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Archive for the ‘Political Thriller’ Category

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.

 

 

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Crypto_sm

Title: Crypto

Genre: Mystery/Adventure

Author: James Stone

Website: None

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase on Amazon

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Prologue

 

Moscow pedestrians forced to walk past Number 2 Lubyanka Square generally do so on the other side of the street. It is not that the walkways are better on that side. It is not that the view is better. It is simply that citizens of Russia understand from the depths of their souls that the Russian Secret Police are hazardous to their health. Home to the Russian Secret Police for almost 100 years, the Lubyanka is the seat of contagion, a place to be avoided at all times and under all circumstances. Its current incarnation, the Federal Security Service, FSB, wasn’t believed to be any different from its predecessors.

The normally minimal traffic had been further reduced to the vanishing point by darkness and a snow storm. This was even more so on the small street that ran behind the Lubyanka. No one witnessed a black ZIL limousine turn in at a narrow portal, curtains drawn for privacy. And another. And another.

The parade of quiet limousines disgorged, one after the other, a flow of equally quiet men who slipped into a doorway manned by guards who needed to see no identification. The quiet men made their ways to a top floor cloak room where they divested themselves of their overcoats. An astonishing array of braid and brass emerged. Generals abounded. There were some bear hugs of greeting, and some good humored banter, but they were mostly subdued, out of character for these normally demonstrative men. They waited, grouped together along lines of affiliation, and talked quietly. The director had not yet arrived.

An aide appeared and beckoned them into the adjoining conference room. He indicated that the director had entered the building and was on his way up. The men looked around and counted noses. They could be sure that those already present constituted the totality of the gathering. The director would not have arrived otherwise.

The conference table was in the shape of a long U. Cards were in place for each person. The director’s seat was at the head. The choicest seats were along the outside, at the extremities. The worst seats were on the inside. Those unfortunate to occupy the inside seats felt that they were in a fish bowl. People overlooked them from every direction. They felt especially vulnerable from the rear.

Each arrival looked with mixed curiosity and apprehension to see where he was placed. Some swelled with satisfaction. Others were stabbed with dismay. Those favored naturally felt that their positions had been mandated by the director. The others tried to tell themselves that the director had nothing to do with it, that the cretin who set up the table was at fault. None questioned their positions aloud. They stood at attention behind their appointed chairs.

The director was one of the most powerful men in Russia. As the head of the FSB, he controlled all overseas espionage, including an unknown number of exceptionally trained assassins. He also controlled all domestic intelligence and counter intelligence. Following time honored practice, he had set up a variety of sub-organizations, each with its own head, each intensely jealous of the others. The director balanced each against the other, thus keeping them mostly away from his own throat. Then too, there were always the assassins. Hence, the anxious readings of the entrails of a freshly slain conference table for omens of the future.

The director strode into the room and took his seat without a word. There was a general scraping as the others seated themselves. The director cleared his throat and spoke to no one in particular. “Comrades, the President sends his greetings. He asked me to tell you he appreciates the way in which you are carrying out the business of keeping our homeland safe.”

There were polite smiles and nods. They recognized the opening ploy and flowed with it. The director’s gaze scanned the table and settled on a small, elderly man at the far corner of the table. “Comrade Alyushin, what can you tell us about the American Situation?”

The assembled group looked at Alyushin, the Director of Planning and Analysis, with wooden expressions. They tended to treat him and his staff with contempt. His group was widely viewed as a pasture for those who didn’t have the good sense to retire when they should. However, he and the director were old compatriots, so they would give him a polite hearing. Alyushin removed a pipe from his mouth and spoke quietly to the director as though they were the only two in the room.

“The Americans have severe internal political and economic problems. Their lawmaking bodies keep switching parties, and their current president is widely viewed as having little international affairs sense or strength. Their economy is in shambles, only slightly better than the Europeans. Their obsession with global warming, and other things they call ‘political correctness,’ has made them vulnerable to terrorism and increasing dependence on foreign energy and other natural resources.

