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Guest Post: Character Spotlight

Today’s blog is a guest post by Doug Solter, the author of Skid (which is free here) and the just released Skid 2: Rivals as part of his new release blog tour. So here’s a spotlight with a twist on his main character, Samantha Sutton.

Excerpt from the magazine article A Girl and Her Race Car by Emma Hobbs, assistant editor, Look Smashing Magazine.

The Berlin traffic rolled along the Friedrichstrasse, past a small cafe named the Little Elephant. The early afternoon sun casted a shadow across my wood table, courtesy of the large awning in front of the cafe itself. A gentle breeze played with the leafs of the flowers that add color to my table as a place setting.

I’m here to meet Samantha Sutton, a young woman of only eighteen years who races cars in that macho-infused sport known as Formula One, a glamorous world of men and their expensive toys traveling the world to race cars in between the party-like atmosphere of the international jet-set. The sport draws royalty, the ultra-rich, and Hollywood celebrities like moths to bright light. But inside this testosterone-laced world Samantha Sutton is quite unique. No, it’s not the obvious fact that she’s the only girl racing in Formula One. It’s the surprising fact that she’s beating all the boys in Formula One. With six race wins on her record, all within her rookie year, Samantha Sutton proved that not only can woman compete equally in the sport. They can win.

Samantha arrived late to our appointment wearing a short white skirt and matching shirt which listed all the racing team’s sponsors. Her short dark hair appeared slightly damp, as if still drying from a quick trip to the shower.

“Jeez. I’m so sorry. My other thing ran late and I was rushing to get ready for this. Huge apologies, Emma, seriously.” Samantha glanced over to her assistant, a girl who appeared just as young as her. “Do you want anything?”

Samantha ordered two coffees and a piece of cake in German, flavored with a slight Bavarian accent. We talked while waiting for their coffee. Samantha remarked about how busy her life has become since her first season in Formula One.

“Last season everyone ignored me until half-way through when I began winning races. Now it’s like, non-stop. It’s completely crazy with all the parties, fan events, sponsor events, racing the car, my love life—” The girl stopped herself abruptly. What about her love life? It caused me to wonder if a teen girl who is forced to grow up so fast can find time for boys.

Maybe not.

When Samantha received her coffee, we began the official interview.

“Why auto racing?” I asked. “What excites you about the sport, Samantha?

“It’s the rush of adrenaline I get from being on the circuit. Making the car dance around the turns and do what I want. It’s like standing on a mountain cliff and holding your foot over the drop, knowing that you could die if you took that last step. But for some reason, you know that you can hold it there on that edge and somehow not fall.”

“Is it safe to say you love taking risks?”

“Not on purpose,” she said. “Not if it means someone else might get hurt. But I can be impulsive sometimes and that’s where I get into trouble.”

“The pressure to win and be successful must be enormous,” I said. “How do you cope?”

“I eat tons of chocolate ice cream,” she grinned. “Just kidding. Um—I try to push all the negative thoughts away and focus on what I can do in the race car. Everything else I don’t have control over and I have to keep telling myself that. But I’d be lying if I said there were days the pressure didn’t get to me.” Samantha hesitated and took a sip of her coffee. Her thoughts lingered on the last portion of her answer.

“Does your family travel with you during the season?” I asked.

“Well, my sister Paige is here this season.” Samantha referenced her assistant. “But the rest of my family are still in Oklahoma. They have their own lives.”

I swirled what was left of my cup of tea and drank, the strong, tangy flavor a reminder of the girl sitting across the table. Even in this relaxed atmosphere there was a burning determination in her eyes. A fire or relentless energy percolated behind them. “Tell me about your normal day,” I said. “What’s your normal routine on a race day, for instance?”

Samantha swallowed her coffee and thought about it. “I get up early in the morning and do some light exercise, most of the time running on a treadmill. I eat a light breakfast and then I paint my nails.” She balks at my reaction. “One of my racing day rituals is painting my nails the color of my race car.”

“A good luck charm?” I asked.

