books, reviews

Guest Post: Paul Maunder on writing The Atomics and my review!

Today author Paul Maunder has kindly written about his experience writing new book The Atomics and I’ve been lucky enough to have read it (Thank you Lightning Books for my copy). My review follows after Paul’s essay. Enjoy!

Midsummer, 1968. When Frank Banner and his wife Gail move to the Suffolk coast to work at a newly built nuclear power station, they are hoping to leave violence and pain behind them.
Gail wants a baby but Frank is only concerned with spending time in the gleaming reactor core of the Seton One power station. Their new neighbours are also ‘Atomics’ – part of the power station community. But Frank takes a dislike to the boorish, predatory Maynard. And when the other man begins to pursue a young woman who works in the power station’s medical centre, Frank decides to intervene.
As the sun beats relentlessly upon this bleak landscape, his demons return. A vicious and merciless voice tells him he has an obligation to protect the young woman and Frank knows just how to do it. Radiation will make him stronger, radiation will turn him into a hero…

A Productive Mid-Life Crisis

My winding path to publishing The Atomics

Paul Maunder

When I started writing fiction in my early twenties, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m sure many fiction writers will recognise that feeling, but my ignorance ran especially deep. Throughout my teenage years I was engaged in, obsessed by, cycle racing. My dream was to win the Tour de France not the Man Booker Prize. I read nothing but cycling magazines. But cycle racing is a cruel sport; I discovered the sizeable gap between my ambition and my ability, and at eighteen, tempted by the opportunity to reinvent myself at university, I gave up the lycra. 

At university I studied politics. Literature was only a very faint beep on the edge of my radar screen. I still wasn’t reading novels (I was barely reading the politics books required for my course), yet in the third year, when allowed to choose a course from another department, I went for an English Literature course about the American city. Perhaps that was the first glimmer of an interest in books, though I was too busy organising raves and other nefarious pursuits to really think about it.

The crucial moment came in the summer after leaving university. A friend lent me his copy of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I read it quickly and was absorbed, appalled, exhilarated. It was not the sex and violence that attracted me but the idea of what a novel could be. It was so different to my preconception of what constituted ‘literature’. Immediately I thought, I can do that. And I started doing just that.

It only took a few days for me to realise that I could not do anything remotely like that. But by then the addiction had taken hold. I was a writer. I knew that with absolute certainty. 

Over the following two decades I wrote five novels, plus a couple of false starts. I enrolled on the MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, where I studied with Andrew Motion. I consumed books on the craft of writing and ploughed my way through dozens of novels. My ignorance about literature had allowed me to start writing without the sense of inadequacy that cripples many aspiring writers who know what a good book is. I saw this happening in my MA classes – the older, more experienced readers in the group would produce ten pages of prose but condemn their own work because it didn’t live up to their idea of what they should be producing. I had no benchmarks so I arrogantly thought that everything I produced was top-notch. 

I inched towards publication. Each novel I wrote was better than the last. I could always turn out a few pages of half-decent prose, but my downfall lay in bigger, structural issues. Plot, or lack thereof. Story, ditto. Characters that didn’t live and breathe. I submitted to literary agents and endured the slow drip of rejection letters. 

In the year that I turned forty I signed with a fantastic literary agent, one of those big names in the industry who commands respect from publishers. I had a novel set in the Second World War that felt ready, and a couple of editors were interested. I felt certain this was the moment I would drag myself across the line (I still had the arrogance of self-belief). The editors passed. My agent encouraged me to redraft the book, and I got lost in a maze of rewriting that I didn’t really understand or believe in. I lost sight of what the book was about. By the eighteenth draft I was left with a big mess.

I gave up. Switched to journalism and non-fiction. Published two books – with relative ease – about cycling. This was my mid-life crisis, more sedate and productive than buying a sports car or having an affair. Writing non-fiction required me to pull together a lot of information then build a story out of it that would, hopefully, engage the reader and keep them turning the pages. That transformed the way I looked at fiction. 

My earlier novels had been filled with all the strange and disparate ideas that had been floating around my head at that particular time – Cornish independence movements, custom coffin-makers, mobile libraries, dance music, Dad’s Army. The books had a facetious, too-clever tone. They didn’t hang together as stories, and there was no emotional truth at their core. Writing non-fiction taught me the importance of story, above all else. And the importance of considering the reader at all times. Previously I’d thought that whatever I wrote would be so perceptive, so insightful, that any sensible reader would be impressed. Now I understood just how daft that position was.

When I started The Atomics I focused on story and character. Create real characters, tell their story. That was my mantra. Now the book is about to be published by Lightning Books. I got there, eventually.

The Atomics by Paul Maunder is published by Lightning Books on May 3rd  

My thoughts: this was a really interesting book about a man slowing unravelling while working at a nuclear reactor and living in a small, intense community in a remote part of Suffolk.

