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Monday, 25 October 2010

Dr Rod Griffiths is A Rag Doll Falling

Behind the white coat a writer is bursting to escape.
Professor Rod Griffiths, retired director of public health for the West Midlands, is here to tell us about his debut novel: The Rag Doll Falling.

Rod Griffiths has a propaganda following, and a reason to write his book. Allegations of neglect and incompetence on Ward 87 of City General Hospital, Stoke-on-Trent was taken to the attention of Prof Griffiths by Dr Rita Pal who was a house officer at the time. Griffiths was the then Regional Director of Public Health, and ordered doctors beneath him to carry out an investigation but they could not find any evidence to support Dr Pal’s allegations.  

What happened next was a little messy, and had it not been for the then recent case of Dr Shipman the media would not have picked up on it, but they did and it led to a lot of bitterness and mudslinging. But finally, independent assessors at the GMC found no case to answer and the case was closed. Subsequently, money is now being spent on building a new hospital: http://www.uhns.nhs.uk. Had Dr Pal not brought up these issues, maybe this wouldn’t have happened? 

Rod Griffiths qualified from Birmingham medical school in 1969 and worked in General Practice for about five years before going into Public Health. He received an CBE in 2000 for services to public health. He retired from the profession in 2007. 
Drug companies have been fined over four and a half billion dollars in the USA for offences related to marketing drugs.

This 95,000-word medical thriller gets behind the motives that underlie such behaviour. This is fiction but the author has twenty years of medical experience at high levels in health care management in the UK.

The story centres on a new cancer drug with a potentially lethal side effect. In any circumstances it would be hard to diagnose the problem; but for professor Jim Brogan, the epidemiologist running the trials of the drug, things are made much more complicated.

Jim’s girl friend Val, is with Danni Foster when she crashes while skiing and remains in a coma, unable to explain that she has taken the drug.

Things get worse when Val’s daughter develops Hodgkin's disease. Val desperately wants Danni to recover and Mary to have the new drug, and that puts pressure on Jim, particularly when he tries to explain to Val that until the trial is ended he doesn’t know if the drug is safe or effective.

The company that make the drug gets a large injection of American money, but unknown to Jim the people behind the money are crooked. They plan to make a fortune from selling the drug and launder their money at the same time. It gradually emerges that Danni, still in a coma, was also involved in this scheme.

Danni’s collapse disjoints the American’s plans and they hire Fiona, an ex escort to try to work her way into Danni’s networks and from there on things get very complicated as the different motivations of the key players interact.

Jim Brogan’s ethical stance and good nature is stretched in all directions. Al Vincent, the American Godfather behind the money, develops agendas of his own; settling old scores, and using the drug’s side effect as a murder weapon.

Somehow, Jim Brogan must save Danni, make the drug safe and get Mary cured, before Al Vincent does too much damage. The final surprise comes from Fiona as the part that Al played in her tragic past becomes clear.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Sci-fi thriller: Supernature

Henry Lyons

Inspired by the song writer Jean-Marc Cerrone's 1977 smash hit song by the same name, this a story about genetic engineering gone awry.

When two seasoned patrol officers find an unconscious woman on the side of a vacant stretch of road, they are unaware that their investigation will uncover the beginning of the end for man kind as we know it.

After a series of strange incidents in the Arizona desert along with unexplained disappearances on a California beach an unlikely team of investigators and scientists join together to unravel an incredible mystery.

Something is causing animals around the world to mutate, evolve and breed at an accelerated rate endangering the lives of thousands. All of the evidence points to a substance created by a suspected eco-terrorist working for the world’s largest biotechnology company. It becomes a race against time for the team to find a solution to halt the spread of the mass mutations. If they fail it could mean the end of man kind.

