The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across a keyboard

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Available for preorder
Showing posts with label Fiona Quinn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiona Quinn. Show all posts

Monday, May 29, 2017

Well, That's Alarming!


Our guest blogger is Christina Patchell (Chris), whom I met when our books were chosen as Kindle Scout winners.

Chris Patchell is the bestselling author of In the Dark and the Indie Reader Discovery Award winning novel Deadly Lies. A former tech worker turned full-time author, Chris Patchell pens gritty suspense novels set in the Pacific Northwest.


Chris is out with her newest book. Woohoo! And, I invited her on to share some of her research.

Chris, I'm going to sit back and take notes.

Sweet Dreams – Fun Facts about Security Systems

“Protect your home with the best home security system.” That’s what one popular home security system provider claims. And the truth is that we all want to keep our families secure. How many of us have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars installing home security systems and hundreds more on monitoring contracts every year? Once the systems are safely installed in our homes, many of us do something else that we think will act as a deterrent. We plant a sign in the middle of our flower beds outside of our houses that proudly lists the name of the security company whose equipment protects our homes, in the hopes that if a potential thief rolls down our street in the middle of the night, seeing the sign posted out front will compel them to drive on by. But is that true?

I was talking to a friend of mine about the kinds
of things I learned
while researching my latest book, Dark Harvest, and this little fun fact was one of those things that stuck in my mind long afterwards. When something goes bump in the night, the first thing I do is open my eyes and glance across the alarm to the alarm panel wondering if in my sleepy stupor, I actually managed to arm it. Through the dark I see the red light shining like a beacon, and know that it the system is armed. A deep sense of security wraps around me like a warm blanket, and I drift off to sleep once more.

But what if that little sign or sticker adhered to a window isn’t the deterrent you think it is? What if they know what I learned while I was doing my research, that there is a way to block an alarm signal from broadcasting to the monitoring station?

We’ve all heard the claim that you can find anything on the internet, right? Well, if you know where to look, you can find the frequency certain security companies use to broadcast their alerts. So, if a technologically savvy thief knows what to do, they can actually jam the frequency by blasting “white noise” to that signal, thereby preventing the alarm system from sending the alarm.

‘How is this even possible?’ you ask. Easier than you might think. There are devices, like a H.A.M. radio, to tune to the right frequency and blast a signal. A software-defined radio can also be configured onto a laptop and run from there. In essence, a software-defined radio behaves in much the same way the hardware version does, by scanning a range of radio bandwidth to detect activity on specific frequencies. Once the wireless alarm activity is found, it can be exploited by overpowering or jamming the signal issued by the alarm. Some alarms come with anti-jamming protection that can be circumvented by jamming the signal for short bursts (say 20 seconds) then turned off for a second or two, before repeating the process.

This isn’t as easy or cheap as I’m making this sound. There is a fair bit of technical know-how required to setup the system and jam a signal. Setting up a software-defined radio can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $4,000. Since some of these vulnerabilities have been exposed, companies have been hard at work putting solutions in place to stop hackers.

So, how do I keep my family safe? First, don’t make it easier for thieves by posting the sign. Let the blasting alarm be deterrent enough if they target your house in the middle of the night. Or if you really like the idea of posting a sign as a deterrent, post another alarm company’s sign in your yard and keep the bad guys guessing.

In Dark Harvest, Henry Cahill, a computer hacker with a Robin Hood complex, uses a similar technique to break into a business and search for information that will help him solve a crime. Things don’t work out for Henry quite the way he expects, but hey, that’s the kind of wrinkle that makes fiction fun.

If the ins and outs of how things works intrigues you like it does me, here are a few links if you’d like to do some reading of your own:

Hacking home alarms

Hacking alarm systems

Hacking alarm systems

Fiona-
In your writing, reading, and your everyday life, knowing the truth can help you stay one step ahead.

I hope you buy and enjoy Chris's newest book!
Let us know what you think!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Weapons Mistakes Writers Make

ThrillWriting is thrilled to have
Benjamin Sobieck guest posting today!

I'm just going to sit back and take notes.

Benjamin Sobieck - 
Once you know what to look for, it’s hard to “unsee” weapons errors in fiction. Readers may be more forgiving in this department, but for writers with “the eye,” these are opportunities to learn something new, discover what not to do or quietly retreat into a hole of writerly purgatory for having committed the same sin.

I’m only half kidding. Despite a career in non-fiction publishing that requires me to know something about firearms, knives and other stabby/shooty things, I committed my fair share of biffs. Then I course-corrected and wrote The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction for Writer’s Digest Books. Now I’m not the only one with “the eye” out there.

Whether you have it or not, here are the three most common mistakes writers make when it comes to weapons, as well as how to fix them in ways that don’t shamelessly plug my book.

1) Forgetting What the Character is Using


Recently, I received a message over Twitter that sums this up perfectly:


“I just read part of a novel in which the author referred to a character’s weapon as both a rifle and a shotgun - wtf.”

This happens time and time again, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m the moron for granting the benefit of the doubt. Did the writer seriously forget from chapter to chapter if that bang-stick was a rifle or a shotgun? This is a yes-or-no question that ought to be, at the very least, answerable more than once. Was the character using a rifle or a shotgun? Wearing pants or no pants? Presently on fire or not on fire? Interested in real estate investments on Mars or not interested?

I suppose a writer could be confused about the differences in those terms. That’s addressed later in this article.

Solution: Consistency, writerfolk, will save you a load of trouble in the weapons department, even if the terminology is confusing. Write it down if it’s hard to keep track of the weapons involved. You are, after all, a writer.



2) Fidgeting

I once interviewed a comedian for a newspaper who never went on stage without something to drink in his hands. I asked him why, and he said drinking helped with the timing (and, perhaps, with stage fright, but I digress). It let the audience know when to laugh, and it gave him a brief opportunity to reset.