There’s a sense of claustrophobia and a sort of incestuousness, the employees and their families seem to only socialise with each other, and Alice, who’s from the local community feels like something of an outsider.

Frank is seriously disturbed following the events that drive him from Oxford, and this leads him to do some terrible things. He’s also convinced that the uranium used at the plant is gifting him powers, as opposed to making him ill. The quiet desperation of his wife, Gail, increases as his mania does.

I found the growing violence and strangeness in Frank fascinating but also repelling, the voice in his head is menacing but also seductive in its desire for destruction.

Alice and Gail are also interesting – neither really belong in the village, even though Alice grew up there. Both want things their current lives won’t give them and don’t really know how to get them.

Thank you to Lightning Books for my review copy and Paul for sharing his experiences with us.

blog tour, books

Guest Post: The Far Wild – Alex Knight

About The Far Wild

An expedition gone awry. Suni Koudounas is enamoured with the wonders — and dangers — of the Far Wild. As a naturalist’s apprentice, she’s studied every book and expedition report about the miraculous wilderness. But when her mentor goes missing on expedition, Suni sets aside the Far Wild of ink and paper to venture after him into the primordial jungle.

A missing skyship. As the empire’s most beloved adventurer — or most successful raconteur — Senesio Suleiman Nicolaou doesn’t want much. Wealth beyond measure, fame beyond reason, and a small kingdom somewhere warm should be about enough. When news of the rescue mission reaches him, Senesio knows there’s no better opportunity to add to his living legend.

The most dangerous wilderness known to man. With unexpected enemies above and monstrous predators in the jungles below, it’s up to Suni, Senesio, and their companions to uncover the truth of what’s happening in the Far Wild. It’s a revelation that will shake the empire to its core and reshape the lives of all involved — assuming, of course, they don’t all get eaten first.

Storytelling Thrives at the Intersection of Preparation and Imagination

Howdy, everyone. I’m Alex Knight — author of the recently released fantasy thriller, The Far Wild — and it’s a pleasure to be here today to talk about the writing. Or, more specifically, storytelling.

The debate on how best to write a story is endless, with numerous different camps all preaching different methods. And because writing is such an individual process, I think this is a situation where we can say everyone is right.

Whatever works for you is the best strategy to use.

That being said, I think I have an idea of something we can all use more.

I’m no household name, but I do have six books under my belt now — and a background as a ghostwriter with many more finished works. If I’ve learned one universal truth in my time writing fiction, it’s this:

Storytelling thrives at the intersection of preparation and imagination.

Pantsers like to figure everything out as they go. Plotters like it all planned and prepared.

I think it’s best to write a story by going right down the middle.

The times I see my readers most excited are the times when they’re thinking about a plot event, or world detail, or hinted-at character backstory, and letting their minds run wild. But how do we get their minds to do this?

We create the opportunity for it. And how do we do that? We write right up to the intersection of preparation and imagination.

Plan your plot, create your character backstories, fill your fantasy world with history and living cultures. Then tell the readers just the beginnings of it all.

Obviously, for plot-necessary events, you’ll need to explain as fully as required, but for the rest, I think a less detailed touch is called for.

Lead the readers down the beginning of a rabbit hole.

“Why does X culture do Y?”

“Well, because of The Event.”

“What’s ‘The Event?’”

Don’t explain. Just give it an intriguing name, a few small details, and set it free in the story. It’ll soon run wild in the readers’ imaginations, too. But even more than that, it’ll run wild in yours.

I like to plan my stories pretty thoroughly. But I’ve learned to leave just enough unplanned that my imagination can surprise me.

This is where the magic of writing comes into play.

Create a world, then let it grow naturally in your mind. It’ll soon surprise you and leave you wondering at all the intricacies and mysteries of it. And if it does that for you, it’ll do it for the readers, too.

These sort of jumping off points keep wonder alive in fantasy worlds, and keep us thinking about them long after the book or series is finished.

We write to tell stories, but when we leave room for imagination, we do more than tell stories, we create living, shared worlds. For ourselves, and for our readers, to enjoy for years to come.

Alex Knight is filling good books with bad jokes one sentence at a time. As an author, his work includes the fantasy thriller, The Far Wild, and the LitRPG trilogy, Nova Online. As an aspiring twin hes not making much progress, but remains determined.

You can learn more at

blog tour, books

Guest Post: Notorious Minds Blog Tour

PROPOSAL 2020-0794 Judith Holstrom Banner set 5 01 2020-0113 3d Box Set Judith Holstrom on transparent-WEBSITE

GENRE: Mystery/Thriller Crime
ISBN: 9781947649651
RELEASE DATE: 13th October 2020
PRE-ORDER DATE: 17th March 2020

What does it take to commit the perfect crime?
Delve into these dark and twisted tales by twenty USA Today and International Bestselling Authors. No matter what kind of crime story typically catch your imagination, there sure is something for everyone.

