Saturday, December 29, 2012
It occurs to me that many of us are those experts. So I have created a new page on this site. Please find a new tab along the top bar entitled, "Find an Expert". Use it to ask questions of our members about whatever subject you are researching, and please let us know if you have a special skill set that can benefit other thriller writers.
I present here an open invitation, calling for specific areas of expertise commonly featured in thriller novels. These areas include, but are not limited to...
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The enigmatic last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty was ruthlessly ambitious, supremely educated, multilingual, inquisitive and scientifically minded. She oversaw the largest database of the ancient world: the legendary library of Alexandria. She was rumored to have written dozens of books on a wide range of topics, she kept company with physicians, and the majority of legends surrounding Cleopatra involve some form of scientific ability. Yet, she did not leave a single writing behind, so her true contribution to modern science remains a mystery.
In 2010, one of the most popular legends about Cleopatra was scientifically proven possible. Below is one of the many news stories surrounding the discovery. From msnbc.com...
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Along the top bar of the site are several new sections. Please feel free to browse around, but to help direct you, here are their functions:
Saturday, December 1, 2012
I write both thrillers and mysteries. All of them so far involve normal people who are tossed into abnormal situations and have to cope using their wits and what they've learned during their lives. I don't write about superheroes or supervillains.
Back in 2010, a Mossad hit team assassinated a top Hamas operative, Mahmoud Mabhouh, in Dubai. They were less-than-slick about it and ended up on a number of surveillance videos. The Emiratis posted the footage on YouTube -- it's kind of interesting to watch. Anyway, the team used for their covers the identities of real Israeli dual-nationals living in Israel. These people's other citizenship countries were extremely perturbed by this. Of course, Hamas was hopping mad.
So I got to thinking: what would have happened if Hamas decided to go after these poor schulbs whose identities were stolen? Voila: Doha 12 was born.
Luis Ojeda once was a coyote for the Pacifico Norte drug cartel. He guided into civil war-wracked Mexico hundreds of Muslim Americans escaping from or avoiding the remote detention camps where many thousands of their relatives and friends have languished since a horrific 2019 terrorist attack in Chicago. He left that world after he was nearly killed crossing the border. Now, two years later in 2032, the Cartel wants Luis back for a special job.
Nora Khaled is a wife, mother, FBI agent, and Moslem. Her lawyer husband is about to be exiled to a camp, destroying her family, career and freedom. She abandons her comfortable life to spirit her husband and children to Southern California so Luis can lead them south, out of the U.S. to safety.
Luis and Nora face more threats than scorching deserts and brutal border guards. The Nortes are locked in a death struggle with the fearsome Zetas, and someone on the inside is selling out the Cartel’s members. A dogged Immigration & Customs Enforcement agent has Luis locked firmly in his sights. When Nora is publicly accused of terrorism, Luis learns she’s carrying secrets that will blow apart the 2032 Presidential election and reveal that the nation’s recent history is based on a lie. In a future America where everything is for sale and innocence is a liability, Luis and Nora have to learn to trust each other to ensure the survival of the truth, their families, and themselves.
I travel a fair amount. I'm a PADI Rescue Diver and cold-water wimp, which accounts for some of that travel (the Pacific off Southern California is just too damn cold). I spent eight years in the active-duty Air Force and another fourteen in the Reserves, had an assignment with the National Security Council at the White House (worker bee, not advisor), and retired as a lieutenant colonel. My civilian career has been all over the map, starting in IT, then doing my midlife-crisis tour as a game artist, then moving to emergency management. I have a very tolerant wife who has a grown-up job, and a large, highly opinionated cat. I wrote my first full-length work when I was 17.
There are all kinds of ways to keep tabs on me:
Facebook author page
If you see something you like on any of these, please leave a comment or "like" or "friend" or "follow" me. It can get lonely out here in cyberspace.
