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

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

20 Stories of Murder and Mayhem 99 cents

Thanks for hosting me at ThrillWriting.

I’m excited to be part of the Murder and Mayhem boxed set - coming November 7! 20 award-winning authors. 20 amazing mystery/thriller novels. 99cents! Pre-order HERE

I’m contributing a brand 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

ThrillWriters and ThrillReaders - Thank you for supporting this site buy purchasing your 20 book boxed set today! You are much appreciated.

    20 Stories of Murder and Mayhem 99 cents

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

An area of the Sierre Madre jungle
 (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...

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 c
ountry; it’s for the love of his life - his heart and soul.

You can READ IT NOW!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Well, That's Alarming!

Our guest blogger is Christina Patchell (Chris), whom I met when our books were chosen as Kindle Scout winners.

Chris Patchell is the bestselling author of In the Dark and the Indie Reader Discovery Award winning novel Deadly Lies. A former tech worker turned full-time author, Chris Patchell pens gritty suspense novels set in the Pacific Northwest.

Chris is out with her newest book. Woohoo! And, I invited her on to share some of her research.

Chris, I'm going to sit back and take notes.

Sweet Dreams – Fun Facts about Security Systems

“Protect your home with the best home security system.” That’s what one popular home security system provider claims. And the truth is that we all want to keep our families secure. How many of us have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars installing home security systems and hundreds more on monitoring contracts every year? Once the systems are safely installed in our homes, many of us do something else that we think will act as a deterrent. We plant a sign in the middle of our flower beds outside of our houses that proudly lists the name of the security company whose equipment protects our homes, in the hopes that if a potential thief rolls down our street in the middle of the night, seeing the sign posted out front will compel them to drive on by. But is that true?

I was talking to a friend of mine about the kinds
of things I learned
while researching my latest book, Dark Harvest, and this little fun fact was one of those things that stuck in my mind long afterwards. When something goes bump in the night, the first thing I do is open my eyes and glance across the alarm to the alarm panel wondering if in my sleepy stupor, I actually managed to arm it. Through the dark I see the red light shining like a beacon, and know that it the system is armed. A deep sense of security wraps around me like a warm blanket, and I drift off to sleep once more.

But what if that little sign or sticker adhered to a window isn’t the deterrent you think it is? What if they know what I learned while I was doing my research, that there is a way to block an alarm signal from broadcasting to the monitoring station?

We’ve all heard the claim that you can find anything on the internet, right? Well, if you know where to look, you can find the frequency certain security companies use to broadcast their alerts. So, if a technologically savvy thief knows what to do, they can actually jam the frequency by blasting “white noise” to that signal, thereby preventing the alarm system from sending the alarm.

‘How is this even possible?’ you ask. Easier than you might think. There are devices, like a H.A.M. radio, to tune to the right frequency and blast a signal. A software-defined radio can also be configured onto a laptop and run from there. In essence, a software-defined radio behaves in much the same way the hardware version does, by scanning a range of radio bandwidth to detect activity on specific frequencies. Once the wireless alarm activity is found, it can be exploited by overpowering or jamming the signal issued by the alarm. Some alarms come with anti-jamming protection that can be circumvented by jamming the signal for short bursts (say 20 seconds) then turned off for a second or two, before repeating the process.

This isn’t as easy or cheap as I’m making this sound. There is a fair bit of technical know-how required to setup the system and jam a signal. Setting up a software-defined radio can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $4,000. Since some of these vulnerabilities have been exposed, companies have been hard at work putting solutions in place to stop hackers.

So, how do I keep my family safe? First, don’t make it easier for thieves by posting the sign. Let the blasting alarm be deterrent enough if they target your house in the middle of the night. Or if you really like the idea of posting a sign as a deterrent, post another alarm company’s sign in your yard and keep the bad guys guessing.

In Dark Harvest, Henry Cahill, a computer hacker with a Robin Hood complex, uses a similar technique to break into a business and search for information that will help him solve a crime. Things don’t work out for Henry quite the way he expects, but hey, that’s the kind of wrinkle that makes fiction fun.

If the ins and outs of how things works intrigues you like it does me, here are a few links if you’d like to do some reading of your own:

Hacking home alarms

Hacking alarm systems

Hacking alarm systems

In your writing, reading, and your everyday life, knowing the truth can help you stay one step ahead.

I hope you buy and enjoy Chris's newest book!
Let us know what you think!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Weapons Mistakes Writers Make

ThrillWriting is thrilled to have
Benjamin Sobieck guest posting today!

