Author of the Day – John Holt

JohnHi John, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions. You’ve been here before, but I’m glad to see you return.

Hi Lucy, it’s good to be back here and thank you for the invite.

I’m curious, with summer coming will you be lounging in the garden, or are you more of an active person and will you go on walks and such?

Well, to be honest I’m not a very active person. The past few years have not been great from a health point of view I’m afraid. Ten years ago I had a heart attack. My heart is Ok but I suffer terrible headaches every week or so. Then two years ago I was diagnosed with a cancer. Well, I’m glad to say that the cancer is being kept under control, but I have injections every twelve weeks which aren’t exactly pleasant. Anyway enough moaning. I will certainly be out in the garden. We are also members of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) and one of the RHS gardens is located about 8 miles away, so we shall certainly be going there. Furthermore this part of Essex is a beautiful part of the country, so we shall certainly get out as much as my health allows.

That’s good to hear, John. Stay healthy and writing I would say, and hopefully lots of the latter in the garden.

Do you like to spend time with friends discussing all sorts, and if so what? Or are you more of a recluse?

Certainly I like to spend time with friends. We discuss all kinds of things, politics, world affairs, local events, films, TV programmes. Never sport. Football, and rugby, and worst of all, F1 motor racing, leaves me cold. I don’t mind my own company either, and spend a lot of time writing, or promoting.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Well, I don’t drink beer, or spirits. An odd white wine or a sherry perhaps. I do, however, like my coffee. As for food do you count chocolate, because I do like a square or three of Chocolate.

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

When it comes to food I have to say that I’m not wildly adventurous. I don’t like Chinese or Indian food. I don’t like anything spicy, or hot. Chillies, and mustard are no-no. For like plain cooking, roast potatoes, roast lamb, chicken, turkey. I like good old fish and chips. Pizza occasionally, and I do a rather nice home-made lasagna. Courgettes, mushrooms, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, onions, all go into the mix with Quorn mince. Plenty of white sauce, and plenty of shredded cheese. Add Soya sauce into the mix, and voila..

Sounds like an easy recipe to me. I’ll give it a whirl and let you know. 🙂 

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?

image[1]The book featured today is “Epidemic”, the third to feature my private detective Tom Kendall. A drug is being developed by a corrupt pharmaceutical company. It is decided to test the drug in a small South American country where controls are not so stringent. Things go wrong and people die. A cover up is put in place. A young reporter is found dead. The evidence shows quite clearly that it was an accident: a simple, dreadful accident. That is the finding of the coroner and the local police. Furthermore, there were two witnesses. They saw the whole thing. But was it an accident, or was it something more sinister? Against a backdrop of a viral epidemic slowly spreading from Central America, a simple case soon places Kendall up against one of the largest drug companies in the country.


There was really only the one major news story that Monday morning. Oh, certainly, there was other news that day; there was no doubt about that. In fact, that weekend had been busier than usual. There had been a major landslide in the northern part of the country following a period of prolonged heavy rain. There had been a substantial amount of damage, but fortunately nobody had been hurt. One hundred and thirty miles to the south, in San Jose, trade discussions with Nicaragua had, at last, restarted after weeks of postponement and delay. On the labor market the Minister of Labor had announced higher than expected unemployment figures, causing widespread protests. And, last but not least, oil workers at the Attico Plant were threatening to take strike action for better working conditions.
Certainly, there was other news, but nothing was quite like that particular news item that dominated all the front pages on that day. Although every newspaper in the country ran the story, it was the influential “La Republica”, based in San Jose, which had broken the news first. The front-page banner headline simply read “Mysterious Illness Strikes” in thick, black letters, almost three inches high. But those three simple words graphically told the whole story, the news report that followed simply filled in the details, such as there were.
“Three people, two men and a young woman, were admitted into the local hospital at Punta Rojas, in the early hours of the morning,” it read. “It is understood that all three were suffering from respiratory problems, and all had a rash to the upper part of the body. A series of tests have been carried out on all three patients, in order to try to determine the cause of the sickness. The results of those tests are still awaited. Preliminary results are not expected until late tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. All three patients are said to be in a stable, but critical condition. An official spokesperson for the hospital said that at this stage it was far too soon to comment on the actual cause of the sickness. However, the symptoms were generally considered to be not too dissimilar to influenza. The spokesperson went on to say that the illness could be due to a previously unknown strain of influenza, or possibly, a mutation. The illness has preliminarily been dubbed Rican Flu by the hospital staff.
It is understood that the Attico Oil Company, which is based in the port of Almeria, employs all three people. It has been suggested that a chemical leak at the oil plant may be the cause of the illness, at least in part. The Health Ministry has said that at the present time there is no evidence to support this rumor. It also stresses that at no time was there any danger to the general public, and that there is no cause for alarm. The plant has now been evacuated, except for key personnel. The area has been completely sealed off. The authorities are stressing that the situation is now fully under control. Emergency teams, including chemical specialists, are currently on the site carrying out a thorough investigation. In the meantime the public are being advised to wash their hands, and, as far as possible, to keep away from crowds. Furthermore they are being told to only make essential journeys. Anyone feeling unwell should take two panadol tablets, drink plenty of fluids, keep warm, and rest.”
In the later editions there were no further details regarding the sickness. There was, however, a small additional news item regarding the alleged oil leak. “Rumors continue to spread regarding a possible oil leak at the Attico Plant. However, a spokesperson for Attico Oil has subsequently denied that there has been any chemical leak at the plant, as previously reported. The plant has been thoroughly checked and no problems have been reported. It is understood, from Interior Ministry sources, that the plant is to remain closed for the next few days at least, and possibly as long as until the middle of next week. It was also reported that there have been no new cases of the mystery illness.”

