The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

Showing posts with label Fiona Quinn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiona Quinn. Show all posts

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Added Value Techniques to Augment Your Readers' Experience with USA Today Bestselling Author Julie Hall

USA Today best selling and award winning author Julie Hall is visiting ThrillWriting to talk about ways she engages her reading community in the stories she writes. 

Julie, please give our readers a snapshot of the background you bring to your work.

Julie -

I have a business degree, but when I graduated I didn't go the traditional business route like most of my classmates. Instead my first job out of school was working at a national news show. 

I went on to work in television production at The National Geographic Channel, and shifted over to working in their marketing and publicity department. After that, I became a film publicist and worked for some of the biggest studios in Hollywood helping to market and promote their new releases. 

So I spent a lot of time in the entertainment business thinking of what would enhance the viewers experience.

Fiona - 
Give us a glimpse at the kind of books you like to write are you in one genre or several?

Julie - 
I'm about to wrap up my first series, which is a young adult fantasy series about a girl who gets assigned to fight demons in the afterlife.

I love to write books with a fantasy and supernatural element to them. It is so much fun to be able to dive into worlds of your own creation. With fantasy novels you can break all the rules . . . as long as you explain to the reader what the new rules are. I love that! It allows me to escape to new places and take the reader with me. 

I've traveled quite a bit and lived overseas a couple of times, so I like to bring my real life experiences in to my stories as well.

As far as genre goes, I do technically write in a couple. My first series, LIFE AFTER, are young adult fantasy/paranormal novels. I'm currently co-writing a series that is an adult dystopian/urban fantasy series. So I'm sticking with the "fantastical" elements I love so much, but branching out a little. I'm really excited about this new project with Audrey Grey because with Urban Fantasy we have so many different directions we can go.

Fiona -
While you're bringing your stories to life, you've done more than words on a page. Can you give us some examples of ways that you make your world a broader experience for readers?

Julie -
I really believe that the experience for my readers should be more than just the handful of hours that they spend reading my stories. 

I'm always trying to think of ways to expand the world and the reading experience for them in general. One of the ways I do this is by giving them more access to me, as a writer. I have several platforms that I interact with my readers on to varying degrees. I always make quality trailers to help visually pull the readers into the story as well. And recently I shot a series of author commentary videos to accompany the release of a novella in my series.

Fiona - 
What do you think the most important aspects are to keep in mind as you're putting together a trailer?

Julie - 

I actually have a strong opinion about book trailers. At first I didn’t want to do them because I had seen a lot of trailers that turned me off to the book they were promoting. I think that if a trailer isn’t executed well, it can make your book look unprofessional . . . which may not be the case at all. It was my husband who changed my mind with his crazy trailer making skills. He is amazing at putting them together. The way my trailers are created is by spending a ridiculous amount of hours browsing through and looking for video templates that match the feeling that I’m trying to achieve with each book. When I find the right one, my husband uses Adobe After Effects to edit the template and turn it into our own.

The most important aspect of a trailer is that it holds the viewer's attention. Right after that, it's super important to have a clear call to action, meaning telling the viewer what I want them to do. In my case, it's to go and buy the book.

Here's an example:

Fiona - 
And where do you use your trailers?

Julie - 

Fiona - 
Where do you get your images for your trailers? They're stunning.

Julie - 
Most of my images are from deposit photo sites. My husband and I spend a lot of time looking through them to find the best ones. It's time consuming for sure.

Fiona - 

And now you've done some audio. Can you tell me what you include, how you produce them/what platform hosts them, and what you do with these?

Julie - 
I actually did a series of author commentary videos to go along with every chapter in my novella, LOGAN. 

I wrote that book because of my readers questions about the character. So the book is really dedicated to them and their interest in knowing more. As an added benefit, I shot fourteen short videos of me talking about each chapter. I talk about everything from:

  • Character development
  • Why I included certain things in the chapter
  • How the story ties in with events from the full length novels in the series
  • And some hidden Easter eggs. 
I wanted my readers to have something extra to pull them into the LIFE AFTER world, and what better than hearing from the author herself? 

But rather than having them read my commentary, I wanted them to experience a little of who I was too. So that's why I decided to go with a video commentary. Those videos can only be accessed through the book. There is a link at the end of each chapter so readers can follow along with the commentary or watch them all at the end. 

There is also a scannable QR code. I wanted to make it as reader friendly as possible. 

The easiest and most reliable way to create a QR code is to use Googles URL shorter, here: Then, each short URL that is created gets a QR code, which you can save as an image, and upload into your book.

All modern iPhones can read QR codes simply by using the camera app. All Android phones have a QR reader built into Chrome.

In my books, I really like what some authors are doing with augmented reality these days and considered doing something like that, but I wanted the commentary to be as user friendly as possible. I shot all the videos in one day here at my home. I even have a blooper reel we created at the end with all my mistakes. I get a good laugh out of that.

QR question: Do you put these QR codes on your bookmarks? And if yes, where do they lead?

I don't yet, but i will now! I'd send them to my website or my Amazon FB page so they can easily buy the book. It's all about giving the reader an easy way to find my books.

