The Momentum Blog

5 things you didn’t know about Alex Morgan

Posted December 3, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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To celebrate the release of Helldiver, Alex Morgan’s fourth Intrepid adventure, Chris Allen has given us some tidbits about the man himself!

1. Alex Morgan’s father was formerly a member of the Welsh Guards before following the love of his life, a beautiful Australian girl he’d met in London, back to Australia. A soldier through and through, Morgan’s dad enlisted in the Australian Army and served with distinction in Vietnam with the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment – the very same battalion Alex Morgan would serve with many years later.

2. Alex Morgan has an eclectic taste in music. Both of his parents were jazz buffs so he grew up developing a love for the music of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz. That evolved into a love of blues and blues rock. Eric Clapton being at the top of his list of favourites.

3. It’s no secret that Morgan likes a beer or two. The offer of a pint of Guinness is like a Siren’s call to him – usually with a similar end result! In his more refined, less rowdy moments, he’s known to enjoy a good single malt Scotch.

4. Morgan has never been in any way fashion conscious, traditionally opting for jeans, boots, casual shirt and a sports coat to keep him out of trouble. Of course, General Davenport has had a major influence on getting Morgan to dress more appropriately when required, but as soon as he can he’ll return to jeans at the first opportunity!

5. Morgan considers himself a simple man who chooses to live his life based on the basic premise that everyone has the right to live their life free of the unwelcome interference of those who would do them harm. That said, he is more than willing to be an unwelcome interference in the lives of those who choose to harm others.

Helldiver is out now – grab your copy here!

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Guest post: Duncan Lay

Posted November 30, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Battle. The great redeemer. The fiery crucible in which true heroes are forged. A place where cowards can find redemption.

I’ve paraphrased that from Bill Paxton’s Master Sergeant Farell from Edge Of Tomorrow. As a speech it’s right up there with the best he gave as Trooper Hudson in Aliens, right before he sadly got snaffled by the aliens and a mournful Hicks (Michael Beihn) pumped him full of lead so no lousy stinking alien could eat its way out of him. In that vein, Edge Of Tomorrow is a sci-fi romp in which you can enjoy wacky midget Tom Cruise getting killed, over and over again. Aliens kill him, stupidity kills him, Emily Blunt kills him. I never tire of seeing it.

Spoiler alert here: Over the course of about 150 deaths, he slowly transforms from a cowardly, lying, blackmailing weasel into the man who saves the human race and gets Emily Blunt to fall in love with him. Of course, in real life, she’d use her alien-fighting exoskeleton to pound his Scientology-spouting face but in the movie, you can sort of believe it. Because battle can do that. It can change people, it can change worlds.

People often ask why I love battles in my books. Some of them won’t buy it until they know there are good battles there. One man even wanted me to count the pages of the biggest battle in the series. It had to be over 50 pages or he wasn’t having a bar of it. I’ve even signed books hoping the reader “enjoys the blood spray”. Hey, you buy my book, I’ll sign whatever you want on there!

By way of answering why I love battles, I refer you to Master Sergeant Farell. In battle, anything can happen.

History tells us that a single arrow can change the course of history, especially when (allegedly) it lands in the eye of a king. But England, in fact the world was changed by the way the Saxon King Harold was killed by William the Norman.

If there is a common theme in my books, it is that whole countries, continents and even the world are at stake. The pressure of that, combined with the fear of battle, can do incredible things to characters. And I love to explore that.

Now I should mention that, despite signing books that extol the virtues of blood spraying across the pages, I do not glorify violence. In fact, the impact of battle, of fighting for your life, has a huge effect on my characters. Some cannot handle it. All come away knowing that battle is a terrible place. When the fate of the world is on a knife’s edge, then things can get bloody.

It is in that narrow place, when things are not safe and indeed even beloved characters can be killed, that I love to play with my characters. I like to explore them, test them and see what comes out of that fiery crucible.

The Bloody Quarrel sees battles taking place unlike anything I have ever written before.

There is a battle fought in a torrential storm, where even the world around them seems to be fighting. At stake is the fate of a two nations but it will have ramifications far beyond that.

Heroes will rise and heroes will fall. Fear abounds and not just that little jump-scare type of fear but more like the bowel-loosening, end-of-the-world, where every breath seems impossibly sweet and every sense is unbelievably heightened fear.

People will change, relationships will change, countries will change.

How can you not love that?

 

The Bloody Quarrel: Episode 1 is out on the 3rd of December. Pre-order your copy now!

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The Ghosts of Spectre: a guest post from Chris Allen

Posted November 23, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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There’s a lot of conjecture at the moment around whether or not Spectre is a great or a not so great Bond film.

I went in with mixed feelings based on many of the reviews and comments I was seeing online. And for those who don’t know me, I’m a die-hard Bond fan, Fleming first – movies second. So I have high expectations of each of the films and I must say on this occasion, I was not disappointed.

Here’s what I liked about it.

The thing that people liked so much about Daniel Craig when he was brought on in 2006 with Casino Royale – is that he took the character of Bond right back to his roots. He was an unrelenting, blunt instrument which is exactly the intention that Fleming had for the character when he created Bond back in the 1950s. 

What they’ve done with Spectre is very cleverly woven into Craig’s presentation of Bond, much of the iconography of the character that people have been enjoying for over 50 years. Traditionally all the other films have relied on five key elements to connect them: the dinner suit; the Walther PPK; the vodka martini; the fast cars and of course, the women. Add to that some megalomaniac criminal mastermind, hell-bent on world domination and you’re all set.

What they’ve achieved in Spectre with – I thought – great subtlety as well as great respect for the legacy of the films, was the referencing of a number of scenes, themes and elements from across the palette of the Eon Productions series dating back to the very first film, Dr No, starring Sean Connery.

– There’s the scene in Dr No when Bond and Honey are received as guests at Dr No’s lair – this is replicated in Spectre when Bond and Madeleine Swann are similarly received by Blofeld. 

– The contemporary take of Craig’s Bond in Tangier in 2015 is almost identically dressed and styled with dark shirt and beige jacket to Timothy Dalton’s Bond in Tangier in 1987 in The Living Daylights.

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– The train journey that Bond and Madeleine take references a number of things, most notably the white dinner jacket which we first saw in Goldfinger, and only a couple of times since.

– And of course – the fight sequence between Craig’s Bond and Hinx on the train is a direct hat tip to Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Grant in From Russia With Love in 1963, and even albeit less comically Roger Moore’s Bond and Richard Kiel’s Jaws in The Spy Who Loved me in 1977.

– Blofeld’s surveillance control room in Spectre is a contemporary take on Hugo Drax’s space centre control room from Moonraker in 1979. 

– And finally, there’s the white cat, the Hildebrand reference and of course how Blofeld got his facial scar that was so much a part of Donald Pleasant’s Blofeld in You Only Live Twice in 1967. And many, many others.

If you go into a Daniel Craig Bond – you expect a certain thing. I’ve learned since Casino Royale in 2006 to expect a brooding, lonely individual who is struggling to come to terms with loss and disappointment despite the fact that he is supposed to be a blunt instrument, last resort capability for his government. 

In this regard, I was not disappointed.

Coupled to that, all of these historic references throughout the film to the legacy of the series and I came away feeling thoroughly entertained.

But let me qualify that.

The storyline can be disappointing because Bond is a huge character and the fact that Spectre boils the entire catalogue of Bond’s most recent missions down to nothing more than a demented, former childhood friend taunting him from a distance, all the danger and intrigue has been little more than a squabble between a couple of spoiled brats.

