Today we, as Americans, remember and honor all members of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard who gave their all in the defense of our country.
After my third novel, Rampage, was published, I kicked off a wholesale change to my writing style with the Barry Marshall series, by switching to 1st person point of view for my new protagonists, Barry, Erin, and Cailey Marshall. Getting into their heads to show their attitudes, emotions, and passions has proven to be the biggest puzzle I’ve ever undertaken. Besides Barry, inhabiting the persona of Erin (wife and mother) and Cailey (their five-year-old daughter), and putting it all down on the page so it sounds right was a challenging task.
The tougher job comes in the sequel. Here, the main protagonist is Cailey, now seven years older, a budding teenager with a penchant for finding and landing in trouble. An even bigger puzzle, indeed! Ideally, meeting with a real-life individual who’d fit that persona, kind of like doing a ride-along or a Q&A with a real-life police officer to find out what he thinks and how he’d react to a given set of facts, allows me to delve into his psyche and reasoning as it pertains to fictional events.
A pair of veteran fathers: Brandon Mathiews, and my brother, Kevin Behr, gave me insight into the attitudes, emotions, and passions of an adolescent daughter. Researched material from books and the web as well as real-life accounts from CNN and MSN supplemented character development. The twelve (almost thirteen-year-old) Cailey has blossomed into a believable protagonist with an interesting character arc. And for those who haven’t read my previous Facebook posts, the inspiration for the fictional Cailey Marshall came from Detective Mathiews’ own daughter, Cailey (with his permission). My readers will let me know if I successfully pulled it off.
The third novel in the series will feature Cailey as a young adult in the 19-20 year old range, managing to find herself embroiled in another colossal mess: where, what, and how is yet to be determined.
Who Turned off the TV? From the files of Little Bobby Malone’s Detective Series: A Mystery about Strange Rectangular Objects with Paper Inside
Little Bobby sat staring into the bleak, darkness. His baby-fedora cocked to one side, a look of dismay and alarm creeping onto his face.
In all his six years, the box in the corner of the room had been his constant companion. His friends lived in it. It played toe-tappin’ music, and it was always full of bright, alluring images.
Now, it sat there – dark, blank, and well … dead.
Little Bobby’s bottom lip began to quiver. What would he do instead? His whole life had been set on watching television day in, day out.
He checked himself, and took in a deep breath.
Clearly someone or something had turned the TV off, but who? Could it be the dame he called, ‘Mudda’ or da fella known as ‘Daad’? He didn’t know.
Little Bobby knew this mystery had to be solved, and he was just the six year old to do it.
He went to the dress-up box and swapped his baby-fedora for a tweed deerstalker hat, and dug is hands deep into his pockets.
But where to start?
He went to leave the room, but slowly turned back. He couldn’t draw his eyes away from the dead TV. He nodded to it and thought, “Don’t worry old friend. I’ll find out who done this to ya, and bring ‘em to justice.”
Then he strode out of the room, and headed towards the kitchen.
The kitchen had always been a strange and unusual place for Little Bobby. Sure, he loved the food the big dame cooked. He enjoyed the smells too, but as soon as his meals were ready, he would always head back to his beloved TV and sit and eat in front of it to eat.
As he approached this strange room, a bright warm light flooded the hallway.
“Ah, sunshine,” Little Bobby whispered. “What do you have to do with this? The plot thickens.”
Bravely, he went on.
As he approached the kitchen, he felt a cool breeze touch his cheeks, then much to his surprise he noticed the back doors were open.
“Strange,” Little Bobby thought as he looked around the empty room. “The other residents are usually in here. Don’t tell me they are outside.”
Little Bobby didn’t go outside much. He knew the place existed, but he never understood the attraction. Sure there was fresh air, sunshine, flowers and playthings, but there was no TV – what good was any place without a TV?
Under a large tree, Little Bobby could make out the dame, his mother, sitting. Her eyes were fixed on the object she held in her hands. She was biting her lip and her eyes were wild with excitement.
“What is da dame up to?” Little Bobby whispered.
He drew his hat further down over his eyes, and approached with caution.
He was only a few feet away when his mother jumped up and squealed. She fumbled quickly with the thing in her hands, turning over its insides. Then she relaxed and continued to stare at it.