* * *

Epidemic” will be on kindle Countdown from May 8 until May 15. The price will be 99 cents. Increasing to $1-99 on May 11, and then back to the original price of $2-99 May 16.

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

I haven’t so far. I try to keep the title short and snappy, and relevant.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

Marketing is by far the worst part of being a self published author. Sadly I cannot afford to pay for a major advert in a book magazine, or a newspaper. I use Twitter and Facebook a lot, some might say too much, but it has to be done. I am fortunate to know a few friends who blog (present company included) who are able and willing to provide some publicity for me. At present most of my sales are coming through Kindle Countdown, but that lasts for a few short days. So, if you have any ideas please let me know.

Do lot’s of blog appearances, like this one, and get on Google+!

And can you tell me something none has ever heard before from you? I can’t help it, I just love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

You are a mischevious little …. I hate to disappoint but I really don’t have any dark, or dirty little secrets. As for something no one has ever heard before, well for some years I was the Chair of our local branch of the RSPCA. The branch actually ran a rescue centre taking in not only stray dogs and cats, but foxes, rabbits, horses, swans, you name it. At that time I was a Chartered Surveyor operating my own practice. I did a lot of architectural work, designing extensions, new houses, and the various buildings at the rescue centre.

Well I can’t think of anything else, except to thank you once again for your support and friendship.

You are most welcome, John. It’s about time I get around to reading the books you’ve written. I’ve got a couple, but I’m slowly getting through my TBR pile and soon enough I’ll reach yours.

Let’s remind the readers once more that Epidemic is on Kindle Countdown at the moment for only £0.99 in the UK, and $0.99 in the US.

 

The Kammersee Affair by John Holt

THE KAMMERSEE AFFAIR

cover Kammersee

Lake Toplitzsee is located in the Austrian Salzkammergut, the Austrian lake district.Kammersee It is approximately 718 metres above sea level, approximately 1920 metres long and 388 metres wide, at its widest part. It is one of the deepest lakes in the region, extending down to a depth of 103 metres. The water temperature of the lake is abnormal. Kammersee2Its basic temperature is about 5.8 degrees Centigrade, which is about 1.8 degrees Centigrade warmer than other lakes of this type. The name Toplitzsee probably comes from the Czech word “Teplice” which means “Warm spring.”

From the middle of 1943, until the end of the war, the German Navy had established and operated a secret marine testing facility on the lake. The facility had been set up to test dynamite, explosives, underwater torpedoes, mines and rockets. Using a primitive device, the scientists had even succeeded in launching a rocket from under the surface of the lake.Men

As the end of the war in Europe drew to a close, orders were given that numerous items, including weapons, documents, and counterfeit money, were to be destroyed. Large quantities, of these items, were subsequently packed into wooden crates, and then placed into the dark murky waters of the lake.

documents

Several hundred documents were destroyed in this way. Torpedoes and crates of ammunition were disposed of in a similar manner. Large quantities of counterfeit money, and the printing presses that produced the forged notes, were also deposited into the lake. Rumours began to spread regarding buried treasures, and hidden gold bullion.