Some writers have adopted a similar technique. Characters will fidget with their weapons to heighten drama, chew scenery, look tough, wait in dentist offices, etc. If you’re well familiar with those weapons and what to avoid, this isn’t an issue. But if you’re only lukewarm on firearms, knives and other methods of fictional mayhem, this is precisely the moment your naivete is put on full display.

I’m talking about cocking, working the safety, racking slides, pumping, loading, reloading and the lot. You know the tropes. It’s the equivalent of characters picking their noses.

Fiona - Sorry, I spit my drink when I read that last bit, and I think I got a little on you, there. Here's a towel. Uhm, I think I interrupted your solution...

Ben - 
Solution: Stop it with the fidgeting. Have the characters sit on their hands if this becomes an issue.

Writing Weapons!




3) Using Incorrect Technical Terms


I’ve biffed on technical weapons terms even when I knew better. This is challenging stuff, especially with how different the canon of hand cannons you get from pop culture is from the real deal. Even when you play it straight from the firearm industry, things change. I’m old enough to remember the days before the terms “modern sporting rifle” and “MSR” came into play to describe “anything that is or looks like an AR-15 for the civilian market.”

These nuances aren’t something you learn overnight, but there is a core lexicon you can adopt to get you through most of those hurdles. I can’t list them all here, but you might find some help from oh, say, The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction. Or you could hire someone in the know to audit your work for proper terminology.



Writers satisfied with dubious definitions dispatched by pop culture do so at their own risk. It doesn’t matter if you’re left of Mao on the issue of gun control or the reincarnation of Charlton Heston. Certain words mean certain things. A rifle is not a shotgun. The capital of the United States is not New York City. No one actually enjoys eating Peeps. Facts are facts.

Solution: Either read up, use these things for yourself or go as generic as possible (“rifle” instead of “AR-15”).

It’s OK to Make Mistakes

I’m not here to scold anyone. I’m actually not the smartest guy in the room. You are, because I’m not the one writing your story. I want you to put your best foot forward

when it comes to this stuff. If you’re at all interested in not looking like you fell off the turnip truck, check out my book, my website or bounce questions off someone familiar with these things. It’s OK. They won’t bite. They have guns. Why bother with teeth?


About Benjamin Sobieck

Benjamin Sobieck is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction, published by Writer’s Digest Books. 

He maintains a blog about weapons and writing fiction at crimefictionbook.com

He’s also a Wattpad Star, with more than a million reads on fictional work such as When the Black-Eyed Children Knock; he has also won a 2016 Watty Award.



Additionally, he is the creator of The Writer’s Glove, a thin glove for keeping hands warm while typing on a keyboard.

So check out Ben's links! I hope the takeaway from this week is a little research makes you and your story credible. When readers aren't shaking their head saying, "What? That author's just wrong!" then they can put all that energy into saying, "What? I totally didn't see that coming, what a great author!"

Happy reading and happy writing!
Fiona

Hello, RITA - Romance Writers of America's Prestigious Prize

Romance, ah...

Do you read it? Do you write it? 

A Rita judge, Liz O'Connor, who writes as LG O'Connor will be talking with us about her experience as a RITA judge.

Fiona - 
Liz can you tell us a little about you and your writing? How long you've been at this your genre etc...

Liz -
Thanks for asking...I'm fairly new to publishing. I spent most of my career as a corporate strategy and marketing professional. However, I've been an avid reader my whole life. When the recession hit in 2009, I left an executive role to pursue other opportunities. During the six months been that job and my next, I started writing the first book in my urban fantasy / paranormal romance series. I finished the first draft in 2012, and Penguin requested it during a pitch conference. They ultimately turned it down, but after another rewrite and some editing, it was accepted in 2013 for a spring 2014 launch through She Writes Press. Since then, I've published 4 books
AMAZON
in that series (2 more to go!), and then started a new contemporary romance series about three women in the same family and their second chance at love. Caught Up in Raine just won the 2017 Bronze IPPY Award in Romance, and Shelter My Heart was selected by Kindle Press for publication May 16th. It's been an interesting and fantastic road so far!

Fiona - 
Can you tell us what the RITA is and how you got involved as a judge?

Liz - 
One of the first organizations that I joined was the Romance
AMAZON
Writers of America (RWA). It's a wonderful organization (and the largest) for writers in the romance genres. The RWA runs peer-based romance awards annually. There are many local chapter contests, as well as the big national contests. 


The RITA and the Golden Heart are the two large national RWA contests. The RITA is like the Academy Award of Romance books for published authors, while the Golden Heart is the same for unpublished authors. Before I was a published author, I entered Caught Up in Raine, and missed finalist by 1 point. One of my dear author friends, Carla Susan Smith, prodded me to enter CUIR in this year's RITA. So I did. One of the requirements as an entrant is that you must participate as a judge in the first round in a non-conflicting genre.


Fiona - 
How much time did that take? And did they provide you a metric by which to judge? 


Liz -
Every judge receives a minimum of 5 books to judge. As promised, they were in genres other than the one that I submitted for. Judges are not allowed to disclose the names of the books they receive or judge. I'm a pretty fast reader, but even so, it took me about four weeks to read all the books and judge accordingly. 


The books are judged on a 10-point scale with fractional points allowed in the scoring, ex: 9.6. They also must satisfy three criteria: 

  • romance as a central theme 
  • happy ever after or happy for now ending
  • they must fit the genre for which they submitted. 
It was a fascinating process to read books not normally part of my genre selection list. For instance, I'm not a big historical romance reader, but one of my books fell into that sub-genre. I really enjoyed it. Although I can't tell you what books I judged, one of them made it to the finals and into the next round of judging.

The winners are announced at the RWA National Conference this July in Orlando, FL. I'll be there, and looking forward to it!


