Archive for the ‘Thrillers’ Category

gabriel-valjan-bw-600x452Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing. Also the author of numerous essays and short stories that continue to appear online and in print, Gabriel lives in Boston’s historic South End, where he enjoys the local restaurants. His two cats, Squeak and Squawk, tolerate the occasional empty food dish and his traitorous fondness for dogs.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Corporate Citizen: Roma Series Book Five. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Corporate Citizen has Bianca returning to Boston. She was last in Boston in Wasp’s Nest (Book 2). She’s here now to help the cantankerous Clemente, who has enticed her with a cryptic reference to her past employer, the covert agency named Rendition. While in town, Bianca will confront her past through a new member to the team, a former soldier with PTSD. Readers will learn more about her past, what makes her ticks; this installment will present major revelations Book Five turns the corner into new territory.

I wrote Corporate because I had watched the banking crises with interest (no pun intended). After I had written the novel, I watched the movies The Big Short and Spotlight, and felt a weird sense of discomfort. In books three and four, Threading The Needle and Turning To Stone, I had visited the ideas of financial and institutional terrorism, but after viewing those two films, I felt I had captured and conveyed the magnitude of cynicism (The Big Short) and corruption (Spotlight) in Corporate Citizen, although my characters fight the good fight. A day doesn’t pass without news about the deeds or misdeeds of a corporate conglomerate. This disquieting news plays as background noise in our lives.

I introduce a new character, a veteran who is both dangerous and compassionate. Nick was modeled (loosely) on a deceased family member. When I was a kid, he wouldn’t talk explicitly about combat but he did mention that he and other selected infantry soldiers had been given large doses of Dexedrine, an amphetamine, and, on one occasion, LSD. He would die at the age of forty as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.

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

A: Ambiguity. Pace. Tension. A good mystery-suspense is like a kettle on the flame; you know that the water is heated and at some point you will hear the water roil and then see whispers of steam before the kettle screams. A writer is responsible for how much water is in the pot and the degree to which the flame is pitched. The water will boil, the whistle will blow — suspense and tension. Is there a potholder nearby? An enjoyable mystery-suspense book is one that gives you an unexpected ending such that when you think about it, you see all the pieces had been there and had come together.

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

A: With Corporate, I knew where I was going with the story. I knew what I wanted to achieve and how I was going to go about it. Corporate Citizen is a game-changer in many ways. Writing it, the intention was a calculated risk, but I don’t believe in a formulaic approach. Life has its changes. New challenges are necessary for my characters to grow. With change, there is discomfort, catharsis, and renewal.

5-CC.jpgQ: 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:  Bianca is an amalgam of people I’ve known. I once knew a notorious hacker. Another friend of mine, now deceased, was beyond brilliant, with a 200 IQ, but unable to interact with people. You could tell when you dealt with him that he was thinking about things on another plane and that he struggled to put it all into words. Bianca is a combination of these two individuals, and there is an element of my younger self. I was cold and very Spock-like when I was younger. It was a defense mechanism. I’ve mellowed some. I don’t do character sketches, but it isn’t difficult for me to access the people I’ve known and anticipate what they would say and do in certain situations.

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: I think pure Evil is rare. Human beings have a primitive instinct, a survival impulse to avoid such people. It’s more realistic that a person is flawed, that they have a genuine impulse to do good, but the end-results are problematic. History is littered with individuals who are one nation’s hero and another’s nightmare. I aim for ambiguity. Here, the title matters. Is a soldier, who has killed for his country, a bad person? Objectively, he has taken lives. Is the politician, who has ordered an assassination to maintain hegemony and political stability, evil? Readers of the Series know that Rendition had started with the best of intentions. In Corporate Citizen, there are two new characters: I let the readers decide whether they are villains.

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

A: Writing a novel is like the race between the tortoise and the hare. First, I think you have to a clear and fast glimpse of the finish line. What does each character want? What is the price (assumed and real) of what they want? What will they have by the last page? If you have rough answers to these questions and you know your characters well enough that they speak to you inside your head then write it all down. That is the slow part of the process. You could vary the pace, like a director with a camera, with a cutaway to another scene, to another character, but end your chapter with a question or a revelation that is picked up later. The more you write, the more you read, the better you will get at knowing what to do, when to do it, and the more likely you’ll have a sense of how to do it. I know that sounds vague, but the more you read other authors, the more you become aware of the tricks of the trade. This is why reading widely across genres helps. There is also some excellent writing for serial television, such as Breaking Bad. Enjoy it first and then make a case study of it so you teach yourself how the writer(s) did it. Jane Austen almost never describes what her characters look like and yet she writes dialogue, often in close combat, that has withstood the test of time. What you teach yourself, the knowledge you acquire, is on your terms, in your own language, and what you know, you’ll never forget.

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: It helps that I’ve lived or traveled to the places that I use in the Roma Series. However, special precautions are necessary when a writer uses a foreign locale. I wrote an article for Writer Unboxed about avoiding stereotypes. When I think the story is as good it’ll be, I’ll send it to my Italian friend in Milan, Claudio Ferrara, who is also a talented writer and translator. He does what I call ‘cultural editing.’ Simply put, there is a point where, despite all of my research and empathy, a native speaker helps with authenticity – whether it’s an Italian word, or a detail about a place. A foreigner often sees touristy things but a native will point those things that are the heart of the city and culture. Let me give you an example. I live in Boston, the city that sparked the American Revolution. There are so many touchstones to the historical past: the Freedom Trail, the Old Meeting House, and the Boston Tea Party, but I’ll point to one curious memorial. On School Street, where there used to be a Borders bookstore, there is a plaque commemorating the site of the first Catholic Church building in Boston and the city’s first public Mass in 1788. The Puritans settled New England in 1620.  Think about that gap in time and its implications for religious tolerance. It’s all a matter of perspective and insider knowledge.

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 recurrent in your other work?

A: The recurring themes throughout all of the Roma Series books are friendship and loyalty among friends while they negotiate dangerous situations. I know from the start where the story will take place, and which aspect of organized crime I will present to the reader. Where I strive to be distinctive in crime fiction is in how I show that organized crime is more than just some thug like Tony Soprano, though they do exist. Organized crime in Italy is the vampire that feeds off superstition and fears, but yet has morphed, paradoxically, into a very modern, sophisticated and multinational corporation.

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

A: A writer’s skill is craft, but the art of it all is a collaboration of invisible hands. Editing and revision is where there is Art. My friend Dean Hunt copy-edits my writing and has proofread my novels. Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist and a doctoral student in American literature, remarked that “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s spelling [was] so awful sometimes I think if he had auto-spell Gatsby would not have died.” Not comparing myself to the wonderful Fitzgerald or Rindell, but writers need guard rails. Line editing requires an attentive ear and knowing the writer. Dave King has helped me in this regard. He also has helped me with structural editing for the plot’s arc. I have readers who spot-check for continuity. I’ve already discussed Claudio’s work with me as my cultural editor. When my novel visits James’s desk at Winter Goose, I hope that it is as clean as possible, and yet he’ll find nits and wrinkles. The point to all this is that a book in hand – what we call Art — is the product of many different talents and minds at work.

