Showing posts with label ThrillWiriting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ThrillWiriting. Show all posts

Monday, January 9, 2017

Catch a Dragon by the Tail: Giving a Solid Base to Your Fantasy Work with Tina Glasneck

English: Dragon on Longshan Temple.
English: Dragon on Longshan Temple. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ThrillWriting welcomes back our friend Tina Glasneck. For a list of articles that she's informed on this site use the search bar on the right.

Fiona - 
Tina, let's jump right on this. Recently, we sat next to each other on a writing panel. I was so intrigued by what you said that I wanted to corner you and pick your brain. Thank you so much for coming and hanging out with all of us ThrillWriters and ThrillReaders. Let's start with your educational background since that seasons our topic for today.

Tina - 

Sure. I have a Masters of Arts in Religion, as well as a Bachelors in Pastoral Christian Ministries. Prior to writing, I had planned on heading into Christian Ministry. Although plans changed, one thing I love is the education I received because of its lectures in the humanities, which included ancient civilizations, cultures, and languages. 

Theology is not just the study of the Christian bible, but so much more.

And you've lived in Europe which also gives flavor to your writing. Can you tell us about that? How did you get there, what did you do?

Tina - 
I lived in Germany for six years where I also studied theology, and was introduced to so many different cultures, as well. In undergrad, I was a German minor, which took me to Germany. After graduation, I loved it so much that I returned. I attended a local university and continued my interest in theology, as well as history.

You can't live in Europe without being impressed by the history all around you. My interest in castles, for example, caused me travel around to view them; to check out the different sites throughout the country and Europe. I wouldn't be the person I am without the trip outside of the US. I do feel that it has provided an extra layer of spice that I didn't necessarily pick up prior to traveling abroad. 

Fiona - 
Now, let's scoop all of that background knowledge up and see how you applied it to your fiction. You have recently started writing about dragons. It's not the leap that some people might think it is. Can you tell how this all comes together?

Tina - 
LOL. Well, you are correct. Usually fantasy is not the avenue one would take with such a background. But for me, well, these characters appeared, and I couldn't shut them up! 

In my fantasy romance, A Dragon's Destiny, a woman discovers she is a dragon and has to come to terms with this new information, as well as her unique involvement in holding Ragnarok (the Norse Apocalypse) at bay. For this story, I have my heroine, Jasmine, travel back to the 1520s. This is the era that Europe was undergoing the Protestant Reformation. This was, also, a very important time when the Catholic Church continued to persecute people on charges of witchcraft, sorcery and the like. For this story, I wanted to delve into how those of the pagan belief would have had to deal with such a change in that changing world. Plus, everything with a dragon calls for a bit of fun too.

I consider this, the fantasy romance, to be the light to balance out the darkness that the mystery/thrillers create, as well. So, I was able to apply all of my background to create the tale, as well as provide some historical data as to what occurred during this time. 

Fiona -
You mentioned pagan - can you define that for our readers who might not have pagan friends. And, can you tell me if you use mythology from the pagan religions as an influence?

Tina -
Although the term pagan is constantly use to deride non-monotheistic religions, or religions that are not part of the Abrahamic- religions (like Judaism, Christianity and Islam), a pagan is just a non-believer. 

To clarify, the term pagan, from a Christian perspective, would be a heathen, or one that holds a belief that differs from that of the Abrahamic religions. Pagan of course, is a general term, and is usually used against those that did not adhere to Abrahamic religions. There are many different belief sets, but pagan is usually used to deal with religions that practice animism, polytheism, or anything that doesn't embrace that of the Abrahamic religions (or monotheism - the belief in one God).

That being said, Norse mythology played a very important role in creating the story, especially since I use many of the Norse gods in the story (including Odin, Loki, and Freyja). Although, the Marvel Comics' world has re-introduced the world to these deities, the original sources are quite fascinating in their own right.

Fiona -
How did you go about incorporating the myths to give body to your plotline, making them fresh and accessible to those not familiar with Norse mythology?

Tina -
 When it comes to the plotline, I believe in asking, "What if." In dealing with the events of Ragnarok, the Norse Apocalypse, my thought was to dive in and try to define it. In my studies, we did a lot of course work on eschatology (or the study of the end days). I wanted to do a comparison and see how that influenced and shaped paradigms, as well as the culture. 

That being said, after finding out that the gods pretty much kill each other, and things start over, you sort of get the idea that the gods would probably want to find a way to stay alive -- or stop Ragnarok. Who wants to die? That was the starting point. 

I also used a lot of Church history to recreate some of the incidents that I portray in the book, as well. I think by adding them both, it provides a great bit of detail for the reader to pull them more into my world. I went with the themes of who wants to die and let's embrace your truth. The worlds then collided and my creation was born.