Fiona - 
Even though you were reading outside of your sub-genre what are some take away lessons learned, now that you read with a judges hat on, that you will apply to your own writing?

Liz -
I think the thing that struck me the most (and disappointed me a little) was that for some of the books - I could not suspend my disbelief enough. Too much triteness in the plot trope. I write smart, sexy romance, and I need a little more "something-something" with my romance novels (which is why I love your books so much, Fiona!) - good twists and turns that keep me interested. The plain old boy-meets-girl (or boy)-loses g/b-reunited with g/b-HEA bores me a little if there's nothing else going on. So for me, I'll continue to strive for genuine emotion, a little raw, but deeply soulful.

Fiona - 

Adding - With some plot twists to keep them coming back
We all love that pull to go back for more.

And thank you for your kind words.

Liz - 
Yes! I strive to leave them with a book hangover!
LOL


Fiona -
So readers should look for RITA winners because they are well vetted, and writers could probably gain a lot by reading the winners to see what others find to be quality romance.
What would you like to add that I haven't asked you about?

Liz - 
Here is my take on the RITAs. We all strive to be chosen by our peers. But as with everything it is subjective to the judges and who you happen to draw to judge your book. For instance, when I saw my Golden Heart scores, I had everything from a perfect 50 points to an average score, with several in between - with only a 1 point miss for finalist. So, yes, the books are vetted by your peers, but you are also pulling from a pool that may not read your genre, so there is also bias built in that cannot be controlled. 


As an example, the book my favorite book of the 5 I judged didn't make it to finalist, yet another that I judged lower, did. So, yes, the books are all quality, but it's possible that good / better books did not place. So, I wouldn't use the winner's circle as the only judge of quality, but it certainly helps!

Fiona - 
How does one get involved with the contest?

Liz -
To get involved, the RITAs open usually in December / January, and get flooded with applicants within the first 2-4 days. When they reach a set limit, they stop accepting applicants due to volume.
So, on the RWA website. You need to be a member to submit.


For published authors, it is both the author and editor.
It's for both traditional and Indie published books.

Fiona -
Liz is a recent Kindle Scout winner with her book Shelter my Heart.
AMAZON

Devon, an ailing, young CEO-in-training due to inherit his dead father’s conglomerate saves the day for Jenny, an engaged young woman on her way home to see her family. To repay his kindness, she agrees to be his date for his family’s annual society gala and convince the board that he’s healthy and going to marry. Two weeks are all Devon needs, and two weeks are all Jenny can give—until the stakes rise, forcing Jenny to answer the question: How far is she willing to go to save Devon’s life? Shelter My Heart is the second novel in the Caught Up in Love series which centers around three New Jersey women: romance writer, Jillian Grant, her sister, Katherine “Kitty” McNally Lynch, and Kitty’s daughter, Jenny Lynch. They are all part of a family plagued by loss. Each woman harbors her own guilty secret and must journey through her personal pain to find redemption and ultimately surrender her heart for a second chance to get caught up in love.

BIO: LG O’Connor is a corporate marketing exec by day who takes her author cape out at night. An avid reader, she loves books with memorable characters that make her heart sing. She’s the author of the urban fantasy / paranormal romance series, The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, and Caught Up in RAINE, her contemporary romantic women’s fiction debut. A native ‘Jersey Girl,’ she’s always in search of the perfect cup of coffee and fine Italian leather. Advice she lives by: Enjoy every day. Go barefoot.


Amen to the barefoot!
Now everyone, go grab a good book and enjoy your read.

Cheers, 
Fiona

Monday, May 15, 2017

Space Archaeology? I dig it!

As many of you know, I'm on a Virginia Search and Rescue team and am training as a man tracker. One of the fabulous people that I've met during my time there is a Search Manager, named Mary Beth, whose job is to map. 

Maps are a problem, a BIG problem when we're on a search. Most of the US maps with contour lines (so we know where the cliffs are), called topographical maps, were developed in the mid-twentieth century. Things have changed a bit. Whole cities now take up spaces where my map tells me there is forestation.

Enter GPS information and satellites. We use a combination of the two to try to find our missing person. As you might imagine, my friend Mary Beth is stellar at this because she manipulates GIS information every day for her day-job. Geographic Information System, GIS, is "designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data." (1)

I was so interested in this topic that I was doing some reseach, and I learned that all kinds of jobs depend on this information - the military, government, farmers, NASA and archaeologists. Yes, archaeologists! 

Archaeologists can develop the coloration that is produced by the GIS system, and they can tell where a "tell" is located. A tell in this case being an area that has been built up by a civilization and then covered up by earth over time.
 
Uncommon Enemies


I used this information to start my research for my book RELIC, where two space archaeologists (archaeologists who use GIS to find dig sites) pit their expertise against ISIS who is unearthing and selling relics on the black market to fund terror. 

Another group who uses the satellite imaging information are animal migration scientists and those who are working to stop the extinction of many beloved species. Jane Goodall Institute, for example was able to show images of forestation several years ago and then newer images of the area to tribespeople so they could see the changes in the landscape. There was a massive deforestation area. The tribes were destroying the chimpanzees habitat. 

Armed with the information shown in the pictures, the tribes developed new policies and already they are seeing the brown and barren areas returning to green. This not only helps the animals in the area but also the people.
Uncommon Enemies

In DEADLOCK, available now for pre-order, animal migration specialist Dr. Meg Finley is using GIS imaging to help her help the tribes in Tanzania. Unfortunately, while Meg and her fellow scientists are trying to bring peace and prosperity, there are those who want to make sure things remain turbulent. 

In both of these novels, Iniquus special ops are on the scene and adding their areas of expertise to that of the scientists to try to stop those whose aim is death and destruction. 

If you're interested in finding out more about GIS follow this LINK

Happy Reading!
~ Fiona


(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographic_information_system

Monday, May 8, 2017

How Fast is FAST?



