Category Archives: Spotlight

Clink Street Blogival: The Expansion by Christoph Martin

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Clink Street Blogival: The Expansion by Christoph Martin The Expansion by Christoph Martin
Published by Clink Street on May 2, 2017
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 273
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In politics and big business, truth is a matter of opinion.

Straddling the storyworlds of Panama, Washington and London, The Expansion follows British-born geomatic engineer Max Burns, whose revolutionary water-saving system wins him the esteemed position of head engineer for one of the 21st century’s most politically contested megaprojects: the expansion of the Panama Canal.

For Max it is a dream come true: not only is he able to work closely with construction giant and old high-school friend Godfredo Roco in one of the most beautiful tropical environments, but it’s the kind of job Max has been working toward his entire career.

Yet in the arena of global trade and diplomacy, stakes are high, and when a senior official of the Panama Canal Administration is found dead, Max finds himself in the frame for sabotage and murder, and at the centre of a web of political intrigue and betrayal that reaches far beyond the idyllic shores of Central America. The only person Max can trust is his new-found love, Karis Deen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Except Karis herself holds a secret that could not only destroy Max, but could change the entire balance of world power.

The Magic of Collaboration

The Expansion is the first in a series of political thrillers written by a collaborative writing team: Christoph Martin Zollinger and Libby O’Loghlin. Here, Christoph and Libby talk about the collaborative writing process.

Christoph Martin Zollinger

I came up with the idea for The Expansion book while I was in the air, on a flight from Panama to Switzerland, and I knew it was going to need to be a collaborative effort from the beginning, because the scope of the story is huge! It starts in the UK, moves to Switzerland, then to Panama and the US (Washington, D.C.), and amongst all that we have a cast of very colorful characters who carry the story through all the politics and clandestine twists and turns behind the ‘seemingly’ straightforward project: the expansion of the Panama Canal!

One of the best aspects of working as a writing team is that Libby’s and my skills and strengths are very complementary, but we have also had very different life experiences—we’ve both lived and worked in different countries—so we were able to bring a lot of points of view to the process and to the characters.

In 2015, we travelled together to Panama to visit some of the locations that would play a part in the story. That was great, because we then both had impressions of Panama that we could draw on when we were creating scenes. It meant we could also discuss the geography easily. So if, for example, a character had to drive from A to B, we both knew what that looked like and how they’d get there.

We also visited the site of the canal expansion itself, which is breathtakingly huge! And we were able to talk to a range of people in Panama, including the Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and even some ex-street gang members, who had lived through very violent times on the streets of Panama City, and who now run tours of the Old Town.

For the next book, we have been doing a lot of reading about Russia and the Cold War, and I’m planning a trip to the Arctic … perhaps that will give you an idea of the scope of the next story!

Libby O’Loghlin

Before The Expansion project I hadn’t ever written a collaborative novel before and, from a writing perspective, I found working with Christoph to be a great way to ‘level up’ my writing skills, and to get better at moving consistently forwards. We expect to be working together for some years, so it’s great to have a strong working dynamic as a basis for that.

Apart from being a lot of fun, collaboration is a great process for learning to be able to critically assess the relevance and usefulness of your own ideas—without getting too attached to them. You get really good at ‘killing your darlings’, as the saying goes. Christoph and I always respect each other’s inputs and creative ideas, and we always discuss everything until we’re in agreement about which way it should go, with the bottom line being: Would this character do/say that? And will it move the story forwards?

I’m a big genre reader/watcher (Le Carré, Ludlum, Goldman, etc.), so I love that I’ve had a chance to tackle the political thriller genre. And there’s no denying that having two minds on a story (especially one that has a huge geopolitical scope) opens up whole worlds of ideas and perspectives that I’d never be able to imagine if I were writing on my own. I think that’s really the magic of collaboration.

Read an Excerpt:

This is the moment the protagonist, Max Burns, has secretly longed for, ever since he shared one night of bliss with the beautiful paleontologist Karis Deen, on the night his team won the contract to expand the Panama Canal. Except things don’t go quite as Max had hoped, and we start to see a different side of the usually easy-going Max; that the great prestige that’s associated with his job as the Chief Engineer on the canal expansion project doesn’t make up for the loneliness of the lifestyle.

“Max, I feel like I should apologize to you.”

He shook his head. “No, no, you don’t need to—”

She interrupted him with a short laugh. “Just wait and listen, Dr. Burns!”

“I’m sorry … what do you mean?” He steered the car across the intersection.

“Max, I’m not apologizing about our night together, or about the fact that I haven’t been in touch.” She seemed amused by his confusion. “I’m apologizing because I want to talk about work, and I realize it’s after hours for you.”

“Ah. I see.” Max kept his eyes firmly on the road as the reality sank in: she was more interested in Max-the-engineer than in Max-the-person.