When incorporating my myths, it takes a good amount of research. I am forever grateful for Google Scholar. 

Fiona - 
That leads to my next question: Not everyone has your level of scholarship in their back pocket. 

I know in some of my work I have used Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. One of my college courses that has influenced my writing the most was an art history class where I learned about images and the stories from Christian art as well as the tarot, numerology, pagan stories and so forth so when we were looking at art we knew the background of say Io and Zeus. Absolutely fascinating. 

How do you suggest authors conduct their research? What sources could they go to if they wanted to give their fantasy depth as well as fun?

Tina - 
This will sound cliche, but the Internet can be your friend (or worse nightmare). I approached research as I would on a collegiate level, searching for proper scholarly sources that will provide a better understanding of the myths and their interpretations. 

For this, I include such help as Google Scholar, which is a search engine that is a part of Google that allows you to search academic papers, and scholarly literature. 

Another jumping off point, if one is more visually stimulated, is the History Channel, and PBS. Through documentaries, one can find great nuggets of information to then assist in one's own research. 

Personally, my favorite is just a trip to the local library and either by asking questions of the librarian and just perusing the nonfiction shelves. The information is usually there, you just have to find it (and that can be the most difficult, but also the most fun, because, you'll walk away with tons of fodder to include in your story). 

Additionally, with fantasy a lot comes down to world building and the rules of the world you're creating. Christian Theology does not speak well of the dragon (a simple comparison is that the western understanding of the dragon is that it is maleficent, while the eastern version is that the dragon is wise). The dragon is mentioned in not very good terms, so you have to know the world you are placing your characters in and how to maneuver them in it. If you are writing fantasy, the best thing you can do to get a handle of it all is to read from that genre to discover its rules, as well.
Fiona - 
I have Kindle unlimited and when I'm doing research I look up documentaries (which are free to me) and listen to them like lectures, taking notes.

Let's talk magic. . . 

Tina - 
Sure. While preparing for this book, I took a course course called Magic in the Middle Ages. The course showed how the understanding of magic went from that of healing (natural magic) to being understood as maleficent (demonic). This mindset is what would eventually lead to the Inquisition, which officially lasted until 1908, and even the Salem witch trials, and how we regard magic today (as being demonic). 

The greatest thing to know is that words have different meanings and understandings based on the time period that they are used. The course did not teach magic, but showed how the world interacted with it. Nowadays, we probably wouldn't burn someone at the stake, but that is how our culture has changed over the years and how we handle the differences in faith and the understanding of what magic truly is. 

Fiona - 
And A Dragon's Destiny?

Tina - 
A Dragon's Destiny has a bit of my heart and soul in it. I wrote it because I was having a crisis, whereby I could no longer write darker pieces (a real problem for a murder mystery writer to have). I needed something with a happier ending, and a message for me to learn from. This story was me pulling myself up from my bootstraps, sort of a rebirth. 

Here is the blurb: Curses are destined to be broken... In this the first of the Dragons series, time travel and fantasy are weaved together in a fast-paced, funny yet emotional romance. Jaz, a fish out of water in the real world, discovers that she is actually a dragon who must seek her true destiny in another, parallel place. There she discovers that Erich, the man she secretly lusts after in real time, is the Dark Knight. He's ruthlessly extinguishing the ancient Norse religion in an emerging new world. Is he the beloved Jaz is tasked to find in order to release her dragon heart? 

Fiona - 
How does this series affect your other writing?

Tina -
I am being as prolific as possible right now. I recently released the first two issues of my Detective Damien Scott murder mystery serial, with am actively working on completing books 2 and 3 from the dragons series. You can take a girl back in time, but you can't make her give up her dragons -- LOL. 

There are two things I learned through this entire process: Everything has consequences, and I am trying to make sure that I discover what those are when building my worlds and my characters. AND, be true to yourself. Oftentimes, the best stories are the stories you need to tell. I needed to tell my dragon story and sharing it with the world has blessed me more than I ever thought it could.

Fiona - 

I learn something every time we get together. Thank you so much! Here's how to stay in touch with Tina:

Tina Glasneck
Mystery, New Adult Paranormal & Fantasy-Romance Writer


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Special Agents and the FBI: Info for Writers with Dana Ridenour

ThrillWriting welcomes special agent, retired, Dana Ridenour.

Fiona - 
Would you tell us about how you found yourself in the role of special agent for the FBI?

Dana - 
It all started on a band trip when I was a sophomore in high school. Our band went to Washington, DC for a competition and part of our trip included a tour of the FBI Headquarters. I left the tour and told everyone that I was going to be an FBI agent. I was 15 years old. 

