Welcome to the Thrillerfest V Blog!

We hope you'll bookmark us, just as you bookmark so many of the hundreds of the International Thriller Writers that participate in our annual conference, held in New York City in July.

ITW is a youthful organization, always ready for a new way of looking at things. You'll find that dynamism here, in blog posts from authors, agents, editors and Thrillerfest attendees, past and present.

And that same excitement you feel from your favorite reads is evident in everything ITW does, and no wonder--the organization, staffing and publicity for ThrillerFest--including this new blog--is undertaken by volunteers, most of whom are ITW authors themselves.

So pull up a chair and stay awhile ... discover the latest news on what Thrillerfest V--the fifth anniversary of the conference--has to offer. Visit old friends, make new ones, ask questions, and hear about the remarkable things in store for the conference.

Whether or not you can come see us in New York--and we hope that you can!--please join us here. It's gonna be ... a thriller!

Kelli Stanley, Thrillerfest Publicity Committee Chair

Thrillerfest Publicity Committee:
Jeannie Holmes
CJ Lyons
Carla Buckley
Grant McKenzie

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sample the Thrill: The God of the Hive

One of many great articles that you can find each month in The Big Thrill!

In The God of the Hive, award-winning author Laurie R. King has created another fascinating and engaging Mary Russell novel. For those not familiar with this series, I strongly recommend you cease your current activity and immediately introduce yourself to Mary Russell and her whirlwind life as Sherlock Holmes's young wife.

Russell and Holmes have worked together to solve the most perplexing of cases. Now, The God of the Hive picks up where The Language of Bees left off: with the duo and those they are protecting scattered to the winds, Scotland Yard after them from one side and a shadowy faction of the government from the other--in rickety airplanes above Scotland and on boats in the North Sea; in hidden rooms above London shops and rustic woodland cabins.

Chased by those who want them dead, chasing answers to deadly mysteries, the consequences of what they find will circle the globe, and involve a man with a curious identity and a dangerous past. With the God of London's hive watching them, it will take more than deduction if they ever want to see each other alive again.

Laurie R. King writes as if painting a spectacular wall mural. The reader is immediately drawn into the 1920's where the era and landscape are vivid and soaked with sound and scents. Laurie's rich and diverse background that encompasses degrees in theology, extensive world travel and the ability to wear a carpenter's belt and actually know what to do with the tools attached, brings a level of creativity and world building to her novels that immediately captures the reader and promises an afternoon of pure escapism.

Booklist (starred): Using short chapters and wielding her virtual pen like a burnished sword, King allows readers to race through this gloriously complex second half of last year's Language of Bees....How Mary, Holmes, and Mycroft solve [their] conundrum--usually while separated from one another--is delineated in resplendent prose. The nascent and rocky development of air travel and international telephone lines; the effect of a winsome and intelligent child on perhaps overintellectual adults; descriptions of locales and places via scent, texture, and color--all of it makes for utterly absorbing reading.

I had the pleasure of conversing with Laurie and asked her what surprises lay in store for Mary Russell in The God of the Hive and where might we next meet up with the unflappable wife of Sherlock Holmes.

"Poor Mary, she always hopes to be permitted to spend some quiet time with her books, when -bam- another case drops down on them. Usually involving someplace cold. The 2011 novel (which will make three Russell's in a row, unusual for me) finds her headed for Lisbon with a mad troupe of actors making a silent film about The Pirates of Penzance, with real pirates. Never a dull moment..."

Take a quick moment to visit Laurie's website. You won't be disappointed. Not only is there an enticing excerpt from The God of the Hive but also a picture of Laurie with the Dali Lama.

Julie Korzenko is a senior paralegal at a boutique domestic law firm in Atlanta. Her first book DEVIL'S GOLD hit the shelves in March of 2009. Publisher's Weekly stated that "Fans of Alex Kava, Shannon, McKenna, and Suzanne Brockmann will hope to see more of Cassidy and Jake." She is currently wrapping up its sequel ANGEL FALLS.

Find out more about great authors at ThrillerFest 2010!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Celebrate Craft: Influence and Authority Book Marketing

Celebrate the Craft! - from the Future Perfect Publishing blog

There are many ways to do marketing and promotions but I want to focus on two: influence and authority

Influence marketing happens when you promote yourself indirectly. You influence someone with your style, your behavior and how much they like you. It is “personality” promotion. You are so well liked or respected that people want to be like you or associated with you in some way. That means buying what you recommend because they believe in and/or like you.

