Stephen Lloyd Jones (Author of the String Diaries): Q&A

STEPHEN LLOYD JONES

S Lloyd J

Stephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books. The String Diaries is his first novel.

The String Diaries PB

 Q&A

Many thanks for taking time to answer some questions:

1)      Can you please give the readers some background on you and how/ why you became a writer?

 

My pleasure. I wrote obsessively all through childhood, college and university. After graduation, I fell into an advertising career. Working in a busy London agency offers little free time for writing, but it does teach valuable lessons: the importance of grabbing an audience’s attention and holding it; the discipline required to meet tight deadlines. A few years ago, with my wife expecting our second child, I told myself that however little free time I thought I had, I would find some. I bought a new laptop and started work. The String Diaries was written late at night, during snatched lunch breaks and days off. It took me just under two years, start to finish.

 

2)      What was it that led you to write in this genre?

 

It’s a genre I’ve always loved. Growing up, my heroes were Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I love writers that show you something wonderful and unexplained, and then explore its darker possibilities

 

3)      Was there anything behind your choice of locations? (I ask because Oxford is (was) my home town, so nostalgia on my part.

 

I needed an institution where the characters could research the mythology central to the story. What more iconic – and beautiful – place is there but Oxford? I chose Budapest because it seemed exactly the sort of place where this mythology might have evolved. Snowdonia features because of my family connection.  

 

4)      Book Two (Written in the Blood) is due out in the USA 2015? Do you know when it’s out in the UK? And how many books in the series?

 

Written in the Blood will launch in the UK on 6th November this year (my birthday, coincidentally). My third book is a standalone. I don’t have any plans to extend the series currently, but who knows what the future may bring!

 

5)      Some more back ground on you please, who are the writers you read to relax? 

 

More and more, I find that I’m reading individual books rather than following particular writers. Most of the authors I still read regularly are those I discovered in childhood.

 

6)      What are your top 5 books as a reader?

 

This changes on a regular basis. Right now, I’d say The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Misery, Strangers, Birdsong.

 

7)      Soap box time: Why in your words should we buy the book?

 

Good question! The String Diaries is a fast-paced thriller seasoned with a dash of history and the supernatural. If that appeals, why not check it out? The first chapter is available free online, so you have nothing to lose.

 

8) Finally just for fun… instead of the usual invite 5 people from history for dinner, Which 5 people would you want with you to help you stay alive while Jakab hunts you, and why?

 

Wow, that’s a tough one. I’m going to say Sherlock Holmes, Sarah Conner, Indiana Jones, Clarice Starling and my best mate Vrinder Randhawa (he always has a plan, and is a damn fine bloke, too). 

 

My review will follow very very soon, so watch this space… And race you to the last page, because i know this will be great, the person who asked me to read this is almost never wrong when it comes to great book recommendations.

cheers

(Parm)

 

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James Rollins: The Sixth Extinction (Review)

James Rollins

rollins

(James Czajkowski)
USA (1961 - )

aka James Clemens

James Rollins was born in Chicago, Illinois, is 1961. With his three brothers and three sisters, he was raised in the Midwest and rural Canada. He graduated with a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Missouri and went on to establish his own veterinary practice in Sacramento, California. An amateur spelunker and a PADI-certified scuba enthusiast, he’ll often be found either underground or underwater.

Bio: Authors web site Bio

Buy from WH Smiths

 6th extinction

Book Description

A remote military research station in Utah sends out a frantic distress call, ending with a chilling final command: Kill us all! Personnel from the neighbouring base rush in to discover everyone already dead – and not just the scientists, but every living thing for 50 square miles has been annihilated. The land is entirely sterile – and the blight is spreading.

To halt the inevitable, Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma must unravel a threat that rises out of the distant past, to a time when Antarctica was green and all life on Earth balanced upon the blade of a knife. Following clues from an ancient map rescued from the lost Library of Alexandria, Sigma will discover the truth about an ancient continent, about a new form of death buried under miles of ice.

From millennia-old secrets out of the frozen past to mysteries buried deep in the darkest jungles of today, Sigma will face its greatest challenge to date: stopping the coming extinction of mankind. But is it already too late?

 

Review:

Reading a James Rollins is always a pleasure, he is an author who combines so many of my personal reading pleasures, there is the action of the story, the historic past of the back story, the familiar character of Sigma mixed with new faces, new bad guys(and girls) and a plot that is usually mind bogglingly twisty. Like all well told lies (according to the films/books) the best told lie or fiction, the one that people will really believe, is the one that contains as much truth as possible.