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

A: Item #1 is a quote from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Stupid people surround themselves with smart people. Smart people surround themselves with smart people who disagree with them.

In a word, you rise to the occasion because smarter people, those who’ll call you on it, make you a better writer and person.

Item #2: The ability to create characters who want something, and an obstacle in the way of fulfilling that desire. The character should start somewhere and arrive somewhere else.

Item #3: The writer should be invisible to the story. The story should reveal itself without any authorial intrusion, which means no verbal pyrotechnics, no showing off what they know, or forced jokes or gratuitous violence. Whatever happens in the story should be organic and logical to the initial premise and appropriate to the personalities.

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: I agree. Writers are sensitive to language and the ‘homework’ is studying other writers. For example, I have little interest in rap music, but I admire and appreciated what Lin-Manuel Miranda did in his musical Hamilton. He used contemporary music to teach history, tell a story, a tragic one. I had read and enjoyed Chenow’s Hamilton, but the musical Hamilton brought the historical person of Alexander Hamilton, a brilliant and at times monumentally insecure man to life in my imagination.

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

A: I consult Dave King and Rennie Browne’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and visit Writer Unboxed online, along with Kristen Lamb’s blog. While I respect advice, exercises, and strategies, I think you’re best left to figure it out on your own, using your imagination and learning lessons from reading for decades.

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

A: Do it. Write. Put your butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard and see what comes through the fingertips. Readers want a story that entertains them, moves them, and changes their way of looking at the world. Trust your imagination, draft and revise it. Have fun and write that story.





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Mason Alley Publishing – Release date: September 20th 2106

Available in trade paper (ISBN: 978-0692670446, $14.95) and eBook ($4.99) editions

 “a consistently entertaining crime thriller…The plot crackles with energy and suspense. The writing is crisp…clever.” –Kirkus

“Charm and humor permeate the pages of the surprising thriller. There’s little chance that anyone will turn the last page before developing a craving for the next installment.” –ForeWord Reviews

Award-winning novelist Robert Lane, who has drawn comparisons to John D. MacDonald, has created one of the most compelling characters in mystery today.  PI Jake Travis is tough, smart, wise and wisecracking. He’s hailed as “a winning hero”—and this time, Jake has an elaborate knot to untangle.

While trying to expose a corrupt Miami art dealer, Jake goes undercover for the FBI. The gallery’s owner, Phillip Agatha, is more enchanted with murder than he is with art. Aboard Agatha’s luxury yacht, the Gail Force, Jake is taken with Agatha’s hospitality—and with his alluring assistant, Christina, a woman who harbors her own secrets. Unknowingly, Jake plays into Agatha’s hands and initiates actions that could cause an innocent girl to die.

As Jake struggles to save the girl, unearth a rogue FBI agent, and bring Agatha to justice, his greatest challenge is to stay loyal to his girlfriend Kathleen—and to withstand the Gail Force.  As Jake himself observes, “After all, everything’s a game. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you don’t know what game you’re playing.”  This game is on…

The Gail Force is crime fiction writing at its finest.  With a storyline that races from the opening page, characters that stay with readers long after the final page is turned, and the wit, wisdom, lust for life, and cynicism of Jake Travis, The Gail Force will leave readers breathless.


Robert Lane resides on Florida’s west coast. His debut Jake Travis novel, The Second Letter, was received with critical acclaim and was awarded the Gold Medal in the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) 2015 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best New Voice: Fiction.  His other novels in the stand alone series are Cooler Than Blood, and The Cardinal’s Sin. 


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Two Graves Cover MEDIUM WEB.jpgTitle: Two Graves (Retribution Series #1)

Author: Zoe Kalo

Genre: Dark Psychological Suspense

Audience: New Adult/Adult

Word count: 18,000 words – 70 pages (short novella)

Launch date: October 1st 2016

Purchase on Kindle

About the Book

A Dante-ish descent through a sinister world of decadent shadows and woeful souls…

Seven years ago, he shattered her life. The town eventually forgot the headlines and the nightmares. But 23-year old music student Angelica hasn’t forgotten.

For the past seven years, she’s contemplated payback with as much intensity and unwavering faith as she puts into her violin playing. Finally, all the pieces are in place. Over the course of one night, disguised for a masquerade ball, Angelica orchestrates a journey of revenge.

Chapter 1


Mask in hand, I walked to the living room and looked at the bleak January sky through the balcony glass doors. I glanced at my watch. Only five. But it was almost dark. The forecast had promised snow. A setback. But, in the end, it wouldn’t matter.

I lifted the Venetian mask to my face—the Colombina, or so said the booklet that came with the box—and stared at my reflection in the darkening glass. The mask was gilded and ornamented over the cheeks and around the eyes, its edges embroidered in gold, and it covered half my face. It was mysterious yet inconspicuous. Perfect for anonymity. The tiny iridescent rhinestones, like a breath of crushed diamonds, went well with my red gown.

“Want to know my recipe for courage?” I said, barely above a whisper. “Welcome death. When you welcome death, there’s nothing to lose. When there’s nothing to lose, there’s no fear.”

All the female performers in the orchestra had to wear red tonight. The mask was for the after-concert, fundraising masquerade bash being held to benefit teenage mothers.

I lowered the mask and stared at my real face. But not really. For the past three years I had dyed my blond hair black. My eyes were blue under my dark brown contact lenses. I had even changed my name. A mask under a mask. Did the real me still exist under the layers?

I put the mask into the duffel bag. I picked up the gun and weighed it in my hand. It had been hard to get. I tucked it under a strap around my upper thigh. Good thing my gown had a slit.

Five minutes later, I was ready to go. Bag zipped, violin case in hand, my body covered in wool—long flowing coat, hat, scarf, gloves—in an attempt to obliterate the cold that never left me.

After seven years, revenge had become my soulmate. Being in its arms brought me peace. We could read each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s pain.

I stepped out of my apartment and headed toward the underground parking.



Mozart’s “Requiem” coursed through my veins. I played, eyes closed, in total surrender. Music was my opium, the only other thing that kept me functional. But this particular piece, especially the opening movement, with its seductive crescendo, then its plunging, enveloping darkness, embraced me like the wings of a fallen angel. Black feathers velvety against my flesh. Wisp of frigid breath on my cheek like sharp little teeth. Please, take me down.