Fiona - 
This chapter by chapter interaction is such an interesting idea. I'm excited to go a read your book and check out your ideas. 

Here on ThrillWriting it's a tradtion to share your favorite scar story. Would you indulge us?

Julie -
I have a super cool scar right above my left temple. I like to tell people it was from a shark attack, but the real story is almost as cool. It's a scar I got when I was four from a bayonet. We were walking alongside a parade right before it was about to start. My parents were looking for a good spot. There was a military processional and they were called to attention while we were still walking along the side. My face was grazed by the end of one of the solider's bayonets as he snapped to attention. That was probably the closest to death I ever got. I can still remember my parents freaking out and me not having any idea what just happened. It's a pretty sweet war wound if you ask me.

Fiona - 

When you buy and read our work, you are supporting this blog and my ability to bring you this kind of research and information.

We thank you,

Stay in touch with Julie!
Author FB Page
Fan FB Page 
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads Author Page
BookBub Page 
YouTube Channel
Twitter Handle - @JulieGHall
Instagram Handle - @JulieGhall (this last one is the one with the author commentary)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Inclusion in Your Storyline: Writing Characters with Cognitive Proocessing Issues with Kris Austen Radcliffe

Today, we are talking about diversity in our writing by including adults who have cognitive processes that are atypical - though atypical does not mean lesser by any stretch of the imagination. Kris can you give us a glimpse at your background and personal experience as it pertains our topic?

Kris -

I've always been interested in cognitive processing, even back when I was a kid. I was fascinated by the process of thinking -- and storytelling. I toggled back and forth between the two, wondering about people, and imagining them.

The fascination with storytelling resulted in a BA in film studies. The fascination with cognition motivated a lot of my post-graduate work.

My first dip into post-grad life resulted in me co-authoring a book about the differences in how people process information. This led to graduate work in Ed. Psych.

The plan was to get that PhD and become a science writer, thus melding my two passions. That didn't happen.

I have two kids, both of whom carry disabilities. Because of a lot of issues and reasons, life did not mesh in a way that allowed me to finish my degree. But it's the kids, really, that brought me to develop characters with disabilities.

My eldest daughter lives with severe ADHD. Being immersed in her life, plus my two passions for cognitive science and storytelling, led to the creation of Rysa Torres, the heroine of my Fate Fire Shifter Dragon series. Rysa, like my daughter, has ADHD.

I wanted to write a character who represented the struggles of ADHD for women in a realistic way, even if the universe is science fiction/ fantasy.

Fiona -
No two people experience the same disability in the same way physically, mentally, socio-economically. Can you explain how you looked at symptoms of ADHD and determined how to apply them to your character and how it impacts her ability to function in her role in your fantasy world?

Kris - 
I know there is disagreement about ADHD, about what it is, how to diagnose it, etc. Some people even think it's a made up syndrome meant to get naughty kids out of schoolwork.

It's real.

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder, and like every syndrome, it manifests differently across all sort of factors.

Boys tend to be more hyperactive. Girls, less attentive. My daughter is also hyperactive.

Basically, with ADHD, the executive functions in the front part of the brain move from task to task too fast.

The underlying cause is often (but not always) counterintuitive, in that the jumping is caused by slow processing.

Look at it this way: The executive functions operate as gatekeepers, among other tasks. It's all about sorting and organizing thoughts, application of effort, delaying gratification -- all those fun things we associate with being an adult.

What happens with ADHD is that the operation of those control functions happens too slowly. A moment is not labeled important quickly enough, so it is passed by.

This is why Adderall and the other amphetamine drugs help a lot of people with ADHD. They speed up the necessary processing.

Now, with boys and girls, we run into all sorts of society's stereotypes about who is supposed to be active and who is not. 
Which is why boys get diagnosed earlier and more often -- physical hyperactivity is more obvious with them. With girls tend to fidget, get in trouble, and ignore their homework. They're more likely to labeled as not as smart.

But really, ADHD has little to do with intelligence, though it does effect working memory, which interferes with learning.

My daughter had all the symptoms -- and I mean all of them. She's a cut and dry, textbook case.

She still had an unending number of problems in school.

I wanted to give her, and all the women out there who are dealing with ADHD and any of the issues related to it, a heroine who represented them. So I wrote Rysa.

Fiona - 
Can you explain how you looked at symptoms of ADHD and determined how to apply them to your character and how it impacts her ability to function in her role in your fantasy world?

Kris - 

The character's journey into the fantastic side of the universe is fast, intense, and overwhelming, which mirrors life with ADHD.
She has a hard time keeping track of who has what power and why.
She also has a hard time dealing with her own power set because it's very much like dealing with all of her own little voices.

A common symptom with girls with ADHD is low self-esteem and hyper sensitivity to criticism.

Life's ups and downs are extraordinarily high and extraordinarily low, and everything is a high or a low.

This is one of the truths of Rysa's life -- that the battles ahead of her are extraordinary not only in a fantasy way, but also in an internal, "How is it that I have this power?" way.

And it's reflected in everything.

