Monday, 7 January 2019

An interview with Steve Parker

Steve Parker

Q. A big welcome today to STEVE PARKER. I wondered, Steve, if you would like to tell us about yourself?  For example, where are you from and how long have you been writing?
A. Hi Paul. Thank you for talking to me. I was born in Camberwell, London but grew up in Peckham. I now live in East Sussex. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I decided to get serious one day and sat down to write a screenplay. I have no idea why I started with that, but what I loved about it was the structure and discipline it required to construct a story on only 90-120 pages. It made me think in scenes. It also taught me how to make use of dialogue to drive a story along.  When I felt comfortable enough with that process, I decided to try and turn one of them into a novel. It was difficult as I had to learn a whole new set of skills, but that screenplay was used as a complete outline. It made my life so much easier.

Q. Is writing a full-time career for you or do you have / or did you have another occupation that you can talk to us about?
A. It is full-time now, yes. Before that, I was a police officer in the Met but an injury forced me out. After that, I worked as an enforcement officer for a local authority. I was fortunate enough to be made redundant and after a bit of thought, decided to pack up working altogether. We sold up, downsized and moved to the coast.  That’s when the writing really kicked in.

Q. Which is your favourite genre to write and why?
A. Crime. It’s what I know best and feel comfortable writing about. When I was younger (a lot) I started to read the Ed McBain 87th Precinct books and got hooked on them and I guess they were what got me thinking about writing my own, although it took me a long time to get around to it! My experiences in the police have also had a big effect on me and I think it was just a natural thing for me to gravitate toward when writing.

Q. Which is your favourite genre to read and why?
A. Crime, but I read wide. I like psychological thrillers, horror, some fantasy type tales and… pretty much anything really. I’m a big fan of non-fiction too.

Q. Who do you count amongst your favourite authors?
A. Oh dear. Where to start? Crime-wise – Tony Parsons, A.A Dhand and J.D Barker are my favourite mainstream writers at the moment, but I have also found some fantastic Indie authors too -Joy Ellis, Charlie Gallagher, Helen Durrant, to name just a few. I like Stephen King’s earlier work in the horror genre and a number of his short stories, but I’m a real fan of Adam Neville, the British horror author.  

Q. What drove you to begin a writing career?
A. Honestly? To see if I could do it. I had always carried dreams of writing a book since I was young and used to imagine seeing my books on the shelves in Waterstones but, life got in the way and I had bills to pay and a million other reasons why I didn’t start.  It was only by retiring early that I ran out of reasons and excuses not to do it.

Q. Have you any regrets about starting that career?
A. Only one. I wish I’d done it earlier.

Q. What would you do differently if you were given the opportunity to begin your writing career again?
A. Honestly, I think the only thing is that I would have started a whole lot earlier.

Q. Tell us about your main characters. Are they based on real people or a product of the imagination?
A. Good question. My two main protagonists are a mixture of people I’ve known and worked with and if I’m honest, there’s a little bit of me in both of them. I think that’s unavoidable to some extent, but I tend to ramp up their characteristics to make them a bit more interesting. What I wanted to do in my books is not sugar-coat the reality of policing. My coppers swear, fight and can be stroppy with each other and with others. That said, they have a very strong sense of justice and are not afraid to dish it out in their own way if it looks like it might be the only option available to them. Of course, this behaviour and the things they see and deal with leads to problems in their personal lives and I wanted to show that too.

Q. What do you feel are the greatest challenges facing any writer at the present time?
A. In relation to writing, I think it’s the same as it ever was. Bum on seat, fingers on keyboard. But, once it’s done, getting your book out there and noticed is a big challenge. Going the ‘traditional’ route with one of the big 4 publishers is as difficult as it ever was. I don’t think they’ve quite woken up to being and having a digital publishing arm of their business yet. Yes, they are e-booking what they currently have but they’re not necessarily going after the e-book market as a separate and specific market.

Self-publishing is a challenge that requires a whole host of other skills – formatting, cover art, for instance, and then you have to get it out there. Putting on Amazon is one thing, getting it noticed is quite another. You have to know, really know, how to market a book because otherwise, yours will end up being buried by the thousand or so new releases coming out every day.

The other thing that does concern me is something I heard on a podcast some time ago concerning Artificial Intelligence. Apparently, computer bods are working on an AI that can take an author’s previous work, feed it into a computer program and it will spit out a new story based on the author's style, voice and genre. That scared the crap out of me. Like everybody reading this, I thought it was probably rubbish but then, there is so much advanced technology (deepfake videos comes to mind) out there, is it so far out of the realms of possibility? Still, on the plus side, no more writers' block!

Q. Do you have an office or ‘space’ where you write from and is it at home, or elsewhere?
A. I write from home, on the dining table. I use a laptop rigged to a 27” monitor. Luckily, I have a very tolerant wife who lets me get away with murder. My argument is that I can take the whole rig apart in under five minutes and voila, dining table is back. I wish I did have an office though because I find it difficult to write at home. Too many distractions for me and again, life gets in the way. Sometimes I take my iPad and go sit in the car by the beach (I need quiet to write) but of late I’ve been getting up at 5am, writing for two hours, having the day to myself and then starting again at about 7pm. Seems to be working better for me.