Over the years following the War extensive searches have been carried out, but no gold bullion has ever been discovered.

* * *

In August 2005 I stayed at Lake Grundlsee, a mile or two from Toplitz.

This is the background and the inspiration that led to my first novel “The Kammersee Affair”. It is a story of the search for hidden nazi gold, but it is much more than that. It is the story of two men, an American GI, and an SS Major. It is a story of murder, blackmail and revenge.

The story begins in the summer of 1955. Two college friends are at the lake.

The lake was flat and calm with barely a ripple. Its dark waters glistened, reflecting the moonlight as though it were a mirror. A myriad of stars shone brightly in a cloudless sky, their shimmering light dancing across the surface of the water. Around the perimeter of the lake were tall conifer trees. Slender, and majestic, they grew, stretching high into the air, competing with each other for the available natural light. Surrounding the lake were sandy, gravely, banks of earth, which extended down to the water’s edge. Beyond, the land gently rose up, the slope gradually growing steeper and steeper, climbing up high along the limestone face to the side of the mountain. In the moonlight the white limestone glowed eerily, contrasting with the blackness of the shadows of the trees.

* * *

A young man sat by the water’s edge. He was in his middle twenties, tall, and slim, with light brown hair. Lying next to him was a discarded oxygen tank, and a diving mask. He sat contemplating the stillness of the lake. A stillness that was momentarily disturbed by a fish as it rose to the surface for air, or to catch an insect. There was no sound, other than the gentle rustle of the trees, and crickets chirping. Or perhaps the gentle lapping of the water as it met the shore. Nearby, a frog croaked, and splashed into the lake. Overhead an owl hooted and then settled down for the night.

The young man stared at the water, and thought of the series of dives that he and his friend had made that day. Over the past few days they had gradually worked their way across a section on the northern shore. Today they had been concentrating on a section to the northeast. The area consisted of a large clearing which gently sloped down to the edge of the water. It was reasonably accessible, and looked promising, and they had just started to investigate the area that day. They had achieved a depth of twenty metres, down to one of the shallower shelves that lined the perimeter of the lake. Even at that depth it was still quite dark. Visibility was made even more difficult by the swirling undercurrents stirring the sediment in the lake.

Fritz Marschall knew that neither he, nor his friend, should really have been there. They, like many others before them, had been attracted to the lake by the many rumours that had been circulating. They had been drawn to the area by tales of hidden treasure, and buried gold. They were only rumours, and there wasn’t an ounce of proof, or a shred of evidence to back it up. But still the rumours persisted, and the attraction was still irresistible.

Available at:

AMAZON | B&N | iTUNES | E-SENTRAL | POTHI

New Release – The Thackery Journal by John Holt

Journal Front

Official release today!

To celebrate it I have asked John to come over to my blog and answer a few questions. After that I will give you an excerpt and tell you where you can get your very own copy.

Good morning John, a busy day, right? I’m glad you could find the time to do this today. Let’s not waste any of your precious time. Sit down and grab a coffee with a merengue.

What made you want to write this book?

The Thackery Journal” is something of a departure for me, and way outside my comfort zone. Although my first novel “The Kammersee Affair” was an adventure story loosely based on a few truthful facts, my normal genre has been crime, and there have been four novels featuring my private detective Tom Kendall and his assistant Mollie.

I have always been fascinated by the American Civil War. A Civil War is the worst kind of war that there could be. A war that divided the Country and split communities. A war that put brother against brother, and father against son. A war where in reality there were no winners and the effects would be felt long after the war ended.

I have been working on the book, on and off, for about four years. Strangely enough the first thing that I wrote was the final chapter. I tried to imagine how a hunted man felt as his pursuers came closer and closer. That chapter has virtually remained unchanged ever since.

You just made me very curious to the book. I think I might have to put it on my wish list for now. 

How did you go about researching it?

Much of the actual assassination details are well known – all I did was to take those facts, and fit in my characters as though they were part of it. The internet, of course, is full of information. The problem really was sifting through the vast amount of information. During the course of the research I came across a number of images that I thought appropriate to my story. I decided that I would like to include some within the book. Some people wanted large sums of money for me to use them. Whereas The Library of Congress site provided them free of charge.

Were you surprised at what you found during research?

Not surprised exactly. More like amazed. The way the South almost welcomed the war, how they considered that right was on their side, and that it would all be over very quickly. Then the reality of the conditions the soldiers had to contend with, the number of casualties both sides suffered.