Authority marketing happens more directly. There are people out there looking for what you are selling but they can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists. Or they may not know they need it unless you can convince them they need it. So you advertise to let people know about your book, and give them all the information they need to make a purchase. Or at least link to that information within your ad.

Here are examples of each type of marketing used to promote the same book.

Influence Marketing
This could be a blog or Facebook note.

“When I wrote this book I was going through a very difficult time. I researched for months both in resources and in my heart before I ever touched pen to paper. My sister died of breast cancer and I wanted anyone reading my book that is going through the same thing to know they are not alone. Someone is here who understands.”

Notice that at no time was there a direct sale of the book. Nothing in the blog says “Buy my book”. What it does though is create a personality and an environment around the book’s theme. You feel connected to this person because they are willing to share something of themselves. This invites comments. It invites us to care and to want to be involved with the author of the blog.

Authority Marketing
My Sister is Dying and the World Keeps Turning takes the reader inside the final stages of death for living sister, the one who will be left behind.

A true story of love, faith and acceptance with a forward by renown psychologist Dr. Emen Touchstone, author of Final Stages, Final Goodbyes: Hospice For Survivors.

Note the differences in the two styles of marketing. With the second blog we get more of a commercial feel. We know exactly what the name of the book is. We see that a doctor with a well-known background in the field is involved with the book. This doesn’t invite questions as openly or as intimately as the first blog. There isn’t a question that a book is being promoted in the second blog.

Which is the best way to promote a book?

There is a time and a place for everything. If you have a blog, website or profile on MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, etc. and you use that to promote yourself or your work, then you are an authority there and can use Authority Marketing in that space.

If you are in an online community which you use primarily as a social platform, you should use Influence Marketing as your promotional strategy.

How do I know which to use?

Here are the questions you should ask yourself to determine which strategy is best fo you:

  • What is the expectation of the readership of this profile/blog?
  • Why are they there?
  • Why do they think YOU are there?

You need to be honest in whatever it is you are doing. If you are there to pitch your work that’s fine. Just be sure people know that. If you are there to make friends and be social, you can let people know you will be releasing information about your work occasionally. Then you have established why you are there and what you are doing. Everyone knows what to expect.

But, if you act like you are there to socialize and make friends and all you do is promote yourself you are setting yourself up for trouble. Think of it like a spam e-mail: your subject line says “I’m here to make friends!” but your content is all about making a sale.

If visitors know you are going to sell something and they still come to your site then they are interested in what you have to sell. It is acceptable to use an authoritative marketing tool to communicate with them. The expectation is set. There is no trickery or subterfuge. They can still trust you because you are doing what you said you would be doing.

A great book on this subject is Trust Agents by Chris Brogran and Julien Smith (http://www.trustagent.com/) that can help you better understand the need for building trust online and strategies for doing that. If you are marketing online I highly recommend this book.

Which is better to help sell my books?

With all the hype about online marketing and social media technology, it is easy to overlook the most important element of marketing: what does my audience want?

Know your readers. Take the time to research your audience. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will they benefit from your book?
  • What would inspire word-of-mouth about your book?
  • How do they like to be communicated to?

From those answers you should be able to identify whether to use Influence Marketing or Authority Marketing. Or a combination of the two – e.g. use Authority Marketing on your website and Influence Marketing on your social profile. Just remember to let people know what to expect wherever they “meet” you online.

We are an accumulation of our words and deeds. How do your readers see you?

Sheila Clover English, the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, is a pioneer in book video production, marketing and distribution for authors and publishers.

You can celebrate craft with us at CraftFest in New York in July!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chevy Stevens is the debut author of Still Missing (St. Martin’s Press, July 2010). Rights have been sold to Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, and Australia. Brilliance Audio bought audio rights for Still Missing and Chevy’s next two novels, and St. Martin’s has sold book club rights.

Carla: Chevy, your story is about a realtor, Annie O’Sullivan, who is abducted and held for a year, as told in narration to her therapist once she’s freed. It’s a fascinating concept. How did you dream it up?

Chevy: When I was a Realtor, I spent hours at open houses reading books or scaring myself with horrible thoughts of what could happen to me. One of the most terrifying scenarios began with being abducted. That led to other thoughts like who would abduct me and what it would be like to try to fit back in your life after such a brutal experience. Was it even possible? The idea hovered in the back of my mind for a while, then one day I heard my main character’s voice telling her story to a “shrink.” I walked up to my office and just started writing. The basic structure and story line has never changed from that very first draft.

Carla: How long was it from that point until you felt it was ready for submission?

Chevy: Almost four years.

Carla: What made you stick with this particular story? Did you always want to be a writer?

