Archive for October 24th, 2016

headshotSally Fernandez, a novelist of provocative political thrillers, wasn’t always twisting facts with fiction. Heavily endowed with skills acquired in banking, she embarked upon her writing career. Fernandez’ focus on computer technology, business consulting, and project management, enhanced by business and technical writing, proved to be a boon. Her books of fiction also reflect the knowledge garnered from her business experiences, while living in New York City, San Francisco, and Hong Kong.

Fernandez’ foray into writing fiction officially began in 2007 when the presidential election cycle was in full swing. The overwhelming political spin by the media compelled her to question the frightening possibilities the political scene could generate. As a confirmed political junkie, she took to the keyboard armed with unwinding events and discovered a new and exciting career.

Climatized is Fernandez’ fifth novel and the first in the “Max Ford Thriller” series, featuring Maxine Ford as the female protagonist. Her prior series, “The Simon Tetralogy,” was comprised of Brotherhood Beyond the Yard, Noble’s Quest, The Ultimate Revenge and Redemption.  Each book provided an exhilarating platform for the next, with a gripping narrative that challenges the reader to put the book down. The ever-elusive Simon’s daring escapes add unheard of dimensions to the classic cat and mouse game. Her development of the other characters has created a lasting bond between them and the reader, especially now that Max has taken center stage.

A world traveler, Ms. Fernandez and her husband, also the editor-in-residence, split time between their homes in the United States and Florence, Italy.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Climatized. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it? 

A: In Climatized, Max is hired by the wife of a prominent senator to determine the cause of his untimely death. It leads her to discover that three world-renowned scientists had lost their lives days before they were scheduled to testify before the late senator’s investigative committee. Meanwhile, a fourth scientist has gone missing. Max determined he is the key to unearthing the motives behind the deaths. Following the many twists and turns, Max and her associate, Jackson Monroe uncover a powerful organization responsible for the killings. Cogent evidence is provided to the president, forcing him to make a crucial decision—to cover up a diabolical plot—or bring down a multi-trillion-dollar world-wide economy.

climatizedbookimageIn the course of conducting research for two earlier novels, I discovered there is a disconnect between the scientific data that explains global warming and the public policy. Climate change undoubtedly, is a topic up there with religion and politics that creates not only heated conversations, but much confusion. As with all my novels I weave fact with fiction as a means of creating an entertaining read, but also to inform my readers. Climatized will put to rest much of the confusion and shine a light on the real science.

Q: What do you think makes a good political fiction? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Francis Bacon said, “Truth is hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.” This statement became the impetus for my plot lines, therefore most of the political events are factual and weaved into a fictional plot. This greatly increases the plausibility. To further the realism, I have used my knowledge in technology to some degree, as well as my international travels in the plotline. Oftentimes, I have used a location and real characters where I shared experiences. Overall, my style of writing is to create an entertaining read, to inform the reader and to challenge the reader to ask the ultimate question, “What if?” In the end, the reader will be left with the challenge to sort out what is real and what is fictional. If I accomplish my goal, then that is what makes good political fiction.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: In the course of writing a book, the plot for the next book begins to gel. Invariably, I come up with a beginning and end, although they may be modified later, but not to any great degree. Then I let the story develop starting with chapter one. As I create new chapters I name them as I go along, which might actually be the chapter title I eventually use in the publication, or I might assign a temporary title and change it later. This gives me the flexibility to add chapters in between or to reorganize the chapters as I move forward and keep track of the content. Primarily, my novels read much like a movie, so in essence I write reel-to-reel in a stream of consciousness as it rolls forward in my mind.

With regard to the characters, I keep track of the total image to include ages, personal appearance, and physical locations, to ensure my new characters emerge fresh and unique. And depending on the complexity of the plot, I may create a timeline to maintain accuracy in timing and sequence.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: After developing a series of strong male characters in the tetralogy, it was time to create an alter-ego. Maxine Ford represents my fantasies of one day becoming a secret agent. And even though a few of the male characters from the prior series will reemerge in this new series, Max’s antics will hold center stage.

Max debuts as the female protagonist in her role as a private investigator. Her character was first introduced in Noble’s Quest, the second book of “The Simon Tetralogy,” as the trusted deputy director for the States Intelligence Agency, where she worked side-by-side with Noble Bishop, the director. And while her character continued to develop, this new series provides Max challenging avenues to strut her stuff fully. She is intelligent and attractive, but her determined nature and formidable mouth will shape her persona. She also possesses a life-changing backstory that will slowly ooze out, allowing the reader to become increasingly enchanted by her dynamic character. Yet, at all times Max remains believable, not a sci-fi super being, but someone you could sit down and chat with over a glass of wine.

