A sense of place

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Monday musings on writing

By Seb Kirby

I think it’s important for a story to have a sense strong of place. You don’t have to point as far back as the importance of London in Dickens’ novels or the Salinas Valley in John Steinbeck’s ‘East Of Eden’. A more recent example is the coastal enclave of Montauk in the HBO long form TV drama ‘The Affair’. Place becomes as much a central character in these stories as the players themselves, breathing life into the story.

That’s why I’ve visited and spent time in all the places featured in my books. It’s not that I favor extensive descriptions of places (or people for that matter). It’s more that the feel of a place comes through in the writing once you’ve spent time there and absorbed the sights and sounds.

I was fortunate that before I took up writing full time my job obliged me to make many visits each year worldwide. This often took me to places in Europe (Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Crete, Denmark, Romania), the US/ Canada (New York, Boston, Monterey, San Francisco, San Antonio, Austin, San Diego, Detroit, Orlando, Minneapolis, London Ontario, Toronto) and the Far East (China, Japan). Because of the nature of the work, it was often possible to stay over after business was completed and explore. This gave some great eye-openers. Like an ill-advised bus trip from San Diego Old Town across the border to Tijuana that made real the vast disparities between two ways of life. Or spending time in English Corner in Shenyang (in what was Manchuria in northern China) where the charming locals come to practice their English—much of it gained from US film and TV—in conversation with visiting English speakers.

Though I travel less these days, I still pay regular visits to two places that are special to me and my writing: London and Florence, as much for their cultural vibrancy as their enthralling locations.

Sometimes whole plot lines emerge from a single observation. Like the time I was in a restaurant in Florence when they charged for an order I hadn’t received. When I went to complain to the manager, a heavy in a black leather jacket intervened to make sure I knew not to be too insistent and I should accept that overcharging was more normal here than where I come from. This formed the germ of the ideas that led to the organized crime elements of Take No More and the rest of the James Blake story. To be fair to the wonderful city of Florence, the presence of organized crime is a rarity this far north in Italy but this didn’t stop my leap of imagination and its usefulness in telling the story.

In the digital world, “visiting” places becomes simpler and less liable to destroy the planet with wasted plane travel. Google Maps with its street view feature allows an author to walk those streets again from the (relative) comfort of his/her writer’s desk. I find this a particularly useful means of visualizing scenes where characters are out and about, active in their location, especially to refresh memories of places I’ve walked myself. More comes back than the visual experience itself. I recommend this to all writers as a means of capturing a sense of place in their work.

However you do it, sense of place helps bring a story to life.

Seb Kirby, thriller, psychological thriller and science-fiction

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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Publication day for BestSelling Reads author Seb Kirby

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Canelo Publishing of Southwark, London, UK has just published the bestselling James Blake series by Seb Kirby.

  • Take No More
  • Regret No More
  • Forgive No More.

Founded in 2015 by a group of publishing professionals with extensive success in the publishing industry, Canelo describes itself as dedicated to finding the most exciting books and publishing them to the highest standard. 

In addition to its main list, Canelo also incorporates the Frisch & Co and Abandoned Bookshop imprints.

“It’s satisfying to see the James Blake series having the opportunity to reach a wider audience,” author Seb Kirby said.

Take No More

When James Blake discovers his wife murdered in their London home, he is determined to avenge her, and bring her killer to justice.

As the prime suspect, he flees England and sets out on a journey that takes him to Florence, Venice and into a shadowy underworld of death and corruption.

The trail that will lead him to the killer is filled with terrible danger, and will reveal a shocking conspiracy, behind both her death and a lost fortune.

A thrilling, original and fast-paced crime thriller set within the art world, perfect for fans of Ken Follett, Dan Brown and Harlan Coben.

Regret No More

No one can escape from the past.

James Blake and his family were safe and secure  – until he received a phone call that could mean only one thing: their enemies knew where they were.

A stolen Picasso lies at the heart of an international conspiracy that reaches into the life of a prominent US politician, with devastating consequences not only for him but for anybody who happens to be caught up in the crime.

