Monday, July 30, 2012


Terry Murphy, author of Weekend in Weighton, discusses his book's characters and inspirations. Visit his website.

Weekend in Weighton is as much about the smart-mouthed Eddie G. as the mysteries. Which came first, the character or the plot?

The character came first, very much inspired by a film (of which more later). In fact there was no plot. Don’t do this at home folks, but I wrote the first three chapters without any pre-ordained storyline. Does it show? My only excuse is that I wrote it when I was a young man and in my ‘experimental phase.’ My original idea was to take a story to a point so convoluted that no plot could bring it back. It was always meant to be generic and tongue-in-cheek in any case. But I realised pretty quickly (around chapter four if you want the actuality!) that I needed a plot; that’s the moral to this opening question I suppose, so I’m on message for my American audience so far (I’m kidding!).

Were there any parts of Weekend in Weighton that you particularly enjoyed writing?

I first started writing WiW in 1994 and went back and finished it in 2011. In my first stint I really enjoyed writing the interplay between Eddie and Jimmy in the casino scene, especially with the distraction (for Eddie) of Jimmy’s two female companions. Some of the best lines in the book are in that scene (Chapter 10 in case it’s on your Kindle already).

Of the later stuff, I had great fun writing the big chase scene. Eddie’s duel with Tommy on the boat deck and (spoiler alert) his escape on the back of Diffy’s jet ski had even me holding my breath. Apparently that scene has already been ‘nicked’ for the next Bond film. Ain’t they stinkers?

What was the inspiration for Weekend in Weighton? How did it all begin?

I developed an interest in ‘spoof’ noir when I was younger (even now I remember the line from a TV sketch I saw once: “A tall lookin’ dame walked past the window. I knew she was tall, I was on the third floor.” Okay, I was young!). And I remember enjoying films like ‘Play It Again, Sam’ and ‘Gumshoe’, but I actually started writing WiW after watching, ‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane’. He is the ultimate trash-talking, quip-a-second, brash private detective and I wanted Eddie to be an English version, but in a more prosaic, down-at-heel setting.

If you met Eddie at a bar, how do you think the two of you would get along?

It wouldn’t end well, would it? In real life I tend to follow Max Erhman’s advice and avoid ‘loud and vexatious’ types. And I’m not sure I’d be happy playing second fiddle to someone who was funnier than me. But at least Eddie’s been on a wine-tasting course (plug for chapter 7) so we might have something to talk about. Oh, yeah, we could also compare mountain bikes – although his Santa Cruz SuperLight sounds much better than mine.

If someone stuck you on a desert island and said, “write a book,” what would you have to have with you?

It would depend if the ‘someone’ followed up with, “and here’s your six figure advance, Mr Murphy.” Otherwise, I’d just go fishing. And I don’t even like fishing. Whatever I was doing, I’d need a laptop and wi-fi. After my family, I love my laptop most. Mind you, there are some family members I’d trade.

You mentioned that a lot of your inspirations come from films. What prompted you to choose a novel as your conduit of creativity rather than a screenplay?

I've written a screenplay and I enjoyed the experience—I love writing dialogue and sometimes it's nice not having to worry about the stuff in between, if you know what I mean. But as a medium it does have limitations and it is nigh impossible to reach an audience, which ultimately I think it is all about. And there is something very satisfying about telling the "whole" story, from start to finish.

I'd also miss the fun I have with word-play. A reviewer called it “literary pyrotechnics” and I think that is an apt description.

I tend to write as if I'm watching a film scene, though. Is that good or bad?

If you could cast anyone in the history of cinema and television for a movie version of Weekend in Weighton, who would you choose?

Crikey, that's a good question. I'd love to get the cast of The Magnificent Seven back together, but it wouldn't match the cast list for WiW too well, although Eli Wallach (Calvera) might make a great Jimmy.

