinning maliciously. “We just need to lob bigger bricks farther back. The backwash is related to the size of the lob.” He looks at Grayson meaningfully and adds, “And the size of the splash.”

“No, no, no!” Grayson is alarmed now, and angry. He stands in front of Rylan, shaking his head. “We talked about this. We agreed. No paradoxes. Right? No-one gets hurt. We just run the trials. We write up the results and we take them down to Emory at Oxford like we agreed, right?”

“What’s he on about?”

Rylan gets to his feet. He is just an arm’s length away from Grayson. “Don’t worry, Tom. Grace is just being a bit slow to adapt to the changing circumstances.”

“What changing circumstances?”

“Wake up, Grace. Did you ever think there was really a chance Emory would let us in? Don’t you remember what he wrote to us when the uni was closing and we all but begged him to take the project?”

“He… He just asked for more evidence.”

“He talked bollocks, that’s what he did. He spouted Einstein at us, and quantum bloody gravity. It was obvious he didn’t understand the maths and, worse still, he didn’t understand the physics either!”

Grayson struggles to say something. He doesn’t want to let himself admit he has known all along this was a pipe dream.

“Who then?” he says at last, his thoughts surfacing. “If only the American’s weren’t in such a mess. A whole bunch of the physics department guys moved to CERN when Princeton went bust. We could try there.”

“You’re thinking of Sternberg, aren’t you? Just because he was the only one who was half-way polite to us. For God’s sake, Grace! The only heavyweight physicist who ever took this stuff seriously was dear old Prof. Baker, and no-one had taken him seriously for ten years or more. No wonder the poor old sod hanged himself when they shut us down. He knew there was nowhere else to go.”

“But it works!” Grayson holds up the brick, as if it is proof.

“Tell it to the Randi Foundation!”

For a moment, Grayson clenches the brick tight. For a moment, he is red-faced with rage. Major Tom looks from one to the other, wondering if Rylan will get hurt, and, if he does, how he can turn that to his own ends.

But Grayson suddenly sags. His arm drops and the brick falls to the floor with a thud. He turns away and walks back to the equipment on the kitchen table.

“The biggest fucking discovery since Special Relativity,” he says, and a long silence follows.

“So you can make it bigger, then?” Tom asks.

Grayson turns and glowers at Rylan, but he speaks to Tom. “Yes, we can make it bigger. Do you want to know how?”

“No man, I just -”

“Well we could send something massive back a long, long way. But the energy requirements would be enormous. The most cost effective way would be to send a person back, maybe a couple of decades – we’d need someone young – to shoot their own mother before they were born, create a paradox. Right?”

“You could send a person?”

“Oh yeah.” Grayson keeps looking at Rylan and it’s not clear now if he’s still talking to Tom. “Someone who wouldn’t mind walking up to their own mother and killing her in cold blood just to make a dance party go well.”

“But if you killed your own mother before you were born…”

“Yeah. Paradox. Like I said.” He waves a dismissive hand. He and Rylan had worked it all out. However big the splash, the time stream always heals itself, the paradox is smoothed over, fixed up. The present is unchanged by it. The past snaps back like elastic. But the backwash… The bigger the splash, the bigger the backwash. And that meant more ‘trippy’ experiences here in the present, more acausal weirdness for the kids to get off on.

“Would you do it?” he was definitely talking to his friend now, wanting to hear him say no.

“Fucking hell, yes!” Tom says. “I’d carve up the old bitch like a chicken. I’ve often thought about it. I’ll be your brick.”

Rylan grins and raises his hands in a gesture that says, “See? What can you do?”

Grayson looks away, unable to bear that grin. He feels tired. He pulls out a wooden chair and sits down.

The biggest discovery since Special Relativity, he is thinking, over and over. A guaranteed Nobel prize. If the world hadn’t gone to shit. If his partner wasn’t an arsehole. If he wasn’t so very sick of being hungry, and wearing cast-offs, and worrying about if he ever got ill or needed the dentist.

He looks up at Major Tom and his eyes are dull and heavy. “We’re going to need a bigger cage,” he says.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

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One of the greatest compliments that I ever received from a reader was the news that, the evening after finishing the book, she was idly contemplating hosting a barbecue for the weekend and began mentally listing those she would invite. Halfway through, she realised that she’d included several of the characters from the book itself. The fictional characters. In the short amount of time that it had taken her to read the story, they had become her friends. And I know exactly what she means (I even developed a sort of crush on a male character I wrote once, and the ending – especially pairing him up with someone else – was a little like being dumped). But every time I finish writing a book, I experience an oddly nauseous mix of elation and regret. It’s impossible to even contemplate a new project until I go through a period of recovery, of separation. I mope around the house, eat copious amounts of chocolate, and make complicated calculations regarding the sun and the yardarm and a glass of wine. Although experience tells me that turning my book hangover into a real one doesn’t help. At all.

