MA: Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers … Read More
Tag Archives: Thriller
MA: I am honored to welcome back to my blog, Marilyn Meredith, arguably one of the most prolific mystery writers who has ever guested with me. Marilyn first appeared on my blog back in 2010 when I interviewed her about her then newly-released novel, Dispel the Mist, her eighth in the Tempe Crabtree mystery series. You can read that former post by going here: Marilyn Meredith Sleuths In For An Interview With Mike Angley.
F.M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 30 published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest being Bears With Us from Mundania Press.
Marilyn is a member of EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection), four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, and Mystery Writers of America. She is also on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.
Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/
CONTEST: The person who comments on the most blogs on Marilyn’s tour will win three books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series: No Sanctuary, An Axe to Grind, and Angel Lost. Be sure and leave your email too, so she can contact you! Read More
MA: I’m pleased to introduce my guest author today, Ian Wakley. Ian is a social and market researcher by profession, investigating the motivations behind human behavior and product purchases. He has pursued his personal passion and written a thriller novel called No Remorse.
Ian, welcome to my blog. How did you decide to become a professional writer?
IW: I used to travel a great deal, and would often buy a novel in the airport bookstore. I thought how great it would be to be able to write a Ludlum, or a Clancy or a Wilbur Smith. Three years ago I was running a research agency and my kids had almost finished school, so I decided to give it a shot. Sold my share of the business and became a writer. Just like that.
MA: Why novels and now a book about the marketing profession?
IW: Since I was young I’ve tended to read novels rather than non-fiction. Probably an escapist mentality. To me, writing non-fiction is the province of journalists. Writing fiction is something anyone can have a crack at. Of course, being good at it is another thing altogether. It took me three years to figure out the basics of creative writing. It’s not as simple actually writing a novel as it is saying “I’d love to write a novel.” I enjoy learning about the techniques of writing, and I expect that I’ll still be learning at the end.
MA: That’s very true! So tell us about your thriller.
IW: No Remorse is an action thriller. I’ve written it as a page-turner. It’s plot driven, with short chapters, action in every chapter. Not so much of a suspense thriller, although there is mystery and conspiracy in there. Lee McCloud is a special operations guy whose best friend’s daughter and another girl are kidnapped in Mexico. He and three other Delta operators try to rescue them, but the attempt fails. McCloud is forced to leave the army and work for a CIA front stealing money from terrorist backers. Meantime, he’s still searching for the two girls, and the trail leads to a Saudi exiled billionaire, Sheik Khalid, who has big plans for one of the girls. I won’t spoil it by elaborating. Suffice to say there are numerous subplots and you won’t know what’s going to happen next.
MA: How did you develop McCloud’s character?
IW: I’ve always had an interest in all things military, so I guess maybe it’s a way of linking this interest with my writing. The skills needed by the protagonist McCloud had to be appropriate to the plot, in this case he needed physical strength, surveillance and shooting skills, and extreme determination. I could have chosen a cop or a fireman or maybe someone who was ex-Army, but when I started writing the book Iraq was still happening and there was a great deal of interest in military heroes. Still is, I think.
MA: I don’t think military characters are ever out of vogue. Tell us more about your hero.
IW: McCloud is a special ops guy, trained for the toughest missions, deniable, highly intelligent, used to making quick decisions under extreme pressure. But his bosses worry about whether someone like that can be controlled. And indeed, McCloud is something of a loose cannon. He has also had some failed relationships with women, including a fiancée who dumped him for his brother four weeks before their wedding day. So McCloud has some trust issues, particularly with women.
MA: And your antagonist, Sheik Khalid?
IW: A few readers have said that I have given more depth to the antagonist – Sheik Khalid – than to McCloud himself. I have to confess I enjoyed writing the bad guy. Many fiction writers do. Khalid is incredibly wealthy, but he doesn’t really have any close relationships. He expects obedience, and the one person who is beyond his control is his personal trainer, Sheriti, who teaches him about tantric sex. He wants her as his fourth wife. Meanwhile, Khalid has big, bad plans…
MA: It doesn’t sound like you have any personal experiences in the military or black ops, or do you?
IW: Not in an autobiographical sense. But I enjoy the research side of writing, including traveling to places featured in the book, except for the fictional island of Andaran. I’ve shot sniper rifles, and been on board luxury yachts. And I’ve met lots of eccentric characters.