“Whatever it is, it certainly has got her transfixed. Maybe it’s some sort of hypnotizing device or brain draining machine,” Bobby wondered.
He was considering his next move, when his mother looked up and saw him.
“Oh, you’ve come outside Bobby,” she smiled. “How lovely. Why don’t you get a chair and join me?”
Little Bobby stared at his mother, and shook his head.
“The TV is dead,” he announced solemnly, “And, I’ve come out here to find your brain is being overtaken by that thing in your hand.” He nodded towards the book.
His mother laughed.
“Seriously, you are strange. This is a book. It’s full of mystery, adventures, excitement and thrills,” she said, smiling at her son.
“How?” Little Bobby asked.
“Come over here and I’ll show you,” his mother smiled, and shuffled over so Little Bobby could sit next to her.
“See the book is full of pages, and on them are words.”
Little Bobby frowned and looked at her.
“How does it work?” he asked. “Where’s the remote that controls it?”
“You read it, silly!” his mother laughed. “Here I’ll show you.”
She opened the book and began to read. It was a story about a boy who had a pet dragon. It explained about the places they visited together, and about a great battled they had fought to save their kingdom.
Little Bobby closed his eyes.
He imagined the dragon was blue with sharp yellow eyes. He imagined the boy looked like him but had wild hair and wore clothes made of animal skins.
Best of all, Little Bobby imagined what it might be like to ride a dragon. He invented reins and a saddle made of pure silver. He felt the wind in his hair, and as his mother continued to read, he thought he could hear the beat of the dragon’s wings.
When his mother had finished she stopped and smiled at Little Bobby.
“Well, that’s the end of this book, Bobby. Do you want to go back inside and watch TV or shall we read the next book in the series, The Living Volcano?”
Little Bobby looked back towards the house. He knew the TV was still sitting in there, still and quiet.
He looked back at his mother and said, “The Living Volcano.”
He sat back and closed his eyes. Soon, he was standing on the edge of huge volcano and hot lava was oozing towards him. He wiped the sweat off his brow, and stared into the abyss.
Little Bobby smiled – the TV could wait.
About Susan Day:
Susan Day, children’s author and writer, has developed a 7 Step Guide to Help Children Fall in Love with Books and Reading. Her blog, Astro’s Adventures Book Club, is full of ideas and tips to help parents and grandparents engage children with books. You can download the guide here: http://www.astrosadventuresbookclub.com/
Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three boss cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo. Apart from writing and reading, she loves painting, and gardening.
In Marked Target and its sequel (as well as all that will be forthcoming in the Cailey Marshall series), I use a mix of 1st person point of view (POV) for Cailey and her allies then 3rd person for lesser characters and the villain. Using 3rd POV for the villain gives him or her that element of danger and a bit of distance. I use it to enable the reader to find out something Cailey and her allies don't know or aren't expecting.
To avoid jarring the focus of the reader, the POV should be maintained through the entire chapter. Critiquers of Marked Target have stated that there's much more of a personal and realistic feel to the entire tale, and that the POV of Joe Hood, Adrian and others stayed in the third person - it really solidified the changing character perspectives.
Of course, mixing POVs has its fair share of detractors as I discovered during the query process for Marked Target with various literary agents.
Well-known authors such as Nelson DeMille, in The Lion’s Game, used it – 1st person POV for John Corey and 3rd person for his antagonist, Khalil, to what I believe to be extraordinary effectiveness. It gave the reader a sense of intimacy with Corey while holding Khalil at arm’s length.
Stephen King used this 1st and 3rd POV technique quite effectively in Christine. Lisa Gardner used the POV mix technique seamlessly in her many novels, including Right Behind Her and Find Her. Add James Lee Burke with his Robicheaux novels and you have a plethora of well-known authors who have used this technique very effectively.
Whether you use 1st, 3rd, or a mix, each POV character will be more fully developed and becomes the main character of their own story. The novel then becomes more of an anthology-like collection of stories that share a common, overall saga.
Dana Ridenour is a retired FBI agent. She spent most of her career as an FBI undercover operative. An award-winning author, Dana lives in South Carolina with her amazing husband. Behind the Mask is her first novel.
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.
December had me traveling. First up was a trip to my brother-in-law’s domain in the Albuquerque area followed by a drive up to Temple to scout a few locations for my next novel as well as a visit to my brother’s home in south Texas for Christmas.