This is the true genius of James Rollins thrillers, the scope and depth of research is staggering, but then the author takes that, adds in his own knowledge and skills, and wraps it up in his… well,… convoluted mind is the only concept I can think to use and out comes a story, a story so crazy, so bizarre, yet so plausible that it scares the hell out of me reading it.

Each sigma tale shows how far mankind’s technological growth has outstripped its growth of morality, maybe, as part of the story shows we do need to reach for the immortality gene and live lives long enough to experience the folly of our mistakes and grab for profit over morality, to truly start to gain some wisdom and stop abusing the planet?

 

6th Extinction as with many Rollins tales leave me not wanting to talk too much about the plot, because to give anything away would be annoying as hell for me, so I won’t do it to another. I did however find that tied around all of the fantastic plot, and world ending disasters there was also a great deal of personal plot and growth for Sigma characters, the continual integration of the new with Jason, who continues to grow into a sigma star of the future, old favourites in Monk and of course Kowalski (also a surprise cameo of some really old characters). The most I will give you in overall plot summary is, it gets very Hot, it gets very cold, it’s got fantastic creatures that boggle the mind and kill with impunity and a plot that will chill the blood.

As ever with all of James Rollins books, for anyone who is an avid reader you will know that the characters are real, they are not some two dimensional construct on paper, you the reader bleed with them, hurt with them, cry with them. He has a truly amazing gift to suck the reader into the tale and the lives of those in the book. Also unlike many thrillers, anyone could die, and yet if the main characters survive it’s not because of some unbelievable herculean character it’s because of a skill built up over the story and previous books in the series, the group survive as a group because of shared skills and experience and teamwork. It all lends a layer of credibility and reality to the plot that is missing in so many other thrillers of this type.

 

I really do think that this is James Rollins most terrifyingly real, mind bending-ly plausible tale to date, I wonder what on earth could come next. I know I look forward to it immensely.

 

(Parm)

 

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Erika Johansen: The Queen of the Tearling (Review)

Author Biography

 Biography Erika

Erika Johansen grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Swarthmore College, earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and eventually became an attorney, but she never stopped writing.

Product Description:

This title will be released on July 17, 2014.

Buy the book

Queen of Tearling

Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother – Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard – each pledged to defend the queen to the death – arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding…And so begins her journey back to her kingdom’s heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother’s legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea’s story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance – it’s about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive…

Review

This is something a bit different, a book that crosses genres with liberal smatterings of Historical Fiction, Fantasy and Dystopia. Erika Johansen has pulled off something quite remarkable, seamlessly joining these genres into not only a coherent plot but one thats a rival for any of the high profile dystopian tales out there (for me it eclipses the depth of story of your Hunger games type tale and is up there with Wool for inventive writing).

From the start we follow Kelsea a young girl just turning 19, heir to the Tearling throne, someone not expected to live beyond the first few pages, only Kelsea is determined and trained to disappoint those people and thrill the reader. This young girl must win loyalty from her Guard, survive her own family and government and try to turn a decaying kingdom into something bright again. All she has is her rigorous upbringing and education by her adopted parents and the magic jeweled heirloom left to her by her mother. Set against her is, her uncle, her government, a cabal of assassins and the seemingly immortal Red Queen of their neighboring kingdom a kingdom far exceeding hers in arms and economy, the feudal system working against Tearling and its chance of getting out from under the treaty in place between the two nations.

Thrown into this fantasy landscape are hints and references to “the crossing” and then “America” “new London” and then various books like “Lord of the Rings” showing this is a group surviving some form of global disaster,

I don’t normally give this much background into a book plot, but i wanted to try and portray some of the clever plot ideas, the writing and skill that this author has in this book. Queen Teresa is like a Dystopian Elizabeth the 1st is just one of many great well rounded “real” characters in the book. At over 430 pages the book isn’t small, yet i tore through it in two sittings.

Have to say very impressed and very very eager to get my hands on book two.