The group as a whole seemed to become more alert and more focused on Alyushin. A thinking man might not know where this was leading, but would be sure the director was responsible for the direction. A prudent man would watch and listen carefully.

Alyushin continued, “In short, it appears the Americans are in the worst shape since just before the ‘Great War’ and are basically paralyzed internationally.”

The director looked around the room. “If I have understood this presentation correctly, we have to contend with a country that is seriously weakened, and a president who is not in a position to respond internationally. Does that conform to your understanding?”

There were general nods around the table. No one was willing to disagree until he knew the name of the game.

The director turned to a General of the Army. “Please report on the combat readiness of the Army.”

“Highly satisfactory, Comrade Director. Regular combat divisions are at full strength. All are equipped with the latest combat weapons. Morale is high, especially in the division that recently completed an exercise.”

“Did you use the new cryptographic equipment?”

“We did indeed. It performed flawlessly.”

The director nodded his satisfaction. “You might explain this new system to the rest of the group.”

“Yes, comrade.” The general appeared to gather his thoughts. He began quietly. “What you are about to hear has been one of the most closely guarded secrets of Russia. Until the recent maneuvers, less than a hundred people knew even of the existence of the system. It went by the code name ‘Solid Ice.’ Its concept is no less grandiose than the total security of all Russian communications, from those supporting our diplomatic missions down to the lowest radioman in a rifle squad.”

Murmurs rolled around the room. The general continued, becoming more animated. “I can see that the significance of this breakthrough captures your imagination. With total communications security, we will be able to conduct the most sensitive diplomatic activities without fear of exposure. We will be able to exclude all outside intrusion into our affairs. And, best of all, we will be able to prepare for any military action without revealing the associated troop and logistics movements. I foresee the day, not long distant, when the despised U.S. National Security Agency will be put completely out of business.” The general basked in a round of general applause.

A man in civilian clothes, whose applause had been more polite than enthusiastic, leaned forward and cleared his throat. “How long distant, Comrade? What is the nature of this new miracle, and how fast can it be fielded?”

The general looked modest. “Not really a miracle,” he responded, “just the genius of our mathematicians and physicists. You see, since before the Great War, encryption has been based on the fact that any communication can be represented by a sequence of numbers. Further, the number set can be limited to ones and zeros. Scramble the numbers according to an algorithm known only by the sender and receiver, and the result is difficult to read. Not impossible, until a recent advance by our mathematicians. Our encryption is now unreadable by any practical method, even with the most advanced computers expected to be available in the next decade.”

The man in civilian clothes spoke again. “Assuming I accept that the messages are unbreakable, what prevents someone from watching radio traffic between units and inferring what is happening?”

“Another of our advances. Our new radios hop frequencies at very high rates, so they don’t stay on one frequency long enough to be detected. The same algorithms used to encrypt the core message are used to control the frequency hopping, so it’s doubly impossible to see who is doing what and where, or even that anyone is doing anything.”

“Next,” said the civilian, “how do the systems ensure command and control from the top to the bottom?”

“There, we’ve copied the American concept of combat net radio. Each unit, at whatever level, has its own network. The commander at that level is in his network and also in the network of the next level up. And so on, to the level of the prime minister. Also, we’ve put in a twist that allows higher levels to override all lower levels and take direct control.”

“Next,” said the civilian, “when will the new system be completely fielded?”

“Twelve months. That includes not only the new combat radio, but also all communications by any element of the Russian government. All will use the new master encryption system.”

“Impressive,” said the civilian. “Two final questions. You mentioned ‘practical methods.’ What about impractical methods? And how did the funding for such a program sneak through?”

The general flushed slightly. “It is theoretically possible, given enough computing power, to break any encryption. However, the computing power to attack our new encryption is decades away.”

The civilian stared at the general for a long time. The silence lengthened painfully. At last the civilian murmured, “You are certain? Absolutely certain?”