Wolfgang Heller, a ruthless assassin, is seeking to eliminate those who have any knowledge of the theft. James must come out of hiding and face the threats to his family by putting his life, and the life of his brother Miles, on the line.

Forgive No More

No more running, no more hiding – it’s time to fight back.

The Blake family can only live in security if the truth about the conspiracy threatening their lives is brought into the full light of day.

As the stakes are raised higher than ever before, James must return to Italy to confront those seeking to destroy those he loves. Forces from around the world, from Washington to Munich, London to Tijuana, are ranged against him.

As the mystery begins to unravel, a shattering revelation emerges. Dark secrets have survived down the centuries and are in the hands of those who threaten not only him, but the entire world…

From international bestselling author Seb Kirby comes the pulse-pounding finale to the James Blake thriller series, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben, Dan Brown and Ken Follett.

Seb Kirby

was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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Our favorite secondary characters

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Part 2

Photo by Jed Villejo on Unsplash

Characters are what make readers read stories. If we don’t find characters we can love, hate, despise, fear, identify with and cheer for, the story just won’t hold our attention for long. 

Readers love great characters, and writers love to create memorable characters, too. But it’s not just the hero or protagonist. Every hero needs a villain, every lonely lover needs a love interest. 

Sometimes, readers are more interested in the secondary character than the protagonist. Think of Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings, Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, Boxer in Animal Farm

And writers love their secondary characters, too. This week, more of your favorite bestselling authors share their favorites among the characters in their own books.

Seb Kirby 

With Matteo Lando in Take No More, I wanted to create a villain who was bad but potentially redeemable.

As the son of crime boss Alfieri, he’s been raised in the expectation of taking over the family business when the time is right. But he’s trapped by the weight of this expectation and never able to justify himself in the eyes of his father or those lower down in the hierarchy who see him as a favoured son. This gives him a vulnerability that underscores the heartlessness of his deeds.

Dawn Torrens

My favourite secondary character is Tristan from Tears of Endurance.

Tristan plays a big role in the novel as he is the brother of the protagonist. He is a good guy with a guilty secret that he must conceal from his brother.

Tristan battles with his feelings a great deal and through loyalty to his brother, he ends up suffering inner pain.

DelSheree Gladden

My favorite secondary character to writer was Oscar Roth from my Someone Wicked This Way Comes series: Wicked Hunger, Wicked Power, Wicked Glory and Wicked Revenge.

I enjoyed writing Oscar because he was out of his mind most of the time and I got to do things with him that I couldn’t with a sane character.

Scott Bury

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my own favorite secondary character, Rowan Fields from Torn Roots.

Then I asked a reader who his favorite secondary character of mine was. After a moment’s thought, he said “The amulet in The Bones of the Earth.”

This both surprised and delighted me. The amulet is an important element of the book, and I revealed is personality gradually over hundreds of pages. To have readers not only recognize that but also love the character just made my day.

Who is your favorite secondary character?

Share with authors and readers: tell us who your favorite secondary character is in any book. What about that person appeals to you? Do you identify with them? Do you love them or hate them? Would you like to read a book where they move from secondary to main character?

Let us know!

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Thursday teaser: Here the Truth Lies

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Read on to see how you could WIN an autographed copy of the bestselling Here the Truth Lies, the subject of this week’s psychological thriller teaser

Here the Truth Lies: psychological thriller by Seb KirbyBy Seb Kirby

At home that night, I look long and hard at the bottle of scotch. I shouldn’t be drinking. Too much is happening. I need to keep a clear head to see my way through it.

I took care to change my pattern on the journey back from Bankside, taking a later train. There was no sign of the man in the black coat.

The golden glow of the liquid in the bottle is so appealing. I pour myself a small one, add water and take a first sip. Warmth and composure run through me. As if I need any reminder that whisky is so irresistible.

The events of the day come closer into focus.

Bill McLeish and his continuing demands.

Margaret Hyslop’s arrogance.

Alec Waring with his self-loathing.

But emerging now are the thoughts I’ve struggled to hide all that time.