Wikipedia
Most of us have read about our military elite operators: the SEALs who are connected with the United States navy, the Delta Force and Green Berets who are with our army. But few people have heard about our Marine special units. 

We talked about one of them the Marine Raiders HERE, but there's another Marine unit called FAST. Marine Fleet-Anti-terrorism Security Team.

I featured a Marine with the Marine Raiders in WASP, the first book in the Uncommon Enemies series, and in the second book, RELIC, Brian Ackerman, our hero, is retired from a FAST unit.

FAST units are deployed all over the world. You might be most familiar with them as the team that responded to the Benghazi attack from their base in Spain.

If there is a terrorist attack anywhere in the world that involves US forces, these guys are ready to be deployed. They have received special training to handle terrorists.


"They are highly skilled in counter surveillance, physical security, urban combat techniques, close quarter combat, and martial arts... Companies contain six platoons of fifty Marines. On deployment, FAST can be stationed in Spain, Japan, and Bahrain." (1)

Right now we have three FAST companies in the US as well as a training company. Companies A and C are located in Norfolk, Virginia, and Company B, which is located at Yorktown, Virginia. These companies operate under the control of the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment located on Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia.

The Security Force Regiment Training Company is located on Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, in Chesapeake, Virginia. (2)

Can I just say all four units are about two hours from my house where there is also a SEAL team - so in the event of a zombie apocalypse, or any other disaster - I know where I'm headed. 


Marines assigned to FAST have:

  • SOI (School of Infantry).
  • Security Force School - (NSA Northwest, Chesapeake, VA) - Teaches Combat Marksmanship (shotgun and pistol), Close Quarter Battle
  • FAST Training (5 weeks)-(NSA Northwest, Chesapeake, VA) Additional training in Advanced Urban Combat. (2)
Elite US Marines, ready, willing, and more than able!





In RELIC, Retired Marine FAST member is now working for Iniquus where his work as one of the nation’s top security professionals has fueled his lust for adrenaline-laced danger. While Brian’s private life may seem risky, his professional life is strictly business. Until he accepts two private protection contracts that is. 
Available on most e-readers
Two security assignments seem simple enough. Brian’s been wrong before.

The first assignment involves protecting archaeologists, Sophia Abadi and Nadia Dajani. While digging to uncover a remote site is a bit mundane by Brian’s standard, he welcomes the chance and the challenge.

The second assignment requires Brian to do his own digging to uncover the truth. The thrill seeker is contracted by the FBI to discover who is financing ISIS through the sale of conflict relics from Syria. Problem is, his suspects are also the two archaeologists.

His initial introductions to both esteemed scientists not only reveal the challenges of protecting them, but a shocking dilemma of honoring his security contract. Seems the woman he’d fallen for after one incredible night in New York is the very same Sophia he’s now charged with protecting and leading into an FBI trap.

Meet Brian Ackerman. He has a gun. He also has a heart.

I hope you enjoy reading RELIC, I look forward to hearing what you think!

Cheers,
Fiona



Information for his article comes from:
  • http://www.military.com/special-operations/marine-fleet-antiterrorism-security-team.html (1)
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Corps_Security_Force_Regiment (2)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Great Escape - Surviving a Car Ambush with Michael Connik

ThrillWriters and ThrillReaders,

In my newest romantic suspense/thriller, WASP, I introduce you to Gage Harrison, a Marine Raider with an excellent skillset. But sometimes, even a highly trained warrior can find that the deck was stacked against him. 

There are a few times in WASP where the bad guys come gunning for Gage and Zoe. Does he have what it takes to get them to safety?

READ IT NOW!



When I was writing WASP, I of course did my homework to figure out what works and what does not. Would you like to know some of the things that Gage knows?

Help me welcome guest blogger Michael Connick who has come to hang out with us.

Michael Connick retired in 2015 from a long career with the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, and the technology industry. He has over 35 years experience working with firearms, and has participated in extensive firearms and self-defense training from governmental, law enforcement, and private organizations.

He now resides in the little college town of Huntington, West Virginia, where he writes, competes in Practical Pistol and Rifle competitions, and is very happily married to a truly wonderful wife. He is the author of two Cold War spy novels, Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors: How The Luckiest Man in the World Became a Spy and Funhouse Mirrors. More information can be found about Connick at http://michaelconnick.com.


Michael agreed to talk about the dos and don'ts of being fired upon while in a car. I'll now leave you in Michael's very capable hands:

Your protagonist is driving in their car, not a care in the world. Suddenly, after turning a corner they find themselves in the middle of an ambush by armed men. What should they do? How can they effectively fight back?


The first thing they need to know is that the deadliest weapon they have is the automobile they are driving. Since it weights around two tons, it's far more destructive than the most powerful bullet on earth.


Their first reaction should be to keep moving and run over their opponents. If the road is blocked, they should drive around on the sidewalk. If their way forward is blocked, they should reverse and back out of the ambush. They need not be concerned if any of their tires are flattened during the attack. Most automobiles can be still driven even with four flat tires. There may be limitations to speed and control, but they can still keep moving.


What if they are completely hemmed in and have no way to drive away? If they have a handgun, can they stay inside the car and fight from that position? Can they shoot bullets through the windshield, side windows, or back window from inside a car? Will the bullets still hit their attackers? Will the car itself stop bullets fired at them? Can it provide the protagonist with effective cover during a gunfight?


Most firearms experts won't be able to answer these questions with confidence. That's because they haven't been able to run live-fire tests using real automobiles. I have done such tests, so I can provide you with accurate answers to these questions.


So, can you fight from inside a car using a handgun? The answer is a definite “yes”. It takes training to be able to safely and accurately shoot from inside such a confined space, but it can be done. I've had such training, as shown in the picture below, and so can attest to that fact. In the picture you can see me shooting at an awkward angle and holding the pistol in an odd manner. Even so, I'm getting accurate hits on the target at the side and towards the rear of this car.





