Book Shelf: The Sensaurum and The Lexis by Richard Dee

The Sensaurum and The Lexis by Richard Dee

Another I stepped out of my comfort zone to read. I’ve not read in the steampunk genre. I found the story incredibly interesting, enjoying the element of mystery. It was an action-packed journey getting to know the characters and The Orphan Detectives, following them as they keep Norlandia safe. Enjoyed it!!

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla

Meet the Author: Chasing Shadows by Steven Smith

Today we travel to Stotfold in Bedfordshire to chat with Steven Smith about how LEGOs, book reviews, Jack the Ripper, gaming, Discworld, Elton John, coffee shops, winter, an out of control roller coaster ride, an electric guitar, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show come together as part of Steven’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I am Steven, or Steve – either works for me! I live in a little town called Stotfold in Bedfordshire. It’s about an hour by train from London. I live with my wife Vanessa and my tuxedo cat Rey.

When things are a little more normal I love to travel and get out with my camera, too. I’m also an avid video gamer, armchair athlete and absolute Lego fanatic.

In which genre do you write?

My debut novel Chasing Shadows falls into steampunk – an alternate history set in a Victorianesque world where everything is steam-powered and electricity did not expand quite as it did. I have also written a number of short stories in a wide range of styles and genres.

How many published books do you have?

At the moment, just Chasing Shadows. Its sequel As the Crow Flies is well underway. I am also considering releasing a collection of short stories when I get the chance to write a few more.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Hmmm, now this is a tough question. Back in primary school, I remember doing something the teachers called “Extended Stories”. Everyone spent the lesson just writing anything we wanted. This carried on throughout the year. I loved those sessions. But then exams, needing a career, all that kind of thing waylaid my writing.

I’ve always been an avid book reader, so in March 2015 I started a blog where I review books, interview authors and take part in a range of other bookish features. In 2017 I decided the time was right to try and write a novel of my own. I set out to write a fictional account of the infamous Jack the Ripper – who he was and how he managed to evade arrest. It didn’t work out though – I became exhausted by the level of research to get the historical facts accurate, and it faded into nothingness.

I dabbled with some short stories after that until, in late 2019, an idea struck me. To begin with, it was just as the concept for a character, closely followed by another. Then I had some ideas for adventures they might find themselves in. And that was it, the early ideas for Chasing Shadows was formed.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I do love my home office space. It’s filled with all manner of things that are so homely to me. My wife and I have a range of similar interests, so we’ve made this space very much our own. There are signed Discworld prints and special framed stamp display pieces themed around Harry Potter and Elton John. There are framed signed comic books, a display cabinet brimming with video game paraphernalia, another bursting at the gunwales with Lego. That’s a habit of mine that has spread beyond the cabinet and throughout the house! Then, on the wall immediately behind the desk is a huge The Nightmare Before Christmas poster, my most beloved film. It really is a little slice of nerdvana for me.

Aside from there, I love writing in coffee shops. I can people watch and get inspiration for characters and events from what I see and hear. I’ve even done a spot of writing on the terrace of a wonderful cafe in the town of Riva, sat on the shore of the beautiful Lake Garda!

What are you currently reading?

Right now I am test-reading the first draft of a novel by author and good friend Richard Dee. It’s something a little different genre-wise from him, and I have to say I am absolutely loving it!

What is your favorite season and why?

Winter, without a shadow of a doubt. I am not built for the hot days of summer. I love nothing more than a cold, crisp, bright winter day. Blue sky, biting cold, your breath a freezing fog out in front of you. I love it! Plus, I am a massive Christmas fan, so it’s a no brainer for me. Indulgent food, festive music, cheesy films and an overabundance of decorations. It always fills me with joy!

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

The honest answer is that I am not really sure. I’ve always loved steampunk. It’s utterly fascinating to me – the inventions, the vehicles, the outfits, the airships. I love it all. As far as Chasing Shadows, well it was a series of disconnected ideas that hit me. First, it was an idea for a character, my leading man. Then there was the beginnings of another main character. Then I saw a few events. Nothing too large, just an underlying theme as such.