For an instant, the thought of tonight electrified me. My eyes flew open and I crashed to the present. The concert hall came alive with razor-sharp clarity: rows of toy-like musicians—Kens in tuxedos, Barbies in princess gowns—the chorus like radiant seraphs, the audience, the cream of Baltimore, rapt and fascinated as if we weren’t musicians but magicians. My vision narrowed to the guest conductor, the Maestro. Salt and pepper hair swept back, parted in the middle, thick and softly curving at the shoulder, a masculine mane that didn’t quite match his pale, delicate fingers. The other day, after rehearsal, I had passed by him as he leaned forward to get some sheets of music from his attaché case. From the corner of my eye, heart tight shut, I’d looked at his hands, knuckles so soft they weren’t there at all, nails as glossy and immaculate as if he washed them in holy water.

Clapping thundered. I rose with the rest of the orchestra and we bowed in unison. The Maestro raised his arms toward us, beaming with pride like a shepherd to his flock.

I glanced at my watch. Past eight thirty.

A feeling of euphoria permeated the air. But no one talked to me as I walked backstage to put my violin in its case. No one asked if I was going to the ball. Eventually they had stopped asking me out—a coffee here, a drink there—and left me alone. It’s not that I didn’t like people. I had nothing against them. I just wasn’t able to talk without their faces blurring, blending with the surroundings, and without my soul floating out of my body leaving me struggling to reel it back in.

I slipped into my coat and wound my scarf around my neck.

“Hey, Angelica,” someone said. “Great show, huh? You going to the party?”

I turned and my heart beat a quick staccato.

Melanie, viola player. She was in my composition and musical theory classes. Always polite, the type of kind-hearted person who wants to be liked and who wants to save the world. Once, outside the conservatory, she’d asked me to hold a kitten for her. She’d found it abandoned on the school grounds and needed someone to keep it while she went to get some papers from her professor. She put in in my hands before I was able to say a word. Holding something so weightless and fragile—two, three weeks old?—had left me trembling. After she came back for it, I had to run to the nearest bathroom and vomit my lunch, my hands gripping the toilet seat.

It took me a second or two to answer. “Yes. I’m going.”

Her eyes widened. “I’m glad! I guess I’ll see you there then.” She was gone in a second, arm hooked with one of the oboe players.

I left my violin case in the well-guarded “green room,” took my mask, and joined the throngs of people as they exited the concert hall toward the ballroom through a glass tunnel that traversed the gardens. Snow flurries pirouetted in the wind, shimmering blue under Victorian lampposts. The concert hall and the ballroom were part of the palatial estate of Richard Pierrepont, an eccentric billionaire aristocrat turned patron of the arts. I’d never met him until tonight when he gave his pre-concert welcoming speech, though I’d seen his photo—embracing the Maestro—in the papers months ago when the fundraising was announced.

Some of the people were putting on their masks as they walked and I did, too. Through the trees and ice sculptures that decorated the gardens, I squinted at an intricate series of tall hedges in concentric circles, part of a three-dimensional maze meant to confuse people, or so the paper said. Apparently, Pierrepont was a Dante fan and had built the maze depicting the Nine Circles of Hell. Fitting. Ironic.

I searched for the Maestro over the heads of the people, and for a terrible instant thought I’d lost him. But no, there he was. His salt and pepper mane stood out, the way it fell back, full and gently curling at the ends. As he approached the entrance to the ballroom, he put on his mask. He turned inside and glanced over his shoulder at the crowd—at the crowd, not at me—and I saw it fully. The Colombina, gilded and ornamented like mine, but black.

Something ugly and bilious flipped at the back of my throat. I was struck with an incomprehensible sensation, as if I were staring at my own reflection as I had done earlier in the darkening glass doors at my apartment. I looked away and took a gulp of air to keep from retching. All it took was one thought, one moment of inattention, for my stomach to erupt. I pressed my hand to my stomach. Stay. Like a dog, yes.

A hand touched my elbow. “You okay?” asked a manly voice, soft, deep.

His mask covered half his face and revealed a pair of full, sensuous lips slightly tinted purple from wine. He held a medieval-looking glass in his hand.

“I’m fine,” I said. I’m fine.

“You sure? You want to sit down?”

I shook my head, murmured thanks, and drifted away from him like a ghost.

The ballroom was all red and gold and crystal chandeliers and mirrors. And candles, lots and lots of candles. A dramatic Russian waltz drifted out from hidden speakers. I moved slowly through the crowd and lingered by one of the buffet tables. A disguised waiter passed by with a tray of champagne flutes and wine goblets and I reached for a flute. Not that I was going to drink, but I needed something in my hands. From the corner of my eye, I spotted him across the room by the grand staircase. He had taken his mask off and was chatting with a small group of people, a goblet of wine in his hand. Master of disguise, his body language intimate, head leaning in slightly—I listen to what you’re saying—arms and shoulders relaxed—I’m enjoying your company—head nodding—I’m empathetic…human. They didn’t know him at all. No, no. They couldn’t. If they did, they would be running away.

As I kept my attention on him, I glanced at my champagne flute, feigning interest. Crystal on top, pewter at the stem and base, decorated with complex Celtic-looking knot work—upon a closer look, snakes intertwined with a sword and black roses. Maybe a family crest.

I moved furtively to the other side of the room, through the laughter and the chatter, and caught my reflection in one of the mirrors. There were so many mirrors and so many women in red that for a moment my vision fragmented and they all seemed a reflection of me.

And then Melanie was next to me, clammy hand on my arm. “I’m feeling a little sick,” she said. “Can you take me to the bathroom?”

“Er…” I was taken by surprise. I was wearing my mask, she wasn’t. Did she know who I was?

“Where’s your boyfriend?” I asked, referring to the oboe player, though I wasn’t sure if they were serious. They often hung out together around school.

She grabbed me tighter and gave me a ferocious roll of the eyes. She was always so nice, her reaction was refreshing. Everyone has the capacity for rage. Her eyes widened and she stared at me, her cheeks flushed. “Angelica?” She looked like she was having trouble keeping her balance.

Leaving the ballroom was not in the plan, but I said, “Where’s the bathroom?”

We had to ask one of the waiters—Go that way and through that door, ladies.

My eyes darted to the Maestro. He was speaking with a different group of people. I tried to control the wild tightness in my stomach and move normally. Her hand gripped my arm. Melanie was leading me, instead of the other way around.

Together we found the Roman masterpiece of a bathroom. Gold fixtures, glass and marble, mosaics. Cool as a mausoleum. Above us, a domed fresco displayed—what? Dionysus? The Bacchanalia? I glanced away, vaguely repulsed.

Melanie threw her mask on the floor and rushed to one of the toilets. I shut my eyes at the retching and purging, but stepped closer. In her haste, she hadn’t had the opportunity to shut the door.

“Are you okay?” I asked through the crack.

She was muttering curses at her boyfriend. “Oh crap, the dress! Oh, man. Now I’ll have to pay for dry cleaning.”

“Are you okay?” I asked again. I picked up her mask, a flamboyant concoction of white and red feathers; two or three were cracked and fell at odd angles, like broken wings.

A moment later she came out with a pale face and a stain on her dress. “Sorry,” she mumbled, avoiding my eyes. She rushed to the sink and leaned forward to wash the stain.