At that to me is the major let down in that thematic element and I believe that is what has left people with a less-than-favourable reaction to the film. It’s almost like, at the time you’re enjoying it, but there is an aftertaste that is ultimately not satisfying and that is how they have framed Bond’s recent history. A little bit like eating junk food on an impulse – tastes pretty good at the time, but you feel very unsatisfied very soon after.

 

Chris Allen’s latest heart-stopping thriller is out on the 26th of November. If you like Bond, you’ll love Helldiver. Grab a copy now!

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Cover reveal – The Bloody Quarrel: Complete Edition by Duncan Lay

Posted November 11, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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The prince is dead.

Fooled by the treacherous King Aidan, Fallon has shot down the one man he trusted to save his beloved nation of Gaelland. And yet, when the King could grind Fallon underfoot, he draws the simple farmer and fighter closer, making a hero of him.

Embroiled in plots beyond his comprehension and weighted with the guilt of the prince’s murder, Fallon must tread carefully if he is to accomplish the task that first brought him to the cursed capital: rescue his wife, Bridgit, and the rest of his village from Kottermani slavery. If he and his hopelessly ensnared men can survive, they may yet find redemption.

Meanwhile, across the ocean, Bridgit is rallying those around her to spring an escape. But who can be trusted? The ever-present danger of traitors and liars among the slaves, and even among her fellow Gaelish, is poison to her plans.

With an ocean between them and fouler nightmares looming, Fallon and Bridgit will be driven to their very limits to escape their prisons, find each other, and bring justice to Gaelland.

This epic fantasy is perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Joe Abercrombie.

The Bloody Quarrel: Complete Edition is released on the 11th of February. Pre-order your copy now!

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Cover reveal: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans

Posted November 4, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime …

When Nell Forrest’s life hits a speed bump (which is most definitely not a midlife crisis) a cruise around the Mediterranean seems like just the ticket.

Unfortunately, that’s an idea shared by her mother, her ex-husband, his new partner, and a police detective with whom Nell has a stormy history. Fortunately, meditation is just one of the many activities offered aboard the luxury liner, but Nell will need more than that to face what lies ahead.

A tragic death in Rome is quickly followed by another in Turkey. Then an unexpected discovery provides a link between the two, and Nell must stow her plans for relaxation once and for all.

One of her shipmates is a cold-blooded murderer, and it seems that Nell is the only one with the wherewithal to figure it out. But figure it out she must, because the murderer, like the cruise, has only just begun …

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in Ilsa Evans’ Nell Forrest Mystery series. The other three are Nefarious Doings, Ill-Gotten Gains and Forbidden Fruit.

This cosy mystery is perfect for fans of Alexander McCall Smith, M.C. Beaton, Kerry Greenwood and Joanna Fluke.

Dastardly Deeds will be released on the the 10th of March 2016.

Pre-order your copy NOW

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David Rollin’s writing process

Posted October 6, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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I often get asked what my writing process is. The fact is, writing a novel is a pretty romantic notion for a lot of people. But is it? Most people envisage that they’ll be sitting in their study, soothing music playing, and otherwise undisturbed while the creative juices flow. Hmm…my reality is that I write at a desk in my bedroom, facing a brick wall. I used to listen to music, but for some reason I don’t any more. I used to do that so I could block out the real world and concentrate instead on the world playing out behind my eyes. I don’t need to do that anymore. I can hold reality ay bay at will. I write sitting in departure lounges, or on planes, or in the back of taxis. I can write anywhere. Sometimes I have to because there’s not enough time for that desk in my bedroom.

For years I wrote 2000 words a day and I was religious about it. Sometimes that writing would start at 6 am and finish at 8 or 9 pm – whenever that 2000 words was on the hard drive. Some days I could peel off 2000 words a few hours. Sometimes the words come fast, and sometimes you have to lever them out with a crowbar. These days, there’s so much else I have to do that I’m happy if I just advance the story. Even a couple of hundred words, if that’s all I can manage.

When I’m in the middle of a manuscript, I go over and over the dialogue in my head until it sounds about right. Sounds cool, right? But often this happens at 4 in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. Or when I’m trying to exercise. Or when I’m watching my daughter play soccer. Or driving. Or at a restaurant with friends. In fact, sometimes I wish the voices in my head would just fuck off and leave me in peace. My wife will often say, “Hey, where are you?” because I won’t be in the here and now, I’ll be in someone else’s skin, in some other place, and, recently, in some other time. It’s relentless.

I also don’t always know exactly where the story will go, though I’m reasonably clear on where it will end up. I write a kind of an outline and this includes several key scenes I can see clearly. The outline is important – if it works, I know the book will work. This is my “spine” or “railway tracks” – I’ve heard a number of writers call this different things, but it’s all the same. If I don’t have something like this – even a paragraph – I know I might lose the plot.

You want to know one of my most favourite sounds? It’s the clatter of fingers on the keyboard of a computer. What a beautiful sound – all those words and thoughts being created. It’s like a rush of new life.

Is writing a novel romantic? Maybe it is, I don’t know. What I do know is that no one else will write it for me. If the words get written that’s me. If the words don’t get written that’s also me. So instead of going to the pub, I write. Instead of going to watch a game of rugby, I write. I’ve missed quiet a lot over the years. And maybe lost a friend or two also. But in their place I now have 10 novels and each one has been its own adventure. I went to Siberia to research The Zero Option. And the Thai-Burma border for A Knife Edge. For Standoff, I went to Colombia, Panama and Texas and hung out with The Texas Rangers and watched drug couriers come across the Rio Grande at night. I’ve also met some great people, though admittedly some of these have been conjured in my own brain.

And when you write the novel, you live with these people in your thoughts for the duration. That’s not always a good thing, believe me, because a novel has to be convincing. If you can’t convince yourself that the characters and the situation (or plot) is real, you can forget about convincing your readers. So when I’m deep in the story, the lines of what’s real and what’s in my imagination can get a little blurry. My family is used to it now, but the outcome is that I’m thought of (I believe) as being either vague and dreamy. There’s no room left in my head for names or faces or places that aren’t in my current book. It’s weird, I guess, but that’s how it rolls for me.

 

Field of Mars: The Complete edition is out on the 8th of October! Grab your copy now!

 

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Face to Face with Rasputin: by Sophie Masson

Posted September 30, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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The long shadow of one of Russia’s most fascinating and enigmatic characters, Rasputin, hovers over Trinity: The False Prince, in several ways—which I won’t reveal for fear of spoilers! But I will tell you about a spooky visit I made to the scene of Rasputin’s murder, in St Petersburg: the basement room in the canal-side palace once owned by Prince Yusupov, the chief of the plotters against Rasputin.

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It’s in one of the grand gilded living rooms of the palace that you get the first glimpse of the horrible events of December 30, 1916. A group of rather creepy waxworks representing some of the conspirators is huddled around an old phonograph. ‘Waiting for Rasputin,’ the guide says, ‘they listened to the same record over and over.’ They were nervous. Rasputin was a favourite of the Tsar and his family and they could not be sure how he would react over his death.’ But it wasn’t here this room that Rasputin was lured to his death; oh no, though the prince, pretending friendship, had invited Rasputin to come and take tea at the palace, he had no intention of letting this ‘dirty peasant’ set foot in the fine rooms of the palace. No, Rasputin was to come to the basement. The conspirators only waited upstairs so as to be on the spot after Yusupov had done the deed and they could get the body out of the house.