Q. Do you write to a target – word count – every day, or do you have another writing discipline that you could share with us?
A. I do try to write to target, yes. On my latest work I set myself a target to do the first draft in one month and set a word count of 3,000 a day. I knew I probably wouldn’t hit that every day but when I did, or went over it (rare), I had a bit of slippage built in – I could maybe take a day off and not feel too guilty. I like to work in two bursts of 50 minutes at a time with a ten-minute break in between. In the evening, I can either write some more if I haven’t hit my target or fiddle about with some other aspect of it.

Q. Which of the books that you have written so far is your favourite and what can you tell us about it without giving the game away?
A. The Lost Children. It tackles faith-based child abuse and in this case, African witchcraft, and how it is growing at an alarming rate in this country. Although it’s a story it highlights a problem that is real, and is largely hidden from society. I have some links over on my blog to a few videos that explain the problem and there is also a link to a newspaper article that’s an eye-opener.

Q. What can you tell us about your forthcoming publication?
A. Not much unfortunately because I don’t want to give anything away, but I can tell you that it takes my coppers out of London and finds them way, way out their depth.

Q. When you have finished writing the book – what do you do next? By that I mean, do you edit the book yourself? Do you design your own book cover? Do you prepare a project plan to market your book?
A. Apart from a bit of editing, none of those things. I’m very lucky to have found a publisher, Joffe Books who take care of a lot of that for me. The only editing I do as such is in the drafting stages.  I usually do three or fours drafts myself before I give it over to a couple of early readers who hopefully pick up on any plot holes or spelling mistakes and they give me feedback as to whether they liked it or not. After that, I send it to my publisher who sends it to an editor, she shores it up, it comes back to me to make any changes necessary. It then goes back to the publisher and it is then proof read in finer detail.

In terms of advertising, I tend to design a few ads for each book myself and Tweet them out about three times a day. I have no idea what, if any, impact it has on sales but it makes me feel as though I’m doing something to help it along.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting out on a writing career?
A. Don’t doubt yourself. Ever. If you do, you’ll never write and one day, you’ll regret it. And, read books on how to write screenplays. It will help in so many ways.

Q. If you were gifted an air ticket to ‘anywhere’, which destination would you choose above all others and why?
A. Alaska. I’m a big fan of icy landscapes and want to get there with the camera.

Q. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing, marketing, or being involved with your book business? Do you have any hobbies?
A. I’m a big fan of photography and always have a camera with me.

Q. Can you provide any links to your purchase site, website, blog site, or any social media sites that might be of interest to readers and that we can follow?
A. Sure. My books can be found on Amazon at http://bit.ly/SPAuthorPage
my webpage is www.mrparkerspen.com
Twitter is  @mrparkerspen
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/MrParkerspen/
I’m not as active on social media as I should be, but hopefully, I’m going to get to grips with it a bit more in 2019. I always answer my emails, but it may take me a day or two to do so.

Q. Thank you Steve. For readers, I've included Steve's book covers for more information. Just follow the links above. 

A. Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. I’m very grateful.






Monday, 3 December 2018

An interview with Peter Martin




Q. A big welcome today to PETER MARTIN…   ……. I wondered if you would like to tell us about yourself?  For example, where are you from and how long have you been writing?
A. I’m from the UK, a town called Cradley Heath which is just a few miles outside Birmingham. I have been writing for over thirty years, initially just for my own pleasure, but in the last few years I’ve been a bit more serious about it. And have actually joined the ebook self-publishing revolution.

Q. Is writing a full-time career for you or do you have another occupation that you can talk to us about?
A I worked for a well-known High Street Bank for over forty years and took early retirement three years ago, mainly to help look after my grandchildren but also it gave me more time to write.

Q. Which is your favourite genre to write and why?
A. My favourite genres are Suspense/Thriller/Psychological/Family Drama, because I like to write about ordinary people put in extraordinary situations and how they cope with what happens to them.

Q. Which is your favourite genre to read and why?
A. I like to read similar genres to which I write, but also Historic/Contemporary, anything that has a good story. I like to see if I can guess what happens to the characters and enjoy twist endings.

Q. Who do you count amongst your favourite authors?
A. Ken Follett, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Robert Goddard, Wilbur Smith, R J Ellory.

Q. What drove you to begin a writing career?
A. I’ve always liked reading from an early age. Reading inspired me to see if I could reach the heights my hero’s reached. I’m not there yet, but feel slowly but surely I am making progress and getting better – hopefully!!

Q. Have you any regrets about starting that career?
A. Yes. I wish I could have got down to writing much earlier in my life, or least been more serious about it. But family and work got in the way as it does with many would-be writers.

Q. What would you do differently if you were given the opportunity to begin again?
A. Yes, I would have planned my books more carefully. Written them straight on to the computer rather than longhand. Researched them more, had the early books edited and proofread.

Q. Tell us about your main characters. Are they based on real people or a product of the imagination?
A. Most of my characters are a product of my imagination, but some of their traits are based on people I’ve met in my life

Q. What do you feel are the greatest challenges facing any writer at the present time?
A. Being successful and making a living from writing. It’s still very difficult to be successful with so many people writing these days. It’s easy to get your books lost amongst all the other books. How do you stand out from the crowd? Promotion too is a massive challenge and takes up too much time, and can cost you a lot of money with little or no reward.