How had she gotten drunk so quickly? Maybe she was one of those people who couldn’t hold liquor. I placed the mask gingerly by her side.

“Thanks.” She glanced at me through the mirror and her lips curled in a curious half smile. “You must really like your mask.”

I forced my hands to the back of my head and reluctantly unlaced the ribbons. I felt as if I were ripping the flesh from my face. I weighed my mask in my hands, the weight of seven years.

To my surprise, she started crying, her hands flat on the marble top, her bowed head veiled by feral reddish curls.

I didn’t move, but I asked, “What’s wrong?” And then, when she didn’t answer, “Can I call someone for you?”

She just kept crying, her shoulders shaking.

I glanced at the door, then at her. “I must go…I—”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dump myself on you,” she said, looking up and sniffing. “You must think I’m such a weirdo.”

“You’re not the first to drink too much.”

She turned to me, eyes wide. “Oh, is that what you think? But of course, what else would you think?” Her mouth twisted as if she’d thought of some big humorless joke.

My dress grew thorns. I could feel them clawing up my legs. I knew what she was going to say before she said it.

“I’m pregnant.”



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Image (197).jpgBorn and raised in Washington, D.C.’s  Georgetown, Ruth J. Anderson served with several Congressional and cabinet-level officials for over 25 years, including the Federal Communication Commission; Senator Richard Russell, Senate Commerce Committee, Secretary of Commerce, and Postmaster General. Upon the recommendations of Sen. Henry Jackson and Judge Roy Morgan, Ruth joined the Atomic Energy Commission and then U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Editorial Assistant and Research Specialist.  Ruth served as President of the Federally Employed, Inc., SMC, which represented over 750,000 Federal employees.

She was selected for the World Who’s Who of Women in Cambridge, England and in 1977, was honored to be the first woman to receive the Silver Medal for Meritorious Service at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  A past member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the Society of Women Engineers, Ruth also served on the Federal Women’s Interagency Board. Ruth Anderson resides in Florida.  Whistle Blower and Double Agents is her first novel. Centered on what Anderson calls “a cover-up of epic proportions,” its an explosive international thriller inspired by actual events.

About the book During a visit to the CIA on a safeguards inquiry, an Atomic Energy Commission nuclear scientist finds that the safeguards program of his agency was flawed and allowed for nuclear material to be stolen from within the nuclear plant and passed on to other countries.  Deeply alarmed, he reported this finding to the AEC, and later to the U.S. Congress and the President. But when the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman falls in love with a beautiful female undercover CIA operative, what follows is a pulse-quickening, globe-spanning page turner that will leave readers wondering where truth ends and fiction begins—if at all…

CoverWelcome to The Dark Phantom, Ruth! Tell us, what is inside the mind of a thriller espionage writer?

While I can’t vouch for what is in the mind of every thriller espionage writer, I can say that I have a healthy active brain, which I inherited from my grandmother, who was a brilliant woman. My grandmother on my mother’s side loved to write and she wrote extensively. In fact, that grandmother was a relative of Charles Lamb, a great writer in England. I’ve loved to read and write my whole life, as well.

Why should readers buy Whistle Blower and Double Agents
Readers have said Whistle Blower and Double Agents is exciting and a page-turner. I’ve heard from a number of people who have read the book say they have difficulty putting it down. I hope that readers in search of a good story will find that in Whistle Blower and Double Agents. One writer described it as “straight out of a James Bond movie – chock-full of intrigue, suspense, romance, and action.”  That is certainly high praise.

What makes for a good thriller novel?

First, I like novels that have some basis in reality. For instance, I prefer to read thrillers written by an author who either knows his/her subject or is willing to do the research to learn about the topic he/she is writing about. Some of the best thrillers, in my opinion, are rooted in fact. Whistle Blower and Double Agentscertainly fits that bill, as the book is inspired by actual incidents around the 200 pounds of uranium missing, or unaccountable, from a US nuclear power plant.

The question of responsibility pointed in many directions – the man who operated the nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, the CIA, and even the President. My employer, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held hearings where a lot of lying and cover-up ensued at the expense of the brave and later maligned nuclear scientist who blew the whistle on the case. I’m often asked why I believe there was a cover-up. I interviewed the whistleblower and was haunted by the stories for years. You see, the ‘whistleblower’ found out exactly what happened to the uranium, who was involved—and who received the ‘missing’ uranium. Ultimately, I felt that this was a story that needed to be told.

Second, I love when there is a sense of authenticity and realism about the characters in a novel. I had the benefit of personally knowing the characters in Whistle Blower and Double Agents. That experience helped me bring life to these characters so that readers get that sense of reading about real people and not just characters in a book.

When do you write?

I write at night since it is quiet and no one bothers me. It’s important for me to really be able to concentrate while I’m writing. Also, in researching Whistle Blower and Double Agents, I was working with people all over the country and found that night was the easiest time to speak with contacts in other regions. I researched the book thoroughly so that the facts would be correct. That was very important to me, even though it made the writing process tedious and time-consuming.

What has writing taught you?

Writing has taught me how to research a word, observe a person, take note of colors, examine a room, to consider a person’s emotion and what is really conveyed through laughter, a smile, or sadness. In other words, writing has reinforced just how important it is to be observant, to listen and to pay attention.

Writing has also reinforced my belief that if you want to succeed, you have to work hard. The process of writing Whistle Blower and Double Agents was a lengthy one: I started writing the book in the 1970s and would return to it every once in a while over the years. I started writing regularly again around 2001 and finished the book in late 2015. Even though it was a process that spanned decades, I’m so proud of the book and the hard work I put in to it.

Photo and cover art published with permission from the author.

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WRITE TO DIE, Charles Rosenberg’s blockbuster legal thriller is set against the backdrop of Hollywood’s entertainment industry, and marks the debut of a new series. Write to Die introduces protagonist Rory Calburton, a former Deputy DA turned entertainment lawyer who is swept up in the trial of a lifetime when murder hits the heart of the movie business.

A sensational tale informed by Charles Rosenberg’s decades-long legal career, Write to Die sizzles. With its seemingly ripped-from-the-headlines storyline, exhilarating plot, and pulse-pounding action, Write to Die heralds the advent of an outstanding new mystery series. Resplendent with realistic courtroom drama, richly drawn characters that spring to life within the novel’s pages, and an insider’s view of the inner workings of Hollywood, Write to Die is to die for.

About Write to Die

Hollywood’s latest blockbuster is all set to premiere—until a faded superstar claims the script was stolen from her. To defend the studio, in steps the Harold Firm, one of Los Angeles’s top entertainment litigation firms and as much a part of the glamorous scene as the studios themselves. As a newly minted partner, it’s Rory Calburton’s case, and his career, to win or lose. But the seemingly tame civil trial turns lethal when Rory stumbles upon the strangled body of his client’s general counsel. And the ties that bind in Hollywood constrict even tighter when the founder of the Harold Firm is implicated in the murder. Rory is certain the plagiarism and murder cases are somehow connected, and with the help of new associate Sarah Gold—who’s just finished clerking for the chief justice—he’s determined to get answers. Will finding out who really wrote the script lead them to the mastermind of the real-life murder?


About Charles Rosenberg

Charles (“Chuck”) Rosenberg is a Harvard Law School-trained lawyer who has been a partner in a large, international law firm and, simultaneously, an adjunct law professor who has taught numerous law school courses, from copyright to criminal procedure. He received his undergraduate degree from Antioch College and has served as the credited legal script consultant to TV’s The Paper Chase, L.A Law, The Practice and Boston Legal, a full-time on-air legal analyst for E! Television’s O. J. Simpson criminal and civil trial coverage, and a former board member of the Taos Film Festival. He is author of the bestselling Robert Tarza legal-thriller trilogy: Death on a High Floor, Long Knives and Paris Ransom, and The Trial of O.J.: How to Watch the Trial and Understand What’s Really Going On, a trial watcher’s guide to the O.J. Simpson trial. Chuck practices law in the Los Angeles area, where he lives with his wife. He is currently at work on the second book in the To Die series. Visit www.charlesrosenbergauthor.com for more information.

Publication Date:  July 26, 2016

Category:   Mystery/Thriller

Formats:  Trade Paper, ISBN:  978- 1503937611, $15.95,  Kindle, $3.99

Page Count:   498 (approximately)

Publisher:   Thomas & Mercer

Publicity Contact:  Maryglenn McCombs  (615) 297-9875  maryglenn@maryglenn.com


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ianhighres5.jpgIan A. O’Connor is a retired USAF colonel who has held several senior military leadership positions in the field of national security management.  In his page-turning thriller, The Barbarossa Covenant, released in August 2015, it’s the author’s expertise in neutralizing nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare threats against the United States which provides the backdrop for the story’s compelling reality, and electrifying sense of urgency.

He is also the author of The Twilight of The Day. This debut novel garnered high praise in a lengthy review in the Military Times for its realism and chilling story line. It was soon followed with the publication of The Seventh Seal by Winterwolf Publishing Company, a thriller that introduced readers to retired FBI agent Justin Scott. Both books were re-released worldwide in 2015 in Kindle and softcover formats.

Ian co-authored SCRAPPY: A Memoir of a U.S. Fighter Pilot published by McFarland & Company to rave reviews in the military aviation community. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, and lives in South Florida with his wife, Candice, where he is hard at work writing the next Justin Scott thriller, The Masada Option, due to be released in late 2016.

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

A: The Wrong Road Home was inspired by true events.  It’s the story of a friend of mine named Desmond Donahue who practiced medicine as a surgeon—first in Ireland and later in Miami—and did so for over twenty years armed with nothing more than a Chicago School System GED certificate and a several fake diplomas.  I was totally unaware of his dark secret until the exposé was splashed all over the front page of The Miami Herald, Sunday Edition two decades ago.  It was a scandal that gained national notoriety.

Q: What do you think makes a good historical novel written as an exposé based on true events? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

ianoconnor-72dpi-1500x2000-2A: I found that writing this story was similar in many respects to writing a thriller. First, the writer must have an interesting concept to ‘hook’ the reader. Next, the opening chapter, (or sometimes it’s a prologue) must grab the reader’s attention within the first or second paragraph. That’s not much time, but it’s true. Because it is here where you must compel the reader to want to continue reading in order to find out what happens next. The reader must want to be drawn to the central character, to either feel well-disposed or badly disposed to the person. Think Mother Theresa or Adolf Hitler. Both are interesting people who impacted history.

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

A: Luckily, I knew how my story would end as I began writing The Wrong Road Home. Also, plotting was not an issue because the real Desmond Donahue laid bare his whole life to me, oftentimes at great embarrassment to himself.   But let me stray just a tad from the question asked to say this about writing in my usual genre, which is the thriller category. I have a pretty good idea how my story is going to unfold before I write my first sentence.  That’s because I spend several months—or longer—researching facts regarding locations, cultures, history, skills possessed by my protagonists and antagonists, and also discovering how various things work. I do write an outline, oftentimes it’s lengthy, but I recognize that as I write, the story will morph to a degree, but always for the better.

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: My protagonist in The Wrong Road Home was a personal friend whom I thought I knew. Obviously, I didn’t. I mean, how many people do you know who have been friends with a doctor for years to suddenly discover the man’s a complete fraud? I’ll wager, not many.  The more I finally got to know the real Desmond, the more I came to realize just what nerves of steel he must have had to pull off such a scam in the first place, and then continue to live the lie for another twenty years. It’s the stuff of fiction, but fiction it wasn’t.

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

A:  Because The Wrong Road Home was such an exciting story in its own right, I decided to write it in a similar vein to producing a thriller.  The reader must be propelled ever onward with interesting twists and unexpected turns in the narrative, and my chapters are not formulaic in either substance or style. By this I mean some chapters are short, others longer. But a constant throughout this work is my liberal use of dialogue. Readers love dialogue. They identify with characters more easily when they hear them speak, rather than being told what is happening. “Show, don’t tell” is a maxim introduced to most writers early in their careers and should be ignored at great peril.

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: Much of the mood developed in The Wrong Road Home dealt with setting, which really means time and place. How did Desmond Donahue become such a successful doctor without any discernible medical training? Could such be possible today? The short answer is no.

Because of the Internet and universal access to computers, a Desmond Donahue today would be uncovered in short order.  His school records would be verified in moments, ditto for any medical diplomas, and his memberships in professional societies vetted in an instant. This was not the case in the late nineteen-sixties through the early nineteen-nineties when Desmond Donahue lived his life of lies, not only posing as a surgeon, but actually practicing his craft day after day.

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

A: That’s an interesting question, and I’m not so sure I have the answer.  I see both as being intertwined and the lines blurred. Let’s just say craft and art for a writer should be something seamless. As for editing, I think the author needs to concentrate on getting the story onto paper as his primary objective. Editing should come later. If an author spends too much time editing as he writes, then, yes, I could see how initiative could ebb—and even get lost—if too much emphasis is placed on editing an unfinished story.

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

A: First, a novelist must come up with interesting plots, then he/she must exhibit the discipline to actually sit down and create the story out of thin air, and, last, a writer must never shortchange the reader by becoming a lazy hack. You might get away with producing one bad book, but “fool me once…”

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: I’m going to take exception to that premise because it implies the writer’s life is one of drudgery, and that’s certainly not the case. At least not for me. I can’t ever remember saying in high school or college, “Oh, boy, six hours of homework tonight, and a ton more this weekend!”  Writers write for the sheer pleasure of writing. It’s akin to horses running for the sheer pleasure of running. It is a stimulating endeavor, and one I will never tire of.