Wax figures Rasputin & Yusupov

The basement room is even more chilling. There’s not much furniture, apart from a table, a couple of chairs, and a tall Orthodox cross in a niche. There are more creepy waxworks—the tall, bearded, long-haired figure of Rasputin sitting at a table with food and drink in front of him; the elegant figure of Prince Yusupov staring glassily at the lowly intruder. Though Yusupov and his ilk despised Rasputin as a vile commoner, they were not immune to his reputation as a sorcerer, and fear was also present in the room that night. The guide tells us the famous story—of how Yusupov, plying his guest-victim with poisoned food and wine, grew desperate as none of it seemed to have an effect; how Rasputin, feeling perhaps the weight of hatred and fear in the place, got up and went to the cross, and falling on his knees, began to pray; how Yusupov chose that moment to stab him in the back; how Rasputin fell, and the prince, thinking he’d finished him off, rushed off to fetch his friends so they could drag the body out; and how, returning to the basement room, they found Rasputin gone, and a trail of blood leading outside, by the canal where they cornered their victim and shot him several times, but to make sure he was dead, threw him into the water.

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I’ve read the story many times; but there is something deeply disturbing in hearing it again here, in the place where it happened. And when we go into a nearby annex and are shown the autopsy photos of Rasputin’s body–‘It was clear from the autopsy he had died from drowning, not shooting or stabbing or poisoning,’ says the guide—I feel overcome by horror at what was done here. It was a vile scheme, a cowardly plot—and a vicious own goal which far from ‘saving’ the Tsar from bad counsel, actually helped to precipitate the cataclysmic events which would lead to the destruction of the monarchy and the triumph of the Bolsheviks.

There’s a weird coda to the story of Rasputin. When the Bolsheviks took power, one of their first acts was to dig up the body and destroy it—such was the power, even after death, of the legend of the man. But as the body was put on a bonfire to destroy it, suddenly, driven no doubt by chemical reactions, it sat up, causing panic. Though the body was eventually burned and the ashes scattered in an undisclosed location, it was yet another piece in the puzzle that was Rasputin—a puzzle that fascinates people to this day.

 

Trinity: The False Prince is released on the 8th of October.

You can grab a copy of Trinity: The Koldun Code now!

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Cover reveal: Nations Divided by Steve P. Vincent

Posted September 23, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Peace has been decades in the making, but chaos is just the press of a button away.

Jack Emery is happier than he has been in a long time. Nobody has shot at him or tried to blow him up for years, and he’s learned to love the job he thought he’d hate: Special Advisor to the President of the United States.

But nothing can prepare Jack for the work to come. As America continues to heal from self-inflicted wounds, an ambitious President McGhinnist draws closer to achieving the impossible: peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

As the countdown to peace reaches zero, a desperate group of hardline Israelis invoke the Samson Option, a secret protocol that will eradicate the peace agreement and pave the way for the destruction of America and the Middle East.

Jack has learned the hard way that when a crisis knocks, you don’t always get the chance to ignore it.

Perfect for readers of Vince Flynn, Steve Berry and Tom Clancy.

Nations Divided: Jack Emery 3 will be released on the 10th of December. Pre-order your copy now!

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Cover Reveal – Field of Mars: Complete Edition by David Rollins

Posted August 28, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Marcus Licinius Crassus’s lust for gold and glory was legendary. What became of his army is myth.

In Crassus the tyrant, Rufinius the soldier, Appias the historian, Mena the hag and Lucia the Golden Whore, David Rollins brings to life a mystery that has plagued historians for centuries. The only constant in this world is Mars, the god of war, and who he will favour is anyone’s guess.

Desperate to write himself into the pages of history, proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus marched 40,000 Roman legionaries into the heart of the Parthian empire. More than 10,000 were never seen or heard from again.

In a story that spans empires and generations, this vanished army’s fate is finally unveiled. From the streets of Rome to the deserts of ancient Iran, around the globe into the heart of an empire vaster than anything Rome ever imagined, a young Alexandrian soldier is borne on the tides of the age of empires from soldier of Rome to slave of Babylon to commander of armies.

Perfect for fans of Robert Harris and Conn Iggulden, this sweeping historical thriller takes the reader on an epic journey across ancient empires and into the unknown stories of myth and legend.

Field of Mars: Complete Edition will be released on the 8th of October – pre-order your copy now!

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Cover reveal: Field of Mars by David Rollins

Posted July 9, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Episode One – released 13th August. Pre-order now!

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Marcus Licinius Crassus’s lust for gold and glory was legendary. What became of his army is myth.

In Crassus the tyrant, Rufinius the soldier, Appius the historian, Mena the hag and Lucia the Golden Whore, David Rollins brings to life a mystery that has plagued historians for centuries. The only constant in this world is Mars, the god of war, and who he will favour is anyone’s guess.

Desperate to write himself into the pages of history, proconsul Marcus Licinius Crassus marched 40,000 Roman legionaries into the heart of the Parthian empire. More than 10,000 were never seen or heard from again.

In a story that spans empires and generations, this vanished army’s fate is finally unveiled. From the streets of Rome to the deserts of ancient Iran, around the globe into the heart of an empire vaster than anything Rome ever imagined, a young Alexandrian soldier is borne on the tides of the age of empires from soldier of Rome to slave of Babylon to commander of armies.

Perfect for fans of Robert Harris and Conn Iggulden, this sweeping historical thriller takes the reader on an epic journey across ancient empires and into the unknown stories of myth and legend.


Episode Two – released 27th August. Pre-order now!

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Defeat does not come easily to a soldier.

In the wake of an epic battle with the Parthian empire, Proconsul Crassus’s Roman army faces a crisis the likes of which Rome has never known. Centurion Rufinius, one of the few surviving officers, must ensure safe passage for his army and himself.

Facing turncoats within the ranks and temptation from a mysterious beauty promised to the king of a distant empire, Rufinius must fight for his life and for love. In cold-blooded slavers’ pits and on bended knee before foreign generals, Rufinius will do anything to renew his men’s faith in themselves.

Tested from within and without, Rufinius must learn to lead his men at a time when there is no best option. The first battle that must be fought is one of wills. And on the outcome will hinge the fate of empires.


Episode Three – released 10th September. Pre-order now!

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Even a soldier fears to march into a land his gods have never known.

Struggling to believe that the horizons stretch so far, Centurion Rufinius leads the remains of Crassus’s Roman army ever eastward.

His passion for Lucia intensifying, and his conflict with his own men reaching breaking point, Rufinius must demonstrate to his men and to General Saikan that he can repair this broken army.

Kept imprisoned in a wagon, the Golden Whore Lucia presents Rufinius and the hag Mena with an opportunity, but with it comes a risk that could kill them both.

Should he prevail, this peril will not be Rufinius’s last. He and his men must yet answer the call of the horizon, beyond which a vast empire awaits, rich with incalculable spoils.

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On writing the Janna Chronicles: with Felicity Pulman

Posted May 15, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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I feel as though I’ve been running a marathon, with a Janna Chronicle being published every month since January this year. It’s been exhausting and challenging, but immensely satisfying to watch Janna’s quest unfolding as she goes in search of her unknown father hoping that, with his help, she’ll be able to avenge a death and bring a murderer to justice.