The connective tissue needed to hold the bare bones together wasn’t planned. Much of the book wasn’t planned. I only learned what came next after I had written it. The whole process was a frenetic, out of control rollercoaster ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

Now this one is easy, especially as it’s indelibly inked into my right bicep. That would have to be Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I was six years old when it came out back in 1993. I saw it then and was transfixed. The creepy world of Halloweentown and its denizens, the wonderful vibrance of Christmastown, Burton’s bizarre story and the incredible score and songwriting of Danny Elfman. All of these things have been forever imprinted on my mind, and guarantee I will watch that film multipe times a year. And yes, I do know it almost word for word.

If you pressed me for a second choice, that’d have to be The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Another weird, wonderful, riotous sing along movie.

Can you play a musical instrument? If not, which instrument would you like to be able to play?

I actually own an electric guitar – a stunning piece bought for me for Christmas by my wife. I haven’t played it nearly as much as I’d like. I want to learn it though. I used to be able to play real simple chords like the basic riff from Wonderwall by Oasis. I’d love to learn some more though. I am a huge rock music fan – Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, Kiss, AC/DC, Foo Fighters. That would be a definite goal to play a few of their songs one day.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Reading is an obvious answer for this one. I am also a massive video game freak. I lose hours at a time to a good game. Travelling is another passion of mine. I dabble with photography, I love playing around with the camera and trying out different things. And then there is Lego. It’s one of my biggest hobbies. I find the process of following the instructions and seeing the set come together really therapeutic.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Wow, now there’s a killer of a question. How do I pick just one? First up there would have to be the authors Terry Pratchett and Stephen King. They are two of my very favourite authors. Then there would have to be a few musicians in there, more likely whole bands – I just don’t think I could pick one.

Fantasy people, now that is interesting. I think I’d love to meet both Roland Deschain and Randal Flagg from The Dark Tower series. I love the series of books and these two characters are so deep, there is a lot to them that I’d love to uncover. Without sounding too narcissistic I’d also love to meet my own leading man, Edison Crow. I know he came from my mind, but there is so much about him I’d like to get to know over a coffee.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I can do it. That I can actually start the process and see it all the way through to the end and hold my book in my hand. That’s something else. Early on, I’d have been happy to reach 30 or 40,000 words. To make it to a complete novel, weighing in at over 78,000 words is a pretty incredible feeling!

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I tried planning the story as I went along, but it just didn’t work out for me. I found it easiest to just write and see where the story took me. I loved this approach. It meant I got to discover the story much like the readers do! I only knew what was happening in the fractions of a second before I typed the words out. I know many people love to plan things meticulously, but my mind is too disorganised and chaotic for that, it just doesn’t work for me.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

I don’t in the traditional sense. I’ve started keeping a movie journal though. I am a film lover, but I am also aware there are a lot of films that always appear on ‘top movies to watch before you die’ lists that I’ve somehow not seen. I am using this as a way to motivate me to watch some of those films.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

With the UK having not long come out of COVID restrictions, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do anything like this. I hope to, though. And if I do, Obviously I would prepare a choice chapter or two to read. Beyond that, I feel passionate about my book, so I would just like to get that across to those listening.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

American History X. My team at work has started doing a movie club – someone recommends a film and everyone watches it ready to discuss the following week. It’s a great way to start watching films I might not have seen otherwise. And I have to say I really enjoyed it – fantastic visuals, deep story, tragic finale. A great film.

What are you currently working on?

I have a few things on the go right now. After finishing my first draft of Chasing Shadows, I dove headfirst into the sequel – As the Crow Flies. On the side, I am also working on a short story set in the same world. It’s following a young Edison Crow and Selah, just after they meet. Ideas are swirling for yet another short in that world, but in no way related to these characters.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent book is my debut novel, Chasing Shadows. It’s a steampunk novel with action and adventure along the way. It follows the roguish airship captain Edison Crow, his childhood friend and second in command Selah, and a ragtag crew of the most loyal rogues a captain could hope for. Seeking a big payday, Crow hopes to put his childhood as a street orphan firmly behind him. A series of unfortunate incidents and nearly failed jobs land the crew in the heart of a mystery with potentially dire consequences.

