The Author Visits Spotlights R. A. Smith
Calendar of Events
Monday, October 20: Introducing R. A. Smith; Kick-off Giveaway; Interview with author
Tuesday, October 21: Excerpt from Oblivion Storm
Wednesday, October 22: Excerpt from Primal Storm
Thursday, October 23: R. A. Smith’s Blog Post
Friday, October 24: What’s Next for R. A.
Saturday, October 25: Review Oblivion Storm and Announce Giveaway Winner
Follow R. A. Smith
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Book Trailer for Oblivion and Primal Storm
What’s Next for R. A. Smith
Book Three of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles is my main current project, with the story picking up from where Primal Storm left off, and this time, mostly following the story from the experiences of Dr. Kara Mellencourt. Her friends Mary and Jennifer both have extraordinary abilities which help them with their adventures in equally extraordinary places and against a foe they need to learn more about—and quickly. Kara hasn’t their unique talents, just her considerable wits and a driven enthusiasm to discover more about the worlds and beings she had previously only speculated about. The odds may be heavily against her, but Kara’s not about to surrender meekly. With the remnants of an old order in her hands, it falls up to her to focus them against the very enemy for which they were formed to oppose.
And so whilst not bringing the GMC to a close necessarily, certainly concluding this particular story arc.
Guest Post – Back from the Break
I’ve had a far longer break from writing than I intended. My day job got rather busy, coupled with possibly the busiest summer I’ve had in years between family weddings, gaming and getting to a rather large convention in the form of LonCon3. Now every bit of it has been worth it, and I wouldn’t have swapped that summer for anything really. But that’s usually the time I dig into my next novel proper, and there just hasn’t been a spare minute for some time. And now things have gone the other way, and the time has come where the next novel is ready to consume my every waking hour once more.
Everyone writes differently. That means that writers have their own habits, good and bad, that they get into. By way of insight, I usually get a run of initial ideas, have at them in a few thousand words, then drum my fingers as I run out of steam and go back to refine the plan. It’s like that with the main project and the outline though; I consider it an important part of the journey. Certain parts of the story are frequently far harder to write than others, and yet they may require less tweaks later on whereas others fly out of the traps but need refinement after refinement to get where we want.
Oooh, just talking about it is exhausting me. This might be because of the extended break, I think. A good run of writing reminds me of handling a Formula One car at times. You need a lap or two to get the tyres up to temperature and then even if you do get into a great flow, don’t forget your pit stops. Scheduled breaks are as important to me as scheduled sessions, if only to keep yourself hydrated and your eyes from growing too tired. Sometimes I find it essential to nab a chocolate bar just as I’m hitting a cliffhanger point.
I got a handy reminder through the electronic post last week, and since then, have spent many spare moments processing ideas, characters and potential events until they become a thing. This is all well and good, but there’s a way to go yet. This year I’ll be doing something I haven’t for a couple of years, and taking full advantage of the existence of NaNoWriMo. However, I’ll be altering the rules slightly. The numbers will mean less to me than progress. I’ll already have started by November 1. And I may not be finished by the 30th. But being able to clatter on with a playlist while many other people I know are doing exactly the same will be rather motivating, I think!
Excerpt – Primal Storm
Everything ached—an unusual occurrence in itself. On the plus side, it meant Jennifer felt the effects of the fight, simple aches and pains, cuts and bruises, instead of the cold, debilitating torture of months before. At least she felt alive.
How long had she been out? A few seconds? A few hours? And also, where was she? Lying under covers on an uncomfortable bed which was reminiscent of a ship’s cabin, in a room she could barely stretch out twice in. The ceiling didn’t look to give her much clearance either.
The next challenge was how to get out of there, wherever there was. She got out from under the sheets—and realised she had been relieved of all clothing, other than her sports underwear.
An uncomfortable situation just became even more so. She looked around for her clothes. The room was sparsely furnished. Other than the bed, not even a rug covered the stone floor.
However, on a very low table lay a stunning, blue silk dress. Jennifer lacked Kara’s expertise on matters of fashion, but felt quite certain the gown was of exceptional quality, and definitely expensive. Someone was dropping an unsubtle hint as to how they wanted her dressed.
As much as the wardrobe demand aggravated, the real question was why they didn’t off her when they had the chance, especially if they knew what would happen when she got out of there. Unless whoever held her just didn’t care.