Rysa, like my daughter -- and me, to be honest -- has a rich inner life. All her struggles have a "voice" and she looks at the world in a metaphorical way, so her power set manifests for her as something that is not quite her.

My daughter will occasionally see her hyperactivity that way.
Her reconciliation of the otherness into the whole is also part of the character's ADHD.

But in the end, her scattered way of looking at the world, and her powers, are what allows her to save the world.

Ultimately, Rysa harnesses her ADHD for the good of everyone.
That's really what I wanted to do with the character. To have her grow into herself and to figure out how to live with and use her atypical cognition.

As a side note, it's really important for anyone with ADHD to have support. Most of the characters around Rysa help instead of hinder.

Fiona - 
When you're constructing your characters with atypical processing do you define this for your readers? Do your characters know they have, for example, ADHD? Or are you allowing those who have experienced this either within themselves or with friends and loved ones?

Kris -
Rysa knows she has ADHD and lampshades it.

Lampshade is  a TV Tropes thing: Putting a lampshade on an issue to point it out for the viewer or the reader. MORE HERE

Basically, it's when extra care is given to the explanation for a character's behavior because it's not "normal."

"Oh my God, he's sucking that person's blood!" "It's okay. He's a vampire." is an example. Without knowing that you're dealing with a vampire, that behavior could be all sorts of nasty.

Rysa explicitly tells everyone that she has ADHD. Now, it's also an excuse on her part, so there's a balancing there.

But the reader knows. They know they're in the head of someone who switches topics, moves between stimuli, and has a hard time paying attention.

It's hard from some readers. I have one review that says the reader wants to punch everyone with ADHD because of my book.
Again, though, a lot of people don't think ADHD is real. They think it's just an excuse for the character to behave "badly."

I also have the POV of Rysa's love interest, who doesn't have ADHD, as a counterpoint. He's not as... speedy. He also has a lot of compassion for her and her difficulties.

Oh, and there's a dragon.

Every girl needs a dragon, and like any good dragon, he's the wise one who takes care of everyone.

Overall, several other characters in the same universe live with some type of issue. One main character is hearing impaired, and his brother lost the lower half of his leg. Another is blind. Several suffer from an immortal form of PTSD.

There are genetic issues that arise when the two groups with different powers have babies. I try to bring in some scientific realism when fleshing out worlds, even in fantasy.

But then again, it's really a science fiction universe, so it's just world building.

Stay in touch with Kris Austen Radcliff:


When you buy and read our books, you support this research blog!
We thank you!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Difficulty of Writing Perspective with New York Times Bestselling Author Diane Capri

ThrillWriting welcomes the amazing Diane Capri.

Diane had long been active in Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and other writing organizations. After her publisher’s bankruptcy, while she was writing the new Jess Kimball novel, Fatal Distraction, she was invited to join International Thriller Writers at its inception and shortly thereafter, became a member of the board along with her friend, the #1 International Bestselling author, Lee Child.

At a cocktail party in New York in 2009, Lee and Diane discussed a great question: Where is Jack Reacher? The answer was unknown, which inspired Diane to write a series of suspense novels answering the inquiry with Lee’s blessing. The first of those novels is Don’t Know Jack, introducing FBI Special Agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar, now available to buy or download a sample here: Don’t Know Jack. The short story singles, Jack in a Box, and Jack and Kill quickly followed, allow readers to learn even more about Otto and Gaspar. The second novel in the series opened to rave reader reviews on September 15, 2013, and is now available to buy or download a sample here: Get Back Jack.

Fiona -
Diane, I've just finished reading Girl with the Pearl Earring which was the story of the woman in a famous Vermeer painting of the same name. We know that no two people can see the same event the same way. Having studied the artist, it was interesting for me to read the fictitious accounting of the model's experience.

Psychology understands that each person presents with a different goal, different perspective, different need. The Rashomon Effect tells us that two people often have contradictory interpretations of the same event. I think your series does a marvelous way of exhibiting this effect.

Can you tell us about your series and how you applied the Rashomon Effect in developing the story line?

Diane - 

My Hunt for Jack Reacher Series is all about two FBI agents, Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar, who have been assigned to complete a background check on Jack Reacher for a highly classified assignment not disclosed to them. 

Otto and Gaspar learn about Reacher a little at a time from people who knew him in the past. Some of those people are on Reacher's side, so they refuse to disclose information because they don't want to get Reacher in trouble with the FBI. Some are not on Reacher's side, so they have an ax to grind as well, which makes anything they do say unreliable. And many are simply suspicious and threatened by Otto and Gaspar the moment they walk in the room. 

All of this presents significant challenges to Otto and Gaspar, and to writing their stories. Of course, they Don't Know Jack. (Fiona: Book #1 is titled "Don't Know Jack") They've never read one of Lee Child's books. And they have no frame of reference for this guy. Beyond that, they're operating off the books, meaning that they're on an assignment that's not authorized as "under cover," and they have no team backing them up. They're on their own. 