The director chose to step in at this point. The lack of love between the civilian and the general was well known. “As certain as anything in an uncertain world,” he said briskly, looking around the room. “To answer your other question, no one in this room except me knows how the funding was ‘sneaked’ through.” He turned to the general, eyes cold. “Have the new system fielded within the year. Fully.”

As if on cue, the door behind the director opened, and his aide entered with an arm load of folders. He began distributing them. They were dun-colored and marked “MOST SECRET.” Each folder had the name of a department, or organization, inscribed in the corner.

After the aide had left, the director looked around the room again. No one had opened his folder. “These folders describe projects each of you is to set in motion. Each of you is to return to his organization and began work immediately. Completion is to be one year from now. If you have problems, surface them immediately. No excuses will be accepted a year from now.”

The director abruptly stood and left the room. The others sat for a while wondering whether the meeting was over, wondering also what this new project might be. Finally, someone gathered sufficient nerve to leave. The logjam broke, and the parade of ZILs began quietly carrying their anonymous cargoes into the night.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Stone has a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering, and numerous international certifications in computer security. He has worked at NSA, NASA, and the Department of Defense in various capacities, as well as having been a professor of engineering at a major university.-He recently retired from engineering and plans to devote himself to writing.

Dr. Stone is originally from Arkansas, discovered his wife while at the University, married her while in college, and has never regretted a moment of their lives together. They currently live in Arizona, have two grown sons (one with a Ph.D. in computer engineering and the other is a clinical psychologist and director of a clinic at a major university medical college). Between the two of them, there are five grandchildren, three of them triplets.

 

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M.R. Dowsing lives in London, where he writes for the music magazines R2 and Bucketfull Of Brains, performs original songs under the name Hungry Dog Brand, and puts on a regular music night called Dogfishtrombone. He holds a BA in Studies In Contemporary Writing. By day he works as a bookseller.

The Assassination Of Adolf Hitler is his first novel. He quit his bookselling job in order to have time to research it properly and, luckily, managed to get his job back a year later before starvation set in. He hopes to be able to quit again soon in order to complete a sequel.

His first name is Martin.

Your book has a fascinating premise. How did you come up with the idea? 

I don’t actually remember what triggered the idea, but I do remember that around five or six years ago something made me think that it was strange that no-one had used the idea of travelling back in time to kill Hitler as the basis for a novel. It seemed like an obvious winner to me, so I filed it away in my head and kept my mouth shut about it. Every now and again I would give it some thought and, at first, I began to feel that perhaps it was not so strange that it hadn’t been done, because it was quite a problematic concept; it could involve years of research to do it well, and there were so many different directions it could spin off into… Eventually, though, I felt that I was beginning to see a way in which it could be contained somewhat and, three or four years after I first had the idea, I finally talked myself into writing it. 

I’ve very recently found out that Stephen Fry used a similar premise in Making History, a book that I was unaware of, but it seems like a completely different approach to mine, so I don’t think it’s a problem. 

Time-travel and Hitler is an interesting combination. Does that make your novel a historical fantasy?  

I suppose you could call it that. I think of it as a historical thriller which happens to use a science fiction device. 

What type of research did you have to do for the novel? 

Lots of research about Hitler and the beginnings of the Nazi party, in particular. Quite dark stuff, some of it, and it was a bit of a relief when the book was finished and I could read about other things. Also, quite a bit of general research on the periods in question. Some of the research was quite enjoyable, though – I enjoyed my visits to the British Library to look at old maps and such. I also visited quite a few of the locations used in the novel, which was both interesting and valuable. I had to keep thinking about what would have been there when the story was set and what wouldn’t. One trip was a bit rough though – the weather was brutal and I came down with the worst cold I’ve ever had so that I couldn’t even sleep at nights! 

How long did it take you to write it? 

Well, I should point out that I left my day job as a bookseller in order to write it. If I’d been working as well, it would have taken much, much longer – if it had have happened at all. I forced myself to write a thousand words a day and, after about three months, I had something like a first draft. I then spent another three months rewriting it over and over again and adding detail. After this, I still occasionally went back into it and changed a few things. 

