Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts

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!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Easy Evil: Interview with Crime Reporter Doug Cummings



Fiona - Hey, Doug. I guess the street lights are just popping on in the windy city.

Doug - ...and the crickets are chirping.

Fiona - I've spent a little time in Chicago - I wish it were more. Can you tell my blog-readers
            how you spend your days and maybe give them a little of your background?

Doug - In reverse order... I grew up in Kansas where I went to college and worked as a deputy
           sheriff for half a dozen years. I got a degree in radio-TV and had interned at a local TV
           station. I was getting tired of cop work, as sometimes happens, and one night I had a
           reporter from a radio station as a ride-along. He was leaving the station to go to law
           school. I asked if his job had been filled, and it hadn' I had the perfect segue.
           I ended up working at the station, and he became a deputy while in law school. I think
           they make TV shows about things like that nowadays. I worked as a crime reporter in Kansas City
           for two years, and then I moved to Chicago and spent fifteen years covering crime and disasters
           in this area.

Fiona - Did you have to go through a police training program to be a deputy sheriff?

Doug - Yes, training is required...more now even than back then. With regular weapons qualification and
            continuing education. I completed about half the work for a Masters in Criminal Justice, in fact.

Fiona - Because I have a lot of international readers, can you explain the differences between a sheriff and a
            police officer? Link to more information about sheriffs

Doug - The differences are mostly in name. Sheriff's are elected officials.
            The name comes from the old English, I believe...shire-reeve. If
            you remember Robin Hood...Anyway the sheriff is the chief law
            enforcement officer of most counties and his deputies usually
            have authority in unincorporated areas of the county.

Fiona - Shire-reeve. Now there's a fun little tid-bit of information that I
            can drop at  my next cocktail party.

Doug - Police officers typically patrol in cities. Having said that, some states countywide police departments
           and the sheriff is relegated to administration of the jail. It depends on where you live.
           In Kansas and Illinois, sheriffs are elected county officials and have police and jail administration

Fiona - So, I know that guns are near and dear to your heart. Have you ever had to use one in the line of
            duty? Or for self-protection?
                                                              This is Doug's Colt Python

Doug - Thankfully, no and I hope I never get into such a situation. I was on my way to a shootout once...
            but  the bad guy was killed before I arrived. I appreciated the timing.

Fiona - No kidding! That must be an odd experience to have the adrenaline flowing and then know that it
            was over - but badly.

Doug - It's not uncommon...I've certainly been in hairy situations that weren't diffused quickly enough for
            me to avoid them.

Fiona - Okay, give me a hairy example, LOL.

Doug - Well, the hairiest was a chase and head on crash. We were chasing a couple of armed robbery
            suspects (we thought), and they turned around and came back at us. It was odd to have the right,
            front fender appear three inches from your head while sitting in the passenger seat.

Fiona - No kidding! YIKES! Was everyone okay?

Doug - My then partner still has back issues but other than that everyone was fine. Yep, wrecked a squad
            car with only a couple of hundred miles and all new equipment tho.

Fiona - I bet that went over big with the budget office. Okay, I'm going to throw out my typical question -
            what in books, TV, movies etc. do you see being portrayed incorrectly, and it ticks you off?

Doug - What annoys me most...when cops are portrayed as bumbling or stupid. While I have met some
            book stupid cops, most of the people I've known in law enforcement are street smart, really care
            about the work and put 100 percent into it. With 500-600 hours of basic training now, and
            sometimes 40-60 hours of in service training every year, they know the business.

Fiona - But they also aren't super-heroes. No one should expect a cop to shoot a gun out of a perpetrators
            hand with eagle vision. They can't take down a whole gang single-handedly. So how can a writer
            write a cop correctly?

Doug - I think research can be as easy as finding a real cop in the town or area the author is writing about.
            Going on ride-alongs or enrolling in a citizens police academy are good resources too. Another
            thing that annoys me is when I read a book and can tell the author has done his research watching
            cop shows, not talking to or even reading about real cops.

Fiona - How can you tell the difference? What is wrong in the shows that a cop would relate differently?

Doug - Cops aren't fashion models for one.

Fiona - Hahahaha! (I think they should be.)

Doug - And not every case requires chases and shootouts... but for
            dramatic effect, nothing beats a good  fight or shootout.

            Also, seldom do you arrest someone and immediately give
            them their rights. I only read folks their rights if I needed to
            question them. Most often I was telling them to shut up!