I'm just going to sit back and take notes.

Benjamin Sobieck - 
Once you know what to look for, it’s hard to “unsee” weapons errors in fiction. Readers may be more forgiving in this department, but for writers with “the eye,” these are opportunities to learn something new, discover what not to do or quietly retreat into a hole of writerly purgatory for having committed the same sin.

I’m only half kidding. Despite a career in non-fiction publishing that requires me to know something about firearms, knives and other stabby/shooty things, I committed my fair share of biffs. Then I course-corrected and wrote The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction for Writer’s Digest Books. Now I’m not the only one with “the eye” out there.

Whether you have it or not, here are the three most common mistakes writers make when it comes to weapons, as well as how to fix them in ways that don’t shamelessly plug my book.

1) Forgetting What the Character is Using

Recently, I received a message over Twitter that sums this up perfectly:

“I just read part of a novel in which the author referred to a character’s weapon as both a rifle and a shotgun - wtf.”

This happens time and time again, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m the moron for granting the benefit of the doubt. Did the writer seriously forget from chapter to chapter if that bang-stick was a rifle or a shotgun? This is a yes-or-no question that ought to be, at the very least, answerable more than once. Was the character using a rifle or a shotgun? Wearing pants or no pants? Presently on fire or not on fire? Interested in real estate investments on Mars or not interested?

I suppose a writer could be confused about the differences in those terms. That’s addressed later in this article.

Solution: Consistency, writerfolk, will save you a load of trouble in the weapons department, even if the terminology is confusing. Write it down if it’s hard to keep track of the weapons involved. You are, after all, a writer.

2) Fidgeting

I once interviewed a comedian for a newspaper who never went on stage without something to drink in his hands. I asked him why, and he said drinking helped with the timing (and, perhaps, with stage fright, but I digress). It let the audience know when to laugh, and it gave him a brief opportunity to reset.

Some writers have adopted a similar technique. Characters will fidget with their weapons to heighten drama, chew scenery, look tough, wait in dentist offices, etc. If you’re well familiar with those weapons and what to avoid, this isn’t an issue. But if you’re only lukewarm on firearms, knives and other methods of fictional mayhem, this is precisely the moment your naivete is put on full display.

I’m talking about cocking, working the safety, racking slides, pumping, loading, reloading and the lot. You know the tropes. It’s the equivalent of characters picking their noses.

Fiona - Sorry, I spit my drink when I read that last bit, and I think I got a little on you, there. Here's a towel. Uhm, I think I interrupted your solution...

Ben - 
Solution: Stop it with the fidgeting. Have the characters sit on their hands if this becomes an issue.

Writing Weapons!

3) Using Incorrect Technical Terms

I’ve biffed on technical weapons terms even when I knew better. This is challenging stuff, especially with how different the canon of hand cannons you get from pop culture is from the real deal. Even when you play it straight from the firearm industry, things change. I’m old enough to remember the days before the terms “modern sporting rifle” and “MSR” came into play to describe “anything that is or looks like an AR-15 for the civilian market.”

These nuances aren’t something you learn overnight, but there is a core lexicon you can adopt to get you through most of those hurdles. I can’t list them all here, but you might find some help from oh, say, The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction. Or you could hire someone in the know to audit your work for proper terminology.

Writers satisfied with dubious definitions dispatched by pop culture do so at their own risk. It doesn’t matter if you’re left of Mao on the issue of gun control or the reincarnation of Charlton Heston. Certain words mean certain things. A rifle is not a shotgun. The capital of the United States is not New York City. No one actually enjoys eating Peeps. Facts are facts.

Solution: Either read up, use these things for yourself or go as generic as possible (“rifle” instead of “AR-15”).

It’s OK to Make Mistakes

I’m not here to scold anyone. I’m actually not the smartest guy in the room. You are, because I’m not the one writing your story. I want you to put your best foot forward

when it comes to this stuff. If you’re at all interested in not looking like you fell off the turnip truck, check out my book, my website or bounce questions off someone familiar with these things. It’s OK. They won’t bite. They have guns. Why bother with teeth?

About Benjamin Sobieck

Benjamin Sobieck is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction, published by Writer’s Digest Books. 

He maintains a blog about weapons and writing fiction at

He’s also a Wattpad Star, with more than a million reads on fictional work such as When the Black-Eyed Children Knock; he has also won a 2016 Watty Award.