(Parm)

 

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Joe Abercrombie: Half a King (Review)

Author Bio

Joe Abercrombie was born in Lancaster, England, on the last day of 1974. He was educated at the stiflingly all-boy Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where he spent much of his time playing computer games, rolling dice, and drawing maps of places that don’t exist. He went on to Manchester University to study Psychology. The dice and the maps stopped, but the computer games continued. Having long dreamed of single-handedly redefining the fantasy genre, he started to write an epic trilogy based around the misadventures of thinking man’s barbarian Logen Ninefingers. The result was pompous toss, and swiftly abandoned.

The Author, Joe AbercrombieJoe then moved to London, lived in a stinking slum with two men on the borders of madness, and found work making tea for minimum wage at a TV Post-Production company. Two years later he left to become a freelance film editor, and has worked since on a dazzling selection of documentaries, awards shows, music videos, and concerts for artists ranging from Barry White to Coldplay.

This job gave him a great deal of time off, however, and gradually realising that he needed something more useful to do than playing computer games, in 2002 he sat down once again to write an epic fantasy trilogy based around the misadventures of thinking man’s barbarian Logen Ninefingers. This time, having learned not to take himself too seriously in the six years since the first effort, the results were a great deal more interesting.

With heroic help and support from his family the first volume, The Blade Itself, was completed in 2004. Following a heart-breaking trail of rejection at the hands of several of Britain’s foremost literary agencies, The First Lawtrilogy was snatched up by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz in 2005 in a seven-figure deal (if you count the pence columns). A year later The Blade Itself was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. It now has publishers in thirteen countries.  The sequels, Before They are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings were published in 2007 and 2008, when Joe was a finalist for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer.  Best Served Cold, a standalone book set in the same world, was published in June 2009, and a second standalone, The Heroes, came in January 2011 and made no. 3 on the Sunday Times Hardcover Bestseller List.  A third standalone, Red Country, was both a Sunday Times and New York Times Hardcover Bestseller in October 2012.

The three parts of his Shattered Sea series: Half a KingHalf the World, and Half a War, are due to be published between July 2014 and July 2015.

Joe now lives in Bath with his wife, Lou, his daughters Grace and Eve, and his son Teddy.  He still occasionally edits concerts and music festivals for TV, but spends most of his time writing edgy yet humorous fantasy novels…

Author Web Site

Book Description

Buy a signed copy

UK Cover                                    US Cover

Half a King UK half a king US

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
 
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.
 
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.
 
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?
 
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began – in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Review

Joe Abercrombie is one of “THE” authors in the fantasy genre, the first law series is one of the best series in the last 10 years. But for me the first law world series seemed a slow decline, maybe it was due to an expectation set too high? but after Red Country i was really struggling to read another book.

But when the wonderful Jane Johnson starts to spread the word about an exciting new book its hard not to catch that infectious excitement. It was thanks to that lovely lady that i found myself the proud owner of an advance copy of Half a King, even then i had to fight my TBR (to be read) pile and reticence, Then we hit the week of release and i knew i owed both Jane and Joe a read of the book.

I’m so glad i did, While the setting and the people are not Norse the whole world has a very Norse feel to it, the culture and mindset is very much a Norse / Vikingr group. The men are fighters, honour and blood are key to their world. When Yarvi finds himself first a King, then a slave he must learn to overcome his weakness and fight for his vengeance, too fulfill his oaths. As ever with an Abercrombie book there is never just one great character, we are spoiled, from the main group of oarmates to the side characters, Kings, soldiers and ministers, there are so many great nuances in each and every character.

This was a trip back to the early writing wonder of Abercrombie, i was swamped with the tale, taken on board and tied to an oar, flung into the frozen sea and driven to my limits with my oarmates. All of this Joe manages in such a way as to entertain and enthrall the reader, at no point did i think the book was a Young adult read, and looking back on it i can see its a book for any age, YA through to old farts like me.

Highly recommended

(Parm)

 

Other Books by this author
First Law
1. The Blade Itself (2006)
2. Before They Are Hanged (2007)
3. Last Argument Of Kings (2008)
The First Law Trilogy Boxed Set: The Blade Itself / Before They Are Hanged / Last Argument of Kings (omnibus) (2012)
The Blade ItselfBefore They Are HangedLast Argument Of KingsThe First Law Trilogy Boxed Set: The Blade Itself / Before They Are Hanged / Last Argument of Kings

 

First Law World
1. Best Served Cold (2009)
2. The Heroes (2011)
3. Red Country (2012)
Best Served ColdThe HeroesRed Country

 

Half a King
1. Half a King (2014)
2. Half a World (2015)
3. Half a War (2015)
Half a KingHalf a World

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Do you have the PLAGUE!!! Interview with C C Humphreys

CC H

C C Humphreys:

I have again been fortunate in that Chris has agreed to answer some of my frivolous questions regarding his book, Chris is one of my favourite authors, it seems the air in Canada breeds writing ability (might have to move there…. if it wasn’t for all that…Cold).  I hope you like the Interview, any lacking in the interview is my daft questions, so feel free to comment and give me questions for future interviews.