“Exactly. So far it’s worked. I then go to the circuit and have a car briefing with my crew and we go over our strategy for the race. After that I will do a few interviews with the press. Before the race itself I’ll have a protein-rich lunch. Lot of carbs like pasta and roasted chicken. Plus I drink gallons and gallons of water all morning so my body is well hydrated. Also we do a driver’s parade around the track, waving at all the fans around the circuit. Eventually I climb into the race car and put myself into the zone and focus on the race.”

“Samantha, when did you first know that this is what you wanted to do with your life?”

“My dad got me started racing karts when I was ten. He already loved racing and I think he was disappointed that he had three daughters. Not to say that my dad didn’t absolutely love us, because he always did. But growing up, none of us were particularity interested in racing.” Samantha’s face brightened, as if reliving that moment in her life again. “Then one day my dad was watching one of his favorite racing movies called, Grand Prix. That day I was so bored I jumped on the couch and watched it with him. Something about that movie attracted me to racing and from then on, I would spend more and more time with dad in his make-shift garage he had in the barn.”

Samantha hesitated again, her eyes danced a bit in her head, as if the memories of her father were flashing vividly through the girl’s head. “Dad built me a racing kart and encouraged me to try it. I was extremely shy back then and I didn’t have any confidence in myself at all. But when I drove that kart, I felt alive and free. And I picked up on racing fast. Dad taught me how to drive and eventually he entered me in races. And I started to win a lot of them. Seriously, the boys would hate it when I showed up at the track. They didn’t want to race against me. I loved it. I knew that I wanted to do this forever because I loved how racing made me feel. I didn’t feel like that shy girl no one would pay attention to. Behind the wheel of a race car, I was someone special. People couldn’t ignore me. Plus I could feel good about myself.” She glanced up. “Am I rambling too much? I have a tendency to do that when I’m nervous.”

I asked Samantha a few more questions about her father. Samantha fidgeted in her chair and acted uncomfortable around the subject which I found odd since she talked about her father so fondly before. There was something about him she was hiding and I didn’t quite know what it was.

A young man walked off the street and into the Little Elephant cafe. Samantha’s sister Paige greeted the boy warmly and sat with him at the table adjacent to us. He wore his blond hair long and had a handsomely meek way about him. The young man smiled at Samantha.

The girl I was interviewing brightened like a fire doused with petrol. Her body language changed immediately. She gave the boy a wave and couldn’t take her eyes off of him. When I asked Samantha a question about dealing with her fans, she gave me a less than satisfactory answer. So I decided to confront the disturbance to our interview.

I held out my hand to the young man. “Emma Hobbs. Look Smashing Magazine. What is your name?”

The boy shakes my hand. “Manfred. Pleasure to meet you.”

A hunch entered my mind and I decided to follow it. “Please excuse my forwardness, but are you Samantha’s boyfriend by chance?”

Manny blushed like a rose and became unable to answer me with words.

Samantha emulated her bashful friend. The girl flashed a smile reserved for close friends sharing an inside joke or thought. “Well? Are you my boyfriend?”

Manfred smiled. “I don’t know. Are you my girlfriend?”

The girl and the boy stared at each other. Obviously having a conversation in their own silent language that no one else was invited to join.
Paige, the third wheel in this relationship, rolled her eyes. “Oh my God. Stop being such dorks. This reporter isn’t stupid. Yes, of course they’re together. Can’t you see my sister panting like a dog when he’s around?”

Samantha leaned over and whacked her sister across the arm. No doubt a leftover response from when they were children. “I don’t pant like a dog.” Samantha sat up in her chair and went back into professional mode. “I’m sorry, Emma. Let’s get back to the interview. Manfred—let’s say that he’s an important part of my racing life.” She flicked her eyes toward the young man. “I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for him.”

I tried digging deeper into that statement. But Samantha refused to reveal anything more.

As I concluded our interview with a few questions about how she saw her future, Samantha relaxed as she sensed the end of our interview was soon at hand. She’s a pleasant young lady, but giving interviews to reporters wasn’t on her list of favorite activities to do on a warm Saturday afternoon in Berlin. I couldn’t blame her. I was eighteen once. Even though the race car driver who faced me treated our interview like a professional, the girl underneath the helmet and racing suit still wanted to be with her boy. Still wanted a taste of being young and in love on the warm streets of Berlin. She still longed to be a normal teenager.