Did you plot the book in advance? If yes, how did you go about it? 

I actually just had what might be called the “arc” of the story in my head, and then just worked it out as I went along. I think if I had have planned it all out in advance I would have ended up deviating considerably from the plan anyway. I think in some ways you have to follow the characters and discover what the story is yourself rather than writing characters to fit into a pre-conceived plan. 

What was the most difficult aspect of writing the book? 

Probably making the time travel aspect work. It gave me headaches and I’m still not satisfied with it! I read a book called How To Build A Time Machine by Paul Davies, which is about how a real time machine might work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly use any of it or I would get bogged down in scientific gobbledegook.  

What is your favorite scene in the novel? 

I’m not sure I have a favourite scene as such, but I think the section set in Munich is the best part. I have a favourite character, Steiner, who was created on the spur of the moment. I still feel like I want to find out more about him, so I’m hoping to feature him more prominently in a future book. 

Tell us about your main character and what makes him compelling. 

Michael Lear is a well-intentioned man who has suffered a personal tragedy in the loss of his parents. In some ways he’s very well suited to the task of going in back in time to kill Hitler but, in other ways, he’s completely the wrong kind of person. This means that during the course of the story he has to become a different person, and adapt to strange and unexpected situations very quickly. 

I understand you also write for magazines. What is a typical writing day for you and how do you balance your two types of writing? 

Well, I’m back working as a bookseller again now and I don’t have time to write every day. I have to steal hours when I can. Reviewing music for a magazine means that I receive a bunch of CDs through the post, often only a week or so before the deadline, and I’ve somehow got to get my head around all this stuff enough to write something intelligent about it. I think you have to listen to an album at least twice before you can do that – more would be better, but it’s not always possible. I’ve actually just spent most of my Saturday banging out reviews for R2 magazine. I’m not complaining though, as the standard of the music has been very high. 

Is there a second novel in the works? 

There’s a second novel in my head which I have made a few notes for, but it’s not really “in the works” yet. 

Where can we find you on the web?

http://mrdowsing.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/MrDowsing

https://twitter.com/MRDowsing

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6538086.M_R_Dowsing

http://www.myspace.com/hungrydogbrand (for my music). 

The book, which is eBook only at the moment, is available from Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony Reader Store and more.

 

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A board-certified internist, Dr. Allen Malnak served as chief of medicine at Fort Sill, OK, and was medical director of a number of organizations, including the Emergency Department of Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital. During his long medical career in the Chicago area, he was also a clinical investigator in liver disease as well as an assistant clinical professor at the Stritch School of Medicine, and a practicing internist. Following retirement, he and his wife Patricia moved to Bonita Springs, Florida. His interest in the Holocaust was sparked by the fact that all the men, women and children of his father’s large Lithuanian family were sent to a death camp by the Nazis and murdered.

Thanks for this interview and congratulations on the release of your suspense thriller, Hitler’s Silver Box. What compelled you to write this story?

When my father came to America in 1906 at age 16, he had only one distant relative in this country. He left behind in Kovno, Lithuania a large family, including his parents, eight brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. They ranged in age from the elderly to babies. 

Dad died of natural causes during the Second World War and immediately following the war, my late brother Lewis and I began to try to track down our father’s European family. I was just 16 when the war ended. We wrote letters to everyone we could think of and after about a year received a detailed reply from the International Red Cross. Nazi records as well as witness reports indicated that all members of dad’s family had been murdered either in or near Kovno or after transfer to a death camp. Every man, woman and child! 

So, one entire side of my family was destroyed by the Nazis. Of course, I became interested in the Holocaust and began reading articles about it even during my high school and college years. During my internship at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, I read a short book, Doctors of Infamy, which covered many horrendous medical experiments performed on concentration camp prisoners by Nazi physicians. The book was so disturbing that after reading it, I tossed it into a garbage can. My next book on the subject was Elie Weisel’s NIGHT.  I then became occupied with my professional career as well as with my growing family for many years. When I reached the age of forty, I decided I owed it to my dead family members to engage in a real study of that terrible time. I then spent perhaps two or three years of my limited free time reading every book I could find on the Holocaust. 

Years later, I retired from the practice and teaching of internal medicine, and my wife and I moved to Bonita Springs Florida. I noticed in the Naples Daily News an article describing a course in writing fiction being held at the Naples Philharmonic. The teacher was Hollis Alpert a well known novelist, biographer, short story editor as well as a movie critic. 

I took classes with Hollis for a couple of years. He would give us assignments, often listing several subjects that we should use as the basis of a short story. He would critique each story and at the next weekly session read some of them to the class. 

One topic I picked was titled “A Silver Box.” For some reason, I decided to write it about a concentration camp prisoner at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp who was forced by a Nazi colonel to make a silver box which would be a present for Adolph Hitler. 

After reading the story in class, afterwards, Hollis suggested that this story could be expanded into a novel, and that started the process that eventually lead to Hitler’s Silver Box—A Novel

What parts of the novel are actual historical facts? 

While Hitler’s Silver Box—A Novel is a work of fiction, it’s loosely based on the fact that during the Second World War, Nazi scientists worked up to the war’s end on a multitude of secret weapons on which Hitler pinned his hopes for a last ditch victory. 

These weapon systems ranged from very long range rockets that could be fired from underground bases to alternative physics, robotic warriors, new energy sources, radical germ warfare and of course, nuclear weapons. 

In the novel, the facts were modified to suggest that many objects which were later called UFOs were also developed by Nazi scientists in concealed locations, and various secret laboratories were set up around the world including in areas of both Arctic and Antarctic wastes where explorers had never trekked. 

What was your writing process like while working on this novel? Did you have a disciplined schedule? 

Because of various acute and chronic illnesses, I could not keep to a writing schedule. I followed the mantra of “write—rewrite—get it right.” Unlike many expert suggestions, I constantly re-edited my previous work, then edited it again and again.

From conception to typing ‘The End,’ how long did it take you?

About ten years.

The story takes the reader from Chicago to Paris to the Czech Republic. Did you travel to Europe as part of the research?

I have visited many countries in Europe and Paris is my favorite city in the world. I had many plans to visit the Czech Republic, but like Max in the book, health problems kept canceling the plans.

What was the hardest part of writing Hitler’s Silver Box?

Dialogue and careful descriptions were difficult crafts to understand and learn, but the hardest part was describing the conditions that Max went through in the concentration camp using the “particular” silver, the provenance of which nearly drove him and me mad. The dramatic ER scenes were easier because they were based on my personal experiences. Since like Bruce in the novel, I also have claustrophobia in tunnels, writing that scene caused me some discomfort.

What’s in the horizon for Allen Malnak?

If my health holds up, I just might write a sequel to Hitler’s Silver Box. If the Spielberg types come sniffin; around to make the novel into a movie, well I just might be forced to interview Charlize Theron to see if she’s “hot” enough to play Sari.

Any last words to my readers?

The incidents that pushed me to finish Hitler’s Silver Box were linked to the website of one of our local newspapers. Two anonymous neo-Nazis constantly spewed their racist, ant-Semitic slurs, bragging about their continued worship of Adolph Hitler and the murderous Waffen SS, while denying every aspect of the Holocaust.

I’ll close with a quote from a novelist, Jerry Ahern, who reviewed my book for “Gun World Magazine.”  

“Future generations have serious responsibilities, chief among these not to repeat past mistakes. Sadly, these days, there are still those who, out of ignorance or foul intentions, somehow revere the scourge that was National Socialism. That’s why, it’s good for the rest of us to get reminded from time to time, at least, how truly despicable the Nazis were.”

Read more about the author and Hitler’s Silver Box:  

http://naples.floridaweekly.com/news/2012-01-12/PDF/Page_080.pdf

http://naples.floridaweekly.com/news/2012-01-12/PDF/Page_081.pdf

Website: www.hitlerssilverbox.com

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This article originally appeared in Blogcritics.