Jenny’s words burn in my mind.

I know who you are.

You’re not Emma.

I’m still shocked at how much this poses a threat to whatever sense of well-being I’ve managed to manufacture around myself. A shiver of guilt runs down my spine. When I look down at my hands, they’re trembling. What makes me feel this way?

I try to recall my parents, John and Mary Chamberlain. Nothing comes. Just distant, ill-formed memories of people I should know intimately but who are like strangers.

Is this what Jenny meant?

Or is this one more sign of pressure?

McLeish’s complaints.

The tall dark man following me.

BACK OFF BEFORE ITS TOO LATE written in child’s crayon.

The fact that, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m drinking too much.

Are these things playing with my mind, making me believe I can’t do something as simple as recalling my own parents?

I rifle through the dressing table drawers in the bedroom. I’m not the type to have any interest in displaying photographs in frames around the house nor on my desk at work. But somewhere here, there’s a small stack of photos in a cellophane packet that I keep but seldom look at. Something to reassure me in this moment of doubt.

As I find them and begin searching through them, my first thoughts are, is this all? How old am I now? Twenty-eight. These ten photographs paint a paltry record of my life. Yet, I tell myself this is how I want it. People with children have every incentive to manufacture the thousands of images of themselves and their kids and offer them as trophies of their success on social media before printing and framing their favorites as more tangible tokens of the permanence of their lives. I’m not in this position, though I would in all certainty behave in much the same way if my life were different.

I pause to take another long sip of the scotch. The warmth in my stomach brings with it more intense perception, I’m sure.

Here is the photo of my parents, John and Mary. The only one.

They look respectable enough. Endearing as they stand together with their winning smiles.

But the longer I look, the more I convince myself I don’t recognize them. Maybe I’ve never known them. They are as much a mystery to me as any photo of any married couple taken years ago that I might have seen on TV or in a magazine.

I leaf through the remaining photographs. None of me as a child. No images of me at play on holiday, no pictures of me as a schoolgirl.

About Here the Truth Lies

Emma Chamberlain has a consuming ambition—to prove the innocence of a convicted murderer sentenced to life. But the more she digs into the evidence, the more she is forced to confront threatening secrets about her own past that lead her to the ultimate question—who is Emma Chamberlain?

To discover the truth, Emma must expose those responsible for a dark conspiracy that has ruined the lives of many and now threatens her own.

Win a signed copy of Here the Truth Lies

Author Seb Kirby will send you an autographed copy of his latest book to one personwho correctly names the city that Here the Truth Lies  is set in. Leave your answer in the Comments below.

Seb Kirby

BestSelling author Seb Kirbywas literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

 

 

 

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Fact meets fiction: Denial and reality in Double Bind

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Your favorite bestselling authors describe times when the world around them comes to reflect situations from their  books. This week, the author of Double Bind describes a warning for us all.

By Seb Kirby

I’ve seldom thought of my fiction as having any intention to foresee the future. What I mainly write about is the interior landscape of ordinary people facing unprecedented changes in their lives. But in one of my earliest novels, Double Bind, published eight years ago, I did stray into that territory. The book starts out as a doppelgänger fantasy but then quickly takes on a sci-fi direction. I don’t want to reveal the main plot line since this is meant to be one of those secrets that sneaks up on the reader. But suffice it to say that a large element of the story is the understanding that the world we live on exists in a fragile equilibrium that could be overturned at any moment by climate change.

When I wrote this, I was thinking that my imagined dystopia might serve as a warning to my grandchildren or great grandchildren. Since then, increasingly in last few years, it is becoming clear that the meltdown is already taking place in our time and at an escalating rate. So, whether you look at the speed with which ice is melting at the poles or the alarming rate of the increase in the extinction of species or the incidence of wildfires and soaring temperatures in the northern hemisphere or the release of methane from the north Asian tundra, the story is the same. We’ve entered a new geological age – the anthropocene. Meaning that for the first time in the three billion year history of our planet, human activity has become the dominant factor in its future. And the prognosis is not good. We may already have pushed that fragile equilibrium beyond the tipping point.