Additionally, he is the creator of The Writer’s Glove, a thin glove for keeping hands warm while typing on a keyboard.

So check out Ben's links! I hope the takeaway from this week is a little research makes you and your story credible. When readers aren't shaking their head saying, "What? That author's just wrong!" then they can put all that energy into saying, "What? I totally didn't see that coming, what a great author!"

Happy reading and happy writing!

Hello, RITA - Romance Writers of America's Prestigious Prize

Romance, ah...

Do you read it? Do you write it? 

A Rita judge, Liz O'Connor, who writes as LG O'Connor will be talking with us about her experience as a RITA judge.

Fiona - 
Liz can you tell us a little about you and your writing? How long you've been at this your genre etc...

Liz -
Thanks for asking...I'm fairly new to publishing. I spent most of my career as a corporate strategy and marketing professional. However, I've been an avid reader my whole life. When the recession hit in 2009, I left an executive role to pursue other opportunities. During the six months been that job and my next, I started writing the first book in my urban fantasy / paranormal romance series. I finished the first draft in 2012, and Penguin requested it during a pitch conference. They ultimately turned it down, but after another rewrite and some editing, it was accepted in 2013 for a spring 2014 launch through She Writes Press. Since then, I've published 4 books
in that series (2 more to go!), and then started a new contemporary romance series about three women in the same family and their second chance at love. Caught Up in Raine just won the 2017 Bronze IPPY Award in Romance, and Shelter My Heart was selected by Kindle Press for publication May 16th. It's been an interesting and fantastic road so far!

Fiona - 
Can you tell us what the RITA is and how you got involved as a judge?

Liz - 
One of the first organizations that I joined was the Romance
Writers of America (RWA). It's a wonderful organization (and the largest) for writers in the romance genres. The RWA runs peer-based romance awards annually. There are many local chapter contests, as well as the big national contests. 

The RITA and the Golden Heart are the two large national RWA contests. The RITA is like the Academy Award of Romance books for published authors, while the Golden Heart is the same for unpublished authors. Before I was a published author, I entered Caught Up in Raine, and missed finalist by 1 point. One of my dear author friends, Carla Susan Smith, prodded me to enter CUIR in this year's RITA. So I did. One of the requirements as an entrant is that you must participate as a judge in the first round in a non-conflicting genre.

Fiona - 
How much time did that take? And did they provide you a metric by which to judge? 

Liz -
Every judge receives a minimum of 5 books to judge. As promised, they were in genres other than the one that I submitted for. Judges are not allowed to disclose the names of the books they receive or judge. I'm a pretty fast reader, but even so, it took me about four weeks to read all the books and judge accordingly. 

The books are judged on a 10-point scale with fractional points allowed in the scoring, ex: 9.6. They also must satisfy three criteria: 

  • romance as a central theme 
  • happy ever after or happy for now ending
  • they must fit the genre for which they submitted. 
It was a fascinating process to read books not normally part of my genre selection list. For instance, I'm not a big historical romance reader, but one of my books fell into that sub-genre. I really enjoyed it. Although I can't tell you what books I judged, one of them made it to the finals and into the next round of judging.

The winners are announced at the RWA National Conference this July in Orlando, FL. I'll be there, and looking forward to it!

Fiona - 
Even though you were reading outside of your sub-genre what are some take away lessons learned, now that you read with a judges hat on, that you will apply to your own writing?

Liz -
I think the thing that struck me the most (and disappointed me a little) was that for some of the books - I could not suspend my disbelief enough. Too much triteness in the plot trope. I write smart, sexy romance, and I need a little more "something-something" with my romance novels (which is why I love your books so much, Fiona!) - good twists and turns that keep me interested. The plain old boy-meets-girl (or boy)-loses g/b-reunited with g/b-HEA bores me a little if there's nothing else going on. So for me, I'll continue to strive for genuine emotion, a little raw, but deeply soulful.

Fiona - 

Adding - With some plot twists to keep them coming back
We all love that pull to go back for more.

And thank you for your kind words.

Liz - 
Yes! I strive to leave them with a book hangover!

Fiona -
So readers should look for RITA winners because they are well vetted, and writers could probably gain a lot by reading the winners to see what others find to be quality romance.
What would you like to add that I haven't asked you about?

Liz - 
Here is my take on the RITAs. We all strive to be chosen by our peers. But as with everything it is subjective to the judges and who you happen to draw to judge your book. For instance, when I saw my Golden Heart scores, I had everything from a perfect 50 points to an average score, with several in between - with only a 1 point miss for finalist. So, yes, the books are vetted by your peers, but you are also pulling from a pool that may not read your genre, so there is also bias built in that cannot be controlled. 