Chevy: When I was a child growing up on a ranch I dreamed of being a writer and carried books around with me everywhere, usually with a cat under the other arm and a dog following behind. There were a few attempts at early novels, one featuring a detective mouse and another where a wife poisons her abusive husband—obviously I had an early tendency toward thrillers! I took writing in school, but I planned to be an artist. Then I started working in business and got sidetracked.

Shortly before the idea of Still Missing came to me, I’d stayed on a remote gulf island and started writing a memoir. I didn’t stick with that piece, but I fell in love with writing. Then I started dreaming in prose. I would see sentences landing on a blank page. Not long after the idea for Still Missing came to me. When I started writing, I became consumed with Annie’s story and connected with it deeply on a personal level. Although the exact events that happened to Annie did not happen to me, her story is the extreme version of my life growing up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. Annie’s emotional growth after her abduction is very similar to what I went through during the process of writing this book.

As to why I stuck with it for so long--that’s a hard one to explain. Despite the slim odds of being published and the fear of failure--especially when I left Real Estate in the middle of a hot market!--it was something I had to do. It wasn’t a choice, it was a compulsion.

Carla: What do you hope your reader will get out of Still Missing?

Chevy: I hope they see that it’s okay to talk about your pain, that there’s no shame in feeling emotions and being vulnerable. I hope this book gives people permission to tell their stories and the courage to reach for happiness.

Carla: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?

Chevy: This is a very emotional story so I had to dig deep into my own fears and pain. I often struggled to avoid going “there,” but when I did it was always enormously cathartic. From a technical perspective, it was difficult to tell this story authentically and share the nightmare that Annie endured--that women endure every day--in a way that wasn’t too horrific for people to read. It’s a fine line and I tried my best to be sensitive to the subject matter I was working with. It was as hard for me to write, as I’m sure it will be for many to read. But I feel the book’s message is important, these are things that need to be talked about.

The book’s structure--told in sessions with Annie’s therapist--allowed me to dive into Annie’s psyche, but it was confining at times and very challenging to show her growth as she progressed through her therapy. I spent several months working just on the session intros, trying to get Annie’s voice to reflect her emotional state at each stage of her healing.

Carla: What was the easiest?

Chevy: I probably had the most fun with Annie’s sarcasm. I have a very dry sense of humor and it was fun writing some of her lines!

Carla: It’s unusual for a debut novel to garner so much international interest. What do you feel is its particular appeal?

Chevy: Although Annie went through a horrendous experience--every woman’s worst nightmare--she survived. Her spirit is shattered, but she doesn’t want her pain to win. Somehow, through it all, she’s trying to rebuild her life and find happiness again. That’s a human desire people can understand all over the world. There are many victims of violence and abuse who are struggling to heal. I believe Still Missing says that it is possible. You can overcome. You may never be the same person again, but you can end up a stronger person.

Carla: Could you describe an average writing day?

Chevy: I’m up by 6:30am and have my first cup of tea while I return e-mails and read blogs--all that good Internet junkie stuff! Then it’s out for a walk with my dog, Annie. When the second cup of tea is in hand, I start writing. I can’t retain focus for long periods of time so there are usually several tea, e-mail, and puppy cuddle/playtime breaks. And once in a while I make it to the gym! But that’s mainly just damage control.

Carla: If you could pick one author to meet, who would it be?

Chevy: If I were to pick one author, it would have to be Bryce Courtenay. The Power of One resonated with me in a way that no other book ever has, and I identified with his main character Peekay completely. He also has an incredible body of work and is just brilliant at capturing intricate family dynamics, usually playing out their stories in an incredible setting. His stories have strong themes of survival, which I really connect with.

Carla: Can you share anything about your next novel?

Chevy: I’d love to! Sara has a much different energy than Annie and it was interesting to see how that shaped the novel. Here’s a little teaser. Hope you like it!

"Sara discovers her biological father is an infamous killer who’s been hunting women every summer for over thirty years. She tries to come to terms with her horrifying parentage--and her fears that she’s inherited more than his looks--with her therapist, Nadine, who we first met in Still Missing. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out your father is a killer is him finding out about you."

Carla Buckley is the debut author of The Things That Keep Us Here (Delacorte Press, 2010.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Celebrate Craft: Hurtin' Heroes

Celebrate the Craft! - from the The Thriller Guy blog


All right, quick quiz: who's the prolific, (180 books) manly, adventurer/author pictured above? If you guessed Thriller Guy you're forgiven, it's an understandable mistake, but you're wrong. That's Lester Dent, author of the Doc Savage series, books that were also made into a radio show, movies and comic books. And which are still available today.