Can you shoot bullets through a car windshield without damaging them? Will the windshield slow them down too much? Will it deflect them off target? The answer is a "you can". The picture below shows a shooter firing at steel targets on the other side of a car windshield. The bullets he fires are striking the targets with full force. They are deflected only a little upwards by the angle of the glass. I also fired my own pistol through this windshield with the same results.




Your protagonist can compensate for bullet deflection in two ways:


1. They can aim a little low on all their targets.


2. They can fire through the same hole in the windshield. The first shot they fire will make a hole in the windshield. That shot's bullet will impact slightly high. If the next rounds are fired through that hole, they will be completely unaffected. I've used this technique, and as odd as it may sound, it works.


You can also shoot through the rear window of a car in a similar manner. The picture below shows me firing at a target behind the car in which I'm sitting. I'm firing from an awkward position. My shots defect slightly upward because of the angled glass. Still, I'm getting good accurate hits on the target.


The biggest challenge here is getting the seatbelt off and drawing the handgun without it ever pointing at any part of their own body. You don't want the gunfight to end with your protagonist shooting themselves by accident.




Side windows of a car are a different matter. The first bullet through them will tend to completely shatter the glass. The entire window will fall away in pieces. After that, your protagonist is shooting through an open window without any glass in the way.


The next question is: should your protagonist stay inside the car? Can they expect it to protect them from incoming rounds during a gunfight? Alas, the answer to this question is a very definite “no”.


The picture below shows a group of us testing out the ability of handgun bullets to penetrate parts of a car. We pretty much shot this poor car, along with another one, to pieces that day with some amazing results. All the handguns we used, from a puny .25 ACP pistol all the way up to a .45 ACP handgun, penetrated the metalwork of these autos. We found only two parts of a car that would stop handgun rounds: the engine block, and the rear axle assembly along with its steel wheels. Otherwise, the car offered no protection to its occupants from handgun bullets. Rifle bullets would be even worse.





The best strategy for your protagonist is to first deal with any immediate threats from inside the car. Then they should bail out of it and take up a position where either the engine block or the rear axle and wheels stand between them and their attackers.


The picture below shows a shooter in a position shown in countless movies and TV shows. They crouch behind an open car door. Since car doors don't offer any protection from bullets, this is a bad strategy. It would soon result in tragedy in a real gunfight.




The picture below shows a much better use of car's covering capabilities. The shooter gets protection from the car's rear axle assembly and steel wheels. They also get a good deal of concealment from the rest of the car, making them harder to hit.




Fiona interrupts:

And here's the big one:
Can you explode the gas tank with a bullet?

Did you click on the link to watch the video?
Bet you were surprised by what you found out - now go write it right!


Back to Michael:
Hopefully your protagonist will never find themselves in such a ticklish situation. If they do, at least they will now have some valuable knowledge for surviving it!


~!~


Would you enjoy reading Michael's expertise in action? Grab a copy of his book!

During the height of the Cold War, a naive computer nerd working first for the NSA, and then for the CIA, dreams of becoming a clandestine intelligence officer. After a very successful tour of duty in Iran, his new boss, the Vienna CIA Station Chief, is calling him the “luckiest man in the world”. Nevertheless, he's managed to accidentally attract the enmity of the KGB, the malevolent attention of an East German seductress, and the absolute hatred of a psychopathic KGB mole at the heart of Austria's counter-intelligence agency. Will he be lucky enough, or skillful enough, to survive all these forces now converging to destroy him before he ever has a chance to realize his dream?

Okay, it's time to get your read on! Go load up your e-reader. 

You can get your copy of Michael's book HERE and you can also READ it for FREE - if you KU!

Also, if you KU, below are my books that are available in that programAMAZON LINK

ENJOY!







Monday, April 17, 2017

DARPA...What?

AMAZON LINK
DARPA - have you heard of it?

It stands for: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

If you haven't heard of them, you might have heard some of the inventions that DARPA research helped bring to reality:

  • the Internet
  • Windows and the World Wide Web
  • Video conferencing
  • Google maps
  • GPS
  • Stealth aircraft

Your tax dollars, ladies and gentleman, hard at work.


Here are 10 incredible, mind boggling research projects they're working on right now! 


In my novel WASP, Zoe Kealoha is a micro roboticist who is contracted with DARPA. She is working to save lives after she was influenced by the 9-11 water rescues to do everything she could for the greater good. Her research is geared toward doing just that - keeping innocent people out of jail. Pinpointing the terrorists so innocent bystanders aren't swept up in events -- but not everyone has her level of compassion. In fact, there are a whole bunch of people who want the information in Zoe's head. They just don't care how they get it from her. READ IT TODAY!







Resource information for this article came from HERE

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What in the World is a Marine Raider?

Marine Raider. 
For other Marine Raider images go HERE

No? Never heard the term? 

I recently received a lovely note from a Marine after I sent out a newsletter that mentioned that my new novel WASP had a hero named Gage Harrison who was a Marine Raider out of Lejeune. "Uh oh," he said, "Marine Raiders haven’t been around since mid-twentieth century." 

And you know what? He was right! Sort of.

You see, the Marine Raiders were developed as an elite unit back in WWII. The Marines didn’t very much like the idea of an “elite” unit and the effort was ended in 1944 when they were considered "no longer necessary." And then, yup, America decided they were pretty darned necessary. 

In 2014, they were back but this time they worked under the name MARSOC – Marine Special Operations Regiment and later reclaimed their original name Marine Raider – like Gage, my wonderful character.

AMAZON LINK

You all know about Army Rangers and SEALs. You know of the difficult selection process and the rigorous super-human training that they go through. And this is the same for the Marines. The Marines were faced with establishing their own brand of super-hero. They began by building on what they knew from the other branches, but as the Marine Raiders' role clarified, so did the selection and vetting process as well as the training.