But that’s also why I’ve enjoyed writing the Nell Forrest series so much. Starting each new book has been like re-visiting old friends, catching up with what’s been going on in their lives, accompanying them as they move forward. It’s a reunion of sorts. Sure, there’s always a few characters that are best avoided (and if they turned up at the door, you’d be better advised to ring the police than let them in), but what’s a murder mystery without some colour? Nell Forrest though – well, she’s the sort of person that I’d invite to a barbecue. And I knew I’d have to write her that way if she was going to stay around (Hercule Poirot is not the type of protagonist I’d be able to have in a series). As both a reader and a writer, I like to connect. But Nell is more than a connection – she’s a friend. I might not have her phone number but I know where she lives. She’d know when to give me space if she knew I was moping, or drop in with buckets of chocolate (we’d probably even go retro and have a fondue, with strawberries and bananas and marshmallows), or help me with the sun/yardarm calculations and then say ‘what the hell, let’s open the bottle regardless – in fact make it champagne!’ Damn, I miss her.

Cover Reveal – Foresight: Timesplash 3 by Graham Storrs

Posted October 8, 2014 by

Jay and Sandra are back—fighting to save a world on the edge of destruction.

In the middle of a bizarre global catastrophe that looks suspiciously like the mother of all timesplashes, Sandra Malone discovers that the corporation she works for is spying on her. To find out why, she sets off to track down the culprits. What she discovers catapults Sandra, her daughter, and everyone around her into a deadly struggle to prevent a disaster.

Now working in European Military Intelligence in Berlin, Jay Kennedy begins to suspect that the shock that hit the world was something more sinister and dangerous than even a timesplash. In the midst of the chaos that has engulfed the world, Jay learns that Sandra is in danger and that their daughter has gone after her. This turn of events threatens to distract him from solving a puzzle on which the fate of the whole world might hang.

With time running out, Jay is torn between the possibility of losing Sandra, and the desperate need to stop a new kind of time-travel technology that could destroy the planet.

Foresight comes out on October 9 in all good ebook retailers!

Cover Reveal: Forbidden Fruit by Ilsa Evans

Posted October 1, 2014 by

This time it’s personal…

The last thing Nell Forrest expected when she tried to plant a tree was to unearth the skeletal remains of a former resident. Now her new backyard is swarming with police, there’s a television news crew camped next door, and once again she is smack in the middle of a murder investigation. And the timing is dreadful. Two of Nell’s daughters are about to give birth and she is surrounded by new in-laws with agendas of their own.

But it soon becomes clear that this time the investigation is personal – so personal that enquiries bring her long-estranged father back into the family fold, and the answers shed some very uncomfortable light about the proclivities of her parents when they were young. Who would have thought that the little country town of Majic had ever been such a swinging place to live?

FORBIDDEN FRUIT goes on sale October 9, and is available for preorder now.

Using Scrivener to Work Smarter

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Mae Archer joins us to enthuse about writing program ‘Scrivener’

I love technology and every time I hear about a new tool that I might use as an author I investigate. Usually my process is that I read about it, ignore it, see it somewhere up to ten times, try it, hate it, try it, curse it, try again, get a glimmer of understanding and I keep repeating the process until I get the hang of it and it’s not a drama.

I originally heard about Scrivener about three years ago when an author talked about her writing process. I noted it, but didn’t do anything about it. Then I kept seeing lots of people talking about it over the next year or so. Eventually I got a trial, tried playing around with it, but didn’t buy the package. A year later I bought it, ignored it for six months, tried using it and eventually figured it out.

I’ve found that Scrivener has really helped my writing process. I usually write down the bones in a crappy draft (for the record that’s what I actually name the file) where I write in fragments. Once my draft is complete and has something vaguely resembling a beginning, a middle and an end I’ve usually figured out the story, the characters, and the plot, and then I go back to the beginning and start again producing something that is a readable manuscript.

Scrivener allows me to write in fragments that I can move around as needed. I can also create synopsis cards so that I know what is in each scene. There is also a label feature and I’ve used this to identify my character points of view and use the status drop down menu to keep track of how I’m progressing with my scene.

While working on Hollywood Dreams I wanted the novel to be equally divided between Tom and Maree’s point of view and so I labelled them pink and blue and was able to see at a glance how I was going.

It also allowed me to keep track of my research by importing websites into Scrivener that I can then refer to even when I’m offline. Hollywood Dreams is set in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the movie-making business so there was a lot of research I had to do.

Files-Import-Web Page

And I can create character sketches and collate information about the character, as well as import a photo.

 

I also periodically back up by compiling my manuscript into a word document that I then save in various versions.

I’m still in the learning phase with Scrivener. It has many more features and I’m slowly adding to my repertoire. I’ve found that using Scrivener has meant that I work smarter and can produce at a quicker pace than before because it provides me with the tools to organise everything I need.

So if like me you’re hesitant about embracing new technology, just dive in and slowly learn as you go. You don’t need to be an expert to start writing with Scrivener. You learn what you need as you need it.