Fiona - Hahahaha! Okay, Doug, at this point of the interview
            you have a choice -
           A) Tell me about your favorite scar
           B) Tell me about your newest book  - or-
           C) both.

Doug - I have a tiny knife scar on the pointing finger of my left

Fiona - How did that happen?

Doug - Domestic dispute...lady swung a piece of broken glass at me.

Fiona - So, not a knife-scar a glass-scar. That sounds like a gang name. Victor Glasscar.

Doug - Ha! Writing that down as a character.

Fiona - Okay, I picked "C" for you. Tell us about your book.

Doug - Easy Evil, yes.

Fiona - I think evil is darned easy.

Doug - You have the point of the book right there! My new
            protagonist  is a deputy police chief in a wealthy
            Chicago suburb...he's got a checkered background as
            an ATF agent. He thinks the PD job will be rubber
            chickens and golf, until someone shoots a
            judge and her daughter in their driveway. The task
            force that's called in takes off in one direction, but
            Harry Cork sees evidence that they're wrong, and the
            real culprit may be a professional killer. As he follows
            his theory, others die, and he discovers a money
            laundering scheme run by some nasty
            international thugs, and his past comes back to bite
            him in the tookus.               LINK

Fiona - In the tookus no less!                                              

Doug - Indeed

Fiona - And Reno Mc Carthy is your protagonist?

Doug - No, Reno was the lead character in the first two books...he appears in Easy Evil, but Harry Cork
            is the protagonist. Reno has a walk-on as himself.

Fiona - That was nice of you, otherwise his feelings would have been hurt. Well, Doug, thanks for
            playing along. It was great chatting!

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you 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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Walking Through Forensic DNA Basics: Information for Writers


Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This week I had the opportunity to go down to Richmond to visit the FBI headquarters. A handful of Sisters in Crime Members were being hosted by the FBI Evidence Response Team. I want to thank the team for sharing their expertise. (Names and images are withheld for security purposes)

That night I learned a lot about processing the scene of a crime, collecting everything from foot prints BLOG LINK - Footwear Evidence to  fingerprints BLOG LINK to Fingerprint Evidence to fibers.

But the gold star belongs to DNA. DNA has risen to be THE  best available evidence because the laboratory results are statistically linked to a single person and exclude all others.

Did you know that with the improvements in science, they can now trap enough DNA in a fingerprint to create DNA profile?

If you are writing a story that involves a crime, it's likely that your investigation team will be looking for DNA to collect and use to solve the case.

Processing Blood Samples, FBI
Forensic analysis of DNA can be confusing so let's walk through this together.

STEP ONE - What Is DNA? 

First the bilology basics. I know. I know. It's the spinach on your plate. But it's important, so I'll try to make this as quick and as painless as possible.

DNA - Deoxyribonucleic Acid -
* All cells have DNA (except red blood cells)
* DNA is the genetic material making up our chromosomes
* Gene – the basic unit of heredity; a sequence of DNA nucleotides
   on a chromosome.
* Genome – the sum total of an organism’s genetic material.
* DNA encodes the instructions for when and how to make
   proteins. These proteins tell the cell how it will
   function - is it a brain cell? a liver cell?
* It looks like a twisted ladder. The uprights are made out of
   phosphates and sugars. rungs are pairs of
   smaller particles called nucleotides.

You're doing great! Hang in there!

English: DNA replication or DNA synthesis is t...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* All DNA is made up of a combination of four letters
  G - Guanine
  C - Cytosine
  A - Adonine
  T - Thymine
* G and C got together A and T go together
Happy Valentines Day - Relationship Mitosis
Mitosis (Photo credit: id-iom)

Mitosis -
* DNA replication
* A cell splits by dividing like a zipper
* The new cells contain an identical set
   of cells as were present at conception
* This only changes when there is a
    random mutation
* All cells in the whole body contain the
   exact same DNA

Video Quick Study of Mitosis (1:29)
VIDEO QUICK STUDY (8:03) basic info on DNA and Mitosis - might be more information than you need, but the presentation is thorough and easily understood.