Being a ‘pantser’ not a plotter, I began the series with that concept in mind, but I had little idea of how I was going to get there. The one thing I did know was that I’d have to go to England to walk in the footsteps of my character, hoping that the story would come to me as I tried to visualise how life might have been back in the 1140s when the series is set, and what the landscape and buildings would have looked like.

Becoming lost in Grovely Wood (once the ancient forest of Gravelinges) inspired part of the story as did my stay on a manor farm which became part of Book 2, Stolen Child.

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On the run and forced to flee once more, Janna takes refuge at Wilton Abbey (Unholy Murder.) Researching an abbey was far more difficult, thanks to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, but being able to walk among the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey with an audio guide was immensely helpful, and finding Aethelgifu’s Anglo-Saxon herb garden at the back of the site was an unexpected bonus.

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I had no intention of using Stonehenge as part of my story but a visit to the site of Amesbury Abbey (after Janna finds out that her mother was once the infirmarian there) brought me close to that ancient megalith and so I decided to play the tourist – and had a vision: a bleeding body stretched out across one of the fallen monoliths. I’ve learned to pay attention to the visions (and the voices) that sometimes come to me, and Stonehenge plays a crucial role in Janna’s story as she travels to Amesbury in company with a group of pilgrims (including the charismatic Ralph) and thereafter to Winchester with Ralph, Ulf the relic seller, and a troupe of jongleurs in #4 Pilgrim of Death.

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Book 5, Devil’s Brew (out this week) finds Janna in Winchester, destitute after her purse has been stolen and now working as a drudge in a tavern as she waits in hope of finally meeting her father. Once again Godric and Hugh have come into her life (and into her heart) but that’s only one of the choices she has to make as she’s caught between love and duty – and survival as an assassin comes close and Winchester burns in the deadly battle between the king and the empress.

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Book 6, Day of Judgment, out in June, follows Janna’s pursuit of justice and leads to a final reckoning, both within Janna’s new family but also taking her back to where she started, when the man she loves is accused of murder and she risks losing everything.

Visit Flick’s website and blog for more information about the Janna Chronicles and also I, Morgana: www.felicitypulman.com.au. There are more photographs from her research trips on pinterest.

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Review a book – live FOREVER!

Posted January 21, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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Do you get a thrill when you see a character with the same name as you? And then dream that you are them and make everyone refer to you only by their rank/kitsch nickname? And only really find people of the opposite sex attractive if they share the name of your fictional counterparts SO? …no? huh.

Well, in any case, it would be super awesome if a character was actually named after you, right? Right. Lucky for you then, that our author Duncan Lay is currently holding a review competition where the prize is exactly this! Details below.

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The Last Quarrrel Episode 1 is out on January 22, with each of the four subsequent episodes released a fortnight after the first. And Duncan has almost finished the first draft of book two of the series, The Bloody Quarrel. There are five characters who are currently nameless in this book.

Now, he could go online and grab some random names for them – or you could have your name given to one of them. All you have to do is review one or more episodes of The Last Quarrel on one of the many sites available – or review it on all of them!

Send Duncan the link, either through his website www.duncanlay.com or via the email address on his blog and let us know which of the following characters you might be interested in having named after yourself.


NOTE: We’re not looking for the most suck-worthy review but instead the more intelligent ones. So, if you like the idea of playing a pivotal part in the next book in the series, get reading, get reviewing and let Duncan know!

Characters in need of an awesome name:

1) Secret agent of the crown (female/male)
2) A Boluk-bashi (captain) of the Kotterman army (male)
3) A Courbaci (Colonel) of the Kottermna army (male)
4) A harbour lookout (male/female)
5) An angry mother (female)

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‘But What’s My Motivation?’ Maleficent and Creating Believable Backstory

Posted January 8, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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The following post contains spoilers about Maleficent. It’s a pretty good film, though, so if you haven’t seen it go and watch it now, then come back and resume. We’ll wait here. Everybody done yet? Great. Then I’ll begin.

The Stanislavski method of acting encourages the player to ask that now-familiar question, ‘what’s my motivation?’ in order to understand just what the character is thinking and feeling, and how they should react. As you write each scene of a story or novel, each piece of dialogue, imagine your character is asking you the same thing. Actions without motivation seem random and pointless. Readers don’t love that.

evilThe most common thing that some authors do is make evil characters evil just because they’re evil. This is rather uninspiring, and I don’t think it’s very realistic. The 1959 Disney Sleeping Beauty seems to be premised upon the most extraordinary overreaction to not being invited to a party. Maleficent, when not invited to the christening, crashes it, (like Kanye West at someone else’s acceptance speech) and curses the baby. Who even wants to go to a christening? They’re full of mumbling priests, screaming damp babies and inferior snacks.

angAside from Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones, the best thing about Maleficent is that it redresses this lack of motivation rather well by creating a proper back story. King Stefan, whom maleficent had once loved, cut off her wings while she was unconscious. This massively cruel dismemberment warrants her extreme reaction. His motivation was ambition; hers is revenge.

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There are multiple factors that motivate human behaviour. Here’s a list of things to consider in terms of your characters:

Relationships: All significant relationships should be considered, including their family and friends, and romantic relationships. Have these been loving and successful or has some damage been caused?
Fear: Everyone’s afraid of something. What’s your character’s fear? It doesn’t have to be a literal phobia of spiders or some such; perhaps they’re afraid of failure, or of being found out.
Cultural influences: Think about the society they grew up in.
Needs and wants: Are they acting to meet their basic needs for money, food and shelter, or trying to fulfil a more abstract need for approval or a childhood dream?
Obligation: Who are they accountable to?
Past experiences: This can include past wrongs, causing a desire for revenge (or justice), or circumstances that have led to their current situation.
Beliefs and worldview: Whether philosophical or religious, everyone has a way of seeing the world and of understanding human nature. What do they think of others? What do they think the meaning of life is?

Let’s apply these concepts to Maleficent.

Maleficent’s key relationship was with the young Stefan, who let her down badly, leaving her believing that there is no such thing as true love. She rarely shows fear, but seems afraid that she cannot reverse the curse when she tries to, and that it might come true. Before this, she is afraid of becoming attached to the child and tries to keep a distance. Her cultural influences come from the peaceful kingdom she grew up in. It’s essentially an anarcho-communalist state where all the magical creatures work together and there is no one leader. This explains how loathsome and extraordinary she finds Stefan’s ambition and the neighbouring state’s warring ways. What she needs and wants changes throughout the story. She wants peace, to begin with, then revenge, then redemption. She initially has a strong obligation to the people of her land, to protect them from invaders. Later this protective instinct is transferred to Aurora. jolThe key past experience of her relationship with Stefan and his attack clearly influence her actions, but we’re told a few other things about her past too. For example, we learn that her parents died, which perhaps informs her instinct to care for Aurora: a child who is functionally parentless. We’ve also seen the importance of flying to her and how much her wings mattered. Losing them and becoming earthbound figuratively and literally changed her perspective. Maleficent believes that there is no such thing as true love, that she cannot function without wings (hence the adoption of the bird-friend), and she believes in some sort of justice, though the form that this should take varies. She was hurt, badly, physically and psychologically, so she went to the dark place, but over time, she was brought back. However fantastical the story, that arc feels real to me.

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It may not be the most complex of films, or even the best of motivations, but it’s unarguably stronger than ‘I really wanted to come to a christening but no one asked me’ or even ‘I do things just because I’m a villain and therefore arbitrarily ruthless’. Well-developed characters often have multiple motivations and authentic reasons for their actions. Humans can be fallible, impulsive and changeable. Characters should be too.