Yes, war is always far more gruesome in reality than in the minds of people going into war it seems.

You might have noticed I am somewhat food obsessed lately, so I have to ask. Did you found they had any strange eating habits while researching the period?

Feeding soldiers during the Civil War was a very different process from the way contemporary soldiers are fed. Commissary departments gave soldiers uncooked rations of flour, salt, potatoes, cornmeal, beans, sugar, and dried or salted beef. These rations included very little vitamin C, which caused some soldiers to develop scurvy. This was a very dangerous disease that caused bleeding gums, discolored fingernails, and eventually death.

In order to supplement their basic rations, both Federal and Confederate soldiers were expected to forage for food early in the conflict. While in enemy territory, soldiers often simply stole foodstuffs from local farms. This practice left many civilians without supplies and sometimes caused widespread hunger. Soldiers often went hungry too, especially in the south where shortages were more common. Before the war, a typical southern family might spend around ten dollars a month on food. By 1864, the same amount of food cost four hundred dollars or more. One staple food was Hardtack – a simple type of cracker or biscuit, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting.

And to keep to the food topic, what is your favourite dish?

As far as food goes I am a traditionalist I suppose, I’m also a meat eater. I don’t like Indian, not that struck on Chinese. I much prefer the traditional British meal. I suppose my favourite would be Roast Lamb, roast potatoes, vegetables, and Yorkshire puddings. Boring I know, but very tasty.

Nom! Now I must find a recipe for Roast Lamb. I think I can manage roast potatoes and veggies. Yorshire puddings are found at any supermarket in the freezer section (yes, I love a good Sunday Roast too)

Again John, I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to host you and your book. I wish you good luck with this one and can only hope you will come back when you have a new one for us.

Thank you Lucy, for this opportunity

Now, let’s take a look at the book.

The Thackery Journal” is a “What If” story concerning the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I have been working on the novel on and off for about four years.

On the night of April 14th 1865 President Abraham Lincoln attended a performance at The Ford Theatre, in Washington. A single shot fired by John Wilkes Booth hit the President in the back of the head. He slumped to the floor, and died a few hours later without recovering consciousness. Was Booth a lone assassin? Or was he part of a wider conspiracy? What if Booth had merely been a willing party to a plot to replace Lincoln with General Ulysees S. Grant.
Let us suppose that Booth had been set up by a group of men, a group of Lincoln’s own Army Generals; Generals who wanted Ulysees S. Grant for their President, and not Lincoln. And let us also suppose that the funding for the assassination came from gold stolen by the Confederate Army.

Although it is a work of fiction I have included a number of contemporary images that I considered to be appropriate, and, I believe, augment the story.

The book is currently available at Amazon US and UK and the paperback is available on Lulu.com

Guest Blogger Day

MARKETING

by John Holt

So, after months, if not years, of toil and trouble, your epic is at long last completed, and is ready to be released on the world. You have had the good fortune to find a publisher prepared to bring it into print for you, or you have gone down the Self Published route. Either way it is there, for sale. Pretty soon you will realise that writing the book was perhaps the easiest part of the process. Even getting published wasn’t that difficult, especially if you do it yourself. With Lulu.com; Createspace; Kindle Direct Publishing; and several other outlets on the Internet, publishing is easy, and at no cost.

Now comes the difficult part, selling your book. Nobody is going to buy because they’ve never heard of it. So you have now got to publicise, promote, and publicise, and promote and … until you make a nuisance of yourself. And then you have to publicise and promote some more.

I can’t remember the exact figures but I was once told that every month 20000 new books hit the shelves (virtual or otherwise). That is some competition.

OK, so what do you do to publicise your opus, especially if funds are tight and you can’t really afford a half page spread in the Times. Well there are some things you can do. Firstly let your local library know, give them a copy. They might be prepared to arrange an event in the library. I had one a year or so ago. It wasn’t the event of the century, but I sold about twenty books, and handed out some leaflets, and book markers. Tell your local newspaper, they might be prepared to publish something about you. I mentioned earlier about leaflets and book markers. Well apart from them I have business cards relating to my books, I have sticky labels that I place on every letter that I send out. This is all effective advertising that costs nothing. And one other thing. If you have more than one book. Make sure that details of all of your books are included in the last few pages of ALL of your books.

Whatever you do I wish you every success.

John.

Epidemic wraparound

My latest book “Epidemic” is available on all Amazon market places