And if those handicaps weren't already enough, all of Reacher's files have been removed. There is nothing in any database anywhere referencing Reacher since he left the army fifteen years ago. Of course, this could only be accomplished by someone with a lot of power working against them. So right off the bat, Otto and Gaspar are in trouble. 

Someone big is looking for Reacher, and they don't know who is looking or why. On top of that, Reacher's army records reveal that he had, let's call it a difficult career. At the end of his career, he was given the opportunity to retire instead of facing charges. Otto and Gaspar are FBI agents, which essentially means they are cops. And they're good. Which means they are suspicious by nature. 

As a result of this unusual and dangerous assignment, and because of their basic natures, Otto and Gaspar are worried about Reacher right out of the gate. And what they learn about him doesn't increase their comfort level. Quite the opposite. Readers of Lee Child's novels know that Reacher is a guy with little or no conscience about doing what he thinks is the right thing. In the original books, Reacher often works with law enforcement to handle the bad guys in ways that are far from legal. Those law enforcement officers don't want the details of those earlier operations to come out now to ruin their careers or, in some cases, send them to prison. 

The challenge for Otto and Gaspar, then, is that everyone they meet knows way more about Reacher than they do. And everyone who knows Reacher is suspicious of them. No one who has worked with Reacher before wants Otto and Gaspar to succeed. So what we have as readers, if we've been reading Lee Child's Reacher novels, is a lot more knowledge than Otto and Gaspar have or will have. The picture of Reacher that unfolds for them is like a giant puzzle that they must put together, one piece at a time -- when the pieces often don't seem to fit. 

FIona - 
How fascinating all of that is. And what a wonderful way for readers to understand what's going on for investigators in the real world. 

I can imagine as a writer that this gets very confusing. Can you talk about your approach? How do you map out a plot line who knows what when and how? It must be daunting to keep strait.

Diane - 

The Hunt for Jack Reacher novels are very difficult to write, Fiona. I'm not only trying to do all of the things I mentioned, but I need to do it without spoiling the original Lee Child novel for those readers who haven't read those books yet. 

I'm not writing sequels to the original books. I'm writing spin offs from them. The first novel in this series took me two years to write. I used Killing Floor as the source book and asked Lee a ton of questions along the way. Whew! 

The second novel took eighteen months, and the third took more than a year. Now, I can write the books in about eight months, because I know Otto and Gaspar much better and I understand where the series is going. My process always begins with reading the source book several times. For Jack the Reaper, which is the fifth novel in the series releasing on September 26, the source book is The Hard Way

When I'm analyzing the source book, I'm looking for ways to spin off an Otto and Gaspar story that will suit all of my goals for the series and for each individual thriller. Of course, I want to create an exciting great read every time. So those are the big issues at this stage. For Jack the Reaper, I'm using two characters and a landmark. A private detective and Reacher's love interest from The Hard Way, Lauren Pauling. A character identified only as Brewer originally. and The Dakota, one of the most famous apartment buildings in New York City. After I find the characters, I work on the plot. I start with a skeletal outline and fill in as I go along. I also research a lot and I do that both before and during the writing. My brain enjoys complicated plotting, so that's an inherent bonus! 

Thank you.

A traditional question at ThrillWriting is: Please tell us the story behind your favorite scar or harrowing story. Would you indulge us?

Diane - 
I've done a lot of crazy things in my life, and I usually don't know they're harrowing until they're over. One of the best examples is the time I was driving from the softball field to the bar to join my team mates. This was in Detroit, years ago before cell phones, and not in a great neighborhood. A woman ran out in front of my car, waiving her arms, acting terrified. I stopped the car to avoid hitting her and she ran over and jumped inside. She was hysterical, crying, almost incoherent. She said, "I need to find a phone! I just shot my husband!" 

Fiona - 
Holy moly, that is harrowing! 

Thank you so much, Diane, for sharing about your writing. And thank you, ThrillReaders and ThrillWriters for joining us. I hope you enjoy Diane's novels when you snag your copies.

You can stay in touch with Diane Capri through her website.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"You Know My Methods, Watson!" Murder, Historically Speaking with M.R. Graham

Sherlock Holmes
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Welcome to ThrillWriting!

It's not so "elementary, Watson," when it comes to writing a historical mystery.

I know a lot of would-be historical writers are daunted by research and have no idea where to begin, but that's something I do in academia, so I can shed some light on process and resources.

And of course, the importance of pretty rigorous research when you're messing with social issues. For example, there are still strong ties between poverty and crime, and even stronger PERCEPTION of the ties between poverty and crime, and it gets really sensitive.

Fiona - 
Let's start there - can you give me a your background as it pertains to preparing to write a historical novel?


I'm actually in education and anthropology, not specifically history, but research methods between the two are extremely similar. 

I've taught college students how to conduct research of the library-and-journal variety, without putting too much faith in shallow, often questionable sources like Wikipedia. Working in academia, you realize pretty quickly how little a Wikipedia article really tells you, even if all of the facts are totally accurate. They don't provide context, and they rarely provide conflicting interpretations of theories or events. They're overviews, and that's okay, because that's all they're supposed to be. But that's not enough for someone who wants to portray a complex and nuanced culture, whether in another place or another time. 