Her thoughts drifted on to who the hell the robbers were, and how the cloaked one took her down so easily. That ruffled her greatly. Sure, her condition remained some way off a hundred-percent full strength, but she had no idea she was that rusty.
Her opponent moved faster than anyone she had previously encountered. Organised, disciplined and well-equipped; it seemed quite clear the gang members were no common criminals. And some of them also had additional . . . advantages.
She returned to thoughts of how to escape. The walls were impenetrable old stone, whilst the door was wooden but looked solid. Jennifer went over and gave the handle a try, unsurprised to find that it didn’t turn far. Leaning hard against it didn’t budge it either. It felt unshakeable. If she was anywhere near full strength, it would have been worth testing harder, but at the moment, futile.
She supposed there were some advantages to not running at full strength—opponents would likely underestimate her. Because, besides healing her recent wounds, it was fair to say she was feeling better than she had in a while. Maybe if she just stayed there for a couple of days, they’d have the real Jennifer to contend with. And then they’d be in trouble.
Only problem was, someone clearly wanted her to keep an appointment with them. And she made her own damn appointments.
Justified paranoia rather high, she checked for cameras in the room. A cursory scan, followed by a more detailed squint, revealed nothing. If they were hidden, they’d done a really good job of it.
Cheap perverts ruled out at the least, she went for the dress and dived into it. She began to zip up the back—it was better than nothing after all—but then an idea came to her.
“Hey!” she called, in half-zipped attire, and battered the door. “I’m awake. But I need a little help getting into this thing.”
She cupped an ear to the door and heard footsteps close by. A key turned in the lock and she leapt backward and to the left, alert and waiting.
The door opened but not to full width. The guard, dressed as most of the others she’d seen, appeared with nobody behind him, armed and aggressive. “Get ready,” he said, a French accent to his voice. “The boss wants to see you.”
Good. She was too valuable to shoot. “Looking forward to it,” she purred, turning her back to him. “Now give me a hand.”
“Stop messing around and get dre—”
Jennifer was already where she wanted to be. She smashed an elbow cleanly upward into his chin, then grabbed his arm. With total control, she twisted it, turning him the opposite direction and drove him head-first into the wall twice. Guiding his unconscious body down on to the bed, she peered outside in all directions. Only one guard in sight—the one she’d knocked out.
Sloppy of them—or too easy.
She wasn’t going to make a run for it dressed for an awards ceremony if she could help it. She stripped the guard before ditching the dress in exchange for his body armour and more practical clothing. She examined the submachine gun, but dismissed appropriating it as a terrible idea. Instead, she simply relieved him of it, sure to remove the magazine. Using the dress, she tied his arms to the head of the bed and then crept outside, quietly closing the door.
Excerpt – Oblivion Storm
A massive shadow against the drawn curtain drew her eye to the observation window. The source moved ponderously towards the door. A fit of shivering struck her with a vengeance, and the breeze in the room burst to a gust. The medical equipment in the room vibrated in perfect time with her shudders, the room itself at one with her terror. Every light in the room flickered and then blinked out. The door burst open, the monstrous frame a silhouette against the hallway lighting.
She screamed with mindless terror. The more she screamed, the more equipment flew violently around the room. The brute had failed in an attempt at disguise with a shredded medical coat—the previous owner’s fresh blood still oozing through the threads. He threw a disembodied arm at Jack’s feet. Half the size of the bestial mound of muscle, Jack flinched but still moved to intercept.
“Y-you need to leave before I call the police.” “Jack,” Rose wheezed, “run for help! Go now!”
The giant gave a loud laugh, stooping to examine his obstruction.
Jack stood firm. “Listen, I don’t know who you are, but you need to get out. Now.”
“Move, insect!” the monster growled. Jack recoiled.
“I can’t do that. I—”
The bestial man drove his fist down onto Jack’s head. Rose gasped in horror and fumbled for anything she could use as a weapon while the giant bludgeoned her friend. With one final crack, Jack crumpled to the ground.
She scrambled to the head of the bed, but a mammoth hand wrapped around her right ankle and dragged her back into a supine position. He pinned her down by the throat and leaned over her, grinning widely. She grappled for the saline drip pole and drew it down onto his head, but her attack proved ineffectual. He seemed insensible to her flailing limbs.