In my mind’s eye, if Climatized were a movie, Megan Boone would star as Max. Currently, she plays Elizabeth Keen in Blacklist…One time she dyed her hair blond, resembling Max. Now she is back to being brunette, but her attitude is Max all the way.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: In all honesty, as with Max, my characters just come to me and I develop them as I plod through the storyline. Simon, my antagonist in “The Simon Tetralogy” series appeared in the same way. I set off to make him charming and mysterious and then slowly he became more treacherous. The readers and the other characters were led first to admire him and then slowly grew to fear him. In Climatized, my assassin named L, materialized without any forethought. He simply appeared on the scene and I weaved him through the story in the most interesting ways.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: I attempt to create a mini cliffhanger at the end of each chapter to keep the pages turning. I also vary the word count in the chapters; some may only be one page. And because I tend to deal with a lot of political facts the narrative can sometimes bog down the chapter, so I mix it up with as much dialogue as possible to lighten the intensity without lessening the information and/or the message. Oftentimes, I will have my characters reading from some form of media, and break up the narrative by saying, “Hold on, let find my notes,” or “Are you following?” or “Listen up, this is cool stuff,” etc.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: I often use a location and real characters where I’ve shared experiences, but I also will use a location, hotel, restaurant, or street where I’ve never ventured. In both cases, I believe it is crucial that these places be described accurately to add to the realism. Thanks to the internet and satellite maps there is no reason not to make them as real as possible. Given my reel-to-reel writing style the reader always has a clear vision of the local scene.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: As I mentioned, while I’m writing one book the theme for the next book starts to gel. And being a political junkie I find it fascinating to take current political events and weave them into a fictional tale; again forcing the ultimate question, “What if?” Because I write several novels as part of a series there may be cross-over in characters and flashbacks to prior cases, but I strive to keep the theme fresh and current.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: The craft never ends and is always being honed. Over the course of my writing career, I’ve become extremely detailed and rather picky. The narrative must be grammatically correct, but I allow for colloquial expressions in dialogue. That along with the appropriate style of language will keep the characters genuine. In total I’ve become a better student of words and grammar and it has become apparent in normal discussions and presentations. The art, in my case, had been dormant and surfaced in 2007. I’m fortunate that I discovered storytelling was in my DNA. As for editing, my husband is my editor. He has never tried to change the narrative and has only helped to enhance my storyline. Most important, my creative juices are still in full thrust.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: You have to have a story to tell and be able to express it in an captivating way. The characters must be believable and in my genre, research must be impeccable.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: Someone also said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Although the inevitable marketing and promotional aspects can become unwelcome chores, it is superceded by the joy of the creative process.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Naturally, the Chicago Manual of Style is the bible. I also find www.wordsmith.org a great place to discover words, covering the gamut from archaic to modern campy, along with their etymology and usage. It is a great source to improve one’s vocabulary.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Write, write, and write. Don’t get caught up initially, in grammar, editing, and organizing; that is why cut and paste was invented. Let your thoughts flow, they can be shaped later.



Read Full Post »

Killer Pursuit banner 2

Author: Jeff Gunhus
Publisher: Seven Guns Press
Pages: 352
Genre: Thriller

When a high-society call girl is murdered in her Georgetown home, investigators find two cameras hidden in the walls of her bedroom. One has its memory erased, presumably by the murderer. The second is connected to the Internet through an encrypted connection…and no-one knows who’s on the other end.

Special Agent Allison McNeil is asked by beleaguered FBI Director Clarence Mason to run an off-the-record investigation of the murder because of the murder’s similarity to a case she worked a year earlier. Allison knows the most direct path to apprehending the killer is to find the videos, but the rumors that the victim’s client list may have included Mason’s political enemies has her worried about the director’s motives. As she starts her investigation, she quickly discovers that she’s not the only one pursuing the videos. In fact, the most aggressive person racing against her might be the murderer himself.

For More Information

Killer Pursuit is available at Amazon.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Killer Pursuit

First Chapter:

Allison McNeil tensed when she spotted the first shadow dart through the mist and take cover behind a tree. In the early-morning light it took her a while to pick out all six members of the Hostage Rescue Team approaching the cabin, but within a minute she could clearly see the tactical team converging on their target.

The small building stood on a rise, up from the swampy, flood-prone land around it. Wood-slated walls tilted precariously inward, twisting the windows into deformed rectangles. Moss and dead leaves covered the roof. The place smelled and looked like decay, well on its way to inevitable reclamation by the weeds and vines choking the cabin to a miserable death.

And, if Allison was right, the place deserved what it got. Hell, if she was right, she had half a mind to take a match to the place after everything was done.

She hunkered down behind a fallen tree, her head barely clearing the top to see the building and the team closing in. A trickle of sweat started at the base of her neck and went the length of her spine. She adjusted the Kevlar vest, under her light windbreaker emblazoned with large yellow letters. FBI. It felt ridiculous to wear the windbreaker when it was in the ’80s before daybreak with the Louisiana humidity hovering at about a thousand percent, but if it meant that the hotheads with assault rifles could more easily identify her as a friendly, then she was happy to have it.