As far as my background, I was born in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating from Meade County High School in 1984, I attended the University of Kentucky. After two years at the University of Kentucky, I changed my major to Police Administration and transferred to Eastern Kentucky University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1989. I wanted to become an FBI agent more than anything, but at the time the FBI was primarily only hiring lawyers and accountants. So, after college, I attended Chase College of Law and earned my Juris Doctor in 1992. 

The federal job hiring freeze hit in 1992 and lasted until 1995. I took and passed the SC Bar Exam and practiced law at a small law firm in Georgetown, SC. I was hired as a special agent for the FBI in November of 1995.

Fiona - 
Can you tell us the basic qualifications for serving as a special agent?

Dana - 
To be considered for an FBI Special Agent position, a candidate must have a four year college degree, be between the ages of 23-37, and have some work experience. 

The average age of the agents in the FBI Academy is about 29, so the Bureau rarely hires people right out of college. 

A candidate must fall into one of the five FBI Special Agent Entry Programs to be eligible for employment: 
  • Language 
  • Law
  • Accounting
  • Computer Science/Information Technology
  • Diversified.

Fiona -
Have you read books or watched movies and thought - "No that isn't right at all!"? What are the biggest mistakes you've seen and how should we fix them?

Dana - 

The FBI is hardly ever portrayed factually in novels, television, or movies. I think the biggest mistake is making the FBI look like it has all of this outstanding technology. 

The FBI is always behind on technology. I remember when I arrived at my first office from the FBI Academy and took one look at the antiquated Dell computer sitting on my desk, I thought to myself, Is this a joke? This can't really be my computer. 

The other HUGE mistake that the movies and television make is having the FBI swoop in take over their local cases. That simply does not happen. The FBI stays busy with federal cases, so the Bureau does not take over homicide cases like portrayed on TV. If a case is found to fall into federal jurisdiction, then the FBI does take over the case as in cases of terrorism both domestic and international. Police departments will sometime ask for FBI assistance with cases, but the FBI does not take their case when that happens. The FBI assists with whatever the local or state department needs, then allows that department to prosecute the case however they chose.

As far as fixing the problem, they should hire me as a consultant!

Fiona - 
Yes they should! 

ThrillWriting is a big proponent of hands-on experience to write it right, but sometimes that's just impossible.

Dana -
In all seriousness, they should hire more retired agents as consultants to give the shows more authenticity. I think most people would get bored watching FBI agents sitting at a desk doing paperwork which is reality.

And talking to an expert is the best way around this.

Fiona - 
Dana, how much of the time were you in the field and when you were in the field can you talk about your clothing choices? Did you ever try to run down a bad guy in strappy heels and a Greek-draped dress?

Dana - LOL

I consider myself extremely lucky because I spent my entire twenty years working on the criminal side of the house. During my twenty years on the job I was assigned to four different FBI Field Divisions and had the opportunity to work a wide variety of cases to include multi faceted narcotics investigations, domestic sex trafficking of minors, and violent crime. 

Working primarily on drug and violent crime squads, I almost always dressed in jeans and baggy shirts that I could conceal my weapon under. I had to be ready to run at a moments notice, so I avoided stilettos. On the rare occasions that I did dress up for court appearances and such, I had a change of clothes in my Bureau car. I never went anywhere without a change of clothes. 

My first office was Mobile, Alabama, so you never knew when you might be chasing someone through the swamps and get all wet and dirty. One of the first things that I did when I retired was get rid of all my oversized shirts. I had Columbia shirts in every color and I was happy to donate every one of them to Goodwill.

Fiona -
What equipment was part of your EDC (every day carry)? Which piece of EDC did you use the most/find most helpful?

Dana - 
I never walked out the door without my FBI credentials, badge, gun, and handcuffs. 

There is a joke in the Bureau that when you leave the house you do the law enforcement pat down on yourself. You check your pockets and waist for your badge, gun, creds, and Bureau car keys. 

Although I never had to shoot anyone, working mostly drug matters, the gun was my most helpful piece of equipment. I probably used a small flashlight more than any other piece of equipment that I owned. A pocket-sized flashlight is a great piece of equipment. 

I spent about half of my career as an undercover agent which is a whole different ballgame. When I was working undercover, I didn't carry my gun, badge or credentials. In fact, I didn't carry any kind of identification that had my real name on it. I dressed for whatever my role deemed necessary. During the days when I worked undercover infiltrating the animal rights extremists, I was vegan which meant that I didn't wear any leather products. I wore a lot of hemp and canvas in those days.

Fiona - 
Tell me about being a woman in the bureau - did you get to do interesting assignments that your colleagues didn't because of your gender? Twenty years to now - what do you see as changing (if anything) for women in the field?