He drew back his free arm and grinned. “Time to finish the job.” He stroked her hair with a finger from his restraining hand. Rose closed her eyes against the terror. A screech filled the room, but not from Rose. She opened her eyes, watched the giant roar with agony and fall to his knees. A long, white lab coat flumped onto the bed beside her.
Behind the wounded beast stood a tall, blonde young woman with razor-like talons dripping fresh gore. “Time to go,” she commanded Rose. Rose grabbed the coat and donned it as she darted out of the room. As the pair ran down a hallway, Rose stared at the woman’s bloodied talons and gasped as the sharp appendages suddenly reverted to a regularly shaped hand. The blonde paused to assess the attacker’s persistence. The giant poked his head out from Rose’s room, recovering rapidly from an injury that would have finished anyone else. He located the pair and glared.
“Interesting,” the woman mused. “A fair fight. Rare.”
Interview with R. A. Smith
Enjoy my interview with talented R. A. Smith, author of The Grenshall Manor Chronicles, Oblivion and Primal Storm.
Veena: Welcome R. A. It’s a pleasure to meet you!
Veena: Shall we get started then?
Veena: Where did the concept for Oblivion and Primal Storm come from?
RA: Oblivion Storm was born from a combination of things in the end. An old university project saw some support characters retain my interest to expand into bigger things. And an old news story on an amnesiac musician who turned up in Britain just fascinated me for some time. This ‘Piano Man’ was eventually a real inspiration for ‘Rose’, and over time, Oblivion Storm was born.
Primal Storm came about because of events in Oblivion Storm, mostly. It seemed a logical choice to me that Jennifer Winter was the character to pick up as the central protagonist to me, and because of the type of character she is, the story had to operate in a completely different way to the first. Later, the idea of parkour as her main recovery medium just came to me, and seemed really clear as her chosen exercise medium. Considerably more extreme than most of us would plan immediately after her predicament, but there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about Jennifer. She lives life at full-tilt and that’s what I wanted to go for with her adventure.
Veena: These books are part of a series – did you know the ending of the series before you even started or is it coming together organically?
RA: Bits of both, really. I had a very basic idea of how I wanted things to come along but knew fleshing out would have to happen. And as I went along, I found myself getting more ideas, more plots to explore and new characters to play with. Though I have this arc in mind, one really important thing came to me that I can’t really mention here for fear of giving something major away. But I have a few more stories to tell yet…
Veena: And so does that make you a plotter or a panster?
RA: I tend to dance around both really, neither quite one nor the other. I like a road map, but at the same time, some of my favourite ideas come when I just go for a drive. I suppose I’m increasingly a plotter, but I need a great deal of flexibility in my writing sessions. Sometimes I just stumble upon something better as I go along.
Veena: What inspires you to write?
RA: All sorts of things really. Conversations, news and internet articles, films and games. Sometimes even music. All I know is when I get a hook, I look to run with it or throw it in the ideas blender and see where it works best.
Veena: And what about your passion for war gaming – does that play at all into your writing? Maybe a little bit background on war gaming would be awesome.
RA: Well, this depends. Do you actually mean war gaming here, because I have a pretty solid Necron army for my Warhammer 40000 games. However, that rarely factors into my writing. [related note: I should consider submitting a story to the Black Library one of these days…]
Or perhaps my RPGs, in which case, I absolutely consider some of my experiences in tabletop gaming and live-action roleplaying [LARP/LRP as your personal tastes prefer] to have helped my writing planning. You interact with other characters all the time, get into the head of your own characters too, and go and poke worlds which your actions significantly affect all the time. It’s part of the point of playing, and actually the same reason lots of people pick up books in the first place as far as I’m concerned—it’s just nice to lose yourself in another world, deal with someone else’s conflicts and triumphs and temporarily forget your own, and get on an adventure!
Your game world has rules and metaphysics, just like any story you read, and you function within those rules. Your characters may be at odds with them, or conversely and equally likely, exemplars of said world, but the principles are the same. Where things differ are in a book is that the writer [mostly] knows where the story is going, how obstacles are overcome, how conflicts are resolved. When roleplaying, the runner(s) has/have an idea of possibilities and outcomes, but players can change everything depending upon what they do and don’t end up doing. And that’s kind of the point.
Veena: If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
RA: Well, I do have a day job poking around houses, but I’ve kind of always written in some way or other, so I don’t know. I have many ‘what ifs’ at various points in life that I might have found myself doing, but somehow I always come back to writing.