When I was writing the character of Eddie I could hear an English actor called Adrian Lister saying his lines, but you probably won't have heard of him. An English actor you will have heard of that I'd cast is Michael Caine (his Alfie character comes to mind). Someone else suggested Bruce Willis (as in Moonlighting). Or a younger James Belushi would do a good job. And his madcap brother, John, would be a good fit for Diffy; or Will Ferrell. For Kate it would have to be Scarlett Johansson, sigh. Another English actor, Mark Strong would be superb as Jimmy (he was in the recent Sherlock Holmes film). I think I modeled Tommy on the Bond villain Jaws (Richard Kiel).

Who would you pick for Eddie?

For some reason, Max Greenfield, who plays Schmidt in the American comedy series “New Girl” comes to mind! What’s next for Eddie G.? Will he be solving more mysteries any time soon? Will any of the other characters in Weekend in Weighton be returning?

Going back to the moral of the first question (you see where I was going now?), I’m working upfront on a storyline for the sequel. But, yes, many of the characters will return (I’m thinking Diffy might even get his own spin-off series – can’t be worse than “Joey” can it?) and the story will unfold over a week, rather than a weekend. I’m also thinking about taking Eddie on the road, to a different location, maybe. I hear the ‘Garden State’ is nice? And Eddie’s a big Springsteen fan. Or maybe Tennessee; Eddie loves Elvis, too. Uh huh.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Just curious... Where did Terry get the name Weighton from?

The simple answer is that I just made it up. I knew the story would take place over a weekend and be set in a fictional town, so to get some alliteration going I started to think of place names that sounded familiar and began with ‘w’. I think I looked at the index of place names in my UK map book [no Google back then!] and started combining them. At some point ‘Weighton’ was born - it sounded right and it stuck!

There is a real place in England called ‘Market Weighton’ [it’s in Yorkshire] but I don’t think that entered my mind at the time.

Sorry, it wasn’t a blindfold and a pin!

Weekend in Weighton is available at: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

REVIEW: Weekend in Weighton / Terry Murphy

TITLE: Weekend in Weighton
AUTHOR: Terry Murphy
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

Recommended for fans of murder mysteries, mafia thrillers, and black comedies—especially when all those things are rolled into one.


Weekend in Weighton is a murder mystery centering on Eddie Greene, a smart-mouthed private investigator who tangles with a crime boss while trying to find the killer. It combines the classic components of a whodunit (secretive pasts, multiple suspects, etc.) with the atmosphere of a mafia thriller, all while keeping its tongue firmly pressed into its cheek.

Fast-paced. Weekend in Weighton, as the title implies, takes place over the course of a few days as Eddie repeatedly finds himself in unfortunate situations. With all the moving pieces and twists, this book is hard to put down. There are some slower, more character-centric scenes that give the reader a break from the action, but Eddie’s engaging narrative keeps the story rolling forward.

First person past tense. The story is told from Eddie’s point of view, and with all his clever quips, it feels like you’re in a room with him, listening to him simultaneously boast and complain. At the same time, there are a few poignant moments in which Eddie, somewhat unintentionally, shows who he is behind all that smart-mouthing. This book contains a lot of dialogue and stays very close to the action, often feeling more like present tense than past.

Eddie Greene, or “Eddie G.,” as he likes to call himself, is a trash-talking 26-year-old who decided one day that he was going a private investigator. His first client, a middle-aged woman named Helen Porson, is murdered shortly after she hires him, and, as the first person on the scene, Eddie is considered a suspect. Unable to trust the cops, he begins his own investigation to clear his name and find the truth.

Weekend in Weighton opens with a punch—literally. After ignoring a crime boss’ warning to stay away from the Porson murder, Eddie finds himself at the mercy of a ruthless goon. The boss, Jimmy Cartwright, lets him live, presumably because he finds the young man’s antics amusing, on the condition that he stop his investigation. But no matter how dangerous the situation gets, no matter how many times he gets beaten up, Eddie keeps poking around. As Jimmy puts it, Eddie is a gambler playing with his life, and he always comes back for more.

Eddie’s first person narrative isn’t just full of sarcasm, it has mockery oozing out of its pores and forming a sheen of snarkiness over every scene. He seems incapable of taking anything seriously, even life-threatening situations or moments that should be emotional. His dry and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor infuriates the other characters, who want him to, as one character puts it, “skip the talky-talk and answer the question.” Whether describing a dead body or talking to his mother, Eddie continuously shoots off jokes in rapid-fire succession; his mouth is the AK-47 of one-liners.