Here is an extract of what I wrote in Double Bind:

“Tell me about the deniers.” It’s Ingrid and she’s demanding more answers. Now that I’ve leveled with her about who I am.

We’re sitting at one end of the research area. Peterson and Janet are within earshot working the Xilix system, searching for information.

I move close to her and whisper. “Maybe we should talk somewhere more private.”

She whispers back. “No. Trust Peterson. The more he knows, the more he’ll be able to help.”

“You’re right.” I speak up so Peterson can hear. “It’s a long story that goes all the way back when.”

“Back to your home?”

“Yes all the way back there. The deniers. They destroyed the planet.”

I’m trying to keep from her and Peterson the true weight of the disaster. What happened as the planet died. How the life was sucked out of it in a rage of sulphur, bromine and day long darkness. How the sun disappeared and eternal night settled upon us.

“They watched as your planet died?”

“They couldn’t see the disaster that was right there in front of them. They still don’t see it. They don’t see the connection between what they did and what happened.”

“Why not?”

I swallow hard. “Ingrid. They blamed it on an angry god. A god who’d lost faith with them. Not for what they’d done but for what those who’d tried to talk them out of their madness had done.”

“People like you?”

“Yes, people like me. People who could see the big mess for what it is. What you call the tipping point. People who told them that you can’t keep pushing the planet, can’t keep overloading it with the energy that you keep producing and expect it to keep bouncing back.”

It’s an apocalyptic vision that worries me now more than it did back when I penned this just eight years ago.

Ray Bradbury’s abundant imagination strayed into this terrain in the fifties with his remarkable cycle of sequenced stories, brought together as The Martian Chronicles, that tell of the colonisation of Mars. All that remained of the sophisticated inhabitants of the planet were ghosts that represented the dying essences of a civilisation that had come and gone, one that had failed to see that the outcome of their incessant need to squander the natural assets of their world would lead to a new equilibrium on their planet in which they had no place.

We are not yet at that point. But we are close to it. It is still possible that we could commence on the kind of terraforming activities that brought life to our planet in the first place. Yet this would take significant and determined effort beginning right now. It’s by no means clear that we have the collective understanding of the importance of this task or the organisation and resources to carry it out. But one can only hope and do what one can to bring this about and avoid the catastrophe that awaits.

About Double Bind

Life-changing experiences come thick and fast for Raymond Bridges as he attempts to unravel a mystery that goes to the heart of his being.

It’s a thrilling journey that leads him to question so much of what he finds in the world around him – including the loyalty of those he thinks he knows well.

What he uncovers is a conspiracy that shakes the world he knows to its foundations and asks key questions about our responsibility to the planet.

A book that just might invoke deep thoughts about how we live today – or just be appreciated for the wild ride of the imagination that it undoubtedly is.

Get it from Amazonhttp://smarturl.it/dbb 

Seb Kirby

BestSelling author Seb Kirbywas literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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Thursday teaser: Here the Truth Lies

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This week we present a psychological thriller teaser from the new book, Here the Truth Lies

JASON FARRAR VIA FLICKR

By Seb Kirby

I make it home in good time to take the call from Brian Cooper.

All the way, I’m worried that the tall man might get off the train at one of the stations further down the line, wait there and re-board my carriage when it arrives. But as each station stop passes and there is no sign of him, my sense of fear subsides and I sink back into the warm, welcoming arms of my whisky-aided world.

When eight-thirty comes around and there’s nothing from Cooper, I begin to think he must have second thoughts about calling. After all, I hadn’t been able to offer much hope of getting his case reviewed the last time we spoke, which is over two weeks ago. When the phone rings, I half expect it to be a cold call, but it’s Cooper’s voice at the end of the line.

He doesn’t waste time with any formalities. “Look, I don’t have long. I’m on three calls only a week and this is one of them. We have fifteen minutes.”

I try to put him at ease. “I’m glad you got through, I thought you might have problems accessing the phone.”