Veena: As an author, what advice do you have for aspiring writers? Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
RA: I’m still learning all of this stuff myself. So my first thing I suppose would be to say always be receptive to something new. Other than that, I’d say just do what you do. It might not be for everyone, but nothing is at the end of the day, and you’ll be a lot happier for telling the story you wanted to tell than trying to keep up with the latest trend in literature. You can’t. It’ll be gone by the time you get there. On the other hand, if you’ve just done your thing, you may well find that you *are* that trend. And you’ll be likely rich *and* happy!
Veena: How has your experience been working with an indie publishing house across the ocean?
RA: Always fun. Scheduling meetings is just part of the entertainment with the time differences as they are, and then you have the fun of sharing cultural norms, words and phrases the other never even knew were a thing. Of course, the downside is popping in for a coffee with your editor gets more problematic, but we just add it to the list of goals as we go along.
Veena: How long have you been writing? Has writing been a childhood dream?
RA: I’ve been writing since I can remember really. It’s always been something I come home to, whatever else I’m doing in life and I probably always will now.
Veena: Please share some fun facts about you:
Tea or coffee? Depends on the source, most times.
Curry or fish and chips? Likewise, though I probably eat more curry on average. Love a Balti.
What’s on your nightstand? What’s a nightstand? (see question 8) . Just looked it up…ah, I see. Bedside table! A desk lamp, after shave, various coins not of legal tender (or indeed this world) and a copy of Shadowfae by Erica Hayes that I’m slowly but surely getting through. I’m reading different books depending upon whereabouts in/out of the house I’m located at any given time.
NYC, London, Paris or a city of your choice and why? How do you start with this? So much cool in all of these cities! London always has a place in my heart hailing from that side of the world and all that, but for cities I just adored when I set foot in them, Barcelona. It has so much cool and I need to get back there soon.
Favorite gadget? Currently the laser measurer I’m issued from my day job. Measures accurately, quickly and with ease and doubles as a handy cat toy.
What’s the #1 thing on your bucket list? A proper visit to Patagonia.
Most meaningful moment as a writer? That day I held a copy of Oblivion Storm for the first time. It just felt so surreal but amazing too.
Favorite quote? Just about anything from Darth Vader. He’s comedy gold.
I hope you enjoyed my interview with R. A. Smith.
Title: Oblivion Storm
Series: The Grenshall Manor Chronicles
Date Published: December 7, 2012
Publisher: Xchyler Publishing
Blurb: Over a century past, a wily young pauper wins the hearts of a childless couple of ancient nobility, and a place in one of the most prestigious families in London. The sole heir to the Grenshall family legacy, Iris ‘Tally’ Grenshall fights to protect her family from the machinations of an evil woman, but discovers her adversary presents a threat much greater than she ever imagined . . .
The victim of a brutal attack, Rose remembers one thing: a long-dead woman giving her an impossible task. She knows only the price of failure as she sets out to retrieve a deadly talisman, with the aid of new friends and powers over the living and the dead. As the body count rises, Rose’s quest grows desperate–with London itself in jeopardy.
Rose and Tally share fates intertwined. Rose must discover how before the secrets of the past destroy her, her friends, and all of London.
Title: Primal Storm
Series: The Grenshall Manor Chronicles
Date Published: January 21, 2014
Publisher: Xchyler Publishing
Blurb: Jennifer Winter has a knack for finding trouble, but not even her superhuman abilities prepared her for death—and the rigors of recuperating from it. When her extreme rehabilitation thrusts her into the path of a criminal mastermind, she is dragged into a quest to discover her own mysterious past and the source of her extraordinary powers.
But she and her friends must stop an ancient conspiracy to control the supernatural realm that embraces her, before that world is utterly destroyed.
About R. A. Smith
R. A. Smith lives in Manchester, UK with his girlfriend. Among his extended family, he counts two considerable war gaming armies and several bears, including Sir Arthur and Frost. A keen gamer, he is equally happy rolling a set of dice or suiting up in plate and swinging a sword at his friends. He can also be found on game consoles, generally unable to dance, shoot or kick a ball.
His favorite jobs held in the past have been working as an editor on his old student magazine, as a Tudor soldier, and as a time travelling guide (so is that in the future?) .
R. A. loves his cars and has a long list of things he wants to drive while he still can. He gained an M.A in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and holds it as his proudest achievement to date before getting his first novel published.
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