STEP TWO - There Are Two Kinds of DNA
Prokaryotes are primitive cells, without a nuc...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nuclear DNA-
* It is found inside the nucleus packed
   into chromosomes
* It is inherited from both parents
   50% from our mom and 50% from
   our dad.
* Each parent contributes 23
   chromosomes for a total of 46.
* The dominant and recessive qualities
   gives us our traits
* A DNA profiles belongs to an
   individual and ONLY that
   individual and no one else in the world    UNLESS we have an
   identical twin. Plot twist!
* The closer we are in genetic
   relationship to someone else, the
   closer the DNA configuration.
* Each cell has one copy of nuclear DNA

Mitochondrial DNA-
* Is found in mitochondria
* 100% of mitochondrial DNA is inherited from mom.
* The mitochondrial DNA is the same in our brothers and sisters
    regardless of who fathered each child.
* All mitochondrial DNA came from your mom which came from 
   your mom's mom which came from your
   mom's mom's mom etc. How cool is that?
* Is not housed in a a set of chromosomes
* This DNA is smaller than Nuclear DNA
* This DNA is present in larger numbers than Nuclear DNA
   (nuclear DNA has just one copy per cell)
* This DNA tends to be more stable than Nuclear DNA over time.

VIDEO QUICK STUDY (1:58) Two Minute Science Lesson: How DNA Testing Works

STEP THREE - Collecting DNA Evidence

Maryland V. King Police can collect DNA without a warrant Video Quick Study (1:55)

Biological evidence is perishable
* DNA will fragment
* The best shot at getting useful DNA is in a fresh sample
* Fresh tissue has more nuclear DNA and an older sample has less

Things that cause DNA to degrade

* UV light
* Acid
* Bleach
* Hydrogen Peroxide
* High humidity
* Heat and Fire
* Anything that oxidizes biological molecules

Handle with Care:
Video Quick Study (2:16) Mentions the changes in technology and the importance of properly preserving the sample.

* If the evidence that is being collected is wet it should be air dried.
* The evidence should be stored in a PAPER BAG that can release
* Store in low temperatures (this prevents bacterial or fungal
   growth that has its own DNA)
*  Avoid as much as possible environmental contamination.

Crime Scene Techs:
* Need to understand that they can be contaminated by the crime
   scene (pick up bacteria etc.)
* Can contaminate a crime scene with their own saliva, dander, hair
* The FBI Processing unit that I visited this week uses full Tyvek
   suits to prevent contamination of the scene.
* People who were on the scene will often be asked to give a DNA
   sample called an "ELIMINATION SAMPLE"
* Most often reference samples are taken from a buccal swab. A
   square piece cotton is swabbed over the
   inner cheek. This is placed in an envelope. Why not a vial?
   Because a closed container encourages the
   growth of other life forms. 
   VIDEO QUICK STUDY (3:07) How to collect a buccal sample.
* DNA elimination samples are collected from victims and
   witnesses etc.

English: A forensic scientist at the U.S. Army...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PLEASE NOTE this elimination sample does NOT get run through the system. It is merely there for the scientists to compare with the sample they are analyzing. Your character will NOT be located and charged with a previous crime. There are all kinds of privacy laws that prevent this from happening, according to the FBI agents we were interviewing.

Death Investigators: What if you have a body to identify?
If the investigators have an idea who this might have been they can get a swab from a blood relative and try to find markers that they share. If no relative is available, then they could go to the person's home and try to collect DNA there from a toothbrush or razor, etc.

What if the house burned down and DNA from that location is not available? Well, investigators could try to find stored DNA samples, for example a woman's pap smear might be stored or perhaps your character had given blood to the Red Cross.

Here's a VIDEO QUICK STUDY (6:09) that gives a simplified description - good overview. 
STEP FOUR - Extracting and Processing DNA

Extracting DNA isn't hard you can do it right now in your own kitchen. Don't believe me?
Video Quick Experiment for You to Try (2:46)
Video Quick Study - Separating DNA from Blood (6:37)

In extracting DNA from Crime Scene or reference samples, the goal is to find the 1% that differs from everyone else. This gives an individuals DNA Fingerprint or DNA Profile.