TG recently finished reading and reviewing an excellent thriller (sorry, contractually I cannot name this book for several months), where the hero had by page 67 been badly beaten up three times, stabbed and generally mistreated by friend and foe alike. After finishing the book, TG realized that these days most heroes are getting off pretty light when it comes to being on the receiving end of physical mayhem. Sure, there are exceptions like Ray Banks' characters and a few others, but most big-name authors are letting their guys off easy. They might pick up a flesh wound toward the end of a book, but generally they win all their fist fights and escape relatively unscathed after other attempts are made on their lives. It was not always thus.

When the young folk gather at TG's knee and ask for help with their cute little novels, TG always counsels: “Make the best possible characters and then do the worst possible things to them.” Actually, TG thinks he stole that line from John Irving, but John will never notice this little blog and he wouldn't care anyway. Actually, many years ago, John slept with one of TG's old girlfriends, but that's another story and TG never carries a grudge. (Big shout-out to John -- Still living in New Hampshire and writing about bears?)

Anyway, until recently heroes had to work hard and take a lot of punishment to come out on top of the villains. Lester Dent knew that, and Doc Savage, while fabulously tough and smart, took his lumps and more with every adventure. Note the torn shirt, which was de rigeur on all of this series' pulp covers. Doc wasn't a superhero, but, well, let's let Wikipedia do the explaining...

“Doc Savage's real name was Clark Savage, Jr.. He was a physician, surgeon, scientist, adventurer, inventor, explorer, researcher, and, as revealed in The Polar Treasure, a musician. A team of scientists assembled by his father deliberately trained his mind and body to near-superhuman abilities almost from birth, giving him great strength and endurance, a photographic memory, a mastery of the martial arts, and vast knowledge of the sciences. Doc is also a master of disguise and an excellent imitator of voices. "He rights wrongs and punishes evildoers." Dent described the hero as a mix of Sherlock Holmes' deductive abilities, Tarzan's outstanding physical abilities, Craig Kennedy's scientific education, and Abraham Lincoln's goodness. Dent described Doc Savage as manifesting "Christliness." Doc's character and world-view is displayed in his oath, which goes as follows:

“Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it. Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do. Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.”

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, That's a very fine credo, but what the hell is the point here, TG? Sorry. The point is that Lester Dent wrote an instructive short essay on how to plot a 6000 word short story. It's a useful instruction for not just short story writers, but novelists as well. Perspective authors and professional authors alike would do well to read the essay and apply its lessons to their own writing, particularly Dent's repeated instructions on how to treat your hero: “Introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble.” “Shovel more grief onto the hero.” “A surprising plot twist in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad.” and again: “Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.”

So let's get with it, thriller writers; time to start beating the crap out of your heroes.

You can celebrate craft with us at CraftFest in New York in July!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sample the Thrill - Orange County Noir

One of many great articles that you can find each month in The Big Thrill!

Orange County, California, brings to mind the endless summer of sand and surf, McMansion housing tracts, a conservative stronghold, tony shopping centers where pilates classes are run like boot camp and real-estate values are discussed at your weekly colonic, and ice-cream parlors on Main Street, U.S.A., exist side-by-side with pho shops and taquerias. Orange County Noir takes you for a hardboiled tour behind the Orange Curtain where a reclusive rock star has lived way too long in his own head, a crooked judge uses the court for illicit means, a cab driver prowls the streets with more than the ticking meter on his mind, where cultures clash, housewives want more than the perfect grout cleaner, and nobody is who they seem to be.'

Back in 2004 Akashic published an anthology with stories set in a distinct neighbourhood or location within the city of the book. This first anthology was called Brooklyn Noir. As you can see from their website, the anthology garnered loads of awards and a series of anthologies were born; each one unique to the titular city and loaded with dark stories steeped in local knowledge. Since then there have been 36 other anthologies set as far afield as Paris, Dublin and more American cities than I can shake a stick at. And there are more planned with locations as diverse as India and Moscow to whet our appetites.

The latest in the series, and the reason for this article, is Orange County Noir edited by Gary Phillips. Gary is already well known to readers of this series as his stories appear in many of the Akashic anthologies. He has also co-edited other Noir anthologies but this is his first stint as editor of this particular series. Contributors to the anthology include Susan Straight, Robert S. Levinson, Rob Roberge, Nathan Walpow, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Dan Duling, Mary Castillo, Lawrence Maddox, Dick Lochte, Robert Ward, Gordon McAlpine, Martin J. Smith, and Patricia McFall.

Gary also contributes a story himself as an added bonus.