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The next presidential election is getting near… and handsome, charismatic Senator Howard Stark wants to become president. There’s only one problem: He’s possessed by Sargatanas, a powerful demon who wants to unleash all evil on earth. To make things worse, Stark’s assistant happens to be a malevolent, highly-intelligent practitioner of the black arts, and she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants. One by one, the other candidates begin to die, some of illness, others due to mysterious accidents.

Enter the good guys: occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain. Together, they risk their lives while trying to find a way to exorcise the senator, which isn’t easy. After all, how do you get past the U.S. Secret Service and the forces of hell itself?

Sympathy for the Devil is pure entertainment. I’ve read all of the books in the Morris and Chastain Investigation series and I have to say I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed them. Just like in the earlier installments, the story, told from multiple points of view, opens with a reader-grabbing scene and continues its quick, suspenseful pace until the end. Author Justin Gustainis raises the stakes high and makes the characters sympathetic, getting you to care for their predicament. He’s also great at making you hate the villain. The secondary characters are interesting, too — even some of the bad ones are likable.

Lots of action and dialogue propel the plot; Gustainis doesn’t spend much time on description. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy and supernatural, and political thrillers, you’ll relish this one. Also, Sympathy for the Devil stands alone perfectly, so don’t worry if you haven’t read the earlier novels. I certainly look forward to reading what Quincey and Libby are up to next.

Visit the author’s website.

Purchase from Amazon.

Watch the trailer!

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Mark LaFlamme is an award-winning crime reporter and columnist at the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine. His weekly column, Street Talk, where he often compares editors to bats, spiders, extraterrestrial slugs, and "other beings too diabolical to describe", has been named Best in Maine and Best in New England. In 2006, LaFlamme was named Journalist of the Year by the Maine Press Association. In this interview, LaFlamme talks about his books, writing, and what's inside the mind of the horror author, among other things.

When did your fascination with the 'dark side' begin and when did you start writing horror?

What dark side? I'm a perfectly well adjusted young man who dreams of pink ponies and marmalade skies. I whistle while I walk. I stop and sniff flowers at roadside. I retreat only occasionally into the basement to devise new strategies to raise the dead.

If I have such a gloomy nature, it was certainly born in youth, which was often turbulent and marked by uncertainty. When I was six, I discovered my father dying on a roof, the victim of a brain aneurysm. I don't think I've viewed the end of life quite right since that experience.

What were some of your favorite horror books and/or movies as a teenager?

I started reading Poe when I was preteen. I didn't grasp all of it of course, but I quickly grew fond of his tone. I read a lot of S.E. Hinton, Rumblefish, The Outsiders and such. I discovered Stephen King soon enough. I watched almost exclusively horror movies. Halloween was my first big wow.

Tell us a little about your books, The Pink Room and Vegetation. What was your inspiration for them?

The Pink Room was my second novel and the first that was published. It's beginnings are prosaic at best. I had insomnia. Every night, I tried to play a mental movie in my head to lull me to sleep. I saw a man walking down a dark road in the middle of nowhere. Car pulls up, windows goes down, and a man inside says: "We know you've been inside the house. We want to talk to you about that." I'd been reading a lot about string theory at the time. And I'm always thinking about the irrevocable nature of death. The three concepts got together, had a party and wrote a novel.

Vegetation originated even more mundanely. I was in the backyard having a smoke when a little ivy tickled my ankle in the dark. I jumped and tried to flee and ran face-first into a lilac bush. Plants were everywhere and they were out to get me. I went inside and consoled myself with corn on the cob. It occurred to me that if you offend the kingdom of plants, brother, the whole world really is out to get you.

Having read these novels, I find The Pink Room very strong in atmospheric elements while Vegetation, though also dealing with the supernatural, is more focused on the protagonist's dark psyche. Which novel was more challenging to write?