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6 Things People Do When They Find Out You’re a Writer

Posted December 11, 2014 by Eve Merrier

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1. Get you to write something for them, on the spot. I was having a haircut today, and it came up that I was a writer. Within minutes I was handed a pen and notepad, pulling together a press release/ human interest piece about the salon (with a sly mention of two-for-one blow-drys thrown in). For this use of my talents, did I get paid my hourly? Did I get a discount off my haircut? I did not, but the promise of a free ’do if it gets published. Because I’m worth it.

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2. Instantly assume that you’re either dirt poor or J. K. Rowling in it. More often the first, in my experience. Still, if someone wants to pay for my cup of tea every once in a while because I’m a ‘struggling artist’, I’m not going to stop them.

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3. Tell you about a dream they once had that they think would make a great three-part fantasy trilogy. Stephen Fry will read the audio book; Stephen Spielberg will produce the film, naturally. Everyone has a book in them; whether it’s a good book is another matter entirely.

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4. Or they’ll tell you how they always meant to write their memoirs (and then usually recount an anecdote about young love that I’m far too squeamish to enjoy). It has only recently ceased to astound me that most people already know what they’d call their autobiography.

 

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5. Always introduce you to new people as ‘The Writer’ with a knowing looking and pronounced capitals, as if you’re a rare sort of panda, or an asylum escapee.

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6. Never tell people you’re a writer/ editor as they will instantly ask you to spell something. Ever since I became qualified as a proofreader my life has been a spelling bee.

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Mrs Andrews

 

 

 

 

 

Of course there are some brilliant things people do when they find out you’re a writer.

1. Buy your book.
2. Read your book.

On balance, it’s probably worth mentioning.

What do people do when they find out you’re a writer? Comments please! Or Tweet me @EveProofreads.

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A stranger in a strange land: guest post by Louise Cusack

Posted November 14, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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I’ve been watching the wildly popular new television series Outlander, adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s 1991 novel of the same name. It’s about WW2 army nurse Claire Randall who is visiting Scotland when she’s sent back in time 200 years, leaving her husband behind and needing to marry young and handsome highlander Jamie Fraser for protection. Outlander (the novel) is currently Goodreads #2 top romance of all-time, so this is a popular story that’s still selling strongly 23 years after its original release.

The television series features stunning Scottish landscapes and a regularly bare-chested male lead played by hunky Scot actor Sam Heughan, which might explain its popularity with non-readers as well. But according to blogs and reviews springing up across the Internet, the stranger in a strange land aspect of Claire coping with the primitive day-to-day life of eighteenth century Scotland is one of the most thrilling aspects of the story.

Unlike other historical dramas, this series looks at a time period through the fresh eyes of a twentieth century female character, allowing us to put ourselves in Claire’s shoes as she rebels against their patriarchy, is disgusted by their medical practices, and occasionally delights in the strangeness of it all – exactly as we might.

Of course, this isn’t the first stranger in a strange land story to enchant audiences.

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Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole into Wonderland have thrilled generations of children, and Avatar, where cripple Jake Sully saves the beautiful planet of Pandora, is the highest grossing movie of all time. Not to mention Edgar Rice Burrough’s hero John Carter, transported to Barsoom/Mars – a particular favorite of mine that was made into a Disney movie a few years back. I used to devour Edgar Rice Burroughs novels as though they were Mills & Boon when I was a teen, thrilling to the adventure of a ‘clean limbed fighting man from Virginia’ saving the princess and falling in love. Beyond the romance, I was falling in love with a genre that lets audiences see a new world through the eyes of a stranger.

A Princess of Mars was soon followed on my shelf by Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness and Frank Herbert’s Dune as firm favorites (along with Outlander). Not to mention that my first big crush was on Captain James Kirk of the starship Enterprise whose mission was to boldly go where no man had gone before…

I couldn’t get enough of characters going from one world into another, so it was also no surprise that I’d settle on stranger in a strange land stories as the theme I wanted to explore as a writer. Across, fantasy, romance and erotica, that theme is a constant, but my absolute favorite is my Shadow Through Time trilogy that begins with twentieth century Catherine falling through a Sacred Pool into Ennae and discovering that in that world she is Princess Khatrene, with a hunky champion of her own and adventures and romance more thrilling than anything I’d ever read.

So in celebration of all things stranger in a strange land, Momentum is offering the first book of my trilogy, Destiny of the Light, for free so you have your own vicarious adventure in an otherworld. And as one book-blogger said, “If you love your fantasy to be slightly gritty but with plenty of swoony romance, Destiny of the Light is for you!

 Louise Cusack‘s Destiny of the Light is currently FREE!

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In conversation – with Amanda Bridgeman and Nina D’Aleo

Posted November 12, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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Two of our authors, Amanda Bridgeman and Nina D’Aleo sat down to have a chat about their books and their approaches to writing.

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A: Hi Nina! It’s great to be chatting with you today. I’m a big fan of your work and am looking forward to picking your brain. So tell me, you’ve written three SFF books now. Is the process getting any easier for you?

N: In short. No. 🙂 It’s still the same chronic rewriting and second guessing for me, but I guess in ways that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it makes for a thorough knowledge of the story, from every conceivable angle.

Number 3 for you too! (Congratulations!!) Is it getting any easier for you?

A: I’ve released 3 books, but I had them all written before I got the first one published. So, for those ones, I can only really comment on the editing process – which I do think is getting easier. I’m definitely more attuned to what I need to look for, thanks to what has been picked up in the past (which hopefully makes my editor’s life easier!). I’ve only just recently written a brand new novel, so that was my first experience at writing again – and as it is a completely stand-alone novel not linked to the Aurora series in any way, it was a good test for me. There were days that it was slow going, and others where I seemed to race along, but I think that’s par for the course. I do think my writing has improved though. I’m certainly editing out the mistakes of the past before they’re committed to the page!

So what sparks your inspiration? After you have that first idea, how do you go about turning that into a fully fleshed story?

N: Good question and I think there’s been a whole heap of inspirations for all my books – people, stories, movies, art, poetry, music, animals, places  – pretty much everything I come into contact with! I think it’s probably the same for a lot of writers and artists as well. Once the idea for a story pops up then I’ll go into planning mode, so world, characters, storyline – everything goes down in whatever order I’m feeling like.

But tell me more about your Aurora Series – there are 3 books out now and more on the way – did you do an overall plot and planning at the very beginning or have the stories evolved as you wrote?

A: The story evolved as I wrote. It was only supposed to be one story, but as I wrote I seemed to undercover more and more story lying underneath. The good news for readers, though, is that I have now plotted the whole series and it will come to a definite end around book 7/8. I recently received a comment from someone suggesting that I was writing more books (and stretching out the story) for the commercial aspect of it, but this is completely untrue. The story itself dictated how long it would be. I have this (rather major) over-arching plot and several subplots that need to be tied up, and they can’t be tied up in one single book. At least, not if I want it to be realistic! Anyway…

Tell me, what do you find the hardest thing about this writing business?

N: Time, I think…. Just getting the time to sit down and write – it’s been an insanely busy year, but I’m hoping next year will be a bit different.  And also I think what you touched on above, it can be difficult to put stories out there and pause for judgement. On the flipside, it’s also a massive privilege and mostly awesome (everything is awesome!) to have people reading our books. That’s living the dream! And speaking of dreams – I think it’s that time. I think we need to talk characters…

Can you tell me a little bit about the leading men in your Aurora series – just a teaser for readers who haven’t started the Aurora series yet?