Q. Do you have an office or ‘space’ where you write from and is it at home, or elsewhere?
A. I write at home in the living room. I like it best with no TV on, listening to music while I write. The TV can be a distraction, but I prefer not to lock myself away anywhere as that it’s fair on my family

Q. Do you write to a target – word count – every day, or do you have another writing discipline that you could share with us?
A. I don’t have a target as such as every day is different and it’s putting too much pressure on yourself. I have an idea in my head when I’d like to finish a book, but I don’t beat myself up about it.

Q. Which of the books that you have written so far is your favourite and what can you tell us about it without giving the game away?
A. My favourite is AGAINST HER WILL, my first book about a young girl who is raped on her way home from work. The book follows the aftermath of this horrific event.

Q. What can you tell us about your forthcoming publication?
A. Yes, it’s called A MEANS TO AN END, and it links three people, mother, daughter and boyfriend and tells of their different needs and desires and how they get about getting what they want. Of course there is lot’s of conflict between them which causes lots of problems.

Q. When you have finished writing the book – what do you do next? By that I mean, do you edit the book yourself? Do you design your own book cover? Do you prepare a project plan to market your book?
A. I go through the book as many times as I need to, then it is sent to an editor, for development edit, copy-edit end finally a proofread. I don’t design my own cover, I know a great cover designer and usually buy a pre-made one that I think is applicable to my book. I have a vague plan of how to market my book, but a lot of it is wait and see and take it from there.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting out on a writing career?
A. First plan the book, get the first draft down on paper, then go through it as many times as you need to. When you can do no more send it to an editor. Never give up, always listen to advice, take criticisms on the chin and learn from them.

Q. If you were gifted an air ticket to ‘anywhere’, which destination would you choose above all others and why?
A. New Zealand because it is a beautiful country with sights different to anywhere else in the 
world

Q. If you could invite three people from history to a dinner party. Who would you invite and why?
A. Charles Dickens because I’d love to hear how he created such wonderful characters, Winston Churchill because I’d love an insight into the Second World War, and finally and Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle to learn how he crafted the great Sherlock Holmes stories.

Q. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing, marketing, or being involved with your book business? Do you have any hobbies?
A. Yes, I have several. I love listening to music, taking my border collie for a walk because he is such a character, and reading because I like to read as many different sorts of books so it will help me with my writing.

Q. Can you provide any links to your purchase site, website, blog site, or any social media sites that might be of interest to readers and that we can follow?

Twitter: @pmartinauthor

Facebook: facebook.com/mart.perks


Check out Peter's gallery and follow the above links for a worthwhile read that you'll enjoy.