Gary keeps himself busy writing his Martha Chainey and Ivan Monk series as well as other stand alone novels. Monk is an African American Private Eye working in the Tinder Box that is LA. and Martha Chainey is a former showgirl who is now a courier for the corporate mob that runs modern Vegas.

His latest novel is Freedom's Fight set in WW2. This book is a riveting mystery set around three characters who find their lives in danger as they fight for a country that has not been kind to them. Gary also writes Angel Town for Vertigo where he brings his gritty expertise to the Graphic Novel format. All in all Gary is a busy man and, despite that, he set some time aside to talk to me about his latest anthology.

What can we expect from 'Orange County Noir'? Will it reflect your previous hopeful outlook among the ruins of the city or will it be darker?

Derek, that's a loaded question if ever there was one...especially from a horror writer. Ha. Okay, while I do explore the dark side of human frailties in my novels like The Jook and an upcoming novella, The Underbelly (about a semi-homeless Vietnam vet's search for a disabled buddy who's disappeared from Los Angeles' Skid Row), even my short story "The Performer" in Orange County Noir takes you on a walk on the wild side, I like to think I'm actually an upbeat guy. Though it must mean I have a gallows sense of humor.

I believe readers of Orange County Noir will enjoy the range of stories in the book from crooked judges to a lonely cab driver prowling the night to an older teacher who's run away with her now grown former students. Hmm, that does sound awfully bent doesn't it? Rest assured while the tales in the collection are gripping and gritty, they are laced with wry observations and sardonic asides to keep matters from being dour. As a writer who occasionally does editing of others' stories, I'm very pleased with the results in the anthology.

This is part of the Akashic Noir series that you have contributed to many times before, including one set in my own Dublin. The independent publishers have really shown the way to publishers highlighting niches that would otherwise be ignored. Do you feel there is still more they can do?

As the readers of The Big Thrill know, traditional publishing is undergoing many changes what with e-publishing, Kindle, podcasting and so on. It was also the case that there used to be a ratio of money a big house would spend on promoting a given writer commiserate with their advance. More and more, this is not the case these days, and this was before the Big Meltdown. Now I can't speak for other writers, but it's been my feeling for awhile that in-store book signings are going the way of the mastodon - sucked down in the mud of extinction. Fact I was talking with a writer friend the other day and she's paid a online promotion entity to "book" her on various blogs - a blog tour. She also works book club lists and what have you to promote her books.

Having said that, let me add Akashic works their asses off to promote their titles. They sent out ARCs of OC Noir to various online, print and electronic venues and have done follow-up with these outlets. In addition to some in-store signings, me and various mixes of the contributors are doping panels at book events, radio and looking to line up local TV too. But as we've discussed, online presence is so dominant and demanding now, it does seem a small hardworking press like Akashic as well as the larger publishers will be doing even more in terms of social media be it twittering, facebooking and so forth.

I want to add that even though I think in-store book signings are fading away, it is in the writer's interest to get to know your independent bookseller. Nothing beats the hand selling they can do. Plus, they're just good folks.

'Noir' has become such a generic term in recent times, do you feel we have lost the original feel or are we updating an old concept?

It seems both things are happening. Frankly speaking, noir to me means the characters are doomed in some way in their pursuit of, usually, some illicit goal. 'Noir' as a term has become something of a catch-all for a tough-minded story; hardboiled is not necessarily noir. But it's also the case I've noticed more "civilians" using the term and are curious to read books with the noir hook so on that level, that's a good thing. I suppose the lesson is for writers not to lose sight of what the term means, at least to themselves, and what kind of story that is to write.

I realise you have editing credits to your name but is this the first time you are both editor and contributor? How was the experience?

The reason to edit these anthologies is so you can include your own work. Heh. I've co-edited the Cocaine Chronicles for Akashic with Jervey Tervalon, the Darker Mask, an assortment of edgy prose super-hero stories with Chris Chambers, solo edited Politics Noir, and now this book. In each of those I contributed a story. Being the editor can seem to be advantageous because you can see what others have written but honestly, editor and writer are two different parts of my brain. I try as editor to offer suggestions to make a writer's story stronger but want to be careful about not imposing my style. As the writer, I bore down on what I want to tell in my story, not worrying about how othe4rs have done theirs. I either get feedback from my co-editor or from the in-house editors if they think something doesn't work in what I've written.

And then like every other writer I ignore the suggestions...just kidding.

Themed anthologies can be difficult to maintain both the theme and quality. What tricks have you learned and will you do it again?