A: The leading men in the Aurora series are far from perfect, but they each contain elements of the perfect ‘man’. Saul Harris has the maturity, experience and the leadership skills to captain the Aurora team. He’s firm but fair, and because of this he has the team’s respect and trust . . . Daniel ‘Doc’ Walker, is intelligent and caring – two traits required of the medic and ship’s 2IC. He’s easy going, but when required he becomes the soldier he needs to be. Throughout the series his easy-going character is tested, and the ‘perfect’ guy proves that he makes mistakes too . . . James McKinley is hard man, and a courageous one at that – a key trait for Harris’ right-hand man in the field. He pushes people to prove themselves, but he also pushes himself to be the best. As the series unfolds, his hardened external layers are slowly removed, and the man hidden inside comes to light…

Now, I am a big fan of the leading men in your books (Copernicus and Darius to name a couple). So for readers who haven’t started your books as yet, tell us a little bit about them?

N: I’m going to say for Copernicus, tall, dark and dangerous and Darius – he has a hard exterior but there’s love there – somewhere on the inside – (and I have to say McKinley is my fav Aurora boy, but they’re all great). But I’m thinking we shouldn’t forget about the girls either – your leading lady, Corporal Carrie Welles, sharp shooter and elite soldier. She’s just starting out but she’s already been to hell and back.

When you write female characters do you find yourself naturally writing tougher ladies, is it something you wanted to do purposely. And if so, why do you think that is? (for either)

A: I like to write tough women, but I also like them to have their weak moments. That is what makes them human and I think what makes them appeal to readers. I come from a  line of strong women – my mother and my grandmothers – whom I dedicated Aurora: Darwin (and the whole Aurora series) to, so I suppose it’s bred into me in a way. They are women who have just picked themselves up and carried on when faced with hardships. Sometimes strong women make the mistake of being too strong and not allowing themselves to be weak or ask for help, and it is at this point that they seem to fall apart, because they can’t cope with not being perfect. This I think, is a big driver for Carrie Welles in my Aurora series. She is a woman who has to look deep inside herself to pull the courage out that she needs to survive, and she is also a woman who has to lower her defensive shield to admit when she is wrong or needs help, and to allow love to enter her life…

You also write strong women, and they seem a little damaged in a way due to the secrets they keep, but because of this they’re fighters – and survivors. What drives that in your writing?

N: Good question… I think I’ve always been attracted to the idea of the survivor – the person who can take every hit, psychologically and physically, and still keep going. For me that really defines a hero – not because they’re incredibly brave, or gifted, or perfect people, but because they never stop, despite the scars and damage.

Now I understand you’re working on a book that is outside of the Aurora Series, can you tell me a little bit about it and what it’s been like venturing out of your universe?

A: Yes, the new book is called The Time of The Stripes and it’s another sci-fi, but set on Earth, current day. It’s told from multiple perspectives and follows the immediate events surrounding a worldwide phenomenon. It’s a pretty tense drama, so readers of the Aurora series will hopefully enjoy it. It’s been a very interesting process to write! In some ways it’s been difficult in that I’m having to build characters up from scratch again – especially after spending so long with my Aurora characters, who I know like the back of my hand. It had also been a while since I’d written anything new so that harsh reminder of just how long it takes to write a novel was a wake up call! On the plus side, it’s been great to try my hand at building another world, in part to prove I could, but also just for having an opportunity to try something new and take that breath of fresh air was wonderful. But now I’m ready to crack on with more of the Aurora series!

So how did you find the experience of going from the The Last City/The Forgotten City to The White List?

N: It was pretty cool – I’ve always got a few writing projects going at once so it wasn’t too much of a leap, but there’s always those readjustments, where you have to find the right voice for the character, but overall it was great.

So thank you very much for chatting with me AB – any final advice for aspiring writers looking to get their work out there?

A: Study the market as best you can, be prepared to work hard, and learn patience! Writing and getting published is a marathon, not a sprint.

And what advice would give them?

N: I completely agree with you and I’ll just add in – don’t give up!

A: Yes! Good point. Well thanks for chatting with me today, Nina! It’s been great getting an insight into your wonderful books!

N: Thanks AB! It’s been great chatting with you too!

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Q&A with Sophie Masson

Posted November 10, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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We asked our wonderful author Sophie Masson some questions about her upcoming release Trinity: The Koldun Code.

 

 1. What inspired you to write the Trinity series?

I could say that what inspired me was my lifelong fascination with Russia, and that’s true. I could also say that it was inspired by my long-held desire of writing a big urban fantasy series, one that blends the everyday and the magical worlds, the natural and the supernatural, against a modern setting which makes the whole thing even more striking. That would also be true. And I wanted it to have other elements I love too, such as a good spice of romance and a sharp tingle of mystery. But Trinity might just have stayed as an idea in the back of my mind, if it hadn’t been for a chance glimpse on the Moscow Metro: a young man in modern jeans and leather jacket, but with the timeless, striking face of a prince or a legendary warrior, such as I’d seen that very day in paintings in the Tretiakov Art Gallery.

In that instant, just before the young man got off the train, Trinity really came alive. For there was Alexey Makarov taking shape in my mind, and there was Helen’s voice describing him. And I knew I could not rest until I had told their story.

 

2. Russia is such an evocative setting, how did you come to choose it?

As I mentioned, I’ve been fascinated by Russia since I was a child, when I read Russian fairytales, and later, Russian novels. My father (who comes from France) loves Russian music and art, so we were exposed to a lot of that at home. Much later, I visited Russia (I’ve been there twice now) and loved it—it was just as interesting as I had imagined it, in fact even more so! It’s such a mix of so many different influences—hugely diverse, enormously paradoxical, and extremely addictive.

 

3. Speaking of Russia, magic is such an ingrained part of their culture, how did this influence you?

Heaps! Russia is the absolutely perfect urban fantasy setting—you hardly even have to make anything up! From the Parliament trying to regulate witchcraft to the businesses who employ wizards to the scientists studying DNA for evidence of psychic talents to the ‘energy vampires’ who people firmly believe in, this is a place where the supernatural and paranormal are taken for granted by many, many people. And yet it’s also totally modern, with very high literacy and education levels.

 

4. What was your favourite scene to write, and why?

My favorite scene is the one where Helen and Alexey meet for the first time, in the woods. Everything changes in that moment for Helen, and it is truly magical, in all kinds of ways. Writing it gave me goose bumps!

 

5. What can we expect in the second book The False Prince?

A new threat on the horizon as a figure from the past resurfaces and causes havoc both natural and supernatural at Trinity. Watch this space!

 

 

Trinity: The Koldun Code is released on the 13th of November.

 

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In Conversation: Amanda Bridgeman and Steve P. Vincent

Posted October 21, 2014 by Momentum

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Posted October 17, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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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.

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How I Stopped People Stealing My Jack Reacher Novels

Posted July 11, 2014 by Luke Preston

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If there’s one book that would beat up all the other books on my bookshelf it would be Lee Child’s first Reacher novel, Killing Floor. The problem I have at the moment is that my shelves seem to be lacking a copy. It’s not like I haven’t taken myself down to the local bookstore and liberated a copy, in fact, I have liberated at least three copies in the past ten years and yet my collection of tough bastard books is still lacking that very title.

The loss of this 400 pages of awesomeness usually unfolds as such:

Someone would come over to my apartment and they will point at a copy of Killing Floor on the shelf and say, ‘I haven’t read that.’