MA: Now that you have No Remorse out the chute, are you working on something new?
IW: I’m currently writing my second novel, Bait, which is more of a suspense mystery, but still with plenty of action. The protagonist is a tough female cop in Australia, who is posted to a country town to investigate some backpacker disappearances. There she finds an American she had resettled some years earlier under the witness protection program, and with whom she had a brief relationship. After I’ve finished Bait, I’ll be starting on the sequel to No Remorse. Lots of readers are on my back about that.
MA: I take it some of your main characters from No Remorse will reappear in this sequel story?
IW: Yes, McCloud and Tally will be in the sequel, and I have some other characters in No Remorse that could feature in sequels, or maybe their own series. An assassin named Anastia, and a Mossad agent are two of these.
MA: Give us some websites and information about where my readers can find your stories.
IW: No Remorse is available in good bookstores and online stores. Bait will be available in late 2012.
No Remorse Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Remorse/311150275607839
www.twitter.com/ianjwalkley Read More
MA: I’m pleased to welcome back to my blog Lotus Landry, author of Skookum Man, who first guested with me back in October 2010. You can go back and read about her debut appearance with me here: Western Romance, Chick Lit, Feminist…all Descriptions of Mike Angley’s Guest Author, Lotus Landry and her Novel, ‘Skookum Man.’
Welcome back, Lotus! I know you are anxious to talk about your second novel, but remind us again why you chose novel writing in the first place when you penned Skookum Man.
LL: I had a strong romance plot in mind for my first novel, Skookum Man, set in the Pacific Northwest. The plot plays off the dynamics of how a fur trapper’s original native family is confronted by a second refined imported wife from abroad. I especially wanted to portray a feminist spirit in the wilderness of the 1800s. I grew up in the Northwest and was aware of the stories about the fur trapping economy and the schooners.
But the second book, DOA in the HOA, is set in modern Southern California where I have lived for some time. The economic and social focus has undergone such a complete transition that I wanted to reflect this newer lifestyle—to even exaggerate it—in the novel. Most of the community residents have occupations that were not typical fifteen years ago. For instance, there is a housing stager, a uniformed dog employee at LAX, a document shredder, and some career criminals. There is also a rise in the importance of the pet culture and the pet economy. (As for the human economy in the story? Airline flight cabins become dysfunctional. Government finance becomes dysfunctional. Exploding hedge funds become dysfunctional. Socially networked coworkers become dysfunctional.)
MA: That’s quite a different setting from the Pacific Northwest. What does DOA in the HOA mean? What’s it about?
LL: This translates as ‘Dead on Arrival in the Homeowners Association’. Roommates, Christine Amador and Pistachio, team up to solve a mystery that starts in their Southern California neighborhood. The neighborhood, filled with quirky pets and people, is managed by a Homeowners Association.
The police tell them there is no credible evidence a crime was committed. Will Christine’s computer acumen and Pistachio’s skills as an exhibition cage fighter help them solve this Cozy Mystery? The book contains iconic features of Orange County and its history (including fruit fly emergencies, bears, red tides and such).
MA: Are you a martial arts expert or did you do some research to help you develop Pistachio?
LL: I did research on exercises of mixed martial arts for the character of ‘Pistachio’. I also visited a facility and watched videos and followed female fighter web pages.
MA: And Christine?
LL: Christine is worried throughout the story, but she admits that she gets too distracted sometimes by everyday business (as an Online Social Reputation Manager) to resolve problems. For instance, she can’t explain the absence of someone she depends upon and wonders if her ex-husband is connected to her problems.
MA: Did any of your real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?
LL: Excellent Question! Two factors helped to germinate the book.
1) I couldn’t understand why some of my close relatives attend cage-fights. In fact, one of my relatives has two personal trainers. He does workouts to avert weight and cardiac problems. It works for him. I wanted to understand their hobby better and that is one reason I undertook this book. I made one of the female characters a cage-fighter.
2) My hairdresser was witness to a murder where the discovery of the victim hinged on the finding of a breast implant (with serial number) inside of a body floating in the Newport Harbor. A similar object confounds Christine in my fictional novel, but I won’t give it away here.