Now my writing batteries have been fully recharged. I’ve launched myself full-steam into the completion of my next novel, the sequel to Marked Target. This sequel (which I hope will kick-off a new series) will feature Cailey Marshall as the main protagonist. I’ve included an excerpt here:
My name is Cailey Ann Marshall. I was almost twelve years old when my life changed forever. When I had to grow up faster than any kid should have to. When I learned that not everyone was who they appeared to be. If only I could have a do-over for that one day in September, I would’ve never snuck into that old run-down house. Dust everywhere like dirty snow. Stinky mildew and stale air. Nope. Not for all the money or gold in the whole wide world. Not for anything.
Wednesday, about 8:30 P.M.
I heard somebody’s shoes clumping on the hard floor. Then the whistling. Oh crap. I shined the light all around the room, looking for somewhere to hide. The only place was under the junky bed. I slithered underneath. Right in with dust bunnies the size of tennis balls and dangling cobwebs and a musty smell which reminded me of limburger cheese. Ecch! Anyway, I figured he’d peek in, not see me, then leave. I was so wrong.
Although I’m deep into this novel, I’ve already begun cobbling together a few basic ideas for the next in the Cailey Marshall series. In it, she’s several years older and engaged in a harrowing misadventure that will spell disaster for all who cross her path. James Bond, Jack Ryan, and Jason Bourne – they have nothing on Cailey Marshall.
I hope to return to a third novel this new year in the Jason Scarsdale series since so many readers have requested more with Scarsdale and his bride-to-be, Dani Mueller. So . . . that’s my plan for this year.
International bestselling author E. Jones returns with THE SECRET BLUSH, the second nail-biting suspense novel in the captivating Jennifer Morgan series.
The past has a way of catching up to you . . .
After a messy affair ends, Jennifer is trying to rebuild her life and start a career as a New York City private investigator. But when she is caught in a shooting at her favorite coffeehouse, bitter events from the past come back to hunt her.
James, her NYPD officer beau, unofficially beings to investigate the shooting, while Jenn immerses herself in a sexual harassment case. Soon she discovers that nothing is as it seems and feels she is being set up. Her new life is threatened by deception, an ugly jealousy fight may end her relationship with James, while the shooters still have her in their crosshairs. What will Jennifer have to do now to protect herself and keep the man she loves?
If you like Kendra Elliot, Lisa Jackson or Carey Baldwin, you will love this enthralling story of malice, intrigue, and love. THE SECRET BLUSH is the second suspense novel in the Jennifer Morgan series.
Sign up to E.’s VIP Club at eepurl.com/b2umOn for exclusive content: free books, alternative epilogues, bonus chapters, and more. All readers who sign up will receive the first suspense novel in the series, THE SECRET AFFAIR, for FREE.
The best reason to buy a copy of The Secret Blush for 99 cents between Oct 11-17 is because it has an exclusive link at the end, at the Bonus Material section, on the last page of the book. This exclusive link will allow you to enjoy The Central Connection (Justin Hall #9), the newest spy thriller in this series absolutely FREE. This novel is priced at $6.99, but if you buy a copy of The Secret Blush, you can enjoy it for free.
Ethan Jones is a lawyer by trade, and he lives in Canada with his wife and son. He is the author of the wildly popular Justin Hall spy thriller series, which has nine books so far. The first book in this series, Arctic Wargame, reached the Amazon's Top 10 Best Sellers lists in 2016. His second book, Tripoli's Target, was also very successful, catapulting to the top of the Best Sellers lists. The third and fourth books have also regularly hit the Best Sellers lists in the spy fiction genre.
A woman can be complex, capable, intelligent, and strong. However, unless you are writing fantasy fiction, she won’t leap out of exploding buildings, over speeding cars, or out a fifteen story window and land on her feet. Not in reality. She isn’t a magical creature from some alien land. She isn’t super-human, super-smart, or always beautiful. A woman is human, above all else. She isn’t invincible. But she can stand up for herself.
And standing up for herself doesn’t translate into her being able to karate-kick ten bad guys while dodging bullets and walk away unscathed. Violence won’t make her strong. Nor does sex. A woman isn’t all about sex appeal, the style and cut of her clothes, or the shape of her anatomy. She doesn’t fall into bed at the snap of a man’s fingers.