Garret Morrison shifted his weight next to her, stretching out a leg and rubbing his knee. She gave him a sideways look.

“You all right?” she whispered.

He scowled at her. They both knew she didn’t give a damn about him. The comment was intended as a dig at the fifty-three-year-old Garret who prided himself on being in better shape than the agents beneath him. Even though he ran the Behavioral Analysis Unit, home of the FBI’s fabled profilers who spent more time in the heads of the criminals they chased than in the field, he required an aggressive physical program for his people. Everything about Morrison is a throwback to the old male-dominated Bureau. A slicked-back head of hair with just the right amount of grey to lend him gravitas without making him look old, a square jaw out of a mountaineering magazine, cold steel-blue eyes that seemed to look through people instead of at them. Unless they were trained on an attractive female, in which case his eyes gave their full attention to the area below the chin and above the waistline.

“Worry about yourself,” Garret grumbled. He turned to Doug Browning, a junior agent who followed Garret around like a little puppy. “Jesus, Doug. Not so close.”

Allison turned back to the cabin and raised her binoculars, not bothering to hide the smile on her lips. Garret was a legend in the Bureau for his work hunting America’s worst criminals, but Allison’s own legend had grown since her work on the Arnie Milhouse case a year earlier. While that case had given her credibility, she knew she was just as likely to be referred to as the woman who’d broken Garret Morrison’s nose when he’d made one too many unwanted advances while she was a trainee. And, while she wanted to be known for her work, she didn’t mind that piece of fame following her around.

“Alpha team in position,” said a voice through the small speaker in her ear. She noticed Garret put a finger to the side of his head and nod. He looked over at her.

“You better be right about this,” he whispered.

Allison shook her head. For all his brilliance—and, regardless of how she felt personally about him, she recognized that he was brilliant—Garret’s transparency could border on the inane. What he was really saying was that if the lunatic Allison’s research had tracked to this location wasn’t holed up in this backwoods cabin, if the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team had been activated and deployed for no reason, then the blame would drop on her like a bag of bricks. If Sam Kraw was in there, Allison knew it would be Garret standing in front of the cameras taking credit for the HRT mission and the capture of America’s most wanted fugitive.

She pushed the thought away. As long as they caught the bastard and ended his multi-year killing spree in the Southeast, she didn’t give a damn who got the credit.

Allison moved her binoculars. The tactical team was in place around the cabin, peering through scopes with infrared capabilities. If there was someone hiding in the shadows of a window or doorway, they wouldn’t be hiding for long.

On some signal unseen by Allison, the men began a steady, crouched advance to the building. She realized she was holding her breath so she blew out her air slowly between pinched lips.

“Relax, McNeil,” Garret muttered. “You’re making me nervous.”

The two members of the tactical squad approaching from the front reached the deck that wrapped around the front of the building. As they strode across it, the old wood floorboards groaned. The men froze. The seconds stretched out. Allison became suddenly aware of the hum of insects in the air around her. The dampness of her own skin. The sound of a bird calling in the distance. All of her senses were wired tight. An entire year of her life was wrapped up in the next few seconds. And if she’d got it wrong, Garret would have the ammo he’d been looking for to get her out of his unit once and for all. But she wasn’t worried about herself. What really bothered her was the chance that she had it right, that this was Kraw’s hideout, but that somehow they’d spooked him and he’d already slipped away. If that had happened, he’d be hundreds of miles away by tomorrow, scouting for his next victim as he traveled.

Movement in the cabin. Just a flutter. Like a bird trapped in a cage. Only her intuition told her it was more than a bird. It had been an arm. A human arm. Sam Kraw.

Based on the lack of movement from the tactical team, she realized no one else had seen it.

“I’ve got movement,” she whispered into her mic. “Window to the right of the front door. An arm.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Garret whispered.

Allison ignored him. The men around the cabin responded immediately, reorienting to the front door. Guns pointed at the window.

One of the men produced a miniram, a high impact, brute force breaching tool. Coordinating with his partner, he crouched next to the door while the other man readied a flash-bang grenade.

There was a pause, as if someone had pressed a button on a TV remote. Everyone was in place. The air seemed to still as if the world knew something was about to happen. Allison had her binoculars trained on the window where she’d seen the movement. If Kraw was inside, then the nightmare was almost over. She’d know in a few seconds whether that was the case or not.

But in that second, she saw the movement again.

Only this time, she knew something was wrong.

It was a man’s arm, she saw it clearly this time. But it was too stiff. The color was off. And, attached at the shoulder, she saw a coil of wire.

A mannequin arm on a spring.

Meant to make them think someone was inside.

It was a trap.

About the Author

Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thriller and horror novels for adults and the middle grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year-old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His books for adults have reached the Top 30 on Amazon, have been recognized as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalists and reached the USA TODAY bestseller list.

After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active life in Maryland with his wife Nicole by trying to constantly keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel or on JeffGunhus.com.

His latest book is the thriller, Killer Pursuit.

For More Information

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: