Back in 2013, as northern Scottsdale resident David Lamb spent a couple weeks in the hospital recovering from prostate cancer surgery, his son suggested he write to pass the time.
But not just any story — a story Lamb shared with his son while driving home from his Boy Scouts camping trip many years ago and one that would win Lamb three literary awards.
“The Deepest Cut (Driven to the Hilt Book 1)” was published by Calyse Publishing in November 2017 and was named the Best Science Fiction 2018 release in the teen category by the International Literary Classics Awards. It was also recognized as the Outstanding Science Fiction Winner 2018 by the Independent Author Network.
And more recently in April, the sci-fi novel was awarded the bronze medal in the teen category of the Wishing Shelf Awards, an international contest based out of the United Kingdom.
“It’s a little hard to grasp,” said Lamb, who goes by the pen name D. G. Lamb. “I don’t think of myself, even now, as an aspiring novelist, so that’s nice.
“As they say, you write for yourself in many ways. You’re hoping that it’s interesting enough to read, so that’s always great to get feedback — and then the three awards are also a nice addition.”
Lamb’s debut novel has a 4.8 rating with 35 customer reviews on Amazon, with reviews raving that it’s “one of the most original and well-told stories” and that “there are twists and turns around every corner – pure engagement!”
Lamb has his family to thank for not only motivating him to write, but also for nominating him for the awards.
“My lovely vice president in charge of marketing, my wife, worked hard to put that website up, and she’s the one that I have to give credit for in terms of researching and submitting the book for the awards,” he said.
The “Driven to the Hilt” book series follows a young boy, the protagonist Joshua, who finds himself trapped outside his mining colony on the planet Cypress Grove.
The conflict Joshua faces is either surviving in a dark rainforest wherein a deadly creature roams or return to the colony and negotiate the even darker dangers of its criminal underworld.
The idea for the story was born while backpacking with his son’s Boy Scouts troop.
To distract himself from the discomfort of the pain he felt in his knees while hiking, he occupied his mind thinking of what the human version of Pavlov’s famous behavior modification box might be.
“I was thinking about a famous psychologist, B. F. Skinner, who was famous for operant conditioning and behavioral modification,” Lamb said.
“He actually built what sounded like a cage for a son. It allowed him to press levers and do things for which you would get rewarded, therefore increase the behavior, but you could get in and out whenever you want it.”
From there, Lamb created a dynamic world surrounding the creation of such a room that would shake or influence the behavior of someone living within it.
“That got me to thinking that you couldn’t probably do that legitimately; it has to be something that would be the darker side of society, if you will. And so then that’s where things kept developing in terms of the idea,” he said.
Drawing on his extensive experience as a clinical neuropsychologist and working with law enforcement officers to deal with PTSD after critical accidents, Lamb was able to inject psychological authenticity into his characters, particularly Joshua.
“The main character, Joshua, has an ability to, it seems like, slow time down during critical moments. There’s a neuropsychological substrate for that in terms of theory and so on,” he said, adding that he, personally, experienced such a condition.
“Twice while I’ve been on the highway where this happened to me and there’s research out there that addresses this. People in those critical moments, they’ll perceive time slowing, but, actually, they’re thinking much more quickly,” Lamb added.
Lamb didn’t intend on publishing the “Driven to the Hilt” book series initially.
“It was more of an exercise for fun and just out of interest,” he said.
But when he realized he had enough written material for nearly four books —over a four-year period, he had written 400,000 words — he sought the help of his son and brother.
“I sort of wrote a lecture and [my son] said, ‘Dad, this isn’t necessarily an interesting way of learning about this world,” Lamb said with a laugh. “So he gave me some excellent advice about letting people discover the culture as you sort of move along with the story.”
Lamb’s brother then stepped in as his editor.
“Luckily for me, my brother took on that role, so that it’s been a real successful collaboration,” he said.
Book two, “Forging the Blade,” was published seven months later in June 2018; and book three, “Tempered Steel,” was published five months later in November 2018.
Lamb originally conceptualized a trilogy, but when he discovered that most science fiction novels run anywhere from 100,000 to 110,000 words, he expanded the series into five books.
Currently, Lamb has about 70 percent of book four written, and he hopes to publish it over the summer.
Lamb writes a day each week, on Saturdays.
“I get all my inspiration in the shower. Ideas usually come to me and I’ll write them down quickly before I leave for work and then I’ll follow up on it over the weekend,” he said.
As far as book five is concerned, Lamb will have much more writing to do, as he’ll have run out of his pre-written material.
That said, he hopes to publish it early 2020.
“Book five pulls things together some of the mystery of the hidden observers who are manipulating things behind the scenes — who’s involved with that and why will be revealed before,” Lamb teased.
Lamb said the overall message of the series is that even in the most horrendous circumstances, choices are still available to you.
“You have a choice for what you believe and what you choose to think,” he said. “As working as a psychologist for quite a while, that’s an essential truth to me and trying to help people see that. It’s a story of survival.”