But the one question I didn’t get answered was… after all she’s been through, could the racing star Samantha Sutton ever be a normal girl again?

If you enjoyed reading about Samantha and want to know more about the books and author, you can find Skid free at all sorts of ebook stores, including amazon.com and .co.uk and you can check Doug out on facebook and twitter or his own website.

And finally there’s a lovely rafflecopter giveaway for all sort sof goodies below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lucy: A Review

This film was one of those I’d not even heard of until the trailor came up before Guardians of the Galaxy at the cinema. It looked interesting so when I had a spare evening and noticed it was on I went to see it.

I already knew that the original premise of the brain only using 10% of its capacity was a little wide of the truth but I can hardly fault them when I use the same logic behind the science in my own Sherdan series, so ignoring the dodgy science, the film has a really interesting concept. The rest of the science I can’t directly speak for. It seemed legit but it was out of my field of study so might have been and equally might not have been. I imagine it was probably a little of both.

From the trailor I expected a kick-ass action movie where a girl gets revenge on the people who experimented on her. Admittedly the trailor was miss-leading in the whole why she had this happen to her sort of thing. It wasn’t an experiment, it was an accident. It also wasn’t quite as kick-ass as I was expecting. There was plenty of action, but it wasn’t the sole focus of the film.

On top of the action there were some gorgeous scenes like the picture on the right. Thanks to the extra brain capacity Lucy could see things others couldn’t and the makers of the film took the opportunity to do some gorgeous things with the cgi to show us what it might be like. Although I don’t normally like cgi for the sake of cgi, I have to admit I found it stunning. Somehow the makers of this film managed to combine action with breathtaking beauty and make it fit together. There was a very unexpected harmony between the two.

This only grew towards the end of the film and there was a gorgeous scene right near the end that must have been several minutes long and had no dialogue, very little action, yet was mesmirising. I won’t spoil the ending with too much detail, but it was cool and brilliant storytelling.

The acting was also pretty amazing. Let’s face  it, Morgan Freeman, can pretty much do no wrong. he’s the master of subtelty and perfectly delivered lines. Several of the interactions between his charater and Lucy had me chuckling out loud.

Scarlet Johansson managed the transformation from not quite all there blonde to overwhelmingly intelligent super-human incredibly well. Also managing the subtle expressions that gave tiny suggestions of personality away but not all at once.

All in all, I found I was pleasantly surprised. The violence was ever so slightly gratuitus but no more than I expected and everything else that I hadn’t expected was an added bonus. A very awesome, under marketed film.

Lots of New

I’ve got quite a few new things to tell you all today. All of them very exciting.

As the third Sherdan book is about to be released the first two are also moving into their second editions and as such the covers have been re-done. So here’s the very lovely set of all three!

For now the 1st edition print books will still be available, but I’ll make an announcement when the second edition is available. This does also mean it really won’t be long until sherdan’s Country is available in both ebook and print form. The book should go live on Amazon in the next week or two and then be available to pre-order as an ebook.

On top of that exciting news, I also have the awesome announcement that I’m working on a collaboration with the best-selling sci-fi author Tom Harris. We’ve begun writing and I love what we have so far. It’s going to blend his fast-paced action style with my typical adventure with a hint of romance sort of feel to deliver an action packed emotional ride. It’s more urban fantasy than sci-fi, and has a vampire twist, but I’m sure you’ll all love it.

I’m also sure you’ll totally love Tom’s work. I’ve been munching my way through his novels in the Human Chronicles series and he’s just released the first novel in a new series, that you can find on amazon.com or .co.uk and pictured to the left. For today and tomorrow it’s discounted 40% so snap a copy up quickly. I’ve got mine!

I’m sure we’ll announce the title and all sorts of other exciting details about our collaboration soon, so look out for more info on that and Sherdan’s Country over the next few weeks.

The Citizen: A Review

This is an ebook I was given by the author, Matthew McCollum in return for my review.

This is a shorter novel told in first person present, which is handled well throughout the book, and a sort of conspiracy spy sort of story.  The main character is on the run from the goernment and the chapters flip between present day and two years earlier, when it all began.