Please welcome author of Supernature, Henry Lyons. Lyons is a man who wears many hats. He’s a writer, an educator, a computer specialist, a graphic designer, a video editor and a political activist. In 1992 Henry founded Lyons communications Industries, a computer consultant firm which later became H.V.Lyons Graphic Design Studios. The vision of the company is to make technology accessible to the masses through several entities; advertising, marketing, public relations, web design, and technology support.

As well as employed as a Special Education Teacher for the New York City Department of Education and writing Supernature, Lyons is also an author of Deep Thoughts, a collection of poetry.

Other books to look out for in the near future:
Antsy Anthony - a children’s book centring on a child with ADHD.
Twisted Affairs - an erotic thriller.
Voyage of the Grey Wolf - science fiction.
The Soldier of God - a fantasy drama.
Plus there are plans for a series of books including a follow-up book to Antsy Anthony and a sequel to Supernature.

Deep Thoughts is a collection of poems, essays and visual imagery that show the world as filtered through the mind of a man in torn by conflict. Henry Lyons is a writer that speaks about his loves, his pains and his relationships. Sometimes dark but always honest Deep Thoughts is just that an example of one man’s deepest thoughts.

Is Supernature your debut novel?
Yes this is my first novel but not my first book. Last year I published my first which was a book of poetry, Deep Thoughts. It was really a collection of poems that I had written and saved over the years along with my memoir. Supernature however is a story that I had rolling around in my head for a number of years. After the success of my poetry book I decided to try my hand at turning my story into a novel.

Can you tell us a little about the novel?
Well first let explain what gave me the inspiration for the story. During the late 1970s and early 1980s I worked as a D.J. in various night clubs here in New York. One song quickly became one of my favorites. It was entitled ‘Supernature’ by a French artist named Cerrone. Although it was a disco tune the lyrics spoke about man manipulating nature and nature turning on man. Being a fan of science fiction I fell in love with the concept. Years later I came up with the idea of a story centered on a genetic experiment gone awry causing nature to evolve at an accelerated rate.

Years later when I finally started my novel the story had changed only slightly.

The basic synopsis is this, two police officers in Arizona find a young woman unconscious on the side of a deserted road. During their investigation they uncover a growing threat to man kind. Unknown to the general public mutant wild life has been popping up all over the globe. In the United States a special task force has been formed to deal with the problem. As the story progresses so does the problem, until the mutants threaten the very existence of the world’s human population.

How much research did it involve?
I did a LOT of research for this book! I mean a lot. From the very beginning I wanted a believable story. I wanted a science fiction where the science was real science not some made up stuff that makes no sense. I also wanted a story where the locations where real locations. So I did extensive research on not just the science in the book but also the locations that various scenes took place in. If my characters travelled from one location to another they travelled down real streets in the right direction to get to their destination. For example there are references to the F.B.I. headquarters in Phoenix Arizona. In the story some agents travel from a hospital in Phoenix back to their Field Office. The route that they take is the real route a person would take to make that trip. That’s the kind of detail I’ve placed in the story. All the chemicals, weapons and vehicles used in the story are all real. This was all possible because I spent a lot of time doing research.

How does it compare with other novels?
I wanted this story to be unique. I didn’t want a science fiction that was so full of science and techno speak that it would turn off readers. Another thing that I wanted was for the story to be very visual and descriptive. There are action sequences in the book and I wanted to put the reader right in the middle of the action and make them feel what is happening. I also wanted characters that people would care about.

What audience is the book intended?
Well first of all I’m a High School Teacher so while I was writing the book I had my students in mind. I felt that if I wrote on a high school level anyone could enjoy it and so far the adults who have read the book have given me some very positive feed back. There are even references about global warming and environmental concerns that are topics many of my students are interested in. So the audience range is from teen to adult.

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?
It took me a little over nine months to write the book and it went through about four drafts in the beginning.

Will you be interested in writing another genre?
Yes. Some of the genres I am interested in writing in include thriller, horror, and erotica. I’m also interested in writing a spy novel.