“Raiders' capabilities are a unique blend with more emphasis on amphibious operations than, say, Army Rangers, but less than SEALS. And they offer something else, that aggressive can-do Marine ethos.” (NPR, 2016)

One of the reasons that Marine Raiders are not well known is that they keep a low profile. There are some Raider units that are not even discussed officially. This anonymity is part of their mystique and perhaps partly because they are a small group of operators. 

According to a Marine, Price, interviewed by NPR at Lejeune, 
“…the Raiders say their size is also a strength because it means a tighter team. They have only about 3,000 Marines. That's little more than a tenth of the number of troops in Army special operations and less than a third as many as Navy special ops. Arkin [Military analyst William Arkin] says a big question is whether their identity will be distinctive. He thinks they should lean heavily on the traditional Marine expertise in brief, hard-hitting missions and coastal fighting.”

In WASP, Gage’s skills are put to the test – good to know he had the background and the intensive training so he knew how to get the job done.




WASP: Available on most platforms

Zoe Kealoha is a military research scientist. Her work with microrobotics is meant to save lives. But she’d kept her work a secret to protect her from just this kind of scenario. As footfalls outside her bedroom door stalked closer, Zoe knew her quiet world was about to be upended.

​Unlike Zoe’s orderly world of hypothesis and laboratory controls, Gage Harrison loved the rush he got from his high-risk job as an elite warrior with the Marine Raiders. He was a Marine in every sense of the word. His soft spot was Zoe.

​When Gage hears Zoe’s screams from inside her home, his instincts and training switch from lover to guardian. He’ll stop at nothing to protect her from those plotting her abduction. Gage and his team are willing to risk everything to guard Zoe and her top secret military research. Zoe and Gage work together to untangle the sticky web of intrigue that traps politicians, schemers, spies, and lovers and those willing to put money over loyalty.


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I hope you enjoy my book - it's getting stellar reviews. I'd love to hear what you think!

~ Fiona


This article is based on an NPR article found HERE 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pets in Fiction! with Sue Coletta


This week, I've handed the reins over to the lovely Sue Coletta. Enjoy!
~ Fiona














Ways to Include Pets to Enhance Your Fictional World



I love writing pets into my stories. Not only is a great way to show a killer’s soft side, but they become important family members for the main characters. In my stories, I’ve used a Rottweiler, mastiff, and St. Bernard (MARRED and CLEAVED), a calico, tabby, and
all-black cat (Wings of Mayhem), pet crows (Blessed Mayhem), and a black bear (A Sultry Abyss in SCREAM). I’ve even borrowed a friend’s Bulldog for Black Out (RUN), but I felt so responsible for him, I couldn’t include him like I’d originally planned. God forbid I returned him emotionally scarred from the experience. It’s much safer to use fictional pets.

Need a way to show your character’s quirky side? Include a bearded dragon, snapping turtle, boa, tarantula, or exotic bird.

Is your character adventurous? Give him a pet moose, lion, leopard,
or tiger to love. How ‘bout a pet elephant? When writing about pets let your imagination soar.

Fit the pet to a specific character to cue readers about their personality. By using well-thought-out animals, it can say a lot about who they are, where they live, or even, their state of mind. It’s also fun to juxtapose. Give a tattooed biker a Chihuahua or toy poodle. Readers will love it!

A few things to keep in mind when writing pets into fiction...
If you kill the pet, you better have a damn good reason for it, a reason readers will understand.

For example, Bob and I watched John Wick recently. [SPOILER
ALERT] I fell in love with the Beagle puppy his dead wife sent him. When the bad guys murdered him I almost shut off the movie. If my husband hadn’t begged me to keep watching, that would’ve been it for me. Turns out, this moment kicked off the quest (First Plot Point in story structure). Not only is it an important scene, but if it didn’t happen there’d be no story. See? Understandable reason why he had to die. John Wick would not have gone ballistic over a stolen car. The puppy was the only thing left he cared about. It had to happen.

The safer option is to not harm the pets.
Why Does the Character Have That Specific Pet?

Like I mentioned earlier, you need to know why the character chose that pet. Is he lonely? Does a couple use their pets to fill a maternal/paternal need? Are you using that pet as a way to show the character’s soft side? Does the pet become the only one who'll listen to their fears, sorrow, or hidden secrets? In other words, for an introverted character, pets can assume a larger role in the story so your character isn't talking to him/herself.


As the writer, you need to know why that dog, cat, bird, lizard, or bear is in the story and what role they play in the plot. Does a K9 cop track criminals? Did your criminal character train a horse to be the getaway driver? Does the killer feed his pet hogs or gators human flesh? Why that fictional pet exists is crucial.
What’s the Pet’s Personality?

Animal lovers know each pet has his/her own personality. If you’ve never owned the pets you’re writing about, then I suggest doing a ton of research till you feel like you have. For example, while writing Blessed Mayhem I needed to know how crows communicated and how people could interpret their calls. What separated a crow from a raven, what they felt like, what they smelled like, what foods they enjoyed most. In order to make the characters real I spent countless hours of research into the life of crows. They’re fascinating, by the way. I now want a pet crow of my own. :-)
What Does the Pet Look Like and How Does S/he Act?

First, you’ve got to know the basics…their markings, voice, breed, habitat, diet, etc. Then delve deeper into the expressions they make when they’re happy, content, sleeping, aggravated, and downright pissed off. Every animal has their own unique personality, mannerisms, and traits. Evoke the readers’ five senses. Don’t just concentrate on sight. By tapping into these deeper areas, our fictional pets come alive on the page. It can really add a great deal to a story, too. A scene where the hero or villain cuddles with a pet can add a nice break from the tension, a chance to give the reader a moment to catch their breath before plunging them back into the suspense.