Fortunately writers are a creative bunch so what trick is to hopefully coming up with a theme that a group of them find interesting and get excited enough to come up with an idea and crank out a story. But as editor sometimes it happens certain writers you court turn in a story that's not their best effort or off the mark. Sometimes you're able to communicate what's off or missing and an understanding is reached so the story gets improved and sometimes, well, you have to agree to disagree and they withdraw their short story.

What's next? Can we expect to see more novels like Freedom's Flight or a return to 'noir'?

Freedom's Fight was my historical novel about black soldiers in World War II. Really, it was about being inspired by my dad, Dikes, who saw action at Guadalcanal; his brother Norman who was part of the mop up action at D-Day; and my mom's brother, Oscar, who died in air combat over Memmingen, Germany as a Tuskegee airman. I'm a fan of Band of Brothers, hell the old Combat! TV show, and will no doubt watch the upcoming Pacific mini-series, but where are the filmic efforts about the all-black units that fought at the Battle of the Bulge? The 781st, all-black tankers, the Black Panthers. Or a mini-series about Sgt. Eddie Carter who spoke Chinese, fought in Chiang Kai-shek's army and with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade against the fascists in Spain and this was before being in WWII (chronicled in the non-fiction book, Honoring Sergeant Carter: A Family's Journey to Uncover the Truth About an American Hero by Allene G. Carter and Robert L. Allen)?

Tell us a little about your other novels and your graphic novel 'Cowboys'.

Okay, enough of the soap box rant. I've got a crime graphic novel upcoming from DC/Vertigo Comics I'm quite pleased with called Cowboys. The plot centers on an undercover cop starting at one end of an investigation unknowingly on a collision course with an undercover FBI agent on the other end of the case. The artist on the book was Brian Hurtt who is underrated, but a wonderful draftsman and storyteller. I'd like folks to also check out Bicycle Cop Dave, my ongoing webcomic that's subtitled, patrolling the dark side of gentrification. (http://fourstory.org/fiction/installment/all-right-sylvia/). Lastly, there's a novel about a gang lord's revenge called Kings of Vice I co-wrote with actor-rapper Ice-T due out this fall from Forge.

Where do you find the time to produce so much?

I'm just happy that, knock wood, at least for now I can find outlets for the stories I want to tell. Of course that means I get a lot of 'nos' to the occasional 'yes.' Sill, here's to the well not drying up for any of us.

As you will see from the above, Gary has a lot of material coming our way in the next few months. Cowboys will be out next year from DC's Vertigo line and, from what I've seen; it looks like it's going to be fantastic. For those of you interested in checking out Gary's other works you can find out everything you need to know at his website here, http://www.gdphillips.com/  or run out to your local bookstore and pick up his novels.

Orange County Noir is available through Akashic's web site or the usual retailers. It's also available in Kindle Format which makes it ideal for dipping into. Do yourself a favor and try it out and then be ready to pick up the back catalogue.

Derek Gunn lives in Dublin, Ireland with his wife and three children and is the author of four novels. His post-apocalyptic thriller series, Vampire Apocalypse, has been widely praised on both sides of the Atlantic in the genre media and it is published by Black Death Books. The three books in the series are; "A World Torn Asunder" (2006), "Descent into Chaos" (2008) and "Fallout" (2009). Derek also released "The Estuary", published by Permuted Press in 2009 which is available in Borders and Waldenbooks stores throughout the USA as well as from online booksellers.

Derek's first book is under option for film and an adaptation is currently in active development as a major movie. Also, the Graphic novel rights to Derek's VAMPIRE APOCALYPSE series have been picked up by a US indie publisher - the first graphic novel is due out in 2011. Visit his website at www.derekgunn.com

Find out more about great authors at ThrillerFest 2010!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Celebrate Craft! - Plotting: May I please borrow a cup of plot, Mr. Shakespeare?

Celebrate the Craft! - from the Write By You blog

It's been said that there are no new plots, that fiction writers can only tread the same ground that's been tread by others. On the other hand, editors frequently state at writers' conferences that they want to see fresh ideas. So what are writers to do? We know that plagiarism is a no-no. Yet, every few years someone is desperate enough (or stupid enough) to copy a published author's work, in whole or part, and put their own name on it, hoping no one will notice.

Well, of course, someone notices! And then the copier isn't only in legal hot water, they've branded themselves as a cheat, as a writer who isn't clever enough to come up with his/her own words. Where then do we draw the line? When is it okay to borrow and when does borrowing become plagiarism and a career destroyer?