If Supernature is going to be part of a series will I have to read all the books to understand the story?
I am working on the outline for a sequel to Supernature. One of the things I am going to attempt to do is to make it a stand alone read but it will be a continuation of the original story.

Do you have a favourite scene?
Yes I do. It’s a scene where a character by the name of Cooper, dressed in protective gear, has just used a flamethrower on a swarm of mutant killer bees to help free a humvee full of important people. After he frees the truck the bees surround him. Here is the scene:

As Cooper sees the Humvees speed off he begins to wonder if this was such a good plan. They had walked a lot further away from the conservatory than he realized and now getting back was near impossible. The swarm has completely engulfed the three men. Cooper begins to feel the stingers making their way through his gear. He can’t even see five feet in front of him. Walking through the swarm is like walking in a blizzard at night. Soon he realizes that he has lost sight of the two soldiers he came out with and he’s not sure what direction the conservatory is in. His breathing begins to increase as fear sets in. Slowly he inches along hoping to be going the right way. Then suddenly he trips over something in the road and falls face first hard onto the pavement. It’s one of the other soldiers. His dead body lay stiff on the ground as the bees continue to sting it. Cooper then notices that his own face mask has torn when he fell. In a panic he grabs at the opening only to tear it more. Bees rush into his head gear, stinging him all about the face and neck. He can’t breathe, he can’t even scream. Every time he opens his mouth the bees hush in choking him even more. He tries spitting out the bees but is stung both on the inside as well as the outside of his mouth. His tongue begins to swell; his throat closes up as his airways bulge from the venom. He rolls around on the ground holding his throat and gasping for air. Without thinking he rips off his head gear to take a breath. Instantly hundreds of bees attack him stinging him about the face and neck. One bee plants a stinger deep into his throat and another stings him right in his left eye which sends daggers of pain straight through his brain. He grabs the insect and crushes it in his hand. The pain is unbearable. The veins in his neck and face turn blue and swell, his body twitches and jerks, his muscles stiffen, dark venom laced blood oozes out of his ears and nose. His body jerks violently a few more times then finally falls still.
Are you agented?
No I’m not.

Who are you published with?
I’m self published and I'm working with a partner in putting together out own publishing company.

Are you a full time writer?
No. For now I write as a hobby.

Do you have any writing experience?
Not really. The only experience I have writing has been writing poetry.

What are you working on now?
I am presently working on two books. One is an erotic thriller entitled ‘Twisted Affairs’ and the other is a fantasy drama named ‘Soldier of God’.

Twisted Affairs is about a woman who plots with her lover to murder her husband. But their scheme doesn’t quite turn out the way they planned.

The Soldier of God involves a man who loses his entire family and gives up on life only to find later that his tragedies where a holy test of his faith. If he passes the test he will be endowed with supernatural powers.


Blog: hvlyons.blogspot.com
Twitter: twitter.com/Hvlyons
Facebook: www.facebook.com/hvlyons
eBay: myworld.ebay.com/hvlyonsjr
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MySpace: www.myspace.com/hvlyons

Monday, 18 October 2010

Bad language in books: need it or not?

What are your thoughts on the f-word on the page? Or even something stronger. Or is "God" blasphemous enough for you?

Is it time for books to be classified like films?

As swearing before watershed on TV seems to become the norm, surely bad language in books ought to be something to be shrugged at? But after talking to several people it does seem that reading a swear word is worse than hearing it.

Why is that? I think I can answer. It's because you can breeze over a heard word, yet the word you're reading has to be spelled out and logged in your head. It's almost intrusive.

Surely everyone remembers when Jacqueline Wilson hit the news in 2008 because the superstore Asda forced her publisher to substitute "twit" for "twat" in her book, My Sister Jodie.

The book is aimed from ten years and above - how different from yesterday's Enid Blyton's Famous Five books when the strongest word was "gosh"!
I'm really torn for classification in children's books. I'm part writer and part mother, so I can see both sides. I don't want my seven year old reading "twat" (he's an excellent reader, and finds books his age too easy), yet I don't want more restrictions imposed on authors.