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

A: I will lie awake at nights in wonder at just how I was able to create stories without the help of the Internet. There is nothing now beyond the reach of any author regarding, people, places, and things. It is possible to become an expert on the most picayune subjects, and in turn the reader has the ability to discover if you indeed know what you’re talking about.  So I doff my hat to the likes of Dickens, Defoe, Austen, and countless others who actually produced such stellar works that we still delight in reading them today.

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

A: If any of your readers should discover they have a story to tell, then by all means begin the journey. It will take a lot of hard work, tons of trial and error, criticism and rejection, but the key to success is perseverance. If you truly believe in yourself you will achieve your goal, and the satisfaction that come with a job well done.

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last stop parisSYNOPSIS

A full-throttle adventure through modern Europe and the Mediterranean … that’s part thriller, part mystery, and all rollicking ride.

Pearce again accomplishes every thriller writer’s aim: creating characters that the readers can root for and a believable, fast-paced storyline. The climax and denouement bring the storylines together neatly, but fans will see that there may yet be room for another book in the series.

When readers last saw Eddie Grant in Treasure of Saint-Lazare (2012), he was hot on the trail of Nazi war loot in the company of his on-again, off-again lover, Jen. As readers return to Eddie’s shadowy world of undercover deals and thugs in the employ of crime bosses, they find a quieter, more mature Eddie, now married to Aurélie, a scholar of some note, and living in pleasant domestic bliss. Onto this romantic scene come several of Eddie’s friends, who alert him to suspicious activity within his social circle, involving a man with criminal intentions and an interest in gold. Shortly afterward, a mysterious murder implicates another character from Eddie’s past. As he looks into the matter, Aurélie soon finds herself in danger; at the same time, Jen reappears in Eddie’s life, and he’s simultaneously drawn to her and eager to avoid falling into bed with her again. Soon, he and his comrades must track down another ring of criminals and protect themselves from fatal retribution.



Paige Donovan’s life is perfect. New promotion and a great boyfriend. All that changes with one phone call. Suddenly she finds herself headed to Black River, Colorado. Once there a white wolf keeps showing up. Including her bedroom.

Riley Grey wanted Paige from the moment they meet. Not even hos father’s disapproval can change that. Now he just has to convince Paige to stay in Black River. Oh and there’s the minor fact he’s a wolf in human skin.

Just as things start to look up everything changes.

I really loved the use of first person in this. Which is very unusual for me. Getting to see inside Paige’s head really added to the anticipation for me. Both Paige and Riley were will written and developed characters. I would have liked to know more about their father.

I really liked the challenges that Riley and Paige faced. You could tell that the writer had thought these out. My favorite part of he book however was the ending. It was such a twist on the typical ending. This is a great lazy day (or anytime) read. I would recommended this book to a friend.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Author photo Q Island ReleaseRussell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, Dreamwalker and Q Island. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, The Portal, releases in 2016.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”

Visit his website at http://www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.

Follow on Twitter @RRJames14, Facebook as Russell R. James, or drop a line complaining about his writing to rrj@russellrjames.com.

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

A: A virus that turns people into psychopathic killers breaks out on Long Island, New York. The government drops a quarantine and no one can leave. Melanie Bailey and her autistic son, Aiden are trapped there. Aiden becomes infected, but does not get sick. In fact, his autism gets better.  She realizes he may be the key to more than one cure, if shje can get him off the island. She has to get him past the crazed infected, past the government troops, and out of the hands of a gang leader who has his own designs on a boy who may be the cure.

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

QIsland72webA: The first is, you must have good characters, ones that people can connect and empathize with. If the reader doesn’t care what happens to the hero, there is zero tension when he is put in danger.

In no particular order after that, a thriller has to move. No navel-gazing introspection, no four-page back story, no meandering conversations. Every chapter, every paragraph lives to advance the story. Then, thriller readers want a roller coaster with more downward rushes then upward pulls. I also like a thriller to have plenty of twists, plenty of “Oh wow!” reveals that sent the hero in a different, untraveled direction.

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

A: I am a discovery writer, seat-of-the-pants writer, organic writer, whatever you want to call it. I start with a situation, then I try to have some kind of plausible ending in mind. Then I create the main characters with some pretty broad brush strokes and start writing. Everything kind of blossoms as I write. About two-thirds of the way through, I have to go back and construct an outline so I know how everything is fitting together and that the timeline makes sense.

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: Melanie Bailey went through several transformations. She starts out the story weak and dependent on her husband, a jackass stockbroker who gets trapped on the other side of the quarantine. She’s all alone with her special needs son and it overwhelms her. But she gets stronger through the story as she realizes she has no safety net, and if her son is to survive, only she will make that happen. Early readers didn’t think she grew enough, or couldn’t see the turning point in her life, so I had to go back and add several scenes and change others.

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: There are villains galore in Q Island. A lot of readers tell me that the uninfected are more scary than the infected. One of them is Paul, an oddball survivalist who lives in Melanie’s condo complex. The people turn to him in their hour of need, and the power most certainly goes to his head. I’ve seen lots of examples where people are put in charge of something and they turn all Napoleon. I amped that up and let Paul’s sadistic streak bloom. You’ll love to hate him.

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

A: If I got to a section where it bored me to write it, I guessed it would bore someone to read it as well, so I cut it out or shrank it. Q Island also follows a few different parallel stories, that eventually all intersect, so I had several people who could encounter something amazing and I could pick who’s turn it was to get riveting. I think that read better than having one point of view person who experienced every adventure. That just starts to feel unrealistic after a while.

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:Setting almost sank the manuscript. I selected Long Island because it was large and relatively easy to isolate. A tunnel, a few bridges, a few ferries. Close them and the only way out is swimming. But then I had to do the world building in the post-Paleovirus version of the island. I wanted it to be more realistic than a lot of post-apocalyptic works are. That meant I needed to answer a lot of questions like will the mainland still supply electricity? The world won’t let them starve to death, so how does food and gasoline and medicine get through quarantine? Some businesses will disappear, like the mom-and-pop store making gourmet dog treats. How will those people live? Some jobs have to stay filled, like water treatment operators and police. Who pays them when there is no economy generating money in the zone? The whole thing seemed unmanageable and I set the manuscript aside. Later I read some other post-apocalyptic stories that got it right, and I was inspired to get the story rolling again. I think I did pretty well with it in the end.

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: I don’t have a theme when I start a story. One usually surfaces. Sacrifice is about the bonds of friendship. Black Magic is about the strength of family. I really don’t notice the theme until I review the final product. I think more authors have theme running subconsciously when they write than people doing literary analysis want to believe.

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

A: Wow. Can I answer something that deep? To me, art is personal. “Here’s an expression of my life and experience and inspiration.” It is made with little to no assessment of whether it will appeal to anyone else. It touches the heart of the creator. Commercially viable work is something that touches the hearts of the masses. An editor, understandably, wants the latter. That’s his job. In my experience with Don D’Auria at Samhain, and editor and a writer can collaborate and make certain that the finished work tells the story the writer wants in a way people would be driven to read. If an editor wants a writer to turn the whole story upside down, the writer should probably find someone else more aligned with the initial creative vision that drove the work.

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

A: Number One is drive. I remember watching a politician mount a very low energy bid for the presidential nomination, and reporters wondered if he really wanted the job all that much. He later dropped out of the race. Successful people in any profession need to have that drive to do the work to win. Authors have to have it by the barrelful, because they face a much higher failure rate, harsher criticism, and delayed rewards because publication, and any positive feedback, may be years from the moment the story was finished.

Number Two is being ready to improve. You have never mastered the craft. In the same way that athletes are always training, and golfers sometimes call in a coach to rebuild their swing, a writer needs to always be exploring ways to improve what they create. New, often unpublished. writers who prickle at constructive criticism likely won’t ever sell a thing. To apply and paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, we need to be free to doubt our own infallibility.

Number Three, sorry to say, is luck. There are many good authors out there without publishing contracts. An editor had a bad day, a manuscript file was deleted accidentally, the work’s genre is stone cold this month, the writer missed the open call posting. There are a million different reasons good things stay on writers’ hard drives. That is why it is so important to scroll back up and make sure that you have Number One covered. The more you work, the more you submit, the more you publicize, the more the odds turn in your favor that the right opportunity will be there for your work.

See how I left out talent? You can be successful without it. (I’m skipping listing famous names here.) But without the top three above, you can’t be successful, even with it.

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: True, but it is homework in a subject that you enjoy.

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

A: Any aspiring author who hasn’t read Stephen King’s On Writing needs to close their laptop, buy it, and read it cover to cover, twice. I had great experiences with the Gotham Writer’s Workshop classes that are held online. But all classes are dependent of the skill of the instructor and the participation and caliber of the students.

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

A: If you have the itch within you that says you must write, you have no choice. It will not go away if you ignore it. It will irritate you for years, even decades, and until you scratch it, it will offer no relief.

Just start. Sit and write. Read good writing. Sit and write some more. Do not give up, do not be discouraged. Since man first painted pictures on cave walls, some of us have been driven to share stories with the tribe. That is the DNA that has been passed down to you. Embrace it, and enthrall others.

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JOHN BENEDICTDr. John Benedict graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and entered medical school at Penn State University College of Medicine.  While there, he also completed an internship, anesthesia residency and a cardiac anesthesia fellowship. He currently works as a physician/anesthesiologist in a busy private practice in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Benedict has been writing stories since high school, but his creative side was put on hold to pursue a medical education and start a family—he now has a wife and three sons.  Finally, after a 15-year pause, his love of writing was rekindled and his first novel, Adrenaline—a gritty medical thriller with a realism borne of actual experience—was born.

Besides creating scary stories, the hallmark of Dr. Benedict’s writing is genuine medical authenticity—something in short supply these days in thriller fiction.  He draws on his 25+ years of experience as a board-certified anesthesiologist to infuse his writing with a realism that renders it both vivid and frightening.  As one of only a handful of anesthesiologists throughout the country writing fiction, he gives readers a taste of what really goes on in the operating room, the human drama inherent in this high-stress, high stakes environment where lives are continually on the line.  Readers will find out what it’s like to hold a patient’s life in their hands, as the author provides an illuminating glimpse into the fascinating, but poorly understood realm of anesthesia.

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

A:   Adrenaline tells the story of veteran anesthesiologist, Doug Landry.  When patients start dying unexpectedly in the Mercy Hospital OR, Doug winds up being blamed.  Doug is confused at first and wonders if he screwed up somehow.  However, as he investigates further, he unearths evidence of greed and corruption in his department.  As he struggles to unravel the secrets of the mysterious deaths and clear his name, it quickly becomes apparent that someone will stop at nothing to keep him from revealing the devastating truth.  Doug becomes trapped in a race against time to prevent more deaths, including his own.

I am an anesthesiologist in real life and Adrenaline is a classic medical thriller told from the anesthesiologist’s viewpoint.  To illustrate the real inspiration behind this book, I will need to relate a true story from 20 years ago:

One day it struck me—at 2:00 in the morning in the midst of another grueling 24-hour shift. I had just finished interviewing a nice lady with an appendix about to burst—we’ll call her Linda. I had done my best not to yawn as I went through the routine questions that an anesthesiologist is obliged to ask. She appeared nervous, which soon gave way to tears. I did my best to comfort her, took her hand, told her I would take good care of her. That I would watch over her carefully in the operating room and see her through surgery. And be there when she woke up in the recovery room. She appeared to calm down a bit. I wrapped up my pre-op assessment and asked her to sign the anesthesia consent form, while assuring her the risks would be minimal. She raised her eyebrows at this and the fearful look returned. I wondered: What the hell does minimal mean when you’re talking about life and death? More tears. She told me of her two young daughters at home that desperately needed a mommy. I felt my own throat tighten. I quickly buried my emotions, tried not to think about my wife and three sons, and focused on the task at hand as we wheeled her litter back down the hall to the OR.

adrenalineAfter Linda was safely tucked in the recovery room, operation a success, anesthetic uncomplicated, I lay down in the call room to try to catch a couple of z’s. My mind wandered as I lay there. Rarely, I thought, does a person willingly surrender control of their mind and body to a virtual stranger. Yet, this is exactly what happens when the person is a patient being wheeled in for surgery and the stranger is their anesthesiologist, whom they have just met minutes beforehand. Talk about an extraordinary amount of trust. This degree of trust made a distinct impression on me that night, some twenty years ago.

Other thoughts followed soon thereafter. What if the trust Linda had exhibited earlier was ill-conceived and her doctor was actually bad? Not just incompetent or sleepy, but downright evil. Being an avid reader of thrillers, I thought this chilling concept would make for a good story. Too bad I wasn’t a writer. (Disclaimer time: I don’t want to scare people here. All the docs I have known in my 30 years of medical practice are highly competent professional people, who would never purposely hurt anyone.) But I still couldn’t shake the evil concept; it kept gnawing at me until eventually I had to put it down on paper—lack of writing experience be damned. So Adrenaline was birthed, my first medical thriller novel that explores this issue of absolute trust implicit in the anesthesiologist-patient relationship—specifically, what happens when that trust is abused and replaced by fear.  Adrenaline was finally published twelve years after my encounter with Linda.

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

A:  A good medical thriller must, first and foremost, be a gripping story usually in a medical setting.  It must also have memorable characters that people can identify with and care about what happens to them.  Finally, the medicine portrayed in the story should be authentic, adding to the realism.

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

A: I discovered a lot of it as I worked on the book.  I actually wrote the climax scenes first of Adrenaline and then tried to make the rest of the story fit into the climax.  I don’t really recommend this technique in retrospect, but I was basically flying by the seat of my pants.  In writing subsequent novels, I tried to have a better idea of the beginning, middle and end of the book.  This is much more time efficient.

