Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Please welcome, friend and author, GJ Scobie...

... to the blog this week. Hi, Gary, and thanks very much for making time in your busy schedule to be here today. Now, tell me all about your latest book ...

GJS The Kill Chain is a cybercrime thriller set in the present day and was published by Darkstroke in July 2022.  It was inspired by news reports of black hat hackers, nation state sanctioned cybercrime and the debate over privacy in a connected world.  The Kill Chain (the term given to the stages of a cyber-attack) is set in the present day, the story taking off from what should have been a private moment years before; a long game played by threat actors determined to take control for political and economic gain, while their victim struggles doing what they believe is right based on a code of ethics versus his need to keep his marriage, friendships and reputation intact.
AW What first got you into writing and why?
GJS I was brought up with books and had always planned to write a novel.  In 2010 I responded to a tweet by author Elizabeth Buchan who asked Twitter for background information for a novel she was writing.  We exchanged emails and I sent over some observations I had.  She thanked me and asked, “Are you a writer? You should be.”  That got me thinking and gave me the push to finally finish a novel and submit it.  I have written one a year ever since, but it was my eleventh novel, The Kill Chain, that was finally published.  The book Elizabeth Buchan published was called Daughters and I ended up in the acknowledgments which was really nice to see.
AW You write fast-paced cyber crime stories.  Is it all imagination or do you do research?
GJS I work in cyber security and give regular talks on the subject, so I do a great deal of research and keeping myself up to date in what is a fast-moving environment.
The idea for The Kill Chain, came to me, while at work in 2019.  I was in conversation with a student intern who had been invited to take part in a computer hacking competition abroad.  I asked what country it was taking place in and when they told me I said, you have to expect to be compromised when there, so if you are going to attend, we will need to have a plan for the devices you take with you and for how we handle them and your log on credentials when you arrive back.
As I spoke, the idea for The Kill Chain came into my head.  A cybercrime thriller, triggered by a decision to take part in a competition, being compromised by unknown threat actors when there, and then years later, when in a responsible security role, falling victim to an extortion attempt.  I typed a couple of lines to this effect into a Microsoft notepad and named it ‘Hackstory.txt’ and left it there for around a year while I finished another novel I was working on, before opening up the file and recalling the conversation.  So yes, imagination played its part, but the novel is backed up by real experience and research in the field.
AW And what about other types of writing?  Have you dabbled with other genres or other forms of media, short stories, film, theatre or radio?
GJS My science fiction short stories are published under the title of Small Print and are my take on different aspects of a dystopian future.  These tend to imagine technology much as it is today; imperfect and doesn’t always work the way you would like it to.  I have stacks of poetry and song lyrics which I suspect will not see the light of day.  I wrote my first novella last year and hope to work more in this format with some of the ideas I have.
AW Famous authors such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas had a special space for writing. Do you have a writing shed of your own?
GJS I have a study which is filled with books, CD’s, guitars and synths and that is where I do most of my writing since the pandemic.  Prior to that I wrote ten novels while commuting by train as it was the only protected time I had.  I found I could shut the world out and be completely alone surrounded by strangers.  The Kill Chain was my first novel written at a desk in silence and it took a bit of getting used to.  I only commute a day or two a week now, so the bulk of my writing is done in my study and that works fine for me.  I do enjoy writing on trains though.
AW And finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead, or a character from a book, who would it be and what would you discuss
GJS Robert Langdon from the Dan Brown novels.  We both work in a University, we both swim, we know about codes and cryptography, we have both visited Rosslyn Chapel, the Louvre, the Vatican, and every other major city and venue featured in the novels, so we would have plenty to discuss around art and architecture.  The only difference I think there is between us is, I have a Mickey Mouse Clock while he has a Mickey Mouse watch!
about the author … GJ Scobie works in cyber security, is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and has a particular interest in how technology impacts on our everyday lives.  As a public speaker, he regularly presents on various aspects of computer security.  He is a member of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his cyber-themed show, highlighting the dangers of internet-connected devices in the home.  In his writing, he deals with the dark side of technology and how it affects society reliant on computers.  He self-published his debut future cyber thriller in February 2022, The Copernicus Coercion, the first in a series featuring body hackers, the manipulation of computer networks via internet-connected implants and rogue Artificial Intelligence.  His novel, The Kill Chain, a bestselling cybercrime thriller set in the present day, was published by Darkstroke in July 2022.
about the book … Computer hacker, Jacob Anderson, accepts a job in a cyber defence firm, which is due to sign a high-profile government contract.  Eager to impress his new employers, he takes on Dark Light, a company that offers a free trial of their anti-threat system.  But in his haste, he fails to check their credentials thoroughly…
When he realises Dark Light intend to steal government data, he tries to back out of the deal. But a film from a hotel bedroom during a student hacking competition seven years earlier triggers a sextortion attempt, putting pressure on him to pass control of the network to his adversaries.
Backed into a corner, Jacob reunites the old hacking team from his university days with the intention of taking the Dark Light computers down.
As a target on the Kill Chain, can Jacob maintain his code of ethics while knowingly breaking the law?  Or will one last hack allow him to regain control of the security his employers, the government, and his family have entrusted him to protect?

You can get the book on Amazon and you can follow Gary on Facebook Twitter  and on Instagram


Tuesday, 21 March 2023

I'm reviewing The Light of Days...