The past really is another culture. People thought differently than we do, now, in a lot more subtle and varied ways than the "everyone was a bigot" or "it's all about manners" portrayals we often get. I do recommend at least a cursory study of anthropology for historical fiction writers, just to get a feel for the ways one culture CAN differ from another, things that are so ingrained in our way of thinking that we assume they're human nature, when they're actually learned attitudes.

Fiona -
You have a book that's been included in the Murder and Mayhem boxed set. Can you tell me about that book and how you applied your unique expertise to the plot line?

M.R. - 

Absolutely. My contribution is titled No Cage for a Crow, and while it's historical fiction, it's also more specifically pastiche, placed in Victorian London, directly into the world of Sherlock Holmes. 

This one has actually been in the works for about twenty-five years, now, and it's the first story I ever began, so the research for it has been going since before I really knew what research was. (I was rather small, twenty-five years ago.) A lot of it was just mounded-up knowledge I collected without rhyme or reason, and unsurprisingly, the story went nowhere fast. 

Sadly, a lot of it also came from historical fiction I read as a teenager, and I've had to un-learn a lot of things I thought I knew. It was about ten years ago that I actually got methodical about it, and from that point, the writing has become easier, and the history sounder. All research starts with a question, and the one I chose was "Where are all the women in Sherlock Holmes's world?" Now of course, there are women mentioned. An awful lot of them come to Holmes for help. There's Mrs. Hudson downstairs. There's Irene Adler. But Doyle's work is overwhelmingly masculine. I always meant to write about Sherlock Holmes's sister, but I honestly didn't know what that kind of story would look like. 

I needed to know what was going on with the other half of the population. 

It may sound counter intuitive, but I actually turned to fiction, first. It's important to note, though, that I turned to fiction written BY women DURING the period I was interested in - people who ought to know what they're talking about. As I read, I made notes every time I didn't understand something: a word I didn't know, or a reference to a person or event. The list came out to several composition notebooks full. And I took the time to look up every one of them. Wikipedia was perfectly useful for this part. If anything sounded really significant, like something real people would have strong feelings about, I took the inquiry to Google Scholar, which is a great free resource everyone should know how to use. GS has lots of primary-source accounts, like archived letters, diaries, newspaper articles... the things that would tell you how people felt.

Fiona - 
And you picked a time frame that appealed to you. What called to you about the Victorian age and what did you discover that you found intriguing enough to weave into your plot?

M.R. - 
I was always drawn to the Victorian age. At first it was just because my grandmother was obsessed with it and talked about it constantly, but the more I found out, the more fascinated I became with the sudden, rapid change. It was the first time in history that the end of a decade could look dramatically different from the beginning, in terms of technology and social change. It threw people for a loop, even then. People suddenly had to learn how to use new technology, when for millennia, everyone had used basically the same stuff their parents had. 

And people were suddenly granted rights, denied privileges, starting to move up and down the social ladder, and no one knew how to deal with it. I have a radical suffragist in my story, as well as some social climbing and social plummeting, which really upset what had previously been a rigid class system. 

People at the time pretended the class system was still rigid, even though it wasn't! And part of the way they fooled themselves was to link class to morality. In the middle ages, there was a strong concept of the virtuous peasant, someone who did his job and worked hard and never complained unless there was a famine or something. By the Victorian age, this idea had developed of a strong division between the "deserving poor" and the "criminal poor". Of course there are some good poor people, but most of the poor are where they are because they're intellectually and morally inferior! It was widely believed that there was something genetically criminal about the poor, and something genetically noble about the nobility. (Unsurprising that the English language links wealth with honor.) Looking back at actual court records, it's actually more likely that the nobility were pretty skeevy, just rarely convicted.

Fiona -
Absolutely fascinating! I am hungry to read you novel, but am also hungry to look at your research notes. When my children were little they read the Magic Tree House Series and there was a novel with an accompanying factual book - just throwing that out there.

We have a tradition of asking about your favorite scar or harrowing story - will you indulge us?

M.R. - 
None of my scars have interesting stories, sadly! (I face-planted off a bus, once?) My most harrowing adventure was my senior trip. My mom took me and my grandmother and my little sister to Italy, but we routed through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. And while we were there, my grandmother's nose started bleeding and would not stop. We didn't know why, and we couldn't continue on to Italy. She was taken to the indigent hospital, which apparently is where you go if you're foreign. It's also in a part of town where the taxi refused to take us! It took us ages to get there after her, and then we had to get a hotel room in this part of town where taxis won't go. Long story short, we were stuck in a very scary part of Paris for three days, not knowing why my grandmother wouldn't clot. The hospital staff was wonderful, though. Incredibly kind. I no longer let anyone claim the French are rude when I can hear them.

I've been to that hospital. The ambulance took an American girl to the hospital because she was bleeding out. They asked me to go and translate. When we got to the first hospital, the doctors stopped the bleeding but said we had to go to the other hospital. They had her on a gurney with an IV, pushed her out the door, and drew a map on how to get there. I pushed this chick - whom, I never met before, down the road, with cars passing and everything--the IV dangling from one of my hands--in the not so nice part of the city. I was terrified. I'm mean - what the bloody heck? LOL But it was lovely once we arrived, and the hospital staff took good care of her.