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: My main character in my first two books is Doug Landry.  Coincidentally, he’s an anesthesiologist, like I am.  Just kidding—it wasn’t a coincidence.  A lot of me goes into Doug, so I didn’t have to interview anyone or make a character sketch.  I’m not sure this is the best approach. It’s certainly simplifies the character development but you’ll likely take some flak from your family and friends.

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: My villains tend to be petty evil because basically they’re doctors who are OK with murdering their patients.  So the trick is to humanize them to make them more believable, instead of just pure evil.  I would try to take parts of real people that I’ve run across—not enough to be recognizable—and blend them into a bad guy with some redeeming characteristics, like sometimes exhibiting a conscience or feeling remorseful for what they have done.

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

A: First, I love to do dialogue, always trying to add realism but also using it to highlight confrontations.  Second, I like to end chapters with a pique if possible to keep the reader guessing and needing to read more.  General foreshadowing is also a technique I employ to build tension.  One final note and this may be counter-intuitive but I’ve come to believe it is true. Rather than have a lot of action scenes, I think it builds tension more by putting off the actual action.  Instead, you continually set the stage for the final confrontation, so that everyone knows it’s coming, but they’re not sure when or how it will resolve.

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:  My books are generally set in a hospital or operating room or delivery room.  Because I am intimately familiar with these locations, I can describe them accurately and vividly.  This definitely lends a sense of realism to the stories, as readers can clearly envision the surroundings.  It certainly helps to be very familiar with your setting—real is better.

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:  The main theme in Adrenaline is the concept of some doctors being evil.  Patients implicitly trust their physicians with their lives routinely.  What if that trust is misplaced? What happens when the desires and goals of a bad doctor supersede the well-being of his patients?  Yes, this theme of doctors being evil is at the heart of all my medical thrillers.

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

A:  I feel like I create the story—this is the art part.  Good editing then helps the nuts and bolts of the writing—sentence structure, word choice, grammar and punctuation, and also addresses any inconsistencies in the story.  Good editing makes the story stronger and clearer.  Bad editing can destroy a story, if the editor tries to rewrite too much of the basic storyline.

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

A: 1) Creativity  2) ability to realistically depict characters, dialogue, setting and see the big picture of a story   3) perseverance/obsessiveness

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: In my mind, there’s no way to sugar-coat this: writing is hard work that demands obsessive attention to detail and an enormous expenditure of time.  It generally includes extreme delayed gratification and exposure to painful criticism and rejection along the way. It’s not for everyone.

Basically you must write to fulfill a need to tell stories—not because you expect anything in return.

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

A: I would recommend attending as many writers’ conferences as you can.  Here you can meet and interact with other authors to hear their stories and learn from their experience.  Also, it’s a chance to network with the all-important agents and editors.  Finally, after you finish your book, it’s a good idea to hire a professional editor to tune up your work—you can also learn a lot from observing what changes the editor might make.

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

A:  My advice for would-be novelists is fairly straightforward.  Nothing worthwhile in life is quick or easy.  Writing is no different.  Expect to spend a long time learning the craft and improving upon it.  Don’t expect to become famous overnight or make a lot of money easily.  The best advice I can give is this: You shouldn’t write because you want to make millions or become a household name—you’ll likely be disappointed.  Rather, you should write because you enjoy the process and feel the need to tell a story.  Let the results take care of themselves.

Other things I’ve learned along the way:  I’ve learned to believe in myself even when no one else seemed to.  I’ve also learned the power of perseverance and patience. The path to successful book publication is notoriously long and arduous for most. Developing a thick skin is also helpful to protect oneself against the many rejection letters and obligatory nasty reviews that will come your way.  Finally, I’ve learned that writing a good book is probably only half the battle.  Getting it published and successfully marketing it may be the most difficult part.  Good luck and keep writing!

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arnaldo 3I enjoy a good murder. Oh, not necessarily an actual murder, but the kind of murders that occur between the pages of a good book. People ask me all the time, “What made you write about such gruesome stuff?”  I rarely have a good enough answer for them and the person asking usually leaves somewhat disappointed. How do you explain to the casual observer, reader, or even fan that you are possessed of a mind filled with all sorts of criminality?

Writers of thrillers, crime fiction, mysteries, etc. dwell in worlds bathed in foggy nights and overcast days. Peaceful ponds and lakes are actually places where bodies rise to the surface, pristine winter snows hide the corpses of hitch-hikers, runaways, or promising college students. We who write about crime must lurk in these dark places, it is who we are. And as a consequence we must also rise squinting into the sun and seek justice for those who have been so wronged. We create doctors, lawyers, detectives, housewives, writers, and even vampires who are willing to use their knowledge, skills, instinct and need to bring the bad guy to justice; to solve the very crime or crimes that we previously have so painstakingly committed on paper. It’s like knitting a wonderfully intricate afghan and then carefully pulling it apart as soon as it’s done.

But, alas, it’s what we do. Oh, and don’t get it wrong. Sure we create great antagonists. Some are evil geniuses, some are sociopaths and some are complete pychopaths! We use words like unsub, perp, the suspect, and so on to describe them, but isn’t the blood actually dripping from our hands?

It takes a very special mindset to just be a writer in the first place: to tackle

head on that blank page and build a world in which you hope to immerse your reader. And it’s even more special when it’s a criminal mind.


Title: Chickenhawk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Publisher: Koehler Books/Café Con Leche books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Chickenhawk is an urban crime fiction novel that showcases New York City’s diversity, as well as the dark side of race relations, politics, sexuality, illness, madness, and infidelity. Eddie Ramos and Tommy Cucitti are Manhattan North Homicide detectives after a serial killer that manages to stay below their radar while the body count keeps climbing in a city that’s turning into a powder keg.


About the Author:

Arnaldo Lopez Jr. has been employed by New York City Transit for twenty-eight years and was formerly employed as a dispatcher with the NYPD.  Mr. Lopez is also a speaker and trainer, speaking on subjects as diverse as terrorism and customer service.  He created the civilian counter-terrorism training program currently in use by New York City Transit and many other major public transportation agencies around the country.

As well as writing, Mr. Lopez is an artist and photographer, having sold several of his works over the years.  As a writer he’s sold articles to Railway Age magazine, The Daily News magazine, Homeland Defense Journal, and Reptile & Amphibian magazine; scripts to Little Archie and Personality Comics; and short stories to Neo-Opsis magazine, Lost Souls e-zine, Nth Online magazine, Blood Moon magazine, and various other Sci-Fi and/or horror newsletters and fanzines.  He was also editor of Offworld, a small science fiction magazine that was once chosen as a “Best Bet” by Sci-Fi television.  Chickenhawk is his first novel.

Connect with Arnaldo Lopez Jr. on Facebook and Twitter.

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