MA: Will there be any spin-off stories from either the DOA in the HOA or Skookum Man?
LL: My subtitle, “A Christine Amador Mystery” does open the door to having a sequel, especially if a plot about online sleuthing comes onto my radar.
MA: Do you write anything other than novels?
LL: I have enjoyed writing socially networked blogs (27 of these) about various topics, including travel ones about places I have visited on the West Coast.
The travel ones have titles such as:
Houseguests in the OC
Palm Springs Follies
Other current blogs I write try to involve people in using their hands in doing crafts. It turns out that the craft articles about ‘making things’ are the most popular. (I have a hunch that it is part of human nature to want to make things.)
MA: Lotus – thanks for stopping by and telling us all about DOA in the HOA. If my readers want to learn more, please visit: www.matooskie.com. Read More
A scene ends when the action ends or the conversation can add no more to that part of the story. Maybe one scene is in the grocery store; the next scene is outside on the docks. Usually when a huge shift in location happens, you begin a new chapter.
(Don’t try to write a sequel to “My Dinner with Andre” which happened totally in one scene at the dinner table. It’s been done and was successful because the actors were good.)
When you end a scene, leave the reader wondering what could happen next and wanting to read further. It’s called a cliff hanger. Leave something unfinished, like a threat of action yet to happen and we can see one character gearing up to do some dirty work. The reader wonders what could possible happen next? And so they keep turning pages. Read More
Want to wake in the morning with more creativity? Then pay attention to what’s on your mind when you fall asleep.
Research has proven that the mind uses its most recent daytime images and thoughts to create dreams. So, too, the mind produces the mood with which you wake after sleeping. Read More
MA: My special guest today is Nancy Ellen Dodd. She is a writer with many voices, a university instructor, and an editor. She received her master’s in Professional Writing (MPW, which is a multi-discipline approach to writing) from the University of Southern California with a concentration in dramatic writing/screenwriting and her MFA in playwriting at USC’s School of Theatre. Having studied writing for more than 25 years, Dodd currently teaches screenwriting at Pepperdine University to undergraduate and graduate students.
Her book, The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages, covers the full creative writing process from which she draws lessons for her classes. The Writer’s Compass teaches the writer how to develop and focus their ideas, the use of a story map, and building the story through 7 productive development stages. Published by Writer’s Digest Books, the book was released in June 2011.
Dodd has received numerous awards for her writing, which includes screenplays, plays, short stories, short films, and novel-length works, as well as inspirational writing. Some of her short stories have been read on public radio. She also studied writing with several successful, award-winning writers: Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Paul Zindel; playwrights Velina Hasu-Houston, Oliver Mayer, David Milton, and Lee Wochner; screen and television writer Sy Gomberg; and international poet James Ragan.
Currently on faculty at the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University, Dodd serves as academic editor of the Graziadio Business Review, an online peer-reviewed business practitioner’s journal with over 500,000 page visits per year, 35% of those international. She also produces and edits video and audio interviews for the journal. Dodd’s journalistic career includes publishing more than 130 articles in local and national publications including interviews with celebrities and business leaders.
Well, that’s a pretty impressive background! It’s obvious that writing has been a major part of your life.
NED: For more than 25 years I’ve studied writing in all forms. This led me to having several articles and some short stories published, then to two master’s degrees in writing. From there I’ve had some of my work produced and received several awards and acknowledgements for my writing. It also led me to two stints as editor of two magazines and now academic editor of a peer-reviewed journal as a faculty member at Pepperdine University. Plus I teach screenwriting to undergraduates and graduate students there. I write in all forms: fiction and nonfiction; novels, screenplays, plays, short stories, and some inspirational prose. Most recently I’ve written The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages, about the creative writing process for developing stories based on what I’ve learned from thousands of hours of lectures, books, seminars, and two graduate degrees. The book teaches how to use a story map as a tool for developing your story and how to write your story more efficiently in seven stages.
MA: You have such a variety of writing experiences. Tell us, from your perspective, what is the difference between writing a novel and other forms of writing?