But that had been his experience generally over the past year or so: everyone seemed to want to talk to him because he was the one the media had blithely labelled ‘the expansion’s brainchild’—the expert engineer that everyone called on for comment. He’d almost become the CISCO spokesperson. Wearily, he switched back into work mode.

“So let me guess: you’re back because of the prehistoric feeding grounds. You’re not the boss, but you figure you’re on a first-name basis with the chief engineer, so you want to find out how much we can massage the schedule to allow you to excavate at the site as long as possible. Am I close?” He glanced at her.

Karis nodded. “Good guess. You’re not just a pretty face.”

Suddenly, he felt irritated. It had been a long few weeks where he’d been at loggerheads with Paco over the timeline for the concrete pouring and, frankly, he didn’t think he had it in him to try and decode whether the woman was flirting or not. Mixed messages were tedious at the best of times.

“I’ve negotiated four weeks already,” he said drily, as he came to a stop for a red light. “I can’t give you longer. There are too many stakeholders that can’t be put off at this stage.”

Karis nodded. “I thought you might say that. Oh, well, it was worth a try.”

About Christoph Martin

Christoph Martin is the writing team of Christoph Martin Zollinger and Libby O’Loghlin. Christoph Zollinger is a Swiss entrepreneur whose career spans legal, military, corporate and private enterprise. Christoph graduated with a law degree from the University of Zürich, after which time he went on to live and work in Panama in corporate and private enterprise for more than a decade. In 2012 he returned to Switzerland with his wife and children. He divides his time between his home in Zürich and a tiny Alpine village in Graubünden. Libby O’Loghlin is an Australian novelist and prize-winning short story writer who has a career in narrative media production, including film and television, as well as print and digital publishing. She has lived in the UK, USA and Malaysia, and she now lives with her family in Switzerland.

Clink Street Blogival: Soho Honey by A. W. Rock

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Clink Street Blogival: Soho Honey by A. W. Rock Soho Honey by A.W. Rock
Published by Clink Street Publishing on May 5, 2016
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 356
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This contemporary crime story takes place over three weeks in November and unfolds against the multi-cultural backdrop of Soho, London. Branen had to leave the UK six years before to escape his complex clandestine history and the consequences of a crime that achieved worldwide notoriety. When his daughter is brutally murdered in Soho he believes that he could be the reason. He returns to his old hunting grounds to find the killer. His search brings him into conflict with the British Secret Service and Soho's underworld. He is forced to flee Soho again after a tragic meeting with his ex-wife. His past has caught up with him and the hunter becomes the hunted. Now forty years old Branen wants to stop running and to remove forever the continuing threat to his life. In an effort to get rid of his pursuers he is faced with the prospect that his only chance of survival could lead to his death.

Read a couple excerpts:

#1 Having just returned to Soho Costas has recommended a cheap hotel for Branen to stay in on his first night…

Hotel California had a small entrance in Tisbury Court, a paved alleyway between Wardour and Rupert Street.

The frosted glass door had a red glow behind it; the kind that brothels have. He mentally thanked Costas and tried the door, noticing it swung both ways, he suspected like some of the guests, and making it easier to eject unwanted customers.

The reception area was particularly attractive. On the right-hand side there was a desk, resembling a cheap pulpit. Behind it sat a tabloid newspaper which didn’t reveal its reader.

“I need a room,” he said. The newspaper seemed to be studiously ignoring him. “Have you got a room?”

The newspaper lowered revealing a shabby, unshaven man with a thick neck and the shoulders of a wrestler. Without looking up he pushed the register across the desk and the movement of his paper wafted fumes towards Branen; the man had been drinking and hadn’t been washing.

“How much?”

He examined Branen then looked past him. Branen followed his gaze and was met by an apparition in black leather sitting on an orange plastic sofa. She returned his stare and smiled from underneath her maquillage. She had a kind face, or was it desperation? The melamine table lamp had an orange shade and the walls needed another coat of maroon paint. He had no idea why red was considered sexy in this environment; it did nothing for her complexion or the view up her skirt.

He could have waited an hour for his answer.

Eventually the owner asked, “Fer ‘ow long?”

“A couple of weeks.”

“Fifty quid.. cash.. a day.”

Before Branen could answer he pulled back the register and returned to his newspaper.

#2 Branen returns to one of his old haunts after being away for eight years… 

A few months into the new job, whilst he was back in London to photograph an anti-government demo, Branen decided to drop in on the Empire Room in Dean Street.

He was familiar with the club from his early days in Soho and he wanted to catch up with the owner, Ayo Wood.

“Look who we’ve got here, darlings…” said Ayo, as Branen hesitated in the doorway. “…My God man, come in… where have you been?”