Thursday, 8 November 2018

Remembrance - The Soldier's Story


REMEMBRANCE: 1914 – 2018...... The Soldier’s Story.
My grandfather - James Scougal - was born in Yankton, South Dakota, America in 1882. He died in Carlisle, Cumbria, in 1956. Granddad was a sergeant in the 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. He was deployed to Flanders, Belgium, in 1914. The regiment was part of 18th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, Third Corps. The battalion’s battle honours include Armentieres, Hooge, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy, Hill 70, the Somme and Cambrai. My grandfather returned home after the war physically unscathed but mentally scarred by the horrors of the First World War.
My father - Herbert James Scougal - was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham in 1915 and was a company sergeant major in the Royal Army Service Corps. Dad was taken prisoner by the Japanese on Christmas Day, 1941, during the Battle of Hong Kong.
The two generations that came before me fought two world wars and sadly lost over ten million lives from within their number.
My father seldom spoke of the war but towards the end, he told me this. I call it ‘The Soldier’s Story’…
‘It was Christmas Day, 1941, when we surrendered. There were about 10,000 of us to start with but seventeen days later there was only 6,500 of us still alive. I fought next to the Middlesex Regiment. The Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles were just along the line from us. There were Canadian Regiments from Manitoba and Quebec. But elsewhere, on the Kowloon Peninsula, there were lads from the Royal Scots, the Sappers, and Indians from the Punjabi and Rajput Regiments. The Hong Kong Volunteer Force also fought with us. I was a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Army Service Corps. Normally I drilled soldiers, taught them how to march and salute, and instilled discipline. I taught them to drive anything from a jeep to a tank to a ten-tonne lorry. I wasn’t an infantryman.
But that day I was a soldier.
They came at us from out of the jungle just north of Hong Kong. There were thousands of them. We killed quite a lot of them when they attacked, but they just kept coming. My friends fell and died around me. There were bodies everywhere. I lost dozens of friends that day. Christmas Day was never the same for me from that day on. I was lucky. We stopped fighting when we ran out of bullets. They didn’t shoot us. Elsewhere in Kowloon they killed injured soldiers, raped the nurses, and murdered those who surrendered. I was just lucky, or so I thought. They took us to Sham Shui Poo prison camp. They were nearly all British and Canadian soldiers there. We were given two blankets, a cement floor and a hut. For the next four years, I lived mainly on water and rice. One day we caught the Commandant’s cat. We skinned it and ate it raw. The Commandant got twenty years for war crimes when the war ended. We ate all the grass in the camp, put it in soup and ate it. Whenever we could, we would catch and eat snakes. We would eat anything to stay alive. They electrified the wire around the camp at night. In the morning we would find a dead dog or a dead cat lying by the fence. We would eat it, often raw.
They beat us, kicked us and rifle-butted us whenever they wanted to. I had beriberi, diphtheria, dysentery, malaria, yellow fever and a dictionary full of tropical diseases that confounded the doctors. I don’t know how I got through it but I did. They worked us in the mines, digging and scraping. Someone died nearly every day. We just clung to life every second of the day.
It was the Canadian Navy that liberated us in August 1945.
When the guards realised all was lost they made for the mines to hide from the approaching Canadians. We encouraged them and told them we wouldn’t let them be taken by the Canadians. When the Japanese guards were inside the mine we wired explosives up and detonated the mine. It collapsed and we never saw the guards again. My hands were on the plunger when it went down. A lot of us pushed the plunger down. Lots of us wanted to be part of it. I’ve never regretted it.
Two weeks earlier atomic bombs had been dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to end the war.
I was about thirteen and a half stone when I went into the army. I was six feet tall, in my prime, and with my whole life before me. When I left Sham Shui Poo I was less than six stone and there were only about a thousand of us left from the original ten thousand. The rest died in imprisonment.
They didn’t want the people to see us like skeletons, skin and bone, so they took us home via Australia and Canada. They fed us, watered us, tended to us and clothed us. Then they took us to Hiroshima. They thought we’d be happy to see what we’d done to them to stop the war.
I can remember reaching out to touch some of the buildings with my hands. The shadows of the buildings were still there but there was nothing to touch. There was nothing left of that place. No buildings, no people. Nothing. It was tragic and so strange.
It was the final brutal act in a long and brutal war.
When I finally did come home I was walking passed the Crown and Mitre in English Street, Carlisle, when one of them came towards me. I hit him as hard as I could. The police locked me up. The man turned out to be a Malayan doctor from the local infirmary. He didn’t press charges.
Thinking now, they did so much to us and we did so much to them. No one wins a war.
When it’s right, tell them of love and death, and of war and peace. Tell them why I wore a poppy every Remembrance Day, and why I have kept the words I have just told you within my heart for decades. It is a miracle that I lived through it, and it must be a miracle that you were born my only son when I lived so close to death every day.
I’ve not long to go before I go. I’d like my grandchildren to know about me when they are much older…
Tell them of me, so that they might know of me… and my story.
(Extracted from the book ‘Scougal’ by Paul Anthony)

Friday, 20 July 2018

An interview with ROGER BRAY



Roger Bray

Q. A big welcome today to Roger Bray. I wondered if you would like to tell us about yourself, Roger?  For example, where are you from and how long have you been writing?
A. Hi Paul and thanks for having me along today. I was raised in Blackburn, Lancashire and joined the Navy after leaving school.  I spent nearly 10 years as an aircraft armourer before migrating to Australia in 1983 after I returned from serving in the Falklands. I served in the Australian Federal and Queensland Police before being medically retired after being seriously injured.  Rather than get depressed about the whole thing, although I did experience that, I enrolled in University and gained bachelor and master degrees in International Relations.  I have been married for over thirty years and have three grown children.  I currently live between Brisbane and the NSW border with my wife and her overly cute cat.

Q. Is writing a full-time career for you or do you have another occupation that you can talk to us about?
A. Since obtaining my degrees 10 years ago I have moved around quite a lot.  From living in Germany for a couple of years, working for an Australian Intelligence Organization and the Queensland Department of Justice.  About six months ago I decided work was interfering with my writing and I decided to write full time, which is what I am now doing.  It is as fulfilling as I hoped and I am currently working on my fourth book.

Q. Which is your favourite genre to write and why?
A. It is sometimes difficult to correctly pigeon-hole books and mine are no exception.  My first two novels have been classified by people with more knowledge than I as literary fiction with a crime thriller focus.  My third novel which is currently on pre-order and due for publication on 10th August is a psychological thriller, most definitely with crime elements.




Q. Which is your favourite genre to read and why?
A. I read many different genres, from fantasy to literary fiction, I tend to find reading the same genre boring and like to mix it up. 

Q. Who do you count amongst your favourite authors?
A. I have favourite authors in many genres including Robert Heinlein in SciFi, Leon Uris in Literary Fiction and other such as Le Carre, John Birmingham and Stuart McBride.   My all time favourite authors are Tom Sharpe and Robert Harris. 

Q. What drove you to begin a writing career?
A. I have enjoyed writing since I was at school, but it was an experience at school which almost strangled it at birth.  In third year at my school, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Blackburn, we were tasked with writing an essay / short story in classical studies class.  The best would be included in the school magazine and win a prize.  I wrote about the Minoan bull jumpers and concentrated on the training they received with a full sized brass bull with extremely sharp and realistic horns. Some of my trainees met with a miserable death which I described in detail.  I won and was ecstatic, until I was told the powers that be had decided the content of my short story was too blood thirsty to represent my age group and the second placed short story would be printed instead.  I still recall the feeling of unfairness at that and pretty much gave up writing.  I dabbled a bit over the years but is was when I was undertaking my degrees my love of writing was fully rekindled. 
 