NED: People often ask me what my favorite form of writing is. I think it is always whatever form I’m writing in. That being said, there is something special about the novel. You can really evolve and develop the characters and the setting and the emotions in a novel. You can write it however you want. It can be formulaic or completely different from anything else out there. You can write sequels to infinity, or confine the story to a couple hundred pages. A novel gives you an intimate look at the story and characters in a way no other form can quite match. Other forms of writing have more rigid requirements for how the story is written on the page and different challenges and are much more restricted.
MA: How do you see character development, and do you address it in your books about writing?
NED: I’ve heard it said that most of our writing is a reflection of the people we know, of our selves, and also from our own experiences. Characters are often compilations of characteristics that we find interesting from what we’ve seen in others, or read, or watched on television. Unfortunately, if you draw your characters too much from fictional sources, as opposed to real people, your characters are flatter and more two-dimensional. In The Writer’s Compass there is a large section on characterization to help you draw out a fully rounded character that feels real—like someone your readers could know.
MA: What is your advice to writers about how to approach developing their protagonists?
NED: The development of the protagonist is something that takes time. We start with a glimmer of who the character is, but to write the truth about how he or she would behave takes knowing your character better than you know anyone else, perhaps even yourself. To write a gripping character you have to know what motivates her or him, what would destroy the character, what would force the character to take action, and what the character would do when their back is to the wall. When you know your character that well, and you have developed that character in your writing, you can take the story to the next level and surprise your reader with what your character does next, instead of the expected, and make it believable.
MA: How important is it t have strengths and weaknesses when developing characters for a novel?
NED: The strengths and weaknesses you give your character are critical to making your story believable. I recently read a book, published by a major publishing house, in which the author kept telling me that the protagonist was this disciplined martial arts expert and showed me the character spending time every day practicing with a sword in the back yard and freaking out the neighbors. However, the character did not act or react with the discipline that someone this focused on martial arts would have. His daily routine was to get drunk and eat poorly. He couldn’t stay focused on the task of finding his kidnapped girlfriend and his decision-making process was very faulty. The character and the book were totally unbelievable because the author told me who this character was supposed to be, but the entire novel showed me that the character’s behavior did not match who the author wanted me to believe the character was.
A hero should have weaknesses or a vulnerability, even Superman was allergic to kryptonite, but those weaknesses should be organic and make sense in the context of who the character is supposed to be. And the hero’s strength or weakness can be the opposite to what the reader anticipates or even the unexpected, as long as the writer gives the character a strong reason for having that flaw or that strength. If the reader doesn’t buy what you are saying, then neither your hero nor your story will have credibility. Which, of course, takes us back to knowing your character well.
MA: Great insight! You must have something to say about developing an antagonist.
NED: Creating an antagonist or a nemesis for a story is an interesting process. Often my students will say they don’t have one, and it’s true, some stories don’t need a particular “bad guy.” However, having a specific nemesis usually brings more tension to the story and creates obstacles for the hero to overcome or fight against, creating the action in the story. It may not be a person. It could be natural forces such as a hurricane or being lost in the heat of a desert. It could be an animal like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or a bear in the Alaskan wilderness. It could be the protagonist is her or his own enemy, fighting addictions or emotions or a change in their life. It can be an organization that is trying to destroy the protagonist or that the hero is trying to stop from doing something bad. The antagonist could also be a good person trying to keep the protagonist from making a “mistake” or wrong decision in their life, even if it turns out not to be one. When you turn a vague problem into an actual thinking (or appears to have the power to think) enemy, you will find more ideas for building your story.
MA: What about using real-life experiences in the plot?
NED: Writers often have interesting stories to tell or to interpret through fiction, but it can be very difficult to have the perspective needed to tell the story, without the passage of time and the benefit of knowing the outcome down the road. I think it is very difficult not to incorporate some facet of our real lives and experiences into everything we write, even if we fictionalize them. Which can be a way of working through the incident or changing the outcome.
My students sometimes want to write about real events that happened to them or their family. I try to discourage them from doing so. The problem is that in one semester they only have time to scratch the surface of what can be a very traumatic experience for them. I don’t want my class to end and one of my students to be in the middle of an emotional crisis. In some cases I tell them that I will only allow them to write that story if they agree to get some counseling while they are doing so.
MA: What are you planning for your next writing project?
NED: Currently, we are in pre-production for one of my screenplays. I’m also working on a final rewrite of one of my plays and of a novel I’ve been working on for some time. I’m also putting together a collection of short stories. There is no shortage of projects, it is time I find difficult to come by.