99.9% of our DNA is the same in all humans. Only .1% differentiates us

* DNA is stiff and brittle. In order to avoid damaging it, a

   technique is employed that breaks down the cell around it.
* In a crime scene laboratory being meticulous is paramount.
VIDEO QUICK STUDY - (6:19 - but go right to 3:00 mark) this
   process is better explained through this video than writing the
   steps because of the equipment


RFLP Analysis - Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism not widely used since the mid-90s
* A large sample is required
* Results are not compatible with major DNA databases
* The proces uses molecular scissors to cut where a TA next to a
   CG combos. Since everyone has different DNA profile's the
   material created will be of different lengths. (15-35 repeating
   base pairs)
* This is then processed with Gel Electrophoresis
   Video Quick Study (5:18) Frankly this is the quickest, easiest
   way of understanding the process

To correct the problem of sample size, scientists developed PCR - Polymerase Chain Reaction
* This was developed in 1983 as a method for replicating DNA
VIDEO QUICK STUDY (3:32) sorry this has no audio, but it is
   the best quick study I could find
* PCR takes advantage  of the DNAs double strand and its simple
* Uses a thermocycler to double the amount of DNA with every
* Only one strand of DNA can make a billion copies in four hours


STR - Short Tandem Repeat
* It still uses PCR to make copies
* STR focuses on the smaller repeating units in DNA
* STR uses only about 3-7 repeating base pairs (where RFLP
   needed 15-35)
* Can be used on much smaller samples than RFLP
* Can be used on more degraded samples than RFLP
* Only 18 cells are needed to get a DNA profile - this is why they
   can pick up DNA from a fingerprint, according to our FBI
* Uses Capillary Electropheresis -  done in a column (not in a flat
   gel as in electrophoresis)

THERE ARE 13 DIFFERENT CORE LOCATIONS WITHIN DNA that captures most of humans variability in STR

CODIS FBI Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* Each core location has its own
   established probability of being
   found in the larger population.
* When all 13 different probabilities
   are added together the statistical
   probability are in the quadrillions.
* These can be put into the CODIS
 (Combined DNA Index System)
  developed by the FBI in the late
  90s. Pay attention to this date if
  your story happens before this time

Recently they've developed a way to tell if the DNA comes from a man or a woman by looking at the sex chromosomes. (XX or XY) They do this by looking at the amelogenin gene on the sex chromosome. It is longer in a man than woman but this is enough to tell the difference. This is important because sometimes there is a mixed sample of DNA, for example if they do a vaginal swab for sperm.

STEP FIVE - Is It a Match?

Reading the computer output is outside of the scope of this article - though I will address this in the near future.

CODIS 13 point profile
CODIS 13 point profile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The information gathered is analyzed and a statistic is assigned.
Population Genetics gives us
    statistics about the likelihood of this
    profile occurring in a population. It is
    a PROBABILITY that the same
    profile is replicated in the population
    and not coincidence.
* The more stretches of DNA that are
   compared between two people the
   statistics possibility of error narrows.
   It can become so narrow that it
   EXCLUDES everyone
   else from the pool of possibilities
   EXCEPT an identical twin.

Okay how was that? Not bad right? We made it to the end of the DNA pathway. Now as you sit on the bench to catch your breath, let's review some points at which a plot twist could mess everything up:

* Has the prosecution kept tight control of its chain of who has
   custody from collection to end result?
* Was the biological material from which the DNA was extracted
   identified? For example, in a rape case was it semen that is being
* Is the testing laboratory accredited?
* Has the testing laboratory  been audited by an outside agency?
* Has the testing laboratory  undergone a proficiency test - and was
   it a blind test?
* Did the laboratory run the required control samples?
* Was there examiner bias? Did the tech talk directly to the
   investigator or was it blind?
* How large was the DNA sample? Was it from a pool of blood?
   Or was it from a fingerprint?
* What if your character -- either victim or accused -- has a relative
    involved in the research (or an ex-wife eek!)?
* Was more than one DNA profile mixed in the sample?

So many ways to play with DNA evidence! 

See how this article influenced my plot lines in my novella MINE and my novel CHAOS IS COME AGAIN.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you 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.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Scotch on the Rocks in Abu Dhabi - Interview with Thriller Writer Seumas Gallacher


Fiona - Hi Seumas! Here in D.C. I am just sitting down to my
            lunch. Dark figs and chocolate... but I think you're
            probably having cocktail hour. How did a Scotsman
            like you end up in Abu Dhabi?

Seumas - Via London, the Far East, and now Abu Dhabi... 
             I've been a banker/corporate troubleshooter for the
             last 25 years, and it's taken me into some scary
             places, boardrooms included... there's some loopy
             creatures in some of these...

Fiona - Before I go any further, let me tell everyone that your
            name is pronounced Shay-maahss. This is very unlike
            the "See- high-pitched whistling sound- muh-sss" that
            I was tutored to say by a mutual friend (who is now in
            the dog-house for having me on).

Seumas - ... leave young Dolan out of this ... Interpol'll take
               care of him.