Q. Have you any regrets about starting that career?
A. Clichéd I know, but I wish I had started 20 years ago.

Q. What would you do differently if you were given the opportunity to begin again?
A. That is a loaded question and one I doubt many of us have not asked ourselves.  I would say I would be more resilient or bloody minded, whichever way you see it, and not let people or events undermine what I wanted to do.

Q. Tell us about your main characters. Are they based on real people or a product of the imagination?
A. Generally they are the product of my imagination but I think aspects of people I have known do sneak in.  Probably not as the whole character but of certain mannerisms.  One ‘trick’ I sometimes use is to find a picture of a random person who I feel is a good representation of the character and use that to imagine how they would walk, talk or react to the situations I throw at them.  I also use actors and imagine them playing the part of the character to formulate how I think the character would be.  My doppelgänger for the character of Ben in The Picture was Russell Crowe.

Q. What do you feel are the greatest challenges facing any writer at the present time?
A. As soon as you type The End the real fun begins.  It never seems to end, writing seems the easy part when compared with social media shenanigans.  I would have to say the greatest challenge is building a social media presence.  I am lucky and grateful my wife took that aspect on and she is now far more knowledgable about the whole thing than I could ever be.  I think if I had to do all that she does I would never find the time to write again.

Q. Do you have an office or ‘space’ where you write from and is it at home, or elsewhere?
A. At home.  I have a study with my 120 year old ex-Queensland government teacher’s desk made from silky oak which I picked up years ago from a second hand shop and restored.  I have dual monitors and write on LibreOffice in Linux. It is my own little messy space which, even when my wife’s overly cute cat wants to help, allows me to write and be in my own little world.

Q. Do you write to a target – word count – every day, or do you have another writing discipline that you could share with us?
A. Word count – in a perfect world, yes.  In mine no. I tend to get a lot of the story set up in my mind over a couple of months before I start.  Visualizing and asking the inevitable what if questions.  I do write notes, or type them up, as an aide-mémoire but also as a proof of process if required in the future.  My writing discipline, once I start writing is to write until I run out of steam, be that a thousand or five thousand words.  I then have a break, cup of tea, smoke whatever then go back re-read, rough editing then continue the process.  My discipline is time based rather than word base and once writing I will try to work for at least 5 -6 hours at a time, repeating the above process.

Q. Which of the books that you have written so far is your favourite and what can you tell us about it without giving the game away?
A. There is something about all of them which I like and would classify as a favourite bit.  If I had to choose one book overall it would probably be The Picture which was my first and reasserted my belief that I could actually do it.  Subconsciously I put a lot of myself into the book as well which I couldn’t really see to start with but my wife assures me is the case.  I particularly like the story of The Picture and the interactions the characters share. 





Q. What can you tell us about your forthcoming publication?
A.  My soon to be published third novel is based in Salem, Oregon and tells the story of a young woman struggling to make her way in the world.  She has some good friends in her life, and some bad ones.  Unknown to her there are ghosts and secrets in her past which are bubbling their way to her present and threaten her life.  She struggles to make sense of it all while trying to solve a murder mystery which is 35 years old.  The spiel for the book reads:
When Brooke Adams is found battered, bleeding, and barely conscious, the police are at a loss as to who her attacker is or why she was targeted. Then, PI Rod Morgan turns up convinced that Brooke’s attack is the latest in a string of unsolved disappearances dating back thirty-five years. The police, however, aren’t convinced, leaving Brooke and Rod to investigate the cases themselves. As secrets from the past start unravelling it becomes a maze, deeper, darker, and far more sinister than either of them could have imagined. Will they find Brooke’s attacker before he strikes again, or will that one secret stay buried forever?

Q. When you have finished writing the book – what do you do next? By that I mean, do you edit the book yourself? Do you design your own book cover? Do you prepare a project plan to market your book?
A. The first step for me is to get my wife and her co-editor (Gimli, the overly cute cat) to read it through.  This is a sanity check to ensure it actually reads well, for an overall plot check and for any typos ( typos- the bane of my writing life).  I’ll fix all that up and send it to my editor, the excellent Emma Mitchell at Creating Perfection.  A bit of toing and froing and we come to a final edited version. I have my covers professionally designed by Deranged Doctors who are excellent in taking my dodgy descriptions and turning them into a professional cover.  I do my own e-pub / mobi conversions and that is a whole different process which can take a few days depending how many times I mess up.  Then there needs to be a print version copy which can also take a little time to process.  Once that is all complete (phew!) I am ready to go.  My wife with her marketing / social media manager hat on tends to be well ahead of me organizing cover reveals, book launch and publication day blitzes for which I am grateful especially as she gives me a strict timetable to which I must adhere or else incur the wrath of her and the cat. 

Q. What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting out on a writing career?
A. Don’t procrastinate, get writing.  Doesn’t matter if it is rubbish, at least you have made a start.  The more you write the easier it becomes and the more you write. 
Have your work professionally edited by a good editor, be prepared for any changes the editor suggests including maybe a name change or ending change.  Don’t take offence at their suggestions. You are paying for their advice, take their advice. Have a professional cover made.  Some homemade covers look good,  95% look rubbish and you can always tell.  ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is a fallacy.  How else are people going to judge it on Amazon or on a bookshelf, the cover is what draws people in in the first instance. Support other authors, what goes around comes around.