‘How could you have not read that.’

‘I’ve been reading…’

‘I don’t care what you’ve been reading.’ Then I would slap a copy of Killing Floor into their mitts and send them on their way… And the I would never see the book again.

Some would say that I was at least partially responsible for the consistent departure of my Killing Floor copies but that doesn’t mean that my bastard friends can’t return them.

And I thought about this while sitting in the audience at ThrillerFest listening to Lee Child and Joseph Finder talk about writing, crime and baseball.

Cut to ten minutes later, I’m standing in the bookstore watching Lee Child sign books. Now, generally I’m not into getting signed books but then I look down. On the table was a copy of my unretainable Killing Floor. Then I look to Lee Child, back to the book and to Lee Child again. I pick up the book, head over, stand in line and a couple of minutes later I’m standing in front of Lee Child.

I tell him my tale of woe. About the copies of Killing Floor that my asshole friends never return and ask, ‘can you help?’ Now, anybody who has ever met Lee Child or heard him speak, you will know, he’s not a guy to be fucked with. He stared at me for a moment or two, smirked and then put pen to paper.

The following is what he wrote:

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I doubt my copy of Killing Floor will ever go missing again. Nobody wants Jack Reacher on their ass.

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Luke Preston is the author of the Tom Bishop Rampages, Dark City Blue and Out of Exile. He is in New York to attend ThrillerFest, where Out of Exile has been nominated for Best Ebook Original Novel at the International Thriller Writers Awards!

 

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He said, she said

Posted January 7, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke

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Late last year I wrote a post about the conventions and use of quotation marks when writing dialogue. And not that I want to reopen the debate about writers who choose to forgo using quotation marks, it’s difficult to discuss dialogue without also acknowledge the other part of writing dialogue: attribution.

Dialogue attribution signals to the reader who owns the words that have been spoken. Just as quotation marks are little hanging signs instructing the reader how to read that series of words, dialogue attribution lets them know where it’s come from, who it’s come from.

In scenes of only two characters, it will often disappear. After the initial set-up of the conversation, it becomes superfluous. But add one more character into the scene, suddenly it becomes crucial for the writing to still have clarity.

But really, it’s not rocket science. There’s nothing new here.

Where dialogue attribution gets into trouble is when it starts trying to become part of the story. Where it works too hard. Showboats. (Okay look the words aren’t showboating, the writer is, but I’m trying to be nice here.) Stephen King writes about this at length in On Writing, declaring that the overwriting of dialogue attribution was something to avoid at all costs, particularly Swifties.

Swifties, after the style of dialogue attribution used and abused in the Tom Swift series of books from the early 20th century, essentially use adverbs in dialogue attribution to enhance the dialogue, often with ridiculous puns. (‘I’ll have a martini,’ Tom said dryly.) While classic Swifties use puns a lot, they don’t necessarily have to. But the use of adverbs in dialogue attribution might as well, as what it does is over-instruct the reader how to read the dialogue.

Take the following:

‘Do your worst!’ Tom cried bravely.

The reader ends up with this ridiculous formula:

‘This is what is said’ + This is who said it + this is how it is said.

King’s point is salient. The adverb is unnecessary, as both the context of the line of dialogue, and the words spoken, already tell us how a line might be said. So we cut it.

‘Do your worst!’ Tom cried.

Furthermore, if again contextually in the narrative it was already clear that Tom would be making this cry, the attribution to him also becomes unnecessary. Stating as well that it is ‘cried’, rather than ‘said’, ‘muttered’, ‘stammered’, ‘ejaculated’ or whathaveyou, does give the reader a clear idea, but in this case the exclamation mark already makes that clear. So one might end up with the following:

‘Do you worst!’

Of course, that also comes down to how preferential one is to exclamation marks.

King continues to describe how writers try to avoid Swifties by enveloping them into the attribution. The spoken verb suddenly becomes constantly active and descriptive, and a reader can have the experience of making their way through a narrative thinking that every character talks like a supporting character in an amateur Shakespearean production by way of daytime soap operas and William Shatner. King’s examples:

‘Put the gun down, Utterson!’ Jekyll grated.

‘Never stop kissing me!’ Shayna gasped.

‘You damned tease!’ Bill jerked out.

Basically, this style of attribution doesn’t give the reader the chance to utilise any imagination as they read the story, as the writer is too busy telling them how to read it. So what are we left with?

He said. She said.

Which is not to say these are the only ways of attributing dialogue. Not at all. But they’re the most common, and for a good reason. King himself admits it’s all well and good to preach avoiding Swifties and the like, when he’s just as likely to do it as the next person. And he admits the reason for it: ‘I am afraid the reader won’t understand me if I don’t.’ If you writing is good enough, and strong enough, the reader will know how the dialogue has been said, all you need to do is let them know who said it, they will work out the rest.

What he doesn’t mention, and what I suspect, is that something else occurs for a reader when he said or she said is used. In a story with a lot of dialogue, there will be a lot of dialogue attribution. And for readers who read a lot, we are so accustomed to seeing that little couplet littered about the pages that we don’t really notice it anymore. We might pay attention to the who, just so that part of the scene is clear. But the word said is like some magic grease in the wheels of the story – it helps it move along, it helps the reader move along, but we don’t necessarily notice it happening. It becomes one of those words we use in stories so often it might as well just be punctuation. It might as well be invisible, given how it interacts with our subconscious when we read.

Finally, King’s last words on the matter, just to prove I’m a slavish disciple:

‘All I ask is that you do as well as you can, and remember that, while to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.’

He said.

 

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The building of character

Posted December 18, 2013 by Amanda Bridgeman

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When my characters first appear to me, it will be in a climactic scene from their story. I don’t know why or how, but they just appear in my mind. I’ll see how they look physically, what they’re feeling and how they react. Picturing the character in their pivotal scene will form the core of their being, capture the essence of their personality, and the rest just seems to radiate out from there: where they came from, how they got to that pivotal place, and where they will go from there.

With Carrie Welles in Aurora: Darwin (book 1 of the Aurora Series), I first pictured her being made aware of the awful truth behind Station Darwin. I felt the tension, saw her fear, and tasted the devastation of the predicament she was in. And I wanted to know more. In particular, I wanted to know how she was going to get out of this situation. And the truth is, I knew she wasn’t going to do it alone. Not because she was weak or incapable, but because the situation before her was grave.

So, if Carrie wasn’t going to make it out of this situation on her own, then she needed someone to help. Captain Saul Harris was an obvious choice. He first came to me as a man under immense pressure, trying hard to keep his team together and alive. For whatever reason, I subconsciously pictured these two characters different in every way possible: male/female, black/white, 40’s/20’s, American/Australian, Captain/Corporal. And knowing how opposite they were, I wondered how I could bring these two together? As I began to explore the characters, however, I discovered that they had two things in common: a good heart, and the determination to survive. So this odd pair suddenly didn’t seem so odd. And it was out of this exploration of character that I found the crux of my story: Two very different people, with one common goal: survival.

There are strong themes of sexism and gender issues throughout the Aurora Series, but it’s not in the way that most people think. I didn’t want my heroine to single-handedly save the day and prove herself better than the boys. Why? Because I thought that was unrealistic. Nor, did I want Saul Harris my hero to single-handedly save the day either. The true theme behind the Aurora Series is teamwork. No-one is better than the other. If they were going to make it out of this situation they were going to have to work together on an even playing field. And not just my two leads – I have a whole cast of characters to contend with. The theme behind the series doesn’t just relate to equality between the sexes. The Aurora team is made up of a mix of nationalities, skin colour, ages, talents, career rankings, etc. This is a story about everyone banding together to survive, despite their differences.