But as more is revealed about his past, one comes to realize that his humor is a defense mechanism. At one point, Eddie admits that he doesn’t “do the emotion thing too well” and has trouble connecting with other people. In a rare moment of seriousness, he confesses his insecurities to an old flame, saying that he knows he’s a screw-up but is still trying to make something of himself, to do something that would make his father, a heroic cop who died years ago, proud.

As Eddie delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, he winds up tangling with Weighton’s criminal underworld, the fine-and-upstanding mayor, and a pair of scary strangers with the uncanny tendency to turn up wherever there’s trouble. But the more he learns, the more complicated things get. As he says, there are “so many inconsistencies: but which one was smoking hot? The one to rule them all, the one that in the darkness binds them? The one that tilted the truth in an unmistakeable direction?”

The search for the answer keeps Eddie moving and the pages turning. Murphy’s witty and free-flowing writing is like the breath of life, turning a fictional character into a real and believable person. The narrative somehow manages to keep the plot barreling forward while capturing the minute gestures of each conversation. The mystery keeps one intrigued, but it’s really Eddie that keeps one hooked. He’s far from perfect, and at times one wants to smack him upside the head. And yet behind the humor lies a sympathetic good guy who is instantly likeable and easy to root for.

Weekend in Weighton is a detective story with an attitude problem—a highly entertaining attitude problem. Funny, vivid, and exciting, it’s combination of clever dialogues, well-choreographed action scenes, and memorable characters make it an absorbing and enjoyable read.

Heads up to American readers—Weekend in Weighton uses British conventions when it comes to spelling and punctuation.

This book has been meticulously edited, and there are no typos.

There is no table of contents.

This book contains adult language and is not afraid of the “F” bomb. There are several violent scenes involving fistfights and a few guns, but no graphic or gory details.

Terry Murphy lives in Cheshire, England with his wife and children. He has been writing since, as he puts it, he could “jab a pencil at a piece of paper.”  

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Saturday, July 14, 2012


Steph Bennion, author of Hollow Moon, answers questions about her novel and discusses her views on science fiction. Visit her website or Follow her on Twitter.

What was the inspiration for the hollow asteroid that serves as Ravana’s home?

Space opera loves its tropes and one is the ‘big dumb object’; for instance, the alien ship from Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, the sci-fi version of the discworld in Terry Pratchett’s Strata, Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville and so on. In the accompanying stories, it’s nearly always an everyday hero from a sprawling interstellar civilisation who goes off in search of the mysterious “thing,” but I wanted to tell a tale from the opposite point of view, where it was the isolated inhabitants of the object in question who were suddenly forced to deal with visitors from beyond. The idea of a forgotten colony ship came quickly, but it was when I was trying to think of a catchy title for the book that the concept of a “hollow moon”—an asteroid hollowed out to make a sub-light-speed starship—came to mind. The icing on the cake was when I started researching this idea and came across Beyond Tomorrow by futurist Dandridge M Cole. This book contains some wonderful illustrations of Cole’s ideas by Roy Scarfo, including one of the interior of a hollow asteroid. After that it seemed right that I name the hollow moon colony ship in Cole’s honour.

In Hollow Moon, the dominant interplanetary powers are China and India. Why these Eastern powers as opposed to Western ones?

I reasoned that future endeavours in space would be driven by commercial needs—not to explore, but exploit, as Ravana contemplates at some point—by starting with asteroid mining and then moving on from there. China and India seemed likely candidates to make the first serious attempts at industrialising space, given the relative state of their economies and need for raw materials compared to the developed but debt-ridden West; China in particular is catching up fast as far as space technology is concerned. That’s not to say that the West is standing still—the recent Space X mission to the International Space Station is an amazing milestone in commercial space flight. Here in Britain, the UK engineering firm Reaction Engines recently showcased its Skylon spaceplane engine at the Farnborough International Airshow; Skylon itself is an incredible project that has high-level backing from the UK Government and European Space Agency. But as far as Hollow Moon is concerned, another answer would be that in my imagined twenty-third century, most major nations have made their mark somewhere in the five systems but it’s just that the story never ventures to where the Americans or others have staked their claims. The fact that I imagined the colonies in the Barnard’s Star system to be British is just wishful thinking!