Q. If you were gifted an air ticket to ‘anywhere’, which destination would you choose above all others and why?
A. Gibraltar, one of my favourite places in the world.  I spent some time there when I was in the Navy.  It has more pubs per square mile than anywhere else and the pub crawl from the dockyard gates to the centre of town is the stuff of legends.

Q. If you could invite three people from history to a dinner party. Who would you invite and why?
A. Max Webber – As a student of International Relations I would love to discuss his intentions for the constitution of the Weimar Republic in which he was heavily involved and would have been a guiding light had he not died during the Spanish Flu epidemic. Stieg Larsson – Please, for the love of everything give us a look at the fourth manuscript for I am sure what did come out as the fourth Lisbeth Salandar book was not what he intended.
Freddie Mercury – Genius, enough said!

Q. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing, marketing, or being involved with your book business? Do you have any hobbies?
A. Motor cycle riding.  I enjoy riding the back roads of South West Queensland and Northern New South Wales on my Triumph Thunderbird.  Exploring, getting lost.  Even then though I often come up with some plot ideas but I find it generally clears the mind. Gaming.  Dual boot to Windows 10 and play first person shooters.  All time favourite – Half life 2, current favourite – Dying Light and the Far Cry series.

Q. Can you provide any links to your purchase site, website, blog site, or any social media sites that might be of interest to readers?
A. Sure can:

Thanks you so much for inviting me on your blog, and asking interesting questions.

And thank you Roger for taking part and enlightening us. Check out Roger's links above. Here's the book covers for your enjoyment.








Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Wayne Zurl Interview

Wayne Zurl


Publication Date 24th April, 2018

A big welcome today to Wayne Zurl – a retired detective and well-known author from America who I have admired and respected for some years. Wayne has keenly supported a number of charity anthologies published here in the UK and I know that quite a few British writersand readers  will be aware of his work. Like myself, they'll be looking forward to his next book. Okay, let's talk to our guest.

Q. Wayne, as you publish your next book (A BLEAK PROSPECT) I ask you to pause a moment and tell us a little about your police career in America before you took up writing?
A. I worked on Long Island for twenty years. Our jurisdiction picked up just fifteen miles from the New York City boundary. Long island is crowded, busy and a place where a cop would often encounter any offense listed in the penal law from the class B misdemeanour of public lewdness to the class A felony of intentional murder.
I spent three and a half years in uniform and the remainder in plainclothes. Working organized crime cases provided the most fun, but the years spent as a section commander is probably what makes me most proud of myself. I worked with and supervised a bunch of talented and dedicated investigators. I will always thank them for making my professional life easier.

Q. Do you still miss the job?
A.I retired in a frenzy. Our house sold quickly and the buyer was in a hurry to close and move in before it was convenient for us. But I didn’t want to jeopardize the sale and ended up taking a few of my unused sick days to retire before my actual anniversary date. The day after I handed over the house keys, we put the dog in the car and followed a moving van from New York to Tennessee. A week after relocating, we began the process of finding a builder (and all the logistics attached to constructing a new home) to put a house on the five acres of land we owned in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. So, I really didn’t allow myself time to miss the job. Honestly though, I felt a little empty and missed the people I worked with for two or three weeks before my new job of building coordinator took my mind off being a policeman.
When I worked as a cop, I rarely watched police shows or movies. I was too critical about the authenticity. Now, because of the nostalgia factor attached, I’m almost addicted to watching the reruns of NYPD Blue on a cable channel. They make me miss the job and remember how much fun being a cop was. NYPD BLUE started its long run a year after I retired. I still think it’s the most authentic cop show ever produced for TV. I tip my hat to retired Detective Bill Clark, the show’s technical advisor.

Q. If you could turn the clock back, would you still join the police?
A. This is the toughest question I’ve ever answered. The world has changed drastically since I was sworn in forty-six years ago. I’m able to say that I know now what I didn’t know then. I liked it back in the 1970s, ‘80s and early 90s. I started my career on the tail end of the “wild and wooly” days. I won’t say it was like working in Dodge City alongside Wyatt Earp, but things were very different then they are today. Victims were more important than defendants. The cops I worked with possessed good technical educations and received continuous in-service training. They knew how to do the job and serve the people who paid our salaries. We gave back more than we made. I’m not sure that’s possible today. That sounds like a world-class tap dance, but I really don’t know if I’d do it all again with totally new rules.

Q. What do you miss most about the police service?
A. Investigating serious crimes was like a combination of working a complicated puzzle and painting a piece of artwork. I miss the opportunity of creating an investigative masterpiece. That didn’t always happen, but occasionally everything would come together perfectly and voila! you held in your hand a finished product worthy of Hollywood. Those days are gone, but I’d still like the opportunity to do it again—the old-fashioned way. So, I let my protagonist, Sam Jenkins, a retired detective lieutenant from New York solve those really complex and convoluted crimes from his small police department in the foothills of the Smokies.