First, copyright law is meant to protect the original writer's words—his art. But some elements of art are not copyrightable. Titles can't be owned. Neither can a plot (boy meets girl), an idea (Earth is visited by aliens), or a character type (the bimbo cheerleader) be protected from use by another author. It's the actual words, the writing itself that shouldn't be stolen, borrowed, or used without the author's permission. And, of course, no author is going to say that you can take their book and put your name on it. No, wait! I take that back. Some writers do just that. They are called ghostwriters. And they are paid well for delivering a book then keeping quiet about having written it for another person to claim, or for sharing the billing with a celebrity.

But we're not talking about ghostwriting. We're talking about your original novel or short story, and what may or may not be permitted legally and ethically. What if you love a title you've come up with and someone says, "Hey, you can't call your story Gone with the Wind, that's been used already." Well, legally you can call your book that. Titles are duplicated all the time, either intentionally or by accident. Your book may be a story about a modern-day balloonist who is lost on his round-the-world race. It's perfect! Plus you get the added kick from people recognizing the famous title, used in this different way. But if you want your Civil War saga to be taken seriously, you probably shouldn't reuse that particular book's title.

What about characters? Can I create a story about a clever amateur detective who uses clues that no one else even notices to solve puzzling crimes? Sure. Hundreds of writers have done so, each adding an original twist and interesting traits to their sleuth. Can I make my detective a sleuth who lives on Baker Street in London in an earlier century? Why not? Maybe I could create a new competitor for Sherlock Holmes. How many vampires roam the night-time pages of novels today? How many soldiers, cowboys, mountain climbers, or deep sea divers risk their lives for their comrades? But common sense says that borrowing the exact character as portrayed by an author who is alive and writing today isn't a nice thing to do. That author might reasonably object to your using his paper people to populate your story, that is if you actually use the same names, descriptions, and so forth. If you want to write a story using the classic Star Wars characters, for instance, and you're hoping to get it published, then you need the permission of the copyright holder to do so.

However, most of us who write find that we can come up with a title that we're reasonably happy with, and characters who will work well in our stories. What I hear most often as a complaint from new writers who come to me as students or mentoring clients is that they have trouble plotting. "I'm not smart enough to think up interesting plots." "My mind just doesn't work that way." "I want to write something really exciting that's never been done before, but I can't come up with anything really fresh!"

Well, here's a secret. Of all the writers who are publishing fiction today, most are not coming up with their own plots. Seriously. You say you can't come up with a good idea for a story? Fine. Look up one of your favorite authors, recent or deep in the past, and pick a story you particularly liked. Break it down. What happened to keep you turning pages? What was the central conflict? List the hurdles the hero/heroine had to overcome to resolve that conflict. Where was the story set? How did the setting—time, place, weather, other characters—make the protagonist's job easier or harder? What you're doing is creating a map of a plot that you can then use for your story.

Shakespeare and virtually every playwright in his time stole plots. They looked to the Bible, to Greek mythology, to historical accounts and folktales, to the works of other poets and playwrights, and modeled stories that were different in slant, setting, style…but virtually lifted from other sources. If you are convinced you can't plot, borrow a cup of plot from another author as you might a cup of sugar from a neighbor when baking a cake. Write a Romeo and Juliet story set in the 31st century. Or a version of Shane, the classic Western, but make it a contemporary story aimed at teenage readers. Develop a story based on a folktale handed down through your Polish ancestors then set it in modern-day Manhattan. Use your cup of plot borrowed from a bestselling author of today to inspire an original tale that you construct and set during the time of the cave dwellers. The possibilities are without limit.

Is this playing fair? Absolutely. And it's not just because the precedent has been set by famous writers for centuries. The fact is, when you borrow a plot then develop your own characters and setting, applying your voice, wording, and interpretation to the story—it becomes something new and fresh. As you write, you begin to imagine new directions in which to take the novel, additional scenes, sources of conflict, and characters who never appeared in the earlier story. You naturally make the tale your own.

So don't let being clueless plot-wise stop you from writing a great short story or novel. Borrow a tried-and-true concept to get you started and show you the way. Once you have established the basic structure, your natural creative instincts will take over and help you make the story your own.

Happy writing! Kathryn

You can celebrate craft with us at CraftFest in New York in July!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sample The Thrill: Interview with Jim Daher

Many authors come to writing via other careers. For Jim Daher, the travel required for his career in health care management provided the perfect opportunity to read mysteries and thrillers by authors such as John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, Jonathan Kellerman, Faye Kellerman, Robert B. Parker, Stuart Woods, Lisa Scottoline, Michael Connelly, Daniel Silva, Lee Child, David Baldacci, and Greg Iles. He became fascinated with how these authors "created characters, devised plots and most importantly 'entertained' their readers" and vowed to write a novel when he had time. That time came eventually, and Daher wrote his first novel, Righteous Kill. His latest book Blood Money is the sequel.