I identified a great deal with the character Jonathan Cain from The Pink Room. He is a man mourning his dead love and willing to do anything to bring her back. I liked him and I enjoyed advancing his story. In Vegetation, the lead character was Bertram Luce, a pompous and wealthy man. I don't think I'll ever be either of those things and I despised him. Still, because of that, it was fun to set the world of plants after his butt night after night. Vegetation was challenging mostly because I knew nothing of flora going into the story. I had to learn from the ground up, so to speak.

Your latest book, Dirt: An American Campaign is more realistic in that it doesn't have the supernatural elements present in your previous works… though some would argue there's nothing more horrific than a presidential campaign. What compelled you to write this particular story and was it easier to write because of your newspaper reporting background?

My reporting background didn't help at all. I write crime and largely ignore the clamor of politics. That was a real problem when I decided to tackle an American run for the presidency.

I had this half-dream about a man digging up his dead wife in the middle of the night. There was nothing more elaborate about this dream. Just that image: a very determined man with a shovel, digging a square hole to his bride. I liked the image a lot and eventually asked myself what kind of chaos such an act would bring about. At the time, I was reluctantly getting into the Hillary vs. Obama fight and really enjoying the campaign strategies of both. I started studying political strategy, learned a ton, and decided to introduce my grave-robbing protagonist to the concept. The result were some really great characters, some that the reader will love, some that they will loath. I think that's the success of the book.

Dirt was just released, wasn't it? Was this a promotional move to coincide with the presidential election?

I was taking my sweet time getting Dirt to market. Richard Hoy from Splinter Press took a look at the manuscript and decided immediately what he wanted to do. Let's take the presidential candidate from the novel and start running him a real world campaign, he said. Suddenly, Frank Cotton was everywhere. He has his own website (www.cottonforpresident.com), his own lawn signs, bumper stickers, an entire staff. He even gets into fights with reporters. Sometimes I forget what is real and what is fiction. I should probably worry that with so much uncertainty among voters, Frank Cotton might get elected. If it happens, I'll let Mr. Hoy worry about it.

What do you struggle with the most when writing horror? What comes easier for you?

I don't always want to write horror. The struggle is to avoid elements of it when trying to writing something more mainstream. It's very difficult when you have become accustomed to going dark by default. I try to write a straightforward story about nice people doing nice things and suddenly, someone is dead and being eaten by dogs. Troubling.

What's inside the mind of the horror writer?

Mostly alcohol, I think. It seems to me that the horror writer understands him or herself more intimately than he should. He understands his most base impulses, his weaknesses, the dangerous parts of his insecurities. I really believe that horror writers – or anyone who is driven to just write and write and write – has become so self-aware, his only hope of escaping madness is to bleed it off; to apply all those frailties to characters on a page.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Extremely. Some of that was developed as a reporter, where there are deadlines and no chances to put off writing for a night. I come home at midnight each day and write at least 2,500 words whether I want to or not. Some of my best writing happens when I least want to do it.

Describe a regular day in your writing life.

I'll get up, drink a pot of coffee and write a column or feature story for the paper that's due the following day. Then I'll go into the newsroom and write three or four stories about breaking news. Breaking news is easy and a great way to develop a sharp and concise style. Brevity is, and all that.

I come home late at night, annoy my wife for an hour or so, and come into my writing room. I'll try to read what I wrote the night before and tweak it. Then I go at producing new material, stepping out for a smoke every half hour or so. I keep the TV on while I write but the volume down. I keep the window shades drawn because I don't want to look out there and see a pale face staring in from the dark.

Do you have any favorite horror books or movies you'd like to recommend?

My favorite horror novel is King's Salem's Lot. I just can't help myself. It's so sinister and so beautifully written. Almost poetic, even though necks are being sucked.

I'll recommend The Changeling, and 80's horror flick starring George C. Scott. It's infinitely creepy and few people have seen it.

What do you do on Halloween? Do you dress up?