Jake manages a bookstore in Brooklyn. Miriam is a secretary at a Philadelphia law firm. Both grew up in Israel and emigrated to build new lives in America. Neither knows the other exists…until the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad uses their identities in an operation to assassinate a high-ranking Hezbollah commander in Doha, Qatar.
Now Hezbollah plans to kill them both.
Jake, Miriam and ten other innocents in five countries – the Doha 12 – wake up to find their identities stolen and their lives caught between Hezbollah and Mossad in an international game of murder and reprisal. Jake stumbles upon Hezbollah’s plot but can't convince the police it exists. When his wife is murdered in a botched hit meant for him, Jake joins forces with Miriam to outrun and outfight their pursuers while protecting his young daughter.
Hezbollah, however, has a fallback plan: hundreds of people will die if Jake and Miriam survive.
Inspired by Mossad’s 2010 assassination of Mahmoud Mabhouh, Doha 12 will take you on a chase you won't soon forget.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
This book has received mixed reviews, ranging from, "Patterson at his finest" to, "wow, this poor shmuck really jumped the shark. Stop, James. Please stop. I'm begging you." My review is in between. I think the book was a bit fluffy, and if you're looking for depth, look elsewhere. But I still enjoyed it and frankly, tore right through it despite myself. Following are my top five reasons why:
3) Short chapters:
Literally, almost every new page starts a new chapter. There are 98 chapters total followed by an epilogue. Epic. My friends - eh, I mean readers - harass me endlessly about breaking sections or chapters too frequently. But I have noticed that it doesn't take them long to harass me about this once I hand them a draft, because they breeze through it in no time. So I rest my case. Long chapters inspire a reader to stop at the chapter break and wait until they have more time. Short chapters let the reader squeak out one more page, even though dinner is burning and the kids are on fire. And what writer doesn't want that?
4) Those heart-wrenching moments:
Let's face it - readers of thrillers are so used to wickedness that we can watch a character filter through a paper shredder without being either grossed out or the least bit sympathetic. But hurt a chimp's feelings and you've just snapped a heart string or two. Zoo brings the humanity by giving us characters we can feel for - animals. Excuse me for a moment while I go hug my dogs.
When you have some free time, take Zoo out for a walk. Don't forget the poop bags.
Friday, November 9, 2012
My left hand hurt, and I realized my fist was clenched. As I opened it, four tiny trickles of blood seeped from indentations in my palm as my husband’s wedding ring fell from my hand. The boat rocked again, and a subtle rattling broke the early morning silence as the small, gold circle rolled across the smooth wood of the yacht’s bow.
-From the forthcoming novel, The Vesuvius Isotope
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I just finished reading Zoo, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. I'll write a detailed review later, but the bottom line is, it was a terrible book. The plot was the antithesis of credibility, and the blatant disregard for rules of writing no doubt had every dead author in the history of ink rolling over in his or her grave. But I loved it. Why? Because I kept turning pages until the end. And while we are baring our souls here, I'll admit that I also made a few mental notes of writing techniques that I totally intend to steal.
But Patterson and Ledwidge cheated a little bit, in my opinion. They wrote a book that put no responsibility whatsoever onto the reader. No thinking was required, just pure permeability, absorption of the story and absolute suspension of disbelief. It worked, and it made for a fun, easy, quick read, as long as the reader didn't stop to think.
This is where I differ in my personal aspirations. I want to write a book that makes readers think without realizing they are thinking, because I want them to be having too much fun. If the gods of storytelling ever bless me with such a work, I will consider the book a resounding success. Critics and rules of the English language be damned.
The Vesuvius Isotope is nearly complete. I think it's a great story, and I'll be truly pissed at myself if I fail to show it the way I see it. Yet, the biggest challenge throughout the squiggly journey of its creation has been conveying the story in a way that makes it readable. Because I'm all too aware that this story demands a lot on the part of the reader.
I guess that's where writing skills come in. Crap.