It was great having you be a part of MTA! I thoroughly enjoyed your interview, Steven. My mind is also disorganized and chaotic. I’ve only written nonfiction and poetry to date, but should I write a fiction, what you describe is how it will have to be for me, too! Wishing you all the best, with much success!! – Camilla

Blurb:

As captain of the airship Arcos, Edison Crow and his childhood partner in crime, Selah, lead their crew in search of a big payday. When it comes to the pursuit of wealth, nothing is out of the question for this band of charming rogues. Smuggling. Theft. Embezzlement. It’s all part of a daring game.

But all is not smooth sailing when you’re a high profile thief with a target on your back. A job gone wrong will thrust Edison, Selah and those aboard the Arcos upon a journey straight to the heart of the shady United Republic of the High Commission in pursuit of the truth.

Troubled by his own personal demons, Edison must navigate dark skies if he hopes to gain answers. Will it be enough to help the infamous Captain Crow clear his and his crew’s names? Or will he end up Chasing Shadows?

Where to find the book:

It’s available on Amazon for Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in Paperback. I also offer personalised paperbacks directly from myself – just pop me an email to discuss!

Connect with Steven:

https://authorstevensmith.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorStevenSmith
https://twitter.com/ATCFpublishing
https://www.instagram.com/stevensmithauthor/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21297044.Steven_Smith

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Meet the Author: Plus Sign by David Wake

Today we travel to Bournville, in the UK, to chat with David Wake about how an alien spaceship, a chocolate factory, a junk yard, a manual typewriter, theatre writing, Captain Kirk, Agatha Christie, an MRI scan, rhythm guitar, a full size TARDIS, and a sombrero wearing penguin come together as part of David’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m David Wake and I live near Birmingham in the UK in Bournville within smelling distance of the chocolate factory.

In which genre do you write?

Ah, well, I say ‘Science Fiction, steampunk and more…’, which is the positive spin on the truth. I’m an ‘eclectic writer’. The SF is I, Phone and the Thinkersphere books, starting with Hashtag. The Victorian based adventures are the Derring-Do Club series and then it’s Ancient Japan, Roninko, and bloke-lit, Crossing the Bridge. The next book is cosy mystery. But I think, to answer that perennial ‘where do you get your ideas from’, ideas just pop into people’s heads and the good ones demand to be written.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve published 11 books with 7 first drafts to rewrite.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Looking back, I think I always did. I won a writing prize at primary school for a story about a kid finding an alien spaceship in a junk yard. It blew up once I’d reached the three pages requested. I bought a manual typewriter at University which I used to torture my flatmates into the early hours. It wasn’t until I started writing for theatre that I found a niche that reached an audience. I won awards for various plays. I do remember celebrating with the cast and crew in a curry house and drinking lager from the Rose Bowl, a big piece of silverware and thinking, I like this writing lark. And then, suddenly, I switched to novels.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Captain Kirk’s quarters on the original Enterprise. I mean that seriously. I’m redecorating a room in my house with that design vibe in mind. It won’t be the Captain’s as it’s a much smaller space, but maybe someone of a lower Star Fleet rank like the ship’s writer-in-residence.

What are you currently reading?

V2 by Robert Harris. Before that I was reading Agatha Christie’s Marple books.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I have a photograph of my brain, an actual MRI scan, taken when I came up with the idea for my most recently published book. Where do I get my ideas from? There! Look! Bottom left!

I was going to the hospital and I had a theory that the strange sounds an MRI scanner makes, and they are very strange, were similar to the soundtrack from Forbidden Planet. So, on the drive over, I listened to the beeps, warbles and woo-wooOOoo, and then, trapped in the scanner, I heard the beeps, warbles and woo-wooOOoo of the MRI machine. Yes, they are the same and, boy, was I spaced out by the end.

My mind wandered, what else was there to do, and ping! An idea for a sequel to Hashtag appeared. There! Look! Bottom left! This turned out to be two ideas and became Atcode and Plus Sign.

Can you play a musical instrument?