Dana - 
I get asked the female question a lot. I can honestly say that I was never treated any differently because I was a woman. I was lucky to land on squads with fantastic people. Most of the time I was the only female on my squad. I'm not easily offended which made me able be blend with my squad-mates and be "one of the guys". 

I think some women have trouble with this concept, but for me it was easy. I didn't want special treatment because I was a female. I think my male squad-mates appreciated the fact that I tried hard to fit in and not be judgmental. 

My first undercover role came about because I was a woman. I was the only female on a drug squad and DEA needed a female undercover. They didn't have a female in their office, so they asked to borrow one from FBI. I had never done any kind of undercover work, but the case was fairly short term and only required a few meets. The case targeted a medical doctor who was trading prescriptions for sex. The case was a success and I became addicted to undercover work. That was the case that made me want to apply for the FBI undercover program. 

The number of women in the FBI is growing steadily. I was fortunate to be able to return to the FBI Academy at the end of my career and take two different classes through the training program acting as their class counselor. The counselor position required me to live in the dorm with my class and be with them from the first day of class to their graduation day, a five month program. I did this two different times in the last year of my career and it was so rewarding. I had a chance to get to know the future of the FBI both men and women. I can testify that we are in good hands. 

The future of the FBI is bright. The young men and women who make up the new Bureau are bright, talented, and dedicated. I think we will see more women in FBI management in the future. I'm looking forward to the day when we have a female FBI director. I wonder if it will be one of the talented women who I mentored in the Academy.

Fiona - 
Here on ThrillWriting, we always ask about the story behind your favorite scar; would you indulge us?

Dana - 
Of course...

This might sound a little strange but my favorite scar comes from an eyebrow piercing that I had done when I was working undercover. I was preparing for my first long term, deep cover case and my alias was actually ten years younger than my true age. 

Most of the people in the group that I was trying to infiltrate were young and covered with tattoos and piercings. When I finished the investigation I had my right eyebrow pierced, my bellybutton pierced each ear pierced three times. Toward the end of the investigation an asshole SAC (I’m retired so I no longer play nice) saw my eyebrow piercing at a mandatory all agents conference. Even though he knew that I was a full time undercover agent, he insisted that I remove the eyebrow jewelry that basically left a hole in my forehead for a couple of weeks. I can cover the scar with make-up but my right eyebrow droops just a little because of having the piercing. I was probably too old to have my eyebrow pierced to in the first place. 

On my second long term, deep cover case I ended up getting a couple tattoos to better blend in with my targets. I wouldn’t classify them as scars, but they are pretty permanent. All in the name of undercover work.

I wouldn't trade any of the scars because working undercover was the highlight of my twenty year career.

Fiona - 
Getting tattooed for the job is pretty strong method acting! It shows an incredible dedication to your job.

Earlier, we talked about writing FBI characters/plotting correctly. To that end, I wanted to bring up your new book.

Amazon Link

Can you talk a bit about your novel?

Dana - 
You build relationships to betray relationships. That is the motto for the FBI’s undercover program, and special agent Lexie Montgomery is just beginning to understand what that means. 

Lexie’s first assignment is infiltrating a radical cell of the Animal Liberation Front. Underground and operating in splinter groups throughout Los Angeles, the only way in is through Savannah Riley, a new recruit. Savannah left the safety of her small southern town for the bright lights of the city. Pulled into the animal rights movement by her college roommate and a gorgeous anarchist, she sinks deeper and deeper into the dark, paranoid world of ALF extremists. As the actions of her cell escalate beyond simple demonstrations and graffiti, Savannah turns to Lexie to keep her grounded. But as the two women grow closer and the FBI’s case builds, Lexie is forced to decide what betrayal really means.

Fiona - 
Does this come from the animal rights undercover you spoke of earlier?

Dana - 
I didn’t want to write a run of the mill FBI novel. I wanted to use my personal experiences as an undercover agent to capture the psychological toll that underwork has on an agent. When an agent works long term, deep cover investigations, he or she is changed at the end of the case. You lose a little piece of yourself with every long term case.

I spent most of my career as an FBI agent working undercover. I spent several years infiltrating domestic terrorism cells, many like the ones portrayed in the novel. The novel is based loosely on real cases and real people. My mother encouraged me to keep a journal when I became an FBI Agent. I started keeping a journal when I began working undercover. I kept the journal hidden in the ceiling panels of my undercover apartment. As I worked, I documented feelings and experiences along the way. These journals were a big part of formulating my Lexie character.

Fiona - 
So this novel would be excellent background research if you're writing FBI characters.

Writers - if you have brief questions about the FBI, Dana says you can contact her. She likes to support her fellow writers.  Here are some ways you can stay in touch with her:

Thank you so much Dana!
As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you 
helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.