Fiona -  No doubt. (Look for trickster/author John Dolan in
             an upcoming interview.) "Having me on," by the
             way, is NOT something most Americans would say. It sounds mildly lewd. Are there Scottish
             phrases that have gotten you in trouble?

Seumas - When I was in my late teens and early twenties MOST of the things I said got me into some kinda
               trouble... too smart and quick on the lip, thankfully that'as toned down considerably...

Fiona -    Hard to believe.

Seumas - ... I lead a quiet sedentary existence, waiting for the next big thing to come along...

Fiona - Okay, while I have this opportunity I want to clear up
            a question I (and many of my American
            friends) have ... When I was in Scotland, I asked a
            man, "What is worn under your kilt?" (There I was
            being young and letting anything pop right out of my
            mouth) And his response? "Why nothing, lass,
            everything is in perfect working condition." Blushing,
            I went away - no better informed than before. So can
            you please tell?

Seumas - Another blush-producing answer is 'lipstick', but we
            won't go there ... if there was anything worn under the kilt,
            then it would be a skirt, not a kilt...

                                                       Fiona - Okay then!

Seumas in His Kilt - Stop it, ladies. He's married.

Fiona - You just came out with a blog book - can you tell us what it's about?

Seumas - It's the second collection of my blog posts... I do a post
               almost daily now... It's intended to be my 'brand' as
               distinct from the author 'voice' in the novels... I do it with a
               tongue-in-cheek poking of fun mostly at myself as the old
               Jurassic coming up against the absurdities of the
               SOSYAL NETWURKIN universe.
               (It's on )... many recognized
               authors follow me now, and tell me they've been having
               the same experiences all their writing lives... it gets my
               name 'out there' on the whole building the platform thing...

Fiona - Yes, your blog is pretty darned funny. I enjoy reading your
            posts. But it's a little bipolar as a writing style. I read
            Vengeance Wears Black - and there's not much funny there
           - it's cloak and dagger-y stuff.

Seumas - Quite so.. it's a great offset for me in my writing, that
             I can loosen up from the novel writing... I find
             the blogs so easy to write... just think of a topic, relate
             it to writing if ye can, and off it goes... the
             novels are intended to have a wee bit of an edge...

Fiona - So here at ThrillWriting, we aim to help writers write it
            right - and that often means pointing out what authors
            might be getting wrong. Can you tell me, from a
            readers point of view, what annoys you?

Seumas - I seldom get 'upset' about other people's writing, but
             I think an area that may lend itself to 'not doing stuff 
             like that, please' is where an author leaves the end of
             the book REALLY cliff hanging...expecting the reader
             to go out and buy the follow on... for example not so
             long ago, even Lee Child did it with one of his Jack
             Reacher stories, where Jack was hanging on by his
             elbows at the top of a 200ft tunnel drop after an
             explosion... that's TOO much... it's ok if some ends
             are left untied, but the reader knows that something else will obviously follow, but , they can wait
             until the next book appears... also where an author has not done even basic homework or research
             on things like the geography the book moves around in... even if it's fiction, places like London,
             New York etc, have some unmovable features...

Fiona - Since this is a peeve, what research do you do for your books
            to make them accurate?

Seumas - Great question!... with the access to Google and the Web
               and all its wonderful aspects, it's easier to find and verify
               things.. for example... the Gurkha kukri knife on the cover of
               VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK (LINK) is precisely as it
               looks in reality... in 
              THE VIOLIN MAN'S LEGACY (LINK), I researched the
              Atacama desert region and the geography into Bolivia..all
              from the Web... one South American reader from Chile
              asked me when was the last time I visited his country as I had
              pitched it perfectly... I've NEVER been there except on old
              Uncle Internet... so yes, research is VITAL, one detail out of
              kilter can ruin the book for a reader who knows otherwise...

Fiona - I'm working on a book that takes place half the time in London - and I was able to "Walk" around the streets using Google Maps - it's quite fun! (and a little nauseating - when it goes too fast).

Seumas - Excellent ...

Fiona - So Seumas, let's get personal, tell me about your favorite scar.

Seumas - ...boringly, I bear scars on my legs from some pretty savage football (soccer) boot stud tackles in
               my youth... I played semi-professionally for a while. It was a tough guy's game back then... now
               it's populated with ballet dancers.

             ...and the mental scar at having been passed over to double for Brad Pitt in his movies will haunt me

Fiona - Poor thing.