I played rhythm guitar in a band. We were world famous in Formby.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Fans. I’ve made some good friends amongst my readers and my fellow writers.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I’ve kept a diary and written every day for three quarters of my life! Good grief! That’s a long time. And, of course, it’s helped with my writing. Endlessly trying to make what I ate for tea or what I watched on TV interesting is a real challenge. As with everything, practice makes, if not perfect, at least better.

What actor or actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life, and why?

Me! Me! Finally, a part that’s within my acting range.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

1. I have a full-sized TARDIS in my front room.

2. I starred in an episode of Captain Tartan filmed in Hollywood, California.

3. I invented the literary form, the Drabble.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

The sombrero won’t fool me, it’s Frobisher back for the TARDIS.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on book 5 of the Derring-Do Club series. One of the heroines has just… ah, wait, that would be telling.

Thank you! Hmm, is that chocolate I can smell?

It was a blast having you be a part of MTA, David! Wishing you all the best and here’s to much success with your writing and future books. – Camilla

Blurb

Plus Sign
The dark sequel to Hashtag and Atcode

Fourteen teenagers dead!

San Francisco, Santa Monica, St Petersburg… and now another mass suicide, here, in Newtown.

Or is it murder?

The case drops into Inspector Oliver Braddon’s inbox. The world demands answers. With everyone’s thoughts shared, liked and monitored, why haven’t the police solved the case in the usual 20 seconds?

As the pressure builds, Braddon’s suspicions focus on a disturbing cult, the Church of the Transcendent Cloud, and tech-billionaire, Jacob Lamb, the creator of the Thinkersphere app, After Life – except that he’s dead.

With more deaths due, Braddon needs to act… and soon.

Plus Sign is a gritty, dystopian neo-noir that questions our obsession with religion and exposes a mind-bending picture of what life might be like when your very thoughts are no longer your own.

Where to find the book:

Book Three of the Thinkersphere series is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk as an ebook and a paperback.

Connect with David:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/David-Wake-Author-287522215449564
Website: http://davidwake.com/
Amazon.com author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-Wake/e/B0034OBZRQ
Amazon.co.uk author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/David-Wake/e/B0034OBZRQ

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: Storm Witch by Alys West

Today we travel to York to chat with Alys West about how teaching creative writing, copious amounts of tea, being a book whisperer, the Orkney Islands, witchcraft, folk music, Victoria Sponge, crocheting, Jane Austen, Loch Linnhe, and Scooby Doo come together as part of West’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in the beautiful city of York in the UK. My stories grow out of places and the tales which people tell about places. My work draws on my own experience of surviving trauma but always with the possibility of a hopeful ending. I have a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teach creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. I’m also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

Book whisperer … I like that!! 

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy and steampunk. My books have magic in a real world setting and would be classed as urban fantasy except they don’t happen in an urban setting. I wrote my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter because I love classic romances with dashing heroes and feisty heroines. The fact that it’s steampunk allowed me to have added dirigibles and copious amounts of tea.

How many published books do you have?

Three. Beltane and Storm Witch (which are Books 1 and 2 of The Spellworker Chronicles) and The Dirigible King’s Daughter.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Storm Witch was inspired by visiting the Orkney Islands, just off the northern coast of Scotland. They’re incredibly beautiful and I fell in love with the landscape and the history. There’s a folk tale from Orkney about a young woman called Janet Forsyth who was accused of witchcraft because it was believed she could control the weather. I took that idea and asked ‘what if she had that power and couldn’t control it?’ That became the seed from which Storm Witch grew although I threw in a lot of other things along the way including a sexy, motorbike riding druid.

This looks like an amazingly beautiful spot. It’s wonderful how you were inspired by a folk tale tied to this location. 