The start of this story wasn’t as good as the end as I felt it focused a little too much on masses of conspiracy theories and possiblities and it felt a little like it was ramming home the idea that guns should be allowed in the US, something that I find bizarre when I’m in UK and we’ve never had guns available. But when it got past that part it really felt like it could be a believable theory for what’s going on.

I noticed my pet peeve, of the phrase ‘I could care less’ over ‘I couldn’t care less’ at one point in the book as well, but it was only the one occasion.

The book’s not perfect but it kept me entertained and I wanted to keep reading. The end was also interesting and much better than I was expecting. I’d definitely consider reading more if there was a series of them.

Beat Down 1 – Clones: A Review

This ebook is a comedy novella by the author Chris Ward, under the pen name, Michael s. Hunter.

This isn’t a book that you’re meant to take too seriously. The characters have larger than life personalities with sweat that’s bottled and sold to power an energy drink. The main character is also the face of this particular energy drink and some how super human after drinking it.

On top of that, you have his assistant (the guy who collects his sweat), his trainer/agent and a pirate chav with a parrot that says chav at regular intervals through out the story. There’s also the big bad enemy and an annoying brother who works for a bank.

All in all the book had me laughing aloud at several points and I found mmyself having to read lines to the people around me when they noticed me chuckling away to myself. This resulted in one of my companions pulling out his kindle and grabbing a copy too. For a while the amused giggling could be heard from two people in the room.

So if you’re looking for a very funny action book with crazy but hilarious characters, this novella is worth a read.

Girl Fights Back: A Review

This is a free ebook by Jacques Antoine, and is the first in a series of stories about the kick-ass teenager called Emily Kane.

This book starts off a teensy bit on the slow side and has a slightly more omniscient narration style than I’m used to which took me a couple of chapters to get used to, but once I was used to it found myself really enjoying.

Emily was brilliant. I’m not sure there’s any other way to describe her. I adored her completely. She has a tough time of things but she just handles it all brilliantly and is so relaxed.

The story was pretty good too. For a martial arts book it never felt like that was the entire focus which kept it from getting dry, although it does play a major part of the storyline it is just one element in a very well written action plot.

It reminded me a little of the older karate kid films, but more modern and with a female lead. Really glad I picked this book up.

Alpha: A Review

I was gifted a copy of this ebook by the author, Taylor Hohulin  in return for a review.

This was another one of those gems of an ebook that make me really glad I agreed to be a reviewer. It’s a sort of sci-fi novel and relatively fast paced, moving on from one event to the next with not huge amounts in between but it is a style that suits the length. The main character and good guy pov for the story is Alpha, the robot.

I adored Alpha, just totally adored him and enjoyed the other characters that fleshed out the cast as well. The bad guy was also really nicely thought out and he had proper motives and reasoning for his actions that helped him come to life. Often, if any characters feel less 2d, it’s the bad guy.

The ending was a little sad, but more bittersweet than outright depressing, so there’s a warning there if you insist on your books having a HEA, but I really liked how this handled everything. except for one tiny niggle, that I can’t mention because of plot spoilers, but I’d have liked some more emotion around the sad event that happened near the middle of the story. It was likely to be less emotional because the pov was the robot, but I’d still have liked a bit more emotion as it felt a little glossed over.

Really enjoyed it as a light read though and definitely on my recommended books for the year.

The Edge of Tomorrow: A Review

This was one of those films where the trailer looked awesome but I was mildly worried about the actual film. The groundhog day sorta plot has been used a lot and to mixed results. It’s so easy to have a boring film with lots of stuff repeated too often, so I went to see this one with a bit of trepidation.

I’m so glad I saw it. if the lego movie hadn’t been so awesome it would be my favourite film of the year so far (seriously, what’s not to love about a bad-ass chick with an epic sword? <—).

Plot wise, it wasn’t totally special. Every time the guy died the day reset back to the morning where he woke up. Nothing new there, not really, but the aliens were a fun new take and the ‘how do we save the day’ part of the plot was actually really interesting and complex with several twists I didn’t see coming.