What ever you do please click one of the links and buy the book, its not often i say “i promise” but in this case i mean it, “I promise you will not be disappointed” this is once again a great book and riveting read.

My review

Plague: Interview:

Plague

1: What led you to write about one of the darkest periods in history?

My agent and I were chatting and he was talking about the book. How people love the artifact, the touch, the smell. ‘I can see a rack of books at WH Smiths Charing Cross. The title ‘Plague’. All black and red and…”

     “Hold on,” I said, “Are you talking about the Great Plague of London?”

     “Well, as an example of books that are black, and red and…”

     “Give me a moment,” I said.

     I went into my writing hut and these characters, this plot, just exploded. It was like I was being tapped on the shoulder by people, ‘I’m Captain Coke. I’m a highwayman. Known as Captain Cock. You should put me in your book.” So I did. And the backdrop of the plague was just too darkly delicious to not want to write about.

 

2: Recently you have written standalone books, How many books in this series?

At the moment, two. I am working of ‘Fire’ right now. Same characters, different dramatic backdrop.

 

 

3: Once again the redoubtable Absolute family make an appearance, do you have a conscious reason for the link (or just for fun)?

     It’s mainly fun – but I like the way Wilbur Smith has linked up all the Courtenays. I also love a certain blood continuity – this is what happened to a beloved character’s family. That way, in a way, the character himself or herself lives on.

 

 4: Do you have a clear Absolute family tree to refer to and help guide you to other stories to write?

   No. Well, maybe a vague one in my head. I’d like to link up Lucy’s son with Monmouth’s rebellion, then his son will be Jack’s dad, Mad Jamie. That would be a hoot!

 

5: Where do the inspiration for your characters come from: EG: Pitman & Captain Coke/Cock.

      Gosh! I don’t know really. They are inspired by so many things: modern cop dramas; cavaliers vs. roundheads. I liked the idea of old enemies uniting in a common cause. Of a world turned upside down, enabling a gentleman and a working class man to come together in mutual respect. 

 

6: With a subject and period like this, how do you get into the writing flow? Is it like getting into Character on stage?

      I suppose I do act out my characters a little. Though its more a mumble at my desk rather than striding about, shouting. But yes, I use acting techniques to create them and drive the action. What does she want now? What’s stopping her getting it?

 

7: Your books have been some of my favourite reads over the last few years (especially Shakespeare’s Rebel) what has been your personal favourite? And what has been the biggest challenge (and why?)

      I always find that question hard to answer. They are all my children, I love them all for different reasons. ‘Rebel’ was very personal, with the whole Shakespeare/Hamlet/sword thing. Also, fathers and sons move much of my writing now as I have one, am one.

     ‘Vlad, the Last Confession’ was the hardest because the subject matter was so dark. I didn’t want to whitewash a killer but I also didn’t want to depict a psychopath. Also the history was so complex how was I to render it entertainingly without giving lessons, which I abhor. Hitting on the structure, the ‘confession’in the dungeon centred it for me. It was a huge technical and emotional challenge, so I learned a huge amount doing it. I think it leapt me forward as a writer.

 

8: As you are located in Canada, can we look forward to a tour for the latest book? (will there be signed copies anywhere?)

 I hope so! I love the UK and seem to be writing about London more and more. No plans … however if you get lots of people to buy Plague… I’ll sign happily!

 

 9: Normally my last question is a fun one, who would you invite to dinner… but for your good self… If you could have any 4 people from history to walk the boards with you, or watch the play whom would they be any why?

Very good question! I think I’d like to play Laertes to Burbage’s Hamlet, with Will in the wings… then have Vlad the Impaler join us for a pint or seven at the Spoon and Alderman afterwards. That’s a conversation I’d like to partake in!