How do you take a complicated plot and strip it down to the critical elements? How do you weave together multiple sub-plots in such a way that readers can follow them, without consulting footnotes and a map? How do you keep your characters in character, without creating a collection of one-dimensional stereotypes?
I guess that's where writing skills come in. Crap.
I guess I need to hone those skills after all, to continue soliciting tips and advice from the actual writers out there. Excuse me while I go back to school. Excuse me while I grovel to the Professors of Punctuation and bow to the Wizards of Words. And please forgive me if I later disregard bits of their advice, because damn it, the story will be better that way.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
First and foremost - I beg you - please click on the link above and check out the WIP of Kim Koning, entitled The Tattooist - Liquid Ink. It is an awesome premise and one I'm quite jealous I didn't think of myself. Then, follow her blog, and buy her book when it comes out. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.
At the bottom of this post, please look for the writers I have tagged and linked. Their "Next Big Thing" posts will be available between the 18th and 24th of September, so please keep your eyes peeled for those.
Now, without further delay...
What is the working title of your book?
The Vesuvius Isotope
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Personal experience as a drug discovery biologist, an intriguing visit to Pompeii, and a fascination with all things Cleopatra.
What genre does your book fall under?
Historical and medical thriller
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Biologist Katrina Stone is played by Julianne Moore. She is a strong, smart, occasionally brash redhead with a vulnerability she is very adept at hiding. Katrina is in her 40s (Julianne is in her 50s!) and both are still sexy as ever.
Alexis Stone is portrayed by Kirsten Dunst. This girl's intelligence is piercing, and she goes from sweet to bitch in one smile. And now that I look at her next to Julianne Moore, I think a DNA test might be in order. Meet the Stone family.
Aldo de Luca is an Italian Nick Nolte. Period. Brush up on your accent, Nick. We need you.
And last, but certainly not least, is our villian. Corrupt Naples transit cop Carmello Rossi is played by Ronan Vibert.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When her Nobel Laureate husband is murdered, her search for answers leads biologist Katrina Stone to a two thousand year old medical mystery, the secret life of one of history's most enigmatic women, and a clandestine modern-day war that will resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Undecided. I was thinking of consulting She Writes Press first, as this strikes me as a way to form a truly collaborative relationship with those more skilled in the publishing arts than myself.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Too long. The plot is complicated enough that I had to re-work it over, and over, and over again, and this led to multiple false starts. I'm thrilled to say that I have now worked out those bugs (finally!) and the result is going to be worth it. I can't wait to publish. At present, the story is complete, but I'm still line editing.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It is like a Dan Brown novel in that historical mystery becomes entwined with modern-day conflict. It is also like Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death, in that it draws upon the history of medicine and roles played by various cultures in the development of a specific event. And, it is like a novel by Michael Crichton or Robin Cook in that it introduces technologies widely used in today's medical community, but frequently unfamiliar to the layperson.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It was really the aforementioned visit to Pompeii that planted the seed.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Katrina chases medicine across Italy and Egypt and through the centuries to solve the murder of her husband. What she reveals are a legacy of corruption and greed, and a sinister epidemic that threatens the lives of thousands - including her own, and that of her daughter.
Tag, you're it!
Please check back next week for the works in progress by these talented authors:
Friday, August 31, 2012
I'd like to start this post in an unusual way - with a quote, from a comment, from my previous post:
"Curious what your next over-used protagonist will be! Please make it Kickass Fearless Girl. Because she doesn't exist."
Kiersi, I couldn't agree more. At first I thought, "hmmm...who is a truly, Kick Ass, FEARLESS girl? She has to be a teenager. Teenagers are afraid of nothing, because they have yet to comprehend their own mortalities and the mortalities of those around them - and anyway, they wish most of the people around them dead."
But then I had a quick conversation with a real, live teenager, and quickly remembered the truth: they harbor even more fears than the rest of us. What if I get a zit on prom night? What if I get an erection (or my period, as the gender may be...) during gym class? What if that bully calls me a name and everyone laughs at me?