There was the sharp smell of spirits mixed with stale cigarette smoke.

A punter sitting at the bar turned to look and fell off his stool.

Branen squeezed in and put his camera on the bar.

“What can I get you, Ben?” asked Ayo, who only knew him by his real name.

“Give me a whisky and water and get yourself a drink… how’s tricks?”

“Same as ever… same old faces, hiding from reality, not wanting to go home. I hate ’em and love ’em… and they pay the rent,” said Ayo, turning to the man who had struggled back onto his stool. “Time to face the real world, Nigel.”

“The real world is an illusion… reality is here in the bottom of my glass…” said Nigel as he tried to stand up. “…Fuck the real world…” He smashed his glass down onto the bar. “…I want love.”

Ayo showed him the door. “I don’t want you kissing my customers again… be careful on your way down the stairs.”

Nigel descended the stairs one by one swearing revenge at every step.

About A.W. Rock

Based in London AW.Rock has been a regular on the Soho scene since the 1960’s working in various sectors of the entertainment industry.

Spotlight: Tell on You by Freda Hansburg

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Spotlight: Tell on You by Freda Hansburg

Spotlight: Tell on You by Freda Hansburg Tell on You by Freda Hansburg
Published by Micro Publishing Media on May 1, 2017
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 248
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Tell on You is a psychological suspense novel that best fits within the Gone Girl-inspired niche genre of “grip lit.” Jeremy Barrett’s obsessive love equals that of Jay Gatsby for Daisy Buchanan, as life imitates art in his private school English class. But his angst-driven infatuation brings dire consequences as he is drawn into the machinations of his disturbed 16-year-old student Nikki Jordan, whose bad intentions rival those of her teacher. A fast-paced, drama-filled tale, Tell on You reminds readers about the wildness and trauma of adolescence—and the self-defeating behaviors to which adults resort in times of stress. From gaslighting to vicious bullying, poisonous family privilege to the loss of a parent—Freda Hansburg draws on her experience as a clinical psychologist to explore the depths of each dark situation in Tell on You.

Read an excerpt:

“Oww!!” eight-year old Brandon Jordan screeched as his sister Nikki twisted his arm in an Indian burn. “Nikki, stop!”

His cries brought Mom crashing into Nikki’s room. “Nikki, I won’t have you bullying your brother again. Let him go this instant.”

“But I caught him in here messing with my stuff!” Nikki gave Brandon’s arm a final wrench before releasing him. Pouting, he scurried from her room.

“I don’t care what he did. I told you, keep your hands to yourself.” Her mother turned away, judgment delivered.

Probably in a hurry to get back to her vodka and reality TV. “At least when Dad was here, somebody stuck up for me,” Nikki called after her.

Mom’s angry face reappeared. “Stuck up for you?” A bitter laugh. “Stuck it to you, and all of us, is more like it.”

“Wasn’t me he left,” Nikki said.

“Really? When’s the last time he even phoned you?” Her mother walked off with that parting shot.

“Like you’d know, bitch.” Nikki said it under her breath, but not under enough.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Mom stormed back into the room, got right up in Nikki’s face, breath boozy. “You’re grounded for the next three days, kiddo. Give me your car keys, right now.”

“Maa!” Nikki protested. “How will I get to school?”

Her mother held out her hand for the keys. “Get up an hour early and I’ll drop you on the way to work.”

“No way!” Nikki fished the keys from her bag and dropped them into her mother’s open palm.

“Then walk.” Her mom headed out of the room, turning back for one last jab. “Or call your father.”

This time Nikki closed the bedroom door before cursing her out. Walking to school sucked, and tomorrow’s weather forecast called for cold. Call your father. Very funny. Dad lived in Austin now. But it gave her an idea.

Nikki picked up her phone to make the call, rehearsing the pitch in her mind. I’m so lonely, Mr. B. I’m taking care of my brother again because my mom went out. And she forgot we were supposed to take my car in for a new battery. And I was wishing…I know I shouldn’t ask you…but if you met me and gave me a ride to school tomorrow, I’d get to see you. You wouldn’t have to take me right to school, just drop me nearby.

She’d sell it to him. And after that, she’d see about getting even with her mother and brother. Maybe steal Brandon’s Game Boy batteries and hide them. And see how much distilled white vinegar she could add to Mom’s vodka bottle before the bitch actually noticed. Nobody, but nobody, got to score the winning point against Nikki Jordan.

About Freda Hansburg

Freda Hansburg is a psychologist and Tell On You is her debut trade thriller. She self-published the suspense novel Shrink Rapt and co-authored two self-help books, PeopleSmart – a best-seller translated into ten languages – and Working PeopleSmart. Freda lives in the South Carolina Lowcountry, where she is working on her next novel and her Pickleball game.

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