“They do you no favors in here. But, sweetheart, that’s something I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

“I have an important question, Brian. I want you to think very carefully before you reply. The way you answer may well determine if I can go on helping you or not.”

“You’re trying to pull a number on me?”

“No, of course not. But you have to understand that there are some things we have to get straight before I can offer any further help.”

“I get it, sweetheart. What is it?”

“You are on the level with me, aren’t you?”

“Is that it? If you mean, did I do it, you know what the answer is. I didn’t do it. I was nowhere near the house.”

“So where were you?”

“Like I told you last time, I was out and about, working my patch.”

“Pushing drugs? With Alison?”

“What else. That’s what we did.”

I take a deep breath. “I need to understand why Alison placed you at that house in Morden. You and he were mates, working together.”

“He was never a mate of mine.”

“But you worked together.”

“Call it a marriage of convenience. You don’t have to like someone to work with them.”

“You’re saying you didn’t get on with him.”

“No, I’m saying that’s how the world is, sweetheart.”

I hate how Cooper calls me sweetheart in such a dismissive way. No doubt this is his attitude to most women, but I let it pass. “You’ve got to help me here, Brian. Did Alison have any reason to want to set you up for the murder by testifying that you and he were at the house in Morden?”

“He may have had his reasons.”

“Like what?”

“Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be finding out?”

“You need to see how damaging that was to your case. In coming forward Alison was putting himself at great risk, admitting to drug dealing along with you and placing himself in a position where he could have been accused of being an accomplice to murder. That gave his testimony tremendous weight with the court. Why would he risk all that if he didn’t feel compelled to tell the truth about the killings?”

Cooper falls silent for a worrying length of time, as if he’s thinking too much about what he should say next. I’m left with the feeling that he knows the importance of the question and that the way he answers will have a major effect on whether I’ll continue to support him. A pause that makes me uncertain that he’s not seeking to find the answer that will manipulate me the most. And when he does reply, what he has to say doesn’t calm those fears.

“Look, Alison was a bad man. There are a lot of bad men like him. They do terrible things. How do I know why he turned me in? All I can tell you is, I wasn’t there. I didn’t kill that girl or her father.”

I take another a deep breath. “Look, Brian. I need to say this to you again to make sure I understand. You could win parole by admitting that you did the killings. If you showed remorse, told them how sorry you were, you’d be more or less certain to be listened to. They could conclude that you’re no longer a danger. A year in a low security prison or so and you could be out.”

He interrupts with an undisguised note of aggression in his voice. “And admit to something I didn’t do? Spend the rest of my life being known as a child killer? There’s no way I would ever do that, sweetheart. I thought you knew I was never going to do that.”

“Which means there’s something you need to understand. If I continue the investigation and I turn up evidence that places you at the scene of the murders, I’ll be duty bound to reveal it. That would weigh heavily against any chance you might have of an appeal.” I pause again. “So, tell me one more time. Were you ever at the house in Morden? Yes or no?”

“It’s like I told you. I didn’t do it. Is that clear enough for you, sweetheart? And if I didn’t do it, how could I have been anywhere near that house? Answer me that?”

The time is up. The line goes dead.

I’m less convinced by Cooper than before the call. He could be using me, regarding me as a soft touch. Yet I know that whatever force is drawing me to the story hasn’t changed, no matter how unconvincing Cooper is. And once again he’s refused to admit to the crime, even though that could have bought him his freedom.

It’s that, more than anything else, that stays with me.

Here the Truth Lies: psychological thriller by Seb KirbyAbout Here the Truth Lies 

Sometimes your past is stranger than you ever imagined.

Emma Chamberlain has a consuming ambition – to prove the innocence of a convicted murderer sentenced to life. But the more she digs into the evidence, the more she is forced to confront threatening secrets about her own past that lead her to the ultimate question: who is Emma Chamberlain?

To discover the truth, Emma must expose those responsible for a dark conspiracy that has ruined the lives of many and now threatens her own.

Seb Kirby

BestSelling author Seb Kirbywas literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Seb can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |    Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website & blog 

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