What can you tell us about the technology of Hollow Moon? How much of it is based on science fact?

I do enjoy “hard sci-fi,” which aims to use reasonable scientific principles behind fictional technology and I think science fiction serves to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. The works of Arthur C Clarke were a big influence on Hollow Moon; for example, 2001: A Space Odyssey features the use of centrifugal force to create artificial gravity in space, which I adopted for the spinning hollow moon and the rotating passenger cabin onboard the heroes’ spacecraft. I also did some research into the possibility of native life on a planet orbiting close to a red dwarf star, which resulted in some nice scenes in Ascension’s Eden Ravines. A lot of the day-to-day gadgets in Hollow Moon were pure speculation; the story features some that have artificial intelligence, which I do think will be achieved through bioengineering rather than computing, but hopefully not by harvesting alien brains! Ravana’s monocycle just seemed a cool thing to put in and it brought a smile to my lips when I saw that Will Smith gets to ride one in Men in Black 3. The extra-dimensional drive is pure invention of course, but a space opera has to have a planet-hopping plot!

Hollow Moon features a large and colorful cast of characters. Are any particular inspirations behind them? What prompted you to choose names such as Ravana and Zotz?

Many of the main characters were defined by their place in the story, in the way that fantasy epics often have a band of heroes who each have some unique talent that helps resolve the problems thrown their way. Some had definite prototypes: Gadget-builder Zotz was based upon a character called Septimus from Ivor Melbourne’s Secret Agents All, one of my all-time favourite books from childhood. The inspiration for rebel henchmen Namtar and Inari was Croup and Vandemar from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, while mercenaries Hanuman and Ganesa were largely based upon Mal and Zoë from the TV show Firefly. The politician Governor Jaggarneth, who continually spouts nonsensical idioms, is a caricature of a certain type of civil servant I often come across in meetings in my day job!

I often struggle to think of convincing character names. For Hollow Moon, I was researching Chinese and Indian mythology to decide names for the various planets and colonies in the Epsilon Eridani system, then I decided that if my twenty-third-century space farers had turned to mythology to name their new worlds, maybe they would do the same for their children. That’s when I sat down with a dictionary of myths and legends and went through from A to Z, selecting those I liked the sound of to name the cast of Hollow Moon. I tried to keep the origin of the name in mind when allocating them to characters; for instance, Zotz is a Maya bat god, which given his alter ego I though was very appropriate.

One of the most memorable and amusing aspects of Hollow Moon is that robotic cat. Why a cat? And why leave it unnamed?

I am very fond of cats, as I love their independence and the cheeky way they seem to treat a house as their own. The concept of a life-like robot pet came from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and a cat seemed the right companion to give Ravana to illustrate her solitary nature. As for the lack of name, my flatmate and I once had a cat called Buster, which never responded when addressed by that name but would always come running whenever it heard the refrigerator door being opened!

Are you planning any sequels to Hollow Moon? Will Ravana and company be returning for more adventures?

I am working on another one, which revolves around an archaeological dig on a long-dead alien planet, a cake-obsessed secret agent and more close encounters with the mysterious greys. The Hollow Moon “universe” is broad enough for me to use it as a backdrop to a wide variety of stories, so there’s certainly scope for more. Late last year I put out the free short story To Dance Amongst The Stars, a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of Cinderella featuring characters from Hollow Moon and I hope to publish another silly seasonal story at the end of this year. It’s my attempt to bring the British tradition of pantomime to space opera, although I freely admit I stole the idea from Toby Frost, author of the very funny Space Captain Smith series.

Describe your ideal writing location. Where would you be, and what would you have handy?

It would have to be a cabin overlooking a deserted beach, where the only distractions were the distant murmur of sea upon sand, a mug of freshly-brewed tea and an electric cat purring gently at my feet...