Q. What drove you to begin a writing career? I presume you had retired from the police when you started publishing your books.
A. After I retired and our new home was completed, I found I had time on my hands. I took a volunteer job at a Tennessee state park, a place featuring the reconstructed, westernmost British military outpost in the American colonies, and ended up writing publicity for their living history programs. I did that for ten years, having twenty-six non-fiction magazine articles published. I thought it was pretty slick getting paid by those magazines to write. But after ten years, I ran out of thrilling things to say about the French & Indian War (Seven Years War for you Brits) in Tennessee and passed the baton to another volunteer. After stepping down, I again needed a creative outlet, but didn’t have houseroom to store a bunch of model airplanes or oil paintings. So, my wife, Barbara, suggested trying my hand at writing fiction, using my old cases as a basis for my stories. The transition wasn’t as smooth as I envisioned, but here I am today with nine novels and twenty-seven novelettes on the shelf.





Q. Tell us about your main characters. Are they based on real people or a product of the imagination?
A. Sam Jenkins and I share a lot of similarities—from our days in the Army to our time in a large police department. But we are totally different characters. My stories are not autobiographical. I use Sam to cheat the writing process. He gets my voice. He says things much as I would, and in the technical aspects, he does what I would have done. The other regular characters (and some of the non-recurring bad guys) are based on people I knew. It’s easier to write their dialogue if I can see them in my mind and hear them. I then can duplicate their voices and delivery styles.

Q. What do you feel are the greatest challenges facing any writer at the present time?
A. Easy question. For many, writing is fun. Some authors, when inspired, can knock out stories or books at alarming rates. Then we choose the vehicle that gets our work into print—traditional or self-publishing. Regardless of the method, we all get down to the next phase—promoting and marketing our literature.
That is too much like work. But it’s a reality. You can write the best piece of fiction since the ODDESSY, but if no one knows you or your book, you’re up $h!# Creek. A writer must learn how to market their books. And it’s not like it was fifty years ago. Traditional book signings are only a small part of the modern process. We need to be up to the minute or languish with mediocre sales.

Q. Do you have an office or ‘space’ where you write from and is it at home, or elsewhere?
A. I’d love to have a “writer’s cottage” in which to spend my working time, but I’m afraid the closest I come is a wingback chair in the living room with a legal pad and cheap ballpoint pen. And if it’s after 4 p.m. in some part of the world, a glass of single-malt whisky sitting next to me on a lamp table.
Then, when I enter phase two, and because only two women from my former life have ever been able to decipher my handwriting (and they are nowhere near Tennessee) I adjourn to our computer room to transpose my scribbling onto a Word Document. I’m lucky to be one of the ex-detectives in the world who can still type thirty words a minute with more than two fingers.

Q. Do you write to a target – word count – every day, or do you have another writing discipline that you could share with us?
A. I’m afraid for a guy who lived all of his adult working life in a military or paramilitary organizations, I’m horribly undisciplined when it comes to writing. I have no goals, no routines and no structure. When the words come, I write them and don’t stop. When I lack inspiration, I would just as soon cut the lawn or tend the vegetable garden.
Nonetheless, I know when my publisher needs a manuscript for a book to be published at a time most advantageous. So, I work to finish by that deadline.





Q. Which of the books that you have written so far is your favourite and what can you tell us about it without giving the game away?
A. I’ve been asked this often and my answer changes as time goes on. As with any craft, those who engage in it should get better with practice and experience. I really like my last published novel, HONOR AMONG THIEVES. It deals with the organized crime we old-timers knew best—The Mafia. People from Sam’s former life come back to visit, and in some cases haunt him. Here’s the cover blurb the publisher has chosen to pique reader’s interest:
What does a good cop do when his name and phone number are found in the pocket of a dead mobster from his past?
Does he cooperate with the Internal Affairs investigator who wants to charge him with murder, but appears to have an ulterior motive?
Does he launch his own investigation into this murder from another jurisdiction to clear his name and find the real killer?
Does learning that two former enemies have put a contract on his life complicate matters?
But I also really like the last anthology of six novelettes that Melange Books, LLC published—GRACELAND ON WHEELS and More Sam Jenkins Mysteries. I love those ten to eleven thousand word stories. Creating them is almost like writing scripts for a weekly TV series. Many of them have been produces as one hour audio books. The stories in GRACELAND run the gamut—from Gypsy con men to gun show hustlers to professional billiard players to my hero catching a dead Elvis impersonator while fishing for trout. Since it’s the subject of choice in most police procedurals, I toss in a murder for each story.

Q. What can you tell us about your forthcoming publication?
A. A BLEAK PROSPECT is loosely based on a series of murders on long Island all attributed to one killer who has never been arrested. I’ve theorized about a possible solution and also tapped my former partner, now a retired detective, for a few ideas that provided me with scenes or vignettes that help me showcase some authentic police work. And because this is the eighth novel in the series, I figured it was time to shake up the world of Prospect PD and create a “life-will-never-be-the-same” moment. Here’s the summary for that one:
 A serial killer dubbed The Riverside Strangler by the Knoxville press corps has murdered eight Internet prostitutes in East Tennessee, the most recent found floating in Prospect’s Crystal Creek.