Plus, they’re fun to write.

Does the Basset Hound snore so loudly he keeps the rest of the family awake? Is he now banished to the garage at night? Does the German Shepherd's feet twitch when he's dreaming? Does the Bulldog throw his owner the stink-eye when he can't reach his favorite toy? (Waving at you, Otto!)

Let's talk dogs. They do more than bark. Use their full range of grunts, moans, groans, happy chirps, and playful growls when your character plays tug-of-war. For cats, nothing is more soothing than a purr rattling in their throat as your character drifts asleep. Soft claws can massage their back after a brutal day.

Years ago, I had a pet turkey who used to love to slide his beak down each strand of my hair. This was one of the ways Lou showed affection. I'd sit in a lounge chair with a second lounge chair behind me, and Lou would work his magic till I became putty in his beak. He knew it too. After all that hard work, I couldn't deny him his favorite treats.

Read Sue Coletta's ThrillWriting interview where she tells us what it's like to hang out in a barrell, hiding from the bad guy. HERE

Go to her Amazon page HERE

Her web page is HERE

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Getting my Jam On! Interrupting Communications: Information for Writers

English: Electromagnetic waves can be imagined...
English: Electromagnetic waves can be imagined as a self-propagating transverse oscillating wave of electric and magnetic fields. This diagram shows a plane linearly polarized wave propagating from left to right. The electric field is in a vertical plane and the magnetic field in a horizontal plane. http://weelookang.blogspot.com/2011/10/ejs-open-source-propagation-of.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Our guest today is Jeffery H. Haskell who writes as Cassandra Sky West. We'll start our interview with Jeff in his non-writer persona and then switch to get to know what Cassandra has been writing about. Let's take a moment to get to know Jeff.

Jeff, can you tell me your professional background and how your background feeds your prose - what do you write?

Jeff -
The two things I could really call 'my profession' would be the US Army, and a technical support agent.


I spent 5 years in the Army doing comms work before I left to go to school. I went to school for journalism, and even won some big awards, but the inherent dishonesty of reporting was too much for me. Plus, I suck at school.


From there I fell into working tech support. I was young enough that I knew more about computers than the people older than me and in the 90s that was enough.


I worked that until 2011 when illness prevented me from talking on the phone for very long. Most of my tech support was phone based, I worked in call centers.

So how does this feed my prose? When I was a kid... let's say 'I had a bad childhood' and I didn't really have parents in any meaningful way. I loved Spiderman and Star Trek, and I used to write what we call fan fic now, but back then with no internet, it was just me dodging homework to go live in another world.

Of course, I read everything. Sci-fi, fantasy, as long as it was fantastical, I loved it. A few years ago, after being out of work for 4 years, I decided to revisit writing as a career. Mostly thanks to Lindsay Buroker's blog.


I started ghost writing on Upwork for urban fantasy. I had never really stopped writing since I was a kid. I decided I could write urban Fantasy. I use my background, my experiences, and my ability to research to bring as much life to the worlds and characters as I can. 


Currently, I write urban Fantasy as Cassandra, and Superhero and Sci-fi as Jeffery H. Haskell.


Fiona - 
And along the lines of research and making things as life-like as possible, you are here today to help us understand communications and how to make them not communicate.

Can you give us a brief overview of how communications uses electromagnetic signals as a path to understanding how we can interrupt them in our plots?

Jeff -
We call them by different names, cell phones, routers, AM/FM radio, etc., but they are all the same thing. They all use electromagnetic radiation (EMR) to transmit signals. Antennas receive them.


When a EMR signal is transmitted there are several ways it can reach its target, either in a broad circular transmission that blankets an area (AM/FM radio) through a directed signal (satellite dish) or through bouncing off the ionosphere.


These signals all have their own wavelength, something layman refer to as frequency. They aren't exactly the same thing, but close enough.


Fiona - 
So let's say we're the CIA or FBI, and we have a warrant (ripping this article from the headlines!) how would they intercept those signals without interrupting the conversation?

Jeff - 
Bear in mind, they have highly specialized equipment, often stuff you can't even buy on the market.


Fiona - 
Gosh, I hope so!

Jeff - 
If you're talking about cell phones, there are a lot of ways you can hijack the conversation without interrupting it. The irony of cell phones is, they actually made it easier to tap phone calls than land lines.


In the old days, if they wanted to tap a phone, they would either have to go inside the house and implant a bug in the room or the handset. Or dig up the line and attach a bypass to it.


The easiest way for them to do it now, and I believe Wikileaks just confirmed this (not to be political), is to simply gain wireless access the phone itself. Use its own software to record and listen to the call.


Fiona -
So to interrupt - wire tapping is so last year ...well, maybe not last year as in 2016, maybe many many years ago. It just isn't done.

Jeff - 
No, they still call it wiretapping, but no, no one really does that anymore.


The other way to listen is by hacking the cell company (which apparently the NSA had been doing) and routing all calls through their government computers and recording them.


There was a brief time when the FBI or whoever would have a tech van with a dish on top, and they would scan for signals, decode them and listen in. You had to be in the area of the cell phone you wanted to listen in on, but you could do it.


Now the government doesn't do that even. They hack everything and plant software that lets them listen from the source.

Fiona - 
I see they make baby dolls that start recording the stuff that goes on in your house now. Have you seen that?

Jeff - 
If it is wireless, then just like smart TV's (see Wikileaks) they can use that to listen and watch.


Fiona -
That's so creepy!

Jeff- 
1984 seems like a fond dream compared to the reality.


Fiona - 
Okay, new scenario.


The good guys (we only help the good guys here at ThrillWriting) need to stop the bad guys from communicating. How could they do that?