Generally, I find bad language in adult books hard to stay clear from - especially if you want your dialogue to sound natural. Parts of A Proper Charlie is on the streets of London in the red-light areas, and although I've managed to stay away from stronger language I've had to put in the odd p-word for authenticity.

So I'm impressed when I can read a book without gutter language and come away thinking how real and fresh it felt. In my eyes, the author did their job well in making me believe in the story without resorting to cursing like a bricklayer.

What do you think? Can swearing add that final ingredient to your novel, or does resorting to it make it sound amateurish?

Friday, 15 October 2010

PODs, E-books, Nuts and Bolts

Guest blog by Paul Collins and Jo Thompson

The world of publishing has been marching inexorably toward a New Frontier for quite some time, now. Palm readers seemed to take off in the US, although struggled to have an impact elsewhere. The E-book revolution has been a rocky road, although recent sales figures from Amazon allude to figures competing with those of print books.

From an author’s perspective, I wonder even now whether print-on-demand – PODs – and e-books are as viable as some would like us to believe. The main problem is in promoting them. Who knows the books are available? Certainly anyone can go online and view all the available books, but there are millions of them. Compare this with looking at books on a shelf in a traditional bookstore and you will see the difference.

I’ve personally had abysmal results from PODs. My Stalking Midnight was a POD, published by Cosmos. To date, despite knowing copies are Out There, I’ve not received a cent in royatlies. Nor can I contact the publisher, Sean Wallace. Cyberskin was also a POD from New Concept, but from memory I received one statement saying I’d sold one copy..

If you want to publish your own book, then there are people like iUniverse. They’ll do the lot for you, but again I question the promotional side of things. Will iUniverse promote your book? Will you sell copies to readers other than your closest friends and family? By all means check them out.
There are others, of course, like http://www.lulu.com/

Thursday, 7 October 2010

First-Time Author Deanna Proach and her Day Of Revenge

Deanna Proach

Military Captain Samuel La Font may be hot-tempered and headstrong, but he is certainly not about to flee his war-torn country without a fight. He is determined to stay in France and wage a war against the revolutionaries.
For the greater part of the year, everything works in Samuel’s favor. He has the love and support of his close knit group of friends. His Corsican based family has even recruited several skilled soldiers who are more than willing to die for Samuel’s cause. But, towards autumn, fate takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. Now Samuel is forced to make a choice—get his friends and himself out of France or die in battle against the revolutionaries.
Please welcome the author of Day of Revenge, Deanna Proach to my blog. She was born and raised on the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada, and has completed her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, BC. Now, she resides in the small, coastal town of Sechelt where she is writing, editing and acting.

I asked Deanna a few questions about her book and her writing.

Is Day of Revenge your debut novel?
Yes it is and it is the very piece of work, or project I should say, that has been published. I've written a few short stories, but have only written them for marks in high school and never considered getting them published.

Can you tell us a little about it?
 Day of Revenge is a historical suspense set in 1793 during the onset of the Reign of Terror. Military Captain Samuel La Font may be hot-tempered and headstrong, but he is certainly not about to flee his war-torn country without a fight. He is determined to stay in France and wage a war against the revolutionaries.

For the greater part of the year, everything works in Samuel’s favor. He has the love and support of his close knit group of friends. His Corsican based family has even recruited several skilled soldiers who are more than willing to die for Samuel’s cause. But, towards autumn, fate takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. Now Samuel is forced to make a choice—get his friends and himself out of France or die in battle against the revolutionaries.

Monday, 4 October 2010

What does your rejection letter mean?

How many rejection letters have you got so far? Do you keep them all? Neatly in a folder, in date order, or are they chucked into the recycling bin in disgust as soon as they plop onto your doormat?

Or do you, like me, analyse them, and try to understand what they really mean?