Conspiracies, political plots, and yes, even murder, are just a few of the crimes waiting inside this box set. Discover a narcissistic grandmother running an underground syndicate, or a support group bent on murder…and even a serial killer who turns his victims into fairytale creatures.

Prepare to delve into an elite killing team who made a mistake, an oil rig filled with secrets ready to explode and a reporter uncovering a treasonous plot.

Uncover how fatal passion, jealousy and fear can be to a group of royal marines and learn from a detective who is far from home fighting demons from his past in order to stay alive.

Can you figure out how the police solve a killer’s confession to nine murders that haven’t happened yet? or how a girl tethered to the heart of a serial killer becomes the FBI’s no 1 ally.

This box set is packed with thousands of pages that will hold you on the edge of your seat, crying for answers. Definitely a must for fans of Patterson, Lee, and Grisham. One-click it today!


Carlyle Labuschagne – USA TODAY
Eva Winters – USA TODAY
Lena Bourne – USA TODAY
Karen M. Bryson – USA TODAY
Inge – Lise Goss – USA Today
Karen Randau – Award Winning Author
Eric J. Gates – Award Winning Author
Deborah Shlian & Linda Reid – International Bestselling Author
Sian B. Claven – Award Winning author
Brandy Nacole
Kelsey Reed
N. Gray
Majanka Verstraete – International Bestselling Author
Thomas J. Eyre
Adam Alexander
DL Jones
K.L Lamar
D.J Grayson
Judith Holstrom


Pre-Order now and you will receive our amazing pre-order gift – pre-orders are digital and printing is at readers cost.

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My Writing Journey
by Karen Randau

Karen-RandauI think we all know something about what makes us tick from an early age – judging from my 5-year-old grandson’s love of Legos, he’s destined to be a builder, an engineer, or something that involves putting things together.

For me, I don’t remember not having a passion for writing and storytelling.

Writing became a way of life as soon as an elementary school teacher taught me to print Run Spot Run. I’ve processed most of my life’s major events – my best friend moving away, my boyfriend liking someone else, the end of my marriage, the birth of my son – by writing about them. I verbally told myself stories until my sister informed me that talking to yourself meant you were crazy – then I moved my storytelling to inside my head.

It seemed natural to put my love of writing into a career by getting a degree in journalism/public relations from the University of Texas at Austin. That launched a career spanning the industries of high tech, mental health, and non-profit

For nearly three decades, I worked for an international non-profit organization that partners with communities in developing countries to help them end extreme poverty. My travels let me witness life-saving work in Bolivia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Those experiences inform my writing and storytelling.

While quietly confessing strange thoughts to a friendly co-worker one day, I asked, “Do you think I’m going crazy?” I was, after all, verbally telling myself stories again. My friend answered, “No, I think you have a novel in you that wants to get out.”

So, I sat down to write my first novel.

I’m thankful it never got published but did get edited and rewritten five times. I attended conferences and workshops, continued rewriting, and talked to dozens of published authors about what it takes to produce an engaging, fast-paced story that will grab and keep a reader’s attention.

And I learned that too many edits will destroy a story.

I shelved that first novel and created a protagonist I loved, Rita Avery. Her husband died in a theater shooting in book 1 of my Rim Country Mystery Series, Deadly Deceit. Rita found love again and married Cliff in book 2, Deadly Inheritance, where they nearly get blown up in an Viking burial cave. Rita’s missing mother shows up after 25 years in book 3, Deadly Choices, and Willow has gone from being a vegetarian hippie artist to an ex-con who helps Rita figure out why a woman with an arrow in her chest stumbled into their campsite. In book 4, Deadly Payload, Rita is largely on her own when Cliff and hundreds of towns people are sickened by a bio-terrorism attack. Rita’s sleuthing reveals it was a practice run for a larger attack, and she fights to thwart it before thousands more die. Deadly Payload was a finalist in the Book Excellence Awards and the Beverly Hills Book Awards.

The same characters are featured in Deadly Reception, part of the Tawnee Mountain Mysteries that take place at a posh New Jersey resort where Rita’s daughter is hosting her wedding. What could possibly go wrong there?

You can learn more about these books on my website.

My contribution to the Notorious Minds Crime Mystery/Thriller Boxset is called Mystery Bones Murders. It features Frankie, a young widow who is angry and isolated and suffers from dyslexia. She lives on her Wyoming cattle ranch with two pet cows (Rosie and her calf Diesel), a rescued German Shepherd (Lexi Princess Warrior), and an American Paint Horse (Concho). When Frankie and Concho are rescuing Diesel from a thorny bush one stormy night, they find a human femur. The action shifts into high gear – and the body count rises – as Frankie discovers a serial killer is using her property to bury his victims, and he’s watching her.

The boxset is available pre-order on several online retailers for only 99 cents, and we authors would like to thank you for your purchase with a free gift of several of our novels. Go to the Notorious Minds Boxset website for details on how to order and claim your free gift.