The movie was super tense in places, despite the comfort in the back of the mind that he would just wake up again when he died, so serious kudos to the director and actors for that one.

Character wise I think this was some of Tom’s best acting. He really handled the transformation from bumbling, totally scared into the battle-hardened tank he is by the end of the film. And all because of Emily Blunt!

She was by far my favourite part of this film. A strong female character who actually had some depth, wasn’t the damsel in distress at any point in the film. Even when she sorta was and he tried to treat her that way. She knew what she had to do, why she had to do it and didn’t let anyone get in her way.

My only complaint is this one few seconds they kept repeating of her (<—). I’d have had no complaints about this films portrayal of women (for once) if they hadn’t included this dumb clip that was obviously meant to be a ‘look, we have a hot woman in this film’. It was totally unecessary and really didn’t need to be repeated so often either.

Otherwise, epic film, epic characters and epic remix of an otherwise naff plot.

Amazing Spider-Man 2: A Review

You may be wondering how I can review this film when it isn’t out until next week and the premier was only last night. Well, I happened to get free tickets to the premier showing. Unfortunately, not the premier showing in London, but the movie was streamed into several cinemas around the country at the same time and I got to see it in Bath.

I enjoyed the first one of this reboot series and knew Andrew Garfield was doing a great job of spiderman so that wasn’t a worry when I went into the cinema. I also thought Emma was great as Gwen and again she didn’t dissapoint. Really faultless performances from both of them. The greatest surprise on the acting front was Electro/Max pictured having a face off with spiderman. He was brilliant.

The actor wasn’t one I knew and due to me seeing a premier I got shown the red carpet stuff before the film and he seemed a little, well, odd, so I was a little worried he might not have pulled the role off but he was perfect. The first scene in Max’s home is going to go down in my books as one of the best crazy scenes ever. He wasn’t quite so good as Electro, but I think that’s down to him being used as a supporting role for spidey and the Osborn corp lot, which meant he set up a lot of the one liners for the others.

The other new character was Harry Osborn. He was back from travels and boarding school to see his father and stuck around for the rest of the film. I also didn’t know what to expect from this actor and worried that he’d made it into this film because he looks a lot like a pre-titanic Leonardo DiCaprio, but the casting held out once more and throughout the film he delivered exactly as he needed to. I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles the next one.

The rest of the film was a pretty standard spidey movie. Plenty of scenes of him slinging his way around the city, getting the bad guys and generally making the people around him feeling special. There’s no doubt about it, spidey is one of the friendliest superheroes out there, and appeals to the kids.

Then there was all the jokes. While not as funny as most Marvel superhero films, Andrew Garfield’s spiderman is definitely one of the quirkiest sense of humours out there at the moment, and the film used plenty of this to keep people laughing. He took a lot of phone calls at awkward moments, including at the front of a truck, and his one liners, as well as Harry’s were fantastic and had me and many people around me chuckling out loud.

So to round up, pretty good superhero film so if you like most of the others you really shouldn’t be dissapointed in this one. I’ll definitely be going to see the next one and might even go see this one again when it’s properly out next week, with some more of my friends.

The Lego Movie: A Review

I think pretty much everyone who’s seen this is agreeing. It’s awesome, so awesome, that ‘everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team’ (yes that’s the song lyrics and yes it is stuck in my head and has been since I started watching it).

So you’ve probably gathered that I really enjoyed this film, and I have to admit part of my enjoyement was the awesome comments the kids in the row behind me were making. They were some well informed kids. The recognised the millenium falcon and got excited when they saw it. How could you not be impressed by that!

In terms of the film itself, it was obviously one of those films that wasn’t taking itself too seriously, but like a lot of great kids films, it had a really great message. So many people these days are asked to fit in and just go with the norm, don’t ask questions and allow the person in control to shape your world and feed you propaganda, but this was all about being creative, challenging the norm and believing in yourself. It also made a point of us all having a role to play, even if we don’t think we do. We all have a unique talent and the world needs that talent.

All in all I think the message could have been easy to miss, wrapped up in the light hearted humour but I’m really glad they made it and told the story they told. Also Will Ferrell and Liam Neeson were awesome!