I've been sorting out my rejection letters (yup, I'm the person who keeps them neatly in a folder in date order) into piles of content ie "our lists are full" to "sounds good, send more".

I've deciphered the replies and made lists! It's official, I'm sad.

Here is my list:

Doesn't fit our needs. This is the one-size fits all letter that could mean anything. It could relate to lack of professionalism, or even its (lack of) marketability. I call this: it's-five-to-five-and-junior-agent-wants-to-go-home rejection letter.

Lists are closed. Ah, who didn't do their homework? If you received this you probably sent off a query without checking to see if the agency is receiving submissions.

Not suitable for our lists. So, you sent a raunchy romance to a Christian stories only agent. Waste of postage, next time check!

Sorry, but we aren't taking on any more clients at the moment. Your query letter and synopsis probably let you down here. They peeled off the most-used rejection template letter, handwrote your name at the top, and bunged it back in your SAE.

Doesn't have market appeal. No need to intercept this. It means exactly that, only you have to work out what type.  Maybe the market for your work is too niche, or you're before your time because it's too "out there" (agents don't like to take risks if you are an unknown). Or the opposite, and maybe your work lacks originality?

Did not reach publication standard. Ouch! Back to the drawing board, or rather, buy a how-to-write-a-novel book.

Just couldn't get excited about it. This is actually good! It reflects that the agent liked your writing style, but the comment does reflect a weak story or protagonist and the agent can't engage with your story because of this. Might be worth keeping hold of this agent, and trying again with something new and remind them of your previous try.

The writing doesn't stand out. You're boring me!

Not fresh enough. Unoriginal. Tired or even clichéd. Not another vampire book!
I'd like to see more of this ms. Actually, you'd get a phone call (quicker). A letter is usually always a rejection.
I started counting my rejection letters, and at about eighty six the phone rang and I lost count. I can't be bothered to do it again. At a guess I'd say a hundred and twenty. Not all for the same book, I hasten to add!

I've had rejection letter on "forms", where my particular reason for rejection is ticked. I really, really dislike these even though I know they are no different to the "doesn't fit our needs". To me, and I may be the only one who feels this, it reads "can't really be bothered with you, sod off." I even dislike them more than the rejections that are written across the cover letter in bold: not for us.
As you pour dolefully over your rejection letters, scratching your head and wondering just what the dickens the agent meant, here is a book dedicated to such letters: Rotten Rejections by Andre Bernard.
Among the gems of editorial misjudgement included in the book are: 'You are welcome to Le Carre - he hasn't got any future.' (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, 1963); 'It is impossible to sell animal stories...' (Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945); and 'We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.' (Carrie, Stephen King, early 1970s). In the company of such hallowed names as Thomas Wolfe, Gertrude Stein, Henry James, Joseph Heller and many others, Rotten Rejections makes encouraging reading for all would-be authors.
Write in telling us about your wonderful rejections. Not to poke fun at agents, but to gather together for a group cyber commiseration hug.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Wise Words and Witty Expressions

By Renee Gatz

"Youth is wasted on the young." Ain't that the truth! With age comes experience, and with experience comes knowledge, so what a better way than a book full of expressions from two wise old people to guide you through the perils of life?

Renee Gatz says, "The book is a collection of all the wisdom my parents imparted on me through the use of expression to help me navigate life's ups and downs. The expressions found in my book are profound, funny and even sarcastic and they have all come back to me at the appropriate moments in my life to help me understand, laugh and survive."Is this your debut novel, how's it doing?
Yes, it came out in September 2009 and considering I have a full time job and I am doing this without additional staff, I would say, yes, it is doing very well. 

What kind of things have you been doing to promote it?
I have done multiple speaking engagements garnered press and a review from Irish America magazine, which has a national audience. I am now also writing a monthly article for the Irish American Cultural Institute's monthly member newsletter about the power of Irish Wisdom.The newsletter I am writing for is a members only newsletter so there is no link unfortunately.