Jeff -
If I didn't mention it, I know most of this because I spent five years as a 31 Kilo, Combat Signaler. I had a top secret clearance and (at the time) used the most advanced radios in the world. Jamming is actually a bit more tricky than listening. 

Fiona - 
How cool is that! I knew I was asking the right person to help me understand this.

Jeff - 
It sounded much cooler writing it than the actual experience.


Fiona - 
So go back, can you define Combat Signaler? What did your job entail?

Jeff - 
I spent almost a year at Fort Gordon, Georgia, home of the Army Signal Corps.

At the time they were just transitioning from the PRC-77 (fondly known as a prick-seven) which was an unencrypted radio from Vietnam (yes, this was 1992. The Army doesn't upgrade quickly) I was the very first to be trained on the new sincgars, multi frequency, encrypted radios. I'm not sure how much of this is declassified these days so I'll just say this, they were impossible to jam, and as far as I know, still are.

Combat Signaler just meant I was in charge of the radio. Before the sincgars that meant you were just the guy who go shot first.


Fiona - 
I got stuck at Prick 7. I so love that. I have to put that in a books somewhere. Next book, everyone, look for it!

Could you define singars

Jeff -
Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, is what it stands for Impossible to jam! This is important.

It was a universal radio that could talk to everyone. Believe it or not, up until that point the services COULDN'T radio each other.

Fiona - 
Wait - what?
Is that fixed now?

(Jeff takes a moment to go and make sure he isn't releasing classified information to me so the DoJ doesn't come knocking on my door. Not to say that I wouldn't love to meet them, just to say I don't want to meet them under those circumstances. And it looks like we are cleared to continue this conversation)


Jeff - 
The basic stuff is declassified. 


Up until the sincgars came out, the branches of the military couldn't talk to each other. Everyone used different radios made by different companies and each with their own encryption (if they even had any).


If you needed to talk to the Airforce you would call the rear echelon, and they would relay the message. Fun, huh? We fought 4 or 5 wars like that.


On to why they are impossible to jam. First, I am going to explain jamming.


Here is what you need to jam a signal:


  • You need to know the frequency. You need to be close to the source (remember, some signals travel by bouncing off the ionosphere which starts 50 miles up).
  • A power source more powerful than the one the transmitter uses and a larger antenna.
Fiona - 
How do you discover the frequency, just messing around with a dial?

Jeff -
Well, with the right antenna and the right computer program you could scan for freqs in use. Or, if it is something like a commercially made cell phone, the FCC has laws that restrict their freq use. You could google 'Razor flip phone frequency' and probably get it.

Once you have all those things (see how it is harder than listening in?) You have to be ABOVE them. This is important. EM signals travel at the speed of light. If you are trying to go for a 100% jam, you have to turn on your jammer before they connect their call, and for best results be higher than them.


Fiona- 
Physically - like on a hill or in a tower - or standing on your van?

Jeff - 
Yes, physically (for best results).


After that it is just a matter of 'keying the mic' to transmit. If you're 50w radio is transmitting and someone with a 2.5w cell phone tries to talk, the signal will be washed away by the 50w signal.

In the Army we had a special Humvee with two massive antennas on them and a 100kw generator. When we flipped the switch, NO ONE could talk. We would sit on hills and do it randomly for fun just to mess up training exercises

That's area jamming, by the way. There is such a thing as direct jamming, but it takes even more specialized equipment and a directional antenna. However, the benefit is you don't need as big a power source.

Area jamming is what I described first. You sit on a hill or a house and overpower everyone.

Directional jamming is when you use something that looks like a satellite dish and you point it at the target you want jammed
it has the advantage of being smaller, using less power, and it is far more mobile.


However, if your target were to go behind something resistant to EMR, they would be free of the jamming.


So there are trade offs.


Fiona

What surfaces would be resistant to EMR?

Jeff -
Anything that conducts electricity well. Copper, aluminum, gold, etc.


Also, lead. But that is because it is so dense the waves can't pass through it.


I say 'blocked' but some of these things absorb it, it amounts to the same thing.


There is also a way to seal your home or HQ by building a Faraday cage. Which is a thin wire mesh, like chicken wire, but made from copper. You put it in your walls and then run a low amount of power through it. No signal can penetrate it.

I wish they would put Faraday cages in movie theaters.


Fiona -  
Yes!
Why can't SINGARS be jammed?

Jeff - 
SINGARS can't be jammed. Essentially they don't transmit on any one frequency. While they are transmitting they change frequency 111 times per second. Of course, they have to be synced to another sincgar to do it. But because you can't know what freq their on, you can't jam them.

Fiona -
Thank you.

Here on ThrillWriting it is tradition to tell the story behind your favorite scar. Would you indulge us?

Jeff -
Sadly, most of my scars are less than fun stories. But if I had to pick a favorite... One time in high school a kid who hated me threw a quarter stick of dynamite at me. It went off an inch from my shin. Shredded my pants and dented my shin bone. The skin is still discolored and you can feel the indent behind it.

Fiona-

Kids in your school threw dynamite? What??? 

Jeff - 
I didn't like school, to say the least.


Fiona - 
Goodness. Well, since that time, now you are writing under the
beautiful name Cassandra Sky West. And your books are doing really well. One of them you've recently put on sale and our readers can snag it for only 99 cents!

WITH THE DAWN
Alexi Creed needs to know who murdered her, and why. When she wakes up with no memory of her previous life, the only clue she has is a sudden, undeniable thirst for human blood. She finds allies in a mysterious witch with an enigmatic warning of the future and a brooding werewolf in search of redemption. Together they must fight malevolent vampires, agents of the Arcanum, and the forces of darkness if she is going to uncover her past and save the world from a night that will never end. READ IT HERE


A big thank you to Jeff AKA Cassandra Sky West for visiting with us and helping us to understand this subject so we can write it right.

You can stay in touch with Jeff/Cassandra here:
http://cassandraskywest.com/