A strong female character has her share of successes, failures, hopes, dreams and motivations. Have her overcome challenges, internal and external, and learn from them. Let her feel fear, terror, grief, and a love lost yet allow her to function without seeming paralyzed or pining away in solitude.
Flawed characters fascinate readers. They relate to them. Make your female character human. Give her a serious side and a lighter side. Make her real. Give her strengths and weaknesses, quirks, thoughts, and emotions. Let her make choices, big and small, right and wrong. Let her win some and lose some. Let her be herself.
Alan Brenham is the pseudonym for Alan Behr.
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
That’s a difficult question for which there is no simple answer. I suppose the best part would be being self-employed – able to write whatever I want , creating roadblocks for my characters to solve and doing the research, and discussing/learning about technical issues necessary for my novels from various experts.
What made you start writing?
I took a creative writing course for screenplays then, after reading crime fiction novels written by a variety of authors, I decided to switch to writing fiction books. And why not? I had a plethora of real life cases both from my time as a police investigator and as a criminal prosecutor and defense attorney to cherry-pick from for ideas.
Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?
There are actually several authors who inspired me: Michael McGarrity, Stephen King, C.J. Lyons, Michael Connelly, and Jeffery Deaver, to name a few.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
It’d be the same advice I received when I started – read a lot of books in my favorite genre and write. Reading and writing, as basic as the two terms may appear, are akin to classroom studying and on-the-job training.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
All the books I read are in the same genre I write – mysteries and thrillers. Some are police procedurals; some are psychological thrillers.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
The one I’d like to spend the most time with would be Dani Mueller, the anti-hero in Price of Justice. I think of her as the most complex of all the characters in all my novels and the most flawed. Here’s a woman who lost everything, fought (and killed) to make it back and still managed to hold onto her sanity in the process.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
Actually, there are two. Price of Justice (POJ), set in Austin, Texas, and Cornered, set in Temple, Texas. POJ is the first in the Scarsdale/Mueller series. Cornered was written to raise awareness of the serious problem of human trafficking.
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?
In my latest novel (waiting to go into the publisher’s queue), I had included scenes about a foster home that I had wanted to use as a central piece for the story. My editor decided otherwise and, after much discussion, I relented and deleted the material.
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
If I could live in a book, it would have to be Cornered. It is set in Temple which is where I had lived for many years and worked as a police officer.
If you could pick an Author to write your biography, who would it be?
If I had my choice of authors to write my biography, it would have to be John Grisham.
We all know the phrase “the book is always better than the film.” Which film would you like to see remade as a book?
I’d like to see the movie Independence Day made into a book.
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
I’m a world-traveler who made his own rules.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
My next project will be a change in genre, written in first person point of view.
Libby Fischer Hellmann is an award-winning and best-selling crime fiction author. More at her website:
What makes a genre a genre? It’s more than plot. And characters. Take thrillers. At the heart of every good thriller there are at least five key elements that should be present. If you’ve ever read a lackluster, “low-fat” thriller that left you unsatisfied, it might have been missing one of these ingredients.
Put an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation
When you put an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, sparks fly, and the unexpected and unlikely become possible, evn plausible. My three ‘revolution’ thrillers do exactly that, placing ordinary people in situations of extreme conflict, sometimes with no tools except their wits. The same goes for my two mystery series.
In my latest Ellie Foreman mystery-thriller, Jump Cut, Ellie is hurled into a nightmare world where she’s under surveillance and doesn’t know who to trust. In her search for answers, she ventures far too deep into the echelons of hidden power, which puts her loved ones in imminent danger. It’s an extraordinary situation, and she has to think and act quickly to resolve it without further harm.
Obstacles, hurdles and complications
There’s nothing thrilling about a straightforward plot where everything goes to plan. But when you place obstacles in a character’s path, and those obstacles cause delays, confusion, point them in the wrong direction, or even prove injurious, the stakes, and the suspense, climb sky high.
Hobbesian choices and worst case scenarios
A Hobbesian choice—the choice between two equally unattractive alternatives—is another powerful tool that boosts the thrill factor. Being stuck between a rock and a hard place is always nasty. The horns of a dilemma are painfully sharp at the best of times, but when lives, futures, loves, morals, national security or survival are at stake, dilemmas take on a whole new dimension. Add a gnarly dilemma to a thriller and the resulting twists and turns transform a plot line.