Chief Sam Jenkins joins a task force led by the county’s chief deputy, Ryan Leary, a cop known for his flamboyant police work and questionable methods.
When investigators hit a stone wall in the case, the killer strikes again—or was it a copycat? The type of victim and location follow the Strangler’s pattern, but some details are significantly different.

During the investigation, Leary is charged in a bizarre and seemingly unrelated case of police brutality and relieved of duty. Sam is faced with assuming command of the task force or turning over responsibility to the FBI.

The outcome of the case and subsequent actions taken by the Prospect City Council affect everyone at Sam’s police department and suggest that life there will never be the same.

My publisher just sent me the sales links for the book with the actual launch date set for April 24th. The book is available as a eBook or in print.







Q. When you have finished writing the book – what do you do next? By that I mean, do you edit the book yourself? Do you design your own book cover? Do you prepare a project plan to market your book?
A. After I have what I consider a finished product, I do another self-edit before sending a proposal letter to my publisher. Once she passes judgement on my prospectus, I send her the complete manuscript. From there I get a contract and the manuscript is sent to my editor for a place on her list of things to do. Somehow everything (edits, cover art, eBook and hard copy formatting, preparation for the sales sites, etc.) all gets done by the busy beavers at Melange Books and the new book is released within that projected sixty day window for publication.
As soon as I receive the pre-order discount sales links, I send out a mass email to my subscribers and hit the social media sites to announce the new book.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting out on a writing career?
A. This question is often asked by interviewers and I like to give something to those who are just starting out because the publishing world can be a pretty lonely place for someone making that initial foray into it.  The best practical advice I can offer a new writer isn’t my original thought. I learned this reading an interview with Robert B. Parker. When asked why his books were so popular, Parker gave a simple answer, ‘Because they sound good.’ Most of my novelettes were destined for audio books and had to sound good when read by an actor. So, I knew exactly what Bob Parker meant.

Here’s my recommendation on how to produce a classy piece of work. When you think your story, novelette, novella, novel, or epic is finished, when you truly believe you’ve found and corrected all the typos and nits and it’s ready to sell, go back and read it aloud to yourself. Pretend you’re the star of your own audio book. Read it slowly and professionally as an actor would. Then, ask yourself, does it sound good? Do all the paragraphs smoothly transcend to the next? Does each sentence contain the right number of syllables? Does each word flow into the next without conflict?  Does it have a pleasing rhythm? Basically, does it sing to you? For a guy who doesn’t dance very well, I have a great need for rhythm in my writing. If you notice any “bumps,” go back and rewrite it. Smooth everything out. If something bothers you now, it will annoy the hell out of you in the future and someone else will probably notice it, too.
           
With that accomplished, you’re finished, right? No. Now you’re ready to hand it off to a freelance editor or proof-reader—whomever you can afford if you’re self-publishing, or to the editor assigned to you by your traditional publishing house. A second pair of eyes is essential for ANY writer.



Q. If you were gifted an air ticket to ‘anywhere’, which destination would you choose above all others and why?
A. My wife and I love to travel and we go to many different places. But if you force me to narrow my destination to only one, I’d have to say, I’d go back to your neck of the woods in a heartbeat. We haven’t been to the UK in a few years because air travel nowadays is difficult (for several reasons) but I’d love to land in Manchester, spend a week in the Lake District and then head up to Scotland for another week or two. That’s my idea of a good vacation—even if I have to drive on the “wrong” side of the road.

Q. If you could invite three people from history to a dinner party. Who would you invite and why?
A. Another tough question. There are so many interesting people in history whom shall I choose? I guess the late Robert B. Parker influenced my writing more than anyone else, so adding him to the dinner party would be essential. Then I suppose it would be interesting to see what an actor who’s played a detective for a long time thinks about the literary genre and what his outsider’s view of the real job is like. How about John Thaw who played Chief Inspector Morse for so many years? And then a person who’s still alive—just to give me some real company and because of his own philosophy on the creative process, I’d like to hear what Woody Allen has to say about writing books or producing films that were designed more to satisfy himself than with an eye on pleasing the masses who inhabit the modern trendy marketplace.

Q. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing, marketing, or being involved with your book business?
A. As mentioned two questions earlier, we love to travel, and many of the venues we pick offer excellent fishing. So, we usually sign up with a local charter boat captain or fishing guide and head out to stock up the freezer with wild caught fish. I particularly like what we call “big water” fishing—inshore or near-shore saltwater spots or to any of the Great Lakes looking for king-sized lake trout, brown trout or salmon and steelhead.

Q. Can you provide any links to your purchase site, website, blog site, or any social media sites that might be of interest to readers?
A. I’ve got a bunch, but first I like to offer your subscribers a chance to meet Sam Jenkins and the girls and boys of Prospect, Tennessee for free. My publisher has graciously agreed to provide the first book in the series, A NEW PROSPECT at no cost. All you have to do is visit https://waynezurl.authorreach.com/lead/af2d19f7 provide an email address and pick the version of eBook you prefer. From there, I hope you spend time at Prospect PD more often.

Here are other places where you can find me:
Author’s Guild of Tennessee member’s page: http://authorsguildoftn.org/authors/wayne-zurl
 Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/waynezurl 

Here's a few more of Wayne's covers. Don't forget to click on his amazon link for the full collection