And this is where characterisation plays a huge part, not just with the leads, but also with the minor characters. In order for a reader to feel the tension and to care about what happens to the crew of the Aurora, I needed to have well-rounded believable characters – that weren’t just there to stand in the background. To make them believable I had to build them with real life personalities that readers could potentially see part of themselves in, I had to give these characters each a part to play in the story, and I had to let the reader spend some time with the characters before the shit hits the fan.

I think all characters in some way inherit certain characteristics from their creators. I’m the first to admit that there are small elements of myself infused into all my characters. I mean, they say write what you know, right?  So, in order to make these characters real you need to insert a piece of yourself, or someone else you know, into them to lift them from the page. And not just the good characteristics, you need to give them flaws, because that is what makes them truly life-like. That said, you shouldn’t just focus on their personalities, because sometimes it’s the little physical characteristics that can help ‘flesh’ them out too. Take Harris and the way he often arches his eyebrow. He’s a captain who thinks, studies, analyses, and questions, and this little physicality underpins this personality trait.

Each one of my characters makes mistakes, but they also do some things right. It’s the ebb and flow of the character’s personal journey, and also the ebb and flow of the overall story’s journey – how the characters, in their ebbs and flows, relate and interact with the other characters. But don’t just stop at the personalities, physicalities, or relationships, and how these relate to the external turmoil of the story. To really flesh out a character there needs to be inner turmoil too.

To quote author Kurt Vonnegut: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

This ultimately means they should have something driving them, be it as simple as the desire for a glass of water, or a need to prove themselves to someone, or a more critical goal of something like survival.

Harris is clearly a man facing great external turmoil, trying to keep his team safe and fighting a foe he didn’t imagine possible. But as the story grew, it became clear to me that he is also a man facing great inner turmoil. The Aurora Series follows Harris as he travels through a journey of self-discovery. Slowly but surely with each episode in the series, he begins to find out who he really is and what his life really means.

Carrie’s story began as a simple ‘horror for chicks’ tale, about a woman facing the great external turmoil she discovers on the Darwin. But as the series progressed, she too became faced with a lot of inner turmoil. She, like Harris, is on a journey of self-discovery. She’s a woman who has her whole life planned out, but is suddenly side-swiped and forced onto another path she hadn’t planned. Battling the chaos around her, she is faced with the inner turmoil of questioning her career choice, dealing with the prospect of a love she hadn’t expected, and trying to resolve the widening gap with her estranged father. Slowly but surely with each episode in the series, she begins to discover what she’s really made of and what she wants her life to be.

All characters, be it major or minor, should have a back story -just like everyone in real life does. Each story in the Aurora Series peels away more layers and reveals more about each of the characters. Some of the character’s inner turmoil comes to the forefront and mingles with the overarching storyline, and some of the other character’s inner turmoil takes more of a backseat – there simply to add depth to that character.

Creating characters is not a simple thing. Strong characters are built from the ground up in a detailed 3D modelling kind of way. You need to consider every facet that a normal human has: particular physical looks, personality type, habits/quirks, background, relationships, family life, flaws, everything right down to their favourite drink.

I’ve spent about five years with the characters of the Aurora Series now, so they are like family. I laugh when they laugh, fear when they fear, and love when they love. They are as real to me as any of my friends, and I hope I have managed to translate them into words well enough, so that my readers can feel like they are part of their family too.

 

seriesAurora: Darwin and Aurora: Pegasus by Amanda Bridgeman are both available now 

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What have our authors been up to this week?

Posted November 22, 2013 by Mark

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Amanda Bridgeman has been designing graphics to go along with her Aurora series

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Chris Allen has been offering himself up as a prize to celebrate the launch of Amazon Australia

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Annika Cleeve has been wondering what her life would have been like without being a sex worker

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Luke Preston has been pretending to be Cormac McCarthy

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S.A. Gordon has been having too much fun with photos from Parliament

 

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The best closing lines from books

Posted November 21, 2013 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke

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A while ago Mark did a series of posts on the best opening lines in fiction. Around the same time there was this excellent piece in The Atlantic by Joe Fassler where he interviewed *coughcough* Stephen King *coughcough* about the art of writing opening lines, who then also gave a fairly extensive sample of his own favourites.

Considering that, and the fact that Mark covered science fiction, fantasy and horror opening lines, I decided to turn to closing lines.

What makes a good closing line?

If done right, I think it can influence the entire reading of a book. Similar to a title, in how it establishes so much forethought and anticipation for a reader, speculating about what might come, a closing line can redefine so much of a reader’s impression. One or two in the list below completely overhauled my feelings about what I had just read.

In the article above, it mentions how a good opening line invites the reader in, says to them ‘you want to know about this.’ In conjunction, a great closing line can work magic on the reader, can propel the story from just words on a page to an experience that lives on beyond the covers of the book.

So, some of these are science fiction, some of them aren’t. Hopefully none give away anything about the plot, or detract from the joy of reading them for the first time. I’m not going to go for any of the obvious, time-honoured choices here though because, well, where’s the fun? We’ve all had our boats back against the current, loving Big Brother, and leading on into a heart of darkness. We know how they all end. Here are some others.

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“I feel…what’s the word? Happy. I feel happy.

Shots outside. I’m going to look.”

– The Passage by Justin Cronin

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“If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boy and his dog and his friends. And a summer that never ends. And if you want to imagine the future, imagine a boot… no, a sneaker, laces trailing, kicking a pebble; imagine a stick, to poke at interesting things, and throw for a dog that may or may not decide to retrieve it; imagine a tuneless whistle, pounding some luckless popular song into insensibility; imagine a figure, half angel, half devil, all human… slouching hopefully towards Tadfield… forever.”

 Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

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“Then the music takes us, the music rolls away the years, and we dance.”

– 11/22/63 by Stephen King

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“‘And then what?’ said her daemon sleepily. ‘Build what?’

‘The republic of heaven,’ said Lyra.”

– His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

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“I never saw any of them again – except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say good-bye to them.”

– The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

9780340993781 “From long habit, Smiley had taken off his spectacles and was absently polishing them on the fat end of his tie, even though he had to delve for it among the folds of his tweed coat.

‘George, you won,’ said Guillam as they walked slowly towards the car.

‘Did I?’ said Smiley. ‘Yes. Yes, well I suppose I did.’”

– Smiley’s People by John LeCarre

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“Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.”

– Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

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“He sprung from the cabin window, as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.”

– Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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“It makes no difference whether I write or not. They will look for other meanings, even in my silence. That’s how They are. Blind to revelation. Malkhut is Malkhut, and that’s that.

But try telling Them. They of little faith.

So I might as well stay here, wait, and look at the hill.

It’s so beautiful.”

– Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

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“Why? and automatically answering, out of the blue, for no reason, just opening my mouth, words coming out, summarising for the idiots: ‘Well, though I know I should have done that instead of not doing it, I’m twenty-seven for Christ sakes and this is, uh, how life presents itself in a bar or in a club in New York, maybe anywhere, at the end of the century and how people, you know, me, behave, and this is what being Patrick means to me, I guess, so, well, yup, uh…’ and this is followed by a sigh, then a slight shrug and another sigh, and above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign and on the sign in letters that match the drapes’ color are the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.”

– American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

 

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