Before we give them a blurb of your wonderful work as an individual novel, folks should note that this work is coming out soon in a fabulous boxed set!

M.R. -
I can't believe how fortunate I've been to have the chance to work with the great authors in this set. These are some big names, some I've admired from afar for a while, and having had the chance to preview the work they'll be including, I think everyone ought to be as excited about it as I am.

ThrillReaders and ThrillWriters, it's been my pleasure to get to know 
M.R. while working on our boxed set Murder and Mayhem. We would very much appreciate your support. Could you take a moment and order our boxed set? 99 CENTS for 20 Books - all by award winning, authors including USA Today and NY Times bestselling authors. We are hoping to make the lists with this set and every single sale is appreciated. Thank you! (HERE)
 but his sister was lost to history. In one hellish night, Morrigan Holmes ruined everything: her home, her family, her confidence, and her name. Fleeing scandal, loss, and grief, her only choice is to run, but London’s gaslit streets are not kind to young women alone. Within hours, she discovers the horrors of homelessness and the terrible invisibility of the marginalised poor. A child is kidnapped before her eyes, and she barely escapes the same fate. Adrift and alone, Morrigan seeks help in strange quarters: a radical suffragist with a haunted past, a half-blind journalist, a sinister physician, and a gang of street boys led by the striking and enigmatic Magpie. As the number of kidnappings grows, something dark begins to take shape in the London mists. Time is short, still Morrigan cannot escape the family she devastated. Could Sherlock be her salvation… or her destruction?

M.R. Graham


Sherlock Holmes has become legend, but his sister was lost to history. In one hellish night, Morrigan Holmes ruined everything: her home, her family, her confidence, and her name. Fleeing scandal, loss, and grief, her only choice is to run, but London’s gaslit streets are not kind to young women alone. Within hours, she discovers the horrors of homelessness and the terrible invisibility of the marginalised poor. A child is kidnapped before her eyes, and she barely escapes the same fate. Adrift and alone, Morrigan seeks help in strange quarters: a radical suffragist with a haunted past, a half-blind journalist, a sinister physician, and a gang of street boys led by the striking and enigmatic Magpie. As the number of kidnappings grows, something dark begins to take shape in the London mists. Time is short, still Morrigan cannot escape the family she devastated. Could Sherlock be her salvation… or her destruction?

I can't believe how fortunate I've been to have the chance to work with the great authors in this set. These are some big names, some I've admired from afar for a while, and having had the chance to preview the work they'll be including, I think everyone ought to be as excited about it as I am.

LOL - thank you. Cheers I will have this to you Sunday for you to review. Changes may have to wait a few days. My SAR team is searching for a lost person in the national forest and I'll be off grid Sunday day. Then we are on standby for the hurricane - so it all depends on how things go.

Oh, whoa! Be careful and be safe! Best of luck. :<THU 9:34PM

Thank you kindly.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Ready? Steady. Go! Getting Started on Your Novel with USA Today Bestselling Author H.B. Moore

Hi Fiona.
Thanks for hosting me at ThrillWriting.

In new novel POETIC JUSTICE, which I hope will be a start to a great series. I traditionally write historical thrillers, and POETIC JUSTICE is my first contemporary thriller.


Claire Vetra is looking for two men. The first man she’ll kill. The second man she’ll also kill after she makes him watch her destroy everything he’s ever built.

This is only the start of her revenge against the World Alliance Organization that held her hostage for a year and subjected her to live human testing all in the name of medical science.

But when Claire begins to unravel her past, she discovers that unlocking the memories of what happened to her might destroy the remaining shreds of her sanity.

Fiona Quinn asked me to share a little about my writing journey, and so I thought I’d talk about how to start your book.

When I meet writers who are looking to get published, they often ask me how I decide where to start my story, who the characters will be, and how I plot.

So as I’m preparing to write my next book, I thought I’d give you some insight into my process.

1. Thinking. Maybe mulling is the more correct word. I have to have the main character pretty well defined in my mind before starting to write. The secondary characters come into the story to support the main character—and sometimes they surprise even me.

2. Creating a schedule. Writing, of course, is not always controlled by that effervescent muse (Fiona—I’m probably using effervescent wrong). Writing is part creativity, and part science. Editing definitely falls into the science category, as well as actually completing a book. Like any writer, I’m constantly pulled in different directions. But once I decide on a book, I need to create the schedule to get it completed, and limit any other stories in my head that are trying to derail priority number 1. For example, if I decide to turn in a book on December 1st to my publisher and I start on August 1st, I divide the word count by the number of writing days. And I leave a couple of weeks in for editing. August: 25,000 words (average 1,000 words a day, 5 days/week). September: 25,000 words, October: 25,000 words, November: 10,000 (2 weeks), 2 weeks of edits.