Seumas - ... indeed.

Fiona - Hahaha! - so tell me more about your newest novel.

Seumas - Same set of characters... different circumstances to handle... no spoilers allowed... but it's a grittier
             read than the first two... developing the characters a lot more as the books progress, which I like to
             see... still learning the trade, y'see...

Fiona -  Book three is called, SAVAGE PAYBACK. When does it come out?

Seumas - I try not to impose needless timetables on myself, and it has been a bit of a moving feast... I'm
              back into it now, and hope to get it on to Kindle probably before the end of September, maybe
              October, or maybe next July, or maybe...

Fiona - You've had almost 68,000 people reading you - that's darned impressive. Do your fans influence the
            story line? Do your readers ever ask for something to take place? Or want to know more about a
            certain character?

Seumas - Not so much... I DO try to write the kind of stuff that I would like to read myself... if I try to please
             all of the people all of the time... well, we know where that leads ... there are times when I re-read
             the books, and it's like reading someone else's novels., not mine.... I LUV that ...

Fiona - What was the last novel you read that you thought - WOW! That was awesome.

Seumas - SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon...fabulous translation from the original Spanish...

Fiona - Most excellent. Seumas, since I've asked what's under your kilt, and about your scars, I'm
            wondering how I can get any more personal. Perhaps you could tell me what surprises you the most
            about life in Abu Dhabi? And does it feed your writing?

Seumas - Abu Dhabi is a lot more liberal than foreigners imagine.. but it IS an Islamic society... the Arabic
             people with whom I've had the privilege of dealing when I ran part of a bank here, were almost
             'noble' in their behavior... but globally, regardless of so-called cultural differences, people are people
             are people ...there's good and not so pleasant everywhere,,, nothing much surprises me nowadays...
             my writing is a confluence of EVERYTHING I've observed in a life rich with experiences and
             characters galore.

Fiona - On that note, Seumas, I'm going to thank you for hanging out with me. I hope you have an excellent
             rest of your evening!

Seumas - You too, m'Lady.. it's been a real pleasure ... have a good one. Ciao!

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you 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.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Flight Club - Interview with Author/Pilot Wayne Epperson


Hi there!

Wayne -
Good afternoon.

Fiona -
It's pouring down rain with some magnificent thunder here - how are things in Texas?

Wayne - 
The heat index is going to hit 104 or so. Hot and dry.

Fiona - 
As a Canadian girl, can I just say that I only go visit my in-laws down in Longview at Christmas for a reason? So you're dry and hot - LOL what else should my blog readers know about you, Wayne?
Map to indicate Texas for my non-American readers

Wayne - 
Not much interesting to tell. Former U.S. Marine, long-time newspaper editor, private pilot, author of two crime fiction books with a third one due out in October.

Now see, when you say, "not much interesting to tell" - I think you're going to drone on Babbitt-like about your work-a-day life, and then you sound like the heart-throb in a Texas western.that okay? 

Wayne - 
Getting up off the floor and dusting myself off. I wasn't expecting that.

Fiona -
Ha! Well today we're talking about flying.
What makes you crazy to read about planes or plane crashes that is just flat out wrong?

Wayne -
When someone says, "the plane just fell out of the sky." That doesn't happen. There's a sequence of failures, man-made or mechanical or both, that take place before a plane crashes. Here's an example:
A pilot approaching an airport to land turns from downwind to base and fails to maintain proper airspeed will likely stall the aircraft when banking to final approach. That stall leads to a spin too close to the ground to recover a safe altitude. The end result is the aircraft noses over and crashes. To a witness on the ground, it might look like the plane just fell out of the sky.

And to the pilot it looks like his life is flashing before his eyes?

Wayne - 
No, he probably left a big smoking hole in the ground. Lights out.

VIDEO QUICK STUDY 747 Falling Out of the Sky (1:09)

Fiona - 
Have you ever had a close call?

Wayne - 
Not really close, but one time the engine cut out when I reduced power at altitude after takeoff. I simply pushed the throttle full forward, the engine returned to life, and I landed that sucker as fast as I could.


Wayne -
The mechanic was happy to have the business.

Fiona -
Ha! Okay since you brought up plane crashes. It was posted on
a writers' board recently that an editor was insisting that the author have a huge fire in the cockpit after the plane crashed. Can you weigh in?

Wayne -  
Fire is the most feared thing for a pilot. Because, in flight, the oxygen from the rushing air will fan the flames. A pilot faced with that emergency will seek to land quickly. Following a crash, there could be a fire in the cockpit.