I take the entire week off each year and do something crazy. I did Salem, Mass. a few times. It's like Mardi Gras on the big night. I recommend going a week earlier, instead. I've been to Poe's grave a couple Halloweens in a row, Sleepy Hollow, that kind of thing. I write scripts for "The Haunted Forest" in Williston, Vt. so I've been out there the past few years. It's amazing seeing one of your scripts acted out in the middle of the woods.
My ultimate Halloween destination is Transylvania. In the meantime, I have plans for the Winchester House in San Jose and Gettysburg. I may combine a trip to Gettysburg this year with the trip to Vermont. And oh yes, I dress up. Last year, I was a cannibal clown. The year before that, Andre Linoge from King's "Storm of the Century."

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Please tell them I need to pay for an expensive medical procedure and to please buy my books. Or if you want to tell them something truthful, tell them that I would love to hear from anyone who reads my work, whether they love it or hate it. As a journalist, I've always remained extremely approachable, answering every call and every letter I get with enthusiasm. I'd like to be the same as a novelist. Also, I'm very lonely.

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Author Hill Kemp is a former Texas State Representative. Though his first novel, Capitol Offense, is a political thriller, he recently teamed up with his 9-year old granddaughter to write a children's chapter book, Lucky Penny. In this interview, Kemp talks about his books, writing habits and offers some writing advice. 

Did you always want to be a writer?

I wish. I didn’t start writing until I was 55! Now I can’t get enough. Where was this almost compulsive writer all those years?? I’ve gain, grown and taken flight since I opened up to writing.

Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

Lucky Penny from Guardian Angel Publishing is the joint work of me and my 7th grade granddaughter, Siena. The conflict in this tweener novel came right out of her experience in 4th grade. But Siena was truly the inspiration for Lucky Penny. She’s an avid reader and wanted to read my first novel, Capitol Offense, but we decided against that for a 9-year-old. So Siena and I built characters, used her experience and Lucky Penny is the result. The book highlights both the importance of friends and friendship and how it takes investment to sustain.

Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style? Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

I write in bursts, stream-of-consciousness style. My books play out in my head like movies. My outline for a 100,000 word novel might have 12 or 15 major nodes with nothing listed under them. Only the major flow. Before any fiction, I write pages and pages on the main character(s) to get them fully three dimensional – almost a life history. Then I put them on the stage at the first ‘node’ and away we go. My characters are rich enough that they added 5 chapters in the first 40 in a novel I just completed. Writing a page or so each day doesn’t work for me. I try to block out a whole day (and night??) and get inside my story and go. Probably 5 – 7,000 words in a burst.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

My website is www.capitoloffense.com

What are you working on now?

I am working with my publisher to get the final shaping of A Lone Star Special , the sequel to my first novel Capitol Offense . I am part way through ghostwriting the memoir of a person who wants her whole story out now that the Statutes of Limitation have expired. People from 5 other states want me to do their state legislature the way I did Texas in Capitol Offense. I have my native Louisiana already framed and that will be my next project barring other interventions.

Where are your books available?

Amazon, B&T, etc., my website.

Any special marketing strategies you’d like to share?

Most of the money I’ve made selling books has been to impulse buyers at the entry of Kroger grocery stores. Over $20K. I have the option to sell in Kroger stores anywhere in the 105 cities where they are the dominant grocer. I just need writers in those cities. Anybody in Cincinnati?

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Read, read, read any and everything you can find even close to your planned work. That old saw about write about what you know is mostly on target. Read the foundational book The Writer’s Journey. Try to remember that persistence stands almost equally with talent in actually getting a book into print. 80% of all books published are non-fiction. The average sales per published book is 200!(so don’t quit your day-job) Be open to let the writing process teach you, open you, scare you and inspire you.

Who are your favorite authors?

Grisham, Dick Fancis, Maeve Binchy

What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?

NEVER send out anything that has not been edited by an EDITOR (not you).

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

My inspiration quote by C. D. Lewis: “Do not write to be understood. Write to understand.” I gained a father I’d totally lost out of my fledgling writing effort.

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