Hollow Moon is available at: Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Friday, July 6, 2012


Dean Lombardo, author of Vespa, discusses his book and views on science fiction writing. Visit his website.

Which parts of Vespa did you most enjoy writing?

The science parts—I spent a few years of my life as a part-time scientiststudying entomology, zoology, parasitology, and even some basic insect evolutionary theory, through books, observations, and conversations with entomologists, all of which I applied to the creatures in Vespa as well as the main characters—entomologist Thomas Goodman, and parasitologist John Hickey. I also enjoyed the challenge of planning and writing the firefight inside Devil's Den, where the wasps chew through the nylon screen that was supposed to have protected the National Guardsmen while they slept. I knew before I wrote the scene that this battle between giant insects and armed men was going to represent my biggest challenge. But almost immediately after I'd banged the scene out that one night, I felt I'd largely nailed it. One literary agent, who after some serious consideration ultimately sent me a "Dear John" letter, told me the nighttime Devil's Den firefight scene was the scene that had most impressed him.
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What would you do if you found yourself and your home under attack by the giant wasps in Vespa?

I would bolt all the doors and windows, close the chimney flue, and then surround myself with a pack of wolves—i.e., German shepherds, which in some regards are heroic in the novel, Vespa. I'd also equip myself and everyone around me with hornet-spray blasters filled with concentrated poison. As a last resort, I'd pray.
In your opinion, how important is verisimilitude to science fiction? In other words, how much should one be willing to suspend reality for the sake of the story?

In "hard" science fiction, verisimilitude is extremely important if the author wants to create a plausible what-if scenario that satisfies the reader. At the very least, the author must provide some sort of compelling rationale for the impossible. When I first posed the concept for the novel Vespa, a close friend of mine balked at the idea of giant wasps, telling me, "No, you need to make them small and just make a lot of them—swarms of them." I argued, "But that's been done dozens of times already!" So, understanding the potential opposition that might exist to my idea, I had to figure out a way to credibly explain how the parasitic wasps in Vespa had evolved to reach two feet in length and how they could manage to defy gravity, despite their size, and fly. The entomologists I interviewed informed me that oxygen intake was the key hurdle I would have to overcome. Fossil records reveal that the prehistoric dragonflies during the oxygen-rich Carboniferous period managed to get as big as seagulls, but this could never happen in today's climate. To get large and still move quickly while carrying around an armor-like exoskeleton, the insect would have to be able to process oxygen in a highly efficient manner. I looked to some large, contemporary arthropods, such as the relatively fast-moving land crab, and pondered, "what if my wasps had deviated from the less-efficient spiracles that most insects breathe through and evolved special gills that allowed them to increase their oxygen intake?"

What kinds of subjects or themes are you particularly interested in writing about?

I tend to be passionate about stories concerning threats to human survival or that contain a heavy dose of real, physical conflict. The problem I have with novels and films that are deep in internal conflict is that I usually don't relate to those emotional and often petty anxieties. I want the conflict to come from something living, breathing, lurking and ready to spring... something that makes the story move quickly and the main character run for his or her life, vs. lying in bed and wrestling with unshowable, self-centered thoughts. 

For your future projects, will you be primarily writing science fiction? Horror? Or are you planning on working in another genre entirely? 

No genre is off-limits for me as an author as long as it's driven by real, palpable conflict. I've even been toying with a comedy, but, most of all, I like to scare people or creep them out. 

Vespa is available at: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon US (paperback—very limited), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

REVIEW: Hollow Moon / Steph Bennion

TITLE: Hollow Moon
AUTHOR: Steph Bennion
PUBLISHER: Self-Published
AVAILABILITY: Smashwords (multiple e-formats)

Recommended for fans of light-hearted adventures and space operas.

Science Fiction—Young Adult/Space Opera

Hollow Moon is a cleverly written space adventure with plenty of humor. It takes place in the 23rd century, in which humans have spread out across the stars but have not yet made contact with intelligent aliens. There are mysteries and twists surrounding political intrigue and corporate warfare, but also quirky, light-hearted moments. The technology is well developed and described in detail.

Hollow Moon alternates between sequences of fast-paced adventure and scenes of the characters’ more everyday moments.