As an example, the book my favorite book of the 5 I judged didn't make it to finalist, yet another that I judged lower, did. So, yes, the books are all quality, but it's possible that good / better books did not place. So, I wouldn't use the winner's circle as the only judge of quality, but it certainly helps!

Fiona - 
How does one get involved with the contest?

Liz -
To get involved, the RITAs open usually in December / January, and get flooded with applicants within the first 2-4 days. When they reach a set limit, they stop accepting applicants due to volume.
So, on the RWA website. You need to be a member to submit.

For published authors, it is both the author and editor.
It's for both traditional and Indie published books.

Fiona -
Liz is a recent Kindle Scout winner with her book Shelter my Heart.

Devon, an ailing, young CEO-in-training due to inherit his dead father’s conglomerate saves the day for Jenny, an engaged young woman on her way home to see her family. To repay his kindness, she agrees to be his date for his family’s annual society gala and convince the board that he’s healthy and going to marry. Two weeks are all Devon needs, and two weeks are all Jenny can give—until the stakes rise, forcing Jenny to answer the question: How far is she willing to go to save Devon’s life? Shelter My Heart is the second novel in the Caught Up in Love series which centers around three New Jersey women: romance writer, Jillian Grant, her sister, Katherine “Kitty” McNally Lynch, and Kitty’s daughter, Jenny Lynch. They are all part of a family plagued by loss. Each woman harbors her own guilty secret and must journey through her personal pain to find redemption and ultimately surrender her heart for a second chance to get caught up in love.

BIO: LG O’Connor is a corporate marketing exec by day who takes her author cape out at night. An avid reader, she loves books with memorable characters that make her heart sing. She’s the author of the urban fantasy / paranormal romance series, The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, and Caught Up in RAINE, her contemporary romantic women’s fiction debut. A native ‘Jersey Girl,’ she’s always in search of the perfect cup of coffee and fine Italian leather. Advice she lives by: Enjoy every day. Go barefoot.

Amen to the barefoot!
Now everyone, go grab a good book and enjoy your read.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Space Archaeology? I dig it!

As many of you know, I'm on a Virginia Search and Rescue team and am training as a man tracker. One of the fabulous people that I've met during my time there is a Search Manager, named Mary Beth, whose job is to map. 

Maps are a problem, a BIG problem when we're on a search. Most of the US maps with contour lines (so we know where the cliffs are), called topographical maps, were developed in the mid-twentieth century. Things have changed a bit. Whole cities now take up spaces where my map tells me there is forestation.

Enter GPS information and satellites. We use a combination of the two to try to find our missing person. As you might imagine, my friend Mary Beth is stellar at this because she manipulates GIS information every day for her day-job. Geographic Information System, GIS, is "designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data." (1)

I was so interested in this topic that I was doing some reseach, and I learned that all kinds of jobs depend on this information - the military, government, farmers, NASA and archaeologists. Yes, archaeologists! 

Archaeologists can develop the coloration that is produced by the GIS system, and they can tell where a "tell" is located. A tell in this case being an area that has been built up by a civilization and then covered up by earth over time.
Uncommon Enemies

I used this information to start my research for my book RELIC, where two space archaeologists (archaeologists who use GIS to find dig sites) pit their expertise against ISIS who is unearthing and selling relics on the black market to fund terror. 

Another group who uses the satellite imaging information are animal migration scientists and those who are working to stop the extinction of many beloved species. Jane Goodall Institute, for example was able to show images of forestation several years ago and then newer images of the area to tribespeople so they could see the changes in the landscape. There was a massive deforestation area. The tribes were destroying the chimpanzees habitat. 

Armed with the information shown in the pictures, the tribes developed new policies and already they are seeing the brown and barren areas returning to green. This not only helps the animals in the area but also the people.
Uncommon Enemies

In DEADLOCK, available now for pre-order, animal migration specialist Dr. Meg Finley is using GIS imaging to help her help the tribes in Tanzania. Unfortunately, while Meg and her fellow scientists are trying to bring peace and prosperity, there are those who want to make sure things remain turbulent. 

In both of these novels, Iniquus special ops are on the scene and adding their areas of expertise to that of the scientists to try to stop those whose aim is death and destruction. 

If you're interested in finding out more about GIS follow this LINK

Happy Reading!
~ Fiona