3. Character sketching. This is an evolving process and changes and grows as I get further into the writing process. For instance, when I write my first draft, my character motivations aren’t usually ironed out. I’m writing mostly plot and dialog. About half-way through draft 1, I’ve had to make solid decisions about my characters, so I’m adding information to my character sketches as I go. So during the 2nd draft, I’m inserting more characterization to the beginning of the book.

4. Point of view & tense: I take into consideration who my audience will be and who the most important characters are. Will the story happen in real time (present tense) or past tense? Will my characters speak in first person (ideal for YA), or third person? It’s a lot of work to change this part of the process, so doing your research beforehand will save you a lot of time later.

5. Conflict. This goes hand in hand with character sketching. I have to ask myself what is the main conflict of the book, and of each character.

6. Beginning. Now that I have some basics going and I actually sit down to write, I usually concentrate on where I want the story to begin. Not to say that the first chapter I write will be the actual first chapter of the book, but I start pretty near the beginning. Before I start a chapter/scene, I ask myself: “What is the point of the chapter? What will be accomplished? What will it show that may/may not be relevant to the story as a whole?”

7. Creating a scene. I create scenes in several phases. Phase 1: writing and not caring too much about “fleshing out” the characters or the description, but I am nailing down the direction of the scene. Phase 2: revising the scene and inserting more description, making more concrete decisions about the character. Phase 3: this will happen when the whole book is drafted and maybe new developments have happened along the way. So I now have to go back through each scene to make sure the story is properly directed. As you can see, creativity has just been replaced by careful analysis (science).

Okay, looking over this list makes me wonder why I even start a new book. Every writer has what works for them. My style might be convoluted, but you never know, it might work for you as well.

About Me:

I write thrillers under the pen name H.B. Moore. My latest thrillers include Slave Queen and The Killing Curse. Under Heather B. Moore, I write romance and women’s fiction, and my newest release is Condemn Me Not: Accused of Witchcraft. She’s also one of the coauthors of the USA Today bestselling series: A Timeless Romance Anthology.


Facebook: Fans of H. B. Moore


Instagram: @authorhbmoore

Twitter: @HeatherBMoore

Thank you for stopping by today. Remember when you buy HB's and my books, you help to support future articles on this blog!


Monday, August 21, 2017

Drama Queen

English: Municipal theatre Baden-Baden, German...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recently I was teaching an all day seminar in writing for high schoolers at a local library. 

A few of the participants were serious about pursuing a fiction writing career. One of the young ladies asked me what kinds of writing classes she should take. 

To be frank, writing classes are okay for learning the techniques of good writing but there are classes outside of the English department that I think serve the writer well. 

  • Psychology classes to learn about how humans tick. 
  • History classes that teach research and might spur some great ideas for  novels set in the past. 
  • Photography classes that help you to really look at the world around you and help you define what you want in that lens - what stories you can tell with a single shot, removing all of the extra information. 
  • Travel! I told them. 
    • Find semesters abroad. 
    • Find American businesses that will let you intern in a foreign country. 
    • Learn a new language so your language skills become deeper. 

"But right now in high school," I said, "become a thespian."

Janet Evanovich will tell you that she believes her smooth dialogue comes from her time doing improv. LINK.  Ms. Evanovich learned a lot from the stage, and as I write, I too credit much of my personal style/technique to what I learned in theater classes with Mrs. Baugher, especially studying Stanislovsky's Method. LINK.

Through theater I learned to ask:

  • What is my motivation in this conversation?
  • What body gestures make sense? 
  • Where do I place my character in the defined space allotted vis a vis the others in the scene?
  • Body language!
  • Facial expressions - don't just say it, think it. Oh wait! That means I have to think through what I'm seeing instead of just thinking, "what's my next line?" Writing the thought process helps the reader grow with your character.
  • What is the dynamic between my character and my fellow characters?
  • What about the lighting/the mood as compared to other parts of the story line?
  • How is this scene important to the overall composition?
  • What do I need to convey here? How can I bring my audience with me as I move them through the story.
  • What would my costuming look like? How would the way a character is dressed effect their movements, how they see themselves?
  • What kinds of things would be in the room to help give information to the audience? What props would be on hand?
  • How do you block a fight scene? How do you break a scene down in a physical or  emotional fight?
  • How do you throw in a joke when things are dark to surprise the audience and make it stand out against a dark scene? How do you place a moment of poignancy in a light/funny scene for the same reason?
  • When do you let a character riff - and when does that just muddle things?

Tons of wonderful things that you learn taking a theater class (available through parks and recreations in many communities) and participating in plays, that have a place in your fiction.

In the end, a writer should write what they know. The more they know--the wider and richer their experiences--the better their prose. This I truly believe. 

Happy writing!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Brought Down by Her Heaving Bosom - Helping Writers Write it Right

(Photo credit: Wikipedia

When I joined the Search and Rescue team, I was given a mentor, Brian, to help me get off to a good start. Having been a Girl Scout leader for over a decade, I already had some expertise in the woods and most of the necessary equipment on hand. One day, Brian came over to my house to inspect the survival pack I’d put together. As we walked to the side door, he stopped to look at my rhododendron in its full display of beautiful violet blooms. Hands on hips, shaking his head, he asked why I had planted it. The truth was that I’d received the bush as a gift when my third child was born. It had been a barely-alive bush in a gallon bucket and now, twenty years later, I loved that the plant had grown to the same height as Kid #3. That bush was a source of pride. I didn’t understand the sour look on Brian’s face as we moved into the house.