Just when you though it was safe… ! The same goes for the worst case scenario. As a reader, when you find yourself praying it won’t happen, then it does, the emotional rollercoaster ride can take your breath away. One my favorite worst-case scenarios occurs in Kent Krueger’s novel, Purgatory Ridge. Read the book and you’ll know right away which scene it is.
Issues of trust and loyalty
If you’ve ever been in a situation when you don’t know who is lying and who’s telling the truth, and have no idea who to trust, you’ll know how profoundly disturbing it is. Humans are social animals, and we wither without a network of trustworthy people on our side. Without it, a character can become super-vulnerable, angry, afraid, rebellious, and often dangerous. When we’re scared, we lash out. We make bad decisions. We don’t always behave well. All of which adds extra suspense.
Make It Impossible to Stop Reading
I use a hook at the beginning of chapters and a sting at the end, making every chapter a mini-plot in itself. It helps keep readers motivated and makes a book very hard to put down, a structure that I hope drives readers to stay up all night. It’s what TV series do, starting off episodes with an inspiring proposition or a mystery to resolve and ending them with a cliffhanger, leaving you gasping for the next one.
I love writing. It’s in my blood. I don’t see myself doing anything else. Of
course, all writers share that dream of being able to write and do nothing else. After all, we’re writers. We all share the goal of writing our book, getting it into reader’s hands, seeing readers enjoy it, and then moving onto our next writing project. In the olden days of traditional publishing, that was all a writer really had to do for publishers helped their writers. However, times have changed drastically for writers. Now, writers have to do it all.
I knew that if I ever was fortunate enough to get my book published, I would have to do some promotion and marketing to get it out into the reader’s hands. I had no idea, however, how much of that would fall on my shoulders. I had no idea I would have to sell my soul. It’s maddening. Because of the volume of new books released every day, publishers want writers to do it all. There’s social media to deal with and I’m still learning how it all works. Trying to learn how all the sites work is an experience in developing patience and perseverance. It requires the patience of a saint. I understand the purpose of a web site. We want to connect with our readers and allow them to connect with us. But then there’s Pinterest, watt pad, face book and more. All the time spent on social media takes a great deal out of my time and energy that I’d rather be spending on writing. I’m nearing the end of my blog tour for Shattered Lies now and I’m totally exhausted.
I’m a writer. All I want to do is write. I want to finish my next novel. I’m not a publicist or a marketing manager. I recently read somewhere that being a writer means 10% writing and 90% marketing. Some authors spend 30 hours or more a week on promoting, which means less time to write our books. Marketing and promotion, oh my! What’s a writer to do? Talk about a conundrum. I’m determined to trod along and do my best. After all, it’s my job. I don’t know about other writers out there, but I’d rather be writing, writing and writing. What’s your take on it?
She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…
Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm—until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.
S. J. Francis is a freelance writer with over three hundred publication credits, a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications and Law, and most recently, a novelist. A frequent traveler, she has resided in thirteen states and three countries. A confirmed bibliophile, when not writing Francis can be found reading a good book, or spending time in the outdoors. She currently lives in Mississippi, where a major part of Shattered Lies takes place—but grew up in New York City, where the latter portion occurs—and has a great respect and fondness for both places. Francis’ first novel, Shattered Lies is a women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga novel. Future projects include a sequel to Shattered Lies and a novel about the dynamic relationships in Hollywood. Shattered Lies was released by Black Opal Books on Oct. 24th, 2015 and is available at all on-line retailers and independent booksellers.
Book Giveaway for Shattered Lies by S.J. Francis
“In celebration of the launch of my debut novel, I’m offering a free book giveaway. To all those who leave a comment during my blog tour at my website, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a personally autographed paperback copy of my debut novel, Shattered Lies. Two copies are available giving two of you a chance to win. To keep up with my stops on my blog tour please visit my website.
Just leave a comment at my website and drop me a line with “Giveaway” in subject line at:
Be sure to leave a valid, working email address in case you win. Good luck and thanks so much for stopping by. It's always my pleasure to connect with other authors and readers.
FYI: The drawing will take place at the end of my blog tour on Saturday, December 12, 2015. I will contact the winner at their email address at that time to request your mailing address to send you the printed copy of Shattered Lies.