...by Judy Batalion. Read on...

This substantial tome is subtitled to indicate that it is the untold story of the women fighters of the Jewish resistance. I had to pick it off the shelf in the bookshop as I had always associated the term 'resistance' with France and the struggles that country underwent during les années noir. This book provided a very different picture.
Beginning in Będzin in Poland this is the story of a number of women and their families who lived through the rise of Nazism, the invasion of their country and the terrible and constant tightening of restrictions that were instituted by the Third Reich during the thirties and forties.
The pace and timbre of the story are quite sedate at the outset.  Despite the difficulties encountered and the enclosure of a nation of people in ghettos, still, the tone is positive and there seemed to me to be an overwhelming sense of optimism that everything would be alright in the end.  As the individual stories of the women are told, the encroaching danger and the insidiousness of their fate begins to filter through.  The tone of the story changes and the narrative becomes more urgent and more demanding.
I found this book to be a fascinating exposé of life in the ghettos.  The build-up to the insurrection that has become known as the Warsaw rebellion is an incredible piece of writing. It is clear from the seventy-odd pages of supporting notes and bibliography that the subject has been very widely researched.
As a reader, there were times when I had to put the book down – the subject matter needed time to be assimilated.  At other times, there were points where I was thrown out of the narrative for various different reasons - some as mundane as typos some in disbelief at the scene described.  There were times when I found the narrative voice to be so harsh and shouty that I desperately needed to walk away from the book.  By the time I got to the last page, I felt mentally weary.  Perhaps that was the author’s conscious and deliberate intention.  I don’t know. But, however you look at that, I would have thought it was better to keep the reader’s eyes on the page and their interest engaged.
Overall, it is a story that had to be told and I am grateful for the opportunity to increase my knowledge.

You may wish to read reviews of other stories that also needed to be told. Just click the following links The Volunteer  The Infiltrators  The Passenger 

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Promoting Yorkshire Authors Book Fair ...

I’m very pleased to be able to tell you that I will be at the Promoting Yorkshire Authors Book Fair on April 1st …

As part of the Huddersfield Literature Festival, which runs from March 23rd right through to April 2nd, PYA will be running a Book Fair on Saturday, April 1st.

There will be lots of Yorkshire authors there with loads of books.  You will be able to browse our books and chat with the writers – me included!

There will be a broad spectrum of books to choose from, including mystery, adventure, cosy crime, historical romance, and plenty more besides.

Entry to the Book Fair is absolutely free, and you can stay as long as you like between 10.30 am and 4 pm.

You can find the Book Fair at :

Lawrence Batley Theatre,

Queen Street,

Huddersfield HD1 2SP

It will be really great to see you there ...

You can find out more about Huddersfield Literature Festival Here

If you are an aspiring writer, or a published one, and you would like to know more about Promoting Yorkshire Authors, check out our website Here

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Come stroll with me …

… through some more history from château Chenonceau.  Last month I left you in the fabulous gallery that stretched across the river, Cher.  Follow me …

Leaving the gallery behind I want to take you down into the heart of this house – the kitchens.  Here banquets would be prepared for kings and nobles and for those attending the many parties that Catherine de Medici enjoyed.  But at this level of the building, you are just above the water line of the river and there is provision for goods to be delivered straight to the kitchens by boat.  And, under cover of darkness, it is also possible that people might have been whisked away by similar transport.  And yes that possibility of a plot surrounding a quirk of history is still running around at the back of my head!
Coming back up into the main body of the
château we can see the magnificence of some of the rooms.  Like this one said to be used by Diane de Poitiers.  The fireplace surround is ostentatious in its symbolism.  The lettering of H and C refers to Henri 2 and Catherine.  She clearly wanted no references to her husband’s other woman!
There are numerous rooms all in the gothic style and as beautifully decorated as this one.  The walls are full of tapestries and paintings.  One room, funereal in appearance, is a re-creation of the actual décor that covered the walls of the chamber of Louise of Lorraine, the wife of Henri 3.  It was originally created for the then-royal widow of the king.
We will leave these fabulous rooms and head outside.  The gardens were the brainchild of Diane de Poitiers before she was ousted by Catherine de Medici and relegated to the château in Chaumont.  Diane engaged the services of a garden designer – but who that was, I don’t know.  The time for my research whilst I was there was short and I never came across that little detail.  But, looking outward towards other residences in the area such as Amboise and Blois, the influence of Pacello da Mercogliano (1455 – 1534) can be seen.  Of course, by the time Diane de Poitiers was thinking about her gardens, Mercogliano was long dead.  But it was not unusual at that time for the king to move his court every so often.  I suppose the old maxim of keeping one's friend's close but enemies closer still was perhaps more pertinent back then!   
However, the carefully planned and planted parterres are excellent examples of what was considered then to be the French formal garden, for which Mercogliano is said to be one of the earliest founding fathers.
The gardens stretch out on both sides of the residence.  And if you choose your timing carefully you can wander in the shade for a good deal of the time.  You also need to choose your season carefully, too.  It’s late September and I’m seeing a mature garden in its final throw of colour before dying back for winter.  I’m just really glad I don’t have to prune all that topiary!

You can read my previous post from château Chenonceau Here. If you enjoyed those two posts, you might also enjoy reading about my visits to the châteaux in Blois  Ancy-le-Franc or Tanlay