Buy from Amazon

Buy from W H Smiths (cheapest UK Price)

 

Many thanks for visiting

(Parm)

 

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Rogue Trooper: Brian Ruckley / Alberto Ponticelli (Review)

AuthorBrian Ruckley Bio

Artist: Alberto Ponticelli web site

Nu-Earth, just another planet ravaged by a galaxy-wide war, its atmosphere poisoned by chemical weapons. Created to fight in such conditions were the G.I.s – genetically engineered infantrymen. But now only one remains, the man known as… Rogue Trooper. Join noted author Brian Ruckley and artist Alberto Ponticelli in this all-new story.

.rogue trooper

 

Review:

When I first saw this title on Netgalley i knew i had to ask for a copy, this is my youth revisited. I grew up with my older brother buying 2000AD in the 70′s and by the late 70′s i was also an avid collector. My attic still groans under the weight of thousands of issues, and monthly megazines, and despite gifting many many annuals to the kids of friends i still have loads left. 2000ad has in my opinion helped shape the fantasy and SCIFI genre of today, so many tales have influenced the great books and programmes we now enjoy, and many many brilliant authors if asked will confess to being past fans or buyers still.

Does this latest offering live up to the stories of old? Yes it does, in fact for a while i felt that this was a modern re-drawing of an original storyline, it was only seeing that the story had been produced by the excellent fantasy writer Brian Ruckley that made me rethink and see that there were new nuances to the story, a few new ideas with the war dogs, coupled in with the classic grumpy old Rogue and his bio chips.

I think the writer and artist have managed to capture a piece of the past and give it a modern colour and twist, i felt much more the sense of PTSD and the despair of the Rogue Trooper, but maybe that’s age. Either way its a brilliant graphic novel.

(Parm)

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Michael Arnold: Warlords Gold (Review)

Michael Arnold

Mike

UK
Michael lives in Hampshire with his wife and young son. His childhood holidays were spent visiting castles and battlefields, but his fascination with the civil wars was piqued partly by the fact that his hometown and region of Hampshire are steeped in Civil War history.

Book Description

warlords gold

3 July 2014 The Civil War Chronicles

Autumn,1643. As an increasingly bitter war rages across England, Captain Innocent Stryker leaves Oxford with orders to recover a lost treasure, vital to the success of the Royalist cause. But a seemingly simple mission to the remote Scilly Isles is soon jeopardised, for enemies lie in wait. A formidable Parliamentarian agent has been sent ahead of Stryker’s force, intent on defeating Royalist plans. Feared by ally and enemy alike, he is a man whose determination is only matched by his hatred for Stryker.

The quest for the gold takes Stryker across storm-ravaged seas, through enemy territory and finally to the Royalist stronghold of Basing House. And it is there that Stryker will face his most dangerous challenge yet.

Review

Reading Innocent Stryker is always a pleasure, I’m not even going to try and lead up to is this book any good, It is, its Bloody good. I had one more day left on my holiday, i got up took the little one to nursery, came home made a cuppa and sat in my sunny conservatory. The next eight hours were a trip back in time, a dark revenge fueled mission for a man from Strykers past. Can Stryker survive the violent world of Civil War England? will his past catch up and kill him? will his weaknesses and hidden compassion’s cause his ruination.

From dark Scilly isles shrouded in storm and misery, through to the wild rides and action of Basing House, a story jammed with every type of action and emotion, the book is a truly exhausting roller-coaster of emotion and action.

There are very few authors and subjects I can read for 464 pages and Michael Arnold is very much one of them, When you get an writer with the skill and ability to blend sublime and realistic characterization with superbly researched plot and that fictional flair to make the story race along and fire the imagination, that’s when you have a winner and a book and writer that not only should be on the best seller list, but very much has earned the right to be there.

This book as you might have guessed will be competing come December for the Parmenionbooks book of the year, what ever happens its easily going to be Top 5.

I don’t think i need to say anything else, because if you’re not convinced to buy this by now you never will be… go buy it and read for your self.

(Parm)

Series
Civil War Chronicles
1. Traitor’s Blood (2010)
2. Devil’s Charge (2011)
3. Hunter’s Rage (2012)
4. Assassin’s Reign (2013)
5. Warlord’s Gold (2014)
Stryker and the Angels of Death (2013)
Traitor's BloodDevil's ChargeHunter's RageAssassin's Reign
Warlord's GoldStryker and the Angels of Death
Novellas
Highwayman: Ironside (2013)
Highwayman: Ironside

 

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