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I listen to a lot of music. I’m particularly into folk music and go to as many gigs as I can. I’ve really missed live music during lockdown but it’s been great to see musicians performing online from their sitting rooms and gardens. I love to read and always have at least one book on the go. I also love baking and crocheting. I make an excellent Victoria Sponge and am very slowly crocheting a throw for my sofa.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I’d love to meet Jane Austen. I’ve loved her books since I was a teenager and I’d have so many questions to ask her like ‘Was Darcy modelled on anyone she knew?’ ‘Which of her heroines is most like herself?’ ‘What job would she have liked to do if careers had been available to women in her lifetime?’ If it was going well and we were really getting on, I’d also like to know exactly which steps Louisa Musgrove fell down in Lyme Regis as I wonder every time I visit.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Friends. I’ve met such a lot of amazing, wonderful, creative people through writing and I’m incredibly grateful for each of them. Writers need to hang out with other writers as only another writer will understand if you’ve got a plot hole you can’t work out or a character arc that doesn’t fit. My writing pals are all over the UK and further afield and I don’t get to see them very often but we keep in touch online and they’re a really important part of my life as a writer.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene?

I met a lady who was a practicing witch for coffee in Glastonbury. She was very open about the craft and explained to me the importance of intention in spellcasting. She gave me some great examples of times when magic had worked in her life. It was a fascinating insight and really helped me to develop the spellworker characters in Storm Witch.

That sounds like it was a ton of fun, and interesting!

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

It would have to be Scooby Doo. I absolutely loved it especially that Shaggy and Scooby would somehow always accidentally outwit the bad guys. I’d like to be one of the ‘pesky kids’ who made sure the baddies didn’t get away with it.

Huge Scooby Doo fan here!! Loved watching this when I was growing up.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I’d like to be Winston Grant for the day. He’s a druid, an archaeologist and rides a kickass black motorbike. I’d love the chance to experience the magical power I’ve given to the druids in my books. In Storm Witch, Winston is working at the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig in Orkney which fascinates me so I’d like the chance to get my hands dirty and do a bit of excavating. I’m an absolute coward about motorbikes but I think if I was being Winston for the day I’d be able to leave that behind as he has no fear. It’d be fun to ride like he does and not be constantly worried about crashing into a tractor.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The last movie I saw in the cinema was Emma. I chose it because of my love of Jane Austen and I wasn’t disappointed. It was funny and tender and beautifully shot. Johnny Flynn wasn’t exactly the Mr Knightley I’d imagined but I soon got over that and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last movie I watched at home was Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers which I’ve seen before. I love it because it’s pure Hollywood glamour. It’s got some wonderful songs in it and, of course, the dancing is exquisite.

These look like great movies! I’m adding them to my “watch” list.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I love visiting Scotland. Orkney has been my favourite place for the past ten years but I’ve recently discovered a little corner of Argyll near Castle Stalker which is absolutely perfect. It’s one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed with panoramic views of Loch Linnhe. You can catch a tiny ferry across to the Isle of Lismore, go on glorious walks around the shore and I’m told (although I’ve not seen one yet) see otters.

It was great fun having you on MTA! Orkney sounds like a gorgeous, inspiring place. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and for sharing so much about yourself. Wishing you all the best, Alys!  – Camilla

Blurb:

Storm Witch

Although not a witch herself, magic had always been part of Jenna’s life, guiding and nurturing her childhood. Her mother Nina was a member of The Order of Spellworkers and Druids, enforcing the laws of the magical community. But six winter solstices ago Nina was murdered. Six winter solstices ago the other members of The Order died or disappeared. And six winter solstices ago Jenna banished magic from her life, fleeing back home to Orkney.

Jenna thought she had re-built a calmer world for herself until her ex Hal returns, and someone starts to practice dangerous magic on the islands. When water, sea and sky elements are being manipulated to destroy, maim and kill, how can she deny handsome druid Winston’s plea for help?

As seer Zoe Rose foretells of a catastrophic storm which will engulf Orkney, Jenna and her friends must race against the elements to stop the storm witch. Only through chaos will Jenna find the answers she’s been searching for. Only through chaos can her heart decide who is the right man for her. And only through chaos will she finally discover who killed her mother.

Where to find the book:

Storm Witch is available as e-book and paperback from Amazon at https://smarturl.it/57nnjq

Website and Social Media:

Website: www.alyswest.com

Twitter: @alyswestyork

Facebook: Alys West Writer or at her readers’ group: ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles

Instagram: @alyswestwriter

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host