I recall a local training flight in the Dallas area where the student pilot, who was accompanied by an instructor, was forced to land because of mechanical failure. He chose to land in a plowed farm field, the fuel line ruptured spilling gasoline on the heated engine, and a fire ensued. They escaped with major burns.

Fiona - 
Wow! Horrific! Good for them escaping. I guess now they have a great bar story if that's any consolation.

Wayne - 
The aircraft was a four-seat trainer. The airlines are a different story. They have so many safety systems and redundant systems that make a cockpit fire less likely. 
What do you fly?

I fly single-engine land puddle jumpers.

Fiona - 

And does Frank Knott from Crime and Corruption in Texas fly as well?

LINK to Crime and Corruption in Texas

Wayne - 
No, but his former Marine Corps buddy did.

Fiona - 
This is the one who was a good -guy turned not so good guy?

Wayne - 
And he did a lot of bad things behind the control wheel of a powerful Cessna twin-engine hauler.

Fiona - 
Would it be giving away too much if I asked what he was up to?

Wayne - 
Let's just say he was in a sort of pharmaceutical business. 

Fiona - 
LOL okay we'll go with that. What made you decide to get your pilot's license and can you tell us what it takes in terms of study and practice?

Wayne - 
I tried to be a pilot in the Marines, but was disqualified because I am partially color blind, a condition not uncommon for men. The Navy frowns on pilots not knowing which colors are which when they are told to "call the ball" on approach to an aircraft 
carrier deck. 

I finally scraped up the money to pay for my training as a civilian
private pilot where the color restrictions are not so severe. 

It takes a minimum of 40 hours of training before a student pilot can take a check ride with an FAA licensed examiner. It took me
something like 50 hours, which included a solo cross-country flight to an airport about 90 miles away. What did my training cost? I will
never put that number in writing.

Once the check ride is passed, the new pilot then really begins to learn what it means to be a pilot. The lessons never end. 

I just thought of another situation that is irksome.

Fiona -
Yes, please.

Wayne - 
Many fatal accidents of small aircraft involve bad weather. 

There was a case in East Texas a year or so ago where a family
of four was wiped out in a crash because the pilot father flew into
weather he was unable to navigate. He was not instrument rated
(trained to fly in the clouds) and his plane was not capable. 

That was a classic case of pilot error.

Fiona - 
Thank you - that makes sense. And from what my husband tells me of Texas weather, it can be unpredictable and violent.

Wayne - 
He's right. Another pet peeve is the writer being too lazy to research the type of aircraft involved in whatever kind of story. Too many times the reference is simply, "a Cessna private plane crashed." And the aircraft was a Bonanza. That drives a pilot nuts ... if he isn't already there.

Fiona - 
Ha! In my book, MISSING LYNX, I got to go to the airport and get on all the small planes to figure out which one I wanted to steal - I mean my character wanted to steal. Apparently, plane theft isn't all that hard to do.

Wayne - 
All airports have signs posted about reporting suspicious activities in and around the hangers or the tie-downs. Aircraft theft is a big business.

Fiona - 
Well, they are darned expensive. This is the part of the interview where you have a decision to make.

     1) You can tell me about your favorite scar. 

Or 2) you can tell me about your upcoming book.

Or 3) you can do both. 

Wayne - 
Frank Knott walked away from "Chasing Bad Guys" with a memorable scar, but we don't want to describe it here. 

The third book in the series is entitled "EPIC Justice." Frank goes
undercover at the El Paso Intelligence Center to find out who has been tipping off a powerful crime syndicate about smuggling opportunities on the border. Readers will be urging Frank to quit and go home, but there's no back up in this former Marine.

Fiona -
I'm posting a picture of your plane. 

Wayne at the controls of his Piper Cherokee 5398W

Wayne - 
I sold my plane. :'(

Fiona - 
Oh, now that's just pitiful. LOL. COWBOY UP!

Wayne - 
Your husband's from Texas? How did you end up in D.C.? And how's the ankle?

Fiona - 
Ah, the reporter in you is turning the tables. I wondered how long 
it would take. Thank you so much for being a guest here on ThrillWriting.

Wayne - 
Take care ... As pilots always say, "Good day."

Fiona - 
Why do they say that and not "sunny skies" or "safe landings"?

Wayne - 
Good day covers it all ... 

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you 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.