MA: Any final thoughts or advice for my readers?
NED: This is an amazing time for writers. There are so many ways to get your stories out there. Cut yourself some slack. If you read successful authors’ work consecutively from their first published piece to their most recent, you will see development and growth in their writing. Unless you are a genius at writing, you will have to go through that same process of development—writing, learning, writing, learning. Don’t be like I’ve been in the past and always have one more draft that keeps you from putting your work out for public consumption. On the other hand, don’t put your work out before it is the best you can make it; and had a good edit.
You can find more writing tips at http://thewriterscompass.com and visit my website: http://nancyellendodd.com
MA: Thanks, Nancy! I appreciate the time you took to be my guest today, and I know my readers will enjoy reading your advice and insights.
I grew up among middle-class everyday folk. Language was one thing that separated groups of people as I had come to know them. When I was young, every once in a while I’d hear someone say, “Oh my! She talks so uppity!” Read More
MA: Today’s guest is George Mavro, author of the thrillers Operation Medina: Jihad and Operation Medina: Crusade. George and I are kindred Air Force veterans, both of us having worked in the security field within the USAF. Welcome, George. Please tell us about your background.
GM: I served in the Air Force for 24 years, 22 of those in various Security Force assignments in Europe and the Balkans, which gave me a great background for writing my first novels. I also hold advance degrees in History and International Relations specializing in the Balkans where my novels take place. Knowing the history of a region is a plus when trying to write a war and political thriller. I have also held teaching positions at the university level. I currently teach part time for a junior college. I also work as an Information Security Officer for a major financial institution. I presently reside in Florida with my wife and two sons.
MA: With that background, I can understand why you would want to write political/military thrillers. I imagine you must also enjoy reading that genre.
GM: I always enjoyed reading historical and action adventure war novels so I finally decided to try my hand at it.
MA: Excellent. So tell us about your novels.
GM: My debut novel is a military action adventure war thriller called Operation Medina: Jihad. My second novel is Operation Medina: Crusade which is the grand finale to the Jihad. Both go hand in hand. Both are about an attack against a US ally and terrorist attacks against US forces.
MA: How did you develop your main characters, your protagonist?
GM: I had a basic idea of what I wanted the protagonist to be when I started the story. As the story developed he developed and matured around it. Because my book encompasses a war on several fronts involving several nations there are a couple of characters that could be called heroes. But my main hero, Colonel Jack Logan, is a professional and combat skilled pilot. His strengths are that he is very sure of himself and good at what he does. His weakness would be under estimating the enemy, which causes him to get shot down, and falling in love with one of his pilots/subordinates which will play a major part at the end of the story.
MA: Terrorists, huh? So is there one main bad guy?
GM: Yes there is. General Muhammid Kemal, the dictator of Turkey, who wants to replicate the old Ottoman empire at his neighbor’s expense.
MA: With your background in the USAF, and your education in International Relations, did your real-life career or experiences influence your fiction writing?
GM: Yes my military career did and through my experience I am trying to convey military life and operations as accurately as possible. The characters in my novels are original, but I have pulled from my life experiences with the many people I encountered and some characters may be a slight medley from the people I shared experiences and worked with.
My career as a Law Enforcement and Force protection professional did play a role as it provided me with the knowledge and insight to write my story and accurately portray the role that a security Force Shift Commander and an airbase ground defense team could take in time of war.
MA: Will there be a follow-on story to the Medina series, or will you write something new, different?
GM: I am presently working on an adventure novel that takes place during WW II starting with the Nazi invasion of the island of Crete in 1941. I am developing a whole new set of characters. It is possible that a couple of my current day character’s grand dads may be in it since they did fight and meet in Greece during WW II as allied agents.
MA: Thanks, George. My very best to you for a successful writing career. My readers can learn more about George Mavro by visiting: https://sites.google.com/site/operationmedina/home Read More
“Repetition Offends Your Reader” Let Me Repeat, Okay, You Get the Point! Another Writing Advice Article By Mary Deal
When descriptive words are used repetitively in writing, it makes the reader wonder why they have to be told something they’ve already learned earlier in the story. Repetition can kill your reader’s interest. Read More