Contributing Editor Janice Gable Bashman chats with Jim Daher about Blood Money and his writing process.

Tell us about Blood Money and why it's so compelling?

The characters, the plot and the unknown of what's next makes Blood Money a must-read. Scott Justice, Sarah James' groom, is shot in the middle of his wedding vows and Sarah is devastated. After she is certain he will survive, Sarah becomes frustrated with the FBI's botched attempts to protect Scott and their lack of progress in identifying the shooter. As a result, she decides to "handle it" herself and deal with him "her way." The FBI forbids her to get involved in the case, but that's impossible for Sarah James. She wants, no needs, revenge.

What makes FBI agent Sara James such a formidable character?

Kidnapped and brutally abused when she was a teenager, Sarah changed her name to escape the stigma of the ordeal. Determined to find the man who had beaten the legal system, walked away a free man and gone on with his life, she changed the course of hers with a single purpose, vengeance. Sarah James goes on to become a top field agent with the FBI. But unlike her fellow agents, Sarah believes the end justifies the means where crooks and murderers are concerned and will go "rogue" to see that justice is done. She had given up on love until she met fellow agent Scott Justice. Then the unthinkable happens, an assassin makes an attempt on Scott's life in the midst of his and Sarah's wedding. With revenge as her motivation, Sarah goes rogue.

As a male writing a female protagonist, what obstacles have you encountered in getting inside your character's head, and how have you overcome them?

Thinking like a woman: To solve the problem I spend countless hours talking to women in their twenties and thirties, questioning their reactions to various scenarios. Their views on life, love, and crime. I've also discussed the same issues with a couple of psychiatrists I knew during my health care career.

Blood Money, like many thrillers, occurs in multiple locations where the characters encounter a plethora of nasty characters hell-bent on destroying them. In Blood Money, Sara James must deal with ex-cons and the mob, among others. Tell us about your research process for this book and how you made these situations real for the reader.

During my years in the psychiatric field, I attended numerous group therapy sessions, as an observer, and learned about the "mind set" of those in treatment for addictions, criminal activities and various acts against society. I also observed the other side of coin, the "victims". The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) is located in Brunswick, Ga. ATF, Border Patrol, Custom Agents, and other Law Enforcement agencies train at FLTEC. I eat lunch at Willie's Weiner Wagon, a popular lunch spot for those in training, and meet many of them. Most will openly discuss different aspects of their jobs, agencies, training and routines. A key facet I always work into the conversation is the nature of the criminals they seek and capture. This has helped in making situations and scenes in my novels real. That and trying to put myself into the characters mind and living the situation.

Writing sequels can be difficult because the writer must address storyline and character backgrounds that were established in the first book. What other factors did you have to consider in this process, and how did you address them.

The hardest element for me is back-story; how to tell the reader about Sarah's and other reoccurring key characters' past. To do this I read and reread some of my favorite author's books to see the techniques they use to "fill in" the reader on a character.

What advice would you give to aspiring thriller writers?

Fully develop and understand every character in your books. You must know by instinct how your character(s) will react to a given situation. Don't ever ask yourself, "How do I want my character to act in this situation . . . know how your character will react to the situation!

How has your background informed your writing?

My background is instrumental in my writing. I was on my own at an early age and quickly learned that to survive/succeed, I had to understand people and know when to act or react in any given situation. During my health care career I worked in both medical/surgical and psychiatric hospitals, dealing with medical staffs, county commissioners, community organizations, employees at all levels, "Wall Street" executives for IPO's and LBO's. To succeed, I learned to communicate with others by observing people/human nature: the best and the worst, evil and good, egotism, those with deity complexes . . . all forms of human behavior. My psychiatric experience was particularly helpful in gaining insight into the negative side of human behavior and how people use the truth or lack thereof to gain their way.

What's next for Jim Daher?

I'm working on a new novel that involves corporate crime and arson, using characters introduced in Blood Money. I want to create a second series and alternate it with Sarah James.

Janice Gable Bashman is co-author (with Jonathan Maberry) of WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil (Citadel Press 2010). She wrote sidebars for THEY BITE: Endless Cravings of Supernatural Predators (Citadel Press 2009) by Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer. She also writes for leading publications, including the NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, INDUSTRY TODAY, and FOOD & DRINK QUARTERLY. And, her writing won multiple awards at the 2007 Philadelphia Writer's Conference.