So I'm back to drawing a blank on the real existence of Kickass Fearless Girl. Show me someone who is really fearless, and I'll show you a damn good liar.
But there is another protagonist who trumps even Kickass Fearless Girl on my over-used list, and who is even more non-existent: The 22-year-old, Female, Supermodel, Head of [name your department] at [name your world-famous hospital or research institute].
This girl seems to be everywhere in fiction. I understand that it's almost law in modern literature that the protagonist must be young and beautiful (although I also believe in rebelling against the laws of literature.) But that said, there's a serious credibility issue with this particular woman.
Let's start with some perspective:
A female scientist friend of mine is 38. She considers herself fairly successful, as evidenced by the fact that many of her peers on the same pay grade are at least ten years older than she is. But she's still three levels below the head of the department. She works out of a cube, not an office, and the business end of a desk in an ocean view corner space is something she will probably never see in her lifetime.
Real Female Scientist spent twenty two years in school before getting her first job. Surprisingly, that job was NOT Head of Anything, Anywhere. It was a post-doctoral fellowship that earned her something below the wages of your average plumber. While attending those twenty two years of school, she also worked two or three jobs at a time. She spent the income from those jobs on rent, food and books - and not a nickel went to skin care, hair care, or designer clothes. She pulled all-nighters, made it to class, took the tests, and excelled on them without a second thought as to what her nails were doing at the moment.
So while she might have once been quite a biscuit, Real Female Scientist now wears thick glasses because her eyes have gone bye-bye from peering through microscopes for a couple of decades. Her forehead is permanently wrinkled with that "deep in thought" look. She has bags under her eyes. And her hands, following years of donning, removing, donning, removing, donning, removing and donning latex gloves - while being scrubbed ferociously in between each pair - look like the hands of an old woman.
Real Female Scientist chose decades ago to prioritize her career over her looks, and it shows. But to the real Head of Cardiology, my friend is still a biscuit. Because the real Head of Cardiology is a 65 year old man with bad, gray combover, Coke bottle glasses, and absolutely no social graces to speak of. But he is a genius. Their story can make for some great fiction. Or better yet, some great non-fiction.
The young and beautiful Head Scientist is a myth. Perhaps even more so than Kickass Fearless Girl. If you want to write a book, or make a movie, about her, that's fine. We write all kinds of fiction about fictional creatures. But if you want a realistic Head Scientist for your protagonist, Google Image Search "Nobel Laureate" - and then try not to get distracted by making a drinking game out of the combovers and Coke bottle lenses.
Now, Kickass Middle Aged Woman Who Can Compartmentalize Her Fears And Still Whip Ass On The Bad Guy - she is my hero.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Number one worst offender? The vampire.
Don't get me wrong, I once loved 'em. As someone who spent her teenage years worshipping at the thrones of Poe and King, I prided myself on an appetite for the macabre. I secretly wished for fangs and fantasized that wine was really blood (and that I could drink either without gagging). And I loved the Ann Rice books, especially when they made the first one into a movie starring a barely heard of young actor named Brad Pitt.
And clearly, I was never alone in this obsession, as anything with a vampire in it seems to sell to teenagers like pimple medicine. I assume this is, at least in part, the reason why so many authors now want to follow in the Interview with Dracula at Twilight footsteps.
But that said, the vampire has become the default protagonist. If I see one more, I really might bite into someone's jugular. I must assume that agents and publishers are getting weary of this trend as well. Are they?
Evidently not. The bookstores have entire tables dedicated to them. The movie theaters are alive with them. My Twitter feed is crawling with them. Enough, already!
The vampire has become a zombie - dead, decaying, and yet, impossible to turn one's back on or get rid of. Would someone please write a novel about a beautiful, young Sasquatch, and the human who wants to have his squatchlets? Now that would be original.