Third person omniscient. The narrative switches between characters’ perspectives within scenes, allowing the reader to see how each character is experiencing the situation.

Ravana O’Brien is a vivacious teenager living in a quiet life in a hollow asteroid on the fringes of humankind’s interstellar society. One day, while chasing her troublesome robotic pet cat, she witnesses the kidnapping of a young exiled prince, heir to a throne lightyears away. Meanwhile, on another world, a three-member high school band sets out to participate in a galactic music competition that is to take place at a peace conference intended to settle a decades-long civil war. The band members—Bellona, Philyra, and Endymion—stumble into the conflict when they come across an abandoned ship that had been used to kidnap the prince.

Hollow Moon follows the antics and adventures of these four teenagers, plus Ravana’s brilliant and eccentric friend Zotz, who will stop at nothing to impress her, as they find themselves more and more entangled in the political machinations and corporate intrigue behind the kidnapping. As Ravana investigates these plots, she ends up learning secrets about her own past that her father, the starship pilot Quirinus, had kept from her. The narrative cuts from scene to scene in a cinematic fashion, often showing the reader events unbeknownst to the young protagonists—such as close-ups of the two bickering kidnappers and glimpses of the scheming villains.

Hollow Moon has a large and entertaining cast of characters. There’s Miss Clymene, the hapless music teacher just trying to keep her small, underdog band together on what was supposed to be a simple school trip. And Ostara, a well-meaning but rather incompetent young detective assigned to solve the mystery of the prince’s kidnapping. Professor Wak, Zotz’s father, makes only a few appearances but is nevertheless one of the more memorable characters due to his quirks. And of course, there’s that electric cat, which at first glance is a robotic pet but ends up becoming an integral part of the story.

The world-building in Hollow Moon is an impressive display of technological and societal conjecture. The mechanics of the main technologies—such as AI processors and artificial gravity—are described in detailed but understandable language. The futuristic society is similarly well thought-out. In this rendition of the 23rd century, China and India have become two of the more prominent interstellar superpowers, and thus many of the planets have Chinese names (such as Taotie and Daode) while the kidnapped prince belongs to an old-fashioned Indian monarchy that had been set up on one of these worlds.

While the universe is intricately described, the events themselves are straightforward and, at times, cartoonish in their moments of humor. There’s not much in terms of character development, and at times, the characters seem to adjust too quickly to the circumstances they find themselves in. The story doesn't take itself too seriously as it alternates between the main mystery and character quirks, such as Philyra's obsession with a celebrity-filled reality show or Zotz's attempts to impress Ravana.

Although the story takes place in the future, the characters speak and behave in a contemporary (early 21st century) fashion, using variations of present-day colloquialisms in their dialogue. This makes them easy to relate to and sympathize with, as they come across as familiar and likable. Their witty chatter and everyday concerns keep the story light-hearted even as it delves into some of the darker subjects of bioethics and civil war.

In terms of writing, Hollow Moon is smooth and easy to read, with the narration carrying the story along without drawing attention to itself. The third person omniscient narration is deftly handled, allowing the reader to view a single scene from multiple points of view. With its twists and reveals and colorful sense of humor, there is never a dull moment. The juxtaposition of a high school band competition against the backdrop of dangerous, change-the-world circumstances makes this an enjoyable and unique story.

Hollow Moon has been impeccably edited—there are no typos, and the writing is assured and efficient.

There are very mild references to drug use (mostly people asking Endymion if he’s “on egg” due to his somewhat stoner-like attitude) and a handful of explosions, but other than that, Hollow Moon is completely G-rated and suitable for young readers.

[From Smashwords’ author page]

Steph Bennion is a writer, musician and reluctant civil servant in Westminster, born and bred in the Black Country but now living in south London, England. Her science-fiction stories are written as a reaction to the dearth of alternative heroes amidst bookshelves swamped by tales of the supernatural. For every aspiring vampire or wizard, the world needs an astrophysicist, an engineer, or at the very least someone who can make the trains run on time.

Visit her website or Follow her on Twitter

RELATED:  An Interview with Steph Bennion