Fast forward a few months. I totally understand that look on Brian’s face. I haterhododendrons. Rhododendrons are the bane of Virginia searches. In order to fully clear an area, a searcher has to climb through these long obstacle course bushes that seem to be created by the devil himself so he can laugh at us.

Worse than those darned rhododendrons? Briars. Sheets of briars. Curtains of briars. Briars that snag at our clothes, wrap into our packs, swipe hats from our heads and glasses from our faces. There’s no going around the briars. When you’re walking a grid, searching for clues, it’s straight through.

The last time I was out on a search, Brian happened to be searching next to me in a swamp. He put his hand on a tree trunk to help him balance as he scooted under the briars and past the rhododendron when BOOM! The entire tree–and I’m talking about a tree with a three-foot trunk circumference–went crashing down. That’s why I now call him Paul Bunyan. Paul and I stood looking at the tree for about a nanosecond before we were off searching again. On that particular day, with the temperatures in the nineties and the humidity at eighty percent, the mosquitos found our sweaty faces particularly delicious. If we stopped, they swarmed.

Despite what I’ve just written, I truly enjoy being on the Search and Rescue team. It’s not easy, but it is important. I’m honored to be part of a such a dedicated group of people. Also, I have to admit, I like it for the misery factor. Yes, you read that right. Believe me, there’s not a masochistic cell in my body. But professionally, it’s necessary for me to understand just how miserable a mission can be. It’s important for me to know how the brambles wrap my ankles to trip me. To struggle to stay positive, smiling, and kind to those around me as the heat beats down on my head. To feel the weight of my pack after five hours traipsing up and down the mountain side. I need to find where the blisters form (and it’s not where you’d think). I believe that first-hand knowledge, even if it’s only the tiniest glimmer of reality, helps my writing be more vivid and correct.

Imagine reading a book in which the heroine was saved by a retired SEAL. He swept her romantically into his arms. She clung to his neck as he cradled her against his chest. Then, he ran five miles through the jungle to safety. I’d be laughing so hard, I’d be crying. Though I’m certain that wouldn’t be the emotion the author was going for.

Sure, if I was in the backcountry and someone was strafing the area with their AK on full auto, I’d try my darndest to get myself out of Dodge. Running though? Hmm. Consider the obstacles of wayward vegetation: falling trees, vines, stumps and roots… Consider that the ground is almost never flat under foot. Consider that the debris that falls to the ground is not only slippery, but it hides holes. Deep holes. Now imagine the hero stagger-running forward — a sixty-pound pack on his back, a damsel draped (beautifully) in his arms. He can’t see where he’s putting his feet past her heaving bosom. She must weigh a good hundred and twenty pounds. Readers, have you been to the gym? Have you seen the guys with their Rambo-muscles lifting a hundred and twenty pounds? Does that look easy? (I swear, Hubby, I’m just looking at the men’s muscles for research purposes.)

Notwithstanding that hundred and eighty pounds of extra weight, our hero is running full tilt. Dodging bullets. Scrambling through the foliage — Please note, there are one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards in a mile. In five miles, this guy has to sprint a football field eighty-eight times. With that in mind, that five-mile run might seem unreasonable. In this scenario, the more likely outcome is that after a hundred yards of super-human effort, our hero’s foot goes down into one of the holes. Crack! The hero not only dumps the lady-in-distress onto the (snake and poison ivy covered) ground, but now he’s writhing in agony with a broken leg. His bellows call the bad guys to their location like the sweat on a search and rescue team member’s face calls in the mosquitos.

There’s a reason why SEALs say, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” There’s a reason why a SEAL probably wouldn’t be tearing through the jungle. There’s also a reason that writers are told “write what you know.”

And what I know is, it ain’t easy to hack your way through a curtain of briars.

Fiona Quinn's newest series:

The prayer on her lips is JACK Be Quick.

It’s been months since ex-Navy SEAL Jack McCullen last saw his fiancĂ©e, Suz Molloy. He was on the other side of the world involved in a grueling black ops mission for Iniquus Corporation at the behest of the US government. Mission fail meant a special flight home, and an ambulance ride to the hospital where Suz should have been waiting for him.

Devastated by Jack’s last death-defying act of heroism, life quickly takes a turn for the worse for Suz. Terrorists attack the school where Suz teaches first-grade. Suz saves her students’ lives, but her own moment of heroism leads the terrorists to believe she is a CIA operative. Suz is taken hostage.

When Jack rouses from his surgery to find Suz missing, he knows something is very wrong. Led by the psychic “knowings” of his Iniquus colleague, Lynx, Jack risks everything as he desperately tries to reach Suz in time to thwart the terrorists’ plot and save her.

This time, his mission is for more than love of country; it’s for the love of his life - his heart and soul.

You can READ IT NOW!